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Posted by admin at 13 April 2015

Category: Uncategorized

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit woman gang-raped in Haryana village (2)

CHANDIGARH: A Dalit woman on her way to a marriage was abducted by six men, taken to a field and gang-raped at Roopgarh village in Jind district of Haryana on Tuesday. It is the second such recent incident in the State after the gang rape of a Nepalese woman in Rohtak. The victim, who is from Harsola village in Kaithal district, was travelling with a relative. When their car reached Patiala Chowk, two of the accused, who were drinking nearby, spotted her. They and the others attacked the car with rods and smashed its windows. They beat up the woman’s relative. The woman was taken to a nearby field and assaulted. When she raised an alarm, the accused threatened to kill her. They hurled casteist abuses at her. She managed to reach the Sadar police station and file a complaint. The police registered a first information report by invoking sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Indian Penal Code. Five of the accused have been identified as Chandrasekhar, Manoj, Jitendra, Kala and Sandeep, all of Kandela village. Superintendent of Police, Jind, Abhishek Jorwal said medical examination of the victim confirmed rape. A manhunt has been launched for the culprits. Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Kiran Choudhary said the law-and-order situation in Haryana had gone from bad to worse and dastardly attacks on women had been on the rise. The government has not yet commented on the incident. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

2. Groups demand a Dalit CM for the State (2)

RAICHUR: Janandolana for Dalit Chief Minister, a conglomeration of 50 groups representing various Dalit communities, demanded the Congress high command to replace Chief Minister Siddaramaiah with a Dalit candidate. Addressing a media conference at Reporters’ Guild here on Sunday, K. Shivaram and N. Murthy, the leaders of the Janandolana, alleged that the Dalits had been systematically kept out of power even 68 years after the Independence. They also blamed Congress for using Dalit and minority communities as its vote-bank and depriving them of enjoying power. “Lingayat leaders ruled the state as Chief Ministers for 23 years, Vakkaliga leaders for 18 years, Brahman leaders for 8.5 years. The leaders of other numerically smaller communities could also become chief ministers. However, the leaders of Dalit and minority communities which are relatively bigger in terms of numerical size have not assumed power as chief minister owing largely to systematic conspiracies,” N Murthy charged. He verbally attacked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for his role in “defeating Parameshwar” in the last assembly election. “It is none other than Siddaramaiah who made an all-out effort to defeat Parameswhar for clearing his way to Chief Minister post. Parameshwar who was completely engaged in election campaign across the state for Congress victory could not concentrate on his own constituency. Taking advantage of his absence in the constituency, Siddaramaiah ensured his defeat,” Murthy alleged. K. Shivaram, former IAS officer and leader of Chalavadi Mahasabha, alleged that Dalit leaders were systematically sidelined and deprived of Chief Minister post despite they led Congress to power in many assembly polls. “There are many able leaders in Dalit community, such as Mallikarjun Kharge, G. Parameshwar, K.H. Muniyappa, Motamma, Anjaneya, who can efficiently lead the state as Chief Minister on the path of development. Our campaign is not for any one particular leader. We want the Congress high command to choose any one Dalit leader for the post,” he clarified. The leaders announced that over 10,000 Dalits would march to Delhi for pressurising the Congress high command to make a Dalit leader chief minister of Karnataka. “If our demand is ignored, all Dalit groups will work against Congress right away in all coming elections. We will ensure that Congress will be reduced to politically irrelevant as Aam Aadmi Party uprooted its base in Delhi,” Murhty warned. Dalit leaders Ravindranath Patti, J. Lingaiah and others were present. (The Hindu 15/3/17)

3. UP: Day after ‘attack by Gurjars’, three Dalit families flee Pilibhit village (2)

Lucknow: A day after a mob of Gurjar community allegedly attacked three Dalit families ransacking their houses and beating up women and children in Nuria police station area of Pilibhit district, the families left the village on Sunday morning fearing more attacks. Four persons including two women had sustained injuries in the attack. The families were targeted in response to the alleged elopement of a Gurjar girl with a youth of one of the Dalit families on March 10. After the attack, a case was registered against 22 persons, including the girl’s father who has been arrested along with three others on Saturday. Incidentally, the girl’s father, after his arrest, too, got an FIR registered against the Dalit youth, Vijay Pal, his uncle and two cousins on charges of abducting his 19-year-old daughter for force-marriage. Heavy police force have been deployed in the village to avoid any untoward incident. Additional Superintendent of Police, Pilibhit, Sudhir Kumar Singh said Pal’s family had left the village on Friday morning while the Gurjar community attacked the other families later in the night. Village pradhan Anand Prakash, a Gurjar, told The Indian Express that three Dalit families, including that of Vijay Pal, his uncle and another relative, have left the village, which has a population of around 1000 with a predominantly Gurjar population (nearly 80 per cent). Pal is a daily-wage labourer at a factory in Uttrakhand, the pradhan added. Station Officer, Nuria police station, Shamshad Ali said the girl left house for some work on March 10 and did not return. Her family, informed by others that she had eloped with Pal, did not inform the police and carried out a search of their own, the SO said. Four persons identified as Gaurav, Prempal, Sunderlal and the girl’s father were caught from the spot when the attack took place. Upon the arrival of the police, members of the Gurjar community staged protest following which police had to use force to disperse the crowd. The injured have been identified as Mayadevi, Suman Devi, Raju and Sohanlal. They were sent to district hospital for treatment. Later, Sohanlal got an FIR registered against 22 named and 40-50 unidentified assailants at the Nuria police station on various charges, including arson and SC/ST Act. (Indian Express 17/3/15)

4. Upper caste men ‘urinate’ in dalit youth’s mouth in Tamil Nadu (2)

KRISHNAGIRI: A group of non-dalits in a Tamil Nadu village allegedly attacked a 20-year-old dalit youth and urinated in his mouth. The incident happened during a temple festival at Karuvanur in Krishnagiri district on March 2. M Aravindhan (20), who is working as a welder at a private company in Bangalore, visited his native village to participate at a temple festival on March 2. “I went to the temple with my relative R Dinesh (20). Some caste Hindus used filthy words against us when they saw us,” Aravindhan said. When the duo opposed it, the group attacked them. The caste men later dragged both of them to a nearby toilet and continued to beat them up. Aravindhan fell on the ground. When he asked for a glass of water, the men allegedly urinated in his mouth. Meanwhile, Dinesh, who managed to escape, alerted his family members. They rushed to the spot and rescued Aravindhan. The next day, he was admitted to Dharmapuri Government Medical College and Hospital. “I suffered several injuries when they attacked me,” the victim told TOI. Meanwhile, he lodged a complaint with the Kallavi police. However, the police allegedly refused to register a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “They just registered an assault case against unknown people,” he said. Meanwhile, district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Kuravan Pazhankudiina Makkal Sangam (TNKPMS) S Ravi urged the Kallavi police to register the case under SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “Police officials told me that they would extort money from the non-dalits in return for not registering a case against them. So, we have decided to take up this issue to the court,” Ravi said. When contacted by TOI, the Kallavi police said they had registered a case and the investigating was going on. “We will alter the case once we confirm whether the dalit youth was harassed or not,” they said. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

5. 3 Dalit Girls Found Dead in Uttar Pradesh, Families Allege Gang-Rape and Murder (2)

Lucknow:  Three Dalit girls from Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria district, who had gone missing since Friday, were found dead in a field on Saturday. The families of the three girls suspect it to be a case of gang-rape and murder. Two of the three girls were minors and belonged to the same village, Katiyari. According to the families of the girls – aged 18, 13 and nine – the three had gone to the fields to collect fodder around noon on Friday but did not return. The next day their bodies were discovered in the fields by a local and had injury marks on the neck and head. The police claim the case to be a fallout of a one-sided love affair. The main accused, Sonu, from the same village, was in love with the eldest girl who had rejected his advances, prompting him to take this step. Manoj Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Deoria said “Sonu had made up his mind to kill the girl. They killed the other 2 girls to remove evidence. This is not a case of rape”.The police are waiting for the post-mortem report before calling it a rape and murder case. “The bodies bear head injury which seems to have caused the death. The case has been filed and we will look whether there was any sexual offence,” said Manoj Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Deoria. Of the 4 accused, 2 have been nabbed by the police while 2 are still absconding. (NDTV 22/3/15)

6. Homeless Dalit families protest outside Tahsildar’s office (2)

RAICHUR: As many as 25 Dalit families of Tidigola village in Sindhanur taluk, whose houses were alleged burnt in the presence of police as per court orders on Monday, camped outside the office of Sindhanur Tahsildar on Tuesday, protesting the action. While the women prepared food in the office premises, the children, babies and aged were exhausted in the sweltering heat. “We have been living on 11 gunta land bearing survey number 2/1 at Tidigola village for the last 25 years. The original land owner, Yankareddeppa, claims that he had donated the land to government in 1986-87. The owner and his followers along with a police constable with a court order forcibly dragged us out of our homes on Monday and burnt our homes, which were later cleared with an earth mover,” the agitating families said. Addressing at the agitation site, Mr. H N Badiger, state convenor of Jaati Nirmoolana Chalavali, verbally attacked the taluk administration for its “inhuman action” against poor Dalit families. “The bureaucratic apparatus from top to bottom is indisputably working for the creamy layer of society and crushing the downtrodden and marginalised sections under its iron heels. The Tidigola incident, where the concerned authorities neither served prior-notices to poor Dalits nor made alternative arrangements, clearly showed how democracy functioned at grassroots level,” he said. He demanded for a stringent legal action against all those involved in the case, including Turvihal Police Sub Inspector and Sindhanur Circle Inspector for their alleged support to the “miscreants who destroyed the homes of the Dalits”.He warned that the Dalit families would continue to stay at the Tahshildar’s office if they were not provided with permanent shelters. The agitating families later submitted a memorandum to Tahshildar M.Gangappa with a list of demands which included paying compensation and providing alternative and permanent shelters for the homeless, registering First Information Report based on the complaint lodged by the grieving families, amongst others. Representatives of various organisations, including Ramesh Patil Berigi of Karnataka Raitha Sangha, Nagaraj Pujar of Revolutionary Youth Federation of India, B.N. Yaradihal of Trade Union Centre of India and Basappa Kadabur of Hamalara Sangha participated in the protest and expressed their solidarity to the agitating Dalit families. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

7. Attack on dalits on rise in Haryana (2)

CHANDIGARH: The change of guard in Haryana has not improved the condition of dalits in the state if the data on crime against the community tabled in the assembly is anything to go by. During Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP regime in the state, there was at least one attack on dalits in Haryana everyday from October 26 to February 28. According to the documents presented in the House, 146 crimes, including rapes, murders, dacoities and assaults, were committed against dalits during the said period. Cases were registered against 358 persons and 142 of them are still on the run. In backward classes’ case, 292 persons were booked for 98 crimes against the community and 151 accused are yet to be arrested. This data was tabled in the assembly in response to a question by INLD MLAs Ranbir Singh Gangwa and Ravinder Baliani. In his reply, chief minister M L Khattar said the best possible measures had been put in place for the protection of dalits and backward classes. During the previous Bhupinder Hooda regime, 238 cases of crime against dalits were registered in 2010 and 257 in 2013. Secretary general of INLD R S Chaudhary said, “After the new government took over, we had expected that they would be able to control the atrocities against dalits. However, things are going from bad to worse.”Chairman of the National Confederation of Dalit Organizations Ashok Bharti alleged that the BJP lacked political will to curb crimes against dalits in Haryana. “Dalits had lot of expectations from the new government. We were disappointment on Day 1 itself as Khattar did not induct any dalit in his cabinet. Only one dalit was appointed as a minister of state,” said Bharti. (Times of India 25/3/15)

8. Dalits, ‘upper’ castes at daggers drawn in Hassan village (2)

Hassan: The differences between Dalits and ‘upper’ castes over celebrating Ramanavami at Nittur in Hassan taluk have deepened with both of them filing complaints against each other with the Hassan Rural police. Ananth, a Dalit, was allegedly assaulted by ‘upper’ caste people on March 26 following differences between the two groups over putting up a banner on Ramanavami celebrations in the village. Ananth, who is being treated at the Hassan Institute of Medical Sciences, filed a complaint against seven people under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Hassan Rural police had taken two persons into custody following the complaint registered on March 27. Later, representatives of the ‘upper’ castes filed a case against 16 people, all Dalits, levelling charges of attempt to murder. The police registered the complaint.Dalit organisations alleged that the police had registered the complaint against innocent persons. Satish, Hassan district president of Samata Sainik Dal, said, “The differences between Dalits and ‘upper’ castes began in Nittur three or four years ago as many Dalit families started accepting Buddhism. Time and again, the ‘upper’ caste people had picked quarrels with Dalits. On March 26, ‘upper’ caste youths tried to put up a banner close to a retail shop belonging to a Dalit. As the shopkeeper pointed out that the banner would end up as an obstruction to people, the Dalits were assaulted. Now, they have filed complaint against those who were not in the village on the day,” he said. Hassan Deputy Superintendent of Police Jayaram said the cases were registered based on the written complaints submitted by both the groups. The police would take appropriate action after investigation, he added. (The Hindu 29/3/15)

