Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 8 July 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. 2 proposals in BMC making citizens vulnerable, say RTI activists

Mumbai: Activists have slammed two proposals, one on complainants and another on the Right To Information (RTI) Act in the BMC which they say are aimed at making complainants vulnerable. This, they will be doing so by exposing their identity and setting several conditions on them. Activists have slammed two proposals on the Right To Information (RTI) Act in the BMC which they claim are aimed at making the complainants vulnerable by exposing their identity and setting several conditions on them, thereby diluting the power of the Act. The first proposal pertains to seeking details of complainants. An advertisement by the corporation states that complaints in ward offices “should be accepted along with the proof of education, occupation, identity and residence of complainant…name of complainant and information sought by him/her to be displayed on the notice board.” The other proposal pertains to several expectations from the complainant. In its January 30 edition, dna had reported the notice of motion moved by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator Manisha Chaudhury. In her motion, she had said that RTI applicants should submit a “letter of guarantee” regarding constructive work related to the information they sought. The proposal suggested that the RTI applicant must submit a letter of guarantee regarding constructive work for which information is sought along with application and submitting proper reason in writing in case he or she is withdrawing the application. “What they have suggested is ridiculous and has been done to only make the position of the complainant vulnerable. We will be soon approaching the municipal commissioner. It is due to the complaints which are followed up by RTI that illegalities are coming out. These proposals are making citizens vulnerable to illegal elements,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, an activist. Activist have already written a letter to the BJP city president complaining about the issue. “What she (Chaudhary) has stated is against our fundamental rights through which we can seek information. Constructive work may not be constructive for someone if the information is exposing him. This Act is passed by Parliament and amendments can be done only by it,” said Anand Castelino, another activist. The proposals, in fact go against the rules of the RTI Act itself. Section 6 (1) of the RTI Act clearly states that the purpose of the application cannot be sought from the applicant. According to the section: An applicant making a request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him. Manisha Chaudhury was not available for comment. Talking earlier to dna on the same issue, she had said, “There are some people who are misusing the Act. Hence I have put this up.” BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte said that he would have to look at the advertisement and then comment. On the issue of rules for RTI, he told dna, “Notice of motion by itself comes in a form as a suggestion. It is put in house and comes for remark to the commissioner. We will apprise them (corporators) of the legal position when it comes up.” (DNA 21/6/14)

 

2. Stingy Government Puts RTI Awareness in Limbo (1)

THRISSUR: The Right to Information Act of 2006  and Right to Services Act of 2012 might have removed the veil of secrecy of government functioning from the common man. But the genuineness of government in creating mass awareness about how to effectively use them is under question. For the past eight years ever since the RTI  Act came into effect, both the LDF and UDF governments have not spent a single paisa during the period to carry out public campaigns on the laws. But on the other hand, the government had spent as many as `81.12 crore for giving advertisements on other government schemes through electronic and print media between May 2006 and July 2013, reveals a reply to an RTI query. Even though the General Administration Department, under the jurisdiction of which the State Information Commission functions, claims that several awareness campaigns were conducted on RTI, no money has been spent for giving ads during the period. Under Secretary of the Department M Harshan told Express that ultimately it was up to the government to decide on whether to give advertisements. The department would take up the matter with the Public Relations Department that deals with the advertisements given by the government, he said. Human Rights activist P B Satheesh, who had filed the RTI application in this regard, said that only a minority was effectively making use of both the RTI and RTS laws, which could be used with much more vigour against the endemic corruption and inefficiency in the system of governance. “Creating awareness about the Acts is essential because the citizens themselves have to file applications to access information. “If the data sought pertains to human rights violation and corruption, it needs to be given to the applicant within 30 to 35 days,” he said. (New Indian express 23/6/14)

 

3. Activist slams postal department over RTI stamps (1)

Panaji: The postal department’s idea of allowing ordinary postage stamps of definitive series towards payment of Right to Information (RTI) fees had to be rejected outright requiring amendment to the RTI Act, said RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. Mr. Agrawal revealed how the postal department could not issue RTI stamps due to shortage of paper in two printing presses at Hyderabad and Nashik and as such came out with an idea of allowing ordinary postage stamps of definitive series towards payment of RTI fees, which was struck down as impractical. He recalled the postal department earlier accepting full bench Central Information Commission (CIC) verdict in August 2013, recommending issue of RTI stamps as mode of payment of RTI fees and accepting RTI petitions addressed to central public authorities at 25464 post offices rather than present 4710 post offices without postal charges. “CIC had for such reasons recommended issue of exclusive RTI stamps on lines of erstwhile stamps issued by postal department in respect of licence fees for radio and TV sets. Postal department has also backed out on its earlier commitment to accept RTI petitions addressed to central public authorities allegedly because of lack of infrastructural facilities,” Mr. Agrawal said on Monday. (The Hindu 23/6/14)

4. Information doesn’t come cheap under RTI (1)

Hyderabad: While the RTI Act is usually seen as an empowering tool of a common man entitled to receive information by just spending Rs 10, some provisions in it has literally made it out of reach of the applicants. For instance, Kalyan J. Yakaiah, founder-cum-president, Hyderabad Intellectuals Forum had applied for a certified copy of a sanctioned plan of a plot in Punjagutta under the RTI Act recently. The Town Planning Department of GHMC replied asking Mr. Kalyan to pay Rs. 17,775 for the copy of the plan which was calculated at Rs. 150 per 100 sq. mt. “We go by the provisions of the Act which say we have to charge as per the actual cost of the plans. There is no other way of providing this information without charging for the plans or maps,” said B. Raghu, chief city planner, GHMC. According to the AP rules of the RTI Act, the copies of plans and maps which are more than A4 size can be charged as actual cost. However, the RTI activists have been saying that this has been misinterpreted by the officials and they should be either photocopied or furnished in a soft copy. RTI activist Rakesh Reddy too had a similar experience and wanted the officials to consider cheaper and easier ways of furnishing information. “I was asked to pay Rs 1 lakh for the building plan of a commercial complex in Ameerpet. But instead we asked for soft copy of the plan and paid around Rs 200. Just because there is a provision, the public information officers should not deter the applicants by charging huge amounts and instead look for cheaper ways of furnishing this kind of information.” The RTI applicant, Mr. Kalyan, felt that RTI Act was not being taken seriously in the government departments. “I did not get any explanation from the GHMC staff on why I need to pay so much for a plan. My experience with electricity and education department too has been disappointing as I failed to get proper replies for my RTI queries,” he bemoaned. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

5. Greenpeace terms IB reports as ‘malicious’ (1)

New Delhi: Greenpeace on Thursday termed as “malicious” the Intelligence Bureau’s two reports against it and said the NGO has been “specifically targeted” as it emerged as one of the primary voices opposing coal mining and nuclear power projects in India. The environmental NGO’s fresh statement came a day after the central agency in a fresh report, submitted to Prime Minister’s Office and National Security Adviser, recommended cancellation of permission given to it for collecting funds abroad besides reassessment of its tax compliance. The Greenpeace India said that it believes that the leak of IB reports is a “concerted effort by parties with vested interest to ensure elimination of any opposition.”  “The strategy, it seems, is to discredit the organisation towards the long term goal of removing obstacles for pushing fast clearances. But discrediting Greenpeace will not save the world from climate change. Ours is probably the last generation that can make a difference to curb climate change,” Samit Aich, Executive Director, Greenpeace India said. The NGO said that over the past few years Greenpeace India’s activities has led to anger among people in the government as well as corporate entities. “And the timing and the purpose of the leak seem very suspicious. Such malicious reports however, will not stop Greenpeace India in fighting for a better future,” it said. “They plan to create a wave of anger and discontent amongst the public and over a quarter million supporters with blatant lies and half truths. Both the reports are riddled with mistruths and factual errors,” Aich said. He said the NGO will continue to challenge fossil fuels and dangerous technologies across the world and in India. “We will campaign for greater investments in ecologically sustainable, clean and safe practices both in agriculture and energy, and demand for equitable development,” he said. “Such efforts to crush the spirit of individualism and social justice can never be successful,” Aich added. (Hindustan Times 19/6/14)

6. India should take steps to prevent child combatants: HRW (1)

New York: India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalised segments of society?by non-state armed groups, a rights group has said. “Children from India’s poorest and most marginalised communities are ending up on the front lines as combatants, or because their schools are bombed by armed groups,” South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said. Human Rights Watch said that non-state armed groups should halt their recruitment and use of children and attacks on schools,? “The UN has laid out a series of steps that the government should take to protect these children better.” The group said that India should carry out recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that urged India to promptly enact legislation that criminalises the recruitment and use of anyone under 18 in hostilities by non-state armed groups. It also said India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalised segments of society?by non-state armed groups. Unlawful attacks on schools should be promptly investigated, and those responsible should be prosecuted and punished, the committee said. The Child Rights Committee has said it was “deeply concerned” about opposition Maoist forces in central India as well as armed groups in the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir recruiting and using anyone under 18 in hostilities. The committee also expressed concern about government armed forces occupying schools in Maoist-affected areas, despite Supreme Court rulings prohibiting the practice. The committee said that India should “take all necessary measures to prevent the occupation and use of… Places with a significant presence of children,?such as schools, in line with international humanitarian law, expedite the vacation of schools as appropriate and take concrete measures to ensure that cases of?unlawful ? occupation of schools are promptly investigated, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.” Although security forces’ occupation and use of schools has declined since 2010, instances of dangerous dual use of schools continue, placing students and teachers potentially in the line of fire and harming children?s right to education. “The Indian government should finally and fully withdraw its security forces from schools,” Ganguly said. “India’s children are entitled to safe schools and safe childhoods.” (Zee news 22/6/14)

7. NHRC Talks Tough on Destitute Issue (1)

BALASORE: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued strong direction to the Balasore Collector over non-compliance of its order pertaining to the plight of a destitute widow. The Commission has warned of initiating action against the district administration as per the Protection of Human Rights Act if it fails to take appropriate action in this regard within four weeks. Sources said Sukanti Rana, a widow of Taharpur village of Bahanaga panchayat in Balasore district, has been leading a difficult life after the death of her husband a few years back. With the sole bread earner dead, the five-member family finds it hard to sustain. Along with her three minor children and an elderly father-in-law, Sukanti resides in a shanty which is in a dilapidated condition. Though belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category, the family is yet to be provided a house under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and other benefits under poverty alleviation schemes. The education of Sukanti’s children has also been affected as there is none to provide financial support. Rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy had moved the apex human rights watchdog explaining the tragic condition of Sukanti. Sukanti should be provided a house under IAY, food grains at subsidised rate and widow pension and her children admitted in any Government school, the petitioner had appealed. Tripathy had requested the NHRC to direct the district administration to provide a house under the IAY and other benefits of several welfare schemes of the Government to Sukanti’s family. Though more than a year has passed since the matter came to light, the district administration is yet to take any step. “Despite several reminders, the reports sought from the district administration are yet to be submitted. Reminders should be issued to the authorities concerned to send the requisite reports, failing which the Commission would be constrained to invoke coercive process under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The response should reach at the Commission in four weeks,” the order stated. (New Indian Express 23/6/14)

8. Manmohan Singh’s immunity issue looked at in rights case in US

Washington: A US court has asked the Department of Justice to respond by July 10 on the immunity issue of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a human rights violation case filed by a New York-based Sikh group. The Department of Justice had recently informed the Washington Federal Court that Singh as the prime minister had immunity in the US. But the Sikh for Justice (SFJ) group in response claimed that now that Singh is no longer the prime minister of the country, he does not carry immunity. “Suing human rights violators in the US Courts is not a detrimental to the US Foreign Policy as portrayed by the Department of Justice in ‘Suggestion of Immunity’, rather it promotes the US agenda of respect for human rights,” said attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ. The court has asked the Department of Justice to respond by July 10 on the immunity issue of Singh, court documents said. The June 20 order of the Washington Court had granted rights group till August 18 to complete the service of outstanding summons on Singh. A Washington Court last September had issued summons against Singh, at the time of his Washington trip to meet US President Barack Obama. (Deccan Herald 24/6/14)

9. Ensure human rights: Amnesty (1)

Srinagar: Amnesty International (India) has urged the Narendra Modi government to implement “effective policies” to ensure protection of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. It has also welcomed the pledge of the new Central government to ensure the security of all citizens in the state against the backdrop of defence minister Arun Jaitley’s recent visit to Srinagar. “In particular, the organisation welcomes the recent overtures made to rehabilitate families of an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave the state between 1990 and 1994 due to threats and intimidation from armed groups,” am AI statement said. It added, “AI (India) welcomes the positive steps taken by the NDA government, and urges it to take a comprehensive approach in implementing proposed policies, including consultations with all communities living in Jammu and Kashmir, and those looking to return there.” It, however, adds that it is concerned that the proposed steps do not adequately address India’s obligations under international and domestic law to provide effective remedy and reparation to victims of human rights abuses, a necessary measure according community leaders to build confidence in the state and promote long-term stability. “Amnesty International (India) recognises the government’s duty to protect its citizens in situations of conflict from threats to their lives and security,” the statement says. (Asian Age 25/6/14)

POLICE/ TORTURE/AFSPA

10. 5 policemen suspended for youth’s death in custody (1)

MUMBAI: Two months after the custodial death of a youth in the Borivli general lock-up, the Mumbai police recently suspended a sub-inspector and four constables. The suspension order was issued on Tuesday, pending an inquiry against the five personnel by the crime branch. On April 22, the victim, Akash Kharade, a Kandivli resident, was waiting his turn to use the lavatory in the lock-up, when he “suddenly collapsed”. He had sustained head injuries. He was taken to Shatabdi Hospital, where he was declared dead. “Samta Nagar PSI Santosh Borade and four constables have been suspended,” said DCP Pravinkumar Patil. Kharade’s family had alleged foul play in the case. The crime branch arrested Kharade and three aides in a murder case on April 18 and handed them over to the Samta Nagar police the next day. (Times of India 19/6/14)

11. Omar Abdullah meets Rajnath Singh, discusses … (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and discussed various issues pertaining to the state especially return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley, which is on priority list of the NDA government. This was Omar’s first meeting with Singh after the latter became the Home Minister. The forthcoming Amarnath Yatra also figured prominently during the meeting and Omar briefed the Home Minister about the arrangements made for smooth conduct of the Yatra which will commence later this month. The Centre has been actively considering the state’s proposal for return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley in which the Omar government had proposed increasing the amount for construction or repairs of their houses to Rs 20 lakh from existing Rs 7.5 lakh. This proposal was sent to the previous UPA government but no decision was taken. UPA government had announced Rs 7.5 lakh package for each Kashmiri Pandit family for reconstruction or construction of their houses. Kashmiri Pandits had left the Valley in 1990 with the onset of militancy and the number such migrants in Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country are estimated somewhere between six and seven lakhs. “I discussed wide-ranging issues with the Home Minister including the policy on return of Kashmiri Pandits, law and order situation, ceasefire violations and AFSPA,” Omar said. The package for enhancement of monetary assistance was sent by the state government in 2012 but nothing was done about it. “I am glad that the present government is actively considering the proposal with some modifications,” he said, adding “we are supportive of this measure”. On the Amarnath Yatra, he informed the Home Minister about the infrastructure put in place for any emergency situation resulting from bad weather or any natural calamity. Asked about the Centre’s decision to promote Hindi language, Omar said, “We have Urdu and English as official languages. So Hindi can’t be forced.” With the state going to polls later this year, Omar refused to answer questions on whether his party, National Conference, will have an alliance with Congress. “It’s too premature to even ask,” he said. (Indian Express 21/6/14)

12. Jam-packed Arthur Road prison condition dismal, admits state (1)

MUMBAI: In a stark admission, the state government told the Bombay HC on Monday that conditions at the Arthur Road jail are very bad due to overcrowding of inmates. Prosecutor Poornima Kantharia informed a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode about the jail’s condition during a routine hearing of a parole plea by a convict lodged in Kolhapur jail. Authorities had rejected Kamlakar Patil’s application for parole to attend to his ailing wife. The judges questioned why Patil’s relatives cannot be allowed to meet him so that he can give instructions to them. They said in other countries, prisoners are allowed visitors. Patil’s advocate Farhana Shah said in India, convicts are allowed visitors “only once a month and that too with great difficulty”. Kantharia then pitched in recounting the dismal conditions of jails, specifically referring to Arthur Road jail. “Horrible is not the word!” she exclaimed. Authorities keep the prison neat and clean only when they are intimated in advance of visits, she said. “When we go there, everything is clean…but it is not possible to disbelieve stories about the jail’s miserable conditions.” She added that the sleeping conditions at the jail are shocking. “Five thousand inmates are lodged in a space meant for five. They are forced to sleep on sides,” she said. Kantharia said prisoners have to cook their own food and there is no hygiene. “The chapattis are very thick,” she said. Justice Kanade asked, “Are there no trained cooks?”, to which Kantharia said, “Outsiders will not be allowed.” The judges said they may visit the jail.Agreeing with the judges that there is a lot to be done to improve the conditions of jails, Kantharia said, “The will to do something must come from within.” The judges have sought Arthur Road jail statistics— how many inmates are lodged, what is the capacity, etc. They also called for similar figures of women’s jail in Byculla to be presented at the next hearing after two weeks. (Times of India 24/6/14)

13. 2 Thane cops held for teen’s torture, victim still critical (1)

BHIWANDI: The Thane crime branch on Tuesday arrested the two constables of the Nizampura police station who allegedly tortured a 16-year-old labourer to force him to confess to stealing one kg gold. The condition of the victim, who is in ICU, continues to be critical. The accused duo, Jalindar Khaire (27) and Dheeraj Kharmude (24), were produced in the Bhiwandi court which sent them to judicial custody. The Thane crime branch probing the case found that the two cops did not make any official entry after they detained the victim. It slapped charges under sections 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession) 34, (common Intention) and 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement) of the IPC on the accused. The victim’s family has demanded maximum punishment for the accused, who had beaten him up, leading to his suicide attempt. (Times of India 26/2/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

14. Hindi as social media language: Govt says it’s committed to promote all tongues (1)

CHENNAI: Hours after DMK chief M Karunanidhi criticized the Union home ministry’s directive to bureaucrats to use Hindi as the language for posting their comments on social media websites like Twitter and Faceboook, the home ministry on Thursday evening clarified that government is committed to promote all languages in the country. A tweet of the HMO said, “The home ministry is of the view that all Indian languages are important. The ministry is committed to promote all languages in the country.” Earlier in the day, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said the new government would promote use of Hindi in all departments and public life. He also said that promotion of Hindi language should not be seen as undermining other languages. “I have taken a decision that we will give priority to the promotion of Hindi in all communications in various departments and public life because it is our official language,” Rijiju told reporters in Delhi. Since Hindi is the national language, the government should promote it, he said, adding, “It does not mean that we are going to discourage the use of regional languages.” In a statement, Karunanidhi had said the move would be seen as an attempt to treat non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens. “Giving priority to Hindi will be construed as a first step towards attempt at creating differences among non-Hindi speaking people and making them second class citizens,” the five-time Tamil Nadu chief minister, whose party spearheaded the anti-Hindi agitation in the 1960s in the state, said in the statement. “Language battlefields have not yet been dried. History has recorded anti-Hindi agitation. Can we forget Nehru’s assurance that English would be the official language as long as non-Hindi speakers want,” he asked. Karunanidhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should focus on economic and social development of the country instead of imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people. Reacting to media reports that officials of all Union ministries, departments, corporations and banks, who have official accounts in social media, should use Hindi or both Hindi and English but give priority to Hindi, Karunanidhi questioned why Hindi should be given priority over other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. Recalling the decades-long history of his party’s opposition to the imposition Hindi, Karunanidhi said at a time when the aspirations of a diverse section of people should be addressed through constructive efforts, showing interest in a language for communication would become diversionary. (Times of India 19/6/14)

15. Social media, emerging key political communication channel (1)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi  has advised the cabinet ministers to use social media (SM) regularly and issued a diktat to all his ministers to be present on Twitter and Facebook and interact with the masses. Desiring his ministers to be pro-active, Modi’s IT team will be monitoring the ministries to elicit firsthand feedback. He is keen to use SM platforms effectively for transparency, authenticity, speed and ultimately better governance, in addition to reach out a large section of the people, youth in particular. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar requested the various ministries to employ this initiative to disseminate information. Barack Obama’s 2008 US presidential campaign has been described as the first electoral campaign in which the use of SM had a decisive impact. While it is great for marketing, entertainment and individual users, does it work for politics and governance? Is SM inevitable? Does the unabated influence of this mode of communication add new insights to democracy? Modi apart, the other ministers like Ravishankar Prasad, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitaraman are already active players in social media. Modi has two twitter accounts, one in his personal capacity and the other in PMO twitter account. Modi’s personal website has been given a spanking new election upgrade, as much as his other platforms like Twitter, Facebook page, Youtube channel etc. It doesn’t need to be interpreted that the mainstream media’s intolerance and bias against Modi that forced him to go over to social media. While SM usage in 2009 was miniscule, the 2014-LS polls will be commemorated for large-scale use of technology, online chats and mobilisation of opinion. This election is more about combating corruption, controlling inflation, securing jobs and restoring governance, and these were the main FB themes. Whether the “likes” of FB can be turned into votes or not, Modi’s FB fan base crossed 17 m. The transfer of modern approach to communication could usher in far-reaching changes to the style of governance after the taciturn Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dismal failure on the vital subject of communication with the people. Modi’s main rival, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party’s undeclared PM candidate, doesn’t have a website and doesn’t use any of the major social networks. Today, FB has 150m users and Twitter has about 35m accounts in the country. No serious politician can afford to avoid SM altogether. It is possible that data collated through SM can, in future, be used for replacing opinion polls and evaluate sentiments. Though cynics infer that most of the people are illiterates without access to the tech-savvy ambience, the medium will continue its march. Gripping it is to observe that more politicians are realising that more people are directly accessible, the digital media is, hence, more to welcome. Stepping into the virtual world is seen as an effective way of reaching out to the people at large, deepening the democratic process. (Deccan Herald 23/6/14)

16. Government makes most of social media (1)

New Delhi: Departments have been asked to create their accounts on social media and engage with the public on policy issuesModi government believes in direct communication with the public through social media. In fact Mr Modi on Wednesday became the fouth most followed global leader on Twitter beating White House. Mr Modi governmnet’s use of social media should not come as a surprise as he used social media to build a momentum for the BJP in the general elections. He successfully used Facebook and Twitter to reach out to his supporters and general public. So it is obvious that Modi government will also use this new powerful medium to propagate its polices and put their message across. Prime Minister has been active on his own personal Twitter account and also on the official account of the PMO. “Within weeks of his election in May 2014, the @NarendraModi account has moved into the top four most followed Twitter accounts of world leaders with close to five million followers,” said a study Twiplomacy. US President (@BarackObama), tops the world-leader list with a colossal 43.7 million followers and Pope Francis (@Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts is second on the list. One of the latest picture put out by PMO’s Twitter account is that of Mr Modi giving sweets to a PMO official son who cleared civil services examination. Such powerful images help to build Prime Minister’s reputation. It is natural for the ministers to be asked to form Twitter and Facebook accounts. Departments have been asked to create their accounts on social media and engage with the public on policy issues. All the three top ministers of NDA government Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj have got Twitter accounts. Infact, when Mr Jaitley had to issue statement on important issue like rise in inflation and why he recused himself from Vodafone tax dispute issue, he depended on Facebook. In the past such statements were issued through government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB). (Asian Age 26/6/14)

TRAFFICKING

17. Kerala HC for CBI probe in child trafficking case (1)

KOCHI: Observing that the incident of bringing children from other States to Kerala in droves should be investigated properly, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Thursday suo motu impleaded the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as a respondent in a public interest writ petition on the issue. The Bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice P.R. Ramachandra Menon issued the order when the petition seeking immediate repatriation of the children came up for hearing. The court observed that it was a serious matter. “There has to be a proper investigation. The court should know how the children are coming, the purpose, what is happening,” the Bench orally observed. The judges added that the court was “the custodian and guardians of the children” and it could not ignore their welfare. The court was concerned even if it was a case of a single child. Advocate-General K.P. Dandapani submitted that the police were conducting an effective investigation. The court also asked why the government was worried about a CBI investigation. The court observed that the children were brought here “not for fun, not for schooling, and not for picnic. Is it not a serious issue”, the court asked. The court was of the opinion that as the incident had inter-State ramifications, it would be desirable to have an investigation by the CBI. In an affidavit, the government said officials of the Social Justice Department and the police had taken all efforts to ensure the safety and protection of these children. They had also ensured that the children were housed properly and restored to proper authority parents. The Crime Branch was investigating the incident. Meanwhile, the Association of Orphanages and Charitable Institutions of Kerala sought to implead itself in the writ. The association, which claims to represent 1,800 orphanages, said in its petition that serious allegations had been levelled against the orphanages, which would cause irreparable damage to the orphanages. The writ petition was filed by Rajendra Prasad, president of Thampu, (National Trust for Tribal Education, Development and Research), Kochi, and another person. (The Hindu 20/6/14)

18. US downgrades Pakistan in human trafficking, China upgraded

WASHINGTON: Alleging that the Pakistan government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the US has downgraded Pakistan to “Tier Two Watch List” in its latest annual Trafficking in Person report for the year 2014. In the previous annual report for the year 2013, Pakistan was placed with India in Tier 2, which is for nations whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking, said the annual report released by the secretary of state, John Kerry yesterday. “A large percentage of trafficking that occurs within the country, particularly of children, is due in part to Pakistan’s deteriorating security situation and weak economy. Counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts monopolised the Pakistani government’s resources and attention,” it said. The report, however, upgrades China from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List. Tier 3 is for those countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. “This year’s rankings include deserved downgrades for countries like Laos and Pakistan. We should ask why China’s placement on the TIP Report was upgraded from Tier 3 to the Watch List when China continues to fail on the three core areas of protection, prevention, and prosecution,” Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said. In its annual report, the state department alleged that Chinese men, women, and children are subjected to forced labour in brick kilns, coal mines and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of lax government supervision. “Forced begging by adults and children occurs throughout China. There are reports that traffickers are increasingly subjecting deaf and mute individuals to forced labour. Media reports indicate that children in some work-study programs supported by local governments and schools are forced to work in factories,” it said. “State-sponsored forced labour continues to be an area of significant concern in China. “Reform through labour (RTL) was a systematic form of forced labour that had existed in China for decades,” the report said, adding that the Chinese government reportedly profited from this forced labour, which required many detainees to work, often with no remuneration for up to four years. (Times of India 21/6/14)

19. Gumla administration holds ‘janta darbar’ on trafficking, govt schemes (1)

GUMLA: The district administration on Sunday organized a Janata Darbar at Bangu village in Palkot block of the district to discuss the circumstances that leads to migration and trafficking and the measures that needs to be taken to curb the menace. The administrative authorities lent a patient ear to the woes of the locals and ensured effective execution of the government schemes in the area. Located 29 km off the district town of Gumla, Bangru is home to 4052 people. Although the village boasts of schools, anganwadi centre and registers 65 % literacy rate, several families have sent at least one of their girls to Delhi, Mumbai and Goa for work. Villagers, mostly women, thronged the meeting to put forth their opinion on the issue. “Since we don’t have land, we send our children outside to support us,” said Ropni Devi. DC Veena Shrivastava, SP Bhimsen Tuti and DDC Anjani Kumar interacted with the villagers and tried to find out the reason behind exodus of locals. “The Janata Durbar was held to apprise the locals of the problems that the locals, especially girls, could face if sent to metro cities without proper guidance,” said the SP. Those above 18 years of age and working outside were told to get themselves registered and the families of trafficking victims were ensured help from police. “The objective was to assess the ground situation with regards to the execution of government schemes. The villagers are still ignorant about the beneficiary schemes owing to lack of publicity. We are planning to put up hoardings with information of government projects and welfare measures at the block office,” the DC said. Some applications like those of old age pension and others were sanctioned on the spot while a leveling of play ground as demanded by youths will soon be executed, added Shrivastava saying officers have been asked to make field visits. She also pointed out that four categories of list will be prepared in connection with migrants or trafficked ones- those who are 18 years of age but have gone outside with consent of guardians, those who are of the same age group but have been taken out without parent willingness, and minor migrants who have gone outside with parents permission and those without their assent. But there are only a few cases of human trafficking. Most of the migrants who return village also are in the knowledge of their parents’, the DC said adding FIR has been lodged with regard to 2 cases of human trafficking also. (Times of India 23/6/14)

20. 168 Children Rescued from Sex Trafficking Operation: FBI (1)

WASHINGTON: Federal authorities conducted a sweep through more than 100 US cities and recovered 168 children from child sex trafficking, the FBI has said. Some 281 pimps were also arrested in Operation Cross-Country, a week-long enforcement that Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey yesterday said can help “end the cycle of victimization” of US youth. Denver was the FBI division with the most recovered victims, with 18, followed by Cleveland, Ohio (16), Chicago (13) and Atlanta (11). Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said sex traffickers “create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims” who are targeted and sold for sex in the United States. “They use fear, and force, and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again,” Caldwell said in a statement. “This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood.” The FBI, Justice Department and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have recovered nearly 3,600 children since partnering in 2003 to address the growing child prostitution problem in the United States. Their task force operations have led to some 1,450 convictions. (New Indian Express 25/6/14)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

21. Upper castes boycott barbers for catering to Dalits in KTK (2)

Bangalore: Barbers in a village in Bellary District of Karnataka are facing a boycott by the upper caste people who are cut up with them for extending saloon services to Dalits disregarding their diktat, prompting state government to provide them financial relief. It all started when the upper caste people recently ordered the barbers of five saloons in Talur village not to provide hair cutting and shaving services to Dalits. Tension erupted between the Dalits and barbers when the latter refused to cut their hair, which ended in the shutting down of the saloons for five days, one of the barbers, who received a cheque for Rs 50,000 from Social Welfare Minister Anjaneya at the secretariat here today, told reporters. However, after the intervention of social welfare department officials, the barbers resumed services to Dalits, which angered the 4,000-strong upper caste people and they started boycotting the saloons. Caught in a piquant situation with their livelihood in question since the village had only about 100 Dalits, the barbers approached the government yesterday, which provided the financial help under the Devaraj Urs Backward Class Development Scheme, the Minister said while distributing the cheques to seven barbers. He said the assistance will be extended to 11 more barbers of the village. Mallikarjun, a beneficiary, told PTI: “We were threatened by the upper-castes that if we extended haircutting and shaving services to the Dalits, they would stop coming to our shops.” “We also shut our shops in fear of upper-caste people throwing us out of the village if we went against their diktat,” Mallikarjun said. “We came to Bangalore and met Minister Anjaneya, and explained our problems. Soon, he realised our problems and immediately took a decision to give Rs 50,000 cheque in 24 hours,” he said. (Business Standard 19/6/14)

22. Dalits claim Maluka agreed to reduce auction rate of land reserved for SCs (2)

Sangrur: The punjab rural development and panchayat minister Sikander Singh Maluka agreed to lower the auction rates of panchayati agriculture land reserved for the scheduled castes (SC) in Balad Kalan village of the district according to the dalits who met with the minister on Saturday. According to the members of Zameen Papati Sangrash Samiti (ZPSS), the minister called the meeting after repeated protests by the ZPSS. ZPSS member Bhupinder Singh Longowal said, “We were called by the minister in Rampura Phul to discuss the issue, and the minister has assured us to reduce the rate of the Panchayati land to `20,000 per acre from last year’s `26,400″. He said that the minister also spoke to the Sangrur district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) about the auction slated for Friday. “We will now meet the DDPO on the coming Monday,” he added. However, Sangrur DDPO Manjit Singh said that there was no discussion about the rates for this although he enquired about last year’s rates.  ”Yes, I got a telephone call from the minister and he asked me to discuss the issue with the dalits.  But, he did not talk about the rates for the auction,” he said. Out of total 350 acres of Panchayati land in Balad Kalan village, 117 acres have been reserved for the scheduled castes.  Besides Balad Kalan, the ZPSS was also demanded that the land reserved for the SCs in Matoi, Namool and Baupur villages should also be given to dalit farmers at cheaper rates. (Hindustan Times 21/6/14)

23. NHRC notice to Punjab govt on social boycott of dalits in Sangrur (2)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that 105 families of Scheduled Castes have been facing social boycott by upper caste people in Baopur village of Moonak Sub-Division of District Sangrur, Punjab since May 15 of this year. They are reportedly facing this situation since they decided to cultivate 26 acres of Panchayat land reserved for the Scheduled Castes. Earlier, this land was being cultivated by the upper caste people who used to getting on contract through auction in the names of Dalits. The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, raises a serious issue of violation of human rights of Dalits. It has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab calling for a report within four weeks. (Zee News 23/6/14)

24. Arvind Kejriwal to meet Bhagana rape victims today (2)

New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party chief, Mr Arvind Kejriwal, will meet the dalit families from the Haryana village of Bhagana, where four teenage girls were brutally raped in March. The victims and their families have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for justice since last two months. The Bhagana rape victims and some 137 dalit families have again put up their tents at Jantar Mantar after waiting for two weeks in the scorching heat for the permission from the NDMC and the Delhi police officials. The Delhi police and the NDMC had removed the tent being used by protesters at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday last week “We have written to all the possible authorities like the deputy commissioner of police and the NDMC to allow us to fix our tents as it’s too hot. The government has no sensitivity towards the rape victims and all other dalits who have been thrown out of our villages. We kept waiting, but when no reply came, we had to fix our tents again,” said a 15-year-old girl, one of the four rape victims, with disappointment on her face. The AAP leaders had promised the victims and other dalit protesters that their party would stand by them for their rights. “AAP leader Yogender Yadav visited us multiple times in the past. Their party chief Arvind Kejriwal has promised us that he will come for our support on June 24 at 5 pm,” claimed Satish Kajla, who has been protesting along with the rape victims. The victims are now waiting for AAP leaders to help them. “In the past also, BJP leaders like Udit Raj have visited us and we were hoping that once their government will come into the power, our problems will be solved but nothing like that happened. I hope the AAP leader will be able to help us in atleast reaching the right persons to get our right to live without fear,” added Mr Kajla. All the four victims are aged between 13 and 18 years and belong to the landless Dhanuk sub-caste, who worked for upper caste landowners. “Rape is used as a weapon against us to humiliate and suppress us,” said a 17-year-old victim. The families from Bhagana have been sitting on a dharna since April 16 seeking justice for the four rape victims. The dominant land-holding Jats from the same village allegedly raped the dalit minors. (Asian Age 24/6/14)

25. Woman’s marriage with Dalit leads to honour killing (2)

Madurai: In what is perceived as another honour killing in Ramanathapuram, the police have arrested her brother on the charge of murdering her. Bhavani’s crime was that she had married a Dalit. Born into a caste Hindu family, in this case Piramalai Kallars, at Kuyavankudi, Bhavani, after completing her Std. X, went to work in a garment company at Tirupur six years ago. At the workplace there, she fell in love with Satishkumar, a native of Sivakkam in Cuddalore. After a year, they got married in a temple at Ramanathapuram, in the presence of friends and well wishers. Initially, Bhavani did not reveal her husband’s caste to her family, but elders distanced themselves from the couple after making discreet enquiries. As Bhavani’s parents were upset, Satishkumar decided to shift to Cuddalore. When he got a job in a department store in Malaysia, Bhavani’s grandparents insisted that she live with them at Ramanathapuram. The woman, with her two children, left Cuddalore and was living with her grandparents for the past 10 months. Three days ago, after an altercation, Bhavani’s family members allegedly beat her up. “In a fit of rage, my wife’s brother Dinesh Kumar murdered her with a knife, in the presence of our children,” Satishkumar, who flew down from Kula Lumpur two days ago, told The Hindu. Veera Ganesan, a social activist at Ramanathapuram, accused the Kenikkarai police of not following the laws. “The victim’s husband was not informed. There was no inquiry with the family members. Post mortem was not video-graphed, and the cremation was done in a hurry,” he said. However, a police officer said the police had registered a case of murder (under Section 302 of the IPC) and arrested Dinesh Kumar. The children were handed over to Satishkumar in the presence of a revenue official by a woman police officer on Tuesday. Describing the death as “honour killing,” A. Kadir, executive director of Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO, said Bhavani’s death was not a stray case. The National Commission for Women had given several recommendations for handling interference with the freedom of matrimonial alliance, but the body had not been given the power to enforce them. In Tamil Nadu, 28 such cases, involving the death of 24 women, had been reported in the past two years. “There are three types of honour killings. Either kill the daughter or kill the boy who had married the girl. Or, kill both the boy and girl,” he says. High Court advocate R. Satyamurthi said elders resorted to murdering their own children in their zeal to restore the family’s honour. In the case of Bhavani, since she hailed from a caste Hindu family, the question of atrocity against a Dalit did not arise. “It is a legal challenge, and the National Law Commission and the NCW should look into the gaps,” he said. (The Hindu 26/6/14)

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

26. CAG Raps Kerala Health Department for Neglecting Tribals (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has expressed concern over the failure of the public health system in Kerala to tackle the prevalence of sickle cell anaemia among the tribal population in Wayanad, home to nearly 31 per cent of Adivasi communities in the state. According to a recent CAG report, out of the 85 per cent of tribal population screened by health authorities in the district, a total of 706 persons were found to be affected with the disease while 6,992 showed its traits. Quoting a survey by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) from 2007-08 to 2012-13, it said as many as 312 of those suffering from the “life-long inherited disease” were in the age group of 18-40 and 262 in the school-going age of 5-17. Sickle Cell Anaemia is an inherited disease characterised by red blood cells that assuming a sickle shape making normal life difficult in later stages of the sickness. The NRHM had recommended grant of incentives to the school going students to continue their studies and for preferential treatment and temporary and contract jobs to those patients in the age group of 18-40, it said. However, the government and district administration did not initiate steps to implement this, the report said. The report also found fault with the state health department for not completing the disease screening to cover the entire tribal population in the region. “No special efforts have been made by the Health Department to extend help to the identified patients to lead a normal life,” it added. The report also said the prevalence rate of HIV positive cases in Wayanad was found to be slightly higher at 0.18 per cent as against the state average of 0.12 per cent. “The total number of HIV positive cases in Wayanad was 116. Out of 73 full-blown HIV positive cases requiring Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) in the district, only 54 patients were given ART,” the report pointed out and called for strengthening preventive measures and awareness programmes. (New Indian Express 22/6/14)

 

27. Haryana to set up 22 care units for newborn babies (3)

CHANDIGARH: The Haryana Government has announced the setting up of 22 sick newborn care units in 18 districts and has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Neonatology Forum for training doctors and nurses working in these facilities. According to an official release, the State health department has launched the programme to improve child health services and reduce neonatal, infant and child mortality. The sample research system of the last census, infant mortality rate in Haryana was 42 per 1000 live births, which equalled the national average. The neonatal mortality rate was 28 per 1000 live births accounting for 66 per cent of the total IMR in the State. The 22 newly proposed SNCUs for neonatal care have been equipped with open care radiant warmers, phototherapy units, resuscitators and oxygen concentrators. The doctors and nurses working in SNCUs have been trained at various hospitals like PGIMER, Chandigarh, PGIMS, Rohtak, Safadarjung Hospital, Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalay, Kalawati Saran Children Hospital and Maulana Azad Medical College and Kasturba Hospital, New Delhi. In the current year, 16,581 newborn children were admitted to SNCUs, of which 7959 were found with low birth weight. About 84 per cent of these deliveries were conducted in government medical facilities where around 50 per cent in-born and 90 per cent out-born babies were critically ill. Of the 7,959 low birth weight babies admitted, two per cent weighed less than 1000 grams and faced highest risk of mortality. These babies were admitted for 30-40 days on an average in the SNCU with all expenses met under the revised guidelines under the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) from the Union government allowing free treatment for sick neonates and infants up to one year of age. The release pointed out that every year, four million newborn babies die in the first month of their lives. India accounted for 25-30 per cent neonatal deaths in the world, where nearly 45 per cent babies died within the first two days of birth. (The Hindu 22/6/14)

 

28. Encephalitis a challenge for state, Central govt: Harsh Vardhan during Bihar visit (3)

Patna: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, while taking a stock of the rising number of deaths in Muzzafarpur and surrounding areas due to encephalitis, said that he is coordinating with state authorities and health officials to deal with the disease. Muzaffarpur has been worst hit by an encephalitis outbreak which has claimed 148 deaths so far. “I’m distressed to see children suffering with encephalitis,” said Vardhan while speaking to reporters. He further added, “I’m aware of this disease for the past 40 years, but I got to know about it in detail during election campaign in Uttar Pradesh. Vardhan was accompanied by Bihar Health Minister and Secretary of Union Health Ministry. During his two-day visit in the district, Vardhan met several children suffering from encephalitis and announced a series of measures to try and tackle the disease, including a 100-bed paediatric ICU for Sri Krishna Memorial Hospital and two research centres at Muzaffarpur and adjoining Darbhanga. “It will be a big challenge for both state and Central government to deal with encephalitis,”said Vardhan. Vardhan also reiterated that the central government would provide all possible help to Bihar in controlling the outbreak. A virology centre would be set up in Bihar on the lines of the National Institute of Virology in Pune, he said. The disease, limited to Muzaffarpur till last week, has now spread to Vaishali, Samastipur, Sheohar, East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Begusarai, Bhagalpur and Gaya districts of the state. The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome is a severe case of encephalitis characterised by inflammation of the brain. The infection – transmitted by mosquitoes – causes high fever. (Zee News 23/6/14)

 

29. In Lucknow, One Toilet for Every 58,844 People (3)

LUCKNOW: Lucknow, with a population of nearly three million and the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, doesn’t have any public toilets for women and has a toilet for every 58,844 people, a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed. No wonder then, says RTI activist Urvashi Sharma, the city has become an open toilet, with hundreds spotted on any given day relieving themselves out in the open, on busy thoroughfares and even in VIP colonies. In her questions sent to the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC), the activist had sought the number of public toilets within its limits. Admitting to an “acute shortage” of public toilets, LMC officials have also conceded that Lucknow has “no separate toilets for women.” This, amid growing concerns in the civil society about creating more toilets in the state, in absence of which many crimes against women like rape are taking place in the countryside. “I found this shocking as every day we hear that absence of public toilets is leading to spiralling crime,” Sharma told IANS while ruing the fact that if this was the situation in the state capital what it would be in small towns and villages. Sharma also pointed out that the issue was much more grave as Lucknow is not only the state’s seat of power but also a tourist attraction and a cultural centre. Reacting sharply, social activist Umra Warsi said the RTI revelations were shocking and urged the state government to sit up and take note. “It is a shame that even after so many years of independence, successive governments have failed to provide such a basic need in the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous and politically significant state,” she noted. “I am amazed that a chief minister (Akhilesh Yadav) who zips through the city’s streets and roads every now and then has not even thought of something as important as this,” Madonna Xavier, a teacher with a local college in Indiranagar, told IANS. More shocking, she added, is the fact that the state had a woman chief minister a few years back. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and city mayor Dinesh Sharma said the facts are misplaced. When confronted with the facts given by the city’s medical health official, Sharma said that additional toilets have been made by other government agencies like SUDA and the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and private NGOs including Sulabh. Sharma admitted that there should be greater focus on the development of public utilities. “We have identified some places for modern toilets and they would be ready soon,” he informed. Municipal officials however say “people travelling in cars and on two-wheelers do not use public toilets and tend to use ones in malls, multiplexes and big shopping complexes.” So where is the need to build more toilets, especially for women? (New Indian Express 25/6/14)

30. 47 Dead Due to Malaria in Tripura: Health Minister (3)

AGARTALA: Forty seven people have died of malaria in Tripura in last 20 days, Health minister Badal Chowdhury said today. Forty seven people including 30 children have died of malaria in the state in last 20 days, Chowdhury said. “Since June 13, 36329 people have been treated by government doctors, of which 5833 patients were found to be malaria positive. 6288 blood samples were examined of which 1251 samples were bearing malarial germs,” Chowdhury told reporters. Affected people mainly belonged to tribal communities, from three districts ? Dhalai, Gomati and South Tripura, he said adding the state was afflicted with malaria after a gap of four years. Chowdhury said, ministers of different departments were given responsibility to look after the malaria control measures being taken in the affected areas and added a Central team of doctors which was still touring in the affected areas stated that malaria did not assume epidemic proportions till now. He said, the officials of the Health department were instructed to camp in the affected districts for 15-days for supervision of the malaria control measures. (New Indian Express 26/6/14)

31. Everyone has a role to play in creating awareness (3)

Even as we rejoice the eradication of polio from India, another dreaded and stigmatised disease called leprosy continues to stalk the country. Though the impression among the public today is that India has been cleansed of the illness, nothing is farther from the truth. In the year 2010-11, a whopping 1,27,000 persons were diagnosed with leprosy. The successive year, 1,35,00 new cases emerged. One million Indians are now estimated to be suffering from the disease, which is 58 per cent of the total international burden, and NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) has recently written to the Union Health Ministry asking for an explanation on the disturbing upward spiral. Dr Sunil Anand, director, The Leprosy Mission Trust India, says it is a most unfortunate development because leprosy is one of the easiest diseases to detect and treat. “All that one has to do is check for patches of discolouration on the body where there is no sensation and approach the nearest hospital; but there is no awareness on the disease. The Government just hasn’t taken up any aggressive awareness campaigns on the lines of tuberculosis, AIDS and polio, and allowed the disease to grow.” In 2005, leprosy was announced to have been eliminated from India, which means only one patient per 10,000 population remains, but since then, leprosy has constantly gone down the public health priority list, he underlines. Add to that the stigma attached to the illness, propagated further by films, and patients don’t want to admit to the problem and seek treatment. “There are so many cases in our healthcare centres in Delhi,” informs Nikita Sarah, Head – Advocacy and Communication at The Leprosy Mission Trust India, “Who come from faraway places in the country just to escape drawing attention to their condition in their hometowns.”“A patient we had here was an educated chemistry teacher from Kolkata who had, first, only shown to quacks for lack of knowledge, and then came all the way to our Tahirpur (East Delhi) centre to hide his disease. Leprosy had affected him severely leaving him with serious deformities.” Delhi, itself, houses seven colonies for the leprosy-afflicted with thousands of families living in isolation, not to mention the inhuman conditions they reside in.Then there is the problem of insensitive laws pertaining to the leprosy-affected and even more insensitive successive political leaders who have made no effort to amend them. Leprosy is accepted by courts as a ground for divorce, the such-affected are not given a driving licence and even prohibited from travelling in public transportation. To add insult to injury, they are even barred from contesting elections. “These are all laws framed in the 1800s when no medication was available for leprosy,” informs Seema Baquer, a disability rights activist, “Now there is 100 per cent guarantee for cure with Multi Drug Therapy (MDT). It is lesser contagious than even Tuberculosis. When TB patients are not barred from taking public transport, why leprosy victims?”  (Deccan Herald 26/6/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

32. Parents object to HIV+ kids joining Sulcorna school (3)

PANAJI: Over 80 children living at a children’s home in Zambaulim are yet to begin attending classes this academic year. As they innocently await a new set of books and uniforms, the nuns who run the home are struggling to find a school willing to admit the children. The problem arose when the nuns approached a school close to the home and the children were refused admission as 14 of them were HIV+. Despite there being two other schools closer to the institute, the nuns then approached a school in Sulcorna, that is about 15km away. The Sulcorna school decided to admit the children, but ran into trouble when parents objected. Sources in the Sulcorna school management said parents of other students objected to HIV+ children sharing space with their children and threatened to pull out their children from the school if the HIV+ children were admitted.?Some parents even sought school leaving certificates for their children, school sources said. Speaking to TOI, the head of the children’s institute said, “The parents believe that if their children mingle with children with HIV, they would be exposed to the infection.” To allay such fears, Indian medical association (IMA) Goa state president Dr Jagadish Cacodkar had a session with the school’s parent teachers association (PTA) to explain that “merely mixing with HIV positive persons does not pass the infection”.Some 200 PTA members attended the session and Cacodkar claimed they appeared satisfied with the explanation and reasoning. Cacodkar said the opposition by parents was a result of misconception. “The main reason parents object is because AIDS is incurable. The psychological fear of contracting a deadly disease coupled with misconception about its transition has compounded their ignorance. Their biggest misconception is that HIV is contagious,” he said. “They were explained why it is not possible to get an infection if you touch a HIV positive person, share a seat with one or even when you eat from a common plate,” he said. Even late Friday evening, the nuns were in talks with the parents and the school management, and remained hopeful that all the children from their home will be admitted. “I can say that 95% of the problem is sorted out. Consultative efforts to change the outlook of parents seems to be finally yielding results,” the nun said. Until last academic year the 14 HIV positive children were schooled in the home. It was only this year that, emboldened by the Supreme Court decision in March that asked Central and state governments to end discrimination against HIV positive children during school admission, the nuns decided to admit them in a public school. (Times of India 21/6/14)

 

33. Decision not to admit HIV+ students painful’ (3)

MARGAO: For an institution which has worked dedicatedly for the welfare of the marginalized young and the poor from the village since its inception, denying admission to the HIV+ students was definitely a painful one for the Sulcorna-based high school. Particularly because it was a reversal of its own conscious and bold decision taken only a few days ago to admit those students on “humanitarian grounds”.When the Salesian priests came to Sulcorna over 50 years ago, they transformed large swathes of jungle areas into a farm, growing sugarcane, cashew, and other cash crops, employing locals as farmhands and helping the needy. Today the Don Bosco Agro-Ed Complex at Sulcorna, situated on a sprawling lush land, has grown into a hub of educational, agricultural and social activities. “Besides playing a pioneering role in the remote villages along this hinterland belt in the field of agriculture, horticulture, watershed development etc, the activities of Don Bosco Sulcorna, have always been village-centric. We have taken utmost care of the villagers all these years and the locals hold us in high esteem. We are always the first to reach out to them in their times of need. We have always fought for protecting the interests of the villagers. We have helped them form self-help groups and cooperative societies, besides helping the young in gaining employment. Though our students come from a poor background, they excel in studies and are on par with those from the urban schools. Our relationship with the villagers is close knit and we share a mutual trust,” sources in the school management told TOI. Sources within the local community confirmed that it was exactly because of the villagers’ sense of attachment and belonging to Don Bosco school that they felt “let down” by the school management when it granted admission to HIV positive students residing “far away” from the village. The school management is now concerned about the probable withdrawal of students by their parents in case admission is granted to the HIV positive students. The HIV positive students have also been denied admission in at least two other schools located in the vicinity of the children’s home in which they are lodged, it is reliably learnt. It was exactly because of such discrimination against HIV positive students that the Naz Foundation (India) Trust, an organization which runs a care home for orphaned and vulnerable children, had moved the Supreme Court, invoking the fundamental rights to life, education and equality guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The foundation had pointed out that based on their own HIV status or that of their parents or guardians, children affected by HIV face multiple forms of discrimination in schools. It was on this PIL that on March 3, the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre and all states to declare HIV positive children as a disadvantaged group under the Right to Education (RTE) Act to ensure they got education without discrimination. Section 9(c) of the Act says, “Every local authority shall ensure that the child belonging to weaker section and the child belonging to disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds.” (Times of India 23/6/14)

 

34. Team to meet stakeholders in HIV+ kids’ admission issue (3)

MARGAO: The education department on Monday deputed a team to meet the stakeholders over the admission issue to HIV+ children in South Goa’s hinterland. Sources said that the department will take necessary action based on a report which it will get from the team in a day or two. The sources said that the department is working out a solution taking into consideration views from all stakeholders. Being a sensitive matter, the government doesn’t want to make public the proposal for a solution fearing that it might go against the interest of the children, the sources said. A couple of meetings took place on Tuesday to resolve the issue. The government has involved bodies like Goa state aids control society to come out of the imbroglio. Confidentiality is also being maintained as parents of children studying in a Sulcorna school threatened to withdraw their wards en masse if the HIV+ children were admitted in the school. The Sulcorna school was in a fix as it had on humanitarian grounds decided to admit the children after two schools close to the children’s home where they were housed, had reportedly refused to admit them. Though the education department was initially reluctant to intervene, officials went into a pro-active mode after the chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who is also the education minister, stated that the government would not tolerate any discrimination. An official said that the government will ensure that the Supreme Court directions are implemented – that there is no discrimination to HIV children in getting admission to a neighbourhood school. A source said that the education department is also working on adopting some preventive steps so that such cases do not occur in the future. In March 2014, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and all states on a PIL to declare HIV-affected children as a disadvantaged group under Right to Education Act (RTE), to ensure that they get admission without any discrimination. The Goa state commission for protection of child rights as well as GSACS members have decided to meet the stakeholders. The former will also inquire into the leakage of information of the children who are HIV positive. (Times of India 25/6/14)

35. HIV Prevention Project in City Reviewed (3)

VELLORE: A five-member team of officials from the National AIDS Control Organisation from Delhi and the State AIDS Control Society from Chennai, besides representatives from the UNAIDS and Centre for Disease Control in Delhi visited the Vellore Government Medical College Hospital on Wednesday, to review the ongoing pilot project of ‘Prevention of parent to childhood transmission of HIV.’ Deputy director of health services (DDHS), Dr Poongodi and the district AIDS control officer, who accompanied the team said, the pilot project being implemented in Vellore since 2011 aimed at monitoring pregnant mothers across the district, who were affected by HIV infection, to prevent the transmission of the infection to the new born. The DDHS said, the pilot project was being implemented in the three States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In Vellore district last year, 54 pregnant women were found to be infected with HIV and were monitored by the project at the three centres and none of the child born to them had traces of HIV infection, she added. Taoufik Bakkale, Strategic information advisor attached to the USAIDS in India, told Express that the purpose of the visit was to find out whether the treatment provided to the HIV infected mothers were as per the international guidelines. “We also wanted to understand the challenges faced by the implementing agencies and the solutions identified by them. The pilot project was being extended across the country and this input would be useful,” he added. (New Indian Express 26/6/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

36. Land law changes on cards (4)

New Delhi, June 18: The NDA government is planning to bring amendments to the land acquisition law to speed up road projects being executed in partnership with private investors. Rural development minister Nitin Gadkari today told a television channel that several states had expressed reservations about the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, which lays down a three-layer takeover procedure. According to the law, the district administration concerned has to conduct a social impact assessment within six months of a project being envisaged to find out the number of persons to be affected and the total land required. If it is a public-private partnership (PPP) project, the government will have to take the consent of 70 per cent of land-losers. For private projects with public interest, 80 per cent of land-losers have to give their consent. This process would take another six months, after which the government will pay the compensation to the affected families and acquire the land. Gadkari, who is also the transport minister, is worried about road projects stuck because of the provisions of the acquisition law. “We will discuss (the acquisition act) with the states and, after I have considered their suggestions, I will take them to the Prime Minister. We will go by his decision,” he told the channel. “Within 20 days… we will come to a conclusion because this is the issue which is related with the future development of this country.” The timeline of almost a year — six months for the social impact assessment and another six for taking consent — is something the government wants to bring down. The maximum time should be six months, at least for road projects, sources in the ministry said. Another amendment being planned is to dilute the consent provision, at least for PPP projects. Road projects are mainly implemented in PPP mode. Since seeking written consent of 70 per cent of land-losers is a gigantic task, the ministry would like to bring it down, though it is not clear to what extent. Gadkari has said road projects worth Rs 60,000 crore are stuck in legal disputes. There are certain exemptions for linear projects like road, railway and electricity lines in the existing act. For example, while the law says multi-crop land cannot be acquired, linear projects have been exempted. The new law came into effect from January 2014, replacing a 120-year-old act. Parliament had passed the law in the winter session when the UPA was in power. (The Telegraph 19/6/14)

37. ‘Restore ownership of farm land to farmers’ (20)

CHANDIGARH: The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ambavata) on Sunday asked the Haryana government to restore the ownership of agriculture land of 15 villages to farmers who have not taken the compensation so far. The farmers’ body threatened jail “bharo” in the state from the first week of July. This was decided during the meeting of state executive of the union chaired by its Haryana president Shamsher Singh Dahiya at Bad Khalsa village in Sonipat. Around 200 members of the union from villages whose land has been acquired attended the meeting. Land acquisition in Sonipat was for Rajiv Gandhi Education city. The project began in 2006 and since then the farmers of this area are on a warpath. “According to the new Land Acquisition Act, the government is supposed to return the land to farmers who have not got any kind of compensation so far. Secondly, the government is also supposed to return the land where farmer is still in possession. But, Haryana government is deliberately avoiding the same and this has been going on for the past nine years,” Dahiya said. This is not just the case of Sonipat but of other districts as well, hence we have decided to go for a strike now, he added. (Times of India  23/6/14)

38. Narmada dam oustees oppose NCA decision (4)

New Delhi: Even as the official-level Narmada Control Authority (NCA) asserted that all project-affected families facing displacement at the present height of the Narmada dam had been “resettled,” several people still living in the submergence villages arrived here on Tuesday from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat seeking a hearing from the Central government. The oustees, many of who are struggling for the last 29 years, said the NCA on June 12 gave the permission to raise the height of the dam to the final height of 138.68 metres based on the claims made by the State governments without independently verifying the status. “We want to know what is the legal basis for giving the permission to raise the height ignoring the claims of displaced people in the affected States, including 245 villages in Madhya Pradesh alone?” asked the project-affected people who are on protest at Jantar Mantar here. It is learnt that the NCA, in its emergency meeting, said the permission to raise the height of the dam will would only allow completion of civil works and leave the gates open on raised position. Official figures say that of the 46,749 project-affected families from the Narmada dam, 46,498 have been resettled. Of these 4,765 have been resettled in Gujarat and 3,976 families displaced in Maharashtra have been settled in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Of the 37,757 families displaced in Madhya Pradesh, 32,233 have been resettled in the State itself and 5,524 in Gujarat. Questioning the decision to allow raising the height of the dam, the Narmada Bachao Andolan asked whether this was done to derail the judicial inquiry into the Rs.1000-crore resettlement scam in Madhya Pradesh? (The Hindu 25/6/14)

39. Govt moves to tweak land acquisition law (4)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has called a meeting with states on Friday to discuss possible changes to be made to the land acquisition law, prompting the Congress to accuse BJP of shifting goalposts on farmers’ interests within nine months of backing the law in Parliament. Rural Development minister Nitin Gadkari will meet state revenue ministers who deal with land acquisition to discuss the law. Officials said the states are yet to frame the rules to implement the law and they would form the core of the discussions. With the NDA government having earlier dubbed the law as impeding industrialization and Gadkari himself having promised amendments soon, the meeting is being seen as a move in the direction of softening some of the provisions opposed by the industry and the corporates. Jairam Ramesh, who piloted the bill in UPA-II, said Gadkari was going against his predecessor in rural development ministry Gopinath Munde. “Gadkari does not have the same approach to the new land acquisition law as his predecessor Munde who had gone on record to support the law strongly and committed himself to its strict enforcement,” the former minister told TOI. The sensitive land law has polarized opinions. Having been paraded as a fair deal for landowners, it lays down elaborate procedures of taking over land, limits the unbridled powers the governments enjoyed earlier, insists on resettlement of displaced persons ahead of acquisition and even lays down higher compensation norms. On the other hand, the industry has opposed many provisions as inimical to their interests, warning that these would hurt growth. Any bid to amend the law is likely to result in claims that the government was putting the interest of industry over farmers. Officials sought to dispel the notion that the government was looking to appease corporates. “Even farmers have expressed reservations about the Act. The government would look into the issues holistically and see what needs to be done,” an official said. Ramesh said he did not know what amendments Gadkari was contemplating but reminded that the law was passed with “huge acclaim in September 2013 and his colleagues Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, apart from Munde, had played an active role in ensuring smooth passage.” He said BJP was giving up its stance in favour of land law in just nine months without testing it over a reasonable period of time. “Gadkari should know that four recent judgements of the Supreme Court have upheld the new law,” the Congress leader said. (Times of India 26/6/14)

CORRUPTION/ SCAM

40. Anti-corruption bureau lodges FIR against Karjat tehsildar (5)

NAVI MUMBAI: The anti-corruption bureau (ACB) today lodged an FIR at the Karjat police station against the suspended Karjat tehsildar Yuvraj Bangar, for having disproportionate assets of over Rs 58.28 lakh. Bangar was arrested by ACB last October for taking a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from a quarry owner in Karjat in order to legitimize certain mining operations in the area. He was suspended and an ACB inquiry was initiated against him. On Thursday, the ACB formally lodged the FIR following the completion of the inquiry against the tainted tehsildar. Further police investigation is on. (Times of India 19/6/14)

 

41. Black money: ‘Swiss drawing up list of Indians’ (5)

New Delhi: Switzerland has prepared a list of Indians suspected to have stashed black money in Swiss banks and the details are being shared with the Indian government, according to a senior Swiss government official. The names of these Indian individuals and entities have come under scanner of the Swiss authorities during an ongoing exercise to identify real beneficiary owners of funds held in various banks operating in Switzerland, the official said. “These individuals and entities are suspected to have held un-taxed money in Swiss banks through structures like trusts, domiciliary companies and other legal entities based out of countries other than India,” the official, who did not want to be named, told PTI. He refused to divulge the identities of these persons and entities, as also the amount of money they had in banks, citing confidentiality clause of the information exchange treaty between the two countries. The official said Swiss authorities were very keen to work with the new government in India and they would also provide all necessary support to the newly set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money. He, however, dismissed claims that black money stashed in Swiss banks by Indians could be trillions of dollars, as the latest Swiss National Bank data pegs the total foreign client money across 283 banks in Switzerland at US $1.6 trillion. When asked about rise in Indian exposure to Swiss banks at 2.03 billion Swiss francs (Rs 14,000 crore), he said these are the funds held by clients who have declared themselves as Indian and therefore were unlikely to be ill-gotten wealth. The senior official further said the details are being shared with India on a ‘spontaneous’ basis and are different from the information sought earlier by the Indian authorities on the basis of ‘leaked’ or ‘stolen’ lists of certain banks, including the so-called ‘HSBC list’. The Swiss government has been refusing to share details about the Indians named in this ‘HSBC list’, which was stolen by a bank employee and later found its way to tax authorities in various countries, including India. Despite repeated requests from India, Switzerland has said its local laws prohibit administrative assistance in matters where information has been sourced illegally, including through stolen lists. The said ‘HSBC list’ allegedly contains names of Indians and other foreign nationals having black money in the Swiss unit of the global banking major. India is one of the 36 countries with which Switzerland has signed treaties to provide administrative assistance in tax matters in accordance with international (Indian Express 23/6/14)

 

42. Road to corruption: Centre loses Rs 1.25 crore (5)

INDORE: Thriving builder-government official nexus has inflicted a loss of over Rs 1.25 crore to the Central government in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh. The fraud has been detected in construction of 6.8km road connecting Pipri and Nimanpur villages in Bagli tehsil of Dewas district, under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) -ambitious scheme of erstwhile Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. The fraud detected by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) while investigating a 2010 complaint dates back to development of road under the centrally sponsored scheme in 2002-2006. EOW of Madhya Pradesh police is readying to lodge a case of fraud, criminal conspiracy and corruption against a premier Indore-based builder and nine officials of MP Rural Road Development Authority (MPRRDA) posted in Dewas between 2002 and 2006. The Indore-based builder group was given the contract to construct the road in 2002 with the rider that work would be completed in two years and the road was expected to be defect-free till five years from the date of completion. Not only did the builder violate terms and conditions of the contract by completing the road in three years, even the newly-built road lasted for just over an year. A subsequent analysis of samples of the worn out road by the National Quality Monitoring team of PMGSY established that the builder had used retrograde material for construction. Not only was substandard material used to build the road, but flouting related norms, the builder even managed to get Rs 44.02 lakh from government agencies for maintaining the road, besides the Rs 89.94 lakh already sanctioned to him as the contract amount. With the road lasting for just over a year, new tenders were invited by the government agencies to construct the same road again in 2007 for a price of Rs 81.31 lakh, ultimately causing the Central government a loss of over Rs 1.25 crore (re-tender price of Rs 81.31 lakh and Rs 44.02 lakh as maintenance sum). A subsequent EOW probe into the irregularities in 2010 found that had officials of MPRRDA physically verified and regularly monitored the road construction work, the loss of public funds would have been checked, EOW sources told TOI on Tuesday. Based on the findings of the probe, the EOW-Indore recently sought sanction from its headquarters in Bhopal to book 10 people, including the builder and MPRRDA-Dewas officials, including managing director, assistant manager, assistant engineer and sub-engineer level. Once given the clearance from Bhopal, 10 people will be booked under Sections 420, 120B of IPC, besides provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. (Times of India 26/6/14)

 

TRIBALS

43. Congress may escalate fight if heads of SC/ST panels asked to go

NEW DELHI: Amid all-round savagery on UPA appointees in statutory posts, Congress feels it can escalate the fight with the Centre on three commissions – those for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities. The mood in the Congress camp and among the incumbents in the commissions is that they would resist any bid to eject them from their positions. “It is a legal bomb,” a senior leader warned. The confidence in the otherwise dispirited Congress about the three panels is in stark contrast to the timid view the party has taken on governors, largely because the UPA itself had undertaken a ruthless purge of Raj Bhavans when it swept to power in 2004, dislodging the BJP. But Congress did not touch the nominees to panels on dalits, tribals and minorities despite its “detoxification” drive in other commissions, Raj Bhavans and committees appointed by the BJP. It was not because Congress was generous to these three panels but thought any move to eject the incumbents in these three commissions would be legally risky. The national panels on SCs and STs are constitutional commissions with elaborately laid out procedure of appointment and removal. Above all, they derive their existence from Article 338 of the Constitution. Any forcible eviction can be challenged in court and result in embarrassment. “Let the appointing authority (President) give the message and I will consider,” NCSC chairman PL Punia told TOI about speculation that he was being nudged to put in his papers. Ramesh Oraon of NCST said, “I have received no telephone calls.” When the UPA came to power, the BJP appointees were allowed to stay on. A hardcore BJP member Suraj Bhan’s term was to end three years later in 2007. The veteran politician passed away in 2006, allowing Congress to pick its nominee sooner. The same was true for National Commission for STs. The BJP had appointed Kunwar Singh as the head of the panel and he too came near to completing his term in 2007 before he decided to resign. Tarlochan Singh, who headed the national panel on minorities, too finished his term in 2006, well two years into UPA-1. (Times of India 20/6/14)

44. Rehabilitate Warriam Settlers: HC to Centre (6)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday directed the Central Government to take steps to rehabilitate the 300-odd tribal people, known as Warriam settlers, who surrendered 600 acres of forest land at Pooyamkutty. The Court also urged the government to redress the issue by including the same in the next Working Plan itself. Justice A V Ramakrishna Pillai issued the directive while considering a plea filed by Kuttan of the Adivasi Punaradhivasa Samithy. The Court observed that the tribesmen are entitled to forest rights, and by shifting them from their original place in the thick forest areas, the state is merely modifying their forest rights and resettling them. “It is not a case of diversion of forest land, but it is a case of modification of forest rights,” the Court observed. (New Indian Express 21/6/14)

45. Lok Ayuktha fumes over lack of facilities in tribal haadis (6)

MYSORE: “I don’t want to hear excuses, I know what forest laws say first you should create facilities for the decent living of soliga tribals as it is their birth right.” These were strict words of state lok ayuktha Y Bhasker Rao who paid a visit to the tribal haadis( hamlets) around Biligiri Rangana Betta ( B R hills) in the remote Chamarajnagar to the officials for failing to create facilities for the aborigines in the area. Tribals of the Purani haadi poured in their woes before the lok Ayuktha and complained that they are a totally neglected lot. ” We neither have drinking water facilities nor roads to walk, leave alone the electricity supply to our haadis” they complained , adding that their life has become more rigorous and miserable as far as health facilities are concerned. ” We tribals have to visit Yelandur town which is ten kms from here or B R Hills five kilometres from our haadi in case of emergencies and especially when the women start experiencing labour pains” they pointed out urging the lok ayuktha to direct the government to create facilities for them who have been displaced from the forests where according to them they lived happily . Revealing sufferings of the tribals , ZP member Ketamma said the forest officials are creating problems for the tribals as the tribals have to trek through the forest to reach these health centres. Particularly during night time if a women get labour pains, they have to live at the mercy of the forest officials, she alleged and said there are incidents of tribal pregnant women delivering the babies in the forest itself on their way to hospitals. Hearing the complaints and sufferings from the tribals Bhasker Rao warned the forest official Lingaraju when he started revealing the constraints of the forest act . ” As a judge I know what forest law says and at the same time I know what the constitution says on the rights of the aborigines,” he disclosed and said no law suggest the officials to usurp the fundamental rights of the individuals, especially the tribals. “What prevents you from creating facilities which are already existing, what prevents you from strengthening the existing road which is in bad shape?” he asked adding that forest law prevents from laying tar , but it does not prevent you from creating a motorable road. “I know the value of the trees and environment, but it does not prevent you from creating living conditions for the tribals” he said warning them to create facilities in a three months time. ” I suggest you to lay a metal road , then electric poles without hitting the trees and then sink bore wells and fit them with motors to help the tribals to draw water easily” he said adding that he will visit the haadis again after three months . Bhasker Rao visited even Purani podu, Sigebetta, Yarakangadde , Hosapodu , Muttuganagadde and Banglepodu haadis to receive score of complaints from the tribals. Lok ayuktha also suggested the district administration to open vocational centres where the tribals earned their livelihood from the work they do at these centres. ” Such experiment has yielded results in AP and the officials emulate that experiment” he said. Bhasker Rao said Ketamma will be representative of lok Ayuktha and she will submit report on the works taken up by the district administration . ” Involve public representatives in you work,” he suggested the officials. (Times of India 21/6/14)

46. Poverty haunts Challa Yanadi tribal families (6)

Nellore: They live in thatched huts that come up mostly alongside the bunds of irrigation channels and canals in rural areas. For the hundreds and thousands of Challa Yanadi tribal families, life became a matter of facing problems like water-logging, lack of pucca houses and house sites, absence of proper drinking water source, constant danger from reptiles and so on. A pucca house built of brick, cement and concrete is a dream for every Yanadi family as such a dwelling provides huge respite from most of the immediate daily problems like water logging and roof-leaking. They poured out these problems before visiting politicians at the time of elections, seeking solutions like levelling of the land of their localities adjoining the canals. Fencing of the small pockets of land given to them in forest fringes was also among their demands as a measure to protect their crops from the stray animals. At the Mallemala Yanadi locality in Balayapalli mandal, the residents wanted desilting of a few wells so that they would get good supply of irrigation water for their crops. Little bits of forest land were given to some families here for growing crops but water supply continued to be a problem. The tribals narrated their travails before District Collector N. Srikanth, who visited the Challa Yanadi dwellings in Manubolu and Balayapalli areas recently along with a host of district officials. Nellore District Yanadi Samakhya president Mallika Sailaja accompanied the officials. With the help of NGOs, several Yanadi families have been freed from bonded labour and they were given parcels of land. As they were cultivating crops, harvesting posed problems with stray animals feeding on the crops. The tribals sought help for fencing all around the land. Mini water schemes were suggested as an effective way of solving drinking water problem in the tribal localities. For creating work opportunities, watershed development and land levelling works are sought in tribal lands and localities under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. (The Hindu 22/6/14)

47. ‘Train police personnel on Prevention of Atrocities Act’ (6)

New Delhi: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) on Tuesday met the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) and the Joint Commissioner of Police (South East Range) and asked them to train the police personnel on provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. “Delhi has emerged as an epicentre of violence against domestic workers. A majority of these are tribals from Jharkhand and Jashpur [Chhattisgarh], and Assam. The Act prescribes stringent punishment as well as a provision for 50 per cent compensation to the victim immediately once the facts of abuse or assault are ascertained through medical tests, etc. But the police frequently omit this in the first information reports,” NCST chairperson Rameshwar Oraon told The Hindu. Dr. Oraon said the Commission is collating data from FIRs filed in such cases during the past three years and the number of instances during which the Prevention of Atrocities Act was included by the police. Last month, a 12-year-old girl from Jharkhand revealed how her employers forcibly tonsured her head — a crime as per the new category of offences added in March though an amendment to the existing 19 punishable offences under the Act. On April 27, a tribal in her late teens from Singhbhum in Jharkhand, who was working as domestic worker in Model Town, was found dead. There were injuries on her body. Her employer — businessman Sachin Jindal — and his wife Shilpi Jindal were arrested, but provisions under the Act were not included in the case. “There is a need to regulate the law and improve the working conditions of domestic workers — How do private placement agencies treat them? Do the workers earn a minimum wage? Do they receive their wages in a bank account and have passbooks? What are the working conditions inside the houses?” he added. The Draft Delhi Private Placement Agencies Regulation Bill has been pending in the Assembly since last year. On September 10, 2013, Jharkhand-based NGO Diya Sewa Sansathan (DSS) submitted a list of 240 placement agencies to the Delhi Police, which tribal girls had pointed out as illegal or as places where they were abused. “There was no response to this information or on our RTI on the action taken,” said Baidnath Kumar of the DSS. “Our records show that tribal girls and women working domestic workers are usually the victims of abuse. Often, they do not speak the language and are new to the city. There is a need to sensitise Station House Officers, Sub-Inspectors, Investigating Officers, who are the first officials required to respond,” said Rishi Kant of NGO Shakti Vahini. (The Hindu 26/6/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

48. Didi defends ‘extra help’ to minorities (7)

Kolkata: Defending the “extra help” to the minority community, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday brushed aside allegations that her government was appeasing them and said she was only carrying out her constitutional responsibilities. “Some are saying that we are only giving stress for (development of) the minorities. Why shall I not do it? Certainly I will do it. The word ‘minority’ seems to be disturbing for some people. We must understand that even Bengalis would be minorities in some other state,” Mamata said. Asking the “majority” to come forward to help “members of the minority community who are lagging behind in the field of education and jobs”, Mamata said, “It is our responsibility to help them come ahhad”.” “Some people only to try to create communal disharmony,” she said, adding that her government would not allow any suchattempt and offenders would be strongly dealt with “irrespective of their faith”. She was addressing a programme jointly put up by the department of minority affairs, Madrasa education department and West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation (WBMDFC) to distribute loans and scholarships to minority students. Addressing the gathering, Abu Ayes Mondal, chairman, WBMDFC, gave a detailed break up of the money spent under various heads. “Term loan amounting to Rs 7.45 crore, education loan worth Rs 3.06 crore and micro loan worth Rs 20 crore were distributed among 22,296 members of the minority community. Besides, 2.5 lakh students got pre-matric scholarship amounting to Rs 30.39 crore, 1.53 lakh students got postgraduate scholarship totalling Rs 54.03 crore and Rs 14 lakh was distributed among 140 women under the women empowerment scheme,” Mondal said. Thirty-eight students who ranked in top 10 of Alim, Fazil and Madrasa High examinations were felicitated with a laptop, said Prof Fuzl-e-Rabbi, president, Madrasa Board. (Indian Express 20/6/14)

49. Hope dims for merit students in Mumbai’s minority colleges (7)

Mumbai: A government resolution (GR) on First Year Junior College (FYJC), or Class IX, admissions is set to affect the future of many merit students in the state. The resolution, issued on June 18, directs colleges to include other linguistic and religious minority students in the 51% quota they enjoy, if they fail to fill up the seats. For example, if a college run by a Sindhi trust fills only 30% of its 51% quota with Sindhi students, it has to offer the remaining 21% to other minorities. Hitherto, such vacant seats were being surrendered to the open, or merit, category. City colleges are unhappy with the new rule, saying it means injustice to open category students. FYJC admissions, which started on June 18, ends on June 27. There are 762 colleges in the city and 70% of them in Mumbai district are run by minority administrations. Junior colleges prefer to give 51% minority seats for their respective communities. For example, Somaiya College, Vidyavihar, prefers Gujrati Kutchi students in its minority quota and Rizvi Trust, which has several schools and colleges, prefers students from Muslim community for its 51% minority quota. Narendra Pathak, principal, SK Somaiya Vinay Mandir Junior College, said, “Already, there is 51% reservation quota for minorities. If the government wants to add more communities to that, it will be injustice to students from the open category. There will be more commercialisation in this category. The resolution says if you don’t get linguistic minority students, look for students from different religions. Merit holders will suffer due to this new rule.” Dr. Kalim Khan, director, Rizvi Institute of management studies and research, said, “The purpose of minority institutes is to serve that particular community. Today, that has been forfeited. The government should have taken the opinion and then come up with such government resolution. This process will delay the admission process and students with good percentage will definitely get affected.” City colleges are disappointed and say the new GR will affect meritorious students and delay the admission process. Some principals feel the new rule will commercialise minority quota admission. T Shiware, chairman of the Association of Non-Government College Principals, said, “The new government resolution for minority quota is not acceptable. This will deprive meritorious students from the open category to get admission to good junior colleges.” (DNA 23/6/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

50. Shia Muslims protest violence, volunteer to go to Iraq (7)

New Delhi: Shias from across the country gathered at Jantar Mantar here on Wednesday to protest against the alleged persecution of Shia Muslims in Iraq after violence broke out last week. About 3,000 youths have volunteered to go to Iraq and help with rescue operations. More than 400 Shia Muslims from Delhi, Aligarh, Punjab and neighbouring areas arrived in Delhi on Wednesday evening after religious groups called for a “unified resistance against the persecution of Shia” community in Iraq. A large number of students of Delhi University (DU) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) also participated in the protest. Speaking to Newsline, Maulana Mohsin Taqvi, who leads Friday prayers at the Shia mosque in Kashmere Gate in Old Delhi, said the protest was an attempt to “protect” the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf, two of the holiest sites for Shias worldwide. “The terror Al-Qaeda is spreading in Iraq and elsewhere in the world is against the tenets of Islam. Karbala is our sacred site, where the battle leading to the martyrdom of Imam Hussein took place several centuries ago. Najaf is also one of our holiest sites, housing the shrine of Imam Ali. We will talk to the Indian government to take strict action in this regard. This is also a message to our Shia brothers that we are there for them morally and will not shy away from extending any support whatsoever that they need,” Taqvi said. As the maulana addressed the crowd and urged them to “morally support” Iraqi Shia Muslims, he was greeted with loud cheers, with many youth proclaiming to lay down their lives for the “cause”. According to one of the organisers, Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, more than 3,000 youths from all over India have enlisted themselves in the registration for going to Iraq. “Online registrations are pouring in constantly. Here, almost 300 people gave their names for going to Iraq. We will submit this list to the Iraqi embassy and in case the need arises, we will go to Iraq and fight the insurgents, who are killing innocent people…,” Naqvi said. Syed Ali Rizvi (25), who studies accountancy, said the situation in Iraq raises “important concerns” about the security situation worldwide. “We are aware of the situation in Iraq and the kind of problems people are facing… We expect the Modi government to exert pressure on Iraq and take strict action in this regard. If possible, we will go to Iraq and take arms training to fight and protect innocent people,” he said. (Indian Express 19/6/14)

51. ‘Form central SIT to probe atrocities on Pune Muslims’ (7)

Pune: A fact finding committee of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) has claimed that the murder of Muslim techie Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Hadapsar, allegedly by the activists of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), was a well planned conspiracy and not a “random attack”. In a press conference on Saturday, members of the fact-finding committee demanded that a central special investigation team (SIT) comprising reputed officers should be formed to investigate the atrocities on Muslims of Pune in June 2014. The committee also demanded a fast track court and appointment of a special public prosecutor in consultation with the victims to try these cases. Other demands included the payment of compensation of Rs 25 lakh to Mohsin’s family, action against the police officers who did not act against the culprits during the riots, and the expediting of the investigation by the cyber cell to identify and arrest those who posted the posts on Facebook. The committee alleged that government officials are biased against the minority communities, and so sensitisation programmes for the police and revenue officials should be conducted on the issues of minorities. The committee demanded the deployment of Muslim officers and more police personnel in areas where Muslims are largely populated. The fact finding committee comprised of Prof A Marx of the People Union For Human Rights, Chennai, Reny Ayline, National Secretary, NCHRO, Prof G K Ramasamy, People Democratic Forum, Bangalore, Advocates Y K Shabana, Babita Kesharwani of Mumbai, Sudhir Dhawale, Editor of “Vidrohi”, Mumbai and Rupali Jadhav, an artiste of Kabir Kala Manch. Incidentally, Dhawale was arrested for his alleged links with Maoists in 2011. He was acquitted by the court and released in May 2014. A Marx, head of the committee, said it visited about 100 victims and eyewitnesses of the recent communal clashes in Pune that started from May 31. “We concluded that the murder of Mohsin was well-planned and not a random attack by HRS,” he said. Dhawale said, “Police have a casual approach towards HRS. We spoke to the police officers about a ban on HRS. But an officer said – how can HRS be banned just after one crime?” Pune police have so far arrested 21 persons allegedly associated with the HRS, including its chief, Dhananjay alias Bhai Desai (34), in connection with the murder of Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh at Hadapsar on June 2, following the communal clashes that started due to the spread of derogatory pictures of Maratha King Shivaji and Bal Thackeray uploaded on a Facebook (FB) profile. The committee alleged that intelligence agencies and police failed to control the activities of Hindu outfits like HRS, due to which the riots spread and led to Mohsin’s murder. (Indian Express 22/6/14)

52. ‘Muslim women behind SCs, STs in education’ (7)

GUWAHATI: Regretting lack of education among Muslim women, eminent leaders and thinkers from different parts of the country have appealed for a change. Taking part in a seminar on “the programmes and schemes of the Union ministry of minority affairs for their socio-economic and educational development,” they demanded creating awareness among the masses. Speaking on the occasion, Mohammad Akhtar Siddiqui, professor of Jamia Millia Islamia from New Delhi, highlighted on education of minority girls, implementation and issues. “Education for women is a must for the uplift of society as a whole. Muslim women are still educationally backward than the SCs and STs according to the latest government report. This is a serious concern,” said Siddiqui. In a bid to create awareness among the minority communities for their “socio-cultural, economic and educational backwardness of India with special reference to Assam”, the workshop was organized by Ajmal Foundation, Hojai, in collaboration with the Union ministry of minority affairs, New Delhi, on Sunday. Raj V Siddiqui, member of National Minorities Education Committee of the Union ministry of human resource development, focused on “alleviation of poverty through management of sustainable resources”.Anita Nuna, faculty and programme coordinator of department of women’s studies, NCERT, New Delhi, urged all the participants to create more awareness about the projects and schemes which are available to all ministries, including the ministry of minority affairs. (Times of India 24/6/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

53. Christian couple hacked to death in Bengal’s Kalimpong (7)

Siliguri: A Christian couple was hacked to death and their 12-year-old daughter’s eye gouged out by masked assailants in Kalimpong sub division of West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, police said Thursday. The incident at the Geetdubling slum in remote Budhwar area, about two hours drive from Kalimpong town, Tuesday-Wednesday midnight, has left the young girl fighting in a serious condition first at Kalimpong Hospital, and now at north Bengal Medical College and Hospital. Her left eye has been severely affected after being slashed with a sharp weapon. The couple’s four-year-old younger daughter escaped the assailants by fleeing from home. One person has been detained in connection with the incident, said Darjeeling’s Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Chaturvedi. Kalimpong Additional Superintendent of Police Anjali Singh said the husband Dominik Bhutia worked with a cable operator. Locals saw the victims lying in a pool of blood in their house Thursday morning and informed police. The bodies have been sent for post mortem. Chaturvedi said the Tibetan couple had converted to Christianity. He hoped the case would be solved soon. Himalayan Buddhist Association general secretary and Tibetan Support Group’s north east India core committee convenor Sonam Londrup Lama has condemned the incident and demaned exemplary punishment of the culprits. Various other organisations in Kalimpong have also raised their voice against the attack. (Zee News 20/6/14)

54. Servant of God Moves Ahead on Road to Sainthood (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Living the life of a saint is not easy, but getting someone officially declared as one could prove equally tough. The Thiruvananthapuram-based Syro-Malankara Catholic Church has now completed a gargantuan documentation and translation project as part of the efforts to get its founder listed as a saint of the Catholic Church. On Monday, the Church is undertaking another exercise that is crucial to the cause of canonisation. The mortal remains of Mar Ivanios, buried at the St Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, will be exhumed and subjected to an examination by a 21-member team which includes six doctors. The remains, before they are returned to the grave, will be kept on display at the Cathedral for a few hours in a specially-made casket. Six decades after his death, much of what Archbishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios put down on paper or uttered in speeches and discourses have been painstakingly compiled and translated into English. The documents, Church officials said, number almost one lakh. “The translation work is over. The texts will soon be submitted to the Vatican, where it will undergo thorough scrutiny. If the Vatican finds him worthy, Ivanios ‘Thirumeni’ will be declared as ‘venerable,’ which is the next step in the canonisation process,” Fr Bovas Mathew Meloottu, spokesperson of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, said. “Earlier, the documents had to be translated into Italian. Rome has simplified the process, though. Now English will do,” he said. Serious time and effort go into canonisation, the process of getting an individual listed in the canon of recognised saints. All other factors being on track, a candidate listed as ‘venerable’ is declared ‘blessed’, if it can be proved that he/she was responsible for one miracle. For being declared a saint, two miracles have to be established. In Mar Ivanios’ case, the initial hurdles of this tedious process are being negotiated. Born in 1882 in Mavelikkara, Mar Ivanios is best known as the architect of the Reunion Movement. Formerly a bishop of the Malankara Orthodox Church, he joined Communion with the Catholic Church in 1930, and founded the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis, the present head of the church, had declared Mar Ivanios a ‘Servant of God’ in 2007, after which the church appointed a 150-member team on the canonisation ‘project.’ But the groundwork began as early as 1998. The 150-member team comprises experts  — people on long leave from their profession and retired college professors — under an oath of secrecy. “Documents were collected from 38 archives, some from as far as the US and Rome. All this is required to prove that the individual in question lived his life as a pure Catholic and that his faith was true,” Fr Bovas said. The documentation/translation work itself was carried out by the Historical Commission. (New Indian Express 23/6/14)

55. Now, Christians too demand reservations (7)

MUMBAI: Christian leaders have demanded reservations for Christian Dalits, most of whom are poor, as Muslim leaders welcomed 5% reservations for their community in education and jobs. Abraham Mathai of the Indian Christian Voice said, “The government should give reservations to Christians too as most of them in the state are poor and tribals. Marginalized Christians should not be ignored as they are a small minority.” Dolphy D’Souza of Save Our Land (SOUL) complained that Christians have been ignored by successive governments as they “are not a big votebank”. She said that the 1950 Presidential order excluded Christian Dalits and Muslim Dalits from the purview of quotas, as given to scheduled castes. Muslim leaders demanded immediate implementation of the state cabinet’s decision and said the government must strongly defend it if challenged in the Supreme Court. Congress MLA Amin Patel, who had demanded quotas for Muslims in the last monsoon session, said, “Reservations have been a long-standing demand of the community, as panels headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ranganath Mishra and Mahmoodur Rahman had also recommended quotas to empower Muslims. This will help mainstream the community, which has felt alienated due to backwardness.” Signs of Muslims getting reservations were evident when, replying to Patel’s questions, minister Fauzia Khan had said, “You will soon get good news.” But M A Khalid of the All-India Milli Council said the government should have announced it earlier, as it seems like a sop before the assembly elections. Many said the state government should not flinch from defending the decision in the apex court, if challenged. Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan said, “This is not the first time Muslims have been given reservations in India. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had provided reservations to economically poor Muslims, and Muslims in Maharashtra too needed it.” (Times of India 27/6/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

56. Nanavati panel seeks review of HC order about Sanjiv Bhatt (7)

AHMEDABAD: The Nanavati commission probing the 2002 riots has moved the Gujarat high court for a review of the latter’s order asking the probe panel to supply all intelligence documents to suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. In a review petition filed on Wednesday, the commission argued the court could not issue such an order. The HC had earlier asked the probe panel to supply Bhatt all intelligence documents – even those that were classified – for inspection. Justice G T Nanavati, the inquiry commission’s chairman, said they had sought a review of the order. A division bench is likely to take up the matter on Thursday. On Monday the HC had directed the commission to allow Bhatt to inspect all state IB documents so he could file an affidavit. Last October the HC had asked the state government to supply the suspended IPS officer all the 47 documents he had sought for inspection, even if they were classified. The government had raised the matter of relevance and confidentiality to oppose the HC order, but the court had rejected the objections. Since the HC was unmoved on the issue of relevance and permitted Bhatt to begin inspection within three days and file the affidavit by June 27, he went to the commission. But the probe panel provided him only those documents that were not classified and told him it would seek a review of the HC order. Bhatt refused to inspect the documents that had been supplied to him earlier also. Bhatt has been demanding these documents of the subsidiary intelligence bureau to depose before the commission. In 2011 he had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, alleging the SIT had tried to shield then chief minister Narendra Modi and others by not recording his statement implicating them in offences such as the Gulbarg Society massacre that had taken place after the Godhra carnage. In October 2012 advocate general Kamal Trivedi had assured the HC all documents would be supplied to Bhatt for inspection. But the government supplied only 14 documents to the probe panel and withheld 23 others on the grounds they were classified. Of the 15 documents given to the panel, the government recommended only five be given to the suspended police officer. (Times of India 19/6/14)

57. Mamata: Will not allow communal violence in state (7)

KOLKATA: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday brushed aside allegations that her government was appeasing the minorities ignoring the interests of the Hindus. “Some are saying that we are only focusing on the minorities and not the Hindus. You should have the eyes to see the overall development,” she said, adding that state the government is also renovating the house of Swami Vivekananda. “There are people who indulge in divisive politics. Swami Vivekananda had said that one day people from the lowest section of the society will lead the country. If one section of the society needs development, the other sections should come forward and help them. There is no place for violence in democracy. There is no place for conspiracy in development. Let there be development for everybody. It is our responsibility to help the downtrodden,” she added. Some people, the chief minister said, tend to react when they hear the word minority. “I don’t understand why. I am a Bengali. I am a minority in Assam. Everybody will belong to the minority community in some place or the other. This must be accepted. It is the duty of the majority to come forward for the development of the minority,” she said at a programme on offering of loans, scholarship and other benefits for minority welfare at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. “This is how a bridge of trust is built. There should be competition on the basis of the development work done, not by being jealous. We are working for anyone who needs development. Helping them, standing by them is our moral responsibility,” she said, adding that she had heard questions being raised about the state government’s giving sops to the Muslims. She asked “Why won’t we not do it? Certainly, I will do it. I will do so for whoever is needy,” she added. “I am against riots. I abhor the idea of inciting communal tension. Criminals are criminals. Even for petty cases like theft some sections search for communal links. We should not bring religion here. Criminals do not have any caste, creed or religion. Those guilty of crimes will be punished according to the law,” she said. Mamata also said: “We wan’t to ensure that our brothers and sisters pursue their studies properly, receive training and get jobs. And, those who cannot get jobs, can start business by taking loans from the government,” she said. (Times of India 20/6/14)

58. UPA’s Communal Violence Bill Put on Back Burner by NDA Govt? (7)

NEW DELHI: The Communal Violence Bill, an initiative of the previous UPA regime, seems to have been put on the back burner by the NDA government with the Home Ministry unlikely to push the controversial legislation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dubbed the bill as a “recipe for disaster” when he was chief minister of Gujarat. Home Ministry officials said there has been no discussion at all on the ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill ever since the new government assumed charge and the legislation did not figure in any discussions either with Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Rajnath Singh. “The bill is not in sync with the new government’s thinking. So, we have decided not to bring it into the table,” a Home Ministry official said. The UPA government, which tried to enact the bill with stringent punitive provisions, had faced strong opposition from BJP and several chief ministers, including West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu’s J Jayalalithaa. Just before the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha in February, the UPA government tried to bring the draft bill to the House by dropping several provisions including making it neutral to all communities and reducing the role of the central government in case of riots. Earlier the bill specifically mentioned that the onus of riots lies on the majority community. The draft bill is made neutral to all groups or communities and the central government will not have any alleged over-riding powers anywhere. Besides, the central government’s role will largely be of coordination and will act only when the state government seeks help. Earlier, the Centre was given unilateral powers to send central paramilitary forces in case of communal violence without consulting the state government. However, there were no takers for even the diluted version of the legislation. BJP had been maintaining it opposed to it on the ground that it would be a “threat to India’s communal harmony”.In a letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Modi termed the bill as a “recipe for disaster” and said the timing to bring the bill was “suspicious owing to political considerations and vote bank politics, rather than genuine concerns”. (New Indian Express 24/6/14)

