Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 29 May 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Citizens’ movement tries to create awareness about Lok Adhikar Act (1)

Mumbai: A citizen movement called Lok Adhikar launched in April has started working towards creating awareness among public about a little-known Act, which after Right to Information Act (RTI), is the second law that gives power to the public and guarantees timely delivery of public services. The members attached with the movement have also written a letter to chief minister Prithviraj Chav-an and are trying to meet him to demand a better implementation of the Act. The Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005, was passed in the same year as the RTI, however, few are aware of it. The Lok Adhikar is calling it the “Right to Service Act” and to create awareness, it had organised a public meet on Tuesday at the Indian Merchant Chambers that was attended by many prominent citizens and member of NGOs like RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, Sanjay Ubale, Nitai Mehta of Praja, Gerson da Cunha of AGNI, Shashi Baliga, Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch and many others. This law mandates all agencies of the state government to declare timelines within which it will provide public service through the Citizens Charter. Incidentally, a government department must have a Citizens Charter detailing the nature of services it offers the citizens and the time frame within which those services are to be provided. As a Citizen Charter is an important factor of this Act, it says this should be displayed prominently in the department as well as be available on its website. It is also to be noted that while the RTI only provides information, this Act can take things to the next level and get work done, as citizens can file complaints against timelines of Citizens Charter not being followed. (Asian Age 9/5/14)

 

2. 812 personnel deployed for security of 84 VIPs in Maharashtra: RTI (1)

Mumbai: A combined total of 812 police officers and security personnel have been deployed for the security of 84 VIPs in Maharashtra, with 52 men accorded to guard only Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and his MLA daughter, a RTI query revealed. The information came in response to the query filed by Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Dhurve, who sought to know the total number of police and security force deployed for the protection of political and non-political VIPs in Maharashtra. Sushilkumar Shinde and his daughter Praniti have been accorded Z-Plus security, and have a total of 52 security personnel guarding them, while Union Home Minister’s wife Ujwala Shinde has been granted a Y-category security and has a total of 14 personnel for her security. However, Ms. Praniti, while speaking to PTI said the security provided to her family was “unnecessary” and they want their security withdrawn. “We are provided security as per protocol, but we have not asked for any security. We do not even use the security provided to us. I have even written a letter to the state Home Minister and the Director General of Police to withdraw our security. We want it to be used for better purposes,” she said. The 12 VIPs that are entitled to Z-plus category security include Maharashtra Governer K. Sankaranarayanan, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R.R. Patil and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. While there are a total of 46 security personnel guarding Mr. Chavan, there are 31 for Ajit Pawar. 25 personnel are deployed for the security of PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria are among the 18 persons that have been granted Z-category security and have 15-22 personnel guarding them. A total of 19 VIPs in Maharashtra that have been provided with Y-category security include Former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Samajwadi Party Maharashtra Unit President Abu Azmi, sitting Congress MP Milind Deora and former Petroleum Minister Murli Deora. Justice Mridula Bhatkar has also been provided with Y-category security while Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata is among the 27 VIPs that have been provided with X-category security. Both of them, however, have declined to accept any police protection. Additional Commissioner of Security and Protection Branch Kiran Shelar said the protection to VIPs is provided on the instructions of the committee which reviews the security threat to them. “There is a committee that makes an assessment and reviews the threat perception on VIPs frequently. Then committee then instructs us to provide security cover based on their assessment. No security is provided to anybody without specific orders from the committee,” Mr. Shelar added. Activist Vihar Durve, who obtained the information through RTI, has demanded that security cover for VIPs should be reduced and diverted to safeguard women. “A large number of security contingent provided to VIPs is a cause of concern for the common man. Their security can be reduced and diverted to provide security to women and senior citizens. Public money should not be wasted on unnecessary security for VIPs,” Mr. Durve said. (The Hindu 12/5/14)

 

3. Whistle-blowers Bill gets President’s assent  (1)

NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha in February. The law provides for an institutionalised mechanism to protect, and thus encourage, those who disclose information on corrupt practices or abuse of power by government officials. The Bill was first passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011. The law makes a provision for inquiry into the disclosures and also prescribes punitive measures to curb frivolous complaints. According to the Centre, it supplements the Right to Information Act in fighting corruption. In 2004, the government introduced a resolution to empower the Central Vigilance Commission for protecting whistle-blowers. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

4. EC Has No Data on Status of Poll Code Violation Cases of Last Three LS Polls (1)

MUMBAI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has no data or records on ‘status’ of various cases pertaining to violations of the model code of conduct in last three Lok Sabha elections, an RTI query has revealed. City-based activist Anil Galgali had filed an RTI query in this regard. He also sought to know the “minimum and maximum action” being initiated by the ECI against politicians concerned in the mandatory time limit, if any, in cases of poll code violations. “There are no records or data maintained with the Election Commission on the status of cases of violation of model code of conduct filed before it,” the ECI Under Secretary A K Pathak said in his reply. The official said there is no standard policy or the mention of any provisions of law enforced that enables the body to take specific action against the violators of the poll code. Pathak said there was “no specific time limit to decide on a particular case of violation and that the actions are taken on the basis of priority as per the prescribed procedure”.The reply stated that since there has been no compilation of information on record, the RTI query seeking information on the ‘status of cases of violation of model code of conduct stood rejected under section 7 (9) of the RTI Act, 2005. Pathak said the compilation of record would have put unnecessary burden on the resources of the ECI. Reacting to this, Galgali said, “It is disheartening to see that there is no time limit under which the EC would be bound to take action against errant politicians. Strong policies need to be formulated to change the image of the EC, which is now largely seen as a toothless tiger.” (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

5. RTI activists nail govt on huge expenditure (1)

Shillong, May 14: The Meghalaya government is incurring huge expenditure on political appointees, with whistle-blowers calling it “mind-boggling”. According to RTI activists, the government spends an astounding amount on such “unnecessary appointees”. This money, they said, could have been utilised for various development activities or help solve unemployment in the state. The expenditure incurred on political appointees came to light today when members of the National Khasi Union (NKU) exposed it through information they had received through the Right to Information Act, 2005. The union sought the information from the Meghalaya finance department on the perks and facilities provided to political appointees holding various posts such as chairman, co-chairman and deputy chairman, among others. The union said only for one political appointee, who holds the post of chairman, the government spends nearly Rs 10,54,000 per annum (Rs 87,833 in a month), including one-time amount of Rs 2 lakh for furnishing hishouse. The total expenditure incurred only for one chairman comes to around Rs 12,54,000 in a year. The other expenditure incurred for the chairman includes travel and dearness allowance, expenditure on office staff such as stenographer, special assistant, personal assistant, typist, driver, additional driver, one grade-IV staff in office and five at the residence. The chairman has got one telephone in office and a phone at home. The chairman’s post, especially in government-run public sector undertakings (PSUs), is drawn mostly from sitting legislators or former members of Parliament or former legislators. For a person holding the chairman’s post, his/her rank in the government is categorised as A+ and enjoys the same TA/DA as provided to a grade-I officer. NKU general secretary Samborlang Diengdoh told reporters that according to information received so far, there were around 60 political appointees appointed in various boards and corporations run by the state government. “There are more political appointees and more information is awaited. If one political appointee can avail of huge benefits from the government, the kind of money spent on other political appointees is mind-boggling,” Diengdoh said. Stating that political appointees were “unnecessary” as it resulted in wasteful expenditure of public money, Diengdoh said crores of rupees were spent by the government on political appointees. The NKU also sought to know from the government contribution of political appointees to the state. “What have these political appointees contributed to the state? Instead of spending onthem, the government could have utilised the money for various development activities in rural areas, including the border, pay salaries of teachers and Anganwadi workers as well as create jobs for educated unemployed youths in the state,” Diengdoh said. The NKU will soon compile a list of educated unemployed youths who could have benefited from this money, Diengdoh added. (The Telegraph 15/5/14)

 

6. Information Commission exempted from bifurcation (1)

HYDERABAD; While every other State government department is speeding up the process of internal bifurcation before the appointed day, the A P Information Commission’s static status seemed to have created confusion among RTI activists and appellants. In the Finance Department Government Order (GO) Ms No. 100 dated May 12, 2014 which pertains to the reorganisation of government departments, the commission also found a mention. “Many of us were of the opinion that the department will be divided. Some of the complainants were also confused on whom to approach in case it is divided,” said an RTI activist. However, the commission has been listed in the tenth schedule of the Union government which exempts the commission along with a few other departments from being bifurcated for a certain period. This would mean the information commissioners will continue to hold the same portfolios and discharge their duties. “The commission will function as it is for a period of one year,” said Jannat Hussain, Chief Information Commissioner. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

7. NHRC seeks state reply on girl’s death (1)

CUTTACK: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show-cause notice to the state government, seeking reply why compensation of Rs 3 lakh should not be paid to the family of a seven-year-old girl, who was crushed to death in her school when a cupboard fell on her last year. The chief secretary has been asked to reply within six weeks. The NHRC has also asked the government to submit a report on the death of 28 people in Balangir after allegedly consuming contaminated water in the last three years. A petition was filed, alleging that eight persons of Adendunguri village, 12 of Dhanradadar and eight of Rampur died after consuming water high in fluoride content from tubewells. “Though the government officials were aware of the problem, they made no arrangements to supply water to the affected villagers,” it added. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

8. PUCL seeks NHRC intervention for release of professor (1)

New Delhi: People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Thursday has sought National Human Rights Commission’s intervention for the release of the Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, who was arrested by the Maharashtra police last week for his alleged links with the Maoists. The PUCL has also demanded a comprehensive enquiry into the matter by the NHRC. “In view of the severe 90 per cent locomotor disability and cardiac problem suffered by Saibaba, the NHRC should immediately intervene to get Saibaba released from the prison so that he can get expert medical attention, utilise the services of a personal attendant and also be able to access toilet facilities adapted to his personal needs,” said the human rights organisation in a statement. “Such a demand is not unreasonable as the Supreme Court itself has stressed the importance of safeguarding the rights and dignity of the arrestee, it argued. “During the present arrest, the Gadchiroli police violated all mandatory provisions relating to arrest,” alleged the human rights organisation. “The harsh and violent manner of effecting the abduction and arrest of Prof Saibaba is unacceptable and condemnable in a democracy which claims to follow rule of law. Saibaba had always cooperated with the police authorities whenever they wanted to question him as part of their investigation,” said the PUCL. The PUCL has argued that Saibaba has been a human rights activist  and this is the reason why he has been arrested. “For the police, he represented a major threat to their lawlessness and therefore, they have been trying to somehow implicate him in some case or the other” it said. The PUCL has alleged that Saibaba is the latest victim of the Maharashtra police’s attempts to silence and intimidate anyone from daring to take up the human rights issues of Maoists while continually challenging state terrorism. (Deccan Herald 15/5/14)

 

9. Civil society seeks lasting solution in Bodoland territorial areas district (1)

GUWAHATI: Civil society groups on Wednesday staged a demonstration here to demand permanent peace in Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD). People from all communities participated in the peace meet organized by Concerned Citizens of Assam here on Wednesday and urged the Prime Minister to bring about a solution to the violence and increase security in the region. They demanded long-term security arrangements for the vulnerable areas of BTAD for at least five years. They said this would thwart attacks by extremists who usually target the innocent to pressurize the government. “It has been seen that security measures are in place for about two months after such incidents take place. Then the areas become vulnerable to attacks by miscreants again. The government should take immediate steps in this regard,” said Raju Narzary, one of the organizers of the peace meet. “We demand a thorough and objective inquiry into the various socio-political, economic and extremist factors that are instrumental in the recurrence of violence in BTAD,” he added. The demonstrators also advocated immediate seizure of all illegal arms from various rebel groups and individuals. “Existence of illegal arms is one of the most influential factors which give rise to repeated occurrence of violence in Assam,” he added. The demonstrators submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, governor and the chief minister. Some participants, mostly writers, activists, social workers and peace-loving citizens from various parts of the state, condemned the brutal killings in BTAD, So far, 44 people have been killed by armed militants in this month alone. “We want punishment for the culprits at the earliest,” said Narzary. Noted educationist Surath Narzary said, without peace, no progress would be possible. “Without peace, there cannot be progress. Without progress, human civilization will not last. Hence, irrespective of differences, all divisive forces must be identified. The criminals who are involved in heinous crimes must be given stringent punishment so that justice prevails,” he said. Monirul Hussain, a professor of Gauhati University who also joined the event, expressed solidarity with the riot victims in Bodoland. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) also demanded that the state government should bring back peace in BTAD and punish the culprits. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

10. Human rights groups condemn killing of Pakistani advocate (1)

New Delhi, May 16 : Human rights and civil society groups, in a joint statement Friday condemned the brazen killing of a Pakistani advocate and human rights commission member. Rashid Rehman Khan was murdered by unidentified gunmen at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Multan last week. Khan, a Pakistan Supreme Court lawyer, was killed for defending a university lecturer against unfounded accusations of blasphemy — a charge that carries the death sentence. He had been openly warned by fellow lawyers in the presence of the presiding judge against continuing to defend the accused during the course of a hearing being held inside jail premises, the statement said. “Khan’s requests to the local police to investigate these threats had gone unheeded. He was murdered as he sat preparing an appeal asking that the blasphemy case be quashed,” it said. “Constitution of Pakistan obliges the state to ensure each individual a fair trial, assures each person of a right to an effective defence as well as assures each person of the right to hold their own views, associate with others and follow a profession,” the statement said. It said the killing of Khan for doing his duty as a lawyer amounted to a traitorous act against the Constitution. “We urge the government of Pakistan to take necessary steps toward effective investigation by higher police authorities and swiftly identify the killers and bring them to justice along with their abettors,” it said. The statement has been endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sri Lanka), Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (Pakistan), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India), Gulmina Bilal Ahmad (Pakistan), INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre (Sri Lanka), Maldivian Democracy Network (Maldives), Rozan (Pakistan), Ruki Fernando (Sri Lanka) and Working Group on Human Rights in India. (New Kerala 16/5/14)

 

11. Lanka Hires Pakistan Lawyer for UN Rights Probe (1)

COLOMBO: Faced with an impending UN inquiry, the Sri Lankan government has hired a prominent Pakistani lawyer to defend itself over its human rights record and alleged war crimes, a media report said here today. Aitzaz Ahsan, a 70-year-old Pakistani legal expert, was in Colombo last week for consultations on the matter, a Sunday Times report said. His visit came after President Mahinda Rajapaksa made an appeal to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Ahsan had defended Sharif when he faced charges of attempting to hijack former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s aircraft in 1999 before he was ousted as premier in a coup. On Ahsan’s advice to Sri Lanka, the report said he had asked Colombo to convene a special session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after getting the support of more member countries. He was of the view that besides the 12 countries that had voted in favour of Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, only 4 more countries were needed to call such a special session.         He advised that such a session could be used to present Sri Lanka’s case to win over more members.    Ahsan’s advice has come as the UN braces to announce a panel of investigators and terms of reference for the rights accountability investigation on Sri Lanka as per the last US-moved resolution adopted at the UNHRC session in Geneva in late March.The resolution was the third in as many years censuring Sri Lanka on its lack of progress on human rights accountability and reconciliation with its Tamil minority after the 30-year civil war ended with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

12.  ‘Fear of consequences’ needed to stop AFSPA misuse: Omar (1)

New Delhi: There is a need to build a “fear of consequences” within laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) so that they are not misused by the Army, feels Jammu and Kashmir Chief Omar Abdullah. Talking on wide-ranging issues in New Delhi on Saturday at a conclave, Mr. Omar also dismissed suggestions mainly coming from Army that withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will have bearing on Kashmir’s internal security. The Chief Minister, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of AFSPA from areas more peaceful in the state, did agree that as long as Army was involved in internal security duties, it needed a legal cover to operate. “So long as you are using army for internal security duty, they need legal cover to operate. I think we need to differentiate between legal cover and impunity. “The sort of cover they get now is they can do whatever they believe without fear of consequences. I think that fear of consequences has to be built back into the system,” Mr. Omar said. Mr. Omar along with the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram had raised the issue with central leaders many a time but even his proposal for partial withdrawal of AFSPA hit a road block from Defence Ministry which, on advice of Army, red flagged it. Even the Administrative Reforms Committee favoured withdrawal of AFSPA and drafting of a new law with certain checks and balances. Mr. Omar appeared optimistic on the issue. “I am sure we will be able to withdraw some rules,” he said. Mr. Omar rejected the suggestion made by Army at various forums that withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will have an adverse impact on his state. “I don’t buy that argument at all. The reason why I don’t buy this argument is that so far we have been taking credit for whatever improvement has taken place and now if we are going to blame Americans for the deterioration, then it means that improvement was because of their actions as well, which I refuse to accept,” the Chief Minister said. “Therefore, if the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan, it will have very limited consequences for the state which has been seeing good years on anti-terrorism front.” On India and Pakistan relations, Mr. Omar sought to draw a comparison between the two nations. “I don’t think India’s relationship with Pakistan is centred around Kashmir” but Pakistan’s relationship with India certainly is focused on Kashmir. “They (Pakistan) have uni-focal dimension sort of relationship with India…. For them Kashmir is everything and everything else is secondary. It is not the same for us. “While we believe that Jammu and Kashmir is an important issue and it needs to be resolved, it need not be the only issue that dogs our relations. There are host of other issues that needs to be resolved,” he said. (The Hindu 8/5/14)

 

13. Elimination Case: 3 Cops Get Jail Term (1)

CHANDIGARH: Three Punjab police officers were sentenced to five years of imprisonment by Additional District and Sessions Judge Pooam R Joshi on Friday after they were held guilty in the infamous “elimination” case of Kuljit Singh Dhatt. S P S Basra, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police; Jaspal Sinngh, retired Superintendent of Police; and Sita Ram have been awarded five years jail term in connection with the 25-year-old case. Earlier on Friday, the Judge held the three guilty in the fake encounter case. Two others accused — Ajit Singh Sandhu and Sardul Singh — in the case have already died. After the verdict was announced, the victim’s family protested in court and said that it was too small a sentence for which they had to wait for 25 years. “We will go to the High Court for the enhancement of the sentence,” said Harbhajan Singh Dhatt, Kuljit’s elder brother. The sentence was awarded under sections 364, (abduction with intention of murder), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture) and 120 B (conspiracy). A fine of `1.1 lakh each fine was imposed on the police officers found guilty and 90 per cent of the fine amount will be handed over to the victim’s family. Kuljit was killed in a fake encounter by police in 1989. Kuljit was the son-in-law of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s sister Parkash Kaur. Parkash made an appeal to the Supreme Court against the fake encounter and the apex court set up a Judicial Commission. Currently, Jaspal Singh is lodged in Barnala jail for another murder. SPS Basra retired  last year while Sita Ram was dismissed and is also in jail in connection with another case. Basra was on Friday taken into custody and sent to the Patiala Central Jail. (New Indian Express 10/5/14)

 

14. Amit Shah summoned in Tulsiram Prajapati case (1)

Mumbai: The special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court has issued summons to former junior home minister of Gujarat Amit Shah, who is also Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s close aide, and other accused in the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter case. The court on Friday asked Shah and other accused to attend the proceedings on May 23. The CBI had filed a chargesheet in the case on September 29, 2012 against Shah and other 18 others including many police officers. The papers of the Prajapati case were transferred to the Mumbai CBI court last month from Gujarat and Friday was the first date of hearing. Indian Police Service (IPS) officer OP Mathur and deputy superintendent of police RK Patel from Gujarat also appeared before the sessions court and surrendered. The court later released them on bail and asked them to attend the court proceedings whenever required. The court, however, rejected the bail application of another IPS officer DG Vanjara. Advocate Vinod Gujjar, appearing on behalf of Vanjara said, “We had filed the application on the ground that my client has spent more than seven years behind bars.” Vanzara, who is lodged at Sabarmati Central Jail for the past seven years, has also been chargesheeted in Ishrat Jahan encounter case. His bail application in this case has been pending. Vanzara figures in Sohrabuddin encounter case as accused No 1. He is alleged to have masterminded the fake encounter in which Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi were killed by police officials. In the chargesheet filed by CBI in the case, it was mentioned that Sohrabuddin and Kauser Bi were allegedly abducted by Gujarat’s anti-terrorism squad from Hyderabad and killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005. Tulsiram  Prajapati, a key witness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by the police in Banaskantha district’s Chapri village in December 2006. The central probe agency had claimed that Tulsiram was an eye-witness in Sohrabuddin encounter and that was why he was killed in a fake encounter by the accused, many of whom are also accused in the Sohrabuddin case.? (Hindustan Times 11/5/14)

 

15. Five policemen suspended for custodial death in Villupuram (1)

Chennai: Tamil Nadu government on Monday suspended five policemen attached to the Government Railway Police, Villupuram, in connection with the custodial death of an accused on May 7 and announced a cash relief of Rs. 5 lakh to the victim’s family. The accused R. Jeyavelu had suffered a heart attack while in custody and died while being rushed to a hospital, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said while expressing sympathies with the family of the victim. She said five GRP officials, including an inspector, have been placed under suspension and that a probe was on into the matter. Due action would be taken at the end of the probe, she said in a statement here, adding that the relief would be paid from the Chief Minister’s General Relief Fund. (The Hindu 12/5/14)

 

16. Many Indians Feel Custodial Torture Justified: Amnesty (1)

New Delhi: Fear of torture in custody is widely prevalent among people across the world though respondents in many countries, including India, felt that the practice can sometimes be justified, a survey by Amnesty International (AI) has found. A new global survey by the human rights watchdog covering more than 21,000 people in 21 countries reveals that the fear of custodial torture spans all continents, AI said in a release today. According to AI, nearly half the respondents were afraid of the prospect of torture if taken into custody while more than 80 per cent of them wanted strong laws for protection against torture. However, more than a third of the respondents believed that torture may be justified. As per the survey, support for international rules against torture is weakest in India, Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru –- where less than three quarters of people agree that these rules are necessary. “Shockingly, 74 per cent respondents in India (with China, the highest number in any of the countries polled) feel that torture can sometimes be justified to gain information that may protect the public,” said the release. The statement also claimed that torture is rife across the Asia-Pacific region with China and North Korea among the worst offenders. “The shocking fact that so many people fear torture –- in some countries the majority of those polled — should spur authorities across Asia-Pacific into meaningful action. To eradicate this horrific human rights violation,” said Richard Bennett, AI’s Asia-Pacific Director. Custodial torture and ill-treatment are illegal in China but, in practice, beatings, electrocutions, forced injection of drugs and denial of medical treatment are regularly used to punish dissidents or criminals, the statement said. In Pakistan, torture is frequently used by police, intelligence services and the army, in particular in the conflict-ridden Tribal Areas or Balochistan. Authorities in Sri Lanka still routinely torture detainees, the statement said. (Outlook 14/5/14)

 

17. Torture cry spurs gherao (1)

A group of residents gheraoed Bistupur police station on Sunday to protest the detention and alleged torture of a woman in lock-up. Around 50 protesters — mostly living in outhouses of posh bungalows in Northern Town Area — demanded Bistupur thana officer-in-charge (OC) Jitendra Kumar be suspended for his alleged high-handedness related to the way a maid servant was treated. Domestic help Lakshmi and her husband Nimai Das were taken for grilling on Saturday after their employer Sunil Kumar, head of emergency ward (casualty) at Tata Main Hospital (TMH), lodged a theft FIR on Thursday. Sources said after grilling the two for hours, police had forwarded Nimai to judicial custody and allowed Lakshmi to go home. But Lakshmi, who worked as a maid in the complainant’s house, alleged police had tortured her in lock-up during interrogation. The agitated mob, which gathered around 10am, dispersed after three hours when SP (city) Karthik S. intervened and asked the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) J. Karketta to probe into the allegation. Karthik added that as it was a serious matter, he ordered DSP Karketta to start the probe as early as possible. According to complainant Kumar, gold ornaments worth over Rs 15 lakh were stolen from his home on Thursday when he and his wife left Lakshmi in charge and went out. Kumar said he and his wife found both the ornaments and the domestic help missing on their return. Apparently, the couple had kept ornaments inside a steel almirah and left the key on a table. Later, when Kumar questioned Lakshmi, she claimed she knew nothing and said she had gone to a temple. “The doctor then lodged a complaint with Bistupur police after which Nimai and Lakshmi were picked up for interrogation. While Nimai had been forwarded to judicial custody, Lakshmi was set free. She later complained that the police had tortured her in the lock-up. She added they were innocent,” SP (city) Karthik said. (The Telegraph 19/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

18. CBI investigation of former journalist’s suicide demanded (1)

MUMBAI: The Press Club on Monday demanded that the Charudatta Deshpande suicide case be transferred to the city crime branch or the Central Bureau of Investigation. Deshpande was found hanging in his Vasai flat on June 28. The Thane rural police are investigating the case. Deshpande’s son Gaurav and brother-in-law Mahesh Bhatkal recently wrote to home minister R R Patil expressing lack of faith in the Thane rural police. They sought investigation by an independent agency. The Press Club in its submission to Patil said that though the Vasai sessions court rejected the bail application of main accused Prabhat Sharma, the senior Tata Steel official charged under Section 306 of the IPC for abetting Deshpande’s suicide, the local police decided not to apply for custodial interrogation in December. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

19. TMC slams role of media in elections (1)

Kolkata: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on Monday voiced her strong displeasure over what she described as the “alarming role” played by a large section of the media in the run upto the Lok Sabha election which concluded on Monday. In a Facebook post, she wrote: “The partial and biased conduct of a section of the media, both electronic and print, has shocked me. There’s hardly any room for doubt that a few major cash loaded political parties have taken up control of media houses and engaged them to serve their narrow political interests, trampling down the ethics of democracy and voice of people.” Trinamul Congress Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Derek O’Brien also slammed some local news channels apparently for airing reports of violence and rigging. “A particular Bangla channel has been bashing Trinamul for months. It’s worried exit poll results will make it look silly, expose bias,” Mr O’Brien tweeted. “So what does this channel do to hide its embarrassment? It ignores Bengal’s 31,000 peaceful booths and hypes one or two stray incidents,” he added. The fifth and final leg of Lok Sabha polls in the state were marred by some violent incidents which received wide coverage on local news channels. This apparently displeased the ruling party and its leaders. Ms Banerjee’s outburst on Monday was not sudden. She has been increasingly targeting the media for the past few days. Early this month she said that 90 per cent of the media had sold themselves to BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi. “It is really tragic and exceptional that 90 per cent of media houses in India have sold themselves to Modi. They are only dancing to Modi’s tunes. A day will come when an inquiry about how media houses were sold out would be made,” she told a meeting at Talla Park. In another rally in Jangalmahal, Ms Banerjee claimed that the media wanted to control her government just as they had done with her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee but she did not allow it. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

20. India reacts strongly after Pakistan asks two Indian journalists to leave the country (1)

NEW DELHI, In a strong reaction, India on Wednesday termed as “regrettable and unfortunate” the expulsion of the two Indian correspondents in Pakistan and said not allowing independent journalists to function was a “retrograde step”.Asserting that free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognized as an important confidence building measure, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said this confidence building measure (CBM) should be safeguarded by all concerned. In an abrupt action, Pakistan has expelled the two Indian journalists, Press Trust of India’s Snehesh Alex Philip and The Hindu newspaper’s Meena Menon, posted there and asked them late on Tuesday night to leave within seven days without assigning any reason. “It is regrettable and unfortunate that the two Indian correspondents in Pakistan have been asked to leave prematurely and suddenly only a few months after their arrival there. “Not allowing independent journalists to function is a retrograde step especially as free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognised as an important confidence building measure,” the spokesperson said. Asked if expulsion could be related to the ongoing ferment and debate in Pakistan about the media and the differences between various organs of state on freedom of media, he said, “We are surprised that there have been numerous allegations against India in the ongoing controversy in Pakistan on media freedom and the different views of Pakistan institutions thereto. “The stationing of journalists and free flow of information is an important CBM and should be safeguarded by all concerned.” (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

21. DMK men attack reporters in front of Stalin’s house in Chennai (1)

CHENNAI: Three reporters, including Times Now reporter Shabbir Ahmed and cameraman Jayaprakash, were attacked by a group of DMK men in front of the house of party treasurer MK Stalin. The attackers, numbering over 50 people, damaged cameras and other equipment. They kicked Jayaprakash on the chest, and he suffered leg injuries too. Jayaprakash was admitted at a private hospital after he complained of chest pain. Headlines Today cameraman Daniel was also attacked by the mob. The attack happened immediately after a DMK press briefing in front of Stalin’s house at Teynampet in the city. Reporters assembled in front of Stalin’s house after he had tendered his resignation from party posts in the wake of the DMK’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections. (Later, Stalin was said to have decided not to press for his resignation as senior party leaders advised him not to resign.) The attackers shouted that the media was responsible for party’s defeat in the elections. Almost an hour after the attack, a van carrying DMK men stopped in front of the Times of India office at Nandanam and abused and threatened the crew of Puthiya Thalaimurai TV, a Tamil news television, which was covering the attack on the Times Now reporters. Cases were registered against unknown persons under sections 147, 341 323 294 (B) 506 (1) of the IPC read with Section 3 the Tamil Nadu Public Properties Damage Act. The Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP and various journalists unions condemned the attack. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

22. Thane Sessions Court acquits 60-year-old woman tried for human trafficking (1)

THANE: The Thane sessions court has acquitted a 60-year-old woman from Bhiwandi, who was tried for human trafficking under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA). The prosecution said that the incident dated back to July 5, 2008, when the Thane police got a tip off about flesh trade conducted at a brothel in Indira Nagar, Bhiwandi. When the cops raided the place run by accused Zarina Ahmed Shaikh, they rescued two minor girls who were allegedly forced into prostitution. Shaikh was subsequently arrested. However, Thane additional sessions judge A S Waghwase observed that if the victims stayed against their wishes, they could have escaped from the brothel, but they didn’t. The judge also pointed out that the victims could have raised an alarm and there was no evidence to suggest that the room that was raided had only curtains and no doors. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that there could be any detention or confinement under such circumstances. The lawyer, defending the accused, said that there was no documentary evidence to show that the police officer was empowered to carry out investigations. Also, there was no documentary proof that the room that was raided was in possession or ownership of the accused. (Times of India 15/5/14)

 

23. 2 arrested for illegal human trafficking (1)

CALANGUTE: Calangute police arrested two persons for illegal human trafficking and rescued three women on Thursday. Calangute police said that they received information about a prostitution racket being operated in Candolim and accordingly set up a trap using decoy customers. As agreed with the decoy customers, when the two pimps, Anil Kumar Srivastava and Mohan Jadhav, arrived by car at the prearranged spot near St Theresa’s Church in Candolim, they were promptly taken into custody by Calangute police. Three women who were brought along by the pimps for the purpose of prostitution were also rescued and sent to the protective home at Merces. The two pimps were arrested after being charged under Sections 4, 5 and 7 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956. While Anil Kumar is a native of Uttar Pradesh, Mohan Jadhav is a native of Karnataka. Both were residing at Candolim. PI Nilesh Rane is conducting further investigations. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

24. Indian sentenced to 3 years for human trafficking in US (1)

Washington: An Indian has been sentenced to three years of imprisonment in the US on charges of trafficking immigrants from India into the country. Kaushik Jayantibhai Thakkar, 33, along with Brazilian national Fabiano Augusto Amorim were sentenced yesterday to serve 36 months in prison for their roles in smuggling undocumented migrants to the US for private financial gain, Acting Assistant US Attorney General Mythili Raman said. In addition to their prison terms, Thakkar and Amorim were sentenced to serve two years of supervised release, as per the order of the US District Judge Ewing Werlein in Southern District of Texas. On December 2, 2012, and January 4, 2013, respectively, Thakkar and Amorim each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to bring undocumented migrants into the US for profit and to one count of unlawfully bringing two undocumented migrants into the United States for profit. They worked together and with other co-conspirators to smuggle individuals from India into the United States, according to court documents. In support of the conspiracy, Thakkar and others recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay up to USD 60,000 to be smuggled into the US. For their smuggling operations, Thakkar, Amorim and their associates used a network of co-conspirators in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the United States, including the state of Texas. Using this network, they and their co-conspirators transported groups of undocumented migrants from locations within India through South America, Central America and the Caribbean and then into the US by various means, including by air travel, automobiles, water craft and foot, the Justice Department said. Many of these smuggling events involved illegal entry into the US via the border between the United States and Mexico near McAllen and Laredo, Texas, it added. (Deccan Herald 18/5/14)

 

25. Seven Minor Boys Rescued in Rayagada (1)

RAYAGADA: Seven minor boys of Govindpalli in Malkangiri district were rescued from Raygada bus stand on Saturday night. Police detained Dhana Sagadia of Govindpalli in connection with human trafficking. Sagadia was taking the children to Paralakhemundi where another middleman was supposed to take them to Andhra Pradesh, said police. Rayagada Child Protection Officer Ramesh Nayak said Malkangiri DCPO has been intimated about the matter and they will hand over the children to their respective parents on Monday. Sources said the children in the age group of 11 and 16 boarded in the bus. Suspecting foul play, a passenger Dilip Bhupati informed the police who reached the spot and rescued the children with the help of Childline and CWC member Siba Prasad Mishra. The children were then sent to district hospital for medical checkup and were kept in Childline office of Rayagada. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

26. Ramdev sued for Rs 1,000 crore (2)

AHMEDABAD: A dalit rights activist has sought damages of Rs 1,000 crore from yoga guru Baba Ramdev for his controversial “honeymoon” remarks targeting Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over visiting dalit homes. Advocate Ratna Vora of NGO Ambedkar Karvaan has filed a civil defamation suit against Ramdev in the city civil court for allegedly hurting the feelings of the dalit community. “Ramdev has made defamatory remarks against dalits, especially the women of the community,” she said. Vora said, “In fact, Ramdev’s remarks were defamatory to the entire dalit community. As there are approximately 28 crore dalits living in the country, Ramdev must be made accountable to pay the damages to the entire community.” Two other lawyers had also filed criminal defamation complaints against the yoga guru before a magisterial court on April 25. The court has also ordered an inquiry into these complaints. During a press conference in Lucknow last month, Ramdev had sparked off an unseemly controversy saying that Gandhi goes to dalit houses for “picnics and honeymoon”.Two FIRs were filed in different police stations of the city, demanding criminal action against Ramdev under Section 3(1) (X) of Prevention of Atrocities Act. When criticized, the yoga guru had expressed his regrets about his remarks. (Times of India 10/5/14)

 

27. Dalits pour out woes before Deputy Commissioner (2)

Mangalore: Complaints and grievances poured in at the district administration’s meeting with the Dalit leaders that is held after five months, at the deputy commissioner’s office on Thursday. Dalit leaders raised a whole lot of issues ranging from title deed problems, to eviction of poor Dalits, from lack of development in Naxal-affected areas to scholarship distribution to scheduled caste and tribe students, at the meeting. Dalit Hakkugala Horata Samiti Convener Shekhar Laila alleged that the funds sanctioned for providing basic amenities to Naxal-affected areas were not utilised for the said purpose. Pointing at one such instance, he said that the money was used for constructing a road stretching for about 1.5 km that leads to a Jain ‘Basadi’ in Savanal in Belthangady taluk, while only 150 metres of road leading to Malekudiya hamlet in the same village was asphalted. “Where are the crores of rupees released by the government going?” he asked. He also demanded to construct a road to the Malekudiya hamlet in Banjarmale near Neriya, where Malekudiyas are forced to pass through a private property. Dalit Sangharsh Samiti leader S P Anand cautioned about the pathetic condition of the quarters provided by the Mangalore City Corporation to its civic workers, at Mahakalipadpu. With monsoon only a month away, there is fear of these houses getting collapsed due to wind and rain. Lives of 36 families residing in these quarters are at risk, he said demanding the city corporation to make an alternative arrangement to them till the new quarters are built. Anand urged the administration to allot a cremation ground for SCs and STs at Niddodi. “After continuous demand, the department sanctioned two acre land on the top of the hill, which is inconvenient for cremation,” he said. A few Dalit community members raised objection over the use of ‘Harijana’ and ‘Girijana’ words, despite the ban on public usage of these words. “Those words attached to the names of the Dalits, should be removed from the RTC and other government records,” a Dalit leader said. In reply, Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim ordered the authorities concerned to remove Harijana, Girijana and Holeya words from the government records all at once. The deputy commissioner also directed all the tahsildars to convene grievance meetings in the respective taluks within a week. When asked about the employment provided to scheduled caste and tribe youth under tourism employment programme, the social welfare officer said that 30 taxis have been sanctioned to SC youth and 16 have been sanctioned to the ST youth. (Deccan Herald 10/5/14)

 

28. Rights to land tops Dalit leaders’ meet (2)

Mangalore: Rights over land — allotment or encroachment that has allegedly led to homeless labourers being displaced — was the most contentious issue at a meeting of leaders from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities held at the office of the Deputy Commissioner here on Thursday. Karnataka Dalita Sangharsha Samiti said the Depressed Classes (DC) Manna land — which is reserved for the socio-economic backward – should be allotted only to landless SC and ST people. Shekar L., president of Dalitha Hakkugala Horata Samithi, alleged that “thousands of acres” of DC Manna land were given to local industries and educational institutions in Belthangady taluk. Activists said many applications requesting allotment of land to the landless were pending at MCC and Revenue Department. Among those who complained of “diversion of land” was Shivananda S., an activist from Moodbidri, who claimed that though the tahsildar had cancelled allotment of 2.70 acres of land in Mellikaru village to nine persons, who were from “outside” the state, the order had yet to be followed. “Though they were given land in 1993, they had not built houses since. The Tahsildar’s cancellation order in 2012 and its allocation to SC/ST persons has not been followed,” he said. An activist suggested that when the Revenue Department evicted landless persons for encroaching into government land, compensation for the house demolished and subsidy to construct a new house must be paid. With the complaints mounting, Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim directed Tahsildars to conduct taluk-wise meetings within a week and submit a report on the action taken on the complaints. “We will ask the district legal services authority to look into the legality of the issues,” he assured the leaders. Activist S.P. Anand said 38 houses built for civic workers in Jeppu-Mahakalipadpu were “on the verge of falling”. When an official confirmed that there was a danger of the houses collapsing during the monsoon, Mr. Ibrahim ordered officials to find alternative arrangements and evict the residents within three days. Numerous activists claimed that government colleges and aided colleges were demanding capitation fees from students admitted through the quota system. While leaders from Belthangady said government colleges there were asking for Rs. 1,000 for ‘college development’, others said even CET students were being asked to pay extra fees. Mr. Ibrahim said Block Education Officers would be asked to inquire into the allegations. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

29. Dalit murder case: Accused’s cop custody extended (2)

Mumbai: The police custody of the 10 accused in the honour killing of a Dalit teen in Ahmednagar was extended till 18 May on Monday. The police has arrested 13 persons, including three minors, in connection with the case. On April 28, Nitin Raju Aage (17), belonging to a backward community, who was in a relationship with an upper-caste girl, was allegedly murdered in Kharde village by her relatives. All Dalit factions have taken the murder seriously and the Republican Party of India and Republican Sena held two morchas in Ahmednagar to protest the killing. RPI (A) president Ramdas Athawale has demanded a high-level enquiry into the murder and said he would urge the CM and the deputy CM to appoint prominent lawyer Ujjwal Nikam for the prosecution. Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil visited the bereaved family and condoled the death of Aage. He also assured them all government help.The Jamkhed police said that the situation in Jamkhed tehsil and Kharda village was normal. Police security in the village has been tightened. Deputy superintendent Dheeraj Patil told The Asian Age that there was progress in the interrogation. “We applied for extension of police custody on Monday and it was granted,” Mr Patil said. The girl that Aage, an HSC student, was in a relationship with was the prime accused Aba Golekar’s sister. The police had said that the victim was beaten with sticks and rods and later strangled with a rope near New English School Kharda in Yeole brick kiln locality. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

30. Over 50 Dalits allege police harassment in church fest (2)

TIRUCHI: Over 50 Dalit women and men of Pokkattakudi Seshasamudram near Lalgudi in the district thronged the Collector’s Office in the city on Tuesday alleging police harassment following a dispute over their participation in the annual car festival of a church in the neighbouring Periyavarseeli village last weekend. The trouble began on Saturday after a few caste Hindus youths of Periyavarseeli village reportedly told the Dalits that they should not participate in the car festival of the Adaikalamatha Church held last week. The Dalits had returned after the incident, but some of them had questioned a youth who visited their village on Sunday. A police constable on patrol, the villagers alleged, had intervened and assaulted the Dalits without any enquiry. “We were just talking to the youth in a friendly manner asking him about the reason for being told to stay away from the festival. But the constable started attacking us. Some of us objected to his action and there was a scuffle. The constable called up his colleagues and 10 to 15 policemen descended on the scene and attacked us indiscriminately,” said N.Mohan, one of the villagers. However, police claimed there was a scuffle between the two groups necessitating the intervention of a police constable on patrol. The villagers had taken objection to this and attacked him, a senior police officer said. Cases have been registered against 11 persons in connection with the incident and two have been arrested  (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

31. AIDWA condemns Dalit youth’s murder in Maharashtra (2)

New Delhi, May 15 : The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) Thursday condemned the murder of a Dalit youth in Maharashtra in the name of honour and demanded a separate law with regard to the killings and crimes being committed of such nature. AIDWA condemns the murder of the Dalit youth in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra,” AIDWA said in a statement released here. “We demand stringent action against the perpetrators, and justice for the victims. There is a urgent need to for a separate law with regard to killings and crimes being committed in the name of honour,” it said. Nitin R. Aage, 17, was killed and hanged from a tree last week following a love affair with a minor girl from an upper caste. “The AIDWA Maharashtra unit has visited the village where the atrocity took place, and has intervened on the issue,” it said. (New Kerala 15/5/14)

 

32. Dalit man set on fire in Maharashtra, 5 arrested (2)

Nagpur: A dalit man was set on fire allegedly by a group at Kawalewada village in Gondia district of Maharashtra on Saturday. Sanjay Khobragade (50) suffered 90 per cent burns and is under treatment at Nagpur. All five accused — four men and a woman — have been arrested. The alleged attack took place reportedly over a dispute between the accused and the victim over land for a Buddha Vihar in the village. The accused are from Powar community, which belongs to the OBC category. “We have booked an attempt to murder case against the five accused on the basis of the statement given by Khobragade,” Inspector General of Police (Nagpur range) Ravindra Kadam told The Indian Express. According to Khobragade’s statement, the five poured petrol over him and set him on fire at his residence around 2.30 am on Saturday. “The five accused — Rishipal Tembhre, Madhuri Tembhre, Shriprakash Rahangdale, Bhaulal Harinkhede and Punaji Thakre — had allegedly opposed land allotment to Buddha Vihar and got the allotment by the gram panchayat cancelled,” said Kadam. According to reports, Rishipal Tembhre is a tehsil unit general secretary of the BJP. (Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

33. UN study shows decrease in maternal deaths (3)

NEW DELHI: Fresh data released by the United Nations shows a 45 per cent decrease in maternal deaths since 1990. An estimated 2.89 lakh women died in 2013 from complications in pregnancy and childbirth as against 5.23 lakh maternal deaths in 1990. Another WHO study, also published in “The Lancet Global Health”, adds a new dimension to maternal mortality by stating that more than one in four mothers die due to pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, which can aggravate during pregnancy. “Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis”, finds that this is similar to the proportion of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth from severe bleeding. The report said India has been making good progress as its maternal mortality numbers have gone down by 65 per cent from 569 per lakh live births in 1990 to 190 per lakh live births in 2013. “Together, the two reports highlight the need to invest in proven solutions, such as quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth, and particular care for pregnant women with existing medical conditions,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general, family, women’s and children’s health, WHO. According to “Trends in maternal mortality 1990 to 2013” brought out by the UN bodies, including the WHO, in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 210 maternal deaths per lakh live births, down from 380 maternal deaths per lakh live births in 1990 (a 45 per cent reduction). The global reduction of MMR has accelerated with a 3.5 per cent annual decline from 2000 to 2013, as compared to 1.4 per cent from 1990 to 2000.  (The Hindu 8/5/14)

 

34. 37 Million Premature Deaths Can be Prevented by Reducing Only Six Risk Factors (3)

After the UN General Assembly agreed to reduce deaths from the top four chronic diseases in 2011, the World Health Organization created targets for premature deaths from these diseases and their key risk factors. Now, research published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal reveals that reducing six modifiable risk factors to the agreed target levels could prevent over 37 million premature deaths over 15 years. The four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are cardiovascular diseases, respiratory disease, cancers and diabetes, while the six modifiable risk factors are tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, salt intake, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and obesity. There is another, more worrying side of the finding: if these targets are not reached, 38.8 million deaths from the four main NCDs will likely occur in 2025.  Reducing high blood pressure and tobacco use will likely bring the biggest benefits, say the researchers, who estimate a 50 per cent reduction in smoking by 2025 will reduce risk of dying by over 24 per cent in men and 20 per cent in women. (New Indian Express 11/5/14)

 

35. Alcohol consumption on the rise in India, World Health Organisation worried (3)

New Delhi: Consumption of liquor in India has increased during the past decade as 32% of men and 10.6% of women above 15 years of age were found to be drinking alcohol. Alcohol caused some 3.3 million deaths in 2012, whereas HIV/AIDS led to 2.8%, tuberculosis–1.7% of deaths and violence is responsible for just 0.9%, WHO study said. The revelations were made in an World Health Organization (WHO) report which cited the data of 2010. Drinking habit in populous China and India is rising fast as people are earning more money, the report said. According to the experts, alcohol abuse is emerging as a major public-health problem in the country. Shekhar Saxena, who heads the WHO’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse department said today that alcohol kills 3.3 million people worldwide each year which actually translates into one death every 10 seconds. (DNA 12/5/14)

 

36. India tops global list of maternal deaths: WHO (3)

New Delhi: With an estimated 50,000 deaths of pregnant women every year, India tops the global chart of countries where maximum number of mothers die every year, overtaking several nations from Asia and Africa. The data, released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) a week before Mother’s Day, shows only two countries account for a third of all global maternal deaths: India at 17 per cent (50,000) and Nigeria at 14 per cent (40,000). Officials in the Union Health Ministry and doctors, however, point out that though thousands of Indian mothers die because of a large population base, the nation has made progress since 1990. “India will continue to be at the top of the list for several more years because we have almost 3 crore pregnant women each year, the highest in the world. But our MMR (maternal mortality ratio) stands at 178 as against 560 in 1990,” Health Ministry Additional Secretary Anuradha Gupta told Deccan Herald. MMR is the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Reduction of maternal deaths is one of the targets under the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Though there has been 45 per cent reduction globally, many countries are still above the danger mark. While the WHO report takes note of India’s progress—65 per cent improvement since 1990—it says 10 nations accounted for 60 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality, and India was way ahead of its neighbours Pakistan and China. “Male domination and mother-in-law’s diktat many-a-times influence a girl’s decision to go to a healthcare centre or see a doctor,” said Mumbai-based Dr Suchitra Pandit, president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. While institutional deliveries have improved from 47 per cent in 2007-08 to more than 80 per cent in 2013, there are still pockets where mothers are unable to access healthcare services. The government has identified 184 such districts across the country where renewed efforts are being made to bring down MMR further. “We have already reduced MMR by three-fourths from the 1990-level. Our target is to bring it further down to 100 by 2017,” said Gupta. Kerala has the lowest MMR of 66, while Assam has the highest of 328. UP is a close second to Assam (292). Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra (87) have MMR below 100. The figures are not that rosy for Karnataka, as it has the highest MMR (144) among the South Indian states, despite recording a fall in 2010-12. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have MMR of 90 and 110, respectively. (Deccan Herald 12/5/14)

 

37. Family seeks probe into rabies patient’s sudden death (3)

NEW DELHI: The family of 23-year-old Kavita Joshi, who died of suspected rabies on Friday after being bitten by a dog in Manali, conducted her last rites on Tuesday, soon after police finished her autopsy on Delhi high court’s order. Kavita’s family and friends are unable to understand how a dog bite could lead to her sudden death within four days of her hospitalization. Speaking to TOI, her family and well-wishers said they are mulling legal options that include seeking a thorough probe into the circumstances surrounding her death. The family wants the cops to investigate if fake medicine was administered to her or if there was any kind of medical negligence. While Kavita’s father Mohan Chandra Joshi said the family will decide what to do next in a few days, their lawyer RK Saini said seeking an inquest can be an option given the nature of her death. It took a series of Delhi high court orders for Kavita’s family to first ensure she was not forcibly discharged from Max Hospital, Patparganj, and later for police to conduct postmortem. With Kavita passing away on Friday, her postmortem was stuck because of holidays on Saturday and Sunday that left the high court furious. Family friend BS Negi, who monitored the petitions filed by the Joshi family, was unable to hide his grief. “She had such a bright future. Kavita’s brother was present when the incident happened. She had offered a biscuit to the animal and its teeth just grazed her hand. Despite taking injections in Manali, her condition suddenly deteriorated nearly 20 days after the incident. The hospital authorities here didn’t cooperate,” Negi alleged. On Tuesday, while taking stock of the family’s condition, the high court advised them to approach the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) seeking a probe into her death if they feel there were lapses. The court also took exception to repeated cases of delay in post mortem. “There is a problem in structural response. There is lack of coordination between police and health department which needs to be worked out.” On this issue it tagged the plea of her family members with another case on delayed post mortems pending before the Chief Justice’s court. Justice Manmohan had intervened and asked the health department of Delhi government to order Max Super Speciality Hospital at Patparganj not to discharge 23-year-old Kavita Joshi from the hospital last week, when the panic stricken Joshi family moved court. After her death the family had to again knock on HC doors to get the post mortem done. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

38. UN report shows rich-poor longevity divide persists (3)

New York, May 16 : People everywhere are living longer, the United Nations health agency on Thursday reported, mostly because fewer children are dying, certain diseases are in check, and tobacco use is down, but conditions in low-income countries continue to plague life quality there. According to the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Statistics 2014, a girl born in 2012 can expect to live around 73 years and a boy to the age of 68. That is six years longer than the average life span for a child in 1990. With one year to go until the 2015 target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), substantial progress has been made on many health-related goals, the report authors wrote. “The global target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water was met in 2010, with remarkable progress also having been made in reducing child mortality, improving nutrition, and combating HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” the report states. WHO’s statistics show that low-income countries have made the greatest progress, with an average increase in life expectancy by 9 years from 1990 to 2012. The top six countries where life expectancy increased the most were Liberia which saw a 20-year increase (from 42 years in 1990 to 62 years in 2012) followed by Ethiopia (from 45 to 64 years), Maldives (58 to 77 years), Cambodia (54 to 72 years), Timor-Leste (50 to 66 years) and Rwanda (48 to 65 years). Nevertheless, nearly 18,000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, according to the findings, with large inequities remaining in child mortality between high-income and low-income countries. “There is still a major rich-poor divide: people in high-income countries continue to have a much better chance of living longer than people in low-income countries,” said Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan. Women live longer than men in general, but in high-income countries the difference is around six years, while in low-income countries, the average falls to three years. The findings among children are even more glaring. A girl born in 2012 in a high-income country can expect to live to the age of around 82, which is 19 years longer than a girl born in a low-income country. The difference for boys is 16 years. Geographically, women in Japan live the longest, with an average life expectancy of 87 years, followed by Spain, Switzerland and Singapore at 85 years. The average lifespan of men is highest in Iceland at 81 years. “In high-income countries, much of the gain in life expectancy is due to success in tackling noncommunicable diseases,” said Ties Boerma, Director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO. “Fewer men and women are dying before they get to their 60th birthday from heart disease and stroke. Richer countries have become better at monitoring and managing high blood pressure for example,” he added. Declining tobacco use is also a key factor in helping people live longer in several countries. At the other end of the scale, life expectancy for both men and women is still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries, including Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. (New Kerala 16/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

39. NGOs demand increase in HIV tests during pregnancy (3)

JAIPUR: On the occasion of World AIDS Orphans Day, the social organizations demanded that the government increases conduction of HIV tests of pregnant women to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to the newborn. The social organizations including FXB Suraksha and Positive Women Network of Rajasthan on Wednesday at Press Club appealed to the government that more women coming for institutional deliveries should be screened for HIV through counseling. FXB India programme coordinator (Rajasthan) Suraksha Lata Singh said, “May 7 is observed as World AIDS Orphan day and the state government is running Treatment & Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) centres to save the newborn from HIV transmission during their birth.” The representatives of the social organizations pointed out that once an infant is born with HIV his life becomes challenging as there have been instances of the child being shifted to shelter homes by his close relatives after his HIV positive parents died. The organizations claimed that the transmission of virus from mother to newborn could be prevented by taking some medication, which minimizes transmission chance. More the HIV testing of pregnant women is done less would be the chances of newborns being infected with the virus. Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) is already conducting HIV tests of pregnant women through counseling. They take the women’s consent before conducting the test. The RSACS said they have conducted tests on more than 6 lakh pregnant women for HIV in 2013, which could be nearly 33% of the total pregnant women giving birth to newborns every year, through proper counseling. The auxiliary nurse midwife and general nurse midwife counsel the women to take the test before she gives birth. So far, the new infections among children are 130, the social organizations claimed. (Times of India 8/5/14)

 

40. HIV patient gets violent, kills one in the Bombay (3)

MUMBAI: A 42-year-old HIV positive patient got violent in the Bombay Hospital early on Monday morning and killed a 65-year-old TB patient besides injuring two others. The accused, an Agripada resident, has been admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital for treatment, and booked for murder and attempt to murder. The deceased, Lilabihari Thakur, was to be discharged in three days. The incident took place at around 6.30 am in the general ward on third floor of the hospital. The accused, who returned from bathroom, used a saline-drip stand to attack the victims, said police. The Azad Maidan police initially registered an attempt to murder case against the accused but later added the section of murder Thakur died during treatment. The two injured were Praful Parmar (70) and Janardhan Arte (66), both being treated. Thakur’s son, Pankaj, said that his mother Miradevi has been accompanying his father since he was admitted on April 12. “On Monday morning, my mother had gone down stairs to bring medicines which were to be given to my father.At around 6.30 pm, the accused got up from his bed and removed the stand used to mount saline bottles. He later attacked my father thrice with the rod on his head. My father was bleeding profusely and meanwhile he ran towards the other ward too. He attacked two other patients too and injured them grievously,” said Pankaj, who works in a private firm as administrator. He added that while the other patients got scared, there is no correct information where the accused’s care taker was. “He had hit the other two patients on their head too,” he said. (Times of India 12/5/14)

 

41. Rights groups oppose Uganda’s HIV bill (3)

Kampala: Human rights activists Wednesday opposed a “deeply flawed” HIV bill passed by Uganda’s parliament, which they say is discriminatory and hampers the fight against AIDS. The new law, passed by parliament on Tuesday, foresees jail sentences of up to 10 years for spouses who infect each other with HIV. The bill also allows medical workers to disclose patients’ HIV status without consent, includes mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners. It criminalizes HIV transmission, attempted transmission and behaviour that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status. “This HIV bill is yet another step backward in the fight against AIDS in Uganda,” said Maria Burnett, researcher at international non-profit Human Rights Watch. “It is founded on stigma and discrimination and based on approaches that have been condemned by international health agencies as ineffective and violating the rights of people living with HIV,” Ms. Burnett added. “It is a very detrimental bill. The law will chase away people from testing for AIDS,” AIDS activist and medical doctor Margret Mungherela said. The bill has been pending in parliament since 2010 and was passed even though the Health Ministry’s AIDS commission as well as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and other international agencies discouraged the law. About 1.5 million of the East African nation’s 36 million people are infected with HIV, according to the Health Ministry. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

42. Govt to Issue BPL Cards to All HIV +ve Patients (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a meeting attended by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Health Minister V S Sivakumar and Social Justice Minister M K Muneer at the Secretariat, it was announced that the government had formulated several policies to protect the 8,227 HIV positive patients in the state. For patients undergoing Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART), the monthly aid has been increased from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000. Kerala State AIDS Control Society will be entrusted with a corpus fund of Rs 3 crore towards this purpose, according to a release. “Children of HIV patients will be provided free education and scholarships. There will be no age limit for pensions given to widows of AIDS patients,” it said. All tests will be free for HIV infected patients in the labs run by hospital management committees in various government hospitals. In case a hospital doesn’t have the provision for a particular test, the government will take measures to reimburse the money spent on tests. To ensure the financial security of HIV patients, the Social Justice Department will introduce self-employment schemes. The government is also envisaging a housing project for them. Medicines that are not available at the eight ART centres in the state will be made available through Kerala Medical Services Corporation. In the eight ART centres in the state, counsellors to implement Social Justice Schemes through single window clearance would be appointed. Schemes to provide nutritious food would be re-introduced in all ART centres, according to the release. Special training will be given to those willing to provide nursing care to HIV patients. AIDS awareness will be part of the school curriculum. The Social Justice Department will protect the rights of HIV patients, through a health centre to be established in Kochi. The government has also decided that once in three months, the Chief Minister, Health Minister and Social Justice Minister would meet  to analyse the issues which affect HIV patients. (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

43. Dosage of key drug for HIV+ too low to counter TB, reveals study (3)

CHENNAI: Experts may fret about overprescription of drugs for tuberculosis, but it has emerged that central health authorities’ mandatory dosage of a key drug for HIV-infected patients with the disease is too low for it to be effective. A study by National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis found that dosage of rifabutin — a second-line drug for HIV-infected TB patients — prescribed by Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) is insufficient to tackle mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of the disease, one of the leading causes of death among AIDS/HIV+ patients. “The programme recommends 150mg of the drug thrice a week. But based on our studies of blood samples collected from 17 patients, we found that for 150mg of rifabutin to work, patients would have to take the drug every day,” said Dr Geetha Ramachandran, who led the study. The subjects of the study were all patients at Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine, Tambaram. All of them had failed to respond to first-line treatment. Researchers found that the RNTCP stipulated dosage administered to seven patients was too low to counter the disease. Four of the subjects died during the course of the study. “Ten of the patients, who received a dosage of around 30mg/ml higher than that prescribed by the RNTCP, showed favourable response to the treatment,” Dr Ramachandran said. Experts say the dosage of the drug has always been a matter of debate, with doctors exercising extra caution due to possible chemical interaction of medicines for HIV and TB. “While in some countries like the US, the dosage of rifabutin has been increased from 150mg three days a week to the same amount daily, in India insufficient data and studies resulted in health authorities failing to increase the dosage,” NIRT director Soumya Swaminathan said. The researchers have presented the results of the study to the National AIDS Control Organisation. “A multi-centric study will be undertaken in different parts of the country to assess the effect of rifabutin. This could change the drug regimen for HIV-positive patients with TB,” Dr Swaminathan said. Experts say 60%-70% of HIV-infected patients are likely to develop TB, mostly those on second-line therapy. “There are several factors that may lead to poor treatment outcome, including malnutrition and other infections. The dosage of rifabutin, which kills the bacteria, is also a contributing factor which can’t be taken lightly. Although we recommend daily dosage, more studies will be required to determine the optimal level,” Dr Ramachandran said. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

44. Stay on acquisition of land in NCR to continue: HC (4)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday clarified that the stay on acquisition of land and issuance of any change of land use (CLU) licences to developers to build colonies in Gurgaon and the National Capital Region (NCR) area would continue till further orders. The HC on January 23 had stayed the acquisition process and the issuance of CLU licences till the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) approves a sub-regional plan for the area. The orders were passed by the HC after hearing petitions alleging unregulated construction and development around Gurgaon and NCR without the mandatory sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the town and country planning department informed the court that it has prepared a sub-regional plan and submitted the same before the board on February 17 on which a report is awaited. NCRPB informed the HC that it has prepared a report on the issue and sent it to the Haryana government. However, the counsel for the Haryana government submitted that it is yet to receive the report. After hearing all the parties, Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked all the parties to submit a status report on the matter and till the submission of them the stay order would continue. Petitioner Rishi Dagar and others had also challenged the proposed Gurgaon master plan of 2025 and 2031. The petitioners argued before the court that the Haryana government had permitted haphazard construction in and around Gurgaon and NCR and licences have been issued without obtaining mandatory approval of its sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. Sub-regional plan is one that a state government needs to prepare for its areas coming in NCR. (New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

 

45. Tamil Nadu to compensate landowners in two phases (4)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has worked out a strategy to address the issue of compensation for land acquisition so as to ensure smooth progress of the ongoing infrastructure projects. It has combined the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 with some aspects of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, for the purpose. Under the plan, interim compensation will be initially paid to landowners on the basis of the existing system. Additional compensation will be given under the 2013 Act as and when rules under the law are available. This approach will be adopted in the cases of land acquisition initiated under Section 4 (1) of the 1894 law [publication of preliminary notification] or Section 6 [declaration of intended acquisition]. This has been reflected in a notification issued by the Housing and Urban Development Department two weeks ago for the outer ring road project. In this case, the Department has declared its intention to acquire 43 hectares in Tiruvallur district under Section 6 of the 1894 Act, but provisions of the 2013 Act for the determination of compensation will apply. The strategy was spelt out in an order issued a couple of weeks before the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections came into force on March 5. A similar approach will be adopted in the case of land acquisition for the Kannankottai-Thervoy Kandigai reservoir project proposed in Tiruvallur district. The reservoir will supply water to Chennai, a senior official says. And, using the same law, the process has been set in motion for a major bus terminus at Vandalur, on the outskirts of Chennai. Furthermore, land is acquired under three State laws: the Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act of 1978, the Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act of 1997 and the Highways Act of 2001. In late February and early March, under clauses of the 1997 law, the proceedings have been initiated for the expansion of the SIPCOT industrial complex at Oragadam near Chennai, the industrial units at Cheyyar in Tiruvannamalai district and the extension of the Coimbatore airport runway. Given the importance of land acquisition under these laws, the government has decided to continue the process for one year, choosing not to apply the 2013 law for the time being. A Bill for this purpose, adopted by the Assembly in February, is awaiting the President’s assent. Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA K. Balakrishnan feels that the government should have at least kept the 1997 law out of the exemption provision as the rationale behind the 2013 law is to give owners a higher compensation when their land is bought for industrial purposes. An official says the scheme to provide interim and additional compensation, now worked out for the cases under the 1894 Act, will soon be extended to those under the 1997 law.  (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

46. Stay on acquisition of land in NCR to continue: HC (4)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday clarified that the stay on acquisition of land and issuance of any change of land use (CLU) licences to developers to build colonies in Gurgaon and the National Capital Region (NCR) area would continue till further orders. The HC on January 23 had stayed the acquisition process and the issuance of CLU licences till the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) approves a sub-regional plan for the area. The orders were passed by the HC after hearing petitions alleging unregulated construction and development around Gurgaon and NCR without the mandatory sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the town and country planning department informed the court that it has prepared a sub-regional plan and submitted the same before the board on February 17 on which a report is awaited. NCRPB informed the HC that it has prepared a report on the issue and sent it to the Haryana government. However, the counsel for the Haryana government submitted that it is yet to receive the report. After hearing all the parties, Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked all the parties to submit a status report on the matter and till the submission of them the stay order would continue. Petitioner Rishi Dagar and others had also challenged the proposed Gurgaon master plan of 2025 and 2031. The petitioners argued before the court that the Haryana government had permitted haphazard construction in and around Gurgaon and NCR and licences have been issued without obtaining mandatory approval of its sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. Sub-regional plan is one that a state government needs to prepare for its areas coming in NCR. (Times of India 15/5/14)

 

47. Allahabad HC sets aside land acquisition notice (4)

ALLAHABAD: The Allahabad High Court on Thursday set aside the notification dated November 9, 2009 by which the land at Hazratpur in Greater NOIDA was acquired by the state government for planned industrial development. Under this notification, 73 hectares of land was acquired by the state government through Greater NOIDA Industrial Development Authority. The order was passed by a division bench comprising Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Naheed Ara Moonis, on a writ petition filed by Uday Veer of Greater NOIDA, after hearing the counsel for the petitioner, counsel for Greater NOIDA and counsel for the state government. The petitioner contended that the land of the petitioner was acquired through the notification by using the urgency clause in an illegal manner. He alleged that the villagers and farmers, whose lands were acquired, were not given opportunity to file objections in view of the urgency clause. This was patently illegal. Secondly, the counsel for the petitioner contended that the possession over the said land was also made in an improper manner. On these grounds, he urged the court to set aside the notification. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

48. Anti-corruption bureau caught 508 errant officials in four months in Maharashtra (5)

MUMBAI: A deputy collector, a public works executive engineer, a senior police inspector, and a principal of a leading college were among the 508 public servants trapped by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) in 375 graft cases in the first four months of 2014. Significantly, in the entire last year, the ACB had arrested 281 erring officials in 216 cases. According to ACB records, the highest number of erring officials caught this year was from the state home department (87), followed by the revenue department (79), municipal corporations (25), state electricity distribution company (16) and land records (11). More shocking was the fact that a few senior police inspectors were caught taking bribes in police stations itself. Admitting that the data was worrying, Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria said he was determined to end the menace. “I had a meeting with all deputy, additional and joint police commissioners, and have drafted a comprehensive action plan to take on the erring officials. The results will be visible in a time-bound period,” he said. “We have prepared a list of the erring officers. We will counsel them and take action against them. But if there is no improvement, we ourselves will submit the list to the ACB for further action.” Maria said all deputy, additional and joint police commissioners have also been asked to personally monitor sensitive cases, where there is scope for corruption. “In cases where an officer can use his discretion on whether or not to arrest the accused, there is scope for corruption. We will monitor all such cases,” Maria said. An IPS official said that owing to the proactive role played by the ACB, led by IPS officer Praveen Dixit, there was “alertness in all walks of life”. “Social activists are knocking at the doors of the ACB and the results are visible,” he said. Additional chief secretary (revenue) Swadhin Kshatriya said even the revenue department has drafted a strategy to curb corruption. “We have worked out a action plan to provide a corruption-free administration,” he said, adding that more emphasis is being given on maximum utilization of information technology. “All services will be available online, as a result, there will be less scope for corruption.” Kshatriya said as there was scope for irregularities in land records, they have been completely digitized. “We have simplified rules and set a time-bound disposal for all pending revenue cases. We are set to bring e-governance at all levels.” Food and Drug Administration commissioner Mahesh Zagade said they have taken measures to reduce corruption at all levels. “Our entire administration has been digitized and all services are available online. We are implementing all the legislation in letter and spirit, as a result, there is less scope for lower-level officials to indulge in illegal activities,” he said, adding that if citizens stop giving bribes, corruption will automatically end. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

49. CBI forms SIT to probe Saradha group, 17 other firms (5)

Kolkata: The CBI formed a special investigation team (SIT) on Monday — the last day of polling in the 2014 elections — to probe the Saradha group and 17 other such companies for duping millions in Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and the northeastern states. To be led by the agency’s joint director for the northeast zone, Rajiv Singh, the team will have officers from various CBI departments in the states, besides men from the agency’s Delhi office and specialised units. On April 10, 2013 after his company went bust, Saradha group boss Sudipta Sen wrote a letter to the CBI, detailing the involvement of some Trinamool Congress top guns as well as relatives of some Congress leaders in the scam. As the scam rocked Bengal and the neighbouring states, TMC chief and chief minister Mamata Banerjee set up a commission under a retired judge, Shyamal Sen, to initiate the process of documenting the investors and returning some money to the victims. Already more than 60 persons – agents and depositors – have committed suicide since April last year. A source in the CBI, which received the top court’s order on Friday to take up the probe, told HT that since the `20,000-crore scam involved fraud, money laundering and even hawala transactions, officers from specialised departments had to be roped in. The SIT will soon start collecting documents from the special investigation team of the Bengal police as well as the Enforcement Directorate, which are now probing the scam. It will also seek documents from the Serious Fraud Investigation Office. The Bengal police SIT arrested several persons, including Saradha group boss Sen, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh and others. ED, too, in its probe interrogated and arrested a number of persons, including Sen’s wife and daughter. Since cases have already been registered by the police on the basis of first information reports, the CBI will re-register the cases before initiating the probe. But the agency will decide on the sections to be applied, changes in the list of accused persons and incorporate any other changes that it feels necessary. (Hindustan Times 13/5/14)

 

50. CBI’s Fresh Guidelines For Probe Against Joint Secretary and Higher Officers (5)

New Delhi:  Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday issued fresh guidelines for its officers, asking them to take permission of the Additional Director or above before beginning investigation against any joint secretary and higher ranked officers in the government. The direction comes in the wake of a recent Supreme Court judgement which struck down the provision of seeking mandatory prior approval by the CBI of the government to probe against officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above. CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, who had termed it as a landmark judgement, however, had a word of caution to its officers and said “those found guilty of abusing their authority will be dealt with severely.” Mr Sinha had said the order had added more responsibilities on the CBI as a proper mechanism had to be put in place to ensure that no innocent person is subjected to this provision. “We have strengthened our already existing mechanism and due diligence will be done before questioning any senior officer,” he had said. According to the circular issued by the CBI, any inquiry against a joint secretary or above officer in the government will have to be approved by a competent authority which would be either an Additional Director, a Special Director or the Director of the CBI. It said that in case of a complaint in any CBI office against a Union Minister, the same shall be forwarded to the Home Ministry promptly for further action and the relevant file should remain in the personal custody of the head of the branch. No complaint against any such officer will be handed over to a CBI officer below the rank of a Superintendent of Police, the guidelines said. The Superintendent of Police should ensure that the departmental records are examined discreetly so that secrecy of the verification is maintained and advised to consult the records informally by contacting the concerned Vigilance Officers or the Head of the Department. During the course of verification of the complaint, a written requisition for record should normally be avoided but wherever absolutely necessary, such requisition must go under the signature of the Head of the Branch only and never of the Verification Officer, failing which, the concerned unit heads would be held squarely responsible, the circular said. “The period of three months, which is provided for completion of the verification of complaints, must be strictly adhered to and all complaints that are time-barred should be individually examined by the head of the zones and necessary direction be given in this regard,” it said. While reiterating that adequate precautions should be taken to ensure that motivated complaints or cases are not registered, the circular warned that a trend was seen that complaints were received against an officer who is on the verge of promotion. “It should be carefully scrutinised and finding out this fact should become part of the verification” and unless the information is specific, it need not be entertained, it said. A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, held as invalid and unconstitutional the provision which makes it mandatory for prior approval of competent authority for the CBI to probe Joint Secretary and above-ranked officials in corruption cases and said the protection has the propensity of shielding the corrupt. The 6-A clause of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs the CBI, says no inquiry or probe can be conducted into any offence committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 except with the prior approval of the central government. This is applicable to central government employees of the level of Joint Secretary and above and officers appointed by the Centre in corporations established by or under any central Act, government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by that government. (NDTV 14/5/14)

 

51. 34% of MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha have criminal charges against them (5)

New Delhi: Every third MP in the 16th Lok Sabha has criminal charges while 82% of the lawmakers have assets worth Rs one crore or more, as per Association for Democratic Reforms’ (ADR) analysis. Civil society group ADR have analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 541 out of 543 winners in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections filed before the Election Commission. They found that 34% of the winning candidates are faced with criminal charges. It was 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004. “Out of the 541 winners analysed, 186 (34%) have declared criminal cases against themselves,” ADR said in its detailed analysis BJP is leading the chart with as many as 98 winning candidates (35%) out of total 282, are facing criminal charges. While, 8 out of total 44 candidates of Congress are facing criminal charges. In AIADMK 6 out of 37 winners have been booked by police in some case or other. The percentage of candidates facing criminal charges is highest in Shiv Sena as its 15 candidates out of the total 18 are booked in some case or other. Trinamool Congress’ 7 out of 34 winners are facing criminal charges. ADR in its analysis also found that on an average four out of five candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls have declared assets worth over Rs 1 crore. “Out of the 541 winners analysed, 442 (82%) are crorepatis,” the analysis pointed. In this category also BJP is leading as 237 (84%) out of its 282 winners are crorepatis. In Congress, 35 (80%) out of 44 winners are crorepatis. ADR also underlined that chances of candidates with criminal charges were almost double as compared to clean candidates. “The chances of winning of a candidate with criminal cases in the Lok Sabha 2014 elections are 13% while for a candidate with a clean record it is 5%,” ADR said in its analysis. The ADR was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad. (DNA 18/5/14)

 

52. Mere collection of money doesn’t amount to bribery: Madras HC (5)

CHENNAI: Holding that mere collection of money from people alone would not be enough to convict public servants on charges of bribery, the Madras high court has acquitted a woman village administrative officer who was sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment for taking Rs 200 for issuing a birth certificate. While the complaint was that she sought this as bribe for issuing the certificate, S Vijayalakshmi said while Rs 150 was collected as flag day charges Rs 50 was towards transport expenses. Vijayalakshmi was VAO of Keelambi village in Kancheepuram district in June 1999 when the incident occurred. In August 2008, chief judicial magistrate of Chengalpet found her guilty under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sentenced her to one-year imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 5,000. Justice Aruna Jagadeesan, setting aside the order and acquitting Vijayalakshmi last week, said: “It is settled principle of law that mere recovery of the tainted money is not sufficient to record a conviction, unless there is evidence that bribe had been demanded or money was paid as a bribe. In the absence of any evidence of demand and acceptance of the amount as illegal gratification, recovery would not alone be a ground to convict the appellant.” According to the prosecution, Vijayalakshmi demanded Rs 200 for issuing birth certificate to one Priyanka who gave birth to a child in 1999. Priyanka’s father informed the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption personnel, who laid a trap for the VAO. She was caught while receiving the money. Later, during trial, the complainant himself admitted that the VAO had demanded the money towards flag day collection and transport expenses. Justice Jagadeesan said: “I am of the considered opinion that the prosecution has failed in establishing the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt that there was a demand and acceptance of illegal gratification. Whereas, the accused has given a plausible and acceptable explanation and discharged the burden.” (Times of India 19/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

53. Woman stripped in public, asked to pay Rs 1 lakh fine (6)

RAIPUR: In an apparent imitation of controversial “khap panchayat”, a 35-year-old tribal teacher in Pathalgaon area in Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh was not only beaten and stripped in front of everyone but was also asked to pay Rs 1 lakh or face boycott from village. The incident took place at Pakargaon of Pathalgaon block on April 19. Despite the fact that the woman had reported the matter naming the accused, police is still waiting to get a detailed complaint on assault and the truth in her being stripped naked to take stringent action. The teacher has now approached human rights commission and women’s commission after alleged police inaction. She was assaulted because her nephew was allegedly in a relationship with a girl of same village. According to woman’s statement given to state commission for women, her nephew and the girl belonged to same caste and wished to get married. While discussions were going on for the wedding, the girl allegedly stayed at woman’s home where her nephew Bijendra also lived but after brief counseling the girl left. However, as soon as village sarpanch Nehru Lakda came to know about the girl’s stay, he blamed the woman for misleading her and accused her nephew of rape. When the village gathered at gram sabha of April 19, the girl under pressure denied having any relationship with the boy following which sarpanch, holding the woman responsible, ordered men and women present there to beat her. The victim also complained that she was robbed off her gold ornaments while she was being assaulted. On accusations of defaming the girl, the woman was asked to pay Rs 1 lakh or leave the village with her family. “No one visits or talks to me. Moreover, I have been struggling for help from police since a fortnight but even after reporting the matter, none of the accused were arrested,” she said. Talking to TOI, secretary of state commission for women Jagrani Ekka said that a letter has been sent to superintendent of police Jitendra Mina asking Jashpur police to register a case under relevant sections. “Following the report submitted by police, commission would intervene for her justice,” she said. According to eyewitnesses, the woman was not stripped but her clothes were torn off while she was being beaten and assaulted. Hence, they said, stripping wasn’t intentional. TOI spoke to the victim, who while weeping over phone, said, “Sarpanch abused me before everyone, dragged me by hair and kicked me on ground, stripping me off my clothes. Nehru is habitual of assaulting people and has boycotted more than 10 people from village and sent many to jail.” Demanding justice, the victim said, “I have already informed police amid threats from sarpanch to withdraw the complaint.” Police had registered FIR against sarpanch. “Sarpanch and two others were arrested and released on bail. If survivor has more to say about assault and being stripped by locals, she has all rights to approach the police,” Neha Pandey, Jashpur additional superintendent of police told TOI. Meanwhile, state Congress committee president Bhupesh Baghel has formed a party level committee for examining the case. (Times of India 10/5/14)

 

54. NGO comes forward to help poor adivasi couples get married (6)

Jalpaiguri: An NGO and a tea garden management came forward and helped 26 poor adivasi couple to get married in Jalpaiguri district. Himdong Tea garden and Spandan Welfare society today organised a mass marriage ceremony at the Himdong Tea garden where 26 poor adivasi couple were married. The Spandan Welfare Society said as the poor adivasi couple were too poor they could not afford to get married so they came forward and helped them get married along with the Himdong tea garden management. (Financial Express 11/5/14)

 

55. In a first, Chhattisgarh tribal widow remarries (6)

Raipur: A tribal group in Chhattisgarh has set a new social trend in its society by allowing a widow of the community to remarry. Kanwar Samaj, considered a socially and economically-backward tribe, has decided to do away with its age-old tradition of prohibiting widow marriage in the community, when its leaders gave nod to the wedding of Chuneswari Kanwar (24), who lost her husband barely a month after her nuptial a couple of years ago. Chuneswari married Siddhartha Singh Kanwar (28), who is currently serving as an engineer in a private power company in Bhillai nearly 30 km from here, at a simple ceremony, attended by the elders of the society, in her village of Jejera in tribal-dominated Gariabandh district in east Chhattisgarh on Sunday night. “This is the first remarriage of a widow in the history of our tribal society. The social reform undertaken in the society will go a long way in helping the group fight backwardness,” Gariabandh district president of Kanwar-Paikra society Bharat Singh Diwan said on Monday. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