TRIBALS

9. Government actions add to plight of Attappady: tribal leaders (6)

PALAKKAD: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s statement in the Assembly on Tuesday that government officials had failed to effectively expend the funds sanctioned for the welfare of tribespeople in Attappady was only one side of the reality, assert tribal leaders and activists. According to them, transfer of honest officials and replacing them with incompetent persons at the behest of mafias had also contributed to the crisis in the tribal belt where almost all development initiatives are at a stand still now. “Most of the multi-crore tribal welfare packages announced in the recent years by the Central and State governments for the Attappady region are remaining unimplemented with the authorities failing to depute a full-time project officer for the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP). The ITDP that handles tribal developmental works worth several crores of rupees for Attappady has been remaining headless for the last seven months after project officer P.V. Radhakrishnan was transferred out following political pressure. Though an officer, who underwent disciplinary action while working in Idukki, was appointed, he went on leave,” said R.J. Rajendra Prasad, who works with voluntary organisation ‘Thampu.’ “The officer was the first native to be appointed in the post but was transferred to Kasaragod due to alleged pressure from the contractor lobby. The government posted an assistant project officer last month but the situation turned complicated with the officer who went on leave refusing to transfer charge to the assistant officer,” he said. Another honest officer who was shifted out from Attappady recently was K. Krishnan Kutty, the special officer for tribal affairs deputed by the Home Department. Though he earned appreciation from higher officials for taking serious efforts to prevent tribal land alienation and sexual abuse of tribal women, he was promoted and transferred as demanded by the mafias. The office of special officer was closed for ever after the transfer. The Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) also was remaining headless as its director was removed from the post recently. Though the charge was given to Ottappalam Sub Collector, the IAS officer has to find extra time for AHADS amidst busy schedules of district administration. Replying to questions in the Assembly on Tuesday, Mr. Chandy said that sanctioning of funds alone would not solve the problems in the tribal hamlets. Dedicated service of officials was also imperative. “The Chief Minister is partially true. In the absence of coordination among departments, 186 community kitchens opened last year to provide nutritious food, especially to pregnant and lactating tribal women, had lost steam. Funds crunch is also disrupting their daily functioning,” said M. Sukumaran of the Attappady Samrakshana Samiti. “There is severe shortage of doctors and paramedical staff in hospitals and primary health centres in the region, despite a promise by the government to pay those willing an additional allowance of Rs.20,000 per month. The government tribal specialty hospital is still facing shortage of doctors and equipment,” Social activist P.M. Raveendran said. “The promise of appointing an IAS officer with proven track-record to coordinate the packages still remains unfulfilled. Though retired IAS officer S. Subbarayan was posted as special officer for Attappady packages, he was later given the charge to set up the Palakkad Government Medical College. With the government giving priority to the medical college, the special officer left Attappady to focus on it and never returned,” Mr. Raveendran said. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

10. Gandha colony tribals living in penurious condition (6)

Somwarpet: Tribal people at Gandha colony in Somwarpet are living in a pathetic condition. They lack drinking water, and live in ramshackle houses. Despite various claims of development by panchayat bodies and the State Government, their status has not changed. Majority of the colonies in the taluk are devoid of basic facilities including the title deeds, road and electricity connection. The residents of Gandha colony still depend on left bank canal of Harangi. When the canal goes dry during summer, the residents walk for two kilometre to fetch a pot of water at Yadavanadu. The colony has 10 children, two puerperal women and one pregnant woman. The children in the colony fall sick very often. Jenukurubara Muthappa said “the government had constructed six houses two years ago for name sake. However, the house is of poor quality. The rain water enters inside the house during monsoon. The houses might collapse at any time.” The children in the colony still depend on kerosene lamp to read. “We do not even get two litres of kerosene in a month. The road leading to the colony is in pathetic condition. As we have to walk beside the canal, we fear the attack by wild elephants in the evening,” said students. Taluk social welfare office Ramegowda said “a borewell has been dug in Gandhada colony. There was delay in electricity connection. The forest department is not cooperating to provide facilities to the tribal colony. The ZP CEO has directed forest department to cooperate to lay pipelines to supply water. The problems will be solved in the future.” (Deccan Herald 13/3/15)

11. Literacy rates of STs far below national average: Par panel (6)

New Delhi: Despite government efforts to promote education among the Scheduled Tribes (STs), their literacy rates as compared to the national average have remained low, a Parliamentary Committee has said this week. The literacy rate as per Census 2011 is 73 per cent but for STs is 59 per cent only. The House panel also flagged the female literacy rate, saying it is also lower as compared to the national average. “The overall literacy gap amongst the various groups and STs has come down from 19.77 per cent in 1961 to 14.03 per cent in 2011, a scrutiny of state-wise literacy data reveals that in most of the north eastern states like Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, STs are at par with the general population. “While in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, which have sizeable ST population in remote areas, the literacy gap is as high as 18 to 26 per cent,” the committee has noted. It has also exhorted the government to view the large disparity in literacy rates of STs in these states, which have lagged in almost all socio-economic parameters, and promote educational development for STs on a “mission mode”.The panel also stated that it was unhappy with the fact that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs till date does not have the complete data about the total number of Ashram schools in states and UTs, as according to them the requisite information is awaited from some of the states. Keeping in view the “sub-standard food and bad quality” of personal care products being provided to the ST students in the Ashram schools, the committee has recommended that the ministry should ask all the state governments to take such complaints seriously and conduct appropriate inquiries in this regard and also ensure strict compliance of the standards laid down under the Right to Eduction Act (RTE). “The Ministry has stated that the states are being requested to provide good food and quality personal care products to tribal children in Ashram schools and hostels will also be asked to deal with complaints seriously and conduct appropriate enquiries. “The committee may be apprised of the remedial measures taken in the matter so far,” said the report. The committee therefore reiterated that the Ministry should pursue the matter vigorously with the state governments /UTs and obtain the information without further delay. In order to bring greater transparency and efficiency, the committee recommended the Ministry to furnish a detailed statement on the number of proposals received, rejected, approved and those pending with reasons therefore state-wise during the last three years. The committee said it was dismayed to note from the reply of the Ministry that the said detailed statement is not being prepared and urged the ministry to do the same at the earliest. The committee also urged the Ministry to implement the recommendations or suggestions of Professor Thorat Committee report on educational requirements of STs for the better functioning of the Ashram schools. The objective of the scheme (Establishment of Ashram schools in Tribal Sub-Plan Areas) is to provide residential schools for Scheduled Tribes including PTGs in an environment conducive to learning to increase the literacy rate among the tribal students and to bring them at par with other population of the country. (Deccan Herald 15/3/15)

12. Tribal forum expresses concern (6)

Kokrajhar, March 16: The Tribal Belts and Blocks Protection Forum expressed serious concern over the huge encroachment of indigenous belts and blocks by illegal settlers and urged Delhi and Dispur to take strong measures under the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, which was amended in 1947. A meeting was held yesterday at Rupnath Brahma Memorial Bodo Sahitya Sabha Bhawan in Kokrajhar to discuss numerous issues pertaining to protection of indigenous lands, particularly in the BTAD and Assam in general. Members of the forum from the BTAD attended the meeting, which was chaired by Manik Kumar Brahma, president of the forum. Attending the meeting, Rakeshwar Brahma, MLA of Mazbat, said, “Huge encroachment of tribal lands has adversely affected the demographic pattern, resulting in manipulation of electoral politics of Assam. It is an open secret that indigenous lands, especially in tribal belts and blocks, have been illegally encroached upon, violating the land law as given in Chapter X of Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886.” The forum said the 32 tribal belts and blocks of the state were not protected from the illegal occupation of non-tribal people, many of them with suspect nationalities. Official records said over 3 lakh bighas in belts, blocks and sub-plan areas in the BTAD are under encroachment. The forum president said the panel has been formed to work and raise the land alienation issues of indigenous people of Assam. The organisation is also concerned about the vast deforestation because of gross negligence of the state government. The organisation also demanded the update of the NRC on the basis of 1951 census instead of 1971, especially in tribal belts and blocks for safeguarding the indigenous population of Assam. (The Telegraph 17/3/15)

13. Tribals in Bengal to use Facebook for development (6)

Kolkata: Taking their friendship from the virtual to the real world, more than 600 “educated and privileged” Facebook users belonging to West Bengal’s tribal communities will meet on April 5 to discuss strategies to harness social media for tribal development. The second ‘Kolkata Adibasi Facebook Meet’ aims to unite youngsters and adults from the tribal communities who have established themselves in various careers. “We are trying to translate the virtual friendship into real bonding so that this platform can be used to promote development and unity among the tribal members,” Pradip Kumar Hansda, one of the organisers, told IANS. He said the responsibility lies with the accomplished members of the tribal communities to foster growth and progress for the rest. “The educated and privileged youths of the tribal society need to take up issues and provide solutions. Since they are active on social media, we believe it could be a catalyst in bringing about change. Youngsters are already buzzing with ideas and this platform will help give those ideas shape,” Hansda said. As many as 642 users of the popular social networking site have been invited to the day-long meeting at the Victoria Memorial Hall grounds. Most of the invitees are members of Facebook groups such as ‘Santal Students and Youth Unity’ and ‘All India Adibasi Employees and Teachers Association’. “Most of the people are from Bengal tribes such as Santals and their clans like Murmu, Soren etc. We have members of the tribe from neighbouring states of Odisha and Bihar as well. There are tribes from other parts of India too. We have started with Bengal and we want to take it to the national level,” Hansda said. (Business Standard 21/3/15)

14. ‘Hindu Malayali’ community resents denial of ST status (6)

ERODE: Students and elders belonging to ‘Hindu Malayali’ community converged at the district collectorate on Monday to express resentment over denial of Scheduled Tribe status to the community. Representatives of the community lamented that benefits accruing from the Union and State scholarships, educational assistance and welfare schemes have eluded school and college students belonging to the hilly areas of Kadambur, Bargur and Olaiyur. They urged the district administration to expedite the process of issuing ST certification, citing consideration of ‘Hindu Malayali’ as ST by the Tribal Research Institute. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

15. Rape of tribal girls: four more held (6)

KALPETTA: A special mobile squad led by Y.R. Restem, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Wayanad, arrested four persons, including a woman, on Tuesday in connection with a case of sexual abuse of three minor tribal girls in the district. The arrested were identified as Prajish, 33, of Kadachikkunnu, Ratheesh, 30, of Rippon, Bajitha, 26, of Padivayal, and Rajesh, 28, from Tamil Nadu. Bajitha is a relative of the victims, the police said. The police had arrested six persons on Sunday on the charge of sexually exploiting the children studying in standards V, VI, and VIII. The police said the accused allegedly raped the victims at different places in the district, including two lodges here, with the connivance of Bajitha and Rajesh for the past year-and-a-half. Prajish was the first accused in the case, Mr. Restem said adding that the police were in search of three more persons involved in the case. The accused were charged under various sections of the IPC, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Atrocities Act, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Those accused were produced before the District Court and remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. (The Hindu 25/3/15)

16. MP high court slaps notice on top officials over tribals’ PIL (6)

Indore: After hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) over inhuman living conditions of tribals residing near Mandu in Dhar, an Indore bench of High Court has issued a notice to top officials of various concerned departments. The bench has given four weeks time to the principal secretaries of department of public health and family welfare, rural administration and development, Madhya Pradesh road development corporation ltd, managing director of MP paschim kshetra vidyut vitaran co. ltd and to the city commissioner and collector of Dhar to respond to the PIL. Filed by tribals of the area, the PIL brings into the court’s notice the lack of medical facility, unavailability of roads and other basic amenities in the area. As per the PIL, four pregnant ladies have died on their way to hospitals in 2013, which throws light on the lack of basic medical facilities in the area.  A woman named Kusum recently delivered her child on the way to the hospital but unfortunately the child couldn’t be saved. One 75-year-old Hagariya was suffering from Typhoid and villagers took him to the hospital 4 km away from the village by using bed sheets, the PIL states. “These two people Kusum and Hagariya filed the PIL. The court has issued notice to seven respondents and sought answers,” said Shanno Shagufta Khan, the advocate of the petitioners. As per the PIL, there are approximately 35,000 tribals living in six villages in Mandu district namely Ambapura, Ratitalayi, Bhatkala, Bandhav, Pipladiya and Malipura. However, the residents of the area have only two options in terms of medical facilities —Mandu Hospital and Nalsa Hospital. This two hospitals are approximately at a distance of 4 to 13 km from these villages that register no less than 8 to 10 medical emergency cases every month. Hindustan Times 27/3/15)

17. Over 2,000 tribal farmers to form cooperative, trusts and company as part of NABARD’s plan

NEW DELHI: Farmers in tribal states are joining hands to form corporate structures as the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Farm to Fork’ programme begins a quiet rollout even as the much-criticised APMC law is yet to be exorcised. Over 2,000 farmer organisations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will be incubated to grow into a cooperative society, trust and ultimately, a company, as part of the plan being implemented by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, the country’s largest development lender. “We have already identified over 300 farmer groups…We will be hand-holding them, helping with registrations and business process re-engineering to facilitate their take off,” Nabard chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala told ET. These organisations will get help at each level — from sourcing of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides to machine requirements for management of farms, processing of produce, marketing and linking up with large value chains. The Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act has been amended in some states to allow farmers to sell perishables directly to consumers to help farmers get better value for their harvest. However, even where the act has been amended, constraints on farmers and large customers remain, such as multiple registration requirements and limitations on sourcing of perishable fruits and vegetables. Nabard will use a Rs 200 crore fund set up by the government to provide initial-stage funding besides additional money through its NBFC arm. The move is aimed at facilitating creation of structures that would take the country’s farm sector to the next level by bringing in cost efficiencies. The government has identified agrireforms to enhance productivity and value as a key focus area “Land holdings in the country have come down from the 80s…Thus, farmers organisations can help in bringing costs down and making agriculture more efficient,” Bhanwala said. These structures permit pooling of land so that farmers can come together and benefit from greater use of technology and reap the benefits of scale.Nabard has also launched a digitisation programme for self-help groups in rural India that can be expanded to offer multiple products, including government services and the sale of consumer goods. “I don’t mind if an FMCG company wants to use the platform to sell its products,” he said. The bank funded 44 lakh self-help groups through a programme called e-Shakti. The pilot digitisation project was started in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand. This platform will allow members to receive transaction information through SMS, a facility that till now has been used only by banks. It also uses the Aadhaar identity programme, which helps curb the practice of multiple loans. “There are 74 lakh SHGs of which 44 lakh are bank funded…We are now looking to digitise them by providing tablets which is on a platform hosted by Nabard,” Bhanwala said, adding that the second pilot project is being launched in Dhule in Maharashtra. The programme will be expanded to 10 districts before a countrywide rollout, he added. (Times of India 30/3/15)