WOMEN

59. Crime against women unabated in UP; no change after transfers (8)

Lucknow, Jun 18 : Uttar Pradesh, was further rocked with about a dozen crimes, in which members of fairer sex were sexually exploited, raped, murdered for dowry and other crimes during past 24-hours. A police report from Aligarh said, body of a 15-year-old girl was found hanging with a tree at mango orchard in Wazidpur area of Dadu, this morning. She went to attend call of nature’s call last night and went missing. Her family members recovered her body this morning. Local police sent the body for post-mortem and sought report to confirm whether the girl was sexually assaulted. Similarly, in Rae Bareli, 18-year-old, a resident of Bhadhukar, went out to attend nature’s call. In Sultanpur, a mentally retarded minor girl hailing from Khethara locality of Dhakwa, was raped by a local resident identified as Chotu, for past several months. The incident came to notice when the victim turned pregnant. A case was registered and Chotu was arrested. In Mainpuri, two minor girls were molested by a local youth identified as Mukesh Jatav yesterday. According to police, brother of one of the girl suddenly reached the spot and during scuffle with the accused, he bite his private parts in which Mukesh was critically injured. Local police admitted Mukesh to hospital and further action has been on in the matter. (New Kerala 19/6/14)

60. Post-Nirbhaya, Delhi theatre focuses on women-centric issues (8)

NEW DELHI: Post-Nirbhaya, both professional as well as amateur theatre in the capital, is witnessing a definite shift towards addressing women-centric issues such as eve teasing, molestation, harassment, sexual assault and patriarchy. Plays such as Sarkari Feminism by the Pandies Theatre Group and Draupadi by Atul Satya Koushik were staged in support of women who had survived gruesome crimes. Even campus theatre, notably Sri Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce, IP College for Women and Jesus and Mary Convent staged plays on women. Some colleges took the additional step of creating their own websites for signing petitions and taking these issues ahead. “We should all have a feminist approach, if we want to visualize a better nation,” says Sanjay Kumar, director of Pandies Theatre Group, which has been focusing on women-centric plays. He adds, “There is too much misogyny in this country and the problem lies in the overpowering dominance of men. This is one of the main reasons why we stage these plays.” Theatre has given these groups an excellent platform to express the unsaid, but more importantly it has given them the power to act out their opinions and incorporate another point of view too. Kumar’s ribald but humorous play, Sarkari Feminism, first takes an irreverent look at commissions and committees appointed by the state to look into women’s problems. It then asks: is the intervention of independent groups better than that of the state? Are they more capable of surmounting their class biases and address the issues better? Leaning on the group’s incessant work with women in slums and bastis of north India, the play presents stories that scream to redress these issues on their own terms. On the other hand, Draupadi directed by Atul Satya Koushik, takes excerpts from the age-told story of Draupadi and adds imaginative sequences to bring out the real essence of association between Draupadi and today`s women. The juxtaposing makes this work fit to be called an imaginative re-telling of certain chapters from Draupadi`s life. The incidents in the play take place in an Indian village in the late 1960s. A bunch of playful females of a large family of Haryanvi rural performers, decide to play Draupadi in the absence of all the males of the family. In the process they discover how closely their lives are a reflection of Draupadi’s. This intense story unfolds in a light and seamless manner. Like all other productions of the society, this play also scores high on folk music. “Everything circles around women. And it’s a shame that they are disrespected in our society,” says Koushik. He feels it is his responsibility as a theatre artist to bring about awareness among people and he believes that theatre has immense potential to reach out to a large audience and make a difference. Similarly, taking campus theatre forward is practitioner, director and activist Kuljeet Singh who organizes ‘Ateliers’, an annual theatre fest which picks out the best of DU plays and stages them for the public. They are then performed in reputed auditoriums such as Kamani Auditorium and Sri Ram Centre. Others are using internet to spread the message. Aniket Jaiswal, a former member of the Hans Raj College dramatics society, has now started his own YouTube channel ‘ Old Delhi Films’ and has posted videos like ‘ Real men don’t rape and tape’ and ‘She’ which are focused on the ordeals faced by women today. Theatre has immense potential to bring about a change in society. As US playwright Thornton Wilder once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share the sense of what it is to be a human being”. Eighteen months after the sexual assault and killing of Nirbhaya shocked the nation, Delhi theatre is taking some small but sure-footed steps in that direction. (Times of India 22/6/14)

61. Vrindavan widows come to Delhi with hopes from Modi govt (8)

NEW DELHI: A hundred widows from Vrindavan and Varanasi were provided a platform by NGO Sulabh International to give voice to the many inequities and injustices suffered by them on International Widows’ Day. The women, who gathered in the capital, appealed to the Narendra Modi government to introduce and pass a bill to protect their rights drafted by Bindeshwar Pathak, Sulabh founder, in the Budget Session of Parliament next month. “We will approach Modiji and our MP from Mathura, Hema Malini, for measures to ensure welfare of widows who are living in Vrindavan and Varanasi,” Radha Dasi (84), who is originally from West Bengal, said. Vrindavan is home to thousands of old widows from West Bengal and their condition used to be pitiable until the Supreme Court intervened and NGOs took up the challenge to ameliorate their plight. To highlight inequities and atrocities suffered by many women once they lose their husbands, United Nations officially recognized International Widows’ Day at a New York conference in 2011. “No woman should lose her rights when she loses her husband,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said. Some 40 million of the world’s widows live in India and life for many of these women is hard and fraught with struggle. Often with no social security, they are made to feel worthless, undesirable and a burden by their in-laws. While 8% women in India are widows, only 2.5% men are widowers as men usually remarry. “Widows, sometimes teenagers, are mostly not allowed to remarry. Some mothers have even been cast out by their children and forced to live on streets,” said Pathak, who felt the Bill must be passed at the earliest, said. (Times of India 24/6/14)

62. Average gender ratio improves in UP: Minister (8)

Lucknow, Jun 25: Uttar Pradesh government today said the gender ratio in 2001 was 898 female per thousand male, has now gone up to 912 females per 1000 males in 2011 census. Infant gender ratio which was 916 girls per thousand boys in 2001 in the age group of 0 to 6 years has come down to 902 in 2011, disclosed UP health minister Ahmed Hassan in a written reply in the state assembly. The minister, however, did not give any specific reason for the downfall of gender in the infant group. The birth rate in Uttar Pradesh was 24.8 per cent per thousand during 2012-13. In urban areas, the birth rate was 26.4 while it was 19.6 per thousand in the rural areas. But the infant mortality rate was still higher at 68 child per thousand children born in the state in that year, the minister said while quoting the Annual Health Survey of the Central government. (New Kerala 25/6/14)

63. Gujarat Sets Example in Women Empowerment (8)

The Gujarat government’s announcement of revision of its recruitment norms to ensure that women comprise 33 per cent of the state police force is a welcome step towards empowering women. Though the quota for women in police force already existed in Gujarat on paper, it could not be filled due to stringent criteria for physical tests. Now the norms will be adjusted so that women can clear the tests and Gujarat will become the first state in the country to implement such a progressive provision which in effect provides for such reservation to women in all cadres in future recruitments. This should be seen as a continuation of the women empowerment drive of chief minister Anandiben Patel. The state government had ascribed top priority to women empowerment and had listed out several measures to be taken for the women in the state even in the 100-day agenda released recently. Credit for this must go to prime minister Narendra Modi who ensured that the state got a woman chief minister who gave primacy to women’s empowerment issues. He has ensured that charity begins in his home state. It is to be hoped that every effort would be made to ensure that the experiment is successful. The state government must also ensure that police stations do not become hotbeds of gender discrimination against women by men who will continue to outnumber them. Gujarat’s lead should inspire other states to follow its example and improve representation of women in police forces all over the country. At present, women constitute less than 7 per cent of the central and state law enforcement agencies and their under-representation is one of the main causes for lax enforcement of laws protecting women. The proportion is extremely skewed in states like Uttar Pradesh, which has just 2,586 women against the total strength of 1.73 lakh in the state police forces. It is small wonder then that crimes against women are rampant there. (New Indian Express 27/6/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

64. Gujarat expert to lead water management panel in capital (9)

NEW DELHI: The adviser to the Gujarat government on water issues, Babubhai Navalawala will now head an advisory group that will “guide the Delhi government on issues related to water management”.Navalawala, a former secretary in the ministry of water resources and a water expert, has also been associated with the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, responsible for the Narmada dam. He was in Delhi at the invitation of lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung and met him and senior officials on Thursday. During the meeting, Jung appointed Navalawala as chairperson of the advisory group that will focus on three critical areas-disposal of untreated sewage by storm water drains into the Yamuna, development of the river and raising the water table in Delhi. The LG, who on Tuesday reviewed the working of DJB, announced that the city needs to draft a long-term plan for water and sewage, both of which will also be supervised by the advisory group. It will also work out an action plan on the three major water and sewerage concerns and create task forces which will execute the specific plans and report to the advisory group. “The advisory group will consist of five expert members and they will meet on a monthly basis to review the progress of the works assigned,” said sources. Last week, a team of Delhi government officials visited Ahmedabad to study the Sabarmati river project. On their return, several departments recommended that the only way of cleaning the Yamuna is by channelizing it like the Sabarmati, a suggestion that has met with stiff opposition from environmentalists. Meanwhile, Jung asked DJB to improve water supply and provide sewerage facilities to unauthorized colonies. (Times of India 20/6/14)

65. Expedite implementation of biodiversity plan: Javadekar (9)

New Delhi: India’s Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar Monday urged the parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) to expedite the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, a statement said. In a video message, Javadekar, president of the 11th Conference of Parties (CoP-11) to the CBD, highlighted key issues of biodiversity conservation that were discussed at the CBD’s fifth meeting of the Working Group on review of implementation (WGRI-5) held in Montreal (Canada) June 16-20. Javdekar also urged the parties to decide on final targets for resource mobilisation for implementation of the Strategic Plan, and also highlighted the importance of addressing poverty reduction as a cross-cutting issue of the strategic plan, the statement said. “He expressed confidence that these initiatives would help to harness long-term benefits by investing in biodiversity conservation,” it added. At the WGRI-5 meeting, India was represented by Hem Pande, additional secretary in the ministry and India’s pointman for the CBD. (Zee News 23/6/14)

66. EFL Act: Govt for Further Amendment (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The government proposes to bring in  further amendment to the Ecologically Fragile Lands (EFL) Act, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told the Assembly on Monday. As many as 467 cases are pending in connection with the implementation of the Act. It is for the urgent settlement of these cases that the amendment is being proposed. A meeting chaired by the Chief Minister was convened in this regard and the suggestion of it will be considered while amending the Act, the Minister said. A project to grow ‘mini forest’ in houses with medicinal plants and trees will be launched. Those who successfully implement it will be given awards at district and state levels. Various other projects have been envisaged to protect the biodiversity of forests. It is important to create habitat for the wild animals as their numbers are increasing, the Minister said. The decision to give no-objection certificate to Karuna Estate in Nelliampathy was taken by eight officers from six departments. A probe by three officers is going on to study all sides of the decision and action will be taken once they submit report, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said. The decision on the suggestion to increase the number days of trawling ban to 60 could be taken only after reaching a consensus with all sections, Fisheries Minister K Babu told the Assembly. A committee was set up to study the impact of trawling ban. It has suggested to impose the ban for 60 days in two phases. But there has been no agreement on this suggestion yet. The practice of exporting fish which are not consumable will be prevented, the Minister told the House. The de-addiction centres functioning in the state will be given financial assistance from the revenue of Bevco. A state committee chaired by the Excise Commissioner and a district committees led by District Collectors have been set up to find out the centres which deserve the assistance, Babu said. (New Indian Express 24/6/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

67. NHRC issues notice to Bihar government over shortage of schools (11)

Patna: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday issued a notice to Bihar government over alleged acute shortage of schools in the state. The NHRC has issued notice to the Government of Bihar, through its Chief Secretary, calling for a report within four weeks about the steps taken by the state administration to fulfill the shortage of schools in the state, According to an NHRC statement released on Thursday. He has also been asked to inform about the time-frame in which the entitlements as per the Right to Education Act will be fulfilled. The Commission has also sought status of availability of Primary School teachers in the state, the statement said. The notice was issued after the Commission took suo motu cognisance of a media report that there was acute shortage of middle-level schools in Bihar and the children have to walk miles for primary education. Quoting a Government survey, the report says that there were still 896 inhabited locations where elementary education was not available within a kilometre. 2,974 inhabited locations do not have middle schools within three kilometres. There were still 2,100 locations which were deprived of education facilities even after more than 65 years of independence. The Commission has observed that the contents of press report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of Right to Education of children. (DNA 19/6/14)

68. UGC Gives Ultimatum to Delhi University over Four-Year Programme (11)

New Delhi:  Toughening its stand, the University Grants Commission (UGC) today asked the Delhi University and all its colleges to conduct admissions only under the three-year undergraduate programme and not under the controversial FYUP while warning of “consequences” if its direction is violated. The UGC direction for the coming academic session came a day after the Delhi University struck a defiant note, rejecting the Commission’s directive to scrap the controversial four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP). “Under no circumstances shall the University of Delhi or any of the colleges under it admit students to the FYUP for academic year 2014-15,” the Commission said in a statement. “And further that any deviation from this directive either by the University of Delhi or any of the colleges under it shall be deemed to be in contravention of the UGC Act, 1956 with its consequences,” it said. Officials said disobeying the UGC direction could spell trouble for Delhi University as it could stand to lose grants and degrees offered by the varsity could be de-recognised. The UGC said that it would be ensured that students, who were admitted in 2013-14 in FYUP when it was introduced, are able to migrate to the three-year programme. In the statement, the UGC said “admission for academic year 2014-15 at the undergraduate level in the general degree programmes (including the Honours programme in different subjects of Humanities, Science and Commerce) in various colleges under the University of Delhi shall only be to the three-year undergraduate programme which was offered prior to the introduction of the FYUP”.The UGC has also decided to constitute a ten-member committee with representations from teachers, students and statutory bodies to advice DU for the implementation of the directive. They would ensure that students, who were admitted in 2013-14 are able to migrate to the three-year programme, without any hassle and acquire necessary academic and other competencies during the next two academic years, it said. The committee would comprise the vice chairman of the UGC, president of DUTA and students’ body DUSU among others. At its full commission meeting on June 13, the UGC had asked Delhi University to review the programme as it felt that it was in violation of the national policy on education which follows the 10-plus 2-plus 3 pattern. The Delhi University, however, stood by the programme and in a reply to the commission has maintained that it has followed due procedure. The varsity yesterday said it had revised the programme to make it compliant with the National Policy on Education (NPE). Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) along with several student organisations such as NSUI and ABVP has been demanding immediate roll back of the FYUP and the VC’s resignation. BJP had during the elections promised to scrap the FYUP if it comes to power. The UGC is a statutory organisation responsible for co-ordination, determination and maintenance of standards of education as well of disbursal of funds for universities in the country. (NDTV 22/6/14)

69. Delhi Cantonment Board schools teach Sanskrit to Muslim kids (11)

Ew Delhi: In a surprising finding, all Muslim students studying at seven schools run by the Delhi Cantonment Board are being taught Sanskrit as these schools do not have provision to teach Urdu. The board runs seven schools in the city, out of which one is meant for specially-abled children and the other six are general schools. These six schools have a total of 69 Muslim students and all the students have to study Sanskrit as there is no provision for teaching Urdu, an RTI has revealed. The RTI, which was filed by a Jamia Nagar resident and Nawa-e-Haque Welfare Association president Asad Gazi, the Commission for Linguistic Minorities, which is regulated by the Union minorities ministry, launched an investigation into the matter on May 16 and directed the board’s chief executive officer, Sanjeev Kumar, to initiate action in this regard. The memorandum was also submitted to the principal secretary (education), National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions chairman, National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities and Central Board of Secondary Education chairman. (Asin Age 23/6/14)

70. Last year, HRD ministry had backed 4-yr course in high court (11)

New Delhi: The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) may have refused to interfere in the standoff between the Delhi University and the University Grants Commission over the four-year undergraduate programme this time, but in 2013 it had supported the course. In a reply sent to the High Court in relation to a PIL against the course sent on July 23, 2013, the MHRD has clearly stated that the university is a statutory autonomous body and all academic decisions are taken by it on approval by the Academic and Executive council and the University Court. “It (DU) has complied with all formal requirements as per the University Act, Statutes and Ordinance for introducing FYUP from July 2013. In view of the above, there is no ground or occasion for the Ministry to take an otherwise view on an academic decision like this,” the letter stated. The letter also states that the FYUP is in conformity with the UGC regulations. It also points out that the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore had also announced a four-year Bachelor of Science programme. The MHRD may not have spoken out against the Vice Chancellor nor questioned the university’s autonomy but it has not come out in the university’s defence either — a position contrary to the one it took last year. The letter has also pointed out that the name FYUP is a misnomer as only those students who are seeking an honours degree will have to stay for four years. The others can leave in two years with a diploma or in three years with a simple bachelor degree.   This is a position that the university has also communicated to the UGC but was rejected by the regulatory body which declared that the course was against the National Education Policy that says that an undergraduate degree should be three years long.  What has changed in this one year is the regime. “The Pallam Raju-led ministry had taken a stand that Delhi University is an autonomous institution and it would not take any step in contravention of that status. MHRD is nowhere in the picture even now. The issue is between DU and UGC,” said a senior MHRD official.    (Hindustan Times 25/6/14)

71. Sex education should be banned in schools: Harsh Vardhan (11)

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has courted yet another controversy by stating that sex education should be banned in schools. The Union Minister is his vision document for Delhi schools says: “So-called “sex education” to be banned. Yoga to be made compulsory.” Dr Vardhan’s views on sex education is sure to spark a debate and give fresh ammunition to the Congress to hit back at the Cabinet minister. Recently, the Union Health Minister sparked a controversy by saying that promoting condom usage is not enough to prevent AIDS. However, Dr Vardhan on Wednesday denied opposing promotion of condoms, and said a combination of condoms and abstinence was needed to fight HIV/AIDS. The Health Minister also expressed “disappointment” over the way media “distorted” his statements in an interview given to The New York Times. In the interview to the US daily, Dr Harsh Vardhan was quoted as saying: “One should also promote integrity of sexual relationship between husband and wife – a part of Indian culture.” “The thrust of the AIDS campaign should not only be on the use of condoms. This sends the wrong message that you can have any kind of illicit sexual relationship, but as long as you’re using a condom, it’s fine,” he said. In response to the criticism he received, the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist said: “Any experienced NGO activist knows that condoms sometimes break while being used. That is why government campaigns in India, whether through the National Aids Control Organisation or the state governments, should focus on safe sex as a holistic concept which includes highlighting the role of fidelity to single partners.” He said: “The tradition of preserving institution of marriage governed relevant government legislations”.”Even the law on divorce insists on attempts at reconciliation and suggest recourse to separation only in the last resort,” he said. “The culture of regarding husband and wife as halves of a whole should be upheld in the modern age where one sees all-round crumbling of values.” “My statement on informing people on the supremacy of fidelity as an AIDS prevention measure is not only a piece of cultural advice but also a scientific one. So as Minister of Health I find it justified to include this simple message in the communication strategy of the government’s anti-AIDS programmes,” he said. “Condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness to one’s partner. Prevention is always better than cure,” he added. (Zee News 27/6/14)

TERRORISM

72. Families of 40 Indian construction workers abducted in Iraq pray for their safe return (12)

Amritsar: Family members of the Punjabi boys who have been abducted in Iraq are shattered and praying hard for the safe return of their sons from Iraq. On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed the abduction of 40 Indians in Iraq, but added that they have not received calls from anyone who has indicated about ransom or taking these workers under control. The family members of these boys are worried about their fate even as the Iraqi government has now asked the United States to conduct air strikes against the militants of the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Gurpinder Kaur’s brother Manjinder Singh is one of the 40 Punjabi boys who are stranded in Iraq. She said that last time she spoke to her brother was on Sunday when he was well but under the care of ISIL. Now she has learnt from the TV news reports that he might be one of those abducted in Iraq. Sukhjinder Kaur, the mother of Manjinder Singh, told ANI, “I’m only concerned about the safety of my child.” She failed to hold back her tears while talking and said she didn’t care who her son was captured by, ISIL or someone else, she just wanted her child safe back home. She also asked the Indian government to take all the necessary steps to bring the construction workers back home. (DNA 19/6/14)

73. Iraq crisis: As the Sunni terror spreads, its fighters look for wives (12)

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi army and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are battling for control of Iraq’s largest refinery outside Baiji north of Baghdad, with each side holding part of the complex. But in the town of Baiji itself, a few miles away, which is completely under the control of ISIS, residents say they are most frightened by ISIS militants going door to door asking about the numbers of married and unmarried women in the house. “I told them that there were only two women in the house and both were married,” said Abu Lahid. “They said that many of their mujahedin (fighters) were unmarried and wanted a wife. They insisted on coming into my house to look at the women’s ID cards (which in Iraq show marital status).” ISIS says its men have been ordered not to bother local people if they are Sunni, but in many places they are imposing their puritanical social norms in the towns they have captured. In Mosul people were at first jubilant that ISIS had removed the checkpoints that for years had made movement in the city very slow. Merchants and farmers were ordered to reduce the prices of their goods. But tolerance and moderation on the part of ISIS is intermittent and may be temporary. In one case in Mosul a woman was reportedly whipped, along with her husband, because she was only wearing a headscarf rather than the niqqab cloak covering the whole body. In some captured towns fanatical ISIS militants start imposing rules about women’s clothing, watching TV in coffee shops and cigarette smoking almost before the fighting is ended. The restraint, or lack of it, shown by ISIS has important political implications. When al-Qaida in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS, insisted on local women marrying their fighters during the Sunni-Shia civil war between 2004 and 2008, they alienated much of the Sunni community. They killed even minor government employees. “I would rather have my door kicked in by American soldiers than by al-Qaida because, with the Americans, I would stand a better chance of staying alive,” a young Sunni man in Baghdad said at the time. Such feelings enabled the Americans to create Sahwa, an anti-al-Qaida force among the Sunni. (Times of India 22/6/14)

74. 38 killed, around 60 abducted in Nigeria (12)

Maiduguri (Nigeria): Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and girls, some as young as three, in the latest kidnappings in northeast Nigeria and over two months since more than 200 schoolgirls were seized. Analysts said the kidnapping, which happened during a raid on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, could be an attempt by the Islamist group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters. Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen killed 38 people, mostly women and children, in raids on two villages in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, an area plagued by years of sectarian conflict, officials said Tuesday. The late Monday attacks targeted the remote villages of Fadan Karshi and Nandu in southern Kaduna, the head of the area’s local government, Emmanuel Adamu Danzaria, said. “Twenty-one people were killed in Karshi and 17 others were killed in Nandu. We are yet to identify those behind the attacks,” he said. “Most of the victims were women and children.” Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls that it has held hostage since April 14 in exchange for the freedom of its brothers in arms currently held in Nigerian jails. Nigeria initially refused to sanction any deal but efforts have since been made to open talks with the group, with a possible prisoner swap part of discussions. The military in Abuja said in a tweet late on Monday it could not confirm the latest abductions and spokesmen were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP on Tuesday. But a senior officer in the Damboa local government, who asked for his name to be withheld as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said: “Over 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists. “The village was also destroyed,” he said, adding that locals had fled their homes to other parts of Borno and across the state border into Adamawa. “Among those abducted are children between the ages of three and 12,” he added… (Hindustan Times 24/6/14)

75. India, US Working Together to Track and Disrupt Terror Networks (12)

WASHINGTON: India and the US are working together to track and disrupt transnational terrorism networks including those responsible for the attack on Indian consulate in Herat, a senior US official said, reiterating that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was to be blamed for the attack. “We will continue to work together to track and disrupt transnational terrorism, including those responsible for the Indian consulate attack in Herat,” the official said, a day after the United States publicly blamed LeT for the attack. “India remains an active and strong counter terrorism partner of the United States, and we will continue to share information with the Government of India on counter terrorism issues,” the official said on the condition of anonymity. On Wednesday, the US had re-designated LeT and several of its alias as a terrorist organization and had slapped sanctions against two of its leaders. “While we cannot publicly comment on the specific deliberations related to terrorist designations, I can say that any designation is the result of an extensive, deliberative process that involves consultations with both intra-agency, inter-agency, and international partners,” the official added. “We’ve been very clear about the threat LeT poses,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said. “Obviously, we’ve made very clear our concern about LeT (to Pakistan). That’s why we put them on our designation list; that’s why we try to cut off funding and support to them,” she said. Responding to a question, Harf said the US has worked very closely with Pakistan on counter terrorism issues. “The threat from the Taliban and other terrorist groups is not new. We’ve worked with them very closely. It doesn’t just threaten the Pakistanis; it threatens Afghanistan and India, and has the United States in the past as well,” she said. “In terms of the current operations Pakistan is undertaking in North Waziristan, this is an entirely Pakistani-led and executed operation. Obviously, we have long supported their efforts to extend the writ of government throughout their country and to increase internal stability and security. But again, these current operations are an entire Pakistani-led event,” Harf said. (New Indian Express 27/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

76. Chhattisgarh CM devises elaborate development plan for Maoist-hit Bastar (12)

Raipur (Chhattisgarh), June 19 : Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has revealed that he may soon come out with an elaborate plan to develop and strengthen security in Maoist-hit Bastar District. Singh said road construction would be speed up and every police station in the district would have solar power and better connectivity. “We are going to speed up road construction and agency is about to be set up. Bastar will open up and development will take place. Connectivity will increase. In every police station, whether it is connected with electricity or not, we have decided to set up solar plant there,” said Singh. Any development activity in Maoist infested areas is often met with strong opposition from the red rebels. They attack workers and destroy the work done. The rebels have operated for decades across a wide swathe of central and eastern India and grown in strength during recent times in areas where poor, tribal villagers came into conflict with mining companies seeking resources for industrialisation. Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers. Thousands have been killed in the insurgency since the late 1960s. New Kerala 19/6/14)

77. Naxals extort Rs 100 crore annually from Chhattisgarh: Police

Raipur: The naxal-hit Chhattisgarh has become centre of extorting money by the ultras, who collect nearly Rs 100 crore annually from various sources in the state, police said. “Numerous intelligence inputs suggested that Maoist have extorted money to the tune of Rs 80-100 crore from various sources like contractors, businessmen, transporters and tendu patta contractors, every year in the state,” a senior police official, said. Senior naxal leaders were primarily focusing on mineral-rich Chhattisgarh for extorting money for functioning of the banned outfit CPI (Maoist) in the country, the official said. In March this year, based on tip-offs, security forces had unearthed naxal dumps in the forests of Sitagaon and Aundhi in Rajnandagon district and seized nearly Rs 29 lakh, he said. The spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee Gudsa Usendi alias GVK Prasad, who surrendered early this year in Andhra Pradesh had revealed that naxals were involved in extorting a hefty amount of money from restive Bastar (south Chhattisgarh) region, he added. Giving details of the account of money extorted by naxals, based on the documents received from State Intelligence Bureau, the officer said, naxals have been extorting money to the tune of Rs 3 crore annually from the locals, Rs 10 crore from businessmen, Rs 20 crore from contractors, Rs 10 crore from transporters. Around Rs 20 crore from?tendu leaves contractors, Rs 15 crore from timber contractors, Rs 20 crore from industrialists based in naxal-hit areas and Rs 20 crore from the employees and officers, he added. Around 20 per cent of total cost of any projects or development work undertaken in the Maoist-affected zones is extorted as “protection money”, ensuring safety to the work as well as people involved in it till its completion, the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) document said. Moreover, mobile operators also pay protection money of Rs 20,000 to Maoist to ensure safety of the mobile towers. From the locals, money is raised in the name of “revolutionary tax”, which ranges from Rs 10 to Rs 2,000, it said. The SIB document also revealed that the central committee of CPI (Maoist) take the final call on the amount to be extorted from different sources. The task has been divided among organisation’s segments like zonal committee, area committee and local cadres, and at each level and the place where money kept after collection is known to only two persons. Mostly, money is hidden underneath the earth in deep forests. However, sometimes it is deposited in banks as well, it said. As per the documents, money is used for different purposes like buying vehicles, procuring gold biscuits, weapons and explosives, printing works, medicines, communication, food, training camps, legal aid. Senior police officials said although they believe naxals were largely engaged in extortion in Chhattisgarh but with increasing pressure of police they have been able to control it. “Indeed naxals extort big amount of money in LWE (left wing extremism) affected areas. Instead of complaining to police, contractors, businessmen and industrialists pay them money under their threat,” Additional Director General of Police (Naxal Operation) R K Vij, said. Gradually, it is being witnessed that contractors and businessmen have refused to pay extortion in places where they (naxals) are losing its grips amid increasing police pressure, he added. (Zee News 22/6/14)

78. Two Naxals arrested in Jharkhand (12)

Jamshedpur: Acting on a tip-off, the police arrested two Naxals both members of Supai Tuddu squad of CPI-Maoist. The police have recovered a loaded pistol, two cell-phones and Naxal literatures from their possession. Talking to the scribes, SSP Amol V Homkar said that acting on an information that some naxals are extorting levy from the contractors who are carrying out Government projects in Ghurabandha block and adjoining Mosabani block. “We carried out an operation acting on the information and set up a special team in the areas were the development projects like road and check-dam constructions were going on. Finally, two suspected naxals were nabbed,” said Homkar. The senior SP said that a third person, identified as Anil Kisku, had also been nabbed along with the two, but Kisku managed to escape from the police custody. He said on being searched the police recovered the loaded fire-arms, cell-phones and Naxal literatures from their possession. The senior SP said on being questioned , Hinduram and Sadhucharan who were residents of Sudgi village and Lakhtia village of Ghurabandha and Mosabani police station areas respectively, confessed that they were the members of Supai Tuddu, who is the area commander of Ghurabandha and Mosabani blocks. The two arrested Naxals also confessed that they were collecting levy from the contractors engaged in the development work beside spreading naxalism among the villagers by motivating them for joining their outfit by means of distributing naxal pamphlets. Homkar pointed out that they have also nabbed a villager who was suspected to be a naxal sympathiser.  He said they were getting the antecedents of the villager and would arrest him only after getting it confirmed that he was also involved in the naxal activity. Homkar said the two arrested rebels would be forwarded to the judicial custody on Tuesday. The senior SP further informed that two admitted to have collected over Rs 15 lakh as levy from the contractors working in the rebel-hit areas during the past one year. (Pioneer 24/6/14)

79. Naxal-hit States to brief Rajnath (12)

New Delhi: Ten Maoist-affected States will give detailed presentations before Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh here on Friday where strategies will be chalked out to tackle the menace. Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will brief the Home Minister about the left wing extremism scenario in their respective jurisdiction and the achievements and failures recorded in anti-Maoist operations till now. A critical appraisal of operational performance of security forces, gaps in coordination between the State police forces and Central paramilitary forces will be discussed during the daylong meet.Performance of State Governments in Centrally-sponsored projects like Security-Related Expenditure (SRE), special infrastructure scheme, fortified police stations and infrastructure availability in Central paramilitary forces camps will be reviewed by the Home Minister. Presentations will be given on developments projects like integrated action plan, road projects and installation of over 2,199 mobile phone towers in Naxal-hit areas.Construction of around 5,000 km roads at a cost of Rs10,000 crore are under various stages and plans to set up the mobile phone towers at a cost of Rs3,000 crore is yet to start. Singh is also expected to take a view on a new initiative of the Home Ministry to give special monetary benefits, out-of- turn promotions and choice posting to bureaucrats and security personnel operating in Maoist-hit areas considered “dangerous”. Flagging Naxal areas as the ‘most dangerous zone’ in the country, the Centre is planning to enhance hardship allowance given to paramilitary personnel deployed in these areas  more than what they get while serving in Jammu & Kashmir and Northeastern region.At present, a paramilitary constable serving in J&K gets around Rs8,000 per month in addition to his or her normal salary and other entitlements. Meanwhile, Singh visited CRPF headquarters ahead of the meet to take stock of anti-Naxal operations and other internal security challenges being by the paramilitary.The Minister was given a presentation by CRPF DG Dileep Trivedi. Singh lauded the CRPF for free and fair conduct of the just-concluded Parliamentary polls and termed the paramilitary as playing key role in internal security responsibilities. In his presentation, Trivedi highlighted the lack of mobile phone connectivity to the officers and men in Maoist-affected areas. To this, Singh assured the DG that he would personally take up the issue of setting up mobile phone towers in such areas and also bring the issues concerning the force to the notice of the PMO, an official who attended the meeting said. Apart from underscoring the need to rationalise the allowances, the DG also sought a mechanism to directly route the SRE funds to the paramilitary for speedy action on ground. Presently, the funds are routed through the State Governments that do not spend money for years together, the official said.The controversial reorganisation policy and according the benefits of the old pension scheme was also discussed during the meeting. (Pioneer 27/6/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

80. 300 ‘Bru’ refugees return to Mizoram from Tripura (13)

Aizawl/Agartala, June 19 : Around 300 refugees sheltered in Tripura since 1997 have returned to Mizoram since Tuesday, but a large number of migrants are averse to returning to their homes until their demands are met, officials said Thursday. Over 36,000 Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura for almost 17 years. “Of the 36,000 refugees, about 300 returned to Mizoram on their own in the past three days (Tuesday to Thursday),” Kanchanpur (in north Tripura) Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nantu Ranjan Das told IANS over phone. Mizoram Home Department Joint Secretary Lalbiakzama told reporters in Aizawl: “Home-bound refugees arrived at the facilitation centres in Mizoram (near Tripura-Mizoram border) where officials and leaders of NGOs have identified their bona-fide residents of Mizoram.” He said: “Those identified as residents of the state (Mizoram) were taken to their respective villages (in western Mizoram). They were given 20 kg of rice per family and doctors posted at the facilitation centres conducted a thorough medical check-up.” Lalbiakzama said the repatriation process will continue for some more days even as there were reports that some people in the relief camps in northern Tripura tried to physically prevent those keen to return to Mizoram. On the first day of the repatriation Tuesday, several hundred tribal refugees, including women, organised a sit-in demonstration at the Kanchanpur refugee camp in support of their demands, which also included signing an agreement between the refugees, the union home ministry and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram. “We want financial assistance of Rs.150,000 per family, free ration to every repatriated family for two years, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security from paramilitary forces,” refugee leader Ranjit Reang told reporters at Kanchanpur, 185 km north of the Tripura capital Agartala. The Mizoram government earlier announced they would make necessary arrangements to take back the tribal refugees. North Tripura District Magistrate Sandeep R. Rathod told IANS over phone that they had arranged a large number of vehicles for the refugees to move to Mizoram. “But no tribals availed the facilities to go back to their villages,” he said. Over 36,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 after they fled their villages in western Mizoram following clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official. The Mizoram home department said in Aizawl that the central government had sanctioned Rs.7.87 crore as financial assistance for the repatriated refugees. “An adequate amount of food grain has been stored to provide free ration to the repatriated tribal refugees for one year,” an official added. The official said refugee leaders recently had told the Supreme Court’s Special Commissioner Harsh Mander that if the Mizoram government ensured their security and livelihood, they would return to their villages. Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana met senior officials in Aizawl recently and decided to facilitate the return of the refugees. Only about 5,000 refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years.  (New Kerala 19/6/14)

81. Higher Education Remains a Struggle for Refugees (13)

COIMBATORE: For the children of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees getting access to higher education, especially professional courses, has been a struggle in Tamil Nadu. The plight of Nandini, who is unable to get admission into a medical college, best illustrates this. Children of Tamil refugees were first permitted to join arts and science colleges in the 1984 by the then All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Government headed by M G Ramachandran, a year after the State witnessed a mass influx of refugees. However, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in May 1991 that made every Sri Lankan Tamil a suspect disrupted the higher education dreams of the refugee children. It took another five years for the DMK Government to restore the scheme in 1996. This arrangement lasted only until 2002. In 2003, a five-judge bench of the Madras High Court delivered a verdict on an additional quota created for Indian students, which had an adverse bearing on the admission of the refugee children as well. Surprising, the then Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, one of the bitterest critic of the Tamil Eelam cause, moved a petition in the High Court seeking to restore the quota for the refugee children and he secured a favourable order. Based on this verdict, refugee students were allowed to be admitted in arts and science colleges. Thereafter, on an average around 500 Tamil refugee students enrolled for various arts and science courses. However, entering engineering and medical colleges remained a pipedream for these refugee children despite some of them coming up with flying colours in the Plus Two board examinations. After numerous representations, in 2010, a year after the Eelam war ended in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Nadu Government paved the way for the entry of refugee children in engineering colleges through the Government Quota. A Government Order issued on June 29, 2010, allowed the meritorious students “to participate in the single window counselling (for Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions) along with other students according to a merit list prepared on the basis of their (Plus Two) scores under the general category.” But the Government Order, for some strange reason, was silent on admitting refugee students to the medical colleges, affecting the likes of Nandini. (New Indian Express 22/6/14)

82. Over 4 Lakh Uprooted in Pakistan Military Operations (13)

GENEVA: Over four lakh people have been displaced amid the on-going Pakistani military offensive against Taliban militants in the northern parts of the country, with figures expected to rise, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday. Citing official registration figures, UNHCR’s spokesman Dan McNorton said in a press conference here that as many as 435,429 people, including some 183,000 children, have escaped fighting from combat zones in North Waziristan since mid-June, Xinhua reported. Most families have sought refuge in different parts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in north-western Pakistan, and almost all the internally displaced people (IDPs) are being hosted by local communities, McNorton said. “The government of Pakistan and our UN and humanitarian community partners expect up to half a million people could be displaced by the current military operations,” said McNorton. He warned that this would bring the total number of displaced people from the tribal regions of the country to 1.5 million (including 930,000 uprooted in various waves since 2009). The UN refugee agency and partners called for full and immediate access to the affected populations so as to allow the delivery of humanitarian aids to those in need. (New Indian Express 24/6/14)

83. Over 14,000 Ukrainian refugees accommodated in Russia (13)

Moscow: The total number of Ukrainian refugees living in temporary accommodation in Russia exceeds 14,000, the Russian ministry of emergency situations said Tuesday. “A total of 211 temporary accommodation sites have been established, with over 14,200 people with nearly 6,500 children, living in them,” Xinhua quoted a ministry spokesman as saying. “Six more mobile temporary accommodation sites have been set up with a capacity of 3,000 people.” Russia’s Rostov region and Crimea have the largest number of refugees. The Russian ministry of emergency situations and regional governments have jointly worked to help the refugees. “Six ‘air bridges’ have been established for the transfer of people to other regions of the Central and Southern Federal Districts,” the spokesman said. The ministry also ordered convoys to make sure refugees can reach the temporary settlements safely. Moreover, over 250 tonnes of humanitarian cargo has been delivered to the violence-hit areas of Ukraine, the spokesman said. (Zee News 24/6/14)

84. A home for Kashmiri Pandits: why we need a policy for internally displaced people (13)

New Delhi: The BJP’s muscular stand on Kashmir is no secret. The party is opposed to autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir and its 2014 election manifesto promised the “safe return” of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley with “full dignity, security and assured livelihood”. The Kashmiri Pandits fled from the Valley after militancy broke out in 1989. Recently, chief minister Omar Abdullah met Union home minister Rajnath Singh and the issue came up again in the discussion. While the Centre is yet to make any such formal demand before the state government, there were reports that the NDA government has asked the state to set up enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits wishing to return to the Valley. It is unclear who floated the enclave idea,  but it has been rightly criticised by many. All we know for the moment is that the Centre is considering the state government’s proposal of increasing the amount for construction or repairs for the houses of Kashmiri Pandits to Rs. 20 lakh from the existing Rs. 7.5 lakh. The issue of repatriation of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley brings the focus back on the larger issue of Internally Displaced People (IDP) in India. Unlike refugees who cross international boundaries, IDPs  are those forced to flee their homeland as a result of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural  or human-made disasters.  While the development of laws and policies on IDPs are becoming a trend across the world and internal security issues exist in 16 out of 29 states, India has no national policy for IDPs and no central agency for monitoring and implementing strategies aimed at them. Even in semi-autonomous J&K there is no policy to manage issues of internal displacement. Those displaced by the conflict in Kashmir are identified as ‘migrants’ rather than IDPs, which allows the government to provide humanitarian assistance but deny State protection for such citizens. Citizens who are forced to leave their homes due to political violence or development projects in Kashmir, the North-East and Chhattisgarh are often left to their own devices. This is because welfare services and schemes can be accessed only by people who are registered as residents of a particular state and who meet the eligibility criteria. The displaced cannot access them and are forced to depend on sympathetic officials for periodic handouts. A law specifically meant for IDPs can guarantee — at least, put the onus on the State to provide — them a life of peace and dignity and make them feel at home, no matter where they stay in India. (Hindustan Times 26/6/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

85. Hundreds of Indian construction workers possibly stranded in Iraq: Amnesty International (14)

NEW DELHI: Evidence has emerged which suggests that several hundred Indian nationals may be stranded in the Najaf province of Iraq, unable to return home because their employer refuses to return their passports, said Amnesty International India on Saturday. With fighting between state forces and armed groups intensifying and affecting civilians across Iraq, the stranded Indian workers could be facing rising dangers. All the workers are reportedly employed with an infrastructure and construction company. Amnesty International India spoke with some of these workers, who said they have not been paid salaries for the past five months. Baljinder Singh (name changed), one of the migrant workers, told Amnesty International India over the phone: “The employer holds all our passports and refuses to return them. We have been restricting ourselves to the company premises since the conflict began because we are scared. Without our passports we can’t leave this country, and every passing day makes us feel more and more unsafe. We just want to go home.” Singh said that the workers had raised this concern with the Indian embassy in Baghdad, which asked them to provide their passport details via text message. The workers sent the details on the morning of 19 June and are now awaiting a response. Daljit Singh (name changed), another employee at the company, said: “I have been working here for over two years and my employer is withholding more than US $ 1500 of my salary. Most of my colleagues are in the same situation.” The workers said their employer had told them that they were safe and would be moved to safer locations if they perceived a threat from the armed groups led by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Avtar Singh (name changed), another employee, said: “Many of us have huge debts back home. But we don’t care about money anymore. We only want to return to our families immediately. We are only about 200kms from the conflict zone. Danger is approaching and we can feel it.” Amnesty International India called the main telephone lines of the construction company as well as the mobile phones of three of its managers on June 20, but could not speak to anyone for response over allegations being made by some of their workers against them. Amnesty International India welcomes the Indian government’s initiatives to evacuate stranded workers quickly and urges it to pay special attention to migrant workers who may have had to handover their passports and other travel documents to their employers. Migrant workers, including those from India, are among the most vulnerable groups in Iraq as fighting between government forces and armed groups led by ISIS spreads to other areas in the country. Around 46 Indian nurses are trapped in a hospital in the city of Tikrit, which is controlled by armed groups. There are reports that ISIS and other armed groups have abducted 40 Indian workers in the city of Mosul. On June 20, 44 workers, including Turkish nationals who were abducted near the city of Kirkuk on Wednesday were handed over to the police forces in Kirkuk. Amnesty International calls on ISIS and other armed groups to immediately and unconditionally release all unharmed civilians they are holding as hostages, and end all attacks on civilians. Under international humanitarian law, state and non-state actors are obligated to take necessary precautions to avoid endangering the civilian population. The parties to the conflict must facilitate the safe passage of all civilians wishing to flee the fighting. Amnesty International also calls upon the Kurdistan Regional Government and the authorities of neighboring countries to provide fleeing civilians with refuge. (Times of India 21/6/14)

 

86. ‘Implement MGNREGA in drought-prone taluks’

Udhagamandalam: The need to modify the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been underscored by the Rural Development Organisation (RDO), an Aruvankadu-based non-governmental establishment. Welcoming the move of the Centre to revamp the scheme, the Chairman, RDO, N.K. Perumal, in a letter to the Union Minister for Rural Development Nitin Gadkari, said that at present the scheme was not serving its purpose in many parts of the country. While it was effective in drought-prone and coastal areas, places such as Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus, Yamuna,Cauveri, Narmada, Krishna, Godavari, Mahanadi and Tapti belts are facing acute labour shortage. Consequently, agricultural activities are adversely affected. Hence, it should be implemented only in drought-prone and poverty stricken taluks. Pointing out that it would facilitate diversion of funds for various other schemes, he said that the possibility of bringing the farm sector under MGNREGA should be explored. (The Hindu 23/6/14)

 

87. Over 3 lakh bonded labourers work in Rajasthan (14)

JAIPUR: Babu Bhai, a sahariya adivasi in his 50s, spent 24 years of his life as a bonded labourer at Umrao Singh’s farm at Chainpura in Kishanganj, Baran district. His father had died when he took a loan of Rs 3,000 and that led to his bondage with no reprieve. When his brother died, Umrao Singh did not let him attend his brother’s funeral as he had asked for money which he didn’t have. His entire family, wife, children and daughter-in-laws were a part of the bondage repaying the loans which had increased manifold. The time he was released by the help of Jagrit Mahila Sangathan of Baranin district in 2010 the loan on him was 12 lakhs. His misery doesn’t stop here. Senior district magistrate refused to give his family a bondage freedom certificate and so he has no state support for rehabilitation. But it was MNREGA, which helped them initially and they also got Sahariya free ration shops from the government ration shops, which kept them going along with ploughing the land they got back from Umrao Singh. However, they still fear the Sardars and the Dhakar who kept them in bondage for half their lives. They wanted more government support to improve their lives. He is not alone leading a miserable life in this century. Rough estimate compiled by bonded labour activists says that over 3 lakh bonded labourers worked alone in bricks kilns in Rajasthan. However, government and administration deny the presence of even one bonded labourer. These narrations were a part of the feedback meeting of the India Exclusion Report prepared by the Centre for Equity Studies from Delhi held at a government institute in Jhalan area on Monday which is to be released on the 25th June, 2014. Speaking on the occasion, international scholar Jan Breman from the Netherlands, who has spent more than 40 years in India, particularly in Gujarat studying migrant labour and the phenomena of the unorganised sector, spoke about the phenomena of bondage and defined being bonded as taking away free will and free choices. (Times of India 24/6/14)

 

88. Centre assures trade unions of discussion before amending labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: The government has assured central trade unions that they will be consulted on all issues, including proposed amendments to labour laws. Union labour minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Tuesday said agreed to “accord due consideration” to the 10-point charter of demands of the trade unions. The minister assured that the Centre would decide on increase in minimum pension and raising the ceiling on PF scheme to Rs 15,000 from the existing Rs 6,500 within two weeks, said CITU president A K Padmanabhan. At their first meeting with Tomar, the trade unions referred to the Rajasthan government’s move to amend labour laws and urged the Centre to shun unilateralism. The Centre was taking “hurried steps to push through major amendments” to a number of principal labour statutes, including Factories Act, Minimum Wages Act and Child Labour Act. “The trade unions urged the government to refrain from unilateralism and one-sided approach in matters involving and affecting workers and employers, including amendment of labour laws,” said CITU general secretary Tapan Sen. Stiff opposition by all trade unions to the Rajasthan government’s move seems to have stalled work on labour law amendments, said BMS president Baijnath Rai. “If Rajasthan still goes through it, there will be strong protests by all trade unions,” he said. While labour secretary Gauri Kumar stressed on strengthening tripartism, trade unions urged the Centre to implement decisions taken by consensus at the Indian Labour Conference (ILC). “If the government practises tripartism, then all consensus recommendations of the highest tripartite forum in the country, the Indian Labour Conference, must be implemented in letter and spirit,” said Padmanabhan. Citing instances of Maruti-Suzuki at Manesar, virtual closure of Nokia plant at Tamil Nadu, closure of Hind Motor, Jessop and Duckback and shut down of several jute mills in West Bengal, the trade unions urged the Centre to ensure rule of law at workplaces. “The law enforcement machinery of the labour departments are being deliberately and continuously weakened with huge vacancies of inspectors and other officials. Even vacancies of judges in labour courts are piling up. This is being done to create ground for such non-enforcement and are aimed at benefitting the employers,” said Tapan Sen. (Times of India 25/6/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

89. India in ‘Dereliction of Duty’ Over Rapes: UN Watchdog (14)

Geneva:  Indian law enforcement and justice authorities have shirked their responsibility to fight sex attacks, a UN child rights watchdog said on Thursday, amid uproar over the horrific gang-rape and murder of two girls. “There has been a dereliction of duty in relation to rape cases,” said Benyam Mezmur, deputy chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. India has been struggling to overcome its reputation for sexual violence since the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, which sparked mass protests and drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. Public outrage was reignited last month by the deaths of two girls, aged 14 and 15, who were gang-raped and murdered in their impoverished village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. A string of other headline-making cases have piled pressure on the authorities. The UN committee is made of up 18 independent experts who monitor the implementation of international children’s rights treaties. The panel held a hearing with Indian officials earlier this month. In its conclusions on that session, released on Thursday, it said it was alarmed by “widespread violence, abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect of children”.It pointed to data showing that one in three rape victims in India is a minor and that half of the abusers were known to the child or in a position of trust and responsiblity. – One rape every 22 minutes -”We’re not only interested about those cases that attract international media attention,” said Mezmur, who hails from Ethiopia and is a human rights law lecturer at the University of Western Cape in South Africa. He said they were the tip of the iceberg. “We’re also very much concerned about those that do not benefit from the media attention, do not get to be reported to the authorities, do not command a protest in the streets of the cities or the villages where they have been committed,” he said. A rape occurs every 22 minutes in India, according to government figures. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the New Delhi gang-rape. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. And the UN committee noted that the 2013 law failed to criminalise sexual abuse of girls over the age of 15, provided they were married — in contradiction with legislation passed the previous year on child protection. Mezmur said there were major concerns about the “implementation gap” between different federal and state laws, a lack of capacity to apply the rules, and inadequate crime data. The UN committee also criticised comments from political leaders who have played down the problem. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who swept to power in last month’s elections, has pledged to increase women’s security. Last week, Mr Modi warned politicians against “politicising rape”, saying they were “playing with the dignity of women” and should instead work together to protect women. The UN committee also urged India to take immediate measures to prevent female infanticide and abandonment of girls, and ensure implementation of rules against sex-selective abortions. (NDTV 20/6/14)

90. Less than 20,000 children adopted in four years (14)

CHENNAI: The waiting list of parents wanting to adopt children is growing every year, but only 19,136 children were adopted and placed with families within the country between 2010 and 2013, as per the reply to an application filed under the Right to Information Act by TOI. In its reply, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), which deals with all the matters concerning adoption in India, said 1,866 children were adopted by families living abroad in the same period. Americans adopted the most children from the country (662) between 2010 and 2013, followed by Italy (377), Spain (149) and UAE (88). In India, Maharashtra has registered the highest number of in-country adoptions with 4,397 in the last four years, followed by Tamil Nadu (1892), West Bengal (1,719), Andhra Pradesh (1,547) and Karnataka (1,477), the reply says. The states with the lowest numbers are the north-eastern states, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, which have placed less than 25 children in four years. In the middle of the pack are larger states like Bihar (374), Punjab (326), Madhya Pradesh (585), Uttar Pradesh (579) and Gujarat (563). The data shows that there has been a gradual decline in the number of adoptions over the four years across the country. A shortage of babies and a maze of procedures has led to the low numbers. In Tamil Nadu alone, there are 850 pending applications but only 333 babies available for adoption. Pune-based child rights activist Anjali Pawar said the high number of adoptions in Maharashtra is because of the proliferation of adoption agencies. “Adoption agencies have been functioning in Mumbai from the 1960s. This contributes to greater willingness to adopt babies as awareness is better,” she said. A senior official of CARA agreed and said, “Maharashtra has the highest number of adoption agencies in the country. The number of adoption agencies depends on licenses given by the respective state governments.” He admitted that there are delays in the procedures. “There is a huge demand for children and we are unable to keep up. We are working to reduce the delays in the procedures for adoption.”… Times of India 21/6/14)

91. What happens to India’s ‘railway’ children? (14)

NEW DELHI: What happens to those children in India who for some reason leave their homes or families? What happens to those children who end up being victims of trafficking? Why do media reports talk about only abandoned children, trafficked children, runaway children but not the ‘railway’ children of India? Mentioned above are few of the questions raised in a new book titled ‘Rescuing Railway Children: Reuniting families from India’s railway platforms’. “The phenomenon of ‘runaway children’, as it is loosely called, is global. But neither there is consolidated data available for the children who end up living on railway platforms, nor there are any government bodies in place to ensure the rehabilitation of these children,” says the author Malcolm Halper, a social consultant who is researching the plight of ‘railway children’ of India. The last official estimate on the numbers of street children across India was 11,000,000. It is estimated that across 50 main railway stations, at least 70,000-120,000 children arrive onto platforms every year. In comparison, it is estimated that about 84,000 children do this every year in UK, the book says. In 2006, UNICEF estimated that there are 11,000,000 such children in India. But the official document ‘India : Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child’ released in October 2011 by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, refrains from stating a number and acknowledges the lack of reliable data. “Why do runaway children use the railways to escape as well as to survive? What are our Child Welfare Committees (CWC) doing? Why haven’t these children caught the attention of our National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR),” says the co-author of the book, Lalitha Iyer who is chairperson of Sathi, an NGO which works for rehabilitation of ‘railway children’. There is an urgent need to workout scalable models which demonstrate how railway station can become safe for children. Drop-in shelter for platform children, a Special Juvenile Police Unit of the Railway Police Force, frequent patrolling by the CWCs at railway stations, among others are few measures which can be adopted in this regard, adds Iyer. The book published by Sage publications, has anecdotes pertaining to lives of few children who ended up being on railway platforms. The book also deals with platform outreach and focuses on shelter close to stations. The reuniting process is examined from a practical as well as child rights perspective. (Economic Times 23/6/14)

92. Save the Children and Ikea tie up to prevent child labour in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan (14)

Chandigarh: Focusing on preventing child labour in the cotton area of Northern region, NGO-Save the Children, its partners Breakthrough and Pratham, and the IKEA Foundation unveiled a Rs 50 crore programme to protect 790,000 children living in cotton communities in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The programme to be implemented in four years(2013-2017), aims to keep children out of cotton fields, and in classrooms where they can learn, play, grow and develop and be children. The program will cover nine cotton districts of Punjab and Haryana namely Bathinda, Muksar Sahib, Mansa and Fazilka in Punjab, Hissar, Sirsa, Fatehabad, Jhajjar and Rohtak in Haryana and Banswara in Rajasthan. According to estimates there are over 10 lakh child labour, working in cotton fields in these states mainly deployed in cotton picking. Also, an independent research study in 2008 revealed that prosperous Punjab has a large number of children working in the agriculture sector with an estimated 25% of them in cotton picking. Rajasthan and Haryana are not far behind, with 23% and 16% of cotton picking labour being children. Rough estimates say that In Punjab there are over about 5 lakh child labour employed in cotton area, followed by Haryana (3.58 lakh). The NGO-Save the Children, Pratham and Breakthrough will work with panchayat leaders, farmers, teachers, families and Indian state officials in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, to provide children with access to quality education, improve teacher training, develop local child protection committees and school management committees and tackle issues like gender based discrimination. “We know there is no quick-fix solution to ending child labour, but long-term approaches can yield impressive results,” Harpal Singh, Chairman, Save the Children, India explained, ” This new phase reinforces our long-term commitment and our desire to help millions more children out of child labour and back into the classrooms.” Thomas Chandy, Save the Children’s CEO in India, “IKEA Foundation has been an invaluable partner to Save the Children to achieve immediate and lasting change in the lives of the most marginalised children. The partnership means that many more children will attain the right to education, protection and development across India.” In the states of Punjab and Haryana, Save the Children will work directly at community level to form community groups and increase the reporting of child labour, linking them with the Government’s Child Protection Services. Pratham will work at primary & upper middle school level to improve the learning levels across grades 3. Breakthrough will generate communication material & provide information on gender discrimination at school & national level in two pilot districts, Jhajjar and Rohtak, and will train Save the Children to scale it up in all 7 project districts, which include Bathinda, Muktsar Sahib, Mansa and Fazilka (earlier part of Ferozepur) in Punjab and Hisar, Sirsa and Fatehabad in Haryana. Considering Migration is a key issue in Rajasthan, the programme has been designed with the focus on reducing children migrating for work in the nearby states. Save the Children will closely work with other NGOs in the source and destination location to holistically tackle the issue of children migrating for work. (Business Standard 24/6/14)

93. India has over 1 million unschooled children: UN (14)

Nited Nations: India, Indonesia and Pakistan each have more than a million children out of school, according to a UN report which said the global number of unschooled children aged 6 to 11 is still as high as 58 million, showing little overall improvement since 2007. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report said that India had 1.4 million children out of school in 2011 but the country is among 17 other nations that have managed to reduce the number of out-of-school children in the past decade. “Combined with UNESCO’s recent news that aid to education has fallen yet again, the lack of progress in reducing out of school numbers confirms our fears – there is no chance whatsoever that countries will reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement. Pakistan had 5.4 million children out of school in 2012 while the figure for Indonesia was 1.3 million. The UNESCO’s policy paper said that positive change is possible, spotlighting success in 17 countries that have reversed that trend over the past decade. The 17 countries, including Burundi, Yemen, Ghana, Nepal, Rwanda, India, Iran and Vietnam, accounted for about one-quarter of the global out-of-school population in 2000. But they managed to reduce their out-of-school numbers by 86 per cent, from 27 million to less than four million, in little over a decade. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics, which produced the policy paper, said that 15 million girls and 10 million boys, constituting around 43 per cent of those out of school, are unlikely to ever get access to primary education if the current situation remains the same. “We cannot meet this news with further inertia. On the contrary, we must sound the alarm and mobilise the political will to ensure that every child’s right to education is respected,” she said. The lack of global progress is largely due to high population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, which is now home to more than 30 million out-of-school children. Most of them will never start school and those who do are at risk of dropping out. The paper also shows critical gaps in the education of older children aged 12 to 15. Globally, 63 million adolescents were out of school in 2012. Numbers have fallen by nearly one-third since 2000 in South and West Asia, the region has the largest population of out-of-school adolescents at 26 million. According to the UNESCO paper, abolishing school fees, introducing more relevant curricula, devoting increased attention to ethnic and linguistic minorities and providing financial support to families in need could have a positive role in promoting and extending the right to education to every human being. Bokova stressed that progress is possible and that many countries have been key examples in driving positive changes in education for all. (Indian Express 27/6/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

94. Judges not consulted on keeping courts open round the year

NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India R M Lodha did not consult his colleagues in the Supreme Court before pushing for a public debate on keeping courts open round the year like emergency services. Justice Lodha had mooted the radical proposal before lawyers at Jaipur in the second week of May to improve disposal of pending cases and had requested Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Biri Singh Sinsinwar, who like the CJI also hails from Rajasthan, to urgently seek views of other state bar councils. BCI is the apex regulatory body for professional conduct of lawyers. After making public his proposal to keep courts open throughout the year, the CJI wrote to chief justices of all high courts for a debate on it and sought feedback. But judges of the Supreme Court felt ignored by the CJI on this score as there was “no consultation at all” with them on this issue. TOI learnt from some judges that “the issue was never even broached in any of the full court meetings of judges in the Supreme Court”. “Probably, we could have told the CJI how unworkable the proposal is. Also, we could have given suggestions to improve the pace of the justice delivery system,” a judge said. The judiciary is groaning under the weight of over 2 crore pending cases though rate of disposal has improved over the years. TOI had asked the CJI about the feasibility of his proposal. He had said, “It is not such a difficult task. There is not going to be any increase in the number of working days or working hours of any judge. At the beginning of the year, the judges would be required to tell the designated desk managing court sittings when they would like to avail vacations and holidays. Accordingly, a calendar would be prepared for arranging the benches in the Supreme Court and high courts to ensure that judiciary functions throughout the year.” At present, the Supreme Court has 193 working days, the HCs 210 days and trial courts 245 days a year. Justice Lodha had said, “It is feasible and I am quite hopeful of this working out without increasing the existing workload on judges, who are overburdened. Judiciary over the years has become an essential service provider like hospitals and electricity or water department. These departments function 365 days a year, then why not the judiciary?” On the CJI’s request, the BCI had called a meeting to discuss the proposal. After the meeting on June 4, Sinsinwar had said, “It is not possible for advocates to attend court for all 365 days. It is neither practical nor feasible for an advocate to work throughout the year without rest.” The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) too opposed the proposal and said it would be inhuman to expect advocates to work throughout the year without a break. In an open representation to the CJI, SCBA president P H Parekh said “On the face of it, 365 days work scheme may not reduce the arrears because if working hours of judges remain the same, the judicial output will remain constant. In fact, the new scheme may perhaps result in increasing the arrears because on Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays, the stakeholders may not take judicial work as seriously as they do on working days.” (Times of India 19/6/14)

95. Pranab clears files, apex court to get 3 new judges (19)

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee has cleared the elevation of the Chief Justices of Calcutta and Orissa High Courts Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goel, respectively, and senior lawyers Rohinton Nariman as Supreme Court judges. Earlier this week, the Law Ministry sent the file to the President after removing the name of the former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium. The Centre returned his name to the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha for reconsideration. Highly placed sources said the warrant of appointment is expected to be issued next week to enable them to assume office when the court reconvenes on June 30 after the summer holidays. With their appointment, the strength of judges in the court will go up to 28, as against the sanctioned 31. However Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.K. Prasad are due to retire in July; the Chief Justice on September 27; and Ms. Justice Ranjana Desai on October 29. Mr. Nariman is the fifth lawyer to be elevated as Supreme Court judge after almost 15 years. The first to be appointed from the Bar was Justice S.M. Sikri in 1963. He became the Chief Justice of India in January 1971 and retired in April 1973. Justice S.C. Roy was appointed judge in 1971 and he died after holding the post for four months. Then in 1988, after a gap of 15 years, Justice Kuldip Singh was appointed directly from the Bar. He retired in December 1996. Three years later in January 1999, Santosh Hedge was appointed Supreme Court judge and he retired in June 2005. Justice Goel, 60, who hails from Haryana, was elevated as judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in July 2, 2001, and became its Acting Chief Justice in May 2011, when he was transferred to the Gauhati High Court and became its Chief Justice in December 2011. He was shifted as Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court in October 2013. He will be the first judge to represent Haryana in the court and he will have a tenure of a little over five years. Justice Arun Mishra, 58, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, was appointed a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in October 1999. He was transferred as judge of the Rajasthan High Court in September 2010 and became the Acting Chief Justice in November 1 and Chief Justice on November 26. He was transferred as Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court in December 2012. He will represent Madhya Pradesh after Justice Deepak Verma, who retired in August 2012. He will have a tenure of about seven years. Rohinton Nariman, 58, who is from Maharashtra, is known for his plain-speaking both inside the court and outside. Mr. Nariman was designated as a senior advocate at the age of 37 in 1993 when the then Chief Justice of India, M.N. Venkatachaliah, amended the rules for designating senior lawyers by reducing the minimum age limit of 45. He was appointed Solicitor-General in July 2011 after Mr. Gopal Subramanium resigned. He will have a tenure of about seven years. (The Hindu 22/6/14)

96. Objections from judges force rethink on judicial accountability Bill (19)

NEW DELHI: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said the government was having a rethink on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in view of objections from judges. The Bill, pending in Parliament, seeks to lay down enforceable standards of conduct for judges. It requires judges to declare details of theirs and their family members’ assets and liabilities and it creates mechanism to allow any person to complain against judges on grounds of ‘misbehaviour or incapacity.’ “We want to have broad discussion with senior lawyers, former Chief Justices and judges and other stake holders before taking a view on it,” Mr. Prasad told The Hindu. On a National Judicial Commission providing for appointment and transfer of judges in the higher judiciary, Mr. Prasad said “even on this aspect we will have wider consultations.” The Law Minister refused to be drawn into the controversy relating to putting on hold the elevation of senior advocate Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court, saying “no comments.” Asked what would be the government’s stand if the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha were to reiterate Mr. Subramanium’s recommendation, he said: “We will cross the bridge when it comes.” When his attention was drawn to a Ghaziabad court’s action in summoning Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-Hee to appear in a cheating case and asked whether such instances would drive away investors, Mr. Prasad said the government had asked the Law Commission to examine whether cases relating to contractual disputes, which were purely civil in nature, could be turned into a criminal case. He said filing of such criminal cases was also affecting investment climate. He wanted the Commission to make the Arbitration Act more effective to make India a hub for international arbitration. Mr. Prasad outlined the initiatives taken by his Ministry in the last 22 days to streamline the judicial system which was clogged by huge pendency of cases and vacancies of judges, particularly in the subordinate judiciary. Mr. Prasad said he had written to Chief Justices of various High Courts and to the State governments to expedite the process of filling up vacancies in the subordinate judiciary keeping in view the vacancies that might arise in three years ahead. He had asked the Chief Justices and the States to fast-track trial relating to women, children and elderly people. He said another area of concern was pendency of over 22-lakh cheque bouncing cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and 18-20 lakh cases before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals. He had asked the Chief Justices of High Courts to suggest measures for speedy disposal of these cases. On amendment to Lokpal selection rules, the Minister said: “Certain things are needed to be done to make the law meaningful.” On the absence of Leader of the Opposition to participate in the Lokpal selection process, he said the issue of LoP would be decided by the Lok Sabha Speaker. (The Hindu 24/6/14)

97. Judges list: Gopal Subramanium opts out (19)

New Delhi: Feeling “let down” by the government and the judiciary, senior advocate and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium on Wednesday informed Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha that he was withdrawing his consent for appointment as a Supreme Court judge. In his nine-page letter, Mr. Subramanium told the CJI, “I do not want my elevation to be the subject matter of any kind of politicisation. I am dismayed at reports that the file forwarded by the court to the government recommending four names for elevation (including mine) has been segregated and the names of three candidates (not including mine) have been cleared by the government as well as by the President of India and that warrants have been issued for their appointment.” Speaking to journalists at his residence, Mr. Subramanium said, “I withdrew my consent to uphold my self-respect and dignity.” Asked whether he would change his stand if the collegium were to reiterate his appointment, he said his decision was final. “I don’t want to start as a judge with trust deficit from the government, particularly when there is a chance of my becoming the future CJI,” he said. Asked if he was disappointed with the Supreme Court for not defending him, Mr. Subramanium said, “I feel the court should have taken up the matter with the government when all sorts of allegations and diatribe were thrown at me. It is really unfortunate that the court permitted this to happen. I want the candidature of a judge of the Supreme Court to be decided in some kind of sacredness and should not be bashed about.” Keywords: Law Ministry, Gopal Subramanium, Supreme Court collegium, judges appointment, NDA government rejection, consent withdrawal (The Hindu 25/6/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

98. As NGOs cry foul, seed industry body defends IB report (20)

NEW DELHI: With the NGOs raising a question whether the Intelligence Bureau is being used by foreign hands to take over India’s vital seed sector, an industry body representing agriculture biotechnology companies on Friday came out in defence of the government’s agency saying the recent IB report on foreign funded NGOs confirms a “longstanding suspicion” of the industry. “Over Rs 10,500 crore public and private sector investments are in jeopardy due to NGO activism,” said the industry body, Association of Biotech Led Enterprises – Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG). It said, “Sustained campaign has led to derailment of vital genetically modified (GM) technology in India, depriving millions of Indian farmers of opportunity to enhance their economic and social lives. The IB report appropriately and comprehensively exposes NGOs.” The remark, supporting IB findings, came even as NGO representatives charged India’s internal intelligence agency with favouring ‘foreign hand’ to promote the interest of multi-national seed company Monsanto. “The IB report quotes Ronald Herring of Cornell University who promotes GMOs and the monopoly of Monsanto. It is ironic that the IB report relies on the evidence of Herring with his antecedents in Cornell University, a hub of blind GMO promotion,” said a joint statement issued by Aruna Rodrigues, Kavitha Kuruganti and Vandana Shiva. They said, “The strategy of the global GMO seed industry with their patents and IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) is to bend regulation and influence governments and regulators to approve GMOs, bypassing scientific, transparent and independent safety testing.” The IB in its report, which was leaked to media last week, had alleged that many NGOs were holding anti-nuclear, anti-genetic modified food and anti-coal agitations to negatively impact the country’s economic growth. Supporting the IB findings, the ABLE-AG, however, said the report highlighted how these NGOs have diligently worked towards derailing the diffusion of progressive crop biotechnology in India, which has seen benefits with millions of farmers across the globe. “It is a pity that just when the country was about to take further steps in deploying biotechnology in more crops, the unfortunate moratorium on Bt Brinjal was imposed in 2010, under pressure from the same NGOs,” said Ram Kaundinya, chairman of the ABLE-AG. He said, “As a result, R&D activities in GM crops by both public and private sectors were put on hold since 2010, causing enormous delay in making these technologies available to farmers.” The industry body highlighted that there are over 50 applications for initiating biotech research and field trials of various biotech-enabled crops pending with the GEAC – the government’s regulator on genetically engineered crops. “At stake is over Rs 8,000 crore invested in research in the sector by public sector institutions over the past five years. The private sector which is being increasingly maligned too is investing about Rs 2,700 crore a year into research. This is research that is being conducted by Indian researchers, in India, for the Indian farmer,” said the body. Urging government to ensure that the process of research including open-field trials under the supervision of existing regulatory bodies does not get halted, Kaundinya said, “Field trials are parts of research to ensure that the data generated helps to scientifically evaluate bio-safety, food safety and the efficacy of the genetically modified seeds, and any attempt to discourage such tests conducted under strict supervision of the regulators is a retrograde step.” (Times of India 21/6/14)

 

99. Prolonged dry spell render farmers helpless (20)

KURNOOL: Farmers in Kurnool district are in deep distress due to adverse weather conditions. With the rainfall in June being almost on the negligible side, the sowing operations are seriously affected. Though the agriculture officials claim a rainfall of 58 mm as against the normal 77 mm, the farmers say that it’s not sufficient to take up sowing operations except land preparation. The farmers say that they are facing unprecedented crisis the first time during the season. Apart from the dry spell, shortage of seed, power cut and lack of clarity on the loan waiver scheme has affected them badly. Due to this, there will be a drastic change in crop pattern this year. According to official estimation, 6.12 lakh farmers have borrowed loans worth Rs. 4,344 crore of which crop loan accounted for Rs. 2,819 crore, gold loan – Rs. 315 crore and term loan – Rs. 92 crore. The district has a total cultivable area of 5.85 lakh hectare. The area under cotton is likely to increase to 2 lakh hectare from 1.21 lakh hectare last year. Groundnut is cultivated in 1.34 lakh hectare. Maize area may also increase while paddy and other crops will remain the same. The bankers have told the farmers that they will renew the loans only when the government formally announces the loan waiver. Otherwise, they are to pay the loans and get them renewed. Some of the farmers say that they would repay the loans and get fresh ones, but the State government has to include them in the loan waiver. (The Hindu 23/6/14)

 

100. Agriculture experts say government misled farmer community (20)

HYDERABAD: With rains continuing to stay away, scientists and agriculture experts say governments in the two states misled the farmer community by assuring a timely monsoon, while in reality, there has been an enormous delay that is likely to hit crop production severely. Such is the crisis that scientists fear that if the states do not receive good rainfall within the next one week, agricultural production will fall by a massive 30%. And if the dry spell further extends to a fortnight, production is likely to drop by a staggering 50 %, scientists rue. The Met department, under pressure from the government, declared the onset of southwest monsoon across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana last week, despite there being no rains in sight. Thanks to such predictions, farmers who were told that the skies would open up in two to three days, in the first week of June, have not stopped looking at the sky ever since. So much so that many have even invoked the Gods by praying at temples. “Any delay beyond the third week of June will lead to decline in the yield. Sowing cannot be done if there is just one spell of rain. There must be six centimeters of rainfall to sow any crop and the rainfall should continue for two to three days. As of now, the soil profile is completely dry and it has to be saturated,” said L Jalapathi Rao, a retired agricultural scientist. According to Rao, if sowing of rain-fed crops such as maize and soya bean extends beyond July 2, the decline in the yield will be a substantial 40 kg per day. Sowing of cotton, which is grown in most of the districts, cannot be delayed, he added. Experts said farmers working in areas where there is abundant groundwater, could have relied on that water source, but with the grim power situation, there are several villages without power, leaving them with no choice but to wait for the rains. Promises made to waive off farm loans has not happened either, compounding problems further. “Banks are not willing to give fresh loans leaving the farmers to depend on private loans at high interest rates. Farmers are in a dire situation. Weather prediction system today is as unpredictable as it was four decades ago,” said D Narasimha Reddy, an agriculture policy expert. Sounding a word of caution, he further added: “Timing is important for certain crops. If within the fortnight, there is no improvement in the situation, there could be a 50% reduction in the agricultural production.” Jalapathi Rao who is closely working with farmers too confessed that if the respective state governments did not show any concern in a week’s time, the situation is likely to flare up into a major issue. “Rice is one crop which has got more time to sow but officials are concentrating on paddy only but 50% of area is rain fed and rain fed contingency plan is not there,” said Rao. (Times of India 25/6/14)

 

101. Integrated farming, a means to achieve drought mitigation (20)

Madurai: Farmer S. Muniyammal’s land in Tirumangalam has a fish pond, a vermicompost unit and separate enclosures for chicken, ducks and goats. Integrated farms, such as hers, are being considered an effective solution to mitigate drought by farmers in the district. “The Department of Agriculture is also propagating this under the ‘Integrated Farming System (IFS)’ where we have tied up with different departments. The Fisheries Department helps farmers set up fish ponds in their lands and the Animal Husbandry Department aids in procurement of buffaloes and goats,” says Jaisingh Gnanadurai, Joint Director of Agriculture. “IFS encourages farmers not to solely depend on their crops but explore other avenues for income generation,” he adds. A farmer in Kulamangalam, V. Krishnan, says the integrated system is self-sufficient and has been cost-effective. “Waste from poultry birds is used as food for fish and the manure from goats and buffaloes maintains the vermicompost unit,” he explains. “The coconut grove I have in my farm has provided me with steady income since coconuts fetch a good price locally,” Mr. Krishnan adds. “There is no farm nearby that has an integrated set up like this and many farmers have evinced interest in it since most of them have incurred losses due to water scarcity,” he explains. V. C. Velaichamy, an agriculturalist in Mulaikuruchi near Samayanallur, points out that the clay soil in his farmland helps to retain water in the fish pond.  “I introduced 500 ‘Katlas’ in the fish pond eight months back. Farmers should make it a point to dig farm ponds in a small area which will effectively conserve water and rear fish, which will provide an additional income,” he says. A number of farmers, including Mr. Velaichamy, who have vermicompost units in their integrated farms, have reduced the use of chemical fertilizers and are growing organic produce. In Kallipatti, Tirumangalam, Usilampatti and Kalligudi blocks, the Agriculture Department has indentified 12 beneficiaries each and offers them subsidy and expertise on setting up of integrated farms. This is being done to help farmers in the dry belt overcome drought. A subsidy of Rs.55,000 is currently given to each farmer to set up an integrated farm which will cover the expenses of setting up a vermicompost unit and a fish pond. “If not for rearing fish, digging farm ponds for water storage as part of the IFS has also helped in groundwater recharge,” an official says. (The Hindu 26/6/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

102. Odisha second among 14 poor States (21)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha stands second among the 14 States in the country with highest incidence of poverty after Bihar. While Bihar topped the list with registering highest 33.34 per cent of poor people, Odisha followed with 32.59 per cent by 2011-12. The incidence of poverty had been 54.40 per cent and 57.20 per cent in Bihar and Odisha, respectively, in 2004-05. However, Odisha has expressed satisfaction that it has recorded the highest reduction in poverty among all major States between 2004-05 and 20-11-12  and the Odisha Economic Survey (OES) -2013-14 , prepared by the Planning and Coordination Department, described the achievement  as “impressive”. The Economic Survey-2013-14 report was circulated on Tuesday prior to the presentation of full-fledged Budget for the financial year 2014-15. According to the OES, Kerala has earned the distinction of being the number one State as far elimination of poverty by 2011-12. In Kerala, the incidence of poverty has been only 7.05 per cent against 19.70 per cent in 2004-05  as Punjab is the second State with lowest incidence of poverty with 8.26 per cent in 2011-12 against 20.9 per cent in 2004-05 . While neighbour Andhra Pradesh has only 9.20 incidence of poverty against 29.90 in 2004-05, the incidence of poverty in West Bengal was 19.98 per cent against 34.3 per cent in 2004-05. The incidence of poverty in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat has been shown as 16.63 per cent in 2011-12 against the prevalence of 31.80 per cent in 2004-05. The survey report said that the faster poverty reduction in Odisha was due to the development strategies adopted by the State Government. “The State has undertaken several programmes to reduce poverty in Odisha in general and for the poorer social classes and poorer regions in particular. Quoting the National Sample Survey (NSS) data and the Expert Committee methodology – Tendulkar Committee- for the period 1973-74 to 2011-12, the OES report said that the poverty estimates for 2011-12 had been recorded on the basis of poverty lines of Rs 695 and Rs 861 for rural and urban Odisha respectively. It said the poverty has declined by 24.61 percentage points from 57.20 per cent in 2004-05 to 32.59 per cent in 2011-12. The reduction of poverty by 25.11 percentage points was higher in rural Odisha than that of 20.31 percentage points in urban Odisha. The report said, among the regions, the northern region has registered the highest reduction of poverty with 30.53 percentage points followed by the southern region with 25.40 percentage points and the coastal region with 19.95 percentage points. Similarly poverty among the ST and SC communities has been reducing at a faster rate. However, it was observed that ST communities are poorer than other social classes. (Pioneer 19/6/14)

103. State ready with two schemes for urban poverty alleviation (21)

Bangalore: Come July, the State will witness the launch of two programmes on urban poverty alleviation, from providing identity cards and social security to street vendors to the launch of certified courses in skills development for the urban poor. The Centrally sponsored National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) will be launched in 35 cities in the State with a population of more than one lakh. In 181 smaller towns, the government will launch a new scheme – Chief Minister’s Urban Poverty Alleviation Programme – to address the needs of the urban poor. “The guidelines and components of the two programmes are being prepared. We will also set the target for the two schemes for the current year,” Urban Development Department Secretary (Municipalities and Urban Development Authorities) T K Anil Kumar told Deccan Herald. The NULM in 35 cities will be funded by grants under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM). Anil Kumar pointed out that the State decided to launch a separate scheme for smaller towns, as JnNURM was not applicable for urban areas with a population below one lakh. The State government has set aside Rs 25 crore for implementing the Chief Minister’s Urban Poverty Alleviation Programme. A major component of the two schemes would be providing certified skill based courses to improve the employability of the urban poor. To start with, certified courses on skills required by the industry besides soft skills courses like basic communication skills (both in English and local language), computer operations and professional etiquettes will be imparted with the help of government and private agencies.  The courses will be for duration of three months with minimal fee structure. The candidates will also be given orientation on financial literacy, awareness on savings, credit, subsidy, remittance, insurance and pensions, officials said. Another component would be to address the livelihood concerns of the urban street vendors by facilitating access to suitable spaces, bank loans and social security. To start with, a survey of street vendors in city corporations in the State would be completed within the next three months. Following the completion of the survey, the street vendors would be issued identity cards by the government. City Street Vending Plan will also be chalked out for all towns and cities which will contain  profile of street vending trades and activities and earmarking of areas for vending zones, officials said. (Deccan Herald 22/6/14)

104. PDS in state has collapsed, says Modi (21)

PATNA: Former deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has claimed the public distribution system (PDS) in Bihar has collapsed as the state government failed to procure adequate paddy this year. For the last four to six months, over 7.85 crore people are not getting wheat and rice assured to them under the Food Security Act, he said. “The state government implemented the Act on March 1 in haste without completing preliminary works of procuring wheat and rice for the 7.85 crore targeted beneficiaries. The Act was implemented without ground support as the Lok Sabha election was approaching,” Modi said on Tuesday and alleged vote-bank politics was played by the then CM Nitish Kumar. Under the Act, people were expected to get rice at the rate of Rs 3 per kg and wheat Rs 2 per kg. The government scrapped the old ration cards which became useless with the introduction of the Act. But, new ration cards were not issued to the targeted beneficiaries, the BJP leader rued. Against the target of procurement of 35 lakh MT of paddy, only 12 lakh MT was procured. For the last three successive years, Modi said, paddy procurement was going down from 19 lakh MT in 2012-13 to only 12 lakh MT last year. For successful implementation of the Act, Bihar needs 46.59 lakh MT this year, but only 12 lakh MT is available locally. Modi said the State Food Corporation (SFC) would buy the grains from Punjab and Haryana and this would lead to heavy burden on the state exchequer. Transportation cost would further escalate prices of paddy and wheat. “The railways will bring wheat and rice from other states to Patna and they would be sent to different districts by trucks. This is bound to delay the delivery of PDS items,” he feared. The SFC has only Rs 200 crore at its disposal to procure wheat and paddy, Modi said and claimed the non-availability of PDS items in the villages has led to law and order problem. Poor people are agitating and organizing road blockades at different places in the state, Modi said. (Times of India 25/6/14)

105. National Food Security Act to add Rs 2,500 crore burden on Telangana (21)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana government may have to shell out about Rs 2,500 crore for implementing the National Food Security Act (NFSA). With the additional financial burden on the state coffers, the Telangana government is requesting the Centre to extend the deadline for implementation of the scheme and also provide Rs 2,500 crore subsidy to take up the scheme. The UPA government had introduced NFSA last year and asked all states to implement it by July 4, 2014. Official sources said while the population of the state is 3.52 crore as per the 2011 census, nearly 3.28 crore people have been getting subsidised rice and other essential commodities under various schemes like rice at Re 1 per kg and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). The Re 1 per kg rice scheme is applicable to white card holders and as of now, there are 7.92 lakh AAY beneficiaries in the state, where 35 kg rice is supplied at Re 1 per kg irrespective of the number of family members in the card. But NFSA is applicable to only 1.93 crore people in the state. Another 1.35 crore would be left out of the scheme. “The requirement of rice per month for all schemes covered under PDS in the state even after NFSA comes into force would be 1.80 lakh MTs. But the Centre would provide only 1.13 lakh MTs as per their norms. The rest 67,000 MTs of rice has to be procured for the uncovered population at the rate of Rs 26 per kg and supplied to them at Re 1 per kg. This would be a great burden on the state government,” a senior official of the civil supplies department told TOI. “Officials said the state government has recently asked the Centre to provide subsidy for the uncovered population and extension of time to implement the scheme. The state government is waiting for the decision by the Centre,” C Parathasarathi, civil supplies commissioner told TOI. The BJP government at the Centre is likely to extend the deadline to implement the NFSA as some other states have also requested the Centre for extending the time. But the Centre wants to go ahead with the scheme with minor changes if required, sources said. Only five states Chattisgarh, Haryana, Maharastra, Rajasthan and Punjab have been implementing the scheme, while some states like Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka have been implementing the scheme partially. (Times of India 25/6/14)

106. Food law gets 3 more months (21)

New Delhi, June 26: The Centre has given states and Union territories three more months to roll out the food security law so that they can identify the beneficiaries of the scheme, the previous government’s flagship project to keep hunger at bay. “The food security law came into force on July 5, 2013. As per the law, state governments were to implement the law within 365 days (by July 4, 2014). Twenty states and five Union territories have not implemented the food law so far. So we have decided to extend the deadline by three months,” food minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Only five states — Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra — have implemented the Food Security Act, which was passed by the UPA government and entitles two-thirds of the country’s population to 5kg of rice and wheat every month at Rs 3 and Rs 2 a kilo. Six others, including Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, are on the verge of implementing the act and have done so partially, the minister, who is also in charge of consumer affairs and public distribution, said. The rest are completely unprepared. Sources said problems in identifying the beneficiaries had led to the delay in these states. According to the scheme, the Centre sets a cap on the number of beneficiaries, based on poverty figures for each state. Each state has to identify the households eligible for the subsidised grain, to be delivered through the existing public distribution system. Households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, or the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35kg of food grain every month. Paswan said the Centre would continue to provide food grain allocated to the states, adding that there was no need to amend the food law or issue an ordinance to extend the deadline. An executive order will be issued. The minister, who described the law as an important legislation for the poor, said he has written to the chief ministers of the 25 states and Union territories to implement the scheme. “We do not want any confrontation between the Centre and states on the Food Security Act,” he said, while asking the states if they wanted any changes. He said the implementation of the law would increase the Centre’s food subsidy bill by Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 1.31 lakh crore while the requirement for grains would rise by 6-8 million tonnes from the current 55 million tonnes a year. Modi held a meeting with cabinet colleagues to review the progress of the monsoon and steps taken to contain inflation amid growing worries over its weak start that could push up food prices sharply. Asking state governments to set up fast-track courts to try hoarders and black-marketers, the Prime Minister stressed on the need for a coordinated effort to launch an advance action plan in case the rains fail this year. The country received 45 per cent less rainfall in the first spell till June 17. Modi said farmers should get adequate water, power and seed supply so that production is not affected because of scant rainfall. (The Telegraph 27/6/14)

RESERVATION

107. Cannot deny quota if person is married in upper caste: HC (25)

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Friday ruled that reservation benefits for underprivileged classes cannot be denied if a person is married in upper caste. A division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmed Mir and Justice Trilok Singh Chauhan slapped a fine of Rs 2 lakh on respondents for not issuing OBC (Other Backward Classes) certificate to the petitioner who belonged to OBC category. The bench observed, “For the last five years the petitioner (Neetu) has been dragged from pillar to post by the respondents without any reason.” “The only fault of the petitioner is that she was born in a reserved?category and married in an upper caste family.” The court ordered that out of the total costs imposed, Rs 50,000 should be recovered from the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Mandi, who denied her the certificate and an equal amount from the chairman of the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission. The petitioner had cleared the examination for the post of lecturer (college cadre) Class-I conducted by the State Public Service Commission. She appeared in the interview on August 28, 2009, but was asked to produce the latest OBC certificate. However, she was denied the certificate because she got married into an upper?class Rajput family. During the trial, she was issued the certificate. The bench also directed the government to give the petitioner?seniority according to merit from the date other people have been appointed but without monetary benefits. Of the total costs imposed, Rs one lakh is to be paid to the petitioner and the remainder to be deposited with the state High Court Bar Association Welfare fund. (Zee News 21/6/14)

 

108. Quotas: Why not for us? (25)

The government that is contemplating granting reservations to upper-caste Marathas, seems to have touched a raw nerve with other social/caste groups also raising similar demands. While the govt has indicated that Muslims too might be given reservations before the assembly polls, communities like Dhangars, Lingayats, Wadars, Kolis and Matangs too are seeking quota benefits. After its severe drubbing in Lok Sabha polls, the Cong-NCP govt is under immense pressure to ensure that these decisions come through before polls. However, some of these demands are being opposed by other caste groups as well as sections within the beneficiaries. For instance, while tribal legislators across party lines have threatened to resign en masse if Dhangars and other ‘non-tribals’ are included in the ST category; OBC Muslim leaders are against they being granted quota on religious grounds, as this, they feel, will largely benefit upper-caste Ashraf Muslims. Various classes among Muslims fall in categories like OBC, VJNT (vimukta jati and nomadic tribes), SC and ST. OBCs also resent granting Marathas reservation. “Many communities are seeking downward mobility in the caste pyramid for more benefits. While those in the open category want to be included in OBC list, OBCs want themselves to be categorised as VJNTs, and those in VJNT want to be in ST list. This is almost competitive,” said a veteran OBC activist. This amounts to turning on its head the Sanskritisation theory put forth by eminent sociologist MN Srinivas, where lower castes seek upward mobility. The Dhangar (shepherd) community (VJNT), wants to be part of ST. “Dhangars and Dhangads are one,” said community leader Mahadeo Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP). Dhangads (corrupt form of the community’s name) were included in STs, he added. According to him, Dhangars would get more benefits if classified as STs instead of the present VJNT, and attacked NCP for not meeting their demand. Dhangars, who are said to rank only next to Maratha-Kunbis, had significant share of votes in 89 of the 288 assembly segments and nine parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra, Jankar said, lamenting that despite this they hadn’t been able to get a single Dhangar elected as MP so far. Writer and activist Sanjay Sonawani pointed out that many other states had included Dhangars in ST list. He, however, noted that politicians had created an impression that reservation was the panacea for social ills and backwardness. Wadars (VJNT) and Kolis (special backward classes-SBC) also want to be in ST list. The Matang community has also demanded separate quota as benefits under the SC category are being appropriated by others. The Shiva Akhil Bhartiya Veershaiva Yuvak Sanghatana led by Manohar Dhonde has demanded that various Veershaiva Lingayat communities be given quota benefits. Presently, only a miniscule number of 153 Lingayat castes have this benefit. Dhonde said though they were covered largely in the SC, OBC, VJNT and SBC categories, Lingayats were not provided benefits unless they dropped the term ‘Lingayat’ from most caste names. For instance, Lingayat Sutars, Lingayat Guravs, Lingayat Phularis and Lingayat Kumbhars can get quotas only if they call themselves Sutars, Guravs, Phularis and Kumbhars, respectively, he added. The organisation has been seeking to be classified as minorities since 1999. “This is related to identity politics. Reservation is seen as complementary for upward social mobility,” said Surendra Jondhale, professor, department of civics and politics, University of Mumbai, adding that the reference point was the progress of Dalits in social, economic and educational sectors. (DNA 22/6/14)

 

109. 33% police jobs in Gujarat reserved for women (25)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat’s first woman chief minister Anandiben Patel delivered a blow for women empowerment on Tuesday when she declared recruitment norms would be revised and relaxed for women to ensure 33% jobs in the khaki force for the fair sex. Gujarat will become the first state in the country to implement such a provision, a senior police officer said. Currently, women constitute less than 7% of the state’s law enforcement agencies including police and state reserve police. The announcement came after the CM presided over the passing out parade of 134 police officers including 96 armed police sub-inspectors and 38 intelligence officers at Gujarat Police Academy, Karai. The officers included 25 women: 15 sub-inspectors and 10 intelligence officers. The function was attended by police and administrative top brass of the state. “It is necessary to empower women for their uplift in society. We have decided to provide 33% reservation to women in the police recruitments,” Patel told reporters. (Times of India 25/6/14)

 

110. ‘Congress-NCP playing communal card in Maharashtra’ (25)

New Delhi: The Maharashtra BJP on Tuesday charged the Congress-NCP alliance government with playing the “communal” card ahead of state Assembly polls. While the party opposed plans to grant reservation for Muslims in government jobs and education, it said reservation for Marathas should not affect the existing reservation for OBCs directly or indirectly. The Prithviraj Chavan government has decided to play the reservation card in a bid to check damage to the ruling combine, which won merely six of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Vinod Tawde on Tuesday said, “We do not support reservation on the lines of religion and the Constitution also does not permit this.” On reservation of Marathas, he said, “In case of Maratha reservation, we do not mind if it is extended to the community as it will help poor students. But the move should not hurt the existing reservation for OBCs. (Asian Age 25/6/14)

 