56. Tribals desert govt homes citing lack of facilities (6)

MADURAI: Tribal families in Varasanadu in Theni district who were rehabilitated have decided to desert their new homes and return to the hilly regions as they do not have access to basic amenities. The tribal families living in Yanaikajam near Varasanadu were rehabilitated in government constructed homes near Upputhurai village in the region. Twenty-four group houses were constructed for them at a cost of Rs 28 lakh, with each house costing Rs 1.20 lakh. They occupied their new homes about two months ago, little before the elections, but ever since they have been saying that they want to give up their new homes because they do not have basic amenities. The houses were constructed under the Indira Gandhi Rozgar yojana. Similar houses were constructed for the tribals in the region in various places including Arasaradi near Nochiodai, Thalaiyoothu and only the homes constructed near Kadamalaigundu have some facilities. Three families left their homes on Wednesday and went up to their old habitation in Yanaikajam declaring that it was better than their new homes. Velu, one of the people who left their new homes said that they had come here expecting better facilities than their previous ones, but the new houses were not up to their expectations. The compound wall was not constructed as promised and as there is no electricity the women are fearful of venturing outside even late in the evening. “At least in our old homes we did not a problem for drinking water as it was easily available,” they said. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

57. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Survey 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, 5,957 of 12,189 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 STs 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 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 19/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

58. Technical issues hit minorities welfare department division process (7)

HYDERABAD: With days to go before the Appointed Date of bifurcation, the minorities welfare department (MWD) said that the process of division of five out of 11 agencies under its control would be finalized only after June 2. The five entities, Urdu Academy of AP (UAAP), AP State Wakf Board, Survey Commissioner of Wakf, AP State Haj Committee (APSHC) and the Wakf Tribunal, would be divided after the formation of the new Telangana state. According to sources from the MWD, the decision to not bifurcate the tribunal is based on the fact that it is a statutory body which acts as a court of law and deals with a large number of cases. In a similar case, the AP State Minorities Commission, headed by senior Congress leader Abid Rasool Khan, would continue to function in Telangana but its formation in the residual state of Andhra Pradesh would be the government’s prerogative. “Once a government comes to power in residuary Andhra Pradesh, it will decide if a commission for minorities of the state should be constituted. The tribunal currently handles many cases which is why we want to be careful with its bifurcation. Speeding up its division could adversely affect cases which are being heard,” an official, who did not wish to be named said. With the state being allotted a quota of 5,384 seats for haj pilgrims this year, the APSHC too will not be divided immediately. “The government has decided not to divide the haj committee at least till November’s haj season comes to an end. Further, in mid-March, 3,908 pilgrims were selected by means of qurrah (draw of lots). Another 1,476 seats have been allotted in the reserved category. Bifurcation of the committee could cause problems in arrangements and inconvenience pilgrims,” the source said. Interestingly, sources said that the MWD special secretary Syed Omar Jaleel has recommended against the bifurcation of Dairatul Maarif, an institute with the objective of preserving Arabic manuscripts, which is located in Osmania University. “The institute is a repository of rare manuscripts and books. We think that it is the cultural heritage of Muslims which should not be divided. We have recommended that it functions as a single entity,” Jaleel said. He added that the bifurcation process at the department was proceeding smoothly. “We are ready for a smooth transition,” he added. The government had originally set a deadline of May 15 for all government departments to complete the bifurcation process, including division of manpower and assets, but not a single agency has been able to complete the process and many were unlikely to do so before the appointed date of June 2. “It’s almost impossible to complete the process in such a short period. It’s a mammoth exercise, a gigantic task at hand,” said a government official. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

59. Dal Khalsa cautions minorities against miscreants (7)

Chandigarh: Expressing concern over Wednesday’s violent clashes in Hyderabad, the radical Sikh organisation, Dal Khalsa, has appealed to the local leadership of both minority communities to ensure early resolution and frustrate the attempts by miscreants to escalate tensions. In a statement, spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh expressed grief over the loss of lives in the clashes reported from Kishanbagh after miscreants burnt a Nishan Sahib (religious flag) of the Sikh community. Mr. Singh said that while the burning of the Nishan Sahib was condemnable, certain miscreants had resorted to spreading rumours over the social media to vitiate atmosphere. Mr. Singh alleged that certain miscreants associated with Hindu right-wing organisations were spreading rumours to create further animosity between the minority communities. According to the versions of some Sikhs of Hyderabad, he said, the propaganda was carried on social media that Muslims had attacked Sardars, angry over Sikhs supporting the BJP instead of voting for the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen. (The Hindu 15/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

60. Muslim representation to be low in 16th Lok Sabha, none in BJP’s 282 (7)

NEW DELHI: The 16th Lok Sabha will have one of the lowest representation for Muslims with just about 20 of them emerging victorious in the Lok Sabha polls in the wake of the saffron surge in the north and western parts of India. Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 seats, has not returned any Muslim candidate in the just-concluded elections. An analysis of the results shows that there are about 20 winners from the Muslim community. BJP, the largest party with 282 members, does not have a single representative from the community. In the new Lok Sabha, the biggest contingent of Muslim MPs would be from West Bengal with seven members followed by Bihar where at least four Muslim candidates have won. Going by estimates, there were more than 25 Muslim members in the outgoing Lower House. Trinamool Congress has at least three members from the community among whom are Idris Ali (Basirhat), Sultan Ahmed (Uluberia) and Mamtaz Sanghamita (Burdwan-Durgapur). The others minority community members from West Bengal include CPM’s Badaruddoza Khan (Murshidabad) and Md Salim (Raiganj). There are also two Congress members — Mausam Noor (Maldaha Uttar) and Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury (Maldaha Dakshin) — who have won in these elections from the state. From Bihar, there are at least four Muslim MPs in the new Lok Sabha. They include RJD’s Tasleemuddin (Araria), NCP’s Tariq Anwar (Katihar), LJP’s Chaudhary Mahboob Ali Qaisar (Khagaria) and Congress member Mohd Asrarul Haq Qasmi (Kishanganj). From Jammu & Kashmir, there are three Muslim members for the new House, including PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti (Anantnag). The remaining two, Muzaffar Hussain Baig (Baramulla) and Tariq Hameed Karra (Srinagar), are also from PDP. There are two Muslim MPs from Assam — Siraj Uddin Ajmal (Barpeta) and Badruddin Ajmal (Dhubri). Both are members of the All India United Democratic Front. NCP’s Mohd Faizal PP has won in Lakshadweep while AIADMK member Anwhar Raajhaa has made it to the Lower House from Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi, representing Hyderabad, has retained his seat. Registering its best-ever showing, BJP has won 282 seats in Lok Sabha polls, becoming the first party in 30 years to have single majority. (Times of India 17/5/14)

 

61. BJP gains on Muslim 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. (Hindutan Times 19/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

62. Election Results: Church circular checked by BJP counterattack (7)

PANAJI: BJP’s victory in both Lok Sabha seats in Goa has brought into focus the role of the “highly influential” Church and its relationship with the government. The religious institution, whose ‘advise’ in 2012 to vote against corruption was believed to be a reason why Congress lost the assembly polls, this time issued a circular through its council for social justice and peace (CSJP) to “revitalize a truly secular republic”. It did not specify BJP, and “secular parties” could have included AAP, TMC and GSRP; but BJP took it as a boost to the Congress. BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who for two years, against his own party’s leanings, has appeared to placate the Church, including with state grants to English-medium primary schools, launched a counterattack. While Catholic BJP legislators and party-men said the circular referred to the “communal Congress” and that none in the party “feels discriminated”, BJP’s local unit stopped highlighting Narendra Modi’s ‘Gujarat model’ touting instead Parrikar’s ‘achievements’, worked aggressively in Salcete, and activated satellite organizations that led to some polarization of votes. On Friday, political commentator Prabhakar Timble told TOI the Church circular did work-”the Congress vote share in Salcete increased”-but its impact was minimal “because Parrikar and his team dared to challenge the diktat”.Respecting the people’s verdict, Fr Savio Fernandes, executive secretary, CSJP, said the circular had only offered guiding principles to voters. Parrikar too said the Church had not said not to vote for any party. On his party’s future relationship with the Church, he said, “Our approach will be the same; BJP’s relation with everyone will remain the same. We will not look different to even those who didn’t vote for us.” (Times of India 17/5/14)

 

63. Students Urged to Fight for Dalit Rights (7)

CHENNAI: Prominent Dalit activist and Supreme Court advocate Franklin Caesar Thomas condemned fundamentalists and caste Hindus for still following the ancient and outdated caste system, which does not respect equality among all. He especially spoke for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims whose SC status has been revoked due to their religious affinity. “Because of the obnoxious reservation and the caste system practised, the richest Dalit Hindus get SC status, while the poorest Dalit Christians and Muslims are not entitled to any benefits that SCs receive,” he said. Speaking at a three-day workshop conducted by the Dalit Students’ Federation, Thomas explained the several legal and constitutional aspects relating to Dalits who chose to convert to another religion. According to the 1950 Constitution order (Scheduled Caste) 19, ‘No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Caste.’ Thomas said that the benefits of reservation were necessary to economically empower the Dalit minorities rather than continuing to facilitate the advancement of those who have already reached heights, taking advantage of the SC reservations. He expressed the hope that the Constitution order would be amended by the new government to include the Dalit Muslims and Christians and urged them  to fight for their rights in a legal way. “I strongly believe in the legal system, although it is controlled by the Brahminic hegemony,” he added. Maduravoyal MLA Bheem Rao of the CPM encouraged the students to focus on education and economic empowerment. “Involve yourself with progressive thinkers and groups. The courage to bring about a change in ideology and opinions is a necessity,” he said. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

64. Meerut sees ‘vested interests’ behind riots (7)

NEW DELHI: An uneasy calm prevailed in Meerut’s Old City on Monday after a communal riot in Guzri Bazaar area of the city last Saturday afternoon left one dead and several injured. Residents remained huddled inside their houses as security personnel, deployed in huge numbers, kept a watch in the area. People of both Hindu and Muslim communities were unanimous in their opinion that the riots were instigated by some miscreants with the purpose to communally polarise voters in several parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh which went to polls on Monday. Violence started after an argument between two groups over the installation of a “piyau” (a kiosk offering free drinking water) next to a well outside a mosque in Guzri Bazaar. Those present at the spot claimed some Hindus objected to the minority community’s initiative to put up the water kiosk, alleging that it would later “encroach” the well which belongs to the adjacent Basanti Devi Girls School. This triggered a clash between two groups and soon tension spread to nearby areas of the Old City, where members of both the communities reportedly fired at each other, leaving many injured. Even as security was beefed up in the city, the situation remained tense on the ground with rumours of eve-teasing and weapons distribution keeping people locked up in their houses. Local Senior Superintendent of Police Om Prakash Singh said, “To restore peace and avert renewed clashes, patrolling has been intensified in the riot-hit areas and personnel from Provincial Armed Constabulary and Rapid Action force have been deployed.” Members of the minority community on Monday alleged that local BJP leaders uploaded photographs of a youth who was critically injured in the clashes on social networking sites, aiming to spread communal tension in other parts of communally sensitive region of Western Uttar Pradesh, a claim which local BJP corporator Vijay Anand rejected. Sitting few hundred meters away from the site of the clash, Suhail Zuberi, a Unani medical practitioner in his early 50s, said the “triviality” of the issue behind the clash makes it clear that riots are being triggered to make political gains. “Clashes are sparked to hijack and consolidate votes and it is in this context that people here see this incident, which has once again highlighted how fickle is the centuries-old Hindu-Muslim relation in front of the onslaught of politics of communal riots,” said Mr. Zuberi. Pointing towards prominent Hindi and Urdu dailies of the region, Mr. Zuberi said, “The news of communal riot has made it to the front pages of the vernacular press, which has only polarised people and consolidated votes in constituencies like Varanasi, and Gorakhpur, which went to polls today.” Abhimanyu Singh, a fruit vendor in the Kagzee Market, (paper market) seconded Mr. Zuberi. “Meerut has learnt to move on with life. We have reached a stage when the conspiracy to create hatred among us gets defeated by our search for better livelihood.” (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

65. Victims suffered multiple injuries in communal riots (7)

HYDERABAD: Armed personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) seemed to have fired indiscriminately on rioters on Wednesday with some of them hit by multiple bullets, underscoring complete failure of the Cyberabad police in directing the paramilitary force to exercise caution. Human rights activists wanted strong action against senior police officers, who ordered the BSF to fire, knowing well that they are trained to kill. Examination of bodies by the forensic science departments of Gandhi and Osmania General Hospital revealed multiple bullet injuries above the waist. Shockingly, Mohammed Fareed, 26, one of the three victims, was felled by four bullets on various parts of his body. Bullets pierced through Fareed’s chest, left hand, left thigh and left leg. In case of Mohammed Shujauddin Khateeb, 38, a bullet pierced through his chest, killing him instantly. The post-mortem on these two victims was conducted at OGH, while autopsy on the third victim, Mohammed Wajid, 20, was done at Gandhi Hospital where doctors said he had one bullet injury. Even among the injured victims, bullets were found mostly above the waist or in the thigh area. Among the five injured people admitted at Premier Hospital, Nanalnagar, bullet injuries were found on the upper arm and two in the forearm. In one case, bullet injury was found in the thigh. “Another injured victim was hit on his head requiring eight stitches,” said Dr K Kamalakar, CEO, Premier Hospital. Similarly, at Apollo Hospital, where three injured persons have been admitted, one has a bullet injury in his lower chest that has harmed his other vital organs including kidney, liver and gall bladder. Another has bullet injury in the arm, while the third patient suffered a deep cut in the thigh. Bullets stuck in the thighs of two victims were removed at Care hospital. Human rights activists condemned the firing and said BSF when deployed in civilian areas cannot operate like they do in border areas. “They are a trigger-happy force and fire randomly. Action has to be taken against BSF personnel who fired at people,” said Francis Raj, a human rights activist. “With President’s rule in the state, police think it can do anything. It is not good for the state that will be bifurcated soon,” Raj added. Activists said shooting was not required at that time. “Live ammunitions should never be used for crowd control,” said Mazhar Hussain, executive director, COVA. “The flag burning incident was wrong but the reaction to the incident without ascertaining the identity of the people responsible for it was also wrong,” said Nanak Singh Nishter, director, International Sikh Centre for Interfaith Relations. He further added that “culprits need to be punished whichever religion they belong to. We keep swords but we are not entitled to use them to harm others. Use of swords or stones to harm others cannot be supported,” said Nishter. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

66. ‘Women Not Safe in Politics Too’

BANGALORE: Political power has not insulated women from facing gender-based violence. A recent report by the United Nations (UN) has found that verbal-sexual abuse and character assassination of women are rampant in South Asia politics. Worse, Karnataka is one of the three states in India affected by such behaviour. The study ‘Violence Against Women in Politics’ revealed that women from all parties in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi were victims of gender violence. In most cases, the perpetrators were men within their party, and fear prevented women from participating as contestants and voters. Conducted between 2003 and 2013 in India, Nepal and Pakistan by UN Women and Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, the study had 250 respondents from India, including men and women in urban and rural areas, police, campaigners, Election Commission officials, judges, advocates, journalists and elected representatives. “Women risk physical violence and harassment and women politicians and parliamentarians experience violence during election campaigns and constituency visits,” the study said and added: “They experience political isolation for not following party lines drawn by male party members.”According to the report, 49 per cent of respondents in India agreed that there was verbal abuse and 45 per cent said physical violence and threats were common. An alarming 67 per cent said the perpetrators were other male contestants and 58 per cent were members within the party. “In Karnataka, while 35.8 per cent of the respondents believe that violence reduced women’s political participation, 24.69 per cent believe that it makes them more isolated,” the report said. KPCC women’s wing state president Manjula Naidu said verbal abuse, and use of slang and expletives were part of everyday life for a woman politician in Karnataka. “Men constantly sabotage and persuade you to withdraw your ticket. Once men realise that a woman is gaining political clout, they mentally harass her. Character assassination is common, but sexual and physical assault are rare,” she said. However, women from political dynasties or actor-turned-politicians do not face these hassles. “Violence reduces political participation. Reservation for women in gram panchayat and zilla panchayat elections is ensuring their participation in the electoral process to some extent,” Manjula said…. New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

67. Over 100 under-15 girls in Mumbai had abortions in last one year (8)

MUMBAI: Of the 30,000-odd women who underwent abortions in Mumbai in 2013-14, more than a 100 were younger than 15 — an age at which their peers are busy preparing for their school or board exams. Another 900-odd were in the 16 to 19 age-group, reveals data gathered from the civic administration’s public health department using the Right to Information Act. The numbers raise three concerns: one, poor sex education among teenagers, two, the possibility of the girls having been victims of sexual violence, and three, the prevalence of under-age marriages in Indian society. Sangeeta Rege of NGO Cehat (Centre for Enquiry into Health & Allied Themes) said, “The reasons could be early marriage, pregnancy as a result of sexual violence or lack of information about contraception in situations of consensual sex.” Maharashtra government data released in 2013 showed that 18% of the state’s women got married before the legal age of 18. A doctor at a public hospital said teenage pregnancies are not unheard-of in Indian society because of early marriages. “But the fact that the girl sought an abortion indicates it’s an unwanted pregnancy arising out of abuse or an illicit relationship,” he said. RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who got the data from the BMC, said it is shocking that “children of 15 or younger get into situations where they have to undergo an abortion.” Dr Nozer Sheriar of FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India) said, “It is difficult to say whether these girls were abused or whether they willingly entered into a relationship. But it reflects the need to teach our youngsters to stand up for themselves and use protection not only against unwanted pregnancy at such an young age but also against sexually transmitted diseases.” At the same time, experts praised the availability of safe abortion services in Mumbai because the girls were able to access these easily. Rege said, “The data underscores the need to ensure access to safe abortion for girls even below 15 years of age.” However, experts pointed to a peculiar problem that is being noticed with respect to teenage abortions. Dr Sheriar said that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) guarantees complete confidentiality to women who seek abortions. “However,” he said, “the new Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 states that every girl under 18 who is pregnant should be considered as a rape victim”. (Times of India 11/5/14)

 

68. 42 Percent Women in Odisha Face Abuse (8)

BHUBANESWAR: If the Naveen Patnaik Government returns to power post May 16, it would like to erase one blot – a scenario of growing atrocities against women that brought it embarrassment in the last tenure. Though it may have claimed to have initiated several measures to provide protection to women, its latest policy document – Odisha State Policy for Girls and Women – sheepishly admits how bad the state of affairs is. Forty-two percent women in the age group of 15 to 49 are subjected to either physical or sexual violence, the draft document admits. The national figure stands at 35 percent. That’s not all. It further says that Odisha ranks 10th when it comes to crimes against women, seventh in terms of dowry-related murders and eighth in terms of incidence of rape. Incidence of rape rose from 1,112 in 2011 to 1,458 in 2012, a 30 pc jump. Social welfare measures for women with special needs is another sector the Government would like to focus on. The policy paper says elderly women constitute about 9.5 pc of women population of the State which is also the seventh highest among large states of India. Women with disabilities constitute about 2.47 pc of the women population which is higher than the national average of 2.01 pc. The State Policy reveals that a third of the married women – between 20 and 24 years in the State – were married before attaining the legal age of 18. In undivided Koraput, the scenario is even more appalling. Except Rayagada, in all other districts more than 50 pc women have been married even before attaining the legal age to wed. Marrying well before attaining the legal age may have been a cause for the dropping child sex ratio in the State which has fallen from 953 in 2001 to 941 in 2011 though the overall sex ratio has improved from 972 to 979. Infant mortality too has remained high and girl child mortality has been higher than boys. In 24 out of 30 districts, the gender gap is huge. Similarly, a whopping 67 pc girls in the group of six months to five years are found to be anaemic besides those of six out of every ten women in their reproductive age. Though maternal mortality rate has dropped, it is still the fourth highest in India.  The policy document says that share of women workforce in the organised sector has increased from 14.9 pc in 2005 to 16.8 pc in 2011 but over 75 pc of them are still working in the agriculture sector. About 66 pc marginal workers are women in Odisha. (New Indian Express 14/5/14)

 

69. Include rape laws in school curriculum: Women panel to UGC (8)

JAIPUR: The Nirbhaya gang rape failed to evoke any sensibilities in the society as the brutal sexual assault on girls and minors continue in the state. In the latest in the series, the case of a six-year-old girl, who was raped, brutally beaten and is still recovering in the JK Lon Hospital, indicates that more needs to be done to curb this menace. The figures released by the state women commission say that this year five cases of minor rapes had been registered at State Women Commission through JK Lon hospital till May 10. These are those cases in which victims were admitted in a critical condition in the ICU. The actual number of rape cases involving minors swelled to an all time high in first five months of 2014. Taking cognizance of rising number of rape cases involving minors and the slow pace of investigations leading to weak cases, the women commission has asked UGC and state education department to introduce chapters on laws (rape), case studies and other exercises to sensitize students on dignity of women. The commission, in a letter, said at a time when strong laws failed to curb the cases of rape indicates that much more needs to be done. Lad Kumari Jain, chairperson of state women commission, also explained that these chapters can be included in the textbooks of classes IX and X followed by compulsory exercises like short plays, skits, debate and poster competitions to involve students. “Only education can transform the stereotypes and break the old notions. In our society we don’t treat women equally neither at home nor outside and this has formed the basis of male dominance. This can be changed only if we hit this mentality which can be done at school level. I expect the education department to react to our plea and introduce content on such lines in the coming session,” said Jain. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

70. 61 Women in This Lok Sabha, Highest Ever (8)

NEW DELHI: The 16th Lok Sabha will have the highest number of women members at 61. “This is the highest number of women members elected to the Lok Sabha in the history of the country, although by a small margin. Fifty-eight (58) women were elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in the 2009 election,” said PRS. Some of the prominent women winners are Congress president Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh and actor Kirron Kher from Chandigarh. West Bengal had the largest tally of women winners at 13. 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 22 in 1957. (New Indian Express 17/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

71. Scanner on loss of forest cover (9)

Shillong, May 8: Experts from the North Eastern Space Applications Centre, Umiam, have focused on the loss of forest cover in Meghalaya’s Jaintia hills region where cement plants are located. The reiteration on the loss of forest cover has been made through an article published in the Current Science — a fortnightly journal of research — in its April 10, 2014 issue (Volume 106, Issue 07) written by Kasturi Chakraborty and S. Sudhakar. The outcome of the study has been published under the title: The expansion and impact of cement manufacturing units and mining areas in Lumshnong, Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya. The authors said the study was carried out to observe growth of cement industries in Lumshnong, which is leading to alteration in land use/land cover from forest to non-forest categories. The study also attempted to “automatically extract” the areas of change, taking advantage of the change-detection software. “With the rapid developmental process taking place across the globe, there are several pockets widespread in North East Region of India which are becoming hotspots of land-use change. Industrial expansion is one of the main reasons for conversion of land use/land-cover classes, particularly from forest to non-forest,” the study opens. The study focusses on the impact of industrial and mining activities leading to loss of forest cover in Jaintia hills. In it, remote sensing has been used as a tool to observe the extent of land-use change using an automatic change-detection software DeltaCue to map the expansion of the cement industrial units and their impact on the vegetation in the immediate vicinity. The study highlighted the spread of the industrial units from 2005 to 2011 and loss of vegetation. Remote sensing has been universally recognised as a “highly effective and extremely versatile technology” for identification of natural resources, including forest resource, the researchers stated. Moreover, the researchers observed that the recent trend of development process in the region is leading to rapid deforestation. “Mining activities in Meghalaya have increased by leaps and bounds. Indiscriminate mining has disastrous effect leading to deforestation, destroying good soil ingredients and loss of wildlife,” the authors said. “Being rich in minerals, particularly limestone, coal, shale, bauxite, laterite, etc. the Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya has become a boon to the cement industry. The setting up of such industry exploits natural resources of the area degrades the environment and can lead to imbalance in the ecosystem. According to the IPCC special report, from 1850 to 1998, approximately 270 (+30) GT carbon has been emitted as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning and cement production,” they added. The satellite images were registered carefully using AutoSync, an automated image registration tool in ERDAS Imagine software. The satellite data of 2005 was classified to understand the existing forest in the study area. Further, the researchers stated that the 2005 image was classified by supervised classification technique into forest and non-forest classes. The classified map has forest area divided into three categories — less dense forest, medium forest and very dense forest, and other non-forest classes….  (The Telegraph 9/5/14)

 

72. Alappuzha Farmers Fear Amendment Will Badly Affect Ecology, Agriculture (9)

ALAPPUZHA: The move of the state government to make an amendment to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008 has drawn a storm of protest. The state government is presently laying the ground work to make an amendment to the existing Act. The social and agricultural organisations have opposed the government’s move to help the corporates and land developers to fill paddy lands and wetland for industrial and business purposes and the amendment will sabotage the proposed policy of the state government to promote agricultural growth and sustain the ecological system in the state. The farmers of Alappuzha fear the amendment to the Act will adversely affect ecology and the agriculture sector. The implementation of the Act in 2008 helped the district protect the paddy fields of Kuttanad and other parts of the district. The Kuttanad Vikasna Samithi and Pokkali Samrakshna Samithi have asked the government to withdraw its decision to make an amendment to the Act. “The state government had implemented the Act in 2008 to put an end to illegal filling of paddy fields and wetland in the state.  Now the government is striving to make an amendment to the Act to help the private parties,” alleged Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi executive director Fr Thomas Peelianickal. In the proposed amendment, the government is aiming to allot land filling for public utility without an area limit. Private parties can fill the paddy and wetland after paying the market price of the paddy land. The new amendment is aimed to sabotage the existing Act, Fr Thomas said. The 2008 Act allows land filling only upto 5 cents of land for the purpose of construction of houses. The Act prohibits the reclamation of land for industrial or business purposes.  The paddy land can be filled or reclaimed only for the benefit of farmers. Local Level Monitoring Committees (LLMCs) were also set up in villages in the state to monitor paddy field filling. The LLMC can recommend the application to fill the land to the District Level Monitoring Committee (DLMC) after proper monitoring of the application. “If the regulation is implemented, the monitoring committees become irrelevant and it can lead to indiscriminate and uncontrolled filling of land by private land developers without the consent of the LLMCs. It aims to help private industrialists who are backing the Aranmula Airport project,” said Fr Thomas. Pokkali Samrakshana Samithi general convener Francis Kalathunkal said that the new amendment will help the land mafia to fill more paddy lands and pokkali lands in the state. “Pokkali farmers face crisis due to the vagaries of nature and the failure in the implementation of government policy of ‘alternate seasons of fish farming and paddy farming’ in pokkali lands. Rampant urbanisation in villages is shrinking the area of pokkali and paddy fields. “Landowners and fish farmers have resorted to spreading false news about the loss in pokkali cultivation as well as trying to fill the land and continue fish farming in the fields the entire year. This will adversely affect the ecology of the state.  If the government makes an amendment to the Wetland Act, it will aid land mafia,” he said. (New Indian Express 12/5/14)

 

73. Wait for green panel bench ends (9)

The eastern bench of the National Green Tribunal, proposed to be set up in Calcutta three years ago, will finally open on May 24. The bench, whose verdict can only be challenged in the Supreme Court, will adjudicate on cases related to “environment, forest and bio-diversity” in eastern and north-eastern India. “The bench will start functioning from the Finance Centre in New Town from May 24,” said Asish Senapati, the registrar of the eastern zonal bench. The jurisdiction of the bench — largest of all green tribunal benches — covers Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Metro had in November 2011 highlighted how the state government’s failure to provide space was delaying the setting up of the tribunal. This, despite a number of reminders to the state from the Union environment secretary. The state government finally provided space for the tribunal on the third floor of Finance Centre in New Town in August 2013, after the Supreme Court threatened to shift the bench to Bhubaneswar or Guwahati.A notification issued by the tribunal on May 12, a copy of which is with Metro, states that the registrar of the bench (for the eastern zone) has been authorised to “receive all the applications, appeals and all other documents including transfer applications, appeals… and (also) to issue notices to the parties concerned with effect from 24th of May, 2014, until further orders”. The tribunal has “transferred” the ongoing green cases from eastern and northeastern India — which were being heard by the principal bench in Delhi — to the eastern bench. The Calcutta bench will be led by judicial member Justice P. Jyothimani and expert member Prof P.C. Mishra. “It’s a welcome move. The eastern bench was long due. I feel that with so many cases pending, the Centre should think about having a second bench in Calcutta,” observed green activist Subhas Datta. “We hope the tribunal will be able to provide timely justice to people in cases related to environment violation. A large number of such cases are pending in the high court,” said Biswajit Mukherjee, former chief law officer of the state pollution control board. Mukherjee expressed the hope that hapless people affected by various kinds of environment violations and are not being heard by the administration would benefit from the tribunal. Tribunal sources said a bench takes on an average about six months to dispose of a case. The likely litigation cost is Rs 1,000. “If the members allow, a litigant may plead his or her case,” said an official of the bench. Dutta said the authorities should ensure that documents related to green cases are transferred from the various high courts to the bench in time. “It was a major issue when such documents were shifted to the tribunal’s principal bench in Delhi. There should not be a repetition of that during the transfer of the papers to the eastern bench. (The Telegraph 15/5/14)

 

74. Green India Mission gets appointment blues (9)

The much-delayed 13,000-crore Green India Mission has run into rough weather, on a controversial decision nominating an IAS officer to head it, despite a Union cabinet decision that it should be headed by someone from the Indian Forest Service (IFS). It was to be one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, decided in 2008. This is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the country by greening five million hectares of forests by 2022. After a long gestation period, the Mission was finally approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in February this year. The project promises to substantially swell the environment ministry’s budget. For this year, the latter is only a fifth of the allocated Mission funds.The Mission, while seeking convergence of funds from different sources, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme, is to be run through the forest bureaucracy across the country. Keeping that in mind, the cabinet had preferred that a forest officer of the rank of Additional Director General head the mission, and that a separate Special Vehicle Society not be created. But, on April 25, an IAS officer of the rank of additional secretary was appointed Mission Director by the ministry. This led to protests by the forest service officers. The IFS Association wrote to Union environment minister Veerappa Moily on May 5, a copy of which is with Business Standard, stating their displeasure (officers also met the minister personally) “…(appointment pays) utter disregard to the said (cabinet) approval…It is humbly requested that CCEA’s decision on the matter is respected and to ensure smooth implementation in the field…”After hearing their plea, Moily on May 8 ordered the earlier order appointing the IAS officer be reversed and a forest officer be appointed.  Business Standard has accessed a copy. “It is desirable that an IFS officer of the rank of Additional Director of Forests in the ministry is nominated as Mission Director for smooth functioning of this forestry scheme. Since the Mission will be implemented by the state forest department, it will smoothen the functioning of the Mission at central and state level,” the letter said. A week after this order, the ministry is yet to comply with Moily’s directives. It would be for the next government to take a call on the turf battle between the two lobbies over the lucrative Mission. (Business Standard 17/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

75. Exemption for Minority Institutions to Hit Poor Students Hard (11)

KOZHIKODE: The Supreme Court verdict exempting the minority educational institutions from the limits of the Right to Education Act (RTE) will not only affect the students from the weaker sections of majority religions, but also the economically backward (those under the BPL category) sections from the minority communities. Once the order removes the 25 per cent reservation existing in the aided/unaided educational institutions coming under the minority category, it will be in effect a kind of denial of quality education to the economically weaker sections, who otherwise cannot dream of a seat in any of these institutions, say educationists. Some experts point out that the new order is applicable only to those institutions with ‘minority status’ received from the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions and not for all the educational institutions under minority communities. Those with the ‘minority status’ in the state are as low as 1,800. But Vidyabhyasa Samrakshana Samiti-Keralam state coordinator A Vinod said that the ‘status’ was an easily available one and those institutions with the status gained it in last one year, when the rule was expected to come out. “By leaving the choice of mother tongue to be taught at the school to the students and the government not having a say over the functioning of the aided/unaided schools, the standard of mother tongue taught in schools is sure to come down. The famed educational institutions in the world are using their mother tongue as the medium of instruction in their academic sessions. Only in our place, we are having a disregard for our mother tongue,” Vinod said. He added that the minority-run institutions can obtain the nod from the Centre, surpassing the state government’s objection, if they seek a minority status. In effect, education in these institutions will be distant dream for the students from economically weaker sections in any community. Educationist B Hridayakumari, who dismissed the new developments as impractical, said that the move would only add extra burden to the government institutions. “Though there is a meagre amount of hope behind the implementation of the verdict, this is no way going to improve the educational standards in the state,” she said. SCERT consultant Dr K N Anandan said that considering the special situation of Kerala, where more number of educational institutions are run by minority communities, the rule may not turn out to be fruitful. “A full picture of the admissions will be available only next month, after the schools reopen. If the verdict applies to all the institutions the education zone will be an open market in the near future,” he said. Meanwhile, the Kerala Sahodaya Schools Complex, on Wednesday, urged the state government to reconsider its decision to make mother tongue or regional language compulsory for imparting primary education. (New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

76. UAE NGO to help improve education in India (11)

Dubai: A Dubai-based philanthropic group has partnered with an Indian NGO to improve education for over 1 million school children in India over a period of three years. Dubai Cares has joined hands with Pratham Education Foundation to launch a programme aimed to improve literacy among students in Grades 1 and 2, in six states across India. The charity, however, did not specify the states. The two organisations will assist local communities by strengthening programmes focused on three core issues- enhancing learning levels of beneficiaries in government schools, providing school readiness among children, and supporting the Central Resource Group, a statement issued by UAE’s official news agency Wam said. “Our partnership with Pratham will ensure quality education for children attending schools in India and will facilitate high levels of literacy and numeracy skills,” Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said. “We lay a lot of emphasis on monitoring, evaluation and learning, so this programme will also serve as demonstration sites to generate evidence and showcase best practice that can be replicated across the country to enhance the educational support system on a national level,” he said. The Dubai-based charity said the Indian education system has been handicapped by inadequate teacher qualifications, low teacher motivation, high absentees and flawed teaching methods, leading to a lack of incentives for students to stay in school. The partnership aims to reverse the school dropout rates and low learning levels prevalent in the country. India is one of 135 nations to make education a ‘fundamental right’ with the Right to Education Act (RTE) in effect around the country. Under the partnership, Dubai Cares has earmarked three programmes — to boost language skills, physical and emotional readiness, and innovation among children in rural areas — that will reach a total of 1,053,954 direct beneficiaries. The programme will be delivered to 150,000 villages in 150 blocks across the country. Similar to many Dubai Cares initiatives, the India programme is in line with the ‘Global Education First Initiative’ launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in September 2012. Dubai Cares has so far reached over 8 million children in 31 developing countries. (Zee News 13/5/14)

 

77. 3,380 get seats under RTE Act (11)

Mumbai: The first round of admission to the 25 per cent reserved seats in private schools under the Right To Education Act (RTE) took place on Tuesday in which 3,380 students were allotted seats. In all 1,539 students secured admission in 57 private schools through the lottery system, while the remaining 1,811 students were assigned seats according to the school of their preference. The lottery and seat allotment was conducted by the education section of the BMC that also announced that a second round would be held to allot seats to the remaining students. The lottery for admission to primary was conducted at IES Raja Shivaji School at Dadar in the presence of school education secretary Ashwini Bhide, education director Chokligam, deputy director N.B. Chavan, education officer Shambhavi Jogi and Amol Damdare of the Raja Shivaji School. After last year’s low seat allotment at 3,208, this year the BMC decided to conduct the admissions itself through the online admission system for the 8,243 seats in 312 city schools. The process for accepting applications for the online admissions had started on April 10 and went on till May 5 wherein the BMC received more than 6,500 applications. However, as the application for 57 schools outnumbered the seats, a lottery was held for disbursement of these seats. About 1,811 students who had applied for admissions to the other 191 schools with a reservation of 5,186 seats were also granted admission as per their choice. “The online admission and lottery system was facilitated to ensure that students belonging to the vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of the society get an equal opportunity to gain admissions to the schools so that they are not kept away from good education opportunity,” said Ms Bhide. As per the instructions of the BMC, students who have secured a seat through the lottery system will have to take admission in the allotted school by May 20, failing which their allotment will stand cancelled. (Asian Age 14/5/14)

 

78. Bengal refuses Gujarat lesson (11)

Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal has snubbed a suggestion by Delhi to follow the method devised by Narendra Modi’s Gujarat to redress complaints under the Right to Education Act in three to 30 days. “We cannot adopt the Gujarat model as the administrative set-up in Bengal is totally different from that of Gujarat. We are trying to craft a mechanism where the time limit would be two months,” Suhas Chatterjee, registrar of the Right to Education Protection Authority, said. The Trinamul government has written back to the Union ministry of human resource development, saying it would prefer to devise its own method of redressing complaints about violation of the landmark legislation that guarantees free and quality elementary education to all children aged 6 to 14. The RTE also bars corporal punishment and donations and screening tests for admission. All schools, barring minority-run institutions, are required to reserve one-fourth of their seats for economically underprivileged students. Neither government-aided nor financially independent schools can refuse to admit students throughout the year. Section 32 of the act states that state governments should settle all complaints within three months, a stipulation Bengal has done little to honour other than setting up the Right to Education Protection Authority. In contrast, the Gujarat model specifies the time needed to redress complaints under each provision of the act. Grievances pertaining to corporal punishment are to be redressed within three working days from the date of receiving the complaint. Complaints about violation of the 25 per cent reservation for underprivileged students are meant to be redressed within a fortnight, as are those regarding screening tests, capitation fee and gender discrimination. The maximum limit of 30 days is for redress of grievances regarding infrastructure, teachers not fulfilling their duties and failure to maintain the recommended student-teacher ratio of 30:1. The outgoing UPA government had written to all states a couple of months ago, showcasing the Gujarat model as the best practice. At least 10 state governments, including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi, have since adopted the system, a source in the West Bengal Sarva Siksha Mission said. The state school education department informed the Union human resource development ministry last month about its wish to follow a different path, citing differences in the administrative framework. The RTE Act stipulates that state governments draft policies based on the guidelines incorporated in the legislation and provide clear, concise details about how students and guardians can approach the administration and how long it would take for a grievance to be redressed. “For instance, the government must specify where a complaint about corporal punishment can be filed, how long the complainant has to wait for a response from the relevant authority, what to do if the complaint is not taken up and what happens next,” an education official said. The Right to Education Act, 2009, took effect at the start of the 2013-14 academic session. On May 6 this year, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the state could impose admissions on private unaided schools, except minority-run ones, if the purpose was to provide free and compulsory education to children from six to 14. Two days later, Metro highlighted how most private English-medium schools in Calcutta reserve a quarter of their seats for underprivileged students but find few takers for want of awareness and parents’ insecurity about approaching these institutions. (The Telegraph 16/5/14)

 

79. Private schools urge department to expedite decisions (11)

COIMBATORE: With Parliamentary elections over, associations representing private schools have urged the Department of School Education to act expeditiously on several important issues. With barely two weeks to go before the next academic year, which begins on June 2, the associations are seeking clarity on a range of issues starting from the minimum land requirements, closure of unrecognised schools, norms for school buses and reimbursement of fees for students admitted under Right To Education (RTE) Act. Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association general secretary G. Krishnaraj says many files submitted for recognition have been pending for months awaiting inspection by the officials. With election over and the Plus Two and Class X valuation also completed, the department officials must act with haste as the private schools are prohibited from operating without recognition, he adds. R. Visalakshi, president of Tamil Nadu Private Schools Association, says RTE Act norms limiting the strength to 30 students per class must also be revisited. The space available in the schools must be factored in while determining the strength. “Many schools which are functioning for decades have the infrastructure to support a lot more students per class. The Act is being implemented in Tamil Nadu only since 2011. Within such a short span, how can schools reduce the strength in all classes to 30?” she asks. Further, she also calls for according permanent recognition to private schools and mandating them to periodically seek certifications. At present, they must renew recognition every three years. This process alone takes almost a year, adds Ms. Visalakshi. R. Lakshmanasamy, president of Pollachi Private Schools’ Welfare Association, says the department must accord priority to the issue of reimbursing private schools for students admitted under the RTE Act. Despite two years having elapsed since the Act came into force, the Government is yet to even designate district level officers to coordinate with private schools on the issue of reimbursement. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

80. Amnesty claims Nigerian military ignored schoolgirl kidnap warning (12)

Abuja: Nigeria’s military was warned of an attack on a school at which more than 200 girls were abducted by Islamists but failed to take action, Amnesty International claimed on Friday. The claim, which the military has denied, came as foreign experts arrived on the ground in Nigeria to help trace the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Amnesty said that from 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) on April 14, the authorities failed to act on repeated warnings about the impending raid in the remote town of Chibok, in northeastern Borno state. Two senior military officers interviewed by the global rights monitor said the commander was unable to muster enough troops to head to the town to stave off the attack. Up to 200 armed Boko Haram fighters abducted a total of 276 girls at about 11:45 pm after fighting a small number of police and soldiers stationed in the town. Amnesty’s Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay, described the situation as a “gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians”, adding that people remained “sitting ducks” for future attacks. “The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” he said. “The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls’ safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again.” Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade told AFP Amnesty’s “allegation is unfounded as usual”.”The report is just a collation of rumours,” he said. The US embassy in Abuja told AFP that a team of its experts had arrived in Nigeria, without specifying the make-up of the group. British specialists, including defence ministry personnel, had also landed, the Foreign Office said. The US and Britain are among a number of countries, as well as France and China which have pledged expert support, with the kidnapping raising international awareness about an Islamist uprising that has killed thousands since 2009. Nigeria had initially been slow to respond to the kidnappings and the military’s search and rescue effort has been fiercely criticised by activists and parents of the hostages. But a series of protests in the capital, a growing global social media campaign, and attention from world leaders and celebrities has put pressure on Nigeria to act more aggressively. Outrage in particular has come after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to sell the girls as slaves. Amnesty said the teenagers’ abduction and detention were war crimes. …  (Zee News 10/5/14)

 

81. Social media significant for terror groups, study reveals (12)

Washington: Terrorist groups such as Al qaeda and others have increased their online presence through the use of social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, a recent study reveals. Involvement with the social media allows the terrorist organizations to entail a more vehement proactive role in associating with a younger audience, the study said. Released by Woodrow Wilson Center’s DC Commons Lab, it said that the increased use of social media by the groups created more challenges for thwarting attacks. Gabriel Weimann, author of the report, said that from the point of view of a terrorist social media provides an important advantage of anonymity and become tools for recruitment, propaganda, fundraising and training. According to news24, Weinmann argued that trying to block terrorists’ online activity is mainly counterproductive, and that it may be more useful to monitor and learn from their online activities. Further adding, that the Al Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab was removed from Twitter after the Westgate attack but it was regenerated in a few days. (Zee News 15/5/4)

 

82. India Islamic Centre Condemns Boko Haram Terror Activities (12)

NEW DELHI: The India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) Thursday “strongly condemned the terror activities” of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram which has been holding more than 200 schoolgirls hostage for over a month. In a statement released here, Sirajuddin Qureshi, president of IICC, said that no Islamic tenet approves the abduction of innocent girl students to press for any kind of demand. He said even if the demand was legitimate, this kind of act cannot be religiously justified in any manner. It is “barbaric”, to say the least. He strongly criticised the group for committing an “un-Islamic act” in the name of Islam. Qureshi also maintained strongly that the Boko Haram terrorists were not followers of Islam or Prophet Muhammad, the statement said. Qureshi appealed to the international community to help Nigeria tackle this situation and “wipe out the terror group without any delay”.He also requested prominent Indian clerics to openly condemn the Boko Haram and “bring a swift end to this prolonged crisis”.Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is currently grappling with security challenges, one of which is the insurgency of Boko Haram which also seeks to enshrine the Islamic Sharia law in the constitution. The IICC’s objective is to “promote mutual understanding and amity amongst the people of this country and to depict the true face of Islam which is most tolerant, liberal, progressive, rational”, says its website. (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

83. Centre extends ban on LTTE by five years (12)

NEW DELHI: The ban on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been extended by a sweeping five years with the Centre noting that the outfit has been “clandestinely” working for a separate ‘Eelam’ and fostering separatist tendency among people in Tamil Nadu. The LTTE was banned across the country in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a suicide attack. The last extension of the ban was on May 14, 2012 for two years, which period ended on Wednesday. “The Government of India, under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, has proscribed the LTTE as an ‘Unlawful Association’. The declaration of LTTE as an ‘Unlawful Association’ has been extended for a further period of five years with effect from May 14, 2014,” a Home Ministry statement said on Thursday. The fresh ban comes at a time when a new government is to assume charge at the Centre. Pro-LTTE parties like Vaiko-led MDMK are part of the BJP coalition, which exit polls claim could form the next government. According to the government notification issued on Wednesday, “The separatist Tamil chauvinist groups and pro-LTTE groups continue to foster a separatist tendency amongst masses and enhance the support base for LTTE in India and particularly in Tamil Nadu.” (Deccan Herald 16/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

84. Woman Naxal carrying reward arrested in Kanker (12)

Raipur: A woman Naxal was arrested from a forested patch of Udanpur village under Koyalibeda police station of the insurgency-hit Kanker district, a senior police official informed here on Friday. According to police Lalita (24) resident of Udanpur village and a member of Maoist Military Battalion number 2, active in the region, was arrested during search operation. Bhanupratappur Sub Divisional Officer of Police (SDOP) Tarkeshwar Patel talking to The Pioneer over phone informed that a joint team of the BSF and the district police had arrested Lalita from the jungles of Udanpur about 8 kms from Koyalibeda police station.  The SDOP said, “We got information that the left wing insurgent had reached her parental home in Udanpur. On the information, police force was sent to the spot and she was nabbed. The arrested Naxal operative was member of Maoist Military Battalion and state government had declared cash reward of Rs 1 lakh each on the arrest of each member of Maoist Military Battalion,” the SDOP maintained. Lalita is a prominent member of the military wing of the CPI (Maoist) operating in North Bastar region. She is being interrogated, police said adding that the arrested woman Maoist was involved in several serious criminal incidents happened in the region inducing attack on camp in Udanpur wherein station house officer Todki and a head constable had lost their lives. She was also part of Naxal ambush on police party in Rowghat. (Pioneer 10/5/14)

 

85. 7 policemen killed in Maoist blast (12)

NAGPUR: Seven policemen were killed and two injured when Maoists blew up a police vehicle in the Chamorshi division of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on Sunday. The incident comes two days after the arrest of G.N. Saibaba, a Delhi University Professor, by the Gadchiroli police over his alleged Maoist links. Inspector Dharmendra Joshi, public relations officer of the Gadchiroli police, said a landmine was used to blow up the vehicle carrying the men of the C-60 force (Maharashtra’s special anti-Naxal unit) at 9.40 a.m. A local police officer expressed shock over the Maoists targeting police in a “plain area” such as Chamorshi, considered relatively peaceful. Police sources said the C-60 commandos launched a combing operation at Kotmi on Friday. The men returned to Yedanur after two days of patrolling on foot, and called for vehicles to reach the Gadchiroli headquarters since Yedanur is considered a “less-affected” zone. They boarded eight vehicles. The third one in the convoy was blown up near Murmuri village, police sources said. The dead are Dipak Vighave, Sunil Madavi, Rohan Dambare, Subhash Kumare, Tirupati Allam, Laxman Munde and Duryodhan Naktode of the Gadchiroli police, the Superintendent of Police said in a statement. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

86. Naxal pamphlets supporting Saibaba seized (12)

NAGPUR: Gadchiroli police on Saturday seized several incriminating pamphlets from Jambiya Gatta which is a small hamlet in Etapalli tehsil. They had been issued by the western regional committee of the banned CPI (Maoist) which was protesting the arrest of Delhi university professor GN Saibaba. The pamphlets had similar contents and condemned the action of Gadchioli police which had filed a case against Saibaba and five others, including Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, for their alleged links with Naxals. The rebels said it was a conspiracy by the authorities to terrorize intellectuals who had been raising voices in favour of atrocities against the masses. Police claimed that the wheelchair-bound Saibaba, who is currently housed in the Nagpur Central Jail, had been working as joint-secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) which acted as a frontal mass organization of the rebels. A senior official, involved in the investigation, claimed that Saibaba was engaged in coordinating the activities of the front organizations at the behest of the Naxals’ central committee based in Abujmadh on the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border. The Naxals, who have condemned police actions on RDF leaders, also highlighted the fact that false cases were being registered against the activists in a cultivated manner to suppress their voices. In the pamphlet, the Naxals have also appealed to the masses to come together to fight against state-sponsored terrorism. It has also criticized the central and Maharashtra government. Nagpur and Gadchiroli range IGP, Ravindra Kadam stated that an offence has been registered at Etapalli police station against unidentified Naxals for having issued the pamphlets. “We have invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act among others against the perpetrators,” he said. Saibaba, who was arrested on May 9 in New Delhi, was brought to Aheri the next day. However, since the lock-up did not have facilities for the handicapped, he was sent to Nagpur Central Jail. He is under magisterial custody issued by a lower court in Aheri. Saibaba has also been suspended by his college. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

87. 436 Naxals Surrendered in Maharashtra Since 2005 (12)

NAGPUR: 436 Naxals have surrendered in Gadchiroi, Gondia and Yavatmal districts of eastern Maharashtra since the state government launched its scheme to facilitate rehabilitation of the ultras in 2005. Last week, the government extended the `Naxal Surrender Scheme’ till August 29, 2015. Interestingly, the Naxals who have laid down their arms under the scheme include 30 couples, official sources said. The authorities have disbursed Rs 3.15 crore to the surrendered rebels by way of financial aid so far. Of this, Rs 2.72 crore was from the state while the rest came from the Centre. The surrendered Naxals were also provided with bullock carts, diesel engines etc so that they could earn their livelihood in a legitimate way. Among the surrendered ultras are a state zonal committee member of Naxals, five ‘divisional committee’ members, 13 ‘dalam commanders’, 17 ‘deputy commanders’ and 166 ‘dalam’ members, besides members of Gram Rakshak Dal and Sangam groups. The highest number of Naxals — 133 — surrendered in 2008. As many as 82 rifles were recovered from the surrendered ultras. (Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

88. J&K refugees still face issues of acceptance (13)

Srinagar: Various political parties, which have a voter base mainly in the Jammu region, are trying hard to woo refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan. There are over 1.5 lakh such refugees, mainly Hindus and Sikhs, who live in border districts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua. For the past 66 years, they can vote in the Lok Sabha elections, but not being permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, they have no right to vote in the Assembly elections. By law, they are citizens of India, but they do not qualify to obtain the “state subject certificate,” which confers state citizenship on the holders. They also cannot seek admission in professional colleges and do not have the right to employment in the state government. These refugess regard Article 370, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union, as the biggest hurdle in their rehabilitation. It is on these issues that the BJP, the Congress, the BSP and regional National Panthers’ Party are trying to reach out to the refugees and are promising to solve if voted to power. Though the Congress is silent on the issue of Article 370 for obvious reasons, other parties are vicariously pledging that they will bring a constitutional amendment for its abrogation. The Congress coalition partner, National Conference, and its political bête noire, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, have also launched vigorous campaigns amongst the refugees. The two parties have been opposing the demand for citizenship rights by erstwhile West Pakistan refugees. Now these parties are telling the refugees that they would make an effort to resolve their other problems and work towards creating conducive atmosphere for addressing the domicile issue too. The BJP, in particular, is trying to win over the refugees because of its stance on the Article 370 is likely to do better in comparison to the other parties. The party’s Rajya Sabha member and in-charge of J&K, Avinash Rai Khanna, on Friday met Labha Ram Gandhi, who heads the Association of the Refugees at his residence to seek his support (Asian Age 9/5/14)

 

89. Anti-LTTE operations create fears of a refugee influx into Tamil Nadu (13)

Chennai: Ten Sri Lankan Tamil refugees arrived in Rameswaram last week just as the Sri Lankan government ramped up its cordon-and-search operations in Tamil areas and been detaining Tamil youths for questioning – all to quell what the government has dubbed as efforts to re-establish the LTTE within the island nation. Political parties in Tamil Nadu that have been critical of the Indian government’s attitude toward the Sri Lankan government have not reacted to the arrival of refugees. But it does seem that at least for these refugees and more than 50 others who tried to flee to Australia recently, the situation is intolerable in their homeland. S Balakrishnan, Sri Lanka-based rights activist, says a sense of insecurity and lack of opportunities in Tamil areas can once again create a significant refugee outflow. Those who are persecuted for their past LTTE links may pay traffickers the money to arrange for an escape, he said. Among the refugees who have been detained in Puzhal prison is a former LTTE cadre. Though Balakrishnan discounts reports of LTTE resurgence saying it has been decimated, the word on many Sri Lankan lips in April was once again LTTE. The government had put up wanted posters of three men it called former cadres who were trying to revive the organisation. Noted journalist D B S Jeyaraj reports an encounter between the security forces and the cadres in the Wanni jungle in which the men were killed. There have also been reports of recent mass detentions of Tamil youths in Kankesanthurai. The Jaffna university will be closed from May 16 to 20 to prevent any student demonstrations on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the end of the war. “Stories of LTTE coming back are concoctions of the government intended to create a situation where abuses can continue. The three people who were killed had been government spies bumped off in fake encounters,” says K Ratnavel, a human rights lawyer in Sri Lanka. However, S C Chandrahasan, founder and chief functionary of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, says there is some evidence of a plot and it’s not all a bogey. Chandrahasan, who visited the Tamil areas last month, says the situation is qualitatively different and the Sinhalese soldier operating in Tamil areas is more sophisticated and understands local concerns. While agreeing that there may be “human” factors behind the recent cases of refugee outflow from Sri Lanka, Dayan Jayatilleka, who served as the permanent mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva from 2007 to 2009, says nothing dramatically different has taken place to expect a major refugee problem. “There have been roundups of Tamils by the army. But there have been no disappearances without the families being informed,” he said. Jeyaraj notes in his blog that the situation is not similar to the early 70s when the general public supported militancy. Most analysts agree that a war-weary population will not back an LTTE resurgence. Balakrishnan says a hierarchical organisation such as the LTTE cannot come back since its leadership has been decimated. The fear across Palk Bay is that a fearful Lankan government may up military activities in Tamil areas and create a refugee outflow from the island nation. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

90. ‘Two to Six Crore Bangladeshi Migrants in India’ (13)

NEW DELHI: There are 2-6 crore Bangladeshi migrants living in India – the largest illegal migration from one country to another, a former senior officer of India’s border guards said Tuesday. “Nobody can verify the trend of Bangladeshi migrants in India but our estimation is no less than 2 to 6 crore of them in India,” former Border Security Force (BSF) additional director general P.K. Mishra said at the launch of his book “Bangladeshi Migrants – A threat to India.” “Many of them have settled between Purnia and Islampur (Bihar), which are very close to the Nepal border. In Pari Pura in Srinagar, there is a Bangladeshi migrant village,” he said. Mishra claimed that 25 percent of the items disbursed under the Public Distribution Scheme goes to the Bangladeshi migrants. “What we can give to our children are snatched by them,” he charged. “There has been 20 years of land acquisition in (Assam’s) Guwahati and Kokrajhar. Government land has been sold to migrants by the state’s revenue department,” said Mishra, alleging that the Congress government in the northeastern state has closed its eyes to all this due to vote bank politics. “The Bangladeshi chunk in India is the largest illegal migration from any one country to another,” said former BSF chief Prakash Singh. (New Indian Express 14/5/14)

 

91. Chengalpattu Special Camp to be Shifted (13)

VELLORE: The special camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees at Chengalpattu in Kancheepuram district would soon be shifted to the defunct sub-jail, which is under renovation, in Cheyyar town in Tiruvannamalai district. The special camp at Chengalpattu was one of the two special facilities in the State. Foreigners arrested under the provisions of the Foreigners Act 1946 (Central Act 31 of 1946) for indulging in illegal activities are remanded in these camps. A total of 36 foreigners – five Nigerians, three Bangladeshis and 28 Sri Lankans – were detained in the special camp in Chengalpattu, while about 30 others were in the Tiruchy camp. The sub-jail in Chengalpattu was converted into the special camp in 1993. “After the decades-old building became dilapidated, the State Home Department has taken the initiative to shift the special camp to Cheyyar. The department is also planning to upgrade this sub-jail to a district-level jail after razing the existing structure and creating new infrastructure,” said a police officer. The officer added that shifting of the special camp from Chengalpattu to Cheyyar was purely for administrative purposes. The renovation of the sub-jail in Cheyyar was undertaken by Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation and it has completed the work. “The Home Department has asked for the status report of the jail from the Tiruvannamalai Collector. After getting the report, the department will issue an order to shift the inmates from here to the new special camp. We are expecting the order within 10 days,” said a Q branch police officer. Collector A Gnanasekaran told Express that he had sent a report before the election regarding the pending work. “A final report will be sent to the Home Department within two days after the Revenue Department takes over the building from the Police Housing Corporation,” he said. The district administration would convene a meeting with Tiruvannamalai SP J Mutharasi before sending the report, he added. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

92. Complaint of labour law violation at poor home (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Sree Chithra Poor Home administration may have to answer for serious labour law violations with one more resident of the home filing a complaint with the Kerala Legal Services Authority on Friday. The latest complaint is related to the work that some of the residents are doing in a printing press located in the same compound. Speaking to The Hindu on condition of anonymity, the complainant said that it is a case of labour exploitation as they are provided meagre amounts annually in the name of ‘bonus’ for close to 8 hours work daily. “Most of us who work there were not allowed to complete our studies. Even if we fail in just one subject, mainly due to the lack of a conducive atmosphere to study, the administration refuses to give us the fee to be remitted for the ‘Save an year’ examination. We are asked to join for work in the press or tailoring shop right away” “In the press, work starts after 9 a.m. and it continues non-stop till 5 p.m. These days, we are not getting even public holidays. But we get an amount of around Rs. 3,000 as bonus annually. There are no monthly or daily wages. At the same time, four daily wagers appointed from outside work in the same press and are paid daily,” said the complainant. In a complaint filed last week, another resident had alleged that she was paid a total amount of Rs.28,500 as bonus, after working for 8 years. The printing press generally takes up government work only, mainly that for forms and documents needed in hospitals. The Public Service Commission is also one of the clients. “The workers from outside do the machine work, of just printing the material. We have the task of stitching and binding it. We sometimes get cuts on our fingers from working with the threads. We are appointed here as trainees but the work can be learnt in one week’s time, ” said the complainant. The District Labour Officer had visited the home on Friday following the complaints. When The Hindu contacted the Home’s Superintendent Eliamma Varghese, she said that the residents are being paid “20 per cent of the profit from sales based on their individual work and the daily wagers from outside are paid Rs. 350 per day”. “For the residents, we give an annual bonus, which is handed over to them when they ask for it. If there are complaints, we will take action according to the directive of the labour officer,” said Ms. Eliamma. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

93. Migrant workers’ data to be collected by June 15 (14)

Kozhikode: The city police will complete by June 15 the first phase of data collection from hotel entrepreneurs as part of issuing identity cards to migrant workers. The format of the card is ready and the distribution is likely to begin in the first week of July. Senior officers in charge of the project said most of the hotel entrepreneurs had expressed their willingness to cooperate with the data collection process. The goal of the department is to prepare a detailed record of all migrant workers recruited by hotels. In the second phase, details of workers employed in the textile and industrial sectors will be collected. The employers will be responsible for gathering the data and passing it on to the police. The Special Branch officials will coordinate the project and verify the reliability of the data collected. Cards will be issued after verifying the details through all possible sources. The workers will have to renew the card every year and surrender it to the employer if they leave the State. “Through the project, we intend to prepare an authentic record of the migrant population in Kozhikode. We will issue the card only after recording their fingerprint,” said P.C. Sajeevan, Assistant Commissioner, Special Branch. The record would help the police track the workers if they were involved in a crime, he said. The card will bear the name of the hotel, its owner, and the identity details of the worker. The labourers will have to produce the card in case of police inquiry. (The Hindu 18/5/14)

 

94. Street vending cannot take form of permanent structure: HC (14)

NEW DELHI: Street vending cannot take the form of permanent or semi-permanent structures erected on municipal land or land belonging to a statutory public body under any circumstances. It can be of two kinds – an open Tehbazari at a fixed spot or mobile hawking using handcarts – and should not affect people’s right of way. With this ruling, the Delhi High Court has dismissed a contempt petition and terminated the proceedings in a writ petition moved by Delhi Shramik Sangathan, which had raised the issue of 130 hawkers and vendors engaged in business at Harkesh Nagar in Okhla Industrial Area Phase II being removed from their site in front of a temple. Another grievance of the petitioner was that the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 was not being given effect to as the Street Vending Committees were not constituted and the street vendors had no forum where they could make a representation. Until the committees were constituted, the vendors had a right to carry on their trade. A Division Bench, comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Jayant Nath, on Friday said the beneficiaries whose cause was being espoused had misused the judicial process after the Court, through an interim order, directed the Delhi Police to abstain from interfering in their business. The Municipal Corporation was also directed to ensure that no garbage was dumped at the place. The judgment carried some photographs taken from a video submitted by the Delhi Police, which showed a temporary market erected using bamboo, tarpaulin and tin sheets and even refrigerating machines brought to the site. Vendors had also brought ‘malba’ consisting of retrieved bricks to surreptitiously raise temporary structures. The Judges said the action taken by the police at the asking of the municipal authorities was justified, as nobody was entitled to violate the law under the garb of court orders. The Court also said a trespasser, who was not in legal possession of a site, could not get the right to hearing before an action was taken against him. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

95. Expedite Aadhar Linking of Job Card Holders: Govt (14)

BHUBANESWAR: The Panchayati Raj Department has asked all the district collectors to conduct a special drive to integrate the Aadhar information of job card holders under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA). Since the Ministry of Rural Development has been insisting on migration to a Aadhar-based payment system for the wage earners, the State Government has stepped on the peddle. It has asked all the collectors to launch a special drive for updating account information of the job card holders, upload them in NREGASoft, a dedicated software for the employment programme and complete the work by June 25. During the drive, all the districts have been asked to seed the Aadhar account information of the card holders in the NREGASoft so that it is easy to move to a Aadhar-Based Payment (ABP) system. Not long ago, the Ministry had made electronic fund management system (e-FMS) mandatory in a bid to streamline the wage payment system and reduce delay. Under the system, wages are credited to the bank accounts of the workers electronically. This system is based on either National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT)of the Electronic Clearing System (ECS). After the RD Ministry decided to move to ABP, districts were asked to begin the account update and merger process. However, the progress has been slow. Though there are 64,42,259 job cards issued under NREGA with 1.70 crore persons enlisted, only 64.30 lakh have any kind of accounts as of now. Of them, 35.61 lakh are active workers. The job card holders have accounts in commercial banks, regional rural banks, cooperative banks as well as in post offices. However, the information convergence on accounts has been slow. While only 25.85 lakh accounts have been frozen in NREGASoft, the link to Aadhar has been paltry, to say the least. Across the State, just about 5,175 accounts have been uploaded in the management information system so far while 3,191 of them are linked to bank accounts. The Department has asked the collectors to use the field functionaries in linking of the accounts. The BDOs have been vested with the responsibility of verifying accuracy of the information. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

96. Forum to fight for children’s safety (14)

NGOs, advocacy groups, children’s forums and academicians in the city came together on Saturday to discuss the formation of the eastern region chapter of the proposed National Action and Coordination Group Against Violence against Children (NACG). India will be the last of the eight Saarc countries to get an NACG, whose purpose is to strengthen the alliance between the governments and various groups to end violence against women and children. The group is composed of representatives of the UN, multi-lateral and bilateral agencies, NGOs, children and youth groups. “Bengal is not faring well as far as violence against children is concerned — be it child trafficking, child marriage or child labour. Some of the issues are cross-national…,” said Rajib K. Halder, the additional director of CINI, who was part of the Interim Working Group that was set up in February 2013 in consultation with the women and child development ministry. The group was formed to steer the formation of the regional chapters. Halder is representing the eastern region in the attempt at creating the national body. Meetings for the formation of the northern, western, northeastern and the southern chapters will be held in the next few days. Elected representatives from each chapter will travel to Delhi in the first week of June for the formation of the national body. This will be followed by a meeting in Colombo, where representatives of all NACGs will sit with South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIVAC), which tries to prevent and respond to all forms of neglect of and violence against children. An action plan to be discussed in Colombo will focus on “child trafficking, child marriage, corporal punishment, child sexual abuse and exploitation and child labour,” Halder said. “The most important standard has to be set with education, which can be a very big answer but is not reaching all children,” said Sister Cyril, the former principal of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, who steered Saturday’s meeting alongside Manabendra Mandal, the director of Socio-Legal Aid Research and Training Centre. The Calcutta meeting was attended by International Justice Mission, Apne Aap Women Worldwide, Sanlaap, Banglanatok dot com, Women’s Interlink Foundation, CRY and other organisations. (Telegraph 12/5/14)

 

97. Report exposes child labour on U.S. tobacco farms (14)

Washington: Although the U.S. often leads campaigns to reduce child labour in developing nations such as India, this week Washington was embarrassed by a report on the debilitating effect that tobacco plantations have had on the health of children as young seven years working there. According to a 138-page study by the Human Rights Watch advocacy group, in the absence of child labour policies that sufficiently protected children from hazardous work on U.S. tobacco farms, those employed there reported vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness, “all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.” This type of poisoning, often referred to as Green Tobacco Sickness, is said to occur when nicotine is absorbed through their skin while handling tobacco plants, particularly when plants are wet, and in addition to the short-term symptoms, “some research suggests that nicotine exposure during adolescence may have consequences for brain development.” Based on interviews with 141 child tobacco workers, ages seven to 17, the HRW report noted that many of them also reported working “long hours without overtime pay, often in extreme heat without shade or sufficient breaks, and wore no, or inadequate, protective gear.” With several hundred thousand children said to be working in U.S. agriculture each year, yet no data is readily available on the number working in tobacco farming. Among the children interviewed by HRW, many said that they had begun working on tobacco farms at age 11 or 12, primarily during the summer, to help support their families. Most were the children of Hispanic immigrants who lived in communities where tobacco was grown and who attended school full-time. In addition to exposure to tobacco, children working on tobacco farms were said to face other serious risks linked to their use of dangerous tools and machinery, lifting of heavy loads, and proximity to tractors spraying pesticides in nearby fields. Regarding the latter some of the children interviewed by HRW said that the spray “drifted over them, making them vomit, feel dizzy, and have difficulty breathing and a burning sensation in their eyes.” Ironically under U.S. labour law, children working in agriculture are permitted to work longer hours, at younger ages, and in more hazardous conditions than children in any other industry. For example, children as young as 12 could be hired for unlimited hours outside of school hours on a farm of any size with parental permission, and there is no minimum age for children to work on small farms, HRW explained. While children in most other economic sectors are required to be 18 years of age to do hazardous work, child farm workers as young as 16 years of age are allowed do jobs deemed hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labour. Co-author of the report Margaret Wurth argued, “As the school year ends, children are heading into the tobacco fields, where they can’t avoid being exposed to dangerous nicotine, without smoking a single cigarette,” adding, “It’s no surprise the children exposed to poisons in the tobacco fields are getting sick.” Ms. Wurth said that Washington had failed America’s families by not sufficiently protecting child farm workers from dangers to their health and safety, including on tobacco farms, and that the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress ought to enact laws to remedy this. When HRW presented the latest study to ten corporations that purchase U.S.-grown tobacco grown in the United States, including eight cigarette manufacturing companies, all but one, China National Tobacco, responded and said they were “concerned about child labour in their supply chains.” “However, the companies’ approaches do not sufficiently protect children from hazardous work,” HRW said, adding that in some cases, companies allow for lower standards of protection for children in their U.S. supply chain than for children working on tobacco farms in all other countries from which they purchase tobacco. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

98. Child rights panel raps police for insensitivity in teen rape case (14)

DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand Commission for Protection of Child Rights has lambasted the state police for behaving insensitively in the matter of a mentally unstable 15-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and impregnated by her teacher at a primary school in Ghansali tehsil of Tehri district. The commission’s chairman, Ajay Setia wrote to the director general of police to press for the arrest of the accused. The latter was put behind bars on Tuesday. “The state police are not equipped to deal with the cases of highest sensitivity related to Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act which is a non-bailable offence. In this case, the accused was arrested on May 13 while the FIR was lodged on April 25. Police gave him enough time to threaten the girl’s family. It was after the commission’s letter that the accused was arrested,” Setia said. He added that the police neither contacted the child welfare committee nor informed a special court. This should have been done within 24 hours of filing of FIR under POCSO Act. Tehri superintendent of police Janmayjay Khanduri said, “Nobody had heard about such a heinous crime in the district before. The girl was found to be 28 weeks pregnant when her mother took her to the hospital after she complained of stomach ache. “The teacher took advantage of her mental state. Police had to seek the help of two experts from an NGO to record her statement under Section 164 of CrPC on May 1. However, as the accused, Ramesh Prasad Bhandari has not admitted to the crime, police are waiting for the child to take birth so that a DNA test can be performed,” he said. Setia also accused the police of registering the case under lighter sections of POCSO Act (3 and 4) under which the minimum quantum of punishment is five years. He said that it should have been registered under sections five and six under which the minimum punishment is for 10 years. He also objected to police’s suggestion of a DNA test saying that the court will decide about the test. With regard to rehabilitation of the girl, Jagdish Lal, sub-divisional magistrate of Ghansli, said, “The administration will bear the costs of the girl’s hospitalization and delivery and also assist in the adoption procedure of the newborn if the girl’s parents are willing.” Setia said the commission will ensure that the special court grants a rehabilitation package to the girl under the provision of the POSCO Act as the girl’s father is working as a driver in Delhi while two of her siblings are staying with their mother in Ghansali. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

99. No Country for Labourers’ Left Out Children (14)

BALANGIR:  Pitiable is the condition of children who are staying independently with their extended families in the district. According to a study, while around 20,000 children migrate every year from the district, more than 3,000 left behind by their parents in the villages remain isolated and find it difficult to sustain themselves. Balangir is noted to be a migration-prone district from where lakhs of people migrate every year in search of livelihood. While most of the children of the migrant labourers accompany their parents, some stay back in their villages. The study revealed that the children, who stay back, lead a life of an orphan. With no support mechanism available in the villages, the children are forced to be engaged in various forms of child labour. The children living with their grandparents even shoulder the responsibility of sustaining the elderly. The ones residing with relatives perform household chores, graze cattle, collect fodder and other sundry jobs. While ill health is quite common among these children due to lack of care, they have hardly any money to consult doctors. The study further states that such children are mostly found in migration-prone blocks like Bangomunda, Turekela, Muribahal, Titlagarh, Khaprakhol, Belpara and Patnagarh. The life of an orphan for six months every year is taking a toll on these children’s health and growth. With parents away in some distant place, the children don the mantle of watchmen of their houses and are left to fend for themselves. These children are deprived of socio-psychological care, education and filial affection. Their rights are also blatantly violated. At a time when people from high income group groom their children by spending lavishly on every aspect of life, the children of migrant labourers are deprived of basic education and care. The condition of differently abled children is much worse. With parents away, these children lead a vegetative existence. Social activist Srabantika Bhattacharya, who is working on the issue, said the plight of this section of children has been overlooked. This issue goes unnoticed by the researchers unlike the children who migrate with the labourers. Different aspects of living condition of these children need to be studied properly, added Bhattacharya. Assistant Labour Commissioner Saroj Ranjit said the Government has opened seasonal hostels for these children in schools. The hostels remain open from January to June  every year to facilitate the children to continue with their studies in Government-run schools. Till now, 99 hostels have been opened in the district, he added. However, Bhattacharya said the hostels opened in the district are insufficient and fail to cater to the need of the children. Moreover, only after 20 children are identified living independently in a village, a hostel is opened for them in the nearby Government school. But in many places, the number of such children is less than 20 and hence hostels are not provided. Besides, the district administration closes the hostels from March instead of June, the social activist added. The study was conducted by Youth Centre for Development Alternatives (YCDA), a local organisation. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

100. In Islam, woman returning to earlier faith can end marriage if she likes: Delhi high court (19)

NEW DELHI: Interpreting a 75-year-old law, Delhi high court has held that a non-Muslim woman who embraces Islam after marriage but reconverts to her original faith can dissolve the union due to apostasy. Granting divorce under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939 to Sultana (name changed), a division bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and ​Justice Najmi Waziri also clarified there is no requirement in such circumstances for a woman who leaves the pale of Islam to prove her act in a trial. The mere act of apostasy dissolves the marriage if she so desires. “Were a woman married under Muslim personal law to apostatize, the marriage stands dissolved. In such circumstances, the woman is entitled to seek a decree of declaration that the marriage stands dissolved from the date of her apostatizing,” Justice Waziri explained. The bench went into the circumstances under which the pre-Independence act was passed in 1939 to emphasize, if people come or are brought into Islam from a different religion, they should be permitted to go back for which there should be no bar. The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the husband Asif (name changed) challenging the grant of divorce by a Saket family court to Sultana on her petition. Asif contested Sultana’s reconversion back to Hinduism and alleged she did it under pressure from her parents. Asif also cited Section 4 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act to contend that it prohibits dissolution of marriage only on the ground of apostasy. On her part, the estranged wife argued that for her reconversion to Hinduism no evidence is required to be led, as her mere statement ‘ipso facto’ amounts to abjuration of Islam and its tenets. She also filed an affidavit admitting to her apostasy along with two fatwas from two mufti. The wife also informed the court she had withdrawn complaint filed under Domestic Violence Act and another petition seeking maintenance. Now that she had apostatized, neither the marriage nor any right to claim maintenance subsisted. The HC agreed with the trial court verdict and ruled that Section 4 has not altered the rule of Muslim personal law that apostasy dissolves a marriage. “In the opinion of this court, all that Section 4 has done is to introduce an intervening mechanism, but to reach the same conclusion, i.e., that apostasy would not by itself dissolve the marriage and some further substantive act would be required to be done in this regard; the substantive act being the filing of a suit seeking declaration as to dissolution,” it observed. However, it rejected Asif’s argument that Sultana would have to prove her apostasy. (Times of India 12/5/14)

 

101. Don’t announce EVM-wise leads in counting: PIL (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Election Commission’s response to a PIL which demanded that EVM-wise declaration of leads in the vote counting process be stopped. The PIL by advocate Yogesh Gupta from Punjab was based on Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s poll-eve threat to Baramati villagers that their water supply would be discontinued if they did not vote for his cousin and sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule. Gupta said if the votes cast in each EVM was kept secret and announced only after totalling the votes in all EVMs used in a parliamentary constituency, then politicians would not know which segment voted for which candidate. This would help voters exercise their franchise without fear. Finding the point interesting, a vacation bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice NV Ramana issued notice to the EC and sought its reply by May 21. So, the outcome of this PIL will not affect the mode of counting of votes for this general election. But if the court allows the PIL and EVM-wise results are stopped from being announced, then it would take away the excitement of ups and down in leads, intrinsic to counting of votes. “In the present form of declaration of results, political parties become aware of the wards where they have not got voted and where they have got maximum votes,” the petitioner said. “The present form of declaration of results also acts as a catalyst for registration of false cases based on political vendetta against persons who have not voted for the victorious parties.” (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

102. Govts think judiciary is a non-productive organ: CJI (19)

New Delhi: As Narendra Modi prepares to take over as Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has expressed hope that the new government would give more attention to the judiciary, which faces an uphill task of clearing a backlog of over three crore cases. “Governments think the judiciary is a non-productive organ of the state. They hardly spend on the judiciary…less than 0.5 per cent of the budget is spent on the judiciary. Let’s hope the new government gives more attention to the judiciary,” the CJI told HT. Justice Lodha said speedy disposal of cases, particularly corporate disputes, will certainly have a positive impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Barely 0.11 per cent of the 2014-15 central budget of Rs. 17.60 lakh crore is proposed to be spent on law and justice. The CJI said clearing the backlog needed enhancement of judicial manpower and augmentation of infrastructure. “In Allahabad High Court, almost half of the 160 sanctioned posts of judges are vacant. Even if we want to fill these vacancies, we can’t. The existing infrastructure — in terms of building and other facilities — is not sufficient to accommodate even the current strength,” Lodha said, adding “Even the Lucknow Bench can accommodate only a limited number of judges.” According to latest data available on the Supreme Court website, the Allahabad High Court has only 88 judges and over 10.22 lakh cases are awaiting disposal.