WOMEN

18. 291 rape cases registered in Delhi in Jan-Feb this year (8)

New Delhi: Over 290 cases of rape have been registered in the first two months of this year, government said in Rajya Sabha today. Replying to a question on rising crimes against women in the national capital, Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said that 291 cases of rape were registered in Delhi in January and February this year. As many as 662 cases of assault on women with intent to outrage their modesty too were registered during the period, in addition to 212 cases of insult to the modesty of women. This year till February 28, 438 cases of cruelty by husband and in-laws were also registered, apart from 19 cases of dowry deaths. In 2014 and 2013, 2,166 and 1,636 cases of rape were registered in Delhi respectively, while in 2012, the figure was 706 only. Chaudhary also said that almost 5,200 CCTV cameras are being installed at 85 locations in Delhi at a cost of about Rs 333 crore to check rising crimes. “The project for installation of approximately 5,200 CCTV cameras at 85 identified locations in public places in Delhi at a total cost of around 332.96 crore has already commenced,” he said. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

19. In Delhi, women are still tortured for giving birth to girls (8)

New Delhi: Sweets if it’s a boy. But faces hang when a girl is born. That’s how an attendant at a government hospital describes the arrival of a newborn in Delhi. This lingering stress of bearing girls without giving birth to a boy allegedly drove a 27-year-old woman in Ambedkar Nagar to kill her three daughters and attempt suicide on Monday. Despite social campaigns, stricter laws and welfare schemes, many mothers are still tortured for producing a girl child. And not just domestic violence, women have to go through emotional stress, frequent jibes and insufficient meals as a price for not bearing a son. “Since I raised my voice against my husband and in-l aws, I have come across several women who shared that they had to go through multiple abortions because their families didn’t want girls. One woman was made to abort five or six times. Things have just become worse,” said Dr Mitu Khurana, the first woman to file a case under the PNDT Act in 2008. Her husband’s family tricked her into having a sex determination test when she was carrying twin girls and later forced her to terminate her pregnancy. “There is no support system for women like me who want to make a choice and bring up their daughters. When I went to the authorities to complain, I was told to go back and give my husband a son. The government says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. But how can a mother do that?” Khurana asks. The ministry of Women and Child Development identified five districts of the Capital in 2013 that had a skewed child sex ratio (CSR). Of south-west, west, north, north-west and east, south-west Delhi had the lowest CSR at 845 girls per 1000 boys. In a UGC-funded study by the Institute of Home Economics in 2011, 44% of 200 married couples said they wanted a boy as their first child. Sixty-one percent of them were graduates and 4% were under treatment to have a son. “It’s still a huge problem cutting across all strata. Patriarchal mindset is deep-seated in our culture which says that daughters are a paraya dhan while a boy can provide moksh (salvation),” said Soha Moitra, regional director-North, Child Rights and You. Most women who do seek help from NGOs or Delhi Police find it difficult to demand action against their tormentors. “Those from poor backgrounds simply want us to counsel their families so they can get back together. They hardly even admit being hit. They know they have nowhere to go as they are not independent or educated,” said a Delhi Police official dealing with women’s issues. “However, those from well-off families are  clearer about walking out of the marriage. Women in such situations suffer from huge emotional trauma,” the official said. “Mothers are very happy to have a child be it a girl or a boy. It’s the fear of the future that troubles her,” said Vartika Nanda, associate professor at Lady Shri Ram College, who works on women’s issues. (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

20. Govt plans to amend anti-dowry harassment law (8)

New Delhi:  Plans are afoot to amend a criminal law that will allow compromise and settlement between husband and wife at the onset of trial in dowry harassment cases, a move that comes after frequent misuse of the provision to trouble men and their near relatives. Under the proposal, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code will be made a compoundable offence with the permission of the courts as suggested by the Law Commission and Justice Malimath Committee. “A draft note for the Union Cabinet seeking to amend Section 498A of the IPC, making it compoundable, has been sent to the Law Ministry for drawing up the draft bill,” a Home Ministry official said. Now, the offence is non-compoundable and non-bailable which provides for immediate arrest of the accused. Conciliatory effort by the warring sides is virtually impossible. A husband or his family members are presumed to be guilty till they prove their innocence in the court. The guilty is punishable with a jail term of up to three years. There have been allegations that in many cases, husbands and their relatives are often charged with false dowry harassment cases by their wives or her family members when some marital problems arise. If the offence is made compoundable, misuse of the law may come down hugely as there would be scope for initiating conciliation proceedings and out-of-court settlement. Permission from a court will be a guarantee against attempts where a wife may be compelled into a compromise by her husband or in-laws, the Home Ministry official said. Now, if a dowry harassment case is proved wrong or proved that the law is misused, only Rs 1,000 penalty is slapped. But the amendment provides for a Rs 15,000 fine. Another new section is expected to be inserted to allow an accused to escape jail by paying a penalty. Opposing the move to dilute the anti-dowry provision of the law, senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising said it is a law which gives relief and protection to harassed woman and it should be continued. “Violence against women is a violation of human rights. There is no compromise of that. I would disagree with the government move,” Jaising told PTI. The Supreme Court had in a judgement in 2010 said as it stood now, the law had become a “weapon in the hands of disgruntled women”. It had also observed that serious re-look of the entire provision is warranted by the Legislature. “It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints. The tendency of over-implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases,” the apex court had said. Section 498A was introduced in early eighties to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives involving newly-married brides. A spate of dowry deaths in Delhi and elsewhere led to a campaign by some leading women members of Parliament pushing the government to bring the amendment. A punishment involving imprisonment of up to three years is provided in the present law. The expression ‘cruelty’ has been defined in wide terms so as to include inflicting physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. The Law Commission recommended that the offence under Section 498A should be made a compoundable offence with the permission of Court. Justice Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice Reform also recommended that it should be made compoundable as well as bailable. Last year, the Home Ministry had asked all state governments to be judicious in slapping Section 498A of IPC in matrimonial disputes as the provision may be used as “weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives”. In an advisory to the states and union territories, the Ministry had asked them to instruct their police officers not to automatically arrest a person when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41, CrPC (When police may arrest without warrant). (Deccan Herald 15/3/15)

21. 59% Indian women are anaemic: Study (8)

MUMBAI: A study to analyze women who have undergone preventive health check-ups across the country show that anaemia and vitamin D deficiency are rampant across different age groups. Both may lead to several ailments, ranging from mild aches and fatigue to bone diseases and even cancer. As many as 59% women were found to be anaemic in the country, with the eastern region having a significantly higher prevalence at 72.12% than the rest of the country. Around 45% women from the western region were found to be severely lacking in adequate haemoglobin levels in blood. Around 25 lakh women had undergone testing for anaemia between 2012 and 2014. Among women who underwent lipid profile tests, around 31% were found to have at least one abnormal parameter. Here too, women from eastern India topped the list with 34.8% having abnormal levels of triglycerides, LDL, HDL or complete cholesterol. Women from the western region fared better here with nearly 70% showing the right levels. The thyroid disorder was found to be present among 27% of the women tested from across the country. The survey also found that the deficiency of vitamin D was rampant with 76% across the country having lower levels. (Times of India 17/3/15)

22. Law protects women all along: experts (8)

TIRUCHI: A “Know Your Law” programme to raise awareness about women’s legal rights was held by Cauvery College for Women, under the auspices of the Centre of Advocacy and Research and Snegam Trust, in the city on Wednesday. Advocates B. Shanthi and J. Jeyachandran of the District Legal Committee were those who addressed the gathering of around 200 students, briefing them about the legislation available to women in distress while simultaneously cautioning them against misusing the law. “Women in India are protected by law from birth to death,” said Ms. Shanthi, “but how many of us are aware of what is legal or not? Three years after the Nirbhaya gang-rape incident what has grabbed headlines recently is the documentary that has interviewed one of the rapists, and his regressive comments about women,” she added, referring to the now-banned BBC production India’s Daughter. She said limiting women’s movement in public was not practical as the number of women workers on night-shift jobs had gone up. “It’s important for women to speak up when they face sexual harassment, but don’t misuse the law to get your back on your spouse or in-laws,” said Ms. Shanthi. “Victimising your in-laws with exaggerated complaints will be harmful for the family in the long run.” According to Mr. Jeyachandran, women in India, despite being at risk, have access to a “very strong and clear legislation that not many are aware of.” Commenting on the growing divorce rate in the city, he said: “Women’s expectations of marriage and their life partners have gone up and these are largely influenced by what they see on television or in the movies. The courts would prefer couples to settle their differences amicably on their own rather than spend long years waiting for verdicts.” Gajalakshmi, president, Snegam Trust, said that more should be done to stop marginalising sex workers, transgenders, and women living with HIV/AIDS. “Women have been facing sexual violence for a long time, perhaps it is only now that we are speaking about it more openly. “Young women should develop their skills and use their education to work for those who are socially disadvantaged.” R. Murugan, president of the college’s governing council and V. Sujatha, principal, also spoke. (The Hindu 20/3/15)

 

23. 10% of dowry cases false, government plans changes in law (8)

NEW DELHI: Every year more than 10,000 complaints of dowry harassment are found to be false. Given that close to 90,000 to 1 lakh cases are investigated every year, the figure makes it one of the most abused laws in the country. Government is now working on a proposal to make Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code—that deals with offences of dowry demand and cruelty by husband and in-laws—compoundable. This means that the law, if amended, would have the provision of settlement between the warring couple if the court allows the same. As the law stands now, the offence is non-compoundable and non-bailable. This leads to immediate arrest of husband and in-laws with onus to prove their innocence on them. It also rules out any effort at reconciliation. Sources in home ministry said that the ministry sent a draft note for the Union Cabinet to amend Section 498A of the IPC to the law ministry for drawing up a draft bill. Making dowry law compoundable was also among recommendations made by the law commission and Justice Malimath Committee. The new law would also have penalty provisions of Rs 15,000 as against Rs 1,000 now if the case is found to be false, said sources. However, it would not be easy to get an amendment such as this through easily as women’s rights activists have been vociferously opposed to such moves in the past. The argument against any dilution of the law is that it is the strength that several economically dependent and helpless women have against dowry harassment. A dilution effected due to over 10% false cases will affect millions whose cases may be genuine. Arguments in favour have always stressed that those who are really in need hardly approach the police against in-laws due to various societal pressures and it’s only those looking to ‘exact revenge’ and having robust economic strength who reach the courts. In a recent order, the Supreme Court had said Section 498A had “dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives”.An effort by National Commission for Women to amend Dowry Prohibition Act came a cropper after government rejected the recommendation last year. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had in December, 2014 informed Lok Sabha, “The NCW had recommended certain amendments in Dowry Prohibition Act. However, the ministry has taken a considered view on the matter and decided to drop the amendment proposed by NCW in the present form after taking into account the comments of the high-level committee on the status of women and the ministry of home affairs.” (Times of India 22/3/15)

24.  ‘Maharashtra IAS officer raped girls under threat’ (8)

Pune: More sordid details have emerged in the case of a senior IAS officer who was arrested by the Pune police on charge of sexually assaulting four schoolgirls in the Sinhagad Road area here. According to the schoolgirls, Maruti Sawant (58), Director-General of the Maharashtra Council of Agricultural Education and Research (MCAER), had allegedly threatened to kill them if they refused to give in to his wishes. As a result, the eldest of the girls, now aged 13 and studying in Class VII, had been raped for three years but was scared to confide it to her parents, said the police. The sexual assault came to light when the victims told a school counsellor, who alerted the principal. Sawant, who lured the schoolgirls by offering money to buy school books and sweets, used to show obscene photos on a computer before sexually assaulting them, said the police. Pune police retrieved liquor bottles and packets of contraceptives from the flat owned by Sawant’s father-in-law on Sinhagad Road, where he used to exploit the victims. “We verified all details at the municipal school where the girls studied,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police (Swargate division) Milind Mohite. The accused, who has since been sacked by the State government, has been remanded in 10-day police custody. (The Hindu 22/3/15)

25. Spiralling Trend in crimes against Women in Assam (8)

GUWAHATI: Against the backdrop of unabated violence against women in various parts of the country, there has been a spurt in the number of crimes against females in Congress-ruled Assam over the last decade. According to official records, heinous crimes like rape as well as social evils such as dowry and witch-hunting had claimed the lives of as many as 1,589 women in the state during 2005-2014. “During 2005-2014, altogether 68,329 cases of crime against women were registered. A total of 78 women died due to rape while 1,388 others were killed in dowry-related cases. The number of women killed in witch-hunting cases was 123. The number of rape cases registered during the period was 15,931,” state Agricultural Minister Rockybul Hussain informed the Assembly on Monday while replying to a query. The year wise break-up of the crimes against women registered with the police were 3,562(2005), 3,907 (2006), 4,547 (2007), 5,021 (2008), 6,209 (2009), 7,326 (2010), 7,075 (2011), 8,268 (2012), 10,757 (2013) and 11,657 (2014) respectively. Except for 2011, when there was a slight dip in the crime graph compared to the year-ago period, there was a general upswing. “In 2014, the number of crimes committed against women and registered with the police was 11,657. The number of rape cases registered was 2,047. Altogether 13 lost their lives in these cases. There were also 205 deaths in dowry-related cases while six others were killed after they had been branded as witches,” the minister informed the House. “Similarly in 2013, 10,757 cases of crime against women were registered. The number of rape cases recorded was 1,960. Of them, 14 had lost their lives. The number of women killed in witch-hunting cases was 18 while 170 others were killed in dowry-related cases,” Hussain said. He informed the House that altogether 47,298 people were arrested in connection with the cases and that 44,877 had been chargesheeted. The court had convicted 1,385 of them so far while the trial of the rest was in progress. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