111. Now, Christians too demand reservations (25)

MUMBAI: Christian leaders have demanded reservations for Christian Dalits, most of whom are poor, as Muslim leaders welcomed 5% reservations for their community in education and jobs. Abraham Mathai of the Indian Christian Voice said, “The government should give reservations to Christians too as most of them in the state are poor and tribals. Marginalized Christians should not be ignored as they are a small minority.” Dolphy D’Souza of Save Our Land (SOUL) complained that Christians have been ignored by successive governments as they “are not a big votebank”. She said that the 1950 Presidential order excluded Christian Dalits and Muslim Dalits from the purview of quotas, as given to scheduled castes. Muslim leaders demanded immediate implementation of the state cabinet’s decision and said the government must strongly defend it if challenged in the Supreme Court. Congress MLA Amin Patel, who had demanded quotas for Muslims in the last monsoon session, said, “Reservations have been a long-standing demand of the community, as panels headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ranganath Mishra and Mahmoodur Rahman had also recommended quotas to empower Muslims. This will help mainstream the community, which has felt alienated due to backwardness.” Signs of Muslims getting reservations were evident when, replying to Patel’s questions, minister Fauzia Khan had said, “You will soon get good news.” But M A Khalid of the All-India Milli Council said the government should have announced it earlier, as it seems like a sop before the assembly elections. Many said the state government should not flinch from defending the decision in the apex court, if challenged. Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan said, “This is not the first time Muslims have been given reservations in India. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had provided reservations to economically poor Muslims, and Muslims in Maharashtra too needed it.” (Times of India 27/6/14)

 

HINDUTVA

112. Hindu Munnani activist’s murder condemned (26)

CHENNAI: The BJP on Thursday condemned the murder of a Hindu Munnani activist at Ambattur on Wednesday night. Hindu Munnani’s Tiruvallur district president Suresh Kumar died after he was attacked by a gang near the Ambattur bus stand on Wednesday night. In a statement, BJP state president Pon Radhakrishnan said Suresh had been involved in social service for the past several years and his death was a great loss to the society. He said several Sangh Parivar activists had been killed in Tamil Nadu in the recent years. The delay in punishing the accused in the murders of Auditor Ramesh and others has led to more such crimes. The state government should quickly act and arrest the killers of Suresh Kumar so that such incidents won’t happen in future,” he said. He expressed his condolence to the family members of Kumar. Meanwhile, Hindu Munnani leader Ramagopalan asked chief minister J Jayalalithaa to give special attention to the case and arrest the gang which killed Kumar. In a statement, Ramagopalan said, “Though some of the murder accused are in prison, many others with the same motive are roaming freely and this is proved by the latest murder.” (Times of India 19/6/14)

113. RSS prepares for a new 10-storey office complex (26)

New Delhi: Its design has been cleared, requisite approvals from municipal authorities have been in place for more than a year, and come October 3, Vijayadashami day, the RSS plans to mark its 89th anniversary by laying the foundation stone for a new 10-storey headquarters that will replace its current office in Jhandewalan in the capital. The cluster of low buildings spread over 2.5 acres in Keshav Kunj (named after founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar) that have housed the RSS head office for over five decades will be torn down. The Indian Express has learnt that the process has begun for occupants to move to temporary accommodation for an estimated three years while the new office is built. A school on the premises has been vacated to house RSS office-bearers for the time being. The new complex will have parking space for 400 cars. A senior RSS pracharak said: “Planning has been on for many years. Now almost all preparations are done. The design is approved, and once all occupants move, we will start construction.” Sources said that for years, Sah-sarkaryavah Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi has been discussing the need for more office space on the premises. Nitin Gadkari, during his stint as BJP president, was said to have advised the Sangh to “reconstruct” the office. The RSS deputed one of its pracharaks, Ravindra, to look after construction-related work. Sources said the new office would accommodate all RSS units currently housed in Keshav Kunj. These include publications Panchajanya and Organiser, along with Suruchi Prakashan, Sanskrit Bharati, Seva Bharati, Bharati Itihaas Sankalan Samiti, and the RSS’s international affairs wing. (Indian Express 22/6/14)

114. Train fare hike: RSS taken aback by the timing of the decision; says will not interfere… (26)

NEW DELHI: Tough economic decisions are never really politically palatable, the across-the-board hike in railway fares has been one such decision. While the BJP has been supportive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party and the larger Sangh Parivar, including the RSS, have been taken aback by the timing of the decision. According to top sources in the RSS, there has been a bit of a worry over the blowback of this decision on the government, though the basic premise of it has been unquestioned. “Nobody can deny that rail fares, frozen for the last 11 years, needed rationalisation and they were bound to increase. The only issue that we have with this is the timing and manner of the decision,” said a top office bearer of the RSS. “The people should have been prepared for this decision, which is in the country’s interest, but cannot be palatable to the general public,” added the source. After the initial shock of the decision, however, BJP men have been quick to defend the hike in the face of the opposition’s ire. “The decision was necessary for the preservation of the Railways,” said senior party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) which has not exactly been on the same page as previous NDA governments on neo-liberal economic agendas, has, however, also completely backed the fare hike. Economist Ashwini Mahajan who is associated with the SJM made it clear that something like this was “required” to rescue Indian Railways. “It is the pride of India, and if you compare fares in India to other countries it is still very low. Fares had not risen in 11 years whereas fuel costs, wear and tear and modernisation costs had gone up exponentially. Was there really a way out?” he said to ET. Mahajan said that if the Indian Railways has to remain a national resource, its financial health has to be protected. “A few more years of the previous state would have forced a privatisation, do we really want that?” he said. The RSS in fact has reportedly decided to give a very wide berth to the BJP led government on policy issues. “We are aware that Modi has not come into the PMO “khaali haath” (empty handed). He has a vision, and we are waiting for some economic recovery to emanate from this. We are not looking to interfere or second guess him,” added the source. (The Economic Times 23/6/14)

115. Hindu outfit threatens to attack top Pak diplomats (26)

NEW DELHI: A nondescript Hindu outfit, which calls itself Shri Hanuman Sena, has threatened to physically harm top Pakistani diplomats in the country. Pakistan on Tuesday officially raised the issue with the ministry of external affairs seeking a foolproof security cover for its officials. The threat was received by the high commission in the form of a letter. In their response, Indian officials assured Pakistan that no effort will be spared in ensuring the safety and security of all diplomats in India. “Indian officials also recalled that when on an earlier occasion a reference was made by Pakistani diplomats about security issues, a safety review had been conducted with representatives of Pakistan High Commission and Indian authorities,” said a source. Even last month, the high commission had received anonymous letters threatening to hurt Pakistani diplomats. There is still no confirmation about who sent those letters. Pakistani diplomatic sources said the threat was a matter of concern. Pakistan and India are looking to get dialogue going, at least between the two foreign secretaries, after the freeze resulting from last year’s bloody ceasefire violations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised many by inviting his counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in but the invite and the subsequent round of “letter and saree diplomacy” has provided an impetus to Modi’s stated desire to build trust with Pakistan. (Times of India 25/6/14)

116. VHP to push Sangh agenda as part of 50-yr celebrations (26)

New Delhi: The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), along with the Bajrang Dal and the Durga Vahini, claims to have played a key role in mobilising support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Now, these outfits, particularly the VHP, hope to leverage the favourable government at the Centre to increase their national profiles and widen the organisational network. The VHP, founded on August 29, 1964, plans to mark its golden jubilee celebrations this year by taking its messages of nationalism, anti-cow slaughter and anti-religious conversions to every corner of the country. As part of the celebrations, it is planning shobha yatras (processions) in important cities and towns to showcase its “glorious history”, including its contribution to the anti-cow slaughter movement of the mid-60s and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the 80s and 90s. Sources in the Sangh Parivar said the processions would exhort people to support construction of a bhavya, or grand, Ram temple at Ayodhya and revive the demand for temples at the so-called Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura. The VHP’s celebrations are aimed at assisting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre to “undo” the ills brought about by the policies of earlier governments. After NDA’s victory, VHP leader Ashok Singhal had identified construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, adoption of a uniform civil code and an end to cow slaughter and religious conversions as part of the outfit’s agenda. The VHP has started revitalising its organisational structure, as it believes it should assist the administration in stopping cow slaughter, etc, through its own network. VHP media chief (Delhi) Vinod Bansal told Business Standard the outfit was already seeing more people joining the Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini camps. While the Bajrang Dal is the VHP’s youth wing for men (aged 15 to 45), the Durga Vahini is for women of the same age group. The Matru Shakti is the outfit’s entity for women aged more than 45. Owing to the increase in numbers, the VHP is mobilising more workers at the grassroots level. It has divided its organisational structure across India into 41 prantas, or states. States such as Rajasthan have been subdivided into three prantas and each pranta is further divided into regions or districts. Each district is categorised into prakhanda, khanda and upakhanda. VHP administrative units have 10-member decision making committees. “In Delhi, we have committees up to the khanda level. Now, we plan to extend it to upakhandas, too,” Bansal says. The committees at the upakhanda or block level will comprise a president, a secretary and a convener each from the Bajrang Dal and the Durga Vahini, as well as a dedicated person to address media issues. “This is to ensure we have a good rapport with local journalists,” Bansal says. He adds the committees at the upakhanda level will also have a gau raksha pramukh, responsible for tracking cow slaughters. “The dharma prasar pramukh will check religious conversions and ensure ghar wapasi/shuddhikaran, or re-conversion,” Bansal says, adding an archak purohit pramukh will coordinate with all temples in the area concerned, while a math mandir pramukh “will keep an eye on activities in churches and mosques of his area”.VHP leaders such as Bansal dismiss suggestions that the outfit has been asked not to rake up issues that might prove inconvenient for the government. “The Sangh will not go to sleep or be satisfied with what it has achieved in unseating a corrupt government. We will work towards awakening people to establish a society based on dharma,” Bansal says. He identifies the education sector as an area that needs revamping. If need be, the VHP will agitate to make the new government change the prevailing education system, which teaches “angreziyat”, or Western values, he says. “We will encourage education in Hindi and regional languages, instead of the current English-based education, focused on training people to work as employees,” Bansal says. (Business Standard 26/6/14)

 

Posted by admin at 27 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Table pending reports in Tamil Nadu assembly: RTI activists (1)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government, which has displayed extraordinary lack of compliance with rules under the Right To Information Act, 2005, will have a chance to come good in the upcoming session of the Tamil Nadu assembly. Activists have strongly urged the government to place all pending reports of the state information commission in the House during the session. The state government last tabled reports on RTI applications in 2006-07. Annual reports by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission should declare the number of RTI applications received by public information officers (PIOs) of overnment departments, cases disposed of and fines imposed on PIOs by the commission for violation of rules under the RTI Act. State chief information commissioner K S Sripathi recently pleaded helplessness over the information not being made public, saying his department had sent reports till 2010-11 to the government, which tabled reports only till 2006-07 in the assembly . “We can’t publish annual reports before they are placed in the assembly .” A survey by NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative found that Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Manipur, Sikkim and Tripura have all failed to table reports of their RTI cases in the assembly or put them online, which is mandatory under the RTI Act. Gujarat recently made amends. Maharashtra, which has an impeccable record, has placed annual reports in the assembly every year to evaluate the implementation of the legislation in the state. Publishing the annual reports makes government departments accountable and enhances transparency in administration, activists say. “The Tamil Nadu Information Commission and the personnel and administrative reforms department have not reacted to several petitions on the matter,” NGO Satta Panchayat Iyakkam member Siva Elango said. “It is disturbing that the government has not tabled reports in the assembly since 2006.” “In this assembly session, the government should place all reports till 2013 in the House. No data is currently available on the number of appeals the commission received and disposed of and those that are pending or of action taken against errant PIOs,” he said. Deepak P B, of NGO Voice of India, says people have a right to know which departments receive the most RTI applications and those that stonewalls petitions. “It is unfortunate not a single MLA has raised the issue in the assembly,” he said. The TNSIC receives an average of 55,000 appeals under the RTI Act every year, but officials say an acute shortage of manpower and funds has hampered disposal of petitions, leading to a huge backlog of pleas. (Times of India 10/6/14)

2. Assets disclosed by just 57% ministers (1)

Mumbai: A directive from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to his ministers to disclose their assets seems to have fallen on deaf ears, because only 57 per cent of ministers have done so. An RTI query this year has revealed that only 24 out of 42 ministers in the state have given details of their assets to the chief minister’s office. An RTI query seeking the details of the all ministers and details of the assets declared by them to the CM’s office filed by activist Anil Galgali has found that 18 out of 42 ministers in the Cabinet have not provided details of their assets to the state. Last year, the same RTI query had revealed that just 22 out of 40 ministers had followed the CM’s directives. Prithviraj Chavan, after being sworn in as the chief minister on December 10, 2010 had asked his ministers to declare their assets, so that people have greater faith in the government. “This shows that the CM has no hold on his colleagues. He is a weak administrator and working under pressure. His ‘Mr Clean’ image is a farce,” said Anil Galgali. Chief secretary of state J. S. Saharia remained unavailable for comment. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

3. UP government refuses to provide information about inquiry commissions (1)

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh government has refused to provide information about the various inquiry commissions formed by it since 1947 to probe various scams, scandals and riots among other issues. RTI activist Nutan Thakur had asked the chief secretary and home department to provide her information about the inquiry commissions formed under section 3 of the Commission of Inquiries Act 1952 after independence, their composition and membership, date of formation, increase of time duration and the interim and final reports submitted by them. While the chief secretary office transferred the matter to home department, the home department declined to provide the information saying that it was too lengthy. Thakur has said that information cannot be denied for being lengthy and she had sought this information because of the common perception of governments forming such commissions in times of crisis and later forgetting them. This perception has been strengthen by the refusal to provide information, she added. (Times of India 14/6/14)

4. Rationale behind passing judgement can’t be revealed under RTI: SC (1)

New Delhi: The rationale behind passing judgements or orders by courts cannot be disclosed to litigants under the Right to Information Act, Supreme Court has said. An appellate authority of the Supreme Court, constituted under the RTI Act, dismissed the plea of an RTI activist who had sought information on the rationale for passing orders on review petitions without holding a hearing and without giving any reasons. “It will be of essence to state that the CPIO is not the authority or the person from whom information can be sought on the rationale behind the delivery of judgements by the court as has been attempted to be done by the appellant in this case,” the authority said in its order. It dismissed an appeal filed by Ravinder Raj, an advocate, who approached the appellate authority after the information officer of the apex court refused to furnish information on the issue. (Zee News 15/6/14)

5. Parties Should Embrace RTI, Says Chennithala (1)

KOCHI: Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has reiterated that he is in favour of bringing political parties under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Inaugurating the ‘RTI Knowledge Meet 2014’ held at Hotel Presidency here, he said that a ‘Right to Hearing’ Act will soon be passed and that a discussion regarding the same is taking place in the government. “It is high time that the political parties come out of their iron veils. There should not be anything secretive about them. All people’s representatives, including MPs, MLAs and ministers, are accountable to the public. The Act will help evaluate their performances and perform better” he said. “For transparent governance, it is important that the parties reveal the details of their activities. The functioning of political parties need not be conducted clandestinely. People have the right to know what is happening inside the party. This will make people more aware and active in decision-making. The Act will strengthen democracy by making it participatory. The Right to Hearing Act will only add to the existing power of the people” he added. The meet was organised under the aegis of National Constitution Club, Thalassery, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), New Delhi. Colloquiums were held on topics such as ‘RTI Act and its Social Impact’, ‘Right to Services Act-a Corollary to RTI Act’, ‘RTI Act and Good Governance’ and ‘RTI in News Reports’ by Chief Information Commissioner Siby Mathew, Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI, New Delhi, former Central Information Commissioner Shylesh Gandhi, Kerala Press Academy chairman N P Rajendran and journalist P Mohamed Nazeer. RTI People’s Assembly was also held on the occasion. Over 100 delegates, including RTI activists, Public Information Officers and bureaucrats were present for the event. Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali presided over the meet. National Constitution Club vice-chairman P Sherafudheen also attended the meet. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

6. NHRC on track, kids on train (1)

Ranchi, June 9: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today took suo motu cognisance of media reports that Jharkhand labour department team “confirmed” trafficking of 500-plus Muslim children to Kerala from eastern states, on a day 119 state minors boarded a train back home after a fortnight’s ordeal. Media reports so far taken into account by the panel say that eight persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the interstate child trafficking racket with links to orphanages in Kerala. The panel observed that the contents of media reports, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights. It has issued notices to the chief secretaries and directors-general of police of the governments of Jharkhand and Kerala, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. According to Delhi-based NHRC spokesperson Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, they were taking the matter “very seriously”. Media reports, including one of the earliest in The Telegraph in May, said the racket was busted at Palakkad station only when children were held for ticketless travel and adults with them did not have valid papers. But for 119 children of Godda, this evening marked a comfortable — not to speak of high-profile — homecoming as Jharkhand’s eight-member team led by labour commissioner Manish Ranjan helped them board Ernakulam-Patna Express train. At Palakkad, a final check revealed one child of the 120 slated to board the train was from Bihar. Finally, 119 children of Godda finally boarded the train around 8pm. The children will reach Jasidih station in Deoghar on Wednesday around 3pm and then be sent to their homes in villages of Godda district, by buses. Labour commissioner Manish Ranjan told The Telegraph that 16 personnel from Kerala were part of the escort party. “They comprise eight police personnel, including four mahila police, six senior bureaucrats and two anganwadi workers,” said Ranjan. Social welfare minister Annapurna Devi, who took the rescue initiative in May within 24 hours of the media breaking the news on May 25, it is more like “mission successful”. “I pray the children come back home safe and healthy,” she told over the phone. “I will meet them once they are back in Godda. Let them settle down first. I will ensure that children get proper education and livelihood options are generated for their parents,” she said. Sajal Chakraborty, acting CS, who also was at the forefront of forming a rescue team, said: “Thank God. Our team has done a good job.” Godda administration is fine-tuning arrangements to ferry the children from Jasidih to Godda by buses. Godda DC Rajesh Kumar Sharma said that he directed DDC Godda (Arun Kumar Ratan) to make proper arrangements to send children from Jasidih. The DC said: “Initially, children will go to their parents. But after four-five days they will be enrolled to residential schools, the girls in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and boys in welfare department-run institutions.” If the above options do not work out, he said, a double-storey building has been identified in Godda town for the children’s education. Of the 589 children detained at Kerala’s Palakkad on their way to orphanages, 167 were from Jharkhand, while the rest were from Bihar and Bengal. But officially, 120 children were escorted to the train this evening as parents of the rest kept coming in the past few days to personally take charge of the wards. The incident has taken on a political colour ever since probe revealed that Jharkhand’s children were bound for Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode, chaired by Syed Hyederali Shihab Thangal of the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the ruling Congress-led United democratic front Government in Kerala. This is one tangle that chief ministers Hemant Soren and Oommen Chandy, who share a common Congress factor in their respective governments, will sort out. (The Telegraph 10/6/14)

7. Beas tragedy: Human rights body issues notices to Himachal authorities (1)

NEW DELHI: National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued notices and sought reports from authorities in Himachal Pradesh in connection with the drowning of 25 persons in the Beas allegedly due to unannounced release of water from a dam. According to a statement, the commission took suo motu cognizance of a media report about the incident and issued notices to the chief secretary, Himachal Pradesh, and the deputy commissioner, Mandi, calling for a report on the matter within two weeks. A tour operator and 24 engineering students of a college in Hyderabad were washed away in a flash flood in the Beas near Thalout, 40 kms from Mandi on Sunday. The victims were caught unawares by the sudden discharge of water in the river from the reservoir of 126 MW Larji project. Six bodies have been recovered so far by rescue teams. “The cause of the flash flood was stated to be the opening of the floodgates of the Larji hydel project’s dam without warning. Reportedly, the toll could rise as rescue operations were hampered by non-availability of search lights and divers,” the statement said citing a media report. The state government admitted that the authorities did not follow the right protocol on use of hooters and other warning signals on the release of the water from the hydel project, the statement said. The commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, raises a serious issue of violation of right to life and safety of the victims. (Times of India 12/6/14)

8. Foreign-aided NGOs under govt scanner after IB report (1)

New Delhi: The Union home ministry’s foreigners division has started examining records of some of the NGOs named by the Intelligence Bureau in its report to the Prime Minister’s Office. The IB report had expressed fear that activities of some of the NGOs was affecting the country’s economic growth. It is mandatory for NGOs registered with the home ministry to file their annual returns with it including donations and funds received from abroad. Sources said once the scrutiny of records is done and if some discrepancy if found there is a possibility that some of the NGOs may be issued show cause notices to explain their funding pattern. The government, sources added, was also looking at the possibility of amending the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). “It has been noticed in case of some of the NGOs that they receive funds through a circuitous route. Money comes into these NGOs through some other social or cultural organisations which may well be fronts for something else. It is this loophole that needs to be plugged”, a senior ministry official said. The home ministry has already directed intelligence agencies to carryout a more stringent check on funds being received by non-registered NGOs which are granted permission for receiving grants on a case to case basis. Meanwhile, a number of prominent citizens and activists on Friday rubbished the IB report which had said funding of several NGOs was “cleverly disguised” as donations for issues like human rights, but instead they were involved in stalling developmental projects. (Asian Age 14/6/14)

9. Rs 12,500 cr from abroad and only 2% NGOs report it: Home ministry (1)

New Delhi: Nongovernmental organisations in India received nearly Rs 12,500 crore from foreign contributors in 2013, according to a home ministry report. In 2011-12, they had received Rs 11,500 crore, which in turn was nearly 12 per cent since the previous year. In the two years preceding that, foreign donations had dropped around 4 per cent. The report also noted that only two per cent of the country’s estimated 20 lakh NGOs report their donations from abroad, and that most of the money is used for purposes not specified by the NGOs. NGOs have been under the government scanner following an Intelligence Bureau report to the PMO stating stating that they are “stalling development projects”. The home ministry report, released last December, states, “…It is necessary to note that the NGO sector in India is vulnerable to the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing.” The ministry report notes the absence of a centralised database on the number of NGO in the country and the quantum of finance involved in their operation. But it adds, “Unofficial figures indicate that there are over 20 lakh NGOs registered in India and those reporting to MHA for Foreign Contributions Regulation Act are only 2 per cent of the total NGOs.” The report classifies 15 major purposes for which the foreign contributions have been received, and states that the highest amounts were received and utilised for “activities which are not mentioned” and under the miscellaneous head — Rs 2,350 crore approximately in 2013 and Rs 2253.61 crore in 2012 — followed by work in rural development, welfare of children, construction and maintenance of schools and colleges, and research. The home ministry also raises concern that a “large number of registered associations still don’t submit their statutory annual returns mandated by the law”. Among states and UTs, the highest amount of foreign contribution for the year 2013 was reported by Delhi, followed by Tamil Nadu. Between 2012 and 2013, several anti-government protests were organised in both states, holding up various projects including the Kudankulam nuclear plant. In previous years, the highest foreign contribution by any district in 2011-12 was reported by Chennai (Rs 889.99 crore) followed by Mumbai (Rs 825.40 crore) and Bangalore (Rs 812.48 crore). Among NGOs, World Vision of India, Chennai, received the highest that year at Rs 233.38 crore, followed by the Believers Church India, Pathanamthitta, Kerala (Rs 190.05 crore), and Rural Development Trust, Anathapur, in Andhra Pradesh (Rs 144.39 crore)… (Indian Express 16/6/14)

10. UN rights chief calls time on caste-based sex attacks (1)

Geneva: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday urged India to ensure that perpetrators of caste-based sexual attacks do not escape justice. “Women from stigmatised castes suffer the double assault of caste-based and gender-based discrimination,” Pillay said on the sidelines of a session of the UN Human Rights Council.India has been trying to overcome its reputation for violence against women, but public outrage was reignited by the deaths last month of two girls, aged 12 and 14, who were gang-raped and lynched in their impoverished village in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The girls’ families refused to cut their bodies down from a tree in protest at alleged police inaction, which they said was because they were from a lower caste. Last week, a woman said she had been gang-raped by four officers at a police station in the same state, and police said they were also investigating the death of a nineteen-year-old found hanging from a tree. “The victims of these crimes must receive justice, and societies, communities and officials must receive the clear message that discrimination and violence will no longer be tolerated,” said Pillay. “States must take steps to prevent such violence and discrimination and protect the rights of vulnerable people and communities,” she added. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, an attack that drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. “Violence against women of poorly regarded castes has very deep roots, which cannot be tackled without far-reaching efforts. Clearly laws are necessary, but they are not enough,” said Pillay. “There must also be fundamental change within communities, to peel off, layer by layer, the mind-set that generates caste discrimination and bigotry,” she said. Pillay noted that caste-based discrimination was a global problem, hitting communities not only in India but other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Around 260 million people are affected, she said. (CNN IBN 18/6/14)

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

11. Dad of ‘custody death’ victim seeks CBI probe (1)

MUMBAI: Reay Road resident Leonard Valdaris on Monday moved the Bombay high court seeking a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of his 25-year-old son, Agnello. The petition filed by Valdaris and three others who were picked up by the Wadala railway police, along with Agnello, in a chain-snatching case, have alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse. The petition has urged the court to order that the 12 police officers, including a lady officer be criminally prosecuted. It has further sought compensation from the Maharashtra government. A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode have scheduled the case for hearing on Tuesday. According to the complaint, Agnello and three others, including a minor, were picked up by the Wadala railway police on April 15, from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs 60,000. The complaint alleged that they were sexually assaulted and tortured while in custody. On April 18, Agnello died. The Wadala GRP has claimed that Agnello had tried to escape and was run over by a train. The authorities have already initiated an inquiry against the 12 police officers. (Times of India 10/6/14)

12. Life term for 17 cops in fake encounter (1)

New Delhi: Seventeen policemen convicted in the fake encounter of a 22-year-old MBA student in Uttarakhand on Monday escaped the gallows, with a Delhi court awarding them life imprisonment, much to the disappointment of the victim’s family, who vowed to challenge it in a higher court for death penalty. The 17 policemen had been held guilty on June 6 of involvement in the conspiracy to kidnap and kill Ghaziabad resident Ranbir Singh, who had gone to Dehradun to take up a job on July 3, 2009. The cops were handed life terms as the court said the crime committed by them does not fall in the “rarest of rare” category that warrants capital punishment. Parents of the victim—Ranbir Singh—present with other family members in the courtroom immediately expressed disappointment, saying they would like to see all the policemen hanged, and that they would approach a higher court against the verdict. “I want death for all the policemen who killed my younger son,” said the victim’s tearful mother. The wife of one of the convicts, Santosh Kumar Jaiswal, also broke down in the courtroom and said the judge should have once given a thought to the fate of her children. “Where will we go? He (Santosh) is the only earning member in the family,” she shouted, before being taken out of the courtroom. Detailing the facts and circumstances of the case, Special CBI Judge J P S Malik said, “The case is purely based on circumstantial evidence, and the conviction is based on conspiracy between the convicts. I am of the opinion that the case does not fall in the category of rarest-of-rare cases. “Policemen at Dalanwala and Nehru Colony police station and the Special Operation Group (SOG), all of the Dehradun city, were involved. A (accused)-3 Rajesh Bhist, A-16 Inderbhan Singh, A-13 Vikas Chander Baluni and A-14 Sanjay Rawat, were of PS (police station) Nehru Colony; A-5 Nitin Chauhan, A-10 Chander Pal and A-11 Saurabh Nautiyal were of the SOG, and rest of PS Dalanwalla. What the common thread between the three was has not been revealed,” added the court. In his verdict, the judge also observed that the scene of the crime, in Ladpur forest, is within the jurisdiction of Raipur police station in Dehradun, and the then President of India was visiting the city on the July 3, 2009. “The city was on high alert but policemen from the Raipur police station were nowhere,” said the court. (Deccan Herald 10/6/14)

13. Woman gang-raped on police station premises in U.P. (1)

LUCKNOW: With the dust yet to settle down on the Badaun gang rape and murder, another shocking incident of a woman being gang-raped allegedly by a Station House Officer and two constables on the station premises has come to light in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur district. Sub-inspector Rahul Pandey was arrested but the constables absconded. The incident took place on Sumerpur police station premises on Monday night. The arrests were made on Wednesday after a complaint was registered with the Hamirpur Superintendent of Police, V.K. Shekhar by the victim. A police spokesman said the victim had gone to the station to meet her husband, who had been arrested and put in lock-up. It is alleged that Mr. Pandey demanded a bribe of Rs. 20,000 from the victim for her husband’s release. She was taken to the SHO’s quarters behind the station at 1 a.m. and allegedly gang-raped by the three policemen. (The Hindu 12/6/14)

14. FIR filed against seven cops in 25-year-old’s custodial death (1)

MUMBAI: The police cannot go to the extent of torturing a person to death, said the high court on Friday on a petition urging a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of Agnelo Valdaris (25). The petition was by the Reay Road resident’s father, Leonard, and three others, including a minor. The youths and the minor were picked up by the police on April 15 for theft. They complained of being beaten up and sexually abused in custody. The police claimed Agnelo died in a train accident while trying to flee. Public prosecutor Sandeep Shinde told a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode that an FIR had been filed on Wednesday against seven police officers, including the senior inspector of the Wadala railway police station, under the IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Shinde said the officers had been transferred, the probe handed to the crime branch and permission sought from the district magistrate to exhume Agnelo’s body. The judges remarked that the state takes action only after a matter comes to court. Shinde said that when the complaint was received in May, the statements of 32 witnesses, including the motorman, were recorded. “The impression that is sought to be created is that the police eliminated him, but a post-mortem report and videography indicate it was accidental death and not torture,” said Shinde, adding that CCTV footage of Agnelo’s escape has been sought from the railway police. Valdaris’s advocate Yug Chaudhry pointed out that in the FIR, the complaint had been filed by the Wadala police and not the victims or Leonard, who was made to wait and then told to go home. “None of the victims was called for the FIR. Why is it a police FIR? Is it a cover-up?” said Chaudhry. The judges said custodial deaths are “increasing” and interrogation is being done even for petty offences. They referred to a custodial death case where the man concerned had been picked up and interrogated for possessing six 180-ml bottles of liquor and another where an accused consumed poison and “preferred to die”. (Times of India 14/6/14)

15. Any decision on revoking AFSPA will depend on situation: Defence Minister Arun Jaitley (1)

SRINAGAR: Any decision on revoking Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir will depend on the progress in the situation in the state over a period of time, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said today. “As far as today the situation is concerned, our armed forces and local security forces have been handling the situation. Over the period of time, we have to watch how the situation progresses,” Jaitley told reporters here at the end of his two-day visit to the state. He was responding to a question on whether the Centre will consider revoking the controversial AFSPA in the state in view of the improved security scenario. “As far as your question is concerned, today I am not in a position to make any comment on this,” he said. Replying to another question, the Defence Minister said sanction for prosecution of armed forces personnel accused of involvement in human rights violations is decided on the merits of the case. “Each case is decided on its own merits. In case the permission has no basis, then it (prosecution) certainly cannot be allowed. In case there is a basis in it, there is a human rights violation, it will be viewed differently,” he said. (The Econopmic Times 16/6/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

16. Maharashtra deputy CM Ajit Pawar says ban social media, retracts (1)

New Delhi: Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar Monday suggested banning social media only to retract his statement minutes later. He was speaking in the context of rising instances of violence in the state due to offensive posts against iconic personalities on the social media. “The recent incidents have taken a toll on the society. China had adopted a two-year ban on social media. The government and the Opposition must press for a similar clamp down when we meet PM Narendra Modi,” Pawar said while replying to a discussion on the budget in the state legislative Assembly. A few minutes later, Pawar did a U-turn, and clarified, “I did not mean a ban on social media forums such as WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook. I am not against freedom of the social media but there must be some kind of regulation on it.” His public relations officer, seated in the media gallery when the initial statement was made, had sent him a note urging him to clarify his stand. Meanwhile, Home minister R R Patil said that apart from those who have been uploading offensive posts denigrating iconic personalities, all those who approve and ‘like’ such posts will also be liable for prosecution. (ndian Express 10/6/14)

17. Global media body condemns soft censorship by governments (1)

A new report by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) has strongly condemned “soft censorship” by governments and regulators as a “very serious threat to media independence and the very viability of media companies”. WAN, which is the umbrella organization of newspapers representing more than 18,000 publications and 15,000 online sites in 120 countries around the world, has urgently called for rapid action to stop this blatant repression of media and press freedom. “Soft censorship” is the practice where governments use financial leverage and regulatory powers -most often stopping advertising– when they find coverage to be “adverse”. The practice is rampant in India as well, with some state governments especially guilty of misusing tax payers’ money to try to pressurize and influence those media entities which criticize them. Some private sector companies also try to intimidate and pressurize the media in this manner and hence try to influence news coverage in their favour. In fact, the report — ” Soft Censorship, Hard Impact”, released earlier this week — goes into damning detail of the practice, specifying that: “Soft censorship is used to promote positive coverage of—and to punish media outlets that criticize-officials or their actions. It is the practice of influencing news coverage of state bodies and officials and their policies and activities through allocation or withholding of state media spending (subsidies, advertising, and other media contracts or assistance), or selective application of licensing, permits or regulations, to shape the broad media landscape; promote or diminish the economic viability of specific media houses or outlets; and/or reward or punish content produced by individual media workers”. (Times of India 13/6/14)

18. Media persons furious, probe demanded (1)

Bhopal: Media persons are furious over inaction in a case of police personnel beating up a journalist at the TT Nagar police station. No complaint has been registered against the police. On Friday when the journalist, Ajay Verma, was passing through the TT Nagar police station  he spotted one Brajesh Patil attempting suicide and tried to record the incident but was interrupted by the SHO, Rajkumar Saraf. Verma was taken inside the police station where the police personnel roughed him up. As soon as his condition worsened, he was admitted to Katju hospital. Since his condition was critical he was later referred to JP hospital where he is said to be out of danger. The doctors have said Verma has sustained serious injuries in his stomach, kidney and ribs.Verma has alleged that the SHO and constable Gorelal beat him up severely. Police have alleged that the journalist provoked the person to commit suicide so that he could record the act live, but the journalist claimed that he was silently recording the act of Brajesh Patil. In the evening, the Home Minister visited Verma at the hospital and assured him that the case would be investigated. MLA Vishwas Sarang also visited the injured journalist on Friday night after he was admitted in the hospital. Principal Secretary of Chief Minister Manoj Shrivastava also visited the victim at hospital, while Public Relations Minister Rajendra Shukla enquired about the health of Verma over phone. Meanwhile, Director-General of Police Nanden Dube has instructed Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Bhopal Srinivas Varma to investigate the matter. Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president Arun Yadav also visited the hospital on Saturday morning and enquired about his health. He condemned the police brutality on the journo and demanded strict action against the guilty police personnel. (Pioneer 15/6/14)

19. Don’t kill social opinion (1)

A few states have been very active in throttling displays of dissent on the social media, particularly if there were derogatory references to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The proliferation of social media users and the Internet’s several other avenues for expressing personal opinion have led to governments taking notice of what it believes is subversive activity. While no one would wish the country’s leader to become a subject of ridicule or a figure of hate, the state should understand that the social media is primarily a place in which people tend to vent their feelings. The establishing of some control over disparaging assaults on public figures and private individuals should not lead to a repression of the freedom of expression. There has been little concerted effort towards formulating a procedure by which the offending post can be voluntarily taken down, failing which a clearly defined course of action can be set in motion to make the person comply if indeed the post is disruptive, capable of spreading disaffection, or defamatory under the law. The larger issue is should dissenting opinion expressed only against politicians or their lampooning draw such a lightning response from the executive and judiciary to the extent that even college students have been booked for defaming the PM in their campus magazines. While the anxiety of a new government to get a handle on this before it explodes is understandable, it is important to understand that there is room for opinion in a democratic set-up. Not everyone putting up an irreverent post is to be deemed anti-national. (Asian Age 17/6/14)

TRAFFICKING

20. Child trafficking: NHRC issues notices to Kerala, Jharkhand (1)

NHRC today issued notices to authorities in Jharkhand and Kerala seeking detailed report on the alleged trafficking of children for orphanages. According to a statement issued by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the notices were served to the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of Jharkhand and Kerala asking them to submite their reports within four weeks. The notices were issued after the Commission took cognisance of a media report which said that Jharkhand Labour Department officials has confirmed reports of trafficking of over 500 children to Kerala from the eastern states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. As per the media report, the racket was busted by the Railway Police when the children arrived at Palakkad Railway Station and the adults who accompanied them were found not having any valid documents for taking the children from their home state. Reportedly, eight persons have been arrested in this connection. The arrested persons were booked under the Juvenile Justice Act and remanded to judicial custody. The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amounts to serious violation of human rights of the children involved. (DNA 10/6/14)

21. Once trafficked, she now rescues girls in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district (1)

RAIPUR: For 16-year-old Rukmani, world day against child labour on Thursday could have been another back-breaking day from dawn to midnight, cleaning utensils, mopping floors and washing clothes at households in Delhi. But she displayed exemplary courage to wriggle out of bondage and find her way back home in Jashpur. Rukmani, who was once sold to middlemen, is now at the vanguard of a campaign to ban child trafficking. With the help of an NGO, Rukmani, who had studied till Class 3, has also resumed her studies. Talking to Times of India, Rukmani from Kansabel block of tribal Jashpur district said, “I was 12 when I fled from captivity in Delhi. A resident of my village, Salma, had tempted me with big city lifestyle and with good money if I went along with her. Immediately after landing in Delhi, I was sold off to a placement agent, Kripa, who dumped me in a house as a 24-hour domestic servant for Rs 2000 per month.” She would work non-stop from 6 am till midnight and she would be abused and would be forced to sleep hungry. When she complained to the placement agency, Rukmani was bundled off in a train and sent to Indore where her working hours extended to 1.30 in the night as the family had visitors every night. “There was another girl from Jharkhand who was always frightened. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I told them I won’t continue.” In Jashpur, Rukmani’s parent filed a missing complaint with police and a search was launched. The placement agency in Delhi was tapped and she was tracked to her hellhole in Indore from where she was rescued. While Rukmani struggled to find her place back in family, she emerged as a multi-tasking girl. Learning to stitch and study, she also tries to save girls from traffickers. She has already helped police to nab Salma and other touts. Rukmani works with Jivan Jharna Vikas Sanstha, an NGO that rehabilitates trafficked children and has built her own brigade of boys and girls who act against touts. “We have groups at panchayat-level of 30 youths who keep vigil on middlemen. We tip off police and NGOs when we hear about girls being huddled into buses or trains. Many have been rescued and many agents are now in jail. I have vowed to ban trafficking,” Rukmani said. Sister Annie in charge of NGO said it was difficult to handle rescued children as they are traumatized and refuse to open up. Majority of these girls go with touts without informing parents. Six and a half decades after Independence, India’s tribal-dominated areas remain as backward as they are. Economical development is the need of hour so that tribal girls get enough opportunities for gainful employment locally. (Times of India 11/6/14)

22. 20 Jamtara kids rescued in Kerala (1)

DUMKA: Kerala police on Thursday rescued 20 more children, who were trafficked from Jamtara district, said the district deputy commissioner. Jamtara DC Chandrashekhar said a team of government officials would visit Kerala to bring the children back to the state. All of them are from Narayanpur block. “The collector of Kolam district in Kerala informed me about the rescue of 20 children from an orphanage. A team of administrative officials and local police will leave for Kerala on Thursday to bring them back to the state,” he said. The DC has also referred the matter to the Jamtara SP for lodging FIR against those involved in trafficking. Railway police had, on May 24, rescued 500 children, 119 of whom were from Godda district, from Palakkad railway station. On June 9, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to Jharkhand and Kerala seeking detailed report on trafficking. The 119 children, from different villages in Godda, Basantrai and Mahgama blocks, were brought to the state on Wednesday and sent home on Thursday. There were 44 boys and 75 girls between the age of five and 12 years. (Times of India 13/6/14)

23. Delhi: More women getting involved in sex trade (1)

New Delhi: Increasingly, women are becoming catalysts of exploitation of other women. The number of women being arrested for forcing others into prostitution at least suggests so. Delhi Police, which arrested 48-year-old Raj Radha for allegedly running a prostitution racket in the city on Friday, says that as many as 66 women were arrested in 2013 for forcing innocent women into the flesh trade. If one goes by the statistics, at least six women were arrested every month, on an average two every week, on similar charges. In 2012, 44 women were arrested for the same crime. It means that there was an increase of almost 50% in the arrests of women in such cases by Delhi police. Though data for this year is not available yet, senior police officers claim that they have arrested as many as 30 women already on similar charges. Other than their alleged involvement in flesh trade, a senior police officer said, some of the women were accused of cheating girls and luring them into paid sex on one pretext or the other — job offer being the most common ploy. Till 2011, the senior officer said, there were not many female names in the illegal flesh trade. However, a high profile prostitute-turned-pimp, Sonu Punjaban alias Geeta Arora arrested that year, changed the whole game. She was arrested a couple of times by different teams of the Delhi police for allegedly running flesh trade in the city. At that time only Kanwaljeet Singh— Delhi’s notorious supplier of women who was well known as the ‘Cadillac pimp’ because of the car he drove, was the most famous pimp. Sonu Punjaban emerged as the next big thing in the prostitution business. However, today, police claim, a good number of women, a few of them belonging to high society, are involved in the flesh trade because of it being ‘high profit, less risk’. On being asked why there has been a sharp increase in arrest of women in such cases, Ashok Chand, additional commissioner of police (crime branch) said, “The number has gone up because more people are coming forward to lodge their complaints against this illegal business. In some of the cases, the women were arrested for facilitating girls/women to their clients for sex without the consent of the victims.” Another senior police officer said that the arrests of such women has also gone up because of the directive by the Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi that the police should go after the pimps instead of arresting sex workers who are the victims of the crime. In March this year, the Delhi police had arrested two women for allegedly running a prostitution racket in west Delhi’s Hari Nagar. (Hindustan Times 15/6/14)

24. Sectarian Issues Cannot Cloud Government Intervention (1)

Kerala is home to about 1,100 government-recognised orphanages or children’s homes. They run on funds raised independently by the orphanage and aid provided by the state government. In 2013-14, monthly grant-in-aid given by the government per inmate was `700. In 2014-15, the amount has been raised to `1,000. On an average, the state government shells out approximately `30 crore, going up to `50 crore a year as grants-in-aid for the orphanages. However, it is mandatory for those orphanages receiving donations from abroad to come clean, even if such a move were to result in the automatic suspension of grants-in-aid by the state government. Following an Express investigation, it has come to light that 99 per cent of the orphanages in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, Palakkad and Malappuram have been concealing records regarding aid from foreign sources since 2010-11. The story in the other nine districts, though not yet made public, is expected to be no different. In other words, the scam involving fraudulent funds raised by orphanages in Kerala could figure in the `100 crore-150 crore bracket. Yet, the state government seems least bothered by all this and is more pre-occupied with scams such as those of the solar variety where the declared damage is well below `10 crore. All this is coming to pass when the government is struggling to provide aid to hapless endosulphan victims in Kasargod or to undernourished tribals in Attappadi. The alleged child trafficking busted in Kerala and the disclosures of fraudulent fund-raising are turning out to be a fit case for a central agency probe. The scam, in the name of giving succour to destitute children, is taking on alarming proportions. The government has a foolproof opportunity to crack down on erring orphanage managements, something that successive governments have been reluctant to do as they never wanted to hurt the minority vote bank—most orphanages being run by Muslim and Christian outfits. It is high time the state government stopped being bothered by sectarian considerations. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

25. Barbers turn away dalits in Bellary village (2)

HUBLI: The dalits of a Karnataka village have been boycotted by the local barbers allegedly under pressure from people of upper-castes. The dalits of Talur, a small village in Shiraguppa taluk of Bellary district, have been barred from entering barber salons. A scuffle broke out between dalits and barbers when the latter refused to cut their hair. All the five salons in the village are closed for five days. The social welfare department called a meeting on Sunday to resolve the issue, but the barber shops remained shut on Monday. Speaking to TOI, dalit leader Uchhappa Chalavadi, an employee of the state government’s revenue department, said: “We don’t know why people of our community are being denied a haircut. They had been visiting the salons for years. When we raised the issue with the village elders, they said we had to abide by the decision and get our hair cut elsewhere.” Anjaneya Tendaukkirappa, who runs a barber shop in Talur, told TOI: “Upper-caste people have forced us not to extend haircutting and shaving services to the dalits. We have been strictly told not to allow dalits to enter our shops. If we cut the dalits’ hair, upper-caste people will stop coming here. There are only 80-100 dalits here, but upper-caste people number more than 3,000. Our business will be affected if upper-caste people stop visiting our shops. Hence, we are not providing any service to dalits.” Four days ago, the barbers refused to cut dalit children’s hair, leading to arguments. Nagaraj Chalwadi, a dalit, told TOI: “Teachers don’t allow our children in class if their hair is not trimmed. Women are now cutting our children’s hair. We elders have to go to Bellary, Gullyam, Chanal Cross and Hudlagi villages for haircut and shave.” Tendaukkirappa said: “If we go against the diktat issued by upper-caste people, we may be thrown out of the village. We don’t know what to do. We have closed our shops for five days, and plan to stop this occupation and work as coolies.” Bellary district social welfare officer Rajappa N said: “We held a meeting with the barbers and the dalits. We asked the barbers to allow the dalits to enter their shops and get their hair cut. We told them there should not be any discrimination against the dalits once the shops reopen. We will also talk to upper-caste people. We will not coerce the barbers if they continue to keep their shops shut; it’s their decision. But the dalits should be served if they reopen the shops.”  (Times of India 10/6/14)

26. Dalit woman found ‘raped’, hanged in UP village (2)

Lcknow: A middle-aged woman was found hanging from a tree in Bahraich after allegedly being raped, a crime being reported a fortnight after two cousins in a different part of Uttar Pradesh met a similar fate. While police have not yet zeroed in on a motive, it has emerged that the woman, 45, took on a local liquor vend next to the grocery store she was running in her village Gauria Loniyarpurwa. The state administration has been battling allegations of incompetence since the Badaun rape-murders came to light and drew widespread condemnation from within the nation and outside. The UP government has transferred a slew of bureaucrats, including the chief secretary, in the wake of the criticism. Police officials said the body found in Ranipur village on Wednesday, around two hours from state capital Lucknow, bore injuries on her private parts that indicate possible rape before she was hanged. She had been missing since the previous evening when she was on her way back to her village. Her family had alerted the police on Tuesday, and a hunt was underway till the body was found in a guava orchard. District magistrate in-charge Uday Shankar Upadhyay and police superintendent Happy Guptan were at the spot for investigation. (Hindustan Times 11/6/14)

27. Rs 21,000 fine for interacting with dalits in a Punjab district: Report (2)

PATIALA: Already in news for allegedly organizing a boycott of dalits, upper caste community of Baupur village in Sangrur district had announced that penalty of Rs 21,000 would be imposed in case any member interacted with a dalit in the village, revealed a draft report of an independent fact finding team which visited the village last month. The upper caste villagers boycotted dalits last month, after members of the lower caste community demanded one-third of village common agriculture land on rent. Claiming that an announcement to boycott dalits was made from the village’s religious place on Mach 16, the report, quoting the announcement, reads, “Nobody shall take these people on work, ban their entry in fields, cut off any exchange of ghee, milk or lassi…anybody who shall keep contact with dalits will have to pay a fine of Rs 21,000″.The incident hogged the headlines after Rajesh Bagha, chairman of Punjab Scheduled Castes Commission, visited the village last week. Krishan Singh, who represents dalits of the village, claimed that the boycott was still continuing in some form or other. “On the other hand, district and police officials are claiming that there is no boycott,” he added. So much so that two dalit families reportedly migrated from the village on Tuesday due to unavailability of job. The report is prepared by the research scholar of Punjabi University, Patiala, members of Students for Society (SFS), Panjab University, Chandigarh, and a Chandigarh-based NGO “Lokayat”.The report said the village has 81 acres of agricultural common land, out of which 27 acres are reserved for dalits. “As it is a prevalent practice all over Punjab, the land reserved for dalits is never cultivated by them. The dominant landlords bid for the land on dalits’ names. So generally the Jats would bid for around Rs 50,000 to 60,000 per acre, which is obviously not affordable by the dalits who don’t have any means or resources”.This time the dalits refused. They decided to get the land by their collective efforts so that they could get the land for the collective farming, which ultimately led to their boycott,” reads the report. Krishan Singh said the bidding for village common land could not be materialized despite three attempts by the administration. (Times of India 12/6/14)

28. Govt to fix accountability for dalit funds (2)

NEW DELHI: The Centre is planning to fix accountability for diversion of funds meant for the welfare of dalits, a move that could institutionalize the concept of Special Component Plan (SCP) after four decades of drift. The Union social justice ministry is planning to insert “penal provisions” in the implementation of the SCP that would make the “sanctioning authority” and the “implementation authority” in the states and the Centre liable for diversion of dalit funds. Though at an early stage, the plan is to recommend specific punishment for the violation. The move is likely to be achieved by rewriting the rules on SCP, with the Centre and states in their ambit. “We want to fix accountability in the implementation of SCP. We want the budget for SC welfare to be used as per norms,” Union social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot told TOI. “This would act as a deterrent for the indifferent officialdom.” The SCP, also known as dalit sub-plan, mandates that the Centre and states should set aside funds for welfare of SCs in proportion to their population. The dalit sub-plan has failed to take off in the four decades of its existence with most arms of the governments only doing lip-service. The biggest problem has been the diversion of funds for non-dalit welfare measures. A reason behind its failure have been the constant battles by some ministries that they cannot divide funds into dalit and non-dalit compartments, like roads and schools that are used by all irrespective of their caste. Consequently, repeated efforts by the Centre to activate the SCP came a cropper. However, many states have lately brought in laws to give a legislative backing to dalit sub-plan with Andhra Pradesh pioneering the initiative. In UPA-2, the social justice ministry made a belated push in this direction at the fag end of its tenure but the move could not fructify. As per the draft law, it was proposed that all states and Union ministries would submit ‘dalit budgets’ six months ahead of the fiscal and “nodal bodies” would approve the proposed expenditure on the “only for dalit” parameter. The draft law also proposed that the governments formulate “incentives for commendable performance and disincentives for proven negligence and lack of due diligence by an official”.However, it could not move past the draft stage with the PMO turning down the demand from social justice minister Kumari Selja to rush it through the cabinet in the last month before the 2014 elections. (Times of India 15/6/14)

29. Caste Hindus object to Dalit participation in temple festival (2)

MADURAI, A group of eight Caste Hindus from Sathamangalam village in Melur Taluk near here has preferred a writ appeal in the Madras High Court Bench here challenging an order passed by a single judge on June 6 permitting the Dalits in the village to participate in the annual festival of Sri Harihara Puthira Ayyanar Temple. The appellant group led by P. Ganesan Ambalam contended that people belonging to its community had been administering the temple since 1978 and the Dalits had no right to interfere in the temple affairs but for worshipping the deity. It also stated that those belonging to the Scheduled Castes were administering a separate temple in the village. Filing an affidavit on behalf of all the appellants, Mr. Ambalam said that a dispute arose between the two communities over administering the temple way back in 1986. Then, the appellants filed a civil suit before the Munsif Court in Melur to restrain the Dalits from interfering in the administration and obtained a favourable decree in 1986 since the opponents failed to contest the suit. After a long time, a Dalit villager began claiming right over the administration of the temple since this year and obtained an order from a single judge of the High Court without including the appellants as parties to the case, the group claimed. It also stated that it was not against the Dalits worshipping the deity without interfering in the administration of the temple. When the matter came up for hearing before a Division Bench comprising Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice V.M. Velumani on Friday, they told the appellants that no one could be prevented from participating in a temple festival on the basis of his/her caste. Later, the matter was adjourned to Monday as the lawyers were on court boycott on Friday. (The Hindu 16/6/14)

30. Dalit man dies of burns in U.P.(2)

Lucknow: A Dalit youth was allegedly set ablaze by three brothers for reportedly refusing to work for them in Atbei village of Chirgaon in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. Within 24 hours of the incident, the police claimed that the deceased was an alcoholic and had set himself on fire following a dispute with the three brothers. The State IG ( Law and Order) Amrendra Kumar Sengar told reporters on Monday that following an inquiry by the Circle Officer of Chirgaon and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, it was found that the charges mentioned in the FIR were false. The complaint lodged by the deceased Pawan’s father, Gayadin, in which Rajesh Yadav, Brijesh Yadav and Suresh Yadav, and their father were named as accused. Pawan succumbed to his burn injuries in Jhansi Medical College, while his younger brother, who tried to save him, is reportedly battling for his life with 60 per cent burns. (The Hindu 17/6/14)

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

31. Modi’s governance agenda: Health, hygiene to get special attention (3)

NEW DELHI: The BJP-led coalition will revamp the critical healthcare sector, upgrade hygiene standards across the country and launch a mission to drive home the message. President Pranab Mukherjee stressed the need for an accessible, affordable and effective healthcare system. The government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. On the hygiene front, the focus will be on ensuring that every household has toilets and public spaces are not littered with garbage. The government announced ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. The government may end up spending about Rs 4 crore to make the country open defecation free and to ensure drinking water supply at home. The President said government will promote yoga and Ayush. India has a shortage of around 6.4 million allied health professionals. To address the shortfall, government will transform health education and training. Out-of-pocket expenditure on health in India, at over 70%, is one of the highest globally and is responsible for pushing hundreds of millions into poverty every year. The President added, “AIIMS-like institutes will be established in every state in a phased manner.” UPA government in 2006 approved six AIIMS-like institutions – in Patna, Bhopal , Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Raipur and Rishikesh. These institutes will also provide undergraduate medical education for 100 students a year. In 2009, the government approved two more such institutes, taking the final number to eight. (Times of India 10/6/14)

32. Vardhan asks doctors to achieve the targets ahead of schedule (3)

New Delhi: Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan today asked the doctors to achieve the target set by the government to control and eradication various diseases ahead of their schedule. He said the Health Ministry would soon roll out initiatives to make a social movement out of the mission to achieve high standards in public health, wedded to the priorities of prevention, environmental safeguards and disease control. “If there are targets then let’s bring them forward. If in the past achieving eradication of measles before 2020 was deemed impossible, then my objective is to do it by 2018. I would like to halve the maternal mortality rate and this determination is there for all diseases,” the Minister said, adding “as doctors, let’s make it possible to achieve targets set by the government earlier than schedule.” He said being specialists in different branches of medicine each of the doctors are aware of the issues concerning their respective departments. “Please give me inputs and your intellectual acumen which I wish to use in my drive to achieve health for all.” Vardhan also suggested to his “colleagues” to make the new generation of doctors understand that a patient’s first interface with a hospital doctor should be good in order to earn the respect, which earlier they had. “The respect that we gave to doctors in our childhood is no longer there in the popular perception. This is cause for introspection. I would urge you to make the new generation of doctors understand that a patient’s first interface with a hospital doctor should be good. This message must go down to the young resident doctors and all employees,” Vardhan stressed. Without referring to particular incidents of doctor- patient confrontation, Vardhan said he wanted expressions of short-temper to be controlled through proper training. “The difference between good and bad behaviour in the doctor-patient interface can often be only a hair’s breadth. So I would urge the seniors to instill in the young generation of doctors better behaviour standards,” he said while interacting with doctors at RML hospital after his review of hygiene conditions in the hospital. As part of the sanitation drive launched by his ministry, Vardhan today visited the hospital to review the hygiene conditions in there. He spent an hour reviewing the cleanliness drive at RML and visited the Emergency Ward to see its facilities. People also informed the Minister about the problem of water supply, issues with staffing and availability of medicine. (Zee News 12/6/14)

33. Malnutrition kills over 3mn toddlers a year: UN (3)

Rome: More than three million children under the age of five die annually of malnutrition, the UN food agency and World Health Organisation said on Thursday, urging governments to tackle the problem. “Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. Some 162 million children are left stunted by chronic malnutrition and 99 million children are underweight across the world, it added. Since the first international conference on nutrition in 1992, “important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made, but this progress has been insufficient and uneven,” FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said. There has only been a 17% reduction in undernourishment since the early 1990s, leaving over 840 million people still chronically undernourished. The FAO and WHO urged governments to “make stronger commitments… to ensure healthier diets for all” at an international conference on nutrition to be held in Rome in November. They warned that various forms of malnutrition often overlap and can coexist within the same country and even within the same household. “Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies,” they said in a statement. “At the same time, another half billion are obese.” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the aim of the upcoming conference was to get governments to ask themselves “why is it that severe undernutrition and obesity can exist side by side in the same country and in the same community?” She also called for more research into the health and environmental implications of “the rapid rise in the demand for meat and other animal products that coincides with rising income levels.” Efforts to improve food and nutrition security continue to be hampered by low political commitment and weak institutional arrangements, the agencies said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

34. Blood banks in each dist in 2-3 years: Vardhan (3)

New Delhi: Expressing concern over the high rate of maternal mortality in the country due to want of safe blood during pregnancy, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today said that the government will work to ensure that each district soon has a blood bank. “Almost 88 per cent of pregnant women in this country suffer from anaemia, which is a major contributor to the high maternal mortality rate in India. “Of these, 13.5 per cent women come under the grip of acute anaemia, often leading to death,” Vardhan said here at an event organised to mark World Blood Donor Day. He said that as many as 80,000 women die in the country due to want of safe blood during pregnancy. About 87 per cent of pregnant women suffer from anaemia of which 13.5 per cent suffer from acute anaemia, which can be life threatening. If there are more safe blood banks in the country, the number of women dying during pregnancy due to loss of blood can be significantly reduced, Vardhan said. “We will see that each district in the country has a safe blood bank in the coming one-two years. I will talk to the states and civil society organisations about this. The Centre will do all it can to see that this is implemented soon,” said the Health Minister. He also launched a National Plasma Policy on the occasion which is aimed at optimising the use of plasma recovered by blood banks which are tested safe for clinical use. The policy aims at making available high-quality proteins of immense clinical significance, derived from human plasma, which otherwise goes to waste. While attempting to bridge the gap between demand and supply of such life-saving plasma-derived proteins, it seeks to ensure adequate regulatory and legislative steps for monitoring of activities related to plasma-derived products. The policy, drafted by the Department of AIDS Control,is an addendum to the National Blood Policy, 2003. (Deccan Herald 14/6/14)

HIV/AIDS

35. Expired medicine for HIV victim at MGM (3)

An HIV positive patient admitted to MGM Medical College and Hospital in Jamshedpur discovered to her horror on Monday that she had been given a packet of ORS that had expired, prompting her husband to lodge a complaint with the authorities. While the superintendent in-charge of the hospital has promised to look into the matter, the patient’s family and members of support groups have expressed serious apprehension about the quality of treatment being provided at the government hospital. The 30-year-old woman, who had been diagnosed with the condition three years ago, is from Baridih. She had been admitted to the hospital on June 6 after doctors told her she needed blood. During the course of her treatment, she was also being given rejuvenating drinks of oral rehydration salts. On Monday, as soon as she saw that the ORS packet had expired in May, she informed her husband, who is also HIV positive. Before leaving the hospital after completing treatment, she informed the duty nurse and D.P. Shukla, president of Jamshedpur district-level network for people living with HIV/AIDS, an organisation that works for the welfare of patients. Later, Shukla came to the hospital, collected the packet of ORS that had expired and complained to the principal of MGM Medical College, A.N. Mishra, who is holding dual charge as hospital superintendent. “I went over to the medicine store and asked the nurse on duty to provide me with a packet of ORS. She gave me one with expiry date of August, 2014. But when I showed her the expired packet, the nurse said that it must have been mistakenly handed over by a staffer,” Shukla told The Telegraph. Shukla claimed to have found over 250 packets of expired ORS at the medicine store. “ORS is given to patients especially during the summer. But if this energy drink has expired, then it may aggravate the patient’s condition,” Shukla said. Superintendent-in-charge Mishra confirmed having received a verbal complaint. “I have received a complaint about expired ORS being given to patients. It is a serious issue. I will have the matter probed and take strong action against those found guilty,” he added. The patient’s husband was understandably upset. “We do not know whether the medicines the hospital is providing HIV-positive patients are also dated or not. All I can say is that patients suffering from HIV/AIDS are getting step-motherly treatment,” he said. (The Telegraph 10/6/14)

36. Migrant Labourers Push State’s HIV Graph Up (3)

KOCHI: For the past many years the Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) has been efficiently tackling HIV. But putting a spoke in its wheel is a new factor-the increasing homosexuality among  migrant labourers in the state. Shockingly, owing to their indulgence in sex with commercial MSMs (men having sex with men), categorised as high-risk groups, HIV is literally banging on the door which has been almost closed by the KSACS. The risk mounts when the migrant labourers also go for female sex workers. Much to the dismay of the officials, each HIV case reported from Thrissur, Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam is owing to the increasing homosexuality among them. Dennis Joseph, Joint Director, Target Intervention, KSACS, said that it is the occasional indulgences to suppress their libido which slowly slip into homosexuality. “They cannot be blamed for that and the nature of their jobs restricts them from going home. Hence they are left with no alternative. But we need strict monitoring to prevent it from sowing further risks,” he said. A migrant labourer based in Kochi opined that 80 per cent of the migrant workers indulge in homosexual activities. “Everywhere it happens and Kerala is no different. Indulging in homosexual activities is not deliberate. It just happens. But we always take necessary precautions,” he said. But the truth is that safe sex practice is always compromised. The construction sites in the cities have literally become a haven for sexual encounters as most of the migrant labourers are employed in construction sites. Ratheesh V K, counsellor, Suraksha project, of the Rajagiri outreach which works to prevent HIV among migrant labourers, said that his subjects offer various reasons for increased interest in homosexuality. “Living a morose life in a crammed living space and unsatisfied heterosexual relationships are some of the reasons. But slowly they move outside their circle and go for MSMs and female sex workers,” he said. But what makes the situation more grave is that they do not hesitate to shed safe sex practices. MSMs who go with the migrant labourers admitted that, many a time, they have to forsake safe sex. “Sometimes the situation would not allow us to take the necessary precautions as most of the encounters happen at construction sites. Apart from it, many who approach us also go for female sex workers. We know that there is a high risk involved,” said Gokul, a commercial MSM based in Kothamangalam. They offer good money and most primarily they do not  torture or harass us, said Baby K M,  an MSM based in Thodupuzha. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

37. TMC land ‘catalyst’ for NTPC (4)

The Trinamul Congress today participated in an all-party meeting on land acquisition convened by NTPC for its proposed 1,320MW thermal power plant at Burdwan’s Katwa and promised to play the role of a “catalyst” in helping the central utility purchase plots directly. The timing of the move, which marked a sea change in the party’s stand on land for the project in a little over three years, hinted at latent political concerns after the Lok Sabha poll results showed significant Opposition gains in seven Assembly segments in and around the site. “Trinamul will happily play the role of a catalyst. Land must not stand in the way when people are willingly parting with it for industry,” said Trinamul’s Ketugram MLA Sheikh Shahnawaz after the meeting at the SDO’s office. The ruling party today went to the extent of requesting NTPC to double the capacity — 2,640MW instead of the sanctioned plan of 1,320MW and four units instead of two — for the benefit of the region. Even if twice the quantum of land is required, according to Shahnawaz, “willing participation of land-owners will simply not be an issue”. The utility possesses 556 acres acquired by the Left government and needs another 227 acres. Following Mamata’s “gift” of 97 acres before the general election, it has to buy 130 acres directly from around 1,100 land-owners. Trinamul sources said the decision to help accelerate the Rs 9,000-crore project was taken at the “highest level” of the government after the elections. While the CPM led in the Ketugram and Katwa Assembly segments, the BJP was ahead in Mangalkot, Raina, Memari and Purbasthali North and South. The Ketugram and Mangalkot segments are under the Bolpur Lok Sabha seat, while the rest are part of the Burdwan East parliamentary constituency. “The sluggish progress of the project is causing discontent,” a source said. Less than a fortnight after Trinamul came to power in 2011, Mamata Banerjee had declared that the government would not acquire “even an inch” of land for the project. NTPC’s eastern regional chairman Mahendra Singh said the utility would start the process of buying land from tomorrow. “It’s great to see everyone coming together for the realisation of this dream project,” Singh said. After the meeting, 53 land-owners from Koshigram’s Sahapur gave a letter to Singh declaring their willingness to part with around 80 acres. (The Telegraph 11/6/14)

38. Draft rules on new land acquisition law soon: Min (4)

Bangalore: Karnataka Revenue department is hopeful of tabling the draft rules in the next Assembly session to implement the new land acquisition law after getting Cabinet approval tomorrow. “The Cabinet sub-committee is meeting tomorrow to discuss the framing of draft rules for implementing the state’s own Bill, modelled on the Centre’s Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” Karnataka Revenue Minister Sreenivasa Prasad told reporters here. “After framing the draft rules it will be placed before the Cabinet tomorrow for approval and tabled in the Assembly session scheduled this month,” Prasad added. Prasad held a meeting with officials to discuss the pros and cons of implementing the new land Act, which has replaced the 120-year-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, from January 1. Each state is allowed to frame rules to implement the Act.

Under the proposed Act, farmers selling their land will get attractive compensation and there will be transparency in land acquisition for public, public-private and private purposes, Prasad said. “Farmers holding land in rural areas will get a compensation four times more than the guidance value and two times more for holding land in urban areas,” Prasad said. The compensation under the new law will be paid with retrospective effect from January 2014, he added. (Zee News 12/6/14)

39. Narmada Dam height to be raised by 17 metres; lakhs will lose their homes, activists say (4)

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: The government has decided to raise the height of the Narmada Dam by 17 metres — a longstanding demand of Gujarat — within 20 days of Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister, raising protests from activist Medha Patkar who drew attention to the resultant displacement of thousands of people. On Thursday, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) approved the proposal to raise the dam’s height from 121.9 metres to 138.7 metres, making it the second highest dam in the world after Grand Coulee in the US. The approval came two days after the Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel met Modi and water resources minister Uma Bharti and reiterated the state’s demand. A higher dam will optimize hydro-power generation and water supply capacity of this project, and is expected to benefit not just Gujarat but also neighbouring Rajashthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat has been demanding this for the last eight years, and Modi would place this demand before the Centre on every official visit to Delhi as chief minister. (Times of India 13/6/14)

40. Government to review Special Economic Zones, Free Trade Agreements policies (4)

Chennai: The status of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) has come under critical review of the Union commerce and industry ministry and a policy decision on their viability, especially economic benefits, will be made soon. Union commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had ordered her ministry officials to undertake a thorough review also said a consultation with the stakeholders to address concerns of the industry with regard to the Companies Act had been planned. “There has been mixed reaction to the FTAs, particularly its benefits. I instructed the ministry officials to do a complete analysis and the ministry will soon come out with a status report in a fortnight,” she said. “I have also instructed officials to do a complete review of SEZs and why they have not worked. We are going to review and rework SEZs,” she added. Ms Sitharaman said that the review of FTAs and SEZ policies was meant to boost investments and improve employment opportunities. PM Narendra Modi was meeting officials in Delhi to address the problems related to SEZs on Saturday, she added. Nirmala Sitharaman is in the city to meet various industry associations like Confederation of Indian Industries and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to understand how to attract more investments to Tamil Nadu and create employment opportunities, said a meeting with all stakeholders would be held next week in Delhi to explore the changes that require to be effected in the new Companies Act to bring back investor confidence. The new Companies Act, 2013, replaced the old Companies Act, 1956 and had “posed a lot of problems” to companies, chartered accountants and industries. On the FDI in multi-brand retail, she said it was unwelcome. (Asian Age 15/6/14)

41. Dalit minor set on fire in Gujarat after dispute (2)

Ahmedabad: A spat with neighbours over disposal of dirty water resulted in a minor Dalit girl from Gujarat being set ablaze on Sunday. Chandrika Parmar (15) suffered 70 per cent burns when her neighbours, also Dalits, launched a sudden attack on her and her family. She is battling for her life at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. The incident took place in Syla village in Surendranagar district. Chandrika had complained to her neighbour, Suneeta Vaghela, about throwing dirty water outside her house, leading to an argument. Ms. Vaghela’s father Motibhai Sumera then slapped Chandrika’s younger brother Milan and threatened the family. When Chandrika’s mother Manjuben Parmar lodged a police complaint, the neighbours were infuriated. “That afternoon, Mr. Sumera, along with his immediate and extended family members, barged into the Parmar home and started beating everyone,” Chandrika’s cousin Mahendra Parmar told The Hindu. “They were carrying sticks, red chilli powder and kerosene. There were nearly 10 of them. They were trying to douse Chandrika’s younger brother with kerosene when she rushed to his rescue. The assailants then turned on her. While three women held her down, the men poured kerosene and set her on fire,” the cousin said. Chandrika suffered severe burns. “She is still in a critical condition,” M.M. Prabhakar, medical superintendent of the Civil Hospital, told The Hindu. “Had the police acted on Manjuben’s complaint, the matter would not have escalated to this extent,” said Anand Parmar, Chandrika’s elder brother. “Instead, the local police used abusive words. They threatened to put me behind bars. When we went to the police station, we were made to wait for hours.” The police have registered a case of attempt to murder, house-trespass and criminal intimidation against Mr. Sumera, a civil engineer; Sangeeta Vaghela, a school headmistress, and six other members of the Sumera family, based on Chandrika’s statement. “Such a violent reaction to such a trivial issue is quite unexpected. There is no history of animosity or violence between the neighbours, except for occasional arguments over petty issues,” P.N. Momaya, Deputy Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu. She denied the family’s allegations that the police was lax in acting on the family’s complaint. “We took prompt action,” she said. (The Hindu 18/6/14)

CORRUPTION

42. Goa illegal mining scam: Enforcement Directorate registers ECIR (5)

Panaji: The Directorate of Enforcement, Goa registered an Enforcement Case Investigation Report (ECIR) on Monday under Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 in respect of the illegal mining case in Goa and commenced investigation in the illegal mining scam under the provisions of PML Act, 2002. A senior official of the Directorate of Enforcement in Panaji told The Hindu on Tuesday that the case has been registered against official of the State Mining Department including ex-Director, a draftsman and others in respect of the scheduled offences of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 in Rs. 35,000-crore illegal mining case against government officials, mining companies and entities identified and mentioned in the report of Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court, Justice M.B.Shah Commission report and report of the Public Accounts Committee of Goa. The CEC appointed by the Supreme Court in its report had observed that in there was no system of periodic verification of the iron ore produced in the mining leases, payment of royalty after verification, issue of transit permits by the forest department, issue of permits by the State Mining department for transportation, etc., in Goa and hence illegal mining took place outside the mining leased area and the same was conveniently shown to have been done legally in the leased area. A number of environmental clearances for the status of the land was mentioned as non-forest whereas the leased area comprised partly/wholly of forest land. All the above facts are of serious nature having financial implications and loss to the exchequer in crores of rupees. The manufacture and fabrication of documents and using such documents for fraudulent purpose by active support of the government officials has caused a huge loss to the state exchequer, the complaint had noted. Mr. Pravin Pawar, Joint Director, Enforcement said on Tuesday that the documents and other related records are being collected from various agencies and its examination is under way. Summons will be issued shortly to various government officials, mining company directors and to those involved in the process of illegal mining activities, he said. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

43. ‘Make Anti-corruption a Curriculum Subject’ (5)

COIMBATORE: The University Grants Commission has asked universities to include anti-corruption as a subject in the academic curriculum, which was welcomed by anti-corruption movements. “The government of India is actively participating in the activities of International Anti-Corruption Academy to strengthen participation and to combat corruption in every form. The Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has considered the inclusion of the subject ‘anti-corruption’ in the curriculum, and research work in this field in the higher educational institutes,” UGC said in a recent circular to Vice-Chancellors of all universities in the country. The UGC has requested the universities to consider inclusion of anti-corruption in the curriculum of relevant subjects like law, public administration, human rights and convey relevant instructions to all the stakeholders concerned for recognition of this curriculum. Welcoming this, Coimbatore unit secretary of the anti-corruption movement NK Velu said including anti-corruption as a subject in curriculum is a very good proposal. “Corruption has become part and parcel of the Indian’s life. This needs to be changed on a war footing,” he said. (New Indian Express 13/6/14)

44. LTC Scam: CBI books Rajya Sabha MPs for cheating and forgery (5)

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked three sitting and three former Rajya Sabha MPs for cheating and forgery in Leave Ticket Concession (LTC) scam – they availed full fare reimbursements using fake tickets. The central probe agency filed FIRs, Friday, against sitting MPs D Bandopadhyay (TMC), Brijesh Pathak (BSP) and Lalhming Liana (MPF) and former MPs JPN Singh (BJP), Renu Bala (BJD) and Mehmood Arshad Madani (RLD). This is the first case registered by the CBI in the scam. Searches are being conducted at 10 locations, which include the houses, office premises of the MPs and also at the offices of travel agencies in Delhi and Odisha. The agency has registered a case of cheating and forgery among other charges under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The MPs are alleged to have purchased return air e-tickets in connivance with tour operators. They allegedly used online service to get boarding passes using web check-in facility and just before boarding time, these boarding passes and tickets were allegedly cancelled to pocket the refund money. Later the e-tickets and boarding passes, which were earlier issued, were allegedly submitted to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to claim the travel expenses by the MP. The incident came to light after the vigilance department of Air India (AI) was alerted about the arrest of a man in March at the Kolkata airport with 600 blank boarding passes of the airline in his possession. (Zee News 13/6/14)

45. Irrigation scam: ATR blames officials (5)

MUMBAI: Even as it tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly the report of the Chitale Committee, which probed the multicrore irrigation scam, the Congress-NCP government gave a clean chit to politicians in its Action Taken Report (ATR). The ATR made no mention of politicians, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who was Irrigation Minister between 1999 and 2009. He belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party. The probe was initiated in 2012 after allegations of major irregularities in irrigation projects. The outcry led to Mr. Pawar’s resignation as Deputy Chief Minister. However, he was reappointed three months later. The Chitale report itself lays the bulk of the blame on officers rather than politicians. It points out that investigating several irregularities were outside its terms of reference. The report has only one line which points to the role of Mr. Pawar, though it does not name him. It says that in some cases of cost escalation, a revised approval for more funds was given in violation of rules. “It was sanctioned despite being brought to the notice of the Governing Council. In such cases the responsibility lies with the members and the president of the Governing Council,” the report says. As Irrigation Minister during the period, Mr. Pawar headed the Governing Council. While the report has asked the government to decide on the possible action, the ATR claims that the Governing Council had the power to sanction extra money till August 2009. The Opposition called the ATR eyewash to protect politicians. “We hope the government initiates criminal proceedings against those criticised in the report. Otherwise, we will consider going to court,” said State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis. The report has pointed out major irregularities by project officers while granting Administrative Approvals (AA) for projects. In several cases, the AA was granted without finalising the design of the project, it says. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

TRIBALS

46. House disrupted over Polavaram (6)

New Delhi: The 16th Lok Sabha witnessed its first disruption — albeit a short one — by members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on its fourth day on Monday when Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Santosh Gangwar tabled the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, promulgated on May 29. The ordinance relates to the transfer of seven mandals of the Bhadrachalam revenue division, encompassing 205 villages and tribal hamlets, to Andhra Pradesh for execution of the Polavaram project. Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are opposed to the transfer as they feel that it would displace tribal people and adversely impact their power projects. While BJD member B. Mahtab sought to raise a point of order, the TRS members briefly trooped into the well shouting slogans. Some of them held placards, drawing the disapproval of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. The Speaker tried to pacify them with the assurance that they would be allowed to have their say when the Bill replacing the ordinance comes up for discussion. However, the TRS members persisted with their protest. As not much business was scheduled for the day, proceedings were adjourned after the papers listed for the day were tabled followed by the announcement of the 10 members nominated by the Speaker to the panel of chairpersons. On Sunday, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao had said the P.M. had assured him that the Centre would not act in haste on the transfer of villages. The Polavaram Ordinance was one of the first actions of the Narendra Modi government as it wanted the issue to be addressed before the Telangana came into existence on June 2. The government had to take the ordinance route as the proposed transfer was not part of the AP Reorganisation Bill approved by Parliament. Mr. Rao had said he wanted the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the four Chief Ministers in a bid to hammer out a consensus. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

47. Tribal kids give up studies fearing tusker attacks while trekking to school (6)

RAIPUR: Education in Chhattisgarh has hit an elephantine wall, particularly for children residing in villages hemmed in by forests. Rampaging tuskers in forests on the periphery of these villages have left scores of students stranded. At least 100 students of Raigarh district have quit studies after class 10 as they dread crossing forests to study in higher secondary schools, fearing attacks from elephants. For tribal students of Puringa village, walking 10 km to a school at Hati village is fraught with danger as man-elephant conflict peaks in the worst-hit districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Jashpur and Korba. Talking to TOI, vice-president of Janpad panchayat in Dharamjaigarh, Sanjay Gupta, said there are at least 100 tuskers in forests spanning 8km. “Due to rise in pachyderm population in last few years, students quit studies after class 10 over last five years. They prefer farming or other jobs than braving rampaging tuskers to study in school,” he said. The situation is same at Purunga, Kakedar, Tendumuda, Samarsingha, Gerwani and Gida villages. Students were traumatised after elephants trampled three schoolchildren. Block education officer V K Singh said along with elephants there are other factors that deter students. “It’s a tough task to walk to the school at Hati, particularly for girls. We have sent a proposal to tribal and education department to upgrade the existing school to higher secondary level, then students won’t have to trek long distances,” he said. Some students have displayed courage and continue with their studies. “Most of them have bi-cycles and manage to cover the distance,” said Singh. In Raigarh’s Dharamjaigarh area alone, 26 elephants and 64 people have died over 10 years in the continuing conflict between elephants and humans. While state government continues to pay unsatisfactory compensation to victims, it has also failed to resolve the issue. Raipur: Furious tribals in Jashpur district recently threatened to take up arms against elephants. They warned that if administration can’t resolve the issue, they will kill the elephants. While villagers have shown restraint due to religious sentiments, tusker deaths have risen with three deaths in Korba, three in Dharamjaigarh and two in Jashpur this year. To save paddy fields, villagers fence their farms with electrical cables which electrocute elephants. Though forest department claims elephants aren’t being killed by poachers, locals at Korba say ivory smugglers are active in the region. Locals have been demanding an elephant corridor in their region to maintain peace. However, the proposed corridor at Korba and Jashpur was put on the back burner after mining industries sought to acquire forest lands. (Times of India 11/6/14)

48. Include Khasi and Garo in the 8th Schedule: Meghalaya opposition dema (6)

Shillong, Jun 12 : Opposition legislators in the Meghalaya Assembly today stressed on the need for the state government to pressurize the centre to include Khasi and Garo languages in the Eight Schedule of the constitution. ‘We urged the government to pressurise the centre for the inclusion of the Khasi and Garo languages in the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution not only to get a national recognition but also protect the identity of the two tribes,’ UDP legislator Titostarswell Chyne said moving a resolution in the assembly.He said, the Khasi language has been recognized as one of major tribal languages by the Calcutta University since 1900 up to the entrance examinations, degree level in 1919 and NEHU recognized the language in its master degree, M phil and also doctorate level. ‘The inclusion of the language will also benefit the students’ community particularly those who aspire to appear for Indian civil services exams besides opening job opportunities,’ Mr Chyne said. Supporting the resolution, National People’s Party (NPP) legislator James K Sangma said, ‘It is important to have Khasi and Garo language included in the Eight Schedule because this is the aspiration of the people of the state.’Stating that the demand reflects that people of Meghalaya wants to have a sense of belonging in the Indian mainstream, Sangma said, ‘However, the state government has failed to recognize this aspiration of the people by not taking necessary initiative with the Centre.’According to Sangma, out of the 22 languages listed in the eighth schedule, three languages are from North East which includes – Assamese, Manipuri and Bodo. Participating in the debate, opposition leader and UDP president Donkupar Roy suggested that the state government should take initiative in building up a strong case to convince the centre on the need to include the Khasi and Garo language in the Eight Schedule. In his reply, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma informed that as a result of the persistence of the state government on inclusion of the Khasi and Garo language in the Eight Schedule, the Ministry of Home Affairs has recently sought details of the Khasi language for evolving a set of uniform criteria which may pave the way for deciding inclusion of the language or otherwise in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India. (New Kerala 13/6/14)

49. Proposal for C’garh Tribal University at Centre’s Doorstep (6)

NEW DELHI: The decision on the proposal of the Chhattisgarh Government to set up a Tribal university at Bastar is now at the Centre’s doors. At an interactive session with the state representatives during the conference of secretaries of higher and technical education on Tuesday, Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani discussed the infrastructure requirements for the new Central universities, IITs and other institutions. Chhattisgarh Government had proposed a Central university at the naxalite-affected Bastar to promote higher education among tribal people. When the issue came up for discussion in the conference of state secretaries, Higher Education Secretary to Chhattisgarh B L Agrawal said the state government had identified 100 acres of land in Bastar for the proposed Tribal university. He also requested the Centre to waive the requirement of 300 acres land as the additional land for the university needed the clearance of Forest Department. He said the Chhattisgarh Government wanted to set up the university in the conflict zone as part of measures to provide higher education opportunities for tribal youths, who are potential cadres for the Maoists. “Now the Centre assured us to consider our request positively on land requirement for the university. We have a hope now,” Agrawal told Express. Smriti said that a new Central University for Himalayan Technology will soon be set up in Uttarakhand with international faculty.  The minister also sought the help of states to create an enabling environment for the education of children in backward areas, minorities, women, weaker sections and tribal zones. Special steps are being taken by the Ministry to meet the needs of higher education of students from the North-East in the form of collaborative efforts with premier institutes of the country, she said. Highlighting the need for a Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyaan to make science interesting for children, system of finding patents and to make parents and communities a part of the innovation realm, Smriti asked the states to revisit the Right to Education Act in the light of their experiences. “The fragmentation between the primary, secondary and higher education should be removed and skill development should start at the school level. Technology will be leveraged for empowering the students and teachers,” she said. (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

50. Minorities will be Made Equal Partners in Development: Govt (7)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi-government today vowed to make all minority communities equal partners in the country’s progress as it regretted that the benefits of schemes do not reach them, leaving them in poverty even after decades of Independence. The government specifically promised to strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among them and initiate National Madrassa Modernisation Programme.  Addressing the first joint sitting of Parliament after the recent Lok Sabha polls, President Pranab Mukherjee said it is unfortunate that even after several decades of Independence, sections of minority communities continue to suffer from poverty, as benefits of government schemes do not reach them. “My government is committed to making all minorities equal partners in India’s progress,” he said. Mukherjee said keeping in mind welfare of people belonging to the SCs, STs, OBCs and the weaker sections of the society, the government will take steps to create an enabling “eco-system of equal opportunity” in education, health and livelihood.”My government is committed to see that those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes are able to avail emerging opportunities.”For the Scheduled Tribes, my government will launch a dedicated ‘Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana’. Electrification of tribal hamlets and connecting them with all-weather roads will be a priority area,” he said. The President said the welfare and rehabilitation of specially-abled people is integral to the NDA government’s vision of a caring society. “It will take steps to provide dignity of life to them by facilitating their participation in all walks of life. Steps will be taken to identify their special needs and to provide institutional care to them,” he said. (New Indian Express 10/6/14)

51. Mah Assembly presses for regulation of minority-run institutes (7)

Mumbai: Members in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly today sounded the need for government regulation of educational institutions run by linguistic minorities. The intervention on this issue was made by Speaker Dilip Walse Patil during a discussion on educational opportunities for minorities in the lower house through a calling attention notice. Walse Patil said apart from religious minorities, there are linguistic minorities, most of whom are well to do and own educational institutions who do not grant admissions to weaker and backward class students. The view was supported by Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse who demanded that government take steps to ensure that the erring educational institutions do not go scot-free. Industries Minister Narayan Rane assured the House that the issue would be discussed in the cabinet and an appropriate decision would be taken soon. Earlier in the debate, Congress legislator Amin Patel who initiated the calling attention notice, demanded 10 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs and education to which Minister of State for Minority Affairs Fauzia Khan said reservation for minorities in both the areas would be taken soon. Patel also demanded improvement in quality of education as well as upgradation of facilities in minority-run institutions. The proposal is being studied she said adding minorities included not just Muslims but Sikhs, Jains,Buddhists and Parsis too. (Business Standard 11/6/14)

52. Muslims, Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation: Subramanian Swamy (7)

New Delhi: Reacting to Congress MP Hussain Dalwai’s demand for reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy said Muslims and Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation, as they have ruled our country in the past. “Muslim rulers have ruled India for hundreds of years and have also destroyed it, and I find it surprising that now Muslims demand reservation claiming that they have been oppressed. When the Indian Constitution was being made, it was decided that the communities which had been oppressed and tortured will be given reservation, which is why SC/ST have reservation in our country,” said Swamy. He further said “Later, under VP Singh’s governance, whoever was poor or backward was given a reservation. Now, Yadavs, Jats and others have ruled the country, but I feel they shouldn’t be given reservation too. We have poor Brahmins in our country as well, and 50% of them are below poverty line, but they will never ask for reservations.” Swamy added, “I feel that only those who have been oppressed by the society and have been forced to live a backward life should given reservations. If Muslims want to study, then should be given scholarships, good schools, But Muslims and Christians can’t have reservation as they have ruled our country.” Dalwai had earlier made a strong pitch for reservation for Muslims in Mumbai at the time when the Maharashtra government is set to announce its decision on the Rane Committee’s recommendation for 20% quota for Marathas. (Business Standard 16/6/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

53. BJP hosts first rally of Muslims in Bengal (7)

KOLKATA: Days after a Muslim youth was killed in Pune by members of a radical right-wing outfit, Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), the West Bengal unit of the BJP took out a rally featuring hundreds of Muslims here on Tuesday. It is one of the rare occasions when a few hundred members of Muslim community raised their voices against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The rally is indicative of the BJP’s growing interest in Bengal’s Muslim vote bank as the party has realised it is virtually impossible to win any election in the State that has 25 to 26 per cent minority population without wooing the Muslims. So the BJP’s State committee and the Central leadership have stepped up their activities to win over the minorities, right after the Lok Sabha elections. Last week, the party had dispatched State-level teams to probe the killing of Sheikh Rahim, a daily wage-earner in Birbhum district, while announcing its plan to get the members of the minority cell to investigate the death of Mr. Rahim. On Tuesday, the party launched a rally through the heart of central Kolkata to protest the killing of Mr. Rahim. Minority Morcha President of the BJP, Shakil Ansari, told The Hindu that such ‘protest-demonstrations were already yielding results’. “Muslims are now joining the BJP because they have seen through the TMC and the CPI (M)’s falsehood that if BJP came to power Muslims would be slaughtered. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking a lot of steps for minority development,” said Mr. Ansari. He accused the TMC of trying to keep the ‘Muslims confined within the boundaries of Madrasa education, doing Namaz’. “Madrasa education will not help Muslim youth become doctors and engineers. They need modern education to achieve progress.” Taking a dig at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to provide monthly honorarium to Muslim clerics, Mr. Ansari said that by Madrasa education, Muslim youths would only become imams. When asked by journalists earlier in the day as to why any BJP leaders are not condemning the murder of a Muslim youth in Pune, BJP State president Rahul Sinha avoided giving a direct answer. He said, “I am not authorised to make comments on what happened in Pune as the State president of the BJP. Only Central leaders, who are authorised to talk on national matters, can speak on this.” Mr. Sinha, however, slammed the TMC for the murder of Mr. Rahim and said, “They (TMC leaders) always raise such a hue and cry about minority development, but their first victim after the general elections is a member of the minority community.” (The Hindu 11/6/14)

54. Suggestions to codify Muslim Personal laws (7)

MUMBAI: After months of brainstorming sessions and consultations, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a women’s advocacy group, has drafted a set of recommendations , which if accepted by the government, can “revolutionize” the to codify Muslim Personal laws. These laws mainly concern on marriage, divorce, maintenance and children’s custody. The draft, they said, will help end “arbitrariness and alleged patriarchal practices”. To be released on Wednesday, the draft is expected to annoy the orthodox elements in the community and may not find favour with the powerful All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). “This may be called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act and only the Centre can enforce it through notification in the official gazette. It will debar unilateral triple talaq, discourage polygamy and establish women as natural guardian of kids. Marriage, maintenance and divorce will take place on principles laid do8wn by the Quran,” said Noorjahan Safia Niaz, BMMA founder. Senior advocate and head of legal cell of AIMPLB Yusuf Muchchalla said the draft is ill-timed. “Security, arrest of youth on false terror charges, unemployment and lack of education are the issues that Muslims must focus on. Codification will create more problems as there are several schools of thought in Islam and one kind of family law can’t be applicable to all.” (Times of India 17/6/14)

55. Parties decry attack on Lanka Muslims (7)

Chennai: Political parties in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday condemned the attack on Muslims in Sri Lanka by hard-line Buddhists, in which three persons were killed. Several Muslim outfits, including the Tamil Nadu Tawheed Jamat, organised protests in Chennai. Hundreds of workers were arrested. Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan said the attacks on Muslims showed that the Sri Lankan government was against the interests of the minorities. (The Hindu 18/6/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

56. Nagaland MP urges Christian MPs to work with dedication (7)

Kohima Jun 10: The Lok Sabha MP from Nagaland Neiphiu Rio today urged upon the Christian members of parliament to serve the nation with sincerity and dedication in the greater interest of the people, especially the minorities and the marginalised. In a release, Mr Rio said while addressing the thanks giving service for Christian parliamentarians at the Cathedral Church of the Redemption in New Delhi. The service is part of the Parliamentarians Fellowship hosted by the National Prayer Tower and Cathedral Church of the Redemption. Others who participated in the service included former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, Lok Sabha MP Vincent Pala, Oscar Fernandes, Mizoram MP C L Ruala former MP Thomas Sangma and Manipur MP Thangso Baite amongst others. The service was led by Archbishop Emiritus Vincent Concessao and church leaders who participated included Rev. Dr Abraham Mar Paulos Episcopa, Bishop, Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, Diocese of Delhi, Rev. Subodh C Mondal, Bishop of Methodist Church, Delhi, Rev. Sunil Singh, Bishop of CNI, Delhi Diocese, Dr. M. Ezra Sargunam, Bishop, Evangelical Church of India, Rev. Dr. Paul Swarup, Presbyter in charge, Archbishop Anil J T Couto Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Delhi and Bro. Ashirvatham, Director of the National Prayer Tower. The thanksgiving service is held at the beginning of very new Lok Sabha, the release said. (New Kerala 11/6/14)

57. India will spare no effort to secure release of Catholic priest abducted in Afghanistan: Modi (7)

CHENNAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday assured Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa that the Centre would spare no effort to get Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar released from the custody of suspected Taliban militants in Afghanistan. “I will continue to monitor the situation very closely,” he said in a letter to Jayalalithaa. Modi expressed his deep concern over the abduction of Kumar in Herat province of Afghanistan. “I have been assured that the Government of Afghanistan and the authorities in Herat are taking every possible step to ensure the early release of Father Prem Kumar. Our ambassador in Kabul has been in regular touch with the President’s Office and the security agencies,” Modi said. The Prime Minister said national security advisor Ajit Doval had also spoken to the Afghan national security advisor, who assured full and sustained efforts by the Afghan government to seek Kumar’s release. “This is an extremely delicate situation and our primary concern at this stage is to ensure the integrity of the ongoing efforts for Kumar’s release and to ensure that he does not come to harm,” Modi said. (Times of India 12/6/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

58. 2 mosques burnt in riot-hit Mewat village, curfew on (7)