Lodha also blamed delay at the government’s end for an unusually high number of vacancies in high courts. The CJI, who has started the practice of having a regular Constitution Bench in view of a large number of cases involving constitutional issues pending in the SC, also floated the idea of having a Court of Appeal between high courts and the Supreme Court on the lines of one functioning in South Africa. “In South Africa the Supreme Court only hears constitutional matters and all appeals arising out of any criminal or civil cases are decided by the Court of Appeal. We can consider having this kind of system in India,” Lodha said, adding “It needs to be discusses and debated.” The CJI outlined five-point agenda to deal with problems facing the judiciary. Simplification of procedure, change in mindset of advocates and judges, quality legal education, promoting judiciary as a career among law graduates and augmentation of infrastructure. He said All India Judicial Service was a good idea to have well-trained judges. “But all this would need money. Judiciary should be on one of the priorities of the government,” Lodha said. (Hindustan Times 18/5/14)

 

103. New govt will call joint sittings of Houses to push through key bills (19)

NEW DELHI: The BJP has decided to take frequent recourse to joint sittings of Parliament to make sure that key legislations are not held up due to the NDA’s inadequate numbers in Rajya Sabha. Despite the BJP having a majority on its own in Lok Sabha with 282 members, and the NDA garnering 336 seats in all, the ruling alliance is short of majority in Rajya Sabha with just 64 votes. Even if all 10 nominated members, who are expected to go with the government, are counted, the NDA tally just improves to 74 seats, as against the halfway mark of 123 MPs in the 245-member House. Besides, with BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy, LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan and rebel RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav now elected to Lok Sabha, there will be three vacancies in the upper House that the NDA may seek to fill. Even though regional parties like AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have indicated that they may not reflexively come in the way of key legislations, the BJP has already made up its mind that the new government would not hesitate to convene a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament with a view to ensure smooth passage of legislations it may wish to craft. 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. Constitutional expert Subhash C Kashyap told TOI that there have been only three joint sittings of both Houses so far, leading to passage of the Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1961, the Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill, 1978, and Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002. Kashyap said there was no time or frequency bar on calling a joint sitting, which was entirely a prerogative of the ruling dispensation at the Centre. A joint sitting of both Houses is presided over by the Lok Sabha Speaker and only a simple majority is need to get a bill passed, which is then immediately sent to the President for his assent. (Times of India 19/5/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

104. Harassed, Yet Another Farmer Ends Life (20)

BALANGIR: The issue of fraudulent transfer of land owned by farmers in Ghumer village to some companies for Jatropa cultivation is back to haunt the Balangir administration. Chhabi Sahu, a farmer of Ghumer under Patnagarh sub-division who had attempted suicide by consuming poison on Wednesday, succumbed on Saturday. Land of Chabbi and many more poor farmers of Ghumer and some other villages were transferred to 10 companies in a fraudulent manner in 2005 by their agents in connivance with local tehsil officials and influential people of Patnagarh to promote Jatropha cultivation. After losing his land to one of these companies, Taj Gases Private Limited of Agra, Chhabi had become a migrant labourer and last month returned from Andhra Pradesh. He was worried over the legal battle surrounding his land and unemployment. His wife said Chabbi was tensed for several years and had no job in hand. “He lost his mental balance after returning from Andhra and took the extreme step on Wednesday”, she said. Ten companies – New Ace Builder and Developers, Enercore Diesels Private Limited, Supertech Printing Private Limited, Sparsh Medicare Private Limited Delhi, LEFIN (India) Private Limited, Cladyin Hoteland Resort Private Limited, Millennium Steel Cast Private Limited, Fasteck Sofwares Private, Siyaram Energy Private Limited, all based in Delhi, and Agra-based Taj Gases – had acquired a total of 358.43 acre of land and a total of 70 sale deeds were executed.These 70 farmers belong to Ghumer, Aainlatunga, Jalapali, Kirabahal, Thelkochhapar, Ghghunghutipali of Patnagarh block; Bagdore, Rengali, Aampali villages of Belpara block and Kadalijharan and Loisingha villages under Khaprakhol block.Sources said in 2005, Mahesh Dixit of Taj Gases along with locals Bikram Acharya and Sushil Pradhan held a meeting in Ghumer where Mahesh appealed villagers to give their land on lease for three years for Jatropa cultivation. He said he would pay `7,000 per acre in return and promised them work as labourers on the land, where they would draw around `2,000 as monthly salary. Mahesh added that after three years, the Jatropa plants – cash crops that are used to generate biofuel – would be ready for harvest and the farmers would get a share of the bonus. He told the farmers that Jatropha, as an alternative fuel, could provide them with income for 30 to 40 years, without much investment. As the gullible villagers were convinced, their lands were transferred to the company overnight. Chabbi was one among them. The fraud came to light when the villagers were refused entry to their land to collect Mahua flowers. The company officials told them that as their lands have been taken on lease, they were debarred from collecting Mahua flowers. A high-level inquiry was ordered in 2007 and irregularities reported. Since then, the villagers have been fighting a legal battle to get their lands back. Prior to Chabbi, Linga Sahu and Madan Kand of the same village had committed suicide after losing their land. Balangir Collector M Muthukumar refused to comment. (New Indian Express 11/5/14)

 

105. Organic farming grows to 1,200 hectares (20)

NASHIK: The state government has increased the organic farming area in Nashik division from 800 hectares to 1,200 hectares to promote the form of agriculture and discourage use of chemical fertilizers. Two years ago, the area under organic farming, which largely depends on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control, was 100 acres. The state government mooted organic farming clusters in 2012-13 and set up eight clusters of 100 hectares each. Now, it has added four more clusters in 2013-14. Four more will be set up in 2014-15. Three clusters each have been set up in Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar and Jalgaon districts in the Nashik division. Each cluster includes organic farming area of 100 hectares and a group of 200 farmers. This is a part of the government’s initiative to promote organic farming across the state. Accordingly, the Nashik divisional office of the joint director of agriculture of the state government has set up total 12 clusters in the division in the past two years. Speaking to Times Of India, an official in the state agriculture department, said, “Chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers are being used excessively. This causes harmful effects on the health of people. Moreover, the yield and quality of the produce also decline due to chemical fertilizers. To avoid all this, the state government had started focusing on organic farming and introduced the cluster projects for the farmers. Areas under organic farming, which was as nominal as around 100 acres in the division, have now reached 1,200 hectares following the formation of organic clusters. Our target is to bring at least 10 per cent of the total agricultural area under organic farming in the division.” He added, “In the Nashik division, we have set up 12 clusters — three each in Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon and Nandurbar districts. Overall, we have 1,200 hectares under organic farming and around 2,400 farmers are getting the benefits. Paddy, ragi (Nagali), vegetables, fruits and other corps are being cultivated as part of the organic farming cluster projects.” The farmers participating in organic farming clusters get 25 per cent subsidy of the total cost for vermin-compost projects and 50 per cent subsidy bio-dynamic compost units. “Moreover, we give a grant of Rs 50,000 per cluster for providing the farmers with training and literature. One cluster includes a group of 200 farmers. A grant of Rs 20,000 is also given to the group of 20 farmers to conduct workshop as per the stages of crops,” the official said. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

106. ‘Sugar Factory Harassing Cane Farmers’ (20)

YADGIR: Sugarcane farmers have been suffering heavy losses thanks to the negligence of a sugar factory. The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha alleged that Core Green sugar factory at Wadigera is responsible for the withering of the standing sugarcane crop in the surrounding villages in Shahapur taluk. The Sangha members allege that Core Green had reached an agreement with the farmers that the sugarcane they grow would be harvested and transported by the factory. Considering this as an opportunity, Ameen Patel, a farmer at Wadigera village, cultivated sugarcane on three acres. But the factory did not harvest the sugarcane even after nine months. Since the cane was not harvested on time the farmer suffered a huge loss. Patel’s is not the only case. There are many other growers who have been facing similar difficulties due to the negligence of the factory, the members alleged. It is said that the factory officials turned a deaf ear when the growers approached them with their problems. Sangha members urged the factory management to immediately harvest the crop in the hobli. They warned that if the demand was neglected, a protest would be launched in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office.  (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

107. UN Concerned Over Health Care for Below Poverty Line Families in India (21)

New Delhi:  A top United Nations official today expressed concerns over the health care of families who fall below the poverty line in India. “Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a high priority in India. We are particularly worried about families who fall below the poverty line, when someone falls ill and the family has to struggle to pay for health care,” Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator, said at a UN-backed discussion which deliberated on India’s route to UHC. Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India, highlighted the importance of substantially increasing the government expenditure on health in India which is one of the lowest in the world, at around one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). She commended the policy intent outlined by the Planning Commission to increase government spending on health to 1.87 percent of the GDP by 2017. Outlining that no country has fully “achieved” UHC in a short period as there is always some gap between the need and utilisation and there is also scope for improvement of quality and financial protection, Menabde said, “Universal Health Coverage should be conceptualised as a direction rather than a destination, an idea that is relevant for India.” Speaking on the occasion, Indrani Gupta, of the Institute of Economic Growth said, the disease burden, infrastructural and personnel requirements and health financing situation are the three elements that need to be analysed to plan the design of the UHC model to be rolled out in India. “The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already suggested a list of indicators for an essential health package which need to be taken into consideration. “The roll-out process has to be accompanied by a solid management information system and monitoring and evaluation framework from the start to help in course correction based on evaluations,” she said. The discussion with WHO experts from different regions was moderated by Dr Antonio Duran, Advisor, WHO Country Office for India. (NDTV 8/5/14)

 

108. Uttarakhand: National food security scheme to be implemented from June 30 (21)

Dehradun: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat has issued orders for completion of all formalities related to effective implementation of National Food Security scheme in the state from June 30. All the bottlenecks in distribution of ration cards under the scheme should be removed within a week and nodal officers for the purpose be appointed so that the drive could be expedited, Rawat told officials at a review meeting of the Food and Civil Supplies department here yesterday. Arrangements should be made for storage of adequate foodgrains in the hills to ensure that villages on char dham yatra route do not suffer from shortage of food during monsoon, he said. Claiming that the national food security scheme will benefit 61.94 lakh people of the state, Rawat said those not covered under the ambit of the scheme will get foodgrains under the state foodgrains scheme. (Zee News 12/5/14)

 

109. 82 pc crorepatis and 21 pc face criminal charges in new LS (21)

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha is getting wealthier, with an increasing number of crorepatis entering the Lower House of Parliament, as is the case of MPs with serious criminal charges against them. Private election watchdogs Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) said 82 per cent MPs of the newly-elected Lok Sabha are crorepatis, while 21 per cent have serious criminal charges against them. Among the 543 MPs in the new Lok Sabha, Sikar MP Sumedhanand Saraswati will stand out. The BJP member is the poorest lawmaker in a House that has 442 crorepatis and 121 with serious criminal charges. In 2009, the number of crorepatis in Lok Sabha was just over 300, while those with serious criminal charges were numbered at 77. Saraswati has assets worth just Rs 34,311, but the richest are from Andhra Pradesh, which sends four of the five richest Lok Sabha members. Guntur MP Jayadev Galla (TDP) is the richest with Rs 683 crore, followed by Chevella MP Konda Vishweshar Reddy (TRS, Rs 528 crore) and Narsapuram member G  G Raju (BJP, Rs 288 crore). Other richest in the crorepati club are YSR Congress MP from Kurnool Butta Renuka, with Rs 242 crore, and Congress MP Kamal Nath from Chhindwara, with Rs 206 crore. The analysis showed 237 out of 282 BJP MPs are crorepatis, while 35 of the Congress’ 44 are in the same club. All 37 MPs of the AIADMK are crorepatis. The chances of winning for a crorepati candidate in this Lok Sabha elections were 20 per cent, whereas for a candidate with low assets it was just 2 per cent. “The average assets per winner for this Lok Sabha elections are Rs 14.61 crore, whereas the average asset for each candidate was Rs 3.16 crore. In 2009, the average assets per winner of 521 MPs analysed was Rs 5.35 crore,” said the analysis. On the crime side, 112 MPs with serious criminal cases have won this time. They face charges like murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping and crimes against women. The previous Lok Sabha had around 80 MPs with serious charges against them. If one adds simple offences into the mix, the number of MPs rise to 186. (Deccan Herald 18/5/14)

 

110. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Survey Report (21)

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, 5,957 of 12,189 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 STs 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 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 19/5/14)

 

RESERVATION

111. Backward Commission recommends transgenders for reservation (25)

New Delhi: Transgenders on Tuesday moved closer to getting reservation in employment and education in public sector with the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) recommending their inclusion in the central list of the OBCs. The NCBC’s decision comes against the backdrop of a Supreme Court order, which has directed the Centre and state Governments to treat the transgenders as socially and educationally backward classes to extend reservation in admission in educational institutions and for public appointments. The matter will now go to the Union Cabinet which will be required to approve the recommendation to enable the ‘Third Gender’ to avail of the benefits. “The Commission today unanimously passed a resolution to accept the verdict of the Supreme Court and decided to recommend to the Centre to include transgenders in the OBC list. Irrespective of their community background, all transgenders can avail beneifits under the OBC list,” NCBC member S K Kharventhan told PTI. Though the actual number of transgenders in the country is not available, electoral roll date of the Election Commission of India states that a total number of 23,019 people have registered themselves under “Others” category. NCBC, functioning under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, received a letter from the ministry seeking to look into the directions of the apex court. The Commission’s role comes into play since NCBC advice is necessary to include a community in the OBC list. Invoking articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution, NCBC sources said that the communities set-out in the Supreme Court judgement are entitled to be added in the OBC list. The SC on April 15 had held that the rights of transgenders, also known as Hijras, Eunuchs, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc, have to be protected as they are citizens of the country and having all rights under the Constitution like the male or the female have. (Zee News 13/5/14)

 

112. Reservation cannot be allowed to exceed limit: High Court (25)

MADURAI: Reservation in government employment cannot be allowed to exceed the percentage prescribed for various categories. Otherwise, it will result in injustice to candidates not falling within its purview, the Madras High Court Bench here has observed. “It is an everlasting principle of law that reservation cannot be allowed to exceed the percentage prescribed for reservation, and it would result in injustice to candidates falling outside the reservation category,” the Bench observed. Justices A. Selvam and V.S. Ravi made the observation, dismissing writ appeals filed by two aspirants for the post of District Educational Officer (DEO). The appellants were aggrieved at the implementation of the 200-point, and not 100-point, roster system while reservation was decided for the post. Stating that they belonged to the Scheduled Caste and the Backward Class, the litigants claimed that they would have got selected for the post by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) in 2009, had the government followed a 100-point roster system. But the Bench rejected their contention and held that the candidates could not question the roster system after having participated in the selection process, knowing that only the 200-point system would be implemented for the post as per a Government Order issued on September 15, 2007. The judges also recorded the submission of Advocate-General A.L. Somayaji that the TNPSC had issued a notification on January 23, 2009, calling for applications to fill six vacancies for the post of DEO, and on that date, the 200-point roster system alone was in effect. The Bench refused to accept the appellants’ contention that their participation in the selection process could not act as a bar on questioning the methodology adopted by the government especially when it had infringed their fundamental rights. Holding that it did not find infringement of any fundamental right of the appellants, the Bench said they had been given sufficient opportunity to take part in the written examination as well as the interview. “But unfortunately, they were not selected in view of the 200-point roster system.”  (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

HINDUTVA

113. VHP protests against ‘anti-Hindu policies’ (26)

Mangalore: As the Congress-led State government turns one year, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other organisations gathered in protest here on Monday against the alleged “anti-Hindu policies” of the State government. The protestors held a public meeting in front of the DC office where a memorandum, addressed to the Governor, was submitted. Jeetendra S. Kottari, VHP district chief condemned the State government’s decision to grant Rs. 10 lakh to the kin of Kabir, a cattle trader, who was allegedly killed by anti-naxal force personnel near Sringeri recently. He said with this the government was encouraging cattle traders to indulge in illegal trafficking. Among the “other atrocities” mentioned by the groups was the withdrawal of the proposed amendments to the anti-cow slaughter bill. (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

114. Parallel RSS teams trigger landslide (26)

Lucknow: The BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) credited the Narendra Modi wave and the work of their booth-level teams for the landslide victory in the state. The BJP’s best-ever performance so far has been 58 seats in 1998. For the first time RSS established parallel teams and coordinators in 80 Lok Sabha and 403 Assembly constituencies. It also appointed a two-member committee at all 1.40 lakh booths across the state. RSS workers conducted door-to-door campaigns. At Varanasi, where Narendra Modi won with huge margin, workers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal formed separate teams to distribute akshat (turmeric coated rice grains). BJP state co-incharge Sunil Bansal, who looked after election management in UP on behalf of general secretary incharge Amit Shah, said that the Modi wave along with the ground level work of RSS, booth level committees of BJP, balanced social equations in ticket distribution and well planned campaign were the key factors in party’s win. RSS stood with BJP at every step, he added. Bhupendra Singh, president of BJP’s western UP region, said strategic formation of booth level committees — Amit Shah’s brainchild — set the ground for BJP’s win. In 2009 BJP won only two seats — Ghaziabad and Meerut. Former Army Chief VK Singh in Ghaziabad and ex-police commissioner of Mumbai Satyapal Singh — contesting his first elections from Baghpat — secured more than six lakh votes. Mayawati — who was predicting that her party would hold the balance of power in Delhi — and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) failed to win even a single seat. While RLD chief Ajit Singh lost in Baghpat, his son Jayant Chaudhary met the same fate in Mathura. BJP’s Swami Sachidanand Hari Sakshi Maharaj in Unnao, Lallu Singh in Faizabad, Rajveer Singh in Etah, Dharmendra Kashyap in Aonla, Kaushal Kishore in Mohanlalganj (reserved), Daddan Mishra in Shrawasti and Bharat Singh in Ballia, were in a position to win with a huge margin. They had lost the Assembly elections in 2012. RSS’s Pracharak Pramukh of western UP, Krishna Chandra, said, “Modi’s personality influenced voters. New voters wanted change and Modi was their only option.” RSS Pracharak and BJP’s organisation secretary in Kashi region Shiv Kumar Pathak said, “People found Modi to be the best option against Congress’s misrule. RSS work increased voter turn-out in BJP’s favour.” RSS’s Prant Pracharak Dr Avdhesh Pratap Singh said, “RSS and BJP had jointly projected Modi as prime ministerial candidate. RSS workers also popularised Modi’s development model.” (Indian Express 16/5/14)

 

115. Narendra Modi win, like 1952 (26)

New Delhi: There are two ways to describe the meaning of Narendra Modi’s massive victory. We can say it is a game-changer, profitably using the term “critical realignment”, a concept that basically depicts a radical shift in the social bases of political power, a shift that is not transitory but long term. A second way to explain the significance of Modi’s rise is to deploy a more colloquial term: capitalism with Indian characteristics. Either way, a new era is upon us, though I am still not entirely sure about its durability. To evaluate the significance of Modi’s triumph, we clearly need an appropriate benchmark. Just what should it be compared to? To 1977, when popular vote brought Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship to an end? To 1998-99, when a BJP-based NDA brought Hindu nationalists into the heart of India’s power structure? Or, more radically, to 1952 when, against all odds, a poor nation instituted universal franchise, allowing millions of poor to vote their wishes for the first time in human history? I would argue below that the most conceptually interesting comparison is with 1952. Let me, however, work back from the most recent comparison to the first. The NDA’s rise to power under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998-99 was a watershed event. But as many commentators have noted, there was something quasi-Nehruvian about Vajpayee. Vajpayee’s manner was mild, and his oratorical style literary and polished. He kept the extreme wing of the RSS at a distance. Disagreeing with L.K. Advani, he opposed the Ayodhya movement. Though business flourished under NDA rule, Vajpayee was not market-oriented at heart. Indeed, Gandhian socialism was the initial ideological cornerstone of the BJP when it was reborn in 1980 under Vajpayee’s leadership. Modi repeatedly invokes Vajpayee as a model but, unlike Vajpayee, he is business-oriented. Moreover, he worked for the Ayodhya movement and it is still to be seen whether he can distance himself from the RSS. Our second comparison, 1977, shares quite a bit with 2014. In 1977, the Congress was not only outvoted, but the party was wiped out of north India, as it very nearly has been this time as well (though unlike now, the Congress had held the south in 1977). The great difference, of course, is that the Janata Party was a ramshackle coalition, with no identifiable core, united only by an intense and entirely justifiable anger towards Indira and Sanjay Gandhi and a highly docile Congress party. (Financial Express 19/5/14)

 

116. RSS ideologue says BJP can now tackle Ram Mandir, Article 370 (26)

New Delhi: RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya has made these suggestions in his latest blog. He writes that the BJP had to compromise with its ideology in 1999 in the wake of its tie-up with parties such as National Conference to reach at a unanimous common minimum programme for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. However, there is no such compulsion after the BJP gaining majority its own and its pre-poll allies such as Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and some Tamil Nadu-based parties should not have a problem, Vaidya writes in his Marathi blog Bhaashya. “In 1999, BJP could manage to get 182 seats and they needed support of 90 MPs from outside from parties like National Conference. So the common minimum programme had to be made with such parties and that became manifesto of the government. So the issues like Article 370 and construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya needed to be kept aside,” the veteran writes. “Now BJP had pre-poll alliance with TDP, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and some parties in Tamil Nadu, so I don’t think that they will have any problem with issues like Ram Mandir and Article 370. Though the alliance had projected issues of transparent government and development, Ram Mandir and Article 370 were part of the manifesto,” he writes. Vaidya says the BJP has got 282 seats now, which is 10 more than the required majority and the NDA has got 336 seats, if the party fulfils its promise of Ram Mandir and Article 370 without disturbing the Constitution and law, its partners should not have any issue, he opines. The RSS ideologue goes on to target parties such as Trinamool Congress (TMC) and DMK for their regional bias and says Congress should be revived in these states for the “betterment of democracy”.”… Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and DMK in Tamil Nadu will only think about their states and they do not have any thoughts about foreign policy, especially regarding Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. So Congress’s young leaders should come together and think about their defeat and there should be a change in organisational set up in Congress by allowing young leadership to prosper and come forward,” Vaidya writes. He goes on to credit RSS for BJP’s thumping victory by playing an “important role in increasing vote percentage”. At the same time, he says, the anti-BJP parties that bashed up the parent organisation of the saffron party in the run up to the general elections played “an equally important role”. (Indian Today 19/5/14)

 

 

Posted by admin at 7 May 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Noida RTI activist killed, family blames land mafia (1)

New Delhi: A 38-year-old RTI activist mysteriously died after the car he was travelling in caught fire in Greater Noida late on Thursday night. His charred body was identified Friday morning. Chandra Mohan Sharma, the deceased, who was an employee at Honda Siel, was one of the first Aam Aadmi Party members from Greater Noida. While the police is examining the case from all angles, the deceased’s relatives alleged that it was murder as Sharma was getting threats from the land mafia, whom he had been exposing through his activism. Police officials said Sharma was returning home around midnight when his Chevrolet Aveo car caught fire due to a technical glitch near Eldeco Chowk, but his family gave a different version. His wife Savita Sharma said: “If the car caught fire while driving, it should be in the middle of the road, but it was found parked at the corner.” Savita added: “Contrary to police claims that the car windows were closed, my husband had been driving with windows open for the past few days as the air conditioner was not working. There was no central locking which could have jammed the doors. The CNG kit was also removed a few days ago.” Inspired by the Anna Hazare movement, Sharma had unearthed several irregularities in land allotments in Greater Noida. He had recently exposed the illegal capture of land in the Kasna area, and was allegedly on the land mafia’s radar. “He was fighting against the encroachers in the area, and had got threats of dire consequences several times. On April 28, while he was returning home, his car was overtaken and stopped by goons who threatened to kill him if he continued with his activism,” Savita said, adding: “We had asked the police to give him protection and take action against suspected persons, but no action was initiated. Now the police is trying to turn the murder into an accident.” On the basis of the complaint by the family members of the victim, the police has registered an FIR against five people at Kasna police station, and have sent the viscera samples to determine the exact cause of death. Technical assistance is also being sought to find out the cause of the fire, the police said. (Asian Age 3/5/14)

 

2. Difficult to get RTI information from Gujarat: Activist (1)

MUMBAI: Obtaining information from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat government is not just difficult but practically impossible as was found by RTI activist Anil Galgali. Galgali has been asked to travel to Gujarat and inspect the files personally for the information he had sought. Galgali in March this year had sought information under RTI on the expenses incurred for opposing the appointment of Justice R A Mehta as the state’s Lokayukta by the then governor Kamala Beniwal, details of advocates who appeared in high court and Supreme Court, their fees paid by the government. He sought case wise expense details as well as the total expense. He had also asked information on the nature of dispute with Beniwal who had appointed Justice Mehta in August 2011 which was opposed by the Modi government. Galgali said his RTI was tossed from one department to another. Galgali said in a second letter he was informed by Vora, Public Information Officer and dy secretary, law, D A Vora “Case wise information cannot be provided and the advocate wise information is not being denied but if I want the information I should come to Gujarat and inspect the files for the information. I had not sought inspection of the files and knowing that I am not from Gujarat, the government is resorting to such delaying tactics,” he said. The General Administration Department (GAD) sent it to the Law Department and within the Law department it was put up to the H branch and back again to GAD. Public Information Officer and dy secretary, law, D A Vora in a letter to Galgali said the fees were paid as per the Law Officer Rules 2009 and the expenses incurred are maintained by the GAD. He added that such simple information should be put up on the Gujarat government’s website and it was strange the government would want to suppress the information when Narendra Modi himself talks of a transparent government. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

3. RTI finds chinks in Aadhar-linked gas supply (1)

HYDERABAD: After the over enthusiastic administration made people run around by linking Aadhar card with Gas supply, it has now come to light that the gas agencies never even accessed the Aadhar database to verify the authenticity of the Aadhar cardholders. Worse, the agencies have given away the subsidies after just checking with the banks concerned, raising serious questions over bogus beneficiaries. This major flip-flop was exposed in a case hearing at the Central Information Commission (CIC) pertaining to a Hyderabad based RTI activist, C.J. Karira against UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India). Mr. Karira had approached the CIC over unsatisfactory reply from UIDAI to some of his queries. “The respondents (Aadhar official) stated that the use of the UID number, provided by the appellant to his gas agency and bank, was for the limited purpose of ensuring that the person being provided the gas cylinders and subsidy was the same. It did not involve authentication/matching by those agencies with the data held by the respondents,” read one of the contents of the order passed on March 18, 2014 after the completion of arguments from both sides. It also came to light that the UIDAI does not have a procedure in place for those who want to get their data surrendered or deleted from the database. “The Aadhar is a national fraud which caused a loss of Rs 500 crore. What is the use of forcing people to waste their time and energy to take Aadhar card for gas subsidies when the gas agencies do not even check the database,” wondered Mr. Karira. The RTI activist also realised that anybody could get a gas subsidy by telling random Aadhar number. “I was also shocked to know that UIDAI does not have a fool proof system to record all those accessing the data raising security concerns. How can they not have a mechanism to delete Aadhar users when the Supreme Court has declared that Aadhar is not mandatory?” he asked. (The Hindu 6/5/14)

 

4. State pays electricity bill of 4 Uttarakhand ex-CMs worth Rs 29 lakh (1)

Four former chief ministers of Uttarakhand consumed electricity worth Rs 29 lakh for free for over five years. According to an RTI reply got by an NGO, Rs 29 lakh of public money was spent in over five years for the power consumption of three former chief ministers of the BJP and one of the Congress. The reply from the Public Works Department of the state revealed that the highest amount of Rs 15.5 lakh was spent for B C Khanduri from 2010 to 2014 followed by Rs 8.5 lakh for R P Nishank from 2008 to 2014, both of whom belong to the BJP. Congress veteran N D Tiwari consumed power worth Rs 2.5 lakh from 2008 to 2014 while BJP’s Bhagat Singh Koshiyari used Rs 1.5 lakh worth electricity between 2007 and 2014, Padma Shri awardee Avdhash Kaushal, who heads the NGO that sought the RTI information, said in a statement here producing official documents. “Though often touted as Urja Pradesh, the reality in Uttarakhand is that, 2,574 million units of electricity worth Rs 829.5 crore is being purchased from the open market to ensure supply in the state.” “Despite this dismal scenario, according to information received through RTI, ex-chief ministers are recklessly using electricity worth lakhs of rupees at the expense of the tax payers’ hard earned money,” Kaushal said. “Does being former chief ministers give them the right to plunder the state’s resources?” he asked. (CNN-IBN 7/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. NHRC seeks report from Bihar government on girl’s death (1)

New Delhi, May 1 : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Thursday issued a notice to the Bihar government demanding a detailed report on the death of a girl due to lack of basic medical facilities, a statement said. The commission issued the notice after taking suo motu cognisance of a media report stating that a girl died of diarrhea due to lack of medical facilities in Dharhara village in Bihar. “The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to serious violation of right to health of the girl. A notice has been issued to the Bihar government through its principal secretary (health and family welfare), calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks,” NHRC said in a statement. The commission added that Dharhara is the village which came into the limelight in 2010 when its villagers planted 10 fruit saplings to mark the birth of a girl. To highlight the evil of female infanticide and dowry deaths, the villagers took this unusual initiative to plant the saplings of fruit trees. When the saplings mature, the fruit from these trees is sold and the proceeds used for the education and marriage of girls. It has become a tradition ever since and even state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar plants a sapling on the birth of a girl in the village. The state government has also termed Dharhara a model village. The NHRC stated that according to the media report, the village’s health centre is in a shambles and is often locked. Despite the health minister promising a six-bed hospital there in 2010, no action has been initiated yet. The commision, in its statement, quoted the victim’s father as saying that he “believes that his daughter would have been alive if the health centre had been functioning”. (New Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

6. NHRC notice to Chhattisgarh government over boycott of tribal families (1)

National Human Rights Commission on Sunday issued notices to Chhattisgarh government and state police in connection with alleged social boycott of two tribal families in Korba district after a village panchayat’s diktat. According to an NHRC statement released on Sunday, notices in this regard were issued to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Chhattisgarh to submit a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The step was taken after the Commission took suo motu cognisance of a media report that two tribal families have been facing social boycott in Dhaurabatha village for the last fourteen months following a diktat of the Ghunghutti Rampur Panchayat in Korba district. “Due to this, nobody talks to them; they are prevented from grazing their cattle; they cannot shop from the shops in the village; and their children cannot go even to Aanganwadi centre,” the statement said. According to the media report, the local police did not take any action in the matter. The Collector and Superintendent of Police of Korba were approached and a police team visited the village on April 15, only to level allegations against the affected families. “Allegedly, a youth accompanying the police team received a sum of Rs 2,000 from the affected families after threatening them,” the statement said. The first family was reportedly subjected to social boycott on February 25, 2013 when on charges of abusing the Sarpanch, it failed to pay the entire fine of Rs 10,000. The other family was made to suffer the same fate when one of its members was seen talking to a member of the socially boycotted family against the diktat of the Panchayat. The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights of the families of these tribal people. (CNN IBN 4/5/14)

 

7. Civil society activists condemn Assam violence (1)

New Delhi, May 5 : A host of civil society activists Monday condemned the violence in Assam and demanded a probe by a sitting judge or an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. Violence erupted in Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) last week when armed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) cadres attacked villages in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts. At least 31 people have died. “We express our profound sense of grief and alarm over the gruesome massacre of Bengali-speaking Muslims May 2. This most recent round of killings – in which 31 people, mostly women and children have lost their lives – is another link in the long and… bloody sequence of ethnic cleansing being carried out by tribal Bodo militant groups with impunity,” said a statement by civil society groups, activists and concerned citizens. Harsh Mander of Delhi NGO Aman Biradari, activist Ram Puniyani from Mumbai and Nirmalangshu Mukherjee, a professor of Delhi University, were among the signatories. The groups demanded the arrest of Pramila Rani Brahma, former agricultural minister of Assam, for making communal speeches, which according to them led to the violence. The activists demanded that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a serving IPS officer or a Supreme Court judge be set up. They also asked for increased deployment of paramilitary forces to ensure security of the non-Bodo people, particularly Muslims. (New Kerala 6/5/14)

 

8. Human rights, livelihoods issues included in Unilever’s growth plan (1)

MUMBAI: Unilever , the 49.8 billion fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) corporation, is finally attempting to fill up an unseemly gap in its sustainability stratagem. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), its blueprint for growth, launched in 2010, has so far focused on environmental impact, health, hygiene and ethical sourcing. Now, the company , which employs 1,74,000 people globally, is expanding the scope and depth of this 10-year plan by embracing complex issues on human rights, and providing a greater thrust on livelihoods. This expansion of the USLP manifests in the addition of three new pillars under enhancing livelihoods : fairness in the workplace, opportunities for women and inclusive business. “This is a great step-up for the USLP,” says Sanjiv Mehta, who took over as CEO and MD of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), its Indian subsidiary, in October 2013. “We are now going back to the drawing board to formulate the way forward on the new pillars.” Mehta released the annual progress report of the USLP, in New Delhi on Monday. The USLP, while setting great store on the well-being of consumers and other stakeholders in its value chain, was silent on human and labour rights. This has been a source of criticism by civil society organizations, who have been lately pointing to inadequacies and transgressions at Unilever’s tea gardens in Kenya and its manufacturing plant in Vietnam. Human rights have found greater articulation and traction in the business context in recent times, through the UN Framework on Business and Human Rights — Protect, Respect and Remedy. While extractive industries — oil & gas, and mining — and the garments sector are familiar with the implications of adopting a human rights approach to doing business, it is relatively new to the FMCG sector. Unilever will start reporting on the new measures from 2015 onwards. It now has to devise new frameworks in worker compensation, including those for contract workers, diversity at the workplace , promoting safety for women in communities it operates in, skill development, improving livelihoods of marginal farmers and increasing participation of young entrepreneurs in the value chain. The immediate provocation for the need to look at human rights seriously emerged after Unilever opened the doors of its Vietnam plant to Oxfam, the international civil society coalition , for an audit. Oxfam found the company was paying more than the minimum wages stipulated by law, but short of benchmarks on fair or living wage required by a family to meet its basic needs. In Kenya, its Kericho Tea Estates , which employs about 12,500 workers, has been rocked by cases of sexual harassment. Since 2013, the ratio of female leaders has been increased from 3% to 40%, and several other remedial measures have been put in place. In India too, HUL has crafted a robust mechanism to deal with sexual harassment cases and also induct more women in the managerial workforce. “It’s about 30% now, up from less than 20% in 2010,” says Mehta. As part of the USLP, Unilever takes responsibility not just for its own direct operations, but also for those of its suppliers, distributors and for how consumers use its various brands. Its 2013 report shows that Unilever has made good progress barring a few slippages in the consumer arena. Unilever’s total greenhouse gas footprint from its products, including consumer use, has increased by 5% since 2010 and domestic water by a sharper 15%.The greenhouse gas adverse impact has been attributed to its acquisition of US company Alberto Culver. The water impact is largely due to high levels of growth from affordable laundry bars in India, which is tied-up with a more water-intensive washing habit. The progress in India has been good. India has contributed a great deal to the Unilever system through innovations like the Lifebuoy hand-washing programmes, Pureit water purifiers and Shakti entrepreneurs (Shakti Ammas ), the consumption growth in India, which translates into a spike in water use, means working doubly hard on water issues. Mehta, therefore, is giving a new impetus to water conservation even as he crafts a couple of new programmes specific to India. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. Family alleges torture as minor snatcher escapes police custody, probe ordered (1)

JALANDHAR: While an inquiry has already been ordered into the escape of a minor snatcher from police custody, his parents have alleged that the boy was given electric shocks. On the other hand, police claimed that the boy had admitted to committing five snatchings during his questioning. A chowki in-charge and a head constable have also been placed under suspension for dereliction of duty. “He was very much afraid of torture which he said he had undergone previous night at CIA Staff and was pleading for help,” said Sonia, mother of accused Gagandeep on Thursday. Gagandeep had escaped from police chowki in Surya Enclave on Tuesday night and has not been traced yet. Sonia and her husband Rimple said that their 16-year-old son was caught in a purse snatching incident on Monday evening. “After Surya Enclave Police chowki officials informed me that my son had been arrested in a snatching case, I was even reluctant to go to the police station as I felt ashamed and finally when I went there, I asked police officers to punish him if he was guilty,” she said. She held that when on Tuesday she went to the police station, his cheeks were blue. “I was told that he was taken to CIA Staff on Monday night where he was thrashed and given electric shocks. He was scared that this might be repeated. After 9pm on Tuesday night, I received a call that he had escaped from the police station,” she said. Police commissioner Ishwar Singh has ordered an inquiry and has placed under suspension Chowki in-charge sub Inspector Vijay Kumar and munshi Balwinder Kumar while a case under sections 222 and 223 of IPC has been registered. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

10. Cops violate rights during arrests of suspected IM members: PUCL (1)

JAIPUR: Accusing the Rajasthan ATS of violating human rights during its arrests of suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) members, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has raised doubts on the timing of the arrests in the state. They have also demanded strict action against those police officials responsible for violating human rights. “In its 44-page fact-finding report, PUCL said serious human rights violation was committed when the youths were picked up by police officers. Very strict action, including launching of criminal prosecution, needs to be taken against all police officials who have very clearly violated the law in relation to the arrest, interrogation, search, sealing, seizure and other procedures,” an activist said on Friday quoting the report. The report pointed out that the use of sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act rather than those of IPC showed deliberate attempt to politicize the entire operation. However, a senior officer of the Rajasthan ATS said he was not aware of any such report. “We are not aware of any such fact-finding report. We have followed all the legal procedures in arresting and taking the transit remands of the arrested accused,” the officer said. On the allegations about the timings of the arrest, the officer said, “The ATS sleuths were already into surveillance and had important information on some activities in the state since August 2013 when IM’s Yasin Bhatkal was arrested by NIA.” (Times of India 3/5/124)

 

11. MNS man dies in police station (1)

MUMBAI: An MNS leader died after reportedly suffering a cardiac arrest at the Dahanu police station early on Tuesday. The body has been sent to J J Hospital for an autopsy. Prakash Raut (59), MNS vice-president, Thane district, was called to the police station after his widowed sister-in-law, Manvi Raut (29), registered a complaint against him for allegedly evicting her out of their house. A non-cognizable offence was filed against Prakash, who arrived at the police station around 11.30pm and complained of uneasiness. Though he took medicines that he was carrying, he collapsed at 12.04am. “A CCTV has captured Prakash collapsing at the police station and then being taken to a hospital,” said Dahanu DySP Abhijit Shivthare. The case will be treated as a custodial death and investigated by the CID. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

12. Special CBI court refuses bail to cop in Sadiq encounter case (1)

Ahmedabad: A special CBI court refused bail to an accused cop and retired Deputy Superintendent of Police IA Syed here on Tuesday, in connection with the alleged Sadiq Jamal fake encounter case of 2003. Special CBI court Judge CR Thakkar rejected Syed’s plea seeking regular bail on medical grounds. On March 18, the CBI court had issued a notice to the CBI, seeking its response to the bail plea filed by IA Syed. During arguments of the case, Syed relied only on medical grounds, while the CBI opposed his plea referring to his role in the alleged fake encounter. “Since investigation into the encounter case is over and the charge sheet has already been filed, so the applicant, being a senior citizen, should be granted regular bail,” Syed’s counsel Amit Nair .Nair has also pressed that Syed, who has been in jail since December 2012, suffers from multiple ailments including heart and kidney diseases. “Relevent medical documents suggest that he has been suffering from old age related diseases,” Nair said, assuring the court that Syed would not thwart the investigation or tamper with evidence. Countering the arguement, the CBI had contended that the accused cop played a crucial role and being a senior police officer, he had committed serious offences. Sadiq Jamal, a resident of Bhavnagar city, was killed by a Gujarat police crime branch team in an alleged fake encounter near Galaxy Cinema on the outskirts of the city on January 13, 2003. According to the Gujarat police, Sadiq was a terrorist who had entered the city on a mission to eliminate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia. In 2011, the Gujarat High Court had handed over the probe into the case to CBI after a petition was filed by Sadiq’s brother Shabbir Jamal. On December 21, 2012, the CBI had filed its charge sheet against eight accused. (Zee News 7/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

13. 34 journalists killed in Pak. since 2008: Amnesty (1)

ISLAMABAD: A day before he was shot at in Lahore, journalist Raza Rumi had contacted Amnesty International to inform that his name was on Pakistan Taliban’s hit list. The organisation’s new report, titled “A Bullet has been chosen for you, attacks on journalists in Pakistan” was released on Wednesday. Based on interviews with 100 journalists and media workers and extensive field research on over 70 cases, it examines several recent cases where journalists were targeted for their reporting. According to the research, at least 34 journalists may have been killed as a direct consequence of their work since democratically-elected government was restored in Pakistan in March 2008. The report says journalists face a range of threats in Pakistan, including those from civil and military state organs such as the police and security forces. But no state actor is more feared by journalists than the Directorate for Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Amnesty’s investigation of cases shows journalists are particularly at risk of harassment and abuse if they expose security lapses by the military, its alleged links to armed groups, human rights violations by the security forces in Balochistan and northwest Pakistan or if they work for foreign media outlets considered by the state to be hostile to Pakistan. Amnesty investigated 74 cases for this report, and in only two of these have the perpetrators been convicted — murder of Wali Khan Babar and the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Of these 74 cases, police or other authorities carried out an initial investigation in 36 cases, and in a handful of incidents victims or their families received security protection, compensation or other assistance from the state. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

14. Media coverage on gender identity issues draws flak (1)

NEW DELHI: The media can be a positive force for improving human rights, health of homosexuals and transgender people in South Asia, says a new report developed by Centre for Advocacy & Research (CFAR) and UN Development Programme (UNDP). The report, ‘A Framework for Media Engagement on MSM and Transgender Persons in South Asia,’ provides direction for how homosexuals and transgender communities should engage with the media and how the media itself should leverage its influence to reduce stigma and discrimination, educate and raise awareness of human rights issues and support strategies, programmes that improve the political, social and legal environments for homosexuals and the transgender people. Examining media reporting in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, researchers found prejudiced, inaccurate and sensationalised news coverage that increased stigma and distorted public perception on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. It also enforced stereotypes and not reported community issues accurately. “Though media coverage of HIV has increased over the last two decades, the coverage of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identities has often been weak and objectionable,” said Edmund Settle, Policy Advisor at UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre. “By engaging with communities, raising awareness among media practitioners and wielding their powers for good, the media can influence public opinion and policies and programmes, and contribute to a more effective HIV response in the region,” said Mr. Settle. The report recommends that community organisations create partnerships with all levels of the media – local, state and national – to improve accurate reporting and representation of key issues. Taking the appeal forward, Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, CFAR, said: “Today, more than ever before, there was both an imperative and an opportunity for community-based organisations to systematically harness the media, in particular the local language and district media and engage them in impacting policies and programmes with the decisive aim to advance social inclusion of and affirmative action for homosexuals and transgender persons.” The authors and researchers of the report, CFAR, also noted reasons for hope. “Sexual and gender minority communities in the countries studied have made huge strides in recent years. On several occasions, they’ve been key ‘newsmakers’ and driven intensive periods of national discourse around key community issues.” In India, media sensitisation workshops have improved coverage, as have partnerships between community and media to raise issues on HIV, human rights and human interest stories. (The Hindu 2/5/14)

 

15. Facebook, Twitter, Google change face of Indian elections (1)

WASHINGTON: The three American social media giants, Facebook, Twitter and Google, have emerged as major players in the ongoing general elections in India, with political parties and candidates competing with each other in breaking the news, spreading their message through these outlets in addition to those via the traditional media. While the impact of these social media on the elections could be known only after May 16 when the results are declared or could be a matter of another academic research, all the three major players have seen substantial increase in their India traffic and usage. For instance, Facebook has now 100 million users in India, its largest outside the US, while that of Twitter has more than doubled since January this year. After the 7th round of polling, there were 49 million Indian elections-related conversations on Twitter, more than double the 20 million Indian elections-related conversations on Twitter for all of 2013. In 2009, Shashi Tharoor was the only Indian politician to have a Twitter account and had 6,000 followers. Five years later there is hardly any major political leader who does not have an account on Twitter. Tharoor is now the second most popular politician on Twitter with 2.16 million followers, after Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate with 3.89 million followers. Modi now also has nearly 14 million fans of Facebook. Barack Obama is the only other politician to have more Facebook fans than Modi. With political parties, leaders and candidates putting their advertisement on social media to reach out to their voters, all the three major players are reported to have made substantial addition to their revenue. Though none of the companies are willing to discuss the advertisement revenue this election cycle, all of them have put in several months of tireless efforts and diverted substantial amount of their resources in the elections, many of them working thousands of miles away from India. Facebook started working on the Indian elections towards the end of last year, says Katie Harbath, manager for policy at Facebook, adding that the company started doing a series of things beginning March this year when the elections were announced. This includes launch of election tracker so that people can see in real time. Candidates are now using Facebook and Twitter for breaking news. “We are really seeing the entire country discuss the issues (related to elections), Harbarth said in a recent interview. “Facebook is really the key place of the conversation that is happening,” she said. Adam Sharp, Head of Government and Nonprofits at Twitter, who has been involved in participating in elections in various countries of the world, said Twitter is a powerful way to return to retail politics. He conceded that elections have helped Twitter expand in India. While the majority of the users of social media are concentrated in urban areas, the elections have also helped them expand their reach to the rural areas too. Before the elections, the use of social media was generally restricted to the national political parties, but as the general elections gained momentum, even regional parties joined the social media bandwagon. In a recent interview, Raheel Khursheed, head of news, Politics and Government, Twitter India, said the electoral landscape of social media has changed forever in India… (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

16. Cong accuses Modi of violating freedom of the press (1)

NEW DELHI: Congress on Tuesday accused Narendra Modi of violating freedom of the press whenever he got a chance. The party also questioned BJP prime ministerial candidate’s promise of ridding politics of criminals when he “embraces” accused like Amit Shah. Law minister and Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal alleged that Modi’s regime in Gujarat epitomized unparalleled intolerance not witnessed in any other state in the history of India. “Given an opportunity, Modi has violated the freedom of press both in letter and spirit. He destroys freedom of the press, whenever he gets a chance,” Sibal said, alleging that there were “rampant” instances of “sedition” cases against mediapersons in Gujarat. Maintaining that hard facts tell a different story from what Modi says or tweets on various issues, Sibal said, “The art of fooling people has been perfected by him. We worry about the future of India when a man with dubious intentions seeks to occupy the office of the prime minister of India.” Sibal also slammed Modi over his claims that he would rid Parliament of criminals, saying the Gujarat CM has himself “embraced” criminals in his state. “Amit Shah is accused of triple murder in Sohrabuddin fake encounter. His minister Babubhai Bukharia, convicted for three years, continues to be in his Cabinet and another minister Purushottam Solanki continues while he is being prosecuted,” he said. The minister also targeted Modi for daring the Election Commission to file another case against him. “This amounts to threatening the Election Commission. I do not recall that anyone else in independent India has talked in such a manner. Our misfortune is that such a person is a PM candidate and such a man with a dubious distinction seeks to occupy the top post in the country,” Sibal said. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

17. 5 Children Rescued, Woman Arrested (1)

RAYAGADA: Fifteen minor children of Rayagada district were rescued from New Delhi where they were forcibly made to work in hotels. The minors were lured by one Delhi-based Sarala Sethi who ran a missionary – Ebenezer Children Nest – in 2008, on the pretext of educating them, said Inspector in-charge of Muniguda police station Diptikanta Pradhan, who along with the District Child Welfare Committee officials visited New Delhi on April 27 and brought back the children to Muniguda on Saturday. Sarala, a native of Tamil Nadu fluent in Hindi, English, Kannada and Tamil took 18 children, including five girls of the age group of 5 to 15 years from Litiguda, Tikirpada and Chandrapur villages under Muniguda area of tribal-dominated Rayagada district promising their parents that their wards will be educated properly, Pradhan said. She imparted them education for sometime in the missionary and managed to get donation from foreign countries, he added. But after sometime, she employed three of the minors in a hotel in Himachal Pradesh and rest of the children in different hotels in New Delhi. The three after being allegedly tortured by employers, escaped and reached home in Muniguda on April 24 and narrated the story to their parents, who in turn lodged a complaint with the police. On the other hand, Sarala visited Muniguda on the same day to take more children with her to New Delhi unaware of the fact that a police case was filed against her. Sarala was arrested and during interrogation, she confessed to the crime. The rescued children were handed over to their parents. A case has been registered against Sarala under various sections of the IPC and Juvenile Justice Act. She was produced before a local court which sent her to jail. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

18. Human Trafficking Case: 7 Accused Chargesheeted (1)

KOCHI: The CBI filed the chargesheet in one of the four cases registered in the Nedumbassery human trafficking case at the Ernakulam Chief  Judicial Magistrate Court. The agency has chargesheeted seven accused, including a Sub Inspector and a Civil Police Officer who worked in the immigration wing of the CIAL. The CBI filed the chargesheet in the case where a woman from Kizhakoottam was taken to UAE via Muscat using a fake passport issued in the name of another woman from Kattappana. The accused in the case are Santha, 46, Kuzhivila house, Maniyor, Punalur, Kollam, Lissy Sojan, 43, Madathivilakam house, Karunathara, Thrissur, P R Shaji, 42, Parassery house, Mukkundapuram, Thrissur, Raju Mathew, 44, Koniparambil, Lakkatoor, Kottayam who was the SI at the immigration wing of CIAL, Sethulal, 48, Andruthuyil house, Kodungaloor, Prashanth Kumar, 40, Vallethara house, Eriyadukara, Thrissur, who was a Civil Police officer working in the immigration department of CIAL and Varghese Raphel, Payyappil house, Chamabakkara, Maradu, Kochi, who is yet to be arrested. The first accused in the FIR, Mubeena, of Kizhakoottam, turned approver in the case, while chargesheet was not filed against another accused Sureesh K V, who has also not been arrested yet. The CBI registered a case under IPC 120B r/w IPC 417, IPC 419, IPC 467, IPC 468, IPC 471 and section 12(1)(b) and(d) of the Indian Passport Act. According to the CBI, Mubeena was working at a textile shop in 2012 when she became familiar with Santha. Santha, an agent for Lissy Sojan, who was running brothels in Gulf countries, promised her a job abroad. Later, Santha took Mubeena to Lissy Sojan in Thrissur and handed over passport-size photographs. She was asked to arrive at Nedumbassery airport for travelling to Muscat. As fixed, Mubeena arrived at the airport on June 11, 2012. Shaji, who also was working for Lissy Sojan, handed over the passport of Mohan Jyothy, of Kattapana, with Mubeena’s photograph. The fake passport was prepared by Varghese Raphel, who sent it to Prashant Kumar, the Civil Police officer. Prashant Kumar handed over the fake passport to Shaji before Mubeena received it at the airport. Though Mubeena hesitated to travel using fake passport, she was told to remember the address given in the passport and practice the signature of Jyothi. Raju Mathew took her inside the airport and showed the place where he would be sitting. After filling the boarding pass, Mubeena’s passport was cleared by Raju Mathew. Santha was paid `15,000 by Lissy Sojan as commission for assisting Mubeena. Prashant Kumar and Raju Mathew worked together at the airport in 2010 and both facilitated the racketeers in taking women abroad. When Mubeena reached Muscat, she was taken to a brothel in UAE. Even though she was forced to go into prostitution, she resisted. Mubeena revealed her plight to her sister Sajana on the phone. Sajana requested Lissy Sojan to release her sister. Lissy demanded `2 lakh for releasing Mubeena. Eventually, the deal was settled for a sum of `25,000. After getting the money, Lissy released Mubeena, but on her return, she was caught by the immigration wing at Mumbai airport on charges of travelling on fake passport, on July 6, 2011. The case was later handed over to the Crime Branch and then to the CBI. The case was investigated by George James, Inspector, CBI, Thiruvananthapuram. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

19. US recognition for trafficking crusader from Bengal backyard (1)

KOLKATA: A demure, unassuming woman in a printed cotton saree boarded a Mumbai-bound flight en route for Washington at the Kolkata airport last Saturday. She had never been to an airport before or travelled abroad. She hasn’t studied in a school either and narrowly escaped being sold off to a brothel soon after marriage. Yet, 31-year-old Monika Sarkar isn’t quite unknown in the USA. Her efforts to save young girls from the clutches of traffickers in the backyard of North 24-Parganas have earned her a state felicitation in the country. Monika will be a state guest there, spending three weeks across seven US states where she will be sharing her experience with social activists and change agents from around the globe. Recognition A mother of two, Monika appeared a tad nervous, but determined to make the most of the ‘unique opportunity’ that has come her way. Hours before boarding her first flight, she said she was eager to learn from the experiences of people she was going to meet in the US. “I have been working against trafficking for nearly a decade now. But there’s ought to be ways to make our efforts more effective. Challenges are going to be tougher in the years to come, so we need to upgrade ourselves and if possible, build a network with people doing similar work in other countries. I hope I am able to use this experience,” she said. At 23, she walked out on her husband refusing to cow down to his dowry demands, narrowly escaped from the clutches of traffickers and got together a dozen other women from her neighbourhood in Sayestanagar village to launch a movement against girl trading. Her gritty effort has almost wiped out trafficking from Katiahat – a remote rural backyard in North 24-Parganas, about 75 km from Kolkata – where every second woman was vulnerable to trafficking. In 2007, she came in touch with an NGO in Kolkata that helped her intensify the campaign. Whenever a girl went missing, Monika and her volunteers would inform the police and activate a rescue chain with assistance from the NGO. Counseling would be arranged for the rescued victims and efforts made to rehabilitate them. Scores of trafficked girls in the area have been sent back to their families and later married off, something that was impossible till a decade ago. Monika doesn’t stop at that. She has even started an initiative to identify traffickers across villages. It is believed that Monika has saved more than a thousand girls from being trafficked in the last nine years. “Monika has proved that she is a true leader. It is due to her single-handed effort that trafficking has stopped in the Katiahat area. Till she launched her campaign, around 15 girls would be trafficked every month from the area. So, she deserves every bit of the recognition that she has got,” said Bappaditya Mukherjee of Prantakatha, the NGO. At Washington, which is her first destination, the gutsy lady will receive a state felicitation. It could be given by the state governor. “The event details were not sent to us. But Monika will go around at least seven states and interact with state governors, other than participants and fellow activists from other countries. She will be accompanied by an interpreter and Monika will deliver a few lectures, with the help of power-point presentations,” said Mukherjee. The crusader from Bengal will be addressing conferences on anti-human trafficking activities. She has been working hard on the presentations, said Monika. “I knew nothing about them till I was asked to prepare them. My NGO colleagues have helped me a great deal. This is important for I wish to show the world how a group of women has braved all odds to get the better the traffickers, almost without any help. My experience has taught me that nothing is impossible. I am ardently looking forward to the trip and hope that it opens up new avenues for women and helps me to explore ways to make them independent,” declared Monika. She will be boarding her return flight to India from San Francisco on May 24. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

20. One more arrested for Dalit teen’s murder (2)

Ahmednagar police has has arrested another person regarding the honour killing of a Dalit teen in Kharda village in Ahmednagar, bringing the total to 11 persons including three juveniles. Republican Party of India (A) president Ramdas Athawale on Thurdsay demanded a high-level inquiry in the murder and said he would urge the CM and deputy CM to hand the prosecution to famed lawyer Ujjwal Nikam. On Monday night a teenager belonging to a backward community, who had an alleged love affair with a girl belonging to a majority community, was allegedly murdered in Kharde village. A case was registered in Jamkhed police station at around 1 am on Tuesday. Police said that the victim Nitin Raju Aage was beaten with sticks and rods and later strangled with a rope near New English School Kharda in Yeole brick kiln locality. (Asian Age 2/5/14)

 

21. Six dalit youths hurt in community clash (2)

Rohtak: Six persons of the dalit community suffered multiple injuries when a group of assailants, belonging to the upper caste, assaulted them in their colony at Sisar Khas village in Meham sub-division here on Wednesday night. The injured have been admitted to the hospital where condition of all of them is stated to be out of danger. A dispute between youths of both the communities over some personal issue is stated to be behind the assault. The Meham Police has started investigation into the matter after registering a case against 15 youths of upper caste under relevant Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on the complaints of dalits. The situation remained tensed in the village while adequate numbers of police personnel were deputed there to prevent any untoward incident. No arrest was made till the filling of news. According to the reports, Shiva, a dalit youth, allegedly engaged in a verbal duel with some youths of upper caste over the payment of his labour on Wednesday evening. After sometime, the youths armed with bamboo sticks reached the dalit area and attacked the dalit youths before smashing window panes of some vehicles and damaging motor-bikes parked there. The youths fled from the spot after committing the crime. The injured youths were then rushed to the hospital by their kin. The police on getting information reached the village and took stock of the situation. Later, statements of the dalit villagers were recorded to register case against the assailants. Meanwhile, it is learnt that a Panchayat of both the communities was held in the village wherein both the parties reached a compromise on some conditions. They had also intimated the police about the development, the sources said. Pioneer 3/5/14)

 

22. Maharashtra ministers visit Dalit victims of atrocities (2)

Mumbai, May 3 : Two senior ministers Saturday visited the Dalit victims of recent atrocities against the community in the state – the honour killing of a Dalit boy in Ahmednagar and the boycott of Dalits in Buldhana, official said here. Tribal Affairs Minister Madhukar Pichad went to Kharada village in Ahmednagar and consoled the grieving family of Nitin R. Aage, 17, who was killed and hanged from a tree last Monday following a love affair with a minor girl from an upper caste. The hue and cry started after the boy was noticed talking to the girl in a field by some locals, including the girl’s brother. Later, a group of villagers allegedly waylaid him, assaulted him with sticks and strangled him before hanging him to a tree where he was found later by his family. The state government has already announced a compensation of Rs.500,000 and a similar amount was given by the Nationalist Congress Party, Pichad said. Police investigations resulted in the arrest of 11 people, including the girl’s brother, who have been booked for murder and other charges, including Prevention of Atrocities Act and Protection of Civil Rights. Later, the minister apprised Home Minister R. R. Patil of the issue who said that the murder trial would be conducted in a fast track court. In a related development, Employment Guarantee and Water Conservation Minister Nitin Raut accompanied by SC and ST Commissioner C. L. Thul visited Belad village in Buldhana where the upper castes had imposed a boycott of the Dalits. The duo held meetings with the villagers from both sides and warned of strict action like cutting off financial grants to the village panchayat. Following the meetings, the village head announced the lifting of the boycott of Dalits. (New Kerala 3/5/14)

 

23. Rs. 10 lakh for murdered Dalit boy’s family (2)

Pune: Four days after a Dalit boy was beaten up and killed allegedly by Maratha youths in Ahmednagar’s Kharda village, Maharashtra Tribal Affairs Minister Madhukar Pichad declared a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh for the victim’s family. Mr. Pichad, who met the family of 17-year-old Nitin Aage, said: “The family will be given Rs. 5 lakh as compensation from the State government and Rs. 5 lakh from the Nationalist Congress Party as assistance.” He added that the State government would sponsor the education of Nitin’s sister. Mr. Pichad, who is also Guardian Minister of Ahmednagar district, faced criticism for not having visited the family. “I am sorry, I was late in paying a visit. Justice will be ensured. No communal issue will obstruct the trial,” he told presspersons in Kharda on Saturday. Nitin was beaten up and hanged from a tree by Maratha youths allegedly for meeting a girl from their family. Eleven people, including the girl’s brother, have been arrested.  (The Hindu 4//5/14)

 

24. Gujarat worse than neighbours in dalit justice (2)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat fares poorly when it comes to dispensation of justice to dalits in atrocity cases. Its neighbours Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh fare much better. Data released by NGO, Navsarjan Trust, on Monday showed that the conviction rate in atrocity cases in Gujarat is as low as 7.8%.According to the data received by the NGO through RTI, 8,884 cases of atrocity were registered in the state between 2006 and September 2013. The data revealed that on an average the state recorded 18 murders, 37 rapes, 52 severe injuries and 1,019 cases where families were afflicted with atrocities every year. Analysis of the data showed that 11 districts are sensitive to dalit atrocity. The NGO claimed that the state government has not followed the provisions enshrined in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 nor has it made reviews of cases registered in order to improve conviction rate. Navsarjan executive director Manjula Pradeep told the media that Gujarat government needs to review the law for faster solution to the cases. Manjula said, “Though the cases have been registered in police stations, the conviction rate is 7.8 % which is very poor when compared to Rajasthan (41%) and Madhya Pradesh (29%). The reason is that the state government has not reviewed either the atrocity law or the cases in last seven years.” Navsarjan activist Kirit Rathod told the media that there is a provision in the law to run special courts for atrocity cases but no court has been started by the state government, which has led to 42.47% of the cases pending in the court. “The chief minister has not called the meeting of the vigilance and monitoring committee to review the atrocity law. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are ruled by the same party, yet they have reviewed the law and sanctioned special courts and police stations. The Gujarat government is not sanctioning the vacant posts in police force for investigation of the atrocity cases,” said Rathod. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

25. Antibiotic resistance a worldwide threat to public health: WHO (3)

NEW DELHI: Antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to public health with cases being reported from every region of the world and having the potential to affect anyone, the World Health Organisation has said. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), as antibiotic resistance is also known as, is a technical term that means resistance to medicines used against microorganisms, thereby making the drugs ineffective. In India, the easy availability and higher consumption of antibiotics have contributed to the inappropriate use of the drugs, creating a situation where resistant microorganisms are becoming more common. The infectious-disease burden in India is among the highest in the world and the inappropriate and irrational use of antimicrobial agents against these diseases has led to an increase in development of antimicrobial resistance. In 2011, there were an estimated 6.3 lakh cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) among the world’s 12 million cases of TB. The WHO report, “Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance,” notes resistance to antibiotics used as a last resort to treat life-threatening infections caused by a common intestinal bacteria — K. pneumonia — has spread to all regions of the world. It is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia and bloodstream infections in newborns and intensive-care unit patients. In some countries, because of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics would not be effective for more than half of people treated for K. pneumonia infection. “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, would kill once again,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security, WHO. Resistance is occurring across many infectious agents but the WHO report focuses on antibiotic resistance in nine different bacteria responsible for common, serious diseases such as bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhoea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea. The results are cause for high concern, documenting resistance to antibiotics, especially “last resort” antibiotics, in all regions of the world. Resistance to one of the most widely used antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract infections caused by E. coli – fluoroquinolones – is widespread. Treatment failure to the last-resort treatment for gonorrhea — third generation cephalosporins — has been confirmed in Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. More than 1 million people are infected with gonorrhoea around the world every day. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

26. ’50 percent newborns suffer from communicable diseases’ (3)

New Delhi, May 5 : About 50 percent newborn babies suffer from communicable diseases because of lack of awareness, experts said Monday. “Due to lack of awareness among mothers and poor living conditions, at least 50 percent children in the country are born with communicable diseases,” Anuradha Gupta, additional secretary and mission director of the National Health Mission, said at a conference here. “We must strive for the survival and the overall development of the children. It is important to identify these ignorant young mothers so that surgical treatment can be provided to them when they need it,” she added. Experts on health spoke at a conference in the national capital where they deliberated over the issues of women’s healthcare and infant mortality rate in India. The event was organised by the NGO, Save the Children in collaboration with the ministry of health and family welfare (MHFW) that introduced an orientation programme for the RMNCH+A framework. The acronym RMNCH+A stands for “Reproductive Maternal New Born Child Adolescent Health”.Under this, health organisations plan to monitor child survival strategies and prevent child deaths in India. According to Rakesh Kumar, joint secretary of MHFW, the largest number of pregnant women are in the age group of 11 to 19 years. “As girls become pregnant at such a young age, we see a rise in maternal mortality rate as well as in infant deaths in the country”, Kumar said. “The programme has scope if it is implemented at the grassroots level and there will be quality improvement in the health of women and children,” he added. (New Kerala 6/5/14)

 

27. Rats! Chennai faces threat of disease outbreak (3)

CHENNAI: The city needs a Pied Piper. Data from Corporation of Chennai shows that Chennai has a serious rodent problem, with poor hygiene, improper garbage disposal and lack of a proper pest control system allowing rats to breed in large numbers. The corporation’s health department killed 1,523 rats in Anna Nagar, 1,282 in Teynampet and 1,168 in Alandur in 2013, according to statistics sourced through an RTI application from the civic body. The corporation is killing more rats each year, from 537 in 2008 to 9,116 in 2012 and 11,266 in 2013, but experts reckon that the number of rodents exterminated account for a small fraction of the city’s actual rat population. The fact that the civic body killed more rats in Anna Nagar than any other zone does not mean it is more infested with rats than other zones. What is worrying, health experts say, is that the corporation has not conducted any study that would allow it to identify localities in which there has been a serious proliferation of rodents. The vermin eat foodgrain, gnaw at electrical circuits and even damage buildings. But evidence of the biggest threat they pose is too small for the human eye to see — plague-causing bacteria Yersinia pestis, carried by rat fleas, and leptospira, which is transmitted by rat urine and causes leptospirosis. In its worst form, leptospirosis results in acute respiratory distress syndrome and death. But, as with other infectious diseases, the corporation is in denial about leptospirosis. In its RTI reply, it refused to divulge the number of cases reported in Chennai. Experts say the corporation should consider the mass extermination of rats like municipal authorities in Surat did following the 1992 plague outbreak, which left 52 people dead and resulted in close to three lakh people fleeing that city. A city’s rodent population reflects its sanitation levels. Chennai has expanded but it lacks basic infrastructure to ensure that it stays clean. There are few dustbins in public places and garbage collection is not efficient in several areas. S S Radhakrishnan, president of NGO Good Governance Guards, says the rodents are a threat to organic farming and can devour entire gardens. “Rats eat earthworms and the plants you grow,” he said. “Officials do nothing to prevent rats from multiplying.” Anna Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association secretary S Vetrivel says only comprehensive action can tackle the problem. “There has been an increase in rats in several parts of Anna Nagar,” he said. An official said the corporation places rat traps in areas like Broadway bus terminus, along Marina Beach and in government offices. “We immediately send a team to the spot when we receive a complaint,” he said. “The team identifies burrows and sprays them with raticide.” (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

28. ‘Decline in maternal mortality rate by 45%’ (3)

New Delhi: Even as the new United Nations data show a 45 per cent reduction in maternal deaths since 1990, India reported a maximum of (50,000) maternal deaths among other high-burden countries. An estimated 2,89,000 women died in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, down from 5,23,000 in 1990, reveal the WHO report further suggesting that many low and middle income countries will not be able to achieve the millennium development goal (MDG) 2015. While, the WHO said that the global reduction of MMR has accelerated, with a 3.5 per cent annual decline from 2000-2013, as compared with 1.4 per cent between 1990 and 2000. However, at current trends, most countries will not achieve the MDG target of a 75 per cent reduction in MMR from 1990 to 2015. An average decline of 5.5 per cent or more every year since 1990 is needed to meet the target on time. According to the report, 11 countries that had high levels of maternal mortality in 1990 (Bhutan, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Nepal, Romania, Rwanda, Timor-Leste) have already reached the MDG target of a 75 per cent reduction in maternal mortality from the 1990 rate by 2015. “Based on these latest trends, however, many low- and middle-income countries will not achieve this goal,” revealed the WHO. On the other hand, the report suggested that more than 15 million girls, aged 15 to 19 years, give birth every year — 1 in 5 girls before they turn 18 — “and many of these pregnancies result from non-consensual sex”, highlights deputy executive director, United Nations Population Fund Kate Gilmore. According to the report, in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 210 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births, down from 380 maternal deaths per 10,0,000 live births in 1990 (a 45% reduction. Ten countries account for about 60% of global maternal deaths including India (50000), Nigeria (40000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (21000), Ethiopia (13000), Indonesia (8800), Pakistan (7900), United Republic of Tanzania (7900), Kenya (6300), China (5900) and Uganda (5900). A WHO study of causes of more than 60 000 maternal deaths in 115 countries shows that pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by pregnancy (such as diabetes, malaria, HIV, obesity) caused 28% of the deaths. Other causes included:severe bleeding (mostly during and after childbirth) 27%, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure 14%, infections 11%, obstructed labour and other direct causes 9%, abortion complications 8%, blood clots (embolism) 3%.Experts opined that simple and well-known interventions, like midwifery services and gender-based violence prevention and response, can make a huge difference if scaled up and coupled with investments in innovations, especially in the area of contraceptives.” (Asian Age 7/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

29. Treat Early HIV Positives Without Discrimination: HC to BSF (3)

Shillong: The Meghalaya High Court has asked the Union Home Ministry and the BSF to accord same treatment to personnel afflicted with HIV P-2 (earlier stage of the disease) from service The ruling, under Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution, came in the wake of a petition by a Manipur-born man serving as constable in the BSF after he could not join the force’s higher rank after being tested HIV positive despite clearing all examinations including physical tests. “The respondent is directed to allow the petitioner to join the post of head constable for which he has been selected within a period of one month from the date of receipt of this order,” Justice Sudip Ranjan Sen said in an order recently. He said if the said person is deprived, the right of the petitioner as vested under Article, 14 & 16 of the Constitution of India is infringed and such discrimination is not encourageable at all. “Since in this instant case, the petitioner is only at the stage of HIV P-2 (patient suffering from HIV P-5 are dismissible) but otherwise fit to serve, hence, I do not see any reason that he should be deprived…Only on the ground that he is suffering from HIV P-2,” Justice Sen said. He said, a person suffering from HIV needs more care and support from the society and he be treated with compassion and understanding. The name of the petitioner was not given. Justice Sen based his ruling on the earlier directive of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 2006 stating that denial of employment to the petitioner, who had fulfilled the prescribed physical and other standards, only because he tested positive impaired his dignity and constituted unfair discrimination. (Outlook 1/5/14)

 

30. OHRC Seeks Report on Death of 2 SCB Patients (3)

CUTTACK: The Odisha Human Rights Commission has ordered a probe into alleged medical negligence at SCB Medical College and Hospital which resulted in the death of two persons suffering from HIV and Hepatitis B last month. Commission chairperson Justice B K Mishra has instructed the Secretary of Health and Family Welfare department and the Superintendent of SCBMCH to inquire into the matter and submit reports within a month. The directions came in response to a petition filed by Shankar Prasad Pani and Achyuta Kumar Sahoo drawing attention towards the serious issue where two unidentified men in critical condition were left to die in the hospital without even basic medical care. The matter also assumes significance as both the patients were destitute without anyone to take care of them. The petitioners stated that the Hepatitis B patient was admitted to the hospital on April 4 and left to his fate at the corridor of the New Medicine Ward before finally succumbing on April 15. The patient was not even administered saline let alone medical care by the doctors and staff for  10 days. Only one saline was given when he was admitted and no one attended to him thereafter. While he suffered serious bacterial infections lying on the floor, the medical authorities allegedly did not bother to provide basic care to him. Even repeated requests for making an attendant available fell on deaf ears. He died of complications and starvation, the petitioners alleged. As with the second patient, who suffered from HIV, he was kept in the Casualty department for four days from March 29 to April 3, when he died. Though rules stipulate transfer of a patient from the Casualty to department ward concerned within 24 hours, he was left on the Casualty floor till his death. In the absence of transfer to departmental ward, the patient was not provided any medical support required for the specific disease.  “The patient died because of criminal negligence of hospital authority. The Hospital administration and staff, including doctors, discriminated the patient on the ground of the nature of disease and nobody even touched the body,” the petitioners stated, while calling for a probe into the incidents.  While action should be initiated against the hospital authorities for criminal negligence, the Secretary of Health department was asked to frame guidelines on special care for destitute and unidentified patients. (New Indian Express 3/5/14)

 

31. AIDS awareness programme held for labourers (3)

Mumbai: In a bid to create health awareness and educate about the perils of AIDS among labourers employed at construction sites and other labourers, the Kolhapur zilla chief Rajaram Mane conducted a workshop for all health officers on May 2. Pointing to the fact that those who contract AIDS are susceptible to TB and other diseases, Mr Mane said that efforts needed to be made to safeguard the labourers from unsafe intercourse. He added that apart from the various organisations working on creating AIDS awareness, it was also the responsibility of the industrialists to keep their employees educated about the perils of the disease by putting up posters and information banners at the workplace. (Asian Age 4/5/14)

 

32. HIV among antenatal women dips in Krishna (3)

VIJAYAWADA: For the first time, prevalence of HIV infection among antenatal women has dropped to .3 per cent in Krishna district. “We have been maintaining low antenatal HIV infections for the last four years but this time, it has been officially established by the Hospital Sentinel Survey (HSS),” says T.V.S.N. Sastry, Krishna District AIDS Control Officer. Mr. Sastry said this was possible due to constant efforts of the AP State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) through different interventional programmes implemented effectively. Referring to the Society’s Mamta Plus programme launched in 2012 to curb mother-to-child HIV transmission, the scheme envisaged triple drug regimen and mandatory HIV screening for every pregnant woman. Earlier, it was a single drug treatment with Nevirapine. “The scheme has yielded positive result and the transmission rate has come down. The Government has also altered the drug regimen strategy in January this year to bring down the mother-to-child transmission to zero,” said Mr. Sastry. As per the new strategy put in place, the mother will be administered HIV medicine from the 14 week of gestation and it will continue lifelong. The newborn will receive Nevirapine drops from the first day of the birth up to six weeks. The baby will be tested at six weeks, six months, 12 months and 18 months. “After 18 months, if the baby is found negative, he/she remains negative for life which means that he/she has been protected,” said Mr. Sastry. To reduce stigma associated with HIV testing, every Primary Health Centre in the district has been made a testing centre. Last year, of the around 48,000 antenatal women tested, 140 tested positive. More than 82,000 people voluntarily came forward for HIV testing. Of them, 3,790 tested positive which amounts to 4.6 per cent, informed Mr. Sastry. A paradigm shift in treatment method and additional care taken at every possible level had helped the authorities bring down HIV positive instances drastically, said Mr. Sastry.  (The Hindu 5/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

33. Tension as protesters block eviction drive in Wayanad

ARAPETTA (WAYANAD DISTRICT: A group of people under the aegis of the Adivasi Kshema Samiti and the Kerala Karshaka Thozhilali Union resists an eviction drive at Arapetta, near Mepadi, in Wayanad district on Saturday.Tension prevailed here on Saturday morning after a team of revenue and police department personnel which tried to evict a group of people who had encroached upon a piece of land reportedly in possession of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd. (HML) was thwarted. The Kerala High Court had directed the district administration on January 29 to evict those who had encroached upon the HML land at five sites such as Arapetta under the Mupainad village; Anappara in Chundale; Perumkoda in Puzhuthana; Pozhuthana in Achuranom; and Thovarimala in Nenmeni within two months. It was reported that the protesters encroached upon the land and erected huts under the aegis of the Adivasi Kshema Samiti (AKS) and the Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union (KSKTU), two feeder organisations of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], in 2012 demanding that the government resume surplus land allegedly possessed by the HML, and disburse it to the landless people. Close to 400 people belonging to 150 families encroached upon nearly 200 acres here as part of the agitation. When a team of Revenue officials led by K.K. Ganeshan, Additional District Magistrate, reached the spot along with armed police personnel around 9 a.m. to implement the court directive, a group led by C.K. Saseendran, district unit secretary, CPI(M), and P. Krishnaprasad, former MLA, resisted the attempt. Suicide threatThe tension increased when four protesters, identified as Mary George, 50, of Panayamkadom; Ismail of Vadakkan; Rahim of Changassery, and M.C. Aneesh, poured kerosene on themselves and threatened to commit suicide if they were evicted. Later, Mr. Ganeshan held a discussion with the leaders of the protesters around 12 p.m. and promised that the issue would be solved after a discussion in the presence of the District Collector. The protesters led a march to the HML Arapetta office in protest against the eviction drive. Mr. Ganeshan told The Hindu that the drive could not be completed owing to massive resistance from the protesters, and future action would be decided after a discussion with senior department officials. On Tuesday, the revenue officials had evicted seven families, reportedly tenants on the land, at Nedumbala, near here. On Wednesday, the officials opened a relief camp for them at a school at Mepadi following a public protest. However, the relief camp was closed on Saturday after village officials reported that the evicted families possessed own land. Though the families protested against the stance of the officials, they were removed using force. (The Hindu 4/5/14)

 

34. Uttarakhand rehabilitation: No development in sight (4)

Dehradun: For the 60-70 odd families of Gondar village in Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary in Uttarakhand, life is virtually an everyday struggle. Bereft of basic needs like electricity, drinking water and roads, Gondar is still miles away from development. “We have promised electricity, water and well- constructed roads this year to the people and Rs 1 crore has already been sanctioned,” said Shailarani Rawat, the local ruling Congress MLA from Kedarnath. The inhabitants, refusing to be satisfied by such promises, have threatened to boycott the May 7 general elections. Like Gondar, there are scores of villages falling under wildlife sanctuaries and other protected areas that are still miles away from development. The forest dwellers here have spent lifetimes fighting for their basic rights. Also, the Tongia community, residing in the Rajaji National Park in Haridwar district, has been neglected by successive governments. Demands of Van Gujjars, a Muslim tribal community residing in the Rajaji Park and Corbett National Park, has been turned down repeatedly. “We are seeking scheduled tribe status for Van Gujjars on the lines of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Avadhash Kaushal, chairperson of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, a Dehradun-based NGO which fights for the rights of Van Gujjars in the hill state. Ironically, the state forest department claims to have chalked out plans to rehabilitate all these Van Gujjars outside the park areas. “Most of these Gujjars have already been rehabilitated,” said a top forest department official. Surprisingly, the state election commission asserts that there are no issues related to the flood-affected people in the state. “We have inquired from the District Magistrates of all the five disaster-affected districts regarding the problems being faced by the people there. There is no issue and people are ready to vote for the May 7 election,” said Radha Raturi, the state chief electoral officer. (Business Standard 5/5/14)

 

35. Eviction Drive near Rajmahal, 16 Shops Removed (4)

BHUBANESWAR: The General Administration (GA) department and Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) removed about 16 temporary shops near Rajmahal flyover in a joint eviction drive on Monday. However, the eviction of about 26 mud houses in a slum near Kasturbha Nari Mahal could not be carried out due to stiff resistance by the slum dwellers. Sources said besides 16 temporary shops, two cabins were also removed from one of the roads adjacent to SBI branch under Rajmahal flyover. About 37 street vendors were evicted from the road leading towards Adivasi ground in Unit-I. The enforcement team consisting of BDA and GA officials reached the slum near Kasturbha Nari Mahal on Monday morning, but could not carry out eviction of about 26 mud houses. Despite deployment of two platoons of police force, the eviction drive was halted due to protests by the slum dwellers and a few locals having political affiliations. Senior State Government officials present during the eviction drive said the dwellers squatted on the road to prevent the bulldozers from moving ahead. BDA Encroachment Officer Debaprasad Das said stiff resistance from slum dwellers prevented the eviction which could have cleared encroachment on a large chunk of GA land. The slum dwellers have reportedly encroached upon the conservancy line, an area near Government quarters which is usually used for drainage or sewerage channel. The increasing number of slums encroaching upon Government land in the city has become a problem for the civic authorities. Currently, there are about 120 authorised and more than 340 unauthorised slums in the city. Sources said the eviction of the slum near Kasturbha Nari Mahal will be taken up later. The BDA will also undertake eviction drives across the city after the model code of conduct is lifted from the State. BDA Encroachment Officer Das said there should be timely provisioning of police force during eviction or demolition drive. If the police personnel are provided on time, eviction could be carried out smoothly, he added. (New Indian Express 6/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