26. Women power line to get ‘power angels’ soon (8)

VARANASI: ‘Women Power Line’, a toll free helpline for women being harassed by obscene callers and road Romeos, the brain child of UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, is about to witness some major changes soon. IG Woman Power Line Navniet Sikera, who was in the city for the expansion of four-digit helpline on Tuesday, said that the second phase of the Women Power Line is selection of a couple of girls from rural and urban areas who could assume the role of ‘power angels’. “The state government is taking every necessary measure to curb incidents of eve-teasing. Under this initiative, one-two girls from rural and urban areas would be chosen and given status of special police officers. These ‘power angels’ will work as a link between girl students, Women Power Line and the police,” he said. It is an extension of the drive started in Lucknow and aims to encourage girls to speak out against harassment, child marriage and other issues. He further said a total of 3,23,581 calls were received at WPL till Monday night, out of which, 3,17,626 calls related to crime against women were attended and solved. As per data collected by 1090 Women Power Line within two years, maximum were cases of harassment over phone. “Usually, the issues get resolved after counselling with parents. Presently, cases against 372 people have been filed against harassment and been sent to jail,” said Sikera. Sikera discussed all the significant pointers of the 1090 helpline through a power point presentation and also, interacted with the girl students. He assured the girls that ensure that all the complaints are heard immediately and anonymity is maintained. Later, he asked the girls to take oath to raise their voice against such crimes and be independent. Finally, he gave tips to the cops of all the four districts to act immediately after WPL centre receives the complaint on phone. (Times of India 26/3/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

27. India’s 13 million child brides, their 6 million children (14)

Nearly 17 million Indian children between the ages of 10 and 19—6% of the age group—are married, many of them to older men, newly-released census figures reveal. This is an increase of 0.9 million from the 2001 census figure. The legal age for marriage is 18, so some involved may have been adults, but it is unlikely both partners were. Of these married children, 76%, or 12.7 million, are girls, according to census data. Only four million boys in this age group are married, reinforcing the fact that girls are significantly more disadvantaged. More boys were married in 2011 at 4 million compared to 3.4 million in 2001.  The number is constant for girls. Uttar Pradesh has the most married children (2.8 million), followed by Bihar and Rajasthan (with 1.6 million each). IndiaSpend has previously reported that India is ranked 6th among the top 10 countries that report child marriages among females. Since the number of married boys is much lower than that of girls, it is clear girls are marrying older men. For example, Uttar Pradesh has 2 million married girls in the age group of 10-19 years, while 2.8 million in total (boys & girls) are married in the age group; Girls account for 71% of the total married people in this group. It’s the same for other states. Source: Census; shapefile from Datameet;  Six million children were born to couples married in the age group of 10-19.  The majority of these children were boys (3 million). Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of children born to children: 1 million. A UNICEF study pointed that early marriage hinders educational attainment, which then leads to poor maternal health and higher infant mortality rates. Child-bearing at a young age is detrimental to the health of both the mother and the infant. This is why child marriage affects women more than men, other than the fact that men are less likely to be married as children. India’s maternal mortality ratio (the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births) has gone down from 254 in 2006 to 190 in 2014, but it is still higher than the ratio in most other countries. Infant mortality rate (number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births) has come down from 68 in 2000 to 56 in 2014, but is still too high and short of human-development targets. States with higher child marriage rates report higher maternal as well as infant deaths. The exception is Maharashtra which has a high rate of child marriage but still maintains a low maternal mortality ratio of 68. The reason for this could be improved healthcare services, as this IndiaSpend report has explained. Married children are part of the 47% of India’s population that is currently married. The age group of 35-39 years had the highest number of married men with 40.2 million, and the age bracket of 25-29 years had the highest number of married women with 44.6 million. (Business Standard 11/3/15)

28. 27 kids, mostly girls, rescued from bonded labour in Ajmer (14)

AJMER: At least 27 children, who were working as bonded labourers in a poly packing industry at Palara village near here, were rescued on Wednesday. The freed children include 24 girls. “We received a call three days ago and we conducted a recce of the area. We passed on the information to police and also to the labour department,” said Nanu Lal Prajapati, district coordinator of child helpline. The rescued children belong to nearby villages of Badgav, Sandaria, Kalyanipura and Palara. They were all from poor families and were working for 12 to 14 hours a day in a poly packing industry. Most of the children were girls and in the age group of 8 to 14 years. “We found that these children were working there for the past seven months and were kept in the factory premises in shabby conditions and were paid wages of Rs 55 to 60 for working 12 to 14 hours,” said Prajapati. During medical examination, most of the children were found underweight and malnourished. The rescued children were produced before Bal Kalyan Samiti which handed over these children to their families. Meanwhile, sources said that as the state government have no rehabilitation programme for child labourers, things are not improving, “As poverty is the main reason for child labour, rescuing them and handing back to the family means snatching a little food from them and returning them back to bonded labour,” said a specialist. (Times of India 12/3/15)

29. 57 rescued children sent back home (14)

HYDERABAD: Fifty seven child labourers from West Bengal, who were rescued from different workshops in old city, were sent back to their native place on Sunday. Of the 57 children, 30 were rescued from a bag making unit at Nawab Sahab Kunta in Falaknuma, while the remaining were rescued from goldsmith workshops in Gulzar Houz and Charminar. They were kept at the Government Observation Home for the last two months. “We contacted the West Bengal government and after completing necessary formalities, we are handing over the children to them,” District Child Protection Officer, Md Imtiyaz Raheem said, adding that the West Bengal government will look into the rehabilitation aspect of the children. The children were taken in a special bogie arranged in the East Coast Express by South Central Railway authorities. Officials of Child and Welfare Department, Government Railway Police and NGO’s representatives are accompanying them. (The Hindu 16/3/15)

30. Child slavery ‘most heinous crime against humanity’: Satyarthi (14)

United Nations: Describing child slavery as the “most heinous crime against humanity,” Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Tuesday called for a greater political will in the global development agenda to bring an end to the scourge affecting millions of children worldwide. Satyarthi told the UN that the number of child slaves has not decreased in the last few decades, but has stagnated at about 5.5 million. “We have not made progress in (ending) the most heinous crime against humanity. The most shameful commentary on the present times on the society is child slavery still exists.” Satyarthi was at the UN headquarters for a special briefing organised by the NGO Relations Section, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information (DPI). The Nobel Peace Prize winner said there must be explicit language in the sustainable development goals to abolish child slavery. He gave examples of several young boys and girls whom he rescued from bonded labour, saying their childhood and sense of innocence is lost when they are exploited and subjected to physical and sexual abuse. The question of abolishing child slavery and restoring the childhood of millions of boys and girls has to be answered with “utmost political will, utmost priority, we have to feel inside us the sense of urgency,” he said. Satyarthi, the founder of grassroots non-profit ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’, said nations must come up with innovative ways and build strongest possible partnerships to put an end to child slavery. He called for strengthening the UN system and stressed that there is a serious need of deeper and broader inter- agency cooperation. “We have to bring the UN agencies closer for a holistic policy thinking and responses to the problems of children in the world,” he said appealing to the UN to be more “proactive” in building partnerships with the other stakeholders. Satyarthi expressed hope that the scourge of child labour can end in his lifetime but said that concerted efforts from governments, corporates, civil society and public was needed. “I am very confident that I will see the end of child servitude in my lifetime. It was a non-issue 30 years ago… I refuse to accept that some children are born to live without human dignity and without their rights. We cannot compromise, it is non-negotiable,” he said. Satyarthi said there has been progress over the last few years to tackle child labour and everyone has a “moral responsibility” to end it. (Zee News 18/3/15)

 

31. Modi invokes farmers’ children to pitch for Land Bill (14)

Hussainiwala (Punjab): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invoked the welfare of farmers’ children to justify the Land Bill as he maintained that efforts are being made to “mislead” the farming community over the new measure. Pitching for the proposed new legislation that is facing stiff resistance from almost all opposition parties, he said it is necessary to bring about development which will benefit the farmers and their families as well. “Efforts are being made to mislead farmers in various ways. I talked about it yesterday also in my ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme,” Mr. Modi said addressing an event organised in the memory of freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on their martyrdom day. He said if the nation makes progress, it will benefit the farmers as well as their future generations, many of whom want employment in areas other than farming. “If there is no development, what will happen to your children? Do you want them to live in ‘jhuggi jhopris’ (slums) of Delhi and Mumbai? Development will bring benefits for the farmer, their children as well as their villages,” the Prime Minister said. The controversial Bill was passed by Lok Sabha earlier this month but has got stuck in Rajya Sabha because of a united opposition which has stepped up its campaign against the measure. Talking about corruption, he said it had “destroyed” the country. Targeting the previous UPA government, he said that the coal-block allocation scam was “bigger” than assessed by the CAG. He said that the CAG’s assessment of the loss in the coal-block allocation scam was much less than what it actually was. When the CAG concluded that the loss was to the tune of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore, there was “disbelief about such a huge figure”. “There was also a ‘zero loss theory’,” he said targeting the previous UPA ministers who had contended so. After the scam came to light, Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of 204 coal blocks, the Prime Minister noted. “This happened as soon as we came to power. It was their sin but we faced a situation where power plants were about to face closure on account of lack of coal. So, we decided to go for auction. “Out of 204 coal blocks cancelled, only 20 have been auctioned so far and more than 180 are still left. Since an honest government is in place, Rs two lakh crore was deposited in the national treasury on account of auction of these 20 coal blocks,” Mr. Modi said, adding that it will benefit the poor. Slamming the previous Congress-led government without naming it, he said, “They left no areas” (in terms of corruption). “LED bulbs were purchased in 2014 at Rs. 300 apiece. When we came, we decided the rate of a bulb should be Rs. 80 each. So on each bulb, we saved Rs. 220. You brought us here because of our honesty, we did it,” Mr. Modi told the gathering. He also talked about the “crisis” being faced by farmers, first on account of deficit rainfall last year and now due to hailstorm, and promised to do all that his government can along with the states. He said he had told his ministers to get an assessment conducted of the losses. “A survey has started. The states and the Centre are with you in this crisis situation. We will not hesitate in giving whatever help we can,” the Prime Minister said. At the same time, he referred to his government’s new scheme — Soil Health Card Yojana — and said it is aimed at benefiting the farmers as they can assess how much water and fertilisers they require for farming their land. He also announced that a new horticulture research institute to be set up in Amritsar would be named after Bhagat Singh. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

32. ISIS recruits 400 children since January: Report (14)

BEIRUT: Islamic State has recruited at least 400 children in Syria in the past three months and given these so-called “Cubs of the Caliphate” military training and hardline indoctrination, a monitoring group said on Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the children, all aged under 18, were recruited near schools, mosques and in public areas where Islamic State carries out killings and brutal punishments on local people. One such young boy appeared in a video early this month shooting dead an Israeli Arab accused by Islamic State of being as spy. A French police source said the boy might be the half-brother of Mohamed Merah, who killed three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children in Toulouse in 2012. “They use children because it is easy to brainwash them. They can build these children into what they want, they stop them from going to school and send them to IS schools instead,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the British-based Observatory. Islamic State declared a caliphate last year in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq and is being targeted by U.S.-led air strikes in both countries. It has beheaded or shot dead Syrian civilians, combatants, foreign aid workers and journalists and has released videos appearing to show children witnessing or participating in some of the killings. The group persecutes people across sects and ethnicities who do not adhere to its ultra-hardline doctrine. The group may be resorting to children because it has been having difficulties recruiting adults since the start of the year, with only 120 joining its ranks, Abdulrahman said. This was partly due to tighter controls on the Turkish border, where foreign fighters tend to enter, he added. Islamic State has encouraged parents to send children to training camps or has recruited them without their parents’ consent, often luring them with money, said the Observatory, which tracks the conflict using sources on the ground. At the training camps, the children learn to fire live ammunition, fight in battles and to drive, it said. Islamic State also recruits children as informants and as guards for its headquarters as well as welcoming children with birth defects into its ranks, the Observatory added. (Times of India 24/3/15)

33. CBSE glare on sexual abuse in schools (14)

The Central Board of Secondary Education has moved to check sexual abuse of schoolchildren on campuses after taking a tough stand on cyber-bullying and ragging. The board, last week, issued a circular to all affiliated schools to ensure no child suffered from this crime and listed out certain steps as preventive measures. Defining the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the circular reads: “The challenges of gender inequality, eve teasing and sexual abuse in school environment call for increased awareness and creating synergy among parents, teachers and schools. In order to ensure strict compliance of the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the CBSE has taken several initiatives and actions for creating awareness about sexual exploitation of schoolchildren.” The board has suggested schools to form a committee, which may consist of principal/vice-principal, one male teacher, one female teacher, one female student, one male student and one non-teaching employee. The panel would serve as a complaints and redressal body. However, improved response system and alert administrative machinery is required to take immediate action on reported cases of misbehaviour. “We have a student council where we have boys and girls of the school, the vice-principal and male and female teachers. The council looks after problems faced by the students and conveys it to the school administration,” said Anita Chaudhary, principal, Tribhuvan School. The CBSE has asked the schools to report sexual abuse as soon as the institutions come to know about it. The board has made training compulsory for teachers to attend to adolescent (gender) related issues, conduct of adolescent education programmes and special activities that promote gender equality and sensitivity. The notice also states: Camps on sensitisation of girls on health and sanitation issues, karate/self-defence training should be conducted at regular intervals. Programmes like folk dance, nukkad natak, poster competitions, quiz, debate, and exhibition can also be conducted to foster gender equality”.”Last week, a leading Patna-based school was involved in the issue. This stringent step of the board will check these kinds of activities inside the campus,” said Shingini Singh, a Class IX student of Radiant International. Schools have been also asked to put up complaint/suggestion box so that students can make written complaints. (The Telegraph 25/3/15)