Tauru: At least two mosques, one barely 100 metres away from a police station, were gutted during clashes between Hindus and Muslims following a road accident in Tauru, 35 km from Gurgaon, in Mewat Sunday. At least 15 people, including a DSP, were injured in the clashes. Curfew has been clamped in the area where paramilitary and police personnel have been deployed in strength. Flag marches were staged Monday as shops downed shutters and streets wore a deserted look. The clashes broke out after 20-year-old Danveer, returning home on a motorcycle, was knocked down by a dumper around 7.30 am Sunday. Angry residents gathered and assaulted the dumper driver Raees, 35, and helper Mubarak, 18. But word spread that the mob had killed the duo. Muslims from adjoining villages landed in Tauru, allegedly carrying weapons. Eyewitnesses claimed that some in the large crowd opened fire and looted shops near the bus stand. Kiran Devi, whose 12-year old son was hit by a bullet, said, “Rohit had gone out to buy groceries when he was hit by a bullet in the abdomen. He is undergoing treatment at Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon.” Three others, also seriously injured, are admitted in the same hospital. Pointing towards the broken windows of the SBI branch, customer executive Vishal Sharma said many in the mob were carrying lathis. “They broke in and took away everything that they could. The Allahabad Bank branch next to ours was also targeted.” Anil Taneja, whose mobile shop was allegedly looted, said, “When we saw the mob approaching, we fled. I lost goods worth Rs 3.5 lakh. They smashed all counters and windows.” It is alleged that the mob stoned a Shiva temple on Bawla road. Minutes later, two mosques — Jama Masjid hardly 100 metres from the police station, and Qureshiya mosque a little further — were set ablaze. Mohammad Abdullah, Imam of Jama Masjid,said, “I saw groups of men gather in the locality and thought it safe to leave the place. So, I locked the mosque and went home. At night, a police team informed me that the mosque had been burnt and escorted me there.” But Raj Kumar Mittal, local councillor and president of Tauru Traders Union, denied that Hindus were behind the destruction of the mosques and a shop. “The shop was burnt due to a short circuit but the owner blamed it on us. In the case of Jama Masjid, a youth smoking near the mosque threw a cigarette on a straw mat, which caught fire and burnt the mosque,” Mittal claimed. Blaming politicians for “inciting the Muslims”, he demanded a CBI probe into the riots. …(Indian Express 10/6/14)

59. Riot-displaced given 3-day ultimatum to leave camps (7)

Muzaffarnagar: Displaced villagers who have been living in camps on government land in neighbouring Shamli district since the Muzaffarnagar communal riots in September last year have been asked to vacate them within three days by authorities. Subdivisional Magistrate Suresh Kumar Mishra on Saturday said that a team of government officials visited the camps on Friday and “appealed” to the riot-displaced people to return to their native villages within three days. “They would not be allowed to stay on government land. They have been asked to vacate the camps,” he told reporters. These camps are located in Malakpura, Narpur Khurgan, Akbarpur and Sunethi villages in Shamli district. More than 250 families, who fled their homes after the communal riots that claimed over 60 lives, are believed to be staying in camps in these places in Shamli district, 100 km from the national capital. (Indian Express 14/6/14)

60. BKU leaders booked for inciting communal passions (7)

MEERUT: Prohibitory orders have been issued in Shamli district after local people burnt effigies of Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders who allegedly made inflammatory speeches with the potential to set off communal tension at a mahapanchayat on June 13. Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining areas have been communally charged in the wake of remarks allegedly made by BKU president Naresh Tikait and district youth wing chief Puran Singh, who spoke at the Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat in Dulhera village of Muzaffarnagar district. SSP Muzaffarnagar HN Singh said, “Security has been tightened in the entire region. No one will be allowed to disturb communal harmony.” In the mahapanchayat, which was attended by khap chaudharys of dozens of villages in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, speakers demanded that the state’s Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities Prevention Act, 1986 be invoked against those involved in the riots of August-September last year in Muzaffarnagar. They also demanded that fast track courts be set up to punish the culprits. Some speakers said the circle officer of Shahpur should be terminated from service. During his speech, Tikait said all people in India must live like Indians. Referring to the incident that reportedly sparked the riots last year, the murder of a Muslim youth allegedly for teasing a Hindu a girl in Kawal village of Muzaffarnagar district, Tikait said that was “only a trailer”. He alleged that the state government had been sheltering a particular section of society. “If we come to our own, we will force ‘them’ to leave India”, he had said. Speaking of the cases slapped against him, Tikait said, “It seems it has become a sin to protect our women. I had commented on the perpetrators of crime and the state government has slapped these false cases against us.” The panchayat of June 13 was held to denounce an incident of gang rape of a woman who was returning to Dulhera from Shahpur village on June 3. The woman was abducted and brutally raped in a graveyard by 11 people. Eight of the accused have so far been arrested. Members of the minority community have reacted with outrage to the comments allegedly made by the BKU leaders. Effigies of Tikait were burnt at various places in Shahpur, Shamli, and Budhana. Considering the sensitivity of the situation, the city administration booked the two BHU leaders on June 16 for inciting communal tension through inflammatory speeches. Kaushal Raj Sharma, district magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, said, “After a thorough investigation, a case was registered against Naresh Tikait and Puran Singh for making inflammatory remarks and violating prohibitory orders.” A case has been booked under Sections 188 (disobedience of order promulgated by public servant) and 153a (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code, the police officer said. Meanwhile, the Shamli administration has issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 (preventing assembly of more than five people) of the Criminal Procedure Code in the backdrop of protests by Muslims. (Times of India 18/6/14)

WOMEN

61. Modi signals women’s quota in Parliament, zero tolerance for riots (8)

NEW DELHI: Pushed to the backburner for the last four years, the women’s reservation bill appears closest now to being passed with the Narendra Modi government expressing its commitment for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies. Spelling out the Modi government’s agenda in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday, “My government recognizes the important role our women play in the development of our society and growth of the nation. It is committed to providing 33% reservation to them in Parliament and state legislative assemblies.” While similar resolves for women’s quota in legislatures were expressed in the past as well, the fresh pledge sounds credible both because of BJP’s absolute majority in Lok Sabha as well as the near-rout of SP, BSP, JD(U) and RJD who vetoed the implementation. Stressing that women’s welfare will be one of the thrust areas for the new government, Mukherjee announced the launch of a country wide ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ (save girl child, teach girl child) campaign to save the girl child and enable her education and prevent crimes against women by strengthening the criminal justice system. He also put the challenge of communal violence on the same footing as terrorism, extremism and crime, stressing that the government would follow a “zero tolerance” approach towards all. “A national plan will be chalked out in consultation with the state governments to effectively curb incidents of communal violence and the challenges posed by left wing extremism,” said the President. (Times of India 10/6/14)

62. Sushma Swaraj seeks support for women’s reservation bill (8)

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday said the 16th Lok Sabha should be the one which passes the much-delayed women’s reservation bill. “A lot of parties have spoken about women’s empowerment, but we have done our bit by making a woman the chief minister of Gujarat. We also have 25% women in our Cabinet and even the speaker of Lok Sabha is a woman,” External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said during a debate in the lower house on the motion of thanks on the President’s address. Urging all members of the house to support the bill when it is introduced in Parliament, Swaraj named leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and said: “I request you to support the women’s reservation bill when we introduce it just as we did when you introduced.” The government on Monday announced a policy of “zero tolerance” for violence against women, and said it was committed to providing 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislatures. The bill, which reserves 33% of seats in parliament and the state legislatures for women, lapsed for the fourth time with the 15th Lok Sabha holding its last sitting ahead of the April-May general elections. Swaraj said the Congress lost badly in the Lok Sabha election due to non-performance, while the BJP succeeded as its “product” was good and became a hit with the people. “Let us be clear that the product should be good. If it is not, then marketing will make no impact. Our product was liked by the people because of its quality,” she said. “You also did your marketing. But there was anger against your government… People accepted Narendra Modi as an alternative and the candidates (of the ruling alliance) became secondary. People cutting across caste and creed voted for Modi,” she said. “People had thought that the era of single party majority has ended. But this time, it is unique as the BJP has got 282 and the NDA 336… When we talked of getting 272-plus (seats) on our own, people laughed,” she said. (Times of India 11/6/14)

63. Ten incidents of sexual assault, UP accounts for 4 (8)

New Delhi: More cases of crime against women were reported in several parts of the country with Uttar Pradesh alone accounting for four of the 10 incidents of sexual assault which included the alleged gang-rape of a 25-year-old girl in Delhi. Cases of sexual assault were reported from Meerut, Sitapur, Varanasi and Jalaun in UP. Three persons were arrested for allegedly throwing acid on a teenage girl in Rampur area of Jalaun, police said on Thursday. Rape cases were also reported from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. In south Delhi, the 25-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three men in a moving car following which police arrested them. The woman had approached police last night after which an FIR was registered, a senior police official said. In Moradabad in UP, a 19-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree but a senior police officer claimed that prima facie it appeared to be a case of suicide. A young Dalit woman was abducted and raped by a youth in Meerut following which he was arrested while a 21-year-old girl was raped by her paramour in Sitapur, police said. A mentally retarded woman was allegedly abducted and gang-raped by two persons in Manduadih area in Varanasi late last night, Manduadih police station in-charge Moin Ahmed said. A senior police officer said a six-year-old girl was allegedly molested by a 15-year-old boy who was her neighbour in Kadaura area of Jalaun on June 10. A 24-year-old girl accused a police sub-inspector in Hamirpur in UP of sexually assaulting her inside a police station when she had gone there to secure her husband’s release on the night of June 9. However, DIG (Banda range) Amitabh Yash today said no injury was detected in the medical report of the woman and rape was not confirmed. He added that, according to the medical report, the woman was three-and-a-half months pregnant. In Haryana, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped and raped by a youth in Kaithal. Police said a 22-year-old newly married woman was raped by a distant relative in a village in Moga district in Punjab. In Kota in Rajathan, a 22-year-old married woman was raped by her neighbour while her husband was away from the house, police said. In a shocking incident, a 17-year-old boy was on Thursday arrested in Ahmedabad for allegedly raping and killing a five-year-old girl from his neighbouring locality. The incident came to light after the father of the girl, living near Sola bridge area in the city, approached the police when his minor daughter went missing at 10am on Wednesday. While searching for the girl, the police learnt that the victim was last seen with the young boy working as a cleaner with a private bus operator. On the basis of suspicion, the police interrogated the boy this morning during which he admitted to have dumped her body in the luggage compartment of a bus, Sola police inspector SM Patel said. The boy, however, claimed that he did not rape the minor girl, Patel said, adding, “Based on the complaint we have arrested the minor boy on the charges of abduction, rape and murder.” The body has been sent for postmortem to ascertain whether she was raped, he said. Two minor girls, who were staying in a private hostel in Pollachi town near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, were abducted and gangraped allegedly by two persons at a nearby complex, the police said. The incident occurred past midnight when the two accused came to the hostel run by a church and asked for some water. When the girls, aged 10 and 11, fetched water for the duo, they pulled them by their hand, it said. A boy in the hostel witnessed the incident and questioned the men, but was thrashed by the duo, who then forcibly took away the girls to a nearby complex and raped them, it said. The victims were admitted to a government hospital in Pollachi, about 35 kms from Coimbatore, with severe bleeding and injuries. Davidson Devashirvatham, IG, West Zone and Sudhakar, Rural SP, who are conducting an inquiry, said they have received ‘some clues’ and would soon bring the culprits to book. Meanwhile, the postmortem report of the 45-year-old woman, whose body was found hanging from a tree in Bahraich in UP yesterday, has “not confirmed rape”, even as five policemen have been suspended in connection with the case. “The postmortem report of the woman has not confirmed rape. The cause of death is ante-mortem hanging. The body of the victim did not have any injury marks,” district magistrate NK Singh said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

64. Uttar Pradesh: Four cops gang-rape woman inside police station (8)

Lucknow: Yet another ghastly incident of sexual assault has come to the fore in Uttar Pradesh where a woman was gang-raped by four policemen, including a Station House Officer (SHO), when she had gone to police station to meet her husband detained in connection with a case. The shameful incident happened in Sumerpur police station of Hamirpur district. The woman was sexually assaulted when she had gone to seek her husband’s release, who was held for possessing a country made pistol. The woman was allegedly gang-raped by SHO and three constables for two hours inside the premises of the police station. Following this, the alleged victim lodged a complaint and Hamirpur Superintendent of Police Virendra Shekhar assured the woman that no one would be spared if found guilty. Shekhar told IANS that following a complaint by the woman, a First Information Report was lodged and the SHO was arrested on Wednesday. The three constables are absconding. The latest incident is surely to put Uttar Pradesh government under huge pressure, which is already facing severe criticism over spurt in sexual crimes against women. Crime against women have witnessed a sudden spurt in the state and on an average, 10 cases of rape are being reported every day. BJP state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said the incident is yet another example of lawlessness in state of Uttar Pradesh. (Zee News 12/6/14)

65. Woman gangraped by 10 men, including husband, in MP (8)

Khandwa: A tribal woman in Madhya Pradesh was allegedly gangraped by 10 persons, including her husband, paraded naked and forced to drink urine in front of her minor son following a land dispute. After the woman lodged a complaint in which she alleged that the attack was carried out at the behest of her husband, all the accused were nabbed, police said. The incident took place three days ago at Bhiali Kheda village under Piplod police station and the victim reported the matter on June 13, 2014 to police after her family members brought her to Khandwa district hospital, police said. Acting on the complaint, police on Saturday arrested all the 10, including the victim’s husband, relatives and other villagers, Sunita Rawat, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Women’s Cell, Khandwa told reporters in Khandwa on Saturday. In her complaint, the woman alleged that she was gangraped by 10 persons, including her husband and relatives, the DSP said. Before raping her, the men manhandled the victim, paraded her naked and when she asked for water, they forced her to drink urine in front of her minor son, Ms. Rawat said quoting from the woman’s complaint. Meanwhile, the woman’s husband claimed before the media that she was levelling baseless allegations against him and other villagers over a land dispute. Police have registered a case under IPC sections 376 (g) (gangrape), 354 (b) (act with intent to disrobe a woman), 294 (obscene acts and songs), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) against the accused and are further probing the incident. The victim was undergoing treatment at the district hospital where women constables and Piplod police station in-charge were deployed for her security, Ms. Rawat added. There has been nationwide outrage on the string of incidents of sexual assault on women. The issue has come into fresh focus following the gangrape and murder of two teenage cousins, whose bodies were found hanging from a tree in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

66. UN rights chief calls time on caste-based sex attacks (8)

Geneva: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay today urged India to ensure that perpetrators of caste-based sexual attacks do not escape justice. “Women from stigmatised castes suffer the double assault of caste-based and gender-based discrimination,” Pillay said on the sidelines of a session of the UN Human Rights Council. “And all too often abuses of their rights are committed with complete impunity,” she said. “Such impunity must end,” said Pillay, a South African with Indian roots. India has been trying to overcome its reputation for violence against women, but public outrage was reignited by the deaths last month of two girls, aged 12 and 14, who were gang-raped and lynched in their impoverished village in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The girls’ families refused to cut their bodies down from a tree in protest at alleged police inaction, which they said was because they were from a lower caste. Last week, a woman said she had been gang-raped by four officers at a police station in the same state, and police said they were also investigating the death of a nineteen-year-old found hanging from a tree. “The victims of these crimes must receive justice, and societies, communities and officials must receive the clear message that discrimination and violence will no longer be tolerated,” said Pillay. “States must take steps to prevent such violence and discrimination and protect the rights of vulnerable people and communities,” she added. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, an attack that drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. “Violence against women of poorly regarded castes has very deep roots, which cannot be tackled without far-reaching efforts. Clearly laws are necessary, but they are not enough,” said Pillay. “There must also be fundamental change within communities, to peel off, layer by layer, the mind-set that generates caste discrimination and bigotry,” she said. Pillay noted that caste-based discrimination was a global problem, hitting communities not only in India but other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Around 260 million people are affected, she said. (Zee News 18/6/14)

67. Domestics pitch for legal reform in labour laws (8)

NEW DELHI: About 1,000, domestic workers from different parts of the city came together at Talkatora Stadium to demand an amendment in existing labour laws and a separate law to address their specific occupation. The National Domestic Workers Movement and Chetanalaya-Domestic Workers Forum brought the women to the event. Abuse and sexual harassment, lack of welfare measures and social protection were key concerns raised by them. N Mukta Toppo, president of the Council of Catholic Women, Archdiocese of Delhi, recounted the story of one of the workers who was abused by her employer. International Labour Organization representative Tushima Reiko advocated ratification of resolutions of the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention signed by the union government in June 2011. “The ratification of the ILO Convention 189 will provide much-awaited recognition to domestic workers across the country who work as hard as any other professional but hardly get recognition and relevant wages. Philippines is the only Asian country to get this done,” Reiko said. The main demands of the domestic workers were a comprehensive legislation for domestic workers, a tripartite board at the national and state level, fixed minimum wages, and registration of workers, employers and their social security contribution. Issuing of smart cards for the workers was also sought. “Seven Indian states had already fixed minimum wages for the domestic workers, 11 states have an unorganized social security board and three have a domestic workers welfare board. Delhi has got none of them,” said Leeza Joseph of NDWM. The Minimum Wages Act 1948, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, Equal Renumeration Act 1976 and Payment of Wages Act 1936 are the important laws that must be amended, she said. The domestics are often at the receiving end of serious yet unfair allegations. A worker, Radha Rani from Indore, said, “I worked in a house, in Jawahar Park near Devli Village for almost eight years. In 2007, I was wrongly accused of theft and a police case was registered against me. I fought persistently for two years in the Saket Court for my rights and dignity. I was declared innocent by the court in 2009.” (Times of India 18/6/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

68. Water pollution killing Goa’s marine population (9)

PANAJI: The next time you want to dig into a spiced, crunchy fried mussel or fancy some coconut-laced clam gravy while lounging in a Goa beach shack, you might have to look harder for it. An alarmed Goa forest and environment ministry last week ordered a probe into the death of thousands of clams at Velim, a coastal village in South Goa, one of the few places along the state’s coastline, where the molluscs have been surfacing for decades now. According to experts, Goa’s shellfish is also threatened by water pollution caused over the years by mining and the increasing discharge of toxins into the state’s main rivers, Mandovi in north Goa and the Zuari towards the south. The clam deaths come as yet another blow to the state’s traditional fish-loving population, which is already reeling under high prices on account of severe shortages in the fish catch over the last few months. Activist Clifton D’Souza was one of those few who saw first-hand the stretch of dead clams which lay open, with sandy grime in their cavity, instead of the sought after edible tissue. He claims the discharge of raw sewage into the Sal river is the reason for the carnage. Environment minister Alina Saldanha, who had earlier dispatched a team of the Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB) to inspect the site and interact with the locals, has now ordered a detailed investigation with the help of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), a central marine research institute located in Goa. “This mysterious episode of clam deaths will need detailed investigation to determine the true causes,” she said earlier this week. According to a preliminary investigation conducted by the state environment ministry, the deaths could have been caused by a shell pathogen, shell fish toxin accumulated through filter feeding, stress induced mortality caused by hypoxia/anoxia, a very high biological oxygen demand in the lower water strata close to the sediment or salinity. Local fishermen have been claiming over two months that there were recurring instances of clams coming up dead. One of Goa’s top marine scientists, Baban Ingole, claims that the beach state, well known for its sea-food, may soon have to bid goodbye to its mussels if it did not take steps quick enough. “The mussel seed in the Vasco bay area is seriously depleting. Very soon Goa will not have any mussels. Most of them which are sold in Goa are from outside the state any way,” he warned during an Environment Day function earlier this month. Ingole, who works for the NIO, was also the first in 2010 to warn of a possible fish famine off Goa’s coast due to pollution and overfishing to feed the state’s ever growing in-bound tourism. Subsequently, in the last couple of years, the scientific community has also been churning out research about how mining silt accumulated over the years and pollution are squelching Goa’s shellfish population. One of them was Padma Bhushan awardee and ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who has spearheaded a couple of major studies in Goa and the Western Ghats, a majestic mountain range which overlooks the state. He blamed the loss of fish and shellfish productivity in Goa to three key factors: “Turbidity in water, increased sedimentation and oil, iron and manganese pollution.” A similar sentiment is echoed in an NIO study, authored by a team of Indian and Chinese researchers, who examined both the major rivers. Released last year, the study blames “abundant” spillages from the ferrying of iron ore in river barges as one of the causes for river pollution. “Since ore handling – loading in barges, transporting and reloading at the port or mid-stream in giant ships – is done in an open system there is abundant spilled-over ore material into the estuaries (of the two rivers),” the study said. “Shipbuilding industries on the shores of both rivers may have contributed to the trace metals,” the study further stated, adding that in some areas in the two rivers, pollution had reached “significant” levels. (Times of Indi 11/6/14)

69. India, World Bank sign agreement for DPL loan to Himachal (9)

New Delhi, June 11 : Credit Agreement for World Bank DPL Loan of US$ 100 million for promoting Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development has been signed between the Government of India, the World Bank and the Government of Himachal Pradesh in New Delhi on Wednesday. The agreement was signed by Usha Titus, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs on behalf of the Indian government and Shrikant Baldi, Principal Secretary (Finance), on behalf of the Himachal Pradesh government and Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India, on behalf of the World Bank. The Loan agreement signed here on Wednesday will be financed by the Clean Technology Fund (CTF). “It will help Himachal Pradesh bring in better policies and practices to guide the development of sustainable hydropower; adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change; empower local communities to conserve their watersheds better; promote cleaner methods of industrial production; promote environmentally sustainable tourism; and integrate GIS in decision making,” read a government statement. The government of Himachal Pradesh is the implementing agency. (New Kerala 12/6/14)

70. India’s Plant, Animal Species Under Severe Threat: Govt Report (9)

NEW DELHI: India’s plant and animal species, particularly in the global biodiversity hotspots of Himalayas, Western Ghats, Northeast and the Nicobar Islands, are under severe threat due to overexploitation, forest fires and climate change, says an official report. The Environment Ministry report, came out in the midst of raging debate between environmental protection and industrial growth, rings alarm bells over destruction of forest and biodiversity in the country, which is home to 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. In a candid admission, the Ministry says that it has diverted an estimated over 1.7 million hectares of forest land for executing more than 23,000 developmental projects since the enactment of Forest Conservation Act in 1980. The report says that “a considerable area of forests in the country is under low fragmentation (49.63 per cent of the total geographic area of the country), 21.89 per cent under medium while 5.16 per cent was under high fragmentation. The Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), a copy of which is with PTI, was developed prior to CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. “Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation through conversion of land use through agriculture, urbanisation and industrial development, invasive alien species and over exploitation of natural resources, including plants and animals, are amongst the major threats faced by biodiversity globally and in India,” says the report. Mining and quarrying caused habitat loss and degradation, with severe consequences for the ecology of areas such as the Aravalli range and the Western Ghats. Considering the outstanding universal values and exceptionally high levels of endemism in the Western Ghats, 39 sites in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012. (New Indian Express 15/6/14)

71. Centre for Science and Environment insists on river pollution control (9)

PUNE: New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has stated that reinventing the strategy for river pollution control must be on the top government’s environment agenda. It has insisted a need to aggressively implement the national sanitation programme -make it a top governmental priority. In a recent press statement the CSE has stated that it has released ‘ Environment and Development Agenda’ for the newly elected NDA government at the Centre. This agenda is based on years of research by CSE on key environmental challenges. One section of the agenda is devoted to river improvement. ” Every river in India is like the Ganga – either dying or already dead—as cities take water from them and return sewage, and industries discharge effluents into them. The strategy of river cleaning by building sewage treatment plants has proved to be inadequate” states the CSE. The group has added that the government needs to make ecological flow mandatory in all stretches of a river and accept that urban areas cannot build conventional sewage networks at a required pace. ” Ensure treated effluent is reused or discharged directly into rivers for dilution and go for affordable water and sanitation solutions. Design a garbage disposal system to segregate waste and make a resource out of it. Learn that controlling industrial pollution demands effective enforcement of laws and appropriate technologies for small-scale industries” states the CSE press release. (Times of India 16/6/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

72. National Education Policy Soon, Sports to be Part of School Curriculum (11)

NEW DELHI: Emphasising its priority on social sector, the NDA Government would soon formulate a National Education policy. The policy would be aimed at setting up IITs and IIMs in each state and establishment of AIIMS-like institutions in every state as well as providing 33 per cent reservation for women in legislature. Addressing the Joint Session of Parliament on Monday, President Pranab Mukehrjee said that the government was committed to making all minorities’ equal partners in India’s progress and that a dedicated Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana for the Scheduled Tribes would be launched. In his address, which enlisted the agenda of Narendra Modi Government for the next five years, Mukherjee said, “The government will strive for transition from Youth Development to Youth-led Development. It will set up Massive Open Online Courses and virtual classrooms and formulate a National Education Policy aimed at meeting the challenges posed by lack of quality, research, and innovation, in our educational institutions.” “With the motto of ‘Har Haath ko Hunar’, the government  will strive to break the barriers between formal education and skill development, and put in place a mechanism to give academic equivalence to vocational qualifications. With the goal of Skilled India, my Government will also launch a National Multi-skill Mission,” the President added. Recognising the important role that women play in the development of society and growth of the nation, he said, “The government is committed to providing 33 per cent reservation to them in the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. With a commitment to ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao’, we will launch a mass campaign for saving the girl child and enabling her education.  The Government will have a policy of zero tolerance for violence against women, and will strengthen the criminal justice system for its effective implementation.” President added that the children and youth of the country need avenues of recreation to develop them constructively and keep them fit. “The government will launch a ‘National Sports Talent Search System’ to facilitate development and promotion of Indian sports, particularly rural sports. Sports will be popularised by making it an integral part of the school curriculum and providing educational incentives,“ he said. Maintaining that a holistic health care system that is universally accessible, affordable and effective, is the need of the hour, the President said, “To achieve this objective, the government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. It will promote Yoga and AYUSH. To address the shortfalls of health care professionals, health education and training will be transformed. AIIMS-like institutes will be established in every state in a phased manner.” Mukherjee said that a “Swachh Bharat Mission” would be launched to ensure hygiene, waste management and sanitation across India. Keeping in mind the welfare of the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the weaker sections, Mukherjee said that the government would take steps to enable an eco-system of equal opportunity in education, health and livelihood. The President also said that the government would especially strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities and that a National Madarsa Modernisation Programme will be initiated. (Indian Express 10/6/14)

73. SFI activists stage protest in Coimbatore over RTE Act (11)

COIMBATORE: Students Federation of India activists staged a protest in front of the School Education Department office here on Wednesday demanding effective implementation of the Right To Education Act in private schools. While the Act mandated private schools to set aside 25 per cent of their total seats to students from socio-economically weaker sections, the activists alleged that this provision was not being implemented and claimed that many schools were refusing to issue applications. In a petition submitted to Chief Educational Officer A. Gnanagowri, the members also alleged that the private schools were collecting fees in excess of the levels filed by the Private Schools Fee Determination Committee. They urged the official to crackdown on such schools. Ms. Gnanagowri assured them that action would be taken against schools violating the norms. She also explained the provisions of the RTE Act and the functioning of a grievance cell set up to look into these issues. In Tirupur, SFI members took to the streets on Wednesday alleging that inadequate attention was given to improve infrastructure in government/Corporation schools in the city and also demanded impartial checks in private schools to ascertain whether the institutions followed RTE guidelines. (The Hindu 12/6/14)

74. New RTE Norms for Minority Institutions (11)

BANGALORE: The state government has decided to change the norms for educational institutions to qualify themselves as linguistic or religious minority institutions for the implementation of Right to Education(RTE) Act in primary education. The state Cabinet which discussed the issue in detail on Friday decided to amend the existing rules to accord the status of minority institution to any school/ educational institution being run by people belonging to minority communities. According to the proposed new rule, if the number of students belonging to the community that runs the institution is not less than 25 per cent of its strength, it can be considered as a minority institution. The previous law stipulated that at least 75 per cent of the students should be from the concerned minority community to accord the status of minority institution for getting exemption from the RTE Act. Such institutions will be exempted from compulsory allocation of 25 per cent of seats to students from weaker sections whose fee will be paid by the government. Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters that the change in rule was in the wake of the High Court issuing a stay order against the  state government’s earlier rule. The court had directed the state to bring a new legislation. The Cabinet on Friday gave its nod to set up Karnataka Mining Environment Restoration Company Ltd (KMERCL) to provide basic amenities to people in mining-ravaged areas of Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts. The decision was taken in accordance with the Supreme Court directive to set up such a company. KMERCL will implement projects under the Comprehensive Environment Plan for Mining-Impact Zones, Minister Jayachandra said and added that it would work for mitigating the impact of mining. It will take up afforestation programmes and address issues in the field of education, health, nutrition, water supply, employment and minor irrigation. The KMERCL will receive funds already collected by the Monitoring Committee from A, B and C category mines in the form of compensation (fine) from sale proceeds of existing stock in accordance with the guidelines fixed by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC). “About Rs 10,000 crore has already been collected. We are hoping to get about Rs 30,000 crore from the mines which had violated various rules,”  he said. The cabinet has also decided to ask State-owned Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd to study the extent of iron ore mined and reserves left in C category mines, to speed up the process of auctioning of mines to comply with the Supreme Court directive. (New Indian Express  14/6/14)

75. Government teachers to work for 30 more minutes (11)

NEW DELHI: To comply with the minimum work hours prescribed by the Right to Education Act, 2009, the Directorate of Education has increased the work hours of government school teachers by half-an-hour. The RTE mandates a minimum of 45 working hours per week for a teacher. “The teachers will get 30 extra minutes to plan their lessons, check notebooks, evaluate their own performance as well as that of their students [and] prepare teaching aids,” says a statement issued by the department. “Because almost 300 of the school buildings have to accommodate two schools (in shifts), the average time for a shift was 5.30 hours which included an assembly and a recess period. So, the effective teaching time left with the school was only 4.40 hours,” says the statement explaining why the increase was required. The government had made an attempt to increase teaching hours in January this year but had to withdraw that circular following protests. However, director, education, Padmini Singla says they hadn’t withdrawn the %January circular but “had suspended it till this academic session.” (Times of India 16/6/14)

76. BJP Opposes Govt’s Decision on Minority Status to Schools (11)

BANGALORE: Bharatiya Janata Party has condemned the State government’s decision to change RTE guidelines for granting minority status to primary schools by reducing the strength of students belonging to a minority community from 75 per cent to 25 per cent. Former ministers S Suresh Kumar and C T Ravi told newsmen here on Tuesday that the government’s move has dealt a severe blow to the very spirit of the RTE Act enacted by the previous UPA government. The previous BJP Government had issued guidelines stating that institutions which do not have 75 per cent of student intake from religious and linguistic minority groups come under the RTE Act. It was aimed at protecting the interests of the students belonging to minority and oppressed classes enabling them to get quality education in reputed institutions, they claimed. “The Congress government has now changed the guidelines and thus, it has removed the very essence of the legislation. We will exert pressure on the government by mobilising public opinion against its order,” they said. “We will fight both within and outside the legislature to bring the government to sense on the matter,” Suresh Kumar said. The government, in a bid to protect the interests of the school managements, has ignored the idea to provide quality education to the deprived sections in the society, he alleged. Suresh Kumar and Ravi expressed apprehension that the government’s decision will prompt more and more institutions to seek exemption from the RTE Act.  (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

TERRORISM

77. India condemns Karachi airport attack (12)

NEW DELHI: India strongly condemned the Karachi airport attack saying there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism and that this scourge must be fought urgently and comprehensively, without making any exception. “The attack yesterday on Karachi International Airport by 10 suicide bombers must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “The attack underlines the magnitude of danger that is posed by terrorism. Left unchecked, terrorism will continue to hinder efforts to promote national economic development, overcome poverty and provide people better quality of lives,” it added. Terrorism in recent times has been the main bone of contention between the two countries with the Indian side insisting on Islamabad acting decisively against terror groups operating out of Pakistan soil for carrying the dialogue process forward. The attack, which began just before midnight on Pakistan’s biggest airport Jinnah International, ended on Monday afternoon after a 13-hour gun battle which left 28 people dead, including all 10 terrorists. (Times of India 10/6/14)

Ministry of Home Affairs beefs up security at religious places (12)

New Delhi: In a first exercise by the BJP government to tighten security measures at religious places in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura, the Union home ministry on Thursday called for beefing up of the security apparatus in view of intelligence inputs suggesting that terror outfits may try to attack them. The decision was taken at a meeting held here on Thursday and chaired by Union home secretary Anil Goswami and attended by DGP of CRPF Dilip Trivedi, Uttar Pradesh DGP A.L. Banerjee, principal secretary (home) Deepak Singh Singhal among others. Ayodhya and Varanasi had witnessed terror attacks in the past. Top security officials said more CCTV cameras and other high end electronic devices will be put in place which is part of a new security drill which will be carried out at the religious sites. CRPF, which is guarding the sites, has been asked to deploy more forces and remain alert round-the-clock to foil any possible attempt by terrorists to attack these sites. Beefing up peripheral security at the religious sites, enhanced cover for the sites, deployment of snipers were among other steps suggested. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

78. ‘Pak Taliban had sleeper cells for Karachi attack’ (12)

Islamabad: The brazen Karachi airport attack clearly suggests the role of the Pakistani Taliban’s sleeper cells in the city that must have planned it during the interval when their central leadership was busy talking peace with the government, a media report said on Thursday. Background interviews with current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials revealed that real success against militants was not possible till the elimination of their sleeper cells. The cells provided shelter, weapons, explosives, transport and even intelligence to their comrades responsible for carrying out attacks, the Dawn reported.

The report said the attack on the airport was a work of planning that must have begun weeks if not months before its execution and it appeared the TTP leadership was using the time it had bought through a ceasefire to put the finishing touches to the planning of the airport attack. “It’s not that simple that one fine day 10 men find a weak spot in the security and sneak into the airport, fire at security personnel and get killed after a pitched battle while trying to blow an aircraft,” said an intelligence official. “Even a common man can understand that there must be a mastermind (behind such attacks) but what they don’t understand is the fact that there are people, a lot of people in fact, who are living in their midst like normal people but actually work for terrorist groups,” he said. The official said the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which claimed responsibility for the airport attack, has been sending its associates to Karachi with the single objective to blend with the local population and settle in their midst without arousing suspicion. The officials said that it could not be ruled out that some Taliban loyalists managed to get some low-level jobs in sensitive places, where background checks were not at all carried out. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

79. Anti-terror law extended in Tripura for six more months (12)

AGARTALA: Tripura government has once again extended for six months the operation of AFSPA, the anti-terrorism law that gives full powers to the armed forces to take any steps to control terror, an official said on Saturday. “Top security and civil officials of the state government recently assessed the prevailing law and order situation of the state and decided to extend the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958) for another six months,” a home department official told reporters. He said: “A state-level coordination committee (SLCC) on security affairs led by chief secretary SK Panda periodically assesses the overall security situation in the state with top officials of the state and central security forces”.The SLCC is overseeing the counter insurgency operation in Tripura, which shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh. Two separatist outfits – National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) – who operate in the state are also sheltering and availing arms training in the adjoining Bangladesh. Both outfits have set up bases in Bangladesh and get support from other separatist outfits of the northeast India. They have been demanding secession of Tripura from India. Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion earlier this month had recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition in Satchhari jungles in the northeastern district of Habiganj, bordering India’s western Tripura. The arms and ammunition, belonging to ATTF, included anti-tank weapons, mortars and AF series rifles. “Though the four-and-half-decade old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the state government is averse to taking any chances for some more time,” the official added. The northeastern state of Tripura has 72 police stations. The AFSPA has been in force in 30 police station areas; it is fully operational in 24 police station areas, and partially operational in six. In view of the improvement of the situation and the lessening of terrorist activities, the Tripura government in June last year reduced operational areas of the AFSPA to 30 police station areas instead of the 40 earlier. The act was earlier fully operational in 34 police station areas, and partially in six. The act was first enforced in Tripura in 1997, when terrorism was at its peak in the mountainous state. The central act provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without obstacles and without any one’s consent. It also insulates the security forces from legal processes for any action undertaken under the act. Local rights groups and political parties, specially the tribal-based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), describe the act as “draconian” and want it repealed. “Innocent people are victimized by the security forces in the name of anti-insurgency operations,” said Nagendra Jamatia, former minister and a senior leader of the INPT, an electoral ally of the opposition Congress. “Demand for repealing the AFSPA was one of the issues in our movement against the Left Front government,” Jamatia said. Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland, and in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 14 years, demanding the withdrawal of the act. (Times of India 14/6/14)

80. Over 100 militants killed in fresh air strikes in Pakistan (12)

ISLAMABAD: Over 100 militants were killed as Pakistani fighter jets pounded nearly six militant hideouts in the country’s northwestern tribal region early on Sunday. The air raid targeted the militants hideouts in Degan area of Data Khel in North Waziristan tribal district, Geo News reported. Meanwhile, Express Tribune reported that the bombing is feared to have caused civilian casualties as well, including women and children. Following the incident, the local administration has imposed a curfew in the area for an indefinite period. The latest air strikes come a week after ten Uzbek militants entered the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi from different directions in two groups, resulting in a bloody standoff lasting for about 13 hours that left 37 people dead including 10 terrorists. Pressure has been mounting on Pakistan to react after the airport attack. At least 25 militants were killed on Tuesday when Pakistani jets pounded targets in the northwestern tribal region. The US also carried out two drone strikes in North Waziristan the same day in which 16 militants perished, including 10 from the dreaded Haqqani network. This was the first time the controversial CIA drone strikes were launched this year. (Times of India 15/6/14)

81. India knocks on Iraq military door (12)

New Delhi, June 17: India has sought help from Iraq’s military forces to rescue over 100 of its nationals trapped in Mosul and Tikrit, seized by militants from an al Qaida splinter group. Anil Wadhwa, the secretary (east) at the external affairs ministry, today met Iraq’s ambassador to India, Ahmad Tahseen Ahmad Berwari, to discuss joint evacuation efforts as the US moved warships and firepower close to Iraq. India has been scrambling to try and rescue at least 44 Indians — many of them nurses — trapped in Tikrit and dozens more estimated in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. But the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has grabbed control of a quarter of the area of Iraq, is engaged in firefights with Iraqi forces on key roads leading up to Baghdad. “It is impossible for us to evacuate our nationals without cover and assistance from Iraqi forces, and that’s what we’ve requested for,” an Indian official said. “We are still looking at multiple possible strategies but none of them can work without the on-the-ground assistance of Iraq.” Indian ambassador to Iraq Ajay Kumar had said on Saturday that India is exploring the possibility of evacuating citizens into parts of Kurdistan in north Iraq still controlled by the region’s semi-autonomous government. They can then be flown out either from Kurdistan or through neighbouring Turkey. India has strong diplomatic ties both with Turkey and with the Kurdish government. On Tuesday, India set up a 24/7 control room at the foreign ministry headquarters in South Block to coordinate evacuation efforts and to collect as well as share information about these efforts. The embassy in Baghdad on Sunday set up helplines to communicate with trapped nationals. The control room was set up after foreign minister Sushma Swaraj convened a meeting with senior officials to evaluate possible strategies for evacuating Indian citizens. The embassy in Baghdad has been asked to update the foreign ministry headquarters every hour, officials said. Several families from Punjab and Kerala have also sought the intervention of the foreign ministry and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has written to Swaraj, requesting the Centre to launch rescue operations. India’s acceleration in efforts to rescue citizens trapped in Iraq’s battlezones comes as the US positions key military assets in and around Iraq. At least three ships — including a launch vehicle and a warship — have reached the Persian Gulf, just off the coast of Iraq, the US has confirmed. The seriousness of the crisis in Iraq can be best gauged from the talks US secretary of state John Kerry has begun with long-time rival Iran in Geneva to collaborate in beating back the offensive from the ISIS, as the advancing terror group is widely referred to. Indian officials said they agreed with Baghdad’s assessment that external assistance might be needed to tackle the ISIS amid multiple reports of desertions from Iraq’s army. India, the officials said, also shares global concerns that the spread of the ISIS could lead a coalescing of Syria’s civil war with the one threatening to explode in Iraq. (The Telegraph 18/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

82. No plans for aerial attacks on Maoists: Raman Singh (12)

Raipur: Stressing that “an integrated approach with focus on holistic development of Bastar is the only way to tackle the Maoist problem”, the Chhattisgarh government has refuted speculation that the state is preparing for aerial attacks on the rebels and with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, an all-out war will be launched against them. The government clarified that the recent meeting of Home Minister Rajnath Singh with Chief Minister Raman Singh and other senior state officials was “not for seeking more choppers or battalions”, but to essentially draw the integrated plan. “No. Not at all. I categorically deny this,” the Chief Minister told The Indian Express, when asked about the possibility of aerial attacks on Maoists. “The main agenda of the meeting was to discuss law and order and development issues in Left Wing Extremism affected region. We need to take a holistic view of the problem and evolve a new strategy particularly for development. We emphasized that the development projects pending at Union level should be fast-tracked as only all-round development can bring permanent solution. The need for streamlining and resolving pending projects in a set time frame was mutually agreed upon,” he said. In fact, during the meeting Singh conveyed that “if the country is to fight Left Wing Extremism then the biggest battle to be fought will be in Bastar, and this battle is possible only through the holistic development of Bastar”. Contrary to the perception that Chhattisgarh sought more firepower, senior officials present in the meeting said the policing aspect occupied less than 10 per cent of the presentation as the state advocated for a paradigm shift in identification and execution of projects in Bastar. Explaining the reason behind the demand of choppers, ADG (Naxal Ops) RK Vij told The Indian Express: “More choppers were asked for improving mobility of forces and response time in crisis situations, not for aerial attacks or dropping bombs.” About the need of more battalions, Vij said, “Security vacuum still exists in many areas of Bastar. Forces are needed to make inroads in such zones and for providing protection to road construction programmes.” Officers pointed out that while the Centre has approved 10 regular and two technical battalions, it has not promised even a single chopper so far, and they at most expect only two aircraft, which will be used for ferrying forces. Many police stations, and posts and CRPF camps are located in remote areas of Bastar where troops and ration is airlifted as roads do not exist. “We need choppers primarily for this reason,” said an official, adding that even the thought of aerial attacks in Bastar is absurd… (New Indian Express 11/6/14)

83. Naxals becoming parallel force: MHA (12)

New Delhi: Contrary to the UPA government’s claim that Naxal growth is being contained, fresh statistics presented by security forces to Union home minister Rajnath Singh shows the CPI (Maoist) has become almost a parallel force in the “Red Zones”. One lakh sangam cadres, 2,080 dalam members, more than two dozen “platoons” and “companies” of 3,000 Naxalites with regular weapons and 3,000 with sophisticated weapons like LMGs, AK-47s, INSAS rifles, SLRs and mortars are part of a formidable Maoist army. The Reds have key links with the PLA of Manipur, RPF and NSCN-IM, the home ministry has told Mr Singh. The secret note, prepared by the ministry of home affairs (MHA), also warns that Maoists will get more active in espousing the Kashmir cause and work for a strategic “United Front” in its bid to counter the hard anti-Naxal push planned by the new BJP government. The Naxal forces have built up formidable strength and have chalked out a detailed plan of deployment across the red corridor, making it difficult for the security forces or any government machinery to penetrate, top government sources said. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal being their areas of operations, the deployment plan chalks out core areas of operations. In the Dandkaranya region, two “battalions” and 22-25 “platoons” have been spread out, making it one of the hardest regions for state machinery to penetrate. The Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh zone has at least 12 “battalions” and around 45,000 weapons. The Andhra-Orissa-Bihar special zonal committee of the Maoists has at least the “companies” (180 cadres) deployed in the border areas. (Asian Age 12/6/14)

84. Coming soon: Jingles, videos to counter Naxal propaganda (12)

New Delhi: With themes like ‘Ladai Nahi Padhai’ (Don’t fight, study), the government will soon launch an audio and video campaign to discourage tribals from joining the ultra-Left armed movement. Four jingles will be aired through All India Radio and four videos will be telecast through Doordarshan regularly to reach the maximum number of people in nine Naxal-affected states, officials in the Home Ministry said. Through these jingles and videos, the government plans to educate rural populace — especially tribals — about the negative effects of violence and the armed movement besides the necessity of education and development. The jingles and videos — each 10 minutes long — will be made in five languages; Gondi, Halbi, Nagpuria, Oriya and Telugu. Apart from being telecast on Doordarshan, the videos will also be broadcast in Maoist-affected villages. The government will play the jingles through AIR to counter Maoist propaganda and will urge villagers and tribals to join the mainstream. (Indian Express 14/6/14)

85. Four Naxals, including woman surrender (12)

Raipur: Four Naxalites, including a woman, laid down their arms before the police in the insurgency-hit Bijapur district on Saturday. Superintendent of Police, Bijapur, Prashant Agrawal here said that the surrendered insurgents were highly discontented with the dual standards and ideology of the Naxals in sprawling Bastar region which is made up of seven districts. According to police, the surrendered left wing insurgents have been identified as Lakshman Hemla alias Sagar (24) resident of Palnar village under Gangalur police station, Ganesh Irpa (24) of Rajpenta village under Basaguda police station, Jamuna Pallo alias Jatte (26) hailing from Nugur under Bedre police station and Kosa Parsa (19) of Chhote Palli, Bhairamgarh. Giving information about the surrendered naxalites, the police said that Lakshman Hemla had joined Naxal cadre in 2007 as a member of ‘Jan militia’, an offshoot of banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).From 2008 to 2009, he was section commander of militia platoon and from 2011 to 2014 he was president of Jantana Sarkar–a form of local governing system adopted by the Maoists. Ganesh Irpa and Kosa Parsa were members of Naxal supply team. Ganesh joined the outfit in 2001. From 2002 to 2005, he was commander of Janmilita group and in 2009 he was made member of Local Operating Squad (LOS). Kosa Parsa had joined the group in 2005, and he has been member of the platoon number 16 active in the region. Jamuna Pallo ailas Jatte was member of platoon number 16. She had joined Naxal cadre in 2006 and had received Naxal training in Abujhmad region. She had also worked as member of LGS (Local Guerrilla Squad) in Narayanpur and Pakhanjur areas, police informed.Discrimination among Naxal cadres hailing from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, killing of innocents in the name of police informer and having soft corner only for Maoists who are in jail have forced them to lay down their arms, the police claimed. Initially, the surrendered outlaws would be given Rs 10,000. Later the state government would give them all the benefits of different government schemes, the SP Bijapur stated. (Pioneer 15/6/14)

86. Five arrested for Maoist links in Odisha (12)

Five persons were arrested for allegedly providing logistic support to Maoists in Rairakhol area of Sambalpur district, police said today. “The five arrested persons are sympathisers of Maoists. They had come to Rairakhol market to purchase some goods for the ultras. We arrested them while they were going back in an auto rickshaw on the weekend,” Deputy Superintendent of Police of Rairakhol, Abakash Raoutray said. Police have seized 40 items including medicines, Maoist literature, uniform and footwear besides Rs 16,920 from them, he said. (DNA 17/6/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

87. Pandits Want to Discuss Rehab Package with Government (13)

SRI NAGAR: Amid reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may announce a special package for the return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits to  Kashmir Valley, Kashmiri Pandit (KP) groups on Monday urged the Centre to consult the community’s representatives and seek their suggestions before coming out with any rehabilitation package. “The Centre should not take hasty decisions on the return of migrant KPs to the Valley. The government must create a cordial atmosphere in the Valley. It should talk to the representatives of KPs, mainstream groups, separatists, civil society members and the majority community (Muslims) and seek their suggestions for a smooth and dignified return of migrant KPs to the Valley,” said Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS) president Sanjay Tickoo. The exodus of Pandits from the Valley began  after militancy erupted in the Valley in 1989. According to government figures, 24,202 KP families had migrated from the Valley and 219 Pandits were killed in Kashmir from 1989-2004.  The migrant KPs are living in Jammu and other parts of the country. Tickoo said the political agenda behind Modi Government’s “package for Pandits” could well backfire. “The ground situation in the Valley should be made conducive for their return. The militant activities are taking place regularly in the Valley and how is it going to instil confidence among the migrant KPs?” he said, adding the Pandits should not be put up in concentration-type camps because it will increase the animosity between the different communities. Disapproving of the hype about the return of migrant KPs, Tickoo said, “There should be no media hype. In 1997, then J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had chalked out a plan for the return of KPs to the Valley. 15 days  after the plan got media hype, seven Pandits were killed during the night of March 21-22, 1997 at Sangrampora in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.” Ashwani Chrangoo, president of KP group ‘Panun Kashmir’,  said conditions in the Valley are not conducive for the return of migrant KPs. ‘Panun Kashmir’ is known for its radical views. It has also demanded a homeland for Pandits in the Valley. “Lot of packages (at least four) have been announced in the past by the previous governments at the Centre. Ours is not a money-related issue. It is a geo-political issue,” he said. According to Ashwani, the two mainstream parties in the Valley– the NC and the PDP– and the separatist groups have been saying that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved while, “our point of view is that the Kashmir issue has already been settled and the region is now part of India”. (Indian Express 10/6/14)

88. Delhi NGO offering skill development to refugees (13)

New Delhi:  Bosco Delhi, in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), is providing comprehensive support in education and skill training programmes, language and vocational training, health services and psychosocial support to refugees from Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar and African countries. Don Bosco is a global organization operating in 132 countries in the world. It works like a companion, accompanying the refugees to lead a dignified life. Bosco helps the refugees in upgrading their skills by providing various training programmes to get suitable job in the market. Ahmed Yusuf hails from Kabul and studied till Class 10. He is now happy to continue his studies through Bosco. Bosco helps the migrants to get access in government schools and also make them accessible to avail health benefits from the government hospitals. They also provide generic medicines to them. Delhi is home to a large number of refugees from conflict countries and they seek better opportunities to settle their life. Skill development of refugees is the prime aim of Bosco. Bosco is operating in South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area with three learning centers, a creche and health services. Besides providing education and health facilities to the refugees, the NGO creates small scale business opportunities for them in support of UNHCR. UNHCR is always negotiating with the government for the safe and protection of refugee because it is mandate of UNHCR and therefore there is always a liaison with the government to give maximize dignified life to any refugee. Psychosocial element is given particular attention in Bosco. There are refugees who go through Psycho-traumatic situation, personal and individual counsel is given to the refugees. Those who are in acute cases are given institutional care and protection. Bosco is linked with one of the technical support in psychosocial interventions with Vimhans Mental Health Center. The government of India has taken proactive steps for the refugees who keep coming into India are helped to stand on their own feet. (New Kerala 12/6/14)

89. Fleeing Pakistani tribesman consider Afghanistan safer (13)

Islamabad: Over 6,000 people from Pakistan’s North Waziristan province fleeing to Afghanistan to take refuge due to the recent targeted military action, consider the neighbouring country safer than their own, a media report said on Friday. “Keeping in view the long stay and plight of thousands of internally displaced persons of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in and off relief camps, I have made my mind to take my family to Afghanistan instead of keeping them in grimy tents in the adjacent Bannu district,” Dawn online quoted a tribesman from Miranshah. Several families have already crossed over to Afghanistan’s Khost province next to FATA, due to uncertainty. Displaced people from other tribal agencies in Pakistan, including South Waziristan, Kurram and Khyber, have been living in awful conditions in and off camps for as long as seven years. The Taliban shura has asked the tribesman to move to areas close to the Afghanistan border instead of proceeding to relief camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. An Afghan official said that families crossed over to Khost since the fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban began. “The provincial government has provided land for the refugees in Gurbaz, Nadirshah Kot, Mandozai and Esmail Khail districts of Khost, while a site has also been reserved for them in the provincial capital,” the official said. (Zee News 13/6/14)

90. 9 ‘Biharis’ killed in Bangladesh (13)

Dhaka: Clashes in a refugee camp north of Dhaka killed at least nine people during festival celebrations on Saturday. The shanty town in Mirpur suburb is home to a community of Bihari Muslims and authorities said tensions there had been rising. Emergency services put the death toll at nine, including eight in the camp and another who was brought to a hospital in central Dhaka. The exact trigger for the incident was unclear. “We can confirm the death toll of eight people (in the camp). All of them are Biharis,” fire service director Mahabubur Rahman told AFP. Half a million Indian-origin Muslims have lived in refugee camps in the country since the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Although not all came from the Indian state of Bihar, they are referred to as “Biharis” in Bangladesh. Anti-Bihari feelings run deep among Bangladesh’s majority Bengalis as the migrants supported Pakistan during the war. Most of the victims at the camp burned to death after their homes were torched during the clashes, Rahman said. An AFP photographer inside the camp said he counted nine bodies there, all of them with burn injuries. Several people were injured after police fired shotgun pellets at the rioters, Rahman added. “The situation is now largely under control. But we could not recover the bodies from the camp,” he said. (Asian Age 15/6/14)

91. Refugees don’t leave Tripura for Mizoram (13)

Agartala/Aizawl, June 17 : The much-awaited repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura didn’t resume Tuesday as the displaced men and women refused to go back to Mizoram unless their demands were met. Over 36,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura for almost 17 years. “We want financial assistance of Rs.150,000 per family, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security from paramilitary forces,” refugee leader Ranjit Reang said. He was speaking to reporters at Kanchanpur, 185 km north of the Tripura capital Agartala. The Mizoram government earlier announced they would make necessary arrangements to take back the tribal refugees. But no officials of the Mizoram government Tuesday came to the refugee camps in Tripura. The refugees, including women, began a sit-in demonstration at the Kanchanpur refugee camp Tuesday in support of their demands, which also included signing an agreement between the refugees, the union home ministry and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram. North Tripura District Magistrate Sandeep R. Rathod told IANS on phone that they had arranged a large number of vehicles for the refugees to move to Mizoram. “But no tribal is ready to go back to western Mizoram,” he said. Over 36,000 Reang tribals, locally called ‘Bru’, are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura since October 1997. They fled their villages in western Mizoram following clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official in October 1997. The Mizoram home department said in Aizawl that the central government had sanctioned Rs.7.87 crore as financial assistance for the repatriated refugees. “An adequate amount of foodgrain has been stored to provide free ration to the repatriated tribal refugees for one year,” an official added. The official said refugee leaders had told the Supreme Court’s Special Commissioner Harsh Mander that if the Mizoram government ensured their security and livelihood, they would return to their villages. Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana met senior officials in Aizawl recently and decided to facilitate the return of the refugees. Only about 5,000 refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years. (New Kerala 17/6/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

92. Trade unions slam Rajasthan govt bid to reform labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: Central trade unions cutting across party affiliations resolved to oppose any move by the BJP government in Rajasthan to bring crucial labour law reforms in a bid to boost job creation and attract investment to the state. Recently, the Vasundhara Raje cabinet cleared critical amendments to three central labour laws — Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act. The state government proposes to introduce relevant Bills in the Assembly next month and send it to the president for his assent. Speaking to TOI, Baijnath Rai of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliated to the RSS said, “It is just a cabinet note now. Yet, we oppose this move by the Rajasthan government taken without any consent. We are talking to all central trade unions to protest jointly against such attempts to reform labour laws.” While the BJP’s election manifesto was being drafted, BMS leaders had met Murli Manohar Joshi and conveyed their opposition to labour reforms. “We had said that we are for review of labour laws, not reforms. This is reflected in BJP’s manifesto. What the Rajasthan government proposes is reform and we will oppose it,” said Rai. Rai of BMS said the Rajasthan unit has let the state government know about its opposition. “Soon we will send a letter to register our protest,” said Rai. Left affiliated trade unions like CITU and AITUC, too, opposed such moves. Trade unions at the state level will soon meet in Rajasthan to discuss this. “Achhe din aa gaye hain (good days are here). But for whom is the question? It seems they (BJP) have taken a political decision where the state government will take the lead (in labour law amendments). We will consult our colleagues in central trade unions to decide the future course of action. We will face the situation together,” said CITU president A K Padmanabhan. Slamming the move, veteran AITUC leader Gurudas Dasgupta said, “We strongly condemn and oppose the move. We ask the working people to protest against such attempts.” (Times of India 10/6/14)

93. Govt bid to make labour laws investor-friendly (14)

NEW DELHI: In tune with BJP’s election manifesto, the Union labour ministry made its first move to reform labour laws for a “conducive environment for investors” through flexible mechanisms like hiring and firing. On its website, the ministry invited comments or suggestions on proposed amendments to the Factories Act, 1948. Amendments to the Factories Act are pending since 2008. Earlier, the cabinet of Rajasthan’s BJP government cleared crucial amendments to Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act. The move elicited stiff opposition from central trade unions. The labour ministry’s invitation for suggestions on its website, too, did not go down well with central trade unions. “I don’t know what amendments they are talking about,” said Baijnath Rai of the BMS, affiliated to the RSS. While BJP’s election manifesto was being drafted, BMS leaders had conveyed their opposition to labour reforms. BJP’s poll manifesto promised review of “outdated, complicated and even contradictory” labour laws. Trade union leaders criticized linking labour law reforms with creating Investment friendly environment. “It is idiotic. Employment generating investment is not dependent on labour laws,” said CITU leader Tapan Sen. Veteran AITUC leader Gurudas Dasgupta said, “We will not send any suggestions. The Factories Act does not need to be amended immediately. This is an attempt to liberalise the Act.” CITU, too, won’t send its suggestions to the labour ministry. “The trade unions are stakeholders. So, the ministry must write to all stakeholders, including employers and trade unions,” said Sen. Only about 8% of the country’s work force — in the organized sector — is covered by labour laws. India has the largest number of workers — 93.7% — in the unorganized sector. “Has that brought investment? Since 2008, private corporate investment has been consistently going down to 28% of total domestic investment by end 2012. It is public sector that is making the bulk of the investment,” said Sen. Ministry officials said the aim is to strike a balance between promoting growth and employment friendly environment and safeguarding rights of workers. (Times of India 12/6/14)

94. Government to give an additional Rs 12,000 per household .. (14)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to give Rs 12,000 per household to the poor for working on building their homes, a measure that signifies the biggest convergence of two social welfare schemes and could provide a boost to both rural employment and consumption at a time when the monsoon is expected to be below average. Two of the biggest welfare schemes – the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which together have a corpus of more than Rs 50,000 crore – will pool their resources as part of the new government’s plan to provide a roof to everyone. The government will provide the amount as labour component from MGNREGA to the poor who work on building their homes under the grant from IAY. This is likely to benefit cement, steel and local building industries as more people find encouragement to build their homes through IAY. “The ministry has decided to give Rs 12,000 per household for construction of IAY house under MGNREGA. This is over and above the unit cost that the government shells out under the rural housing scheme,” a senior government official told ET, adding that the fresh guidelines to this effect would be issued shortly. The idea is to incentivise rural households to take up construction of houses on their own, thereby saving on labour cost besides adding a significant amount to their kitty and reviving interest in MGNREGA. According to the official, who did not wish to be identified, “This will help the ministry significantly save on the overall scheme expenditure which can thus be used to scale up the number of beneficiaries.” (The Aconomic Times 13/6/14)

95. Textile sector may get incentives to boost exports (14)

New Delhi: The government is expected to increase incentives for the labour-intensive textiles industry in the forthcoming Budget to boost sector’s exports and manufacturing. As a part of support to the textiles sector, the government may enhance allocation for the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS) in the Budget, sources said. TUFS, launched in 1999, facilitates modernisation and upgradation of textiles industry by providing credit at reduced rates to entrepreneurs both in the organised and the unorganised sector. The government had approved the continuation of TUFS for the 12th Plan period (2012-17) with a budgetary allocation of Rs 11,900 crore. Sources said that the government is also expected to streamline the procedure for timely disbursement of the fund. In its pre-Budget consultation with the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, industry has asked for increasing the fund allocation under the scheme to ensure that it operates without any problems during the entire 12th Five Year Plan period. “We would also request that annual allocation for the scheme may be kept at the maximum possible level in order to ensure prompt disbursement of TUFS assistance to the industry,” Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI) has said. CITI has also asked for reduction in excise duty from 12 per cent to 8 per cent to encourage production and consumption of man-made fibres in large quantities. The sector accounts for about 14 per cent of total industrial production, 12 per cent of exports and 4 per cent of GDP of the country. The size of the industry is over $90 billion at present including nearly $40 billion in exports. It employs about 45 million workers. The textiles industry requires constant modernisation of plants and machinery to remain competitive in global markets against rivals like China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to present Budget for 2014-15 in the second week of July. (Deccan Herald 15/6/14)

96. Technopark to create 45,000 fresh IT jobs (14)

Kochi: Technopark Thiruvananthapuram, the first IT park in the country, has chalked out an ambitious target of creating 45,000 new jobs during 2014-16 as part of its efforts to emerge as India’s IT powerhouse. Technopark, which is poised to celebrate its silver Jubilee next year, provides direct employment to 45,000 IT/ITeS professionals through its 330 IT companies. With the completion of the ongoing construction activities of TCS, Infosys, UST Global, Tata Elxsi, IBS and Technopark’s Phase III building, around 45,000 additional direct jobs will be created, leading to a total of 90,000 direct jobs and 350,000 indirect jobs, said KG Girish Babu, CEO,Technopark. Technopark’s export turnover is expected to be around Rs 5,000 crore in 2013-14, as against Rs 3,500 crore in 2012-13. It also added 1.1 million sft of built-up space during the period. Phase I and II construction of buildings on a total area of 2.5 million sft was progressing well and is likely to be completed within a year. The companies, which are building their own campuses are Infosys, TCS, UST Global, Tata Elxsi and IBS. Technopark Phase II project is an 86-acre Special Economic Zone (SEZ) campus, being jointly developed by Infosys and UST Global. When fully developed, it can accommodate 50,000 professionals. Infosys has constructed two ultra-modern software development blocks, which employ 3,300 professionals. The software major plans to invest another Rs 800 crore in this campus over the next few years. The third building on an area of 350,000 sft, having 3,500 seats, is also complete. The fourth covering 450,000 sft will accommodate 4,500 IT professionals more. The fifth will also seat 4,500 people. In all, there will be around 16,000 direct jobs in the campus. UST Global’s near-complete IT building can accommodate 8,500 IT professionals. The plan for the second building is also being finalised by it. The SEZ being developed in Technopark Phase I by TCS will have a total of 1.12 million sft. The main four IT buildings will seat 2,200 professionals each. The first building will be ready by August this year, leading to 8,800 jobs by early 2016. Tata Elxsi and IBS together will add 2,000 new jobs by the next year-end. The expansion of other existing companies will create another 3,000 jobs, Babu added. “With the commissioning of the Twin Towers—Ganga and Yamuna—a capacity of 8,500 seats has been created in Phase III. This iconic twin tower, the most modern green building built by the state government, will also be filled by 2015. A total of 40 companies had been allotted space in the new Twin Towers. Another 18 companies are set to commence their operations shortly,” Babu said.  With a rental income of Rs 49 crore, the annual turnover of Technopark has been pegged at around Rs 100 crore, including income from power and maintenance services, helping it  continue its profitable operations since 2001. Technopark’s expansion plans are Phase III (92 acres) and Technocity (451 acres), which were funded through bank loans. For Phase III, it took a bank loan of Rs 21 crore for land acquisition, which was fully repaid with interest. It took a loan of Rs 207 crore for works in this phase. The repayment, starting this month, will be met primarily from the income generated from Phase III. Further, Technopark had availed a loan of Rs 321 crore for the land acquisition for the massive Technocity project.  Of this amount, it has repaid Rs 360 crore (including interest). “The outstanding amount (Rs 38 crore) will be paid this month itself. When the Technocity loan is closed within a month, the financial position will drastically improve,” he added. Technopark is governed by Electronics Technology Parks, an autonomous body under the Kerala government. Set up in 1990, it is home to 330 companies, 767 acres of land and 45,000 IT/ITeS professionals. (Business Standard 16/6/14)

97. Domestics pitch for legal reform in labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: About 1,000, domestic workers from different parts of the city came together at Talkatora Stadium to demand an amendment in existing labour laws and a separate law to address their specific occupation. The National Domestic Workers Movement and Chetanalaya-Domestic Workers Forum brought the women to the event. Abuse and sexual harassment, lack of welfare measures and social protection were key concerns raised by them. N Mukta Toppo, president of the Council of Catholic Women, Archdiocese of Delhi, recounted the story of one of the workers who was abused by her employer. International Labour Organization representative Tushima Reiko advocated ratification of resolutions of the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention signed by the union government in June 2011. “The ratification of the ILO Convention 189 will provide much-awaited recognition to domestic workers across the country who work as hard as any other professional but hardly get recognition and relevant wages. Philippines is the only Asian country to get this done,” Reiko said. The main demands of the domestic workers were a comprehensive legislation for domestic workers, a tripartite board at the national and state level, fixed minimum wages, and registration of workers, employers and their social security contribution. Issuing of smart cards for the workers was also sought. “Seven Indian states had already fixed minimum wages for the domestic workers, 11 states have an unorganized social security board and three have a domestic workers welfare board. Delhi has got none of them,” said Leeza Joseph of NDWM. The Minimum Wages Act 1948, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, Equal Renumeration Act 1976 and Payment of Wages Act 1936 are the important laws that must be amended, she said. The domestics are often at the receiving end of serious yet unfair allegations. A worker, Radha Rani from Indore, said, “I worked in a house, in Jawahar Park near Devli Village for almost eight years. In 2007, I was wrongly accused of theft and a police case was registered against me. I fought persistently for two years in the Saket Court for my rights and dignity. I was declared innocent by the court in 2009.” (Times of India 18/6/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

98. Child exploitation annually generates Rs.21 lakh crore in India: Report (14)

New Delhi: At the end of the day it all boils down to money. Child exploitation, through child domestic labour (CDL) and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) is a “lucrative industry”, reveals a report by child rights organisation, Global March Against Child Labour, as between Rs. 2-21 lakh crore ($35-360 billion) is generated through it in India every year. To put things into perspective, the report, which was released June 12 on the World Day Against Child Labour, says that this illegal monetary pool accounts for 2-20 percent of India’s GDP. In 2012, India’s GDP was Rs.110 lakh crore. Titled “Economics Behind Forced Labour Trafficking”, the report relied on 420 cases of child domestic labour and 196 cases of commercial sexual exploitation and holds significance because it is one of the first comprehensive studies on the subject in the country that reveals the lure of big money behind child exploitation, the extensive network of beneficiaries from such exploitation and ultimately the reason why this vicious cycle continues to spin. “It is a shocking revelation that Rs.21 lakh crore is generated by enslaving (mostly) young girls in brothels and homes that is equivalent to one-fifth of the country’s GDP. This black money propels capital corruption and most heinous crimes against girls and women,” Kailash Satyarthi of the NGO said. “The dream of development and child slavery cannot coexist. Time is running out,” he added. Terming CDL as an invisible, large-scale industry, “hidden behind private homes”, the report estimates that 220-250 million people, or 15-20 percent of India’s population, represents the upper-middle and middle class. Of these, 60 percent live in urban areas and “research shows extensive trafficking of CDL to urban areas is to serve these growing upper, and upper-middle class urban families”. According to ILO in 2012, the total number of domestic workers in India is 90 million, and 20-40 percent of them – 18-36 million – are CDL. The report further estimates that the number of such children will increase by 7-17 million. The study, which has also taken inputs from other NGOs working on child rights, finds that most children employed as domestic labourers are girls (80 percent), and are mostly in the 14-16 age group. The most common source states from where they are trafficked are Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Placement agencies play one of the biggest roles in the network of trafficking children for domestic labour and they have sourcing agents in villages to lure parents into sending their kids on the pretext of a better life. “Seventy percent children were lured to leave their homes for high-paying jobs. The remaining children – 2 to 5 million – are either kidnapped or tricked into working as CDL, a gruesomely large number that is going unnoticed,” the report said. “Placement agencies make Rs.23-74 lakh per year by placing CDLs. In the national capital region, the market for CDL causes circulation of as much as Rs.205 crore to Rs.1,554 crore illegal money in the market,” it added. Commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), a “transnational illegal industry” because Nepal and Bangladesh are also part of the source areas, has in its well-established trafficking ring, traffickers, law enforcement officials, border guards and village goons eating into the monetary pie generated. The study found that 60 percent victims of CSE had fallen into the trap while looking for employment – which makes CDL and CSE interconnected – since abject poverty makes victims of both to become vulnerable in the first place. The remaining 40 percent, the study says, were duped under the pretext of love or marriage or were kidnapped. “Most individuals are unable to fathom the amount of money movement in CSE,” the study says. “On a conservative level, the amount of money generated per brothel per year from CSE can range between Rs.150-1,440 lakh. This gigantic sum of money in circulation is black money raised by selling of bodies of enslaved women and girls.” “As per our most liberal estimates, the total costs incurred in CSE amounts to $19- $309 billion per year. This causes $11-34 billion to circulate in the economy as unaccounted, untaxed, illegal floating profit,” the report said. The total number of girls trafficked for CSE per year is 0.5-4 million per year. The study reveals that the “purchasing cost” is the highest for the youngest girls. So, for 10-12 year old girls it’s Rs.3-5 lakh; for 13-15 year olds it’s Rs.2-4 lakh and for 15-20 year olds it’s Rs.1-3 lakh. The report further estimates the monetary gain made by law enforcement officials (Rs.9,000-144,000 crore), lawyers and the judiciary (Rs.18,000-309,000 crore), healthcare practioners (Rs.9,000-144,000 crore) every year via CSE in various forms, like smooth operation of brothels. One of the key recommendations of the report, which was also shared with the union home ministry, is for the need of monetary compensation to victims of labour, abuse, and their rehabilitation. “Many states have adopted plans for (trafficked) victim compensation (ranging from Rs.25,000-200,000) but they are not yet standardised or adequate,” a home ministry official was quoted as saying in the report. Regularisation of placement agencies, integration of data for proper monitoring, sensitisation of stakeholders and the need for the external affairs ministry instead of NGOs to repatriate victims from across the border are some other recommendations. (Zee News 12/6/14)

99. Jharkhand government determined to free state from child labour in five years (14)

Jharkhand government said the state would be free from child labour within five years and all government employees would be instructed not to engage child labour. Jharkhand Rural Development, Labour, Employment, Training and Panchayati Raj Minister KN Tripathi said announced this at the meeting organised by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) and UNICEF to mark the World Day Against Child Labour. He sought suggestions to formulate creative and innovative schemes and policies to prevent child labour. Job Zachariah, Chief, UNICEF Jharkhand Office, said the most effective strategy to prevent child labour was by improving access to quality education. “If all children of 6-14 years attend school regularly in the state, there would be no child labour,” Zacharia said. Stating that child labour should become a socially unacceptable practice as it is a crime against children and violation of their rights, he said, “We need social mobilisation to create a social norm against child labour. A vigilant child protection committee at village level can prevent child labour, child marriage and child trafficking.” (CNN IBN 13/6/14)

100. Child rights experts urge fixing minimum age of child labour at 18 years (14)

NEW DELHI: Child rights experts on Thursday reiterated fixing minimum age of child labour at 18 years and urged holding a survey to determine the number of children employed in the country. At a meet jointly held by NCPCR, UNICEF and ILO to mark the World Day Against Child Labour, experts also recommended linking labour laws to Right to Education. Currently, there is no minimum age of child labour though children below 14 years cannot be employed in hazardous work. Speaking to TOI, NCPCR chief Kushal Singh said, “Children up to the age of 18 years should not be working during school hours. About 2-3 years ago, we had sent our recommendations to the labour ministry so that labour laws could be amended accordingly.” Proposed amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2012 and is pending since then. Experts also proposed on Thursday also urged greater clarity on linking social security schemes with child rights. Besides, they stressed on the importance of definition of child and alignment with international labour standards to eliminate child labour altogether. This year, NCPCR’s theme on World Day Against Child Labour was ‘Social Protection: Combat child labour’. Social protection would enable access to education, health care and nutrition, and plays a pivotal role in the fight against child labour, said Singh. Recently, ILO released World Social Protection report which said that globally governments allocate only 04% of GDP to child and family benefits. “These investments should be scaled up, considering that about 18,000 children die every day and that many of these deaths could be averted through adequate social protection,” the report said. Experts at Thursday’s meet also urged district collectors be responsible for registration and tracking of child birth registration to combat child labour. (Times of India 13/6/14)

101. Poor Educational Facilities Drive Tribal Kids to Labour (14)

MYSORE: Despite education being made a fundamental right by the government in 2010 and the observance of World Day Against Child Labour every year, child labour remains rampant among tribals. The increase in school dropouts among tribal children is due to the lack of basic facilities and teachers in most of the government-run 118 ashram schools for tribal children. A survey conducted by various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) shows that only eight per cent of tribal students below Class 7 can read and write Kannada, 10 per cent can add or subtract and only one per cent are able to read and write in English. Though the efforts of many non-governmental organisations and the government have brought 3,000 children to schools from 34 haadis of Hunsur and H D Kote taluks, there is lack of amenities and trained teachers. The ashram schools are being run by teachers who have failed to qualify Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC). The government has failed to appoint B.Ed qualified teachers as wardens. This has turned the schools into mere feeding centres, villagers allege. The dropout rate increases after classes 5 and 7 as the children cannot attend schools in neighbouring towns or hoblis. Ashram school children also fail to compete with others for admission in other schools, they said. As a result, they become child labourers and get into coffee harvesting in the neighbouring Kodagu or in tobacco or cotton fields at Hunsur, Periyapatna and H D Kote taluks, they rued. There are no teachers to impart physical education and the teaching of tribal languages remains neglected. Further, a lot needs to be done for the health of tribal children, social activists say. Nanjundaiah, who has served as a teacher in tribal haadis for more than two decades, opines ashram schools should be run on the lines of Navodaya Vidyalayas and should be jointly administered by the Tribal Education Board and the Education and Social Welfare Department. “It is unfortunate that there is no increase in the number of graduates and post graduates among tribals although one lakh students have passed out from ashram schools,” he said. The appointments in ashram schools should not be a tool for rehabilitation of SSLC failed unemployed youths, he added. Development Through Education (DEED) Director Srikanth said he had sent a letter to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya stating that they should keep their commitment to provide quality education to tribal children. He said the government should form a Tribal Education Board to ensure all children receive education up to class 12 and are taken care of till they attain 18. According to Srikanth, the government should not blame tribals for not being interested in educating their children. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

102. CRY Cries for Strong Anti-child Labour Laws (14)

CHENNAI: The National Census figures of the year 2001 reveal some very disturbing facts regarding the state of child labour in India. According to the report a whopping 12.6 million children between ages five and 14 are child labourers. Despite the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1992, and the articulation in Article 32 wherein the government of India undertook to progressively ban all forms of child labour, the phenomenon still widely exists. The election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party states its commitment to “review, amend and strengthen the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2012”. It is in this context that CRY (Child Relief and You) convened an expert consultation to build upon the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee. Experts of the subject Prof Shantha Sinha, University of Hyderabad; Prof Babu Mathew, National Law University, Delh; Shireen Khan, ILO, Delhi; Ms Vandana Khandari, UNICEF; Bharti Sharma, ex-chairperson, CWC participated in the national consultation to discuss a way forward to the CLPRA amendment bill 2012 and share their valuable insight. Various concerns like path to progressive elimination of child labour, policy implications of having multiple definitions of age of children across various labour laws and social legislations, measures of rehabilitation of rescued child labourers, hazardous and non hazardous work processes, were raised in the consultation. “The new government’s mantra of ‘less government and more governance’ is seen as the underlying philosophy that could drive merger of some departments and ministries to create more focused outfits. On a similar ground we would like to demand that everything related to children also need greater coordination,” said Babu Mathew of National Law University. He also opined that the gravity of this issue is connected to the convenience of interest groups. Various policies and acts are also drafted keeping in mind the targeted employment criteria of that sector. While the social legislations define a child to be 18 years, most labour legislations define it as 14. There is a clear contradiction in the way we see our children and are ready to compromise when they can be a source of cheap labour. Shanta Sinha, former chairperson, NCPCR appreciated the remarkable gain of extension of age for ‘working’ to 18 years and linkage of child labour Act with RTE act, “Once the act is linked, all provisionsn and aspects of RTE act will get covered under this. There has to be globalisation of secondary level education and a deep focus on infrastructure for quality education can play an important role in eliminating child labour.” Conveying that children’s rights and issues needed to be looked at separately, he added, “Children’s issues and their needs should be showcased as a separate constituency.  We would want the children of this country be considered separately in their capacity as individual persons and not just in terms of their entitlements with respect to aspects such as education, health and skill development.” Komal Ganotra, director, Policy and Research, CRY said, “The issue of child labour cannot be seen in isolation. It is integral to the concerns of child protection, education and social security. While each ministry has its own mandate; it is imperative for different ministries to institutionalise mechanisms of working together to address multiple issues that result in child labour.” She also emphasised that the Government of India needed to fulfill its national and international obligations towards children that there should be zero tolerance towards violation of child rights.” (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

103. Law varsity to push for Bill against superstitions (19)

Bangalore: The National Law School of India University (NLSIU) will submit a memorandum to Law Minister T B Jayachandra to persuade the government to table the Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Bill, 2013. The faculty involved in drafting the bill have sought that it be tabled in the next Assembly session, to curb inhuman practices like black magic. During a discussion on elimination of blind beliefs held at NLSIU on Monday, the faculty came up with certain recommendations, which include banning only 13 practices. These practices are mainly affecting dalits, women and children, they said. The faculty also made it clear that they have recommended ban on only blind beliefs of people and not beliefs as such or the various cultural practices of people Mukta, daughter of Narendra Dabholkar (the crusader against blind beliefs who was killed in Maharashtra), said that people who are working towards implementing the law should have patience and not lose heart as it takes a long time for people to understand the ban on blind beliefs. “The law was implemented in Maharashtra after a long struggle. It is only a matter of time for Karnataka to implement the law,” she said. (Deccan Herald 10/6/14)

104. Inter-religious marriage: SC orders protection for couple (19)

New Delhi: A young couple won protection from the Supreme Court after quoting the court’s tolerant view on inter-religious and inter-caste marriages. The Supreme Court in a judgment in 2006 had stressed that “inter-caste marriages are, in fact, in national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system.” The court had in its decision in Lata Singh versus State of Uttar Pradesh given a standing direction to the administration and police authorities “throughout the country to see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple is not harassed by anyone nor subjected to threats or acts of violence”. Almost eight years later, a couple from Ferozabad in Uttar Pradesh, who said they fell in love and married beyond the confines of their religions at Arya Samaj Mandal here on April 17, 2014, sought the highest judiciary’s intervention, encouraged by its words. A vacation Bench of Justices J.S. Khehar and C. Nagappan on Monday ordered the Uttar Pradesh police to protect the couple for three months. The Bench then allowed the couple to approach the Allahabad High Court for any further redressal. Their petition said the husband had been “falsely implicated” of abduction by the wife’s family. The FIR lodged by her family in Sirsaganj Police Station claimed she was a minor. Their petition, filed through counsel Savitri Pandey, asked whether two people who are “majors” have no fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution to enter wedlock out of their own free will. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

105. Rationale behind passing judgement can’t be revealed under RTI: SC (19)

New Delhi: The rationale behind passing judgements or orders by courts cannot be disclosed to litigants under the Right to Information Act, Supreme Court has said. An appellate authority of the Supreme Court, constituted under the RTI Act, dismissed the plea of an RTI activist who had sought information on the rationale for passing orders on review petitions without holding a hearing and without giving any reasons. “It will be of essence to state that the CPIO is not the authority or the person from whom information can be sought on the rationale behind the delivery of judgements by the court as has been attempted to be done by the appellant in this case,” the authority said in its order. It dismissed an appeal filed by Ravinder Raj, an advocate, who approached the appellate authority after the information officer of the apex court refused to furnish information on the issue. “The Supreme Court in the case of Khanapuram (judgement) has held that the judge speaks through its judgements or orders passed by him and no litigants can be allowed to seek information as to why and for what reasons the judge came to a particular decision or conclusion,” it said. (Indian Express 15/6/14)

106. Govt working towards liberalising labour laws to boost factory jobs (19)

New Delhi: The NDA government has begun a fresh review of the country’s labour laws that have remained unchanged since Independence, and tailor them to meet the needs of the National Manufacturing Policy with an aim towards boosting growth in the manufacturing sector. Accordingly, the labour ministry has proposed changes to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, for easier retrenchment of workers in the National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs). Under the proposal, workers in any unit in the NIMZ may be removed without notice or compensation if the employer provides them with alternative employment in the same zone at the same pay and conditions of work. In case alternative employment is not possible, the employer will have to pay compensation to the worker at the rate of 20 days’ wages for every completed year of continuous service or any part over six months. This is a significant change from the current law where such a provision is not available for workers in the manufacturing sector. Companies with over 100 workers cannot terminate the services of workers who have been employed for over one year without prior permission of the state government and three months’ notice. However, a clause in the Industrial Disputes Act, allows workers in mining operations to be retrenched if the mine shuts down due to exhaustion of resources, provided the employer provides them with alternative employment under him from the date of closure, on the same wages and terms of service or compensation, based on the workers’ service period. “Such a provision is already present in the Act for workers engaged in mines. Based on a recommendation of the department of industrial policy and promotion, we want to extend it to cover the manufacturing sector as well,” said a senior labour ministry official, adding that the objective is not to make retrenchment of workers easier, but to give some flexibility to employers. The labour ministry has now called a tri-partite meeting with trade union representatives and employers before finalising amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act.Interestingly, while trade union leaders had opposed the amendments in negotiations held in September 2012, this time around they are willing to provide some flexibility. “It is in the interest of the country and workers if there is some progress in the manufacturing sector. We are willing to make some compromises, but the government has to ensure that rights of workers are safeguarded,” said a leader with a trade union who has been invited for the consultations with the labour ministry next week… (Indian Express 16/6/14)

107. Centre mulls law change to crack down on hoarders (19)

NEW DELHI: On the back of spike in food prices, the consumer affairs department plans to amend some sections of the Essential Commodities Act to empower the Centre to issue directives to state governments to act against hoarders. Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday asked the states to take effective steps against “speculative hoarding”, blaming it as one of the reasons behind the rising prices of some essential commodities. A top consumer affairs department official said as of now most states don’t respond to the department’s letters to crack down on hoarders and take all possible steps to ensure that prices of essential commodities don’t skyrocket. “It’s a peculiar situation where the Centre takes the blame for price rise, but implementation of the Act remains with state governments. Centre has no power to intervene in case of crisis,” said the official. (Times of India 18/6/14)

108. In 2010, SC ruled govt change not a ground to remove Governors (19)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is trying to prod UPA-appointed Governors to tender resignations on their own rather than removing them from office through Presidential orders. It has a reason: the Supreme Court had ruled in 2010 that a Governor “cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre”. A Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had also ruled that “change in government at Centre is not a ground for removal of Governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government”. The five-judge Bench ruled that there was scope for judicial review of a decision to remove Governors on the ground that their ideology was out of sync with the policies or ideologies of  the central government. “For withdrawal of pleasure in the case of a Governor, loss of confidence or the Governor’s views being out of sync with that the Union Government will not be grounds for withdrawal of the pleasure,” the Bench said. The ruling came in response to a PIL filed by then former BJP MP B P Singhal, who had challenged the removal of the Governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa on May 2, 2004 by the President on the advice of the newly formed UPA government. During the hearing, Singhal’s counsel Soli Sorabjee had asked the Bench to issue a set of guidelines or limitations with regard to power of President to remove Governors under Article 156(1) of the Constitution, asserting that it was required to ensure the independence and effective functioning of Governors. In its judgment, the Bench, while noting that the Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President and hence the President can remove the Governor from office “at any time without assigning any reason and without giving any opportunity to show cause”, ruled that the power to remove can’t be exercised in an “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner”. “The power will have to be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons… A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union Government has lost confidence in him. It follows therefore that change in government at Centre is not a ground for removal of Governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government,” the Bench ruled. The Bench held that the court will presume that the President had “compelling and valid” reasons for the removal but if a sacked Governor comes to the court, the Centre will have to justify its decision. ..(Indian Express 18/6/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

109. Modi’s governance agenda: Bringing back the profit in farming (20)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi administration has lined up a string of major initiatives to jump start the crucial farm sector bringing in innovative ideas, using technology and efficient use of ‘non-cultivable land’. This along with other measures, including increasing investment in agri-infrastructure like setting up specialized agri-rail networks for perishable farm products, launching massive irrigation projects at village level and inter-linking of rivers, if feasible, for irrigation and taking steps to promote “scientific practices” and agro-technology will be among the top priorities of the Narendra Modi government. “My government will adopt a National Land Use Policy which will facilitate scientific identification of non-cultivable land and its strategic development,” President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday. The plan for a national policy assumes significance as cultivable land in India continues to shrink. Latest data showed that as many as 20 states reported decrease in cultivable land to the extent of 790,000 hectares in four years from 2007-08 to 2010-11. The decrease is mainly attributed to diversion of cultivable land for non-agricultural purposes including construction, industries and other development activities. Once the new policy is made, such activities will strictly be allowed on such non-cultivable land, which cannot be reclaimed. The other remaining non-cultivable land will be reclaimed scientifically for agriculture purpose. His remarks and suggested measures, outlining the priority of government, were in sync with what the BJP had listed in its election manifesto for containing food inflation. Mukherjee in his speech also mentioned incidents of farmers’ suicides in the past and said that his government was committed to reverse this unfortunate trend. He said, “Steps will be taken to convert farming into a profitable venture through scientific practices and Agro-technology. My government will address issues pertaining to pricing and procurement of agricultural produce, crop insurance and post-harvest management”.Focus will also be on long pending irrigation project by launching the ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana’ with the motto ‘Har Khet Ko Pani’. The President said, “There is a need for seriously considering all options including linking of rivers, where feasible; for ensuring optimal use of our water resources to prevent the recurrence of floods and drought. By harnessing rain water through ‘Jal Sanchay’ and ‘Jal Sinchan’, we will nurture water conservation and ground water recharge. Micro irrigation will be popularized to ensure Per drop-More crop”. (Times of India 10/6/14)

110. 559 farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 2014 (20)

Mumbai: Relief and rehabilitation minister Patangrao Kadam on Tuesday revealed that there had been 559 farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra in 2014. Of these, he claimed 232 farmers’ families have been given aid by the government.The figures emerged during a discussion held in the Legislative Council on the hailstorm that had hit the state in January. Mr Kadam said, “559 farmers have committed suicide this year and the state has given help to 232 families of the deceased farmers and 180 were disqualified as the deceased farmers had not taken any loan and 148 cases are pending due to technical reasons. However, I have told the officials to reconsider the cases in which the farmers’ families have not got compensation yet.”The issue of farmers’ suicide was raised by BJP MLC Ashish Shelar who said 562 farmers committed suicide due to after effects of the hailstorms between January and May 2014. He said the numbers were obtained using RTI and lashed out at the government for its failure to prevent the suicides. In his reply, Mr Kadam admitted the suicide numbers. The minister, however, refused to accept the Opposition’s allegation that financial aid sanctioned by the government did not reach the victims. “We have sanctioned Rs 4,980 crores this year as relief for the victims of the natural calamity. The government has so far distributed Rs 2,810 crores and the Centre gave assistance of Rs1,856 crores,” Mr Kadam said. The minister also said the government had increased the per hectare compensation this year for the hailstorm victims’ farming lands and orchards. Rs 1.57 crores had been given as compensation for animals which died in the hailstorm, he said. (Asian Age 11/6/14)

111. Pune based group, Adiwasi Samaj Kruti Samitee (ASKS) adopts 15 teen tribal girls (20)

Pune: Hailstorms devastated their lives. But just when the future of these young girls was looking bleak, a group of Punekars came forward. They have adopted 15 girls from hailstorm-affected areas, including Marathwada and Vidarbha, who recently cleared standard XII examinations. They will now staying in Pune till they graduate. The group — Adiwasi Samaj Kruti Samitee (ASKS) — which was formed to help people from tribal areas, has decided to help girls from the hailstorm-affected areas this year. Out of a total 15 girls, five are from tribal areas. Sitaram Joshi, chairman of ASKS, said, “Earlier this year, most parts of the state witnessed massive hailstorms which damaged the crops in huge quantity. Many farmers could not bear the loss and committed suicide. As these families have not yet recovered from the losses, our organisation decided to help some of them.” “We decided to adopt some girls so that we can help them complete their education so that they have a better life ahead. They have recently cleared HSC exams and now we will be helping them,” Joshi added. These girls will be residing in Karvenagar-based hostel. Dnyanesh Sawant, who runs the hostel, said, “These girls will be staying free of cost.” Apart from these ten girls, five others from Bhamaragad are being adopetd. (DNA 15/6/14)

112. Seeds given by govt couldn’t help Bundelkhand farmers: CM (20)

Luckow: Even before monsoon is to arrive in Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav Saturday said the farmers in the Bundelkhand region are already the worst sufferers as the seeds provided by the state haven’t helped with production. “The crops have suffered in Bundelkhand once again and the seeds which we supplied could not succeed. If you look (at the information) you will know that if there is someone who has suffered the most it is the farmer of Bundelkhand,” the Chief Minister said while inaugurating the second UP Agriculture Science Congress here, adding there is  a need to consider and “think” how to deal with the situation. He said the situation is made worse with the receding groundwater “and many blocks have been declared as “dark”. On this note, he said the scientists should come forward with such work which directly benefits farmers. “The real goal of research would be achieved when we are able to help the farmers commercially,” the CM said, adding the farmers are “poor and unhappy and by the time the information reaches him it is already too late so we need to also look at how the information reaches them soon; there are numerous countries whose faces have been changed through their agricultural practices.” Calling for more active role by agricultural scientists, he said that farmers will be the most affected by climate change “and if there is someone who can protect the farmers, it is scientists. He also said the state is trying to establish Kala Namak rice variety as a brand and “if the scientists assist us with their research in this regard it would directly help our farmers.” (Indian Express 16/6/14)

113. Farm activists criticise IB report on GM foods (20)

New Delhi: Agricultural activists on Tuesday criticised a report of Intelligence Bureau for terming NGOs as a threat to India’s economic security, especially with regard to genetically modified foods. “The IB report has a special section on GMOs (genetically modified/engineered organisms) that supports the introduction of GM crops into Indian agriculture. “GM crops have already shown no-yield gain, no ability to engineer for traits of drought, saline resistance and have some serious bio-safety issues which no regulator wishes to examine,” activist Vandana Shiva alleged. They further alleged that the report was an “outrageous insult to Parliamentarians” by suggesting that they have in effect been “led by the nose” by activists and civil society groups and have no competence to address their official mandate on the subject. “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the IB report has been influenced by those who have most to gain by undermining our seed and food sovereignty ie. The foreign corporations,” the activists alleged. Citing the example of Bt cotton, activists alleged that it was introduced into India’s hybrids so that our farmers would be forced to buy seeds each year. Activists accused IB of conspiring with global corporate interests to “hemorrhage” India’s agricultural economy and demanded an investigation on the “foreign influence in writing the GMO section in the IB report”. (Zee News 18/6/14)

POVERTY/ HUNGER

114. Not poverty alleviation, but elimination: Pranab (21)

New Delhi: Terming poverty a “curse” and considering it a “greatest challenge before us”, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the Narendra Modi government is committed to the welfare of the poor people. The President was addressing the joint session of Parliament to highlight the proposals of the NDA government. “My Government is dedicated to the poor. Poverty has no religion, hunger has no creed, and despair has no geography. The greatest challenge before us is to end the curse of poverty in India,” Mr Mukherjee said. The President said the new government will not be satisfied with mere “poverty alleviation” — it will go about vigorously to eliminate poverty. Poor will have the first claim on development, the President said and added that Modi government will focus its attention on those who need the basic necessities of life most urgently. It will also “take necessary steps to provide security in its entirety to all citizens; through empathy, support and empowerment”, the President said.  (The Hindu 10/6/14)

115. Malnutrition kills over 3mn toddlers a year: UN (21)

Rome: More than three million children under the age of five die annually of malnutrition, the UN food agency and World Health Organisation said on Thursday, urging governments to tackle the problem. “Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. Some 162 million children are left stunted by chronic malnutrition and 99 million children are underweight across the world, it added. Since the first international conference on nutrition in 1992, “important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made, but this progress has been insufficient and uneven,” FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said. There has only been a 17% reduction in undernourishment since the early 1990s, leaving over 840 million people still chronically undernourished. The FAO and WHO urged governments to “make stronger commitments… to ensure healthier diets for all” at an international conference on nutrition to be held in Rome in November. They warned that various forms of malnutrition often overlap and can coexist within the same country and even within the same household. “Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies,” they said in a statement. “At the same time, another half billion are obese.” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the aim of the upcoming conference was to get governments to ask themselves “why is it that severe undernutrition and obesity can exist side by side in the same country and in the same community?” She also called for more research into the health and environmental implications of “the rapid rise in the demand for meat and other animal products that coincides with rising income levels.” Efforts to improve food and nutrition security continue to be hampered by low political commitment and weak institutional arrangements, the agencies said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