36. Give Black Money Info to Jethmalani: SC (5)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday appointed two of its former judges to head the Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe the black money stashed by Indians in foreign tax havens. The court also asked the government to hand over the names, documents and information of 26 Indians, who were investigated by the tax authorities, to senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, a petitioner in the case. “Since the investigation is complete into the aforesaid mentioned cases, now we once again direct Union of India to furnish the documents and information which is kept in the covers (sealed) to petitioners within three days from today,” a bench comprising justices H L Dattu, Ranjana Prakash Desai and M B Lokur said. The government was resisting for nearly three years the disclosure of the names and appointment of SIT, though the court had directed it to do so in its judgment dated 2012. The government argued that the disclosure of names will violate the confidentiality clauses in international protocol. The names have already been handed over to the court. Former judge M B Shah will be the chairman of SIT and Arijit Pasayat will be the vice chairman. The court asked them to “initiate and conclude” the work as expeditiously as possible. Justice Shah will replace former apex court judge B P Jeevan Reddy who recused himself due to personal reasons. The bench directed the Centre to issue notification on their appointment within three weeks. The court will monitor the progress of the SIT which will submit its first report on August 20. (Indian Express 2/5/14)

 

37. L-G clamps down on corruption, 19 surprise checks in govt depts. (5)

New Delhi: A series of surprise checks was carried out to clamp down on corruption and illegal activities in public-dealing departments of the Delhi government on Thursday. This action was initiated on the directions of Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung, officials said. Nineteen teams comprising  IAS and  IPS officers, Anti-Corruption Branch officers and SDMs conducted surprise checks in the Food and Supplies, Education, Health and Transport departments of the Delhi government. Such visits are likely to continue over the next few days, the official said. “The checks were carried out by joint teams of the departments of Food and Supplies, Consumer Affairs, Weights and  Measures, Transport and Anti-Corruption,” the official said. Five zonal offices of the Transport department, petrol pumps, fair price shops (FPS) and schools were visited. The Directorate of Education carried out surprise checks of five schools — Maxfort School, Pitampura; St Lawrence Convent, Geeta Colony; Vivekananda International School, IP Extension; Modern International School, Sector-19, Dwarka; and Moti Ram Memorial Girls Sr Sec School, Dilshad Garden. “The objective of the inspection was to check any irregularities related to nursery admission. Irregularities in the admission process were found in one-two schools which were not following the circulars issued by the Education department. Besides that, the 25 per cent EWS quota was not filled,” an official said. The reports are being examined and action will be taken after obtaining comments from schools. Some  teams also inspected 26 fair price shops, of which 13 were either found closed or diversion of foodgrains was detected. These have been sealed by the teams.   “In five cases where diversion of food grains was detected and records were not properly maintained, FIRs have been lodged,” the official said. Action will also be taken against violators for irregularities like not opening shop, non-distribution of food grains, non-display of rate list and statutory information… (Indian Express 2/5/14)

 

38. CBI can investigate corruption charges against top babus without govt nod: SC (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a single directive provision which barred CBI from investigating corruption charges against joint secretary and above rank officers without prior permission of the Centre. The court held as invalid and unconstitutional the provision in the law requiring government’s approval to probe senior bureaucrats on corruption charges. All government officials have to be treated equally and have to face the same process of inquiry in graft cases, the SC said, adding, “status of top bureaucrats is of no relevance in the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act”.The apex court said such a classification of bureaucrats for investigation purposes violated Article 14 of the Constitution which mandated that law would treat everyone equally. “Prior permission from the Centre to probe corruption charges against joint secretary level officers would fetter the CBI from collecting evidence and also alert the corrupt to destroy evidence,” the Supreme Court added. “Protection of prior approval for probing graft charges against officers at level of joint secretary and above has propensity of shielding corruption,” the Supreme Court said. This is the second time the apex court is striking down the single directive provision in Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

39. Lokayukta awaits government nod to book corrupt babus (5)

BHOPAL: Contrary to avowed zero tolerance to corruption, the state government is dragging its feet on giving its go-ahead to prosecute three officials, who were caught red-handed accepting bribe, for almost 10 months. The dithering on the issue continues despite a nod for action from state’s advocate general and law department, sources said. After waiting long to hear from the government, Lokayukta’s special police establishment (SPE) has shot off yet another missive to remind the department of its clearance for prosecution. Authorities’ apparent reluctance prompted Lokayukta police to bring the issue to notice of Lokayukta Justice P P Naolekar. Justice Naolekar will summon secretary of the department to seek explanation for the inordinate delay, sources said. SPE officials maintain that their hands are tied and they would not be in a position to act against the three before prior sanction, which is mandatory under the Section 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Three employees of corporation, vehicle department in charge Rajeev Lochan Sharma, accountant Anil Prakash Soni and clerk Ramji Choudhary were caught accepting bribe to clear pending bills worth Rs 2 lakh of a travel agency. Rs 5,000, Rs 2,000 and Rs 1,000 were recovered from the three, respectively. Travel operator Hariom Raghuvanshi had filed a complaint with SPE alleging that he had given vehicles to the corporation on contract and some employees were demanding kickbacks to release his outstanding dues, for more than three months. The accused were charged under section 7, 13 (A) (B) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The corporation hired the vehicle for vice-chairman of the corporation. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

40. Tribal girls paraded nude in Betul (6)

BHOPAL: Two tribal women were thrashed, their hairs cut off and were paraded semi-nude across the village by four women allegedly after a panchayat diktat in Betul district on Wednesday. “Both survivors are siblings. One of them married a man who belonged to another community. This irked villagers leading to the incident,” superintendent of police, Betul Sudhir Laad told TOI. The incident took place at Khapadhana village under Chunahazuri panchayat of the district. “The woman in her statement said that a panchayat was held in her village and four women of their village namely Dasto, Shanti, Ramkali and Malti cut their hair and beat them up in public after a panchayat,” Laad told TOI. Two of them, Dasto and Ramkali, held sticks in their hands and the other two, Shanti and Malti, cut their hairs of both the women, Laad said. “Both women were paraded across the village and the four women continued to beat them all through the way,” he said. “Sibling of the woman who married with a member of another community was thrashed because she didn’t inform community members even after knowing what her sister had done,” he said. Both of them have been admitted to the district hospital for treatment. A case has been registered against all four women and the role of panchayat members is also being investigated by the police. “Police team has been sent to the village for arresting the accused and recovering evidence,” Sudhir Laad told TOI. (Times of India 1/5/14)

 

41. NHRC notice to Chhattisgarh government over boycott of tribal families (6)

National Human Rights Commission on Sunday issued notices to Chhattisgarh government and state police in connection with alleged social boycott of two tribal families in Korba district after a village panchayat’s diktat. According to an NHRC statement released on Sunday, notices in this regard were issued to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Chhattisgarh to submit a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The step was taken after the Commission took suo motu cognisance of a media report that two tribal families have been facing social boycott in Dhaurabatha village for the last fourteen months following a diktat of the Ghunghutti Rampur Panchayat in Korba district. “Due to this, nobody talks to them; they are prevented from grazing their cattle; they cannot shop from the shops in the village; and their children cannot go even to Aanganwadi centre,” the statement said. According to the media report, the local police did not take any action in the matter. The Collector and Superintendent of Police of Korba were approached and a police team visited the village on April 15, only to level allegations against the affected families. “Allegedly, a youth accompanying the police team received a sum of Rs 2,000 from the affected families after threatening them,” the statement said. The first family was reportedly subjected to social boycott on February 25, 2013 when on charges of abusing the Sarpanch, it failed to pay the entire fine of Rs 10,000. The other family was made to suffer the same fate when one of its members was seen talking to a member of the socially boycotted family against the diktat of the Panchayat. The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights of the families of these tribal people. (CNN-IBN 4/5/14)

 

42. 3 get jail for raping tribal woman (6)

SURI: Three persons were sentenced to long prison terms by the Birbhum district court on Monday for raping a tribal woman in 2012. Subhradip Mitra, the first additional district and sessions judge, sentenced prime accused Seikh Rintu to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and two others, Seikh Kadam and Seikh Habal, to seven years in jail. On February 26 last year, the woman, a construction worker, was returning home with a mason. When they reached a canal bridge, the three appeared before them, beat up the mason, dragged the woman to a bush and raped her. In a separate case in the same court, 35 persons were found guilty for the murder of one Jainal Abedin who was killed on September 5, 1996, in Parui. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

43. Canacona tribals struggle for drinking water (6)

KERI: Tribals living in the hilly areas of Canacona are struggling these days to get drinking water from springs since their settlements are situated away from the main road. Getting water supply through water tankers has also become cumbersome. In Gaondongrim, Canacona, many of the tribal hamlets are situated on the hilly slopes. In some areas, there are no approachable roads and hence providing drinking water through water tankers is difficult. The tribal Velip community are forest dwellers and since the past, they have been relying mainly on traditional sources of water like springs. Janu Soyaru Velip of Bhupar, 42, who walked almost two kilometers to bring a pitcher full of water from a spring, said “Few areas get drinking water through taps and, that too, only for restricted hours. We have no other way except to bring water from this spring.” “This water source is perennial and provides good quality potable water. The water from a spring oozes out from the forest of indigenous trees and hence we, through tradition, believe that it possesses medicinal value,” he added. Manuk Velip, 80, said “As the spring of Bandhavyale Udak is situated in a remote hilly area, I fetch water for drinking by digging a pit at Gunjikond.” Deeprag Madkaikar, junior engineer at the public works department, Canacona, said “We have made provision of three tankers to provide treated drinking water to people in Gaondongrim. Taking a loaded water tanker in the hilly areas is risky. The department is in the process of providing these areas with water through pipelines.” (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

44. US: India unable to protect minorities (7)

Washington: A US Congressional panel on religious freedom, which was instrumental in the visa ban on Narendra Modi, has said that despite its status as a pluralistic and secular democracy, India has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice to them. In its latest annual report, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom has rued that the US has enforced its law on visa ban on foreign individuals involved in violation of religious freedom only once on Modi and as such it urged the State Department to expand such a visa ban for other individuals who had done the same.(Deccan  Chronicles 2/5/14)

 

45. Violence against minorities on the rise in Pakistan (7)

March was the worst month for attacks on Hindus in 20 years with five temples attacked, up from nine during the whole of 2013, said Life for All, a Pakistani rights group. But it’s not just Hindus who feel victimised. All of Pakistan’s minorities — Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and Shias — feel that the state fails to protect them, and even tolerates violence against them. Many complain the problem has become worse since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is seen as more conservative and indulgent of Islamists than his predecessor, came to power last year. This raises questions about the state’s pledge to rein in the militants who allegedly launch attacks into nuclear armed India and Afghanistan. The neighbours say the militants act with the complicity of Pakistan’s security agencies. Islamabad denies that allegation as absurd. Non-Muslims make up a small fraction of the 180 million people in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the hero of the country’s creation as a haven for the sub-continent’s Muslims, ushered in independence in 1947 with a promise to minorities that they would enjoy freedom of worship and equality without discrimination. But for many members of Pakistan’s minorities those words ring hollow. The US Commission on Religious Freedom said in a recent report that conditions in Pakistan had “hit an all-time low” and governments had failed to adequately protect minorities and arrest perpetrators of crimes against them. “Pakistan is increasingly failing to protect its minorities for two broad reasons: principally, rising religious intolerance and the space ceded to violent ideologies,” said Sherry Rehman, who was a government minister and ambassador to the United States under the previous Pakistani administration. The security establishment has used Islamists for decades, against political opponents at home and to pursue aims in Afghanistan and against old rival India. But some militants, like the Pakistani Taleban, have turned on the state since Pakistan joined the US-led war on militancy. The government launched peace talks with the Taleban in February and rights activists fear that they and other militants have been emboldened by the talks to step up attacks on their minority-group enemies. Activists also say the tolerance of militancy provides cover for opportunist attacks by those who just want to grab land, homes or businesses of minority neighbours under the guise of religion. Hindus and members of other minorities say the situation has worsened since Sharif won an election last year. Whatever the cause of the surge of violence and abuse, many Pakistani Hindus in the richest province of Punjab are feeling beleaguered and increasingly looking to get out. More than 100 families are leaving for India each month, rights groups say. Among those who have gone were Munawar Jee’s brothers and their families after his married sister was kidnapped last year. Her abductors got her certified as a Muslim convert and re-married her off the next day. Recanting Islam would mean she could legally be put to death. “Losing my sister is the biggest regret of my life,” Jee told Reuters at his shoe shop in Punjab’s Rahim Yar Khan district. He said he would soon join his family in India. Hindus say their women are easy targets for rape or forced marriage. Temples are attacked and looted. Accusations of blasphemy, punishable by death, are increasingly being used to drive Hindus from their homes, they say. Punjab, the prime minister’s heartland, had until recently been a refuge for Hindus compared with some other areas. (Khaleej Times 7/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

46. Assam govt mulls arming Muslims in Bodo areas (7)

GUWAHATI: The Assam government on Sunday was thinking of arming Bengali-speaking Muslims in Bodo areas with licensed guns and asked for applications from villagers even as the situation in Kokrajhar and Baksa returned to normal with no reports of fresh violence. However, security forces intensified their operations against National Democratic Front of Boroland militants with three guerrillas killed in two encounters in northern Assam’s Sonitpur and Udalguri districts on Sunday. Police recovered three pistols, two grenades and some incriminating documents from the slain militants. DIG (NR) Subhrajyoti Hazarika confirmed this, saying, “The Sonitpur encounter took place in the morning while the Udalguri incident occurred around 1.15pm on Sunday.” The death toll in the current killings by NDFB(Songbijit) group rose to 34 after two more bodies of Bengali-speaking Muslims were recovered from Beki river in Baksa district. Cops also fired in the air to disperse crowds in Narayanguri in Baksa district as they gathered in protest and refused to bury 18 of those killed on Friday, demanding a visit by chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Hours later, the last rites were performed after the border development minister assured them Gogoi would visit the village once the code of conduct was lifted on May 16. Bengali-speaking Muslims have clashed with Bodos four times in the past, the earliest being in 1952 and the most recent being in 2012 when 105 people from both communities were killed in five days. Assam Police additional director general A P Raut said, “The situation is fast improving. We’ve relaxed curfew in some places today. Tomorrow, we will relax it in Baksa. We have handed over the investigation into the killings to the special task force till NIA probe is cleared by the Centre.” State forest minister Rockybul Hussain said Bengali-speaking Muslim villagers should be given licensed arms by the state government for self defence. “Since the home department in Bodoland Territorial Council area is under the state government, the government can provide licensed arms if anyone applies for it.” National Highway 37, which wore a deserted look over the last four days, saw traffic once again. But Jamiat-e-Ulema (Hind) leader Mahmood Madani, in Guwahati, demanded the Congress government break its links to the Bodoland People’s Front. “People suspect BPF’s hand in these killings and in that case, the Congress should not run the government with them,” Madani said. The police have arrested 26 people so far and five cases have been registered in connection with the violent incidents in BTAD. A relief camp has been established by the Baksa district administration where 498 people from the violence-affected areas under Gobardhana have taken shelter. Protests continued in Barak Valley of Assam. A dawn-to-dusk bandh in Hailakandi district on Sunday disrupted life. Meanwhile, NIA sources said they will discuss the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) violence with the Assam government on Monday. NIA is likely to sit for a detailed discussion with the state home department in Dispur and draw up a strategy to probe the recent violence in BTAD. On Saturday, Gogoi had said the state government was going to hand over the probe into the killing of 32 civilians to the NIA. “We are sending the official letter to the Union home ministry this evening. An NIA team will be discussing the matter with the state government on Monday. The NIA is going to look into the various FIRs registered in the BTAD areas regarding the violence,” said state home commissioner and secretary G D Tripathi. Amnesty International, India, strongly condemned the killing of 32 people in Assam’s Kokrajhar and Baksa districts and termed the act as shameful and displaying contempt for human lives. “Authorities in Assam must take action to protect the rights of all communities and bring those responsible for the attacks to justice,” it demanded. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

47. Vote for ‘secular leaders’ to defeat communal forces: Andhra church body to Christians (7)

While the letter makes it clear that the federation, including its member-churches, is not inclined towards any political party, the message is being seen as a tacit declaration of support for the YSR Congress Party of Jagan Mohan Reddy. A state-level body of bishops and church heads in Andhra Pradesh has asked all Christians to vote for secular leaders in the May 7 polls in Seemandhra, to defeat communal forces. For the first time, the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches has issued such a ‘Pastoral Letter’ urging all its members “to elect leaders who uphold secular and pluralistic character of our nation and promote communal harmony”. While the letter makes it clear that the federation, including its member-churches, is not inclined towards any political party, the message is being seen as a tacit declaration of support for the YSR Congress Party of Jagan Mohan Reddy. Minorities, including a large number of Christians in Andhra, are wary of the TDP-BJP tie-up in the state.The letter would be read on May 4, Sunday, in all the churches in Seemandhra. While the federation had also issued a letter before voting in Telangana on April 30, it only talked about making the “right choice”. “We need to elect leaders who are close to people and respond to their needs; who strive for social justice and equality of the marginalised groups like the tribals and Dalits especially Dalit Christians and protect the rights of the minorities; who are determined to advance an inclusive economy that supports the poor especially to (sic) the unorganized labourers and marginal farmers by ensuring their basic human rights to food, water, shelter, health, education and employment; who strive to ensure the safety and security of women and children and their essential rights to life and livelihood; who lay focus on youth for ensuring their holistic development with character building, critical education and life skills; who make every effort to curb corruption and bring about good governance with peoples’ plans and decentralized, transparent, accountable and responsible administration; and who endeavour to protect the environment with sustainable development and (to) safeguard the rights of Tribal and Local communities over land, water and forests,” the letter says. It adds that the federation considers it its duty to work with people to “effectively contribute to shaping the future of our State and Nation”, and urges voters not to be swayed by money and liquor or considerations of caste, creed and clan. “We are deeply concerned about the pressing needs of our Christian Community in State,” the letter goes on. “Our State records one of the highest numbers of atrocities committed on Christians and pastors. During the recent months these attacks have increased in some districts. Organized mob attacks are taking place on Christians during their worship.” (Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

48. 32 killed in 36 hours by Bodo militants in Assam, curfew imposed (7)

Guwahati: There seems to be no end to the bloodbath in Assam as seven more bodies have been found in Baksa district, taking the total death toll to 32 in the last 36 hours. This comes after suspected Bodoland militants killed at least 23 people in a span of 24 hours in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of lower Assam. Curfew has been clamped in all of Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang, three of the four districts of the Bodoland area, and on contiguous areas in neighbouring districts. The Army has carried out flag marches, and shoot-on-sight orders have been issued in Kokrajhar and Baksa. The state government has accused the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) of carrying out the killings. All the victims are migrant Muslims. The government has denied any connection between the attacks and the Lok Sabha elections. However, one of the three massacres has taken  place in a village that saw violence and the killing of a police constable as Kokrajhar went to polls on April 24. Around 7.30 pm on Thursday, militants shot dead two women and a man of a family in Narsingpara village in the Anandabazar police station area of Baksa district. The victims were identified as Shampa Bewa (55), Sona Miya (35) and Ramisa Khatun (32). Some five hours later, between 12.30 am and 1 am on Friday, four militants armed with at least two AK series rifles opened indiscriminate fire in Balapara village in the Tulsibeel outpost area of Gossaigaon police station in Kokrajhar district. Four women, a man and three children belonging to two Muslim families were killed. Late on Friday evening, 12 bodies were recovered in the villages of Narayanguri and Khagrabari adjoining each other on the fringes of Manas National Park in Baksa district, Assam home secretary G D Tripathi said. At least 10 people were injured, and several homes were reported to be on fire, he said. Tripathi said curfew had been clamped on those police station areas of Dhubri, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Darrang and Sonitpur districts that lay adjacent to the Bodoland districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri. In Baksa district, groups of non-tribals were fleeing on Friday evening for fear of more attacks. “There have been reports of villagers belonging to a particular community leaving their villages seeking safety in adjoining villages in Baksa after the third incident that occurred at Narayanguri and another village,” ADG (Special Branch) Pallab Bhattacharyya said. The attack in Balapara came at a time when most adult males have been staying away from their homes for fear of police, who have been looking for the killers of the constable at the polling booth on April 24. An angry mob set upon the policeman  (Indian Express 3/5/14)

 

49. Assam violence aimed at starting full-fledged communal conflagration: Shinde (7)

New Delhi: With 32 people killed in Assam, the Centre said it is determined to curb attacks on minorities as the violence there was aimed at starting a “full-fledged communal conflagration”. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that in the last few days, there have been wanton acts of depredation leading to death of 32 people, mostly women and children, and of them, 31 belonged to the minority community. “These innocent lives were lost at the hands of cadres of certain group. The objective of this group seems to be aimed at starting a full-fledged communal conflagration,” he said in a statement. Without naming NDFB(S), the Bodo militant group believed to be responsible for the violence, the Home Minister said these acts of violence have started only after the group started steadily losing its cadres either through surrender or elimination during operations when they opened fire on the forces. “The central government cannot remain unaffected by these killings and is determined to ensure the safety and security of innocent human lives. “This determination is all the more important since these incidents are targeted at the minorities,” he said. Strongly condemning the acts of the militant group, Shinde said the Home Ministry has already deployed 43 companies (4300 personnel) of central armed police forces and 10 more companies (1000 personnel) are being sent. He said Ministry of Defence also has deployed 15 columns of the army comprising of approximately 1500 soldiers. These numbers are not fixed and can be increased as per further requirement, he said. “My appeal to all is to maintain calm and quiet as the forces on the ground will definitely control the situation and bring the guilty to justice,” Shinde said. He said the public leaders of both Bodo and minority community must see to it that the situation does not deteriorate. (Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

50. Home Ministry Delayed Communal Violence Bill: Rahman Khan (7)

NEW DELHI: Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan today said the Home Ministry had delayed the controversial Communal Violence Bill which ultimately could not become a law. “From the time I became the Minister I started pursuing that. I met the Home Minister, I met the Home Secretary …. Absolutely they were not keen,” Khan said while interacting with members of Indian Women’s Press Corps here. Asked whether he was holding the Home Ministry responsible for killing the bill, he said, “it was the bureaucratic delay, where if bureaucrats want to delay, they can do it.” He went on to add, “Sometimes, either you call it our weakness or political weakness or minister weakness, we were not able to pursue.” Khan, who became Minority Affairs Minister in 2012 when Sushilkumar Shinde was the Home Minister, was talking about the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill. He said the bill, which was finally approved by the cabinet, could not be passed since the “secular parties” also joined the opposition bandwagon in stalling the bill. “Ultimately we brought a bill, Cabinet approved it and we wanted to introduce. We knew we could not get it passed but still we introduced. But at the last moment the opposition raised that you have no right to introduce the bill because it is interference of the state. Even the secular parties opposed it,” he added. .(Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

51. Sexual harassment at workplace law gets tepid response (8)

BANGALORE: It’s been a year since the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was passed; one of Parliament’s several responses to increasing attacks on women. The act has been described by some as one of the most exacting in the world, especially with regard to the responsibilities it places on employers. To understand what has changed since the act came into being, TOI spoke to a number of people — HR heads, employees, and legal and workplace harassment experts. The findings are mixed. Many of the larger and more progressive companies have taken important steps, but even among them, most are yet to implement measures in the full spirit of the act. The vast majority of business establishments, however, are still trying to figure out what to do. Gaurang Kanth, a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in workplace harassment cases, provides a particularly harsh assessment. He says organizations have “completely failed” in their obligations. “I find more and more sexual harassment cases coming from workplaces.” He points to a teacher’s case against the principal and two other management committee members of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Delhi, and one from a major technology company that he does not wish TOI to name because the case is not yet public. On the contrary, Nirmala Menon, founder of Interweave Consulting, an organization focusing on diversity management and inclusion at the workplace, says there is some visible change. “Companies are far more proactive in addressing issues around workplace harassment. It’s more than putting a check in the box. It’s like fire insurance, and firms realize that there is too much to lose, including the company’s brand equity, besides stringent penalties imposed by law. Companies have put in place stringent polices and set up committees to look at issues,” she says. Some have even asked Interweave to create policy documents and literature in regional languages for the benefit of their housekeeping and administrative staff who may not understand English. Experts agree that most companies have, at best, taken only partial steps in all of these areas. Many rushed to establish internal complaints committees soon after the act was passed. But not many of these committees have, as required by the law, a person from an NGO or association committed to the cause of women. “Companies are mechanically putting together three people from the legal team and one woman employee. They are treating it in a legal mode, rather than in a resolution mode,” says Pankaj Sharma, chief trustee of the non-profit Centre for Transforming India and an expert on workplace sexual harassment issues. He notes that the committee has been bestowed partial powers of a civil court — to take penal action, impose fines. “It’s the first time private entities have been offered such powers. But most companies are yet to define their sexual harassment policies and service rules, what would constitute, for instance, a sexually coloured remark. They have not defined their investigation process. So on what basis will these committees act?” Sharma asks. (Times of India 1/5/14)

 

52. Betul rape accused marries survivor at police station (8)

BHOPAL: This was a marriage where the venue was not a temple, a wedding hall or a village ground, but a police station. The rituals were solemnised under the glare of men in khaki and villagers at Athner police station of Betul district. And the 25-year-old groom, Vinod, a resident of Hidli village, was a rape accused. The bride, a 20-year-old resident of Meda village, had accused him of sexual assault after she became pregnant. Both are distant relatives and were into a relationship for over a year. When Vinod refused to marry her, she rushed to the police. SP Sudhir V Laad said, “The girl came to lodge a complaint of rape against Vinod. It was a case of misunderstanding, which could have ugly ramifications. Soon, residents of two villages reached the police station and both sides agreed to get them married,” Laad said. The wedding was held on April 29. “It was good for the two families and young couple. The issue was sorted out without rancour and ill feeling or the boy would have been booked for rape and sent to jail. The girl, who came to file the complaint was in love with the youth and would have also suffered,” said a police official at Athner police station. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

53. Village eves built paid toilet to end sexual harassment (8)

LUCKNOW: For women in most villages of UP, nature’s call comes with the risk of sexual harassment. This is true especially if the female ventures out unaccompanied. Voice of dissent against the harassment is silenced as dignity of the family is more important than that of the faceless survivor. In Ahmedpur village near Lucknow, women have acknowledged the problem and come up with a solution, a paid toilet complex. It began about a year ago with random discussions on ‘everyday challenges’ of the people. Besides other issues, heads of three self help groups (SHGs) voiced the problem of sanitation emphatically. “Rural women never narrate their predicament, but are ready to share the agony of an anonymous neighbour. Dialogues often ended with the observation that a toilet would ensure their safety,” recalled Charu Shukla of the NGO. In the subsequent meeting, possibility of getting toilets built under the Total Sanitation Campaign was explored. “But the idea was dropped as Ahmedpur is a compact village and houses are small,” recalled Nirmal, the NGO’s community worker. Thereafter, the idea of city-like ‘paid public toilet complex’ came up. While the men didn’t find the idea feasible stating that ‘who spends money for attending nature’s call’, women agreed to take the idea further. “These men don’t face the kind of problems we do. It’s the women who suffer. Men can never understand fully the urgency of the matter,” said Nanhi Devi, leader of an SHG adding that finding open fields was also an issue. “Since the village is located in the Malihabad mango belt, entering an orchard or nearby field during the fruit season invited humiliation and bashing. During monsoons, water-logged fields and snakes posed a challenge,” added Pooja Devi of another self help group. The next step was to find a land to build the toilet complex. After much effort and persuasion, women convinced villager Ram Din to donate some land. Construction began about three months after funds were sanctioned and layout prepared. In January, the complex was ready for use. Anjani Singh, of the funding organisation Plan, informed that the complex had four toilets and two bathrooms each in male and female sections with separate entry. Incinerators have also been installed in the women’s section to facilitate healthy disposal of menstrual waste material. The toilet seats used for the purpose are eco-friendly biodigester toilets which have been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. This means there won’t be hassles of getting septic tanks cleaned periodically. Each family will have to pay Rs 15 per month to be able to use the toilet complex. The villagers have formed a public toilet committee to maintain it and pay for electricity bills. On his part, the village pradhan has deputed a safai worker who would clean the premises of the toilet on a weekly basis. The development is noteworthy as open defecation is rampant in UP. As per a Ministry of Water and Sanitation report, 89% homes had no toilets. Also, toilets in 40% school and 20% anganwadi centers were either defunct, out of use or locked. Community awareness about sanitation is also poor in 40.32% districts in the state. But women in Ahmedpur have proved times are changing. “Building toilets is not only about dignity, it’s also about ensuring safety,” said Amit Mehrotra, head of programmes, Unicef, UP. The extraordinary effort has created a ripple. “Women in the neighboring villages have begun a discussion too and some of them even came to take a look at the toilet. I’m sure, if they get a chance, they would embrace the change,” believes Nirmal. (Times of India 4/5/14)

 

54. Nepalese man ‘sets pregnant wife on fire in dowry demand’ (8)

Kathmandu: Nepalese police were searching for a husband and his parents after they allegedly set his pregnant wife on fire in a demand for dowry, an officer said Tuesday. Police accuse Farid Sheikh and his parents of pouring kerosene over the 25-year-old woman, who was seven months pregnant, in an attempt to extort a motorbike and water buffalo from her family. “When the incident happened about a month ago, they took her to India for treatment, saying it was an accident,” police official Prem Basnyat told AFP. After her health worsened and she suffered a miscarriage, her father found out and urged police to file a criminal case against the husband’s family in Banke district, western Nepal. “We recorded her statement yesterday, but her husband and in-laws have vanished. We are searching for them,” Basnyat told AFP. A local human rights group said it brought the woman to a Kathmandu hospital on Monday where she remains in a critical condition, with her entire lower body wrapped in bandages. The woman has recounted how her husband “assaulted her regularly, saying that she did not bring… dowry. She added that he burnt her private parts with cigarettes,” the Informal Sector Service Centre rights group said in a statement. Nepalese activists have long called for tougher punishments against perpetrators of dowry-related violence. They say the tradition in Nepal, India and other countries — where gifts and payments are given to a husband and his family so that a marriage can take place — is still widely practised, despite an official ban. (Zee News 6/5/14)

 

55. India has highest number of maternal deaths (8)

India accounts for the maximum number of maternal deaths in the world — 17 per cent or nearly 50,000 of the 2.89 lakh women who died as a result of complications due to pregnancy or childbearing in 2013. Nigeria is second with nearly 40,000, stated the UN report on maternal deaths released on Tuesday. In contrast, China — with the largest population in the world — reported 5,900 maternal deaths in 2013 mainly due to its “one-child policy”, the report added. According to the UN report, maternal deaths have witnessed 45 per cent drop globally since 1990 — from 5.2 lakh in 1990 to 2.89 lakh in 2013. Only Sub-Saharan Africa region poses a high risk with 1.79 lakh maternal deaths in 2013, followed by Chad and Somalia. Despite India progressing noticeably in curbing the maternal mortality rate (MMR) — 65 per cent drop reported since 1990 — the country is lagging behind the UN-mandated Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of bringing a 75 per cent decline in the MMR till 2015. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that India’s MMR, which was 560 in 1990, reduced to 178 in 2010-2012. However, as per the MDG mandate, India needs to reduce its MMR further down to 103. Though India’s MMR is reducing at an average of 4.5 per cent annually, it has to bring down the MMR at the annual rate of 5.5% to meet the Millennium Development Goal. “Literacy and social issues are major factors that have led to high maternal deaths. Girls are married at a young age and they have little knowledge about early pregnancy,” said eminent gynaecologist Dr Nandita Palshetkar. As per the report, there were 320 AIDS-related indirect maternal deaths in India in 2013. “I believe postpartum hemorrhage (loss of blood after delivery), malaria and dengue can lead to severe conditions. If diabetes is controlled, it cannot lead to maternal deaths. We have approached the government to fund us so that we can train para-medics about timely treatment,” said Dr Suchitra Pandit, president of Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India. According to Pandit, the situation is worse in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and certain belts of Rajasthan. “The overall MMR has declined, but due to few states, we are not able to achieve the two-digit figure in MMR,” she said. “With National Urban Health Mission, we are hoping that women in slums will receive better healthcare. Also there is Janani Suraksha Yojana under which women are encouraged to visit hospitals to get monetary benefit,” Pandit said. According to Dr Lale Say of WHO, the major challenge faced by India is lack of accurate information about births and deaths, particularly when women give birth at home. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

56. Vizhinjam: NGT to Consider Petitions (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) will on Friday take up the petitions filed before it seeking the withdrawal of environmental clearance given to the Vizhinjam seaport project. Initially, three persons belonging to Thiruvananthapuram had filed a petition alleging that the project would destroy the biodiversity of the coast. According to the petitioners – A Joseph Vijayan, Christopher and Michael – adequate studies were not conducted on the multi-crore port project’s impact on the coast. It is understood that a few other petitions too have been filed subsequently before the Tribunal in Chennai. The Tribunal had also served notices on the State Govt, the Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd and the State Pollution Control Board on said petitions. While giving environment clearance to the project in Dec last year, the MoEF had said that objections could be filed before the Green Tribunal. The Bench in Chennai had originally posted the case for April 25 but postponed it to May 2. Five entities have been shortlisted by Govt for construction and operation of the proposed port- Adani Group, Gammon Infrastructure Projects Ltd, a consortium of Hyundai and Concast Infratech Ltd, ESSAR Ports and a consortium of Srei Infrastructure and OHL.  ENS (New Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

57. Govt commissions studies on greenhouse gas emissions (9)

New Delhi: In the run-up to the global climate agreement, the government has commissioned studies to project the future greenhouse gas emissions of the country and the legal architecture of the global agreement that India should advocate at the UN climate negotiations. These two are to be followed up with a third, which would look at the manner in which the principle of equity can be operationalised in the new global agreement. A new global pact for reducing emissions is to be signed between more than 190 countries under the existing UN climate change convention by 2015. Negotiations on a draft text for it are to begin at the end of this year though hectic initial parleys under the UN and other forums have been taking place through the year. The three studies are meant to help India decide its negotiating stance for these negotiations. India is required to also commit to an emission reduction target. It so far has committed to deliver a 20-25 per cent reduction in the emission intensity of the economy by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. The study on greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, which is closely linked to the state of economy and energy matrix, has been commissioned to a group of three institutes – The Energy Research Institute, Integrated Research and Action for Development and Institute of Economic Growth. This is supposed to yield three packets of results for the government from each of the think tanks based on their different projection models. The study on the legal form of the 2015 agreement has been commissioned to the National Law School, Bangalore. “Results of both these studies are expected by the end of the year,” a senior official in the government told Business Standard. “We shall use these as a base for our decisions and submission of our nationally determined target in March 2015,” he added. Besides these, the long-pending Low Carbon Growth study headed by Kirit Parikh and commissioned by the Planning Commission has submitted the final to the Planning Commission and is expected to be put in public domain after the last day of voting for Parliament. The report was expected to provide detailed costing for any emission reduction actions. The environment minister in the new government is likely to see heavy workload on the climate front with formal UN negotiations for the new agreement slated in June and a series of bilateral and plurilateral meetings also on the slate. A meeting hosted by the US, called the Major Economies Forum, is to be held in May. The US has been pushing for its initiative for all the big economies to take a 30 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 from the building sector, which India and other large developing economies have so far opposed, concerned that it breaches the firewall between developing and developed countries and takes the onus away from the rule-based formal UN negotiations. The United Nations secretary general has also called for a meeting of the heads of states in September in the hope of securing pledges for emission reduction and finance at the summit rather than awaiting the process at the formal UN talks. This has not gone down well with countries such as Brazil, China and India and other large developing economies, again for delinking the relation between support and finance from developed countries for the climate controlling actions that developing countries take. A third round of formal UN talks before the first draft text of the new agreement is put together is also expected in September. Besides this, the environment minister would be expected to participate in quarterly meetings of the two key blocs of countries India is a member of, the BASIC which also includes China, Brazil and South Africa and the like-minded developing countries, that includes China, Indonesia, Malaysia and other large economies coupled with countries such as Philippines, Sudan and others… (Business Standard 3/5/14)

 

58. Almost half of Delhi lacks proper drainage system (9)

New Delhi: About 46% of Delhi, where nearly 4.5 million people live, has no sewerage system. In these areas, filth flows freely through stormwater drains, an expert committee formed by the National Green Tribunal has said in its report. Since these drains are outside Delhi’s sewerage network, the untreated waste enters the Yamuna. And because of the sewage, these drains are lined and covered, which is a violation of laws and can cause flooding. This also hampers recycling of millions of litres of stormwater and destroys peripheral greenery and biodiversity. The panel says a round 9,500km of sewer line is to be laid in these parts at a massive cost of Rs. 19,500 crore. “Even if the government allocates Rs. 1,000 crore every year, the problem will end only in 20 years,” the report says. However, by that time there would be cost escalation and greater sewage pressure owing to population growth. Prof AK Gosain of IIT-Delhi, one of the panel members, has also questioned the Delhi government’s ambitious Rs. 2,454crore project to intercept sewage before it flows into the Yamuna from three major drains. “A majority of natural drains which are supposed to carry storm water will remain polluted even then. First, we must make sure that storm water drains and those carrying sewage are independent of each other,” he said in the report. Gosain is also leading a team which is currently preparing a drainage master plan for Delhi. “Why can’t the city managers try to solve the problem on a war footing? If this city could find Rs. 80,000 crore in the name of national prestige to host a 10-day sporting event (read Commonwealth Games), then MANOJ MISRA, petitioner what prevents it from finding around Rs. 20,000 crore for a total and efficient sewerage network in the nation’s capital city?” said Manoj Misra, petitioner in the current NGT case. Misra said, “Let the city managers set a five-year target of total sewerage coverage in the city. Because any longer period target is not only going to escalate cost but also the enormity of the problem.” The committee, which, apart from Gosain, only has government officials, has failed to fix a fine for those polluting these drains. The NGT had asked it to quantify what should be levied on polluters. “The authorities had found the existing fines inadequate to prevent abuse of storm water drains. Why the report did not quantify the fine is beyond our comprehension,” said Misra. (Hindustan Times 4/5/14)

 

59. Take the Best From Reports to Save Ghats’(9)

BANGALORE: After the Gadgil Report was rejected by the Centre as well as states concerned, now the Kasturirangan report too has been laid to rest. But both the reports can be reconciled and some kind of consensus arrived at in the interest of the ecology and biodiversity of the Ghats, says ecology expert and one of the authors of the Gadgil report, Raman Sukumar.  Speaking on ‘Confusion over Conservation in the Western Ghats’ on Saturday, Raman Sukumar from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, said, “A lot of deliberate scare-mongering about the Gadgil report took place and it was believed that no development or construction could take place in the Ghats if the report was implemented.” He said the main differences in both the reports were about the area that comprised the Ecologically Sensitive Zones in the Ghats. The Kasturirangan report says it’s 37 per cent and clearly demarcates it through villages according to space imagery whereas the Gadgil report had divided the areas according to ground experiences. The former also divided the areas into Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1, 2 and 3, depending on the attention they would need. Sukumar said states like Goa and Karnataka have decided to allow mining. “If Kudremukh mining was continued, it would have sliced the mountains,” he said. He said, essentially the Gadgil report was about banning genetically modified crops, phasing out plastics, treatment of waste and introducing incentive payments as conservation service charges for forestry on private lands. Sukumar also said that human settlements have been in the Ghats for 12,000 years. So, ecology and biodiversity can still be preserved as a participatory exercise. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

60. Education Department Blamed for Low Intake (11)

CHENNAI: Activists on Wednesday blamed the Education Department for a large number of seats in entry-level classes of private schools going vacant under quota for the disadvantaged groups. In a circular sent by the Department of Matriculation to all schools under it in April, it was pointed out that about 60 per cent of the seats under the quota remained vacant last year. The circular said that out of the 58,619 seats in 3,550 schools in the State, only 23,248 seats were filled last year. The number of schools who participated in the process was as low as 2,600. “If the seats are to be filled then the department must undertake regular monitoring of schools and spread awareness. Parents from the students of deserving communities do not get any information about the process. The department has also been denying any information on these 25 per cent seats even in RTIs,” said P Joseph Victor Raj of The Campaign Against Child Labour – Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. With over a month since the deadline to submit details on the seats lapsed, the Education Department is yet to follow-up. CBSE schools, however, claim to have submitted details on the intake capacity. “The submission process was started in March itself. Hence there is no delay in CBSE schools,” said Ajeeth Prasad Jain, secretary of Chennai Sahodaya School Complex for CBSE schools. (New Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

61. ’40 Percent of Govt Schools Shun RTE Norms’ (11)

CHENNAI: A study has revealed that 40 per cent of government elementary and middle schools do not adhere to the RTE Act norms. The survey conducted by Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory to check for discrepancies between the norms in the RTE Act and its actual situation in the government schools studied about 635 government elementary and middle schools in 15 districts in the State. “In our study, we found that only 60 per cent of these schools adhere to norms. There are schools which do not have adequate number of teachers,” said K Shanmugavelayutham, convener, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory. “In Krishnagiri district alone, 40 per cent of schools do not follow the RTE norm of 1:35 student teacher ratio,” he added. The study, which involved other parameters, revealed that close to 30 per cent of schools did not have separate toilets for boys and girls. The study, in one of its indicators on the availability of classrooms and teachers in proportion to number of students, found that though over 83 per cent of schools adhered to 1:35 students-teacher ratio as stipulated in the Act and about 74 per cent of schools had only 1 to 4 classrooms. Over 18 per cent of schools had about 5 to 8 classrooms. The study findings revealed that about 42 per cent of the school buildings visited during the survey during August to October, 2013 were not in a good condition. Over 36 per cent schools do not have a playground. The study conducted in 15 districts including Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Dharmapuri, Nilgiris and Kanyakumari aimed at making recommendations to the State to adhere to the norms of the RTE Act found that 37.2 per cent of these schools did not have library facility. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

62. Maharashtra education department ropes in British Council, IIT (11)

PUNE: The state education department has launched four skill enhancement courses for school teachers in English language, maths, science and learning outcomes. The first batch of English language teachers was trained last year while training of other teachers would be undertaken soon. State education secretary, Ashwini Bhide met education officials including S Chockalingam, education commissioner as well as Mahavir Mane, state director of education and other heads to review the training. Chockalingam said various schemes that the education department has in collaboration with external agencies were being reviewed and the implementation was decided. “We have four courses with external agencies which include two with British Council, one with Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and one with Accenture Private Limited.” British Council will deal with improving the teaching of English language in the state. In both cases, master trainers have been trained by the council and they teach the other teachers in their cluster. “The feedback was good. We are looking at assessment now,” said Chockalingam. The tie-up with the IIT is to increase the level of understanding of mathematics in students. “Instead of teaching master trainers, we may ask experts to teach directly through video conferencing,” said Chockalingam. The third programme is for leadership development of officers and headmasters in the districts that have high dropout rates. “We have identified about 10 districts with a high dropout rate and we want to train the officials in leadership skills to reduce it. We have tied up with Accenture for learning outcomes to understand where we are lagging in terms of quality.” (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

63. SC: Govt can’t impose mother tongue as instruction medium in primary classes (11)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a government cannot impose a language, including the mother tongue, as the only medium of instruction for primary education. A five-judge constitution bench held that imposition of a language by the state government affects the fundamental rights of the parents and the children, who are authorised to decide on their mother tongue. “The right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution includes the freedom of a child to be educated at the primary stage of school in a language of the choice of the child and the state cannot impose controls on such choice just because it thinks that it will be more beneficial for the child if he is taught in the primary stage of school in his mother tongue,” held Justice A K Patnaik, author of the judgment. “We, therefore, hold that a child. or on his behalf his parent or guardian, has a right to freedom of choice with regard to the medium of instruction in which he would like to be educated at the primary stage in school. Imposing other restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression will be harmful to the development of the personality of the individual citizen and will not be in the larger interest of the nation,” said the court. The court said though experts may opine that children studying in primary classes could learn better if they were taught in their mother tongue, the state cannot stipulate it as a pre-condition for granting recognition to aided schools as well as private unaided schools. Such a compulsion, the bench said, also violates the fundamental right of the minority and private unaided schools to carry on any occupation under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. “The right to establish and administer an educational institution will include the right of a citizen to establish a school for imparting education in a medium of instruction of his choice,” it added. The court further held that even a linguistic minority institution cannot be compelled to adopt a particular language as the sole medium of instruction since their right to choice would empower them to take steps in the interests of such minority groups. “We accordingly hold that the state has no power under Article 350A of the Constitution to compel the linguistic minorities to choose their mother tongue only as a medium of instruction in primary schools,” it said. The court was deciding a bunch of petitions, arising out of a notification by the Karnataka government which sought to make Kannada the sole medium of instruction in primary schools across the state. The SC upheld the state high court order which had held the exercise to be untenable in law, but laid (Indian Express 6/5/14)

 

64. 25 pc reservation for minority institutions invalid under RTE act: SC (11)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that minority institutions were outside the ambit of the Right To Education (RTE) Act and they cannot be hence obligated to reserve 25 per cent seats for students from socially and economically weaker sections of the society. The court, however, upheld the constitutional validity of the social welfare legislation enacted with Constitutional amendments which places an obligation on unaided private schools to reserve 25 per cent seats for such wards. A constitution bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha upheld the validity of Articles 15(5) and 21A, by virtue of which unaided private schools are also obligated to reserve 25 per cent seats for students from weaker sections. It, however, clarified that minority institutions could not be asked to do so since the Act did not operate on them in this respect. The bunch of petitions by the Karnataka-based institutions have contended that a three-judge bench ruling on the validity of the RTE Act did not deal with the constitutional validity of these provisions in its April 2012 verdict. In 2012 verdict, a three-judge Bench, by a 2:1 majority verdict, had shot down a challenge to the validity of the RTE, consequently obligating private unaided schools to reserve seats. The dissenting judgement by Justice K S Radhakrishnan however had held that the mandate under the RTE Act providing for reservation of seats was not constitutionally valid, and thus the unaided schools, whether majority or minority, could not be compelled to earmark 25 per cent seats in their institutions. He said that such quota in respect of the unaided non-minority and minority institutions, and held that it can be given effect to “only on the principles of voluntariness, autonomy and consensus and not on compulsion or threat of non-recognition or non-affiliation.” Later, appearing for Pramati Educational and Cultural Trust and others, advocate Mukul Rohatgi had also referred to an order of SC on September 6, 2010 whereby the issue was referred for adjudication to a five-judge Constitution Bench. “Therefore the three-judge Bench heard other issues and did not adjudicate at all on validity of Articles 15(5) and 21A. It was never argued upon if these are violative of the basic structure of the Constitution. Can you put an obligation on private unaided schools by application of these provisions? It remains to be decided,” Rohatgi had argued, following which the issue was referred to the constitution bench. (Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

65. 1 killed and 14 injured after twin blasts hit train at Chennai station (12)

Chennai: A 24-Year-old woman software engineer was killed and 14 people injured when two low-intensity bombs went off in quick succession in two coaches (S4, S5) of the Bangalore-Guwahati superfast express train at the Chennai Central railway station on Thursday morning. Officials said all the injured, including two who underwent surgery, are in a “stable” condition. The train was running an hour-and-a-half late when it pulled into platform 9 at Chennai Central at 7.05 am. The first blast occurred about 10 minutes later. It was followed by a second blast just minutes after, triggering panic among the passengers. (Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

66. Militants open fire in Assam’s Kokrajhar, 7 killed (12)

Dispur: Seven civilians were killed after suspected militants opened fire in Assam’s Kokrajhar district on late Thursday night, a report said on Friday. National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) militants are suspected to be behind the attack. The incident took place at Balapara in Kokrajhar district. The Army and police have launched a massive combing operation to flush out the militants. Kokrajhar district had witnessed large-scale ethnic violence between Bodos and non-Bodos two years ago. More details are awaited. (Zee News 2/5/14)

 

67. CB-CID Grills IM Operative Caught by Rajasthan Cops (12)

CHENNAI: The Indian Mujahideen (IM) member, Ashraf Ali, who was arrested by Rajasthan Police with the help of the local police was grilled by the CB-CID sleuths from Chennai with regard to the twin blasts here. Sources said that Ashraf Ali was wanted in the blasts carried out in Jaipur, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi and was picked up while he was coming out of a Mosque at Parangipet in Cuddalore on the day the twin blasts occurred. Based on CB-CID’s request, the Rajasthan Police handed over Ashraf Ali for a few hours during which the agency got valuable information as to how the banned outfit had been operating in the State and who were funding the agency. However, Ashraf Ali appeared to have no knowledge about the Chennai blasts. Meanwhile, two suspects who were handed over to the CB-CID team at Bangalore by the Central Agencies are being grilled by the State team. Though it has been established that they did not have any direct role in the blasts, the duo reportedly have some valuable information regarding the blasts. The duo is still in custody of the CB-CID who were proceeding with the investigation. The team was simultaneously sifting through the CCTV footages obtained from the Bangalore railway station. Another suspect who had covered his face had also flared up in the review and the identity of that person was in question. On Friday night, CB-CID announced that they were looking for a bald-man on trot leaving coach S3 soon after the train reached the station for verification to find out what his rush was for. There are some similarities between this man and the person who had hidden his face before boarding the train at Bangalore. Doctors from the forensic lab, MMC, carried out a spot study to ascertain how the blast could have injured the patients that they have been treating at GH. They are expected to submit a report to the CB-CID based on which the CB-CID investigating officer will record the manner of the blast. Meanwhile, as many as eight of the 14 injured in the blasts were discharged from hospital while six who require surgeries to be performed are under treatment. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

68. Tamil Nadu train blast dry run for strikes in southern India? (12)

NEW DELHI: Pakistan could be reviving cross-border terrorism in India. Indian security sources say smaller jihadi groups in different parts of India, particularly southern India, are being “activated” with funds and material to work at short notice. In fact, the blasts in a train in Chennai last week were interpreted by many in the Indian system as a “dry run”. The intensity of the blasts was not enough to cause great damage but it could be practice for a later event. In Pakistan, they point to the reappearance of Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a sign that groups like his have official sanction to start operations again. “It appears to be a situation where Pakistan is keeping its powder dry, waiting to see how Indian politics turns out in the coming months,” said a source. On the border, ceasefire violations are becoming routine as summer sets in, generally considered to be high terror activity time, especially in the months until September. With Pakistani home minister Nisar Ali Khan declaring that Narendra Modi would destabilize the region and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif appropriating Kashmir as Pakistan’s “jugular vein”, the Indian security establishment is interpreting these as signs that things could get hot again. What is clear is that Indians are being used to commit attacks, keeping the tag of “homegrown terror” alive, to maintain plausible deniability by Pakistan. Their real fear seems to be centred on what happens if a terror attack takes place in the immediate aftermath of the elections. If, as is widely expected, the new government is headed by Modi, it could become a difficult situation. As Sushant Sareen of IDSA said, “It could put Modi in a commitment trap.” It would be particularly difficult at a time when a new government has not yet had time to settle down, but there would be the euphoria of a victory, with a resultant pressure to retaliate. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

69. Eight Maoists surrender in Koraput (12)

BERHAMPUR: Eight Maoist militias from Narayanpatna block in Koraput district of south Odisha surrendered before police on Thursday. The surrender took place in the presence of Inspector General of Police (IGP) south-western range Yashwant Jethwa, Inspector General (IG) of Border Security Force (BF) A.K.Sharma and Koraput Superintendent of Police (SP) Awinash Kumar. Five of the surrendered Maoists were from Dumsil village and three others were from Basanaput village. Both these villages under Narayanpatna police station were considered Maoist strongholds. The surrender is considered a major set back for the Maoists as all these eight as they were key cadres of Maoist organisation in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks. Those who surrendered were Ladda Nachika, Kayu Nachika, Rajeya Kendruka, Rameya Kendruka, Kesari Kenduka from Dumsil village and Rabi Huluka, Sekaru Huluka, Siu Huluka from Basanaput village. All of them joined the Maoist movement via the controversial tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) which is active in Narayanpatna area. They had joined the CMAS in 2009 and later become members of Koraput Divisional Committee under the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of outlawed CPI (Maoist) organisation, said Mr. Jethwa. After their surrender, the Maoists expressed that they had realised the futility of violent path of Maoists. They also added hat they had got frustrated by the anti-tribal and anti-development activities of naxalite leaders from Andhra Pradesh who rule the organisation in their area. It was also felt that death of their close associate Purna Huluka in an exchange of fire with security forces in side Palaput-Gadraguda jungle under Narayanpatna police station limits on Apr 13 was also catalyst behind their surrender. Two days back a hardcore female Maoist Tulsi Mandingi alias Jirmai, who was active in Narayanpatna area had also surrendered in Koraput district. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

70. Naxals worried over impressive voter turnout in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: The unprecedented voter turnout in Lok Sabha polls in insurgency-hit south Chhattisgarh has apparently upset the Naxals, who are holding meetings to express disappointment over participation of tribals in the electoral process, according to Intelligence inputs. Some key leaders of outlawed CPI(Maoist) in Dandakaranya region recently held meetings in areas where they found huge participation of people in polling inspite of their poll boycott call and asked villagers about it, IB sources said. “In some pockets of Bastar, Dantewada, Kondagaon and Narayanpur, Naxal leaders reportedly held meetings with villagers recently after the Lok Sabha election in Bastar constituency,” a senior state IB official told PTI on condition of anonymity. “However, police couldn’t go deep enough to check the reason behind their meetings at several places. As per the informers, the Naxals were enquiring how voting was recorded high in the region despite their intense poll boycott call,” the official said. The two worst Maoist-hit Lok Sabha seats – Bastar and Kanker – recorded 59.40% and 70.29% voting respectively in the last month’s three-phased Parliamentary polls in the state. Bastar went to polls on April 10 while voting took place in Kanker on April 17. In the 2009 general elections, Bastar and Kanker seats had witnessed voter turnout of 47.33 and 57.20% respectively. Also, over 70% voters exercised their franchise in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas of the state during last year’s Assembly polls. According to the informers, Naxals were asking the tribals why they took part in election. (Business Standard 2/5/14)

 

71. Chhattisgarh accounts for 31% Maoist violence (12)

RAIPUR: The union home ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to strengthen its intelligence set up and galvanise its task force for their optimal utilisation in conducting anti Naxal operations in the state. The ministry also asked the DRDO to operationalize the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) airfield at Nandini, Bhilai. At a recent high-level meeting, to review the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in the country, held under the Chairmanship of Union Home Secretary, it was observed that basic policing in the Naxal affected areas of the state also need to be strengthened. The state was also directed to expedite construction of fortified police states in the affected areas. The meeting, which reviewed the incidents of LWE violence in the affected states in 2013, observed that Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh remain the worst affected states followed by Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. As per the data presented in the meeting 80% of LWE violence remained confined to 23 districts, with Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada topping the list of the 10 worst affected districts. Incidentally, Chhattisgarh accounted for 31% of the total LWE violence in the country in 2013. It may be recalled that Naxals had brutally massacred almost the entire top leadership of the Congress in an attack in Sukma on May 25 last. Those 28 people killed included VC Shukla, Mahendra Karma (founder of Salwa Judum) and state party president, Nand Kumar Patel, and his son, Dinesh. Even this year, Sukma witnessed a bloody massacre of poll officials and security personnel a day after the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 12. According to information provided at the meeting by the IB Director, there is a huge presence of Naxal cadres on the Chhattisgarh-Odisha border. He advised both the state government’s to conduct joint operations in the border areas and advocated for strict compliance of standard operation procedures (SOPs) by both the state polices and central forces deployed there. While advising all the states to be on a “maximum alert”, the Home Ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to closely monitor the training in the Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorist (CIAT) schools. The state government was also directed to finalise locations for Army training ranges within four weeks. The home ministry has also directed the Chhattisgarh government to immediately fill the near 8000 vacancies in the police force. These vacancies include 5000 jawans, 26 additional SPs, 192 DSPs, 982 SI/ASI and 1,362 head constables. The state government was also directed to immediately provide “critical infrastructure” for housing of central forces in the naxal affected areas. These included construction of 107 barracks on priority. The meeting also took stalk of health and educational infrastructure in the Naxal affected areas and directed the Chhattisgarh government to ensure posting of doctors and paramedical staff in the 30 primary health centres in LWE areas of the state. The state government was also directed of foll vacancies of all teachers in these areas within six months. The government was also directed to expedite the tendering process for construction of 512 kms of roads in the LWE area, besides completing on going work on 850 kms. The meeting was held last month and was attended by DGPS and Chief Secretaries of the affected states, officials from the Army, NSA, CRPF, and IB, besides those from the Home Ministry. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

72. Chhattisgarh accounts for 31% Maoist violence (12)

RAIPUR: The union home ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to strengthen its intelligence set up and galvanise its task force for their optimal utilisation in conducting anti Naxal operations in the state. The ministry also asked the DRDO to operationalize the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) airfield at Nandini, Bhilai. At a recent high-level meeting, to review the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in the country, held under the Chairmanship of Union Home Secretary, it was observed that basic policing in the Naxal affected areas of the state also need to be strengthened. The state was also directed to expedite construction of fortified police states in the affected areas. The meeting, which reviewed the incidents of LWE violence in the affected states in 2013, observed that Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh remain the worst affected states followed by Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. As per the data presented in the meeting 80% of LWE violence remained confined to 23 districts, with Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada topping the list of the 10 worst affected districts. Incidentally, Chhattisgarh accounted for 31% of the total LWE violence in the country in 2013. It may be recalled that Naxals had brutally massacred almost the entire top leadership of the Congress in an attack in Sukma on May 25 last. Those 28 people killed included VC Shukla, Mahendra Karma (founder of Salwa Judum) and state party president, Nand Kumar Patel, and his son, Dinesh. Even this year, Sukma witnessed a bloody massacre of poll officials and security personnel a day after the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 12. According to information provided at the meeting by the IB Director, there is a huge presence of Naxal cadres on the Chhattisgarh-Odisha border. He advised both the state government’s to conduct joint operations in the border areas and advocated for strict compliance of standard operation procedures (SOPs) by both the state polices and central forces deployed there. While advising all the states to be on a “maximum alert”, the Home Ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to closely monitor the training in the Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorist (CIAT) schools. The state government was also directed to finalise locations for Army training ranges within four weeks. The home ministry has also directed the Chhattisgarh government to immediately fill the near 8000 vacancies in the police force. These vacancies include 5000 jawans, 26 additional SPs, 192 DSPs, 982 SI/ASI and 1,362 head constables. The state government was also directed to immediately provide “critical infrastructure” for housing of central forces in the naxal affected areas. These included construction of 107 barracks on priority. The meeting also took stalk of health and educational infrastructure in the Naxal affected areas and directed the Chhattisgarh government to ensure posting of doctors and paramedical staff in the 30 primary health centres in LWE areas of the state. The state government was also directed of foll vacancies of all teachers in these areas within six months. The government was also directed to expedite the tendering process for construction of 512 kms of roads in the LWE area, besides completing on going work on 850 kms. The meeting was held last month and was attended by DGPS and Chief Secretaries of the affected states, officials from the Army, NSA, CRPF, and IB, besides those from the Home Ministry. (Indian Express 5/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

73. Lanka Not a Peaceful Home for Tamils, Say Refugees (13)

RAMESWARAM: For 33-year-old Thayapararaja, an engineer from Kilinochchi, hopes of a peaceful life and better education for his children have dashed as his family had constantly been on the run from the Lankan Army and police. Thayapararaja was among the 10 Sri Lankan refugees, including five children, who reached Arichalmunai near Dhanuskodi, early on Monday. They were later booked under the Foreigners Act for not possessing valid documents to enter India. Another refugee, Dhavendran (34), a driver from Mullaitivu district, said that the Lankan army would storm houses of Tamils any time and take them to camps. The fate of many such innocents was not known, he said. Dhavendran was living with his wife Lakshani and three kids. He said that the army had been taking away Tamils from their houses on suspicion, since 2010. Dhavendran’s brother-in-law Karthipan had been detained in Poosa jail. He was then shifted to a rehabilitation camp six months ago without any reason. At the end of the civil war in 2009, contrary to the popular belief that peace had returned to Lanka and Tamils were leading a normal life, several Lankan Tamil youngsters had been thrown into camps and jails, he said. Thayapararaja said that he was working as an assistant lecturer in Peradeniya University from 2001-2005. The Lankan army had detained him twice and kept him in a navy camp and a prison for two years. Thereafter he had tried to move to Australia along with his family. However,  the police tried to arrest him. He then kept on moving to various places including Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavunya and Jaffna with his family. Finally Thayapararaja took a decision to seek shelter in India and gave Rs 50,000 to a boat crew so that his family could board from Mannar, he said. He had been struggling for two hours in knee-deep water before reaching the Mandapam refugee camp. However, he was not aware that any person who reached the mainland from Sri Lanka would be booked under the Foreigners Act. Similarly, Sudhakaran (35) of Muraipu village near Mullaitivu, a van driver, who served as a food supplier in the LTTE from 1996 to 2005 and tried to escape, was detained by LTTE cadre and punished for three months. Sudhakaran said that the Lankan army would not allow Tamils to live peacefully and there was no security for them in that country. Though India had extended assistance for the rehabilitation of Lankan Tamils, the funds have not been fully utilised. The Lankan Navy detained him in 2008 and released him after three years, after which he was arrested by the police and incarcerated for six months, he said. However, even after his release, he was still chased by the police. He then gave `1.2 lakh to the crew and reached Arichalmunai later. Seven others, who tried to escape from Sri Lanka in a boat were detained by the SL Navy and taken back to the country, he said. Intelligence Wing personnel conducted an inquiry with them at the Dhanuskodi police station and booked them under the Foreigners Act, Superintendent of Police Mylvahanan told ‘Express’. The arrested refugees from the island nation would be produced before a court here, the SP added. (New Indian Express 3/5/14)

 

74. Despite poverty, Assamese migrants feel safer in U.P. (13)

Lucknow: On April 16, Feroz endured a 36-hour train journey from Lucknow to reach his village in Barpeta district in Assam. Eight days later, he went to the Chenga polling booth in his village, Radhakuchi Habi, and cast his vote. He returned to the Uttar Pradesh capital a few days later. The entire trip cost Feroz around Rs.10,000. Despite his meagre earnings, Feroz travels from Lucknow to Assam to vote in every election. Ali feared, as always, the possibility of attacks by Bodo militants as the train passed Kokrajhar, a two-hour drive from Barpeta. “The Bodos not only burn our homes, they also attack trains and rob people. They kill us without any hesitation. We breathe a sigh of relief when we reach home,” says Feroz. Amid the unfolding of fresh ethnic violence in Assam, migrants from the State living in Lucknoware anxious about the safety of their relatives back home. Their only source of accurate information is the television. “It’s only a matter of time before the violence spreads to other districts,” says Feroz, who is seated in a small thatched hut on the outskirts of Lucknow. He lives with his wife, four sons and a daughter. The violence in Assam, though alarming, is remote. Abject poverty and the terror of floods caused by the Brahmaputra has, over the years, forced thousands of Assamese to migrate to other parts of the country. Around 40,000 Assamese migrants live in the U.P. capital. The Assamese started arriving in Lucknow three decades ago. Their migration peaked as the Bodoland movement caught fire, says Roli Misra, an academic with extensive field experience on the migrants’ issues. In Lucknow, most of the migrants live in squalor. The majority of these migrants pick waste for a living. But their deepest hurt comes when they are tagged as “Bangladeshis” despite carrying valid identity cards. It is the concern that his name might be removed from the voters’ list — virtually a loss of identity and cause for persecution — that drives Feroz to vote without fail. “If I miss the vote at home, I fear they will chop my name off the voter list. Then I will have no home, no identity. Here we are always suspected to be Bangladeshis,” he says. Their physical and linguistic resemblance to Bangladeshis makes these migrants easy targets of police harassment. “The society still views us with suspicion. We fear that if we ever get reprimanded, our identities will be used to persecute us,” says Feroz’s son Ali (name changed), who is struggling with his studies in a college in Lucknow. 18-year-old Ali, who follows news keenly, views the violence back home with concern. “How do the Bodos get weapons unless the Tarun Gogoi government is helping them? They aren’t economically better off than us. So who is helping them? Why do only our people die,” he asks. Ali requests this reporter to conceal his identity, lest his friends in college find out about his living conditions. “I tell my friends that I live in a rented apartment. If they find out I live in this condition, I will be mocked,” he said. Despite difficulties in paying colleges fees, he hopes to find a decent job some day. But few migrants can afford private education. Administrative apathy and strict regulations make it difficult for migrants to get admission in public schools. The transfer of their voter cards to Lucknow is also hindered by administrative conditions. “They aren’t able to get ration cards in Lucknow as the administration demands that they must first cancel their original Assam-based ration cards,” says Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Award–winning social activist. Cancelling their ration cards back home, however, would effectively extirpate their identity. By terming these migrants as “Bangladeshis”, the administration abdicates all responsibility, says Mr. Pandey. In 2009, he undertook a drive to convince the administration that the people it was uprooting from slums in Lucknow were in fact Assamese. While things have since improved, the stigma remains in their minds, says Mr. Pandey. Despite that, Zain (25), a waste-picker, is thankful that in Lucknow they have a stable means of living and are secure. (The Hindu 4/5/14)

 

75. Bangladesh warns illegal immigrants row will affect ties with India (13)

New Delhi: The election campaign of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is making waves across the subcontinent in Bangladesh, which on Tuesday warned that the ‘illegal immigrant row’ if not handled amicably will affect Dhaka’s ties with New Delhi. “Any hasty steps taken by the new government will hit bilateral ties,” Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said stressing that there are “no illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in India”. He said this in response to Modi’s recent statement that all illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India should pack and leave on May 16 when the results of the world’s largest democratic exercise would be announced. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Shamsher M Chowdhury also reacted by saying, “This is nothing but sheer politicking by BJP.” At the domestic front, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said, “Narendra Modi is a divisive leader. He wants to divide the state but won’t succeed. We won’t tolerate any attempt by him to divide the state.” Modi has recently created a political uproar by saying that all illegal immigrants from Bangladesh will be sent back to their country of origin. Though he later clarified his statement and said that he would make every effort to improve relations with Bangladesh should he come to power. However, concerns were expressed on social media over Modi’s remarks and some said that the BJP leader has made those statements only to communalise the elections. Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, had been in office when the 2002 riots broke out in Gujarat and has been accused of not acting enough to stop the violence. However, he has not been indicted for his role in the 2002 riots by any court of law in the country. Modi’s party BJP had earlier insisted it would build a temple on the Babri mosque site which was destroyed in 1992. But it later softened its stance on the issue to woo minorities and even aplogised for “unintentional past mistakes” in order to ensure that it wins at least 272 seats required to form to form a government at the Centre. (Zee News 6/5/14)

 

76. UN concerned over South Sudanese refugees flooding in Ethiopia (13)

New York, May 7 : Waves of South Sudanese women and children are fleeing across the Ethiopian border, with more than 11,000 people crossing in the past 72 hours, the United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday said confirming that UN agencies and humanitarian partners are rushing food and medical supplies to the site. The sharp influx comes after Government forces captured the rebel stronghold of Nasir over the weekend crossing the Raro River, which marks the border between the countries. “Many more people are on their way,” spokesperson Adrian Edwards said quoting what the refugees, all ethnic Nuers, had told staff from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “Many amassed on the South Sudanese side of the border waiting to cross the river on one of the few small ferry boats.” UNHCR and its partners, including the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, UN World Food Programme (WFP), were all rapidly scaling up their responses to meet the surge in new arrivals – some of them wounded and in urgent need of medical help – and to improve the crowded conditions, Edwards said. Once registered, the people were being moved to Kule refugee camp further inside Ethiopia which was “fast approaching its capacity of 40,000 refugees”, while a new camp was being set up for another 30,000 people. The UN agency is hurrying to transport people due to oncoming heavy rains “expected any time”, he added. More than 110,000 refugees from South Sudan had fled into Ethiopia since fighting for political power there broke out in December, according to UNHCR figures. An additional 205,000 people had fled to Uganda, Sudan and Kenya, with some 923,000 people displaced inside South Sudan. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in South Sudan on Tuesday urging President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar to sit down together and find a peaceful solution through dialogue. The inter-agency appeal for the South Sudanese Refugee Emergency remained dramatically underfunded, with only 14 per cent of the requested USD 370 million appeal received. “As the number of displaced people continued to rise, UNHCR was expecting to increase its appeal in the coming days,” the spokesperson said. Meanwhile, WFP is warning that without access to everyone in need, the humanitarian situation inside South Sudan is going to worsen. The UN agency is airlifting and airdropping food and nutrition support to hard-to-reach areas, while grabbling with looting and continued fighting, according to spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs. Despite these challenges, WFP has dispatched more than 72,000 metric tons of food around the country so far this year. (New Kerala 7/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

77. On Labour Day, Labour dept order to ensure minimum rates of wages (14)

To ensure payment of notified minimum rates of wages to all categories of workers in both organised and unorganised sectors, an order has been recently issued directing all the employers, including contractors, to upload their employee and payment details on their websites. Employers have been given 90 days time for compliance. According to the order, no fresh license and no renewal of licenses and registration certificates shall be done by Labour Department under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, Labour Department officials said. Employers have also been directed to pay wages to workers by ECS or Cheque. Defaulters shall be prosecuted under the provisions of law. Employers have been directed to discourage deployment of contract workers on regular basis. In case, it is not possible to do so, contract workers should be paid same wages as being paid to regular workers. Secretary (Labour)-cum-Labour Commissioner has personally carried out 6 field inspections of various offices of labour department. The Labour department also said that a total amount of Rs 6,16,25,502 has been disbursed under various labour laws bettween February 14 and April 25 benefiting 3992 workers. (DNA 1/5/14)

 

78. CPI alleges violations of labour laws in Gujarat (14)

Kakinada: Accusing the corporate media of projecting Gujarat as a fast developing State under the leadership of its Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Communist Party of India’s (CPI) State unit election committee convener K. Ramakrishna on Thursday said that the ground realities were quite different in Gujarat where labour laws were violated on a large scale. “The development of Gujarat is sectoral. Only corporate companies have been befitted during Modi’s rule and they are now blowing the trumpets for him,” Mr. Ramakrishna said, while addressing a press conference here. Expressing concern over the flowing of money in the general elections, he said that polls in India had already become a play field for the corporates. “Individuals with a spirit of public service cannot enter into politics, as all the major political parties are choosing candidates, basing on spending capabilities,” he observed. Mr. Ramakrishna said that the CPI would continue to play a proactive roll in creating awareness among the public about the importance of vote and the need to choose the right persons as their representatives. The CPI’s nominee for the Kakinada city Assembly constituency T. Madhu and other leaders were also present. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

79. Bonded labour still exists in MP (14)

Burhanpur, MP, May 1 : Far away from the glitter of India’s burger-munching and cola-guzzling metropolitan cities lies a country ravaged by poverty as evidenced by the fact that the evil of bonded labour still prevails in this district’s rural areas. The despicable practice commences annually on Akshaya Tritiya day and those kept for agricultural work are known as saldars. The Labour Department admits that saldars are made to toil for the entire year. There is no written agreement with employers. There are several saldars whose families are working for generations under single farm owners. Sources said the owners provide saldars and their families with living space on farms besides grain, clothes and other material for the whole year. A part of the crops and a predetermined monetary amount are provided in instalments. “This district has more than 5,000 saldars. The Department is yet to receive a complaint regarding exploitation of saldars,” District Labour Officer G Swamy said today. (New Kerala 2/5/14)

 

80. Workers grapple with low wages amid rising prices (14)

NEW DELHI: A decade of jobless growth, topped by the recent slump in manufacturing, has left India’s work force dispirited and restive. The election campaign has generally not touched upon issues close to their hearts, especially wages. There has been much talk about price rise and jobs, but most workers, whether in the formal or informal sector, are not impressed. “Kasme-vade, pyar-wafa, sab batein hain, baton ka kya!” says Magroo, who has worked in an auto-parts factory in North Delhi for over 25 years, quoting from a popular film song from the 1960s. “Promises, loyalty — all of it are empty talk.” Between 2005-06 and 2010-11, industrial worker wages increased by about 9%, according to the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) published by the labour ministry. That works out to a measly 1.5% per year. Annual inflation has been raging for the past few years at an average of 5-6%. So, real wages have fallen. Small wonder, that workers consider wages and inflation as key issues — one puts money in their pockets, the other takes it out. Average daily earnings of factory workers were pegged at Rs 264 in 2010-11, as per the ASI reports. This is an all-India average, which spans such lows as Rs 203 in Tamil Nadu and Rs 206 in Punjab to Rs 440 in Jharkhand and Rs 391 in Maharashtra. But, a remarkable finding revealed in the ASI report is that contract workers get about 25% less than regular, directly employed workers. Average daily earnings of contract workers were Rs 199 only. Contract workers were estimated at about 34% of the total workers covered in the ASI, which deals with only bigger, organized sector units. Another important fact of life for industrial workers is that women’s wages are much less than men’s wages. The average daily earnings of women workers were Rs 149 compared to Rs 289 for men. That’s an enormous difference of about 48%. Mostly, this reflects the fact that women are employed in lower paying, lesser skilled jobs. But, it is also a result of entrenched discrimination. In the informal sector, where the vast majority of India’s workforce is employed, wages and service conditions are far more onerous. Average wage for a casual labourer is just Rs 139 in rural areas and Rs 170 in urban areas, according to a report of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) for 2011-12. Agriculture is the occupation of the vast majority of informal sector workers. According to Census 2011, the number of agricultural workers has jumped up by about 36% between 2001 and 2011. Now, they number 8.6 crore, of which more than a third are women. Wages of agricultural workers are some of the lowest in any occupation, ranging between Rs 199 for harvesting and Rs 230 for ploughing. Again, these are all-India averages, with wide variation between states. Kerala has some of the highest wages, while Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have the lowest in most cases. Low wage employment and marginal work, that is, irregular, short term work, have become the norm in agriculture as well as other sectors. It is a kind of hidden unemployment. The bottom of the pyramid is seeking a different direction — one that is more sympathetic to labour. (Times of India 3/5/14)

 

81. Kangra tea planters pin hopes on ‘chaiwala’ Modi (14)

Palampur/Baijnath/Kangra: With no labour to pluck tea leaves for the first flush at his two-hectare plantation in Baijnath, which lies in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh’s craggy Dhauladhar range, distressed-looking Narender Chauhan was almost on the verge of quitting his occupation two weeks ago. According to a Tea Board survey, he is one of the 1,231 active tea growers out of 5,800 listed across Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh. Problems ranging from labourers being taken away by government schemes like NREGA and discontinuation of fertilizer subsidy in 2002 have forced others to sell their plantations or build commercial businesses like dhabas and small-time hotels. However, many are now seeing a hope in the humble “chaiwala” background of BJP’s PM candidate and Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi for the revival of tea gardens. “Modi’s journey is a lesson of grit and determination. Not only have we hoped that it will lift our spirit but also that he will come and rescue us from the dominating markets of Assam and Darjeeling,” says Chauhan. Kangra’s tea is a Chinese hybrid variety that produces a very pale liquid, unlike the CTC which the rest of India consumes in copious quantities. With 96% of growers having holdings of less than two hectares, tea here is more of a cottage industry. Besides, subsidy plans offered by the Tea Board are only for self-help groups comprising 20 people with 20 hectare of land and not individuals. Officials agree with this, but also share their complaints against growers. “Land holdings have fragmented over the years as families split up. Second problem is that nobody is ready to accept our scheme which mandates a tea grower to uproot and replant tea and get 50% subsidy,” says Gagnesh Sharma, deputy director, Tea Board, Palampur. “Add to that, poor marketing of local 5-7 brands like Kangra Gold, Dharamsala Tea, HP Krishi Organic who make tea out of leaves collected by small planters,” he points out. There is also a view that the state government has failed to increase area under cultivation and modernise cooperatives. Since 1978, the same 2300 hectare area has remained under tea plantation. Out of four tea cooperative societies started by the state government in 1980s, three – Bir, Baijnath and Sidhbari – have been given on lease to private companies. “We hope Modi will open a research and development centre for us,” says Vijay Mehra, a tea planter who recently sold half of his plantation. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

82. Remove regulations, eradicate child labour, says Unicef expert (14)

CHENNAI: After 67 years of Independence, it is a shame that measures to prevent child labour remain unimplemented and the issue itself is under “monitoring and regulations,” said Sugata Roy, a senior representative of Unicef, which works for ensuring better health and educational facilities for children. He was speaking at a seminar and workshop organised by the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL-TN and PY), a collective for the rights of children and women, in the city ahead of International Workers’ Day. Roy said it was time that the various regulations on child labour were removed. These regulations, he said, were nothing but an open admission of the existence of child labour even after so many decades of Independence. “What we need is total eradication of child labour. We should include the complete ban of child labour in all pieces of legislation for effective enforcement,” he said. Tamil Nadu has one of the largest populations of child workers in the country. More than 50,000 children from various districts in the state like Madurai, Theni and Dindigul continue to be employed in factories in north India in violation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act. Raising concerns over the implementation of the RTE Act, Roy said that even vocational training programmes that play a crucial role in the lives of lower middle class youth had failed in their objective as they were poor in quality. “I have seen a lot of teachers employed for these vocational training programmes. It is unfortunate that most of them do not have any practical knowledge of the subjects they teach. What is the purpose of running vocational training programmes if they do not provide any value addition,” he asked. P Joseph Victor Raj, state convener of CACL (Tamil Nadu chapter), said that most political parties lacked the basic understanding and awareness about child labour and the need for eradicating it completely. Analysing the election manifestos of leading political parties, he said, it was clear that only the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) had taken a well-informed stand on child labour. “While the PMK promises a complete eradication of child labour in its election manifesto, many leading national parties, including Congress, BJP, CPM and CPI, have only made a passive mention about the issue. They have simply promised to strengthen implementation of the existing rules on child rights,” he said. Unless there was a collective effort, the eradication of child labour in India or in any other country cannot be achieved, he added. (Times of India 1/5/14)

 

83. Child workers rescued from hotel (14)

HYDERABAD: The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights rescued two children working in a city hotel on Thursday, the International Labour Day. The manager of the hotel was taken into custody. The children were rescued from Kamat Hotel near Ravindra Bharathi, where the members of the commission were having lunch. On noticing one of the children working, the members contacted the police. “Two children, Kavali Keshavulu and Mithilesh Yadav from Ranga Reddy district and Jharkhand respectively, were rescued. The Saifabad police took the hotel manager, Prakash Pulkav, into custody and the commission instructed them to register a case under Juvenile Justice Act, under which the management is liable to be fined and imprisoned,” said commission member Mamatha Raghuveer. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

84. 27 child labourers rescued from hellholes (14)

NEW DELHI: Twenty-seven child labourers were rescued from a bindi factory in Nandnagar and a nailpolish factory in Samaipur Badli Industrial Estate on Friday. These factories were raided by over 15 policemen of Nand Nagri police station, supported by activists of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). One of them, Sunil (name changed), was working at the bindi factory for seven months. The 11-year-old, the sole breadwinner of his family, said he was earning Rs 100 every week after putting in 13-14 hours daily, but wasn’t sure if the money he was sending home was reaching his family. Incidentally, Sunil and most other labourers, many of them from Bihar, were reluctant to admit initially that they were working at the factory. “I was here only for sightseeing,” claimed 12-year-old Sanjay (name changed), though he admitted that his father’s business had failed and he was living in Delhi alone. Kailash Satyarthi, child rights activist and BBA founder, had an explanation for this behaviour. “Factory overseers constantly tell the children that they will be arrested if caught working. And once police get them, they will gouge their eyes out or rip out their kidneys. Naturally, they are terrified to see police,” Satyarthi said. BBA activist told TOI that they were informed about six bindi-making factories in Nand Nagri with 150 child labourers; however, factory owners were somehow tipped off about the raid, so most of them vanished by the time the team arrived. (Times of India 3/5/14)

 

85. Bring Orphanages under the JJ Act: Child Rights Panel (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked the State Government to bring orphanages and child welfare homes under the Juvenile Justice Act in a time-bound manner. Around 1,000 orphanages in the state are currently registered under the Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act.The Commission is of the view that bringing these orphanages under Juvenile Justice rules, which clearly defines the entitlement of each child, will ensure theirbetter welfare.  A recent meeting of the Commission assessed the report submitted by its members, who had inspected various government homes, observation homes and after-care homes in the state. The Commission will soon pass orders on steps to be taken by the government to ensure education, personal hygiene and entertainment facilities for children. The state child rights panel will ask the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to approach the Supreme Court against the verdicts of various courts which held that minority and unaided educational institutions were exempt from the Right To Education Act, 2009. The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights  has also recommended to the government to take steps to send back children from other states who are presently lodged in various welfare homes. It has also recommended setting up of a reception centre in the state capital for such children and to provide education as well as job-oriented training to them. The child rights panel has asked the Directorate of Social Justice to conduct an audit of the repair works to be carried out in various institutions housing children, both on a short-term and a long-term basis. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

86. Teaching teachers laws on child protection and rights (14)

Puducherry: What place do the nuances of law have in the classrooms? With cases of corporal punishment and child abuse being reported in schools, teachers on Monday took stock of the situation beyond the syllabus. A State-level teachers’ sensitisation programme on child rights and child protection, organised on Monday by the Directorate of School Education and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) recommended that teachers become conversant with laws that govern rights of the children. The initiative was to bring teachers and principals of schools up-to-date on two principal laws- the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) 2013 and section 17 of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) which deals with ‘physical punishment or mental harassment,’ said E. Vallavan, Director, School Education. The NCPCR, formed in 2007, monitors the implementation of the RTE and POCSO Acts. But teachers have a role in ensuring child rights, according to Asheem Srivastav, member-secretary, NCPCR. “It is important for every person who is implementing the law at the ground level to be conversant with the nitty-gritty of the Acts,” he said, explaining the need for sensitisation. The debate on child rights is gaining weight in the international arena. India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Noting that the Education Department had issued a “strict circular” to government and private schools on corporal punishment, Mr. Vallavan added that the scenario in schools has changed. “Two out of three cases are of children being subjected to mental harassment. It is not to say that physical punishment is not upsetting, but mental harassment can have a more severe impact on a child.” This is more in the case when the children hail from single-parent families or suffering from a disability or disorder including dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Encouraging teachers to adopt a friendly approach to students, Mr. Vallavan said awareness of laws can create a shift in attitude towards children. Principals of schools in the Union Territory have received training in psychological handling of children, under the aegis of the Indian School Pyschology Association, he added. Teachers must realise that the future GDP and prosperity of the country rests with children, noted Mr. Srivastav. Panel discussions and sessions on child abuse and child rights were part of the event. (The Hindu 6/5/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

87. Can a woman be booked for molestation: HC (19)

Mumbai: Hearing a petition filed by a 78-year old woman accused of molesting another woman, the Bombay High Court Monday asked the prosecution and the petitioner to find out if a woman can be booked under such a charge. The court also directed them to check laws of other countries and see if there was provision for punishment against women under it. In her petition, Vimlabai Shah (78) petition from Borivali (W), has alleged that on February 27, 2010, she was booked under Section 354 (molestation) along with other members of her family after one Prabha Jain (55) registered a complaint.