34. Provide affordable public transport for students from slums: child rights panel (14)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government should provide affordable public transport facilities, so that children of slum residents can travel to schools, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) has recommended. The commission recently passed an order saying as per the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, it is the duty of the state government to arrange public transport services for children living in slums, so they can access schools. The order was given in connection to a case filed by Door Step School, an organisation based in Grant Road. The organisation had complained that several places in the city such as Ganesh Murthi Nagar, Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar, Shiv Shakti Nagar in Backbay, Cuffe Parade – where a majority of residents belong to the scheduled castes and tribes or other backward classes – do not have access to schools. “A majority of children who are residing in these slums are in the 6-8 age group, and so they cannot travel on their own. Their parents are daily wage workers and are unable to accompany them,” reads the complaint filed by the organisation. “So BEST bus services are required at concessional rates in these areas.” Many children were being deprived of school education as their parents could not afford to pay the hiked BEST fare, which goes against the provisions of the RTE Act, the complaint stated. “It is the duty of the state under the RTE Act to provide education to children between 6-14 years and cheap public transport services to access that education,” said AN Tripathi, secretary of the commission. (The Hindustan Tmes 27/3/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

35. Christians, Muslims to gain as govt links loans with population share (7)

NEW DELHI: The BJP government is asking public sector banks to lend to each minority community in line with its share of the total minority population within the 6% quota fixed for all minorities. The move will result in higher credit flow to Muslims and Christians. Under current rules, banks have to mandatorily earmark 15% of their priority sector loans to minority communities. Priority sector lending in turn is mandated as 40% of all bank loans and includes those to agriculture and micro, small and medium enterprises. Census 2001 figures for the population of various minority communities shows that they put together constituted about 19.5% of India’s population. Muslims were around 69% of the minority population, Christians 12%, Sikhs just under 10% and the rest about 9%. While these shares may have changed somewhat in the 2011 census, yet to be released, they are unlikely to have changed drastically. Therefore, the new norms would mean that about 4% of all bank loans would go to Muslims, around 0.7% to Christians and 0.6% to Sikhs. Against the stipulation, banks were providing 16% of the priority sector loans to minorities at the end of December 2014. Although the rule has resulted in higher flows to this segment following the UPA government’s decision in June 2007, studies suggest that Muslims and Christians have not benefitted adequately, while some other minority groups like Jains, Parsis and Sikhs account for larger chunks of bank loans. As a result, the minority affairs department has already flagged the issue to bankers and the finance ministry has stepped in now. “It has been desired by secretary, ministry of minority affairs in nodal officers’ meeting to increase the percentage share of lending to each minority community in proportion to their respective share in minority population,” said the agenda note for a meeting of bank chiefs on Wednesday. In addition, it asked state-run banks to open branches in minority-concentrated areas to ensure proportionate credit flow. (Times of India 12/3/15)

36. Take action against those attacking minorities: MPs to government (7)

New Delhi: “Can we safeguard the secular fabric of our nation? It is a serious matter and it concerns all the people of the country. I want that the business of the House be suspended and this issue be discussed under Section 267,” Raja said. Members in Rajya Sabha on Monday sought stern action to check growing attacks on minorities citing instances of rape of a 70-year-old nun in Bengal and demolition of a church in Haryana, with the government saying communal amity must be maintained at all costs. D Raja (CPI), who had given a notice for suspension of business to take up a discussion on the matter, said it was a serious situation that minorities were not safe. “With great pain and agony I raise this issue. A 70-year- old nun in West Bengal has been raped. A church under construction has been demolished in Haryana. There is increase in attacks on Christians in the country. It is very shocking. Right wing extremist forces have become very aggressive.    “Can we safeguard the secular fabric of our nation? It is a serious matter and it concerns all the people of the country. I want that the business of the House be suspended and this issue be discussed under Section 267,” Raja said. He also cited the example of a senior BJP leader making a controversial statement in Guwahati that God only resides in temples and nowhere else. “What is happening in this country,” he asked. Agreeing with Raja, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the state governments should take necessary action in such cases and book the culprits. He also agreed for a discussion on the issue after proper notice. “In its an important issue. We are against such incidents.    Communal harmony should be maintained in the country. No one has any doubt on this. Everyone has the right to practice their religion and all state government where such incidents are happening should take stern steps against the guilty and those responsible for such incidents,” Naqvi said. Raja was supported by Ali Anwar Ansari (JD-U), Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) who also sought a discussion on the issue. Indicating provocative statements by various people, Sen also said there have been “repeated use of abusive language” which were not being stopped despite assurances by the Prime Minister.    “Ministers including the Prime Mnister have assured, but the next day or even on the same day, inflammatory speeches are made to divide people on religious and caste lines. What is the sanctity of assurance made by the Prime Minister,” the CPI(M) member asked.  (DNA 16/3/15)

37. Nun Rape Case: No arrest yet, bandh in Ranaghat (7)

Kolkata: Even 72 hours after a septuagenarian nun was raped in a convent in Nadia’s Ranaghat, the CID, which is investigating the case, has failed to make any arrest, although some more people were detained for questioning. The delay in apprehending the culprits has sparked anger in both the Christian community and the local public. The shopkeepers in Ranaghat kept their shutters down on Tuesday. “We are observing trade bandh in this town as a mark of protest to the brutalities which were perpetrated on a mother-like figure. We want immediate arrest of the culprits,” Samiran Paul, a spokesperson for the local business association, said. The locals also took out a rally in the town. Students from Jadavpur University and Presidency University also visited Ranaghat in a show of solidarity with the students and teachers of Convent of Jesus and Mary High School. On the other hand, local Trinamul Congress workers also took out a rally to protest the blockade of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s convoy on Monday. The horrific crime has sent shockwaves not only in the state and country but also abroad. Vatican City is sending a representative to Ranaghat on Wednesday. “A delegation from Vatican City will be arriving on Wednesday afternoon to meet the nun at the hospital and the students of the Convent of Jesus and Mary,” Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza said. A delegation of state minorities’ commission, led by vice-chairperson Maria Fernandes, visited Ranaghat. She came to the conclusion that dacoity was not the real objective behind the crime. (Asian Age 18/3/15)

38. Haryana church vandalism: NHRC issues notice to state government (7)

New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to Haryana government asking them to send a report on desecration of an under-construction church in Hisar and the steps being taken to protest the religious places of minorities in the state. According to an official statement released today, the commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Haryana calling for reports within two weeks. They have also been directed to report what steps were being taken for the protection of religious places of minorities in the State, it said. The notices were served after the commission took suo motu cognizance of a media report that an under construction Church in Hisar district of Haryana was attacked on March 15. Police had registered a case against 14 people in this connection and the main accused Anil Godara was arrested on Tuesday from Hisar and taken on remand. An under-construction church in Kaimri village near Hisar was vandalised by a group and the cross replaced with an idol of Hanuman on Sunday, triggering tension in the area. The complainant, Father Subhash Chand of Williwarsh church, stated that the group fragmented the cross and installed the statue of Hanuman and a flag depicting Lord Ram and threatened to kill him. (The Asian Age 19/3/15)

 

39. ‘Protect the rights of minorities’ (7)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights organized a protest meeting at Sardar Baug near Lal Darwaja against various state and national issues on Friday where human rights activists participated from across the state. The participants from 10 NGOs including Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD), Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), ANHAD, INSAF, Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) and Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) advocated non-tolerance against atrocities against weak sections of the society, upholding of constitutional rights and public awakening to address social issues. Father Cedric Prakash said that right from tribal issues to the issues of the farmers, the voiceless have been pushed into margins. “It was our effort to voice our concerns and bring the issues to the fore. Our demand was to uphold the high values established by our constitution,” he said. Bishop Thomas Macwan of Ahmedabad diocese said that everyday media reports atrocities ranging from brutality on six-year-old girl in Ahmedabad to rape of a 72-year-old nun in West Bengal. “Woman safety is a big concern today. We will have to change our attitude towards the issue. Public awareness is only possible solution,” he said. (Times of India 21/3/15)

40. Minorities are patriots: Rajnath (7)

New Delhi: Terming Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s comments on conversion as a veiled message to minorities to confine themselves to their respective faiths and not interact with society, Prabha Joseph, member of the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission, said: “If the conversion propaganda against Christians was true then the community would have been larger than two per cent of the population as till very recently we ran a large number of private schools and hospitals in the country. Several BJP leaders studied in our schools; were they converted?’’ Apart from prising open the conversion debate — partially capped since Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month said “everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence” — Mr. Singh sought to assure the gathering at the Annual Conference of State Minorities Commissions here that the government would do everything to protect the minorities and allay the sense of fear gripping them. In an oblique reference to some Sangh Parivar outfits questioning the patriotism of the minorities, he said: “I believe the minorities of our country are patriots and their patriotism should not be questioned.” Further, he dwelt on India’s diversity; stating that this is a country which respects all religions and believes in peaceful co-existence. “We have all 72 sects of Islam living here peacefully,” he said. Without directly referring to Sangh Parivar propaganda of Christianity being brought to India by the colonial powers, he flagged the fact that Kerala houses one of the oldest churches in the world. After the day-long deliberations, participants uniformly stressed the importance of India’s multi-religious character and emphasised the need for the country to develop as a whole. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

41. Minorities panel to visit Mumbai (7)

MUMBAI: A five-member team of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is on a two-day visit to Mumbai to hold meetings with leaders of various minority communities. But a few members of those communities have expressed reservations about the visit as it has not been widely publicised. “This will only mean that the commission will decide which community leaders it wants to meet. The meeting should have been publicly announced to make themselves accessible to all members of the minorities who have grievances. The NCM website too does not reflect that it has raised significant issues about minority welfare in the past few months,” Dolphy D’Souza, former president of Bombay Catholic Sabha, said. But NCM chairperson Naseem Ahmad said: “We have been holding meetings with various community leaders. Our office has sent invites to them.” Two members of the commission are slated to visit the Archbishop of Mumbai at his residence on Friday. “The schedule was decided much before the Navi Panvel church attack. But given the circumstances, I will definitely raise my anxieties with them,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, told The Hindu . Mr. Ahmad said the members of the commission had already met leaders of Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist communities on Thursday. (The Hindu 27/3/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

42. Why foreigners cant pray at Taj mosque, asks Muslim body (7)

AGRA: Taj Mahal Masjid Intezamiya Committee, which claims to make arrangements for namaz in the monument’s mosque, has sought revoking a seven-year-old ban on foreigners offering Friday prayers, especially from SAARC countries, at the monument. At present, only locals can offer namaz in the mosque on Friday. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for Taj Mahal’s maintenance, has refuted the committee’s claim of making arrangements for prayers at the Taj’s mosque. It also said that according to rules, only locals who have been traditionally offering namaz at the mosque could be allowed. The department also. The committee has been raising this issue for many years, and recently sought information under an RTI query regarding who can offer prayers at Taj. The reply stated that a 2008 gazette notification mentions Taj will be open on Friday only for those “offering customary afternoon prayers”. The committee contends that it was nowhere written that foreigners cannot offer prayers. Committee’s chairman Syed Munawwar Ali said, “The ASI is discriminating between Indian and foreign Muslims. Till 2002, foreigners were offering prayers here, but then ASI stopped it citing security reasons, which is unfair.” ASI officials, however, said from the time the Taj Mahal came under its protection, only those who have been offering namaz have been allowed entry during Friday prayers. Earlier, Taj Mahal used to be closed on Mondays for tourists and the archaeological body allowed entry to local Muslims to offer namaz on Fridays. In 2001, the weekly closing day was changed to Friday and locals were allowed to offer Juma namaz between 12pm and 2 pm. When contacted, ASI superintending archaeologist N K Pathak said, “No new changes have been made in the rules. As far as foreigners are concerned, they can offer namaz at two mosques located outside the monument complex at east and west gates.” (Times of India 11/3/15)

43. Muslims protest to get back collegeMohammed Wajihuddin (7)

MUMBAI: Kicking off its campaign to get the Ismail Yusuf College in Jogeshwari back from government control, members of the Ismail Yusuf College Campus Bachao Sangharsh Samiti held a demonstration outside the college on Monday. “The government must remove all encroachments, declare Ismail Yusuf College a minority institution and hand over the college and its nearly 54 acre land to a suitable Muslim trust to develop it as a world-class university,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman (Mumbai), Observer Research Foundation. The protesters announced a massive morcha at Azad Maidan on March 25. “Today is the formal beginning of our movement. Sir Ismail Yusuf gave Rs 8 lakh in 1914 to set up an institution of higher learning for Muslims though its doors have been open to all since its inception in 1924,” said M A Khalid of the All India Milli Council. Amir Idrisi of the Association of Muslim Professionals said efforts were made to start a dialogue with the government, but the latter seems adamant to go ahead with its plan to establish a law university and an educational hub on the college premises. “We are not against the law university but it should be established elsewhere, not on a piece of land which was bought with an endowment fund to establish a massive institute of higher learning for Muslims,” said Idrisi. He announced that on Thursday, former Congress MLA Yusuf Abrahni will lead a group of activists to forcibly occupy the college. Activist Sajid Shaikh said that a series of corner meetings have been planned to mobilize people for the protest rally at Azad Maidan. (Times of India 17/3/15)

44. ‘Ghar wapsi’ issue to figure at Muslim Personal Law Board meet (7)

Lucknow: The issue of ‘ghar wapsi’ programme by some Hindu organisations is likely to figure prominently in the three-day meet of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) scheduled to be held in Jaipur from March 20. “The Jamaits and the Board have already clarified their stand on the issue. It’s only a propaganda,” AIMLPB General Secretary Maulana Nizamuddin said. He said that though the matter has not been included in the general agenda, it would be raised in the meeting. “Thought should be given whether the country will progress or get destroyed. What does this ‘ghar wapsi’ programme mean?” he asked. “Tomorrow you will tell Christians to become Hindus, the next day you will tell Muslims to become Hindus. Is it a joke? It’s like insulting the entire community,” he said. He said the agenda of the meeting was general in nature and such contentious issues were not included in it. “It is a secular state where all communities exist since long,” he said. He said a campaign was being carried out against Muslims, but generally such issues are kept out of the agenda. “But, if some questions crop up, the board give its reply,” he said. To a question, he dismissed as “politics” the ban on beef by the Maharashtra government. “It’s all politics,” he said. “Whether it is Maharashtra or Kolkata, not only Muslims, but other persons also eat beef,” he claimed. He said the issue did not pertain to Muslims alone. But, the business of many persons and companies would be affected due to the ban. (DNA 17/3/15)