116. Gap between farm and shelf to be bridged: Badal (21)

New Delhi, June 13 : Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that her priority is reduction of poverty by bringing the food inflation down and to do that Food Processing Sector has to play central role in driving improvements in the country and in filling the gap between ‘farm and shelf’. The minister said: “To feed increasing population, food shall be a very critical sector and apart from driving food processing growth, India would need to turn wastage of fruits and vegetables into packaged food and to do that all States need to focus on food processing industries”.With a view to give boost to the food processing industries in Punjab, Badal on Thursday evening met officials of various Food Processing government undertakings like Milkfed, Markfed, Punjab Agro and asked them to build ‘Brand Punjab’ and to focus on making Punjab number one State in terms of food processing. The minister also studied the practices being followed by various organizations in Punjab and suggested improvements and more market linkages. Talking to officials, Badal emphasized that all States need to make their own Brands, like for ‘Brand Punjab’ be made and be marketed globally both by government and by all. Badal also met Food Processing Commissioner of Punjab and discussed the ways and means to improve food technology with Dr. Nripendra Singh, Head of the Food Science and Technology dept of Guru Nanak Dev University. (New Kerala 13/6/14)

117. Malnutrition continues to stalk tribal children (21)

Palakkad: A year after a large number of child deaths were reported from Attappady owing to malnutrition, an official survey held in the past two weeks has found that 572 children below the age of five in the tribal belt still remain malnourished. As per the findings of the survey conducted by the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM), the condition of 127 of these 572 children remains extremely serious and the rest are in the high-risk group deserving immediate attention. This is happening at a time when the Central and State governments are pumping in about Rs.500 crore under different special packages in the region to fight poverty and malnutrition and for employment generation and improving basic living standards. The report, submitted to the Central and State governments on Friday, was prepared after health workers under the NRHM visiting almost all tribal hamlets in Agaly, Puthur, and Sholayur grama panchayats and continuously monitoring 4,841 children in the below-five age group. As per the report, lack of nutritious food and proper health care for tribal women during pregnancy has led to such a devastating situation. Most tribal women are anaemic. The condition is acute among pregnant women and lactating mothers, says the report. While a below 10 gram haemoglobin count is termed dangerous for pregnant women, the haemoglobin count of most pregnant Adivasi women in Attappady is seven or eight, point out health workers who have taken part in the survey. Attappady has 10,000 tribal families belonging to the Irula, Muduga and Kurumba tribes, living in 192 oorus (settlements) scattered in the three panchayats. The report attributes the reasons for malnutrition to marginalisation and impoverishment of Adivasi communities, lack of food and nutritional security, and poor health-care and supplementary nutrition services. It was after 54 child death cases, attributed to malnutrition, were reported from Attappady during June last year that the Central government announced a special package of Rs.250 crore for the region. The State government also set apart a similar amount to improve the conditions there. P.V. Radhakrishnan, director of the Integrated Tribal Development Project of Attappady, a special project to the tune of Rs.1.29 crore would begin this week to provide nutritious food to all the identified children. Nutritious food would be made available through Anganwadis and it would be supplied to children who did not attend Anganwadis at their home. Other health interventions were also in the offing, he said. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

118. Venkaiah Naidu urges bank finance for urban poor housing (21)

New Delhi: There is need to give a fillip to the flow of bank finance for housing for the poor in urban areas, said Union Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu. “For this purpose, there is a need to create an apex bank to monitor the financing in urban areas. The matter should be taken up with the Finance Ministry to extend the jurisdiction of NABARD to the urban areas or give this responsibility to any other agency like SIDBI,” a statement from the ministry said. The minister has directed for formulation of new schemes for slum redevelopment and affordable housing for the urban poor, the statement said. Naidu said the schemes must be simple in conception and actively involve various stakeholders including State Governments, Urban Local-Bodies, Civil Society/NGOs as well as banks and financial institutions. He called for involvement of private partners through a transparent and competitive process to inject more managerial and financial efficiencies in the execution of the projects. In view of the huge shortage of urban housing, estimated at around 19 million, active participation of all the stakeholders in a synchronous fashion is necessary, the Minister said. “If we carry on with a business-as-usual approach, the housing shortage would balloon to 30 million by the year 2020.” The Minister issued instructions for the expeditious completion of the houses, under construction, estimated to be around 3.77 lakh, as the top-most priority under the JnNURM, which is scheduled to close in March, 2015. (Business Line 17/6/14)

RESERVATION

119. Varsity Posts’ Quota: Assembly Passes Bill (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill, seeking to amend laws governing two universities, in order to evolve uniformity in reservation and communal rotation in teaching and non-teaching posts. The University Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2013, makes amendments to the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) Act, 1986 and Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University Act, 2013, so as to ensure category-wise communal rotation in jobs, treating all departments under these universities as one unit. The amendment bill was drafted after the government found that the provisions relating to reservation pattern – for appointment to the teaching and non-teaching posts – in the two universities were not clear and may invite different interpretations. Since the Kannur University Act of 1996 was more specific in this respect, the government decided to amend the acts governing Cusat and Malayalam University in tune with that of the Kannur University Act. Participating in the discussion, most of Opposition members spared no chance in targeting the government for appointing “under-qualified persons” as Vice-Chancellors in various universities “on the basis of religion, caste and political considerations”. T V Rajesh of the CPM alleged that most of the Vice-Chancellors of universities in the state did not have qualifications prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC). He sought to know the reason why people who did not have the prescribed qualifications and against whom vigilance cases were registered, were selected to the Vice-Chancellor posts. “The government, which closed down 418 sub-standard bars, should take action against such sub-standard Vice-Chancellors also,” Rajesh said in a lighter vein. K T Jaleel from the Opposition camp warned that giving the Chancellor (Governor) the mandate to nominate more members to the Senate and the Syndicate is “fraught with dangers”, especially after a BJP Government had assumed power at the Centre. “How can we ensure that Governors appointed by the BJP Government will follow the State  Government’s advice while nominating members to administer affairs of the University?” Jaleel asked. He warned that those with “Sangh Parivar affiliations” would soon make their way to top administrative bodies of universities. G Sudhakaran of the CPM criticised the government for favouring academic autonomy to select colleges. “The government should take steps to ensure that all appointments to autonomous colleges are done by the Public Service Commission,” he said. Quoting statistics, the MLA from Ambalapuzha said that aided schools had not appointed persons from the SC/ST communities as teachers even though their salaries were being paid by the government. However, the Opposition members thanked Education Minister P K Abdu Rabb for incorporating suggestions put up by them in their dissenting note to the bill. (New Indian Express 12/6/14)

120. Congress seeks speedy implementation of ST, minority reservations (25)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana government has been put on notice for implementing the 12 per cent reservation for Scheduled Tribes and minorities before June 29 to enable students of those communities to avail the benefit before Eamcet counselling commenced. Opposition leader in the Legislative Council, D. Srinivas, sought to know if the TRS had any road map for implementing its promises made in its manifesto. He was speaking after Mr. Paturi Sudhakar Reddy, TRS MLC, moved a motion to thank the Governor for his address. “Let the Ministers speak on the vital issue. If clarity on promised reservation for minorities and STs is not given, the students will not get any benefit this year,” Mr. Srinias argued. Congress member Shabbir Ali said the reservation notification should be sent to the Eamcet convener before June 29 and said he was also writing to the Chief Minister. Responding to the issue, Agriculture Minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy explained that the Governor’s address only gave a policy directive and the government would give a detailed explanation on the implementation of schemes for various groups. He said the government would consult the Centre on removing the 50 per cent cap on reservations as it did in the case of Tamil Nadu. Independent member K. Nageshwar said the government should be prepared to face legal and constitutional hurdles going by the Supreme Court’s judgements. He said that instead of extending reservation on the basis of religion, it should be given to the Backward Classes among minorities. MIM member Syed Amin Jaffrey advised the government to proceed cautiously on Muslim reservation and carry out a survey to determine the educational backwardness of Muslims in all districts. (The Hindu 13/6/14)

121. Maharashtra govt. okays 20 per cent quota for Marathas (25)

MUMBAI: Playing the quota card in the run-up to the State Assembly polls, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra declared on Friday that it will clear 20 per cent reservations for the Maratha community. An announcement is expected after June 20. At present, the community has 52 per cent reservation in jobs and education. This will raise the quota limit to 72 per cent. “We have decided to give 20 per reservations to the Maratha caste. This will be cleared by the State Cabinet after June 20th when the Code of Conduct for State council elections ends,” said Industries Minister Narayan Rane. The Marathas are a dominant caste in the State, comprising roughly 30 per cent of the population. The community wields massive political clout. The majority of the State’s Cabinet Ministers and sugar barons are Marathas. In fact, most of Maharashtra’s Chief Ministers have been Marathas, among them current Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. However, the government said a substantial number of Marathas depend on agriculture and are economically deprived. Mr. Rane headed a committee, which conducted a survey of 5 lakh Maratha families before recommending a quota. The Supreme Court had earlier capped quotas at 50 per cent, a reason why the Opposition is questioning whether the Maratha quota will stand legal ground. However, Mr. Rane said: “Our survey proved the economic backwardness of the community, so the court’s ruling will not come in the way.” Sources said OBC leaders within the government, including Cabinet Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, are unhappy with the government’s move. “I am surprised this was announced without being discussed in the Cabinet,” Mr. Bhujbal told The Hindu. A section of Marathas from the Kunbi agricultural community avail of quotas for the OBC category. Mr. Rane clarified that the Maratha reservation would not impact those already in the OBC category. (The Hindu 13/6/14)

122. JD(U) demands sub-quota for SCs/STs, OBCs in women’s bill (25)

New Delhi: JD(U) on Saturday joined BJP ally Apna Dal in demanding a sub quota for SCs/STs and OBCs in the proposed 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies as the issue is back in focus with NDA government pledging to ensure passage of the women reservation bill. “JD(U) fully supports the statement of BJP ally Apna Dal’s MP Anupriya Patel in which she had made a demand for a separate quota for OBC,” party general KC Tyagi said in a statement. He said the demand that the bill for 33 per cent reservation to women, which is being brought, should have OBC and SC/ST sub quotas in it is justified His remarks came after Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel said in a newspaper interview that her party is in favour of separate sub quota for OBCs and SCs/STs in the bill that is being brought to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and Assemblies. Patel is an MP from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh and her party Apna Dal was an alliance partner of BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. While the bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in March 2010 amid pandemonium after the use of marshals to evict the protesting MPs, it could not see light of the day in Lok Sabha. The BJP-led NDA government affirmed its commitment to the Bill in President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament on June 9. Talking to PTI, Tyagi said Anupriya Patel’s demand shows that even the NDA is not unanimous on the issue. “In the past also, BJP leader Uma Bharti had supported such a demand while BJP leader Gopinath Munde had also demanded quota within quota on the floor of Lok Sabha.” He said BSP chief Mayawati, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and others have also made similar demands in past. “Government should pay heed to them.” Interestingly, the JD(U) had supported the UPA in ensuring passage of the the bill in Rajya Sabha in 2010. While JD (U) President Sharad Yadav had his reservations, the party backed it as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had taken a stand to support the bill. Seeking to explain the contradiction, Tyagi said that JD(U) had then supported the bill brought by UPA in Rajya Sabha on the assurance that the concerns and needs of the deprived sections will be included. (Zee News 14/6/14)

123. Muslims and Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation, says Subramanian Swamy (7)

New Delhi: Reacting to Congress MP Hussain Dalwai’s demand for reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy said Muslims and Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation, as they have ruled our country in the past. “Muslim rulers have ruled India for hundreds of years and have also destroyed it, and I find it surprising that now Muslims demand reservation claiming that they have been oppressed. When the Indian Constitution was being made, it was decided that the communities which had been oppressed and tortured will be given reservation, which is why SC/ST have reservation in our country,” said Swamy. He further said “Later, under VP Singh’s governance, whoever was poor or backward was given a reservation. Now, Yadavs, Jats and others have ruled the country, but I feel they shouldn’t be given reservation too. We have poor Brahmins in our country as well, and 50 percent of them are below poverty line, but they will never ask for reservations.” Swamy added, “I feel that only those who have been oppressed by the society and have been forced to live a backward life should given reservations. If Muslims want to study, then should be given scholarships, good schools, But Muslims and Christians can’t have reservation as they have ruled our country.” Dalwai had earlier made a strong pitch for reservation for Muslims in Mumbai at the time when the Maharashtra government is set to announce its decision on the Rane Committee’s recommendation for 20 per cent quota for Marathas. (DNA 16/6/14)

124. Just 384 engineering seats for general category (25)

PANAJI: Only 384 engineering seats, of the available 1,230 in Goa, are now open for students under the general category. They are down by 59 from last year after the state government raised the reservation quota in the state for other backward classes (OBC) from the earlier 19.5% to 27%.The seat reservation chart for professional degree courses in Goa for the academic session 2014-15 has been revised by the directorate of technical education and post the revision, engineering seat aspirants from the general category have now been left with only 31% seats to vie for. Supreme Court norms require that general category quota should account for at least 51%.What is striking about the revised seat reservation chart is that medicine, dentistry and pharmacy seats in Goa meet the requirement of 51% seats in the general category, despite increase in the OBC reservation quota. This is because different formulas have been applied to calculate the reservation quotas in case of medicine and engineering. In medicine, the all India quota of 15% or approximately 22 to 23 seats have been set aside before calculating seats available to reserved categories like scheduled tribe (ST), scheduled caste (SC) etc. In case of engineering, the 425 seats under the management quota have not been subtracted from the total seats available before the reserved seats are calculated. Management quota seats have been taken into account while calculating the reserved seats even though seats under this quota are not available to the directorate of technical education to fill up through its process of drawing of merit list. These seats are filled up at the discretion of the respective managements of the engineering colleges. Goa offers reservations to children of central service personnel transferred to the state, children of NRIs and those of Goan natives or students whose parents or grandparents were born in Goa. The state has opted to reserve these seats, which further eat into the general category seats, even though Goa is not duty bound by the Constitution to provide for these quotas. Goa is among the rare states that offers reservation under the central service personnel category. This year, the state has wandered away from the universally accepted pattern of seat reservation by providing for sub-reservations in the general, ST and SC quotas for categories of physically handicapped, children of freedom fighters and Goan natives. Seats reserved for these categories are usually independent and not treated as sub-reservations within a category of reservation. This has reduced seats available under the general category by 21 for physically handicapped, 6 for children of freedom fighters and 14 for Goan natives. The sub-reservation has taken up the seat count under physically handicapped by two and one each under the children of freedom fighters and Goan native categories. (Times of India 17/6/14)

HINDUTVA

125. Sayyad Nagar wants Hindu Rashtra Sena banned (26)

Pune : Some residents of Sayyad Nagar have demanded a ban on the radical right wing radical group Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), after the eruption of communal riots in the city. The riots broke out in the Hadaspur region, after the members of the HRS killed a 26-year-old hardware engineer Mohsin Shaikh, on allegations of posting a derogatory post on Shivaji Maharaj and the late Bal Thackeray. Residents who have suffered during the riots have decided to write a letter to the state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding a ban on the outfit headed by Dhananjay Desai, on charges of disturbing the communal harmony in the city. One of the local residents of Sayyad Nagar, Akbar Shaikh, said that the HRS is spreading hatred in the society, and diverting the minds of youth for wrong doings, which is dangerous for the communal harmony of the society. “The government has banned the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), after the members of the organisation were found to be involved in terrorist activities. Why is the government then taking time to ban outfits like the HRS, whose role has been established Shaikh’s murder,” he questioned. He added that the head of the HRS, Dhananjay Desai, has a history of making hateful and inflammatory speeches, against the Muslims community, and there are several cases registered against him in various police stations across the city (DNA 10/6/14)

126. First time in 23 years, Deendayal volumes printed afresh (26)

New Delhi: The RSS has for the first time reprinted a set of books about Jana Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyaya, 23 years after the first edition was published and coinciding with the formation of the BJP’s first government with a full majority. The first editions of Deendayal Upadhyaya: Ideology and Perception, comprising seven volumes, were published in 1991. Reprints were completed last April and reached RSS-run bookshops last month. Two additional volumes are being writen. Suruchi Prakashan, run by the RSS, has printed 1,100 copies each in Hindi and English of six of the seven volumes — Deendayal Upadhyaya: A Profile; Integral Economic Policy; Politics for Nation’s Sake; Political Thought; Integral Humanism; and  An Inquest. The seventh, Concept of The Rashtra, is yet to be reprinted. Vijay Gupta, who manages the bookshop near RSS headquarters in Delhi, says the books had been in preparation for years. Suruchi Prakashan has published more than 400 titles, mostly in Hindi and English, and is one of two major RSS-run publishing centres, the other being Lokhit Prakashan in Lucknow. “We have sold around 100 sets of the new edition to various people, including research scholars and political activists besides RSS workers,” Gupta said. Former HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi will write one of the two additional volumes being planned. This will be on Upadhyaya’s views on education. “Joshi’s volume has been held up because of political events. But these should be completed in the next two months,” said an RSS leader. The other new volume will be on Upadhyaya’s views on  environment and is being written by RSS kshetra sanghchalak Bajranglal Gupta. Upadhyaya (1916-68) was among the founders of the Jana Sangh, which later became the BJP.  When Narendra Modi was elected leader of the BJP parliamentary party on May 20, he had mentioned that 2016 will be the centenary of Upadhyaya’s year and praised his pro-poor ideals. Another book on Upadhyaya, Ekatma manavvaad, a collection of essays on “integral humanism” by prominent Sangh Parivar leaders including late D B Thengdi, is set to be reprinted. (Indian Express 11/6/14)

127. Eyeing Narendra Modi resolve, VHP raises Article 370, Uniform Civil Code, Ram temple (26)

Jaipur: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today raised the contentious issues of Article 370, Uniform Civil Code, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and Ram Temple and said they expect the Narendra Modi government to resolve these issues. Addressing a ten days “Parishad Siksha Varg” represented by over 100 delegates from entire Rajasthan, VHP’s Kendriya Mantri Jeeveshwar Mishr today demanded there should be Uniform Civil Code and an action be taken on Article 370 to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. “We expect from the present Modi government that there should be a debate and action on the issues of Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley,” Mishr said. Besides, there should also be comprehensive awareness programmes on the construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, Srikrishna Janambhoomi (birthplace) in Mathura and Kashi Vishwanathan temple in Varanasi, Mishr said. Mishr also demanded to ban cow slaughtering in the entire country. (The Financial Express 13/6/14)

128. CBSE syllabus anti-national: RSS Gram Bharti functionary (26)

INDORE: Shashikant Phadke, a RSS functionary associated with Gram Bharti-Vidya Bharti has alleged that the syllabus designed by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is anti-national, which needs to be made nationalistic. Phadke, who is the convenor of Gram Bharti (rural education wing of the RSS), told reporters in Neemuch on Thursday that CBSE syllabus was confusing the minds of nation’s generation next. He said that Gram Bharti identified 135 flaws in CBSE syllabus and even moved to court for their deletion. “Sustained efforts by Gram Bharti-Vidya Bharti have resulted in deletion of 80 of the 135 flawed parts in the CBSE syllabus,” he said. Phadke was in Neemuch on Thursday to take stock of Gram Bharti activities in Malwa region of the state. (Times of India 15/6/14)

129. VHP has not changed its stand on Ram Janam Bhoomi: Deshpandey (26)

Jaipur: Reaffirming its commitment, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Monday said its stand on Ram Janam Bhoomi and cow slaughtering has not changed with the change of guard at the Centre. “VHP’s agenda does not change with the formation of a new government… It is committed on main issues of Ram Janam Bhoomi, Krishna Janam Bhoomi, Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, anti-cow slaughtering, and against intrusion of Bangladesh nationals…,” senior VHP leader Vinayakrao Deshpandey said. Deshpandey was addressing VHP activists during a 10-day workshop-cum-training camp here. He said the VHP would continue its country-wide “Hindu Jagran” campaign over all these issues and the recent debate on Article 370 of the Constitution which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir. He, however, said VHP would first observe its 50th anniversary across the country. (Zee news 17/6/14)

Posted by admin at 18 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Over 14,000 RTIs pending in rajasthan (1)

Jaipur: Rajasthan, the state pioneered Right to Information (RTI) is now a laggard. While, the government’s reluctance is understandable and babus would create hurdles in providing information was also expected but surprisingly state information commission has also failed to meet the expectations. A report prepared by RTI Manch Rajasthan and Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) reveals that more than 14,000 appeals have been pending before the state information commission. This is after the commission rejects more than 50 per cent appeals filed with it. The incremental rate of application has also increased since the central RTI act was implemented in 2005. The fact that the government never fulfilled all posts of information commission has also hampered its work to a great extent and raises doubts about the government’s intentions. Yet, it is about more about attitude so when the commission rejects appeals in big numbers, the government and bureaucracy are unlikely to bother, which shows in the report based on information collected on 20 departments in 33 districts, only 42 per cent people got information in the first year. (Asian Age 30/5/14)

 

2. UPA spent Rs 187 crore on Bharat Nirman ads in 2013-14 (1)

NEW DELHI: The UPA-2 government spent nearly Rs 187 crore on publicizing its much touted ‘Bharat Nirman’ programme in 2013-14, 80% more than the previous year. In response to an RTI query by activist Subhash Agrawal, the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity said the Manmohan Singh government spent Rs 186.98 crore in the election year 2013-14 compared to Rs 100.95 crore in 2012-13, Rs 86 crore in 2011-12 and Rs 47 crore in 2010-11. However, the details of NDA government’s spending on “India Shining” campaign were not available, according to DAVP, the nodal agency of government spending on advertisements. The DAVP said it did not have records pertaining to expenses incurred on ‘India Shining’ campaign run in the election year in 2003-04 during the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “Our campaign wing has intimated that records pertaining to the campaigns — India Shining and Mera Bharat Mahan — are no longer available with it. Computerization of records was done from 2007 onwards,” the central public information officer of DAVP said. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

3. Private schools too come under RTI Act: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: In a significant order, the Central Information Commission has ordered that private schools, whether public authority or not, must provide information on service records and salaries. The order came on an RTI plea filed by an ex-employee of Jindal Public School with Directorate of Education seeking a certified copy of service book and other details from her past employer. The Directorate of Education provided the information available with them but the school refused to furnish the reply, saying RTI Act did not apply on it. Private unaided schools had challenged an earlier CIC order in court which said that schools must give information related to vacant seats, EVS quota but would be exempt from providing information on disbursement of salaries, public budget estimate of receipts etc. Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu directed the school to provide the information, reasoning that provisions of RTI Act applied on private schools since they were governed by laws such as the Delhi Education Act. Directing the school to disclose information sought by its ex-employee, CIC said the school was duty bound under Sections 4 and 8 of Delhi Education Act, 1973 to abide by the regulatory conditions of service, payment of salaries as prescribed for which the school has to maintain records which provide an “inherent and implied” right to information to their employees. “Under Right to Education Act, 2009 also, the recognized school is under an obligation to appoint eligible teachers and provide them with prescribed wages. This also reveals that it has given inherent right to information to the teachers from their employers,” Acharyulu said. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

4. Only 0.6% RTI pleas frivolous: Study (1)

A study, “Who uses the RTI Act and for what?” conducted by the Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RAAG), was presented in the ‘Western India RTI Convention 2014′. The convention, a joint initiative by the Mahiti Adhikar Manch and Department of Civics and Politics of the University of Mumbai, was held at the Kalina Campus of the Mumbai University. RAAG initiated the study in the backdrop of the earlier statements made by former PM, Manmohan Singh that the RTI Act was misused and “vexatious” applications were filed. “The idea was to see how many vexatious applications were filed as was suggested by the PM,”said Anjali Bharadwaj, one of the authors of the study. Around 4,000 applications were filed across the country with various SICs asking for details about, and copies of, the applications by people between 2005 and 2008. “Since there is no definition of vexatious applications, we tried to derive one of our own,” said Amrita Johri, co-author of the study. Applications that can be tagged for the “misuse” were divided under several heads like vexatious, frivolous, requiring voluminous response, infringing privacy, seeking information covering a long time span, very lengthy application or asking too many questions or questions on too many topics, among others. “Our findings indicate that less than 0.6% of the applications were conceivably vexatious or frivolous, or sought to infringe privacy,” said Bharadwaj. Only 2% required voluminous responses, and 1% sought information that covered a long time span (over 10 years). The study stressed that the government continued to be reluctant to provide suo motu information as 54% applications were asking information that should have been declared by the government on its own. About 20% applications were such that they did not require usage of the RTI Act. Only 26% of the applications asked for information that was not required to be disclosed proactively, either publicly or privately to the applicants. The study stated that 68 % of the information was sought as a response and only 44% wanted documents for their applications. A bulk of the applications were about one or more public authorities (26%), followed by information about specific villages or sub-districts (10%). Specific locations (17%) and specific localities (4%) were other popular subjects. An overwhelming 90% citizens felt that political parties should come under the RTI Act. Average length of the applications was 119 words, but after revised updates, it was 116.2 words, as compared to the 150 words permitted. A number of recommendations were suggested, including nomination of public information officer responsible for ensuring proactive disclosures and private sector be informed about their obligation to give information and governments bring out a guide indicating what types of information can be accessed from private bodies under what provisions “any other law.” (DNA 8/6/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. Pakistan stoning: Woman’s husband wants justice (1)

Lahore: The husband of a pregnant Pakistani woman who was beaten to death outside Lahore’s high court for marrying against her family’s wishes vowed to fight for justice. Farzana Parveen, 25, was attacked outside Lahore’s grand high court building by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers including her brother and father, who has been arrested, police said. Three-months pregnant Parveen, whom police earlier identified as ‘Farzana Iqbal’, had gone to testify in defence of her husband Muhammad Iqbal who was accused by her relatives of kidnapping her and forcing her into the marriage. Speaking to AFP by telephone from his home village of Jaranwala where he had gone to bury Parveen earlier that day, Iqbal said: “We demand justice. We were being threatened since we got married.” The 45-year-old said he and his wife had survived a previous attack during the first hearing of the case on May 12. “On Tuesday as we were going to court from our lawyer’s office almost 30 people attacked us, including her father, brothers and cousins,” he said. The group of 10 or so people accompanying him were overwhelmed by the suddenness of the attack and fled in all directions, he said. “One of her brothers shot at her but missed, then the women in their group fell upon her and her brother and father finished her off,” said Iqbal. “The most painful thing is that nobody came forward to save my wife, the police were there and hundreds of lawyers were there along with ordinary men, but they all just watched like spectators.” A police officer said Parveen’s father Muhammad Azeem had been detained while five others two brothers and three cousins remained at large. Another police officer, told AFP police were launching raids in the Nankana Sahib district to arrest the accused. Despite the gruesome and public nature of the killing in Pakistan’s most liberal city, media reaction has been relatively muted indicating what activists said was a growing apathy amid rising extremism. (Asian Age 29/5/14)

 

6. Child Abuse: NHRC Notice to Collector (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to Keonjhar Collector on the issue of pouring of boiling water on a three-year-old tribal boy at an anganwadi centre in the district last month. Two aganwadi workers had perpetrated the crime on the child, Parsuram Munda, because he had touched the cooked food. The incident occurred on May 9 at Anganwadi Centre-1 at Khendra under Jhumpura block in the district. Acting on a petition filed by human rights activist Prabir Das, the NHRC has sought a report from the Collector within four weeks. According to the petitioner, anganwadi workers Subhashree Giri and helper Soudamini Naik allegedly poured boiling water on the boy for ‘touching and desecrating’ eggs and cooked food. The child suffered about 40 per cent burns. Munda was admitted to the Community Health Centre at Jhumpura from where he was shifted to District Headquarters Hospital. Doctors found that the skin on the stomach of the child was severely burnt. The police registered a case on the basis of an FIR filed by the boy’s mother. Parsuram’s parents alleged that the incident occurred because they belonged to Munda tribe and were looked down upon. In his petition, Das stated, the incident called for a proper inquiry and stringent action should be taken against the duo while suitable compensation must be awarded to the victim. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

7. Enhance old age pension, food grain amount: NHRC

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended the State Government to enhance the amount paid as old age pension and the quantity of food grains under the Annapurna Yojana, besides directing the Chief Secretary to submit an action plan for improving the conditions of the poor and destitute people who are facing starvation and unable to avail medical facilities at the old age. The historic order from the apex human rights watchdog came pursuant to the petition filed by renowned rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy. Pertinent to mention here that Harischandra Yojana for performing the last rites of poor people have been initiated and implemented during the proceeding of the case as the petitioner sought a scheme to help the poor people for the last rites. In the initial petition filed by Radhakanta in 2011 maintained that Kuntala Nayak and Kusha Nayak died in Hinjilicut Block of Ganjam district due to failure of Government in ensuring them free medical treatment and food during old age. The petitioner had urged the Commission to intervene in the case and to ensure the basic human rights of the surviving member of the family. Considering the petition the NHRC had issued notice to the State authority and sought response over the issue. On June 27, 2012 the Commission observed and directed thus: “The Commission perused the report and observed that the district authorities have not intimated date of death of the wife of Kusha Nayak, date from which the monthly pension of `200 was being paid to them. The Annapurna rice (10 kg per month) was allotted to the couple since February, 2012, but how many times it was issued to them. The Commission further observed that the report is sketchy and does not cover the factual details of the incident and the action taken by the State Government. In his rejoinder on July 26, 2012 Radhakanta had stated that the report of the district authorities admits that the victim Kusha Naik was leading a life in poverty at extreme old age without any attendant or living family member. The Government had been paying him a meagre old age pension of Rs 200 and 10 kg of rice per month which was not adequate for the poor old man. (Pioneer 4/6/14)

 

8. NHRC writes to states on gender sensitization (1)

Chennai: With the escalation of crime against women in the country, the National Human Rights Commission on Friday asked all state governments to take immediate steps to introduce lessons on gender sensitisation in school curriculum. “The National Human Rights Commission has seen with concern several recent media reports of sexual assault in different parts of the country, violating human rights of girls and women. “Wherever and in whatever number these incidents have happened, the commission deplores all such acts, which have a direct bearing on human rights, including right to life, dignity and liberty,” the commission said in a statement. The commission has also noted that women have been assaulted in many instances when they step out of their homes to answer nature’s call, since there is no toilet facility at their residences. The rights panel has asked all stakeholders, including individuals, governments and civic agencies to work towards building a toilet for each household among their other priorities. The panel said it is necessary to take immediate steps to introduce topics or subjects at school which would instil gender sensitivity among children. (Deccan Herald 7/6/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. I will eat right now if AFSPA is repealed, says Irom Sharmila (1)

New Delhi: Manipuri civil rights activist, Irom Sharmila, who has been on an indefinite hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), broke down before a Delhi court on Wednesday. Sharmila had been brought to court in a case registered against her for attempting to commit suicide. The AFSPA, or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, confers special powers to armed forces to respond at will in the “disturbed areas” to maintain law and order. A number of activists have come out against the act — which is also in force in J&K. Standing before the court with a pipe in her nose – through which she has been force-fed since November, 2000 – Sharmila told the court she would eat her first bite in over a decade right there and then if the “draconian” AFSPA was repealed by the Modi government. Just a day before her appearance in Patiala House, Sharmila’s family had told the media that she hoped to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi while in Delhi in order to talk about the repealing of AFSPA. Sharmila, who appeared before the court in pursuance to a production warrant issued against her, claimed that wide scale discrimination was being meted out to the people from North East. The 41-year-old activist-poet also told Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain that she never intended to commit suicide and her fast was just a protest against AFSPA. “I love my life very much,” she assured the judge as her eyes welled up. During the proceedings, when the court told her that she would be given exemption from physical appearance due to her health condition, Sharmila insisted on being there, saying “It is my case and I want to be physically present in the court during the proceedings.” The court, during the hearing, also recorded the statements of two policemen, who were arrayed as prosecution witnesses in the case in which the Manipuri activist is facing trial. The court has fixed the matter for July 17 for recording of statements of other witnesses in the case. (Hindustan Times 29/5/14)

 

10. P.A. Sangma seeks Modi’s intervention in Meghalaya custodial deaths (1)

Shillong, May 31 : National People’s Party (NPP) supremo Purno Agitok Sangma Saturday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in the twin custodial death in Meghalaya. Sangma, who is the lone NPP member in the Lok Sabha, has also asked National Human Rights Commission chairman K.G. Balakrishnan to institute an inquiry into the twin custodial death. In his letter to Modi, the former Lok Sabha speaker highlighted the prevailing law and order situation and the violation of human rights in Garo Hills districts in western part of Meghalaya. He also asked Modi to instruct the relevant authorities to take necessary and appropriate action in the twin custodial death. There were two custodial deaths in Garo Hills this month. Witson Sangma, arrested on charges of supplying explosives to the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), was found dead in police lockup of Chokpot police station Wednesday, while Balsan Marak, accused of illegally confining, kidnapping and torturing 12 women, died at the Tura Civil Hospital May 20. Civil society groups, including the Garo Student’s Union have announced a non-cooperation movement June 2 in the five districts of Garo Hills over the custodial deaths. Meanwhile, curfew was on Saturday relaxed for eight hours at Chokpot block in South Garo Hills district, two days after it was imposed following mob violence over the death of Witson Sangma, officials said. (New Kerala 1/6/14)

 

11. SHRC Directive Against Lock Up ‘Dress Code’ (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has asked the DGP to initiate action against those police officials who keep people in lock up by forcing them to wear only underclothes. Rights Commission chairman Justice J B Koshy  issued the orders in this regard on Tuesday on a complaint filed by C Joseph, a native of Amboori here. In his complaint, Joseph stated that police officials were humiliating the suspects  by forcing them to remain in the lock up  cladding only inner wear or with newspaper to cover their nakedness citing that they would commit suicide if they were allowed to wear normal dress. Justice Koshy said it was a serious violation of human rights to make them wear only the inner wear while putting them in lock ups. It is also a crime under the Police Act, he observed. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

12. The rot behind the prison bars: Urgent need for reforms (1)

There has been a 100 percent increase in deaths of inmates in Tihar jail. Thirty five prisoners have died there in judicial custody in 2013 in comparison to 18 in 2012. This is not all. Such horrifying news often keep on coming from Ghaziabad, Rohini and the country’s other jails. All this, once again, has brought into sharp focus the working of our prison administration. It goes without saying that the state of Indian prisons is so deplorable that less said about it the better. These are the walled houses of cruelty, torture and defiled dignity. The jail manuals are antiquated, the architecture is primitive and the attitude of jail authorities is not only indifferent, but unpardonably dehumanising. Subhuman living conditions, prison riots, jail-breaks, suicides, custodial deaths and frequent escapes are regular occurrences.  All this notwithstanding, we have to accept the prison system as a necessary evil and reform it with a sense of urgency. As per our judicial philosophy, jails are expected to serve four objectives:  retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. Crimes that disrupt society have to be punished and hence criminals must pay by losing part of their freedom.  Law-breakers ought to be segregated so that they do not harm innocent people. Future crimes have to be prevented by making the delinquent understand that the infringement of law is not permissible in a civilized society. And when the jail term ends, the prisoner should be able to return to the mainstream as a law abiding citizen Ironically, the ground realities are different. No jail in the country has the resources for keeping prisoners in healthy surroundings. No prison has an imaginative reformatory system governed by upright officers who want to bring about a change of heart in a criminal. In that event, jails make hardcore criminals even out of ordinary offenders. Insanitary conditions, shortage of food, medicines and medical staff, laxity, mismanagement and corruption in the prison administration only add to the misery. The government has still to evolve guidelines for prison management on modern lines. Although the subject has been examined in depth by four committees since 1919-20 and in four landmark judgments of the Supreme Court in 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1990, the fact remains that prison authorities pay scant regard to the guidelines evolved. They do not adhere even to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners, 1995. Worse still, their decisions are dictated by a piece of legislation — the Prisons Act 1894 –  which was enacted by a colonial regime that saw jails as places to break the back of the nationalist movement. The Union government should evolve a standard jail manual applicable throughout the country with the help of human rights activists, judges, lawyers and eminent criminologists. The root cause of all the problems in the country’s 1394 jails is overcrowding. In some cases, jails are filled to 500-600 per cent more of their official capacity, as widely reported. For instance,  Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, has a sanctioned capacity of 804 inmates, but statistics reveal that 2,300 prisoners are currently lodged in it. In Bihar, jails have a capacity of about 21,750 inmates but house over 38,000. Similarly, Asia’s most prestigious Tihar jail houses 13,500 inmates against its authorised capacity of 6,250.The position in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat and West Bengal is no better. The influx of new inmates adds to the problem. It goes without saying that overcrowding is as much a violation of the “right of life” as denial of a “speedy trial”. .. (Deccan Herald 4/6/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

13. ‘Won’t trample media freedom’ (1)

New Delhi: Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday assured the media that its freedom will be intact under the Narendra Modi-led government. Adding that external curbs will not work on the media, he recalled days of the Emergency in 1975 when media was gagged by the state. Dissent has a place in a democracy and “we will always welcome constructive criticism”, added the Minister of State (independent charge) for Information & Broadcasting taking charge of  the ministry. “Modi ji ke netritva mein aayi sarkar media ki swadheenta ko akshun rakhegi (The Modi-led government will keep media freedom intact),” Javadekar said, and recalled how “we fought” curbs imposed on media in 1975 and how “we were in jail for 16 months”. “We believe freedom of press is essence of democracy…it gives people choice in a rainbow of differing opinions. There is no external regulation that works in the media. In 1975, media freedom was trampled upon but we fought it,” the minister said. Asked about recent cases where several youngsters had been arrested for allegedly posting anti-Modi messages on social media, Javadekar said those cases had been registered under the IT Act by the respective state governments and the Centre had no role. Javadekar said Modi has said though BJP has the numbers to run the government, it needs the cooperation and support of all to run the country. “Rajnetaon aur media ki zimmevari banti hai ki loktantra ko safal banayein (success of a democracy lies on the shoulders of political leaders and the media).” Asked whether state-run broadcaster Doordarshan will be allowed to edit important interviews (in reference to the controversy over DD for removing a chink of Narendra Modi’s interview in the run-up to the elections), Javadekar’s response was: “Bilkul nahin (Not at all).” He further said “change in work culture is what we promised” and it will be delivered. He added priorities would be worked out after consultation with all stakeholders. On his predecessor Manish Tewari’s views that there was no need for an I&B ministry, Javadekar said, “It doesn’t take much time to end an institution, but it takes a lot of time to build it. We’ll take stock of everything and will not waste whatever is good.” On whether any important decisions taken by his predecessor would be reversed, he said, “Jo achha hai woh chalega, jo nahin hai woh nahin chalega.(What’s right will continue, what’s not won’t).” (Indian Express 29/5/14)

 

14. Prakash Javadekar resolves to strengthen press freedom (1)

PANAJI: Prakash Javadekar, Union minister of state for information and broadcasting and environment and forests on Saturday said his I&B ministry will strive to strengthen press freedom in totality. In his keynote address at the GoaFest, his first public function since he was sworn in as MOS, Javadekar said the government will take digital media, print media and electronic media into confidence in order to find solutions to pending problems. He said consultations will precede informed decisions in larger public interest. The government will also strive to improve Doordarshan and All India Radio such that people love them and they give real competition to the existing channels. The minister also urged self-discipline by the media, saying the government will then have no role to play in monitoring the media. Responding to a question whether people need to be careful while making posts on social media, Javadekar said social media is governed by the IT Act which is 10 years old. “Every freedom is accompanied by some responsibility. People need to know the Lakshman Rekha which needs to be preserved,” he said. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

15. One held in Odisha for journalist’s murder (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Unidentified men stabbed 35-year-old Tarun Kumar Acharya with sharp-edged weapons in a lonely place when he was riding a motorcycle on his way to home at Bikrampur from Khallikote town, about 135 km from here. Acharya was a stringer of a local television channel and a reporter of a local news paper. Anirudha Singh said a family feud might have led to his murder and Acharya’s own brother and two others were believed to be behind the crime. The incident has nothing to do with journalism, he said. Police have formed two teams and they are conducting raids to nab the assailants, said Anirudha Singh. The murder was condemned by the opposition parties and journalist associations in the state. The state government should order a CBI probe and pay compensation of Rs.50 lakh to Acharya’s family, the Odisha Union of Journalists said in a statement. Bharatiya Janata Party state spokesperson Sajjan Sharma said the murder has showed that there is no law and order in the state. “We demand that police should immediately arrest assailants,” Sharma said. Hundred of activists of the Communist Party of India-Marxist staged a demonstration in Bhubaneswar Thursday to protest the journalist’s murder. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

16. Civil society activists question PM’s ‘silence’ on attacks on dissent (1)

NEW DELHI: Prominent citizens and civil society activists on Saturday questioned the “silence” of the Prime Minister’s Office on the recent “blatant” attacks on free speech of writers and academicians and demanded that these constitutional rights be protected. The citizens in a joint statement said that in the last fortnight there had been a “resurgence” of attacks to curb the right to free speech and expression of those who did not “share the euphoria, hope and enthusiasm associated with recent election results”.The statement said the brutal lynching of an innocent young professional in Pune, following the arson and rioting in reaction to a Facebook post, is evidence of a “continuing atmosphere of intolerance and fear that threatens our democracy and must be stopped immediately”.It said such attempts to curtail the right to free speech and expression have been recurring over the past two decades, irrespective of the political party in power. (Economic Times 8/6/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

17. Social Welfare Department to Probe Suspected Child Trafficking (1)

THRISSUR: The Social Welfare Department will hold a detailed investigation into the suspected child trafficking incidents in the state in the wake of the suspected trafficking of 456 children below the age of 12, detained by the Railway Police at the Palakkad Junction railway station on Saturday, said Social Welfare Minister M K Muneer. The department will peruse the documents submitted by the officials of the orphanage where the children in the Palakkad incident are boarded. Those children with no valid documents will be rehabilitated. A three-member committee has been formed to conduct inspection at all the orphanages in the state, the Minister said. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, he said that stringent laws will be enforced in the state in two weeks to curb the trafficking of children to the state in the guise of study purpose. “Though transportation of children to and from the state for study purpose cannot be curbed, the government will not allow child trafficking under the garb of studies,” he said. “The committee that was assigned to look into the suspected cases will complete the exercise in a time-bound manner. Those children with valid documents will be handed over to respective orphanages and children without valid documents will be returned to their respective places after the inspection. Besides, stringent action will be taken against institutions that lodge children without valid documents,” the minister said. He said the department has initiated steps to deport 12 Bangladeshi immigrants, who are staying at the elderly home of the government at Ramavarmapuram here, after serving jail term for illegally staying in the state. (New Indian Express 30/5/14)

 

18. A case of trafficking, say Jharkhand officials (6)

Palakkad: A team of officials from Jharkhand that reached Palakkad on Sunday in connection with the detaining of 589 children from West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar at the Palakkad Railway Junction station last week has termed it a case of child trafficking. Talking to The Hindu after visiting the children sheltered at two children’s homes in the district, Jharkhand’s Labour Enforcement Officer Maneesh Sinha said the children were taken to Kerala without completing due procedures and violating key provisions of the child rights Act. Recommending an investigation, he said the children indicated that they were “purchased” by agents paying about Rs.1,500 to each parent exploiting their poverty. The team from Jharkhand included three assistant development officers and two labour welfare officers. Mr. Sinha said Jharkhand Labour Commissioner Maneesh Rangan would reach Palakkad on Monday for consultations with district authorities, police, and child welfare activists on the future of the detained children. The team left for Kozhikode in the evening to meet children handed over to the District Child Welfare Committee there. Mr. Sinha said Jharkhand provided free and compulsory education to all along with free food in its schools and shelters. He said no orphanage in Kerala had contacted the State government to get children through legal process to ensure their overall development. The delegation also held talks with the railway police, district authorities, and members of district child welfare committee. The Kerala Minority Commission and the Indian Union Muslim league had claimed that poor children from the minority communities outside the State were being brought to Kerala in an attempt to provide better education and nutritious food. (The Hindu 2/6/14)

 

19. Meghalaya Girls, Mom Detained in Home, Rescued (1)

COIMBATORE: In what is claimed to be the latest in a string of human-trafficking related allegations surrounding a school in Sulur, a woman from Meghalaya and her two minor daughters who were illegally confined by an employee of the school, were rescued by police and child protection officials in Sulur on Tuesday. According to sources, the 35-year-old woman and her two daughters, aged 11 and 16, were rescued after the woman’s son, who is studying at a college in Manipur, informed the college authorities about the ‘forced confinement’ of his mother and two sisters. The college authorities then forwarded the complaint to a right-wing organisation, whose activists took up the matter with officials in Coimbatore. Local administration officials, who received the complaint on Monday night, alerted the Singanallur police, who, with the assistance of child protection officials and the anti-human trafficking police wing, raided the Sulur school and rescued the woman and her two young daughters. The three are said to be from West Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya. They were produced before the Child Welfare Committee, where they told the officials that one Lungu from Assam had brought them to Coimbatore promising that he would arrange for her daughters’ schooling. Believing his words, the woman came along with her daughters to the city. However, Lungu, an employee of the Sulur school,  confined the woman and her daughters in a separate hostel. CWC officials recorded their statement, while Lingu was detained. Police told Express that the school had courted similar controversies in the past. The school is believed to have many students from Manipur and Meghalaya, apart from students from Tamil Nadu. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

20. Trafficked and raped, tribal girl 2 months pregnant (1)

New Delhi: She had hoped her move to Delhi will help her support her family of six. But within a week of her arrival, she became a victim sexual abuse. She is now two months’ pregnant. The 18-year-old tribal girl was brought to Delhi by a woman in March on the pretext of a job. “She told the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that she was kept at a placement agency in east Delhi’s Shakarpur. She was raped not only by the owner but his friends too,” said Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini NGO. She was repeatedly assaulted by the owner and his friends and all her requests of being sent back home went unheeded. The man kept her locked inside the agency office and made her do all the work. He would not even pay her wages. According to the girl, he was negotiating with someone to employ her in a home as a domestic help. The girl can barely speak Hindi and had come to Delhi from West Bengal. She did not even know she was pregnant till she saw the medical report. Originally a resident of Odisha, she had managed to escape by locking the placement agency owner in the washroom and stealing Rs. 1,000 from his wallet. She was found sitting at the Old Delhi railway station, looking lost, when members of Shakti Vahini found her and took her to the hospital. “An auto driver dropped her to the Old Delhi railway station where she was sitting quietly and looked very scared. A person, who was from her village, noticed her and informed the West Bengal police. They informed us and we rescued her,” Kant said. The NGO informed her mother, who works at a tea garden in New Jalpaiguri and earns barely Rs. 70 a day.  Both mother and daughter will now return to their hometown but are scared of the rape stigma attached to her.

“The police need to investigate the case thoroughly and find out the culprit. If we don’t take action, such people will continue to assault women,” said an activist working with the NGO. (Hindustan Times 6/6/14)

 

21. Assam becoming a hotspot for child trafficking (1)

New Delhi: Now penniless and without a clue about how to rescue their 12-year-old daughter Lakshmi, who went missing over eight months ago from their village in Assam, Deepak Munda and his wife are in the Capital looking for their child and stuck with no means to return home for over six months now. The couple is now staying at a shelter home run by non-government organisation working in the area of child rights, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). Holding up a black and white photocopy of their only child sitting in The Hindu office on Friday evening, the couple narrated the ordeal they had been through. “Our child was kidnapped by an agent in Assam and brought to Delhi. This we got to know through our people in the village and so we came here in search of our child. We even tracked her down to the placement agency and when we went there we were told that if she works for two-three more days she will get her entire month’s salary. So we waited and even handed the placement agency owner the money we were carrying. This, he said, was to be used as transport charges for Lakshmi,’’ said Deepak. Now, six months later, the couple are yet to get back their child and have no money left even to feed themselves. “Whenever we go to the agency, they abuse us and throw us out. We even threatened them with police action and still there is no result. We will go back to Assam only after getting our child back,’’ said Deepak, holding onto the shoulders of his wife, who silently sobbed. Sadly Deepak and his wife aren’t alone in this tragedy. Also ‘stuck’ in Delhi for over a month is Sadan Tanti from Assam’s (Dulahat tea garden) whose two granddaughters – Unita (15 years) and Sunita (17 years) – went missing. “While my eldest granddaughter went missing several months ago, recently even her younger sister was ‘kidnapped’ and reportedly brought through a placement agency to Delhi,’’ said Sadan. Carrying the passport photo’s of his grandchildren he has been going to various placement agencies with help from BBA. “So far I have only got to know that my girls have been ‘trafficked’ to Mumbai. So I will now go to Mumbai. I cannot go back home without my granddaughters. I have a son who is mentally unstable and these girls are all I have to live for,’’ he added. In the city looking for his sister, who went missing from the same area as Unita and Sunita, is also Jisoya Tanti, who has been in Delhi for over two weeks now. Narrating his story, Jisoya said: “My sister was kidnapped by a local agent and after I came here I got to know that she was kept as a bonded labourer in some house. But now I have got information that she has managed to run away from the place and I have no whereabouts of her. I have appealed to the Delhi Police and have been putting pressure on the placement agencies to find my sister but so far nothing has materialised.’’ Refusing to go back along without his sister, Jisoya said: “I am stuck in Delhi till I find my sister. Where can I go? I need to know if she is dead or alive.’’ Meanwhile, Assam has in the recent years emerged as one of the ‘hotspots’ for child trafficking according to child rights activists. BBA founder Kailash Satyarthi speaking about this large-scale child trafficking, specially from Assam, said: “The place has become a hub for child trafficking and there are areas here which are notoriously unsafe for children. Many placement agencies are earning huge profits by bringing in children from these States to the Capital and also sending them to Mumbai from here.’’ He added that in the past three years alone, over 77 Assamese children who were trafficked have been rescued after BBA lodged complaints. (The Hindu 8/6/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

22. UP: Dalit sisters gangraped, hung in public; (2)

Badaun (UP), May 29: In a brutal incident of human violation, two teenaged-cousins were gangraped and then hung to a tree in a village in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. The two girls were missing from their homes since Tuesday. Their bodies were found the very next morning from a tree in Katra village in Ushait area. The incident triggered protests in the area when the villagers blocked police access to the site until they were convinced that action would be taken. Citing police apathy, the villagers demanded suspension of all police officers on duty in Ushait police station. Following this, FIR was registered against seven persons including constables Sarvesh Yadav and Rakshapal Yadav, who were suspended. Villagers alleged that the police had refused to file an FIR on Tuesday night. As police awaited the postmortem report of the two girls, the four accused-Brijesh, Awadhesh and two other unidentified were arrested, said SP Chauhan. Police are awaiting the postmortem report of the two girls. (One India 29/5/14)

 

23. 3 Dalits Killed in Row Over Path to Graveyard (2)

TIRUNELVELI: Members of an intermediate caste have allegedly murdered three persons belonging to Dalit community in a dispute over the route to the graveyard near Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli on Sunday. Sources said, K Murugan (40) and R Venugopalan (42), natives of Udappankulam are working as drivers in Coimbatore. On Sunday, they came to Sankarankoil to attend a family function at Malaiyur. After the ceremony, they went to meet Murugan’s elder brother, Kaliraj at Udappankulam. Later, Kaliraj went to drop the duo, in his two wheeler, at Sankarankoil. However, the trio was attacked by some miscreants at a distance of two kilometre from Udappankulam. They died on the spot. There was enmity between the Dalit community and a dominant intermediate caste regarding the route to the graveyard. The Dalits were denied the rights of taking their dead ones through the main street, where the intermediate caste lives. Instead, they were taking the dead bodies through another route, sources said. On information, Tirunelveli SP Narendran Nair, Madurai DIG Anandkumar Somale, DSPs Vanamamalai, Kalivarathan, Pichai, and Tiruvengadam police inspector Krishnasamy rushed to the spot to control the situation. More than 100 police were deployed in this regard. The dead bodies were sent to Tirunelveli Medical college Hospital for postmortem. Tiruvengadam police registered a case and are investigating. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

24. Uttar Pradesh: Another girl raped, hanged from tree (2)

Sitapur, June 4 : After the Badaun case, another minor was allegedly raped and later hanged from a tree in Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh, said reports on Wednesday. A 15-year-old was allegedly abducted by six men when she went out of her house to relieve herself and her body was later found hanging from a tree, said reports. “My daughter was raped and killed by our 40-year-old neighbour and his friends. That old man wanted to marry my daughter. When we objected, he did this crime,” said the girl’s father. The police said they have booked the six men for murder. The post-mortem examination report of the girl is awaited. Two Dalit minor sisters were allegedly gangraped and then hanged from a tree at Katra village in Badaun district on May 27. The cousin sisters, aged 14 and 15 respectively, were reportedly missing since May 27 night. (New Kerala 4/6/14)

 

25. One in four Dalit women face harassment due to a lack of toilets: Report (2)

One in every four Dalit women faces harassment due to a lack of toilets, reveals a study conducted by WaterAid International. The report also stated that only 13% of Dalit households in these states had sanitation facilities, and that 26% of Dalit women that had to resort to open defecation had reposrted some form of humiliation. 6% of these women had also reposted sexual harassment. The full report, to be released later this year, has taken into account 9,644 Dalit households, from rural villages in four Indian states — Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In UP, the survey was conducted in Allahabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Etawah, Gorakhpur, Jhansi, Kanpur Dehat, Rae Bareli, Sitapur and Sonbhadra. Between 15 and 20 Dalit majority villages from each district (based on the 2001 census) were selected to give a representative sample. In total, just over 500 households from villages in each of the 20 districts were selected for interviews, comprising a total sample of 9,644 households. The WaterAid India survey was undertaken in 2013 in partnership with the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR). WaterAid International has released the extract from their study on open defecation in response to the gangrape and murder of two girls in Katara village in Badaun. The forthcoming report is based on the caste-based discrimination and sexual harassment Dalit women face due to open defecation. “Priority needs to be given to end open defecation and to put in place the resources needed to significantly increase access to basic toilets. We call upon governments around the world to back proposals at the United Nations for everyone, everywhere to have basic sanitation, as well as clean drinking water and hygiene services, by 2030,” said WaterAid chief executive Barbara Frost. Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, who had sent a team to the village for a survey said that the report had come at a right time, and that it stated what many women faced in the country. “I have seen, heard and felt through my several yeas in the field of sanitation that Dalit women are the worst-hit. Vulgar jokes, catcalls and sexual harassment is rampant. While the government claimed that only 100 houses in the village has no toilets, my team has found that all 406 houses in the village has no toilets,” said Pathank. Pathak who has written to PM Narendra Modi on Monday asking for resources to build toilets in every homes in the country, said that he is hopeful that the PM will respond positively. (DNA 4/6/14)

 

26. Haryana rape protestors evicted from Jantar Mantar (2)

New Delhi: The Delhi Police on Wednesday morning evicted more than 70 Dalit families from Jantar Mantar. They had been camping there for two months to protest the gang-rape of four minor girls in Haryana’s Bhagana village on March 23. The Dalit villagers said they were evicted around 5am without prior notice despite having sought permission for their protest. “No person can protest at Jantar Mantar for more than a day and these people housed themselves here for over two months now,” said SBS Tyagi, additional commissioner of police (Central range). Before their eviction, the protestors said men of higher castes frequently pick up Dalit women in their village when they go out to relieve themselves. None of the cases are reported. “Upper caste people do not allow Dalit households in our village to have toilets and the women generally go to the fields to relieve themselves either before sunrise or after sunset,” said Jagdish Kadla, a member of the family of one of the victims. The youngest of the four gang rape victims is 13 years old. She had her class five exam the day before she was raped allegedly by the family members of the village head. She and the other victims aged 15, 16 and 17 years were picked up from the field across their neighbourhood where they had gone to relieve themselves. “Five men forced us inside a car, rolled up the windows and took turns to rape us,” said one of the victims (Hindustan Times 6/6/14)

 

27. Dalit groom beaten up in M.P. village for riding a horse (2)

Chhattarpur: A Dalit groom was allegedly forced to get down from the horse he was riding as part of a pre-wedding ritual and beaten up by upper caste men at Sadwa village in the district, the police said here on Sunday. The incident took place two days ago, when Manoj Ahirwar (21) went around the village on horse-back seeking the blessings of village elders, said Chhattarpur’s Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Neeraj Pandey. As per village “tradition”, only upper-caste grooms are “allowed” to ride on a horse, while lower castes have to go on foot to seek the blessings of elders. The police said they had arrested seven people identified as Ladle Yadav, Khadia Yadav, Ammu Yadav, Mitthu Yadav, Jaahar Yadav, Ram Singh and Pavrat Pal, while six others, including village headman Khuman Singh, were absconding. Some persons in the groom’s procession also allegedly made some comments leading to the scuffle, with upper caste men objecting to the “violation” of village “tradition”. (The Hindu 9/6/14)

 

28. Panel discusses dalit boycott issue (2)

SANGRUR: State scheduled caste commission held meetings with district officials on Sunday to sort out issue of landlords boycotting dalits in Bopur village in Sangrur district. Commission chairman Rajesh Bagha met the officials and asked them to settle the issue and take stern action against persons found guilty. The panel also formed a five-member committee to solve the issue. Landlords in Bopur had socially boycotted dalits on May 16 when they claimed their right to 27 acres of village common land earmarked for the community. The plot was to be leased out to landless dalits for farming for an amount which would be decided by tenders. However, till now, tenders were grabbed by landlords with proxy dalit candidates. Angry over the dalits’ move to take the land on lease for cultivation, landlords had boycotted dalits last month. Commission member Dalip Singh Pandhi had visited the village on May 29. (Times of India 9/6/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

29. Govt to tax tobacco more to reduce consumption (3)

NEW DELHI: Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is for levying increased taxes on tobacco and tobacco-related products to discourage its consumption. Releasing a report on the economic burden of tobacco related diseases in India on Thursday, the minister said he will be writing to the finance ministry soon seeking necessary action on the issue. “It makes perfect economic sense to regulate the use of tobacco in order to achieve the goal of controlling non-communicable disease in India. Tobacco use is a preventable risk factor for major diseases and the resultant economic consequences,” Vardhan said, releasing the report, compiled by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). The report, supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated direct and indirect costs from all diseases caused due to tobacco use and four specific diseases namely, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. It estimated that the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs 1, 04,500 crores — 12% more than the combined state and central government expenditure on health care in the same year. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) shared the highest burden (Rs 3,600 crore) of direct medical and indirect morbidity costs on account of tobacco use, followed by respiratory diseases (Rs 2,800 crore), tuberculosis (Rs 2,300 crore) and cancers (Rs1, 400 crore). “Of the 13 states which were part of the study, Uttar Pradesh shared the highest (28%) of the estimated health cost burden followed by West Bengal (13%) and Andhra Pradesh (12%),” said one of the researchers. WHO representative to India Nata Menabde said raising taxes is one of the strongest weapons to fight out tobacco and this is what the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control mandates. “A tax increase that raises prices of tobacco products by 10% is estimated to reduce tobacco consumption by 4% to 5%.Essentially, as tax goes up, death and disease goes down. Raising taxes on tobacco is a win-win situation. It is good for people’s health and good for the economy,” Menabde said. The WHO recommends that share of excise tax for tobacco products should be increased to 70% of retail price. “The tobacco dependence treatment should be mainstreamed into the existing health care delivery systems,” said Dr Monika Arora, director, health promotion, PHFI. (Times of India 30/5/14)

 

30. High performance gap in healthcare infra, manpower availability in Gujarat: study (3)

Ahmedabad: Acknowledging the importance of health performance in overall human development index (HDI), a study by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has laid out certain performance gaps in Gujarat’s health sector. Performance gaps in areas like life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate and neo-natal rates have been found to be pretty high in Gujarat as compared to other states, according to the study titled ‘What Determines Performance Gap Index of Healthcare in Gujarat?’ Authored by Shreekant Iyengar and Ravindra Dholakia of IIM-A, the study attempts to identify the gaps in performance of the health related outcome, output and input indicators from the best performers in each indicator. The gap would indicate the distance that Gujarat has to cover to reach the best performance in the country in each indicator. A higher value of this index indicates more gap from the best and thereby a relatively poorer performance of Gujarat. Moreover, the paper also reviews the trends in health performance of Gujarat over time and also estimates the effectiveness of the state in converting its health inputs to outputs and outputs to outcomes. Indicators such as health infrastructure and manpower, among others were looked into to assess performance gap of Gujarat. For instance, gap has also been found in total government hospitals and number of available beds at 96 per cent and 64 per cent, it further states, while adding that the state will have to enhance health expenditure in order to reduce these gaps. “It is only the maternal mortality where the performance gap is low at 22 per cent putting Gujarat relatively near to the top performer. The performance gap of Gujarat in terms of the Indian system of medicine AYUSH (Ayurveda Yoga Unani Siddha Homeopathy) is also extremely large for the number of hospitals (99 per cent), beds (81 per cent) and dispensaries (86 per cent),” the study states. In terms of manpower availability (numbers per hundred thousand of population) in the public health system of Gujarat, the gap for the number of general doctors at primary health centres (PHC) is 90 per cent and for the specialist doctors at community health centre (CHC) it is as high as 95 per cent. “Moreover, considering the total number of doctors and nurses in the state, we find that the performance gaps are relatively lower at 50 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. However, the gap in terms of the total number of AYUSH doctors (66 per cent) is again quite high. The gaps for total and government doctors in Gujarat show that the non-availability of doctors is more severe in the public health care system than overall level in the state,” the study further states. Meanwhile, the study called for enhancing expenditure on health in Gujarat which it termed as a challenge. “The process of expanding infrastructure and increasing manpower would require significant public expenditure to be incurred. This can be placed as a major challenge to the state towards achieving better health outcomes and finding its place in the top performers among the states in the country,” the study concluded. (Business Standard 5/6/14)

 

31. ’1 in 10 adults in country has thyroid’ (3)

CHENNAI: One in 10 adults suffers from some thyroid related disorder, said health minister Dr C Vijaya Bhaskar on Thursday. Speaking at a national workshop organized at the Tamil Nadu Government Multi-Specialty Hospital on ‘advanced management of thyroid disorders,’ the minister, quoting recent studies, said thyroid disorders affects 42 million people in India. “Studies in eight major cities in the country have shown that one in 2,640 neonates have thyroid dysfunction,” he said. Thyroid, the most common endocrine disorder, is common among women and it also puts them at a risk of cancer and cardiac issues, he added. Pointing out that the state is moving ahead rapidly in terms of healthcare development, the minister said, “Maternal mortality rate has reduced in the state at 68 per every one lakh live births in 2013 from 450 per one lakh live births in 1980. Infant mortality rate, too, has reduced over the years at 21 per every 1000 live births in 2012 from 93 in 1980.” The Tamil Nadu Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, since its inauguration three months ago, has treated 20,500 out-patients and over 1800 in-patients. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

 

HIV/AIDS

32. HIV prevalence among women sex workers falls (3)

HYDERABAD: There is some heartening news on the AIDS front. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among Female Sex Workers (FSW) in the State has gradually decreased from 11 per cent to seven per cent now. Officials of the Andhra Pradesh States AIDS Control Society (APSACS) say measures at spreading awareness on safe contraceptive practices as a prevention strategy for the disease has finally paid off. They point out that it is not just the prevalence of HIV: even the percentage of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among FSWs is on the decline in the State. In the last five years, STI prevalence among FSWs has come down from a whopping 18 per cent to just two per cent, a reflection of the growing realisation among FSWs on the need to follow safe practices. “The bottom-line, however, is that HIV/AIDS prevalence and STIs among FSWs has to be brought down to zero. This is very much possible, but requires concerted efforts by all over a period of time. But, definitely, we have made a lot of progress in spreading awareness on safe practices leading to the drop,” explained APSACS Joint Director (Targeted Intervention) T. Kailash Ditya. The APSACS official was addressing a meeting organised by Integrated Rural Development Services (IRDS) and Mahila Abhivrudhi Sangam (MAS) here on Thursday. The meeting also discussed threadbare a host of issues related to the sexual and reproductive health needs of FSWs and released a study report on them. According to existing data, there are 1, 44,245 FSWs in the State who are being targeted by APSACS to take up safe practices that would prevent HIV/AIDS. “There is a definite need to focus more on spreading awareness on sexual reproductive health among FSWs in our State. This will help prevent ailments like cervical cancer in addition to HIV/ADS,” Mr. Kailash pointed out. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

33. Family abandons woman after she tested HIV positive (3)

AJMER: A woman was abandoned by her family when they came to know that she was HIV positive. This was revealed when she went to a hospital after conceiving a child. She was thrown out from her house and then she went to the police but no one came to help her. The woman then took the case to court and on its orders her husband was arrested and sent to jail. This happened nearby Kishangargh, where a woman accused her husband of not even returning her personal clothes. “They have not even returned my clothes and discarded me like an animal. I went to my parents but they even fear to keep me in the family,” said the victim. According to the police, the couple got married in 2009 and has a kid. “At the time of her first delivery all reports came normal,” said the report given to the court. The report further read that last year she fell ill and was taken to a private hospital for treatment. Again last month, the woman conceived a child and was taken to hospital where she was found HIV positive. “When the family came to know about the report they abused her and threw her out of the house,” the report read. The woman then went to the police, who did not help her fearing that HIV will spread by her presence. At last she approached the court. After hearing her side the court ordered to initiate enquiry and action against her husband. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

34. District Tops in HIV Through Reused Syringe (3)

KOCHI: It’s time Ernakulam district tackled drug taking on a war footing. For, it has got the dubious distinction of being the district with the highest number of HIV patients who have contracted the disease through reused syringes, in the state. The district is also said to have the maximum number of drug addicts. The Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) has identified 5,000 drug takers in the state, of which 157 are HIV-infected and 50 per cent of them belongs to Ernakulam, said Dennis Joseph, Joint Director (targeted intervention) KSACS. Against this backdrop, the KSACS is all set to launch a drug therapy called opioid substitution therapy (OST), a medical procedure wherein the drug, ‘Buprenorphine’, is administered to the patient. “It is crushed and then given to the patient so that the effects are similar to  that of drugs they are addicted to and its dosage is gradually tapered.  The therapy will be launched across the state. In Ernakulam, measures have been initiated to set up the facility at the Aluva District Hospital, the Muvattupuzha Taluk Hospital and the Cherthala Taluk Hospital. “A team comprising a doctor, nurse and councillor will handle the therapy. Since Buprenorphine belongs to a special category, special permission is required for its administration. Hence, the team will have to undergo training from All-India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS ). The training for the Ernakulam team will commence on June 16,” he said. The high rate of drug peddling in the district is a major reason why it tops the state in drug addiction, he said. “The district has literally become a haven for drug peddlers who lure many into drug taking. There are even ‘shooting galleries’ where drug addicts converge and share a doze from a single syringe. This is dangerous,” he said.   The KSACS has identified drug addicts and HIV patients across the state through eight different projects. Dennis said that the rehabilitation of drug addicts was a strenuous task when compared to the rehabilitation of alcoholics. “Once it is stopped, the withdrawal symptoms become too intense,” he said. CAPE, an NGO, will be entrusted with the task of identifying the targeted population in the district. “In 2004, syringes were distributed to curb their re-use. Hence, the main task of the NGO is to distribute the syringes and collect the used ones. Once in six months, the therapy process will be monitored and analysed,” the official said. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

35. New method to make latent HIV reveal itself identified (3)

Washington: Researchers have identified a new way to make latent HIV reveal itself, which could help overcome one of the biggest obstacles to finding a cure for HIV infection. Leor Weinberger, PhD, Associate Investigator in the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and senior author of the study, said understanding how to reactivate latent HIV is one of the major challenges we must overcome in order to find a cure for HIV. One of the properties of latency that makes it so difficult to address is that it is random-or stochastic-in nature. Random fluctuations in transcription are unavoidable and a general aspect of life at the single-cell level and lead to “noise” around the average level of gene expression. In this study, the team tested the counter-intuitive notion that compounds that increase noise in gene expression could work together with transcriptional activators to increase overall levels of HIV reactivation. The concept borrows from other fields of science such as chemistry, where theoretical arguments long ago argued that increased fluctuations can increase the efficiency of reactions. First, they screened a library of 1,600 compounds using a specialized cell line that produces a green fluorescent protein (GFP) when gene expression is activated. The team identified 85 small molecules that increased noise without changing average GFP gene expression levels. They then combined these newly identified noise enhancers with known transcription activators in a cell line that serves as a model for HIV latency. They found that while the noise enhancers could not cause reactivation on their own, 75 percent of them could synergize with activators and increase viral reactivation relative to activator alone. In fact, some noise enhancers doubled reactivation levels when combined with activators. Furthermore, they found a direct correlation between noise enhancement and the degree of reactivation synergy; the greater the noise, the greater the effect on reactivation. For the first time, these results show that expression noise and reactivation of latent HIV are directly related, and identify new candidates for the “shock and kill” approach to treating latent HIV infection. The findings have been ere published in the journal Science. (Business Standard 6/6/14)

 

36. Submit report on action taken against lab in false HIV case, .. (3)

MUMBAI: The home ministry got an earful from legislative council chairman Vasant Daokhare on Saturday when he asked it to submit in a week a report on action taken against a Kandivli pathological lab which allegedly gave a man a wrong HIV-positive report and blackmailed him. The directives came after legislators Bhai Girkar, Ashish Shelar and others blamed the home ministry for granting “favours” to the accused and the owners of ‘The Pacific Lab’, Geeta Mehra and Rajendra Mehra, by delaying the investigation. Despite assurance from minister of state for home Satej Patil that the investigation would be completed within 15 days and stern action would be taken against the Mehras, the legislators sought Daokhare’s intervention. Girkar and Shelar said the lab owners had allegedly asked for Rs 1 lakh from the man who was tested to cure him and later pressurized him to withdraw the police complaint. (Times of India 8/6/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

37. ‘No repeal of land acquisition law’ (4)

New Delhi: Restructuring rather than repealing the controversial Land Acquisition Act initiated by the UPA government will be the focus of new minister for rural development Gopinath Munde. He asserted that he was not in the favour of scrapping the scheme but will rather focus on providing compensation and rehabilitation to the farmers. He emphasised that one of his priorities will be asset development in the villages, which due to the integration of the three ministries will be easier to streamline. Mr Munde added that he will tackle the issue of non-timely payments under the rural job scheme, MNREGA by working in coordination with the state governments. “Ensuring timely payments under the MNREGA by coordinating with the state governments will also be on priority. Timely performance of the scheme will be assessed to ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach its beneficiaries,” Mr Munde said. He, however, rejected the idea of increasing the duration of the scheme from 100 days as he said that most parts in India witness 100 days of rainfall. Another focus area he emphasised will be the rejuvenation of the drinking water scheme. “We will identify the problem areas in ensuring a permanent source of clean drinking water. The challenge is the fact that the implementing agency for the scheme are the district council and not the state agencies,” he said. He added that new groups will be added to the flagship scheme of the Congress-led UPA government, Indira rural housing scheme. (Asian Age 30/5/14)

 

38. Will use force if Campa Cola residents do not cooperate: MCGM (4)

Mumbai: Armed with the supreme court order dismissing a plea of residents of Campa Cola compound against demolition of their flats, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) today said that it would not hesitate in using force to ensure that flats are vacated by occupants. “Use of force is the last thing that we will do. If it (eviction) is happening peacefully, it’s welcome. (However) if the eviction does not happen peacefully, there is no other option than to use force. But why should there be any confrontation?” Additional Municipal Commissioner Mohan Adtani, in charge of the demolition of flats, told PTI. The apex court had yesterday dismissed the resident’s petition to stay the demolition of their flats till the court decides on a curative petition filed by the residents. “Under the SC directives, the residents are legally bound to vacate their flats, but if they fail to do so we might use force against them as last resort,” he said. Seven high-rise buildings of Campa Cola Housing Society in South Munbai were constructed between 1981 and 1989. The builders had permission for only six floors. However, one of the compound buildings, ‘Midtown’, has 20 floors and another building, ‘Orchid’, has got 17 floors.As many as 102 illegal flats in the seven buildings will be razed. Adtani said that the residents have realised after the supreme court order that they have entirely lost the case. The MCGM had asked the residents to hand over the keys of their flats and vacate them. The deadline expired on June 2. “So far they (residents) had thought that they will find a (legal) solution (against the eviction). But after yesterday’s court order they (the residents) have probably realised that they have lost the case completely, and have started vacating (their flats). This a sign of new hope for us,” Adtani said. Adtani said that the civic body will take a call on starting the demolition process after it assesses the number of flats being vacated by residents.He also said that the civic body was mulling over filing a contempt case against the illegal residents. When asked to comment on the residents’ plea to grant them an extension until the monsoon season is over, Adtani said that this was beyond jurisdiction of the MCGM. “We cannot give them any (more) time. The supreme court had already given them time on two occasions in the past. It is not within our powers (to give any relief) as it is fixed by the supreme court,” Adtani said. The curative petition filed by the Association of the Residents of Campa Cola has said that they had come across certain facts under a Right to Information (RTI) query, that were never out before. The plea had further said that the MCGM and the state had decided to regularise the illegal construction in 1985. In 2013, the supreme court stayed the demolition of unauthorised flats in the Campa Cola compound till May 31, 2014 after the BMC squad bulldozed its way into the compound to take action against illegal flats in the Society with the residents putting up a stiff resistance. (Deccan Herald 4/6/14)

 

39. Posco Faces Fresh Protest over Mining at Khandadhar (4)

ROURKELA: Renewed resentment is brewing against prospective mining by Korean steel major Posco at Khandadhar under Lahunipara block of Sundargarh district. Members of Khandadhar Suraksha Sangram Samiti (KSSS) with support of civil rights activist and Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Prafulla Samantara on Tuesday announced to hold a mass convention near Khandadhar waterfall on Thursday and observe the World Environment Day as ‘Save Khandadhar’ Day. Flanked by Samantara, KSSS secretary Suresh Munda and leader of Paudi Bhuiyan tribe Bilua Naik informed that the villagers of Talbahali, Haldikudar, Phuljhor, Kuliposh, Khuntgaon, Kurda, Bhutura and Sasyakala would participate in the convention. Reiterating the need to save Khandadhar waterfall, Samantara demanded the Central and State governments to ensure no mining activities within 25 km radius of the waterfall and declare the region as National Natural Heritage. He insisted on protecting the natural habitat of the diminishing primitive tribe Paudi Bhuiyan, who along with other tribal communities, are religiously attached to the Khandadhar hill, the abode of their presiding deity Kanta Devi. He also appealed to the State Government to withdraw its second recommendation of Prospective Licence (PL) to Posco. Samantara said the greater Khandadhar waterfall in Lahunipara sustains greenery and feeds the residents of several panchayats. The waterfall merges with river Brahmani. Apart from KSSS, the Khandadhar Suraksha Samiti, Rourkela unit of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Chheliatoka Parivesh Suraksha Samiti, Khandadhar Mahila Suraksha Samiti and Bonai Bikash Parishad (BBP) are also fighting for the same cause. BBP kicked off a post card campaign against the proposed mining at Khandadhar on March 12 urging the State Government to protect Khandadhar through post cards. BBP general secretary Babaji Sahu said above 15,000 post cards have been submitted so far. A convention would be held at Khandadhar after 13 days where a new outfit, Khandadhar Parivesh Suraksha Samiti, would be formed with representations from 56 affected villages. Following the formation of the outfit, women members would visit villages to mobilise public opinion against Posco. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

40. NH revamp left in lurch – Firm dumps Rs 940cr project (4)

Ranchi, June 5: A Calcutta-based construction company has backed out of the Jamshedpur-Kharagpur highway link widening project two years after bagging it, citing pending forest clearances and land acquisition glitches. Simplex Infrastructures Ltd has written to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) headquarters in Delhi, saying it was unable to execute the Rs 940-crore four-lane project involving 127km of national highways Nos. 33 and 6 covering Jharkhand and Bengal. A source in NHAI said Simplex, appointed the project concessionaire under build-operate-transfer (toll) in 2012, had not got a date of appointment — or time from when it could start groundwork — as forest clearances and land acquisition were held up. According to Central Vigilance Commission norms, the NHAI can give the appointment letter to a firm on contract only when forest clearances are obtained and 80 per cent land needed is acquired. The onus of readying forest clearances lies mainly with the Centre, while the state government is responsible for acquiring land. “Simplex wrote to NHAI recently saying it would not be able to execute the four-lane work. NHAI may have to go for a fresh tender. Finalisation of a new agency will take time,” an NHAI official said, requesting anonymity. Covering the dilapidated Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur stretch, 71km of the project falls in Jharkhand and 56km in Bengal. The proposed widening covered two sections, Mahulia-Baharagora on NH-33 and Baharagora-Kharagpur on NH-6. Close on the heels of this fallout, NHAI is also concerned over the slow pace of widening work on the NH-33 link of Ranchi-Jamshedpur. Ranchi-based project director of NHAI Awadhesh Kumar told The Telegraph that Delhi headquarters is “already concerned” over the slow pace of work executed by construction major Madhucon Projects Limited, which last year was appointed the concessionaire for the Rs 1,500-crore project. “The overall deadline for the project is June 2015, which we doubt would be realised,” said Kumar, who was in Delhi earlier this week and inspected the site today with NHAI chief general manager Rabindra Kumar. (The Telegraph 6/6/14)

 

41. ‘Farmers whose land will be acquired for airport upgradation to get compensation’ (4)

LUDHIANA: As the land acquisition authorities have issued notification before fixing the rates for acquisition of land from farmers for the upgradation of Sahnewal airport, the authorities are likely to give compensation to the farmers as per the New Land Acquisition act. Giving details, Kuldeep Singh, additional chief administrator GLADA, said “We have already submitted the objections from the farmers of the villages in which land is being acquired after we issued notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition act in June last year. On May 30 we also issued notification under section 6 of the land acquisition act after which we are calculating the rates for the land to be acquired”. “The process of fixation of prices of the land will be completed within a month or two. The compensation is likely to be given to the farmers before the end of this year”. He added that the farmers will be given rates as per the new land acquisition act and according to that they will get twice the rate than the collectorate rate given previously. Officials in GLADA which is acquiring the land for the project say that whereas the collectorate rate for an acre of land previously was around 35-40 Lakhs per acre but as per the new land acquisition act, the farmers may get around Rs 80 lakhs for the same piece of land. In the meanwhile farmers whose land is being acquired are not happy with the double the collectorate rate. Says Amar Singh, a farmer of Neechi Mangli, “We had heard that rates will be four times of the collectorate rate but two times is too less a price for the land. Once the authorities announce the rates for the land, we will decide next course of action”. (Times of India 9/6/14)

 

CORRUPTION

42. SIT may not get to know to know source of black money stashed abroad (5)

NEW DELHI: Even if the Special Investigation Team under Justice MB Shah succeeds in tracking most of Indian black money stashed away in tax havens, it may never be known how much of it is proceeds of crime or if money is hidden in secret accounts abroad just because its owners don’t want to pay taxes in India. It would remain a challenge to figure out what part of the black money is generated from criminal activities such as drug smuggling, arms deals, policy manipulations etc which have serious implications for national security, beyond just financial integrity. However, there is one disturbing statistics that could give an idea of the growing proportion of money generated through such criminal activities. Over 50 percent of the cases under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) since it was notified on July 1, 2005 were registered in just the last one year. Under this act that deals with proceeds of criminal activities, the first conviction could be in the high profile scandal involving former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and his cronies who swindled out hundreds of crores. And the second major conviction could be in the 2G spectrum allocation scandal. Between April 2013 and March 2014 the Enforcement Directorate registered 55 cases under PMLA. And in the ongoing financial year, ED could end up registering over 90 money laundering cases. In the previous eight years (2005 to 2013) just 49 cases were registered, and not one case has ended in conviction. One of the reasons for the sudden jump could be better enforcement of PMLA, but what also cannot be ignored is the fact that many scandals have emerged in recent times. And in most of these scandals, the ED has been able to track down the proceeds of crime, which show the huge amount of kickbacks in each of the scandals. In most of these cases while money laundering to distant tax havens is one of the activities, what is noticeable is the fact that much of the bribes and kickbacks have been moved around in India itself. There are several tactics used to move them around. Real estate is a key target of investment, while buying shares in private companies at exaggerated share values and offering unsecured loans are among the ways to move around black money or pay kickbacks. In sectors like real estate, black money is staggering, and a significant portion of it could be proceeds of various crimes such as kickbacks. The SIT, to be headed by Justice MB Shah, is tasked with duties of investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution in cases of Hasan Ali and other matters involving unaccounted money, the cabinet statement had said. In Hasan Ali case, investigations have found that documents showing $8 billion deposits by him were forged. The SIT would serve its full purpose if it were to put sharper focus on the criminal aspect of black money, especially in the Indian context. PMLA cases might be a good beginning to make. Times of India 30/5/14)

 

43. 2G Case: Shahid Balwa Wants to Depose as Witness (5)

NEW DELHI: Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, one of the accused facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case, Tuesday told the court that he wanted to depose as a witness in the case to defend himself. Balwa’s counsel Vijay Aggarwal told the special CBI court hearing the case that his client wanted to depose as a witness in the case in which recording statements of defence witnesses will commence July 1. Central Bureau of Investigation counsel K.K. Goel did not object, saying to depose as witness to defend himself is Balwa’s right. Balwa’s counsel told the court that he wanted to bring six witnesses in his defence and he would be one of them. “Defence is my right. They (CBI) have produced 153 witnesses and I am only seeking to summon five to six witnesses in my defence,” said Aggarwal on behalf of his client. Aggarwal added that co-accused, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal, directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd, were seeking permission to examine a total of five witnesses only in their defence in the case. Regarding former telecom minister A. Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R.K. Chandolia, also an accused in the case, Aggarwal told the court that he was only summoning some documents in his client’s defence. Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini reserved the order for Wednesday on the issue of calling defence witnesses and documents as sought by these accused. The court had earlier allowed Raja’s plea seeking to depose as a witness to defend himself in the trial. The court had on Oct 22, 2011 framed charges against 14 accused and three companies under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, faking documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking bribe. All the accused are out on bail. (New Indian Express 3/6/14)

 

44. CBI launches helpline against officials demanding bribe (5)

Bhopal: To keep a tab on corruption in government offices, CBI unit here has started a “citizen helpline” where people can call and register their complaints against officials demanding bribe. The agency has provided a mobile phone number and an email ID through which such complaints can be made, a statement from the CBI office here said. People can also file their complaints through a mail addressed to Superintendent of Police posted here. “Complaints against corruption and bribe related demands, can be lodged to email hobacbpl.Cbi.Gov.In or contact cell number 09425600070. Citizens can also write to Superintendent of Police, CBI, Anveshan Parisar, Char Imli, Bhopal,” a CBI statement said.   (Zee News 5/6/14)

 

45. Sub-Registrar Held in Rs 30-Cr Wadiyar Land Grab Case (5)

MYSORE: In a major breakthrough in `30-crore Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar’s property grabbing case, Lokayukta police have registered a case against more than eight people, including the Sub-Registrar, District Registrar of Stamps and Registration and two real estate agents. Four among them, arrested by the Lokayukta police led by Lokayukta SP S M Jagadish Prasad, were produced  before the Lokayukta Court on Thursday. The arrested were B K Sundar, son of Kunjappa Poojary (65) of Sulagalale village in Shanivarasanthe of Somwarapet taluk in Kodagu district, Girish, Sub-Registrar, Mysore East, real estate agents R Mahadev, son of T Raju of Janatha Layout in J P Nagar II Phase and Ravikumar, son of Lakshman of Ramakrishna Nagar E and F Block. All  the accused have been booked under different sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Section 463-568, 473, 473, 474, 420 and 109 read with 120 (B) of IPC, according to the first information report. According to Lokayukta police, the gift deed was registered by the Sub-Registrar Girish to help Sundar to grab the Wadiyar’s property. Initially, both  Girish and District Registrar and Deputy Commissioner of Stamps L G Hamsaveni clarified that the gift deed given on October 10, 1961 by erstwhile Mysore Maharaja has no  legal sanctity. Later, they accepted it to help the criminals who hatched conspiracy to grab the property. Finally, they helped the main accused Sundar to pay registration fee and registered the property on January 27, 2014. Girish and Hamsaveni were booked for misuse of power, fabricating of documents and connived with the private parties. Sundar has been accused of fabricating the gift deed dated October 10, 1961 to claim  200×250 ft land, about 50,000 sq ft, Survey No 1 in Maharaja’s Estate Office as his own and submitted to the Registrar’s office. Based on this, Girish registered the deed illegally by creating the documents saying that he himself took the signature, left thumb impression of late royal scion Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar at Mysore Race Club in Mysore on January 7, 2014 for confirmation deed. R Mahadev, a real estate agent, is allegedly involved in the deal by paying a registration fee of Rs 47.59 lakh in the name of Sundar. One more real estate agent Ravikumar has also paid `8.50 lakh in the name of Sundar, the police said. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

46. CBI wants to examine former Army chief General V K Singh (5)

NEW DELHI: Amid growing speculation that CBI may close its probe into allegations of bribery offer to former Army chief General V K Singh, the agency recently asked the newly-appointed minister to join investigations as it wanted some clarifications. The first-time MP and minister of state wrote to CBI’s that “he won’t be able to join investigations right now” as he was busy with the Parliament session. Agency officials said they wanted some clarifications from the former Army chief on his allegations against Lt Gen (Retd) Tejinder Singh and evidence provided by him. The audio recording CD, notes from personal diary and RD (record of discussion) of ministry of defence are being examined by CBI and it is planning to soon finalize the investigations. A request to V K Singh to join investigations was reportedly made by CBI during the Lok Sabha elections to which he replied recently. V K Singh’s lawyer Vishwajeet Singh, when contacted, told TOI, “CBI has been informed that our client will join later since Parliament session is going on.” CBI, however, is not very happy with V K Singh’s reply as its investigations are pending. The case has been dragging for more than two years now. Earlier, CBI officials had claimed that there is not enough prosecutable evidence in the case and it might be closed as well. It recently decided to conduct fresh forensic analysis on the audio CD provided by V K Singh as the previous examination did not reveal much. CBI had registered a case on October 19, 2012 after carrying out preliminary enquiry for nearly six months. Tejinder Singh was named by the CBI as an accused under Prevention of Corruption Act, as charges were levelled against him by V K Singh in his complaint. V K Singh had alleged that Lt Gen (retired) Tejinder Singh had offered him Rs 14 crore to clear the tranche of 1676 high mobility Tatra vehicles in the Indian Army. Tejinder Singh had met V K Singh at latter’s office on September 22, 2010. Tejinder had denied all charges levelled against him and also filed a defamation case against the former chief. (Times of India 7/6/14)

 

TRIBALS

47. Gearing up for an empowered tribal affairs ministry: Oram (6)

New Delhi: Newly-appointed tribal affairs minister Jual Oram on Thursday said he would ensure his ministry has a greater say in deciding approvals to industrial and infrastructure projects in tribal areas. Oram’s statement assumes importance in the backdrop of his predecessor V Kishor Chand Deo’s recurring grouse that the tribal ministry did not have any say in such approvals. “Deo was right when he said the tribal ministry did not have much power in many matters. We will ensure it changes,” he told HT. While the tribal affairs ministry runs several programmes aimed at welfare of tribals, approvals for any industrial project in tribal-dominated land lies with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The tribal affairs ministry’s role in such projects kicks in only when there is a case of violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA). The ministry is the implementing authority for FRA which grants tribals and forest dwellers the ownership over the land they have been living on for years. Oram said he would find a way to empower the ministry through inter-ministerial discussions. “In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ten priorities which includes putting in a place a system for sorting out inter-ministerial issues, I will discuss the vexing issue with the environment ministry,” he said. The minister also said that the tribals had, over the years, lost faith in the government machinery and that he would endeavour to win back their confidence. “The way tribals are denied their basic rights, it is only obvious they will lose faith in government. FIRs are not registered, ownership of forest land they have been living on for years are denied,” he said. These factors he said had contributed to the rise of Maoists in tribal areas.  On whether he would oppose large-scale operations on the lines of operation Greenhunt carried out by the UPA government, he said, “That’s something the home ministry will decide not us. While the MHA will treat as a security problem we will treat it as social problem,” he said. (Hindustan Times 29/5/14)

 

48. Anti-Posco Villagers Pin Hopes on Jual (6)

ROURKELA: The anti-Posco villagers opposing the proposed mining at Khandadhar in Bonai Assembly segment are upbeat over the elevation of BJP Lok Sabha member Jual Oram as Minister of Tribal Affairs. They are also buoyant after the victory of CPM’s Laxman Munda from Bonai Assembly segment. While campaigning in the segment during elections, both Jual and Laxman had taken a hard line stand against Posco. Khandadhar Mahila Suraksha Samiti president Baita Pradhan of Paudi Bhuiyan tribe said she and several others are forced to live with apprehension of losing their natural habitat for the last seven years. They have now pinned their hopes on Jual and Laxman to get relief, she said. A host of anti-Posco activists residing in several villages in the vicinity of Khandadhar waterfall said mining would destroy the scenic beauty of the environmentally rich region. Sources said though Jual won from Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat, the BJP leader has reasons to worry as he polled 47,684 votes from Bonai against 52,926 secured by hockey icon and BJD nominee Dilip Tirkey. Moreover, the CPM legislator of Bonai also won with a narrow margin of 1818 votes against his BJD rival Dayanidhi Kisan. Before his victory, Jual had said, “At no cost, iron ore mining would be allowed in Khandadhar as local tribals are emotionally and religiously attached to it. Posco should be ousted from Odisha for larger interest of the State and nation.” Four months ago, the BJD-led Odisha Government had made its second recommendation to grant Prospective Licence (PL) to Posco at Khandadhar. With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik resuming office for the fourth consecutive term, the BJD Government is likely to push for mining in Khandadhar region. Jual said his stand over Khandadhar remains unchanged and he is committed to protect it from mining. In fact, Posco’s mining proposal will be reviewed by the NDA Government in which Jual is a Cabinet Minister. The CPM legislator also reiterated Jual’s stand. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

49. ST/SC Land Commission may be formed in Jharkhand (6)

Jharkhand Industry and Tribal Welfare Minister, Champai Soren today said he was contemplating to set up a land commission for ST/SC people for speedy disposal of pending land related cases. “We are contemplating to form an ST/SC Land Commission in the state to facilitate speedy disposal of land-related cases involving ST/SC people,” Soren told newsmen here. Soren said he would soon discuss it with Chief Minister Hemant Soren to give the proposal a concrete shape. He said he would soon write a letter to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in this regard. Soren regretted that hundreds of cases were pending in the court for years across the state and the poor tribals were unable to afford to fight the lengthy legal battle. (Business Standard 4/6/14)

 

50. Tribal MLAs oppose inclusion of Dhangars in ST category (6)

Mumbai: An all-party delegation of 25 MLAs and Ministers from tribal areas of Maharashtra on Thursday asked Governor K Sankaranarayanan not to recommend to the Centre the inclusion of Dhangar and other non-tribal communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Maharashtra. The delegation comprising ministers Madhukarrao Pichad, Shivajirao Moghe, Padmakar Walvi, Deputy Speaker Vasant Purke and MLAs from various political parties told the Governor that all tribal MLAs will resign from the legislature if the government recommended inclusion of Dhangar and other communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes. Some political parties, “with an eye on Assembly Elections”, were assuring Dhangar and other communities of inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes, members of the delegation said. This had caused a deep unrest among tribals communities in Maharashtra, they said. Claiming that a large number of non-tribals had already usurped the government jobs meant for tribals through bogus caste certificates, the delegation urged the Governor to protect the Constitutional rights of tribals. A Raj Bhavan spokesperson said the Governor assured the delegation that he will discuss the matter with the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. (Zee News 6/6/14)