The petitioner also alleged that inspector N M More, attached with the Borivali police station, had colluded with people who wanted to settle scores with her and her family. According to Shah, More filed the chargesheet just a day after registering the FIR against her. She said Jain had registered the complaint with the police in order to pressure her to withdraw an earlier complaint of assault she had filed against her and others. Shah’s family even shot off letters to the then police commissioner and state Human Rights Commission “regarding illegal harassment faced at the hands More” on March 14, 2010. “She (Shah) is aged about 78 years and is also bedridden. How could a senior citizen, that too a woman, be accused of molestation?” the petition said. (Indian Express 6/5/14)

 

88. Uniform Civil Code doesn’t mean forcing Hindu law on everyone, says Modi (19)

New Delhi: Narendra Modi has said implementation of a Uniform Civil Code does not mean that Hindu code would be imposed on all citizens of the country. “Constitution says that the government will make efforts to implement the Uniform Civil Code…The second important point I would like to make clear is that implementing a UCC does not mean that all citizens of the country will be brought under the Hindu code. “I believe that there are several provisions in the Hindu code which are irrelevant and they need reforms. Carrying 18th century laws in 21st century is unnecessary,” he told Urdu weekly “Nai Duniya”.The promise of implementing a Uniform Civil Code is one of the core issues of BJP and finds mention in its manifesto. Seeking to allay apprehensions among Muslims, Modi ruled out scrapping any existing constitutional and statutory mechanisms meant for their welfare and said he would instead work to strengthen them. Terming secularism an “import” from the West, Modi said that Congress has used it to pocket Muslim votes and they are now being treated as a “vote bank” by it and other parties. He said the Constitution has given equal rights to all citizens and religious harmony and respect for all religions are in “India’s DNA”.Asked if he would do away with the Minority Commission, Minority Finance Development Corporation as feared by his critics, Modi said, “There is a need to strengthen constitutional and statutory bodies and not to abolish them. “The need is to make them productive and strong so that they could do solid work instead of continuing with the existing system which takes symbolic measures.” Modi said “extremism” over castes and religions have been used to divide the country and advocated “zero tolerance” for the guilty in religious and caste violence. In such issues, he said, more than government actions it is the dialogue among different sections of society which is more important. Arguing that secularism has been “exploited” for political purpose, Modi said the politics in present times is revolving around it. (India Today 6/5/14)

 

89. Supreme Court order on Mullaperiyar dam didn’t consider safety: Oommen Chandy (19)

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said on Wednesday it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court did not consider safety of the people in the state while striking down an act restricting the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam at 136 feet. An apex court constitution bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, while striking down the Kerala Irrigation Water Conservation Act, said that the water level could be increased to 142 feet. Holding that there was no threat to the safety of the 120-year old dam, the court set up a three-member committee under whose supervision the water level will be increased. Chandy said Kerala has no qualms in giving water to Tamil Nadu but safety was paramount. “The court, it seems did not look into the safety of the people living near the old dam. The state cabinet will now meet to decide what needs to be done on this,” Chandy said. As soon as the verdict came out, people living in and around the dam near Idukki district expressed their resentment and called for a state wide shutdown Thursday. “We expect all political parties to cooperate with our move to call for a shutdown to protest against the verdict,” said Joy Nirappel, who heads the Mullaperiyar Action Council. State Minister for Water Resources PJ Joseph said Kerala will now seek legal advice and decide what needs to be done. “Do you know that way back in 1979, the Central Water Commission had suggested that it’s time that the Mullaperiyar dam is de-commissioned,” Joseph added. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the Mullaperiyar dam, built under a 1886 pact between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj. While the dam is located in Kerala, its waters serve Tamil Nadu. Kerala is seeking a new dam and has offered to build and fund it but Tamil Nadu has not agreed to this and has been engaged in a long and protracted legal battle that came to an end Wednesday. Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan said that through the judgement, the fears of 3.5 million people living in five districts in Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Alappuzaha will rise as the safety of the dam is in serious doubt. “The Kerala assembly had unanimously passed an act to this effect and it appears that both the centre and the apex court have not given it much seriousness. I wish that the state government immediately calls a special session of the assembly to discuss this burning issue,” said Achuthanandan. The court said that the three-member committee, comprising a representative each of the Central Water Commission (CWC), Kerala and Tamil Nadu will carry out regular inspections. The CWC representative will head the committee. Overall the apex court’s verdict is a setback to Kerala’s efforts to pull down the dam on the grounds of it being unsafe and then build a new structure. State Congress president VM Sudheeran opined that the need of the hour is not to make political capital out of the judgement but for all stakeholders put their heads together as this seriously affects the people of Kerala. (DNA 7/5/14)

 

90. Maharashtra to reply to Supreme Court notice on dance bars (9)

MUMBAI: The Indian Restaurant and Bar Association had moved the contempt petition against the state government for not complying with the apex court’s order of July 2013. A day after the Supreme Court issued contempt notices to the Maharashtra state government and home ministry for not processing necessary licenses required to run dance bars, a home ministry official said that the reply will be sent in next 15 days. The Indian Restaurant and Bar Association had moved the contempt petition against the state government for not complying with the apex court’s order of July 2013. The official from the home ministry added that the state government had taken legal opinion from the experts and necessary reply will be given. The Supreme Court had upheld the Bombay High Court verdict of 2006 which quashed the Maharashtra state government’s decision to ban the dance bars. The court had then said that a complete ban on girls dancing in the bars in the name of ensuring safety of women and curbing obscenity was an overreaction, and also reflected lack of thinking to search for viable alternatives. In 2005, the state government introduced an amendment to the Bombay Police Act. The government claimed that it was “giving rise to the exploitation of women,” and that dancing was both “derogatory to the dignity of women” and “likely to deprave, corrupt or injure public morality or morals.” The state government had approached the Supreme Court after the High Court lifted the ban and the apex court had asked the dance bars to remain shut till the final verdict was out. Despite the SC verdict in July 2013, the state home minister R R Patil had said that the government was firm on banning dance bars. “We have sought legal opinion from experts in Delhi and Mumbai. The state government is of the view that the ban on dance bars should continue,” the home minister had said in the state assembly. (The Hindu 7/6/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

91. Widows of farmers and hailstorm hit farmers stage protest (20)

Yavatmal: Hundreds widows of farmers and hailstorm hit farmers staged a protest here on Thursday, to protest against the apathy of the Maharashtra state government and its bureaucrats towards their plight. The protestors demanded fresh crop loans, a higher minimum support price at the rate of Rs 6500 per quintal, disbursement of relief aid to all farmers, family pension as well as food security to all widows of farmers and families of farmers who committed suicide since June 2005. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari condemned the Maharashtra government for its anti-farmer attitude and said that the ongoing Vidarbha agrarian crisis is the result of 60 years of apathy by the state government and its bureaucrats who have treated the region as its colony since Maharashtra state was formed in 1960. “Now people want separate statehood for the Vidarbha region to stop the ongoing genocide of farmers and tribals,” Tiwari said, while addressing the protest meeting. (Zee News 1/5/14)

 

92. Policy for suicide-hit farmer families in 3 months, Punjab to HC (20)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab government has decided to formulate a scheme for granting financial assistance to family members of farmers who committed suicide. The agriculture department has sought facts and other details of a scheme being implemented in Andhra Pradesh on similar lines in this connection. This was stated before the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday by the state government in an affidavit filed by agriculture department secretary Kahan Singh Pannu. The HC on February 17 had directed the state government to consider the Andhra Pradesh model to frame a policy regarding financial assistance to families of farmers who had committed suicide in Punjab. In his affidavit, Pannu said to frame a policy on the pattern of AP, Punjab is required to procure and study the scheme prevailing in Andhra Pradesh and also requires consultation with the finance and revenue departments and state farmers’ commission. The government also assured that it would formulate the policy within three months. The government said the agriculture department is already running a scheme for granting Rs 2 lakh to families of farmers who had committed suicide. The matter is pending before the HC following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Movement Against State Repression, an NGO.(Times of India 3/5/14)

 

93. Schemes not reaching us, say farmers (20)

KENDRAPARA: The State government’s alleged failure to identify a vast majority of farmers across Odisha till date came under sharp criticism at a farmers’ meet held at this district headquarters town in coastal Odisha on Friday. The benefits of a series of schemes were not reaching the targeted beneficiary due to non-identification of the farmers and sharecroppers in the State, said several speakers who spoke on the occasion. A host of other problems being faced by farmers in different regions of the State were also discussed threadbare at the meet organised on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya when farmers worship mother earth to begin a new crop season. Over 200 farmers, many of them women, attended the meeting organised by Kendrapara Farmers Development Cooperative Ltd. The speakers who addressed the gathering stressed the need for implementation of schemes aimed at benefiting the farmers by involving the farmers’ cooperatives actively working in different regions of the State. The speakers lamented that in the absence of a proper mechanism the farmers in most parts of the State were not getting the minimum support price and resorting to distress sale of their produce. (The Hindu 4/5/14)

 

94. Sambalpur to Adopt Integrated Farming (20)

SAMBALPUR: The district will adopt integrated farming system in rain-fed areas of the district under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) from the current kharif season. NMSA is one of the eight missions outlined under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It aims at enhancing agriculture productivity, especially in rain-fed areas, by focusing on integrated farming, efficient use of water and soil health management. Sources said three clusters have been proposed – each in an area of 300 hectares comprising agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and fishery – in sub-divisions of Sambalpur, Rairakhol and Kuchinda. An action plan has been drawn by the district agriculture authoritiesand sent to the Directorate of Agriculture for approval. NMSA has become the need of the hour as environmental changes are taking a toll on agriculture here. Besides, many areas under these three sub-divisions are devoid of irrigation facilities. In another development, the Centre-sponsored National Food Security Mission (NFSM) which was launched in the district in 2010-11 aiming at growing more pulses, will from this year include rice. The scheme will promote cultivation and increase production of both pulses and rice through area expansion and productivity enhancement in a sustainable manner. It will also work on restoring soil health and productivity at individual farm level. Deputy Director of Agriculture, Ashok Mohanty said the matter has been discussed in the District Agricultural Strategy Committee meeting for the ensuing kharif crop. “This is a part of our efforts to improve productivity and provide farmers with alternative livelihood options”, he added. (New Indian Express 7/5/12)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

95. Allotment under food security Act merely half the consumption (21)

New Delhi: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is hard-selling the National Food Security Act (NFSA), saying this will eradicate hunger from India. However, subsidised food grains provided under the new law is about half the consumption by the poor, both in urban and rural areas. Also, the national per capita consumption is about twice the entitlement under NFSA. The NFSA, passed in both Houses of Parliament in August 2013, entitles 67 per cent of the country’s population to five kg of food grains—rice, wheat or coarse grains—a month. A recent National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) showed in 2011-12, 10 per cent of the population (which has the lowest household expenditure) in rural and urban areas consumed 10 kg and 9.4 kg of cereals a month, respectively. National consumption of cereals stood at 11.2 kg and 9.3 kg per person in rural and urban regions, respectively. Experts say the data indicates the NFSA has to be modified. “There has to be a differentiated level of entitlement, not a universal one, as the Act states in its current form. However, that would be a difficult task,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at CARE Ratings. Through the 18 years from 1993-94 to 2011-12, monthly cereal consumption fell from 13.4 kg to 11.2 kg in rural areas and from 10.6 kg to 9.3 kg in urban parts. The first draft of the Bill in this regard, presented in Parliament in 2011, had sought 7 kg of grains a person, a month for priority category households, and three-four kg for the general category. But a standing committee recommended a uniform level of five kg. A few analysts, however, say the Act isn’t aimed at eradicating hunger, but providing basic support. “The purpose of the Act is not to guarantee 100 per cent food security, but to fulfil substantial requirement, which is clearly accomplished,” said Reetika Khera, assistant professor of economics at Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi. She added the idea of fine-tuning the entitlement according to needs, though attractive, was difficult to implement. T N Seema, a Rajya Sabha member from Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a member of the parliamentary standing committee on food, had questioned the panel’s move to reduce the monthly entitlement of priority sector households from seven kg a person to five kg. Under the Public Distribution System, below-poverty-line (BPL) families and those covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) get 35 kg of grains a month. If one considers an average family size of five members, the quantity of food grains provided by the NFSA is less. Seema had said, “The uniform entitlement recommended by the committee at 5 kg a person is unacceptable, as it will reduce even the present 35-kg entitlement for BPL and AAY families by 10 kg for a family of five.” The note added the cut in entitlement would result in food insecurity for 65.2 million families (currently identified as BPL/AAY beneficiaries); it would merely help the government cut subsidy. Speaking to Business Standard, Seema said the government had adequate resources to cater to the majority of the population and provide it basic food security. “The present entitlement is insufficient. The government said providing seven kg would lead to acute shortage of stocks in the future. But we have adequate resources. I had raised this point in Parliament, too. How can we address the issue of malnutrition with the present clause?” (Business Standard 3/5/14)

 

96. Consumption data contradict high poverty estimates (21)

NEW DELHI: India could be overstating poverty levels as the private final consumption estimates captured by the National Income Accounts (NIA) is nearly twice as much as the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) estimates for consumption expenditure of households in 2011-12. At present, poverty ratios are calculated using the NSSO data. The C. Rangarajan Committee on poverty estimation, that will submit its findings by the month-end, is likely to report that it has so far not been able to reconcile the differential between the two sets of data, a Planning Commission source told The Hindu. Dr. Rangarajan could not be reached for comment as he was travelling. The Planning Commission’s latest estimate of the national poverty line was at consumption expenditure level of Rs. 33.33 in cities and Rs. 27.20 in villages per day per person. Indians below this consumption poverty line fell dramatically from 41 crore in 2004-05 to 27 crore in 2011-12. The irreconcilable differential of the two data sets means even these estimates of poverty levels could be an overstatement. “The exact extent of overstatement of poverty could not be calculated as there is no way to find out exactly who is under-reporting consumption,” the source said. “However, since it cannot be only the rich who are under-reporting consumption, it can be said that poverty is being overstated.” The UPA had in May 2012 set up the five-member expert group to revisit the way poverty is estimated following criticism of the Planning Commission’s estimates based on the Tendulkar panel norms. The Commission had announced that the number of poor stood reduced from 40.7 crore to 35.5 crore during the period 2004-05 to 2009-10. A source in the Central Statistics Office explained the weaknesses of the NSS estimates. (The Hindu 5/5/14)

 

97. Tackling urban poverty will be a challenge for new Govt (21)

New Delhi: One of the biggest challenges for the next government will be to resolve problems of the urban poor who have not benefited from poverty alleviation schemes and are reeling under high prices, a senior official said. “The urban poor are the most squeezed section of society due to high inflation rate in the past years. It is a big challenge before any government to deal with the situation. There was a lot of talk on this issue for the past five years but nothing substantial has been done so far,” National Statistical Commission Chairman Pronab Sen said. According to Sen, the rural poor were insulated from the impact of higher commodity prices by schemes such as the employment guarantee programme, which were not available for the poor living in cities. The rural poor have easier access to foodgrains, vegetables, fruits, poultry and milk at reasonable prices, but those in the urban areas have to pay market prices for them. Sen said due to the rise in prices of agriculture produce, the rural poor benefited and their income went up, while the slowdown in industrial activity caused job losses and income erosion in urban areas. During April-February, the index of industrial production, a measure of factory activity, declined 0.1 per cent compared with a 0.9 per cent growth in the corresponding period of 2012-13. Retail inflation measured in terms of the Consumer Price Index increased to 8.31 per cent in March from 8.03 per cent in February, mainly on account of vegetables, fruits, pulses, milk, spices, and egg, fish and meat. Inflation as measured by the Wholesale Price Index increased to 5.7 per cent in March from 4.68 per cent in the previous month. Inflation for primary food articles for March increased to 9.9 per cent from 8.12 per cent in the previous month mainly on account of increase in prices of moong, urad, vegetables, fruits, milk and fish. Sen was of the view that wages in cities have not increased in tandem with retail inflation because industry uses WPI inflation for assessing its productivity and profitability. Retail inflation remained in the 8-11 per cent range since March last year, whereas WPI was between 4.5 and 7.5 per cent, leading to a mismatch between industry’s assessment of profitability and workers’ demand for an increase in wages. (Business Line 6/5/14)

 

98. Food security lost on UP farmers, loan waiver only a fond memory (21)

Fizabad: Sonia Gandhi pushed the Food Security Bill through the Lok Sabha; Rahul Gandhi keeps flaunting it at his election rallies. On the ground, however, it seems to have not registered with villagers across constituencies held by the Congress. And the other grand public scheme introduced by the Congress, NREGA, appears to have generated public resentment against corruption rather than offer vote security to the Congress. While the politics of these permanent institutions finds no resonance, the one-time relief towards farmers’ loans does. Introduced ahead of the last elections, this is what many villagers say made them vote Congress last time, leading to the party’s surprise victories in many seats. At the same time, they add, the waiver since expired doesn’t mean they will necessarily vote for the Congress again. The Samajwadi Party government’s attempt to replicate the loan relief in UP after its assembly election success, incidentally, has failed to impress. This is because the waiver up to Rs 50,000 applies not to farm loans from scheduled commercial banks, but only to loans from Land Development Bank. In villages of Barabanki, Faizabad, Bahraich, Shrawasti and Gonda (all held by the Congress), farmers across castes — Brahmins, Thakurs, Kurmis, Koeris, Yadavs, Muslims — assert it was because of the loan waiver that they voted for the Congress last time. They make no mention of NREGA or the National Food Security Act unless one brings these up. At Haleem Nagar village in Faizabad, Nishad Khan says, “My loan of Rs 44,000 was waived, so I voted for the Congress.” At Udhauli village in Barabanki, Ram Shanker Verma, a Kurmi, cites the same reason and also mentions Kurmi leader Beni Prasad Verma’s association with the Congress. The waiver is something they bring up of their own. Any mention of NREGA agitates them. They say the money under the scheme is being siphoned by village pradhans and has made no impact on their voting choice. “NREGA is a fraud. If 10 people go for work, the pradhan collects money for 20,” says Dev Prasad Maurya of Rampur village in Shrawasti. He too claims to have voted for the Congress because of the waiver. “We haven’t heard much about the Food Security Act. I don’t think anyone has benefited from it. Anyway, it will benefit the kotedaar (fair price shop-owner) more than anyone else,” says Setu Ram Chaudhary of Sisaur Andupur in Gonda. He will vote for Beni Prasad Verma because he belongs to the same community. No voter The Indian Express met in these Congress-held constituencies, however, said they would vote again for the party because of the waiver. “The loan waiver helped several farmers and did not differentiate on the basis of caste or religion. I voted for the Congress, but not this time,” (Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

99. Eastern UP: Rich past, poor present (20)

In the last two rounds of polling for the general elections, 33 eastern UP seats are in play. One of the most densely populated regions in the country, 8 crore or 40% of UP’s 20 crore population lives here, in 28 districts. It’s a land of the mahajanapadas or great kingdoms, like Kaushambi , Kashi, Koshala, Malla, etc. It’s here that Gautam Buddha started preaching. In modern times it was the nerve center of the freedom struggle. It’s also the land of Kabir and Ravidas, Bharatendu Harishchandra and Premchand , Firaq Gorakhpuri and Harivanshrai Bachchan. But this golden past is a distant memory. Despite being a crucible of political power, or perhaps because of that, eastern UP is deeply mired in casteism, fundamentalism and ‘bahubali’ or musclemen politics. The result: Poverty and deprivation, declining agriculture, virtually no industrialization and shocking social indicators. Fourteen of the 28 districts figure in the list of 100 most backward districts in the country. The remaining are barely better. On some counts there is clear development says Ravi Srivastava, professor of regional development at JNU. The condition of roads is vastly better compared to 20-30 years ago, power supply is bad but not as bad as earlier and agricultural yields have gone up. “But Eastern UP is a defi cit economy, running on remittances from migrant workers. Land holdings have become smaller, irrigation is a huge problem, and there’s been steady deindustrialization,” he says, explaining the widespread poverty and unemployment. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of farmers declined 30%. The net sown area fell by 15%. Net irrigated area in this land crisscrossed by rivers declined by 8%. Large chunks of land have become alkaline (usar). Groundwater, main source of irrigation, is emptying out rapidly while the canal system is largely defunct. In all of the 28 districts, there are just 1,617 registered factories. This is an improvement from a decade ago, but how many can these units employ from among 2.6 crore workers estimated by the 2011 Census. Small scale units have suffered a decline of about 10% although the number of workers has increased. But less than 2 lakh workers in the smallscale sector is a drop in the ocean. Household industries too have suffered a decline of about 4%.This job crisis has led to a 45% increase in agricultural workers between the two censuses. The nature of work has changed — shortterm , temporary work, called marginal work, has increased while regular work has gone down. The number of marginal workers has increased 39% in the past decade. “This is a policy problem. There has been no stable industrial policy in UP for years. Crony capitalism is rampant, political manipulation rife,” stresses Srivastava. (Times of India 7/5/12)

 

RESERVATION

100. Minority colleges move High Court against reservation for HK students (25)

Bangalore: A few religious and linguistic minority professional colleges on Wednesday moved the Karnataka High Court questioning the Government Order on reserving seats for students from Gulbarga, Bidar, Raichur, Koppal, Yadgir and Bellary districts in view of the special status given to the Hyderabad Karnataka region under Article 371 (J). The petitioners — Al-Ameen Medical and Dental Colleges, MVJ Medical College, and others — questioned the Karnataka Private Unaided Educational Institutions (Regulations of Admission in the Hyderabad Karnataka Region) Order, 2013, issued in November 2013 and the February 1, 2014, notification earmarking certain percentage of seats in these institutions for persons hailing from the six districts. The notification says that regional institutes, including government, private, private unaided and deemed universities, shall reserve 70 per cent of the available seats for local persons every year after deducting the seats allocated to all-India quota/NRI quota in every course of study, and State-wide institutions shall reserve 8 per cent of available seats for local persons every year after deducting the seats allocated to all-India quota/NRI quota. The petitioners claimed that when the reservation provided under the Constitution for socially and economically backward classes such as Scheduled Class and Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes were not made applicable for minority institutions, reservation for the HK region too could not be applied to them. They claimed that the notifications were contrary to the law declared by the Supreme Court on minority professional colleges. Pointing out that the order on the reservation for the HK region could not be enforced on minority institutions in view of Article 30(1) of the Constitution, the petitioners contended that the notification ought to have restricted the reservation only to non-minority educational institutions. Justice B.S. Patil, before whom the petition came up for hearing, referred the case to a Division Bench as it required greater consideration on constitutional issues while refusing to stay the operation of the notification. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

101. Quota issue raises head at AIIMS, teachers to protest on Saturday (25)

NEW DELHI: A section of AIIMS faculty will stage a protest at Jantar Mantar on Saturday against the denial of reservations in various medical institutions and other institutions of higher education across the country. The protesting doctors are demanding that those responsible for denial of reservation should face criminal prosecution. They will submit a memorandum to the President. “The gross under-representation of SC, ST and OBC in the advertisements from other medical institutes clearly suggests that infraction of reservation roster is not only confined to AIIMS,” said Dr L R Murmu, professor at AIIMS. Members of Forum for Rights and Equality and Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum of AIIMS said those responsible for undermining the policy of reservation have developed a kind of immunity to action against them. It is imperative that a system is put in place wherein infraction of the due rights of SC, ST and OBC is treated as a crime that would attract penal punishment, they said. Times of India 2/5/14)

 

102. Delhi govt to stick to current policy, follow quota fixed by Centre (25)

The Delhi government will continue to adhere to the reservation policy as fixed by the central government allowing 15 per cent quota for Scheduled Castes and 7.5 per cent for Scheduled Tribes, keeping aside the principle of nativity of the beneficiaries. In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the Delhi government said that till the issue – if providing reservations as per direction issued by the President under Article 341 (1) or Article 342 (1) would have any bearing on the state government’s action – is settled by a larger bench, it will stick to the present quota policy in jobs and education. The city government sought dismissal of an appeal that challenged a 2010 ruling of the Delhi High Court. The Constitution under Article 341 and 342 provides separate list of SCs and STs respectively for the states and Union Territories. For Delhi, 36 castes have been notified through Presidential notification as SCs and no list of ST was notified for Delhi. In June 2005, a circular was issued stating that the Delhi government should follow the central government’s pattern of reservation for SC/ST irrespective of nativity. This was based on the apex court’s ruling in S Pushpa case in 2005, where it was held that there would be no legal infirmity if the Union Territory of Pondicherry followed the central government’s reservation policy. But in the 2009 case of Sarv Rural, a two-judge bench held that the ruling in the S Pushpa case was a mere “obiter dicta” and hence not binding. It further ruled that reservation in jobs and education could be given to only those SC/ST who figure in the list of that state or UT. “This will mean depriving all categories of STs from the benefit of reservation in Delhi in the absence of Presidential notification under Article 342 and also depriving migrant SCs from the benefit of reservation in civil jobs there,” the Delhi government said. In another judgment in 2010 titled ‘State of Uttaranchal Vs Sandeep Kumar Singh’, the apex court said that the two-judge bench in Sarv Rural’s case could not have declared the three-judge bench decision in the S Pushpa case as “obiter and per incuriam”. Accordingly, the matter was referred to the Chief Justice of India for setting up a larger bench for considering the question of law, “whether any Presidential order has any bearing on the state’s action in making provision for reservation in appointments of posts in favour of any backward classes of citizens, which in the opinion of the state is not adequately represented in the services under the state.” However, a PIL was filed in 2010 in the Delhi HC for implementation of the Sarv Rural case, seeking direction that only those SCs who were listed in Delhi should be granted the benefit of reservation and no such treatment to any ST in absence of any Presidential notification. The HC dismissed the petition, saying that the ruling in the S Pushpa case was binding as it was rendered by a three-judge bench. Responding to an appeal filed against the HC’s verdict, the Delhi government sought its dismissal saying that the Union Home Ministry re-examined the matter in consultation with the Law Ministry and also sought opinion of the Attorney General, who concurred with the HC’s view that till the matter is resolved by the larger bench, the decision in S Pushpa case will prevail. This means the UT government can adopt the central government’s reservation

policy. (Deccan Herald 4/5/14

 

103. CPM Demands PU to Give 25 Percent Seats for local Students (25)

PUDUCHERRY: The CPM staged a demonstration in front of the Pondicherry University gates on Tuesday, demanding 25 per cent reservation for local students in all courses. V Perumal, CPM State secretary said the university offers 56 courses, out of which quota is provided only for 18 courses. He demanded that reservation be extended to the rest of the courses also. Stressing that the Pondicherry University is not serving the larger interest of the people of the UT, he said the existing reservation for the local students is not applicable to employment-oriented courses, as a result of which they are deprived of the prospects of employment. Perumal also put forth several other demands. He reiterated his demand for setting up a committee, headed by a retired High Court judge, to probe the detention of a Tamil Department student and his torture by two professors and two security officials of the university. He demanded that the professors and officials be suspended and an inquiry be conducted. He demanded the cancellation of a retired district judge as the advisor to the university and setting up of a committee to probe the irregularities in removing red sand from the university campus. The CPM leader demanded that the university drop action against two girl students, who complained about ragging, and form a panel to investigate complaints of ragging in future. Perumal urged the university to reduce the fees for various courses and ensure hostel accommodation for those who needed it in the coming academic year. CPM leaders Rajangam, Nilavazhagan and Students Federation of India leader Anand were among those who participated in the demonstration. (New Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

HINDUTVA

104. Vajpayee like Mahatma, Modi like Bose: RSS leader (26)

New Delhi, May 2 : RSS leader Indresh Kumar Friday compared BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to Subhas Chandra Bose and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Mahatma Gandhi. He said Modi and Vajpayee were “just the same” and followed “secularism full of nationalism”.”Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Modi are just the same… one is like Mahatma and the other is like Subhas Chandra Bose,” Indresh Kumar said in an interview to CNN-IBN. He said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was running the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh as the oganisation wanted to ensure there is high voter turnout. “Yes, we are managing the election campaign in UP to ensure there is 100 percent voting… we are working on the ground to ensure people make the right choice,” he said. The RSS leader clarified that senior BJP leader L.K. Advani was not opposed to Modi being made the prime ministerial candidate but was only unhappy about the timing of the announcement. “Advani’s opinion was not against Modi. His dispute was about the time when the decision must be taken, before the assembly election or after,” he said. He dubbed as “fools” those criticising the RSS and said the Sangh has never endorsed communal politics. “Those who have this notion are foolish… the Sangh has never been for a communal society or politics. The Sangh is for nationalism, humanitarian causes,” he asserted. (New Kerala 2/5/14)

 

105. Congress condemns Assam violence, blames BJP for ‘communal agenda’ (26)

New Delhi, May 3 : The Congress Saturday condemned the violence in Assam and blamed the BJP and its leader Narendra Modi for creating a “communal atmosphere” in the country. Party spokesperson and union minister Kapil Sibal said at a briefing at the Congress headquarters in Delhi that “I want to, on behalf of the president of the Congress party, the vice president and the entire Congress party condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence perpetrated in Assam”.Sibal claimed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an auxiliary group associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, started the agenda of “dividing the polity” by launching the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1984. “The BJP embraced it and (senior BJP leader L.K.) Advani thought of the Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1991. Dec 6, 1992, the act of demolishing the Babri Masjid (in Ayodhya) was committed by leaders of the BJP. Nearly 500 people were killed in the Somnath-Ayodhya Yatra and after 1992, roughly 1,700 were killed. In 1995, they decided to have a similar march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. You are looking at a pattern which is prevalent from 1984 onwards. There were Gujarat riots in 2002,” said Sibal. Quoting from the website of Modi, Sibal said it credits the Gujarat chief minister with organising the two yatras starting from Somnath and Kanyakumari. “Now they admit that in 1998 when they came in power, the credit goes to Modi because of Rath Yatra and march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, which is purely a communal agenda and they admit it also that they will come to power on the basis of this communal agenda,” alleged Sibal. He alleged that post the Gujarat riots, Modi made provocative statements against the main minority community in the state. Sibal appealed that “people of the nation should recognise his masked face. Democracy should not be put at stake.” (New Kerala 3/5/14)

 

106. Kashmiri students assaulted for not chanting anti-Pak slogans (26)

New Delhi, May 5 : At least three Kashmiri students studying in a university in Greater Noida were beaten up for their reluctance to chant pro-India and anti-Pakistan slogans, triggering an angry reaction from Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, said media reports. The students from the Noida International University, who live in hostels, were beaten up after they refused to chant the slogans, said reports. The students said their complaints to the university authorities went unheeded. The varsity said the incident was a fight between students with no communal colour. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sharply reacted soon after the incident over Twitter. “Let’s beat patriotism in to Kashmiri students, why don’t we. Great way to remove any fear or sense of alienation among Kashmiris. Thugs!!!” he tweeted. “If the universities or state authorities can’t protect Kashmiri students coming there then man up and admit your inability or unwillingness. I’m sending the Resident Commissioner from Delhi to visit the university in question to ascertain all the facts before deciding next steps,” he tweeted attacking the ruling Samajwadi Party government of Akhilesh Yadav in UP. Earlier in March, Kashmiri students studying at the Mewar University in Rajasthan alleged that they have been harassed by local students, ahead of the Indo-Pak cricket match. Also on the eve of the India-Pakistan Asia Cup match on Mar 2, about 67 Kashmiri students were bundled back to their homes after they were rusticated from the University in Meerut, for cheering the Pakistani team. But later, the sedition charges were dropped after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called upon Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. (New Kerala 5/5/14)

 

107. Is RSS sniffing a victory in Amethi? (26)

AMETHI: The intensity with which the Sangh pariwar has put its force behind Smriti Irani in Amethi was initially seen as a bid to jolt Congress vice-president and party candidate Rahul Gandhi. However, the huge push given to the Smriti’s campaigning in the last a few days and the rally by the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Amethi could be an indication that the Sangh pariwar now sniffs a victory in the Gandhi pocket borough. While Smriti’s rigorous campaigning targeting Rahul and the Gandhi family has had an impact on the people’s enthusiasm, the arrival of several BJP leaders along with Sangh functionaries has added to their confidence further. Until now, over 200 Sangh functionaries from the level of pracharak and vibhag sadasya (departmental member) have reached Amethi. These pracharaks have not only been camping here but also holding meetings with the people inclined towards the BJP, Modi or RSS, in rural as well urban areas. Until now, the Sangh pariwar members have held scores of such meetings in a bid to drum up support for Smriti. While many of Sangh pariwar members are camping in a hotel, several others have become guests at the houses of like-minded friends or BJP workers, said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity. Interestingly, the seriousness is not only limited to RSS workers. Offshoots like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad and many others have been activated. The turnout in Modi’s rally on Sunday only presented a united Sangh Pariwar, a senior BJP leader said. The Sangh pariwar has deployed at least two swayamsewaks at each booth. Its sister organisations have made similar arrangements. While Dhananjay is the vibhag pramukh (chief), senior RSS functionaries like Bal Mukund from Jhandewala Estate are also camping in Amethi, an RSS functionary told TOI. Several people from Gujarat are also camping in Amethi, he added. More than 500 RSS activists are camping in Amethi, an RSS member told TOI. While members of the Sangh pariwar are making last-minute efforts before Amethi goes to polls, Smriti has held contact programmes at Salon, Gauriganj, Amethi and Tiloi. She has also met several influential people of the constituency who were inclined towards the BJP and Modi, a BJP leader said. Constituency in charge GL Shukla told TOI that the BJP had activated all its wings and last-minute preparation like distribution of bags to polling agents was almost complete. Irrespective of the result, the BJP think tank believes that even if the party is able to reduce the margin of Rahul Gandhi’s victory, it would have won a psychological war. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

 

 

 

Posted by admin at 28 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. RTI query on government nominated MLCs stonewalled (1)

NAGPUR: One of the UPA government’s boasts on ‘clean’ governance relates to the Right To Information Act that it brought about in 2005. Yet, it is found that getting information from the government remains a cumbersome process. Often such an effort meets dead-end. A city-based social activist Sampat Ramteke discovered this when he sought information on criteria for getting nomination as member of the state legislative council from governor’s quota. Under Article 171 section 5, the governor has the powers to nominate 12 persons as members of the Maharashtra legislative council. The term of 12 such members expired on March 12 and the governor is expected to nominate a new batch soon after Lok Sabha election process ends on May 16. As per the stipulated norms, the nominee selected by him should be an eminent person from the field of literature, arts, social service, sciences or the cooperative movement. The 12 governor nominees whose term has ended are Subhash Chavan, Mohan Joshi, Alka Desai, Suresh Navle, Charansingh Sapra and M M Sheikh (all from Congress). The six from NCP are Fauzia Khan, Vidya Chavan, Ram Pandagale, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, Ramesh Shendge and Sumant Gaikwad. Ramteke is president of Sickle Society of India. He has strived for years to bring to the national conscience problems of sickle cell anaemia, a blood disease typical to a section of the society mainly in Vidarbha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh belt. In his RTI application sent on March 27, he had specifically sought details of educational and other qualification of the 12 retiring members and the area of their work. He had also sought information on documents that needed to be selected for getting the governor’s nomination and details of the nomination process. Much to Ramteke’s chagrin, his application was passed on by the governor’s office to the chief minister’s secretariat on April 1 with a plea that CM secretariat is the right quarter to get the information sought. But a week later, the CM secretariat said it could not help in the matter and passed on the application to the legislative secretariat. “Time is running out for the next batch selection by the governor. I have little hope of getting the specific information,” Ramteke rued. “I have observed that the ruling parties while recommending the names to the governor do not follow the set norms. Hence the selection process is unconstitutional. It is the political leaders or those that the ruling party wants to favour who get the nomination,” Ramteke alleged. (Times of India 23/4/14)

 

2. Students can get answer sheets for Rs 2 per page: High court (1)

NEW DELHI: In an order that would help students across the capital, the Delhi high court held that a student can obtain copies of answer sheets by paying Rs 2 per page, in line with the RTI Act, instead of the amount asked by the educational institution. A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog has said that under the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005, Rs 2 will be charged for each page (A4 or A3 size paper) copied and no fee will be charged in the first hour of inspection. The court’s order came on the plea filed by a student of The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, who had challenged the institute’s demand of Rs 500 for obtaining a copy of the answer book under the Act. Petitioner Paras Jain had applied for the inspection of his answer sheets under the RTI Act. On August 12, 2013, inspection was allowed by the ICSI but the institute refused to provide the copies at the rate of Rs 2 per page as prescribed under RTI Rules, 2012, he claimed. The petitioner claimed that after two days, the examination committee of ICSI decided to charge Rs 450 for the inspection of answer sheets. “Fee of Rs 500 per subject/answer books payable for supply of certified copies of answer books and Rs 450 per answer book for providing inspection thereof respectively. The fee shall be paid through demand draft drawn in favour of The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, payable at New Delhi,” the guidelines of the institute stated. “This was a move to discourage students to inspect their answer sheets under the RTI Act, 2005,” Jain said. Holding that the demand of the institute asking for a fee of Rs 500 per subject/answer book copy is “not sustainable”, the HC said, “We dispose of appeal quashing guideline number 3 notified by the respondent (institute) and declare that for the answer sheets copy is sought by the appellant (Jain) he shall be charged fee as per Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005″. The court added, “It is trite that an executive instruction if in violation of a statutory rule or a regulation must yield to the statutory rule or regulation”. (Times of India 26/4/14)

 

3. Disclosing identity of UPSC interviewers may be harmful: Delhi HC (1)

New Delhi: The possibility of a failed candidate attempting to take revenge on the selection commission members of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) cannot be ruled out, said Delhi High Court as it agreed that disclosing their names will “expose them to danger”.This was decided by Justice Manmohan while setting aside a Central Information Commission (CIC) order to disclose name of the interviewers along with their designation under the RTI Act. The court said that disclosure of names, addresses and qualification of the selection commission members would “endanger the life and physical safety” of those experts and it is, consequently, exempt under Section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act. “The disclosure of names and addresses of the members of the interview board would ex facie endanger their lives or physical safety,” the court said, keeping secret the identity of interviewers who were part of the committee to select candidates for the post of Drug Controller of India. The court said that in the event of such information being made known, a “disgruntled examinee” who is not satisfied with the evaluation of the answer books, may act to the prejudice of the examiner by attempting to endanger his physical safety. “Any apprehension on the part of the examiner that there may be danger to his physical safety, if his identity becomes known to the examinees, may come in the way of effective discharge of his duties”, Justice Manmohan remarked. This applies not only to the examiner but also to the scrutiniser, coordinator and head examiners who deal with the answer book,” it opined. UPSC had sought dismissal of the plea arguing that the marks, views, opinions of the experts, who were on the interview board is held by the Commission in a fiduciary relationship. It contended that the information relates to the core functioning of UPSC and its disclosure would “seriously endanger the process of secrecy and confidentiality of the selection process” as well as “jeopardize the total functioning and activity of UPSC” by rendering it amenable to manipulation or misuse by interested individual or groups. The court disposed of the case saying that disclosure of the identity of board member would not serve any fruitful purpose. (Times of India 27/4/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

4. SAD responsible for clean chit to Tytler: Human rights group (1)

JALANDHAR: While SAD is targeting former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh for giving a clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the November 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi, US-based human rights group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) has accused the Parkash Singh Badal Akali faction of forcing prime witness Giani Surinder Singh to withdraw his testimony against Tytler. SFJ is already pursuing human rights violation cases against Sonia Gandhi and Congress in US courts on the 1984 massacre issue. SFJ termed Badal and Amarinder as “partners in crimes” against the Sikh community and demanded full accountability of SAD-BJP’s alleged efforts in seeking conviction of Tytler. “During the 2009 parliamentary elections, New York based Giani Surinder Singh was forced by SAD (Badal) to return to India so they could gain votes on the Tytler issue. After appearing in the CBI court in April 2009 as a witness against Tytler, Surinder pleaded with Badal to get him placed in Punjab under the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). But due to an underhand deal with Tytler’s right-hand man Rana, SAD (Badal) let Surinder die in the hospital in Delhi under mysterious circumstances,” alleged SFJ legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. In another case, Gurcharan Singh Rishi, a victim of the 1984 riots and main witness against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, died in front of Badal’s residence while wailing for help from the Punjab CM for medical care, Pannun recalled. “Since 2007, when Tytler was first given a clean chit by the CBI, the case against him is being pursued by US-based witnesses Jasbir Singh, Resham Singh and SFJ without any financial or legal contribution by SAD(B) and SGPC,” Pannun said. Accusing SAD(B) of using the 1984 riots issue only during the election campaigns, SFJ asked the SAD patriarch to tell people what his party had done for the victims of the pogrom during the last 30 years. (Times of India 23/4/14)

 

5. India’s children suffer bias in classroom: HRW (1)

New Delhi: Some Indian teachers force children from lower castes and minority religions to clean toilets and sit separately from their classmates as part of “persistent” discrimination in classrooms, a rights group said Tuesday. Human Rights Watch said pupils from marginalised communities often dropped out of school and started working as labourers rather than face continued humiliation at the hands of teachers and principals. The 77-page study on schools was compiled through interviews with more than 160 teachers, principals, parents and students in four states which have large populations of low-caste poor, indigenous tribals and Muslims. “India’s immense project to educate all its children risks falling victim to deeply rooted discrimination by teachers and other school staff against the poor and marginalised,” said the report’s author Jayshree Bajoria. “Instead of encouraging children from at-risk communities who are often the first in their families to ever step inside a classroom, teachers often neglect or even mistreat them,” she said. Children from Muslim communities were among those often made to sit at the back of classrooms or in separate rooms. (Asian Age 24/4/124)

 

6. Attacks on women, minorities on the rise in Pakistan: HRCP (1)

Islamabad: Pakistan has failed to protect the rights of minorities and women, a leading rights group said today, citing the alarming rise in honour killings and violence against religious minorities in the country in 2013. More than 869 women were killed in the name of honour while 56 were killed for giving birth to a girl child last year. Around 687 people were killed in more than 200 sectarian attacks last year, a rise of 22 per cent from 2012, which saw one the deadliest attacks against Christians that claimed lives of at least 100 people in Peshawar Church. Pakistan’s small Christian, Hindu, Ahmadi and Sikh communities face discrimination and sporadic violence. Muslims, which comprises 97 per cent, dominate Pakistan’s 180 million population of which majority are Sunnis. Violence against shiite Muslims, who make up about 20 per cent of the population, has seen an upward swing in recent years. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said most serious violation were committed against women as another 800 committed suicide. The group criticised authorities for their failure to improve the human rights situation in the country and protect the rights of minorities. HRCP, in its ‘Sate of Human Right 2013 report’ launched here, noted serious violation of basic rights of people, ranging from attack at minorities to killing of media practitioners and imprisonment of Indian fishermen. It said 11 journalists were killed and many others injured in 2013 in Pakistan, which is placed at the 159th position out of 179 in the World Freedom Index. The report also noted the extra-judicial killing by police, saying that 503 people were killed and 49 injured in 357 police encounters in the country. In the on-going ethnic and sectarian violence in Pakistan’s mega Karachi city in the south, 3218 people were killed, 14 per cent up from 2012. HRCP secretary general I A Rehman said that government failed to uphold the basic rights of the people and formulate a plan to stop their violations. “We are worried about the full picture (violations). We don’t see a comprehensive approach or a plan for human rights. This means we are moving on a case to case basis and not overall,” he said. He also expressed concern over the attack on journalist Hamid Mir, who survived the attempt on his life in Karachi. “We are extremely concerned over this and we feel that journalists are at risk in Pakistan and they are not being protected. We are also extremely concerned over lack of unity.” HRCP also said that the 31 US drone attacks in the tribal region in the northwest killed 199 people. It also said that hundreds of Pakistani and India fishermen and other civilians remained incarcerated in each other’s jails. The report, however, praised the completion of the tenure of the elected government, saying it was a significant development for a democratic polity in Pakistan. (Zee News 25/4/14)

 

7. No Honour in Any Killing, it’s Murder’(1)

Chennai: There is nothing honourable in honour killing. It is a cold blooded murder and social violence, said Justice K G Balakrishnan, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India There is nothing honourable in honour killing. It is a cold blooded murder and social violence, said Justice K G Balakrishnan, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India, speaking at a seminar on ‘Social Violence, A Challenge to Human Rights’,  here recently. “Education is not sufficient to bring about a change in people’s minds but reformation of society is needed,” he said. Justice Balakrishnan also released a book titled Human Rights From the Dalit Perspective by Henry Thiagaraj, founder and convener of the Human Rights Education Movement of India and president of Voice and Dalit Forum. The book is a collection of articles on human rights for Dalits by 20 scholars. “In this 21st century we still follow traditions of 18th century and discriminate people on the basis of caste. We need statesmen who can rise above petty politics of caste, race and religion in order to implement social justice,” said Thiagarajan. Social activist Fathima Muzaffer, who was present, called all Dalits and minorities to work towards the path of development. “We are divided into nations and tribes to recognise each other. We have to mingle with each other and socialise in order to be empowered,” she added. Experts from various fields like C Raajkumar of Central Board of Film Certification, psychiatrist R Mangala, senior advocate R Gandhi, Justice V Kanagaraj, former Judge, High Court of Madras, also attended the seminar and book release. Youngsters from the NGO Grassroots Community presented a cultural programme on the occasion. (Indian Express 28/4/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

8. Defence ministry wants Mir’s TV channel shut for targeting ISI (1)

ISLAMABAD: The accusation of attempted killing of a prominent Pakistani journalist against the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) prompted the country’s defence ministry to file a formal complaint with the media regulatory authority, seeking a shut down of Geo TV, the country’s most popular private news channel. The ministry accused Geo and Jang group of running a malicious campaign to defame the ISI, Pakistan’s main spy agency, following last week’s attack on Hamid Mir, Geo channel’s senior journalist, in the port city of Karachi. Mir survived the attack. Soon after the attack, Mir’s younger brother Amir came on the channel alleging that ‘certain elements’ in the spy agency and its chief, Lt General Zaheerul Islam, orchestrated the attack. Geo prominently broadcasted the bold accusations with a photograph of the spy agency’s chief while a senior journalist of Jang group called for Lt Gen Islam’s resignation, triggering a strong reaction from the powerful military establishment and rival news channels. The complaint submitted with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Tuesday, claims that Geo News launched a ‘vicious campaign’ of ‘false accusations’ against the ISI, a ‘state institution tasked to work for the defence, sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan’. According to the complaint, “The telecast in question/campaign was aimed at … falsely linking it (the ISI) with the terrorist outfits/activities.” The statement specifically mentioned the footage being re-broadcast in India. “The footage was picked up by foreign media particularly Indian channels who instead of objectively reporting the incident overplayed it repeatedly,” it said. “The said reporting has violated the specific terms and conditions of its licence,” it said, adding that this was not an isolated incident. “Geo Network has a history of acting illegally in furtherance of anti-Pakistan agenda,” the statement said, adding that it can provide additional evidence if the media regulatory body required it. (Times of India 24/4/14)

 

9. Maya wants EC action on Modi’s media coverage (1)

Lucknow: BSP chief Mayawati Friday urged the Election Commission to take cognizance of the extensive media coverage of the roadshow and filing of nomination papers by BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Varanasi on Thursday even when the sixth phase of polling was underway across the country. Talking to reporters at her residence here, she said the EC should take some steps in this regard so that no party gets undue advantage. Claiming that the money of capitalists has gone into creating a hype in the media to favour BJP, she said the party will return the favour to these businessmen if it comes to power. She also alleged that the BJP has not only managed the media but also the astrologers of the country. About the presence of a large number of people during Modi’s roadshow in Varanasi, she said most of the crowd was from outside  the city. Stressing that the EC should be cautious about any attempt of religious polarisation in eastern UP, especially in Varanasi by the BJP and SP for political benefits, the BSP chief demanded that security of all temples and mosques must be handed over to the central forces. She underlined there have been huge crowds at her public meetings and they included not only Dalits but also OBCs, Muslims and upper castes. She said when Modi wanted to take on Congress in the fight for PM’s post, he should have contested from Amethi against “Congress’s Yuvraj Rahul Gandhi who is the undeclared PM candidate of his party”. Answering a question, she said Mulayam will never be able to become PM as people know that someone who cannot control UP will not be able to run the country. “There is poor law and order in UP. No development is taking place. There is no question of him becoming the PM,” she said. (Indian Express 26/4/14)

 

10. Collegian held for attack on TV journalist in Malad (1)

MUMBAI: The Malad police on Sunday arrested the prime accused in the case of assault on television journalist Sanjay Prasad. Afroz Sayyad (20), the prime accused, is a degree student at a Jogeshwari-based college. The police had arrested another accused, Vijay Bahadur, in the case on Saturday itself. Three others are wanted in the case. Prasad, along with his wife and a relative, had gone out shopping near Natraj Market in Malad when the incident took place. While Prasad and the relative were bargaining at a shop and his wife was standing closeby, a few men allegedly passed lewd comments at her and made obscene gestures. After a while when Prasad turned to speak to his wife, she told him what had happened. Prasad then called one of the accused, warned him against harassing his wife, and pushed him away. The accused went away only to return minutes later with his associates and attacked Prasad on the head with a hard object. As Prasad started to bleed, his wife tried to intervene, at which the accused pushed her away and threatened to harm them both, before fleeing. “One of the accused runs a shoe shop. Not all of them are hawkers,” said the police. All the accused are residents of Pathanwadi in Malad. The Press Club, Mumbai, on Sunday, issued a statement condemning the incident and urged the police commissioner to take strong action against the assailants. The accused have been booked on charges of assault, molestation, criminal intimidation and rioting. Prasad is out of danger. (Times of India 28/4/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

11. Healthcare needs of the poor require urgent attention (3)

New Delhi: Leave aside the semantics, both the Congress and the BJP promised in their manifestos to lower out of pocket expenditure on healthcare that pushes a large number of Indians over the poverty line. When UPA-I came to power in 2004, the first National Advisory Committee prepared a report to demonstrate how the staggering out of pocket expenditure on health was the biggest contributing factor for a significant rise in the poverty level. Eight out of ten years of UPA rule, the government took several steps, but much more needs to be done if the health scenario has to be altered. There are some successes like a big drop in the infant and maternal mortality rates. The government intervention focused on reproductive and child health, improved institutional deliveries and tackled vector-borne and communicable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. Over the last decade, India underwent a demographic shift with large scale migration from rural to urban areas. As per the 2001 census report, more than 30 per cent of Indian populace was urban, which is projected to exceed 40 per cent by 2030. But public sector health care facilities have not increased correspondingly, leading to a major growth in private health care business. Indian health system now face the challenges of high rates of non-communicable and mental diseases and continuing threats of communicable diseases. In the absence of adequate epidemiological records, the burden for most of the diseases is unknown. “For instance we do not know the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease in poor rural India,” said Yogesh Jain, a paediatrician at Bilaspur-based Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a non-governmental organisation associated with public health. About one and half years back, prime minister Manmohan Singh announced universal health care from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The Prime Minister’s Office and the union health ministry drafted a Rs 20,000 crore scheme to provide free medicines at government run health facilities that would have been the first step in reducing out of pocket spending on health. “Out of pocket payments represent about 69 per cent of the total health expenditure – a common cause for impoverishment,” said Asheena Khalakdina at the World Health Organisation. They come from non-reimbursable fees (or hospital or medical cost) which a patient or family is paying directly to health practitioners or suppliers, without intervention of a third party. India was ranked as having one of the world’s highest average out of pocket expenditure (74.4 per cent in 2011). It accounts for an average increase in poverty by as much as 3.6 and 2.9 per cent for rural and urban India respectively in 2009… (Deccan herald 18/4/14)

 

12. Move to Deny Compensation to 3,285 Endosulfan Victims (3)

KASARGOD: In a move to deny compensation to thousands of endosulfan victims, the district administration is understood to be planning to exclude 3,285 persons named in the endosulfan victims’ list of 5,500. A new medical camp will be conducted in July to prepare a fresh list, it is reliably learnt. So far, only 2,315 victims in the list, released in 2011, have received the first instalment of the compensation. The district administration denied the solatium to the remaining 3,285 saying that they are not ‘eligible’. It is also learnt that they are planning to restrict the number of victims to 2,315 and to conduct another medical camp in July. The district administration had received a sum of `52 crore from the Plantation Corporation and the State government in the last week of March for distributing the compensation. Of this, only `36 crore is needed for providing the second instalment to 2,315 victims. It is also learnt that the remaining `16 crore will be kept aside for the victims in the fresh list. The Deputy Collector, when contacted, said that as per the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission, only four categories of victims will get the compensation. The rest will get pension, free treatment and other incentives. The four categories are: bedridden, mentally-challenged, physically-challenged, and bereaved families. Of this, bedridden, mentally-challenged and bereaved families would get `5 lakh and the physically-challenged would get `3 lakh, in three instalments, said the Deputy Collector. According to him, only 2,315 in the victims’ list come under these categories. However, the victims alleged that most of the people who were rejected compensation are mentally or physically-challenged and bedridden. “My children Chandra Prasad, 28, and Vijayalakshmi, 23, were bone paralysed. In 2011 they were included in the endosulfan victims’ list, but we have not received the compensation so far,” said Madhavi Radhakrishnan of Ganikar Moola, Muliyar. She also said that both her children had 85 per cent physical disability. “We don’t know why we have been rejected and our situation is absolutely pathetic now,” Madhavi added. Meanwhile, the Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munnani (EPJM) alleged that it was a deliberate attempt by the district administration to sabotage the list. “It’s a conscious attempt to reduce the number of the victims. If things go as planned by the officials, no more victims will get the compensation,” said Ambalathara Kunjikrishnan, an activist of the EPJM. He also said that over 3,000 victims in the list were below 11 years of age.“It’s not a matter of money but life for endosulfan victims,” Kunjikrishnan added. (New Indian Express 21/4/14)

 

13, Assocham CSR foundation launches campaign on Malaria (3)

AHMEDABAD: As about 50,000 people in India and about one crore across the world die of mosquito-borne diseases every year, apex industry body Assocham, under the aegis of its corporate social responsibility, has launched an awareness campaign with an aim to spread information about malaria, its causes, prevention and treatment. The Assocham foundation launched the campaign on Thursday, the eve of World Malaria Day commemorated globally every year on April 25. Representatives of the CSR foundation of Assocham has organised awareness programmes across vulnerable areas in Ahmedabad to educate people about water-borne diseases like malaria, cholera, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea and others that erupt every year during summer and rainy seasons due to poor quality of drinking water supply and sanitation. DS Rawat, secretary general of Assocham, said, “About 75 per cent of India’s water supply is seriously polluted with sewage and industrial effluents promoting water-borne diseases which affect over 70 million working days,” he said. Besides, groundwater available in over 200 districts in India is not fit for drinking owing to excessive concentration of fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic which affects about two lakh habitations as 85 per cent of population is dependent upon groundwater. Growing industrialisation, rapid urbanization, growth of unauthorized colonies, lack of amenities, dearth of medical facilities, garbage disposal in the open and other related factors are adversely affecting the safe drinking water supply across most parts of the country. Assocham CSR foundation will be holding community meetings to sensitize people about various measures to be taken for malaria prevention like keeping one’s surroundings clean, using a mosquito net while sleeping, getting blood sample tested in case of fever and others. Apart from community level meetings, Assocham would also organise exhibition-cum-awareness meetings at various schools to sensitize the students about malaria and other vector borne diseases to encourage the students to spread the messages to their family members and thereby help the society as a whole. (Times of India 25/4/14)

 

14. About 14.30 lakh chidlren belfow five year adminsitered polio drops in (3)

Chandigarh, Apr 27 : About 14.30 lakh children below five years of age were administered polio drops in Haryana as the Sub-National Immunization round of Pulse Polio 2014-15 began in 13 districts of the State. The polio drops were administered to the children at specially set up booths to wipe out polio from the state. Thus, 55 per cent of the targeted children have been covered on the first day of the three-day campaign. Stating this here today, a spokesman for Haryana Health Department said the districts covered under the campaign included Ambala, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Jhajjar, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Mewat, Palwal, Panchkula, Panipat, Rohtak, Sonepat and Yamunanagar. About 26 lakh children would be covered during this campaign in the state. This campaign will continue for another two days when the teams would go from house to house to administer polio drops to the children who could not come to the booths on Sunday. In order to smoothly carry out this campaign, a total of 10,583 booths were setup in the state and these were manned by about 42,000 health officials, volunteers, Anganwadri workers and ASHA workers. About 2100 officers and officials supervised the activity apart from independent Monitors of PGIMS, Rohtak and National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP) of World Health Organisation. The left out children during the booth activity on 1st day will be administered polio vaccine drops on April 27,28,29,2014 through house-to-house teams. During this round, special attention has been paid to high risk areas like slums, isolated hutments, brick kilns, floating or migrating population and construction sites so that no child is left uncovered in these areas. About 1000 mobile teams will be working during the campaign to cover all children in poorly approachable areas. It is important to know that wherever pockets of children remain un-immunized, the Poliovirus sustains survival and circulation. With every successive round of Pulse Polio Immunization, the areas of Poliovirus circulation get reduced. He urged the people to cooperate with the health authorities to eradicate polio from the State. (New Kerala 28/4/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

15. Delay in framing rules affects acquisition, says collector (4)

KOCHI: District collector M G Rajamanickam has admitted that land acquisition for Kochi metro has been affected due to the state government’s failure in framing rules for the new land acquisition act introduced by the Union government this year. “The government is yet to frame rules for the new act and officials with the revenue department are confused as to the procedures to be followed during land acquisition. This has affected acquisition activities for the Kochi metro rail,” the district collector said. DMRC’s principal adviser E Sreedharan had recently expressed concern that the delay in land acquisition could affect Metro works. Recently, Kochi corporation mayor Tony Chammany had sought chief minister Oommen Chandy’s intervention to ensure that the Metro work is completed on time. Sources said it had been almost a month since the revenue department made any progress in acquiring land for Kochi metro. The new act – known as the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act – came into force on January 1 and the state governments concerned were required to frame rules that will give clarity to the acquisition process by February 15, 2014. According to the new act, prior consent from at least 70% of the affected landowners is required in order to acquire land for government endeavours, while it is 80% for private companies. Moreover, solatium of 200% on land value will have to be paid in addition to the land value in village areas. For urban areas, the solatium will be 100%. Another clause is that a complete social impact study and environmental impact assessment have to be carried out prior to acquisition. A total of 45 acres is yet to be acquired to construct viaducts and stations of Kochi Metro. According to the revenue department, around 80% of the land has been acquired and handed over to Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL). “In the cases in which the award has been passed before December, 31, the new act will not have any bearing. But in the remaining cases, the new act will be in force,” Rajamanickam said. It is up to the law department to frame rules under the new act. “The issue has been brought to the attention of the revenue and law ministers. The government has given assurance that the rules will be framed by August,” sources with the revenue department said. Even if the rules are framed, it will have to get the consent of the legislative assembly. So, for completing the entire procedures it will take at least four or five months. The chief minister had earlier suggested direct purchase of land for Metro rail bypassing the land acquisition route but a final decision on this is yet to come even after two-and-a-half months. (Times of India 23/4/14)

 

16. Adani Group got land at cheapest rates in Modi’s Gujarat (4)

Ahmedabad: The rates at which the Gautam Adani-promoted Adani Group bagged land from the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government for its port and special economic zone (SEZ) project — between Re 1 and Rs 32 per square metre — were much lower than other companies that set up units in the state. Concessional pricing apart, the group did not face land acquisition hurdles, as the state allotted non-agricultural government land for Adani Port and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ), the country’s largest multi-product SEZ spread across 15,946.32 acres (6,456 hectares) in Kutch district’s Mundra block. By comparison, other companies setting up facilities in the state paid much higher rates: Tata Motors was given 1,110 acres for its Nano car plant in Sanand (near Ahmedabad) at Rs 900 per sq mt, Ford India paid at Rs 1,100 per sq mt for 460 acres close by, while India’s largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, bought about 700 acres in Hansalpur at Rs 670 per sq mt. Among other industrial groups, K Raheja Corp was sold land at Rs 470 per sq mt, while TCS had to pay at Rs 1,100 per sq mt and Torrent Power at Rs 6,000 per sq mt. (one acre equals 4,046.86 square metres). Amid campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, this has become a subject of political debate, with Modi’s opponents alleging the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate gave away land to his friends at throwaway prices as Gujarat chief minister. On its part, BJP claims the state gave land on concessional rates to encourage industry. Repeated emailed queries sent to Adani Group did not elicit any response. But sources in the group justified allotment at low prices, saying the land was given more than a decade ago, and that in an arid region with no scope of vegetation. The land allotted for the SEZ and port was government wasteland, forest land, grazing land and inter-tidal land. So, no acquisition hurdles were faced from farmers. According to sources in Mundra, where APSEZ is based, the jantri (ready reckoner) rate for land there in 2006-07 was around Rs 50-100 per sq mt. Since 1993, when the Adani group began developing its port and SEZ, various state governments have allotted land to the group. State government sources said there was no other instance of land being allotted at Rs 1 to Rs 32 per sq mt to any company or industrial group. Only educational or religious institutions were an exception. Sanat Mehta, who was the state’s finance minister from 1980 to 1985, said there was no policy for giving government land for industrial use when he was in power. “In our times, the policy was to give only GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) land for industries. We never allotted government land for industrial use. Even General Motors, the US-based car maker, got GIDC land,” Mehta said. He acknowledged the state government gave some incentives to big industries even during his tenure as finance minister, but those were in the form of deferments in sales tax payment (as a promotional measure). However, despite getting a good land deal from the state, the Adani group has so far not been able to gain much. According to the data published by the department of commerce, under the commerce & industry ministry, of the 15,946.32 acres allotted to APSEZ, only 8,287.44 acres (51 per cent) were being utilised for processing; the rest of the land was lying unutilised. APSEZ falls under the zonal development commissioner of Kandla SEZ, which has about 31,835.83 acres under it (12,777.03 acres lying vacant). Of the total land lying vacant, nearly 61 per cent belongs to APSEZ… (Business Standard 26/4/14)

 

17. NMDC mulls shifting pellet plant site in Chhattisgarh (4)

New Delhi: State-run iron ore miner NMDC is actively considering changing the location of its proposed two million tonne per annum (mtpa) pellet plant at Nagarnar in Chhattisgarh due to delay in land acquisition. “As land acquisition is getting delayed due to delay in conducting gram sabha by the Chhattisgarh state government, a proposal for change in location of the pellet plant has been under active consideration,” a company source said. NMDC was mulling setting up a pellet plant adjacent to its upcoming greenfield steel facility at Nagarnar, which is likely to start production by next fiscal, at an estimated cost of Rs. 800 crore. The company in October last year had submitted the requisite application for obtaining environmental clearance. The terms of reference (TOR) was held in December. The purpose of TOR, as per the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), is to enable the project proponent for planning and designing environmental impact assessment (EIA). “One of the points in the TOR minutes was that the EIA report should be submitted after the land acquisition,” the source said, adding since land acquisition was getting delayed, there was no point in pursuing for environmental clearance. “At this juncture, we do not have any other viable option left but shifting the location. We are considering that option actively,” he said. A decision on change of site would be taken after consulting with the competent authority, he added. The change in location of the pellet plant would mean the transportation cost of the end-product to its steel plant would go up resulting some additional expenditure for the company when the steel plant stats production. NMDC is setting up a three million tonnes per annum steel plant at Nagarnar in Bastar district with an investment of Rs. 15,525 crore. The company has already received all statutory clearances for the project. (The Hindu 27/4/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

18. Over 4.5 lakhs child labourers engaged in various e-waste activities in India.. (9)

LUCKNOW: In India, about 4.5 lakh child labourers in the age group of 10-14 are observed to be engaged in various e-waste (electronic waste) activities, and that too without adequate protection and safeguards in various yards and recycling workshops. Releasing the ASSOCHAM’s recent study on ‘Earth Day’ DS Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM said, the informal recycling industry often employs children to dismantle electronic waste. ASSOCHAM’s report strongly advocates legislation to prevent a child’s entry into this labour market. The chamber has also strongly advocated the need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into its collection, segregation and distribution”.A meagre 4% of India’s total e-waste gets recycled due to poor infrastructure, legislation and framework which lead to a waste of diminishing natural resources, irreparable damage of environment and health of the people working in industry. Over 95% of e-waste generated is managed by the unorganised sector and scrap dealers in this market, dismantle the disposed products instead of recycling it, said the study titled ‘Electronic Waste Management in India,’ jointly conducted by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and Frost & Sullivan and released on “Earth Day”.As per the study, India is likely to generate e-waste to an extent of 15 lakh metric tonnes (MT) per annum by 2015 from the current level 12.5 lakh MTs per annum growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 25%. India’s produces nearly 12.5 lakh MTs of electronic waste every year. Mumbai (96,000) tops the list in generating e-waste followed Delhi-NCR (67,000) and Bangalore (57,000) says the ASSOCHAM paper. Chennai, Kolkata, Ahemdabad, Hyderabad and Pune find a place in the ladder, at 47,000; 35,000; 26,000; 25,000 and 19,000 metric tonnes per year respectively, reveals the study. Computer equipment accounts for almost 68% of e-waste material followed by telecommunication equipment (12%), electrical equipment (8%) and medical equipment (7%). Other equipment, including household e-crap account for the remaining 5%, it said. “E-waste typically includes discarded computer monitors, motherboards, Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT), Printed Circuit Board (PCB), mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones, white goods such as Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)/ Plasma televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators and so on. With increasing use of these in our everyday life, e-waste is also piling up. Almost half of all unused and end-of-life electronic products lie idle in landfills, junkyards and warehouses,” it said. Rawat said, “E-waste is directly linked to the economic growth of the country and also overall consumer spending pattern. India’s economic growth has lifted millions of people from lower-income group to middle and high-income groups and increased purchasing power.” More than 70% of e-waste contributors are government, public and private industries, while household waste contributes about 15%. Televisions, refrigerators and washing machines make up the majority of e-waste, while computers account for another 20% and mobile phones 2%, adds the report. … (Times of India 22/4/14)

 

19. B’lore observes Earth Day with awareness events (9)

Earth Day was observed in the City, on Tuesday, with this year’s theme ‘Green cities.’ The day was marked by awareness programmes, workshops and seminars among others. A series of sessions on topics such as ‘Making Bangalore a Green City’, ‘Nature Inspires’, Climate Change and others was held jointly by Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Energy and Department (MGIRED) and Environment and Ecology Department. Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner G V Krishna Rau, inaugurated the seminar by lighting a solar lamp. He stressed the audience that to have a green and good environment, it is important to plant more trees. He suggested the adoption of solar-based transport system instead of fossil fuel. Dr Seetaramu, Director of Central Power Research Institute ( CPRI) present during the seminar said: “Around 600 MT coal is burnt every year in India and carbon emission is increasing by each passing day. Energy crisis is very important in power sector and also important factor of Indian economics.” Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike Commissioner M Laxminarayana, professors from Indian Institute of Science ( IISc), and officials from Environment and Ecology department were also present at the seminar and gave a word of advice regarding saving the earth through adopting different ways to save the globe. Many green associations also held similar programmes. The Green Path launched its new project called ‘Hasiru Thota’, an eco-friendly building. They also had an awareness programme and conducted hands-on experience for the participants on green construction through mud-block brick making, herbal plants potting and junk waste art work. The Department of Transport also held World Earth day celebration at Jnanajyothi Auditorium wherein poet Chandrashekar Kambara presided. Similarly, Bharatiya Samaja Seva Trust and Akhila Karnataka Makkala Koota celebrated the day by holding a seminar and distributing ‘Students Environmental award’. During the occasion, the Trust’s website was launched by environmentalist Saalum­arada Thimmakka. (Deccan Herald 23/4/14)

 

20. Centre gets 10 days to set up environment super regulator (9)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has given 10 days to the Centre to set up a national regulator that would take up comprehensive and independent environmental impact assessment (EIA) of projects, enforce conditions for approvals and impose penalties on polluters. Given the lack of transparency and allegations of corruption in grant of green nod to projects, which either drag for years or get it at lightning speed, the green bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik had on January 6 accused the government of sleeping over the court’s 2011 direction for setting up of a national environmental regulator. On Monday, the bench of Justices Patnaik, S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla refused to entertain an application by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) seeking six more months to set up the super regulator even though it maintained its objection to such a body based on legal grounds. The MoEF also cited elections as one of the grounds for its inability to make fresh appointment. Amicus curiae A D N Rao told the court that the government did not act on the basis of the three-year-old judgment in Lafarge case and also ignored the January 6 judgment for setting up of a national environment regulator and bringing to an end the rapid EIAs given by MoEF for important projects. Rao said the ongoing elections could not be a ground to stall setting up of the regulator as the government had very recently made appointments to key positions. The bench rejected MoEF’s stand and asked the Centre to set up the national regulator by April 31 and report compliance by May 5. On January 6, the bench had said, What is required is a regulator at the national level having its offices in all states which can carry out independent, objective and transparent appraisal and approval of projects for environmental clearances and which can also monitor implementation of the conditions laid down in environmental clearances.” The MoEF’s application had expressed inability to follow in letter and spirit the SC’s January 6 order, which had also stressed that the regulator be entrusted with mechanisms for rigorous monitoring and enforcement. The ministry had said penal powers could not be given to the regulator as the Environment Protection Act (EPA) provided that only a competent court could impose penalty for violation of environmental laws. “The Act does not provide for any civil penalty which could be imposed on polluters by the government or any other authority constituted by the government under the Act. Thus, the regulator/authority proposed to be set up under the EPA cannot be given powers to impose penalty on the polluters,” it had said. (Times of India 25/4/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

21. Maoists Kill ‘Informer’ (12)

KHAMMAM: Branding him a police informer, Maoists shot dead a migrant tribal youth Nupa Shiva (28) at Angaragudem village within Sammakka Bhattupalli panchayat limits under Pinapaka mandal of the district Monday midnight. Shiva belonged to Morupalli village within the limits of Chintalnad police station in Chhattisgarh. He shifted to Angargudem four years ago as he faced a threat to his life in his village of which he was the sarpanch. About 30 armed Maoists rounded off the house of Shiva and fired three rounds. Shiva died on the spot as bullets pierced through his head and chest. He is survived by two wives. Manuguru DSP P Ravindra Rao and Bayyaram CI Ch Bhaskar visited the place of offence. A case was registered and investigation is on. (New Indian Express 23/4/14)

 

22. Women led Naxal attack in J’khand (12)

Women Maoists were at the forefront of the landmine blast and heavy firing in Jharkhand’s Dumka that killed five policemen and three polling officials and left 11 others injured on Thursday evening, according to survivors recovering at a hospital in Ranchi. As the Jharkhand police drew flak for sending a rescue team to the blast site more than three hours after the incident and for disregarding the standard rules adopted by policemen for movement in the Maoist-affected areas, state DGP Rajiv Kumar admitted possible lapses by the cops and said this aspect will be investigated. Mr Kumar, chief minister Hemant Soren and his father Sibu Soren, a former chief minister, were present in Dumka on Friday for the ceremony where the deceased were given a gun salute before their last rites. “There were some 20 or 25 armed Maoists, including five women in apparently leading roles, who all came after the blast took place and our mini-bus was violently shaken, thrown up and split apart. The women ordered the male Maoists to shoot us (the injured polling staff) dead and we urged them to spare us. They spared us after the male Maoists so wanted,” said an injured official who received multiple injuries in the blast at Shikaripara in Dumka. The Maoists, who primarily target policemen, had apparently mistaken all the men in the mini-bus as policemen. IGP Anurag Gupta said it was the banned left-wing outfit CPI(Maoist) that had effected the blast. He denied that there was a three-hour delay in the recue team reaching the blast site. “We were well prepared for the first and the second phase of Lok Sabha polls, but it seems we made mistakes somewhere in the third phase. It was definitely wrong to use buses on a sensitive route like this one,” said DGP Rajiv Kumar to reporters. Former Jharkhand chief minister and JVM(P) chief Babulal Marandi, who was locked in an electoral race with JMM chief Sibu Soren in Dumka, accused the district administration of “complete neglect” and demanded a probe by either the CBI or the NIA into the chain of events that led to the landmine blast and firing by the Maoists at Shikaripara. (Asian Age 26/4/14)