45. All India Muslim Personal Law Board Hits Out at Modi Government, Questions Silence on ‘Ghar Wapasi’

Jaipur:  The All India Muslim Personal Law Board today had some strong words for the Narendra Modi government, as it questioned the Prime Minister’s silence on controversial issues, including ‘ghar wapasi’ – the campaign to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. “Ever since Modiji came to power, the Hindutva forces have become stronger,” Abdul Rahim Qureshi, the General Secretary, said at the Board’s 24th meeting in Jaipur today. “The ‘ghar wapasi’ programme is gaining ground and the VHP is polarising the atmosphere and spreading anti-Muslim feelings… Ever since the new government has taken over, there is a conspiracy to convert the country into a fascist state,” Mr Qureshi said. The Board said there was a need for the government to make all citizens feel secure in an atmosphere where their best interests were safeguarded. Mr Qureshi also strongly criticised the Rajasthan government’s recent decision to make Surya Namaskar compulsory in all schools, and demanded the withdrawal of the controversial order. “This is anti-Islam and the government should immediately withdraw the decision. Islam does not permit for such practice,” he said, adding, “This is absolutely wrong to impose such things on Muslims.” “Internal stability is necessary for the peace and development in the country and the governments, both Central and states, should work in this direction instead of announcing such decision which affects our religious freedom,” Mr Qureshi said. The Board also rejected calls for amendments to the Muslim personal law, saying such changes struck at the roots of religion. (NDTV 23/3/15)

46. Muslim population no issue, conversion is, says home minister Rajnath Singh (7)

NEW DELHI: Home minister Rajnath Singh, in comments that would run counter to the line often used by hardline Hindutva elements, said on Monday he had no issues with the pace of growth of the Muslim population in the country, but railed against religious conversions and exhorted minorities to take the lead in pressing for an anti-conversion law. “It does not matter how many Muslims are there. If their population is increasing, let it increase. We have no issues. But the cycle of conversions must stop,” Singh told a conference of state minority commissions in Delhi. The comments come at a time some hardliners in the Sangh Parivar have expressed their annoyance at what they allege is the fast pace of growth in the country’s Muslim population and have exhorted Hindus to procreate more to counter this. India’s Muslim population probably rose to 14.2% in 2011 from 13.4% in 2001, the government yet-to-be-released census data is expected to show. While Singh appeared conciliatory to Muslims, he struck a hard line against religious conversions — a topic that has of late been sought to be linked with the Christian community. Members of the Sangh Parivar have in recent weeks sought to link service done by Christian institutions with religious conversions. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat last month stirred up a controversy when, referring to conversions, he said there was a “motive” behind the service rendered by Mother Teresa. Singh appeared to echo similar sentiments. “Why do we do conversions? If we want to do service, let us do service. But should service be done for the purpose of religious conversion? Cannot we decide that we will go worldwide to do service but conversion will not be our target but only to serve humanity?” he asked. “Can’t we live without respecting each other’s faith. What is the necessity of conversion. Can’t a religion survive without involving in conversion?… People say conversions are done by people on their own accord…that there is freedom for conversions. Do not do this (conversions). Leave it,” he added. The home minister said he was posing three basic questions. “First, is conversion necessary? Second, can a religion not survive without conversions? Thirdly, if anybody tries to change the demographic character of any country, will anyone tolerate it? In US or Europe, if I go and try to change their demographic character, isn’t it a crime on my part? Why should I do this? Let that country’s identity remain. That country has a culture, let it be. Why do we want to change it?” he said. Singh also blamed the Congress government for creating an “atmosphere of insecurity” among minorities and said the Narendra Modi government was reversing this. He termed the controversy around ‘Ghar Vapasi’, or reconversion of minorities back into the Hindu faith, as “misunderstandings and rumours” and said a solution needed to be found. The home minister lamented that the majority community had to ask for an anti-conversion law and not minorities. “In other countries, minorities demand that anti-conversion law should be made. India is the only country where it is not so. In our country, the state of affairs is such that we have to say and demand that there should be a debate over anti-conversion law. Why is there such a state of affairs? It will be good if you think over this and debate it,” he said… (Times of India 24/3/15)

47. Muslim bodies want UP govt to challenge Hashimpura court order (7)

LUCKNOW: Various Muslim organisations, including All India Muslim Personal Law Board, today asked the Uttar Pradesh government to challenge the verdict of a Delhi court in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case in a higher court. Additional sessions judge Sanjay Jindal in his March 21 judgement acquitted 16 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel of charges related to the killing 42 Muslims who were picked up from a village in Meerut, giving them benefit of doubt for want of evidence. Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind would decide their strategy in their upcoming meeting on March 28 while the Shia Personal Law Board will take up the matter seriously at its meeting in the second week of April. AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Nizamuddin alleged that the decision of the lower court, which came 28 years after the massacre, was a result of failure on the part of the state government. He said the case should have been disposed of in four- five months but due to “lackadaisical attitude” of the government the case was dragged for 28 years.The ruling Samajwadi Party, however, said it would take a decision whether to challenge the lower court order only after reading it thoroughly. “We will go through the order and then only take a view,” said Rajendra Choudhary, SP spokesperson. Nizamuddin said though the lower court had acquitted all the accused, it had admitted there was a massacre in Hashimpura. “The government should challenge the order in a higher court,” he said. Echoing similar views, spokesman of Shia Personal Law Board Maulana Yasoob Abbas said the court order has disappointed the family members of the victims. “We will strongly take up the matter in our executive meeting likely to be held in the second week of next month,” he said. Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind state chief Ashhad Rashidi also demanded that the government challenge the lower court order. He said the government which itself accepts that only because of Muslim votes it came to power, it should strongly take up any matter pertaining to the community. “The matter would be discussed in Jamiat’s Ijlas-e-Aam (biennial conference) on March 28 in Lucknow,” he added. (Times of India 26/3/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

48. Christians resent restrictions on preaching religion (7)

ERODE: Members of Akhila Indiya Christhuva Valibargal Munnetra Iyakkam staged a demonstration here on Tuesday resenting restrictions imposed on preaching Christianity. Though the Constitution has guaranteed democracy and secularism, and unity in diversity, there was no positive reflection at the ground level for practising and preaching Christianity, the protesters said. They called upon the authorities to desist from creating hurdles in the functioning of schools, organisations, and hostels run by Christians. Restrictions faced by Christians in constructing prayer centres and churches must be lifted, they demanded. Preachers were not only denied permission to hold prayer meetings, but also were booked by the police department in “false” cases, the speakers said. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

49. 15 killed in Lahore church-bombings, Christians go on rampage (7)

Islamabad: At least 15 people were killed in bomb attacks at two churches on Sunday in Pakistan’s Lahore city, triggering violent protests from the minority Christian community which took to the streets, killed two suspected attackers, smashed vehicles and clashed with the police, media reports said. Two powerful explosions rocked the Catholic Church and Christ Church in the city’s Youhanabad area, home to the country’s biggest Christian population, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 70 others, Pakistani daily Dawn reported. Jamatul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks which took place as large crowds were in the area to attend Sunday prayers. Violent protests erupted in Lahore, the capital city of the Pakistani province of Punjab, soon after the blasts, the daily said, adding that a 4,000-strong Christian mob armed with clubs smashed vehicles. Television footage showed dozens of stick-wielding men ransacking the city’s metro bus terminal. Protestors also clashed with the police. In Karachi, hundreds of Christians took to the streets and blocked roads. There were also demonstrations in Peshawar city in the country’s northwest, in the city of Multan and in Quetta in the southwest, according to Geo TV. The report said two men suspected to be associated with the bombings were burnt alive by a mob in the presence of the police. Seven policemen were deployed for the security of the churches, said Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Haider Ashraf, of which two constables were killed while four others sustained injuries in the attack. A man blew himself up outside one of the churches when a police guard stopped him from entering, Geo TV quoted a witness as saying. Police were collecting forensic evidence from the blast sites and would not confirm the report. Rana Mashood, a government spokesperson, said the government was determined to tackle the issue of militancy and asserted that “terrorists will be brought to justice”.He said they were not looking at the event as an attack on a particular community or members of one religion, according to Dawn. Christians constitute around two percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million and the community has been a target of terror attacks as well as riots in recent years. “We are not separated by religion, this is an attack on Pakistan, and we feel their pain,” the report quoted Punjab Education Minister Mian Mujtuba Shuja-ur-Rehman as saying. Sunday’s attack was the worst on the community since 2013, when twin suicide attacks at the All Saint’s Church in Peshawar’s Kohati Gate area left at least 80 people dead and over 100 others injured. Meanwhile, missionary schools in Karachi and across Punjab will remain closed on Monday in protest against the attack. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blasts and expressed grief over the loss of lives in the attacks. (New Kerala 15/3/15)

50. Haryana Village Tense After Church Attack; 14 People Booked (7)

CHANDIGARH: Tension prevailed in a village in Haryana’s Hisar district on Monday after an under construction church was attacked and vandalised by miscreants and the idol of a Hindu god was placed inside the premises. Police officials said on Monday that 14 people were booked for rioting, damaging place of worship, theft and promoting enmity following a complaint from the church priest in Kaimri village in Hisar district, 260km from here. No arrests have been made so far. The attackers allegedly damaged the cross at the church and took away some other items. The priest told media that certain activists of the Bajrang Dal and others had threatened him earlier. He alleged that the same people could be behind the attack on the church. “I was threatened by Bajrang Dal activists and other locals last month,” the priest, Subhash Chand, said. Haryana has a BJP government since October last year. Local residents in the village alleged that the priest was trying to construct the church despite the fact that there was no Christian in the entire village. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

51. Nun gangrape: 8 held, police faces heat (7)

Kolkata: The Christian missionary school at Ranaghat in Nadia, where a septuagenarian nun was gangraped by robbers, was reeling under threat for the last four months. But the district police allegedly remained silent. With this revelation coming to light on Sunday, the police, now under the scanner for its failure, detained eight suspects for questioning as governor Keshari Nath Tripathi condemned the attack.

In the morning, a delegation of the West Bengal Commission for Women led by its chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee visited the Convent of Jesus and Mary High School and spoke to its senior officials. Sisters and nuns were seen in tears while narrating the ordeal to them. Later, Ms Mukherjee said that the institute received threats twice. She elaborated, “On November 13, a day before the Children’s Day, some miscreants threatened the school officials to kill them. The second threat came over phone seven days before the March 14 incident. The school authorities soon lodged a complaint with the police. But no action was taken. Had the police acted, the crime would not have happened. The police failed in its job.”

In Kolkata, the governor expressed his concern over the incident on the sidelines of a programme and said, “It is very sad. No one should insult any religion or the people engaged with any religious institute. I am confident that the state government will act strongly to catch the culprits.” During the day, superintendent of police (Nadia) Arnab Ghosh said that eight youth were detained following raids in Ranaghat and other places. While grilling them extensively, the CID found that the face of one of the suspects partially resembles to that of one of the four accused seen in the CCTV footages, sources disclosed. The CID is not ruling out the possibility of an old grudge behind the incident. A high alert has been sounded by the police since Nadia is located at the India-Bangladesh border. Forwarding the images of the accused to the Border Security Force, the CID sought assistance from the Central force to catch them. Meanwhile, school students took out rallies in and around Ranaghat to demand justice and oppose the political parties’ beeline. In the afternoon, when a BJP delegation went to visit the school, they were greeted with strong opposition by the school. (Asian Age 16/3/15)

52. Delhi Archbishop Couto condemns attack on Christians (7)

New Delhi: Delhi Archbishop Anil J.T. Couto on Monday strongly condemned the recent attacks on Christians, including the one on a convent in West Bengal, in which a nun was gangraped, and destruction of an under-construction church in Hisar and called for immediate action by authorities to maintain peace and harmony. Archbishop Couto also observed that frequent unwarranted remarks and irresponsible statements made by leaders of both religious groups and political parties hurt the sentiments of minorities and created an atmosphere of hate and suspicion towards other faiths and communities. “I strongly condemn the brutal and heinous attack on Sisters of Convent of Jesus and Mary in West Bengal and destruction of a church under construction in Hisar, Haryana. I also condemn the bomb attacks in Lahore yesterday. Any form of violence in the name of religion needs to be stopped immediately through a collective and strong political will by the governments, both at central and state levels,” the Archbishop said. Maintaining that hate campaigns against the Christian community and the Christian faith by fundamentalist and extremist religious organisations in the past preceded large scale violence against the Christians community, he called for an immediate action by local police and civil authorities to stop such campaigns and maintain social peace and harmony. He also expressed anguish and concern at the continued hate campaign against the Christian community and other minorities perpetuated by frequent and irresponsible statements made by various leaders of religious groups and political parties. An under-construction church in Kaimri village near Hisar, Haryana, was yesterday vandalised by a group and the cross replaced with an idol of Hanuman, triggering tension in the state.