 

51. Tribals Pledge to Prevent Mining in Khandadhar (6)

BUDHABHUI ( SUNDARGARH ): Hundreds of members of anti-Posco tribal communities including the Paudi Bhuiyan tribe on Thursday pledged to save the bio-rich reserve from mining.  Braving scorching heat, members of various tribal communities with traditional weapons reached the venue from far-flung villages of Lahunipara block in Bonai sub-division of Sundargarh district. Under the aegis of Khandadhar Suraksha Sangram Samiti (KSSS), they vowed that they will lay down their lives, but not concede ancestral land for mining. Paudi Bhuiyan tribe head Bilua Naik administered the oath. They also observed the World Environment Day as Save Khandadhar Day. Later they went in a procession and held a meeting at Budhabhui. The anti-Posco movement in the tribal hinterland got a boost with leaders of various anti-displacement movements in Odisha joining hands. Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Abhay Sahoo, Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Parfulla Samantara and Coordination Committee of Western Odisha Farmers Organisations’ convener Lingaraj were present among others. Talsara Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi and Sundargarh unit CPM secretary Banamali Dhupal attended on behalf of CPM’s Bonai legislator Laxman Munda. They appealed to the Central and State Governments to ensure that mining operation is not allowed in 25 km radius of the waterfall and national natural heritage status is accorded to the site. They demanded strict implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the region to recognise the forest dwellers’ community ownership and habitat rights on forest. Claiming that the Khandadhar region resembles all features of Niyamgiri, Samantara said the State Government should abide by the Supreme Court order related to Niyamgiri which makes it mandatory to take prior approval of the local Gram Sabha before recommending mining right to Posco. They also appealed to all anti-displacement outfits and political parties to fight jointly to help preserve the natural heritage, traditional ethos, culture and customs. They warned that the agitation will be intensified if the Central and State Governments refuse to concede to their demand. KSSS secretary Suresh Munda said various tribal communities should be allowed to lead a natural lifestyle. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

52. Hindu gods cast spell on ST tag report (6)

New Delhi, June 8: Communities should not be denied Scheduled Tribe status just because they follow the “Hindu way of life”, a panel appointed by the UPA on the eve of the general election has suggested. The recommendation comes at a time many tribes have been shifting gradually towards mainstream Hinduism and away from their animist and nature-worshipping traditions, anthropologists say. Many among the 700-odd communities on the Scheduled Tribe list too have been following Hindu practices — some of them, perhaps, after having gained the status. However, one of the five current criteria for inclusion on the list is “indication of primitive traits” — which seems to require adherence to the traditional animist practices. Now this criterion has been dropped from a set of six new criteria suggested by a committee headed by Union tribal affairs secretary Hrushikesh Panda, which has also recommended the inclusion of 30 new communities. (See chart) Sociologist Andre Beteille criticised both the old and the new criteria, saying they were based on “political considerations” and not on any “academic definition”. Beteille blamed the “attraction of the quota” — the Scheduled Tribes have 7.5 per cent of government jobs and higher education seats reserved for them — for the clamour for inclusion in the list. “The communities that are already in the list do not want others to come in,” he said. “The middle class people from communities that are outside the Scheduled Tribe list want to get into the list because they want a share in the quota. That is why these criteria are coming up.” Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram did not want to comment on the recommendations but said he would examine the report soon. His predecessor, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, endorsed “Many studies have shown that some tribal the Panda panel’s suggestions. He told The Telegraph that many hill tribes were being denied Scheduled Tribe status because of “rigid” (dated and narrow) criteria and “long bureaucratic scrutiny”.  communities follow Hindu practices,” said Soumendra Patnaik, a Delhi University teacher and president of the Indian Anthropological Association, a professional body of anthropologists. “The study by Surajit Sinha on the Bhumij community of West Bengal has established that a section of the Bhumij community was following Hinduism in the 1940s.” C.R. Sathyanarayanan, deputy director of the Anthropological Survey of India, said: “In many mountain landscapes in southern India, tribals have started following the Ayyappa culture. They should not be left out of the Scheduled Tribe list for that reason.” Lord Ayyappa, the deity of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, is considered by believers to be the offspring of Shiv and Mohini, the female incarnation of Vishnu. Deo, the former Union minister, said the Saara tribe had fallen victim to the Odisha practice of spelling tribal names differently in different areas. He cited how the Shabar were included in the Scheduled Tribe list but the Saara — who Deo said were Shabar tribals living near Khurda — were not. The Registrar General of India, a home ministry arm that oversees censuses and collects demographic data, has ruled that the Saara are not the same as the Shabar. But Panda’s panel has recommended Scheduled Tribe status for the Saara. The demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list is a major issue in many states, such as Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Nearly two lakh people from the Dora community in Koraput had threatened to boycott this summer’s general election if not granted Scheduled Tribe status. If a community is to be included in the list, the state government has to send a proposal to the Union tribal affairs ministry, which forwards it to the Registrar General and, if it agrees, to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. If the commission gives its nod, the ministry prepares a bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order of 1950 to include the new communities. After both Houses pass the bill, the government notifies the new communities’ Scheduled Tribe status. (Time of India 9/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

53. Parrikar’s charges mischievous, say Fr Prakash (7)

PANAJI: Fr Cedric Prakash, whom Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar likened to Ram Sene chief Pramod Mutalik for allegedly spreading religious discontent, has described Parrikar’s statement as ‘extremely mischievous and very unfortunate.’In a press release, Prakash said that his talks in Goa, during his visit here in March, were focused on the Constitution of India, the values enshrined in them and the fact that large sections of people are deprived of their legitimate rights, both in Gujarat and in other parts of India. Prakash stated that the Freedom of Religion Law enacted by the Gujarat government in 2003 goes against the Indian Constitution, particularly Article 25 which guarantees every citizen the right to freely profess, practice and propagate one’s religion. “It also goes against Article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights which gives one the right to freely change his religion or belief,” Prakash said. Prakash asserted that there is sufficient data to prove that the so-called development of Gujarat is a myth. Denying that he has abused any religion to create ‘discontent’, he said that his closest associates and friends belong to all religions and particularly to the majority community. The Catholic Association of Goa (CAG) expressed deep disappointment with Parrikar’s statement, where the chief minister compared Muthalik to Prakash, terming them as ‘two sides of the same coin’. In a press release issued by CAG, Brig (Retd) Ian da Costa said that as a long-time resident of Gujarat, Prakash felt compelled to speak about the ground realities there. CAG urged Parrikar to substantiate his charges against Prakash. (Times of India  1/6/14)

 

54. KCR keeps his promise of priority to SCs, minorities (7)

Hyderabad: The oath-taking ceremony of the first chief minister and ministers of the newly-born state of Telangana began at 8.15 am at Raj Bhavan, which was packed with people from all walks of life, including the kin of those martyred in the cause of Telangana, industrialists, sportsmen, etc. Slogans of “Jai Telangana” and “Jai Mana Rashtram” rent the air. The new CM, Telangana Rashtra Samiti president Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, dressed in his trademark white shirt and pants and a vermilion tikka on his forehead, took the oath of office in the name of God. Many of his Cabinet colleagues took it in the name of Pavitra Hrudayam (conscience). The first CM of the fledgling Telangana state bowed to the crowd and received a bouquet of pink roses from the governor after taking the oath. As predicted by this newspaper, Mr Rao retained the SC, ST, BC and minorities welfare portfolios, municipal administration and urban development, energy, coal, GAD and all other portfolios that have not yet been allotted. Mr Ali took the oath after Mr Rao. Dr Rajaiah, a dalit from Station Ghanpur (SC) constituency, was the third to take the oath. By appointing the two men as his deputies the CM demonstrated that he had kept his promise to give priority to minorities and SCs. (Asian Age 3/6/14)

 

55. Police failed to anticipate trouble: Minorities panel (7)

PUNE: State minorities commission chief Munaf Hakim blamed the city police for its “absolute failure” to anticipate trouble and take preventive measures to check the violence that followed the objectionable posts on social networking sites last Saturday. Besides damage to public property, the violence resulted in the brutal murder of a youth in Hadapsar on Monday night. Lack of intelligence inputs has also contributed to this failure, Hakim said here on Saturday. “The violence was not a sudden reaction,” the minorities panel chief told reporters, pointing to a systematic build up by the elements who wanted to target a particular community by misusing technology and circulating hate messages. “Over the last one year, organisations like the Hindu Rashtra Sena have consistently tried to disturb the city’s social fabric and create tension by displaying provocative banners. We wonder why the seriousness of all this was not taken into account. Adequate preventive measures ought to have been in place,” he said. “If a city as big as Mumbai could be kept peaceful in the wake of objectionable posts, I can see no reason why the situation in Pune could not be anticipated and controlled,” Hakim said, adding, “This calls for a serious review of our intelligence network.” Hakim and other members of the commission visited various locations in the city, including Hadapsar and Bhosari, where violence occurred between May 31 and June 2. They held a meeting with top police officials to discuss what went wrong and what was needed to be done. “We will submit our report to the chief minister in the next two days,” he said and called for stern action against those responsible for the violence. Hakim avoided commenting on whether it was the state government’s failure that reflected in the police’s inability to curb violence. “It was for the police commissioner and the government higher-ups to work out measures needed to curb violence. The commission has no role to play in this,” he said. He also declined to comment on the failure of ministers and legislators, including deputy chief minister and Pune’s guardian minister Ajit Pawar, to visit the violence hit areas. “As commission members, we are here to examine the situation on ground, collect information from the police and submit our report to the government. It is only after we get all the information that we will be in a position to say who was responsible for the violence,” he said. Hakim defended the commission’s visit six days after the murder as had the commission visited on the day after the violence, it risked facing the allegation of siding with a particular community and interfering in the police’s effort to curb violence. (Times of India 8/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

56. Fall in Muslim representation in Cabinet sets MIM thinking (7)

Hyderabad: The sharp fall in Muslim representation in the Parliament has set the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen thinking. The party feels there is an urgent need for the community to emerge as an independent political entity at the national level. “The community should do serious introspection on this. The Majlis is ready to support any initiative in this direction,” says Majlis president Asaduddin Owaisi. The Majlis leader feels the decline in Muslim MPs’ strength doesn’t auger well. Not a single Muslim MP got elected from Uttar Pradesh and in the entire south just four Muslims were elected. “Is India heading towards majoritarian form of democracy,” he asks. The election results are an eye-opener in that they clearly showed how the ‘secular parties’ had failed to transfer their votes to Muslim candidates while the community plumped for these parties religiously. Parties like Congress, SP, NCP did not succeed in transferring their votes to Muslim contestants with the result the BJP gained wherever Muslim population was more than 15 per cent, he reasons. “It’s a pity that the BJP could not ensure success of its lone Muslim face, Shahnawaz Hussain,” he feels. He, however, gave credit to the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Benerjee, for bucking the trend and sending eight Muslim MPs from West Bengal. The Hyderabad MP favours redrafting of the electoral strategy by Muslims. He wants the community to support the Majlis or the Muslim League at the national level so as to avoid dispersion of Muslim votes. “If 23 Muslim MPs have been elected it is solely due to the community support. Other parties have no role in their election,” remarks Mr. Asaduddin. He strongly protests the remarks of Minority Affairs Minister, Najma Heptulla, ruling out reservations to Muslims and the move to stop benefits under the Sachar Committee report. But he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Let’s wait and watch. I want them to disprove me,” is all that the Majlis leader would say about the new dispensation. While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to forge friendly relations with neighbouring countries, the Majlis leader wants him to invite the Hamas leaders also as India had always extended solidarity to the Palestinian cause. Mr. Asaduddin plans to meet the TDP leader, N. Chandrababu Naidu, after he takes oath as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to discuss minority issues in the State. The Majlis will seek allocation of at least Rs. 1,000 crore budget for minority welfare. The other demands include effective implementation of Urdu as second official language, housing, education and setting up of skill development centres in Anantapur, Hindupur and Kadapa districts. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

57. Shahi Imaam Punjab slams Heptullah (7)

LUDHIANA: Coming down heavily on minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah for her remark that Muslims are not a minority in India, Shahi Imam Punjab on Saturday asked the minister to resign on moral grounds. Addressing mediapersons, Shahi Imam Punjab, Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Saani Ludhianvi said that while making such a derogatory statement, Heptullah seems to have forgotten that she became the minority affairs minister because she is a Muslim. He added that if she, in her capacity as minister, can’t talk of the rights of Muslims, she has no right to lead the minorities. He claimed that Heptullah was opposing the wakf property and Sachar committee report to just pay back the Modi government for giving her a cabinet berth. He added that Najma is speaking the language of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP and said that it won’t be tolerated. He asked the home minister and BJP president Rajnath Singh to clear the air on the statement made by his colleague. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

58. Muslim techie beaten to death in Pune, 7 men of radical Hindu outfit held (7)

Pune: A YOUNG IT professional was killed, allegedly by members of a radical Hindu outfit, as he was returning home Monday night, after derogatory pictures of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray uploaded on Facebook triggered communal tension across the city over the weekend, police said. Police identified the victim as Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh, a 24-year-old from Solapur district, who worked as an IT manager with a private firm in Pune. They said seven people, aged between 19 and 24 years, have been arrested. They were associated with the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a radical outfit active in the state, police said. The Crime Branch also called Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai for questioning. He was later arrested in connection with an earlier case at Pune Cantonment police station, relating to distribution of objectionable pamphlets in March this year. Shaikh was reportedly assaulted near his rented home in Bankar Colony, Hadapsar, as he was returning with a friend, Riyaz, after offering namaz at a masjid, around 9 pm. Riyaz alleged that Moshin was targeted because he was wearing a skull cap and had a beard. “I ran from the spot and called his brother Mobin for help. However, by the time Mobin came, Mohsin was badly beaten up and the assailants were about to leave,” he told The Indian Express. A police team reached the spot soon but the assailants fled from the spot, leaving behind their motorcycles and wooden sticks. Police seized three motorcycles that helped in identifying the assailants. The arrests were made on Tuesday. Mohsin was admitted to a private hospital where he was declared dead around 1 am. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV) Manoj Patil said all seven accused are associated with the Hindu Rashtra Sena. However, before his arrest, Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Desai told The Indian Express that his outfit was not involved in the murder. “We understand that circulating derogatory pictures is a cyber crime but the problem cannot be solved by killing innocent persons. We did condemn the uploading of derogatory pictures, but we did not plan attacks on innocent persons. We have branches across the state and there is no incident of attack carried out by our activists till now,” Desai said… (Financial Express 4/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

59. Goa wants Pope for St. Francis Xavier’s exposition (7)

Panaji, May 31 : Goa, where Catholics comprise nearly 30 percent of the state’s 1.4 million people, wants to invite Pope Francis to the exposition of Spanish saint Francis Xavier, scheduled to be held later this year. The external affairs ministry would be requested to invite Pope Francis for the exposition, union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik, elected from Goa, said Saturday. “If the Church makes the request to invite the Pope to Goa, we will help speed up the process with the external affairs ministry,” Naik said. Every 10 years, the remains of the missionary saint, also called the “Patron Saint of Goa”, are lowered from the silver casket in which they are permanently stored, for viewing by the faithful. Earlier, the body was on permanent display. However, after church authorities noticed deterioration of the corpse they decided to have it viewed only once every 10 years. St. Francis Xavier, who hailed from Navarra in Spain, was sent by the then Pope as an apostolic nuncio (ecclesiastical diplomat) in 1541 at the request of the king of Portugal, after explorers led by Afonso de Albuquerque captured the city of Goa. He was also responsible for initiating the process for the Spanish Inquisition in Goa, which saw tenets of Christianity imposed by force and violence on Goan subjects. After his death in 1552 in Shanchuan, China, his body was first ferried to Malacca in Portugal. In 1637, it was placed in the newly-built Basilica of Bom Jesus, built by the Jesuits in Goa. Believers regard it as a miracle that the body has survived for nearly 500 years, while sceptics argue that the mortal remains of the saint have been embalmed which has ensured its survival. A festival is held every year Dec 3, with nearly a million believers paying homage, some even walking hundreds of kilometres to the church complex in Old Goa. (New Kerala 1/6/14)

 

60. Priest Worked for Refugee, Tribal Welfare (7)

SIVAGANGA:  Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted in Afghanistan on Monday, was appointed as director of the Dindigul unit of Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organisation, after he completed his theological studies at the Theological Centre in Beski College, Dindigul. He then started working with Sri Lankan refugees and tribal people in Kodaikanal. “He always urged us to visit Kodaikanal to understand the plight of tribal people,” said his father Antony. Antony, who along with his family, organised a special prayer in their house for the safe return of his son, said, “Whenever he talked to me, he would enquire about my health. He visited us in February to attend the first death anniversary of his mother Mariya Thangam. He stayed with us for a month.” Prem Kumar’s brother Manoharan said, “Officials from the Indian embassy in Afghanistan spoke to us today morning and assured us they would rescue my brother soon. We hope Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa would also urge the Central government on this.” (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

61. Family of abducted priest pleads for his safe return (7)

New Delhi: A day after Indian Jesuit priest Alexis Prem Kumar was abducted from Herat province of Afghanistan, his family has pleaded for the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to intervene and secure his safe release. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and other officials on Tuesday to review the situation and also discussed the frequent attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan. “The incident is being tracked very closely,” an official said. So far, no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the kidnapping but details have emerged on how the abduction was carried out. Kumar, 47, is the Afghan director of Jesuit Refugee Service — an NGO that works with Afghan refugee kids. He had been working there for the past three years and was visiting a school for refugee kids on the day he was abducted from Sohadat village, 24 km outside Herat. Deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Nadir Fahimi said six gunmen had abducted Kumar without using any force and may have taken him to Gulran district. He said authorities were working with district elders to mediate his release. “We are trying to get him back safely,” said provincial governor Fazelullah Wahidi. “Since this was the only Indian charity in the region, whoever planned the kidnapping had a fair idea about the target,” said a source. The priest’s 77-year-old father Anthony, a retired teacher, told PTI that Kumar went to Herat in 2011 to do social work and help poor people. “He came home in February and left for Afghanistan in March. He used to talk to us frequently over the phone and always said that there was no problem from militants,” said Anthony. “I request the government to take necessary steps immediately to rescue my son from the militants,” he added. The abduction comes just days after heavily-armed gunmen had tried to storm the Indian Consulate in Herat. (Hindustan Times 4/6/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

62. Most recommendations of Nanavati Commission already implemented: Phoolka (7)

AMRITSAR/PATIALA: The recent statement of SAD leaders over the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 in Delhi that theyt would get the Nanavati Commission report implemented is contradictory to the fact that most of the recommendations of the commission were implemented by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-I government, especially those against Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. Union cabinet minister Harsimarat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, had stated on Tuesday that Akali Dal would get the Nanavati report implemented in letter and spirit to get perpetrators of the heinous crime behind bars. The statement came after she took over as Union food processing minister in the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. However, contrary to this claim, months after Nanavati Commission report was tabled in Parliament in 2005, the then Union government had referred the cases against senior Congress leaders to CBI, which registered FIRs against Tytler and Sajjan. The report was submitted in February 2005 and tabled in Parliament in August the same year. CBI registered cases against Sajjan and Tytler in October and November 2005. The rehabilitation package announced by Manmohan Singh in 2006 and was not included in the recommendations made by the commission, said sources. “This is not a well thought-out statement. We must keep in mind that all recommendations of the Nanavati Commission have been implemented by the Central government. The commission had recommended registration of only four cases, against Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. These four cases were registered and investigated by CBI. Making a hue and cry for its implementation now would serve no purpose and would be a wastage of time,” said senior Supreme Court lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader H S Phoolka, who fought cases of riot victims and was “appreciated” by Justice G T Nanavati for his assistance rendered to the commission. “Rather, the only body that can dig out correct facts and bring perpetrators of crime to justice is the special investigation team (SIT)”, said Phoolka. Asked to elaborate, Phoolka added, “Justice Nanavati had mentioned in his report that 241 cases were closed by police and were never sent for trial to courts. But, unfortunately, it recommended reopening of only four cases. Guilty could be punished if the leftover 237 cases were reopened. For this purpose, he said Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi had constituted an SIT to reinvestigate the 237 cases closed by the police. The Modi government should immediately make the SIT functional and get these 237 cases probed again.” (Times of India 29/5/4)

 

63. Muzaffarnagar riots’ inquiry panel records statements of 33 victims (7)

Muzaffarnagar: The one-member judicial inquiry commission of Justice (Retd) Vishnu Sahai recorded the statements of 33 more victims here on Tuesday. More than 700 victims have submitted their affidavits to the commission in connection with the riots. Earlier, statements of 248 riot victims were recorded and the commission would continue recording the statements of rest of the victims, Justice Sahai said. Over 60 persons were killed and more than 40,000 displaced in communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in September last year. The commission was constituted on September 9 to probe the Muzaffarnagar violence starting from Kawal incident on August 27 till September 9. Failing to submit the report within the stipulated time of two months, the commission was granted an extension of six months in November last year. (Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

64. Pune attack follows social media posts (7)

Pune: The Pune police said Mohsin Shaikh from Solapur was beaten to death when he was on his way home after evening prayers. The incident was a fallout of communal tensions in the city after morphed images of Shivaji and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray were posted on Facebook. According to a senior police official, a group of youths from the Hindu Rashtra Sena took to the streets after the social media posts, targeting Muslim settlements. “Motorcycles found at the place where Mohsin was beaten up led to the suspects,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Manoj Patil said. Mobs from both sides had gathered, the police said. Riyaz, who was with Mohsin during the attack, told The Hindu: “I was saved because I don’t have a beard and wasn’t wearing a skullcap. Mohsin was targeted because his appearance revealed him to be a Muslim.” Riyaz said that Mohsin was beaten as he ran to seek help. He was admitted to a private hospital, where he died of injuries on Tuesday. (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

65. Twenty injured as Hindus, Muslims clash over sewer line in UP village (7)

Shamli: They had been living harmoniously for decades until work on a sewer line ruptured ties between Hindus and Muslims at Chausana village in UP’s Shamli district late Wednesday night. The two communities clashed over displacement of a Hindu place of worship for the purpose of laying down a sewer pipeline, which was proposed by the Muslim pradhan of the village. While the Hindus were against it, the Muslims went ahead with the construction work leading to tension. A riot broke out in which more than 20 people were injured. Many suffered serious head injuries and were referred to hospitals in Delhi, Meerut and Chandigarh. Locals told The Indian Express the Muslims proposed an underground sewer line through the Hindu place of worship — an 80 square yard plot having idols of deities. After protests, it was decided that the sewer line would be diverted, but the sewage pipe would discharge the untreated water next to the plot. This infuriated the Hindus who opposed the proposal. On Wednesday, around 10 pm, when the Muslims were working on the site, a 90-year-old Hindu woman alerted her sons and soon a large group reached the site to stop the construction. When the Muslims saw them coming, they called their men and a clash broke out. Both sides reportedly used bricks, stones, lathis and swords. While police called it just a “clash”, a case of rioting and attempt to murder has been registered on the complaints of both communities. While the Muslims claimed they started the work only after the Hindus gave their consent, the Hindus claimed otherwise. Munni (32), whose husband sustained a severe head injury, said the moment the clash broke out, she ran to the police outpost barely 100 metres away, and the officers on duty ignored her. “I told them that our men were getting killed but the two officers sat there sipping tea. They asked me to go home and wait till one or two people are dead and then approach them,” she said. “I ran to the spot myself. When I reached there I saw two of our men lying on the ground bleeding profusely. With the help of my neighbour and children, I dragged the two of them to a safe place.” She alleged that when she arranged for a car to rush his husband and other injured to the hospital, the Muslims blocked all the exit points of the village. “The police came after everything was over. They just took a round and said everything is ok. When I asked them as to why they did not take action, they said they did not have orders from above,” she said. The family of the pradhan, Mohammad Irshad, however, alleged the Hindus came armed and attacked them. “We were just doing our work… (Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

WOMEN

66. Outrage over gang rape, murder of cousins in U.P. village (8)

BADAUN (Uttar Pradesh): In a crime that is rapidly gathering casteist and political overtones, two teenage girls from a backward community were raped and murdered allegedly by three brothers of the Yadav community in the village of Katra in this district. The girls, who were cousins, had left their house together at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and walked toward the nearby open field as there was no toilet at home. Their bodies were found hanging from a tree 250 metres away from their home at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday after neighbours and relatives began a frantic search. “We have arrested one of the brothers, Pappu Yadav, and a hunt is on for the other two,” DIG Bareilly R.K.S. Rathore told The-Hindu. The State government on Thursday suspended three policemen, including constable Sarvesh who has been detained for interrogation. The others are Katra Saadatganj police outpost in-charge Ram Vilas and head constable Chatrapal. IG (Special Task Force) Ashish Gupta said autopsy confirmed the cause of death of the two girls as “ante-mortem hanging”. It was also “indicative of rape.” Although the parents informed the police immediately after the girls failed to return, the policemen asked them not to worry. The villagers immediately fanned out in all directions to trace the girls. After the bodies were found in a mangrove, they informed the police, who however made no effort to come to the crime scene. Only when irate villagers gathered and sought action against the killers and the police chowki staff did the policemen reach the spot. The villagers, however, did not allow the policemen to lower the hanging bodies, but relented after local politicians BSP MLA from Jalalabad Neeraj Maurya, Bhagwan Singh Shakya of the Maurya Samaj and Brijpal Shakya of the Congress pacified them. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav justified the suspension of three police officials charged with laxity. (The Hindu 30/5/14)

 

67. Gujarat CM Seeks Help from Holy Men to Save Girl Child (8)

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel has sought co-operation from religious leaders in its movement to save the girl child and prevent female foeticide. “I make a request to holy men to expedite the movement to save the girl child,” she said, addressing a religious event in Junagadh district. Patel also cited the Gujarat government’s success in the movement against female foeticide which resulted in moderating the state’s gender ratio. “Gujarat government has been successful in eradicating female foeticide. So, today the state’s sex ratio is 904, while a few years ago, it was 804,” she said. The first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat has also stressed the need for equal rights to women. “In this 21st century of science and technology, we must ensure that girls are given equal rights and education. We must make sure that girls will also be given an equal chance to participate in each and every sector,” Patel said. Gujarat health minister Nitin Patel, Rajkot MP Mohan Kundaria and BJP leader Parshottam Rupala attended the religious event along with religious leaders. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

68. UP again: Woman judge raped, forced to drink pesticide (8)

Lucknow: Rapes continue to plague Uttar Pradesh — a woman judge was raped and an attempt was made to kill her in Aligarh, said the police. The attack comes just days after the gang rape and murder of two minor girls in Badaun that has caused a nationwide furore. Image used for representational purpose only. Reuters Image used for representational purpose only. Reuters The woman judge was found unconscious in her official residence on Monday. She was drugged and badly injured. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nitin Tiwari told IANS that based on the complaint of the victim’s brother, a case of rape has been registered. “As of now, no medical has been conducted and we are waiting for the victim to be in a position to testify,” he added. Officials told IANS that a half-empty bottle of pesticide was also recovered at the crime scene and it is feared that after raping the judge, the assailants force fed her pesticide. She has since been admitted to a hospital where her condition continues to be serious. After a complaint was lodged by the brother of the victim at the Civil Lines police station, police lodged an FIR and are on a lookout for the assailants, officials said. (First Post 3/6/14)

 

69. 17,800 cases of crime against women reported in Maharashtra (8)

Mumbai: Whopping 17,800 cases of crime against women and 3,456 cases of crime against children were reported in Maharashtra in the year 2012, the State Economic Survey report for 2013-14 today said. The report, tabled in the state legislature, said that among cases of crime against women, 1,839 cases of rape; 1,140 cases of kidnapping; 329 dowry deaths; 7,415 cases of domestic violence; 3,935 cases of molestation, 1,294 cases of sexual harassment and 366 cases of illegal trafficking were reported. It said 212 children were murdered in 2012 and 917 cases of rape against children were reported that year, while 893 children were kidnapped, besides 199 children were found abandoned. There were 1,482 cases of crime other than rape, kidnapping and dowry deaths against women, while 1,023 cases of crime against children other than rape, murder and kidnapping were reported, the survey report said. (Zee News 4/6/14)

 

70. Horrified at reports of violence against women in India: US (8)

WASHINGTON: The United States has said it is “horrified” at reports of sexual violence and murders in India and it also applauded the role of individuals, government officials and civil society groups working to protect the survivors. “Like so many in India, we were horrified to learn of these violent sexual assaults and murders. Our thoughts are with the victims families during this difficult time,” state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said on Tuesday. Harf was responding to questions on the brutal gang rape and murder of two teenaged girls last week in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district. “As we have said, changing laws and changing attitudes is hard work,” she said. However, Obama administration had praised the role of government officials along with civil society groups working to protect the survivors in the country. “We applaud the many individuals, government officials, and civil society groups in India that are working to protect the survivors, to prevent gender-based violence, to help it try to change what is really hard to change,” she added. The former USIBC president, Ron Somers, said the urgent need of the hour is to double-down on law and order, particularly to protect women and to administer the law fairly to all sections of society. “The headlines of the recent rape case are becoming all too frequent. This tragedy is a blight on all humanity, affecting all of us directly. The damage such an act perpetrates on India’s image is real. Investors and travellers the world over hesitate and pause while considering basic safety,” he said. “Recognising that law and order is a state subject, and knowing that crimes of hate are acts of violence that respect no national borders, if only the central government could set a model example to spur best practices for keeping the peace, protecting the innocent across all of India, this is the urgent need of the hour”, Somers said. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

71. Teenage girl raped, sets herself ablaze in Jaipur (8)

Jaipur: A 17-year-old girl attempted suicide by setting herself ablaze after she was allegedly raped in Mahesh Nagar area of Jaipur, police said on Thursday. The 25-year-old accused identified as Manish lives as a tenant in the same building where the victim lives with her parents. The incident took place on Tuesday when the victim was alone at her house. While she was being raped, a friend of the accused identified as Rajendra Sharma was watching the criminal act from the window, they said. After the incident, the girl poured kerosene and set herself ablaze. Neighbours came to her rescue and rushed the girl to hospital, said police. “On information from the hospital, police recorded the statement of the victim on Tuesday night,” ACP-Sodala Prem Dan Ratnu said on Thursday. Both Manish and Rajendra have been arrested, he added. The victim has sustained 45% burn injuries and is being treated at the SMS government hospital here, said police. (DNA 5/6/14)

 

72. Sex ratio in Haryana improves to 881 (8)

Chandigarh: In a positive sign, Haryana’s skewed sex-ratio has improved to 881 from 875 last year on the back of measures taken by the health department, the state government said on Saturday. In the last one year, the sex ratio has improved in 12 districts of the state including the five districts of Ambala, Kaithal, Panchkula, Panipat and Mewat, where it has improved to more than 900, the spokesman said. “The slew of promotional-cum-punitive measures taken by the Health department have paid rich dividends,” the spokesman said, attributing credit to the pro-active policies adopted by the state’s health department. The various steps taken by the health department to improve female sex ratio include improving health facilities on one side, and punishing those found involved in female foeticide or sex determination of the unborn child, the spokesman added. The Health Department has cancelled registration of 37 illegal gender detection centres and sealed ultrasound machines of 38 centres between April, 2013 and March, 2014, the spokesman said. Besides, seven doctors have been convicted under the PNDCT Act and their names removed from the register of Haryana State Medical Council for five years. In the last two months, 22 FIRs have been registered for the violation of the PC and PNDCT Act 1994. In addition to this, all villages showing positive improvement in their sex-ratio will be rewarded under the scheme ‘Best Village’, the spokesman added. The health department is trying to meet its target of improving the sex-ratio to 900 females per 1000 males. (Zee News 7/6/14)

 

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

73. Proposed Kerala airport hits environment barrier (9)

CHENNAI: The multi-crore private Greenfield airport in Aranmula near Sabarimala shrine in Pathanamthitta district in Kerala has again hit a roadblock with the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directing KGS International Airport Ltd to stop construction at the project site. The Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council (AHVPAC), private individuals like K P Sreeranganathan and others had petitioned the tribunal stating the project was located in an ecologically sensitive area near the holy river Pampa. Also, because of its location near the Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy temple, the project faced stiff resistance from the devotees, as it could cause structural damage to the temple. After the Kerala government provided the NOC for the project, the ministry of environment and forests provided Environmental Clearance (EC) in November 2013. Earlier in April 2013, the tribunal had stayed the project. The petitioners said the ministry had provided the EC without considering the area was a wet land comprising of paddy fields. Its conversion into an airport would affect the fragile ecosystem. On Wednesday, the bench of judicial member Justice (retd) M Chockalingam and expert member R Nagendran said the private consulting agency, Enviro Care India Private Ltd, Madurai was not competent to prepare the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) or appear before the Environment Assessment Committee (EAC). Also, the EAC (constituted by the ministry of environment and forests) after granting the EC had issued recommendations for the project. These had not been followed, said the bench adding the public hearing of the project too had not conducted in violation of the compulsory provisions of the EIA. In February, the Kerala government had filed an affidavit in the Kerala high court supporting KGS Group’s claim that the proposed private airport at Aranmula would not affect Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. The company had given an undertaking to preserve the sanctity of the temple and not to interfere with its structure, said the affidavit. Chennai-based KGS Group heads the 2000 crore project spread in an area of 500 acres. More than half of the project reclaimed large swathes large swathes of low-lying marshlands (Times of India 29/5/14)

 

74. Glacier feeding Indus tributary melting fast, JNU study says (9)

NEW DELHI: This could be worrisome for Himalayan glaciers. A team from Jawaharlal Nehru University has found significantly accelerated ice melting on Chhota Shigri glacier in Lahaul and Spiti over the last 10 years. The JNU team, which has been studying the glacier for several years to understand the impact of climate change, has used meteorological data of 40 years to extrapolate the pace of ice-melt on the glacier. This is the first scientific study to have monitored a Himalayan glacier for four decades which, according to scientists, is enough time to understand the trend of glacial melt. While the Chhota Shigri glacier may give clues to glacial melt in other Himalayan glaciers, but scientists say topography and micro-climatic factors for each glacier is different. The team from the School of Environmental Sciences, JNU, has focused on mass balance—difference of ice accumulated and lost to melting since 1969. It has divided the span of 43 years into three periods. In period I (1969-85) there was a negative mass balance and ice mass loss of 5.76 metres (water equivalent) in 16 years, in period II (1986-2000) there was status quo, but in period III (2001-12) a massive 6 metres (water equivalent) was lost in just 10 years. Over the whole modeling period the specific annual MB has been negative 60% of the time. The glacier lost about 13 metres (water equivalent) in the 43 years. “This acceleration in ice melt in the Chhota Shigri glacier can surely be attributed to temperature rise. But the acceleration has not yet reached dangerous levels. Also, topographical factors influence glacial melt, so we cannot just say that the only reason for this kind of loss is climate change. Glaciers have their own way of balancing mass,” said A L Ramanathan, one of the authors of the study. The JNU team has its own weather station on Chhota Shigri glacier which has been recording weather parameters since 2009. But for this study, published in Annals of Glaciology journal recently, the team has used weather data from Bhuntar airport’s observatory close by. Chhota Shigri is at a slightly higher elevation than the airport but it can reflect the status of the glacier with a minor error margin, Ramanathan said. The steady loss of ice mass in last 10 years was further corroborated by the team by conducting studies on ground and manually measuring ice loss annually. A team of PhD researchers from JNU visits Chhota Shigri every October. Glacial melt is of concern because of its impact on water resources. “If most of the glacial mass melts, there will be more water in the rivers for a few years but later the perennial nature of rivers will be affected. For Chhota Shigri, the entire mass or what we can call the foxed deposit has not eroded yet. But melting has accelerated,” Ramanathan added. Chhota Shigri feeds Chandra river, one of the tributaries of the Indus river system. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

75. 90% of Indians concerned about improper waste management: Teri (9)

New Delhi: Almost 90 per cent Indians felt the quality of environment had immediate health implications, with a vast majority showing concerns about solid waste management, a survey conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) said. The study showed 60 per cent of the respondents felt generating less waste at the first place was the best way to deal with waste management. But a little more than 50 per cent were not willing to segregate their waste into biodegradable and non-degradable as they thought it was the municipality’s job. Close to half the population surveyed complained about non-collection of garbage from their doorsteps. Teri Director-General R K Pachauri said, “The public has to realise the benefits of solid-waste segregation. “If we want to bring about improvement in environmental quality, the foundation on which any such effort would rest, would be on public awareness.” However, on a positive note, 86 per cent people favoured a complete ban on polythene bags. Further, 90 per cent of people were aware about the climate change phenomenon. While 80 per cent believed the mean temperature had risen, 63 per cent felt the average rainfall had declined. The survey revealed a majority complained about a lag in policy implementation on all parameters including air pollution, water pollution, water supply, ground water, water conservation, waste management, forest conservation and climate change. The survey noted that there had been improvement when it came to awareness related to water usage and electronic waste. Over 70 per cent of the respondents were aware of the water being subsidized by the Centre and among them over half felt that water should be charged as per usage. Over 80 per cent people were aware of the problem of e-waste, and most of them either repaired or re-used electronic goods. The survey titled ‘Environment Survey 2014’ was conducted in eight cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Guwahati, Indore, Jamshedpur, Kanpur and Pune with over 11,000 respondents and is the third such survey conducted by the organization. (Business Standard 3/6/14)

 

76. Gwalior leads pack in polluting monsters (9)

BHOPAL: A month after World Health Organization found Gwalior as one of the top four polluted cities of the world, the 2013-14 data of the state’s pollution control board also substantiates this claim. Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board, which monitored vehicles across the state, found Gwalior leading other cities in MP with 23% diesel and 6.9% petrol vehicles emitting pollutants above permissible limits. Head office of road transport department is also situated in Gwalior. “The board sends data on vehicular pollution to the state transport department, but no action is taken. And the level of pollution remains the same,” said activist Ajay Dubey. Official records of MPPCB show that around 25,000 vehicles were monitored in last fiscal and of this nearly 1500 were found emitting pollutants above permissible limits. Gwalior is followed by Jabalpur where 10% of 1,312 petrol vehicles and 8.4% of 785 diesel vehicles were found emitting above permissible limits. In Bhopal, 3.3 % of 1,618 petrol vehicles and 13.1 % of 199 vehicles emitted excessive pollutants. In Indore, 1% of 1,358 petrol vehicles and 37.7 % of 204 diesel vehicles crossed the legal limit. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

77. Shun Plastic is NGOs’ Slogan to Mark World Environment Day (9)

VELLORE: On the eve of World Environment Day, NGOs have called upon industries to reduce pollution. They have also called upon citizens to switch to bicycles. The district administration has appealed to the people of the district to avoid polluting nature as the lifestyle and growth of people should never hamper the environment. Social activists here have suggested that the domestic garbage be segregated and handed over to civic body workers. Indiscriminate use of plastics and dumping them in public places choked the drainage and rainwater canals, which had become a breeding ground for vector borne diseases. People should start using cloth bags instead of plastic, they suggested. Hotels should avoid using plastics for packing food items. Used plastic cups, water bottles and polythene sheets used during marriage functions should never be reused. Medical waste should be handed over to designated agencies for safe disposal. Every individual should plant trees and protect them. In order to tackle water scarcity issue, every household should install rainwater harvesting system and maintain them. Treated effluent must be reused. Industries should never emit smoke from their premises. The solid waste from industries should be properly treated and reused, the activists said. Further the activists pointed out that people should switch over to solar power system to meet their requirements while reducing dependency on electricity. The emission from vehicles should be reduced. People should also start using bicycles, not only to protect environment but also for health reasons. Cancer causing smoking should be totally avoided. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

78. Gujarat govt to set up model schools for quality education (11)

Rajkot: Gujarat government will be setting up model schools that could compete with any of the private schools in terms of providing quality education. With the beginning of new academic year in mid June state government will be opening 79 model schools in 85 talukas. Out of these 12 schools will be located in tribal dominated areas of the state. These model schools will be set up under the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan” (RMSA), where central government provides 72 percent funds while rest 28 percent is contributed by the state government. “We are aiming to provide quality education to the children from under privileged society and the children below poverty line (BPL) families,” said state education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. “Education provided in a model schools will be based holistic and integral approach touching upon physical, emotional and aesthetic development in addition to academics,” he added. According to education department officials, students’ enrolment process has been almost completed in model schools and academics will commence from June. “Under RMSA, state government is aiming to improve secondary education in rural areas mainly for the girls in Gujarat. These all are residential schools where students will have hostel facility,” said R S Ninama, joint director of education department. Ninama said, “Model schools will have the same facilities as of any of the private educational institutes and each class will have 40 students.” The project cost of model school is around Rs 315 crore. About Rs 4 crore has been spent on each school. Infrastructure in the model schools would include computer classrooms, security, air conditioned laboratory over and above the basic requirements. The schools will also provide meal and residential facilities to the students. (Business Standard 1/6/14)

 

79. Fifty Matric Schools Likely to be Closed (11)

COIMBATORE:  Close on the heels of the closure of nursery and elementary schools functioning without approval in Coimbatore district, the Directorate of Matriculation Education has decided to initiate action against close to 50 such Matriculation schools in the State. Sources in the Directorate of Matriculation Education said that a list of around 50 Matriculation schools functioning without approval from the Directorate would be sent to top authorities of the School Education Department and closed from June. As per the free and compulsory Right to Education Act 2009, every school including matriculation schools, can function only after getting the approval from the Directorate. Ten days ago, the District Elementary Education Department  ordered the closure of 49 nursery and primary schools in Coimbatore which lacked recognition. These schools were functioning either without adequate land or necessary certificates such as fire and safety, sanitation, building licence and stability certificate. As per norms, schools should have a minimum space of 33 cents in Corporation area, 55 cents in a municipality, one acre in urban areas and three acres in rural areas. Schools functioning without the necessary approval or after withdrawal of the approval are liable for a fine of `1 lakh and further violation will attract a penalty of `10,000 per day. Coimbatore Chief Educational Officer A Gnanagowri said, “The RTE Act is applicable to students in the age group of 6 to 11. Matriculation schools too come under the purview of the Act. Any Matriculation school that is functioning without approval, the necessary clearance from other government departments and not complying the norms with regard to land, should be closed.” “In Coimbatore district, no school has been found to have violated the norms, but we have recommended closure of one Matriculation school in Nilgiris district,” said another official who was earlier in-charge of Matriculation schools in Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

80. Call for changes in RTE reservation provision (11)

Madurai: Parents and activists working in the field of education have called for changes in 25 per cent reservation provision of the Right to Education Act. As per the Act, the schools are required to provide 25 per cent reservation to students from the weaker sections at the entry level classes. Activists and parents have expressed concern that the provision serves no purpose when implemented only at the entry level classes. The provision should be extended to at least five classes from the entry level, they have urged. “When I approached a private school to admit my daughter under the RTE Act for Class III, they declined the request stating that they will admit students under the Act at the entry level that is kindergarten,” said R. Kodeeswaran, a parent. Besides, no school notifies details such as dates when applications are issued for admission under the RTE Act, he claimed. T.V. Parvatha Vardhini, managing trustee of Littles Trust, a non-governmental organisation, said that as per legal guidelines the private schools are required to put up notifications on admissions in the school notice boards. “In most cases, no one is aware of the notifications put up in notice boards inside the school campus. The schools are supposed to notify the number of vacancies and complete admission process under the Act in May. However, many parents approach the schools for admission only in June, making it convenient for the schools to say admissions are already over,” she said. “No private school in the State has implemented the Act properly.” (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

81. Put A-School children in other CBSE schools: court (11)

Chennai: The Madras High Court has directed the education authorities to accommodate the children who studied in 36 ‘A-schools’ run by the Management of Chettinad Foundation A-School, in other recognised CBSE institutions, preferably near their place of residence, in terms of the RTE Act. The court also directed the management and the founder of the A-School Chettinad Foundation, Annamalai Chettiar, to jointly and severally pay Rs. 15,000 to the parents of the students admitted in the A-Schools as interim compensation within four weeks. Transfer certificates should be issued immediately to all the children. The parents could approach the appropriate forum for getting refund of fees and for claiming further compensation. The First Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice M. Sathyanarayanan was disposing of writ petitions by parents of children in A-Schools to accommodate their wards in some other recognised CBSE schools and pay them compensation. They submitted that the A-Schools did not have recognition either from the State or the CBSE. The institutions lacked basic infrastructure and amenities. In spite of that, hefty fee was collected. The parents made repeated representations to the authorities concerned. Though the management gave an assurance that the children would be accommodated in the nearby CBSE schools, nothing was done so far. Because of this, the future of their children was in jeopardy. The school education authorities submitted that the management had established the schools without permission/recognition. A show cause notice was issued to the management and the unrecognised schools had been closed. The Bench said the court had, in an order of October 2011, considered the same issue in detail and found that collection of fees by the A-Schools was unsustainable as the institutions were unrecognised. It was also the authorities’ stand that all the 36 schools had been closed and stringent action was being taken by the department. Hence, it was issuing the direction to the authorities. (The Hindu 6/6/14)

 

82. TRS Govt to Shut 118 Unrecognised Schools (11)

HYDERABAD: The government will shut down as many as 118 schools in Hyderabad as they do not have recognition.The grace period extended to them also has expired and now they cannot do anything except wait for the inevitable to happen. The notices and ample time provided by the district education officials could not goad them into action. They have not made nay effort to get recognition from the government. Three notices had been served on them in the last one year and yet it was water off ducks’ skin. They have to comply with a  host of infrastructure and academic requirements besides depositing Rs 50,000 for endowment fund and Rs 20,000 for inspection fee to obtain recognition. In an effort to improve the quality of education and arrest a mushroom-like growth of unrecognised schools in the district operating in hazardous conditions risking the lives of the children, Hyderabad district education officer A Subba Reddy had served the final notices on them and said no more extension of time would be given to the erring schools. According to the information available with the district education officials, in April 2013 a total number of 497 schools were found to be functioning without recognition. In the last one year, 90 such schools have been closed down. Of the 407 such schools still functioning, the department is in the process of granting recognition to 129 schools as they met the requirements. This leaves 278 schools. Of those, 160 schools which have been accorded Permission To Open (PTO) and Extension of Temporary Recognition (ETR) status. Finally, 118 schools are left which the department proposes to shut down as they did not do anything to meet the government’s requirements. The PTO recognition will last for one year and schools have to apply for ETR which, in turn, would be valid for three to five years. The ETR has to be renewed continuously after the expiry of the recognition. “All these 118 schools will be closed down without any compromise. Besides, appropriate action would be initiated against the managements for not even responding to the notices served by the district administration,” he added. It may be noted that three years of time period has been given to unrecognised schools to procure recognition from the district administration after the enforcement of the Right to Education Act (RTE) . However, neither the school managements nor officials concerned have finished the task till date owing to negligence. The DEO advises parents to verify whether or not a school has got recognition efore admitting their wards. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

TERRORISM

83. Dreaded Lashkar Militant Gunned Down in Kashmir (12)

SRINAGAR: A top commander of the Pakistan-based  Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror outfit was killed by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday. The slain ultra has been identified as Abu Ukasha Afghani, a foreign national, and  is the seventh militant commander to be killed by the security forces this year. A senior police officer said acting on specific information about the presence of  the terror chief in village Sudal area of Magam in Handwara, a combing operation involving the Army, police and paramilitary personnel was carried out in the village early on Sunday to flush out the militant holed up there. “The militant hiding in the area opened fire on the search party after being asked to surrender. The fire was returned by the security men and in the ensuing firefight, the LeT commander was killed. The security men did not suffer any casualties or injuries,” he said. Defence spokesman in Srinagar, Lt Col N N Joshi said one 9mm Pistol, one magazine with 15 rounds and one matrix sheet was recovered from the slain militant. “ Afghani was the seventh top militant commander to be killed by security forces in 2014,” he said, adding that 10 top militant commanders had been killed by the security forces last year. A police official termed Afghani’s killing  a major jolt to LeT in Kashmir. “He had been operating in the Valley for a long time and was involved in several attacks on security forces,” he said. General Officer Commanding (GoC-in-C) of the city-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Gurmit Singh had told Express that the security forces were targeting the militant leadership to demoralise the militants and weaken the militant outfits. “Foreign militants are our enemy and there would be no leniency while dealing with them during the counter militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir,” he  had said. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

84. Terror law invoked in gender-test case (12)

Bhopal, June 1: The National Security Act (NSA), mainly used against hardcore criminals and terrorists, has been invoked for the first time against a person allegedly caught using ultrasound scans to reveal the sex of foetuses. Medical technician Kapil Pandey has been ordered arrested under the NSA, which allows detention up to a year, by Gwalior district magistrate P. Narhari after a sting operation by the local administration found the suspect allegedly involved in the illegal activity. If Pandey is found guilty under the NSA, he could face a life term or death, besides fines. Under the amended Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT Act), the maximum punishment is jail up to five years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh. Pandey is accused of having performed hundreds of tests over the past 12 years on an illegal ultrasound machine at his home to help would-be parents abort female foetuses. Narhari described Pandey as a “habitual offender” and felt his conduct was a dire threat to society. A case was filed against the technician, in his early forties, in 2012 over such tests under other laws but he secured bail. The stated goal of the National Security Act of 1980 is to prevent individuals from acting in a manner prejudicial to certain state objectives. These include national security, public order, and maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community. The NSA allows detention up to a year without trial or other rights that suspects in other cases take for granted. Gwalior police said they had confiscated the ultrasound machine from Pandey’s residence and added that it did not have the registration certificate mandatory under the PNDT Act. The act prohibits sex detection, before or after conception, and makes the crime a non-bailable offence. A .32-bore revolver, four live cartridges and Rs 8 lakh in cash were also found at Pandey’s home, the police said. A separate case under Arms Act has been started. Gwalior and the neighbouring Chambal region have a dismal sex ratio of 822 women for every 1,000 men. In some blocks of the region’s Bhind, Morena and Gwalior districts, at least 100 villages have sex ratios below 600. Manohar Agnani, a senior IAS officer who had served as Morena district magistrate, recalled how he had to crack down on the practice. “On one visit to an Anganwadi (government childcare centre) centre, I found that there were very few girls named in the register and scolded the anganwadi worker. Imagine my shock when she told me, ‘Gaon mein ladkiyaan ho to darj karein (only if there are girls in the village can I register them)’. That was when we started a door-to-door survey.” When Agnani visited other villages, many women confessed to him that they had abortions after discovering that the foetus was female. They had even named the doctors who conducted the tests. The practice continues in spite of separate laws in Madhya Pradesh, in addition to the central PNDT act, against such tests. A senior Delhi doctor who has been calling for stringent punishment for sex determination tests for over a decade said he could not recall the NSA being applied in any instance. But he bemoaned the fact that the real culprits often got away. “Why has this (the NSA) been applied on a medical technician and never on the big cats (doctors)?” asked Puneet Bedi, who had about a decade ago used birth records to document how prenatal sex determination had contributed to skewed sex ratios in south Delhi. “Why don’t the authorities catch and convict qualified professionals engaged in this illegal act,” Bedi asked. Health activists have long complained about the low rates of conviction in such cases. The Union health ministry, citing the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, had told Parliament in August last year that the authorities had cumulatively registered 453 cases of female foeticide over a three-year period till 2012, but only 28 people had been convicted. Share on email Share on print Share on facebook Share on twitter More Sharing Services (The Telegraph 2/6/14)

 

 85. Security forces bust Garo National Liberation Army camp in Meghalaya (12)

SHILLONG: A day after a woman was murdered by Garo National Liberation Army militants for resisting rape, a joint team of commandos from Meghalaya’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit and Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) intensified operations against the rebels and busted a GNLA camp in Adugre village near the Durama hills range in East Garo Hills on Thursday. A gun battle was on in East Garo Hills district since morning after security forces launched a crackdown on militant hideouts. Till the time of filing this report, it was not known if there were any casualties. “Security forces have busted the GNLA camp here,” East Garo Hills SP Davis N R Marak said. “The gun battle continues.” Police sources said though the camp was busted, the militants escaped. “Security forces are in search of the militants,” said a source. The husband of the woman who was killed denied there had been an attempt to molest or rape her. Abel Sangma told reporters the militants made her sit on a chair and accused her of being a police informer, before shooting her in the head from point-blank range. The FIR lodged by the victim’s family also did not mention any sexual assault. Following the worsening law and order situation in the Garo Hills, which culminated in the woman’s killing at Goera Rangot in South Garo Hills, the Centre rushed 1,000 paramilitary personnel to Meghalaya and sought a report from the state government. Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju spoke to chief minister Mukul Sangma and urged him to take strong action against the militants. State home minister Roshan Warjari visited the victim’s house. Chief minister Sangma said his government was offering a “one-time” peace settlement to all militant groups active in the state. He said the government would set up a special court to prosecute the militants involved in Tuesday’s crime. The state also announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the deceased’s family. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

86. 30 years on, Khalistan war turns into supremacy battle in Pakistan (12)

CHANDIGARH: Even as Friday will mark the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, an IB( Intelligence Bureau) note has revealed how Pakistan spy agency ISI coronated banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) boss Jagtar Singh Tara as the new chief of global Khalistan movement to “renew aggression”.Tara’s terror group KTF had claimed the responsibility of RDX explosives recovered from a car in Ambala in October 2011 that was allegedly meant to hit 1984 riot-tainted Sajjan Kumar. “It is learnt that in a recent joint meeting of all terrorist outfits conducted by the ISI, Sikh militants were told in no uncertain terms to produce results or face consequences, including them being dislodged from their Pak bases. In that meeting, Tara was selected the new face of Sikh extremists,” the note said. The note, dated September 30, 2013, was discussed at an internal security meeting in Delhi last year with then Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The note further said that ISI has announced parting of ways with KTF and another banned militant outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). “There has been a cleavage and parting of ways between Wadhawa Singh Babbar and Jagtar Singh Tara,” the note said. The IB note also revealed that Tara has made his new residence at a place near the revered Sikh shrine Nankana Sahib. As a result of growing friction between ISI and BKI over “no major strikes in India”, Wadhawa Singh has now given the operational control to his son-in-law Satnam Singh, his son Jatinder Singh and his aide Ratandeep Singh alias Virk. It also pointed out that even Germany and UK-based followers of BKI, known as Babbars, including one Avtar Singh Sanghera (London) and Resham Singh (Germany) have shifted support to Tara. (Times of India 6/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Police jawan killed in encounter with naxals (12)

Raipur: A police jawan was killed and another injured in an encounter with naxalites in insurgency-hit Narayanpur district of Chhattisagrh, police said on Saturday. The face-off took place when the joint party of Special Task Force (STF) and district force was patrolling forests of restive Orchha police station area last evening, Narayanpur Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) O P Sharma told PTI. According to the officer, the security personnel were mobilised from Orchha police station of Abhujmad region for an anti-naxal operation in the region since Thursday night. When the search party was returning to its camp last evening, a group of armed rebels ambushed it between forests of Becha and Ilam villages, located around 400 kms from here. Ultras opened indiscriminate firing on security personnel leaving two constables injured. However, naxals fled to the core forests when jawans retaliated, he added. Constable Pankaj Suryawanshi (22), a native of Narayanpur succumbed to his injuries while being taken out of the jungle last night while another injured constable Ramesh Kumar Nag (23) admitted to a local hospital, he said. The condition of the injured jawan is said to be stable, he added. Soon after getting the news of the incident, additional forces were rushed to the spot, the ASP said, adding a manhunt has been launched in the region to nab the attackers. (Zee News 1/6/14)

 

88. Naxals kill youth for refusing to join outlawed movement (12)

Raipur: A tribal youth was killed allegedly by Naxals when he refused to join their movement in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, police said on Monday. Devendra Modem, 20, was brutally beaten and then axed to death by rebels at his native place Baiguda under Awapalli police station limits last night, Bijapur Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Sukhnandan Rathore said. About 20-25 rebels stormed Devendra’s house in Baiguda village, located around 450 kms away from the state capital, last evening. They demanded from the victim’s family members that either Devendra or his brother join the movement. When the family refused to give in to their demand, the Naxals forcibly took Devendra out of his home and started thrashing him. Even after being beaten up when when the victim remained firm on his stand of not joining the outlawed outfit, the rebels axed him to death, the DSP said. Security forces were rushed to the spot after being informed about the incident by the villagers, he said, adding that the body was brought to Awapalli for postmortem. Security personnel have launched a search in the region to nab the assailants, he said. (Zee News 2/6/14)

 

89. Maoists Kill Cong Worker in Rayagada (12)

RAYAGADA: Suspected Maoists killed a contractor in Sikarpai  village here on Tuesday. Gopal Chetty Gandhi (48), also a Congress worker and panchayat samiti member, took three gun shots on his chest. The ultras, belonging to the Basadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali Division of the outfit, then used knives to stab him. Sources said Chetty reached the petrol pump owned by him at 6 am and was waiting for a staffer when a group of five armed ultras attacked him. Before Chetty could realise anything, one among them fired  three rounds at him. When he fell down, the Maoists stabbed  him. Following the attack, they raised slogans in favour of the CPI(Maoist) and fled from the spot. A note found near his body said, “You swallowed money of tribals. So we killed you.” It was written by one Umakant, secretary of the divisional committee, police said. The note also stated that the decision to kill Chetty was taken in a kangaroo court. Police recovered three cartridges from the spot. Combing operation has been launched in the area to track down the killers. Chetty, who was also a lawyer, was in the hit-list of the Maoists. The note warned that whoever is found exploiting the public or supporting multi-national companies would meet the same fate. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

90. Maoist Posters Threaten Villagers (12)

RAYAGADA: Maoist posters were found in Sirigumma and Bhalumaska villages in the district on Thursday. Both the villages come under Sirigumma panchayat of Kalyansinghpur block. Through the posters, Maoists threatened villagers of dire consequences if they worked as police informers. They also mentioned that the villagers found guilty in this regard would meet the fate of Gopal Chetty Gandhi, a contractor, who was killed by the rebels in Sikarpai village on Tuesday. Gandhi (48), also a Congress worker and panchayat samiti member, received three gun shots on his chest after which the rebels, belonging to the Basadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali Division of the outfit, stabbed him with knife. A note found near his body said, “You swallowed money of tribals. So we killed you.” It was written by Umakant, secretary of the divisional committee, police said. The note also stated that the decision to kill Chetty was taken in a kangaroo court. In fact, Maoist violence in Rayagada district has increased during the last 10 days when they committed one murder and set abalze two camps of a contractor. Through the posters and banners, Maoists have also threatened companies like RSB, Utkala Alumina, Vedanta and Aditya Birla groups which have their units in both Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. They directed the companies to cancel all the mining agreements with the State Government. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

91. Twelve Maoists surrender in Koraput (12)

BERHAMPUR: Twelve Maoists of Srikaulam Koraput Divisional Committee under Andhra Orissa Border State Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of outlawed CPI (Maioist) organisation surrendered in Koraput district of south Odisha on Sunday. All of them were operating in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput district. They surrendered before the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Yashwant Jethwa and Koraput Superintendent of Police (SP) Awinash Kumar. All the surrendered Maoist militias claimed that they now wanted to join the mainstream to lead normal life. According to the SP, they would be rehabilitated as per the policy of government for surrendering naxalites. According to Mr. Jethwa, in 2014, till now at least 33 Maoist cadres or militias have surrendered in Koraput district. Most of them were from Narayanpatna area. According to him there are hints that more Maoists are planning to shun violence and surrender. The IGP urged other naxalites to take cue from their surrendering compatriots and take similar decision or face the strict action of security forces. According to the recently surrendered Maoists, they had been drawn into the Maoist organisation via the controversial tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) which is active in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon areas. They had joined the CMAS in 2009 and were later actively involved in building up Maoist organisation in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks. “It was suspected that they were involved in abetting several major cases of Maoist violence in the area of their operation,” said Mr. Kumar. All these surrendered Maoist militias were from Narayanpatna police station area. Out of them Lengu Habika of Narikhilwa village was the president of revolutionary peoples committee of Maoists in Narikhilwa area and was a close associate of Maoist leaders like Santu, Andru and Daya. The surrendered Maoist said they had realised the futility of violent activities of Maoist organisation. They were also critical of recent targeting of local tribal leaders of Naraynapatna and Bandhugaon area by Maoist commanders, and other violent activities which were detrimental to development of tribal people of the area. (The Hindu 9/6/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

92. BJP move to deport migrants (13)

Kohora, May 31: Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, the newly elected BJP MP from Jorhat, will launch a campaign to deport illegal migrants from his constituency. Tasa told this to reporters on the sidelines of the extended office-bearers’ meet after the election held at the Kaziranga convention centre here. “The campaign will be initiated by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the party within the next 15 days. In the first phase of the campaign, we will appeal to illegal immigrants to leave our land and also launch a house-to-house movement urging people not to engage these immigrants in any kind of work,” Tasa said. The campaign can be seen as the outcome of Narendra Modi’s ultimatum to the illegal immigrants to leave the country after May 16. Today’s meet was organised to work out plans for the party’s strategy for the municipality elections and review the results of the party in the Lok Sabha election and assess the cause for being unsuccessful despite putting up a tough fight in the constituencies where the BJP candidates lost. State BJP president and Union minister of state, independent charge for sports and youth affairs, skill development and entrepreneurship, Sarbananda Sonowal, addressed a news conference after the meet. He said they chose Kaziranga as the venue for the meet to send a strong message to illegal migrants who have been encroaching the national park for quite some time. It was also chosen as a symbol of protest against the state government’s alleged failure to stop the menace of rhino killing in the national park. “A lot of concern has been displayed by several indigenous organisations of the state regarding the killing of the one-horned rhino and the presence of a large number of suspected Bangladeshi migrants that is threatening the very existence of Kaziranga National Park. But ironically the state government blatantly denied the issue as baseless, and even conspired to provide safeguards to them,” Sonowal said. “We will go to the root of the poaching that is going unabated and no one will be spared, including bureaucrats or even ministers, if found guilty,” Sonowal added. Sonowal said he had a meeting with Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home affairs, regarding flushing out of illegal immigrants. The government will establish the maximum number of foreigners’ tribunals to identify and deport the Bangladeshi immigrants, he added. Sonowal said the new president of the party would be selected through a democratic process. Altogether 120 delegates attended today’s meet from 36 district committees, including all the MLAs and four of the newly elected MPs of the party. The Golaghat district unit of the BJP imposed a ban on forest minister Rakibul Hussain from entering Kaziranga, alleging his inaction in controlling poaching inside the park. The BJP has also threatened dire consequences if the minister tries to enter the park. (The Telegraph 1/6/14)

 

93. 250 Bangladeshi tribals seek refuge in Tripura (13)

Agartala, June 3 : Over 250 Bangladeshi tribals, mostly Buddhists and Hindus, have entered Tripura seeking refuge after ethnic clashes with non-tribal Muslims in their country, an official said here Tuesday. “Over 250 men, women and children of Chakma and Tripuri tribes have taken shelter in northern Tripura’s Gandachara area along the international border since Monday after fleeing their villages in Khagrachari district,” Gandachara sub-divisional magistrate Bhaskar Dasgupta told IANS over phone. “The tribals entered India Monday and Tuesday after ethnic trouble in Bangladesh. We have asked the Border Security Force (BSF) to step up security along the unfenced border,” he said. The tribals fled the Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeast Bangladesh after ethnic clashes and incidents of arson. The exact reason for the conflict is not yet known. A state home department official said Tripura has informed the union home ministry about the development. The BSF here also informed their headquarters in New Delhi and is coordinating on the matter with the Border Guards Bangladesh. In a similar incident in August last year, over 1,500 tribals took shelter in the border village of Karbook after fleeing from five villages in the same Khagrachari district over the reported abduction of a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Tripura shares a 856-km border with Bangladesh which is porous because it extends over mountains that are densely forested. (New Kerala 3/6/14)

 

94. Priest’s Kin Pin Hopes on Govt to Rescue him (13)

SIVAGANGA: Family members of Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted in Afghanistan on Monday, were inconsolable when they visited the Sivaganga collectorate on Tuesday to submit a petition to Collector V Rajaraman requesting the intervention of the State and Central governments to rescue him. Prem Kumar’s father Antony (75), a retired schoolteacher from Variyanvayal village, broke down when he submitted the petition. “Please rescue my son alive. God please save my son,” Antony said when he spoke to the media. Antony was accompanied by his younger son Albert Manoharan, a government schoolteacher, and daughter Sagayaselvi, a private schoolteacher, to the collectorate. “My son is always concerned about the welfare of people. When he spoke to me recently, he expressed concern about the status of Iran and Pakistan refugees in Afghanistan,” Antony told Express. Manoharan said he had last received a message from Prem Kumar on Sunday. “Alexis sent me a text message about the demise of his colleague’s father in Afghanistan,” said Manoharan. Prem Kumar’s family members last contacted him when an US embassy vehicle was attacked recently at Herat in Afghanistan. “Alexis told us he was safe in the Jesuit Refugee Services office. Even then he expressed concern about the refugees there,” said Manoharan. He was studious from childhood, said his brother. “I  remember him talking about the plight of poor people he came across during his schooldays to me,” he recalled. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

95. US in touch with India, Afghanistan on abduction of aid worker (13)

WASHINGTON: The US is in touch with India and Afghanistan on the abduction of an Indian aid worker from the Herat province by gunmen, American officials have said. “We are aware of the reports that an Indian national has been kidnapped near Herat,” a state department spokesperson said when asked about the abduction of 47-year-old Prem Kumar, country director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). “We are in touch with the Indian and Afghan authorities regarding this issue,” the spokesperson said. A native of Tamil Nadu, Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an educational charity, as its Afghanistan director and has been in the war-torn country for over three years. Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. Kumar had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for the returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS said. The abduction comes nearly 10 days after the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat by four heavily-armed gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The attackers were subsequently killed by the security forces who repelled the attack on May 23. On May 29, the Indian mission in Herat had issued an advisory asking its nationals to exercise extreme caution while venturing out. “We are deeply shocked by Prem’s abduction. We are in contact with all the relevant authorities and doing everything possible to ensure his safe and speedy return,” said Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Peter Balleis. Headquartered in Rome, JRS is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced persons. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

96. Tribal refugees in Tripura repatriated to Bangladesh (13)

Agartala, June 8 : Bangladesh has taken back the tribals who have been sheltering in the Indian state of Tripura since Monday following an ethnic strife in the former’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region, an official said Sunday. Officials of the Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) after holding a series of meetings on the issue, said 92 of the over 350 men, women and children were repatriated late Saturday to Bangladesh in the presence of senior civil and security officials of the two countries. “After entering into Tripura, many tribals mingled with the same community people of the state. We are looking for them and if we find them, they would be pushed back to Bangladesh,” an official of the Dhalai district administration told reporters. Over 350 tribals, including women and children of over 70 families of Chakma and Tripuri tribes, have taken refuge in four villages of northern Tripura’s Gandachara area, around 200 km northeast of Agartala, along the Bangladesh border since June 2. Earlier, the Tripura government communicated the matter to the union home and external affairs ministries. An official of Tripura’s home department told IANS that Tripura Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda and Dhalai District Magistrate Milind Ramteke had separately spoken to Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Pankaj Saran to take up the matter with the Bangladesh government. The district administration has provided food and relief to the immigrant tribals. According to the Tripura government officials, the tribals, mostly Buddhists and Hindus, fled from their villages in Bangladesh after some “miscreants” allegedly attacked their homes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), a tribal dominated area in southeast Bangladesh that borders India and Myanmar. BGB officials during the meetings, however, told their BSF counterparts that tribals were not attacked. “Only a market was burnt recently and after that the fear-stricken tribals left their villages and took shelter in Tripura.” In a similar incident related to ethnic trouble in August last year, over 1,500 tribals took shelter in the border village of Karbook after fleeing from five villages in the same Khagrachari district over the reported abduction of a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Tripura shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh that is porous because it extends over densely forested mountains. Over 25 to 30 percent of the India-Bangladesh border is still unfenced. (New Kerala 8/6/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

97. State to Get Labour Research Centre (14)

BANGALORE: Labour Minister Parameshwar Naik announced on Thursday that the State will soon get a Labour Research Centre, which will address the problems of labourers and the unorganised sector. He said that Rs 12.60 crore had been released for the same. At a workshop on social security of unorganised labourers and contract workers, the Minister said that the area lacked many technicalities and specifications. “An official should be trained in order to effectively solve the problems of a labourer. Due to the lack of the necessary training, an interaction problem occurs leading to other issues,”he said. Quoting official statistics, he said that more than 40 lakh labourers engaged in construction activities were registered with the Labour Union. “We registered 2.25 lakh labourers last year. The Rashtriya Svasthya Bima Yojana has been extended to cover all BPL card holders,” he said. Adding that, “The Unorganised Labour Welfare Board has identified 43 classes of labourers and various welfare provisions are being made available to them.” He also announced that information centres will be set up at the Gram Panchayat level to increase registrations. “We aim to register four lakh labourers in 2014-15 and to facilitate the same we are extending the information centres that exist at the State level to Gram Panchayats.” (New Indian Express 30/5/14)

 

98. Families’ Plea to Rescue Bonded Labourers (14)

RAYAGADA: Families of 10 bonded labourers of Matikona panchayat in Rayagada block on Monday requested ADM Laxmikanta Behera to rescue the labourers from the clutches of middlemen who had sent them to Belari of Karnataka. Out of 10 labourers, three are minor. They are Anchan Himirika (13), Nabeen Himirika (13) and Babula Himirika (12). Meeting the ADM at his grievance cell, the families stated that Dilip Naik and Ramesh Himirika of Matikona village had sent 17 labourers to Benudhar Pradhan of Balugaon who sent them to Belari of Karnataka. Unable to tolerate the workload and torture, seven labourers came back last month. Rest 10 labourers were forcibly detained by their employer and not allowed to even speak to their family members since they have left. After hearing their grievances, the ADM directed the Labour Officer Narendra Raika to inquire into the matter and rescue the labourers. Hari Urlaka, who managed to escape with six others, said, “We were not given enough food despite heavy workload. When we protested, they threatened us of dire consequences. Somehow seven of us escaped, but others continue to be subjected to exploitation at the workplace.” (New Indian Express 3/6/14)

 

99. Fund to secure security – Welfare scheme for BPL category construction workers (14)

Bhubaneswar, June 3: The state government has decided to include construction workers belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category and employed on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes within the ambit of a welfare fund. “Earlier, they were being deprived of social security benefits. Now, they will be brought within the construction workers’ welfare fund,” new labour minister Prafulla Kumar Mallick told The Telegraph. The state has around 37 lakh BPL cardholders. A government notification stated: “The rural job project workers, having worked for 90 days a year, shall be brought within the fold of construction workers.” The state has around 3.21 lakh registered construction workers with many more yet to be counted. On the other hand, more than 14.99 lakh job seekers worked under the rural job scheme during 2013-14. Though the scheme beneficiaries are guaranteed unskilled job for at least 100 days a year, failing which they are entitled to unemployment allowance, they, however, do not get any social security benefit like the construction workers. The construction workers, who are registered under the Odisha Building and Other Constructions Workers’ Welfare Board, are eligible for a host of social security benefits. These include Rs 1 lakh home loan assistance with 2 per cent interest, Rs 1 lakh health insurance, Rs 1.5 lakh accident benefit for total disability, Rs 80,000 for partial disability, Rs 2 lakh assistance for death in accidents and Rs 1 lakh for natural death. An assistance of Rs 5,000 will also be given for performing last rites of a construction worker. Besides, Rs 20,000 assistance will be available for the marriage of a construction worker’s daughter or an unmarried female construction worker. A construction worker’s son studying in Class XI and XII will get a stipend of Rs 3,000 per year, and his daughter, Rs 4,000 per year. The rate of stipend for degree and postgraduate studies will be Rs 4,000 (for son) and Rs 5,000 (for daughter). A one-time assistance up to Rs 4,000 will be given to a construction worker for buying bicycle and up to Rs 1,000 to buy shoes, helmet and gloves. A highly skilled or skilled worker will get up to Rs 2,000 to purchase equipment. According to official sources, the strength of corpus fund of the Odisha Building and Other Constructions Workers’ Welfare Board has crossed Rs 600 crore. However, only Rs 8 crore has been spent. “The government has, therefore, decided to widen the net, so that more workers can avail themselves of the social security benefits,” said Mallick, who recently assumed office. However, board member and CITU leader Naba Kishore Mohanty said the rural job project workers should not be covered under the welfare fund for construction workers. “The scheme patterns are different,” he said. Mohanty said the state government had no contribution in providing assistance to the construction workers. “The Odisha Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund has been constituted with 1 per cent cess collected from construction firms and contractors. Rather it has failed to utilise even 2 per cent of the corpus fund. Now, it is contemplating to extend the benefits to the rural job project workers to take the political mileage,” he said. Another welfare board member and AITUC leader Souribandhu Kar was also critical of poor implementation of the social security scheme for the construction workers. “The procedures are cumbersome, and there is a lack of infrastructure at the nodal office and the district level. Benefits are, therefore, not percolating to the beneficiaries, as desired,” he said. A labour department official, however, said the department had taken several proactive steps despite infrastructural deficiencies. A financial assistance of Rs 7 crore has been disbursed during the period between October 2013 and February 2014. A state-level seva divas for construction workers was held on February 21 at Bhubaneswar and an assistance of Rs 3 crore was distributed to the beneficiaries on that day. (The Telegraph 4/6/14)

 

100. Builders warned on minimum wage (14)

NEW DELHI: Now, construction companies and private developers will face cancellation of licence for not paying minimum wages to construction workers. Noticing large-scale violations of its minimum wages order, the labour department of Delhi government has issued another order making it mandatory for all companies and contractors to pay minimum wages by cheque or electronic cash transfer to workers and declare it on the website of companies. All joint labour commissioners have been made responsible of ensuring that orders are complied with. Transactions between the employer and employee will be verified when licences under Contract Labour Act 1970 are renewed and if violations are found the licence will be cancelled. The state has decided on a 90-day time period for all employers to ensure payment of wages. To ensure compliance at time of issuance of registration certificate and licence under Contract labour Act, a checklist has been prepared. All licensing officers have to follow this checklist. The office order of the labour department opens with a statement saying, though the labour department has been revising minimum wages from time to time on basis of consumer price index number, there are large-scale violations regarding non-payment of the notified minimum rates of wages. “The department has received a large number of complaints from various trade unions, workers and even from the offices of the labour minister and chief minister,” it is stated in the order. Public advertisements have been issued by the department in various newspapers for creating awareness among employers. The contractors shall facilitate workers in opening their bank accounts. Every employer shall upload details of the category of workmen employed, wages being paid and other statutory records on their respective websites within 90 days from date of issue of this order. In case the contractor does not have his own website, this information shall be uploaded by the principal employer on his website till the contractor uploads it on his. Hard copies of all the transactions must be submitted by the employer and contractor to the registering and licensing officer of the labour department. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

101. ‘Magistrate courts to hear cases on bonded labour’ (14)

CHENNAI: From now on, all cases concerning release of bonded workers would be heard by regular judicial magistrate courts and not by tahsildars and revenue divisional officers (RDOs), the Madras high court has held. It also ordered the immediate transfer of all such cases filed under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 to the chief judicial magistrates concerned, so that trial could be held and completed in a regular court. An order was passed by the first bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, on a PIL filed by a bonded worker released from a rice mill in 2005, after 15 years of undeterred labour. In his petition, C Gajendran of Tiruvallur district explained the harassment and ill-treatment faced by him and others at the hands of a rice mill owner for more than a decade, and said they were all finally released and issued release certificates in March 2005. After the Chevvapet police registered an FIR the matter was referred to the Tiruvallur revenue divisional officer for trial. The case is still pending there along with nine other cases, he said. Questioning the very legality of Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 which empowered the state governments to permit its tahsildars and RDOs to try and prosecute the offenders, Gajendran said it was violative of constitutional scheme envisaging division of powers. Powers of executive magistrates such as tahsildars and RDOs are limited only to maintaining law and order. The petition assailed the July 17, 1987 government order of Tamil Nadu conferring on tahsildars and RDOs the power to try bonded labour cases. Noting that the state government is not justified in exercising its enabling provision in the central Act and permitting executive officers to handle judicial functions, the petitioner pointed out that on conviction the guilty could be sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment besides a fine of up to 2,000. Pointing out that the Madhya Pradesh high court had dealt with the same issue and struck down the provision, the first bench said: “It is declared that Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 is in violative of Articles 14, 21, and 50 of the Constitution, and consequently the government order dated July 17, 1987 is also quashed.” The judges then ordered all RDOs to transfer all pending bonded labour-related cases along with the relevant documents/records to the respective chief judicial magistrates, “who in turn are directed to transfer the cases to the respective judicial magistrates’. On such transfer the judicial magistrates shall make endeavor and dispose of the cases as expeditiously as possible, they added. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

102. Rajasthan shows way in labour reforms (14)

Mumbai: The Vasundhara Raje-led government in Rajasthan has taken the lead in bringing about dramatic changes to Central labour laws, which reformists have long argued are holding back job creation in the country. Labour laws form part of the Concurrent List and the Union government has often claimed pre-eminence in allowing amendments proposed by states to the legislations framed by the Centre. The Raje Cabinet on Thursday cleared state-level amendments to three critical and archaic Central government labour legislations — the Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act — seeking to liberate the corporate sector from the shackles of stringent requirements of the laws. The related Bills will be introduced in the Assembly early next month and then referred to the President for his assent. When contacted, Raje said, “I had promised 15 lakh jobs and this is one area which desperately needs to be opened up. I don’t have a choice.” Describing it as “creating a habitat for job creation”, she said she would try to find innovative ways to further reforms. “Policy-level changes require political will. For decades, everybody has advocated an overhaul of labour laws. What we did will change the paradigm,” Rajiv Mehrishi, Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, told The Sunday Express. According to the changes in the Industrial Disputes Act, government permission will not be required for retrenchment of up to 300 workers. The Act, as it stands now, allows retrenchment of up to only 100 workers. The Rajasthan Cabinet has also introduced a three-year time limit for raising disputes and increased the percentage of workers needed for registration as a representative union from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. In the context of politicisation of trade unions, this raises the bar. As far as the Contract Labour Act is concerned, the amendments raise the applicability of the Act to companies with more than 50 workers from the current 20. In the Factories Act, currently applicable to premises with more than 10 workers with power and 20 without power, the amendments raise these numbers to 20 and 40, respectively. Senior BJP leader and former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie had recently said that should Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister, he could bring about genuine federalism by allowing more progressive states to change their laws. When contacted, Shourie said Section 254 (2) of the Constitution of India allows states to enact laws that do not necessarily conform to the Central law provided they receive the President’s assent…. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

103. Children Raped, Forced to Eat Excreta at Karjat Horror Home (14)

ALIBAUG: Shocking tales of rape and torture have emerged from an illegally-run shelter for tribal and poor children in Maharashtra’s Raigad district following which two of its officials were arrested, police said today. Chairman of Chandraprabha Charitable Trust Ajit Dabholkar and manager Lalita Tonde were arrested on Tuesday after the children, some as young as 11 years old, complained about being forced to have sex among each other and with the accused. The offence came to light when one of the inmates informed her mother who approached the Raigad Child Helpline, which complained to the police. Pune-based social worker Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe of Pune Childline, who is a complainant in the case, said the children were forced to have sex with each other and with the accused and the act was even “filmed”.”The victims were forced to eat dog excreta if they resisted and locked up. If they threw up, they had to eat the vomit,” she alleged. The Karjat police have found during preliminary investigation that at least five inmates aged between 11 and 15 years, had been sexually abused. The shelter at Takve village in Karjat taluka, barely around 60KM from Mumbai, had 32 inmates in the age group of 4 to 15 years. Senior Inspector of Karjat Police Station R R Patil said the Trust was running the establishment as a residential school without necessary permission. “They don’t have any document to show that they have necessary clearances to run the establishment. It was being run illegally,” he told PTI. According to reports, the duo targeted poor families in the area and persuaded them to send their children to the shelter for better education. The unsuspecting and impoverished parents sent their children to the shelter where they stayed for 10 months in a year and spent two months of summer vacation at home. It was during the vacation that one of the victims mustered courage and told his mother about the sordid happenings at the shelter. The accused were booked under IPC sections 377 (unnatural offences), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 342 (wrongful confinement) and under sections 3, 5 and 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The duo were produced before a magisterial court at Karjat which remanded them in police custody till June 5. (New Indian Express 29/5/14)

 

104. Unicef mulls scheme to train Assam cops in child protection (14)

GUWAHATI: Concerned about the rise in cases of child labour, the Assam chapter of Unicef is mulling a programme to train police to deal with child rights issues. Ahead of the World Day against Child Labour, the UN body has already written to the state police in this regard, a Unicef official said here on Friday. Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) will organize a round-table conference titled ‘Extend Social Protection-Combat Child Labour’ on June 2. “We have already written to the state police. We are planning to train all second-level officers across the state so that whereever they are posted, they can provide the necessary service,” Vedprakash Gautam, child protection specialist of Unicef, Assam said. “We have written about the need to introduce a chapter on child rights in the curriculum in police academy,” he added. Besides, a plan of action to make accountable all the state government bodies, as far as protection of child rights is concerned, will be discussed at the conference. “Once it is in place, protection of child rights will be an easy task as maintaining data is tough. The data base also needs to be strengthened,” Gautam said. ASCPCR chairperson Runumi Gogoi said all the state government agencies will take part in the conference. The recommendations will be sent to a New Delhi convention on June 12 on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour. Unicef and International Labour Organization (ILO) will take part in the conference. “A detailed panel discussion on challenges in addressing child labour in the state and challenges in policy implementation will be a part of the seminar,” she said. The event will cover 12 states, including West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and Sikkim besides the northeast states. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

105. ‘Children not Brought for any Illegal Purpose’ (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The recent incident in which children were brought from other states to orphanages in Kerala cannot be termed as ‘’human trafficking’’ as the children were not brought for any illegal activity, Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty said here on Thursday. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, Kunhalikutty admitted that there were ‘’serious lapses’’ in the way the children were brought. However, he said said using the term ‘’human trafficking’’ was meaningless as it would only serve to create a hype. “The children were not brought here with any ulterior motives such as organ harvesting, sexual harassment, for selling them off or for using them as child labour. Punishment, if any, should be given only if any illegality is committed and not on the basis of wild allegations,” Kunhalikutty said. The minister, who holds temporary charge of the Social Justice Ministry in the absence of M K Muneer, said that the High Court was right in observing that the matter was serious. “Yes. It is a serious issue. It should not be taken lightly. Ensuring the safety of children is the government’s responsibility,” Kunhalikutty said. “But if anyone wants to bring poor, destitute children from outside the state for the purpose of giving them education and a better life, the government will extend all support. However, it should not be done in this way. All the due procedures should be followed and it should be done in a more responsible manner,” he said. (New Indian Express 5/6/14)

 

106. Jharkhand child rights panel seeks CBI probe (14)

Palakkad: The Jharkhand State Child Rights Protection Commission (JSCRPC) will urge its State government to recommend a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the two incidents of alleged child trafficking in which 589 children from Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal were brought to Palakkad in Kerala. Talking to The Hindu here, commission member Sanjay Kumar Mishra said a CBI investigation was necessary as the case involved four States and two orphanages run by religious minority groups. ‘‘The commission is for a through probe into all the angles of the case and there would be limitations to the present probe by the crime branch wing of the Kerala police. We have detected several anomalies in taking these children to Kerala by the two orphanages. The ongoing probe is satisfactory but only a central agency can lead it to a logical conclusion,’’ he said. Mr. Mishra was here to decide on the future of 167 children from his State who have been temporarily lodged at a shelter home at Pezhumkara. (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

107. Man held for running gang with minor kids (14)

LUCKNOW: A man in late 30s, Ravi Yadav, resident of Jugauli, an old settlement in Gomtinagar located near railway tracks in Vishwas Khand, inducted children in the age bracket of 8 to 15 years to commit thefts across Gomtinagar. Working on a tip-off, a sub-inspector from Gomtinagar police station was shocked to find a paan shop owner sporting a wrist watch worth more than Rs 10 lakh. The paanwallah did not know the value of the watch as he had bought it for Rs 300 from a kid who collected garbage near his shop at Mithaiwala crossing. “Children sold items worth over Rs 22 lakh as scrap in the market,” said in charge of Gomtinagar police station, inspector Ajeet Singh Chauhan. The thieves struck at locked houses in Vishwas Khand, Vijay Khand, Vipul Khand, Vikas Khand, Viram Khand, Vivek Khand after carrying out proper recce while collecting garbage. Around second week of May, the minor children with Yadav’s help cut the iron grill and entered the house of Piyush Mishra at Nehru Enclave locality. Mishra had gone to his native village at Ballia for a 15-day period. The children stole items worth close to Rs 13 lakh from the house, including an expensive camera. The same group committed thefts in three more houses later. “The gang was busted on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday,” added Chauhan. Cops have managed to recover items worth Rs 18 lakh so far and were contacting people who purchased stolen items from the gang. Besides Yadav, two minor children had been detained. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

108. Badaun horror stalks Delhi, public toilets unsafe (8)

New Delhi: Delhi, like many other Indian cities, has been outraged by the rape and hanging from a tree of two girls in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh under similar circumstances, but the horror is a lot closer home. The shocking number of children sexually abused in areas such as Shahbad Dairy, Nangloi, Samaipur Badli, Jahangirpuri and Haiderpur has come to light as a result of a Right to Information (RTI) petition filed by CRY (Child Rights and You). Though Delhi’s civic agencies have built public toilets in these areas, most of them either do not function or are unsafe and badly lit, or locked up. So children — like the girls in Badaun — often have to venture out after dark to relieve themselves in the open. That is usually when rapists strike. In Shahbad Dairy, her parents still curse the day in April when their nine-year-old daughter came home in tears and told them what the man had done to her. A five-year old from the same area was abducted while she was waiting for her mother who was using a public toilet. Her kidnappers tried to rape her, but she managed to give them the slip. HT spoke to victims and their relatives, and most blame a lack of security at the public toilets and poor maintenance as the main reason for what happened. “My four-and-a-half-year old daughter was kidnapped from a bus stop and taken to a public toilet in the area. These public toilets have become a den of crime. A number of anti-social elements take over these structures and play cards and drink alcohol there. She was looking for a place to relieve herself; they took her inside and raped her there,” said one victim’s father. CRY has partnered with local NGOs including Saksham, which works in some of worst areas and says that it has raised the issue of toilets several times with the authorities. “The seriousness of the issue needs to be acknowledged by the state government and stakeholders responsible for protecting the safety of the child,” said Soha Moitra, regional director, north, CRY. “The social-economic condition of the area also adds to the gravity of the situation; both the parents are required to earn to sustain the family and thus the child falls out of the safety net,” Moitra added. “The only option left is to train the kids. We have started training them on how to react in such situation. Even shouting at the right time is important. Recently, a girl was taken to a public toilet but during a rape bid she bit the hand of accused and managed to escape,” said Sant Lal, an official at Saksham. The number of attacks is horrifying, but what is worse is that there may be many more cases that go unreported. Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which manages a number of public toilets, admits that lack of toilets is a major cause of concern and security is another major area. “Considering the toilets are in a bad shape we suspect that cases of sexual assault do take place but somehow they are not getting reported,” said a senior Delhi government official. “Security is a big concern for community toilets and systematically we are taking it up. We want to end open defecation by the end of this year by having safe community toilets in every area. We are aware of the fact that vulnerable groups such as women and children do have apprehension in using the public toilets and we are trying to address the issue,” said a DUSIB official. Delhi has 413 public toilets out of which 176 managed by Delhi Urban Improvement Shelter Board (DUSIB), 174 by Municipal Corporations of Delhi and 63 by Delhi Development Authority and New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC). Badaun has brought the problem into the headlines, and DUSIB wants to quadruple the budget for toilets to Rs. 15-16 crore from as little as Rs. 3-4 crore earlier. (Hindustan Times 8/6/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

109.  Article 370: RSS joins row (19)

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The controversy over Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, continued unabated on Wednesday with J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asserting that it cannot be abrogated unless the State’s Constituent Assembly is recalled. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor, joined issue and asked Mr. Abdullah if he thought that the State was his “parental estate.” Sources close to Union Home Minister said that Rajnath Singh had declined to speak on the controversy, as he is scheduled to take charge on Thursday. However, sources pointed out that Mr. Singh had made observations during election campaign on the subject, favouring a debate on the issue. Reacting to Omar’s remarks, RSS leader Ram Madhav said the state will always be an integral part of India with or without the provision. “What a silly argument about Constituent Assembly! Indian Constitution too was made by Constituent Assembly but amended by Parliament 100 times. Article 370 and Instrument of Accession are two separate things six years apart,’’ Mr. Madhav tweeted.Talking to reporters after the National Conference core group meeting in Srinagar, Omar Abdullah asserted that nobody other than the State’s Constituent Assembly could revoke Article 370. “How can BJP strengthen ties with people of J&K when they are hell-bent to damage the relation by virtue of Article 370?” Mr Abdullah asked. He also asked the Centre to make clear on who were the “stakeholders” it was talking to for repealing special status to the State. He said the move to re-open the issue would amount to re-opening the issue of the state’s accession with India. Meanwhile, PDP President and Lok Sabha member Mehbooba Mufti said that the Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh had put his foot in the mouth on day one of assuming office. She urged the Prime Minister to “discipline” his ministerial colleague. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

110. Justice Katju advocates uniform civil code (19)

NEW DELHI: Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju has come out in strong support of uniform civil code, a controversial core issue of BJP, claiming one of the reasons for the backwardness of Muslims was that there was no modernization of their personal law. “The issue of a uniform civil code has recently been raised. I am fully in support of a uniform civil code,” Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said in a recent article. He said Article 44 of the Constitution says “the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.The Constitution was made in 1950, and 64 years had passed since it was promulgated, but Article 44 had been totally ignored, “obviously for vote-bank politics”, he said, adding that this had contributed to making Muslims backward. Katju said Article 44 was in the Directive Principles, and not the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution, but Article 37 states that “the provisions contained in this part shall not be enforceable in any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”.Contending that he had always raised his voice for the rights of Muslims, Katju said, “In fact, one of the reasons for Muslims in India remaining backward is that there was no modernization of their personal law.” Katju said in all modern countries, there is usually one common law for everybody and in India also there is one common criminal law. “Nobody objected to that, though many of these laws are against the Muslim law. For instance, Muslim law provides for stoning to death for women committing adultery, but that would be illegal under the IPC,” Katju said. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

111. Govt tells Supreme Court it will appoint 50 more judges at Allahabad high court (19)

NEW DELHI: The government has conveyed to the apex court that it can appoint 50 more judges to Allahabad high court and that court infrastructure, including courtrooms and judges’ chambers, would be ready for them by December. The law ministry has already approved raising the strength of Allahabad HC to 200 judges, up from 160. At present, the country’s biggest HC has 90 judges, with 70 posts vacant. Chief Justice of India R M Lodha had recently said the government allocation for the judiciary was too low and that it was resulting in lack of infrastructure to accommodate judges and fill up vacancies. Soon after the CJI’s adverse remarks, the law ministry held a review meeting with the apex court’s committee on court management headed by Justice H L Dattu. The law ministry informed the SC committee that work on creating additional infrastructure to accommodate 30 more judges had also begun, besides the 50 for which courtrooms will be ready by the year end. Filling up vacancies is a major problem for the apex court with as many as 300 positions vacant against a sanctioned strength of 906 judges in 21 HCs. Working strength of these HCs are around 611, includeing permanent and additional judges. The situation is no better in the district and subordinate judiciary which faces huge shortage of judges. Against a sanctioned strength of 17,715 judges, more than 3,300 posts are vacant. Though the apex court has set a target of taking the combined strength of the judiciary to 30,000 in five years, the target looks difficult . This has already resulted in huge pendency of cases. Currently, there are more than 3.20 crore pending cases in different courts. Of this, nearly 2.76 crore cases are in subordinate courts while 44 lakh are pending in various HCs and nearly 60,000 in the Supreme Court. The pendency in Allahabad High Court is 10 lakh. Subordinate courts in Uttar Pradesh have over 58 lakh pendency, highest in the country. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