 

23. Naxals axe, gun down jawan in market (12)

CHANDRAPUR: Naxalites axed a police jawan and then shot him dead from close range in a weekly market in Gyrapatti village in Korchi tehsil of Gadchiroli on Sunday afternoon. The rebels then fled with the weapon of the jawan, Lalsu Pungati (26), sources claimed. Pungati was on a routine patrol in the market with other cops. The rebels suddenly attacked Pungati with an axe while he was away from his companions. They heaved two blows on his neck from behind and then struck again on his ribs. As Pungati fell down, they shot eight bullets from close range to kill him. The attackers then grabbed Pungati’s weapon and disappeared in the crowd. Pungati is learnt to be the resident of Hitafali village in Bhamragad tehsil. He earlier served as special police officer (SPO) for the Gadchiroli police. He was inducted in the police force in 2010 and was deployed at Gyrapatti police outpost in Korchi tehsil. This is second instance of Naxal attack in village market in broad daylight within a week. On April 21, the rebels had shot dead surrendered Naxalite Vithal Kulmethe, who had also served as an SPO, in the weekly market at Jimamgutta. A schoolteacher was killed in similar fashion in weekly market at Teragaon in Chhattisgarh a few days back. It appears that Naxal have resorted to strategy of attacking cops and police sympathizers in public places and disappear into the crowd. (Times of India 28/4/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

24. Mizoram takes steps to repatriate tribal refugees (13)

Aizawl/Agartala, April 22 : Mizoram has undertaken a fresh initiative to take back the tribal refugees sheltering in neighbouring Tripura for the past 17 years after fleeing from their villages. “A meeting of the State Level Core Committee on tribal refugee repatriation, chaired by Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana was held in Aizawl Monday. It was decided in the meeting to resume the repatriation before the counting of votes of the Lok Sabha election May 16,” a Mizoram home department official told reporters. The official said the home department would take up the matter with the Election Commission to find out whether the refugee repatriation process would violate the model code of conduct in force for the Lok Sabha polls. He said the central government has sanctioned Rs.7.87 crore as financial assistance to the repatriated refugees. “Adequate foodgrain has been stored to provide free rations to the repatriated tribal refugees for one year.” The Election Commission earlier this month made arrangements for the refugees in six of the seven Tripura relief camps cast postal ballots. The poll panel decision aggrieved six NGOs and students’ groups and they called three-day shutdown and a poll boycott in Mizoram. The Election Commission had deferred the April 9 Lok Sabha polling in Mizoram to April 11 due to the stir. Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who is also the state Congress chief, and the six voluntary organisations have been demanding the refugees to be repatriated to their villages in Mizoram and then allowed to cast their votes in the normal process. Of the over 36,000 Reang tribal refugees living in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 after fleeing their villages in western Mizoram, 11,500 were on electoral rolls in Mizoram and 71 percent of them voted through postal ballot earlier this month. “In view of a threat given by NGOs in Mizoram to obstruct counting of postal ballot papers in Aizawl, the Election Commission has decided to count the votes in Kanchanpur (north Tripura) May 16,” Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nantu Das told IANS. The Reang tribals – locally known as ‘Bru’ – fled their villages in Mizoram and took shelter in Tripura in October 1997 after an ethnic conflict broke out with majority of Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official. Despite Tripura government’s repeated requests, an initiative of the union home ministry and the Mizoram government to repatriate the refugees to their villages has failed. Only about 5,000 refugees returned to their homes in the past three-and-half years following continued persuasion by Mizoram, Tripura and the union home ministry officials. The repatriation process was subsequently stopped. The refugees insist on a written agreement with the Mizoram government assuring them security and economic settlement in their villages in western Mizoram. (New Kerala 22/4/14)

 

25. Tibetans participating in elections is their personal choice: PM in exile (13)

Mysore: “Participating in the electoral process of India is a personal choice of every Tibetan in this country. There is no any hard and fast rule from the Tibetan government,” said Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile. Answering a query of a Tibetan student, during an interaction held at JSS Law College, in the city, on Thursday, he clarified that any Tibetan, who wishes to come forward and enrol in the Indian electoral system is free to do so. However, by getting a voter identity card, he or she will be deprived of the privileged of possessing a Registration Certificate (RC) and a Identity Certificate (IC). So, they will become citizens of India. They will also lose other privileges enjoyed by refugees, he said. Lobsang clarified, that dual citizenship is encouraged by the Tibetan government in exile and it will not affect the tradition and culture of an individual. Speaking on Tibet and China relations, he alleged that China was fooling the world that its relationship with Tibet is like father and son. But, in reality, we are like uncle and nephew. Though we possesses all powers, there is no sovereignity in the country. The Chinese have ventured into all business in Tibet and the natives are oppressed. Besides, all natural resources are being looted, without giving compensation to land owners.  Later, they (Chinese) poison the excavated areas with chemicals, so that the entire surroundings become unfit for cultivation. The Chinese are also imposing English as the medium of instruction in educational institutions, he said. (Deccan Herald 25/4/14)

 

26. Why millions of eligible voters are unable to vote (13)

It is rightly described as the greatest exercise of democratic franchise in human history as many phases of the 2014 general elections roll through the country. Out of India’s billion-plus population, some 815 million are eligible to vote. Yet, a story less told is of the many Indians who are legally entitled to vote yet are, in practice, disenfranchised. While non-resident Indians (NRIs) who remain Indian citizens now legally have the right to vote, they actually have to come to their polling booth in person to cast their ballot. Sure, if you’re a heart surgeon in Houston or an investment banker in New York, you could plan a mini-vacation around the election date in your state and come home and vote. In fact, I know a few people who are actually doing this. However, suppose you’re one among the seven-million-odd migrant workers – many of them slogging away at low-paying jobs – in the Gulf? Even if your employer gave you time off, which is unlikely, the cost in forgone wages of coming back to India makes the exercise prohibitively expensive. Likewise, if you’re studying abroad – there are close to a 100,000 in the US alone – elections could fall at the end of term and exam time for those on the semester system and again it would be impractical to come home and vote even for those who could afford it. Surprisingly, given how vocal many NRIs are about Indian politics and society on social media and elsewhere, only a little over 11,000 are registered to vote in these elections, most of whom are from Kerala working in the Gulf. Of course, if it becomes easier to vote from abroad, more people will likely register. In response to a petition filed by an NRI doctor, the Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission (EC) to examine the possibility that NRIs could be allowed to vote at Indian missions abroad exactly as the staff working in those missions do. The EC says it’s considering constituting a committee to study whether NRIs could vote over the internet or in some other way. Back home, millions of migrant workers live in Mumbai and the numbers are comparable in other major metros. An admittedly unscientific poll in my own Mumbai neighbourhood found a dozen or more migrants, on my street alone, from North India, mostly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar working as building watchmen, drivers, construction workers, maids, etc. People such as these find themselves in a bind. Most of them are still registered, if they’re registered at all, in their home state. Yet, few, if any, can afford the time and lost wages to go home and vote. On the other hand, many of these workers lack the documentary support (such as proof of address) necessary to get re-registered where they actually live and work. Chander from Uttar Pradesh, a watchman, and Arjun from Bihar, a driver, are following the elections avidly and debating it passionately but rue that circumstances won’t permit them to go home and vote. And contrary to the way average voters are often stereotyped, these individuals have a sophisticated and nuanced view of the parties, candidates and issues at stake. Contrast this to a few privileged people – professionals in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore – who say they will go home and vote. But these are a tiny percentage of the total number of migrants around the country….  (Business Standard 27/4/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

27. Child rights issues missing from party manifestos, finds study (14)

New Delhi: Every second child in the country is malnourished, according to the National Family Health Survey -III. Yet, the issue, described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once as a “national shame”, hardly finds any mention in the manifestos of the country’s major political parties. In fact, children’s issues only get a meagre 11 per cent weightage in the manifestos of the top 10 parties. These are the findings of a study conducted by Child Rights and You (CRY), an NGO dealing with child rights. “Children constitute one third of the country’s population, yet they remain one of the most neglected segments by our political parties because they do not form a vote bank. It is disappointing to see grave issues like malnutrition do not even gain an adequate mention in their manifestos,” Puja Marwaha, CRY CEO, said. According to the study, while only four parties — Congress, CPI, CPI(M) and NCP — have spoken about measures to reduce malnutrition, the BJP is the only party to show commitment to eradicate malnutrition on a mission mode. Manifestos of the Aam Aadmi Party, AIADMK, DMK, SP and AITMC do not touch upon the issue at all. Only four parties — BJP, CPI, DMK and CPI(M) — have incorporated a separate section for children in their manifestos. However, there is barely any consistency in the issues covered in these sections, with some focusing on early childhood, others on protection issues, and still others only on education and skill development, according to the study. “While it is good to see that some parties have included separate sections for children, it is disappointing that there is no clear understanding of child rights on the whole… it is shameful that Indian laws and lawmakers have not accorded them the status as citizens with their own rights and continue to talk about children as dependants and in terms of their entitlements with respect to aspects such as education, health and skill development,” Marwah said. Interestingly, education and effective implementation of the Right to Education Act find mention in all manifestos. “What is noticeably different from the 2009 manifestos is the aspect of quality education in the sense that there is greater focus on issues related to quality education,” the study says. (Indian Express 24/4/14)

 

28. Over 460 million children await justice from the new govt (14)

Unicef has been running a campaign asking people to “Help get 8.1 million children back to school.” The mailer says, “India is shining but 81,50,618 children aged 8 to 13 years are still out of school. These children are the future of the country and can contribute to the growth story but only if they get help in time.” Going by the current trends of political discourse and priorities, it does not look like this help will come anytime soon. The manifestos of mainstream parties have blatantly ignored the needs, aspirations and challenges faced by children — a whopping 463 million — a constituent of Indian population which shall shape the India of tomorrow. The recent order by Delhi high court on ensuring the rights of children to play in city’s thousands of parks is case in point of the apathy of political system towards the children. Out of the 14,000 parks in Delhi, only 126 are designed for children, leaving majority of city’s kids to play on street. It is unfortunate the courts had to intervene in this matter, which should well have been the prerogative of successive governments, obsessed with flyovers and malls! Some of the government figures are disturbing. In 2011 the crimes against children reported a 24 per cent increase — a total of 33,098 cases as compared to 26,694 cases during 2010. This is as per a report Children in India 2012 – A Statistical Appraisal, by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The 2011 census estimates the population of children below 6 years at 158.8 million. Nearly 40 per cent of these children are undernourished which means more than 63 million children suffer malnutrition. Nutritional problems are substantial in every state in India. As per the Millennium Development Goal priority one is of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. India is therefore, committed to halving the prevalence of underweight children by 2015. However, the report says, “All-India trend of the proportion of underweight (severe and moderate) children below three years of age shows India is going slow in eliminating the effect of malnutrition. The proportion of underweight children has declined by only 3 percentage points during 1998-99 to 2005-06, ie from about 43 per cent to about 40 per cent.” Child labour too is a worry. The census noted an increase in the number of child labourers from 11.28 million in 1991 to 12.66 million in 2001. In addition, nearly 85 per cent child labourers in India are hard-to-reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the urban and rural unorganised sectors within the family or in household-based units. The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act 1986 aims to prohibit the entry of children into hazardous occupations and to regulate the services of children in non-hazardous occupations but still a significant portion of children in the country are engaged in such activities, says the report… (Deccan Herald 25/4/14)

 

29. Child rights panel begins inquiry (14)

KOZHIKODE: The State commission for Protection of Child Rights began its probe into the demolition of the Malapparamba AUP school on Thursday. Commission member K Nazeer visited the school and took the statements from deputy director of education, assistant education officer and teachers of the school as part of the inquiry. He said that the order issued by the state government to close down the school on November 1 was against the provisions of the Kerala Education Rules (KER). “Under Chapter 5, Rule 24 of KER, only the director of public instruction (DPI) can issue orders to close down a school. But in the case of the Malapparamba AUP School, the order has been issued by the government and not the DPI,” he said. The commission had suo moto registered a case, under Section 13 of the Protection of Child Rights Act, in connection with the demolition of the 140-year-old school allegedly by the school manager on April 10. The commission will consider the case on April 28. (Times of India 25/4/14)

 

30. Ensure action to prevent child marriages, child rights body tells collectors (14)

INDORE: The chairperson of Child Rights Protection Commission Usha Chaturvedi has asked collectors to ensure effective action to prevent child marriages. She directed to keep special watch over the situation on Akshay Tritiya on May 2. For preventing and monitoring child marriages, division-wise responsibilities have been given to members of the commission. Vijaya Shukla has been given responsibilities of Chambal and Gwalior divisions, Rita Upmanyu Indore, Reena Gujral Jabalpur, Asha Yadav Rewa and Shahdol, RH Lata Ujjain and Vibhanshu Joshi has been entrusted responsibilities of Narmadapuram division. (Times of India 26/4/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

31. Karnataka gets 43.8% rise in allocation under MNREGS for FY15 (14)

Bangalore: The Central government has sanctioned Rs 3,155 crore to the Karnataka government under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for 2014-15, an increase of 43.8% over the previous year. Last year, the government spent Rs 2,095.22 crore and generated 71.9 million mandays of works and achieved 104% of the target, which is the first in the country, said H K Patil, minister for rural development and Panchayat Raj. The state government has also achieved 100% of the target in the implementation of Electronic Fund Management System in the country, he said. Patil said the Karnataka government has started supplying drinking water through tankers to 300 villages that are facing shortage. The government has earmarked Rs 240 crore for drinking water schemes under the National Rural Drinking Water Supply Scheme. Talking to reporters, here today, he said based on the local needs of villages, the government has initiated works to dig bore wells and revive the old bore wells that have gone dry. The district administrations have been told to take all necessary measures to ensure adequate water supply by digging new bore wells, he said. The chief minister Siddaramaiah recently directed the finance department to release an additional Rs 100 crore for this purpose, which will be credited into the accounts of district administrations. Apart from this, the government is also taking measures to release another Rs 150 crore, he said adding that the total budget for drinking water schemes will touch Rs 490 crore. During 2013-14, the government spent Rs 1,744 crore under the National Rural Drinking Water Supply Scheme. This year also, similar amount of funds will be spent to avoid shortage of water for villages, he said. (Business Standard 22/4/14)

 

32. Amnesty report reveals cases of deception, forced labour,,, (14)

NEW DELHI: The Qatari authorities are failing to protect migrant domestic workers who face severe exploitation, including forced labour and physical and sexual violence, Amnesty International has said in a new report published on Wednesday. “My sleep is my break”: Exploitation of domestic workers in Qatar, paints a bleak picture of women who have been recruited to work in Qatar on the basis of false promises about salaries and working conditions, only to be made to work extreme hours and seven-day weeks. Some women described how they were subjected to appalling episodes of sexual and physical violence. “Migrant domestic workers are victims of a discriminatory system that denies them basic protections and leaves them open to exploitation and abuse including forced labour and human trafficking,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s global issues director. “We have spoken to women who have been terribly deceived, then found themselves trapped and at the mercy of abusive employers, banned from leaving the house. Some women said they were threatened with physical violence when they told their employers they wanted to leave,” added Gaughran. There are at least 84,000 women migrant domestic workers in the Gulf state, mainly from South and South East Asia. Many are forced to work excessive hours. Researchers interviewed women working, in some cases, up to 100 hours per week, with no day off. Some said they had been promised good salaries and decent working conditions before leaving for Qatar, only to have their hopes shattered on arrival. Under Qatari law there are no limits on working hours for domestic workers and there is no requirement to give them a day off. They are also unable to lodge complaints with the labour ministry. “Women who find themselves in abusive households face utterly miserable conditions. They have few options — if they choose to simply to get out of the house, they will be branded ‘runaways’ and are likely to end up being detained and deported,” said Gaughran. Domestic workers are subject to the restrictive sponsorship system, which prevents migrant workers from leaving their job or the country without their employer’s permission. While some women find good jobs and are treated well, women facing abuse are left with little choice but to “run away”, putting them at risk of being arrested, detained and deported on charges of “absconding”. Up to 95% of the women held at Doha’s deportation centre in March 2013 were domestic workers. An Indonesian woman being held at the deportation centre after fleeing from sustained physical abuse, showed researchers a deep scar on her chest where her female employer had branded her with a hot iron. She told researchers she had been forced to work seven days a week, was not paid for months and was banned from leaving the house. She eventually managed to leave the house, only to be picked up by police and detained. (Times of India 23/4/14)

 

33. Non-payment of wages adds to hardships of Kashmir labourers (14)

Rajouri (Jammu and Kashmir), Apr. 26 : Labourers in Rajouri District of Jammu and Kashmir are facing a lot of hardships due to the non- payment of wages under the much acclaimed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). They have been waiting for their wages for at least a year now. The village headman, Biptu Ram, questioned the authorities over the denial of wages to these poor labourers. “After the labourers have completed their work, authorities say that their wages have been deducted. There is no reason for such a deduction from a labourer’s wage. Why has it been done? We want to ask the government on what basis has there been a wage cut? This is the payment of the labourers and it is their due. They have deducted 20 percent from it. Even if they have to do so, why should they impose such a high cut? This is wrong,” he said. The labourers complain that they keep visiting the bank in the hope of collecting their wages, but this exercise almost always proves futile. Block Development Officer Kawaljeet Singh Bali said the pending payments have been declared as liabilities. “We have shown the payments pending in the financial year of 2013-14 as liabilities. There is no case of payments getting delayed by a year. There is no genuine case of payment having been stopped by us. The liabilities have been shown to the superior authorities and we expect an early release,” he said. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is a law that guarantees at least 100 days of employment to one adult member of each rural household who is willing to take up an unskilled manual job. (New Kerala 26/4/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

34. New evidence of suicide epidemic among India’s ‘marginalized’ farmers (20)

NEW DELHI: Latest statistical research finds strong causal links between areas with the most suicides and areas where impoverished farmers are trying to grow crops that suffer from wild price fluctuations due to India’s relatively recent shift to free market economics. A new study has found that India’s shocking rates of suicide are highest in areas with the most debt-ridden farmers who are clinging to tiny smallholdings — less than one hectare — and trying to grow ‘cash crops’, such as cotton and coffee, that are highly susceptible to global price fluctuations. The research supports a range of previous case studies that point to a crisis in key areas of India’s agriculture sector following the ‘liberalization’ of the nation’s economy during the 90s. Researchers say that policy intervention to stabilize the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers may help stem the tide of suicide that has swept the Indian countryside. This latest work follows on from a recent Lancet study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which showed Indian suicide rates to be among the highest in the world — with suicide being the second leading cause of death among young adults in India.  In 2010, 187,000 Indians killed themselves — one-fifth of all global suicides. However, while the Lancet study revealed suicide rates in rural areas to be almost double those of urban areas, and the most common method of suicide to be deliberately ingesting pesticide — LSHTM authors did not believe they had enough evidence to show that suicide rates are higher in farmers. Suicide rates vary sharply across the different Indian states. Building on the LSHTM study, researchers from Cambridge and UCL analyzed suicide figures of 18 Indian states — as well as national crime and census statistics and surveying done by the ministry of agriculture — to create data models that investigated whether case studies of “farmer suicide” that concentrate on a few suicide hotspots could be generalized across India. The team from the Cambridge University’s department of sociology and University College London’s (UCL) department of political science say that they have found significant causal links showing that the huge variation in suicide rates between Indian states can largely be accounted for by suicides among farmers and agricultural workers. Farmers at highest risk have three characteristics: those that grow cash crops such as coffee and cotton; those with ‘marginal’ farms of less than one hectare; and those with debts of Rs 300 or more. Indian states in which these characteristics are most prevalent had the highest suicide rates. In fact, these characteristics account for almost 75% of the variability in state-level suicides…. (Times of India 17/4/14)

 

35. Over 7,000 farmers committed suicide in Modi’s Gujarat: Mulayam (20)

Hardoi: Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav Monday attacked BJP leader Narendra Modi, alleging that over 7,000 farmers had committed suicide in Gujarat during his tenure. “The most costly fertiliser is being sent to farmers in Gujarat… Over 7,000 farmers have committed suicide there in Modi’s regime,” Yadav said at an election rally here. In a bid to woo Muslim voters, Yadav said the condition of the community members was poor in the country and no political party tried to improve their situation. Urging the people to vote for SP, he said that only his party could prevent Modi from becoming the Prime Minister of the country. Yadav reiterated that neither BJP nor Congress would get majority in the Lok Sabha elections and the Third Front, in which SP would be the largest party, would form government at the Centre. He promised a slew of benefits for farmers like interest free loan and free water for irrigation, besides promising increase of retirement age of government employees and special reservation to Muslims. Appreciating the works done by the SP government led by his son Akhilesh, Yadav said that all the promises made in 2012 Assembly elections had been fulfilled in over two years time. “A number of welfare schemes have been launched by the SP government in the state. Even others states are following UP…,” he said. (Zee News 21/4/14)

 

36. Modi ignores Gujarat Sikh farmers issue: Bajwa (20)

Gurdaspur: Punjab Congress Chief Partap Singh Bajwa today accused Narendra Modi of ditching BJP’s alliance partner SAD by overlooking the plight of Sikh farmers in Gujarat who are facing eviction. “Modi has once again ditched his alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal, by ignoring the plight of Sikh farmers in the Kutch area of his state who were facing eviction orders,” he said here. “Modi at his Jagraon rally in Punjab had assured that no farmer from his state would be allowed to be evicted. But he has so far failed to take any follow up action,” he claimed. “The basic issue in this case was the withdrawal of the special leave petition filed in the Supreme Court by the Gujarat government against the orders of the High Court which had granted relief to these beleaguered farmers  settled there for the last about 50 years,” he said

Congress candidate from Gurdaspur seat also chided Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, for maintaining a “stony” silence on this issue. “It is strange that Badal and his party are seeking votes in the name of Modi but has not touched upon any issue concerning this border state,” he said. (Hindustan Times 25/4/14)

 

37. Narendra Modi presents 5 F formula for prosperity of cotton farmers (20)

Bathinda, Apr 25 : BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi today laid out a 5 F formula for bringing prosperity to farmers in the Malwa region which envisages creating linkages from production to export of the farm product. Addressing a mammoth gathering at the Dada Poti ground here, Mr Modi, said his 5 F formula which envisaged turning cotton at the farm to fibre to fabric to fashion and foreign was the only way farmers would get a remunerative price for their product. ‘It is a matter of shame for the UPA government that it did not think of this earlier. Even countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia are known as leaders in ready made garments manufacture’. Mr Modi said all policies of the UPA government were flawed. ‘More farmers were dying by committing suicide than the “jawans’ killed in various wars. The UPA government’s agriculture policy including a ban on cotton export has led to a Rs 7,000 crore loss to the Gujarat farmers alone’, Mr Modi said. Speaking about his vision for 2022, Mr Modi said he envisioned a house for each citizen in the country. He said such a measure would give jobs to the youth and energise the economy. He said besides this he felt all necessary facilities needed by a citizen should be available to him at his door step. Speaking about the UPA government which he termed as ‘maa beti ki government’, the BJP leader said ‘the situation is such that the mother thinks the State can go to hell but my son should sit on the prime minister’s chair’. Speaking about Punjab, Mr Modi said the SAD – BJP government had been voted back to power in 2012 because the people of the State were happy with its report card. ‘The same was the case in Gujarat,’ he said adding the UPA government was yet to present its report card to the people, Mr Modi said. Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal detailed how agriculture sector had suffered during UPA rule and how the industry had migrated to other states due to flawed central policies. He said Punjab had faced repeated discrimination despite its contribution to the country. ‘Our capital was taken away from us. So were our river waters and Punjabi speaking areas’, he added. Mr Badal said as far as Bathinda was concerned HarsimratBadal had not only initiated lot of work in the constituency but also represented it properly in parliament. Speaking about the PPP- Congress candidate, he said, Manpreet Badal had betrayed the SAD which was like his mother in collusion with the Congress. He said one needed to stand on principles and Manpreet had proved he had none. ‘Now he is in your court. He should lose by at least 2.25 lakh votes’, he added. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal while speaking on the occasion, said ‘there is a wave in favour of Badal Sahab along with one in favour of Modi Sahab’. He said once a NDA government was formed there would be colonies for the poor in both urban and rural areas. He said farmers would get full crop insurance and farmers would get a MSP based upon the cost of inputs and a fifty per cent profit. The Deputy CM said the NDA government would also come out with a special package for the industrial sector. (New Kerala 26/4/14)

 

HINDUTVA

38. EC seeks tape of VHP leader Pravin Togadia’s ‘evict Muslims from Hindu areas’ speech (26)

RAJKOT: The Election Commission has sought the recording of speech made by VHP leader Pravin Togadia in Bhavnagar in which he allegedly said that people from minority community should be stopped from buying properties in Hindu-dominated localities. “They (EC officials) are in the process of acquiring the recording of the statements made by Togadia and after listening to it they will decide the future course of action,” Bhavnagar district collector and returning officer P K Solanki said here on Monday. Togadia had reportedly asked his supporters on Saturday to get vacated the house purchased by a Muslim man in a Hindu locality near Meghani Circle area in Bhavnagar, around 180km from here. Togadia had allegedly told the gathering, mainly comprising local residents and Bajrang Dal workers, that they should give an ultimatum of 48 hours to the occupant to vacate the house, or else they should storm into it, take possession and put up a Bajrang Dal board there. He reportedly also asked them to demand the implementation of Distrubed Areas Act in Bhavnagar, which prevents inter-community sale of immovable property. The Act is in force in Ahmedabad and Vadodara, he said. The VHP leader said there had been a pattern in many towns and cities in the country that first house in a locality is purchased by Muslims at a very high price, and later they keep coming to settle in surrounding house at lower price. He also said that election is the best time to pressurise political parties to ensure safety of Hindus and people should not be afraid of pressuring either BJP or Congress. The Muslim family, which has purchased the house, has not shifted to that locality. However, RSS denied that Togadia has made any such statement. RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav tweeted, “Pravinbhai had not said anything that was attributed to him. It was a fabricated news. No Swayamsevak thinks on those lines.” (Times of India 21/4/14)

 

39. Those who vote for Modi should drown in the sea, says Farooq Abdullah (26)

Srinagar: The first occurred in the highly volatile Khanyar area of Srinagar at 11.30am, metres away from the spot from where NC’s Srinagar candidate and Union minister Farooq Abdullah addressed crowds later in the day. The second took place in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, again close to an NC rally venue. The police said 14 people were injured in the blast. “These explosions will not deter me and should also not deter you from coming out and voting for the National Conference… Pray to God to save us from communal forces so that we can move forward. India cannot become communal. If it becomes communal, then Kashmir will not remain with India. Communalism is not acceptable to Kashmiris,” Farooq Abdullah told the people gathered at Khanyar. In a dig at BJP leader Giriraj Singh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Praveen Togadia, he said, “They say those who do not vote for (Narendra) Modi should go to Pakistan. (I say) Those who vote for Modi should drown in the sea.” In Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit back at Farooq Abdullah over his remarks, saying India does not need a certificate from him to become secular. “Neither the country nor Jammu and Kashmir need a certificate from Farooq Abdullah to become secular. The actual matter of worry is the corrupt government run in Jammu and Kashmir by Abdullah and his son (Omar),” BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said. On Farooq Abdullah’s “drown in the sea” remark, Prasad said, “I think neither will his party or the people of the state take him seriously.”  Srinagar goes to polls on April 30. In the run-up to the polls in south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency recently, militants killed six people, including sarpanches and policemen. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to hit out after the blasts. “While I have no doubt that an effort will be made to derail the electoral process, these violent forces will not be allowed to succeed… What’s the point of issuing a poll boycott call if you can’t terrorise people into obeying it,” he wrote. Reacting to the first blast, the CM as well as the state police maintained it was not a terror attack. A forensic team was, however, deployed soon after to probe both blasts. Meanwhile, indigenous militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks. It’s spokesman Balagudeen called locan news services and claimed responsibility. (Hindustan Times 27/4/14)

 

Posted by admin at 24 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Tihar ‘sampark sabha’ highlights lack of legal help to inmates (1)

New Delhi: A recent interactive meeting between Tihar Jail officials and inmates lodged there has once again highlighted the problem of lack of legal help to the inmates lodged in the prison complex. The Jail authorities had recently organised a ‘sampark sabha’ to address the problems of the inmates and during the interaction the officials found out that lack of legal help was the main issue of discontent for most of the prisoners. “As a part of the initiative, Director General (Prisons) Vimla Mehra met the inmates lodged in the main Tihar Jail and Rohini Jail and asked them about their problems. Many inmates, whose cases were through from the trial court, said that they do not get to interact with High Court lawyers or Supreme Court lawyers inside the jail. Some other undertrials said that they do not get proper legal advice inside the Jail,” said Sunil Gupta, Tihar spokesperson. “Some at Rohini jail wanted better sports facilities while others asked for gardening facilities inside the jail. Most of them, however, were troubled by lack of legal facilities,” said Mr. Gupta. “We have already roped in the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) that provides free legal counselling to the inmates but it is not frequent currently. We are now planning to improve the facility by arranging frequent interaction between the DLSA and the inmates,” Mr. Gupta added. Tihar Jail currently lodges 13,552 inmates, more than double the sanctioned capacity of 6,250. Out of the total number of prisoners, a whopping 10,154 (74.93 per cent) of inmates are under-trials. Last year, 8,887 prisoners (constituting 73.37 per cent) out of 12,113 were under-trials. In March this year, the authorities had made the announcement to identify those prisoners who have served their term but are still lodged in the complex. (The Hindu 19/4/14)

 

2. Cops counter custodial death allegations (1)

Mumbai: The Wadala GRP claims it has four independent witnesses who saw Agnelo Valdaris (25) escape from the police’s grasp and get hit by a train that killed him on Friday, to defend themselves from

allegations of custodial murder made by his father. Agnelo was arrested for robbery and was being taken for a medical test when he tried to escape and got hit by a Down Belapur Harbour Line local, according to the police. His father, however, claimed he was tortured to death. “We have three workmen involved in laying canal pipes along the railway tracks who saw him sprint across the railway tracks and also the motorman of the train which hit him. We have written to the motorman to record his statement with us,” said senior police inspector R. Rathod of the Wadala GRP. The police also refuted the claim made by Agnelo’s father Leonard that the slits on his son’s wrist were made by the police. “When Leonard was called after the incident, he gave it in writing to the hospital that his son was violent in nature and capable of inflicting self injury. The slit on the wrist was made by Agnelo himself on an earlier occasion,” said an officer. Agnelo’s father Leonard, however, maintained that the police murdered his son. “My son himself told me when I went to meet him at the police station that he was scared and the police were hell bent on killing him,” he said. The state CID, meanwhile, begun their investigations into the incident as per the norms laid down for investigating allegations of custodial deaths. (Asian Age 20/4/14)

 

3. Nandanvan police under scanner in rape case (1)

NAGPUR: An ugly controversy over giving long rope to a rape accused for alleged monetary consideration has brought a section of the city police before a question revolving about their integrity. The allegations seem to have attained a more serious note in the backdrop of the nationwide awakening against atrocities on women. The matter came to fore after a private organization, Oriental human rights protection forum, started clamouring for action against erring cops for having allowed rape accused Narendra Marotkar to remain a free bird despite the serious offence, along with charges of cheating, has been registered against him at Nandanvan police station on April 11. The organization’s Vidarbha president Katrina James Joseph has claimed that it was police’s delay that allowed Marotkar enough space to approach court from where he already got ad-interim relief. The hearing for confirmation of bail is now scheduled on Monday. The organisation has claimed to possess a recorded mobile phone conversation between Marotkar and a friend of rape survivor Sunita (name changed) too had shocking contents. The so-called culprit learnt to have claimed in his taped conversation that sub-inspector GD Sonune of Nandanvan police station is demanding monetary favours for allowing him to evade arrest. Marotkar had called up the survivor’s friend to verify the version of PSI Sonune whether Sunita had filed any police compliant against him. Organization’s Vidarbha cell president Katrina has claimed, while speaking to TOI, to have submitted the copy of the recorded conversation to city police chief KK Pathak and others. Marotkar was booked after his former girlfriend approached police for registering offence against beau whose marriage is slated to take place on May 2. Complainant Sunita, a native of MP, has claimed that she was being sexually exploited for around four years by Marotkar promising to tie the knot with her. Katrina has also claimed to have been humiliated by sub-inspector YV Ingle, present at the station house, when she demanded a copy of the FIR from him on behalf of Sunita. The social worker has also claimed that police had sent the rape victim for medical examination at 9pm when she had walked into the police station at 3pm. Sunita was brought back to police station at 3.30am on the following day after medical examination. It’s learnt that deputy commissioner of police, Zone-IV, Chandra Kishor Mina has already intervened in the matter which is at present under inquiry. (Times of India 21/4/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

4. Faridabad maid a minor, trafficked to Delhi (1)

NEW DELHI: The tribal girl who was found hanging from a grille at her employer’s house in Faridabad five days ago was a schoolgoing teenager at a village in Uttar Dinajpur, West Bengal till about seven months ago. Her mother has alleged that she was not more than 13 years old and was lured to Delhi by a placement agency owner. The girl’s parents did not know that she was employed here. An FIR under legal provisions for trafficking, Juvenile Justice Act and Child Labour Act has been registered on the basis of the mother’s complaint. Shocked to learn of her daughter’s death, the woman has sought a thorough probe into the role of the family that hired her daughter in March for housework, and strict action against the unregistered placement agency involved. The case was registered by the Dabua police chowki of Saran police station in Faridabad late on Friday evening, five days after the death occured. The girl’s decomposing body for now lies in the “dead house”. A second postmortem may be carried out to rule out foul play before she is laid to rest at the burial ground of a Christian cemetery here. “I want to know why my daughter died? I don’t believe she committed suicide. She was very strong,” the mother told TOI after identifying the body. Despite her loss, the mother, a Christian, stood strongly rooted in her faith as she fasted through the day to mark Good Friday. Now she only wants justice for her daughter. She has been employed at a house in Janakpuri since October and says her husband daughter and sons were all staying at home when she left her village in September. “My daughter said bye and left to get wood for cooking. She was a very hard-working child and studied in class 1. She took care of the house and also did housework to help me. She was not the kind to kill herself.” The woman said she came to Delhi to earn for her family as extreme poverty hounded homes in her village where most people, including her husbands, have only day jobs. She got to know of her daughter’s presence in Delhi and her death only on April 17 when the placement agency owner who brought the girl to Delhi tried to reach her through another agency that had provided her employment in Janakpuri. The woman has alleged that Rafiq, the owner of Laxmi Placement Agency in Tughlaqabad, never tried to contact her before to inform her about her daughter’s presence in Delhi. “I worked for the agency that employed my daughter in my previous stay in Delhi as a domestic worker. Despite knowing me, the agency owner never told me that my daughter was here. Even my husband did not know her whereabouts as the placement agency brought her to Delhi by taking permission from a relative,” she told TOI. Police say the girl was found hanging from a grille on April 14. Her employers reported that she had been hired on March 24 from Laxmi Placement Agency at a meagre salary of Rs 3,500 to do housework in an upper-middle class household in Sector 49. The agency took about Rs 22,000 from the family as commission for placing her. (Times of india 19/4/14)

 

5. Anti-human trafficking unit brings missing minors home (1)

Chandigarh: In January last year, Inspector General of Police R P Upadhyay had passed orders that cases of missing minors be transferred to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) if the local police failed to find them in four months. Since then, six cases have been transferred by various police stations to AHTU, out of which, two minors have returned. Harsh, a 4-year-old boy from Dhanas, and a 16-year-old girl from Colony number 4, had left their houses, allegedly because their parents used to beat them up. Both children returned after some time and the cases were solved. Harsh’s mother and the father of the girl were booked under Section 23 (cruelty to juvenile) of the Juvenile Justice Act. Explaining the working of the unit, the inspector in charge, Nafe Singh said, “When a case is marked to us, we start from the beginning. The family members and friends of the missing child are questioned. After we get certain leads, raids are conducted.” Recently, a police team had raided some villages in Uttar Pradesh to locate a 15-year-old girl,  Neetu, who had gone missing from her residence in Colony number 4 in August last year. Last year, as many 261 cases of kidnapping and abduction were reported, of which 174 were women and minor girls. This year, till April 10, as many as 57 such cases have been registered. In many cases, the minor returns after a few days, the police said. AHTU also raids the places where they receive any information of child labour. Last year, the AHTU teams had conducted 17 raids in which 45 minors were rescued and sent to ‘Snehalya’ in Maloya village. This year, two such raids were carried out and two children were rescued. “We are also in touch with the AHTUs of other states. A common software links us all. Whenever a child or a person goes missing, the police officials of that area upload the picture and details of the child so that other police officials can identify them,” said Inspector Nafe Singh. (Indian Express 21/4/14)

 

6. Child protection panels still a far cry at rly stations (1)

Ranchi: Despite Jharkhand being considered a major child trafficking hub and administrative sluggishness seem to have derailed the all round efforts of Government and Social organizations to curb trafficking from the State. So much so that even three months after Railway Board and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) ordered for formation of Child Protection Committee (CPC) at railway stations to check human trafficking, the process is still stuck in files. Known to be major source and transit point for the human trafficking, it was made mandatory by the NCPCR and Railway Board to form the committee as per the standard operation procedure developed by NCPCR, which would help making railway station a child- friendly place. All the three Rail divisions of Jharkhand- Ranchi, Dhanbad and Chakradharpur were to establish the committee and later at other stations. Ranchi Railways Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Deepak Kashyap responding to the query behind the delay in committee formation said, “The file has been moved to the South Eastern Railway headquarter at Kolkata and we are waiting for the General Manager’s (GM) consent over it. As soon as we get his nod the committee will be formed.” The committee was instituted in compliance with a Delhi High Court directive on safeguarding child rights in all states especially those that are majorly affected. The list included — Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Andra Pradesh among others. The proposed committee would comprise a Station Manager, Superintendent or Master, representatives from the Government Railway Police and Railway Protection Force, a Ticket Inspector and a Section Engineer. Instruction have also been issued to establish child assistance centers at Railway stations with pre-defined provision for food, temporary shelter, toilet facilities, clothing, first-aid and medicines for the children in need. Moreover, a women Railway employee would manage the centre and ensure that a girl trafficking victim gets proper attention till they are produce before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). South Eastern Railways General Manager (GM) Radhey Shyam sharing the information about the same said, “Acute space crunch at railway station for the set up of child helping centre has caught up the project. We are of the mind to establish the centre without letting affecting the railways routine affair. It is not possible to give a tentative date but we are on it and will soon come to a solution.”  Meanwhile, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) members are also making all possible effort to set mechanism of protecting children in and around the railway station. SCPCR member Sanjay Mishra said, “We are constantly writing letters to the Railway Board for the same. We are determined to provide the committee at earliest in Ranchi and Dhanbad railway station. Once the polling process get we are planning to conduct a meeting with the railway board and with mutual understanding sort out the hurdle.” (Pioneer 23/4/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

7. Dalit organisation expresses concern over polling (2)

JAIPUR: Since phase II of Lok Sabha polls in the state will be held in constituencies which had a history of violence, Centre for Dalit Rights, an NGO, has expressed its concern saying dalits could face difficulty in exercising their right to vote. “The past experiences especially the last assembly elections revealed that in some parts of the sensitive, critical and vulnerable areas of Bharatpur, Dholpur-Karauli, Alwar, Dausa and Tonk-Sawai Madhopur parliamentary constituencies, the electorates belonging to poor and marginalized communities have been systematically denied their voting rights by dominant caste and other miscreants,” said Satish Kumar, director, Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR). “There are 906 polling booths which are identified as critical and vulnerable in the five constituencies by us,” he said. He said that there were incidents in the past of dalits denied voting, or they were forced to favour a particular candidate of a dominating community of the area. CDR demanded that Election Commission and state authorities to coordinate and hold regular meetings of district electoral officers and senior officials of these districts to implement the directions of Election Commission on maintenance of law and order, execution of non-bailable warrants, seizure of illegal arms, surrender of licensed weapons, enforcement of excise laws, action against bootleggers and elements of dominant groups of people who deny dalits their votes according to their choice. Also, they have set up a round-the-clock control room in Jaipur to receive the complaints about the irregular and illegal practices from various parts of the state. They demanded that newly promulgated ordinance on March 4 to be implemented properly and criminal case has to be registered against those groups and elements who prevent dalits to exercise their right to vote. Times of India 20/4/14)

 

8. Khap Panchayat Allows Inter-caste Marriages (2)

HISAR: The historic decision was taken by a five-member committee of the Satrol khap panchayat in Narnid village of the district here yesterday. The panchayat also allowed marriages within 42 villages under its jurisdiction, which till now was banned.The khap, however, continued to ban inter-caste marriages in the same and bordering villages and same-gotra marriages. The state is notorious for honour killing of young men and women who dare to marry outside their caste. Terming the move as “courageous”, head of the Satrol khap panchayat Subedar Indra Singh told PTI, “The decision was taken in the wake of declining male-female sex ratio in the state and the changing social fabric of the society. “The decision has been taken in order to improve male-female sex ratio in the state. The current norms in marriage were some 600-700 years old and now, times have changed,” said Singh, emphasizing that the changes in the society could not be ignored. “Nowadays, interaction between men and women has increased and it is not possible to keep them away from each other. Getting into love relationships is very common.” “Incidents of honour killings have taken place owing to khap norms on marriages. Cases of female foeticide have also led us to take this decision,” Singh said. He, however, denied any case of honour killing or female infanticide taking place in the villages under Satrol khap panchayat. The decision has been welcomed by heads of various other khap panchayats in Haryana and many of them are mulling the idea of implementing the decision in their respective regions as well. National spokesperson of Sarvajat-Sarvakhap panchayat Sube Singh Samaen said it was a historic decision and efforts would be made to implement the order in other panchayats also. Representative of Naugaon khap in Jind district and sarpanch of the Bibipur village Sunil Jaglan said, “It is a brave move and has showed the way to other khaps also.” Lauding the decision, Kandela khap panchayat head Tekram Kandela said they planned to call a mahapanchayat of heads to prepare a memorandum to make amendments in Hindu Marriage Act, which bars marriage within same gotra and village. “We will hand over the memorandum to the President and Prime Minister of the newly elected government to amend laws in the Hindu Marriage Act,” said Kandela. Some khap panchayats have, however, opposed the decision. (New Indian Express 21/4/14)

 

9. State should move SC: Dalit associations (2)

GUNTUR: Dalit associations on Tuesday reacted strongly to the AP High Court judgment acquitting all the 21 accused in Tsunduru massacre case and demanded that the State government file an appeal in the Supreme Court. Dalit Bahujan Front convener Melam Bhagya Rao said at a press conference here that the judgement would have far reaching consequences. Such judgments would only embolden people to commit atrocities against Dalits in different parts of the State, he said. Dalit Stree Shakti convener Gadden Jhansi said the judgment was a huge disappointment and said that DSS would launch an agitation against the verdict. Ongole staff reporter adds: The Dalit Hakkula Parirakshana Samiti (DHPS) urged the State government to move the Supreme Court to ensure justice for the families of the victims. The Hindu 23/4/14)

 

10. HC Acquits 56 Convicts in Dalit Massacre Case (2)

HYDERABAD: A division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday acquitted all the 56 convicts in the Tsundur Dalit massacre case on the ground that the prosecution had failed to produce clinching evidence. As a precautionary measure, the court directed SP, Guntur Rural, to ensure that no celebrations or protests take place in Tsundur and Modukur villages at least for a period of three months and called for utmost vigilance. All the acquitted belong to upper castes. Allowing appeals filed by the convicts challenging the judgment of the Special Court, the bench, comprising Justice L Narasimha Reddy and Justice MSK Jaiswal, pointed out that the prosecution had failed to prove the exact time of deaths, place of occurrence and the identity of the attackers. The bench observed that even though the trial court had found serious lapses in the prosecution, it ignored them citing certain reasons. It said almost every witness had claimed to be a Hindu while the defence cross-examined them at length to prove that they had converted to another religion. “Since we are taking the view that the very criminal acts attributed to the accused are not proved, the issue relating to the social status of the accused pales into insignificance,” it remarked. According to the prosecution, eight Dalits were hacked to death in broad daylight on August 6, 1991, with over 400 people chasing them along the bund of an irrigation canal in Tsundur. Subsequently, a special court was set up — the first-ever such court to try a case under the SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. It delivered its judgment in August 2007 and sentenced 21 accused to life imprisonment and 35 others to one-year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a penalty of `2000 on each. The special court acquitted 123 out of the 179 accused. In the case of 41, it did not find any evidence and gave the benefit of doubt to 62. The other 20 were let off due to omission of evidence or presence of only a single witness. The High Court found that on August 6, 1991, no complaint of attack or murder was received by the Tsundur police. Further, it found that though eight persons were said to have been killed the same day at about the same time, their bodies were recovered separately over three days. (New Indian Expres 23/4/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

11. Study says IDU increasing HIV in Nagaland (3)

Kohima, Apr 15 : The study titled ‘Assessment of HIV/AIDS Sero Positivity in Nagaland’ states that the prevalence of infection among Intravenous Drug Use (IDU) has been a cause of major concern, as the increasing cases of HIV/AIDS in Nagaland are particularly based on IDU and unsafe sex, informs a study published in the International Research Journal of Medical Science. The study further noted that instances of HIV cases has been gradually increasing among ‘vulnerable’ population groups, including women, young people, high risk groups and bridge populations. It added that young people within the age group of 20 to 29 are contributing the highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in Nagaland state. In this age bracket, the report informed that the highest mode of transmission is through the sexual route. It further stated that the incidence of HIV/AIDS infection among STD clinic attendees and ante natal (transmission from mother to child) cases in ‘rural’ Nagaland have also been increasing, thereby posing a major challenge for health managers. It said that rising numbers of pregnant women, ‘whose sexual behavior is not believed to be risky,’ are testing to be HIV positive. While the study showed a decrease in the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among IDUs, it however noted that this mode of transmission still remains the principle driver of the infection in Nagaland. Although inconsistent, the study informed that prevalence rates, for the most part, amongst attendees of Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers shows a declining trend. This, according to the study, indicates a slowing down of HIV transmissions. Concerning the sexual route of transmission, it stressed on incorporation of life skills in schools and colleges. ‘Since society is still very apprehensive of talking about sex, there is need for young people to have adequate information about going into pre-marital sex,’ it added. The study further advised taking proper steps like putting the ‘facts of life’ in proper perspective, and ‘normalisation’ of condom use. It asserted that accurate information on how to avoid the infection and elimination of stigma against its victims can help stem the tide of the ‘epidemic.’ The study received funding from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and aimed to observe the positivity rate of HIV/AIDS in all 11 districts of Nagaland state. It collected data from six different sources that are Sentinel Sero- surveillance among antenatal clinic attendees, Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission Centers, Blood Banks, Female Sex Workers, Injection Drug Users and Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers. (New Kerala 15/4/14)

 

12. HIV, kids no reason to cut sentence: HC (3)

NAGPUR: Dismissing a rape convict’s appeal for leniency, the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court ruled that his HIV positive status and his children could not be the reasons to reduce his sentence. The ruling from a single judge bench of Justice Madan Tahaliyani came on criminal appeal of Buldhana-based Raju Girnare, currently lodged in Amravati Central Jail. He was accused of kidnapping, outraging the modesty of and raping a 14-year-old girl on May 17, 2009, in Buldhana after luring her with promise of marriage. After a complaint by her father, the police arrested and charge-sheeted him under Sections 363, 366 and 376 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). The ad hoc additional sessions judge in Buldhana convicted and sentenced Girnare to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment for rape and five years for kidnapping on February 23, 2012. The petitioner approached the high court appealing for lesser punishment under proviso to Section 376(1) of IPC contending he was a HIV positive patient and had two growing children, including a 13-year-old girl, to look after. The court, however, noted that his children were already being looked after by other family members as he was in custody from the date of arrest. Therefore, there is no occasion for the children to suffer. “As far as the disease of the appellant is concerned, it is most probably invited by himself for which no leniency can be shown. HIV can be treated by regular visits to the hospital or consultation with the medical officer of the prison. Such facilities are provided in the prison where authorities are always mindful of the problems of the prisoners, particularly those who are suffering from severe diseases,” Justice Tahaliyani observed while upholding Buldhana court’s verdict. It was the case of survivor’s father that he came in contact with Girnare during delivery of his wife at Buldhana Government Hospital. His daughter was staying with the mother in the ward. He came into contact with the petitioner as latter was also staying in the same hospital to look after one of his relatives was admitted there. On the fateful day, the girl, her father and petitioner had gone to vegetable market together in morning. In the evening, the girl went missing from the hospital along with the petitioner. The accused allegedly took her to his sister’s village, detained her overnight and forced her to have sex with him before letting her off. Afterwards, she returned to the hospital and narrated the incident. Medical reports confirmed the rape. (Times of India 18/4/14)

 

CORRUPTION

13. Lokpal: NGO moves plea in SC for stay on selection process (5)

New Delhi: An NGO today moved a fresh plea in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the entire selection process for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, saying that government was going ahead with it despite the apex court being seized of the issue. “It is submitted that the latest move by the Government to proceed with the appointment of the Chairperson and members of the Lokpal, even while this Court is seized of the issue of the validity of the Rules framed under the Lokpal Act, is not only highly improper but also illegal and arbitrary,” the application said. The NGO filed the fresh plea following apex court’s oral observation during an hearing earlier in which the bench had said if it comes across any such development(by the government so far as the selection of Lokpal and its members was concerned), it would be at liberty to approach this court for interim directions. In its application, NGO Common Cause said it has come to know that on April 11, the Prime Minister had asked all the members of the Lokpal Selection Committee to inform about their availability so that a meeting of the panel could be held. The application also said the government was going ahead with the selection process in spite of “serious flaws” in the rules of selection and sought to declare “illegal” the rules under which selections are being done. The petitioner further submitted that “despite the fact that the Rules under which the Chairperson and Members of Lokpal are to be appointed are under challenge in the present writ petition and that this Court has already issued notice and fixed May 5 as the next date of hearing, the Government is pushing ahead with the process of appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal.” Earlier on April 1, a bench of justices R M Lodha and Kurian Joseph had sought response from the Centre asking it to justify within four weeks the Search Committee (Constitution, Terms and Conditions of appointment of members and manner of selection of Panel of names for appointment of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal) Rules, 2014, framed under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2014. The NGO filed the fresh plea in the matter pending before the apex court in which it had questioned the entire selection process for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal. The PIL has sought a declaration that certain provisions of the rules are ultra vires of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and also sought quashing of the entire selection process initiated under the rules alleging that it is “illegal, arbitrary” and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. “Justice K T Thomas and Fali Nariman, who were offered the post of the chairman and member of the Search Committee respectively, have already declined to accept the offers on these very grounds,” the petition has said. “Therefore, if the selection process of the Lokpal is not stayed during the pendency of the present writ petition, it would be rendered infructuous and public interest would suffer,” it has said. (Zee News 17/4/14)

 

14. VVIP chopper scam: CBI chief meets envoy in Italy (5)

New Delhi: CBI Director Ranjit Sinha recently met Indian envoy in Rome in a bid to expedite probe into the alleged irregularities in Rs 3,546 crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal. Sinha, who was in the Italian capital last week to attend a conference on human trafficking, discussed ways to fast-track the agency probe into the deal with Basant Kumar Gupta, Indian Ambassador to Italy, the CBI sources said. Sinha pressed for early execution of the agency’s Letters Rogatory to Italy seeking certain information on the accused and companies named in its FIR. The agency was awaiting the replies to LRs to file a chargesheet in the scam, the sources said. Former chief of IAF S P Tyagi and about a dozen others have been named in the FIR registered by the CBI on March 13, last year, to probe the deal. Tyagi cousins — Sanjeev, alias Julie, Rajeev, alias Docsa, and Sandeep, European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke have also been named in the FIR as accused. The top executives of Italian firm Finmeccanica and its UK-based subsidiary AgustaWestland are facing trial in Italy for alleged corruption in supply of 12 VVIP helicopters to India. (Indian Express 19/4/14)

 

15. SC to hear plea to stop Lokpal selection (5)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on April 25 an application from Common Cause, a non-profit organisation, seeking to restrain the Union government from going ahead with the Lokpal selection process. A Bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha has already issued a notice to the Centre, returnable on May 5, on the writ petition filed by Common Cause challenging the Lokpal selection process and the rules governing selection of members. On Monday, counsel Prashant Bhushan made a mention before a Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana about the filing of the present application and sought early hearing. The Bench posted the matter for hearing on April 25. Common Cause said there was a communication from the Prime Minister on April 11 to all members of the selection committee to indicate their availability between April 24 and 28 so that a meeting could be held to appoint the chairperson and members of the Lokpal. (The Hindu 22/4/14)

 

TRIBALS

16. 600 Tribal Oustees Deprived of Voting (6)

JAJPUR: Over 600 tribals, displaced by Tata Steel and residing at several transit colonies in Kalinga Nagar, could not exercise their franchise on Thursday as their names were missing from the voters’ list. Tribal leader Rabindra Jarika, contesting on an Ama Odisha Party (AOP) ticket from Sukinda Assembly segment in the district alleged that hundreds of displaced tribals came to booth number 191 in Kalinga Nagar on Thursday to cast their vote. But, they had to return without exercising their democratic right as their names were missing from the electoral rolls. The tribal leader demanded to know how the names of all the tribals were missing from the list when they had cast their vote in the last panchayat elections in the same booth. Jarika alleged that the voters were deliberately kept away from the polling process by the ruling Biju Janata Dal. The tribal leader has also approached the Election Commission and demanded an inquiry into the matter.The district Congress unit on Saturday alleged that the ruling BJD had indulged in booth capturing and rigging with the help of Government machinery to ensure its victory in two Assembly segments during the polls on Thursday. Congress candidate for Dharmasala Assembly segment Srinath Mishra alleged that the ruling party workers were involved in booth capturing in at least 63 polling booths at various places both in Dharmasala and Sukinda Assembly seats during the elections. “Fifty three booths were captured by the BJD in Dharmasala Assembly seat with the assistance of polling officials and Government machinery. Congress agents were assaulted and thrown out of the booths under the nose of the district administration,” Srinath alleged. The Congress candidate also said that he has sent a list of the booths rigged during the polls to the Chief Electoral Officer and demanded repolling in them. Similarly, Congress candidate for Sukinda Assembly seat Sarat Chandra Rout alleged that the ruling party was indulged in booth capturing in at least 10 booths during the twin polls. “The illegal act was carried out with the assistance of polling officials and the Government machinery in the district,” alleged Rout. He has also complained about the matter to the Election Commission and demanded repolling in all the 10 booths. However, BJD candidate for Sukinda seat Pritiranjan Ghadai has hurled similar allegations of booth capturing against the Congress and demanded a repolling. “The Congress workers were involved in booth capturing in seven booths in Sukinda,” claimed Ghadai. (New Indian Express 20/4/14)

 

17. Posco’s Khandadhar Mining Plan May Go Vedanta Way (6)

ROURKELA: South Korean steel major Posco’s mining prospect in Khandadhar hills of Sundargarh district could meet the same fate as that of Vedanta whose attempts to mine in the Niyamgiri hills were unsuccessful. Sources said though Posco has approached the Project Monitoring Group of the Central Government to expedite mining proposal in Khandadhar, uncertainty looms large over the plan with the changing political scenario of the district. BJP national vice-president Jual Oram continues to oppose Posco tooth and nail while the CPM has echoed the anti-Posco sentiment in the recently concluded general elections. The villagers fighting to save the bio-rich reserve, meanwhile, are treading on the issue cautiously. Posco has been recommended mining rights in over 2500 hectare in Khandadhar hills which has an estimated 200 million tonnes of iron ore reserve. The hills consist of a scenic waterfall and the region is inhabited by the endangered Paudi Bhuiyan tribe in Lahunipara block of Bonai Assembly segment. Jual, who contested for the Sundargarh Lok Sabha (LS) seat in the recently concluded elections, reiterated his fierce opposition to Posco. “At no cost, iron ore mining would be allowed in Khandadhar as local tribals are emotionally and religiously attached to it,” he said. Posco should be ousted from Odisha for larger interest of the State and nation, Jual said. Pointing out that Posco promises the single largest FDI in India, the former union minister claimed the South Korean company was shown undue favour by BJD Government which allowed the steel giant to grab iron ore reserve at a throw away price. Such lucrative offer has the potential to attract a host of bona fide Indian entrepreneurs, he said. In such a situation, if Jual emerges as winner from the Sundargarh LS seat and if the BJP forms the Government at the Centre, Posco is likely to face major hurdles even if it manages to get prospective licence for mining. Anti-Posco activist Kishore Giri said the fight to protect Khandadhar would continue in the coming days. The State and Central Governments should respect the sentiments of the tribals, he added. (New Indian Express 22/4/14)

 

18. SC/ST kids suffer bias in classroom: Rights group (6)

NEW DELHI: “The teacher tells us to sit on the other side,” said “Pankaj,” an eight-year-old tribal boy from Uttar Pradesh, “If we sit with others, she scolds us and asks us to sit separately. The teacher doesn’t sit with us because she says we are dirty.” “The teacher didn’t let us go to the toilet. One day, I asked her for permission to go to the toilet but she said, ‘Sit down, go later.’ So I urinated outside the window and she hit me so hard with a stick that my hand broke. I went to the hospital to get my hand bandaged. I had my hand in bandage for 10 days. Even now when I am working, I feel a lot of pain,” says Shyam, 14, from Uttar Pradesh of Musahar community. These and many more instances were cited of school authorities persistently discriminating against children from marginalized communities, denying them their right to education. The report was released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday, showcasing how even after four years of the Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE Act) coming into effect in India, guaranteeing free schooling to every child aged 6 to 14, almost every child is enrolled, yet nearly 51% and 58% of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes respectively are likely to drop out before completing their elementary education. The report, “They Say We’re Dirty’: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized,” documents discrimination by school authorities in four Indian states – Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh – against dalit, tribal, and Muslim children. It stated that the discrimination creates an unwelcome atmosphere that can lead to truancy and eventually may lead the child to stop going to school. The report was also critical of the weak monitoring mechanisms failing to identify and track children who attend school irregularly, are at risk of dropping out, or have dropped out. “India’s immense project to educate all its children risks falling victim to deeply rooted discrimination by teachers and other school staff against the poor and marginalized,” said Jayshree Bajoria, India researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Instead of encouraging children from at-risk communities who are often the first in their families to ever step inside a classroom, teachers often neglect or even mistreat them,” she added. The report cited case studies which indicate how lack of accountability and grievance redress mechanisms are continuing obstacles to proper implementation of the RTE Act. HRW conducted research by interviewing more than 160 people, including children, parents, teachers, and a wide range of education experts, rights activists, local authorities, and education officials. The report recommended that the central government should adopt more effective measures to monitor the treatment of vulnerable children and provide accessible redress mechanisms to ensure they remain in the classroom. The 77-page report reinforces the fact that school authorities continue with their discriminatory attitudes based on caste, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Children from dalit, tribal, and Muslim communities are often made to sit at the back of the class or in separate rooms, insulted by the use of derogatory names, denied leadership roles, and served food last. They are even told to clean toilets, while children from traditionally privileged groups are not. It also highlighted how majority of the state education departments failed to establish proper mechanisms to monitor each child, and intervene promptly and effectively to ensure they remain in school. (Times of India 23/4/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

19. Dabri, Malviya Nagar report more crime against women: Delhi Police (8)

New Delhi: The Delhi Police on Wednesday informed the Delhi High Court that during a mapping of the Capital to find out which areas were more prone to crime against women, it was found that certain pockets in the city, like Dabri in West Delhi and Malviya Nagar in South Delhi, reported more incidents of crime in 2013. The police submitted the survey report to a Division Bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul in a sealed cover. The Court had asked them to conduct a survey to identify areas which report more cases of crime against women so that a targeted approach could be taken to control it. The Bench had ordered the survey on a public interest litigation saying that instances of eve-teasing had increased manifold in 2013. After going through the report, the Bench asked the police to file a status report by May 21 stating what steps it had taken to control crime in these identified areas after the mapping. The Bench observed that the areas which had seen fast urbanisation reported more cases of crime against women – eve-teasing, molestation and rape. The Court also said that these areas required increased policing, gender sensitisation and public awareness campaigns to bring the crime rate down. The Court also pulled up the Delhi Government for the delay in disbursal of monetary compensation to rape victims. The Court expressed its displeasure over the delay when amicus curae in a suo motu petition in the Nirbhaya gang rape case, Meira Bhatia, drew its attention to it. The Court asked the Government to make the payment to the victims within two months. Ms. Bhatia also drew the attention of the Bench to the closure of as many as seven forensic labs running in different hospitals due to lack of forensic scientists. The Bench asked the Government to file a reply to it. (The Hindu 17/4/14)

 

20. Two cops among 7 injured in communal clash in Jaipur (7)

Jaipur: Seven people, including two policemen, were injured when members of two communities indulged in arson after incidents of eve-teasing. Stones and acid bottles were hurled and three motorcycles set ablaze in Lodhon-ka-chowk area here last night after parents of some girls objected to certain indecent remarks passed by boys of another community, Deputy Commissioner of Police A Deep Singh Kapoor said today. The girls, who had allegedly been facing eve-teasing for past some time, were returning home last evening from their classes when the boys again passed remarks at them. Following this, both groups started pelting stones at each other in which cops, who had rushed to the spot from different police stations, got injured, the DCP said. Station House Officer of TP Nagar police station Babulal Vishnoi and constable Prabhu Dayal were among the seven injured, he said, adding that the injured were rushed to a government hospital where they were given medical treatment. Two FIRs from either sides, and third one from police were lodged with the Motidungari police station. Ten persons of both sides were mentioned in the complaints. Two companies of Rajasthan Armed Forces have been deployed in the area to maintain law and order, Kapoor said, adding that the situation was now under control. (Zee news 18/4/14)

 

21. 11 acquitted in Kandhamal riot case (7)

PHULBANI (Odisha): A local court acquitted 11 persons due to lack of evidence in a case related to communal riots in Odisha’s Kandhamal district. Additional District Judge (ADJ), Phulbani Rajendra Kumar Tosh yesterday acquitted all the 11 persons arrested in connection with the murder of Gopan Nayak of Gandagada village under Raikia police station limits in September 9, 2008. The 11 faced charges ranging from rioting, house burning, unlawful assembly with arms as well as other sections of the IPC. The police registered a case at Raikia police station against 12 accused involved in the incidents in September 2008. While the 11 persons were acquitted by the court, one accused is still at large.  (Times of India 18/4/14)

 

22. Evict Muslims from Hindu areas: Pravin Togadia (7)

RAJKOT: Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) president Pravin Togadia sent temperatures soaring in Bhavnagar on Saturday evening with a hate speech that targeted Muslims for buying properties in Hindu areas. At night, Togadia joined a group of VHP and Bajrang Dal members on a street protest outside a house purchased by a Muslim businessman near Meghani Circle. While saffron groups have been regularly organizing ‘Ram Dhuns’ and ‘Ram Darbars’ to thwart such deals, Togadia went a step further by asking the protesters to take complete control of the house and put a ‘Bajrang Dal’ board on it. Togadia told the gathering that there were two ways to stop such deals. One is to pressurize the state government to bring in Disturbed Areas Act in Bhavnagar, which prevents inter-community sale of immovable property. The second is to take forcible possession of the house and fight a legal battle later which will go on for years. He gave the Muslim occupant 48 hours to vacate the house. “If he does not relent, go with stones, tyres and tomatoes to his office. There is nothing wrong in it. Killers of Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged … there is nothing to fear and the case will go on,” Togadia told the charged-up gathering. “I have done it in the past and Muslims have lost both property and money,” he said. He also said that this election is the best time to pressurize political parties to ensure safety of Hindus. “Don’t be reluctant to pressurize Congress or BJP for the sake of Hindus’ safety,” he said. After the event was over, tension was palpable and police feared that the mob might attack the house. A team of policemen has been stationed outside the house to avert any trouble. (Times of India 21.4.14)

 

23. Evangelist backs BJP-led NDA at Centre (7)

CHENNAI: India-born US-based evangelist K A Paul is batting for the BJP-led NDA to form the government at the Centre. He has addressed meetings for Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu and plans to embark on a helicopter campaign for BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh, UP, Bihar and Punjab from Tuesday. “Among others, I plan to campaign for Sushma Swaraj in Vidisha and Arun Jaitley in Amritsar,” he told TOI. In Chennai over the weekend, the preacher rated as the numero uno among evangelists by a Washington based magazine, spoke to TOI about using his sphere of influence among Christians in various states including Tamil Nadu for “the larger cause” of bringing the BJP-NDA to power with Narendra Modi as the PM. He says concerns about the BJP’s stand towards minorities are “exaggerated” and he has been assured by BJP leaders their governance agenda cuts across faiths and communities. “I have been assured by Modi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and L K Advani among others that should the NDA come to power at the Centre, Christians and Muslims will have the same rights as they have had before and that they are committed for protection of secularism and equality among people of all faiths,” Paul said. And although he counts several Congress leaders among his friends, he has let them know that he has no choice but seek a vote for change at the Centre “as corruption has reached the sky, there is no change in direction and no repentance”.”My main goal is to motivate the undecided 25 per cent of India’s electorate and 25 per cent of Christians and Muslims to vote for change, vote against corruption of the Congress party and install Modi as the PM to end corruption to unleash India’s development potential,” he said. Asked why he had chosen to support BJP which is considered “the most communal party”, the missionary said it was a matter of perception. Paul who runs an NGO for global peace from Houston, Texas, said in reply to a question that though he did not condole the 2002 riots in Gujarat, it is a fact that a court of inquiry has acquitted the chief minister and it was time to move on. On the perception that BJP is a communal party, he said, “Therefore I say that I agree with 95% of their (BJP) policies , not 100%. I may have reservations say about their (BJP) thinking on an uniform civil code, but we also have every right to endorse or support any party in democracy.”. He also believes that BJP is the least corrupt of all the national parties. “There is less corruption in the BJP but much more in the Congress,” he said. Admitting that he did not hold a brief for the entire Christian community in India, Paul said nevertheless when he spoke leaders of 70,000 catholic, protestant and Pentecostal churches listened. “My vote bank is the funding for various humanitarian causes like support for widows, orphanages, building houses for the poor and providingthem medial treatement with the finance routed through 153 MPs”.Paul said he had received an invitation from Narendra Modi to visit India as early as December 2009 through the US BJP wing president Suresh Jani. Subsequently, Modi had hosted him in Gujarat on January 25, 2010. “I grilled Modi on various issues to understand if he was sincere to develop the country and bring about a transformation. When I felt convinced, I made a prayer and decided to support the BJP-led NDA to form government in 2014,” he added. Striking a note of dissent, C Francis, national coordinator of the Global Council of Indian Churches and former vice-president of All India Catholic Union, said while he is sure about the secular credentials of Reverend Paul, he does not trust the BJP leaders to keep their promises. “My slogan has been ‘Modi Hatao, Desh Bachao’ (Save nation from Modi),” he told TOI adding, “Modi’s agenda is driven by the RSS. Hindu Vahini and VHP and so what is the guarantee that minorities would be protected?”. Times of India 21/4/14)

 

WOMEN 

24. Women tied to bonded labour in Tamil Nadu: Survey (8)

NEW DELHI: A survey carried out in January last year by the Indian NGO SAVE reveals that young, unmarried women working in the garment manufacturing units of Tamil Nadu are tied to their employers in a system of bonded labour. Tamil Nadu is the largest cotton yarn producing state in India, home to about 1,574 of India’s spinning mills. There are an estimated 2,24,000 women workers in these units. Around half of them work under schemes like Sumangali (an estimated 80% of women working under such schemes are under 18 and between 15-20% of these women are less than 14 years of age). “Sumangali” in Tamil refers to a happily married woman. In Sumangali employment schemes, young, unmarried, predominantly dalit women (60%) are employed in garment manufacturing units to enable their families to pay their dowries. In reality, schemes such as this translate to bonded labour. Wages are paid only when workers complete a 3-5 year contract period. In the research report, ‘Small Steps, Big Challenges’ published last month, the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) and the Federation Dutch Labour Movement (FNV) investigated the steps taken to ban bonded labour among first and second-tier suppliers. This investigation also looked at 26 buyers from Netherlands and other countries. Only eight of the 26 companies responded to the research. Six — Hema, Impala Loft, Migros, O’Neil, Tommy Hilfiger and Van den Broek — admitted to problems of bonded labour existing or having existed in their supply chain. Three out of four suppliers from Tamil Nadu (Eastman Exports Global Clothing, KPR Mill and SSM India) featured in previous ICN reports. Under duress, they recently approached Indian NGOs (SAVE, READ and CARE-T) to monitor the conditions at their production units and to train employees and managers. In KPR Mill, all six units of production are being monitored and visited regularly. The improvements are visible as wages are transferred to the employees’ bank accounts, workers receive ID cards and women are not confined and are allowed to visit their homes frequently. Other initiatives taken by SAVE in Eastman Exports have focused reports on hygiene and health, but worker’s rights issue are yet to be addressed. In addition to this, there is Ethical Trading Initiative, a forum run by the Tamil Nadu Multi-Stakeholder (ETI-TNMS) Group. It is the only multi-stakeholder initiative that specifically aims to address worker’s rights issues in relation to the Sumangali scheme. But there is a need for more such group initiatives taken to totally root out instances of bonded labour in the state. (Times of India 17/4/14)

 

25. ‘Social Issues Behind Muslim Girls’ Marriages to Sheikhs’ (8)

HYDERABAD: The truth surrounding the heinous flesh trade in the name of contract marriages to rich and aged Arab sheikhs surfaces every once in a while in the city. Though a very common practice, reports about this come to light only when the victims bravely confronts the society around her. A 61-year old Omani sheikh was arrested on Friday only after the 14-year old victim managed to escape from his clutches and report to police with the help of her uncle. Not only did she save herself, but ended up in the rescue of another minor girl who the sheikh had married after the first one escaped. “The nexus between parents, brokers and qazis is unbelievable. There is nothing shameful since the law permits it,” says Dr Shahida, associate professor in the department of Women Education at Maulana Azad National Urdu University. She says, such high rate of human rights violation is nothing but ‘religious prostitution’. Detailing about the case, Bhavani Nagar police said that the 61-year old Omani sheikh who had arrived in the city for medical checkup, was first put up in a lodge in Lakdi-ka-pul where he met an auto driver who later introduced him to the broker Habib, who with the help of other brokers got him minor girls on both the occasions. “The nexus is between hotel employees, auto rickshaw drivers, parents, brokers and qazis. They identify these sheikhs and bring them whatever they want,” said police. South Zone DCP Sarvasreshta Tripathi said that it was important that the public are informed and made aware to inform police in case of such marriages. Shahida, who had undertaken a detailed research on the subject, points out that reasons range from poverty to misuse of Sharia law and the evil practice of dowry in the society. “Parents cannot afford to pay huge dowries to young boys here and at the same time, can make some money if they give their girls to such sheikhs. Contractual marriages are permitted in Islam. And add that to the difficulty of finding young girls and the extravaganza involved in marriages in their countries,” explains the researcher. According to her, more than 60 per cent of Muslim women in Hyderabad are still not aware of their basic rights. Throwing a bit of light into the history of sheikh marriages in the city, social activist Jameela Nishad of Shaheen – Women’s Resource Welfare Association says the Muslim Personal Law is being wrongly interpreted. It was in the 1970s, she says, girls from the city were being married off to sheikhs in Arabia, and enjoyed due respect. According to her, by 1980s reports of harassment at the hands of Arab families started emerging and also by then the Saudi government started insisting that the first wife of an Arab should be an Arab. “Some women started staying back with maintenance. But, by 1990s, the trend of sheikhs marrying city women increased tremendously due to increased foreign exposure. Even today, there is no clearcut data on such marriages,” she noted. Educating Muslim women about the true teachings of Islam and appealing scholars to address the issues like Meher (a mandatory amount of money paid by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage, for her exclusive use), and provisions like Talaaq (divorce), Polygamy, etc was need of the hour, stressed Shahida. (New Indian Express 21/4/14)

 

26. Over 35% rape cases filed in 2013 found fake (8)

JAIPUR: Over 35% of the total rape cases were found fake after police investigation last year. The trend continues this year too with the police closing as many as 79 out of total 608 cases registered in February. Of them, chargesheets were filed in 73 cases, while investigation is pending in 456 others. The police every year find a majority of rape cases false and file final report (FR) in them. The case of extortion of the chairman of Rajasthan Dental College Dr Jitendra Singh Faujdar by a woman on the basis of a CD showing him in compromising position has exposed how the law is being misused. A senior police officer told TOI that awareness regarding rape laws has increased after some heinous cases were highlighted in the media over the past few months. “However, it opened a floodgate of false cases too. Several FIRs are being registered to take revenge or undue advantage by women across the state,” said the officer. The officer added that the police investigate the case after it is registered and if found fake, it is closed and a final report in filed in the court with conclusion of investigation. The pendency of investigation is, however, a cause for concern. After Nirbhaya gangrape case, the state government had directed the police to file chargesheet in rape cases within 15 days of filing the complaint for ensuring swift justice for the victims. However, as the police have failed to comply with the order, the government extended the deadline to one month rather than implementing the earlier issued orders strictly. The police are finding month’s time insufficient too. Officials said that chargesheet could be filed in less than 20% of rape cases within 15 days of filing complaint in Rajasthan since orders regarding this were issued in December 2012. “Investigation in a total of 470 cases out of the total 3,285 was pending last year. The pendency is increasing this year too,” another senior officer said. (Times of India 22/4/14)

 

27. SC bans lawyer from entering premises for 6 months (8)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has banned a lawyer from entering its precincts for six months, after the top court’s gender sensitisation panel found him guilty of stalking and harassing a female advocate. This is the first order given against a lawyer by the top court’s Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) that was constituted in November last year by Chief Justice P Sathasivam to fulfill the guidelines laid down by the SC in the Visakha judgment, which dealt with sexual harassment complaints. The order debarring the lawyer, CS Nagesh, was passed by the CJI on the basis of the findings of the GSICC headed by justice Ranjana Prakash Desai. The committee had recommended Nagesh be banned from entering the SC for a year, but the CJI reduced the penalty to six months. This penalty, in my view, would not only allow him to redeem himself but also would operate as a deterrent against him,” reads the circular issued by SC registrar Rachna Gupta, quoting the CJI’s order of March 15. The complainant works as a junior assistant with a female colleague and has been practicing for over three years now. In her complaint to GSICC given two months ago, the woman alleged Nagesh used to send her vulgar messages on her mobile phone. He continued with his acts despite her resistance, the inquiry had found. In its annual report on January 31, the GSICC had said the committee had received two complaints from two women lawyers since its inception. It hadn’t disclosed the names of the alleged offenders. The GSICC has six other female members. There are two members who are not a part of the SC administration. (Hindustan Times 23/4/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

28. Now, poor children have a reason to cheer (11)

Chennai: Poor children desirous of joining schools under the RTE Act’s 25 per cent quota have a reason to cheer. There will be 15 days time in May every academic year, instead of seven days at present, for the issue and submission of application forms seeking admission to schools under the legislation, thanks to a Madras High Court order on Wednesday. The court directed the authorities to extend the time limit fixed in a G.O. of April 1 last year for issue and submission of filled in application forms between May 3 and May 18 of every academic year. Order to this effect should be issued within four weeks. The School Education Secretary was directed to ensure that the Act and rules for filling up the reserved quota were complied with. The court passed the order on a PIL petition by social activist A. Narayanan. He submitted that in the G.O. of April 2013, only a week’s time from May 3 of every academic year had been given for admitting children under the Act. Counsel submitted that fixing a week’s time was not sufficient for submitting the forms. In the seven days, two days will be holidays. Sufficient time should be given. The intention of the enactment was to provide education to children of illiterate parents belonging to the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups. (The Hindu 17/4/14)

 

29. 25 Schools Cite Minority Tag, Refuse RTE Seats at Last Minute (11)

BANGALORE: Over 25 schools in Bangalore South are allegedly refusing to admit children under the Right To Education (RTE) Act, claiming they have now been granted minority status. Education officials, however, say the minority status was given only recently, and would not impact this year’s admissions. “They sought the status after the completion of the RTE process for 2014-15,” an official told Express. The Block Education Officer (BEO) of Bangalore South (3) has issued notices to the 25 schools. “Students who got seats by draw of lots should be accommodated,” an official said. According to documents available with Express, over 2,000 students have got RTE seats at these schools. “My daughter got a seat at Bethany School in Koramangla, but when I went there they claimed they had got minority status and so would not admit her,” said a parent. Another parent had applied at Frank Anthony School in Ulsoor. “We had not received any communication. When we approached the school, they said they were now exempt,” she said. Meanwhile, the RTE Task Force, a voluntary group, is trying to help parents by approaching the courts. “We have contacted some advocates,” said Nagasimha G Rao, its convenor.  “We are receiving complaints mainly in Bangalore South. These 25 schools don’t figure in the minority schools’ list announced by the department,” he said. As the process related to RTE was completed on March 29, parents are now struggling to admit their children at other schools. “We are ready to pay half the regular fee. Let them consider our children,” said a desperate parent. Peter Lemos, principal, St Francis School, Koramangala, said, “We had got the minority status in 2008 and submitted the documents to the department. But they did not add our name to the list.”.. (Indian Express 19/4/14)

 