In another incident, a 71-year-old nun was allegedly gangraped by dacoits in a convent school in Nadia district of West Bengal, evoking an uproar across the state. A CID probe has been ordered in the incident but no one has been arrested yet. The gang also decamped with Rs 12 lakh kept in the almirah. (Asian Age 17/3/15)

 

53. Nagaland Catholics condemn repeated attacks on Christians (7)

Kohima: Expressing concern over the increasing acts of violence against Christians and the “apathy” of the Union government, the Catholic Association of Nagaland (CAN) alleged that ever since the new government had come to power at the Centre, several churches had been attacked in the country’s capital. In a statement recently, CAN stated it was horrified at the “inhuman, undemocratic and appalling fanatical position” adopted by some members of the dominant religion in the country. “From north to south of the country, violence against Christians has been unabated,” it stated. CAN termed the most recent attack in West Bengal, where a 72-year-old nun was gang-raped, as “most detestable, despicable and utterly loathsome act.” It said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told church leaders on February 18 that every citizen had the right to follow any faith without being coerced and had vowed to protect all religious groups in India and also asserted that his government would not allow any religious group, belonging to majority or minority groups, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. “The promises of the Prime Minister have been mocked,” CAN stated. Concerned over the growing attacks on the Christian community across the country, 19 incumbent and former Christian members of Parliament met in New Delhi on Friday to chalk out a strategy to counter these attacks and project the community’s immense contribution to the nation. The meeting was attended by several senior members including former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma from Meghalaya, Derek O’Brian from West Bengal, Jose K Mani of Kerela, former Nagaland chief minister and present MP Neiphiu Rio, Oscar Fernandes, P J Kurian and Rabi Barnard among others. (Times of India 23/3/15)

54. Six arrested for MP church attack (7)

Jabalpur/Mumbai: Amid widespread outcry over an attack on a cathedral and a church-run school in Jabalpur in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the police Monday arrested six people belonging to a right-wing Hindu group but let them off on bail soon, drawing flak from the Christian community. But in neighbouring Maharashtra, also ruled by the BJP, a probe into Saturday’s attack on a Navi Mumbai church was yet to make any breakthrough even as the issue triggered a heated debate in the Assembly, leading to the Opposition walkout. The police identified those arrested in Jabalpur as Dharam Sena leader Yogesh Agrawal and his associates Nitin Rajak, Prateek Pyasi, Anurag Choukse, Abhishek Choukse and Sharad Rao. According to Additional SP Isha Pant, they had been booked under Sections 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 294 (punishment for obscene acts or words in public), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 427 (mischief) and other relevant sections of the IPC. They were, however, granted bail by the Cantonment Police, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place, on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each. The church authorities expressed disappointment over the grant of bail immediately after the arrest. “We are not at all happy. The action (arrest) appears just a formality. We want that they be punished,” a church spokesperson said. A delegation of Christian community led by Vicar of Peter and Paul Cathedral Father James D’Souza met Jabalpur IGP D. Sriniwas Roa and lodged a protest over the bail granted to the accused and handed over to police the CCTV footage of the attack. The incident took place on March 20 night when some members of the minority community were allegedly assaulted by Dharam Sena and Bajrang Dal activists. (Asian Age 24/3/15)

55. Christian institutions to hire armed guards (7)

KOLKATA: Christian institutions have been advised to strengthen security, and hire armed guards if possible, in the wake of the Ranaghat horror. No formal instructions have been issued but the two churches under whose tutelage various Christian congregations function in the state have sent out advisories to have a structured security in place — a far cry from the elderly durwans, armed with a stick, at best. “We cannot ignore the urgency of this any more. Armed security is the need of the hour. We never thought that things would come to such a pass,” said Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the Roman Catholic church, second in command to the Archbishop who heads the church in Bengal. “Many congregations, especially those in remote areas, do not have that kind of money, but security cannot be compromised with any more,” Gomes said. Bishop Ashoke Biswas of the Church of North India has already issued a circular to all CNI schools on this. “From private security guards to CCTVs and view cutters, we have taken a large number of measures because our schools have big campuses,” said Supriyo Dhar, secretary, La Martiniere Schools. The home department has asked Kolkata Police to keep a close watch on religious institutions and nearby localities. Beat officers have to keep records of their rounds of such places, say sources. The local police will vet the security staff of these institutions. Police have been told to increase their presence at the various hostels and ensure that more armed cops are on duty at night near such “sensitive” locations. The church heads are happy at the concern showed by the state government. “But we cannot accept the fact that the accused in the Ranaghat tragedy are still at large. The fact that they were at the spot in close proximity of police is just unacceptable. Private and armed security is our only answer to the changing situation. We cannot take any chances,” said a church official. (Times of India 25/3/15)

56. Christian missionary meet attacked (7)

Lucknow:  Alleged right wing activists attacked a meeting of a Christian missionary outfit in Uttar Pradesh’s Maharajganj district. Several people were injured. According to police sources here, a few dozen right wing workers attacked the meeting being held at Belwa Ghat in the district on Wednesday, alleging that the missionary people were engaged in conversion. Sources said the attackers were armed with sticks and did not spare even women and children. A case was registered against a former district chief of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad  and some others after a complaint was lodged by Peter Masih, organiser of the religious meet. Security personnel have been deployed at the village, police said. Earlier too, right wing activists targeted such meetings in different parts of the state. They have warned that they will continue to use force to thwart what they allege is conversion of Hindus into Christians by luring them with money and jobs. (Deccan Herald 27/3/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

57. J&K govt approves 3,000 posts for Kashmiri pandits under PM’s package (13)

JAMMU: The Jammu & Kashmir government on Tuesday approved 3,000 supernumerary posts to Kashmiri pandit migrants under the Prime Minister’s package in the Valley. “The state government has approved 3,000 supernumerary posts for Kashmiri pandit migrants under PM’s package in Valley,” a senior officer of the state government said. Minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs and relief and rehabilitation, Syed Basharat Bukhari held extensive discussions on relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants. In this regard, Bukhari directed the relief commissioner to collect data of migrant unemployed youth who are registered as Kashmiri migrants in Jammu or outside the state besides enjoining the youth to submit their details within a period of 20 days. While taking stock of the relief and rehabilitation measures for Kashmiri migrants, the minister directed the reconstitution of the Apex Advisory Committee (AAC), an apex body of representatives of Kashmiri migrants, who migrated from the Valley. “Creation of 3,000 supernumerary posts for providing employment to migrant youth in the Valley under PM’s package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants was also decided in the meeting,” he said. It was informed in the meeting that presently 18,589 families are drawing relief of the 41,117 migrant families. District wise, Srinagar has the maximum number of migrant families at 13,491 followed by Anantnag which has 9,291. During 2014-15, an amount of Rs 127.28 crore has been incurred on cash assistance, food grains, building infrastructure facilities in camps and on civic action programme for migrant families. The facilities and living conditions in various camps including Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagiti were also informed in the meeting. The minister said that he would carry out on spot inspection of these camps in due course of time to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions. In order to address various issues of the migrant families, the minister directed the Secretary Revenue for constitution of a grievance cell in the office of additional secretary revenue.: The Jammu & Kashmir government on Tuesday approved 3,000 supernumerary posts to Kashmiri pandit migrants under the Prime Minister’s package in the Valley. “The state government has approved 3,000 supernumerary posts for Kahsmiri pandit migrants under PM’s package in Valley,” a senior officer of the state government said. Minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs and relief and rehabilitation, Syed Basharat Bukhari held extensive discussions on relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants. In this regard, Bukhari directed the relief commissioner to collect data of migrant unemployed youth who are registered as Kashmiri migrants in Jammu or outside the state besides enjoining the youth to submit their details within a period of 20 days. While taking stock of the relief and rehabilitation measures for Kashmiri migrants, the minister directed the reconstitution of the Apex Advisory Committee (AAC), an apex body of representatives of Kashmiri migrants, who migrated from the Valley. “Creation of 3,000 supernumerary posts for providing employment to migrant youth in the Valley under PM’s package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants was also decided in the meeting,” he said. It was informed in the meeting that presently 18,589 families are drawing relief of the 41,117 migrant families. District wise, Srinagar has the maximum number of migrant families at 13,491 followed by Anantnag which has 9,291. During 2014-15, an amount of Rs 127.28 crore has been incurred on cash assistance, food grains, building infrastructure facilities in camps and on civic action programme for migrant families. The facilities and living conditions in various camps including Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagiti were also informed in the meeting. The minister said that he would carry out on spot inspection of these camps in due course of time to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions. In order to address various issues of the migrant families, the minister directed the Secretary Revenue for constitution of a grievance cell in the office of additional secretary revenue. ITimes of India 11/3/15)

58. Need for effective treaty with Bangla stressed (13)

GUWAHATI, March 14 – Highlighting the urgent need for a repatriation treaty between India and Bangladesh for effectively deporting the illegal migrants from Assam, the Axom Jatiya Gana Sangram Parishad today organised a seminar on the topic ‘Why do we need an Indo-Bangladesh repatriation treaty’ and launched a public awareness campaign on the issue. Introducing the topic, Dr Aroop J Kalita, chief convenor of the forum, said that the treaty was a must for facilitating a concrete mechanism for deporting migrants from Bangladesh. Stressing the fact that in the absence of a concrete mechanism to deport the illegal migrants, the authorities only push back the detected Bangladeshis from the border, the Parishad said that eventually the expelled migrants re-enter India, as the Bangladesh government does not formally receive them. The Parishad argued that a large portion of illegal migrants do not fall under the jurisdiction of the existing extradition treaty between the two countries due to some legal hitch. Throwing light on the legal aspects of the problem of illegal infiltration, Dr Ramesh Chandra Borpatragohain, Dean, Faculty of Law, Gauhati University, said that the issue was no longer a national issue. “It is an international issue because it involves two sovereign countries, and therefore, this has to be dealt by the principles of international laws. “Since the entire issue of deportation has become vague in the absence of a properly laid down mechanism, and given the Supreme Court’s recent directions on the issue, it is the bounden duty of the Government of India to immediately negotiate it with the Government of Bangladesh and sign a repatriation treaty to resolve the entire problem,” he added. Advocate Durlav Mahanta, while speaking on the occasion said that it was necessary to raise the issue in Delhi from a political perspective as the pressure groups of the State were not strong enough to make a difference in policy making. Former bureaucrat Dr Rohini Kr Baruah gave a historical perspective of the entire issue. Several noted personalities spoke on the occasion. (The Assam Tribune 14/3/15)

59. Thousands of Afghan refugees facing harassment flee Pakistan (13)

Torkham (Afghanistan): Crossing back into his native Afghanistan from Pakistan, Nezamuddin wept as he recounted the hardships his family of 11 had faced in their years as refugees, troubles that only grew insufferable after a recent terror attack there killed 150 people. “Whenever there was a bomb blast they would arrest us for it, beat us up, take our money,” said Nezamuddin, who goes by one name like many Afghans. “Now I don’t know how I am going to look after my old father, myself and my mother.” Since January, almost 50,000 Afghans like Nezamuddin’s family have passed through Torkham, double the amount of all refugees returning through the border town in 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many like Nezamuddin say they fled Pakistan over increased harassment by police who told them to return to Afghanistan, a country many have never even seen, putting new pressure on both countries to find solutions to the decades-old flow of refugees. There are some 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan and up to an estimated 1.5 million unregistered Afghans live there, said Abdul Quadir Baloch, the Pakistani minister responsible for refugee issues. Exact figures remain elusive as tens of thousands cross the border daily. Pakistan initially welcomed waves of Afghan refugees after the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union. But as years progressed, attitudes hardened. Many now see Afghan refugees as criminals or militants or taking jobs from Pakistanis. Then came the Dec. 16 Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, in which 150 people, most of them children, were killed. Suddenly, Afghan refugees reported increased harassment by authorities checking their documents, demanding bribes and telling them they had to return to Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said. At Torkham, Afghan refugees now pour over the border with little more than the clothes on their backs. Some arrive on foot, others in rented trucks with family members huddled between bags, boxes, mattresses and suitcases. Awal Khan, a father of seven, spent 35 years in Pakistan, arriving as a baby when his parents fled after the 1979 invasion. Khan said he worked as a daily laborer, earning just enough to feed his family. Serious harassment began after the school attack, he said. “They went house to house, looking for Afghan refugees. They forced us to leave,” he told The Associated Press. “I have no house to live in and no money to rent one. We will have to live in a tent.” Syed Liaqat Banori, who heads the Islamabad-based Society for Human Rights and Prisoners’ Aid, said authorities often harass Afghan refugees following security incidents but this time was much worse. (Zee News 16/3/15)

 

60. J&K govt ambiguous on west Pak refugees’ issue: Hurriyat (13)

Srinagar: Hardline Hurriyat conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Saturday accused the Jammu and Kashmir government of taking an ambiguous stand on west Pakistan refugees, saying the state was under no obligation to rehabilitate them. The Hurriyat was reacting to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s statement that the state government will ensure employment opportunities for the West Pakistan Refugees in the private sector. “The government has ambiguous stand with regarding to the Pakistan Refugees and it seems that the government is shying away from expressing their stand,” Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said. (Zee News 21/3/15)

61. Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs, PoK Refugees (13)

SRI NAGAR: The recommendation by a Parliamentary Panel to grant minority status to migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in Jammu and Kashmir has led to strong resentment from Sikhs and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees, who have warned of a strong agitation. “The recommendation by Parliamentary Panel is in contravention to the guidelines set by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as far as classification of minorities is concerned,”  All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here on Monday. He said the NCM had made it clear that there were six minority communities in the country — Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. “Recommending  minority status to the Pandits is against the procedure laid down by the NCM. Granting minority status to Pandits would upset the whole equilibrium in the society,” said Raina. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report on rehabilitation of migrant KPs had urged the J&K government to look into the demand for granting minority status to the Pandits, who migrated from the Valley after the eruption of militancy in 1989. “J&K has a special status in the Indian Constitution so the state government should look into the demand of the Pandits for conferring on them minority status keeping in mind their pitiable condition,” the panel has stated. The J&K government has recently revealed that 37,128 Kashmiri Pandit families had migrated from Kashmir following the outbreak of militancy in 1989. Raina warned that if the Central government went ahead with granting  minority status to Kashmiri Pandits then the Sikhs would have no option but to come out on to the streets and stage strong protests in support of their demands. “We have suffered a lot in the past and we cannot live with it forever. Justice has to be done and there cannot be any compromise in this regard. We will launch an agitation so that justice is done and injustice is rooted out,” he said. The APSCC chairman said the National Minority Act needed to be implemented in letter and spirit in Jammu and Kashmir so that the Sikh community gets the privileges that they were entitled to. Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation for PoK refugees, said the Centre’s move to grant minority status to KPs was unacceptable. “The Parliamentary Committee recommended minority status to Kashmiri Pandits by looking at their pitiable condition but the panel has not been moved by the miserable plight of PoK refugees, who are living in gloom since 1947,” he said. The PoK refugees migrated to the state from Pok after 1947. Chuni said Kashmiri Pandits had their safe homesoin the state while PoK refugees and Chammb refugees had lost their homes, land, everything and were forced to live in despondent conditions. “We will oppose tooth and nail granting of minority status to Pandits. We will mobilise people and launch an agitation if the Pandits are granted the status,” Chuni said, adding they would also approach the courts if the Centre went against the people’s aspirations and provided minority status to Pandits. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