112. ‘Indian prisoners to get free legal aid from Pakistan lawyers body’ (19)

New Delhi: Lawyers Congress, an advocates’ body in Pakistan, has agreed to provide free legal aid to Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails, National Panthers Party supremo Bhim Singh said on Thursday. Singh, who returned here after a 10-day visit to Pakistan, said he had taken up the issue of Indian prisoners with Lahore chapter of Lawyers Congress following which it had agreed to provide legal help to them. “The Lahore chapter of Lawyers Congress has agreed to provide free legal aid to Indian prisoners languishing in jails in that country,” he told reporters. Singh said his proposal to set up a joint free legal aid committee in cooperation with Lawyers Congress (Lahore) and Islamabad and Lahore chapters of the Bar Associations to provide help to the Indian prisoners has also been accepted. He said he has filed several writ petitions in the Supreme Court and as well as other courts challenging “illegal, unconstitutional and improper arrest and detentions” of Pakistani nationals in Indian jails. He claimed that his efforts ensured release of around 300 Pakistani prisoners from Indian jails in the past 15 years. Singh said he was also facilitated by the Bar Association of Islamabad and Lahore during his visit. The Panthers Party leader said he was not allowed to visit Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by the authorities there and called it an “undemocratic decision”. “I hope that governments of both the nations realise that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir can be resolved by the joint efforts of leaders, intellectuals and social activists from both sides of J&K,” he said. Singh said he was going to organise ‘Heart-to-Heart’ talks in October and several Pakistani leaders will be invited. (Indian Express 5/6/14)

 

113.  HC nixes PIL on uniform civil code (19)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has declined to entertain a public interest litigation (PIL) for time-bound implementation of Supreme Court”s suggestion to provide a uniform civil code applicable throughout the country. Citing several apex court judgments, which have held that the judiciary cannot direct the executive to introduce a particular legislation, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw dismissed the plea. The petitioner, Mool Chand Kucheria, had submitted in his PIL that the apex court in its 1995 verdict in Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India had suggested to the government to “secure for the citizens a uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India” and sought that the same be implemented in a time-bound manner. He had also sought a direction “for constitution of a committee of religious gurus or experts to see the smooth implementation of the said guidelines”.Disposing of the plea, the high court said even the Supreme Court did not issue any direction. “Nevertheless the fact remains that the Supreme Court, in spite of having held so, did not issue any direction as the petitioner is asking us to issue. We, therefore, do not find any ground to entertain this petition which is dismissed,” the division bench said. The high court also noted in its verdict that the apex court in Sarla Mudgal judgement had observed that “the Government would be well advised to entrust the responsibility to the Law Commission to bring about the comprehensive legislation in keeping with modern day concept of human rights.” In the Sarla Mudgal judgement the apex court had held as void the second marriage of a Hindu man who got married again after converting to Islam. The apex court had ruled that under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, a Hindu husband cannot marry a second time simply by embracing Islam without lawfully dissolving the first marriage. He would be guilty of bigamy, the Court ruled. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

 

114. Joint sitting of Parliament to fast-track crucial pending bills? (19)

The task is cut out for the new government as the president Pranab Mukherjee addresses first joint sitting of parliament in the newly formed 16th Lok Sabha on Monday. But the new government has a huge responsibility of taking a call on 60 pending bills pending in the Rajya Sabha. Some of the important bills pending in the Upper House might get pushed by the BJP led government. They are: the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, the Food and Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2014, the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2013 the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and the Judicial Appointment Commission Bill, 2013. Establishment of the National Judicial Commission was also part of the BJP’s manifesto in the recently-held general elections. Moreover, the Narendra Modi government will also need to decide if it wants to restart the process of introducing 68 Bills that lapsed in the previous Lok Sabha. Some of the important bills like Women’s Reservation Bill, Direct Taxes Code, Micro Finance Bill, Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill and the Bill enabling the introduction of Goods and Services Tax lapsed. The Constitution provides that if a bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha and not passed by it, the bill shall not lapse on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. To pass a Bill the government requires the support from both the Houses. While NDA is sitting comfortably in the Lok Sabha with about 340 seats, in Rajya Sabha they have just 57 members.  In the current Rajya Sabha BJP enjoys support of 42 members while its ally TDP has six. Shiv Sena and SAD gave three each while RPI, NPF and MNF have one member each. While the government can easily pass Bills in the Lower House, it might have a problem in the Upper House. If such situation arises, the government can call joint sitting of both the Houses to push through key bills. As per Article 108 of the Constitution, a joint sitting of both Houses can be called if a bill has been passed by one House and rejected by the other; if the two Houses have finally disagreed on the amendments to be made in the bill; or if more than six months have elapsed after a bill is passed by one House but is not passed by the other. A joint sitting of both Houses is presided over by the Lok Sabha Speaker and only a simple majority is needed to get a bill passed, which is then immediately sent to the President for his assent. Under article 118 of the constitution, the President can call a joint session of both the Houses to pass any bill that is not a constitutional amendment bill. In a joint sitting, the total number of members (LS and RS) would be 795 – 545 from the Lok Sabha, including two nominated members, and 250 Rajya Sabha members in its full strength, including 12 nominated ones. With 340 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP needs only 60 votes from the Rajya Sabha in a joint sitting. The previous NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had used this method to pass important bill the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. Earlier it was used twice during the passage of the Dowry Prohibition Act, in 1961 and the Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill in 1978. However, in 2008 joint sitting was called for the fourth time for Women Reservation Bill, but it couldn’t be passed. (DNA 8/6/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

115. Govt moots insurance scheme for farmers, use of GM technology to increase yield (20)

NEW DELHI: Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh is open to the idea of using genetically modified (GM) technology to increase farm productivity, saying the government will go for it “if it is absolutely necessary”.After taking charge of his ministry, Singh on Wednesday hinted at the possibility and spelt out his plan to launch big-ticket schemes in the farm sector including a nation-wide “rural irrigation programme” and a “new insurance scheme” to protect farmers’ income in case of crop failure. Singh’s stand on GM technology is in tune with his party’s position over this controversial issue as the BJP doesn’t categorically oppose the move. It, however, makes it clear that the transgenic foods will not be allowed “without full scientific evaluation on its long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers” – the stand taken by the previous UPA government. Sticking to BJP’s manifesto which spoke about “protection and promotion of cow and its progeny”, Singh, an old RSS hand and five-time MP from East Champaran in Bihar, said his ministry would work to conserve “indigenous breeds of cows”.In his first meeting with officials, he is learnt to have asked them to prepare a roadmap to implement the “doable” suggestions as reflected in the BJP’s manifesto including amendments in the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and cooperative laws within “two to three months” (100 days). “I held a meeting with ministry officials and we have decided that we will bring ‘Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sinchayee Yojana’ similar to the ‘Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana’ which was launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government,” Singh said. Without giving any time-frame, he said his government is very serious about launching it. He said 44% of the country’s cultivable land was bereft of irrigation facilities, affecting a majority of small and marginal farmers across the country. Emphasizing on having an effective crop insurance policy, Singh said his ministry has decided to bring ‘Kisan Aya Bima Yojna’ which would take into account average income of farmers in the last 5-7 years while devising a compensation scheme. If the government launches such a scheme, it will be a much needed improvement over the existing scheme which does not treat an individual farmer as a unit while providing compensation against insurance. The present scheme takes village or group of villages as a unit while deriving at compensation formula and therefore it invariably tends to benefit big and medium farmers. “The Centre will bear the burden of premium for insurance of average income. Farmers will take interest in agriculture only when their investment is guaranteed,” Singh said. The minister also said the government would soon take a decision on the proposal to fix minimum support price (MSP) of kharif crops. Besides, there is a long-term plan to fix the MSP at 50% more than the cost of production, he added. Addressing his maiden press conference, he also emphasized on setting up more central agriculture universities in different parts of the country. Asked what he would do for his home state of Bihar, Singh said, “If India develops, Bihar will also develop.” (Times of India 29/5/14)

 

116. Vidarbha farmers to hold ‘chai pe charcha’ on Monday (20)

Yavatmal: Farmers and widows of farmers from Vidarbha region who committed suicide, will gather at Maregaon town nearly 70 kms from here tomorrow for ‘chai pe charcha’ to highlight their demands. The farmers will gather under the banner of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) for a programme titled “Kisano ki chai pe charcha aur chinta” (Discussion over Tea – and Despair). “The programme organised for farmers and farmers’ widows, seeks to draw attention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to recall assurances made by him to farmers during election campaign in Dabhadi village in Malegaon district, three months back,” general secretary of VJAS Mohan Jadhav said yesterday. “Modi had raised hopes of the farming community at his ‘chai pe charcha’ meeting in Dabhadi and asked Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to prepare a time-bound integrated solution to stop farmers’ suicides,” VJAS president Kishor Tiwari said. Their major demands include – minimum support price (MSP) for cotton and soybean to match the production cost with a 50 per cent profit margin; new crop loan to farmers after waiving their existing debt dues; bringing in new technology in agriculture and irrigation; financial assistance for farm widows and higher education facilities to their wards, etc. (Zee News 1/6/14)

 

117. GM Seeds Promoted, Farmers Go Red-eyed (20)

ROURKELA: Farmers under the aegis of Centre for Integrated Rural and Tribal Development (CIRTD), a voluntary organisation, are up in arms against use of genetically modified (GM) and hybrid seeds in Sundargarh district. The Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) is promoting use of GM seeds for maize in selected blocks on an experimental basis. On the other hand, farmers are demanding preservation and promotion of indigenous varieties of seeds which are on the verge of extinction. Sundargarh-based CIRTD has started a fight against GM and hybrid seeds and questioned the alleged move of ATMA in promoting these seeds. The district administration has, however, steered clear of the controversy by claiming that the government supply chain includes only high-yield seeds. Four days back, the CIRTD organised an indigenous seeds exchange fair to educate and encourage tribal farmers to help revive indigenous seeds and protest GM and hybrid varieties. CIRTD secretary Suru Mishra said recently 600 households were provided 50 kgs of GM seeds along with fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide in Kinjirkela, Birkaldihi, Kusumura and Saunamura villages of Balishankara block. The seeds were given to 150 households in Subdega block. Mishra said GM seeds not only pose health hazards, but also bring down the fertility of soil after two to three years of usage. Agriculture officials said the seeds production target for the district in this kharif season has been set at 1100 quintals of high-yield non-paddy crops and nearly 26,300 quintals of paddy. Rourkela-based District Agriculture Officer (DAO) PC Shaw said the Government supply chain only includes superior quality high-yield seeds supplied by the Odisha State Seeds Corporation. The GM and hybrid seeds are procured by farmers from open market. Sundargarh-based Deputy Director of Agriculture (DDA) Narendra Behera said the Agriculture Department is not involved in distribution of either GM or hybrid seeds. Denying any information about it, Behera said the local agriculture committees through the block offices might be involved in distributions of GM and hybrid seeds. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

118. Punjab to work out policy on farmers’ suicides (20)

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday approved the constitution of a committee to formulate a comprehensive policy on farmers’ suicides in Punjab. Punjab State Farmers Commission chairman GS Kalkat will head the committee that will have six other members from the state government and the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The state government got detailed surveys done by three universities – Panjab University of Chandigarh, Punjabi University of Patiala, and Guru Nanak Dev University of Amritsar – from 2001 to 2011. These surveys identified about 4,500 farmers and farm labourers who committed suicides due to indebtedness, a spokesman of the Chief Minister’s Office said. Under its earlier policy, the Punjab government would give a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family of a farmer who ended his life due to indebtedness. “However, it was felt there was a need for preparing a comprehensive policy on such suicides, with a view not only to compensate the aggrieved family but also prevent occurrence of such unfortunate incidents,” the spokesman said. (Zee news 4/6/14)

 

119. Sops for farmers, traders in Maharashtra Budget (20)

Mumbai: With an eye on assembly elections after the drubbing it got in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-NCP state government Thursday presented a Rs 4,103.3 crore deficit Budget for 2014-15 with a slew of sops for farmers, traders and professionals. The Budget presented by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who holds the finance portfolio, in the assembly pegs revenue receipts at Rs 1,80,320.5 crore and expenditure at Rs 1,84,423.28 crore. The Budget has many relief measures for the farming community in the state where many farmers had committed suicide. “We have doubled the minimum assistance given to farmers,” the minister said, on the relief provided by the government to farmers in areas hit by drought, unseasonal rains and hailstorms. The government, he said, would pay electricity bills of the affected farmers for the January-June 2014 period, Pawar said, adding it would also pay the interest on the crop loan taken by the affected farmers, besides extending loan repayment till December 2014. The Deputy CM said no coercive action will be taken to recover the loans till then. To keep the trading community, which has disapproved of the Local Bodies Tax (LBT) introduced last year, the turnover limit for registration under VAT has been doubled from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh and that for filing audit report has been increased from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore. Though there have been talks of the LBT being replaced with Octroi again, nothing has been announced yet. To keep urban citizens happy, the Budget has increased the minimum salary limit for profession tax to Rs 7,500 from Rs 5,000. To appease the cotton farmers, the government has reduced tax rate on cotton to 2 per cent from 5 per cent. Similarly, sugarcane sector has been exempted from the purchase tax for 2013-14. The budget provides for Rs 100.4 crore to boost the textile sector. An amount of Rs 4,255 crore has been earmarked for creation of 27,000 new jobs, Pawar said, adding an outlay of Rs 2,836 crore has been provided for road development. (Zee News 5/6/14)

 

120. BJP committed to creation of separate Vidarbha: Gadkari (20)

Nagpur, Jun 8 : Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari today said his party was committed to creation of separate Vidarbha state. Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Gadkari said the creation of separate Vidarbha was on his agenda and pointed that the party was working on it. While drawing attention to the less number of MPs in the Rajya Sabha, he said that the party was keeping the issue on the agenda and noted that it would work on the situation. On the farmers’ suicides in the Vidarbha region, Mr Gadkari said considering the gravity of issue, the government was assessing the situation and was keeping it on top of its agenda. The government would take different measures to prevent the farmers’ suicides such as irrigation, proper market and adequate price to their produce. (New Indian Express 9/6/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

121. Revamp PDS: Kozhikode ration dealers (21)

Kozhikode: The All Kerala Ration Dealers Association has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revamp the existing Public Distribution System (PDS) introduced by the previous United Progressive government so as to end the hardships faced by the people of the State. The association, in a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister, said that out of 82 lakh ration card holders in the State, the below the poverty line (15 lakh) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (5 lakh) categories formed only 25 per cent of the population and they alone got sufficient quantity of foodgrains under the PDS. The majority, 62 lakh people above the poverty line category, was given only 9 kg of rice and 2 kg of wheat a month. This would not be sufficient for a five-member family even for a week. Association general secretary T. Muhammedali said the categorisation of ration card holders and large curtailment of the ration quota were a blow to middle class families in the State, who depended on the PDS for their day-to-day requirements.

‘Paddy insufficient’He said that though the staple crop of the State was rice, commercial crops such as rubber, spices, tea, and coffee were now being preferred. Paddy cultivation was nominal. The State had to depend on Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for rice. It was in this context that the Centre provided a statutory rationing system in 1963. The PDS had a provision for per capita distribution of rice, wheat, sugar, and kerosene, whereby 90 per cent of the population could draw their entire essential commodities at subsidised rates. With slight modifications effected from time to time, the PDS had gone smooth until 1997. Though there were variations in quantity in supply, the allotment was sufficient to cater to the needs of at least 75 per cent of the population. A family consisting of five members was able to get 10 kg of rice and 10 kg of wheat a week in addition to 2.25 kg of sugar, and 5 litres of kerosene for non-electrified and 2 litres for electrified houses a month. Mr. Muhammedali said the people of the State at large longed for a decision from the new government to dispense with the categorisation of cardholders and to revive the original method of per capita distribution of foodgrains to the entire population. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

122. ‘Main focus of Govt will be on housing, public transport’ (21)

Hyderabad, June 1:  The main focus of the new Government at the Centre would be to provide housing for all and public transport facility according to M Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development. Addressing his maiden press conference after taking over as Minister, Naidu said the target was to provide housing for all by 2022. The Ministry would convene a meeting with all stake holders in this regard to chalk out a strategy which would be followed by a State Urban Development Minister’s conference, he added. “The people living in urban areas will go up from present 31 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050. We need to plan ahead from now,’’ the Minister said. To eliminate poverty in urban areas, a basic skill development programme to train people in small trades such as mobile-repairing would be taken up. “In Gujarat, the model proved to be very useful and the State Government is spending ₹800 crore while the budget allocated by the previous Government at the Centre was only ₹1,000 crore for entire country,” he added. On the opposition status for the Congress in the Parliament, Naidu said, as it failed to get above 10 per cent seats to be recognised as the Opposition, conventions and practices were being examined. “I have heard about coalition governments but not coalition Opposition. But this has to be examined and a decision has to be taken by the Speaker,” he added. (Business Line 1/6/14)

 

123. Karnataka govt to bring legislation to punish bogus ration card holders (21)

Bangalore: “On the instruction of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, we are enacting a legislaton to punish fake ration card holders to implement Anna Bhagya (scheme to provide rice at Re 1 a kg to the poor) without any obstacles,” he told reporters here. No leniency would be shown after the initiation of the process of filing criminal cases against the bogus ration card holders, the minister said. Gundurao said the government is keen on eliminating the large number of bogus ration card holders, who are affecting the effectiveness and efficiency of the Anna Bhagya scheme. He said bogus ration card holders were indulging in malpractices and even blackmarketeering of foodgrains supplied by government to help eradicate the hunger among the poorest of the poor belonging to Below Poverty Line families at Re one per kg. Already five lakh fake ration cards have been cancelled, he said. Moreover, the process of registering Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) number with the Food and Civil Supplies Department would begin next week, Gundurao said. The Food and Civil Supplies Department has made it mandatory for all ration cards holders to register their EPIC number with the department. The Minister said ration cardholders who got their cards before 2010 should also furnish EPIC and Aadhar numbers, failing which their cards would be suspended. New applicants who are yet to receive their cards would also have to furnish their EPIC and Aadhar numbers, Gundurao said. Cards will be distributed to them only after they furnish the numbers, he said. (Zee News 2/6/14)

 

124. Too Poor to Care for Him, Woman Sells Newborn Son for Rs. 13000 (21)

Jalpaiguri:  A woman from an impoverished family in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri has sold her newborn son for Rs. 13,000 because she was too poor to take care of him. The woman, Gauri Das, already has three daughters; her husband left the family a few months ago. The only source of income for the family of five is the alms earned by Gauri’s mother, who begs on the streets of Jalpaiguri. Gauri claims that though she has worked for a few days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, she was never paid for it. After hearing about the case, the administration swung into action and found the baby, but Gauri refused to take him back. “I wouldn’t have been able to take care of him. How am I going to feed him,” she told NDTV. She added that she was willing to take her son back if the government offered her some kind of help. So far, she said, the local administration had provided her with some rice, daal and sugar. A neighbour told NDTV that the family was so poor that on rainy days, when Gauri’s mother could not go out to beg, the family went without any food. The infant is currently under the care of the district child welfare committee. The state administration has given Gauri 60 days to change her mind, after which the baby will be given away for adoption. NDTV 6/6/14)

 

125. Houses for dalits, BPL families a dream in Mandi (21)

Mandi: The government has to build small houses or provide financial aid to financially weaker sections under the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojna (RGAY) and Jawaharlal Nehru Shahari Navinikaran Awas Yojna (JNSNAY). But, in some cases funds are not available, whereas the others are locked between political rivalry or fighting between councilors out to take credit of the scheme to convert it into the vote bank later on. Under the JNSNAY, the total 208 houses would have been constructed in Sundernagar and 104 houses in Sarkaghat sub-division area, but after going through long paper formalities, Sundernagar Municipal Committee (MC) could construct only 65 houses in last two years. Interestingly, rest of the 143 applicants could get first installment recently after waiting for more than two years. In Mandi town area, the proposal for construction of houses for Dalit community under the RGAY is running in files from last two years. The issue of constructing houses for dalits and poor people got momentum when Mandi MC demolished a number of dalits houses on the name of unauthorised  construction following Himachal high court orders two years ago. But there is little progress and the schemes are still running in files and the poor despite the assurance from chief minister Virbhadra Singh are waiting for the ‘legal’ shelter. “The MC lacks staff and it is the biggest hurdle in implementation of the scheme and the crunch of finance discourages its staff who are not sure whether they will get salary next month. Moreover, the urban development department always delays the implementation of welfare schemes for local urban body’s employees. The government considers local urban body’s employees as second grade employees and never bothers to improve the situation,” said Kuldeep Thakur, state president of local urban bodies employees union. Thakur said, “Encouragement, facilities, handsome salaries, security of employees convert into development, but here in the state it is just opposite, employees lack facilities at work places, less salaries, no security of health and family if met with an accident, excess work load due to lack of employees are the common feature of urban development agencies in the state and it is all depressing”. Thakur said that the RGAY and the JNSNAY need single window system for clearance, and houses be completed in stipulated time. (Hindustan Times 8/6/14)

 

RESERVATION

126. Four Minority Institutions in Delhi Exempted from OBC Quota (25)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Friday exempted four minority colleges of Delhi University from reserving 27 percent seats for students from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for the 2014-15 academic year. Justice Manmohan passed the order while hearing a plea filed by Mata Sundari College seeking exemption from the OBC quota as it was minority-run institution. The order will benefit four DU colleges run by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), constituted under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act. Apart from Mata Sundari College, these are Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Guru Gobind Singh College, and Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College — all declared minority institutes. Passing the order, the court also said that these colleges shall provide reservation in admission for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes as per the Delhi University’s norms, but they will not be obliged to give reservation to OBCs for this academic session. Mata Sundari College, during the hearing, contended that the reservation policy was not applicable to these institutions in view of a Supreme Court verdict on OBC reservations. The apex court had held that minority educational institutions (MEI), whether they were aided by the government or unaided, were exempted from reserving seats for OBCs, the college added. However, DU maintained that reservation rule of DU for OBC should be followed by these colleges also. (New Indian Express 31/5/14)

 

127. Centre revises OBC caste certificate format (25)

New Delhi: With government job seekers from Other Backward Class (OBC) facing difficulty in getting reservation benefit due to faulty caste certificates, the government has now revised the format to include a number of castes and communities that were added to the list over the years. The move by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) comes as the government found that intended beneficiaries were facing trouble in availing the benefits as the form prescribed 21 years ago had not updated the fresh inclusions. A set of instructions was issued in September 1993 for providing OBC reservation in services and posts under the government. A format for the caste certificate was prescribed in November 1993 along with the list of castes and communities treated as OBC till that time. Since then, a large number of castes and communities have been added to the central list of OBCs through various resolutions of Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry. The format also prescribes that the certificate issuing authority should certify that the candidate does not belong to creamy layer. However, the details of the resolutions subsequent to the September 1993 resolution do not find mention in the existing format, which led to discrepancies. A senior official said the DoPT has been receiving complaints from candidates belonging to OBC about the problems they were facing. The officials cannot issue accurate caste certificates in the absence of later additions under relevant rules and regulations. In order to clear this anomaly, the official said fresh guidelines have been issued, including the fresh additions. The DoPT consulted the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) before deciding on revising the existing format. “The caste certificate issued by district authorities concerned mention the name of the caste and community of the applicant but the specific resolution under which the said caste or community was added on in the central list of OBCs is not indicated,” the official said. This led to procedural problems, he added. “All the certificate issuing authorities are requested to mandatorily mention the details of the Resolution (Number and Date) by which the caste/community of the candidate has been included in the central list of OBCs and also to ensure that he or she does not belong to creamy layer as amended from time to time,” the official said. The DoPT has also asked state governments to advise the issuing authorities on the revised format. (Deccan Herald 1/6/14)

 

128. DU admissions: Confusion on ‘Jats’ in OBC quota (25)

New Delhi: Students applying for admission to various courses in Delhi University are unsure whether the ‘Jat category’ is included under the OBC quota this academic year. The National Commission for Backward Classes had included ‘Jats’ in the National Capital Territory of Delhi by amending the central list of OBC’s vide a circular dating back to March 4, 2014. Dr. Dinesh Varshney, Deputy Dean (South Campus) confirmed to The Hindu that applications of such students falling under the 27 per cent OBC quota shall be entertained. “Students applying for statutory admission can apply by producing relevant documents. We have clarified this earlier. In case of confusion, the information centres can be approached,” he said. Though Delhi University has undertaken various steps to keep the aspirants informed about the admission process, the student welfare helplines have been flooded with calls in the last few days. “Since Friday, we have been receiving about 450-500 calls a day but on Monday we have answered more than 1,500 calls in just 6-7 hours on multiple lines,” said the Deputy Dean, Students’ Welfare. (The Hindu 3/6/14)

 

129. Persons with disabilities get 1 pc reservation in teaching posts (25)

Chandigarh, Jun 5 : The Punjab Government has issued instructions to all departments to reserve 1 per cent of the identified teaching posts in the faculties and colleges of various Universities for people with disabilities. An official spokesperson for the Social Security Department today said the state government was fully committed to implement the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 (For short 1995 Act) and take all necessary steps in this direction. He said instructions to identify such posts have been issued to all departments and they have been directed to comply with 1 per cent reservation for Persons with Disabilities as defined in Act. He said it has been reiterated to the departments that denial of appointment to the visually disabled persons in the faculties and colleges of various Universities in the identified posts would be considered as violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and 15 read with Article 41 of the Constitution. They have been also apprised about the directions of the Supreme Court. (New Kerala 6/6/14)

 

130. UP Muslims to get 25% quota in new pension scheme (25)

LUCKNOW: The Samajwadi Party government is set to launch yet another populist scheme – Samajwadi Party Pension Yojana, earmarking a quota of 25 per cent for Muslim families. The scheme will aim at providing financial assistance of Rs 500 per month for the extremely poor. In the second year, this amount would be enhanced to Rs 750 per month. The new scheme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 2,400 crore, said the director of the social welfare department. He said applications have been sought from the potential beneficiaries to complete the required formalities. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had highlighted his government’s new pension scheme aggressively in the election campaign and had also promised he would implement it soon. The government machinery started implementation of the scheme after the Lok Sabha elections when the model code of conduct provisions were lifted. The government order (GO) for the scheme states that 30 per cent beneficiaries would be from the SC/ST category, 25 per cent from the Muslim community and 45 per cent from OBC and General categories. The ruling party’s other populist schemes include free laptops for students, financial assistance of Rs 20,000 to every Muslim girl which runs by the slogan – ‘Humari beti uska kal’, the Kanya Vidya Dhan scheme and unemployment allowance etc. The Samajwadi Party had promised 18 per cent job reservation to Muslims, who constitute around 18 per cent of the population, but it has so far not been able to implement the plan. The government, however, is giving reservations to Muslims in other schemes. (Times of India 7/6/14)

 

131. Minority status for Piramalai Kallars sought (7)

MADURAI: A demand to accord minority status for Piramalai Kallars was made at a denotified tribes upheaval conference organised by Seermarabinar Nala Sangam at Keezhakuyilkudi near here on Saturday. The conference was organised to mark the centenary of the Criminal Tribes Act 1911. Claiming to be the earliest tribe in India, the participants also passed a resolution seeking Scheduled Tribe status. All the benefits enjoyed by minorities and STs should be extended to Piramalai Kallars, a resolution said. The meet wanted the government to issue community certificates for Piramalai Kallar students as belonging to de-notified tribes (DNT) as was done in some States. Ten per cent reservation should be provided to the DNT in education and employment. Their other demands included enhancement of basic facilities to Kallar reclamation schools, setting up premium institutions such as IIT, IIM in places populated by Piramalai Kallar community, provision of agricultural lands to landless people of the community and recognition of the “battle” waged by Piramalai Kallars against the British in 1920 as a freedom movement. D. Pandian, State secretary, CPI, spoke. Minister for Cooperation ‘Sellur’ K. Raju, MLAs M. Muthuramalingam and P.V. Kathiravan spoke. (The Hindu 8/6/14)

 

HINDUTVA

132. Time to review Article 370: RSS leader Indresh Kumar (26)

Jaipur: RSS leader Indresh Kumar has pitched  for a wide debate on Article 370, that grants special status for Jammu and Kashmir, to determine its usefulness in the interest of the nation. Kumar, the founder of “Muslim Rastriya Manch”, said Kashmir is an integral part of India and the Article was a “temporary” arrangement initially but it is still continuing hence it needed a proper review. “It should be reviewed whether the Article 370 proved to be beneficial and in the interests of the nation or not. It must be discussed widely in order to make people of the country understand what its advantages or disadvantages have been,” he told PTI over phone here. “If the law was a temporary provision, then why it still exists and if it was really necessary then why it is still  temporary… why Congress governments in the past did not make it permanent? And why they are afraid of a debate? “The time has come for its review to ascertain what was the gain and what was the loss the country had because of the Article 370,” he said. He said Congress wants to avoid debate on the issue because “it has nothing to tell people about its advantages.” (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

133. Hindu Rashtra Sena chief named in 23 cases, say cops (26)

Pune: Dhananjay Desai, the chief of Hindu Rashtra Sena who was arrested on Tuesday, has been in news as much for his radical speeches as his outfit’s attacks targeting media organisations. Desai, according to the police, is a history-sheeter, named in 23 cases of extortion, rioting and other crimes. It is likely that he will be questioned regarding the murder of 24-year-old IT professional Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Hadapsar on Monday. Earlier, Desai was questioned by the crime branch in connection with the murder of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar. Formed about a decade ago by Desai, who hails from Mumbai and currently stays at Paud in Pune district, the HRS is known for its aggressive agitations on Hindutva issues. On several occasions Desai has shared stage with right-wing leaders like Pramod Muthalik of Shri Ram Sene and Himani Savarkar of Abhinav Bharat. He was chief guest at a function to release a book by Sanatan Sanstha activist Vikram Bhave, who is a convict in the Thane blast case. Desai’s outfit was involved in the attack on Star News office at Mumbai in April 2007 for telecasting a news item on a Hindu girl falling in love with a Muslim youth. Last September, the HRS was in news for its plan to hurl a footwear at actor Sanjay Dutt during a cultural programme organised by the Prisons department at Balgandharva auditorium here. The programme was cancelled, but the HRS created a ruckus at the spot following which an offence was registered at the Deccan police station. HRS activists had earlier been booked for staging protests outside Dutt’s Mumbai residence in May 2013, claiming that he was being given VIP treatment in jail. The HRS had also taken an aggressive stand in support of Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya and others arrested in the Malegaon blast case. According to the police, Desai is always accompanied by bodyguards. He is known for his radical speeches and is reportedly popular among a section of youth who are said to copy even his hairstyle. A Hindu activist close to Desai said that the HRS chief was like “Robin Hood” who looted the wealthy and used the money for the cause of Hinduism. A senior police officer, however, alleged that Desai gets funds for his outfit through extortion. (The Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

134. Pune Techie Murder: 17 Hindu Rashtra Sena Men Arrested (26)

Pune: Continuing the crackdown on a little known Hindu radical outfit in connection with the brutal murder of a young IT professional in a Pune suburb on Monday, police have arrested four more of its activists, taking the total arrests in the case to 17, official sources said. The authorities are also mulling invoking the stringent provisions of Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act (MPDAA) making it difficult for them to secure bail, Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur said. Mohasin Shaikh, 28, a resident of Bankar Colony in suburban Hadapsar, was allegedly bludgeoned to death with hockey sticks by a group of Hindu Rashtra Sena men after uploading of an objectionable post on social networking website Facebook by unknown people which denigrated warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji and Shiv Sena chief late Bal Thackeray. Some media reports said the posts might have originated in a foreign country but there was no official word on it. Those arrested have been booked under various sections of IPC including murder. In addition, about 180 persons have been arrested in connection with cases related to the rioting and damaging of city buses in the area in the incidents on Sunday and Monday during the Bandh called to protest against the Facebook post. Mathur said the role of self-styled chief of HRS Dhananjay Desai in Mohasin’s case was under investigation. Desai was arrested in a case filed against him for allegedly circulating inflammatory literature after the violence. Police are also probing the conspiracy angle to the murder after emergence of an SMS circulated by the accused among themselves which said in Marathi, “Ek wicket geli (one wicket has fallen).” Asked about the possibility of imposing a ban on HRS, Mathur said such a move needed thorough investigation and documentation of the organisation’s activities and cannot be taken in a hurry. The arrested accused were produced before a magistrate who remanded them in police custody till June 9. The situation in the area continues to be peaceful with no fresh violence in the last two days, police said. An appeal has been issued to citizens not to circulate or forward provocative messages on social media or spread rumours thorough SMS. Meanwhile, in a controversial statement, the newly elected BJP MP from Pune Anil Shirole has said though the incident (murder) was “unfortunate” the repercussions of the derogatory post were “natural”.”What happened is unfortunate but after the Facebook post some repercussion was natural,” he said, but hastened to add “we are making all efforts for restoring peace in Pune, people there want peace.” Home Ninister R R Patil said strict action will be taken against those responsible for the incident. “Some people always want to create communal tension. Strict action will be taken against all those responsible,” he said in Mumbai. (Outlook 6/6/14)

 

135. Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai: a radical who cares little for law (26)

Pune: Coming from a modest family, Dhananjay Desai, head of Hindu Rashtra Sena, was just another boy until he formed the right-wing group at the age of 14 with a base in Pune. Within a few years, Desai and his group, began launching minor protests on issues related to the so called “injustice” meted out to their religion. The organisation first came into focus when it carried an attack on the office of a Marathi television channel in 2007 protesting their coverage of an incident involving a Hindu minor girl who had eloped with a Muslim boy. Considered to be a radical group, members of Hindu Rashtra Sena have also held protests against the arrests of Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Srikant Purohit in the Malegaon blasts case. In the past decade, 34-year-old Desai has been slapped with as many as 20 cases in various police stations in Pune. The cases were mostly against rioting and giving inflammatory speeches in which Desai has secured bail. While Desai regularly gets notices from the police asking him to restrain from delivering inflammatory speeches, he says he always throws them into the dustbin. Recently when cops sent him a notice warning him not to issue provocative statements ahead of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s birth anniversary in March, Desai posted on his Facebook profile that his house is full of similar notices and every month he sells them as scrap. Desai, who is known as “bhai” among his friends and belongs to Mumbai, was most recently booked for making inflammatory statements during March. “Our interrogation reveals members of Hindu Rashtra Sena are hardcore about their ideology,” said joint commissioner of police Sanjay Kumar.

Soon after killing IT graduate Mohsin Shaikh, a 28-year-old IT graduate, members of the right wing group exchanged an ominous message on their mobiles. The message said “pahili wicket padli” or the first wicket has fallen. The killing came as a fallout of violent protests after morphed images of Maratha warrior king Shivaji and late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray were uploaded on Facebook by unidentified persons. The police have taken off those images and a complaint has been registered. Police cracked down against the organisation and arrested 25 members of whom 17 have been charged with murdering Shaikh. The police also arrested Desai though in connection with an old case. While speaking to the media on Thursday, Pune police commissioner Satish Mathur said a report will be sent to the government on the protests that led to Shaikh’s killing. According to Mathur, the police are in the process of compiling details about the HRS in order to send proposal to the state and central home department to ban the organisation. “You have to compile enough documents backed by enough evidence before the proposal is sent (to ban any group). It is in process,” said Mathur. (Hindustan Times 6/8/14)

 

136. Muslims Will Soon Give Nod to Ram temple at Ayodhya: VHP (26)

JAIPUR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today said it was hopeful that the Muslim community will give up its opposition to the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. “We firmly believe the Muslim community will understand this truth… will respect religious sentiments… and will voluntarily give decision with regard to temple construction,” Champak Rai, VHP’s international general secretary, said at a press conference here. About expectations from the newly-formed BJP government at the Centre, the VHP leader said, “Government’s duty is to protect every citizen. Security on borders. No one should cut off head of our soldier…food inflation be reduced… every one expects this, not only VHP”.On completion of fifty years of VHP foundation, Rai said VHP would organise ‘Hindu Sammelan’ in every district of the country from November this year to February next year. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

Posted by admin at 9 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Former IB chief Rajiv Mathur takes over as new CIC (1)

New Delhi: Former IB chief Rajiv Mathur today took over as the new Chief Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission. He was administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan. 64-year-old Mathur succeeds Sushma Singh, who demitted office yesterday, as the sixth chief of the transparency watchdog. His name was recommended by a three-member selection panel headed by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “My priority would be to reduce pendency of appeals and complaints, and to strengthen RTI apparatus. One of the priorities of the Commission would be to ensure adherence of Section 4 of RTI Act (which mandates public authorities to disclose information related to their working in public domain) by various government departments,” Mathur told PTI. There are about 14,000 appeals and complaints pending with the CIC, he said. He will have a tenure till August 23, when he attains 65 years of age. According to rules, CIC is appointed either for a maximum of five-year term or till 65 years of age, whichever is earlier. Mathur, a retired IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, was Director of Intelligence Bureau for two-year term from December 31, 2008 and was instrumental in revamping the intelligence set up and raising the quality of intelligence gathering and sharing. He also galvanised the IB machinery and provided leadership to the organisation to face challenges, according to Mathur’s official biodata. He is recipient of the Indian Police Medal for Meritorious Service and the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service. Mathur had in March 2012 joined as Information Commissioner in the CIC. His predecessor Sushma Singh had joined as CIC on December 13, last year. Deepak Sandhu, Satyananda Mishra, A N Tiwari and Wajahat Habibullah have also served as CICs. There are seven Information Commissioners– Vijai Sharma, Basant Seth, Yashovardhan Azad, Sharat Sabharwal, Manjula Prasher, M A Khan Yusufi and Prof Madabhushanam Sridhar Acharyulu– against the Commission’s strength of 10. The CIC is mandated to resolve appeals and complaints filed by information seekers, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, against government departments or public authorities. (Business Standard 22/5/14)

 

2. RTI activists blow their top against info panel (1)

CHENNAI: It was a war cry against the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission. Sore with the commission’s attempts to deny them information under the Right to Information Act, several activists gathered in front of its Teynampet headquarters on Wednesday and blew conches to register their protest. They raised slogans and demonstrated for a while before being arrested. They were later released. “No other information commission has disrespected the RTI Act the way TNSIC has. The act is aimed at bringing transparency in governance and also to expose corruption but TNSIC is least bothered to protect the rights of RTI applicants” said Siva Elango, a member of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, a group that led the protest. Most public information officers (PIOs) in state government departments refused or delayed providing information to RTI applicants, he said. “TNSIC has failed to implement the RTI Act even eight years after its enactment. RTI applicants from other districts are disappointed because of this attitude of the commission.” Commission staff even berated RTI applicants, he alleged pointing out that an inactive commission was a waste of tax payer’s money. Activists also demanded the removal of chief information commissioner K S Sripathi and commissioners P Thamilselvan and S F Akbar. “We blew conches to awake the sleeping commission which has done nothing for the RTI Act in the state. We are also planning to file a petition to the governor seeking the dismissal of the commission,” said Satta Panchayat Iyakkam general secretary Senthil Arumugam. Sripathi, however, could not be reached for a comment. Earlier, in reply to a RTI query filed by TOI, the commission said it did not have records of applications filed since 2007 despite having instructed government departments to upload details about themselves on their websites. According to Sections 4 (1) (a) and 4 (1)(b) of the act, cataloging of registers is mandatory. The commission also said it did not have the number of RTI applications received by each departments or the total number of appeals. “If the commission itself violates the act, how will other departments follow,” asked Arumugam. A comparison with websites of information commissions in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala shows that TNSIC has disclosed very little information, while its counterparts have provided comprehensive data on annual reports, awareness programmes and action taken against PIOs. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

3. RTI consultant ready for the job (1)

NEW DELHI: S C Agrawal, Delhi government’s newly-appointed Right to Information (RTI) consultant, is planning to publicise the list of post offices where applications under the transparency law can be filed by people. “Giving people the details about the post offices where they can file their RTI plea would help them use the law more efficiently,” said Agrawal, fresh from a visit to Nepal where he represented India at a Transparency International’s conference. Within a few days of being appointed as consultant by the administrative reforms department, Agrawal, who himself has been active in filing RTI applications, has chalked out a blueprint for smoothening the process of Delhi government departments sharing information with public. “I also have in mind a strategy for briefing all public authorities on how to handle nuisance petitions,” said Agrawal, who would be holding workshops for government officials and college and school students. A qualified mechanical engineer from Chandni Chowk, it is Agrawal’s activism and knowledge in the RTI field that has landed him the crucial assignment of improving the Delhi government’s response to public queries. The 64-year-old consultant, who also holds the Guinness World Record for most number of published letters to the editor in newspapers, plans to give suggestions to government officials to simplify RTI procedures and save public money. “One of my suggestions to the officials will be regarding the size of the paper used for giving a reply to an RTI applicant. Some departments use legal size paper which is longer than a normal A4 sheet. I am going to suggest disuse of legal size paper as it is difficult to photocopy,” he said. Agrawal also has a plan to improve intra-departmental communication on giving responses to RTI queries. “At present, if a query requires response from various offices of a department, each office sends a separate reply to the applicant. Not only are a bulk of these replies in the negative, the RTI applicant is flooded with dozens of letters. We are going to iron out the system for reducing paper work,” said Agrawal. The veteran RTI applicant, who takes pride in being the first Indian to use the transparency law on January 3, 2005 by filing a plea in the Supreme Court, said he was also working towards introduction of an ‘RTI stamp’, like a revenue stamp, for replacing a postal order which every RTI applicant is required to attach with a query. He said on his suggestion the post and telegraph department was also considering to increase the number of post offices in the country where citizens can file an RTI application. (Deccan Herald 25/5/4)

 

4. Nine years on, RTI yet to get fully functional in state: RTI Manch Rajasthan report (1)

JAIPUR: After nine years of its introduction, Right to Information Act 2005 is yet to see its proper implementation in the state, says a detailed report on status of RTI prepared by RTI Manch Rajasthan along with the Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) during a public hearing held at Kanoria College in Jaipur on Monday. The report was presented amid presence of noted social activist Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey. The report found irregularities in many departments and government offices. Many key offices dealing in public centric issues were found to have not kept RTI manuals, which were mandatory. It includes — Election Commission, Rajasthan Secretariat, Employment Department, Social Justice and Empowerment Department, colleges, Minority Affairs, Local Self Government etc. Some find it least important to put RTI boards indicating its office or location. Such examples include — Excise department, Finance Department, Health Department, Medical Department, Minority Affairs etc. The report doesn’t stop here. It also includes a survey prepared by interns of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The survey says 86% people were not given information on the 30-day time period according to the act. Whereas, 83% respondents say nothing happened in the first appellate, which indicates the slow pace of affairs. The survey presents an exhaustive picture of the state on the bases of 33 districts covered and information sought from 20 departments. The startling revelations say that only 42% people got the information within the first year followed by 32%, who got it between the first and the second year of them filing the query, while for rest it took over 2 years to get the information. The government’s laxity for RTI is indicated by the fact that in many departments and offices it was found that officers in-charge were lacking information relating to RTI. The survey found that 41.66% of the total departments don’t have a single widow system for the processing of RTI queries. Also, government officials failed to present RTI section 4 manual when asked. The manual, which is mandatory to keep, was found missing from various government offices. “Every government and government aided offices should implement the section 4 of this act with immediate effect without which we will not able to achieve its desired objectives,” said Roy. Section 4 of the RTI Act directs that offices which come under RTI purview that they should suo moto put the information before the public through various means of communication, including internet, so that the public need not formally apply for obtaining information. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. HR & CE should take over temple at Uthapuram: human rights activists (1)

Madurai: Human rights activists here on Monday urged the State government to take control of the temple at Uthapuram, a village where caste clashes erupted 19 years ago. So far, the clashes have claimed nine lives. The members alleged that despite High Court orders to allow Dalits to enter Muthala Amman Temple in the village, Caste Hindus denied them permission. “It is a violation of basic right guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. Hence, the Hindu Religious and Charities Endowment Department must take over the temple,” said A. Rajini, State convenor, People’s Union of Human Rights (PUHR). “Moreover, those responsible for the attack on the revenue officials last month must be brought to book,” she added. Further, the activists charged the district administration of Theni with having a “callous” attitude towards allaying the fears of Dalits living in Melamangalam following clashes that took place in the village last month. Members of the PUHR and the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) alleged that the administration had not convened any peace talks between the warring groups. Releasing the report of the fact-finding panel that visited Melamangalam, Ms. Rajini said that the victims of caste clashes were not given adequate relief under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 20/5/14)

 

6. US sanctions 12 Russians for human rights violations (1)

WASHINGTON: The Treasury Department on Tuesday sanctioned 12 Russians under a US law named after whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who alleged in 2008 that organized criminals colluded with a Russian government official to claim a fraudulent $230 million tax rebate. The Magnitsky affair ignited a high-emotion dispute between Russia and Washington that has included US sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators, a ban on the adoption of Russian children by US citizens and calls for the closure of Russian non-governmental organizations receiving American funding. Magnitsky died in prison in November 2009 of untreated pancreatitis at age 37, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment. His death prompted widespread criticism from human rights activists and spurred efforts in Europe and the US to punish Russian officials who may have been complicit in human rights abuses. The law enacted in 2012 requires that US sanctions be imposed on individuals suspected of being responsible for or financially benefiting from Magnitsky’s detention, abuse or death, or were involved in the criminal conspiracy he uncovered. The law also requires sanctions against individuals responsible for killings, torture or other human rights violations committed against individuals trying to defend human rights or expose illegal activity by Russian government officials. Magnitsky was arrested on tax-evasion charges linked to his work with Hermitage Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar fund headed by US-born British investor William Browder. Hermitage has accused Russian Interior Ministry officers of illegally taking over assets it managed and using them to fraudulently reclaim $230 million in taxes from the Russian government. Sanctioned were four prison officials, a judge, court official, a law enforcement investigator and alleged co-conspirators in the fraud case. The sanctions ban US visas for the individuals and freeze any assets they have under US jurisdiction. On the list is Dr Dmitry Kratov, the sole person charged in Magnitsky’s 2009 death. Kratov, who was acquitted of negligence, is the former chief medical officer of the Butyrka Detention Center Hospital where Magnitsky was held. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

7. Pay Salary of Nurses in Two Months: KSHRC (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) has ordered that the nurses appointed as part of the Dengue Fever Preventive Programme should be given their pending salary within two months. KSHRC chairman J B Koshy ruled that the nurses should be given 9 per cent interest if the salary was not given within the prescribed time. Fifty-five nurses were appointed for the programme from the rank-list of the staff nurses on the directives of the Health Department. The DMO had extended their service and the salary till March 2013 was paid by the NRHM. However, these nurses were not paid salary from November 2013. Though the Health Director had given instructions to pay the salary from the plan fund, the DMO had said that he had not received such an instruction. In the order on a petition filed by V P Sudheeshkumar, the KSHRC said that it was improper on the part of the government not to pay salaries after making appointments.  Stating that it was violation of human rights, Justice Koshy ordered that the salary should be given from plan fund or any other fund. He also instructed the Health Secretary and Health Director to furnish details in this respect on June 16. (New Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

8. Tribal girl rape: NHRC show-cause to Government (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show-cause notice to the State Government asking its Chief Secretary to respond within six weeks as to why monetary relief of Rs 3 lakh be not recommended and paid to a 10-year-old tribal schoolgirl of Balangir, who was raped in a school hostel by a school peon. Adjudicating a complaint filed by human rights activist and advocate Prabir Kumar Das, the commission has observed that basing on reports of Balangir district Collector and the District Welfare Officer, it has been prima facie established that the State authorities had failed to protect the child in their custody and, therefore, the victim is entitled to get a monetary relief under Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act-1993. Das in his complaint has maintained that the victim was a Class IV student of a residential school at Kushumal under the Saintala police station of the district run by the ST and SC Development Department. “Around 10 pm on the night of October 29, 2013, a school peon in an inebriated condition forced his entry into the school hostel and raped the tribal girl, who was only nine-years old then,” Das has said, stating that the girl lost her consciousness. A police complaint was made by the victim’s brother-in-law, following which the accused was arrested three days after the incident under Sections 376 and 511 of IPC and Section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. However, demanding an independent inquiry and seeking monetary relief to the victim, Das approached the NHRC in November 2013. (Pioneer 27/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. Armed Forces Tribunal gets teeth to implement its orders(1)

CHANDIGARH: The Army authorities would not be able to deny the execution of orders passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), as the central government has empowered the AFT with the powers of execution prescribed in the civil procedure code (CPC). The powers of execution of orders under CPC includes the civil arrest, civil contempt and attachment of property of defaulters till the orders are not executed. A statement regarding the empowerment of AFTs with execution powers under CPC was made on Monday by the central government before the Punjab and Haryana high court in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking powers to ensure compliance of orders passed by AFT. When the matter came up for hearing on Monday, the central government submitted that the AFT could follow the procedure prescribed under Order XXI of the CPC. Hearing this, the division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul disposed of the PIL on the satisfaction expressed by the petitioner’s counsel on the issue. The PIL filed by the founder president of AFT Chandigarh bar association, Major Navdeep Singh, had submitted that the ministry of defence (MoD) has refused to implement the orders passed by AFT even when upheld by Supreme Court. Pointing out some provisions of the Armed Force Tribunal Act ordain execution of its orders, the petitioner informed that the procedure is not laid down and neither does the AFT have powers of civil contempt. The PIL had sought directions to the law ministry to either notify or amplify the procedure of execution of AFT orders or that the AFT be directed to initiate criminal contempt proceedings in each case of non-compliance. There are more than 3000 cases of the AFT that have not been complied with by the Government on the pretext that the decisions are against ‘Government policy’. The PIL had also stated that the Chandigarh bench of AFT though is imposing costs on MoD for non-compliance of its orders but the said costs were being directed to be paid to the registrar of the AFT rather than the litigants which was not only against the concept of “costs” but also directly against law laid down by constitutional courts. The petition says that costs are hence being paid from one pocket of the government to another which itself is alien to law.  (Times of India 20/5/14)

 

10. Irom Sharmila wishes to meet Modi over AFSPA

Imphal, May 22: Activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, on a fast-unto-death since the past 10 years against alleged rights violations by security forces, wants to meet Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi to secure his help in getting AFSPA repealed in Manipur, her lawyer said on Thursday. “She has expressed a desire to meet Prime Minister(-designate) Narendra Modi to highlight the sufferings of the people through the imposition of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in Manipur and in other northeastern states as well,” Sharmila’s counsel Khaidem Mani told IANS. “We will seek an appointment with the prime minister. We are hopeful that the prime minister would give Sharmila an audience to listen to her. Sharmila is optimist that the new government will surely heed her words and repeal AFSPA from Manipur,” he said. Sharmila, described as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’, has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Nov 2, 2000 in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home. AFSPA, which was passed in 1990, gives Indian armed forces arbitrary powers in states such as Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur that have been declared “disturbed areas” because of ongoing armed militancy. Sharmila will be flown to New Delhi May 27 and will be presented before the metropolitan magistrate the next day. She would be accompanied by a doctor, two nurses, a women police team and two jail officials. She, meanwhile, indicated her support for the Aam Admi Party while rejecting Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s offer for her to join the Congress. Several human rights groups, including the North East Students’ Organisation, have also been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA. Amnesty International has campaigned vociferously against the law. However, army officials maintain that it was for the central and the state governments to decide whether to revoke or continue AFSPA. Human Rights Alert – an Imphal-based rights group – is not confident that the incoming National Democratic Alliance government would repeal AFSPA. “We do not foresee that the Modi government will repeal AFSPA as he has never mentioned repealing of the controversial act during his electioneering in Manipur,” Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, told IANS. “Nonetheless, we hope that they will repeal AFSPA,” Loitongbam said. (Oneindia 22/5/14)

 

11. Freed Indian prisoners handed over by Pak at Wagah border (1)

Lahore: Pakistan on Monday handed over 150 Indian fishermen and another prisoner held for crossing the border to Indian authorities at the Wagah border in a goodwill gesture by Premier Nawaz Sharif who is in India to attend the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. Fifty nine prisoners were released from the district prison Malir in Karachi and 92 from the Nara prison in Hyderabad, officials said. Out of the 151 people handed over to the Border Security Force at the Wagah border, 150 were fishermen and one was a prisoner in Karachi jail who inadvertently crossed into Pakistan from the Sindh border. They were brought to the Wagah Border from Karachi by buses. “After going through their papers they have been handed over to the Indian authorities,” a Rangers official told PTI. Talking to reporters fisherman Dapu Teja said he learnt bead work in jail. “I get Rs 60 per every piece I make and I know how to make bracelets, anklets, necklaces and key chains with beads,” he said. Teja was on board a ship which allegedly crossed over into the Pakistani territory seven months ago. He said there were seven people on the boat but only four were arrested by the Pakistan coastguards. “They let the three older fishermen go back as they will have been a burden here due to their age,” he said. Another fisherman named Nanji Soma said: “I am an illiterate man good enough to catch fish only but my son will not be one. He is 10 years old now and goes to school. In my absence the fishermen community back home contributed for my poor family to keep sending him to school.” “Now I will go back and work again and also pay back my friends. I may get caught again as there are not clear boundaries marked in the sea to keep us from drifting into your country but it will not happen to my son,” he said. Kamal Shah of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has appealed to the Indian government to release the Pakistani fishermen locked up in Indian jails. Sharif yesterday ordered the release of the 151 Indian prisoners and 57 boats, a day before his visit to India. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

12. Custodial death triggers anger, six cops arrested (1)

New Delhi: Six Delhi Police personnel, comprising a head constable and five constables, were arrested after a 30-year-old man died in their custody in south-west Delhi on Monday. It is alleged that the man was a victim of torture while being in detention. A mob turned violent after the incident and resorted to stone pelting outside Bindapur police station. Police used lathi-charge and tear gas to bring the situation under control.The victim has been identified as Manoj Chand, a resident of west Delhi’s Pankha Road in Uttam Nagar. Police said a call was made to the police control room around noon reporting that Manoj had been picked up for questioning. Sources said the police officers were not wearing uniform when they visited Manoj’s house. The caller also claimed that Manoj was being falsely dragged into a case of Arms Act registered with Bindapur police station. “An initial probe has revealed that Manoj was detained and taken to old Matiala police post for questioning,” said a police officer. Manoj’s health allegedly deteriorated during questioning due to which the policemen decided to take him to the nearest hospital. “Manoj was taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, where he was declared brought dead,” the officer added. Currently, police are waiting for the post-mortem report to ascertain the exact cause of the death. A protest was held outside Bindapur police station after Manoj’s family members were informed. The protesters claimed that Manoj was beaten up by police, and questioned the reason behind Manoj being taken to a police post and not the police station. They soon turned violent claiming that local police were trying to shield the policemen involved, and damaged at least four vehicles parked in the area. Senior police officers also visited the area, but failed to prevent the violence. Till late on Monday, around 200 locals continued to stay outside the police station and clashed with around 100 policemen. Taking strict action over the allegations, senior police officers ordered a case and arrest of the personnel involved in detaining Manoj. The accused have been identified as Head Constable Bhoop Singh and constables Rajesh Solanki, Rajesh, Sudhir, Uttam and Arvind. A case under sections 302 (murder) and 365 (kidnapping) of the Indian Penal Code has been filed against the police personnel. “Further action in the case will depend on the post-mortem report. A departmental inquiry has also been ordered,” the officer said. Manoj’s body will be handed over to family after the post-mortem on Tuesday. He is survived by his wife Rishi and a seven-month-old child. The couple had married around two years ago. (Deccan Herald 27/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

13. Pravin Togadia’s hate speech: Despite FIR, no action (1)

RAJKOT: A month after a first information report (FIR) was registered against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia for an alleged hate speech, Bhavnagar police seem to be in no hurry to expedite legal proceedings in the matter. Togadia was booked for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration and disobedience of an order duly promulgated by public servant following an order from Election Commission of India (ECI). He had allegedly asked a group of residents to forcibly evict a Muslim individual, who had bought a house in a predominantly Hindu area of Bhavnagar. TOI was the first to report Togadia’s hate speech delivered in Bhavnagar. Sources said there has been no significant progress in the investigations in this case even after a month of the FIR being lodged. The police are still in the process of taking statements of local residents who attended the function chaired by Togadia where he delivered his speech. When contacted deputy superintendent of police, Bhavnagar city, R I Patel said the investigation is on and the police have sent video footages of Togadia to Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) for verification. On being asked whether the police have issued any summons to Togadia, Patel said, “The case requires ‘deep’ investigation and it will take time.”Meanwhile, VHP workers in Bhavnagar have carried out a series of protests outside the house in question purchased by the Muslim businessman. The police have enhanced security in the area to avoid any untoward incident. (Times of India 21/5/14)

 

14. BJP social media blitz against AAP (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi BJP is all set to use social media in a bid to counter the Aam Aadmi Party. It plans to use comic strips, jokes, couplets, photographs and cartoons to take on the AAP.The saffron party has finalised a social media team, which will focus on former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana said, “We would bring up all of Arvind Kejriwal’s and his party’s goof-ups and U-turns from his statements. He is a habitual offender.”Terming many actions taken by Mr Kejriwal as “unethical,” he said the AAP supremo exposed himself during his 49-day “misgovernance” in Delhi. A media adviser and volunteer for the BJP’s online campaign said, “The AAP convenor is a media-hungry person. His actions depict that he wants to be in the limelight. Here, at social media campaigns, we would take upon him and expose his gimmickry.” This cyber army would be active on almost all social websites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. In addition to this, the team would also use WhatsApp to share jokes about the party. A source said, “This time around, he raised allegations against our senior leader Nitin Gadkari. The party would never accept anything against our leaders. He seeks cheap publicity. He has double standards.” Taking a dig at Mr Kejriwal, Delhi BJP president Hasrsh Vardhan said, “Arvind Kejriwal’s only motive is to get media attention.” (Asian Age 23/5/14)

 

15. With increasing number of arrests, activists worried about online free speech (1)

NEW DELHI: Facing imminent arrest in Goa for a Facebook post against Narendra Modi, Devu Chodankar’s case is not an isolated one. The 33-year-old shipbuilding professional joins a growing list of activists and common people booked under Section 66 A of the IT Act for political remarks. In Delhi, activist Sheeba Fehmi’s review petition following a court order directing the police to file an FIR against her for “anti-national” Facebook posts was dismissed in Tis Hazari court earlier this week. Back in 2011, she had filed a complaint against one Pankaj Dwivedi, who had sent her e-mails strongly opposing her political views on Facebook, threatening her with “consequences” if she did not fall in line. The court not only ruled in favour of Dwivedi in 2012, but also directed the police to file an FIR against Fehmi for posting “anti-national” content. Fehmi, several of whose posts had been critical of then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, has now approached the Delhi High Court with the matter. Fehmi says she is strongly opposed to section 66 A of the IT act, under which Dwivedi was booked. “I had no agency in the matter when the police booked him under 66 A. He was then acquitted by the same people under the section,” Fehmi told TOI. Section 66 A of the IT Act can be employed against anyone who sends any information by computers “that is grossly offensive or has menacing character”. Chodankar has been booked under this in addition to sections 153(A) and 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 125 of the People’s Representation Act, which cover promoting enmity between groups. The Act attracted most attention in 2012 with a few notable arrests and cases. In November 2012 following the death of Bal Thackeray, a girl from Palghar, Maharashtra had been arrested for a Facebook post. She had posted a status questioning the legitimacy of the bandh in the state following the late Shiv Sena supremo’s death. Oddly, a friend of hers who had clicked “like” on the status was also put behind bars. After a national outcry, charges against the teenage girls were dropped. The same year, a businessman was arrested under 66 A for alleging former finance minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram of amassing disproportionate assets. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s website – Cartoons Against Corruption — was also taken down under the same section back in 2012 for “sedition”. He was later arrested. “The new government should take care that this case doesn’t send out the wrong message,” says Trivedi. That very year, law student Shreya Singhal filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking an amendment of the IT Act. “There shouldn’t be a trail of suppressive cases like this. People should be allowed to say what they want. An aggrieved person can file a defamation case. His (Chodankar’s) choice of words might not have been the best, but to face arrest for this is just out of place,” says Singhal. In December 2012, in a Rajya Sabha debate, MPs such as Gyan Prakash Pilania of the BJP, D. Bandyopadhyay of the AITC and Baishnab Parida of the BJD, Narendra Kumar Kashyap of the BSP and Basavaraj Patil of the BJP had supported a resolution for the amendment of Section 66A. (Times of India 24/5/14)

 

16. Online free speech hangs by a thread (1)

BANGALORE: There’s something stifling in cyberspace — Indian cyberspace, that is. Though the web is known to offer a fresh freedom to express ideas and views, India has choked this space with speech-smothering laws. A good population of lawyers and legal experts term the laws “unconstitutional” in many of their writings available online. As editor and columnist Aakar Patel puts it: “The fourth amendment of the US said the Congress shall never pass a law that curtails the freedom of speech. But the first amendment of our Constitution says the exact opposite.” The enactment of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was to facilitate and regulate transactions and business online, but the 2008 amendment introducing the “infamous” Section 66A has dealt a heavy blow to the freedom of expression. This section mandates that any electronic communication that is grossly offensive, of a menacing character, false or misleading, annoying or even inconvenient, can attract a three-year jail term. “What is annoying or causes inconvenience is left to the police, can you believe this?” asks Sandalwood director and actor Prakash Belawadi, of laws that have curbed citizen freedom. “Aseem Trivedi was arrested for publishing cartoons termed ‘offensive’. They were made out to be seditious. It’s time we revisit such laws,” he said. In her column for Forbes India, Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy said: “…Of course, a balance has to be struck between free speech, hate speech and defamation…But some of the internet speech laws are so draconian even a layman’s reading shows they are unconstitutional.” Said Patel: “There are many draconian laws that curb our freedom, but it’ll take time to change that. We should understand our laws cannot cordon off Indians surfing the web. Cyber laws must be aligned with global laws.” The new government and Narendra Modi should take this as an opportunity to make amendments and revisit such laws, adds Belawadi. The only respite for the citizenry is the matter is sub judice, with petitions questioning the introduction of Section 66 before the Supreme Court. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

17. Kejriwal agrees to furnish personal bail bond in defamation case (1)

New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal today accepted Delhi High Court’s suggestion to furnish personal bond to get bail in a defamation case filed by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari. The court today advised Kejriwal, who has been lodged in Tihar Jail, to furnish a bail bond in the criminal defamation complaint filed against him. A bench of justices Kailash Gambhir and Sunita Gupta said Kejriwal can raise whatever legal issues he wants to, once he comes out of jail and that he should not make it a prestige issue. After senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Kejriwal, sought to meet the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader in prison to seek his instruction and put forth the court’s suggestion, the bench allowed them to meet him anytime before 1 pm. The judges advised Kejriwal to furnish the bail bond and said that the same would be subject to final outcome of the legal issues raised by him. The legal issue raised by Kejriwal, in his petition seeking his immediate release from the jail, is whether bail bond is necessary in summons case when accused appears and is accompanied by a lawyer. The petition challenged the May 21 and 23 orders of a magisterial court remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing bail bond in the criminal defamation complaint filed by Gadkari, saying the same was not mandatory and he should have been allowed to give a written undertaking instead. Kejriwal in his plea, filed through advocate Rohit Kumar Singh, has said the magisterial order sending him to judicial custody was “illegal” as it was based on a “completely wrong premise of law.” During the proceedings, the bench suggested that Kejriwal should furnish bail bond and challenge the magisterial orders once he comes out of jail. It also questioned how a habeas corpus, filed on behalf of Kejriwal, applies against a judicial order. A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or detainee before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful. Kejriwal’s counsel argued that his detention is “totally illegal” as only a person in custody is required to furnish bail bond. The counsel argued that Kejriwal had appeared in pursuance to summons of the court and was accompanied by a lawyer and, therefore, there was no need for him to furnish bail bond, especially when he was willing to give an undertaking. They said the requirement of pre-trial bail in the current situation is an antiquated practice which is absent in socially developed and forward nations like the US. When the accused was present in court with counsel in pursuance to its summons, then there was no need to direct him to furnish bail bond, the counsel argued. Senior advocate Pinky Anand, appearing for Gadkari, opposed the habeas corpus plea, saying such a petition was not maintainable against judicial orders. She also argued that under the law, every person is required to furnish bail bonds in such cases to ensure his presence. She also objected to Kejriwal’s conduct in the jail by having written an open letter questioning the magisterial orders sending him to judicial custody. A former Delhi Chief Minister, Kejriwal was sent to judicial custody by a magistrate on May 21 for two days. On May 23, his custody was extended by 14 days till June 6 after he refused to furnish a bail bond when he was granted bail in the case. The magistrate had refused to review its May 21 order remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing the bail bond and had asked him to approach the higher court, challenging the decision. Kejriwal was earlier summoned as an accused by the court in the defamation complaint in which Gadkari had alleged that he was defamed by the AAP leader, who had included his name in the party’s list of “India’s most corrupt”. On May 21, the court had granted bail to Kejriwal in the defamation complaint, saying the offence under Section 500 of IPC was bailable and had asked him to furnish a personal bond. He, however, was taken into custody after he refused to give the bail bond, saying the case was politically motivated and he does not wish to seek bail. He had said that he was ready to give an undertaking that he would appear in the court whenever required. The court had on February 28 summoned Kejriwal as an accused in the case, observing that statements allegedly made by the AAP leader have the effect of “harming the reputation” of the complainant. (Business Line 28/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

18. Nuns warn of trafficking in Brazil (7)

Vatican City: Roman Catholic nuns backed by Pope Francis on Tuesday raised the alarm over increased risks of human trafficking, exploitation of workers, forced prostitution and sexual tourism at the football World Cup in Brazil next month. The nuns, whose campaign is also backed by the US embassy to the Vatican, announced an international campaign called “Play in Favour of Life Denounce Human Trafficking”, on the risks they say will be associated with the June 12-July 13 tournament. “We need to make people conscious of what happens on the margins of big world events such as the Fifa World Cup and the suffering of those who are trafficked,” said Sister Carmen Sammut, a Maltese nun and one of the campaign organisers. “Without this awareness, without acting together in favour of human dignity, the World Cup finals may turn out to be a terrible shame instead of a feast for humanity,” she told a press conference at the Vatican. Sammut said the initiative had the full backing of Pope Francis, an avid Argentine football fan who has called several conferences at the Vatican to study ways of combating human trafficking.Sister Gabriella Bottani, an Italian nun who works in Brazil, said human traffickers and others took advantage of large events like the World Cup to exploit the most vulnerable.She said young people from the countryside are lured with the promise of a job and forced into prostitution. Children in rural areas may be kidnapped and taken to cities hosting the venues and forced to beg. Others who are already being exploited as sex workers may be forced to move to one of the 12 venue cities because they would be more profitable to their pimps. In countries like Brazil, she said, large events could also give rising to kidnapping for adoption. (Asian Age 21/5/14)

 

19. Child traffickers held, 63 rescued (1)

NEW DELHI: Sixty three children were rescued and 23 traffickers arrested from Old Delhi railway station on Wednesday morning in what police have called the biggest operation this year. The children had been brought to the capital to work as labourers, police said. The children were rescued by the Railway Police with help from NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Aandolan, Shakti Vahini and Prayas. The NGOs had been tracking the children from Razaul, where the train started, and had deployed volunteers at stations en route. Once the train reached the capital, a team led by DCP (Railways) Sanjay Bhatia and the anti-human trafficking unit of north district searched each compartment and asked 38 people and 71 children to accompany officers into the waiting room. “Kids accompanied by their parents were allowed to leave,” said Rakesh Senger from Bachpan Bachao Andolan. The traffickers claimed before police that they were distant relatives of the children. They had divided the children into groups of three or four and were travelling with them in different compartments. The children, all between seven and 17 years old, belong to remote villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. “They were promised work in sweat shops, restaurants and factory outlets in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab and were told they would be paid around Rs 3,500-4,500 per month. The children will be sent to a shelter till their parents are traced,” said Rishikant from Shakti Vahini. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

20. 8 Held in Connection with ‘Trafficking’ of Kids (1)

PALAKKAD: A total of eight persons have been arrested by the Railway police in connection with the  alleged child trafficking in which 466 children were brought from Jharkhand and Bihar in the Patna-Ernakulam Express and 124 children from West Bengal in the Guwahathi Express. While the 466 children were being brought by the Mukkam Muslim orphanage, another 124 children were brought for an orphanage in Vettathoor in Malappuram. Of the eight persons arrested, three are from Bihar, four from West Bengal and one from Jharkhand. They have been charged under section 370(5) of the Indian Penal code. Of the 466 children who were detained on Sunday, 183 were transferred to the Child Welfare Committee in Kozhikode. The Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee, Jose Paul, said that 165 girls have been transferred to the Providence Home in Malampuzha and 124 boys to the Palakkad orphanage in Pezhunkara. They were the remaining children of the first 466 batch of children who arrived from Bihar and Jharkhand. The four arrested persons in connection with the trafficking of 466 children from Jharkhand and Bihar were identified as Abdul Khader Ansari, 32, son of Ghose from Chasanagar in Bihar, Mohammed Alangir, 24, son of Mohammed Ibrahim from Bhaska in Bihar, Mohammed Eidothalam, 30, son of Mohammed Bhadarudheen from Viswasani post in Jharkhand and Moulana Faisalullah, 26, son of Mohammed Ansarullah from Bhagalpur in Bihar. The other four persons arrested in connection with the transportation of 124 children from West Bengal were Mansoor,32, Bakker, 30, Dost Mohammed and Jabir, all natives of West Bengal. Jose Paul said that though only 63 of the 124 children had valid documents, all the 124 children were transferred to the Child welfare committee in Malappuram as an orphanage there had claimed them. The verification of the second batch of 124 children were conducted at the RPF mobilisation centre at the Palakkad junction. (New Indian Express 27/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

21. Dalits ostracised from village after tiff with upper castes in Punjab (2)

Chandigarh: Sources said the Dalit villagers were keen to get the land auctioned at a lower price, which their upper caste counterparts of Bopur village objected to. The community wanted the land leased to them for a year at a nominal price. The influential landlords allegedly threatened the Dalits over the loudspeakers. The supply lines which supplied potable water to the Dalit homes were snapped and they were warned not to use ponds and water tanks in the village. “They (the influential landlords) have blocked water supply to our homes, fields and sheds. It was also announced on the loudspeaker that anybody employing people of our community will be imposed a fine of Rs.21,000,” a Bopur Dalit said. In a memorandum submitted to Sangrur Additional Deputy Commissioner Pritam Singh Johal on Monday, the Dalits said, the landlords have not only blocked the water supply but also stopped them from entering their fields. Many of these Dalits work as labourers in the farms of the upper caste landlords. They also alleged that their upper caste villagers also made casteist remarks against them over the loudspeaker. “The people of our community are shocked after the incident. We have requested the Deputy Commissioner to take appropriate action against the people involved in the incident,” Secretary of Guru Ravidas Welfare society, Bopur, Raj Kumar said. On Tuesday, the Sangrur district administration swung into action and restored the main water supply line in the village. But the supply line to the Sant Ravidas temple remained disconnected. “Incident like this is anti-constitutional. Though the water supply has been restored by the administration, but the issue of ostracisation and the insult done by using loudspeakers has shocked the people who may leave the village,” President of Aadi Dharam Samaj, Rajpal said. The Sangrur administration said that the water supply to the Dalit settlements has been restored. It, however, denied the Dalits were threatened by the upper caste landlords. “There was a tiff between the landlords and the Dalits over the auction of village common land. The Dalits have filed a complaint against the upper caste people. We have ordered a magisterial probe. The sub-divisional magistrate has been asked to file a detailed report. The initial probe has not found the allegations of threatening Dalits on loudspeakers. We will take appropriate action on the basis of report,” Additional Deputy Commissioner Pritam Singh Johal said. (India Today 21/5/14)

 

22. Face of Mahadalit schemes takes over (2)

Patna: Though the elevation of Jitan Ram Manjhi came as a surprise to many, JD(U) sources said Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav had decided on the Musahar leader soon after Nitish resigned from the chief minister’s post on May 17. Apparently, Nitish called up Manjhi the very next day. On Tuesday, Manjhi took oath as the 23rd chief minister of Bihar, and the first from the economically and socially backward Musahar community. Manjhi and Ravidas are the largest groups among Mahadalits, who, in turn, account for 12 per cent of Bihar’s population. Bihar has had SC CMs — Bhola Paswan Shastri and Ram Sundar Das. Manjhi, a six-time MLA, first became a deputy minister (for welfare) in the Chandrashekhar Singh-led Congress government in the early 1980s. In his second ministerial stint he was MoS for education in the RJD government in 1996. In 2005, Nitish made him public health and engineering minister. However, allegations cropped up against him in connection with a BEd scam of the RJD government, when he had been deputy to then minister Jayprakash Narayan Yadav. He had to resign. After the court cleared his name, he re-entered the cabinet with Nitish creating a new department — SC/ST welfare. As Nitish started his social engineering to cater to a new constituency of SCs minus the Paswans — the Mahadalits — Manjhi’s department played a key role in implementing its dozen schemes. Until then, Mahadalits used to be primarily a Congress constituency. The biggest scheme of this department, Mahadalit Vikas Mission, pertained to free distribution of land for building homes, with 2.5 lakh SC families as beneficiaries. The government conducted exhaustive surveys to get the exact figure of landless Mahadalits. Manjhi’s job was to coordinate with the rural development and land revenue departments to ensure the scheme was implemented smoothly. Though there were controversies and even landed Dalits got land — as reported by The Indian Express in June-July 2012 — it continued to be Nitish’s flagship scheme and even seemed to be threatening Ram Vilas Paswan’s hold on his Dalit vote-bank. Other schemes included Dasrath Manjhi Kaushal Vikas Yojana for vocational and skill development training, Mahadalit Poshak Yojana that gave Rs 500 to each student to buy uniforms and footwear, and appointment of 10,000 Vikas Mitras to monitor the progress of government schemes. Mahadalit Shauchalaya Yojana ensured each Dalit family got Rs 300 to build a toilet. Manjhi set a target of 2,33,333 toilets by 2014. Giving Rs 400 to every Dalit family to buy a radio was another popular move. Manjhi always gave credit to Nitish, who has now rewarded him. (Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

23. Parents abandon daughter for eloping with Dalit youth (2)

RAMANATHAPURAM: The deep-rooted caste system in this backward district came to the fore again when the parents of a 16-year-old girl decided to ‘abandon’ her after she had eloped with a Dalit youth, and declined to guarantee her safety and security. After the parents at Kathayan in the Mudukulathur police limit told the local Judicial Magistrate (JM) court that they would not take the girl back and refused to give a written undertaking, guaranteeing her safety, Magistrate Mohanram ordered on Friday that she be kept in a home, though the girl insisted on going with her parents, police said. Allirajan, a temporary worker at the local electricity board, and Vanitha Rani, a farm worker, in a virtual disapproval of their daughter’s love affair with the Dalit youth, told the Magistrate that they could not be held responsible if the girl committed suicide at home when they went for work, the police said. On the Magistrate’s order, the girl was admitted to the reception home for girl children at Muthupatti in Madurai for transit stay on Friday, police said. The girl was awaiting the SSLC examination results, when she eloped with R. Saranraj, 22, a canteen manager in a private nursing home in Chennai, on May 16. On a complaint by her father, the Mudukulathur police registered a case under Section 366 (A) of the IPC (abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage) and launched a search, sending special teams to Madurai and Coimbatore. Sensing that the police were zeroing in on them, Saranraj brought the girl to Sivaganga on Thursday evening and absconded, leaving her at the JM court-I. After arranging her stay at a local home on Thursday night, the magistrate transferred the case to the JM court at Mudukulathur, the next day, police said. When contacted, CWC Chairperson R. Sakunthala said the case was not referred to the commission by the Mudukulathur court. However, the CWC would arrange further studies and safe custody of the girl, if she was handed over to it. The girl has passed SSLC, scoring 398 marks. Recently, a mother and her family members had murdered a 22-year-old pregnant woman in the district, hiring mercenaries, for she had married a man from outside the community. (The Hindu 25/5/14)

 

24. Dalit Youth Murdered, Caste Hindu Trio Grilled (2)

VELLORE: A 25-year-old Dalit youth was allegedly murdered on Saturday night. Three persons were taken for inquiry in this connection in Thiruvalam police station limits on Sunday. The deceased, identified as F Richard of Sivanandha Nagar in Thiruvalam, was found dead with multiple injuries, inside the government Kodugapuli Thoppu near Ampundi village around 6 am on Sunday. The locals who had gone to answer nature’s call found the body and alerted the police. P Vijaykumar, Superintendent of Police, Vellore, rushed to the spot and conducted an inquiry. Officials from the Forensic Wing swung into action and searched the murder spot for evidences. The preliminary inquiry revealed that two weeks back, during a temple festival, Richard  and his friends had a brawl with a group of youth, who belonged to a caste Hindu community, of Sembrayanallur village, and were participating in the temple festival. The two groups quarrelled over a trivial issue that led to fisticuffs. Following this reportedly the Caste Hindu youth assaulted Richard and his friends in the melee, said the police attached to the Thiruvalam police station. Further inquiry revealed that after the temple festival episode, on Saturday Richard had gone to Sembrayanallur to attend a funeral of his relative. After attending the final rites, Richard returned home on his bike in an inebriated condition.  He was intercepted by a group of youth who thrashed him and took him to Korgaliga Thoppu and later bumped him off. The police nabbed Basker (25) of Salavanpettai in Vellore, Madhiazhagan (27) and Sivaraman alias Kalai (20) of Sembrayanallur village for interrogation. The involvement of the trio was strongly suspected, said the police source. SP Vijayakumar said that if the evidences and inquiry prove that the three suspects were involved in the crime, and they will be arrested. Meanwhile, the brutal murder of the youth created tense moments in the locality. Police have been deployed to provided security in the area and avert any untoward incident in light of the caste clash.  Until noon, relatives of the deceased refused to receive the body  from Government Vellore Medical College and Hospital, demanding immediate arrest of the murderers. (New Indian Express 27/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

25. Shocking report: A mother dies every 2 hours in Rajasthan (3)

Jaipur: Despite increased health facilities in Rajasthan, even today one mother dies every two hours in the desert state due to delivery or delivery-related complications.Every year, 4,600 mothers die while delivering a baby in Rajasthan, revealed a study by NGO Save the Children. The NGO has demanded the government to address the loopholes in the primary health centres (PHCs) and sub-centres (SCs), so that pregnant women can deliver the child here instead of going to community health centres (CHCs) and district hospitals. Save the Children state health and programme coordinator OP Singh said that on a survey conducted by the NGO on the situation of motherhood facilities, India ranked 137 out of 178 countries surveyed. In India, every 20 seconds a child dies due to diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea or malnutrition. The data of the state on safe motherhood is worrying. Singh said the state government made efforts to stop maternal mortality in rural areas, but only in about 7% of a total of 11,494 SCs do over three deliveries take place in a month. Similarly, only in 43.9% of the 1,100 24-hour PHCs do over 10 deliveries take place in a month. The figure is the same for about 3.3% of the 417 PHCs. The remaining health centres are grossly under-utilised. Singh said the government should look into these PHCs and SCs and plug in the lacunas so that maximum deliveries take place here and pregnant women do not need to go to the community health centres or district hospitals. He said that due to the lack of facilities in PHCs and sub-centres, pregnant women go to CHCs and district hospitals, and as the result, the patient load increases and proper care is not extended. According to the Annual Health Survey 2012-13, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Rajasthan has reduced by 37% from 331 to 208 per 1 lakh live births from 2010-11. However, there is still a long way to go to reduce the MMR, the official added. Save the Children advocacy and campaign coordinator Hemant Acharya said awareness is to be brought in rural areas about safe motherhood by launching a special campaign. He suggested that special schemes should be introduced to motivate and encourage health workers in rural areas.