30. Discriminated, Dalit kids turn dropouts: HRW (11)

New Delhi: Four years after an ambitious law came into effect in India, guaranteeing free schooling to every child from six to 14 years of age, a new report released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) illustrates that children from marginalised sections of society are fighting discrimination in classrooms, resulting in denial of education and steep drop-out rates. The findings, spread across four states, also cite case studies in Varanasi, the epicentre of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and reflect on how Dalit children stopped going to school after facing inequity. “The information has been deliberately released in the midst of polls, so that whichever party comes to power realises that more needs to be done than just sending children to school,” said Jayshree Bajoria, an Indian researcher at HRW, and the author of the report. The account, They Say We’re Dirty: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized, released on Tuesday, documents discrimination by school authorities in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi, against Dalit, tribal and Muslim children. The findings reveal teachers and other students often address these children using derogatory terms for their caste, community, tribe, or religion. “In Varanasi, like elsewhere, I found teachers and school staff used discriminatory practices against children from poor and marginalised sections, such as Dalits. I also found that the monitoring mechanism was just not working,” Bajoria said. “In fact, the education officials do not have accurate records of students who have dropped out. In one case, I found that 22 Dalit children from the Musahar community in a hamlet at Pindra in Varanasi had stopped going to school because of the prejudice they had faced,” she added. Shyam, 14, one of these 22 youngsters from Pindra village, told the Human Rights Watch: “The teacher always made us sit in one corner of the room, and would throw keys at us. We only got food if anything was left after the other children had been served. Once, the teacher hit a classmate so hard that she broke his hand. After this incident, all Musahar children stopped going to school.” “Varanasi is a high-profile constituency. We hope that the political leadership will take this opportunity during their campaign to commit to full implementation of the Right to Education Act and zero discrimination in schools,” said Bajoria. The research revealed several incidents where Hindu teachers in government schools made derogatory remarks about Muslim students. “Without an effective grievance redress system, children and parents from minority or marginalised communities have no recourse. Instead of becoming inclusive and equitable institutions, as envisioned under the Right to Education Act, schools end up alienating these children,” the report concludes. Hindustan Times 22/4/14)

 

31. Govt Amending Minority Definition for Schools: Mohsin (11)

BANGALORE: The State government is taking steps to amend the definition to determine the minority status of a school, Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammed Mohsin said on Tuesday. “We are trying to bring amendments (to the existing definition) and the government is likely to make a decision soon,” Mohsin told reporters. The definition of minority was changed by the previous government to accord the status to a school that provides 75 per cent or more seats to children from a minority community. Several schools in the city have denied seats to children from economically weaker sections under the Right to Education (RTE) Act quota, taking refuge under the minority status. Some of them have denied seats after they were allotted to children. “Many schools moved court at different points in time. We are approaching the court through our advocate general to have stays vacated. We are always with the children and we want to make sure they are not deprived,” Mohsin said. When asked about the helplessness expressed by some block education officers (BEO) in effective implementation of the RTE Act, Mohsin said: “It may happen in a few cases. The BEOs are more powerful than anybody else.”.. (New Indian Express 23/4/14)

 

TERRORISM

32. Jama Masjid attack: Police file chargesheet against top IM men (12)

NEW DELHI: Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and his aide Asadullah Akhtar were on Saturday charged by Delhi Police in connection with the September 2010 Jama Masjid terror attack case in which two Taiwani tourists had sustained bullet injuries. The special cell of Delhi Police filed its final report before Additional Sessions Judge Daya Prakash against the two top IM men under various sections of the IPC including 307 (attempt to murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Arms Act. The police claimed in the charge sheet that IM’s Indian chief Yasin Bhatkal was instructed by Pakistan-based handlers to carry out terror attacks just before the beginning of 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) which were held in Delhi. It said the conspiracy for the attack was hatched to “dissuade foreign nations from participating in the same (CWG) and to portray the image of India, the host nation, as a weak and disturbed nation”.The police said that in pursuance to the conspiracy, Yasin had procured one carbine and one pistol and the initial plan was to target foreign tourists at the German Bakery at Paharganj here. It further said that in mid 2010, accused Qateel Siddiqui, who had died under mysterious circumstances in Pune Yerawada Jail in 2012, had hurt himself due to accidental firing of the carbine and the plan to strike at German Bakery was aborted. It said thereafter, Yasin Bhatkal planned to carry out terror strike at the Jama Masjid and on September 19, 2010, IM operatives opened fire at tourists deboarding a bus near gate number 3 of the mosque. Bhatkal had also planted a pressure cooker IED in a car outside the Jama Masjid and a mild explosion had taken place after the firing incident, it said. The court has now fixed the charge sheet for scrutiny on April 30. The police had told the court that on September 19, 2010, two bikers had fired on tourists at the gate of Jama Masjid in Old Delhi area and two Taiwanese, Ku-Ze-Wei and Ko-chiange, had sustained bullet injuries whereas a bomb was fitted in a car parked in the area. Bhatkal and Akhtar were arrested by National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Indo-Nepal border on the night of August 28 last year. They were wanted for their roles in a string of terror attacks in the country. The court had earlier in March allowed the plea of police seeking 15 days time to complete its probe against Bhatkal and Akhtar. (Times of India 19/4/14)

 

33. Indian Mujahedeen members in police custody 12)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan ​​Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) has brought three suspected members of terror outfit Indian Mujahedeen, Mohammed Mahroof, Mohammed Waqar and Mohammed Saqib to Jaipur and taken them on police custody for interrogation. The three were produced in a court on Saturday that remanded the trio in ATS’s custody. A team of Delhi Police and Rajasthan ATS had arrested Waqar, an engineering student at GIT college, from a rented accommodation in the city’s Pratap Nagar, while held Mahroof from his parental home in Jhotwara’s Sanjay Nagar locality. Saqib was arrested from Jodhpur. Mahroof was also an engineering student at VIT college in Jaipur. The trio was taken to Delhi for further interrogation. After Delhi Police interrogated them, they were brought to Jaipur on Saturday and produced in a court that remanded in ATS’s custody. The three suspected IM members were part of the terror outfit’s Rajasthan module and were allegedly ready to carry out a terror attack after getting instructions from their handlers. (Times of India 21/4/14)

 

34. Gunmen kill three near Srinagar (12)

Srinagar: Suspected militants shot dead three civilians, including a sarpanch affiliated to the Congress and his son, in the Tral area of South Kashmir, 40 km from Srinagar, on Monday night. Unidentified gunmen fired on the 60-year-old Sarpanch and retired Block Development Officer, Ghulam Nabi Mir, when he was having dinner in his house at Batagund, close to the Tral township. The shots fired through the window killed Mr. Mir and his son Firdaus Ahmad Mir, 40. In another attack, militants gunned down the village headman of Amlar, Dadsar Mohammad Amin Sheikh, 60. Deputy Inspector-General of Police Vijay Kumar said the militants used AK-47 rifles. Sources said militants attacked Bashir Ahmad Malik, Kashmir Province president of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference. He, however, locked himself up and sought help. He was later taken to a police station. The killing has spread a wave of terror two days ahead of the April 24 polling for the Lok Sabha election in the Anantnag-Pulwama constituency. While no militant outfit has claimed responsibility yet, the DIG told The Hindu that a local group of Hizbul Mujahideen carried out the attacks. (The Hindu 22/4/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

35. Supreme Court recognizes transgenders as ‘third gender’ (19)

NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday created the “third gender” status for hijras or transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender. The SC asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backward. The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category. The SC said absence of law recognizing hijras as third gender could not be continued as a ground to discriminate them in availing equal opportunities in education and employment. This is for the first time that the third gender has got a formal recognition. The third gender people will be considered as OBCs, the SC said. The SC said they will be given educational and employment reservation as OBCs. The apex court also said states and the Centre will devise social welfare schemes for third gender community and run a public awareness campaign to erase social stigma. The SC said the states must construct special public toilets and departments to look into their special medical issues. The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and can not be discriminated. The apex court expressed concern over transgenders being harasssed and discriminated in the society and passed a slew of directions for their social welfare. The apex court said that trangenders were respected earlier in the society but situation has changed and they now face discrimination and harassment. It said that section 377 of IPC is being misused by police and other authorities against them and their social and economic condition is far from satisfactory. The bench clarified that its verdict pertains only to eunuchs and not other sections of society like gay, lesbian and bisexuals who are also considered under the umbrella term ‘transgender’. The bench said they are part and parcel of the society and the government must take steps to bring them in the main stream of society. The apex court passed the order on a PIL filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) urging the court to give separate identity to transgenders by recognising them as third category of gender. Welcoming the Supreme Court decision, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, transgender rights activist said, “the progress of the country is dependent upon human rights of the people and we are very happy with the judgment as the Supreme court has given us those rights.” (Times of India 16/4/14)

 

36. Govt yet to act on law panel’s suggestions on electoral reform (19)

NEW DELHI: The Law Commission in its report to the law ministry in February had suggested that government should consider amendments in electoral laws to disqualify politicians from contesting elections if charges are framed against them for serious offences, and put them behind bars for not less than two years if they make false disclosures in their affidavit at the time of filing of nomination. The law panel had observed that “due to the current extent of criminalization of politics and the quantum of delay in pending trials, the reform proposal will only be effective if applied retroactively”. That is, on the date of these amendments coming into effect, all persons with criminal charges, punishable by more than five years, pending on that date are liable to be disqualified subject to certain safeguards. The disappointment of the commission on its recommendations not being considered by the government was apparent when last week, in an interaction with TOI, Law Commission chairman Justice A P Shah said criminals getting into politics were subverting the judicial process. The law panel’s report had proposed that a new section 8B be introduced in the Representation of People Act after Section 8A that would disqualify a politician from contesting election for a period of six years or till the date of quashing of charges or acquittal whichever is earlier if charges have been framed against him by a court for an offence punishable by at least five years imprisonment. The government had submitted the panel’s report to the apex court which had in a ruling last month said that trials of all charge-sheeted MPs/MLAs should be completed within a period of one year. The commission had argued that though “the proportion of sitting MPs/MLAs facing some form of criminal charges is as high as 30%, by contrast only 0.5% have been convicted at some point (of criminal charges) in a court”.”It is clear that there is an extremely wide gap between legislators with trials pending and those whose trials have actually resulted in convictions,” the commission had said in its report. The law panel chief had also rejected the argument that stopping a candidate from contesting was against criminal jurisprudence saying, “Right to be elected is not a fundamental right so how can one claim that it is against criminal jurisprudence. What we have recommended is disqualification for only six years, and that too if charges have been framed by a court one year before elections. That way if the trial is not complete, by next elections the candidate will be free to file his nominations and contest elections.” (Times of India 19/4/14)

 

37. G Rohini sworn in as Delhi high court chief justice (19)

NEW DELHI: Justice G Rohini was on Monday sworn in as the first woman chief justice of the Delhi high court. Justice Rohini, 58, who was a judge of the Andhra Pradesh high court, succeeds N V Ramana, who was elevated to the Supreme Court in February. Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed has been the acting chief justice since then. Justice Ramana was also from the Andhra Pradesh high court. Lt governor Najeeb Jung administered the oath of office to Justice Rohini. Justice Rohini will be the 10th woman judge of the 40 judges in the Delhi high court and is expected to stay for a period of four years. Born in 1955, Justice Rohini studied at the Osmania University in Hyderabad and then at the College of Law, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam. She enrolled as an advocate in December 1980 and later became chairman of the Andhra Pradesh State Bar Council. She was appointed a government pleader in the high court in 1995. She was appointed additional judge in 2001 and made a permanent judge in 2002. (Times of India 21/4/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

38. Pepsi joins Coke in support to protect rights of poor: UN (21)

New York, Apr 16 : The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced on Tuesday that PepsiCo has joined the Coca-Cola Company in giving its official support to a set of global guidelines that protect the rights of poor and vulnerable people to land, livelihoods and food security. Initiated by FAO and endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure promote secure ownership rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests as a means of eradicating hunger and poverty, supporting sustainable development and protecting the environment. The guidelines call for the commitment of both the public and private sectors, and include recommendations to safeguard local people’s rights in the event of large-scale land acquisitions, warding off land grabs. According to a news release from FAO, PepsiCo has published a policy recognizing its obligations to respect and protect the rights of local people and encouraging its supplier countries to meet certain standards, including the principles listed in the Voluntary Guidelines. In addition to fair and legal negotiations on land transfers and acquisitions in developing countries, the company has pledged to carry out social and environmental assessments across its global supply chains, beginning in Brazil, its top sugar-sourcing country. PepsiCo is the second big beverage company to give its support to the guidelines after the Coca-Cola Company publicized a commitment to land rights in November 2013. Working with Oxfam, Coca-Cola committed to help protect the land rights of communities and conduct assessments in some of the world’s top sugarcane-producing regions, in addition to implementing a zero tolerance stance on land grabbing. Both the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have vowed to increase their participation in the Committee on World Food Security to further demonstrate support of responsible land rights practices. “Securing the official commitment and operational support of both PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company is tremendously significant for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines and we hope that more large private companies will follow their lead,” said Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO’s Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development. For this purpose FAO is currently working on a private sector technical guide for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines, in collaboration with major private sector actors. “FAO considers compliance with the voluntary guidelines as the baseline for all our partnerships, and we call on all of our current and potential partners to support them,” Villarreal said. (New Kerala 16/4/14)

 

39. 9% growth to cut poverty by 36% (21)

New Delhi: A high growth will be imperative for the new government to pull more people out of poverty, create more jobs and increase the income of households hit by high price rise. If India is able to see a fast growth of nine per cent then the number of people below poverty line will be reduced to 17.7 crores at the end of fiscal 2019 against 26.9 crores at the end of 2012, according to rating agency Crisil. However, if India grew at 6.5 per cent then the number of poor during this period will be reduced to 22.6 crores. But in case growth remained at 5 per cent in the coming years then the number of people below poverty line will be 25.6 crores. India’s working-age population would have swelled by over 85 million to fiscal 2019.  Of these, 5.1 crores would be seeking employment, said Crisil.  With 6.5 per cent average GDP growth, non-farm employment over this period will at best grow by 3.7 crores. This means an additional 14 million will be forced to either depend on low-productivity agriculture or remain unemployed. “However, much of the increase in farm jobs will be disguised unemployment. That’s because, given insufficient job opportunities, labour force will not be able to migrate to the higher-wage, more-productive industry and service sectors,” said Crisil. Such a dismal situation would not arise if India were to grow at 9 per cent over the next five years as it will result in 5.2 crores non-farm jobs. “Enough non-farm employment would be created to absorb the entire incremental labour force within the industry and service sectors. Indeed, at 9 per cent growth, it would even be possible to pull additional people out of agriculture,” said the report. On the other hand, getting stuck in the 5 per cent growth will aggravate India’s employment situation as non-farm jobs will then increase by only 2.6 crores. (Deccan Chronicle 21/4/14)

 

RESERVATION

40. SC Nod to Transgenders a Call for Social Justice (25)

The Supreme Court’s decision to treat eunuchs as the third gender is most welcome. So far, the law has recognised only two genders—the male and the female. While declaring transgenders as the third gender, the apex court has clarified that gays and bisexuals will not be included in this category. The implications of the verdict are that eunuchs will now be eligible to get voters’ identity card, passports, driving licences, etc. What’s more, they will also be entitled to get admission to educational institutions and jobs in public and private sectors. In other words, they will be entitled to all the benefits of citizenship. So far, eunuchs had to declare themselves as either male or female to avail of any of the services of the state. The court’s decision is unlikely to affect the ongoing elections in any manner as its beneficiaries constitute an almost negligible segment of the population. However, the significance of the decision lies in the fact that it seeks to undo an injustice eunuchs have been suffering for centuries, though they enjoyed a special position in society during and after the Vedic period. As of now, they are one of the most backward groups in the country depending mostly on alms to make a living. While some of them are victims of castration at a young age, many are born as transgenders. Because they do not get any social status, they are forced to form their own ghettos where they lead their own lives. They are often harassed by the police and sexual perverts. The verdict will help them lead a better life as their special status has for the first time been recognised. With the court declaring them socially, educationally and economically backward, they will be entitled to reservation in government services. This marks a sea-change in the attitude of the government that has so far considered caste as the only criterion for reservation. The Mandal Commission-approved reservation was solely for the “educationally and socially backward”. Social justice has been advanced by making eunuchs eligible for government’s affirmative action. (New Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

41. UPA Government Failed to Walk the Talk on Group A OBC Quota (25)

COIMBATORE: The Congress-led UPA-I and II governments appear to have not travelled much beyond politically appeasing the vast majority of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the country by providing reservation for them. While the UPA-I government introduced 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in Central educational institutions and UPA-II belatedly brought Jats under the OBC ambit, “affirmative action” appeared missing when it came to recruiting government employees as per Mandal Commission recommendations. Data provided by the Union Ministry of Personnel under the Right to Information (RTI) Act reveals that as of January 1, 2013, only 5,794 Group A officers belonging to the OBCs were employed in 55 Central government agencies. This constitutes just 9.41 per cent of the 61,566 Group A officers. In contrast, the percentage of non-quota or Open Competition Group A officers is a significant 72.15 per cent. While Scheduled Castes (SC) make up 12.82 per cent of the employees, the representation of Scheduled Tribes (ST) was 5.63 per cent. “This is the poor state of the estimated 75 crore OBCs today, though as per the Mandal Commission report 27 per cent reservation was being implemented from as early as September 8, 1993,” says Chennai-based activist E Muralidharan, who obtained the data. Data available with Express as of January 1, 2008 (when UPA-I was in power), shows that the strength of the Group A officers in all government departments then was only 5,031. So, there has been only a marginal increase in the numbers of OBC Group A officers during the 5-year span. The Union Ministry of Personnel has said that it has yet to receive information on the community-wise representation of Group A, B and C employees from ministries, including HRD, Finance, Civil Aviation, Corporate Affairs and Culture. When it comes to Group B employees, OBCs constitute only 11.6 per cent of the total 1,41,195 employees. SCs account for 16.22 per cent, STs 6.66 per cent and others 65.52 per cent. The representation of OBCs among Group C safai karamcharis (sanitary workers) is higher at 20.2 per cent, while among non-quota staff it is 43.22 per cent. In an indication that it is still the vast majority of Dalits who are taking to sanitary work, the data shows that 29.52 per cent of safai karamcharis are SCs and 6.96 per cent are STs. Among Group C employees (excluding safai karamcharis), OBCs constitute 18.38 per cent, while SCs make up 17.12 per cent, STs 7.88 per cent, with the remaining 56.61 per cent being non-quota employees. (New Indian Express 21/4/14)

 

Posted by admin at 21 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Bring political parties under RTI: Aruna Roy (1)

ANAND: Eminent social activist Aruna Roy has called for a fight to bring all the political parties under the purview of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The Magsaysay award winner and architect of the RTI Act told media persons after delivering her address at the 33rd annual convocation of Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) here on Wednesday, “Political parties do not want to be transparent. The day they too come under RTI, people will come to know about the sources of the funds they receive. But we will have to fight for that. In her convocation address she also hit out at the political parties for failing to talk about poverty in their poll manifestoes. She also took questions from the media on Gujarat model being propagated by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. She said that each state has its own advantages and short falls. “Development depends on the definition one uses to define it. If you talk about roads, that is one aspect. If you talk about 9.5 per cent growth that is another aspect. But one has to also consider how much debt the state has taken. How much interest a state is paying? What is the condition of poor, the marginal farmers and the land that they own? I don’t see any particular shinning example when it comes to the condition of poor here,” she said. Roy stressed that soon after Independence, Gujarat was always considered a better state compared to others. “People here are business-minded. The co-operative movement has grown here since the time of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) popularized through film ‘Manthan’,” she said while adding that a growth model popularised by corporate houses isn’t going to resolve problems of the poor and unemployed youths. “Such a model will bring in more machines instead of generating employment for youths,” she said, adding that if Kerala is a good state in terms of social indicators, Tamil Nadu is a better state when it comes to mid-day meal scheme. “Similar is the case of Himachal Pradesh when it comes to primary education,” she said. “The marginalization of the poor and the indifference to them is dangerous in a country so contrasted by the gap between the rich and the poor. That is why a concept like the MGNREGA, which empowers workers to demand work and equality, is anathema to ‘profit wallahs’. In my youth they were called ‘box wallahs’. We are branded as ‘jhola wallahs’,” said Roy. (Times of India 16/4/14)

 

2. RTI activist shot dead in UP, police gives security to family (1)

HAPUR: A 70-year-old RTI activist was shot dead by three unidentified assailants outside his house here on Monday, prompting authorities to transfer the probe to special task force and provide security to his family. Mangat Tyagi, who had filed around 14,000 RTI applications and unearthed various cases of corruption in government departments, was shot dead by three car-borne assailants when he was standing outside his house in Bankhanda village on April 14. “In view of threats to Tyagi’s family, district and police administrations have decided to provide round-the-clock security to them. From today, two police personnel will be deployed outside their house,” Hapur district magistrate Rajesh Kumar Singh told PTI. “We have recommended STF probe into Tyagi’s murder and it will begin soon. All accused will be arrested,” he added. Meanwhile, police sources said they have got some leads in the case. “Police have got some important cues and the case would be solved soon. Police are also scanning the role of corrupt officials, against whom Tyagi had filed RTI applicants,” a senior police officer sad. (Times of india 19/4/14)

 

3. Modi rally held sans NA tax: RTI (1)

Mumbai: An RTI reply has revealed that BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally held at the MMRDA Grounds in BKC on December 22, 2013 was organised without paying Non-Agricultural (NA) tax. It has also been revealed that security deposit of `28.68 lakh paid to the MMRDA for the rally has not been claimed by BJP yet. It has also come to fore that not only the BJP, but almost 65 per cent of event organisers at the said grounds have not paid the NA tax. According to the rulebook of the MMRDA, which is the nodal agency for the MMRDA Grounds, security deposit is returned only when the organiser furnishes the bill for NA tax paid to collector, and fire brigade, traffic police permission. Activist Anil Galgali had sought information from the MMRDA asking for a list of organisers or exhibitors who had applied for rallies and meetings at the MMRDA Grounds. In reply, public information officer C.K. Abhang informed that the BJP paid `36,92,635 as rent and `28.68 lakh as security deposit for 1,97,161 sq metres of land. According to the RTI reply, the party did not submit proper documents for refund. Mr Galgali said, “If the BJP, which talks about transparent governance, had followed the pre-requisite conditions, it would have definitely applied for the refund of the security deposit. It clearly says that party did not bother to follow the rules and organised the rally by flouting them.” He has demanded the Mumbai BJP come out clean on the issue. Although BJP Mumbai president Ashish Shelar did not respond to the calls and messages, a senior BJP leader said that they have some issues with the MMRDA regarding the refund of the deposit and would sort it out. He added, “Every necessary action was taken for Narendra Modi’s rally. We are very busy in poll preparations and would apply for the refund as soon as the election process is over.” According to the RTI reply, in 2013, almost 65 per cent of the organisers did not claim their security deposit totalling `2.88 crore, which includes `28,68,637 from the BJP. The party had taken the land for four days from December 20 to December 23, 2013 and paid `36,92,635 as rent. Apart from BJP, the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (`78,10,875), Maharashtra Tourism (`7,68,052), Sahara Housing (`9,33,375), Percept (`15,49,313), British Dy High Commission, Mumbai (`17,429) are amongst the many who have not take the refund for their security deposits. (Asian Age 20/4/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

4. Amnesty welcomes SC verdict on rights of transgenders (1)

London: A millions lives would improve thanks to Supreme Court of India’s recognition of transgender people’s human rights, a right body has said. “This ruling has the potential to significantly alter the lives of people who have suffered oppression for years,” Programmes Director of Amnesty International India Shashikumar Velath said. A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that discrimination based on gender identity violated constitutionally guaranteed rights to equality, freedom of expression, privacy, autonomy and dignity. The Court directed central and state governments to grant legal recognition to transgender persons’ self-identification as male, female or a ‘third gender’; and put in place affirmative action and social welfare policies for them. “It reaffirms constitutional values of inclusion and equality but as long as Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code stays on the books, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity will remain a threat,” he said. With elections ongoing, Tuesday’s ruling should provide the impetus for a new government to repeal this absurd law, he added. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which was upheld in a Supreme Court ruling in December 2013, criminalises consensual same-sex conduct between adults. (First Post 16/4/14)

 

5. Landmark ruling (1)

The Supreme Court’s judgement giving full recognition to transgender persons as a separate third gender category is a landmark decision. It legally accepts transgenders as equal citizens and prescribes a number of practical measures to help them secure their rights. Their human rights and civic and political rights will be protected by the judgement, which may also be seen as a forceful endorsement by the court of the rights of minorities of all types. The transgender community has been fighting a long battle, in courts and outside, to secure equal rights and fair treatment. The government and the Election Commission had created categories in official forms to recognise the citizenship status of transgenders but had stopped short of giving them full justice. Now they will be able to record their gender in documents like passports, driving licences, ration cards and electoral rolls. The judgment has clearly created a constitutional and conceptual basis for their full and equal status. An important observation made by the court is that it is an individual’s right to choose his own gender identity. This is a right of self-expression that goes beyond assumed biological stereotypes and conforms to the new thinking about gender freedom.  India had lagged behind other countries in legally accepting the right of transgenders to declare their identity. Neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have already done this. The judgment also gives hopes for a reversal of last year’s judgement by another bench of the court upholding the validity of the archaic Section 377 of the penal code which criminalises homosexuality. The idea of choice of gender identity which the court has now accepted will be complete only when the choice of sexual orientation and the citizen’s right to it are also accepted. The court’s directive to the Central and state governments to give the transgender community priority and special facilities in  areas of education, employment and health and to consider it socially and economically backward for purposes of reservation should help the members to improve their opportunities. It also marks a change from the common notion of only caste as a criterion of backwardness. But it should be noted that a legal acceptance of rights alone will not improve their status. An entrenched tradition of stigma, social exclusion, discrimination and harassment will take time to change. The judgement will hopefully create better awareness, remove the prejudices and help to integrate transgenders into the mainstream. (Deccan Herald 17/4/14)

 

6. International rights bodies ask Nepal to reject TRC (1)

KATHMANDU: Maintaining that the draft bill on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) violated international law, three international human rights bodies on Thursday called on Nepal’s legislators to reject it. Issuing a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists criticised the bill, saying its provisions did not abide by a January 2 directive of Nepal’s Supreme Court. The bill, introduced in the Parliament on April 9, has attracted both support and opposition within Nepal. The opponents contend that its provisions violate the Supreme Court’s several directives on conflict-era cases as well as international human rights laws and norms. Those supporting the bill argue that this would help heal the wounds of the decade-long Maoist conflict and promote reconciliation. The draft TRC provisions lay emphasis on ‘melmilap’ (reconciliation), a provision fiercely challenged by conflict-era survivors and victims; as well as human rights activists in Nepal. The three international human rights bodies said the bill retained language from a 2012 ordinance that permitted amnesty for even heinous crimes under international law. Meanwhile, the UCPN (Maoist) continued to obstruct Parliament on Thursday, demanding the withdrawal of cases against 13 of its cadres in Chitwan district court. They have maintained that conflict-era cases could not be tried by regular courts. (The Hindu 17/4/14)

 

7. NHRC asks CS to rehabilitate Satkosia villagers (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Chief Secretary of Odisha to rehabilitate and ensure the basic human rights of the villagers residing inside the Satkosia Tiger Reserve area and its adjacent areas who suffer immensely due to the prolonged inaction of the State. The apex human rights watchdog passed the order acting over a petition filed by Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy in this regard. The Odisha Government is not paying any heed for the relocation of human habitations from the core critical areas of tiger reserves is being strongly insisted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Six years after it was declared a tiger reserve (TR), its management has not been able to effect relocation of a single village as yet. People of the revenue villages, Raigoda, Marada, Kuturi, Salapagonda and Musuguda, inside the core which is measured at 524 sq km have been demanding the State Government to shift them out of the tiger reserve’s core, but in vain. According to the wildlife experts, existence of the villages inside the inviolate area of the TR has adversely impacted both the wildlife as well as the residents. The villagers bear loss every year as their crops are raided frequently by elephants and wild boars, Radhakanta alleged. He requested the NHRC to visit the spot and direct the State and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to act on war footing to rehabilitate the villagers as per the norms and ensure adequate safety measures for their life and livelihood and continuous monitoring thereof along with compensation. The Chief Secretary is yet to reply. (Pioneer 20/4/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

8. US Senate resolution calls for greater press freedom in China (1)

Washington: Expressing concern over threats to freedom of expression in China, a bipartisan US Senate resolution today called for greater freedom of press in the country and condemned Chinese actions to suppress it. The Senate resolution urged US President Barack Obama to use all appropriate instruments of American influence to support, promote and strengthen principles, practices, and values that advance the free flow of information to the people of China without interference or discrimination. The free flow of information should include the Internet and other electronic media, it said. The resolution condemned the Chinese actions to suppress freedom of the press, including increased harassment of Chinese journalists, international journalists through denial of visas, harassment of sources, physical threats and other methods. “Press freedom is a fundamental human right that exists to protect people from oppressive, corrupt and overreaching governments. Ensuring the free flow of information and opinions must be a key pillar of America’s global human rights agenda,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said. “People, societies, economies and entire nations benefit when criticism is encouraged as a means to achieve progress. The Chinese government should not fear the great benefits to be gained from greater political and religious freedoms,” Rubio said. Senator Ben Cardin said, “As we look to re-balance our policy toward the Asia- Pacific region, the US has a responsibility to promote respect for universal human rights. We urge the President to use all appropriate tools to improve and promote freedom of the press in China. We urge China to abide by internationally accepted norms for human rights, including freedom of the press.” “A country that engages in routine censorship and online blocking, harassment, reprisals, detention of journalists, visa delays or denials for journalists not only fail its own people but also fail the international community. The ongoing crackdown on journalists and members of the press reporting in China is troubling,” he said. Noting that an open press is the hallmark of a thriving society, Senator Robert Menendez said the Chinese people are being denied these freedoms by their own government. “A great nation embraces opposition and dissent, welcoming honest and critical news reporting. Press freedom is an essential element of good governance, not a hindrance and the Chinese government should take proactive reforms to encourage an open and independent media in China,” he said. Senator Bob Corker said, “The assault on press freedom in China is a serious problem that demands a forceful US response. While first and foremost a human rights issue, censorship also has economic consequences for news organisations losing money when their websites are blocked. (Business Standard 10/4/14)

 

9. Editor quits over Modi interview, sparks row (1)

NEW DELHI: India TV editorial director Qamar Waheed Naqvi’s resignation over an allegedly “fixed” interview of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi acquired deep political overtones on Tuesday with Congress claiming that it showed the kind of pressures journalists faced from BJP. AAP was also active on the social media congratulating Naqvi for his “courage”.Congress recalled the police complaint of a senior journalist of the Hindu after she received got threat calls for a piece she wrote on Modi late last year. “This is the trailer of the good days that BJP advertisements are promising” said the party’s media chief Ajay Maken. Naqvi quit on April 13, hours after Modi was featured in Aap Ki Adalat on the evening of April 12. The interview programme is hosted by India TV chairman Sharma. The resignation came amidst accusations that the channel’s Modi interview resembled a “public relations exercise.” Naqvi could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts on his phone and e-mail. However, on Tuesday in obvious reaction to supportive statements of Congress and AAP, he tweeted, “I request politicians to stay away from my resignation episode.”Sources in India TV said that the channel’s pro-Modi bias was clear in the news bulletin line up with the pieces loaded heavily in favour of BJP. “If there were 10 negative stories against Rahul Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal, there would be one against Modi,” a source with the channel said. He said Naqvi had expressed his reservations to Sharma on several occasions. Channel sources also pointed out that Naqvi had expressed the apprehension about the channel’s alleged bias before he was hired, but was assured that India TV wanted to move away from being a “sensational, soap-opera driven channel to a serious news channel.” Denying that there was any political bias Sharma told TOI, “I don’t want to comment on this but I would only like to point out that we are doing an election special on Aap ki Adalat and sought interviews from Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi…we were able to confirm Modi and not the others despite several attempts.” He added: “We have already completed interviews of various political parties including Akhilesh Yadav and Raj Thackeray. The programs have been in the works for the last three months. In fact, we were expected to shoot with Modi on April 7 but it was cancelled and we only managed to shoot on April 10.” Management sources said that the Modi interview was just an alibi for Naqvi when actually he was under pressure for lack of performance. “The channel had made heavy investments in the last few months in infrastructure and hires. But it continued to remain number three. The pressure was telling on Naqvi who was hired to turn around the channel,” the source said. India TV’s TRP rating was 14.5 six months earlier and had slid to 11 at some point. It was at 13 last week. Sources in the editorial, however, added that if performance were the reason, Naqvi would not have been asked to serve a three-month notice period. India TV in an official statement confirmed that its editorial director had resigned. Ritu Dhawan, India TV’s MD & CEO confirmed, “We have accepted his resignation and asked Naqvi to serve his notice period.” She said, “We are surprised at the reasons being attributed to it in the social media. Such reasons are baseless, and we condemn the effort being made to use it for political gains.” (Times of India 16/4/14)

 

10. Opinion polls: EC caution to media (1)

New Delhi: The Election Commission drew attention to Section 126A of the Representation of the People’s Act which bars media from publishing outcome of exit polls. Taking exception to the telecast/publication of `opinion polls’ on the general election in States and Union territories where polling has already concluded, the Election Commission has cautioned the media to desist from the practice to “maintain a level playing field.” In a communication address to all Chief Editors/Heads of television channels and print media, the Commission drew attention to Section 126A of the Representation of the People’s Act (RPA) which bars media from publishing outcome of exit polls. In a communication, the EC referred to the opinion poll broadcast by a TV channel on April 14 and said it included results of 111 Lok Sabha constituencies where balloting has taken place, which “in effect becomes dissemination of result of exit polls in respect of the said constituencies.” “The prohibited period for this purpose is explained as ‘the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll and continues till half an hour after closing of the polling in all the States and Union Territories’,” it noted. The Commission said, “…to maintain level playing field and to ensure free and fair elections, the Commission advises all print and electronic media not to resort to the type of practice as mentioned above, which for all practical purposes mean publication of exit poll while claiming that the same is only an opinion poll”.Section 126A says, 1[(1) No person shall conduct any exit poll and publish or publicise by means of the print or electronic media or disseminate in any other manner, whatsoever, the result of any exit poll during such period, as may be notified by the Election Commission in this regard. “.. (a) in case of a general election, the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll and continue till half an hour after closing of the poll in all the States and Union territories; (b) in case of a bye-election or a number of bye elections held together, the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on and from the first day of poll and continue till half an hour after closing of the poll: Provided that in case of a number of bye-elections held together on different days, the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll and continue till half an hour after closing of the last poll. (3) Any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both”. (The Hindu 17/4/14)

 

11. US condemns attack on Pakistani journalist (1)

Washington:  “The United States condemns the vicious attack on television journalist Hamid Mir in Karachi on Saturday, the latest in a series of worrisome attacks on journalists in Pakistan,” the State Department Spokesperson, Jen Psaki said on Saturday. “Freedom of the press, including ensuring that journalists can safely carry out their vital mission, is of paramount importance to freedom of expression and to the healthy functioning of any democracy,” she said. Hamid Mir, who faced threats from multiple quarters in Pakistan including the Taliban, was yesterday shot at in Karachi by four unidentified gunmen who waylaid his vehicle near Natha Khan bridge soon after he left the Karachi airport and was on his way to the studios of Geo TV. As the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson has said that attacks like these should be a wake-up call to all who value democracy in Pakistan, she said. “We wish Hamid Mir a speedy recovery, and urge the government of Pakistan to bring all those responsible for these attacks on the media to justice,” Psaki said. In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that it is alarmed by the continuing violence directed at journalists in Pakistan. “The attack on Hamid Mir is an indicator that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not been able to reverse the country’s appalling record of violence against journalists, despite pledges to do so,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Full prosecution of the perpetrators of such crimes is the only answer to reversing this history. Police must act swiftly and decisively in this and all cases that have been building up for years in Pakistan. And the country’s media must use their capabilities to pursue their own investigations, as well as pressure the government to take action,” Dietz said. (Indian Express 20/4/14)

 

12. Indian police assault journalist in Bandipora (1)

Srinagar, April 20 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, a video-journalist was thrashed by the Indian police while he was covering clashes in Bandipora district. Inayat Ahmad, who works as a stringer for an outside paper in the district, was heading to cover an election rally of pro-India National Conference Minister Mohammad Akbar Lone in Shahgund area. Talking to media over phone, he said, “I was on my way to cover the rally and found that stone pelting was going on in the area. I therefore went to record clashes.” He said “as soon as I reached the spot, policemen started asking me for which organization I was working for”. He said that when he revealed that he was a journalist, they started beating him with whatever was in their hands. “About 20 policemen surrounded me and started to beat me. The women in the neighborhood came to my rescue after sometime, after which I lost my cautiousness and was shifted to hospital,” he said, adding: he has received multiple injuries in his left arm and leg. A local, who was witness to the incident, said that policemen started beating Inayat and another journalist Zahoor Ahmad Butt as they arrived at the spot. “I carried both journalists to a local hospital first and later to Srinagar hospital,” he said. Inayat was later shifted to SMHS hospital in Srinagar for specialized treatment. (Mashmir media Service 21/4/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

13. Rs. 495 crore land acquisition proposal for Masula port (4)

MACHILIPATNAM: Krishna district Collector M. Raghunandan Rao has submitted a report relating to the land acquisition for the deep water port project at Machilipatnam to the Andhra Pradesh Lokayukta and the State government. It would cost about Rs .495 crore to acquire the land. According to the report, the total land to be acquired for the project was 5,277 acres, including 937 unsurveyed land and 2,489 acres of patta land in Machilipatnam mandal. The land is falling under the limits of Manginapudi, Tapasipudi, Gopuvanipalem, Karaagraharam, Chilakalapudi, Bandar East Revenue villages in Krishna district. It is estimated that over Rs. 43 crore is required for resettlement and rehabilitation of the 563 families. (The Hindu 15/4/14)

 

14. New act makes land buy virtually impossible: DIPP (4)

New Delhi: Stating that it had become “virtually impossible” to acquire land for construction of roads, ports and creating other infrastructure under the existing Land Acquisition Act, DIPP secretary Amitabh Kant on Wednesday stressed on the need for amending the Act. “Land acquisition for roads, ports and similar other economic activities has not been happening ever since the new Land Acquisition Act came into being,” Kant said. “A number of road and port projects are stuck up on account of the Act and there is an urgent need to fast-track road and port projects, which can be possible when necessary amendments are made to it,” he added. The new Land Acquisition Act to provide just and fair compensation to farmers came into force from January 1, 2014. The new law, passed during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, received assent of the President on September 27, 2013. The bill was brought as the archaic act of 1894 suffered from various shortcomings including silence on the issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by acquisition of land. The Act makes mandatory the consent of 80% of people whose land is taken for private projects. In the case of Public-Private Partnership projects, the bill makes mandatory obtaining consent of 70% of the people whose land will be for acquired. Additional secretary in Cabinet Secretariat Anil Swarup said the projects monitoring group has cleared 152 mega projects with approximate investments worth Rs 5.3 lakh crore and many such other projects are in the pipeline for final clearances. Moreover, he said, the environment and forest ministry has agreed to entertain and accept online applications of mega industrial projects for according environment clearances from July 1, 2014. (Times of India 17/4/14)

 

15. Bhadra victims’ rehabilitation remains unfulfilled (4)

Narasimharajapura: With the construction of Bhadra dam, the forests, fertile land, road transportation, railway transportation and commercial establishments were sacrificed and the taluk centre, which had all the basic amenities, was turned to ruins and is now trying to get back to normalcy. The people who lost their homes and agricultural lands, were provided rehabilitation facilities in the nearby villages. A lot of opposition was seen in Shimoga district, against the rehabilitation of Bhadra victims. Hence, the rehabilitation did not come in papers and the ownership of the land was not handed over to the farmers of Tarikere, Lakkavalli and Shimoga regions, who were illiterate. Owing to the local people’s opposition and threats, many of the victims ended up in selling the land for lowest prices and many have been struggling for the ownership of the lands, due to lack of sanction from the government. The people also complain that they are fed up by the harassment of forest department officials, who have raised their objection over the sanctioning of the lands to the victims. The forest department is trying to evacuate the Bhadra victims by referring to the land records dating back to the period of the rulers of Mysore. The future of the victims hangs in balance as there are no proper evidences for the ownership of lands and on the either side, they are forced to evacuate the lands. In addition, the people are made to wander from pillar to post for the sanctioning of compensation and alternative lands. Ironically, the Chikmagalur and Shimoga district level officials are not aware of the whereabouts of Bhadra land acquisition department. Even there has been no answer for the RTI query submitted in this regard. The High Court has directed to treat the victims of projects with compassion and act responsibly. But, the government officials are not paying heed to this. Bhadra victims allege that the political parties are nowhere mentioning about Bhadra victims. Instead, they are busy in speaking in support of the land encroachers. They hold the negligent attitude of the elected representatives responsible for the pathetic condition of the illiterate and poor farmers of Malenadu region. The presently inundated area, which belonged to revenue and forest area has also been acquired for Bhadra dam. The non-inundated area was used by the Bhadra victims for building houses and for agriculture. Later, the land was transferred to the revenue department and the title deeds were distributed under form 50 and 53. But, recently, the forest department has maintained that the land is a minor forest land, according to the 1930 order of the Mysore government. The victims complain that th development is the conspiracy of the department to grab the lands of the victims. The land, declared as minor forest land in 1930, was acquired for Bhadra dam in 1960. The unused land was again received by the revenue department and was distributed to the victims. Strangely, the 1,672 hectare area was declared as minor forest land in 2008, considering the 1930 Mysore Act. There is a complaint that the Land Acquisition Act of 1960, has not been considered. The revenue department which is supposed to produce the proper records, is turning blind eyes, allege the victims. The farmers say that if the related government orders after 1930 are disposed, the government land encroachers, may get compensation. Also, the farmer community has demanded the government to reveal the existence of Bhadra land acquisition department. (Deccan herald 20/4/140

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

16. In the air: Measures to reduce Delhi’s increasing pollution (9)

New Delhi: The Environment Ministry has asked state governments, including Delhi, to prepare action plans on improving air quality. Though no time-frame has been set by the ministry, Delhi government officials admitted that the absence of an elected government had already delayed implementation of a plan drafted for the capital by the Environment department. That plan, drafted to deal with the deteriorating air quality in the capital, is yet to be finalised, years after it was commissioned. The delay, according to officials, has largely been due to a lack of interest among various departments under the Delhi government in reaching a consensus on a policy aimed improving air quality in the city. A senior official in the Environment department said a committee was formed under the chief secretary and various departments were supposed to submit their observations on the plan finalised by the department along with agencies like the Centre for Science and Environment. But the departments delayed submitting their replies. The Transport department was supposed to contribute to improved air quality by bringing in more CNG-run buses. There was a plan to introduce more Metro feeder buses, so that people were discouraged from using private vehicles. The Power department was expected to create awareness about the use of solar plants. Other departments, too, were supposed to use solar energy for conserving water. The official said the departments faulted on their observations. To add to the delay, elections were announced and the process got delayed further. Delhi’s air quality has been an area of concern and despite several agencies and ministry directions, the departments have till now failed to tackle the issue. “The election delayed the process. We thought that with the new government in place, the process can restart as we had prepared not a one-year plan, but a five-year plan. But environment was not on the priority list of the new government and so that meeting never took place. Now, with the ministry’s directions, we will take the process forward,” the official said. (Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

17. Nationwide drive to map trees from April 22 (9)

PANAJI: Every tree has a name, every tree has a place and every tree has a story to tell! Taking a cue from this impressive message on the India Biodiversity Portal, an online portal for documenting biodiversity in India, tree lovers in Goa will join a nationwide online campaign from earth day, April 22 to map, photograph and share information on trees. Thousands of individuals and groups in the country are expected to participate in the six-day neighbourhood trees campaign upto April 27. Goa is one of the 38 cities with volunteers offering to contribute to the citizen science campaign for trees. “We are planning to hold at least one public activity, especially with children, probably on Sunday, April 27 for documenting tree species on D B Marg, which has old trees,” Tallulah D’Silva, a volunteer said speaking to TOI on Wednesday. Individuals can also click photographs of trees and upload them on the india biodiversity portal website. “The campaign aims at creating awareness about the importance of trees in neighbourhoods and to source and aggregate information on tree diversity in India,” a press note states. The campaign envisages creating a page for every tree species in India and the data will be easily accessible to the public. “There are about 7,500 tree species in India. And it is important to document each of these species and their distribution in the landscape for conserving India’s rich tree diversity,” the press note adds. A number of organizations, alternative.in, atree, seasonwatch, wipro and others are partners in the campaign. “Good descriptions of tree species and their distribution is not easily available to citizens. The seasonality, flowering patterns and fruiting patterns need to be studied to understand local and global climate changes. Citizens across India participating in collecting and contributing information will advance the scientific knowledge of trees,”R Ganesan a plant taxonomist at ATREE said. (Times of India 17/4/14)

 

18. Climate change may hit marine sector, says SAPCC (9)

Thiruvananthapuram: The marine and inland fisheries sectors in Kerala are likely to take a major hit as climate change affects fish stocks, resulting in decreased yield and loss of livelihood of fishermen. According to the State Action Plan on Climate Change prepared by the Department of Environment and Climate Change, diseases and migration of species could lead to the depletion of fish stocks, while the damage or loss to coastal infrastructure could enhance the vulnerability of the fishing community. Changes in water temperature and variables such as sea level rise, wind velocity and wave action could trigger ecological and biological changes in marine and freshwater ecosystems, impacting on the distribution and abundance of fishes. In the case of inland fisheries, the action plan assesses the risks posed by the depletion of inland water bodies, increased incidence of water-borne diseases among fishes and heavy deposit of silt during floods. Pointing to the increase of 0.6 degrees centigrade in sea surface temperature over the past 50 years, it says the trend could affect the growth and life span of several species, especially of the pelagic group (dwelling neither close to the bottom nor near the shore). The report notes that sardines and mackerels, which were abundantly available off the Kerala coast, had moved away to deeper waters in recent years. Several important species of marine fish and high-value shrimp too had become rare while some traditional species in the Vembanad Lake had disappeared. At the same time, the report observed, puffer fish, seen as a menace by fishermen, had become abundant. The main shoreline change in many fishing villages has seen the virtual disappearance of beaches, it says. The document estimates that the potential decline in mangrove forest habitat due to sea level rise, changes in sediments, pollutants from the rivers and lakes, sand-mining, deforestation, and massive reclamation of coastal wetlands could impact the coastal biodiversity. The clandestine introduction of exotic fishes into inland water bodies is another factor that is affecting the biodiversity of fish. The lack of facilities for monitoring marine and estuarine pollution is cited as a severe shortcoming. The non-biodegradable pollutants have the potential to alter the aquatic ecosystem to a considerable extent, the report warns. The action plan notes that climate change was threatening to play havoc with traditional fishing practices. Aberrant rains, changed wind patterns, storms, and changes in the marine ecological balance could affect the very survival of the fishing communities, it says. The plan outlines a mitigation strategy focussing on the establishment of fish sanctuaries for conservation of marine biodiversity, protected sanctuaries for aquaculture development in wetland zones and coastal afforestation to offset the impact of paddy field and wetland reclamation. It also recommends a campaign to create awareness about climate change impact among stakeholders. The report moots steps to promote organic aquaculture and ensure sustainable inland fisheries through integration of fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture. It also stresses the need to strengthen information networking in the inland fisheries sector and create a system for prediction of production levels based on environment factors. Vulnerability assessment for the low coastal areas exposed to floods and salinity ingress is another major activity to be taken up. The report calls for a sustainable livelihood approach to manage the likely impact of climate change on fishery production. The recommendations will be taken up for implementation from the current year, according to officials at the department. (The Hindu 21/4/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

19. Maoists apologise for killing poll staff (12)

Raipur: Forty-eight hours after killing seven poll staff in south Bastar district of Bijapur in Chhattisgarh, Maoists on Monday issued a public apology, describing the massacre as a case of “mistaken identity”. Seven poll personnel – six school teachers and one forester — were killed when the bus they were travelling was blown up in a landmine blast triggered by Maoists at Kutelnar in the district on Saturday. They were returning to district headquarters along with election material after conducting polls in remote villages of Bijapur district on April 10. “Our People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army command that led the offensive misunderstood, assuming the poll staff as police (in the bus),” a statement issued by Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DSZC) spokesman Gudsa Usendi said. “It appears the big mistake was due to the misconstrued assessment from our side,” the release said. The Maoist release, however, said police strategies such as changing of vehicles, use of civil transport in the troubled region were to blame for the unfortunate incident. “They (poll personnel) were not our enemy. We will investigate how the lapse occurred, at what level and take steps to prevent recurrence.” (Asian Age 15/4/14)

 

20. CRPF jawans among five injured in Jharkhand poll violence (12)

Bokaro: Four CRPF personnel were among five persons injured on Thursday in Maoist violence in Jharkhand’s Bokaro district where polling is underway.  Targeting a CRPF patrol, Maoists triggered two landmine blasts at Lalpania near Jhumra hills, injuring three personnel and a civilian driver, CRPF (26th Battalion) Commandant Sanjay Kumar said. The men were Pratap Singh, Surendra Kumar and P C Mandal while the driver was identified as Ranjit Kumar, Kumar said. Maoists also fired on a CRPF patrol near Tulbul village in the area injuring a personnel in a brief encounter, the CRPF official said. Maoists also blew up a stretch of railway track in Bokaro district, disrupting train services. The rebels damaged the tracks between Dania railway station in Bokaro and Jageshwar station of Bihar under South Eastern Railway disrupting train services, Superintendent of Police Jitendra Kumar Singh said. Passenger trains were held up at different places, he said. Bokaro is under Giridih Lok Sabha constituency where polling is on. A report from Giridih in Jharkhand said the Maoists exploded ten bombs at separate places in Giridih Lok Sabha constituency where polling is on.”Seven bombs were exploded serially near Bistuur under Pirtand police station around 8.30 AM. All the security and polling personnel are safe,” Superintendent of Police Kranti Kumar told reporters. The rebels blasted one bomb at Ghamaria Bharati Chalkari and two at Harladih around 1.30 AM, he said. Polling was unaffected, he said. (Indian Express 17/4/14)

 

21. Organizations rally behind youth killed by Anti Naxal Force in case of mistaken identity (12)

MANGALORE: The Dakshina Kannada district units of Muslim Central Committee, Ahinda, and Jamath-E-Islam have demanded a high level probe into circumstances in which Anti Naxal Force (ANF) allegedly shot dead Kabeer, 29, a resident of Krishnapura at Tanikodu check post in Sringeri. The committee in particular has demanded that the state government enhance the compensation amount given to Kabeer’s family from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 30 lakh. While Ibrahim Kodijal, an office bearer of the committee and in charge president of District Congress Committee wanted CID probe in to the incident, K S Mohammad Masood, former chairperson, Karnataka State Minorities Commission and president of the committee wanted probe by the CBI. Masood said it does not make any sense for the CID to probe the action by its own personnel and only the CBI can find out the truth of this incident. Masood while upholding right of ANF to check vehicles at the check post, said they did not have the right to shoot Kabeer in his chest. “It is evident that Kabeer was shot at close range and not while attempting to flee as the police are claiming,” he said. Noting that this was a deliberate act on part of the ANF despite their claims of mistaken identity, he said trading in cattle was Kabeer’s family business and he was only trying to earn a livelihood. Asserting that chief minister Siddaramaiah must personally take interest in ensuring that family of Kabeer gets justice, he said this can be done by handing over the probe to CBI. In addition, Masood said, the government must enhance the compensation amount to Rs 30 lakh on the assumption that Kabeer would have earned a minimum of Rs 1 lakh per annum for the remaining years that one expects a person to be economically productive. Ibrahim Kodijal said police excess in any place needs to be condemned. “We have already apprised the CM of the situation through ministers B Ramanath Rai, and UT Khader, and MLA Mohiuddin Bawa,” he said, adding that he has spoken to home minister K J George who has assured a probe by CID. The committee at the same time has also appealed to community leaders and youth not to get carried away by the incident, he said. (The Hindu 20/4/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

22. Modi expresses support for Hindu migrants (13)

JODHPUR: When BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi raised the issue of the Hindu families migrated from Pakistan following the socio-religious persecution in his address in Pachpadara (Barmer) on Saturday, it dealt a shot in the arm of this distraught lot, who have been struggling hard for recognition in India. Modi in his address had said “these people of my community coming here are not being taken care of at all whereas the Bangladeshi nationals are being welcomed and helped in violation of all the rules on account of vote bank politics”.Modi had assured that they are the responsibility of the government at the Centre and that BJP will do everything possible to get them justice and alleviate their woes. “They are compelled for displacement due to injustice in Pakistan and should be treated equally here,” he said. The mentioning of the issue in such an elaborate and specific manner has infused fresh hope in the migrant population. “It is for the first time that any national party made a mention of the plight of Pakistani Hindu migrants and expressed commitment to take up the issue,” said Hindu Singh Sodha, president of the Seemant Lok Sangthan, an organization fighting for migrants’ rights. He said that not only this, BJP is the only national party which has also incorporated the issue in its manifesto, which reads “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here”.The raising of the issue ahead of the election is, however, being seen as an attempt to win the votes of this migrated community. Going by the statistics, there are about 1.50 lakh voters of this community in different districts of Rajasthan, predominantly in Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur. “These votes, which are about 70,000-75,000 in Barmer constituency alone, matter a lot for a political party and cannot be overlooked,” said a political analyst. Though, Sodha refused to comment on it but did not rule out the benefit of this development to the BJP, which a volunteer of the organization Prem Chand readily admitted. “We will definitely support the BJP,” he said. But even in the national scenario, these migrants are spread in states like Gujarat (70,000), MP (25,000) and Delhi (15,000) besides a few in Punjab, Haryana, etc., with about 25,000 migrants in queue for citizenship, the benefit of this message from the address of Modi will definitely accrue to BJP. According to Sodha, their long-pending demands are first, a refugee status for them and second, simplification of citizenship rules and laws for them. “We have hit every possible door with these demands including both Congress and BJP, but we are happy that the BJP not only incorporated the issue in its manifesto but also expressed its commitment for resolution publically for the first time,” he said. Jodhpur: When BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi raised the issue of the Hindu families migrated from Pakistan following the socio-religious persecution in his address in Pachpadara (Barmer) on Saturday, it dealt a shot in the arm of this distraught lot, who have been struggling hard for recognition in India. Modi in his address had said “these people of my community coming here are not being taken care of at all whereas the Bangladeshi nationals are being welcomed and helped in violation of all the rules on account of vote bank politics”.Modi had assured that they are the responsibility of the government at the center and that the BJP will do everything possible to get them justice and alleviate their woes. “They are compelled for displacement due to injustice in Pakistan and should be treated equally here”, he said. The mentioning of the issue in such an elaborate and specific manner has infused fresh hopes in this migrated lot. “It was for the first time that any national party made a mentioning of the plight of the Pakistani Hindu migrants and expressed commitment to take up the issue”, said Hindu Singh Sodha, President of the Seemant Lok Sangthan, an organization fighting for their rights. He said that not only this, but the BJP is the only national party, which has also incorporated the issue in its manifesto, which reads “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here”.The raising of the issue ahead of the election is, however, being seen as an attempt to win the votes of this migrated community. Going by the statistics, there are about 1.50 lac voters of this migrated Hindu community in different districts of Rajasthan, predominantly in Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur. “These votes, which are about 70-75000 in Barmer constituency alone, matters a lot for a political party and cannot be over looked”, said a political analyst. Though, Sodha refused to comment on it but did not rule out the benefit of this development to the BJP, which a volunteer of the organization Prem Chand readily admitted. “We will definitely support the BJP”, he said. But even on national scenario, these migrants are spread in states like Gujarat (70000), MP (25000) and Delhi (15000) besides few in Punjab, Haryana etc. with about 25000 in queue for citizenship, the benefit of this message from the address of Modi will definitely accrue to BJP. According to Sodha, their long pending demands are first, a refugee status for them and second, simplification of citizenship rules and laws for them. “We have hit every possible door with these demands including both Congress and BJP, but we are happy that, the BJP, not only incorporated the issue in its manifesto but also expressed its commitment for resolution publically for the first time”, he said. (Times ofIndia 15/4/14)

 

23. State to provide temporary ration cards to migrants (13)

Mumbai: With the number of people migrating from drought-struck areas to other places in the state increasing,the government has decided to provide temporary ration cards to them. According to the state government,residents of talukas where rainfall or sowing has been less than 50 per cent will be eligible for this scheme. People in drought-prone areas where sowing and rainfall has been less than 75 per cent can also avail of this facility. A family that is planning to migrate will have to get its ration card signed and stamped by the tehsildar or the food and civil supplies officer of the district,stating that ration distribution has been temporarily stopped for the said card. The card holder will be entitled to ration facility in the district he or she has migrated to. They can avail the scheme till the time they are staying in that area,” B B Narayankar,deputy secretary,Food and Civil Supplies Department,said. If only some members of a family have decided to move to a city,that should be mentioned on the ration card. This way,the entire family irrespective of its location can avail of the facility,he added. At present,if a car holder plans to migrate to a city outside the district,he or she has to produce a surrender slip to the rationing office in that city. He or she then is issued either a new ration card or the address is changed. (Indian Express 17/4/14)

 

24. Raj targets migrants, warns bldrs against illegal construction (13)

KALWA: The Maharashtra Navinirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray was in Kalwa on Sunday to address a rally, as he campaigned for Raju Patil, the party candidate for the Lok Sabha from Kalyan. Thackeray came down heavily on the authorities for failing to check rampant migration and illegal constructions plaguing Thane district. While his speech was peppered up with adequate barbs targeted at migrants it did help keeping the assembled listeners in good humour, but, however didn’t offer any promises to improve the fragile transport and poor connectivity, which is one of the major problems faced by lakhs of voters in this part of the suburb. In his speech, at a ground in Kalwa, Thackeray said, Thane was reeling under tremendous pressure from the migrant influx. He also warned the builder lobby involved in construction of illegal buildings against conning innocent buyers. “Why are buyers punished for the ills committed by these unscrupulous lot,” he said while clearly skirting the topic of their resettlement. Banking on his anti-migrant tirade that drew cheers from the youth, Thackeray narrated how this unchecked migration could pose problems to city’s security. Citing an example of how a migrant native managed to get employment at a reputed Bollywood personality’s society in six days flat, Thackeray highlighted how easy it was for migrants to settle in Mumbai. A local youth who had come all the way from Dombivli said he expected the leader to address the burning issue of lack of adequate transportation system to Thane. “Commuters from Thane suburbs have no other option but to risk their lives and travel by crowded trains. The issue of a parallel road is pending since years,” he said drawing attention towards the rising spate of mishaps happening on the saturated rail network. (Times of India 21/4/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

25. Daily wage labourers pitch in for the Left parties (14)

Puducherry: Puducherry has been closely associated with communism for several generations, with V. Subbiah’s protests against the French regime bringing about the eight-hour work day for the first time in Asia. Since then, the Left parties have had some strongholds in the Union Territory. For the working classes especially, the Left parties have a special meaning to them. In keeping with this strong left backing in the UT, the two Left parties – the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – coming together has made an impact on the working class, especially the daily wage workers. Now, in order to help them in their campaigning, several members of the working class have voluntarily donated money to organise the Left parties’ campaign in their areas. According to Kalainathan of the CPI, “In many areas, the daily wage workers have provided our party members with lunch and refreshments during their campaign. In total, our campaign itself is being run using donations collected by our cadres in the various areas. The best response has been from Oulgaret, Ariyankuppam, Nettapakkam, Mannadipet and Kalapet.” “The daily wage workers especially have been very forthcoming. Many of them have donated a day’s salary towards our election campaign. It is only by their efforts that we have been able to run our campaign,” he said. “Through the years, it has been only the Left parties that have supported us in our causes. When we have not received our wages or when we have some problems with the management, these parties have stood by our side. It is out of gratitude that I donated a day’s salary of Rs. 250,” Velu who is a construction worker, said. “Although the other parties have been saying that they stand for the worker’s rights, the CPI(M) has been the ones who have stood by the weaving community when the government stopped providing us with thread and subsidies, so a group of us decided to pool in money and contribute it to their campaign,” one of the weavers said. “Whether or not they win in this election, it is important to show support for people whose main aim is to help people like us. This is why I contributed two day’s wages of Rs. 600,” another construction worker Kumar said. “Even groups of women who work in homes and farm labourers have stepped up and donated what they could. Some of them have given Rs. 200 and some Rs. 500. For these people, that is one day’s wages. Most of them depend on this money in order to feed their families, which is why their contributions are so precious,” Tamilselvan of f the CPI(M) in Bahour said.  According to Rajangam from the CPI(M), the response has been overwhelming. In many houses, when the Left parties go in for door-to- door campaigns, they have been warmly received. Most people have given small contributions towards the campaign. In each area, this pool of money collected is being used to organise the party’s campaigning, he said. (The Hindu 16/4/14)

 

26. State to extend benefit of under-used labour fund (14)

Mumbai: The state has decided to extend benefit of the under-used labour welfare fund to those employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). There are 1.73 lakh labourers registered under MGNREGS in the state. In the 19 months since the government started levying 1 per cent cess on construction cost of projects to raise funds for welfare of labourers,nearly Rs 1,090 crore has been collected. However,only Rs 44 lakh of this has been used for the benefit of 52 labourers. Lack of awareness,government apathy and builders not registering labourers — of the estimated 20 lakh labourers in the state,only 1.02 lakh are registered — are considered main reasons for the under-use of funds. The money can be used under 13 welfare schemes such as scholarships for children of labourers,health insurance of their families,compensation in case of death and low-cost housing. State labour minister Hasan Mushrif said Tuesday the fund was raised quickly but its use was slow. “We have 1.73 lakh additional labourers registered under MGNREGS who can be made beneficiaries. Committees formed under district collectors will ascertain eligibility,” said Mushrif. According to Building and Other Construction Workers Act 1996,1 per cent of construction cost of projects worth Rs 10 lakh and above more,private or public,must be submitted to the state labour ministry as welfare cess. The government,however,lowered the cap to Rs 5 lakh before implemeting the rule in August 2011. (Indian Express 17/4/14)

 

27. Trade unions labour for parent parties in electoral arena (14)

MADURAI: Trade unions have always been a reliable bulwark for their affiliated political parties. They are always a ready source of strength when parties battle it out in the political arena. The labour wings of most parties are carrying out campaigns, especially among the work force, through various modes of canvassing. However, they are unable to carry out a full-fledged campaign this time due to strict election commission norms. In the run-up to the election in the state, a Left-oriented trade union has published a booklet mentioning the achievements of CPM. The booklet, ‘Nadalumandra Therthalum Namum’ (Lok Sabha Elections & We), was published by the All-India State Government Employees Federation affiliated to CITU. The 16-page booklet sensitises government employees about the need to support Left parties. All major economic and political issues have been covered. They include the new pension scheme, deregulation of oil prices, inflation, foreign investment, privatisation of public sector units and scam-laden governance. The publication also narrates how Left parties have been protecting the welfare of labourers. K K N Rajan, state vice-president of Tamil Nadu Water and Drainage Board Workers Federation which is affiliated to the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said union members are actively participating in the election campaign. “TWAD workers demand protection of water sources before governments announce mega water and drainage projects,” he said. However, the election commission restriction on government employees has affected campaigning by trade unions. “Earlier, we used to take long leave to work for election and many employees used to donate for parties. After the election commission issued strong instructions, we only attend public meetings and that too if time permits,” said an insurance employee associated with CPM. Meanwhile, secular labour associations here have decided to back Left parties in this election. “There is a strong fear among workers associations towards right-wing parties which they fear will deprive the workers off job-related benefits and security. Our fear is justified after seeing how Congress and BJP are together implementing the new pension scheme,” commented N Jayachandran, state treasurer of Tamil Nadu Government All-Department Pensioners’ Association. We campaign among members and write articles in our local journal in this regard, he said. A section of trade unions is not swayed by party-oriented politics and campaign. “We don’t mix party with union and our members keep away from campaigning,” said G Senthil Kumar, secretary of Loadmen Association of Hindu Mazdoor Sabha. There are special cases like Madurai District Integrated Autorickshaw Drivers Welfare Association which has fielded its own candidate. “We are tired of backing parties after parties to fulfil our demands. In this election, we decided to make our presence felt by contesting in elections,” said R P Chandrabose, president of the association and an independent candidate of the association. (Times of India 20/4/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

28. Illegal mica mines in Bihar and Jharkhand employ child labour (14)

Among the fashion conscious, mineral make up is all the rage these days. It uses natural minerals and is said to be a healthier for the skin than ordinary products. But the process of extraction of these minerals, particularly mica, using child labour in India is now causing concern. Mica can be found in the mines of Jharkhand and Bihar. Most of it is extracted from illegal mines using child labour (in 2012, the export of mica was over eight times the country’s officially stated production). Madhu Kumar, a five-year-old girl, works with her older sister and mother to separate mica flakes; her father and brothers too work in the mines. Her family has been doing this job for generations and this seems to be the only viable future for the five year old. It is important to integrate children like Madhu into the education system of the country. The Bachpan Bachao Andolan has estimated that over 5,000 children work in these illegal mines. Children as young as five years of age are found working in hazardous conditions. These children work for 5-6 days per week, 7-8 hours per day extracting mica and earn less than Rs 18 per hour. They operate sharp and heavy tools, are susceptible to inhaling dust from stone cutting and are at risk injury from falling stones. These children are also made to carry more than 15 kg of mica for several kilometres to the intermediaries in towns. Their homes are often several kilometres away as these illegal mines are to be found in jungles. DanWatch carried out field research in Jharkhand and Bihar and found strong ties between the regions’ biggest buyers of mica and the world’s largest makeup brands. The research displayed the lack of transparency of these make up brands as 12 out of 16 companies refused to disclose where they receive their mica from. The German pharmaceutical company Merck which supplies the international makeup brand L’Oreal admits to getting its mica from exporters in Jharkhand and Bihar. Interestingly, Merck declares that this mica is extracted from legal mines. But research carried out by DanWatch suggests the contrary, pointing out that it is impossible to differentiate between mica extracted from legal and illegal mines. Local exporters have maintained that the number of legal mines has decreased drastically since the 90s. These operations are a matter of concern but a bigger concern is that the livelihood of these miners depends on this industry. Many mica miners ran away from DanWatch researchers because they were aware of the illegal nature of their jobs. (Times of India 16/4/14)

 

29. Children’s manifesto– not child’s play (14)

COIMBATORE: It is an eight-page document with a list of demands. The document talks about the principal demands, demands in education sector, child labour abolition, child trafficking, girl child betterment, welfare of children of migrant labourers, environment protection, social issues, nutrition, health and hygiene and family welfare. The document, titled ‘Children’s Election Demands’, has come from children from villages in Coimbatore, Tirupur and The Nilgiris Parliamentary constituencies. “It was a long drawn-out process. The students from villages first prepared the draft. This draft was discussed at the regional level, then block level and finally at the federation level,” says L. Roselin, a Plus Two student and a child rights activist. At all the levels only students were involved, adds M. Sathiyamoorthi, also an activist and Plus Two student. Encouraged by the Centre for Social Education and Development and Forum for Promotion of Child Participation, more than 1,000 children prepared the document to be presented to candidates of all major political parties in the three constituencies, says C. Nambi, Director of the Centre. The students’ principal demands – all those below 18 years of age be declared children and all legislations be amended suitably, particularly the Right to Education Act, so that all children are guaranteed education; no change in the age in the Juvenile Justice Act under any circumstances. Their other demands include better facilities in schools, appointment of conservancy workers in all schools, change in child labour Act to accommodate those in the 14 to 18 age group as well, stringent measures against those who employ child workers, a register for migrant labourers at the district and block level, tougher environment laws and much more. R. Karthick, another child rights activist, says that in the 2011 Assembly election the children prepared a list of demands and submitted the same to the contestants but failed to take follow-up action by interacting with the MLAs. This time though, they were keen on interacting with the MPs to-be to ensure that their demands were met. At the panchayat and block level they interacted with the councillors, had their demands met and also conducted exclusive only-children gram sabha meetings, says K. Sridevi, also a child rights activist. Communist Party of India nominee P.R. Natarajan, to whom the students first presented the demands, could not be reached for his comments. (The Hindu 17/4/14)

 

30. More Sensitivity Towards the Issue of Child Rights Needed (14)

CHENNAI: The big gap between non-governmental organisations and reporters from corporate media has to be bridged, building a good rapport so that child issues are reported with the right amount of sensitivity, balance and accuracy, said Shashi Nair, Director, Press Institute of India. He was speaking at a State-level consultation on the role of media in child rights conducted by UNICEF and Tamil Nadu child rights observatory here on Thursday. He said that in a country like India where the majority of the population was children, there was an urgent need for mediapersons to be taken to the field and sensitised on issues. “The basics of reporting has not changed, but because of the lack of advertisers support, issues like malnutrition, education, sexual harassment and child labour do not come to the limelight”, he added. Calling the Press Council of India ‘toothless’, Nair suggested that media houses came under an unified body and pledged to reserve more space for child rights issues. Sugatha Roy, communications specialist, UNICEF, said that the civil society had to be strengthened, so that they can regulate news and hold media houses accountable for mistakes in reports. Kavin Malar, India Today Tamil, who was one of the speakers, spoke on similar lines and shared experiences from her career as a journalist. (New Indian Express 21/4/14)

 

HINDUTVA

31. Sena slams Modi,asks BJP to revisit Hindutva agenda (26)

Mumbai: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut,who is the executive editor of party’s mouthpiece Saamna,on  Sunday wrote that the BJP’s decision to shun hardcore Hindutva ideology was responsible for its defeat in Karnataka elections. In a hard hitting column,he said, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi,who sweeps the elections in his home state,tried to adopt pseudo secular image outside,which proved fatal for the BJP. What is the difference between Modi and AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh if both are speaking the same language of secularism,which in current context means avoid concerns for the majority Hindus and indulge in appeasement of minority Muslims? Raut added that it is time the BJP learnt its lessons or else people will continue to vote for the Congress. All those BJP leaders who are out to project Modi as the next prime minister and believe he can swing sizeable votes to their fold should do some introspection. Modi was the star campaigner of the BJP in Karnataka Assembly elections. He held rallies at Mangalore,Bangalore and Belgaum,and received a mammoth crowd. But wherever Modi campaigned the BJP lost. Exhorting the BJP to revert to its hardcore Hindutva agenda,Raut said,“The question that needs to be addressed is who is the leader of 80 per cent Hindus in India? The Congress has already established its secular credentials which amounts to appeasement of the minorities. In the recently concluded elections it has proved that people are not going to vote on anti-corruption plank or development. Which leaves the BJP and Sena with no other alternative but to go back to Hindutva…There are reports of Varun Gandhi taking tough stand on Hindutva and receiving good response in Uttar Pradesh where Modi is trying to make inroads. State BJP leaders refused to comment on Raut’s column. A senior BJP leader said,“Modi is a popular leader. A state election cannot be the yardstick to determine the ability of a national leader. Another BJP leader said,“Sena has chosen to target Modi as he shares cordial relations with MNS chief Raj Thackeray.  (Indian Express  14/4/14)

 

32. VHP talks of political dimension to Ram Janmabhoomi solution (26)

Chennai: Virtually advocating a political solution to the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, Ashok Chowgule, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Working President (External), has said “it is now necessary for politics to enter the sphere.” Restating the VHP’s stand that the Ram Janmabhoomi was forcibly taken away from Hindus and that justice could be done only when it was restored, he said in a communication: “Unless one separates the history and politics of the issue, obfuscation will persist. The historical question is whether a temple in honour of Shri Ram was deliberately destroyed to make way for the Babri structure. If the answer to this question is a no, then the question of whether a temple should be built at the place simply does not arise.” To deal with the historical question, in December 1990, the Chandra Shekar government organised meetings between the VHP and the All India Babri Masijd Action Committee (AIBMAC). Both sides were to furnish evidence by December 22 and based on these, each side was to submit rejoinders by January 6, 1991. The meetings remained inconclusive, after the committee experts failed to turn up. Mr. Chowgule said the Ram Janmabhoomi site should have been transferred to Hindus. The AIBMAC had said that if proof of the destruction of a temple was produced, it would have no objection to such a transfer. When the proof was given, it refused to honour its word, and neither the government nor the media insisted it did so. The solution would have been on the lines of the Somnath temple. Mr. Chowgule said that in A.D. 1528, Babur destroyed a temple in memory of Lord Ram to build the Babri structure. The purpose was not religious but political. The question now was whether Hindus were right in forcibly reclaiming the site. Hindus made efforts to negotiate its peaceful return, but they were frustrated. The P.V. Narasimha Rao government sought the Supreme Court’s intervention. The government undertook in an affidavit that if this question was answered in the affirmative, it would act in a manner that would respect Hindu sentiment. The Supreme Court then asked the Allahabad High Court to take up the matter. The High Court accepted the primary point that Hindus had made, but “confused the issue” by stating that the land be divided into three parts — two to the two primary Hindu litigants and one to the Muslim side. (The Hindu 11/4/14)

 

33. Modi effect: 2,000-odd RSS shakhas sprout in 3 months (26)

LUCKNOW: For the last three months, Ravi Tewari, a 22-year-old engineering student, has been waking up at 5am, putting on his white shirt and khaki shorts and rushing to a nearby park for the morning shakha of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). His family is surprised. No one in the Tewari clan has ever been with RSS. So, the family can’t quite figure what is driving Ravi to adopt this punishing morning drill. “I believe in Hindutva,” says Ravi. “The country needs reforms. Who other than Narendra Modi can make it happen? The youth needs something to look forward to. They also need to take up more responsibilities to change things and the shakha is the best place to learn how to do it.” Ravi speaks with a sense of purpose that only a new convert can have. He had never dabbled in politics before he joined ABVP, BJP’s student wing, a few months ago. And there are thousands like him, he says, neo-converts who have breathed new life into RSS after Modi was named the BJP’s PM candidate on September 13 last year. Suddenly, the organization which was becoming moribund and seen to be out of tune with the times, is growing. In less than three months, more than 2,000 shakhas have sprouted across the country. By the end of 2013, there were 44,982 shakhas in India, of which 8,417 were in UP alone. The numbers had peaked in 2004, when there were around 51,000 functioning shakhas. They shrunk during the UPA tenure, hitting a low of 39,283 shakhas in 2010. But as scams broke out, and UPA 2 went from one low to another, there was again a renewed, interest in shakhas, with a sudden burst in post-Modi months. Kripa Shanker, who heads the RSS publicity wing for UP and Uttarakhand, however, says that it is not a seasonal upsurge. He claims the number shakhas did not decline after 2004. “It’s just that people are becoming more aware of our work.” “More and more young people are coming forward and joining shakhas,” says Atul Singh, who heads a newly established shakha in Lucknow. What do the shakhas do? “They focus on character building, idealism, discipline and, of course, Hindutva. We are creating awareness among people to vote for a ‘suitable’ political candidate,” he said; ‘suitable’ of course being shorthand for Modi. “The surge clearly shows how the attraction of power is working for RSS,” says a Sangh activist who did not want to be named. “Students associated with ABVP have joined in large numbers over the past six months. Besides, people who were inactive in the past few years have become active again.” “Shakhas are now much more organized,” says an ABVP leader. “Most shakhas now have ‘gan nayak’ — a functionary who is supposed to wake up swayamsewaks in the morning and bring them to the park — and ‘gan shikshak’ (group teacher), who trains the members. This was not the case some time ago.” Ashok Sinha of the RSS’ publicity wing says the Lok Sabha elections are like a national festival for the Sangh. “Our activities increase during elections but this doesn’t mean we do not work at other times. Shakhas focus on personality development and social inclusiveness and what better than the involvement of young,” he says. Associated with the RSS since his childhood, 76-year-old D P Singh, at present the sarsanghchalak (head) of west UP, says, “Shakhas are not meant to bring in a revolution. They help in the character-building process. The participation of youth in shakhas is like fresh flowers being offered to God. One doesn’t offer dry flowers while worshipping, no?”  (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

34. 30,000 saffron soldiers take up Narendra Modi’s fight (26)

Varanasi: About 10,000 members of the BJP’s ideological parent, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and 20,000 from its affiliates such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Durga Wahini and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) are pulling out all stops to ensure the victory of Narendra Modi in Varanasi.  These 30,000 cadres are locals. Apart from them, thousands more are flocking to the Hindu holy city from other states. Neither the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nor RSS have agreed to quantify the force, saying they are non-political and trying “only to awaken” the 1.6 million voters here.  Sanjay Bhardwaj, BJP’s east UP media-in-charge, said, “About 7,000 people have come to Varanasi from other states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi. On Monday night itself, 150 people came from Haryana. These are mostly pure Modi supporters, without Sangh background. The rush will increase once Modi files his papers and does a road show on April 22.” Ram Kumar, who has left his daily-wage job at a Gujarat factory and have come to Varanasi, told HT, “I’m here for the big May 16 (when poll results are announced) celebration.”  A large number of people, quite a few of them Gujarati, celebrated Hanuman Jayanti in Varanasi on Tuesday. “In the run-up to the polling on May 12, about 30,000 Gujaratis are expected here,” said Bhardwaj. Senior RSS pracharak Nagendra Dwivedi said, “There are 300 RSS shakhas in Varanasi with 10,000 members. Plus there are 20,000 members of VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Wahini, ABVP and Bharat Vikas Parishad. So effectively, there are 30,000 people who are working every day to awaken the voters. ABVP’s national executive member Ghanshyam Shahi said, “We’re informing voters about issues such as uniform civil code, article 370 (special status to Kashmir) and Ram Mandir.”

The VHP’s job is to use thousands of temples and many akharas in Varanasi to mobilise support and bring here sadhus-sants from other states. A former BJP minister, currently in Varanasi, admitted, “Top RSS leadership is coordinating Modi’s campaign. There is an apprehension that the city will not be able to take in the rush.” The disciples of yoga guru Ramdev are in town under the banner of Bharat Swabhiman Nyas. Ramdev will himself camp here from May 2 to May 4. The BJP is also trying its best to whip up the Hindutva sentiment. It has planned a ‘Ganga Pranam Yatra’ which will have around 100 boats with Modi cut-outs atop them travelling from Assi Ghat to Raj Ghat. About 10,000 people wearing party caps are likely to take part in this exercise to mobilise support exploiting the sacred river and Shubah-e-Benares cultural connect. Besides, the party claims to have a solid vote-catching strategy in place. Chandrashekhar, an RSS pracharak and currently BJP’s organisational secretary, said, “For the 1,562 polling booths in Varanasi, we have as many teams comprising 20 members each. There is a youth war room which is linked to 7,500 on-campus and 5,000 off-campus students. For sectors and wards, there are 100 full-time and as many part-time volunteers.” The BJP claims it has 200 teams, each comprising 10 to 20 members, for door-to-door campaigning. There are 500 volunteers who are making phone calls to people, asking them to vote for Modi. “About 100 volunteers have the mandate to persuade the elite group comprising doctors, lawyers, engineers, besides social and religious groups. In the last 10 days, one fine volunteer each will look after each of the 1,562 booths,” Chandrashekhar said. The Sangh Parivar admits with don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari withdrawing nomination to avoid a split in the 300,000-strong Muslim vote bank, the task has become “slightly difficult”. (Hindustan Times 16/4/14)

 

35. RSS launches statewide campaign for 100% turnout, no mention of Modi (26)

Ahmedabad: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has launched a statewide campaign pitching for a 100 per cent turnout in Gujarat on polling day, April 30. However, their hand-outs and posters have no mention of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, but they urge for a “vote for change…for an empowered government and an efficient nation”. The hand-outs, which list out scams exposed under the UPA II government, has a visual of a book that says, “Vote Bank Politics (UP Edition)” to drive home the point that the vote should not be for a government that appeases minorities. The other issues it takes up are corruption, inflation, and terrorism, which is accompanied by a picture of the terror attack on Taj Hotel in Mumbai of 26/11. Incidentally, the RSS launched its door-to-door campaign on April 7, the day BJP launched its manifesto. The campaign calling for a vote for “self respecting, self reliant, harmonious and empowered India” will continue till April 22. “We are not seeking votes for BJP, but like many government agencies which are campaigning for maximum turnout of voters. We started this campaign to make sure 100% votes for which we have dedicated team at city, towns, taluka and village level,” said RSS media in-charge Pradip Jain, who is also looking after the election campaign in Gujarat. RSS workers are distributing pamphlets printed by Sanskriti Samvardhan Trust (SST) that say, “by your votes, the followings are needed to be changed…corruption (2G, CWG scams etc.), terrorism, inflation and non-appeasement”. According to Jain, out of 1,450 RSS shakhas (branch) in the state, about 10 to 15 members have been given the responsibility for the campaigning. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is also supporting the RSS campaign in the state. However, the VHP too is not openly campaigning Modi, especially in Gujarat. “The BJP has been putting Hindutva on its manifesto since 1998, and this time too it has cited removal of Article 370, cow protection and building of the temple, but we want an implementation plan with a deadline this time”, says a top VHP leader. “This is not the first time that we are campaigning for elections along with RSS. We are not indulging in creating vote banks for any political party. We are simply telling the people that all the parties have already brought out their manifesto and whoever fulfils the requirement such as curbing corruption, inflation and promises of a strong nation should be elected. For which voting is a must. We are trying to ensure 100% voting,” said a district president of VHP. (Indian Express 19/4/14)

 

36. Temple activist wants to keep Hindutva alive (26)

GORAKHPUR: Mahant Avaidyanath, head of the Gorakhnath Math, is 98, but age and failing health have not weakened his resolve to “revive Hindutva and protect Hindus.” The BJP, the party he supports, says development and good governance are its planks in the Lok Sabha election. But the Mahant, who was at the forefront of the Ram temple movement in Ayodhya, asserts that the election is an opportunity to reclaim the “shrinking space for Hindus in India.” “We are fighting the elections on the agenda of revival of Hindutva and protection of Hindus who are in danger. If Hindus are threatened in India, where in the world will they be safe?” asks the four-time MP from here, who has been leading the revival and propagation of right-wing Hindu nationalism. “We will support anyone who agrees with, and follows, our Hindutva philosophy, even if they are our enemies,” he told The Hindu in an exclusive conversation at his residence here. The senior Mahant of the Math was earlier a Hindu Mahasabha leader. Dismissing allegations that Mr. Modi and the BJP are “divisive” and “communal,” the Mahant says: “Anyone who tries to revive Hindutva, anyone who speaks up for Hindus is perceived as communal by the people who are essentially just enemies of Hindus and Hindutva.” The Mahant, whose disciple Yogi Adityanath, sitting BJP MP from Gorakhpur, has succeeded him, says the Math’s main concern today is to “keep Hindutva alive.” (The Hindu 20/4/14)

 

37. Evict Muslims from Hindu areas: Pravin Togadia (26)

RAJKOT: Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) president Pravin Togadia sent temperatures soaring in Bhavnagar on Saturday evening with a hate speech that targeted Muslims for buying properties in Hindu areas. At night, Togadia joined a group of VHP and Bajrang Dal members on a street protest outside a house purchased by a Muslim businessman near Meghani Circle. While saffron groups have been regularly organizing ‘Ram Dhuns’ and ‘Ram Darbars’ to thwart such deals, Togadia went a step further by asking the protesters to take complete control of the house and put a ‘Bajrang Dal’ board on it. Togadia told the gathering that there were two ways to stop such deals. One is to pressurize the state government to bring in Disturbed Areas Act in Bhavnagar, which prevents inter-community sale of immovable property. The second is to take forcible possession of the house and fight a legal battle later which will go on for years. He gave the Muslim occupant 48 hours to vacate the house. “If he does not relent, go with stones, tyres and tomatoes to his office. There is nothing wrong in it. Killers of Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged … there is nothing to fear and the case will go on,” Togadia told the charged-up gathering. “I have done it in the past and Muslims have lost both property and money,” he said. He also said that this election is the best time to pressurize political parties to ensure safety of Hindus. “Don’t be reluctant to pressurize Congress or BJP for the sake of Hindus’ safety,” he said. After the event was over, tension was palpable and police feared that the mob might attack the house. A team of policemen has been stationed outside the house to avert any trouble. (Times of India 21/4/14)

Posted by admin at 17 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Counsel in Pakistan blasphemy case threatened (1)

Islamabad: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced serious concern over threats extended to a senior lawyer representing a blasphemy accused inside a courtroom in the Multan Central Prison. In a statement issued on Thursday, the HRCP said it was extremely concerned about threats in open court to the lawyers of an accused in a blasphemy case, Junaid Hafeez. His lawyers Rashid Rehman and Allah Dad had appeared for a hearing on Wednesday. The case is being heard in Multan Central Jail in view of security concerns. “During arguments for acquittal of the accused, three persons addressed defence lawyer Rashid Rehman, in the judge’s presence and said: ‘You will not come to court next time because you will not exist anymore.’ Mr. Rehman drew the judge’s attention to the threat but the judge is reported to have remained silent. The difficulty that the accused has had in finding and retaining a lawyer is well known and HRCP said it views that as a systematic denial of legal representation to the accused. If this charade continues for much longer HRCP will have no qualms in concluding that it has been decided that the accused would not be allowed legal representation and there is no need to bother with a trial anymore, the statement said. HRCP demands action under the law against the three persons who threatened the lawyer in the case without delay and effective measures to ensure the defence lawyer’s security. In the case of former federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was killed in 2011, two eyewitnesses received death threats in February and were told not to give evidence by two terror groups. The trial is underway at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. The witnesses had sought increased police protection and filed a police complaint.  (The Hindu 10/4/14)

 

2. Candidates echo similar promise: Repeal of AFSPA (1)

IMPHAL, April 10: All eight candidates in the fray for the Inner Manipur Parliamentary seat were of one mind regarding their desire to see the Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act repealed. INC candidate Dr Th Meinya who has been the MP for two consecutive terms and aspiring for the third consecutive term spoke about the Act’s repeal even though the AICC leadership has never even mentioned about repealing AFSPA. He was speaking at the “Meet Your Candidates” of the inner constituency for the 16th Lok Sabha Election, 2014 organised by the Editors’ Guild, Manipur under the sponsorship of the CEO, Manipur at the Classic Hotel, today. Trinamool Congress Party candidate Manaobi and Jai Maha Bharat party candidate Jotin Oinam were however, absent from the meet. The interaction was moderated by Impact TV news editor Yumnam Rupachandra. Meinya said he will work for the repeal of the AFSPA and the state territory if elected for the third time. He continued that he has raised the AFSPA issue at the Parliament. BJP candidate, RK Ranjan also spoke on similar lines and on his concern regarding the removal of the Act which was different from the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s view on the subject. Modi had earlier said that AFSPA was still relevant in some parts of the country. Dr M Nara spoke on electoral reform and said it was needed to bring down corruption in the state. The present UPA government follows a pro-rich policy, and if their policies are continued further in the state, than Manipur will suffer more, he observed. This is where a proportional representation is needed in the state, he said. He said he alone cannot bring any change to the conflict situation. However, he has already prepared mentally on what issues to rise inside the Parliament if elected, Nara said. He too spoke on his desire to see the draconian act repealed. The lonely lady candidate of the inner constituency, Oinam Indira reflected on women empowerment. All the male candidates have been serious about the issues confronting the state, she said. However, there has been no woman representation at the Parliament from the state, Indira lamented. She continued she will fight for the unemployed youth and for women’s empowerment to check crime against women. Meanwhile, Manipur democratic people’s front’s candidate Dr G Tonsana said that Manipur is in danger. He will fight for the people of Manipur in the parliament and there are no difference of opinion between Kukis, Nagas, Meiteis and Muslims. (Kangla Online 10/4/14)

 

3. CBI doesn’t want to part with IB report, moves Gujarat HC (1)

AHMEDABAD: After unearthing the role of the Central Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Gujarat Police in the killing Sadiq Jamal Mehtar in the 2003 fake encounter case, CBI now seems to be trying hard to keep the information secret. It has approached Gujarat high court against a special CBI court’s order which instructs the probe agency to part with a classified report prepared by the Maharashtra unit of IB just after giving custody of the Bhavnagar youth to Gujarat Police, sources said. On February 1, special CBI judge C R Thakker asked the reluctant CBI to supply copies of the IB report to the accused cops for a fair trial. The court, however, had permitted CBI not to share certain paragraphs of the report with the accused cops, to conceal certain information which is in the interest of national security as claimed by the central agencies. This document reportedly contains information about the prior custody of Sadiq and how his custody was given to Gujarat Police. However, CBI does not want to part with the report, as the central IB has been insisting upon this since the beginning. The report was generated by Maharashtra IB officer Gururaj Savadatti on January 6, 2003. This document was supplied by the CBI in a sealed cover to the court and, on the basis of this document, the court denied bail to some eight police officials in the case. The accused then sought this document for their defence. This petition may come up for hearing next week. (Times of India 12/4/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

4. 22 Punjabi ‘slaves’ free to leave Saudi Arabian soil (1)

Hoshiarpur: After five months of bonded labour in Saudi Arabia, 22 Punjabi victims of travel fraud and human trafficking are free at last to return home. Three, including one from Hoshiarpur, arrived late Tuesday. Promised work as driver in the Gulf, the young men ended up picking dirt after paying between `1 lakh and `1.5 lakh each to get to the foreign shore. “The travel agents had promised us a monthly salary of 1,500 Saudi riyals (`24,000) but on landing in Riyadh (Saudi Arabian capital) we were pushed into doing hard labour for an unfamiliar company that would pay us the wages of a slave,” said Jagjit Singh, 24, of Gokal Nagar locality here. “The employers said we should pay them 3,000 riyals (`48,000) each, if we wanted work licence. They tore our international driving licences that the agents had given to us in India, saying those were fake. Hired to pick garbage for 1,000 riyals (`16,000) a month, we would get only 200 riyals (`3,200) in hand,” said Jagjit Singh. He remembered the time the employers had asked him to deposit 7,000 riyals (`1.12 lakh) when he had sought permission to visit home to see his ailing mother. “We lived hand to mouth, got nothing of the promised free accommodation and food. Our Punjabi brethren helped us survive,” said Jagjit Singh, remembering the many Punjabi youth stuck there in worse circumstances. It was impossible to get back had the Indian media not reported their plight. “Fearing bad reputation, the main travel agent from Mumbai reached Riyadh to fix things but we insisted he gave us the exit pass. He agreed eventually but said only one at a time could leave,” said Jagjit Singh, adding that Baljinder Singh of Gurdaspur and Jagmit Singh of Kapurthala were also home. Feeling cheated, Jagjit said he would never think of going abroad. “In five months, I did not send home a penny. The loan my parents took to pay the agent still stands. I cannot take any more risk,” he added. (Hindustan Times 10/4/14)

 

5. Two booked under Bonded Labour Act (1)

Bangalore: Two men were on Wednesday booked under Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act for allegedly forcing 11 boys from Jharkhand sell chaat on the roadside in and around Coles Park. Volunteers of a city-based NGO International Justice Mission helped the Anti-Human Trafficking unit rescue the boys. According to the Bharathi Nagar police, the boys were employed by two brothers from Jharkhand. The rescued boys were handed over to Child Welfare Committee for rehabilitation. (The Hindu 11/4/14)

 

6. Infant rescued from disabled beggar at City railway station (1)

Bangalore: Cleaning staff at the Bangalore City railway station on Saturday helped child helpline volunteers rescue an eight-month-old baby boy from the custody of a man with disabilities, who had arrived from Mumbai and was allegedly found making use of the child for begging. The man, who was identified as Devanand, admitted that he had found the baby boy at the Mumbai railway station three months ago and had decided to make use him for begging. The incident came to light when the sweepers at platform no. 10 noticed the baby boy lying next to a beggar with disabilities and crying incessantly. Based on the information, a team of volunteers from BOSCO childline rushed to the spot and took the child and the man to the BOSCO shelter at Chamarajapet and fed the child, and made the man to take bath. The BOSCO counsellors tried to extract information from Devanand to ascertain whether it could be the case of a child trafficking racket, but he reportedly feigned ignorance and behaved as if he was mentally challenged, a staff member of BOSCO Mane said. The child was later referred to the Child Welfare Committee and shifted to Shishu Mandira, while the man was provided with the address of the helpline and asked to report for any help, Executive Director of BOSCO Father P.S. George said. It may be recalled that on April 7, a taxi driver at the City railway station helped the child helpline volunteers to bust a child trafficking racket, which led to the arrest of a 45-year-old ragpicker, who had abducted a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy. The girl and the boy, who were allegedly forced to beg for him for the past one-and-half years, were freed from his captivity. The accused was charged under child trafficking and other sections while the boy and the girl have been referred to State home for boys and girls. (The Hindu 13/4/14)

 

7. Action sought against agents for luring Punjabis to US (1)

CHANDIGARH: The North American Punjabi Association (Napa) has sought action against travel and immigration agents who lured over 100 Punjabi youths with dreams of settling in the US but who are now behind bars. The youths, detained in prisons in the US for the past few months, have gone on hunger strike seeking early resolution of their plight, Napa said Monday. In a communication to the Punjab Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Commission here Monday, Napa sought action against travel and immigration agents who lured the youths with big dreams. “I want to bring to your notice the miserable plight of more than 100 Punjabi young men who (after paying lakhs of rupees) are languishing in a US jail on charges of illegal entry without valid visa. “More than 42 undocumented Punjabi youths were arrested on different occasions and detained in the El Paso Processing Centre in Texas, the US. Some of them are on hunger strike since five days. They are demanding early decision of their cases since they are in detention for periods ranging from three months to one year,” Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director, Napa, said. Chahal said in a recent incident a Punjabi youth committed suicide. Napa sent his body to his native village in Punjab for cremation, he added. In another instance, Jarnail Singh, father of a youth Amritpal Singh, claimed he paid Rs 22 lakh in instalments to an immigration agent to help his son migrate to the US. However, the son landed in a Texas prison following his illegal entry via Mexico. Asking for the intervention of the commission and the Punjab government, Napa has sought implementation of the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Bill, 2010 to save Punjabi youths from fraudulent travel agents and the resultant humiliation and hardship abroad, apart from the suffering their families undergo, Chahal said. Napa said: “It is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 Punjabis contribute to this flourishing business each year by paying Rs 20-30 lakh on the promise of greener pastures. Punjab has become the hub of this Rs 12,000-crore trafficking racket.” Napa has also demanded a probe into the role of politicians in the trafficking racket. (Times of India 14/4/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

8. Tension at Uthapuram as police outpost comes under attack (2)

MADURAI: Tension prevailed at Uthapuram, a village near Usilampatti, where some caste Hindus allegedly pelted a police outpost with stones, protesting revenue and police officials conducting a meeting to allocate time for Dalits to offer prayers in a village temple on Monday. A large posse of police has been deployed in the village, where the district administration in 2008 demolished a “wall of untouchability” that divided the Dalit habitations from the caste Hindu residential area. The Dalits had represented to the Madurai District Police that they wanted to offer prayers at the Muthalamman temple, when the caste Hindus planned for a three-day ‘Panguni’ celebration between April 8 and 10. Following this, Usilampatti Revenue Divisional Officer M. Duraipandian and Usilampatti Deputy Superintendent of Police Saravanankumar held a meeting at the police outpost. “We wanted to know the time at which the Dalits wanted to offer prayers. The meeting was held as the High Court in 2012 ordered that the Dalits be allowed to enter the temple,” the RDO told The Hindu. Even as the talks were going on, scores of Caste Hindus gathered near the temple around 1.30 p.m. “They shouted slogans against allowing the Dalits into the temple. Suddenly, a few stones were hurled at the outpost,” the RDO said. A woman constable was injured, and the windshield of the official vehicle of the Perayur Tahsildar was smashed. One of the Dalit leaders, K. Ponnaiah, claimed that the caste Hindus had threatened their representatives, Sankaralingam and Nagamani, of dire consequences. “The DSP pacified our people, hence we kept quiet.” However, people from both sides started hurling stones at each other, the police said. Superintendent of Police Vijayendra Bidari, who rushed to Uthapuram, said the situation was under control. The constable sustained a minor injury, he said. A case would be registered against the accused. The Dalits entered the temple in 2011 with police protection, after a long-drawn peace process initiated by the then Superintendent of Police, Asra Garg, and leaders of both communities.  (The Hindu 9/4/14)

 

9. 4 years on, Mirchpur village’s Dalits still scared to return (2)

Mirchpur: “Polling station Number 39-Chamar Chaupal,” reads the freshly painted words on the outer wall of a structure that has served as a community building for the lower castes in Mirchpur, part of Hisar, for some years now. On Thursday, when Haryana goes to polls, the polling party manning this booth will await 1,059 voters — all of them belonging to the scheduled castes. All may not turn up. Most of the Dalits left the village after the 2010 caste violence between Jats and Dalits that left an old man and his daughter charred to death. Those who have chosen to stay back are still debating whether going to the Chaupal building in the Jat-dominated side would be a good idea. Villagers say Chamar Chaupal, originally Harijan Chaupal, has served as a polling station for the scheduled caste voters for years. But they admit that while a few Dalits may have cast their votes in the four other polling stations in the village, none from the upper castes have had their votes registered in this particular polling booth. Assistant returning officer Rajesh Koth says, “It is not as if an exclusive booth has been set up for the Dalits of Mirchpur”. “Proximity is the main factor, so that voters do not have to walk far to the polling station. It also creates voter confidence,” Koth says. That the authorities are clearly worried about Mirchpur is evident. Government officials on election duty have been making regular visits to the village. Duty magistrate D L Hansu has also visited all the five polling stations in Mirchpur in the past few days. “Though the booths here fall in the hyper-sensitive category, things appear peaceful,” Hansu says. The village, with a sizeable Jat population, has traditionally spilt its vote between Congress and INLD. The contest for Hisar this time is between incumbent Kuldeep Bishnoi from Haryana Janhit Congress, Dushyant Chautala from the INLD and Sampat Singh from the Congress. But for the Dalits of Mirchpur, Bishnoi appears to have emerged a preferred candidate not only because they think he has worked in the area but also because he is a non-Jat. It’s been two-and-a-half years since a Delhi court sentenced three people to life imprisonment for burning Tara Chand, 70, and his 17-year-old daughter Suman to death following a clash between Jats and Balmikis (Dalits). Time, and even justice, doesn’t appear to have healed Mirchpur’s scars. While everything appears quiet on the surface, the underlying strain between the two communities — despite assertions from Jats that everything is back to normal — is palpable. (Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

10. Uttarakhand village tense after dalits refused temple entry (2)

DEHRADUN: Weeks ahead of Lok Sabha polls, tension gripped the remote Kanora village of Kashipur after a group of Dalit women were allegedly denied entry into a temple to offer prayers. On a complaint from the Dalits, senior police officials rushed to the village and ensured that the “pooja” by Dalit women was performed, in the presence of a police team. Keeping in mind the exigencies of the situation and the Lok Sabha polling here on May 7, a team of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) was stationed in the village. Kashipur police booked members of Saini Samaj under the Prevention of Atrocities against SC/STs Act and arrested one person on Wednesday. “I went there on Tuesday to inspect the situation, and found it under control,” ASP Kashipur Devendra Pincha told TOI. The police official said a group of Dalit women went to offer prayers in the temple on the last day of Navratra, but they were denied entry by members of Saini Samaj. The religious ceremony was later carried out with police presence, he said. The ASP said it did not appear to be a case of deliberate disruption of law and order, but one of personal enmity. “A meeting between the two communities was held and both have been requested to maintain peace and not indulge in any unlawful activity,” said Pincha. A PAC team is stationed in the village as a precautionary measure, and is likely to be withdrawn by Thursday if the tension abates.  (Times of India 10/4/14)

 

11. Dalits, Muslims treated worse than animals in Mumbai slums: Mayawati (2)

Mumbai: BSP chief Mayawati today alleged that poor people, especially Dalits and Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, who have come here in search of jobs and live in slums are being treated “worse than animals”.Addressing a rally here, the former UP chief minister claimed that condition of the state worsened due to successive Congress and BJP governments in the state and people were forced to migrate to big cities like Mumbai. “Before BSP came to power, Congress had ruled the state for many years, followed by BJP. Dalits and poor people were treated in a bad manner. When people did not get an opportunity to earn their livelihood and when they were made victims of atrocities, a large number of people migrated from UP to bigger cities, including your state of Maharashtra in search of employment,” she said. She alleged that people who came to Mumbai in search of employment have been treated in a bad way. “Not only is injustice being meted out to people migrating from Uttar Pradesh, but Dalits and poor people, including Muslims are unhappy. People living in Mumbai’s slums are being treated worse than animals,” she said. Mayawati said if the BSP comes to power in Maharashtra, Mumbai’s slum dwellers would get their own pucca houses. She also attacked BJP leader Narendra Modi. “BJP has chosen a candidate for the PM’s post whose Gujarat government has been blamed for post Godhra riots in 2002. If such a person becomes the prime minister of this country even by mistake, then our country will witness communal riots anytime,” Mayawati said. She said that when her government was in power in Uttar Pradesh, she never let atrocities take place against any particular caste. “Our government did not let any atrocities happen to people of any caste and people who committed any such crimes were put behind bars without delay,” she said. “Once we form a government in Maharashtra, we will provide two rooms, pucca apartments to people who don’t have a proper house, so that our people don’t have to live a life worse than animals,” Mayawati said, adding that while her government was in power in Uttar Pradesh, the BSP made pucca homes available to people who didn’t have proper houses. Criticising the ruling government at the Centre, Mayawati said that even upper caste people have not been doing too well financially, but the government paid no heed to BSP’s requests for special reservation to such people. “We have seen that upper caste people are also financially in bad shape. Therefore, we wrote to the government to give special reservations to them and Muslims, but the government has not respond so far,” she said. “During elections, opposition parties will try and malign BSP’s name. Be careful of them. Also do not get distracted by parties who use the media to show their condition to be much better than they actually are,” she said. (Zee News 14/4/14)

 

12. Dalits prevented from voting in Giridih: CPI (ML) (2)

Ranchi: CPI(ML) members have alleged that Dalit villagers were stopped from voting in Jamua in Giridih district in first phase of polling for Koderma constituency in Jharkhand on April 10 by upper-caste landlords and have demanded a re-poll. They alleged that the villagers, including women, were physically assaulted when they arrived at the polling booth. Election Commission officials said they had not received reports that confirmed CPI(ML)’s allegations from their staff. “We received reports that seals were broken and tampered with in two booths in Bagodar and four in Dhanwar and we will hold re-poll there but we did not receive inputs reporting any incident from Jamua,” said Chief Electoral Officer PK Jajoria. “When we reached the polling station, several men attacked us with lathis. One of them assaulted me on the chest and stopped me from casting my vote, ten persons from the village got injured, five were bleeding,” said Uma Devi a Dalit farmer from Gardi village in Giridih’s Jamua block. CPI(ML) Politburo member Manoj Bhakta said the party had registered an FIR against Suraj Narayan Dev who led the men whom he alleged injured 10 villagers. Giridih Superintendent of Police Kranti Kumar refuted the party’s allegation. “According to my staff, the party’s workers and Suraj Narayan Dev have a rivalry and a scuffle broke out between the two groups. We did not receive any such reports of villagers not being allowed to cast their vote,” he said. “There are six assembly seats in the Koderma consituency and six booths were captured. The administration is anti-Dalit and are siding with feudal powers in this area,” alleged CPI(ML)’s Koderma candidate Raj Kumar Yadav. “We were encouraging the villagers to vote as they think right but Suraj Narayan’s goons did not let them,” said Sunil Singh a CPI(ML) worker in Jamua. When the villagers asserted that they would vote for the candidates of their choice, the landlords became angry. For years they had suppressed them and dictated whom they should vote for, he added. (The Hindu 15/4/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

13. Making People With Disabilities Aware Of Their Entitled Benefits (3)

CHENNAI: Local NGOs will now be able to facilitate and increase awareness about the multitude of government schemes in five of the most backward districts of the country, thanks to the `7 crore fund given by the European Union, in a tie -up with the German Leprosy Relief Association (GLRA), towards the Sammalit Vikas Jankari (SVJ) project. At a press conference here on Wednesday, spokespersons from several NGOs claimed that the biggest obstacle to the uplift of the 2,68,10,557 disabled people in the country was the lack of awareness about the schemes launched by the government for their benefit. “At present, the basic public service delivery under The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 and  poverty alleviation schemes for the disabled in India are weak,” said J Ravichandran, CEO of GLRA India. “Both support agencies and persons with disabilities find it very hard to access information about the services,” he added. The Sammalit Vikas Jankari project will use the local civil society organisations to increase awareness among the most backward districts in Gujarat, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. “Currently, these districts have about 2.7 lakh disabled persons. We will use the funds provided by the EU and the GLRA to strengthen civil society volunteer groups in these localities or in the absence of such a group, we will form one,” said one of the officials working for the SVJ project. “This way, even when the five-year project runs to a close, those districts will have groups that can assist other disabled,” he pointed out. According to the mission statement of the project, its objectives are to increase the quality of delivery of entitled public services to all persons with disabilities, to equip and empower civil society in the form of disabled people organisations, to increase their participation in society, promote accountability in Government of India systems and other service providers, to increase equal opportunities, reduce poverty of persons with disability and enable a better quality of life. Neeradha Chandramohan, director, National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities, and several other representatives from NGOs, who would carry forward the project in the five districts, were also present at the conference. (New Indian Express 10/4/4)

 

14. Diabetics risk losing eyesight (3)

Hyderabad: More than half the patients visiting an eye doctor had had diabetes for over 10 years, 15 per cent of them for 20 years, making them high-risk groups for vision loss, says a multi-city India study on Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). The study, conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India in collaboration with Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says 45 per cent of patients had lost their vision before they knew they suffered from DR. “It’s clear there is a lack of awareness on diabetes and its obvious link to vision loss. Hyderabad is the diabetic capital of South Asia and screening and awareness campaigns should be more focussed,” said director of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, G.V.S. Murthy told reporters. Interestingly, the study said 40 per cent of the patients in public hospitals, and 13 per cent in private facilities, did not receive any information about diabetes and its complications from care givers. Fifty per cent private eye clinics acknowledged that there was a need to train their health workers on DR. “Public health institutions in India should strive to provide one-stop service to diabetics. Patients should have access to diabetologists, kidney (nephrologist) and eye (ophthalmologist) doctor, foot check-up, dietician, and diagnostic services like urine and blood tests under one roof. There is also a need train personnel to detect DR,” said Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust CEO Astrid Bonfield. The study acknowledged that government-run diabetic clinics did not have services on DR, 70 per cent of the facilities (public and private) had no dieticians, a third of the patients (33 per cent) received no health education on DR and two-third of DR patients did not know that diabetes is the reason for their condition. “Early detection and management is the key to save patients from losing their vision. There is no organised screening and management programmes for DR in India and there is a need to evolve a sustainable model to control DR and reduce its risk by better control of diabetes,” summed up Dr. Astrid. The study was conducted in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat, Pune, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram and Noida and covered a total of 86 eye clinics, 73 diabetic facilities and nearly 850 patients in the last four months. (The Hindu 12/4/14)

 

15. ‘Country needs more health volunteers than doctors’ (3)

Mangalore: United Nations-World Health Organisation Regional Advisor (retd) Derek Lobo has said that to enhance the health sector in the country, India needs more health volunteers than doctors. “India has 360 medical colleges producing 40,000 doctors annually. Still, the infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate could not be checked. As the majority of people who have no access to healthcare are in rural areas, we want more health volunteers to address this grave issue.” Lobo was delivering address at the foundation day celebrations of NGO Health Care Foundation here on Saturday. To substantiate his argument, Lobo said that in many African countries National TB Manager or National Leprosy Manager are non-medical personnel and those countries have a commendable track record in eradicating diseases like Malaria, TB and Leprosy. He elaborated that to cure Malaria, TB and Leprosy, doctors are not inevitable but health volunteers are a necessity. “We should look at health care in a wellness perspective and not illness one. The focus in health care should be on promotion, prevention, curative and rehabilitative aspects. But we are putting all attention on the curative aspect neglecting preventive aspect,” he rued. Investment pour in curative section only with specialty and super-specialty treatments mushrooming all around. Lobo called upon authorities to hike the fund allocation to healthcare from a mere two per cent of the GDP to five per cent. “An affordable and quality medical care accessible to all should be our motto. To achieve this, every stakeholder should sit together and goverment has to evolve a comprehensive plan addressing all vital concerns,” he stressed. Dr Jeelani Qadiri, Dr Udayakumar K, Dr Prashanth Marla and district health and family welfare officer Dr H S Shivakumar participated in the panel discussion on ‘Affordable healthcare: issues and concerns.’  Editor of ‘Issues and concerns’ Jayaram Shriyan, Dr Sushil Jathanna, Dr Edvin Fernandes were present. The news-letter of  health care foundation was released. (Deccan Herald 16/4/14)

 

CORRUPTION

16. No Lokpal for Maha yet (5)

Mumbai: Two months after the passing of the deadline set up by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan regarding implementation of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 in the state, the general administration department of the government of Maharashtra has said in reply to an RTI query that it is still in a limbo regarding whether the Act should be passed in the same format or should it be amended. After the Act was passed in the Parliament in December 2013, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had announced that the Lokayukta Act in the state would be implemented by February 2014. The chief minister had said, “The state government is going to take every step needed to fulfill Rahul Gandhi’s directive on establishing a framework to tackle corruption by the forming of the Lokayukta in Maharashtra.” After the deadline was crossed, an RTI query filed by activist Jeetendra Ghadge found that government officials are making use of the Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013, which mentions a one-year deadline for states that don’t have Lokayuktas. The Act is also silent about states that already have Lokayuktas. “Since Maharashtra already has a Lokayukta system in place, the officials are taking advantage of the ‘having no-deadlines’ to enact this Act,” said Mr Ghadge. mAccording to the reply given by A.N. Khot, under secretary of the state, “Lokayukta is already functional in the state since 1971, so there is no need to form a new Lokayukta. However, an amendment or new Act will be considered, but no decision has been taken yet.” This clearly proves that Maharashtra government has not even decided whether to amend the existing Act or make a new one. It shows the callousness of the government led by a party whose leader Rahul Gandhi was claiming it to be a game changer in the history of our country. I don’t see this Act getting passed in the next Assembly session in June this year either,” added Mr Ghadge. Preeti Sharma Menon, spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said, “This government knows very well that if this Act is institutionalised properly, then most of the ministers and babus would be behind the bars. Be it Congress or BJP, they would always debate and pass it, but would never endorse it. I am not surprised.”

State chief minister Prithviraj Chavan could not be reached for his comment. However, Fauzia Khan, minister of state for general administration department (GAD) said, “We have had a few meetings and we are hopeful to push the enactment after the elections are over.” (Asian Age 12/4/14)

 

17. Kejriwal Did Not Act in Haste to Resign As Delhi CM: Shazia (5)

Indore: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, Shazia Ilmi said here today that the party chief Arvind Kejriwal had not acted in haste by resigning as the chief minister of Delhi. “I don’t think that AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal has acted in haste by resigning from the post of chief minister of Delhi on the issue of Jan Lokpal as I was party to the decision and it (Jan Lokpal) is our major issue,” Shazia told reporters. She said had the party remained in power after it was not being allowed to table the Jan Lokpal bill, then media would have said today that he (Kejriwal) was “greedy for power”.Shazia termed as “malicious campaign” the Opposition’s charges, especially that of BJP that Kejriwal has run away from the ground after resigning as the Chief Minister. She said it appears that the party was unable to convince effectively to the people why it had resigned on the issue of Jan Lokpal and also blamed a section of media for it. “It was a matter of principle for us and we thought that people would be happier if we quit on the issue of Jan Lokpal,” she said. Earlier, Shazia addressed a rally in support of AAP’s Indore candidate, Anil Trivedi and questioned the rationale behind raising the slogan ‘Har-Har Modi’ in support of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. She said that people want power, water, roads, health and education and what will they do with “Har-Har Modi”, she asked. Taking a jibe at BJP leaders, Shazia asked, “When they have not spared Bhagwan and Allah, will they spare a common man?” (Outlook 13/4/14)

 

18. ED lens on contractors in multi-crore scam (5)

KOLKATA: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has started probing the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) scam in which funds to the tune of Rs 140 crore were siphoned off. Already, a petition is pending in Calcutta high court for a CBI probe in this case. The ED has already summoned the chairman of SJDA, Gautam Deb, who also happens to be the minister for north Bengal affairs. ED officials said as the chairman did not meet them, they have asked the CEO of SJDA to submit all relevant documents. The scam came to light after Deb became the chairman of the SJDA in March 2013. Deb could not be contacted for a comment. The ED officials are zeroing in on the contractors who got payments without even completing the construction work for three crematoriums. They also allegedly made payments to politicians who were part of the nexus. So, the interrogation of the contractors is going to be vital and their bank accounts are also under watch. “After encashing of cheques, how the cash was used can be a vital clue.” Police have already interrogated Dr Rudranath Bhattacharya, a Trinamool MLA and the former chairman of SJDA, under whose regime the scam allegedly surfaced. Police also interrogated Shankar Malakar, a Congress MLA who was a board member in SJDA, for his alleged links in the scam. In the SJDA scam, IAS officer Godala Kiran Kumar, the district magistrate of Malda, was arrested along with three government engineers. However, Kiran Kumar got bail a day after his arrest on November 30. He is now on leave and is staying in Andhra Pradesh. The government had removed the then police commissioner of Siliguri, K Jairaman, for not taking a nod from it before arresting the accused DM. The state was initially going soft on Kiran Kumar. and allowed his release on bail, as the state did not oppose his bail prayer. Even the state’s chief secretary Sanjay Mitra had stated “It is highly embarrassing and unwarranted.” Now, the state is contemplating to suspend the accused IAS officer and has written to the Centre’s department of personnel and training (DOPT). But, DOPT has asked for the necessary vetting from the law department and wants key statements made by the former DM in this case before processing his suspension. The alleged financial irregularities took place when Kiran Kumar was the CEO of SJDA in 2011. Sharad Dwivedi, who took charge from Kiran Kumar as CEO of SJDA, complained to police in May 2013 alleging misappropriation of funds. He said payments were made to firms violating norms. Major irregularities were found in the construction work of three electric crematoriums and sewerage treatment plants, along with cleaning and de-silting of Jorapani river. He alleged that no work was actually done. Moreover, Rs 10 crore was misused for installing CCTV cameras inSiliguri. There were total eight cases of corruption slapped against Kiran Kumar and the ED officials are processing necessary documents. Investigators said funds to the tune of Rs 140 crore were paid to private firms before the projects were completed. So, ED officials are trying to locate the fund flow to trace the beneficiaries. (Times of India 14/4/14)

 

19. Three more arrested in Shreesurya scam (5)

NAGPUR: Economic offence wing (EOW) of crime branch on Tuesday has arrested three Amravati-based persons, including a father-son duo, for their alleged role as agents for Shreesurya group that has been accused of duping many of several crore rupees. The three had pocketed around Rs 8 crore commission by urging people to invest in Shreesurya’s financial schemes. Mukund Pitle and his son Mohan, who had come to meet a kin at Dindayal Nagar in Nagpur, were arrested here along with accomplice Nitin Keshkar. It is learnt offences had been earlier registered against Pitles in Amravati. The cops in Amravati had also seized properties and frozen their bank accounts, it is learnt. Nagpur crime branch wanted custody of Pitles as a part of their investigation. Roles of six agents are under scanner by cops. Eight persons, including Shreesurya group chief Sameer Joshi and his wife Pallavi, have been so far arrested in the case. Police claimed that 837 have lodged complaint against the group. Police sources claimed most of Pitles’ victims were employees of MSEDCL in Amravati. Pitles and Keshkar, after being produced before a court, have been remanded to custody for four days. (Times of India 16/4/14)

 

TRIBALS

20. Tribals of Danwakheda forest demand voting rights (6)

Bhopal: More than 50 Gond and Korku tribals, under the aegis of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad (SJP), protested at the Betul collectorate in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday to have themselves enlisted as voters. The tribals on Danwakheda forest in Ghodadongri assembly segment of the Betul seat, who subsist on minor forest produce such as mahua and firewood, have been requesting the local administration for voting rights since 2012. However, an enquiry by the collector has deemed them to be residents of neighbouring Chhindwara district and held their settlement to be an illegal encroachment on forest land. Rajendra Garhwal who led the demonstration told The Hindu that these tribals migrated back from Chhindwara to their native village in Danwakheda forest in 2000 due to malnutrition deaths. “They have never voted in their lives, either in Chhindwara or Betul. Anyone who lives in any place for more than six months is eligible to vote there. The collector has not produced any electoral list that has their names on it,” he said. Collector RP Mishra told The Hindu that the tribals were being exploited in lieu of land. SJP’s Fagram is a candidate from the seat. “A report has been submitted to the Election Commission (EC) by its observer Sushil Kumar. No such village exists. It is a forest area, 13 km Rampur Bhatoli panchayat. I visited the area with two divisional forests officers on April 6 and we found only 10 people there. They are actually from Haldumatia in Chhindwara which is 3km from there,” Mr. Mishra told The Hindu. He added that a separate enquiry for deforestation in the area will be conducted. Garhwal claimed that when the collector visited, tribals had gone to collect mahua. It is currently mahua harvest season, an important tradition for adivasis, in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Maharashtra. The SJP is using the cases filed against adivasis for encroachment since 2001 to prove that they are residents here. After their huts were allegedly burnt down by foresters in 2001, an FIR was registered under directions of the EC in 2003. (The Hindu 11/4/14)

 

21. Tribal voters being misguided about NOTA (6)

VAPI: Chellu button NOTA dev nu chey, tey dabavi bija button upper mat apjo atley tamaro candidate jiti jasey (First press the last button..it is of NOTA god and then after press other so that your favourite candidate wins). Kala rang nu chellu button dabavso to current lagsey (If you press the black button, you’ll get an electric shock)  Nota etley Mota dev, button dabavo aney dukh dur karo (NOTA is one of biggest gods, just press and get free from all troubles)… In far-flung tribal areas of Valsad-Dang Lok Sabha constituency, a number of such misinterpretations of NOTA (None of the above) button have been spread, reportedly by politicians in those areas where they fear reverses. The aim is to mislead illiterate voters, especially women, a large chunk of whom are unaware about NOTA, the facility being introduced for the first time in Lok Sabha elections. In areas where a particular political party feels that it is losing ground, its workers are allegedly spreading wrong beliefs about NOTA so that the rival party candidate does not get the votes. “We have been hearing during family discussions that NOTA is God. Every auspicious work should start by taking God’s name and it is good that before voting for our candidate we do the same by pressing NOTA button,” says Babli Mani, 65, living in an interior village of Kaprada, unaware about the actual purpose of NOTA. Similarly, people are being discouraged from using NOTA by telling them that they will be electrocuted. Nayna Halpati from a remote border area of Valsad said, “Many in the village fear that they will get electric shock if they press NOTA button.” Champak Manilal, a skilled labourer in fabrication business from Dhol Dungri village of Dharampur, gives a blank look when asked about NOTA, “I don’t know what it is and how it is supposed to be used.” Sources in Valsad district election office admitted that they have received complaints of people being misguided about NOTA by political parties to suite their convenience. “We have been instructed to strengthen our focus on awareness about NOTA function in tribal area. The main barrier is the language and we have to put in extra effort to explain what it is in their tribal language,” said an official of election officer. (Times of India 14/4/14)

 

22. Tribals Vote against Mining in Khandadhar (6)

ROURKELA: With the election over, anti-Posco tribal voters in Bonai Assembly seat of Sundargarh district are anxious to know the results. In fact, the BJP and CPM believe the election result would be a referendum on Khandadhar. In the backdrop of the tribals’ vehement protest against prospective iron ore mining by Posco at Khandadhar, both BJP and CPM made it an ‘emotive’ issue to polarise voters in several gram panchayats (GPs) against the Congress and ruling BJD. Reports said the Assembly constituency reserved for Scheduled Tribe witnessed a turn-out of 80.83 per cent of electorate on April 10. Out of above two lakh voters, around 1.62 lakhs cast their votes. In the run-up to the Assembly and Lok Sabha (LS) polls, BJP’s Bonai Assembly seat nominee Luthar Oram backed by the party heavyweight and Sundargarh LS candidate Jual Oram raised the Khandadhar issue vigorously. The CPM nominee and former MLA Laxman Munda was also not left behind. Khandadhar region houses the scenic waterfall and cave abode of tribals’ presiding deity Kanteswari Devi. BJD nominee and former MLA Dayanidhi Kisan claimed that Khandadhar issue did not have polarising effect. But Kisan’s assessment seems misplaced. As polls drew nearer, about 2,500 voters of Talbahali GP which houses Khandadhar decided to boycott election. They voted after persuasion that boycott by one GP would not be fruitful. The anti-Posco sentiment subsequently spread to all 17 GPs of Lahunipara block including Talbahali, Khuntgaon, Kuliposh, Haldikudar, Phuljhor and Mahulpada. Moreover, Khandadhar further impacted sizeable voters of Bonai and Koida blocks. BJP nominee and Khandadhar Suraksha Samiti convenor Luthar Oram claimed that more than 60 village meetings were held with the main agenda of ‘Posco Hatao, Khandadhar Bachao’ and drew overwhelming response. A member of the diminishing Paudi Bhuiyan tribe Kishore Giri said for his tribe and other tribal communities, Khandadhar holds traditional, cultural and religious values. They worked hard to save Khandadhar through their franchise rights, he added. CPM’s Sundargarh unit Secretary Banamali Dhupal also claimed that Khandadhar issue brought voters towards CPM as Congress nominee and sitting MLA Bhimsen Choudhary lost credibility after quitting BJP. He said the ruling BJD was defensive and the Bonai unit of BJP was split with departure of Choudhary. Jual said the BJP is poised to retain the seat amid high turnout of voters and his party is committed to respect local sentiment over Khandadhar. (New Indian Express 15/4/14)

 

23. Distress Sale Leaves Mahua Collectors in Lurch (6)

SAMBALPUR: Despite the fact that Mahua, used to make country spirit, is a big source of revenue for the State Government, dilly-dallying in fixing a proper price of the flower has left the collectors, mostly tribal forest dwellers, in lurch. This has resulted in distress sale of the flower. In non-irrigated areas, people fall back on the forest produce for about six months in a year for sustenance. They engage in collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFP) which includes Mahua and sell them in the market to add to their family income. While the men go out to work, it is mostly women who collect the NTFP. But with prices of Mahua flowers getting slashed by almost half in the market, the toil they put in to collect NTFP is not being recompensed. While the brewed spirit that is prepared with the flower is priced at `50 a litre, the cost of a kg of Mahua flower is not even half of the amount. Normally, a committee is constituted at block level to fix the price of NTFP. The rate fixed is then intimated to the panchayats to inform the collectors. But the information hardly reaches the collectors, making the middlemen take advantage and cheat the collectors. Though price of the flower is yet to be finalised in Jamankira block, collectors have already started selling it at `10 a kg. In Nuapada and Boudh districts, it is being sold at the same price. The weekly haats present a dismal picture with the flowers being sold for as less as `6 to `7 a kg while the damaged flowers are priced at `2 a kg. To add to the woes, there are no storage facilities for the collectors. Urmila Pradhan of Kushadadar village under Khandahata gram panchayat said she hardly manages to get a day’s labour cost as sale proceeds of Mahua. She and three members of her family toil every day to collect and dry the flowers. Ward Member Sudam Gaigaria, belonging to Badbardakata village, said he has moved the district administration several times over the issue but in vain. He said considering the huge profit made by the country liquor brewing unit, the price for every kg of the flower should be fixed at `40. Although the Panchayati Raj Department implemented the Orissa Gram Panchayats (Minor Forest Produce Administration) Rules, 2002 empowering the gram panchayats to play greater role in procurement of NTFP, in absence of infrastructure, bargaining power of the collectors and knowledge of the market price, the poor collectors continue to be exploited. (New Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

24. Shah moves HC for quashing FIRs (7)

Allahabad:  “The court has directed the state government to produce the CDs in connection with the FIR,” said Shamit Gopal, counsel for the petitioner. “The court has directed the state government to produce the CDs in connection with the FIR,” said Shamit Gopal, counsel for the petitioner. BJP’s UP in-charge Amit Shah Wednesday approached the Allahabad High Court seeking a stay on his arrest and quashing of FIRs registered against him for allegedly giving “hate” speeches at election meetings in Bijnor and Shamli on April 4. A Division Bench of Justices Arun Tandon and Satish Chandra has asked the state government and the Election Commission to ensure that the CDs of the alleged hate speech are presented before it by Thursday. Shah had been booked under Section 125 of the Representation of People Act and Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, both pertaining to promoting enmity between two communities. Both were registered on April 6 in Shamli and Bijnore. “The court has directed the state government to produce the CDs in connection with the FIR,” said Shamit Gopal, counsel for the petitioner. Election Commission counsel Bhupendra Nath Singh said: “The court asked the EC to produce the CDs. We submitted (before the court) that while we will try to get it in time from our headquarters, the state may be in a better position to do so. The court then asked both the state and the EC to ensure that they are brought before it in the stipulated time.” Gopal said that the petition has sought stay on Shah’s arrest and quashing of the FIRs on the ground that the alleged offence was not made in the speech. “Our contention is that the speech in question was not intended to disturb communal harmony or create a law and order situation. In the absence of intent, the alleged offence is not made. We have also argued that this speech was not made at a rally or a public meeting that is open to all. It was a meeting of limited people who were party workers. Third, our argument is that the speech did not lead to any law and order situation or breach of peace in public and, therefore, it cannot be concluded that it was inflammatory,” said Gopal. In meetings on April 4 in Bijnor, Shamli and Muzaffarngar, Shah had reportedly said it was time to seek revenge by casting vote. “A man can live without food or sleep. He can live when he’s thirsty and hungry. But when he’s insulted, he can’t live. Apmaan ka badla toh lena padega,” Shah had reportedly said. Amid an outcry from political parties, which termed it a tactic to polarise the 2014 elections, the BJP had defended Shah’s statement saying that asking for revenge through vote was not inflammatory. to help us personalise your reading experience. Muzaffarnagar and its surrounding areas had witnessed communal riots last year in which more than 50 people were killed and a large number of victims were rendered homeless. (Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

25. Suspended priest prevented from entering polling station (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At Government Lower Primary School, Pozhiyoor, the only signs of an election-related commotion on polling day on Thursday were when the police prevented M.T. Stephen, who was suspended from his priestly duties by the Latin Catholic Church for contesting the polls, from repeatedly entering the polling station. Fr. Stephen, an Independent candidate, argued that he had returned after voting only to help his mother, Thankamma, to cast her vote. “Is this what they call a democratic set-up? Can’t a son help his visually challenged mother to cast her vote?” asked the priest. With the police and the polling officials finally agreeing to allow him to accompany his mother till the door of the booth, he calmed down. Later, Fr. Stephen said the stand-off with the church was just ‘short-term,’ and his attempt was to serve the people. Archbishop of the Thiruvananthpuram Archdiocese of the Latin Catholic Church M. Susaipakiam had suspended Fr. Stephen from priesthood for a year, stating that the latter’s decision to contest the polls was in violation of the laws of the church, and disregarding a directive from the Archbishop. Fr. Stephen had replied that as per the canon law, he did not have to seek permission to contest elections but would only have to seek permission from the Archbishop if he won the polls and had to take an oath of office. (The Hindu 11/4/14)

 

26. Muslims stand united in their demand for a secular government (7)

New Delhi: The streets of Batla House — a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood that has echoed religious polarisation ever since the infamous encounter of 2008 — rang out with impromptu slogans against BJP’s Narendra Modi every now and then amid brisk voting on Thursday. ‘Vote for the Congress, vote for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – vote for anyone you like, brothers and sisters, except Narendra Modi’ went the slogan followed occasionally by whistles. The general issues that had governed their choice, voters admitted, ranged from corruption to inflation, secularism, stability and their say in ensuring a government at the Centre that could promise them security. “Corruption, inflation, secularism and stability are the issues that I voted on. But the most important of these is secularism. I believe I’ve voted for someone who believes in treating people from different religions like siblings, not enemies,” said Mohammad Shariq, 28, a property dealer from Batla House which is a part of the East Delhi constituency. Mujid Ahmed, 42, a central government employee who resides in Jamia Nagar, agreed. “Anti-corruption is a big issue for me since I’m a government employee myself. But so is secularism. I can’t tell you whom I voted for, but who Muslims like me did not vote for is easy to guess.”(Hindustan Times 11/4/14)

 

27. Gujarat conjures up a minority commission (7)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government has not set up any state minority commission for the redressal of issues concerning the minority communities. It does not even dispute it. But in a handbook, it claims to have set up a commission for minorities and provides a contact number for the same. In a handbook published for Children Protection Committee, the state department of social justice and empowerment has provided various contact numbers and addresses for the redressal of various issues. This handbook has contact numbers of state/national minority commissions on its list of institutions. While the Centre has one such commission in place and this handbook bears its address, the book also contains the number of state’s commission with the address of ‘Gujarat Minority Finance and Development Corporation, Jivraj Mehta Bhavan, Gandhinagar’. Social activist Mujahid Nafees wanted to know whether any such commission exists and the details of its office-bearers. To his RTI application, the department of social justice and empowerment replied that no such commission exists. Nafees said this handbook has been published by the government in collaboration with NGO, ‘Save The Children’ and Unicef. “This gives a clear message that the Gujarat government has got an organization in place to take care of certain issues of the minority communities, but it has got no power to address the issues that a commission is empowered to do,” he said. The social activist said he has asked the international organizations to throw light on the issue as to how such mistake has taken place. “I am waiting for their answer. But I am going to write to all three parties involved in the publication to correct this mistake,” he said. (Times of India 11/4/14)

 

28. ‘Pre poll survey unethical’ (7)

Mangalore: Union Minister for Minority Affairs K Rehman Khan has termed pre poll survey as immoral and unethical at a time when the electioneering process has already commenced in the country. It is an attempt to influence the voters indirectly.  Addressing a press meet here on Tuesday, he said that the 16th Lok Sabha poll is a battle between the forces of secularism and communalism. “We are confident that people will vote for secularism. We are seeking votes based on the achievement of the UPA government. All of us want India to remain a secular country. However, disturbances caused by communal forces to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere and endanger the secular fabric are a threat to democracy.” The Union Minister said that the opposition are accusing the Congress of not implementing Sachar C  ommittee recommendations. The government has implemented 66 recommendations of the committee. If the UPA III comes to power, then all the minorities who are entitled for scholarship will get it. What is Gujarat model BJP Prime Ministertial candidate Narendra Modi is talking about: Gujarat was a developed state when he became the CM. He had just carried forward the development. No new refineries were set up after he became the Chief Minister. Godhra riot occurred during his tenure as a CM. Owning moral responsibility, he should have tendered resignation. If he becomes the PM, then it would be the darkest day in the history of the country. Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has said that there is no terrorist activities in Kerala. “It was Modi’s view that Kerala is nurturing terrorist activities. Kerala police are active and the State is safe.” Maoists have made their presence felt in four to five districts in Kerala. Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu officials are working out a strategy to contain the Maoist activities. Stating that restoring secular fabric of the country is need of the hour, he said Modi and RSS are trying to weaken the secular fabric of the country. People will not tolerate autocratic way of functioning of Modi. (Deccan Herald 15/4/14)

 

29. Some apprehension among Muslims vis-a-vis Modi: Kalbe Jawwad (7)

Lucknow: Maulana Kalbe Jawwad today said there was some fear among Muslims as far as BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was concerned. Maulana Kalbe Jawwad today said there was some fear among Muslims as far as BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was concerned. Prominent cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad today said there was some fear among Muslims as far as BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was concerned, but its national president Rajnath Singh’s image was emerging like former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “There is some apprehension among Muslims vis-a-vis Modi. They feel Rajnath Singh will prove better. They used to apprehend that if BJP comes to power, something could happen. But the ground reality is that the best relations with Pakistan developed when Vajpayee was the External Affairs Minister,” he said. Jawwad, however, said his meeting with Rajnath, who is contesting from Lucknow, last night was not political, but personal. “I don’t consider this meeting as political, but personal. We had been meeting earlier as well. When he was the Chief Minister, he used to meet us. He used to come and greet us when Namaz of Eid was held. From this point of view we have old relations…this meeting was not political, but personal,” he said. On being asked about the manner in which he had given a statement against Congress and whether he would give a statement in support of BJP, Jawwad said, “We don’t intend to issue any statement in the favour of any party. Whatever Rajnath has told us, we will keep it before our community.” “There is no compulsion from our side…It’s up to them (Muslim community) as to whom they wanted to vote,” he said. Asked whether he would issue any ‘fatwa’ (diktat) in favour of BJP, he said, “Fatwa is never political, it is always related to Shariyat.” On Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Jawwad said, “The basic difference is that Bukhari went to meet Sonia, whereas Rajnath came to us on his own.” To a question whether Rajnath would get the same support as Vajpayee got in Lucknow, Jawwad said, “Rajnath’s image is growing fast. In fact, he is reaching the same level (as that of Vajpayee).” (Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

WOMEN

30. Honour Killing lands In-laws Behind Bars (8)

In yet another case of suspected honour killing, a 22-year-old woman was brutally murdered by her in-laws who force-fed her poison after tying her up. According to police, Boobathi, daughter of Chellapillai from Pudukottai, belonging to the Udayar community, fell in love with Satish Kumar, son of Kannan from the Thevar community in Bodinayakanur, while they were working in a textile outlet in Chennai.   Despite strong opposition, the two got married on April 18, 2013 in Bodi and approached the police for protection.  Later, the police called members of both the families for talks, during which the girl’s family severed their relationship with Boobathi. The marriage also brought disappointment to Sathish ’s mother Sulochana, who was expecting huge dowry as Sathish was her only son. The couple was living with Sathish’s parents. Sulochana allegedly took away Boobathi’s earnings and tortured her for more dowry.  She also forced Boobathi to undergo abortion when she became pregnant the first time and also planned to marry off her son after separating the couple. On April 4, Sulochana and her husband Kannan tied Boobathi’s hands and force-fed her poison. Sulochana then made the death appear as suicide, but police developed suspicion over the injury marks on the victim’s hand and mouth and grilled Sulochana. Finally, she confessed to her crime and both Sulochana and her husband were arrested. A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, a Madurai-based human rights organisation, said that so far 25 honour killings had been reported in Tamil Nadu in the past 18 months. (New Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

31. Fury at Mulayam rape remarks (8)

Lucknow, April 10: Mulayam Singh Yadav today alleged that innocent men were being sentenced to death in false rape cases and asserted that when his party came to power, it would change the new anti-rape law and punish women who make false rape charges. He also asserted that rapes sometimes happen because “boys make mistakes”. “Rape ke liye phaansi dena galat hai; ladkon se galti ho jaata hai; hum satta mein aaye to kanoon mein badlav karenge (It’s wrong to hang people for rape; boys make mistakes; if we come to power we shall make changes to the law),” the Samajwadi Party chief told a rally in Moradabad. “Often boys and girls have differences although they may be in a live-in relationship. The girl makes a false statement saying she has been raped…” Mulayam had begun before appearing to switch the context. “And then, poor fellows, three of them were sentenced to death…” he added. The veteran politician seemed to be referring to the Shakti Mills double gang rape in Mumbai that led to three repeat offenders being sentenced to hang this month. “Should rape cases be punished with death? Two or three were sentenced to death…. We will change such laws. We will make a provision for punishing those making false statements,” he said. Last year’s criminal law amendment, following the furore over the brutal December 2012 bus gang rape in Delhi, brought in the provision for repeat rapists being punished by death or with a life term. The Shakti Mills trio are the only rapists sentenced in India to hang despite their victims being alive. S.D. Hasan, the Samajwadi candidate for whom Mulayam was campaigning and who was present on the dais, said Mulayam was expressing “his genuine sense of anger at men being implicated in false rape cases and awarded the death sentence”. He struggled to explain the context of his leader’s outburst. “He (Mulayam) was speaking about his commitment to farmers and Muslims. He was telling us that a leader like Narendra Modi should not become Prime Minister. He was speaking about justice for all and, in this context, took up the defence of innocent men implicated in rape,” Hasan said. But Bhukkal Nawab, a Samajwadi MLC, told reporters: “Mulayam Yadav is expressing anger because Muslim youths are being falsely implicated in rape cases.” The Samajwadi election manifesto, released on April 2, had alleged “large-scale misuse of… (the) new anti-rape law that came into existence after (the) ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case”. But it had added: “We are in favour of implementing the new law strictly and at the same time will initiate strict action against those misusing them.” Women’s activist Ranjana Kumari said the Election Commission should take cognisance of Mulayam’s remarks, lodge an FIR and arrest him, for “calling rape a small mistake is directly encouraging rape”, a PTI report said. The agency quoted former National Commission for Women chairperson Poornima Advani as saying: “A public apology is the least. The Election Commission should take up this matter. This is a negative and useless election stunt that is going to hit him (Mulayam) hard.” The Congress said Mulayam’s remarks were “unfortunate”. The BJP’s Subramanian Swamy accused the Samajwadi leader of playing “minority politics” against the backdrop of the recent Muzaffarnagar riots in which many women were allegedly raped, PTI added. After television aired Mulayam’s remarks, the Samajwadi chief became a target of attacks on the Internet. (The Telegraph 11/4/14)

 

32. IOC welcomes Saudi end to girls’ sports ban (8)

GENEVA: The International Olympic Committee on Sunday urged the Saudi government to push forward with moves to lift a ban on sports in girls’ state schools. The conservative Muslim kingdom’s consultative Shura Council last week recommended an end to the ban, which was relaxed in private schools last year, state media reported. “We welcome this development and look forward to approval by the Education Ministry,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said in a statement. The ministry must officially lift the ban as the council is influential, but only advisory. Adams noted that IOC president Thomas Bach had raised women’s involvement in sport when he visited Saudi Arabia. “On the IOC President’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week the National Olympic Committee outlined plans to increase women’s participation in sport in the kingdom at university level, which we fully support,” Adams said. “And following participation by female athletes from Saudi Arabia at the Olympic Games in London and the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this would be a further step towards full participation by girls and women at all levels of sport in the country,” he added. All education in Saudi Arabia is single-sex, but sports in girls schools remains a sensitive issue in a country where women have to cover from head to toe when in public. The kingdom bowed to international pressure and sent its first ever female participants to an Olympics at the 2012 London Games. The IOC agreed to allow the two Saudi women — a judo player and a middle-distance runner — to compete with their heads and bodies covered in deference to the Islamic dress code enforced at home. Human rights campaigners say that millions of Saudi women remain effectively barred from sports. Saudi authorities shut down private gyms for women in 2009 and 2010, and women are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules banning men and women mixing in public. The kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians. It is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. “Saudi Arabia has a long way to go to end discriminatory practices against women, but allowing girls to play sports in government schools would move the ball down the field in ways that could have major long-term impact,” said Human Rights Watch on Saturday. (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

33. Quick justice will curb crime against women: SC judge (8)

HYDERABAD: Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhyaya of the Supreme Court on Saturday urged AP Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta to give general instructions to all judicial officers in the state to fix a stipulated time frame to resolve cases of violence and discrimination against women so that it can lead to a fall in the crimes against women. Addressing the Motilal Setalvad – Vasudev Pillai Endowment Lecture at the AP Judicial Academy on how judiciary can help women victims, Justice Mukhopadhyaya said that speedier delivery of justice will serve as an effective solution to the increasing crimes against women. From 1953 to 2011, rape cases all over the country went up by 873 per cent, he said, adding that the only way left before us is to deal with the problem effectively, expeditiously and in a stipulated time frame to drive home a strong message that the judiciary will respond seriously against all such crimes. Explaining how relief can be accorded to women under legislations like the domestic violence prevention Act and anti dowry Act, the SC judge asked all subordinate court judges to deliver instant justice to women caught in matrimonial violence and economic abuses. Make dispossession of women from their in-laws’ homes very difficult and instead, you can ask the men to stay away from the house where the victim is residing irrespective of the ownership of the house, Justice Mukhopadhyaya said. All evictions of women should be in accordance with the law and until then men may be asked to stay away, he added. Making it clear that he is alive to the ground realities prevailing in our society which is overwhelmingly male dominant, the judge said the only way available is to change the male mindset and hoped delivery of instant justice would go a long way in this. He, however, added that the change should start at the family level. We must treat our women with respect and due recognition, he said. Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta, Justice K C Bhanu and several judges of the AP high court participated in the programme. Congratulating M Rajender, director of AP Judicial Academy, for organizing the session, he added said that the change should start at the family level. (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

34. Parties have similar solutions to gender-based aggression (8)

Women’s empowerment rocketed to the top of India’s national agenda in December 2012 with the globally reported rape of a medical student on a New Delhi bus. Unprecedented coverage of sexual violence sparked agitation in India and worldwide for more efficient police investigations, stronger penalties for assailants and improved security for women. This year, for the first time, every major party included women’s security in its platform. But parties offer very similar solutions to gender-based aggression. They also posit plans to increase women’s access to education and job training – currently just 19 percent of the formal workforce and 43 percent of classrooms are female. Women even hold leadership positions in every major party. So if female Indians are to vote based on “women’s issues,” stances will have to be more specific. “There is no doubt that there is a rising incidence of violence against women in this country,” said Meera Sanyal, the Aam Aadmi Party Lok Sabha candidate for Mumbai South. “All of India, across all political parties, realize that this is not a good thing. I can’t imagine there is any political party that says violence against women is a good thing.” The AAP, formed in Delhi in 2011, won headlines for picketing the city’s police in 2013. Unique in their manifesto is a call to disqualify from campaigns the Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and Members of Parliament (MPs) who have been charged with violence against women. A 2012 study found this rule would indict 44 current MLAs and MPs, as well as 327 candidates who contested in 2009. Sanyal said, “Twenty-nine percent of MPs are heirs. Thirty percent have criminal charges against them. There is no one else to vote for [other than AAP].” But, of course, there are other parties to vote for. The ruling Congress Party and its lead opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party, hope to empower women by increasing their access to political power. Congress claims credit for a 2009 act requiring local panchayats to reserve 33 percent of their seats for women. In 2011 an amendment increased reservations to 50 percent. And Congress promises that, if elected, it will guarantee passage of the national Women’s Reservation Bill. The Rajya Sabha approved the bill in 2010, but it has been stalled in Lok Sabha for four years. Just four of 21 candidates in Mumbai are women — 19 percent — yet it’s the highest proportion among Indian states. BJP staff member Kushal Mehra said, if women want to vote for a party that gives women power, they should look to his. “BJP is the only party in India that has actually given 30 percent representation to female representatives in its parliamentary body, even to the board level,” Mehra said. (Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

TERRORISM

35. Sri Lanka Arrests 65 LTTE Members (12)

Colombo: Over 60 LTTE cadres, including 10 women, have been arrested for trying to revive the banned terror group in Sri Lanka, police said today. “We arrested 65 of them over the last month. Five of them later came to be released due to lack of evidence,” police spokesman and Superintendent Ajith Rohana said. They were nabbed for their terrorist financing and related activity aimed at reviving the LTTE, he said, adding that 10 of them were women. The 60 are currently being detained in gazetted detention centres of the government. “They have access to all the facilities under the law,” Rohana said. Sri Lanka has raised alarms over attempts by the LTTE to regroup just five years after they had been eliminated in a ruthless military campaign which ended in May 2009. Last month, the government announced a list of designated terrorist groups and over 420 individuals allegedly engaged in terror financing. The 16 listed organisations included the LTTE and several key Tamil diaspora groups such as the Global Tamil Forum and the British Tamil Forum. The diaspora groups are being described as the fronts for the LTTE in the Western world and seen as playing a key role in influencing the governments of countries like the US and the UK. Sri Lanka views the US-led three successful UN Human Rights Council resolutions on its alleged human rights abuses as an act of favouring the LTTE. Since the end to the conflict, Sri Lanka rehabilitated at least 11,000 LTTE members who had surrendered at the final battle. Up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed at the end of the nearly three-decade-long separatist war, rights groups and experts have said. (Outlook 10/4/14)

 

36. 2 cops killed in militant attack in J&K (12)

SRINAGAR: Two police personnel were killed on Sunday when militants opened fire at the house of a ruling National Conference youth leader in Pulwama, the first terror attack targeting election activities in Jammu & Kashmir this year. The security forces eliminated one of the two assailants in the ensuing gunbattle. Shohda (martyrs’) Brigade, believed to be a shadow outfit of militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, claimed responsibility for the attack. Militants opened fire at the residence of Yawar Masoodi, who is organiser of NC’s youth wing in South Kashmir, at Khrew in Pulwama, 35 kms from here, this afternoon, police said. Two policemen — head constable Abdul Hamid and constable Vinod Kumar — posted on guard duty were injured in the attack. They were rushed to a nearby hospital where they were declared dead on arrival. The attack took place when Masoodi was holding a party meeting at his residence, a spokesman for National Conference said. The security forces chased the militants and engaged them in nearby fields, police said adding one militant was killed. The other militant involved in the attack was still holding up till last reports came in, the police said. This is the first militant attack targeting election-related activity in Kashmir since the schedule for Lok Sabha polls was announced by the Election Commission.  (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

37. Militants killed after 22-hour gun battle (12)

Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir police on Monday killed two militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in a 22-hour gun battle at Ahmadnagar on the northern outskirts of Srinagar. Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Abdul Gani Mir told TheHindu that the two militants, who had injured two head constables, were identified as Abu Hufeza and Chhota Hafiz of the LeT. They are believed to be Pakistani nationals, but their belongings, including two AK rifles and some incriminating documents, are still under scrutiny, the IGP said. Two CRPF personnel were also reportedly injured in the operation. The IGP said the militants had taken a family captive and it took the security forces around 12 hours to evacuate the hostages. “When we swooped down on the locality on a tip-off last evening, the militants entered a house and held the inmates hostage at gunpoint. Our first priority was to ensure that there was no civilian casualty. We launched the assault only after we succeeded in rescuing all the family members,” Mr. Mani said. The local residents, however, said no one was taken hostage by the militants. Meanwhile, a valley-based militant outfit — Jamiatul Mujahideen — claimed that the two slain militants belonged to its outfit. The group, however, did not give their identity or residence particulars. The encounter in Srinagar took place four hours after two LeT militants, identified as Usman Gauri and Abu Zarr of Abbottabad, Pakistan, were killed by the army and police in a joint operation near Khrew on Sunday.  They were intercepted while fleeing from Khrew after launching an attack on the house of Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge Justice Hasnain Massodi, whose son Yawar is a leader of the ruling National Conference’s youth wing. Mr. Yawar, who, according to the police, was the target had a narrow escape as he escaped from the rear exit. (The Hindu 15/4/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

38. SC stays HC order on go-ahead for nursery admissions in Delhi (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi HC had in a recent order asked the govt to process the nursery admissions as per the Feb 27 notification of the Lt Governor. Legal row over nursery admissions in the national capital witnessed yet another twist on Friday with the Supreme Court staying the Delhi High Court order on going ahead with the admission process without considering the points for inter-state tranafers. A bench led by Justice H L Dattu issued a notice to the Delhi government, which is currently under the President’s Rule and the Lt Governor is the administrator. The Delhi High Court had in a recent order asked the government to process the nursery admissions as per the February 27 notification of the Lt Governor. It had said that the controversy over five points for inter-state transfers will be decided later and hence the schools had to make admissions on the basis of 70 poin criteria. The Delhi High Court has to hear the case next on April 16. (Indian Express 11/4/14)

 

39. Over 30,000 cases pending in UT court (19)

PUDUCHERRY: More than 30,000 cases have been pending in the Union Territory for the past five years, and to clear them, on average, each officer of the court disposes of 20 cases a month, Chief Judge of Puducherry C.S. Murugan said on Saturday. “To ensure proper dispensation of justice, however, it is vital that witnesses understand the importance of court and take their responsibility seriously. No matter how much investigation is done by the police, it is difficult to deliver a proper verdict without the cooperation of witnesses,” he told journalists at the end of a Mega Lok Adalat. During the Lok Adalat, 10,000 cases were presented, and 6,468 were dismissed. The settlement amount of all the cases was Rs. 9,87,96,664. Of the total, there were 219 accident settlements amounting to Rs. 4,35,63,000, 154 cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act (mainly dealing with bounced cheques) with settlements amounting to Rs. 1,42,40,720, he said. These apart, 3,822 petty cases, 1,569 criminal cases, 486 pre-litigation cases, 17 Family Court cases, 195 civil cases and six labour cases were dismissed. The previous Lok Adalat was held on November 23 last. It heard over 18,000 cases and the settlements exceeded Rs. 25 crore. During the Lok Adalat, ordered by the Madras High Court, three Bench were set up, each comprising two judges and one advocate. (The Hindu 13/4/14)

 

40. Supreme Court calls for scientific methods in crime detection (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked investigating agencies to adopt scientific methods in crime detection to save the judicial system from low conviction rates. “The criminal judicial system in this country is at a crossroads,” a Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri said. “Reliable, trustworthy, credible witnesses to the crime seldom come forward to depose before the court and even hardened criminals get away from the clutches of the law. Even reliable witnesses for the prosecution turn hostile due to intimidation, fear and a host of other reasons. Investigating agency has, therefore, to look for other ways and means to improve the quality of investigation, which can only be through the collection of scientific evidence.” Writing the judgment, Justice Radhakrishnan said there was a need to strengthen forensic science for crime detection. The judiciary needed to be equipped to understand and deal with such scientific materials. “People think that practices and principles that served in the past must give way to innovative and creative methods, if we want to save our criminal justice system. Emergence of new types of crimes and their level of sophistication have made traditional methods and tools outdated,” he said. The Bench gave this ruling while modifying the death sentence awarded to Dharam Deo Yadav, who murdered Diana Clare Routley, a 22-year-old girl from New Zealand who visited Varanasi in 1997. The trial court had awarded death sentence and it was confirmed by the Allahabad High Court. The Bench said: “We have no eyewitness version in the instant case and the entire case rests upon circumstantial evidence. Due to lack of any evidence with regard to the manner in which the crime was committed, the case will not fall under the rarest of rare category. “So far as this case is concerned, the DNA sample from the skeleton matched with the blood sample of the father of the deceased and all the sampling and testing was done by experts whose scientific knowledge and experience have not been doubted in these proceedings. The prosecution has, therefore, succeeded in showing that the skeleton recovered from the house of the accused was that of Diana, daughter of Allen Jack Routley and it was none other than the accused who had strangulated Diana to death and buried the dead body in his house.” Consequently, the Bench said that it was commuting the death sentence to life and awarding 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, over and above the period already served by the accused, without any remission. “This in our view will meet the ends of justice,” the Bench added. (The Hindu 15/4/14)

 

41. Foreign divorce decree not conclusive for cases in India: HC (19)

CHANDIGARH: Deciding a divorce case of an NRI couple, the Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that any judgment passed by a court of another country in a matrimonial dispute would not be considered “conclusive” in relation to the same matrimonial dispute pending before an Indian court. The court has held that couples who have tied the knot in India and migrated to foreign lands would be governed by Indian laws only and the matrimonial decree passed by a foreign court would be binding only if the orders are passed as per the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA). A single bench headed by Justice Rajiv Narain Raina had passed these orders while dismissing a petition filed by one Rupak Rathi, who had challenged the divorce petition filed by his wife Anita Chaudhary as the couple had already got divorce in a UK court on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage. Dismissing Rathi’s petition, Justice Raina held, “Since irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not available in HMA, the foreign court decree would neither be binding in India nor recognized.” The complexity of the matter had come to the fore during divorce proceedings initiated by Rathi in Brantford County Court (BCC) in the UK on March 17, 2011. While those proceedings were pending, Chaudhary filed a divorce petition in a Panchkula court under Section 13 of the HMA on grounds of cruelty by Rathi. Both the proceedings carried on simultaneously for sometime before the English court passed a decree of divorce on January 31, 2012, on the ground that the marriage had “broken down irretrievably”.Following the divorce in UK, Rathi moved the Panchkula court seeking rejection of Chaudhary’s divorce petition on the ground that the UK’s divorce decree was binding. He also argued that the Panchkula court has no jurisdiction to entertain the divorce petition. Chaudhary, however, contested that the UK had no jurisdiction to pass the decree of dissolution of marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, which is not available in HMA. HC has now dismissed Rathi’s objection petition and the divorce would be decided by the Panchkula court.  (Times of India 15/4/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

42. Uddhav appeals to rain-affected farmers to not commit suicide (20)

Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Apr 10 : Shiv sena president Uddhav Thackeray appealed to the rain-affected farmers in the state to not take extreme steps like suicide and pull down the present government who was the responsible for it. Addressing an election campaing rally last night at Parbhani in support of party nominee and sitting MLA Bandu Jadhv, he said the panic stricken farmers who lost their crops in the recent havoc of hailstorm rains in the region as well as in the state committed suicide for being debt ridden. He charged that when the farmers were committing suicide in the past months Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was busy in election campaign instead of helping them. He said the people of the Parbhani always had love for Sena and so he appealed to the voters once to vote in favour of Mr Jadhav. In the history of Parbhani Lok Sabha election those candidates who were elected on Sena tickets were later deserted from the party and joined Congress and NCP. They are Suresh Jadhav, Tukarm Rege-Patil and Ganesh Dudgaonkar were now working hard for NCP nominee Vijay Bamble. Hence, he called Mr Jadhav and asked him to take an oath in front of voters that he will not quit the party. (New Kerala 10/4/14)

 

43. 79 debt-ridden farmers commit suicide in Marathwada region (20)

Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Apr 11 : Frustrated over their inability to repay loans after their standing rabbi crops and horticulture were destroyed in recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm, 79 debt-ridden farmers, including women, have committed suicide through different means in the Marathwada region of the state.

Following reported destruction of at least 8 lakh hectares of standing crops due to the hailstorm, 79 suicides by panic stricken farmers, including women, have been registered with concerned officials at different places in the eight districts of the region, sources in the divisional commissioner’s office here today said. According to statistical data, the Beed district has the highest number of suicides registered at 16, followed by 14 each in Nanded and Osmanabad, 11 in Hingoli, 9 in Latur, 8 in Aurangabad, 5 in Parbhani and 2 in Jalna. Of the 79 cases, inquiry into 48 cases had been completed by the administration, while 31 are yet to be completed. Meanwhile, even after the Election Commission’s nod and subsequent announcement of relief package for the affected farmers by the state government, the concerned farmers are yet to recieve the package amount in their respective bank accounts in Aurangabad, rued the affected farmers. (New Kerala 11/4/14)

 

44. FIR against Raj Thackeray for urging farmers to ‘kill than die’ (20)

YAVATMAL: An FIR has been registered against MNS chief Raj Thackeray for allegedly making a provocative statement at an election rally held here in support of his party candidate. While canvassing for MNS’ Raju Raje Patil on April 7, Raj allegedly exhorted farmers “not to commit suicide but kill those who have done injustice”.During the speech, the MNS chief read out a purported suicide note left behind by a farmer, urging people not to vote for the Congress-NCP as the leaders of those parties were responsible for him taking the extreme step. Raj appealed to the farmers that they should not end their lives because of the burden of debts. “Don’t commit suicide. It is not a solution to your problems. If at all you want to die, first kill those who have done injustice to you,” he reportedly said at the meeting. The FIR was registered by the legal cell of police at the City police station on Saturday. “So far, 51 cases have been filed, including the one against Raj Thackeray,” said returning officer Narendra Fulzele, without elaborating. (Times of India 13/4/14)