(Hindustan imes 20.5.14)

 

26. Health services to high risk pregnant women on priority basis in Haryana (3)

Chandigarh, May 20 : With a view to provide health services to high risk pregnant women on priority basis in Haryana, the Health Department is actively considering to issue red OPD card to such women so as to make them avail the health services on priority basis. This information was given by Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Ms Navraj Sandhu in a two-day state level Civil Surgeon Conference organised by Health Department today. While emphasizing the need of giving priority to high risk pregnant women, Ms Sandhu said it would contribute to the reduction of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). She said high risk pregnant women would be issued red OPD card to make them avail the health services on priority basis. This investigation card would contain the details of case history of the patient and risk factors for the particular pregnant women. Addressing the gathering, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, Dr Rakesh Gupta said the Quality Monitoring Officers and District Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Consultants along with District Intervention Coordinator (DIC) and Technical Officer from support agencies like MCHIP and ASSIST (Technical partner) would support the Department at local level in every district for improving health services. These consultants would not only provide technical inputs in the health services but also monitor the processes adopted by district. He also emphasized the strengthening of capacities of ASHA and ANM to speed up the process of identification of high risk cases at grassroots level. These steps would ensure overall contribution of the Department to the reduction of IMR and MMR in the state. The Civil Surgeons need to focus on providing quality services at high delivery load facilities and also ensure proper referral linkages. At district level there should be regular Maternal and Infant death reviews and gaps identified should be filled up, he added. Director MCH, Dr Ravikant Gupta said success rate of Post-Placental Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices (PPIUCD) insertion in family planning program is notable. He said Haryana has the highest PPIUCD insertion cases after Tamil Nadu in India. He said there is need to rationalise the delivery load in the district and normal deliveries should take place 24X7 at Primary and Community Health Centres. PMO/Deputy Civil Surgeon, Medical Superintendent, Quality and Monitoring Officer (QMO), DIO of all districts also attended the conference. (New Kerala 21/5/14)

 

27. Child Rights Body to Start Mother’s Milk Banks (3)

HYDERABAD: Balala Hakkula Sangham, an organisation for the protection of child rights, has come with a first of its kind initiative to start a Mother’s Milk Bank, in association with Lotus Hospitals, to cater to the needs of orphaned infants. Infant mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh is 41 per 1,000 births in 2012 and most of the deaths are due to respiratory and diarrheal causes. The main objectives of the initiative is to ensure that every baby born receives mother’s milk, to avoid bottled or animal formula milk and to provide ancillary support to breastfeeding. Donors of milk are tested for various diseases like Tuberculosis, HIV VDRL and Hepatitis before they make a contribution and will be screened by experts to rule out any virus or harmful bacteria. After a thorough screening procedure, the milk is donated to the needy children free of cost. The average volume of milk taken is between 50-150 ml. “Experts say on an average, lactating women can produce 600 ml milk per day and 300 ml should be sufficient for their little ones. The minimum requirement for children without a feeding mother is 150 ml per day,” said Balala Hakkula Sangham general secretary P Anuradha Rao. For women who donate their milk, it helps them too as it would increase prolactin levels, preventings benign tumors in them. The contributed milk is refrigerated and transferred to the bank in large containers. Later, it is pasteurised at 62.5 degree centigrade for 30 minutes, which preserves the milk from 80 percent of immunological factors, destroying pathogens, including HIV virus. The pasteurised milk can be stored for six months, in the freezer for 48 hours, and six to eight hours at room temparature. The milk will be donated on first come first served basis. Campaigning for donors will begin on the International Day for Protection of Children on June 1. Mother’s Milk Banks will come into operation from the first week of August, which is the International Breast Feed Week. Breast milk contains various proteins and enzymes such as Immunoglobulins, Lysosomes and Lymphocytes that kill bacterial cells and increase immunity. “Breast milk is every child’s right. Unfortunately there are instances where a child is deprived of this valuable right. In such a circumstance, the child can still be fed with breast milk through the breast milk banks,” Anuradha Rao said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

28. Hospital, doctor to pay patient in Chennai (3)

CHENNAI: The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF), Chennai (North), has asked a hospital and a medical consultant to compensate a patient who was discharged after he was wrongly diagnosed with HIV. R. Mohandoss, president of the DCDRF, Chennai (North), directed Sooriya Hospital in Saligramam, and neurosurgeon K. Subramanian to pay Rs. 50,000 each to the complainant, E. Chankrasekar of Mangadu, with 9 per cent interest per annum from June 3, 2004 till date of payment. They have also been asked to pay Rs. 10,000 towards costs. The complainant was referred to K. Subramanian for a surgery and admitted to Sooriya Hospital on May 8, 2004. On May 10, 2004, the doctor informed the complainant that according to tests reports he was HIV positive. The doctor then discharged him without performing the surgery. Mr. Chankrasekar then got himself tested at a private lab in Tambaram as well as Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine, and found that he was not infected. The forum stated that the hospital and doctor had discharged the complainant without treating him for cervical spondylitis due to the stigma of HIV infection, and pointed out that such an act would have caused mental agony and trauma to the complainant. (The Hindu 21/5/14)

 

29. New regimen to reduce HIV risk to infants (3)

JAIPUR: New multi-drug antiretroviral (ARV) regimen has been initiated in the state aiming to further reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission from HIV infected mother to her newborn. The decision has been taken to promote birth of HIV-free children. The Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) has initiated lifelong multi-drug antiretroviral (ARV) regimens for all pregnant and breast-feeding women living with HIV. The transmission of HIV from infected mother to her newborn is one of the leading causes of spread of HIV. According to RSACS, it is estimated that 5.2% of total HIV infections are due to transmission of HIV from mother to newborn. To deal with it, earlier the RSACS was providing single dose of Nevirapine to such women at the time of labour pain to prevent the HIV transmission from mother to her newborn baby. But, from May 19, the RSACS has changed its strategy. Health department’s project director (AIDS) Dr SS Chauhan said, “From an HIV infected mother, the risk of vertical transmission of HIV to newborn is 30%. But, a single dose of Nevirapine reduces the risk to around 15%. So far we were giving single dose of Nevirapine to pregnant women at the time of delivery. But, still the high risk (up to 15%) remained the cause of concern for us. Now, to bring down the percentage of risk of vertical transmission of HIV from mother to her newborn, we have initiated the lifelong ART (triple drug regimen). The multidrug ARV regimen would further decrease the risk from 11% to up to 5%. It will be the major benefit of the new multidrug regimen.” The triple drug regimen includes — Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz. The three drugs would be administered to the women living with HIV and her infant. The drug would continue lifelong to reduce mortality and morbidity in mothers and children. The RSACS is spreading awareness of HIV testing among pregnant women. They take consent of pregnant women for HIV testing. If the women test positive for HIV, they link the women with anti retroviral therapy centre. Also, they put effort to prevent the transmission of HIV to her newborn. In 2013-14, the RSACS conducted HIV testing on 4.68 lakh pregnant women and found 412 women living with HIV. In 2012-13, the RSACS had tested 3.86lakh pregnant women and found 383 of them living with HIV. They have linked the newborns with antiretroviral therapy centres. An RSACS official said that they have provided training to its staff to start the new multidrug regimen. The new multidrug ARV regimen is part of prevention of parent to child transmission (PPTCT) of HIV launched in 2001-02 by ministry of health and family welfare. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

30. Area Acquired by Kamarajar Port May be Turned Into SEZ (4)

CHENNAI: A new Special Economic Zone (SEZ) or a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) may be set up within the 650 acres recently acquired by the Kamarajar Port Limited (KPL), formerly the Ennore Port, with the KPL deciding to appoint a consultant to look into the proper utilisation of the land. Speaking at an interactive session on exports organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on Monday, the Chairman cum Managing Director of the KPL M A Bhaskarachar said that the port had decided on appointing a consultant to look into how to properly utilise the 647.8 acres of land that it took over from the Salt Department of the Government of India early in March this year. “We have decided to appoint a consultant to look into how to utilise the land and one of the options we have is to set up a SEZ or a FTZ within the property,” he said. The port acquired the land after a 12-year wait only on March 2 this year. The CMD pointed out that the port had managed to increase the draft of the vessels it can accommodate to 14.5-15 metres from the 12 metres it was earlier by dredging the channel and the basin. Consequently, the port can now accommodate much larger vessels. “We hadn’t announced it earlier because of the Model Code of Conduct being in effect, but the port has increased its draft by 2 metres to 14.5 metres. The benefit to the port is huge,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the session. “We have got a request from the Chettinad berth to dredge the berth to the same level so that they can avail of this draft. We will be awarding this dredging contract within a month and the operation will begin by June and be completed in six months,” he added. (New Indian Express 20/5/14)

 

31. Ministry officials want Modi govt to look at land laws (4)

New Delhi: With Narendra Modi set to take over as prime minister in the next few days, the department of agriculture is proposing a comprehensive review of land ceiling laws as a first major reform in the sector. Land also figures in the to-do list of the rural development ministry. It has proposed centralisation of land records to enable smooth operation of the Land Acquisition Act initiated by the outgoing government. Officials said though issues related to land and agriculture primarily come within the domain of state governments, the Centre can advise and suggest changes. And, any changes in agricultural land ceilings have to have Centre’s concurrence. The agriculture ministry has in a presentation to cabinet secretary Ajit Seth called for a comprehensive review of the land ceiling laws, to stop fragmentation of farms and promote consolidation. At present, most states have a ceiling of 10-20 acres in holdings of irrigated land with two crops, which hampers leasing and also stops large-scale acquisition (see chart). Some officials said the farm ministry has also proposed amendments to the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act and boosting irrigation as other big proposals. If initiated, the proposed measures could turn out to be big reforms in the farm sector. Repeated attempts by the UPA government to review land ceiling laws and to create a centralised database of land records failed due to inadequate cooperation from state governments. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll manifesto talked of a national land use policy. This would, it said, look at the scientific acquisition of non-cultivable land and its development, protect the interest of farmers and keep in mind the food production goals and economic goals of the country. “The idea mooted by the department of agriculture is a good one. Agricultural land has become highly fragmented, with average holdings dropping below two hectares. This makes farming uneconomical for growers and also sometimes leads to reverse tenancy, like by small farmers in Punjab and Haryana,” Gokul Patnaik, chairman of Global AgriSystem, an agribusiness consulting group, told Business Standard. He said in some states tenancy laws were very outdated, which stymied any substantial land reform. “In the interest of mechanisation of farming in India and also for growth of irrigation, government should initiate steps to reform the ceiling Acts,” Patnaik said. S Mahendra Dev, director of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, said the move would ensure small and marginal farmers got productivity benefits and more acres could come under mechanisation. “In some states like Maharashtra, legally there is no tenancy; in others like Andhra Pradesh, much of tenancy is only oral. So, there are a lot of discrepancies in land-related issues in states which need to be corrected,” he said. However, some also say the Centre’s move would unnecessarily muddle land issues. “Land is primarily a state subject and the Centre has a very limited role. So, there is no point in making suggestions,” said Ajay Jakhar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmers’ advocacy group. (Business Standard 22/5/14)

 

32. UP objects to Delhi govt acquiring land (4)

New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government has urged the Supreme Court to recall its April 15 order allowing the Delhi government to go ahead with the process of acquiring 100 ‘bighas’ (20 acres) of land for Jamia Millia Islamia University. The land in question is along the UP border near the south east region of the capital.UP sought the maintenance of status quo on the Delhi government’s September 2011 bid to acquire around 215 bighas of land near the village Okhla, until a decision on the original suit is made. It, however, said: “If the Jamia Millia Islamia University requires land for the purpose of its expansion, it can request the government of UP and the same can be considered.” Claiming that the land came under the ownership of UP, it contended that the notification issued by the government of Delhi was illegal and without jurisdiction or authority. “Any further proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act for the remaining land will be a futile exercise, as the same is claimed by the plaintiff state as owned and under possession and there is no other owner/interested person for it,” an interlocutory application by the UP government said. It said that the disputed land was first acquired around 1882-1887 by the then Lt Governor of Punjab for the purpose of construction of ‘bunds’ (embankments), adding that it was then given to Agra canal estate, which was part of Uttar Pradesh, for maintenance and control of flooding in the river Yamuna. The UP government claimed that the ‘khatonies’ (document of title/ownership) mentioned the UP’s irrigation department as the land’s owner. It also said that the UP government had in the past provided land to the Delhi government, such as the 31.54 acres of land near Akshardham temple that it gave for the purpose of building construction during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, besides 12.12 hectare along the Yamuna bank for the Delhi Metro Rail project. The UP government also claimed that it handed another portion of land for the purpose of building a flyover near Geeta Colony. In November 2011, the apex court ordered a status quo in the matter, but modified its interim order on April 15 and lifted the stay. (Deccan Herald 26/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

33. South Asia is world’s most corrupt region: Transparency International (5)

Kathmandu: South Asia is the world’s most corrupt region and rampant corruption is preventing its people from breaking the barrier of poverty despite the fact that the subcontinent has attained strong economic growth over the past several years, a global anti-graft watchdog said here today. “South Asia now is the worst region in the world when it comes to corruption based on our studies,” said Srirak Pilpat, Asia Pacific director at Transparency International (TI), while releasing a report titled ‘Fighting Corruption in South Asia: Building Accountability’. “How does a region with such strong economic growth still have such high levels of poverty? It is corruption, which allows the few to profit without answering for their actions,” said Pilpat. “As long as nobody brings the corrupt to justice, South Asia’s leaders run the risk that future growth only benefits the powerful, doing nothing to help the half billion South Asians, who still live in poverty,” he pointed out. Governments in corruption-stricken South Asia must allow anti-graft agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption independently, TI said in the first comprehensive study on transparency and corruption prevention in the region. The TI report analysed how well 70 national institutions in Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stop corruption. In South Asian countries, government and people who want to expose and investigate corruption face legal barriers, political opposition and harassment that allow bribery, secret dealings and the abuse of power to go unchecked, the report warned. According to TI, Nepal improved from 139th position in 2012 to 116th in 2013 out of 177 countries surveyed in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) made public today. Despite economic growth averaging 6 per cent a year over the past two decades in the sub-continent, 31 per cent of people live on less than USD 1.25 a day, according to a World Bank report. “Corruption in public bodies that should provide basic services to the poor means that economic growth is only enjoyed by the few,” points out the report. In Nepal, corruption in government organisations remained uncontrolled due to political interference, the TI Nepal chapter said. “Governments will find transparency is the best investment they will ever make. Ordinary people can ensure their communities are served by governments, whistleblowers can save billions by exposing fraud,” remarked Pilpat. According to the TI report, 90 per cent of Nepalese believe that political parties are corrupt or extremely corrupt and 85 per cent consider public officials and public servants to be corrupt or extremely corrupt. Interestingly, 72 per cent believe that corruption in the country has increased over last two years. (Deccan Herald 21/5/14)

 

34. One week to notify black-money SIT (5)

New Delhi, May 23: The Supreme Court today gave the Centre a week to notify the three-member special investigation team it had appointed to unearth the black money stashed by Indians in foreign accounts. The vacation bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and A.K. Sikri also asked the Centre to ensure that all files and documents containing information on the black money accounts are “kept under the custody of a revenue department officer not below the rank of secretary”. The bench passed the order after solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran urged the court to grant one more week’s time to notify the special investigation team (SIT) as a new government was yet to assume charge. He said the draft notification was ready with the outgoing government but since a new dispensation was taking over, the matter had been left to it. Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, the petitioner in the case, sought safe custody of the documents in view of Monday’s fire at Shastri Bhavan, which houses several government departments. “You have burnt Shastri Bhavan; don’t burn North Block (which houses the finance ministry),” the senior counsel said in a lighter vein to Parasaran. Along with the banter, Jethmalani expressed fears that documents relating to the black money case, said to be stored in Shastri Bhavan, may be destroyed deliberately. He sought the court’s intervention. Conceding his plea, the apex court asked the outgoing UPA government to keep the documents in the custody of a senior revenue department officer. Last month, the apex court had warned the Centre that failure to notify the SIT would amount to contempt. In July 2011, the apex court had directed that an SIT be set up and notified but the Centre has not yet fully complied with the order. Earlier in 2011, Jethmalani had filed a public interest litigation for an SIT to be set up to probe allegations that black money amounting to Rs 70,000 crore was stashed in foreign banks and, if this was found true, to take steps to bring it back to the country. On July 4, the then apex court bench of Justices Sudarshan Reddy (now retired) and S.S. Nijjar had castigated the government for not showing any seriousness in retrieving the money. Although the Centre opposed the formation of an SIT, the bench rejected the plea and passed an order for its constitution. The SIT was set up with former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, as its chairperson. It is yet to be notified. “The volume of alleged income-taxes owed to the country, as demanded by the Union of India itself, and the volume of monies, by some accounts $8.04 billion, and some other accounts in excess of Rs 70,000 crore, are said to have been routed through various bank accounts of Hassan Ali Khan and Tapurias. Further, from all accounts it has been acknowledged that none of the named individuals has any known and lawful sources for such huge quantities of monies,” the apex court had said in 2011. “All of these factors, either individually or combined, ought to have immediately raised questions regarding the sources being unlawful activities, national security, and transfer of funds into India for other illegal activities, including acts against the State. It was only at the repeated insistence by us that such matters have equal, if not even greater importance than issues of tax collection, has the Union of India belatedly concluded that such aspects also ought to be investigated with thoroughness.” It added: “However, there is still no evidence of a really serious investigation into these other matters from the national security perspective.” (The Telegraph 24/5/14)

 

35. New division in place to deal with Lokpal-related works (5)

New Delhi: A separate division – to be headed by a Director-level officer – has been formed by the outgoing government to deal with all works related to the anti- corruption watchdog, Lokpal. Officials in the Personnel Ministry, which acts as the nodal department to provide administrative support to the Lokpal, said that the separate unit will help streamline the activities related to the working of the anti-corruption body, including handling of RTI applications and appeals. The ministry has appointed Anil Kumar V Patil as Director of the Lokpal Division recently, they said. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act (also known as Lokpal) provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Centre has already received nominations from various individuals for becoming chairperson and members of these bodies. The outgoing UPA government, however, could not appoint the chairperson and members of the much-touted Lokpal, apparently due to objections raised by BJP leaders on the selection process for the same. The UPA government had in February this year hurriedly formed an eight-member search committee which was mandated to draw up a panel of persons for consideration by the Prime Minister-led Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal. Those who been selected for the search panel included Justice (retd) KT Thomas (as chairperson) and seven members — Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), FS Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), ML Kumawat (former Director General of Border Security Force), HK Dua (senior journalist and Rajya Sabha member), SY Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner) and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha member). But, in a setback to the UPA government, Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel. (Zee News 25/5/14)

 

36. New Lok Sabha has four MPs facing corruption charges (5)

NEW DELHI: The 2014 polls were supposed to be a vote against corruption. However, they seem to have been fought on the faceless perception of it than the ground reality. In fact, all the MPs facing charges under Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) in the 16th Lok Sabha are from the BJP and its allies. An analysis of the election affidavits of candidates of all major parties and their allies shows that both BJP and Congress fielded three candidates each facing PCA cases. While all Congress candidates lost, all BJP ones were embraced by voters. BJP fielded B S Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu, both facing PCA cases, from Karnataka with positive results. The third BJP candidate who won in this category was Ganesh Singh from Madhya Pradesh. The three Congress candidates were Nitin Suresh Patil from Maharashtra, N Dharam Singh from Karnataka and Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya from Assam. Similarly, BJP ally PMK’s candidate Anbumani Ramadoss facing corruption charges won his seat while two belonging to DMK, 2G-tainted A Raja and N Pongalur Palanisamy, lost. DMK was until recently a Congress ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha has four MPs facing corruption charges and all belong to BJP and its allies. In the outgoing Lok Sabha too there were four MPs facing PCA charges. Thus in terms of statistics, at least, nothing has changed. Other parties which fielded candidates with PCA cases against them include Trinamool Congress which had Bandhu Tirkey contesting from Jharkhand and Churchill Alemao contesting from Goa. Badrudin Ajmal’s AIUDF too fielded one such candidate, Paresh Baisya, from Assam while Samjawadi Party fielded Kunjbihari Jugalkishor Agarwal from Maharashtra. Among the major parties which did not field any candidate with PCA cases were AAP, BSP, BJD, AIADMK and TDP. It must be mentioned, though, that PCA cases alone are no measure of the thrust a party has on anti-corruption agenda or even the number of corrupt people it fields. For example, former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, charged by CBI in the Adarsh housing society scam, is not part of PCA list as Maharashtra governor did not give the agency sanction to prosecute him under the Act. Socio-politics scientists often argue that a variety of factors which include the advent of identity politics post-1990 along with local issues ride over the large issue of corruption when voters decide to vote for a tainted candidate. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

37. More than 250 tribals get married in mass marriage function (6)

Thane, May 20 : Predominantly tribal villages in Jawhar and Mohada talukas of Thane district came alive and were buzzing with brisk activities all day long yesterday, as over 250 tribal couples from the region tied the knot with the help of social organisations. Multifaceted philanthropic initiative Vedanta foundation, organised a mass marriage program for 252 tribal couples belonging to Jawhar taluka and Mokhada taluka in Thane, yesterday. Most of the people belonging to this tribal community, get married without any ceremony to avoid the financial burdens, which creates a huge problem for their future. Their children do not get admission into schools due to lack of parents’ identity, and even staying as a married couple is not accepted within the community. More surprisingly they have also been ignored by society for any other social events. The marriages were solemnized in traditional fashion, without exchange of any dowry or any ostentation, and all basic necessities for the marriage like Mangalsutra, Mundavane, Janwe, Kumkum, Varmala, and Padha were organised by the foundation. One of the office bearers of the foundation said that the Foundation also gifted ornaments, sarees, utensil sets, rajai, mobiles, cycles, watches, school bags, goggles, and hygiene kits like soaps to the couples, to help fulfill theri basic requirements of a married life.’Founder trustee, DP Agarwal told UNI that the foundation is also facilitating them with marriage certificates to avoid further problem within the community, and has given fixed deposits worth Rs 5,000 to each couple in the local post office and also trained 75 women with new tailoring machines to help them earn a better livelihood. “The aim of this mass marriage was to promote simplicity in marriages, discouraging dowry and providing a new beginning for the underprivileged people under the social inclusion,” Dr Lona Nayak, CEO of Vedanta Foundation said. Besides the brides, grooms and around 2,500 people thronged the venue, to have a glimpse of the unique wedding ceremony. Actress, Reema Lagoo congratulated and guided every couple to have a healthy life and appealed other organisations to come forward for such noble initiative. (New Kerala 20/5/14)

 

38. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Report (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A 2010 survey conducted by the Scheduled Tribes Development Department had found that nearly half of the total deaths in the ST communities over the previous five years were premature or unnatural. The department recently prepared a state-level socio-economic status report based on the survey data which is yet to be published. The report accessed by ‘Express’ revealed stark disparities in the development indices of the tribals compared to the general population. According to the report, 5957 of 12189 deaths between 2005 and 2010 were ‘unnatural’ with 28 starvation deaths. A total of 432 persons died due to excessive consumption of alcohol/ drugs, 3,802 for lack of proper medical care, 950 in suicides, 48 in wild  animal attacks and 697 in accidents. The report which found some positive trends like a sex ratio of 1000:1031 and literacy rate of 74.44 percent, opined several other parameters required a drastic improvement. It suggested an integrated policy for the comprehensive development of the over four lakh tribals who form 1.28 percent of the total population. The report said 13.09 percent of the total families were affected by malnutrition and their number was maximum in Wayanad district, followed by Palakkad and Idukki districts. A total of 18 percent of the total families had members who were differently-abled or mentally-challenged. A total of 31 percent of families had members with chronic diseases. A total of 23.15 percent of Scheduled Tribes do not have ration cards while a majority of those distributed were defective. Only about 51 percent of the families were included in the below poverty line (BPL) category which was a far cry from reality, the report  said. About 56 percent of the families were in debt and one-third of them had borrowed from private money lenders. Nearly 30.27 percent of persons in the 15-59 age group were unemployed. Despite reservation benefits and special recruitment drives, only 4.33 percent had government or quasi-government jobs. Social security schemes were still a dream for the majority as only 17 percent of the widows were beneficiaries of widow  pension and 13 percent of the aged received old-age pension. The dropout rate was 62 percent in general and 80 percent among primitive tribes. 70 percent of the 4762 oorus (settlements) in the state did not have an anganwadi. About 9.66 percent families were houseless and 4.78 percent landless. The number of landless was high in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. (New Indian Express 20/5/14)

 

39. Soni Sori Fails to Hold Sway Over Voters in Bastar (6)

Raipur: Contrary to expectations of a triangular contest in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar Lok Sabha seat during the just-concluded elections, it turned out to be a confrontation only between BJP and Congress as AAP nominee Soni Sori could not make an impact on the voters. Political experts were anticipating that there could be a three-sided clash in Bastar with the entry of 38-year-old tribal teacher-turned-activist-turned-politician Soni Sori in the fray. Moreover, the poor show by the BJP in the last year’s assembly polls in the Bastar region was being seen as another factor likely to influence the LS polls in the zone. However, it was like a cakewalk for the BJP’s sitting MP Dinesh Kashyap, who comfortably won with 3,85,829 votes, defeating his Congress rival Deepak Karma (2,61,470 votes) by a whopping margin of 1,24,359 votes. Kashyap is the son of veteran BJP leader and renowned tribal leader, Baliram Kashyap. BJP state spokesperson Rasik Parmar feels different issues influence the winning factor in both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha seats and they were well aware that people would not accept Sori, who had earlier been arrested on charges of acting as a Naxal conduit. “The issues were different in this election as compared to last year’s assembly polls. Both the name of Modi ji and work of Chief Minister Raman Singh orchestrated BJP’s sounding win in the general elections,” Parmar told PTI. “We were already aware of the fact that people of Bastar will not accept Sori. We were confident of our victory in Bastar Lok Sabha seat,” he said. Sori tried to attract tribal voters by issuing her manifesto on a stamp paper, but looked completely out of the race as she got only 16,903 votes and stood in the fourth position. Notably, the None of The Above (NOTA) option was the third choice of voters in Bastar as a total of 38,772 of the electorate opted for it. Sori secured only 2.1 per cent of the total 7,69,449 votes polled in the Bastar seat. In the 2013 assembly polls, the BJP had only won 3 – Jagdalpur, Narayanpur and Bijapur- out of the eight assembly segments of Bastar, which was another key factor expected to play a crucial role in the general polls. The rest of the five assembly seats- Kondagaon, Chitrakot, Bastar, Dantewada and Konta – had then gone to the Congress. Keeping in mind the political situation, the Congress had fielded Deepak Karma, whose father Mahendra Karma, founder of the Salwa Judum (declared by the Supreme Court to be illegal and unconstitutional) and former leader of Opposition, was killed in the Jiram Valley (Bastar) Naxal attack on May 25 last year, to garner sympathy votes. But this failed to make any impact on the BJP’s victory margin. In 2011, in the Bastar Lok Sabha bypoll, Dinesh Kashyap had defeated the Congress’ Kawasi Lakhma by a margin of 85,000 votes and this time his victory margin crossed 1.24 lakh votes. Outlook 23/5/14)

 

40. Tribal protest continues, enters 6th day (6)

Kannur, May 24 : The indefinite agitation of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGMS) today entered sixth day demanding protection of Adivasi families residing in Aralam Farm. The AGMS has been protesting in front of district Collectorate office for the Aralam Farm’s Adivasi residents, which is the lone tribal resettlement area in the state from wild animals. Their demands also included end to corruption and exploitation of the farm’s natural resources. The AGMS will organise a Janasabha People meet on June 5, said Geethanadhan, Coordinator of AGMS, while talking to the media. He said they are also demanding restructure of the Government’s Tribal department. According to AGMS, though there are many welfare schemes and housing schemes for the tribals as launched at various times by the government, the residents of Aralam Farm are not getting any benefit. Though the government gives advance to the beneficiaries of the housing schemes, the Tribal people at Aralam are not given the money in advance. So the contractors exploit the situation and corrupt officials support them, he said. He alleged that there was large scale corruption in the Scheduled Tribes office here and the fund for tribals is diverted to help the contractors, who build poor quality houses. In order to solve this problem the fund should be transferred directly into the account of Adivasi welfare Committees in instalments, suggested Mr Geethanadhan. He said there is no engineer even to examine the quality of work, adding that the vacancy should be filled with immediate effect. (New Kerala 24/5/14)

 

41. Odisha to enumerate displaced primitive tribal group families (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha government will enumerate primitive tribal group (PTG) families those have been displaced, but without rehabilitation or compensation. Responding to recommendations of National Advisory Council, Odisha government submitted that it was ready to undertake assessment while seeking required funds from Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The SCs and STs Research and Training Institute (SCSTRITI) would include project proposal in its work plan for the next three years from 2014-15 to 2016-17 for carrying out assessment of the status of PTGs who have been displaced with or without compensation and devise support mechanisms for ensuring livelihood. A survey conducted by the State government in 2012 finds population of primitive tribal groups was growing at meagre 5.20 per cent while PTG literacy rate was estimated at 33.38 per cent. Literacy among female PTG was 24.75 per cent, much lower than other population. Although the State government had been undertaking focused implementation of welfare schemes for PTGs, the rate of poverty was 80.95 per cent. Deforestation and loss of traditional rights on forests was another malady, the PTGs face. Around 26.43 per cent of PTGs were landless and homeless. In several southern districts, tribal groups were displaced by dam projects decades ago. Of late, mining and industrial projects were threatening to displace PTGs. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

42. BJP gains on minority vote, trust in Delhi (7)

New Delhi: The one crucial element in BJP’s historic 7-0 win in Delhi was the support it received from the minority community. The party put in a lot of effort, right from organising conferences, holding public meetings, conducting door-to-door programmes to ensure the anti-Modi image created by the Congress and AAP was dismantled. The efforts seem to have yielded results. Across all assembly segments, which are dominated by Muslims, BJP gained 5,000-25,000 votes in the recently held Lok Sabha elections. Senior BJP leaders further said the results will boost the party’s prospects if re-elections are held in Delhi assembly and they should continue to undertake such programmes. The minority cell of the BJP played a crucial role in getting the support of Muslims. For instance, in the Matia Mahal assembly segment, which is part of Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency and is dominated by Muslims, Harsh Vardhan managed to get 15,453 votes against 6,061 votes the party had won in the 2013 assembly elections. “We had worked hard in areas dominated by Muslims and constituencies such as Seemapuri, Seelampur, Ghonda, Babarpur, Mustafabad, Okhla and Ballimaran. We have gained in Okhla too where the party candidate got 39,445 votes against 23,358 votes in the assembly election. It shows that the party is getting the support of the Muslim population and they believe in our agenda of positive governance,” said a senior BJP leader. The minority cell of the Delhi BJP had also prepared a video of Narendra Modi, the party’s face this election, highlighting the fact that he and the party is not anti-Muslim. “Traditionally, Muslims are believed to be the vote bank of Congress but that notion has undergone a sea change. A number of Muslims, especially the youth, came out in huge number and supported us as we gave them the development model. Our minority cell held interactions and public meets to ensure more people came out and voted for our candidates,” said Atif Rashid, president of minority cell of Delhi BJP.  (Hindustan Times 20/5/14)

 

43. Rs 245cr approved for minority, women’s education (7)

PATNA: The state cabinet on Thursday approved more than Rs 245 crore to link women sections and minority communities with school education. The decision was made to allocate funds under the ‘Mahadalit, minorities and extremely backward castes akshar anchal yojna’. Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi presided over the meeting. The plan aims at linking 8 lakh Mahadalit and EBC women with basic school education. Four lakh of them hail from minority communities. It also entails children in the age group of 6-14 hailing from Mahadalit, minorities and EBCs with school education. Principal secretary, cabinet coordination department, Brajesh Mehrotra said the cabinet gave its nod to 15 proposals of various departments like education, health, power, social welfare and agriculture. It approved the energy department’s proposal to sanction a subsidy of Rs 2344.58 crore to the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) against the purchase of power in current financial year. A sum of Rs 780 crore at the rate of Rs 195 crore per month has been approved for a period of four months starting from April 2014. The state government will directly pay the amount to the Reserve Bank of India for the payment of monthly energy bills to the NTPC. The cabinet also okayed the proposal to make capital investment out of the state plan amount available with all the five companies of the Bihar State Power Holding Company Limited. The proposal to set up an additional 100-bed ward at Darbhanga sadar hospital at an estimated cost of Rs 25.99 crore and a 100-bed super specialty eye hospital at Rajendra Nagar to be constructed at the cost of Rs 76.04 crore in the current financial year also received the nod. The amount would be sanctioned to the Bihar State Health Infrastructure Corporation Limited. A proposal for the construction of a separate building of the centre for excellence under the ‘Anveshan’ programme at Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH) at an estimated cost of Rs 42.11 crore also got the government nod. In another major decision, the government approved state share amount of Rs 1,697.42 crore against the total central share of Rs 4,000 crore under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) for the current financial year, Mehrotra said. The state share would be released as and when the central share reaches. The cabinet also sanctioned Rs 1,522 crore under National Social Security Programme. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

44. HC reinstates MoS status to minorities commission chairman (7)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Thursday stayed the order of the state government withdrawing the minister of state status accorded to the chairman of the state minorities commission. Justice M N Bhandari stayed the order after commission chairman Mahir Azad approached the court challenging the government order dated February 4 this year. The counsel for the petitioner argued that he was appointed chairman on November 2011 and his three-year term expires only on November 22 this year. Hence withdrawing the staff and facilities of the chairman are untenable and politically motivated. The BJP government soon after coming to power, withdrew all the staff attached to the commission on December 15 and later through a government order withdrew the facilities of the minister of state status enjoyed by the commission chairman. According to Section 5 of the Minority Commission Act, 2004, the staff and facilities accorded to the commission could not be withdrawn mid-way. The court, while staying the order, issued notices to chief secretary, additional chief secretary minority affairs and principal secretary, general administration. The court had earlier stayed the order relating to state women’s commission and Bhoodan commission after the respective chairpersons approached the court challenging the government order. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

45. Kashmir Valley happy over Modi invite to Sharif (7)

Srinagar: Indian Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi’s invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his swearing in ceremony has evoked a positive response in the Kashmir Valley. Both separatist and mainstream politicians as well as residents here have welcomed the step. “Excellent move by Modi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pakistan PM for his swearing in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks,” Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on twitter site. “At the same time I can’t help wonder what (the) BJP would have said if a PM designate Rahul Gandhi had done the same thing,” he added. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat, too welcomed the decision, adding this should also translate into addressing the Kashmir problem in line with the aspirations of its people. The Pakistan government says Sharif has not yet decided whether or not he should attend Modi’s oath taking in New Delhi Monday. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has, however, dismissed the change of guard in India, saying New Delhi’s Kashmir policy won’t change no matter who the prime minister is. The man on the street in the Kashmir Valley is also looking forward to better India-Pakistan relations under Modi. “He has done the right thing by inviting Sharif… This will help undo the impression that Modi will rule India as a hawk,” said Shabir Ahmad, a 39-year-old resident of Narwara area in Srinagar. Others believe that Modi would work for peace between the two countries but for that the Kashmir problem would have to be addressed. “Let us not play the ostrich. Kashmir is the main problem. Anybody who wants to seriously apply himself to better India-Pakistan relations must strive to work for the resolution of this basic problem,” Farooq Ahmad, 53, a bank officer, pointed out. As a Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government prepares to get into the driving seat, Kashmiris say Modi could disprove all they have heard about him — from his rivals. “For us there are scary memories of Gujarat and Godhra riots. As the prime minister of India, Modi will have to prove he was not behind those events,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a college teacher.”For this to be done and seen, Kashmiri Muslims and others living outside will have to be taken on board through positive action. “He cannot rule without being every Indian’s prime minister. Winning elections is one thing but governing a vast, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country like India is a very difficult call,” he added. According to Ahmad, “the most difficult task would be working for better ties with Pakistan and winning the hearts and minds of Kashmiris”. Added Noor Muhammad Wani, 61, a resident of Shalteng in Srinagar’s outskirts: “Congress failure or deliberate reluctance to resolve the Kashmir dispute somehow gives me an impression that Modi will definitely ensure peace in Kashmir. This will be possible only if he takes Nawaz Sharif on board.” (Hindustan Times 22/5/14)

 

46. To show Muslim support, RSS ensures invites for three dozen (7)

New Delhi: The BJP may not have a single Muslim MP but the RSS wants to ensure that at least 30 Muslim faces are present for Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Monday. It has organised invites for over three dozen Muslims, from across the country. Some of them have already arrived in the Capital. Likewise, passes have been arranged for some guests from the Christian community as well. Girish Juyal, a former pracharak working with the RSS’s Muslim Rashtriya Manch and one of those assigned to look after the Muslim guests, confirmed the invitations. “Our effort is to ensure that a message doesn’t go out that this government has no support among Muslims,” Juyal said. During the campaign, the BJP had distributed skull caps to show Muslim presence at its meetings. Some of them may not be able to come but passes have been arranged for all, said sources. Most of the guests are associated with the Muslim Rashtriya Manch. Some are religious leaders, while a few are ordinary Muslims, sources said. Apart from Juyal, Virag Pachpore, Golok Behari and Mahiradhwaj Singh have been deputed to look after these guests. Of them only Pachpore is a pracharak, others are former RSS pracharaks. The invitees include Faiz Khan (from Raipur), Dr Salim Raj (Raipur), S K Moinuddin (Jabalpur), Tayyab Qureshi (Ghaziabad), Maulana Shamoom Kasmi (Bijnore), Maulana Shoeb Kasmi (Bijnore), Dr Sadakat Ali (Roorkie), Mohd Ashraf Asharfi (Bareilly), Imran Chaudhary (Delhi), Mohammad Afzal (Delhi), Shehzad Ali (Agra), Abbas Ali Vorah (Bangalore), Latif Maqdoom (Pune), Dr Shahid Akhtar (Ranchi), Engineer Ghulam Ali (Srinagar), Abu Baqar Naqvi (Tonk), Reshma Hussain (Jaipur), Ghani Bhai Qureshi (Gujarat), Maulana Zahid and Zahangir Alam, among others. (Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

47. Muslims are not minorities, Parsis are: Najma Heptullah (7)

NEW DELHI: Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah on Tuesday said Muslims were not minorities by any stretch of the imagination and instead Parsis with their dwindling population qualified for the tag. On her first day in office, Heptullah appeared determined to reorient the ministry by playing down its role in welfare of Muslims and dismissing the policies espoused by the UPA government. “Muslims are not minorities. Parsis are. We have to see how we can help them so that their numbers don’t diminish,” she told reporters when asked how her government proposed to take Muslim welfare forward. With more questions about the community being lobbed at her, Heptullah snapped back, “This is not the ministry for Muslim affairs, this is the ministry for minority affairs.” The remarks from the experienced politician, who is the grand-niece of freedom fighter Abul Kalam Azad and has played the major part of her political innings in Congress, appeared in line with BJP’s point of view. There was speculation in the run-up to government formation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may disband the minority affairs ministry or merge it with a bigger ministry like social justice, a reason why the appointment of a minister came as a surprise. However, a change of approach may be in store. Given that most of the ministry’s policies are specifically targeted at Muslims, Heptullah steered clear of giving her views on the policies or what she planned to do. “Till I get guidance from the PM, I will not draw a roadmap for my ministry,” she said. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

48.  “Missing priest” has gone into retreat: Bishop

TUTICORIN: The Roman Catholic Church has denied that Fr. Vasanthan, 34, Kudankulam parish priest, is missing. He was reported “missing” after allegedly assaulted at a meeting of priests. In a statement on Thursday, Most Rev. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticorin, denied that Fr. Vasanthan was missing. He said the priest, in a letter addressed to him on May 15, had stated that he would take rest from his parish for one year and expressed a wish to spend all days of the year on a retreat. Fr. Vasanthan left the parish on May 18, the statement said. The Bishop also denied media reports that the priest was assaulted since he opposed the demand of several priests to support the Aam Aadmi Party. On a complaint from F. Suganthan, 29, brother of Fr. Vasanthan, the Tuticorin Central police filed a ‘man missing’ case on Wednesday. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

49. Indian Christian Secular Party: Name strikes blow to party in elections (7)

VISAKHAPATNAM: “What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A lot, it would seem, going by the fate of the Indian Christian Secular Party (ICSP) in the assembly elections. The party garnered barely 1,200 votes in the assembly constituencies of Vizag East, Gajuwaka and Pendurthy and political analysts attribute this dismal performance to the name, as well as the propaganda that it is an offshoot of YSRCP. The use of Christian in the name of the party has been one of the causes of its alienation from non-Christian voters, said a political analyst. “How can you have Christian and secular juxtaposed in the name of a national party? Voters would assume that the party is meant for the welfare of the Christian community only and, thus, would not be able to relate to it,” said the analyst. “The mention of Christian in our party’s name may not go down well with some educated intellectuals who may have some reservations about highlighting the name of any religion. However, considering that fighting for minorities’ rights and their protection is one of the priorities of our party, the name might not be changed,” said Esther Lepcha, the MLA candidate from Vizag East. Lepcha also blamed the false propaganda by other parties that ICSP is an offshoot of the YSRCP for the dismal performance. “Certain other parties spread the word that we are an offshoot of the YSRCP or are linked to it in some way because we happen to be Christians. We are in no way connected to the YSRCP,” she said. The members of the party have decided to strengthen their reach for the 2019 elections and are preparing for a review meeting in early June. “Our party was launched on February 21 in Hyderabad. After candidates filed their nominations, they got just a few days for campaigning for a new party, which was not adequate. However, we will soon have a review meeting in the first week of June where all the candidates and members from Seemandhra and Telangana would participate,” said Tatipudi Sriramulu, the candidate for the Pendurthy MLA seat. “We are hopeful of strengthening the party before the 2019 elections and expanding to other states. Till then we will work for the minority communities and make our presence felt,” said Lepcha. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

50. CBCI Greets Modi (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has greeted Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi and hoped that the new government would work for the welfare and progress of the poor, marginalised, minorities and weaker sections of the society. In a statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India assured the Prime Minister-designate of its prayers and wholehearted support in his efforts to lead the nation towards new heights of peace, prosperity and harmony. “The CBCI hopes that the resounding victory in the general elections should enthuse the BJP and the NDA to work relentlessly for the welfare and progress of all people, especially the poor, the marginalised, minorities and weaker sections of society,” the statement from the CBCI said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

51. Amity still eludes tense, scared Muzaffarnagar (7)

Muzaffarnagar: Months after riots broke out Muzaffarnagar district is still under a communal siege, with the district administration failing to restore harmony. Hindu and Muslim neighbours still eye each other with suspicion and live in constant fear. This distrust is strengthened by frequent killings in the area as miscreants belonging to different faiths move about freely in groups, attacking members of the other community.Latest in the spate of killings is the lynching of four youths by villagers. According to the police, in the last four weeks, six such incidents have been reported in which ten people have been killed in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining Meerut. Locals say that despite security measures and deployment of additional policemen, killings and fights break out regularly, filling villagers with fear. Most incidents involve fights between Muslims and Hindus, mainly Jats.They also claimed that the Lok Sabha election results and the overwhelming victory of the BJP had acted as a catalyst and since then the situation appears to have gone out of control. Locals claimed that rumours of renewed communal violence were flying thick and fast on counting day (May 16) but any untoward incidents were prevented by an alert district administration. “As election results started appearing to go in favour of the BJP, scores of local vendors, majority of them Muslims, downed shutters,” a resident of Muzaffarnagar said.Members of both communities admitted to The Pioneer that all is not well in the district, and it may witness more communal clashes as several anti-social elements are actively creating a rift between Hindus and Muslims. They added that such elements are not missing any opportunity to give a communal flavor to any criminal incidents in the area. “This has resulted in widening of the chasm between the two communities who have co-existed since ages. We had expected the situation to return to normal after the violence last year but the recent crisis indicates more trouble in coming days,” said Ishwar Malik, a resident of Khedi Village where the murder of Sanjeev Malik, secretary of the Bar Association of Muzaffarnagar, and the lynching of his killers took place recently. Though he attributed Sunday morning’s incident to a land dispute, Malik added that the accused persons were from the minority community. “When people came to know that the lawyer, Sanjeev Malik, was killed by Muslim youths, hundreds of people from nearby villages gathered to avenge his death. The mob calmed down only when Satbir Malik, the deceased lawyer’s father, appealed for peace,” he said. However, the angry villagers blocked roads in the area and lynched the four accused. The villagers also held a Mahapanchayat (public meet) which was attended by local MP Sanjeev Baliyan. After the incident, hundreds of policemen along with the Provincial Armed Constabulary were deployed to keep the situation under control. The lawyer’s murder is not an isolated incident. A farmer was shot on April 28 and a mob blocked the Delhi-Dehradun national highway and pelted stones at the police. Police said that Yamin (50) was gunned down by some unidentified persons from another village after an argument. On May 9, tensions sparked in city area after a student of class ten, Uvais, was shot by some youths in a mobile shop. Just after the murder, scores of people had gathered in the town and created a stir. Two days later, Amit Bhardwaj, another resident was randomly shot at by car-borne assailants who stopped him on the pretext of asking his name. He was immediately rushed to a hospital in Meerut to avoid any retaliation by residents of the area. Four days ago, a clash took place in Hajipura area, but police immediately controlled the situation. A communal clash was also witnessed in Meerut district earlier when two communities fought over the construction of a water kiosk near a mosque. The incident left one dead and 50 people injured even as police registered cases against 200 people. Meanwhile, security personnel were deployed in huge numbers at Budhana Police Station area where the four youths were lynched following the lawyer’s murder.Alok Kumar, Inspector General, Meerut Range, said they were keeping a close watch on the situation. “We quickly normalized the situation but we have deployed the police force to avoid any more untoward incidents. We have registered an FIR and the matter is being investigating,” said Kumar. However, the role of the local police came under a cloud as it tried to insulate the villagers involved in lynching of the youths. (Pioneer 21/5/14)

 

52. Communal clash in Faizabad village (7)

FAIZABAD: Communal tension gripped Ibrahimpur village of Raunahi police station area after two groups clashed over the passage of a religious procession late on Saturday night. Police resorted to lathicharge and used teargas to control the mob. According to reports, around a dozen persons have been injured in the clash. Heavy contingent of police has been deployed at the affected area and other sensitive parts of the district. Faizabad had witnessed communal riots in October 2012 in which about a hundred shops were looted and burned, two people were killed and many were injured. (Times of India  25/5/14)

 

53. Tension in Muzaffarnagar after abduction, gang rape (7)

MEERUT: Communal tensions have erupted in the riot-affected Kakroli area of Muzaffarnagar after a gang rape. “A case of abduction and gang rape has been registered against Sonu, Saddam and Kamrulzama after a medical examination of the victim [their neighbour] confirmed rape, and they will be arrested soon,” Superintendent of Police (Crime) Rakesh Jolly told The Hindu on Sunday. The suspects allegedly abducted her when she was alone at home on Friday afternoon. When neighbours tried to save her, the accused threatened to kill them. A search was launched after her parents returned in the evening, and she was found in the nearby forests. The parents immediately took her to the Kakroli police station where a first information report was lodged. Last week, two youths gang-raped a postgraduate student and shot a video in the nearby Chaproli area of Baghpat district. They allegedly threatened the girl that if she tried to complain, they would upload the video on the Internet. She, however, gathered courage and filed a complaint with the police on Saturday. In another incident, the Bijnore police arrested a gram pradhan and the father of a girl for allegedly blackening the face of her lover and parading him with a garland of shoes at Nagina on Saturday on the orders of a kangaroo court. Another person was also arrested in the incident. “The matter is serious and we will arrest all the 11 persons who participated in the kangaroo panchayat,” Superintendent of Police Anis Ahmed Ansari told The Hindu on Sunday. Parents of the boy said he had not returned home after the humiliation. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

54. Clash between two communities in Modi’s heartland (7)

AHMEDABAD: The police fired tear gas to break up clashes between two communities in Narendra Modi’s heartland of Gujarat on the eve of his swearing in as Prime Minister, officials said on Monday. Angry crowds set fire to several shops and vehicles and pelted stones at each other during the clashes in western Gujarat state’s main city of Ahmedabad on Sunday night, police and fire officials said. Ahmedabad joint police commissioner Manoj Shashidhar said officers fired tear gas to halt the violence which left four people injured. Shashidhar said an investigation was under way into the clashes which appear to have started when two cars from the different communities crashed in an accident during a marriage procession. “The incident flared up following a petty argument between people of two communities on Sunday night in Gomtipur area of the city. The situation was immediately brought under control,” Shashidhar told AFP. The incident escalated when mobs set property on fire, Ahmedabad chief fire officer M S Dastur told AFP. “Some three shops, one mini-bus and a couple of two wheelers were burnt during the incident,” Dastur said. The clashes came as Modi, chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years, was set to be sworn as premier on Monday after a landslide victory in Lok Sabha elections as head of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi has pledged national unity as he attempts to revive the faltering economy, but he remains tainted by anti-Muslim riots on his watch in Gujarat in 2002 that left at least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, dead. Modi has denied wrongdoing and a court investigation found he has no case to answer. But some members of religious minorities fear a rise in communal tensions under a Modi government and warn they will be sidelined at the expense of the Hindu majority. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

55. Sexual assault case: Asaram to remain in jail, SC to hear bail plea on July 3 (8)

New Delhi: Controversial self-styled godman Asaram, who has been behind bars since August last year for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl, will have to remain in jail for now with the Supreme Court on Monday putting off hearing on his bail plea till July 3. A bench of justices BS Chauhan and AK Sikri adjourned the matter and posted the hearing for July, after the court’s annual summer vacation, on a bunch of petitions filed by the 75-year-old seeking bail and dropping of charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Asaram has challenged the minor status of the alleged victim, claiming that she was born in 1995 and not in 1997, as stated by her father. The Rajasthan High Court had earlier in February denied bail to Asaram in the case of alleged sexual assault of a minor girl in his ashram in Jodhpur. The controversial spiritual guru has been lodged in the Central Jail in Jodhpur since his arrest in August, 2013. (Zee news 20/5/14)

 

56. Will Women’s Reservation Bill see the light of day… ? (8)

New Delhi: The 16th Lok Sabha will have the highest number of women MPs since the first election in 1952, 61. It had the maximum number of women candidates, 668 and the highest women voter turnout in numbers. The women MPs are 11.3 per cent of the total members of parliament, nowhere near the 33 per cent mark that the Women’s Reservation Bill seeks to implement. The Bill seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. “It is the will of the men in the parliament and not that of the women which is required to pass these Bills. Though I am proud of the fact that women were a significant part of this election, the same thing should be reflected in the parliament,” Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Najma Heptulla said. Some of the other Bills pending in the parliament which pertain to women include, The Constitution (110th Amendment) Bill for reserving half the seats in panchayats for women and The Constitution (112th Amendment) Bill reserving one-third of elected seats in municipalities for women. “Since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a majority in the Lok Sabha now, the Bills should be passed. These Bills were brought into the Rajya Sabha by the Congress and so I don’t see them opposing its passage,” Heptulla said. “If there is a problem in the proceedings I am ready to ask the BJP to call for a joint-sitting of both the houses and get the bills passed,” she added. Currently the NDA with 398 members in Parliament crosses the halfway mark of 394, with the combined strength of both houses being 788. The BJP has 42 members in the Rajya Sabha while the Congress has 68. Though a joint session was called in 2008 for the Women’s Reservation Bill, it could not be passed. According to Heptulla, Mulayam Singh-led SP and Mayawati-led BSP are the only two parties who are against certain sections of the Bills and may not let them pass. Apart from Congress President Sonia Gandhi, leader of opposition in the outgoing Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Hema Malini and Maneka Gandhi, other prominent women elected to the 16th Lok Sabha include Kirron Kher, Poonam Mahajan, Uma Bharti, Dimple Yadav, Moon Moon Sen and Meenakshi Lekhi. Congress had the largest number of female candidates, 57, while BJP fielded only 37. While 28 of the 37 BJP women candidates won only four won from the Congress. West Bengal has the largest tally of women winners at 14 who will be entering the new parliament. According to data released by the Election Commission, out of a total of 8,251 candidates, 668 were women, which is the highest ever. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 556 women had contested. General Election 2014 saw the total voter turnout of 66.48%. Out of this the male voter’s turnout was 67.17% and female voter’s turnout was 65.71%. According to the EC, female voter turnout (in percentage) was higher than male turnout in 16 states and UTs. 59 women were elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in the 2009 election. The number of women members in 2004 was 45, and in 1999 it was 49. The least number of women in the Lok Sabha was 19 in 1977. (DNA 22/5/14)

 

57. Women-only cab service launched in Kochi (8)

Kochi: With the support of the Kerala government, a women-only cab service called “She Taxi” has been launched here to ensure safety and empowerment of the fairer sex. Kochi is only the second city after Thiruvanathapuram in India to have such a facility focused for women. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy launched the “She Taxi” facilities at an event here. A similar service was introduced in Thiruvanathapuram six months ago. Kerala government’s department of social justice is backing the venture which has been conceived and implemented by The Gender Park and has actress Manju Warrier as its goodwill ambassador.  “She Taxi has become a women empowerment model for countries across the globe to emulate,” Chandy said at the launch event Monday. “The She Taxi has grabbed global attention after its successful introduction in Thiruvanathapuram. Even the authorities in the UAE are actively looking at the possibility of similar cab services for women,” he said. To begin with, Kochi will have a fleet of ten cabs. Later, Kozhikode will become the third city in the state to launch She Taxis, said M.K. Muneer, Kerala’s minister for panchayats and social justice.“We are planning to roll out 250 She Taxi cabs in all major cities across the state,” said Muneer. She Taxi was launched in Thiruvananthapuram Nov 19, 2013, with five cabs.  The customised pink-and-white taxis, supplied by Maruti Suzuki India, are fitted with best-in-class technology such as GPS, precision metering systems and in-car LCD systems. They also have a number of safety features such as emergency alert switches for drivers and passengers and safety alert mobile application for women drivers. (Pioneer 22/5/14)

 

58. Women’s Participation in NREGS Drops (8)

BHUBANESWAR: With women’s participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) on a decline in the State, the Odisha Government has asked the district collectors to adopt women-specific plans to reverse the trend. Apart from specific types of work which are favourable to women, facilities at the work sites and if possible, incentives must also be provided to district coordinators, the collectors have been told. In last couple of years, participation of women in NREGS has gradually declined in Odisha, posing a worry for the Government. What’s worse, the figures are even below the national average. From 39 per cent in 2011-12 to 37 per cent in 2012-13, the share has now dropped to 33 per cent in 2013-14. This, despite special provisions in NREGA to promote women’s participation. However, the nature and condition of work, burden of responsibilities at home and labour market are some of the factors that prevent the women’s participation from improving. To arrest the trend, the Panchayati Raj Department has asked the collectors to study the composition of women workers at work sites and the nature of work to understand why the participation has dropped. Special attention must be given to widows, deserted and destitute. The gram panchayats must identify such women and ensure they are provided at least 100 days of work. Similarly, pregnant women and lactating mothers must also be treated as a special category. The Department has identified at least 18 types of works which should be offered,  preferably to women. Such works should be identified and implemented close to their houses. Similarly, the GPs have been asked to identify at least one work which remains operational round the year for women. “The circular on ensuring at least one community project in each revenue village must be strictly followed. This would mean women workers are engaged in MGNREGS in their own village, mostly those living in hilly and difficult terrains,” Director, Special Projects NB Jawale said in a circular. The districts have also been asked to follow the example of Kerala and Tamil Nadu where women’s participation is above 80 per cent because of availability of economic activities for women self-help groups. This strategy must be adopted in districts where National Rural Livelihood Mission is implemented. The collectors have also been asked to put in place an incentive system to push women’s involvement. If participation exceeds 70 per cent, the district programme coordinators must be provided incentives. Flexible work hours, making available amenities such as shades, drinking water and child care should be provided to improve the participation. According to the Panchayati Raj Department, participation of women in NREGS is less than 33 per cent in the districts of Sonepur, Sambalpur, Puri, Nuapada, Malkangiri, Koraput, Khurda, Kendrapara, Jharsuguda, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Bhadrak, Bargarh, Balasore and Angul which need immediate attention. (New Indian Express 25/5/14)

 

59. CSR to work ‘meri shakti meri beti’ campaign in Haryana (8)

New Delhi, May 19 : In a bid to eliminate from the society the practice of sex determination of embryo, the Centre for Social Research (CSR) is all set to roll out “meri shakti meri beti” campaign in Haryana. The campaign started by the CSR and supported by the German embassy aims at addressing gender biased sex-selection, replicating best practices in combating sex-selective abortion and mend the gap in the regional approach for sex selection by coordinating cross-jurisdictional programming. According to the 2011 Census report, Gurgaon city and Manesar town have an extremely low sex ratio of 854 girls per 1,000 boys. The region is highly stratified across the economic spectrum, with a high-earning urban class and a large and growing population of rural migrants from surrounding regions, the report says. Speaking about implementing the plans, CSR director Ranjana Kumari said: “We are hopeful and confident that by partnering with other grassroot level NGOs, ‘meri shakti meri beti’ project will be a success. Community watch groups and committees against sex selection are also being formed that will keep a constant check on incidences of female foeticide in this region.” The project has already been implemented successfully in the national capital in the last couple of years and now aims at raising awareness about pre-natal sex determination and prepare stakeholders and community members for deeper engagement to curb the declining sex ratio in the region, she said in a statement. (New Kerala 19/5/14)

 

60. Srinagar: Husband, in-laws demand dowry, burn 20-year-old with acid (8)

Srinagar: A shocking incident of domestic violence has left a 20 year newly wed woman with burnt hands and feet in Srinagar. The woman has alleged that her husband and in-laws demanded dowry and subjected her to inhuman torture and threw acid on her. “A year back 20 year old women of Gujran village of Rajouri District married accused 24 year old Mohammad Razaq, a labourer who used to work in Gulf. After marriage, her husband and his parents started to torture her and demand dowry. Her in-laws even used to keep her hostage for days together,” SP Rajouri Mubashir Latiffi said. In her statement, the woman alleged acid was first thrown on her hands and lower limb on February 9 by her husband and in-laws as a result of which her both hands suffered massive burn injuries. She alleged some local leaders intervened in the matter and assured her that her husband would pay her money for treatment. However, she resented when nothing was done to treat her for two months and she was confined in house. With the help of her father, she approached the Rajouri police on Friday. The police have registered a case in against her husband and his parents. (CNN IBN 25/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

61. NGT notice to Centre, Odisha over Posco green nod (9)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the state pollution control board and Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to reply within three weeks regarding extension of environment clearance (EC) for Posco’s steel plant project at Paradip. “Let reply be filed within three weeks from today with advanced copy to counsel for appellant, who may file rejoinder within two weeks,” the court said today in its daily order posted on its website. Hearing a case filed by environmentalist Prafulla Samantray, the green court today asked the Central and the state governments to clarify the questions raised about the re-validation of environment clearance granted on 7 January, 2014. The EC for the steel plant was extended as per an order issued by NGT in 2013. While hearing another case related to forest clearance and tree felling at proposed plant site of Posco, the court had asked the MoEF to re-validate the EC granted in 2007. The original EC in 2007 was granted for 12 million tonne per annum (MTPA) steel plant of Posco along with its captive port and other facilities. However, in the re-validated EC, the MoEF has granted the clearance for four million tonne plant and said there is an inbuilt provision to build another steel mill of 4 MTPA capacity later. The petitioner, in a fresh appeal filed in last week of March, said the re-validation approved in January this year and the original EC granted in 2007 was cleared without looking into ground reports submitted by experts and hence is illegal. “The EC was illegal and that’s why the court admitted our prayer to hear the matter,” said Samantray. (Business Standard 20/5/14)

 

62. Cry to save reserve forest from zoo inside (9)

Bangalore, May 22: Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have been a threat to Iron Men and some gents in khaki shorts when he was in power but never to other species. Now a zoo named after him is at the centre of a battle raging around the fate of assorted animals such as sloth bears, wild boars, leopards, pangolins, simians and hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. Conservationists are up in arms against the upcoming project — the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park — inside a reserve forest that already houses a bear sanctuary in north Karnataka. The project — inside the Billikallu West Reserve Forest — has been a bone of contention ever since the then BJP government ordered in November 2010 to develop it in the current location in Kamalapura, in Bellary district, where the Daroji Bear Sanctuary is located. Although it was supposed to come up at Munirabad in neighbouring Koppal district, the project was shifted to Bellary, the home district of former tourism minister Janardhana Reddy who showed a lot of interest in getting the zoo to enrich tourism potential in his turf. The mining baron apparently exerted pressure to shift the project before he was arrested in the mining scam and was sent to jail in September 2011. Work is on in 350 acres carved out of the 55sqkm reserve forest. The Daroji Bear Sanctuary that houses more than 150 sloth bears is nearby in the same forest stretch. Some 380km north of Bangalore, the zoo site is 15km from Hampi, the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire and a major tourist hub. By positioning the zoo close to Hampi, the government plans to capitalise on the local tourist presence. But the contention of wildlife activists is that zoo animals would be dangerous for the wild animals as they could transmit diseases usually borne by captive inmates. The reserve forest is home to animals like sloth bears, wild boars, leopards, pangolins, simians and hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. This prompted two wildlife activists to file a PIL with Karnataka High Court recently. But the court being in summer holidays is likely to hear the petition only in June. The petition sought judicial intervention to quash the government order that led to the shifting of the zoo to the reserve forest. One of the petitioners, Santosh Martin, told The Telegraph it would be disastrous to have a zoo inside the forest area. “Pristine forest should not be destroyed for the sake of a zoo which can be built elsewhere,” said Martin, a former honorary wildlife warden of Bellary. “This is a corridor for many animals and a nesting ground for endangered birds. Much of the biodiversity in the area will be lost forever if the zoo is built,” he said. “There could be outbreak of diseases from zoo animals that can threaten the existence of the animals in the wild. Not just that, the zoo will give rise to commercial activities that will destroy the area’s serenity.” But the authorities feel the outcry is unreasonable. “It’s not as if the entire flora and fauna in the Billikallu forest would get destroyed,” R.S. Suresh, additional principal chief conservator of forests and member secretary of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka, said. …(The Telegraph 23/5/14)

 

63.  ‘Just planting trees is not enough’ (9)

Visakapatanam: Every living organism is dependent on one another and it is this healthy coexistence among different species that strengthens the ecosystem. The disproportionate percentage of plant and animal life will adversely affect the environment and lifestyle of mankind. Coinciding with the International Day for Biological Diversity being observed in the city, members of India Youth for Society along with Green Pals Club spoke on the importance of safeguarding the planet and various means to protect multiple species. Every individual should step out of his or her comfort zone and come out with effective solutions to enhance the overall ecosystem, they felt. “Though agricultural biotechnology leads to better yields, it has its own negative impact on health. The need of the hour is to adopt traditional organic farming techniques over contemporary methods,” Professor in Zoology, Andhra University C. Manju Latha, one of the invitees, said. President of India Youth for Society Appala Reddy said that one’s responsibility does not end by just planting trees. “We need to move beyond the planting drive and take serious measures to nurture them for a longer period. This apart, several showrooms and retail outlets join hands to cut down trees because they block the visibility of their hoardings. We want to meet concerned officials and request them to take necessary action against such persons,” he said. According to N.B. Murthy of Green Pals Club, factors like deforestation, global warming and climate change have an impact on the extinction of various species. Before it becomes too late, he said, it is necessary to join hands and take little steps to strengthen the green world by all means. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

64. Rs 30,000-cr to undo damage done by mining in Karnataka (9)

Bangalore: The country’s first programme to mitigate the adverse impact of mining on the environment – forests, wildlife and the local community -is set to take off in Karnataka soon. With the Supreme Court having given it the green signal recently, the state government will set up a company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, in a month with an initial corpus of close to Rs 4,000 crore. The court, while rejecting the Karnataka government’s plea for allowing it to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, ordered the state to set up a Section 25 company under the Companies Act. This company will formulate and implement projects under the Comprehensive Environment Plan for Mining Impact Zone (CEPMIZ), a senior official in the state government said. “Karnataka will be the first state to undertake such a massive and ambitious environment project. It could become a model for replication elsewhere in the country,” said Tushar Girinath, secretary, department of mines, Karnataka. The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court, in its report dated February 3, 2012, had recommended the establishment of a special purpose vehicle for taking ameliorative and mitigative measures according to the CEPMIZ around the mining leases in the districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur. “As directed by the Supreme Court, we will have to form a Section 25 company within a month and start implementing the environment rehabilitation projects. This company will be in existence for the next 30 years and spend at least Rs 30,000 crore for repairing the damage done by mining to the environment in the three districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur,” Girinath said. The SPV will implement not only afforestation programmes but also a whole series of development works in the areas of education, health, nutrition, water supply, employment and training, roads, minor irrigation, among others…  (Business Standard 25/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

65. 28 schools issued warning for ignoring RTE admissions (11)

CHENNAI: The directorate of matriculation schools in Tamil Nadu has issued a warning to 28 schools in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts to comply with the 25% reservation of seats stipulated under the Right to Education Act. This warning came after a complaint filed by city NGO Becoming I Foundation. The directorate also forwarded the complaint to the Central Board of Secondary Education as several of the 28 schools mentioned are affiliated to the CBSE. “It is unacceptable for private schools with state and central government approval to defy the orders of the government,” the statement said. “All schools have received the warning from the directorate and we have put up notices on the board so that it is convenient for parents. The RTE admission process is underway but we request parents to bring their income certificate when they come to get the applications because we have no other way of determining their eligibility,” said K R Nandakumar, general secretary of Tamil Nadu nursery, primary, matriculation and higher secondary association. However, a volunteer with Becoming I Foundation said, “We visit schools in the city everyday to help parents with the application process but none had put up anything on the notice board or were helpful to the parents.” In its complaint, the NGO had listed several prominent schools in the city as refusing to issue application forms under RTE. Some had refused outright, while others claimed to have filled up their quota already. Some claimed they were not even aware of the RTE Act. The directorate also recognised that several institutions pose as minority schools and refuse admission. The body has promised strict action against these schools if they are not certified by the government as minority institutions. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

66. Saffron outfit wants Modi govt to revamp education (11)

NEW DELHI: “Total change” in education complete with new textbooks and a new pedagogy that promotes modernity with Indian base is what has been demanded by the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from the new government. RSS pracharak Dinanath Batra of SSUN, who also runs Shiksha Bachao Andolan, told TOI, “I am meeting Narendra Modiji after the swearing-in. We have already sent our demands. Political change has taken place, now there should be total revamp of education.” Batra’s recipe to revive education includes institutional reform as well as creation of a new moral universe. He wants amendment in the RTE Act so that provisions like ‘no-detention’ can be reworked. His outfit has demanded that after class X and XII, the “super energy” of children should be channelled for social work that includes mandatory service in slums and villages. Batra wants An All India Social Service Mission that will conduct three-month course to achieve it. Schools should adopt some villages and universities should adopt at least 50 villages, he says. Batra, who played a vital role in the saffronisation of education during the earlier NDA regime, says in all subjects the first chapter of school textbooks should be entirely devoted to highlight India’s contribution in various fields. “From physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, history and religion, Indian contribution to world civilisation should be taught to students,” he says. Batra said, “NCERT textbooks will be rewritten according to the aim and objects of the nation so that it inculcates feeling of patriotism among children. Modernity is not westernisation. We want modernity with Indian base.” He says there should be common thread to bind syllabus and textbooks “through values of Indian tradition, social consciousness, patriotism and spiritualism”. He regrets that “due to Macaulay’s education, Indians have become intellectual slaves of the West”.Batra says he had pointed out 70 mistakes in the existing NCERT textbooks many of which were rectified after a court verdict. But he alleges that mistakes have been restored now. His list of grouse with NCERT textbooks is long, ranging from inadequate teaching of Indian history to, what he claims, untruthful depiction of heroes like Shivaji. He is also angry that Hindi textbooks have poems written in Persian. “It has destroyed Hindi. Also there is no place for Sanskrit,” he says. As for institutional reforms, he wants an All India Autonomous Education Commission on the lines of the Election Commission. “It will look after primary to university education. There will be no interference of government except funding,” he says. He also wants revival of the old proposal to have Indian Education Service through an all-India examination. “IAS officers are jack of all trades, master of none,” he says. Batra also wants four-year teachers’ education course immediately after class XII and linkage between academic and vocational education. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

67. ‘No Clarity About RTE Among People’ (11)

CHENNAI: The School Education Department in the city has received a total of 2,635 applications for the 6,600 seats available under the Right to Education (RTE) quota till date. A senior official of the department said that there had been a gradual increase in the number of applications compared to last year, when 1,600 applications came. However, this did not bring a smile to the faces of parents and social activists, who complain that 25 per cent quota in the city schools won’t be filled up as there is no clarity about the Act among the people.  With only a couple of weeks left for schools to reopen for the next academic year, parents are finding it hard to get the applications and many of them have been turned away from schools. A Devaneyan, director, Thozhamai, who helps parents living below the poverty line to access the application forms, said that there was no clarity on the Act whether it was applicable to the aided and minority institutions or not. He said many parents who don’t have identity or resident proof docuemnts may not be able to meet the May 31 deadline because of the Lok Sabha elections. “Parents were unable to get the documents on time because the Revenue Department, was focusing on elections,” he said. Officials said that the deadline to submit applications had been extended to May 31 following the elections. The decision to extend the deadline is a welcome step, said State convenor, Campaign Against Child Labour, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry P Joseph Victor Raj. But he feels that RTE being implemented under different boards makes it complex. While the State is only monitoring primary, private, elementary and matriculation schools, most parents below poverty line who aspire to provide Central Board of Secondary Education for their children don’t know where to get applications. “They are uneducated but all they want is to provide quality education for their children,” said Devaneyan. A  State government official said that CBSE applications under RTE arebeing scrutinised by the Regional Director. “There are contradicting figures of the total availability of seats under RTE in the States as those are being filled. Initially, the figure was given as 56,682 and then it rose by a couple of thousand, said Joseph. “There is a need to have a White Paper in this regard, which provides details about the number of seats available in the State as well as those being filled during 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic year, so that schools are properly reimbursed,” he said. (New Indian Express 24/5/14)

 

68. 8 top priorities for the HRD ministry (11)

1. Strengthen the Right to Education. The Vajpayee government had made education a fundamental right in 2002. The first task should be to help states with funds so that trained and qualified teachers are recruited. Allocation for education must go up at least 6% of GDP. 2. We are producing thousands of educated youth who are not employable. To make education in line with the requirements of the job market, a big push is required in skilling. Bulk of the new jobs will be in industry (manufacturing, particularly) and in the services sector. We need to produce an army of skilled personnel for them. The private sector should be roped in for this. 3. Modi should reverse BJP’s opposition to allowing foreign universities to open campus in India. Even if Ivy Leaguers are not interested initially, many A-grade institutions like Carltech and Duke are keen. The bill is pending in Parliament. Once legislation is in place, FDI would flow. Already, 100% FDI is allowed. 4. A quality audit of IITs/IIMs needed. IITs should be asked to pay attention to research. It has become a factory producing engineers. IIMs should be given deemed university status so that it attracts genuine research in the fast changing economy. Despite expansion, there is a scope for more IITs/IIMs. 5. The syllabus of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the vehicle of RTE, should be recast. Top priority should be given to teaching English. Across India a new aspirational class has emerged that feels constrained by the lack of knowledge of English. 6. Mid-Day Meal needs a serious revamp. HRD ministry needs to get into a mission mode to ensure hygienic food reaches children. Cook-cum-helpers should be given better and regular remuneration. 7. UPA’s promise of 6,000 quality schools the district level, 2,500 through the private-public partnership (PPP) mode, didn’t take off. The new government should kick start these schools with qualified teachers and syllabus that bridges the urban-rural divide. 8. The huge gap between central and state universities needs to be bridged. In this regard, UPA’s Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan should be bolstered. This is the first time that Centre is doing something for state universities. Initial response of states has been positive. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

69. Afghan attack: Taliban fighters kill 10 policemen (12)

Kabul: Taliban fighters have struck in two Afghan provinces, targeting the country’s police forces and leaving at least 10 policemen dead, officials said today. In northeastern Badakhshan province, a large group of insurgents attacked several police checkpoints late yesterday, forcing the police to retreat and triggering gunbattles that were still raging on today. Six policemen were killed there. And in eastern Laghman province, insurgents wearing head-to-toe burqas, the traditional women’s covering that encompasses the female body, launched an attack on a district base belonging to the local police that killed four policemen. The attacks are part of the Taliban spring offencive that was launched last week in a renewed campaign of assaults on the Afghan police and military. This season, the offencive is expected to be an important gauge of how well Afghan forces can face the insurgents once foreign combat forces leave at the end of the year. In the attack in Badakhshan province, a large group of Taliban simultaneously hit several police checkpoints in Yamgan district. Gen. Fazeluddin Ayar, the province’s police chief, said the fighting started late yesterday and was still underway today. Reinforcements were sent to the location but the police were forced to pull back tactically from the area and were now fighting the Taliban forces in the mountains around the district, Ayar said. He added that Afghan Army helicopters were flying over the district as the battle raged on below. Apart from the six officers killed, five insurgents have also died in the gunbattle and three police officers were wounded, he added. The Taliban said their mujahedeen, or holy warriors, raised the insurgents’ white flag above the Yamgan district headquarters in Badakhshan in a sign of conquest. The other attack, in Laghman province, started early today morning with insurgents dressed as women opening machinegun fire and firing rocket-propelled grenades into the local police base in Alingar district, said Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. Zwak said four members of the Local Police were killed and that there were causalities among the Taliban but gave no more details. The Taliban claimed responsibility both for the Badakhshan and the Laghman attacks in a statement to media, saying they are part of the spring offencive named Operation Khaibar, after a famous battle from the time of the Prophet Muhammed. This time, the Taliban spring offencive comes as voters prepare to go to the polls for the second round of presidential balloting on June 14. The Taliban have pledged to disrupt the vote with bombings and other violence, although the first round of voting on April 5 passed relatively peacefully. (Business Standard 21/5/14)

 

70. Suspected terrorist arrested in robbery of Mumbai jewellers in Delhi (12)

New Delhi: A suspected terrorist, associated with militant outfits of Punjab, has been arrested alongwith three of his associates in connection with the sensational robbery at DBG Road area in Central Delhi last week when two Mumbai-based jewellers were robbed of diamond jewellery worth more than Rs 1 crore, police said on Friday. “The accused, identified as Avtar Singh (47) alias Bittoo has previously been convicted in two TADA cases and one case of murder,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Central) Alok Kumar. He has been a member of All India Sikh Student Federation and Bhindrawala Tiger Force. He has been convicted in a TADA case of Civil Lines police station in Delhi. He is also convicted in another TADA case in Punjab when one AK-47 with 100 cartridges and 2 pistols of .32 Bore with 50 cartridges were recovered from his possession. His younger brother namely Paramjeet alias Pamma, Age-42 years was arrested in the year 1997 for the murder of Chief Minister Beant Singh along-with his associate Jagtar Singh Hawara. Avtar Singh’s three associates, Gurjeet Singh (30), Anil Luthra (19) and Amit (24) have also been arrested with him and gold and diamond jewellery to the tune of approximately Rs 35 lakh have been recovered at their instance. Six members of the gang have already been arrested by the Crime Branch. Stolen jewellery worth 20 lakh was recovered from them. During further investigation, it was established that one of the workers at a jeweller’s shop where the complainant used to visit for sale of his jewellery items, had tipped off the robbers. Critical analysis led police to locate Avtar Singh, one of the masterminds of the heist who had carried out exhaustive reccee of complainant’s movements. This accused was learnt to have been involved in terrorist activities and also a member of certain terrorist groups/outfits. Several teams were dispatched on probable hideouts including NCR and neighbouring states. However, his movements could only be known after lots of efforts at the local level from where he was finally arrested. Sustained interrogation of Avtar Singh revealed the role of his accomplices and the team was able to track them down and arrest them. The incident took place at around 8:45 PM on May 15 in the congested area of Desh Bandhu Gupta Road when two Mumbai-based diamond merchants traveling in a car were intercepted near Liberty Cinema by bike-borne assailants. (Zee News 23/5/14)

 

71. Twin blasts case: NIA gets custody of IM operatives (12)

Hyderabad: A local court on Saturday allowed National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take custody of two alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives — Tahsin Akhtar alias Monu and Zia—ur Rahman alias Waqas — involved in the 2013 Dilsukhnagar twin blasts case, for questioning. The accused were brought from Delhi on a transit warrant and produced before the court here. Though the probe agency requested 20 days’ custody of the accused, the court granted only 15 days. The duo will be under judicial remand till June 23. A special court in Delhi on Friday allowed the plea of NIA Hyderabad seeking three days transit remand of the two accused. NIA had earlier claimed before the court that Tehsin and Waqas had “exclusive knowledge” about the plans of IM to carry out terror attacks in the country in future. It had also said that IM Indian chief Yasin Bhatkal, his aide Asadullah Akhtar and other top operatives of the banned terror outfit were in touch with Tehsin and Waqas. Tehsin and Waqas, along with other alleged IM operatives, Mohd Maroof, Wakar Azhar and Mohd Saqib Ansari, were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in March this year. The twin blasts, triggered by powerful IEDs, planted near Konark and Venkatadiri theatres in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, had left 17 dead and 100 injured on February 21, 2013. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

72. Judge quizzes application of MCOCA in terror case (12)

Mumbai: The judge of a designated Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court, conducting trial against 23 alleged members of the banned organisation Indian Mujahideen (IM), has directed defence lawyers and the prosecution to make their submissions on application of MCOCA on the case. The court would start recording evidence only after it is satisfied that the law is applicable on this matter. According to advocate Shahid Nadeem Ansari, who is part of the defence lawyers’ team representing some of the accused on behalf of Jamiat-e-Ulema Maharashtra, special judge A.L. Pansare last week directed defence advocates to make arguments on why MCOCA is not applicable on this case. The prosecution was asked to make submissions on how the law is applicable. The court has posted the matter for arguments on June 18 as Mr Ansari informed the court that advocates Sharif Shaikh and Khan Abdul Wahab, who would be arguing, are busy with the Mumbai trains blast case as the final arguments are underway in that trial. The 23 people have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. One of the reasons for postponing the arguments was that another defence lawyer, Ishrat Ali Khan, also informed the court that his senior has challenged the application of MCOCA in this case in the Bombay high court. The matter is posted for after the court’s vacations so they would be able to make their submission after the hearing is over in the high court. There are 23 persons facing trial in connection with sending mails to media houses and government houses before blasts in Surat, Delhi and Hyderabad. They have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for being a member of IM, the Arms Act, Explosives Act and Information Technology Act. They are also charged under MCOCA. (Asian Age 26/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

73. Six of Naxal gang suspected to have killed TRS leader held (12)

Hyderabad: Six members of a gang allegedly belonging to former Naxal leader Nayeem, who is on the radar of Andhra Pradesh police in connection with the murder of TRS leader K Ramulu, were arrested in Thiruvananthapuram today, police said. Ramulu, a member of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) executive committee and brother of former top Maoist leader Sambashivudu, was shot dead by unidentified persons on May 11 in Nalgonda town of Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, fugitive Nayeemuddin alias Nayeem had emerged as the prime suspect behind the killing of Ramulu. “We have got information on arrest of six persons in Trivandrum. It is still not clear whether they are members of Nayeem’s gang. Their involvement in the killing of Ramulu is also not confirmed…However, we are sending a police team to Kerala to interrogate the arrested persons,” Nalgonda district Superintendent of Police T Prabhakar Rao told PTI. Sambashivudu, a TRS polit bureau member, was hacked to death by unidentified assailants using sickles and swords also in Nalgonda district in March 2011. Incidentally, Nayeem was listed as the main accused in the murder of Konapuri Ilaiah alias Sambashivudu. The district police had in April 2011 arrested five of the 12 accused in Sambasivudu’s murder and claimed that the accused killed Sambashivudu at the behest of Nayeem. Even Ramulu had earlier told a private TV news channel that his life was under threat from Nayeem. Police had also suspected the role of Nayeem in the murder of Ramulu. (Pioneer 20/5/14)

 

74. Five IEDs planted by naxals recovered in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Five improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suspected to have planted by Naxals to harm security personnel during just-held parliamentary polls, were recovered today in insurgency-hit Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The joint team of security personnel found five IEDs – four of 5 kgs each and a 15 kg one stealthily placed beneath Chhingnar-Muusalnar road under Geedam police station limits, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Narendra Khare said. A team of 195 battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and district force was mobilised in the restive Geedam region after getting a tip-off about the explosives being planted in the Chhingnar area, the SP said. When they reached near the place they spotted five IEDs packed in steel containers averting a major mishap, he said. Besides, a 50-meter wire was also recovered from the spot.  Prima facie it appears that the explosives were allegedly planted by rebels to target the security personnel during last month polling in the region. However, security personnel strictly followed the standard operating procedure (SOP) while moving through thisroute foiling the evil design of ultras, he said. The IED was immediately destroyed by the bomb disposal squad, the SP added. (Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

75. IB raises alarm over growing Maoists activities in Punjab (12)

Chandigarh: Though IB’s internal report has established growing Naxal activities in Punjab, there is no information about the exact number of frontal organisations active in the state. The Naxal insurgency is not limited to the eastern or central parts of the country. It is slowly advancing in the north too. According to a recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) internal report, the banned CPI (Maoist) is operating through 128 frontal organisations in Haryana, Delhi (NCR), Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Kerala. Though IB’s internal report has established growing Naxal activities in Punjab, there is no information about the exact number of frontal organisations active in the state. While no arrests were made recently, the Jalandhar Police in January 2009 arrested Jai Parkash Dubey from Phillaur, a senior Communist Party of India (Maoist) Naxalite, who was trying to revive Naxalism in the state. Former chief minister and newly elected Amritsar MP Captain Amarinder Singh in his address delivered during the Chintan Shivir in Jaipur on January 2013 had said, “All 22 districts of Punjab have reported Naxal activities. When I was the chief minister, only two districts had Naxal presence,” Captain Amarinder Singh said. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal too, during a state plan meeting in New Delhi in April 2012, had warned the Planning Commission functionaries. “The farmers are facing challenges like falling agriculture income, rising agriculture debt and high farm investments. If nothing is done soon to deal with this impending crisis, there would be Naxalism in Punjab,” Badal had said. Director general of Punjab Police Sumedh Singh Saini, however said no naxal activity has been noticed in the state, and refused to comment any further. Meanwhile, the IB report states that while eight CPI (Maoist) frontal organisations are active in Haryana, activities of nine frontal organisations are under scanner in Delhi NCR. The Naxal connection to Delhi and Gurgaon was established on Friday when the Special Task Force arrested a zonal commander of a naxalite outfit. Krishna Mochi alias Abhay alias Ajay was nabbed from Salarpur area of Gautambudh Nagar. Mochi was wanted in connection with an October 2013 attack on CRPF jawans in Bihar’s Gaya district. During his interrogation, Mochi confessed he was treated in a Gurgaon hospital after he was injured by the Bihar Police on March 19 in an encounter. “The probe is on and we are trying to establish his (Mochi’s) connection with Gurgaon. We have not received any official communication regarding his involvement in any Naxal activity in the area,” Gurgaon Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Vivek Sharma told MAIL TODAY. This is, however, not the first time that a Naxal movement has been established in Gurgaon. Former minister of state for home Jitendra Singh had said in Rajya Sabha on August 22, 2012, that a number of organisations sympathetic towards the Naxal movement had protested during unrest at Maruti’s Manesar plant in 2012. Meanwhile, though no Naxalrelated violence has been reported in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand, the IB had found at least two Naxal frontal organisations active in Uttrakhand during the 2013 landslide and floods. There are also speculations about the presence of Nepalese Maoists in Himachal Pradesh. (India Today 22/5/14)

 

76. Police, naxals exchange fire in Balaghat (12)

Balaghat: Police and naxals exchanged fire in a brief encounter in forest area near Raasimeta village in the district on Thursday, a senior officer said. The incident occurred when police confronted the ultras on a tip off that they are arriving in the area to collect “donations” from pluckers of Tendu leaves, district SP Gaurav Tiwari told PTI. Naxals then fired at police who returned it, forcing the Reds to beat a retreat in deep forest. “Neither any naxal nor any police jawan was injured in the firing,” Mr. Tiwari said. He also dismissed the report that any Maoist cadre was killed in the firing or a dead body found at the spot. Police have seized belongings of ultras, mostly of daily use, the SP added. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

77. Naxals spreading base in urban areas: Nagpur police (12)

Pune: The arrest of Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba has proved yet again that Naxalites are spreading base in urban areas, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Nagpur range, Ravindra Kadam said. The Maharashtra police is monitoring cities such as Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Nagpur, he added. Prof. Saibaba was part of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, an organisation banned by the Andhra Pradesh and Odisha governments. He aided in the spread of Maoist ideology internationally, Mr. Kadam claimed. “Prof. Saibaba was involved with many human rights organisations. We have to investigate to what extent he could influence them,” he said. Stating that the police case against him was strong, he said he could lead them to many other urban cells. Organisations that promise to fight for a cause as a front for luring and radicalising youth was a tactic that the police had been able to crack, Mr. Kadam said. “There are also efforts to tap into the unorganised labour in industrial areas in Maharashtra and Gujarat,” he said. According to him, this was being done through the Golden Corridor Committee established in 2009, which was responsible for mobilisations in the region. Claiming that Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural organisation whose members were arrested over alleged links with Naxalites last year, was one such front, Mr Kadam said: “Expressing dissent is allowed, but within limitations.” The KKM should come out and condemn actions of Naxalites if their goal is pure, he added. (The Hindu 28/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

78. Pre 1971 Bangladeshi settlers are Indians: Meghalaya HC (13)

Shillong: In a historic judgement, the Meghalaya High Court has said that Bangladesh nationals who have settled in this north eastern state before March 24, 1971 should be treated as Indians and they be enrolled in voters’list. The judgement was based on a petition by over 40 refugees from Bangladesh, who were denied enrolment in the electoral roll by the district administration citing their citizenship was doubtful. These refugees hailing from Amjong village near the Assam-Meghalaya border in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district moved the High Court after their citizenship certificates were seized by the deputy commissioner. Justice S R Sen, in his May-15 order, directed the district Deputy Commissioner Pooja Pandey to return the seized certificates to the petitioners and enrol them in voters’ list before the next elections. Justice Sen said there was an understanding between the two countries as to who should be allowed to stay and who should be deported back to Bangladesh. “It is clearly understood that the forefathers of the petitioners entered India much before March 24, 1971. As such there is no question of deporting them at this stage when they have acquired the right of permanent rehabilitation in Amjong village,” he said. Ruling out that they are Bangladesh citizens, the court said there was no scope for their deportation and directed the state government and the Centre not to disturb them, but to give them proper rehabilitation. The state government had earlier argued that the petitioners and their forefathers were not permanent citizens and were rehabilitated temporarily by the autonomous district council. (Zee News 21/5/14)

 

79. BJP Govt Kindles Fresh Hopes for SL Refugees (13)

RAMANATHAPURAM:  With Narendra Modi set to assume charge as Prime Minister of India, the Lankan Tamil at the Mandapam transit camp are hopeful of a new lease of life. The change of guard at Centre has kindled hope in the minds of Lankan Tamils, who expect a more proactive role on the part of Indian government to ensure peace and a dignified life for Tamils living in the northern province of the island nation. Sri Lanka witnessed armed conflict between LTTE cadre and Lankan armed forces in 2009, during which thousands of Lankan Tamils fled to India to save their lives. Meanwhile, the attitude of UPA government at Centre, which maintained silence when Tamils were subjected to torture disheartened the refugees. With the BJP government set to assume office next week, the Lankan Tamils are hopeful that India will intervene to ensure peace and a dignified life for Tamils in Sri Lanka. The historical victory of AIADMK in the Lok Sabha elections also has kindled hope in their minds. Viyakulan (name changed) of Jaffna revealed that the Lankan Tamils have pinned their hopes on the AIADMK  government in Tamil Nadu and the BJP government at Centre. The two parties were sympathetic towards the Tamils who were tortured by the Lankan forces. (New Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

80. Pope to see Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan (13)

Amman: On the first leg of his three-day Mideast trip, Pope Francis will get a firsthand look at the plight of Syrian refugees and witness the toll the civil war next door is taking on Jordan. Francis frequently has lamented the plight of refugees, denouncing the “globalisation of indifference” that often greets them in their newly adopted homelands. At the same time, he and his predecessors have decried the flight of Christians from the Holy Land, insisting recently: “We will not be resigned to think about the Middle East without Christians!” After meeting with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania at the royal palace, Francis is due to celebrate Mass on Saturday in Amman’s International Stadium. The Vatican expects some 25,000 people to attend, many of them Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Later, he will meet one-on-one with refugees and disabled children at a church in Bethany beyond the Jordan, which many believe is the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism. Christians make up about 5% of Syria’s population, but assaults on predominantly Christian towns by rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s rule have fueled fears among the country’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists in the revolt. Christians believe they are being targeted in part because of anti-Christian sentiment among Sunni Muslim extremists and partly as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad. The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Francis wants to offer comfort to all Christians who live in the region and encourage them to stay. “These Christians are living stones, and without their presence, the Holy Land and its holy sites risk becoming a museum,” Parolin told Vatican Television on the eve of the trip. Jordan last month opened a third camp for Syrian refugees, a stark indication of the strains the civil war is creating for the country. The sprawling facility is designed to accommodate up to 130,000 people and potentially become the world’s second-largest refugee camp. Jordan is hosting 600,000 registered Syrian refugees, or 10% of its population. Jordanian officials estimate the real number is closer to 1.3 million. For the Syrian Christians who will greet Francis, his presence is a chance to show the world their hopelessness as the conflict drags on. “We are very happy because he will see Christians in the Arab world, he will see us and see our suffering,” said Nazik Malko, a Syrian Orthodox Christian refugee from Maaloula who will be among the 600 or so people to greet the pope at Bethany beyond the Jordan. “We wish that peace will be restored in the whole world, and in Syria.”… (Hindustan Times 24/5/14)

 

81. Lanka nabs returning Indian refugee family (13)

Colombo: Sri Lanka Navy has detained a family of five who were trying to enter the country via sea after staying in India as refugees for a few years, the police said on Friday. Police spokesman and superintendent Ajith Rohana said the family members were arrested on Thursday off the coast of Talaimannar in the north as they were returning via sea. They had fled to India in 2004 from Mannar and spent time in Rameshwaram. The Navy intercepted their boat on Thursday. The family members included three youths aged 21, 19 and 15 years and their parents aged 44 and 38, Mr Rohana said.The motive of their fleeing Sri Lanka would be investigated, he said. There was a large influx from Sri Lanka’s north and east to Rameshwaram by boats during the decisive military clashes between the LTTE and the Army five years ago. Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan nationalist party has asked Norway to immediately handover an Oslo-based LTTE leader to face a criminal trial in the country. In a letter written to the Norwegian ambassador, the Jathika Hela Urumaya also known as the National Heritage Party accused Perinpana-yagam Sivaparan, alias Nediyavan, of conducting terrorist activities against Sri Lanka. “We urge Norway to immediately handover Nediyavan to Sri Lankan authorities so that he can be tried for all his many crimes against the state of Sri Lanka and the people of Sri Lanka,” JHU chief Champika Ranawaka wrote in the letter. According to Mr Ranawaka, Nediyavan, LTTE’s top military leader, lives freely in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Mr Ranawaka accused Nediyavan of conducting terrorist activities against Sri Lanka. He said that recent investigations have confirmed Nediyavan’s involvement in attempts to revive the LTTE. Mr Ranawaka is also a minister in the President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government. (Asian Age 25/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

82. MGNREGS: Ombudsman gets 136 complaints from GPs  (14)

Mangalore:  Ombudsman of Dakshina Kannada district for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has received 136 complaints from different gram panchayats, on the illegality in the implementation of the MGNREGS,  since August 2010. According to the available statistics, the cases include 60 cases related to delay in payment of wages, 11— on misappropriation of funds, 34—illegalities, 17—denial of employment, denial of employment card—1, misuse of job card—2, lack of transparency in implementation—5 and three related to action plan. In 26 cases, a sum of Rs 36,10,984 have been recovered and deposited in the State treasury. All the cases have been settled. The Ombudsman has imposed a fine of 78,000  in 58 cases on the officials who were responsible for the illegality in the implementation of the scheme in Dakshina Kannada district. He has ordered for departmental inquiry in five cases. Warnings have been issued in 57 cases. The Ombudsman in Udupi district has received 33 cases in the last two and half years. After the DK Ombudsaman took additional charge of Udupi, he has received four cases related to delay in payment of wages, denial of payment for Kayaka bandhu, and denial of unemployment allowances. ‘All the complaints are against gram panchayats. The gram panchayats from where the complaints have come are Balpa, Markanja, Hariharapallathadka, Kollamogru, Aranthodu, Mandekolu, Panja, Bilinele, Mundoor, Shiradi, Aithoor, Kaukradi, Kutruppady, Puduvettu, Maladi, Kaliya, Nidle, Kaniyoor, Barya, Mithabagilu, Marodi, Kalmanja, Andinje, Shibaje, Aladangady, Kotekaru, Konaje, Neerumarga, Beluvai, Muchoor, Thenkamijaru, Talapady, Paduperara, Kuppepadavu, Harekala, Edapadavu, Kandavara, Balkunje, Aikala, Kinya, Munnur, Kinnigoli, Gurpura, Amblamogaru, Alike, Sajipamooda, Perne, Karopadi, Kanyana, Peruvai, Vittal, Kavalapadoor, Pilathabettu and Veerakamba. When the Act was implemented in DK, many had doubted the success of the programme in the district. However, over the years it has brought in a ray of hope among families hailing from poor background, especially among Koraga, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. Many families have improved their livelihood by levelling land, taking up public work like construction of drains, afforestation, planting of fruit-bearing saplings, water conservation programmes and so on, said Ombudsman Sheena Shetty to Deccan Herald. (Deccan Herald 21/5/14)

 

83. India among countries that systematically violate workers’ rights, says report (14)

Islamabad, May 22 : India is reportedly ranked among countries where systematic violations of rights of workers are widely reported. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), an alliance of regional trade confederations that advocates for labour rights around the world gave India a score of 5+ on a scale of 1-5 on the The Global Rights Index: The World’s Worst Countries for Workers. Countries were ranked on a scale of 1-5 with 1 considered best and 5 worst, on the basis of standards of fundamental rights at work in particular the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, The Express Tribune reports. Meanwhile, Pakistan scored 4 along with countries like United States, Kuwait, Bahrain on the index. Central African Republic, Libya, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine were described in the report as the worst country to work in. Due to breakdown of the rule of law, workers were reported to have no guarantee of rights in countries that scored a 5+ on the index. (New Kerala 22/5/14)

 

84. Labour ministry to examine laws with a focus on MSMEs (14)

New Delhi: Amid the BJP-led Central government talking about reviewing ‘outdated’ labour laws, a committee, under the ministry of labour, has called a meeting on May 28 to “examine all aspects of labour laws affecting micro and small enterprises”. The key agenda item for the meeting is to relax labour laws for small scale units. A senior official told The Indian Express that given the new government’s intention to make India a hub for cost-competitive, labour-intensive mass manufacturing, the timing of the meeting is significant. “An order has already been sent to all the concerned stakeholders including employees’ organisations, employers’ organisations, state governments, DIPP, MSME, and women and child development department, among others. The meeting is on examining all aspects of labour laws affecting micro and small enterprises,” the official said. “The committee will consider how to amend the definition of factory in small scale industry,” the official added. The committee has representations from all the concerned stakeholders. It would also discuss issues ranging from multiplicity and complexities of labour laws, rationalisation of inspections to difficulty in affecting changes in service conditions and maintenance of records. Amendments in the labour laws have also been sought by the ministry of commerce and industry to promote manufacturing in India under the national manufacturing policy. The meeting would also see discussion on labour law flexibilities sought by the ministry including employment of women in three shifts, temporary status of employees; flexibility to downsize; number of hours per shift; social security scheme for the work force among others. “The DIPP is already engaged with the labour ministry on amending section 25 FFF(1A) of the Industrial Dispute Act. The DIPP has said that the section should be extended to the manufacturing sector as well,” the official said. The section applies only to mining operations, saying if a mining undertaking closes down due to exhaustion of the minerals in the area, no workman shall be entitled to any notice or compensation if the employer provides him/her with alternative employment with effect from the date of closure at the same remuneration as he was entitled to receive and same terms and conditions. As Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, who will take oath as Prime Minister of the country on Monday, undertook a series of steps to make its labour laws flexible. The state amended the Industrial Disputes Act in 2004 to allow greater flexibility in the labour market for Special Economic Zones. It also allowed the firms within SEZs to lay off workers, without government approval by giving a one-month notice to the worker. By implementing such reforms, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs, Gujarat experienced a 60 per cent (Financial Express 26/5/14)

 

85. Treat Maternity Right as Women’s Birthright (8)

Maternity benefits are denied, rather than given. A study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found that in a majority of countries, women are not given the ILO-recommended four weeks of leave at the minimum, with at least two-thirds of the monthly salary last drawn. It reached this conclusion after studying the maternity-related legislation in 185 countries and territories since 1994. Thus, the ILO Maternity Protection Convention is in force only in 34 per cent countries. This does not redound to the credit of the international community. One redeeming finding is that no country has cut the duration of maternity leave since 1994. Women in India are entitled to better benefits than their counterparts elsewhere. For instance, they are statutorily entitled to 14 weeks of paid leave. But in practical terms, a majority do not get such benefits. Women in government or public sector service get much better benefits than 14 weeks’ paid leave. However, in other sectors, they are cheated of maternity benefits on one pretext or another. In the sunshine Information Technology sector, they do not get any special treatment. They are not allowed flexi-time or facilities to work from home. More often than not, all that they get is annual earned leave. Often, they are forced to return to work soon after delivery. In the unorganised sector, where a majority of the working women are employed, maternity leave is unheard of. They are forced to work as agricultural and construction labour till almost their D-day and have to return to work as soon as possible. The ILO has rightly pointed out that maternity laws are, for all practical purposes, beyond the reach of a majority of Indian working women. For a country, which extended adult suffrage to women along with men and where women enjoy equality of rights, this isn’t encouraging. There is an Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, to take care of the needs of women in the unorganised sector but alas, it is rarely made use of. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

86. Modi govt to restructure MNREGA, implement land acquisition law (14)

New Delhi: Narendra Modi Government will restructure UPA’s flagship programme MNREGA by linking employment with development in rural areas and “rigorously” implement the new land acquisition law. Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who took over as the Minister for Rural Development today, said that proper implementation of recently enacted Land Acquisition law and Modi’s key electoral plank that every household will be provided sanitation and drinking water will be his priority. Munde, who is also the Minister for Panchayati Raj and Sanitation, said that the rural job scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) will be restructured to ensure development of villages and provide employment to rural poor. “I like this scheme. This scheme is best for villages. Basically, people get employment,” the Minister said about MNREGA–an ambitious Act passed by the UPA-I aiming at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household. Noting that he supported the scheme during a debate in Parliament, Munde, however, said there were “problems” in its implementation. “Proper management was a problem, proper disbursement of money was a problem. I think the MNREGA money should go to the development of villages and people should get employment. “I want to link the programme with the progress of villages. Development of villages and employment will go together,” Munde said. Asked about the Land Acquisition Act enacted by the UPA government, Munde said this was a “very good” legislation supported by BJP in Parliament. “Now this is my responsibility, this law should be implemented. I will do this rigorously. For last 20 years, people were demanding this new legislation,” he said. Asked about the industry’s concerns, he said, “The bill is passed. I am happy that implementation part has come to me.” Speaking on sanitation and drinking water, a key concern raised by Modi and Munde’s predecessor Jairam Ramesh, the minister said budgetary allocation for them should be increased further. “Present allocation is not enough. I will give a proper shape to sanitation programme. Toilets should be constructed in every rural house hold and public place as it is an issue involving the dignity of women,” he said. The new Minister said that development of 250 backward districts including 82 Naxal-affected ones would also be a priority. (Zee News 28/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

87. ‘Children of farmers who committed suicide need help’ (14)

Thane, May 21 : The Sambhaji Brigade of the Maratha Seva Sangh has come out and declared that it would help the cause of the more than 200 children of the farmers who had committed suicide in the state under utter duress. Addressing a news conference here today, Thane Divisional President Datta Chavan and State Chief Co-ordinator Somnath Navle said these children who needed care from the members of the society were presently housed in the ‘Adharteerth Ashram’ at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik. ”The children are living a cursed life and need a helping hand from the members of the society. These children, most of whom are in the age group of 4-13, need special care and need to be shown a way out of the fear that they carry with them following the suicide of their parents,” they said and added that the Brigade had taken up the task of providing for the needs of these children. Inmates of the Ashram, including around 70 to 80 girls, come from around 12-13 districts of the state where there had been suicides by farmers. ”We had sought assistance from the state government but it is still not coming through. The ministers and politicians who boasted of doing big things for the sake of the family of the farmers who had committed suicide turned their backs when it came to helping these helpless children. The children are left high and dry and hence the Brigade has taken up the task of rehabilitating the children and also identified a five acre plot for their sake. ”The children will be given courage to desist them from taking any extreme steps and bring them out of their sufferings,” they added. A Jagrut Jagran Rath Yatra of the affected children would be taken out in the state soon, they declared and said two-day programme for raising funds for the children would be held in Thane on May 24 and 25 where some 50 children will narrate their story. On this occasion, about a dozen people who have been doing exemplary work in their fields including teaching, sports, industry, and social work would be honoured with the Samaj Bushan award which comprise of citation and shawl and srifal, they said. (New Kerala 21/5/14)

 

88. Case Registered in Baby-Parasailing Incident (14)

KANNUR THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The police have registered a case on Thursday, under section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, in the controversial parasailing incident in which an 11-month-old girl was made to ride solo, violating child rights conventions, at Muzhappilangad beach on Wednesday. According to the Edakkad police, a medical check-up of the child was also performed as per the rules. The adventure sports event had drawn widespread criticism forcing the State Human Rights Commission and Kerala State Child Rights Commission to intervene in the issue. Human Rights Commission Chief Investigation Officer DIG Sreejith had recorded the statements of the parents of the child on Wednesday evening. Kerala State Women’s Commission member Noorbeena Rasheed deplored the incident and said that the commission will take action as it involved the violation of rights of the child. The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) has suo motu registered a case in which a 11-month-old baby was sent on a solo para-sailing trip by her parents. The Commission issued notices to Kannur Range Inspector-General, Kannur District Collector and secretary of District Tourism Promotion Council asking them to submit a report within a week. The Commission has sought details of rules governing such para-sailing trips, permissions if any, safety precautions, the condition of the child at present.  The child rights panel has also sought details of cases if any registered in connection with the incident. (New Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

89. RPF rescues 456 kids from train in Kerala (14)

Kochi: The Railway Protection Force took into custody 456 minors who were being brought in the Patna-Ernakulam Express when it reached Palakkad Junction on Saturday. The cops initially suspected that some of them were brought to be employed in hotels and shops. There were nearly 20 grown-ups along with them and they told the police that the children were inmates of an orphanage (Yathimkhana) in Mukkom and that they were returning from their native place after summer vacation. “They were all children from other states and had boarded from Badhpur near Patna. However, 150 children have no required documents to show that they are inmates of the centre teaching Arabic and other subjects. The others have no documents. We suspect they were brought here for child labour,” said a Railway Protection Force officer. The children were accommodated at the mobilisation room. Palakkad district collector K. Ramachandran and top police officials reached the station. “About 150 students have no documents with them. We’re shifting them to Muttikulangara government school as an immediate measure. An inquiry will be conducted based on which further action will be taken,” the collector said. When contacted, Mr Muhammed Haji, vice-president of the Mukkom Muslim Orphanage, said abou