62. Rijiju visits refugee camp (13)

KANCHEEPURAM: Framing of a refugee policy will be considered if needed, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju has said. Talking to reporters at the Sri Lankan Refugee Camp at Gummidipoondi in Tiruvallur district, on Tuesday, the Minister said that all humanitarian support was being extended to refugees in the country, even though India was not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. When asked whether the present government was contemplating of signing the treaty in view of the influx of refugees faced by border States,  Mr.Rijiju said as of now there was no such proposal. Earlier, addressing refugee camp inmates, the Minister assured them that as long as they stayed in the country, the Indian government would take care of them and extend whatever necessary help in association with the State Government. He complemented the State government for providing basic civic amenities and other steps initiated to provide good care to the refugees in the camps. Meanwhile, representative of the Gummidipoondi refugee camp, P.Sivakumar, in his memorandum stated that five per cent of the refugees were willing to return to their homeland in view of the steps initiated by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. Further, 30 percent of them would wish to return after the completion of the education of their children, whereas five per cent preferred to stay in India, it added. Stating that some Sri Lankan Tamils, living in camps and as well as outside, were languishing in the absence of registration as refugees, the memorandum made a request that they too should be registered as refugees. (The Hindu 25/3/15)

63. UNHCR says highest ever number of asylum applications submitted by Pak in 2014 (13)

Karachi: A report has revealed that more than 26,000 applications seeking asylum were received from Pakistan in 2014, the highest-ever number of such applications received from a country on record, making the nation the sixth largest source of asylum seekers. A report published by the UNHCR titled “Asylum Trends 2014,” showed that about 26,300 applications were submitted by asylum seekers in Pakistan, which is slightly over four percent higher than 25,200 applications received in 2013, reported The Express Tribune. The UN agency noted that although the increase was nominal, just 4.3 percent higher than previous year’s numbers, yet in comparison to the global increase of approximately 45 percent last year, it was the fourth consecutive annual rise for the country. While request for asylum to Italy from Pakistanis rose by more than 100% from 3,000 claims in 2013 to 7,100 last year, the number of Pakistanis seeking asylum in Hungary decreased significantly from over 3,000 claims in 2013 to just 300 last year. Barring Italy, Germany and United Kingdom were the other major destinations for asylum seekers from Pakistan with 4,000 and 3,900 applications, respectively. (New Kerala 27/3/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

64. Attorney General’s office under RTI ambit, says Delhi HC (1)

New Delhi: The office of the Attorney General for India (AGI) is a public authority falling under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Delhi high court held on Tuesday. In a ruling that would make the office of the top law officer answerable to public, the HC said AGI was a constitutional functionary and its role was not limited to merely acting as a “lawyer for the government of India”. Under the RTI Act, any government office or authority or any organisation substantially funded by government would come under the purview of the transparency law. Justice Vibhu Bakhru also refused to accept the government’s contention that nature of information or advice rendered by the AGI was “privileged” and not amenable to disclosure under the RTI Act. “Merely because the bulk of the duties of the AGI are advisory, the same would not render the office of the AGI any less authoritative than other constitutional functionaries,” Bakhru said. The HC also refused to consider the government’s argument that there was practical difficulty in providing information under the Act as the office of the AGI did not have the requisite infrastructure, saying, “This cannot be considered as a reason for excluding the applicability of the Act on a public authority.” The office of AGI can refuse to disclose all such information or data which falls under the Section 8 of the RTI Act, the HC ruled. (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

65. RTI query reveals over 12,000 posts lying vacant in Maha police dept (1)

This was in response to a RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali to the DGP of Maharashtra state police force headquarters. As many as 12,115 posts in Maharashtra Police department are lying vacant, out of which the highest 2,708 vacancies are of sub-inspectors, an RTI query has revealed. There are total 2,19,986 posts in Maharashtra Police department out of which 2,07,871 are filled. There are a total of 12,115 posts lying vacant, Public Information Officer P K Ghuge said in response to a RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali to DGP of Maharashtra state police force headquarters. Galgali had sought information on the total number of employees as well as sanctioned and vacant posts in the police department. The police department has 6,951 sub-inspectors presently, whereas the required number is 9,659. Thus, 2,708 posts of police sub-inspectors are lying vacant. Besides, three posts of additional DG out of 25 are vacant, whereas eight posts of special inspector general of police are not filled out of total 47. The other posts lying vacant include five out of 36 of deputy inspector general, both posts of inspector general (technical), 30 out of 265 of superintendent of police/deputy commissioner of police, 209 out of 686 deputy superintendent of police/assistant commissioner of police (unarmed), 50 out of 87 for armed deputy superintendent, 471 out of 4,447 of assistant police inspector and 1,030 out of 18,804 of assistant sub-inspector. Galgali also sought information about the number of Hindu, Sikh, Christian, and Muslim officers in Maharashtra Police. Ghuge informed that the recruitments were not done on the basis of religion, but on different caste categories. (The Hindu 15/3/15)

66. State info panel imposes Rs 25K penalty on dy secy (1)

BHOPAL: State Information Commission has slapped a penalty on an officer for withholding RTI information. Chief information commissioner KD Khan imposed Rs 25,000 penalty on deputy secretary of urban administration development department for not giving RTI information within 30 days. This is the second time in a month when an officer has been summoned by the commission for misusing powers vested in public information officer (PIO). The action comes for withholding information demanded by a senior union leader over a query on a government letter. “The action will make them make them think twice before they misuse the act, MP State information Commission under secretary,” Parag Karkare said. Karkare said, “For some PIOs, Rs 25,000 is a pittance as they gain more by concealing the information. For greater transparency, either a heavy penalty should be imposed or there should a strong deterrent.”.. (Times of India 16/3/15)

67. Can’t penalise political parties for not following RTI: CIC (1)

New Delhi: In a blow to transparency in political parties, the Central Information Commission Tuesday said it cannot penalise parties for failure to implement the information watchdog’s order bringing them under the ambit of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The reason: the parties have not appointed the Central Information Officers against whom any action can be taken. In an order winding up its inquiry on failure of six national political parties to comply with its June 2013 order, the commission said penalties cannot be imposed on any leader or member of a party as they were not government servants. The CIC said that the failure to comply with the order has not resulted in any demonstrable loss to the complainants. It also asked the Department of Personnel and Training to fill in legal gaps. The order, given on a complaint of RTI activist Subhash Agrawal and the Association of Democratic Reforms, was issued by a bench of three former bureaucrats, Vijai Sharma, Manjula Parashar and Sharat Sabharwal, who have also applied for the position of the Chief Information Commissioner. The commission said the legal position was that imposition of penalty and award of compensation cannot be considered. Other bodies may refuse to abide by the CIC directive citing this order, Aggarwal said. “It is true that CIC has limited powers but it can always approach a court to get its orders enforced,” said former Chief Information Commissioner AN Tiwari.  India’s first chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah agreed with him. Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said that in 2009 the CIC had faced similar situation where the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) refused to comply with its order. The CIC issued a notice asking why it should not launch criminal against the department secretary, he said, adding, “Strangely, the CIC does not seem to have adopted such a course of action in this case”. “Even Presidents/Secretaries of political parties could be taken as deemed CPIOs in absence of appointment of CPIOs by defaulting parties,” Agrawal said. (Hindustan Times 18/3/15)

68. SIT to probe land allotment scam (1)

CHANDIGARH: Haryana Home Secretary has constituted a five-member Special Investigation Team to probe the 13-year-old industrial workers land allotment scam of Panipat – in which affluent people had fraudulently applied for 897 plots meant for the workers. Earlier the State Chief Secretary had submitted his status report to the Lokayukta in the case. The investigation into the scam, in which 31 people had been named in the First Information Report, had got murkier after it was alleged some officials of the State Vigilance Bureau and Haryana Urban Development Authority had colluded to scuttle the probe. The Lokayukta has now asked the Special Investigation Team to complete its probe within six months. However, Right to Information activist P.P. Kapoor, who had first brought the case to light when he had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court several years ago, has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter alleging that certain officials of SVB had earlier tried to thwart the investigation. It was in January this year that the probe gathered momentum with the Lokayukta directing the Director General of Police to file an investigation report into the case which pertained to wrongful allotment of plots meant for industrial workers to influential people. While the allotments were made by the Om Prakash Chautala government, even during the 10-year Congress rule the case made little headway as no arrests were made in the multi-crore scam. Mr. Kapoor had moved the Lokayukta on June 26, 2014 and subsequently the ombudsman had directed the Chief Secretary (Home) to file a report within 45 days. However, when for over five months the investigation report was not submitted, the Lokayukta on January 8 directed the DGP to submit the report. The case pertains to allotment of 897 freehold residential plots for industrial workers in Panipat by Haryana Urban Development Authority in 2002. Following complaints about irregularities in allotment, State Vigilance Bureau had started investigations in December 2005. Subsequently, through his RTI petitions, Mr. Kapoor exposed how several plots were allotted on fraudulent applications. He also filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2008 and submitted a list of 85 ineligible allottees, many belonging to influential and affluent families. The court had then directed SVB to probe the matter. The Bureau later submitted that false affidavits and fake experience certificates were used for applying under the scheme and a case was registered against 21 persons. But Mr. Kapoor alleged delay by SVB in investigation and attempts by HUDA to protect its officials who made the allotments. (The Hindu 21/3/15)

69. RTI query results in Rs 1.87 cr recovery from toll operator (1)

New Delhi: An RTI application from a citizen helped National Highway Authority of India to detect overcharging of toll on a Bangalore toll plaza resulting in recovery of Rs 1.87 crore. The applicant P A Burge, in his application, stated that he wants to know the reasons for which the user fee was being charged at Rs 20 and Rs 40 whereas it should have been Rs 15 and Rs 35 respectively. Soon after his RTI application landed in the NHAI offices, a surprise check was carried out Hattargi user fee plaza which showed the commuters were indeed charged extra. “The respondent stated that the issue of imposing penalty for excess collection toll fee by toll collecting agency has been taken up with NHAI Headquarters and an amount of Rs 1.827 crore has been recovered for the same. The excess amount of toll fee collected by the agency has also been refunded to NHAI by the toll collecting agency,” Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad noted in his order. He said the fact that the appellant’s RTI application made the officials of the NHAI to investigate into the matter and to stop the excess collection of user fee from passengers, is commendable. “This not only led to the recovery of the amount of 1.827 crore along with interest to the NHAI but notice boards came up on all toll booths, displaying that the excess user fee of Rs 5 can be collected by the passengers, after producing proof of identification and excess fee charged,” he said. Azad said the Commission, therefore, appreciates the fact that the complainant has raised a very pertinent and an important issue involving public interest through his RTI application, which has been promptly redressed by the public authority. (Business Standard 22/3/15)

70. Haryana state information commission slaps Rs 25,000 fine for not giving information (1)

GURGAON: A former state public information officer (SPIO) and superintendent of Bhondsi Jail has been fined Rs 25,000 for not providing information on an RTI seeking details of food given to inmates between June 1, 2014, and June 21, 2014. Harinder Singh, currently the superintendent of Panipat Jail, has been penalized by an order of the state information commission (SIC) dated February 19. The fine will be deducted from his salary in five installments, said SIC registrar Urvashi Gulati. The RTI, filed on June 21, last year had sought copies of the ration provided to inmates of Bhondsi Jail, complaints received from jail inmates about inferior/short supply of food items and files related to illness/food poisoning of inmates. “The superintendent on complaints and illnesses. So, I filed a first appeal with IG prisons in Haryana, but didn’t get any help from there. Then I filed a second appeal before Haryana state information commission, which issued a show-cause,” said RTI activist Harinder Dhingra on Tuesday. (Times of India 25/3/15)

71. Order bringing Attorney General’s office under RTI stayed (1)

New Delhi: A Delhi High Court order that had brought the Attorney-General’s office within the ambit of the Right to Information Act was stayed by a Division Bench on Wednesday on an appeal by the Union Law Ministry. The court said it needed to go through the decision of the single judge Bench and stayed the order until the next date of hearing on April 27. “We will hear the appeal filed by the Law Ministry and have to stay the order of the single judge, otherwise the purpose will not be served,” said the Bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S. Endlaw. On March 10, stating that even under common parlance, the office of the Attorney-General has always been understood to mean a “constitutional authority,” the single Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru had refused to accept that this office was outside the ambit of the Right to Information Act and further directed the Attorney-General’s office to reconsider the RTI application that it had rejected on these grounds. The ruling came on a hearing of a petition challenging an order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) . The CIC had held that the office of the AGI was not a public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. The petition also challenged a letter by the AGI refusing all information to the petitioner under the RTI Act. “An office that is established under the Constitution of India would clearly fall within the definition of Section 2(h) (definition of public authority of the RTI Act). Even in common parlance, the AGI has always been understood as a constitutional authority,” the single judge had said. The judge also referred to a precedent of the Supreme Court which held the office of the AGI to be a “public” office. “In this view also, the office of the AGI should be a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” the court had said. (The Hindu 28/3/15)

72. RTI Activist Dares Odisha Government Over IIM Issue (1)

BALANGIR:An RTI activist has challenged the State Government’s stand that the Centre was not willing to set up IIM in Western Odisha due to lack of air connectivity. The RTI activist of Balangir, Hemanta Panda, who had sought information in this regard, claimed that there is no guideline which would hinder establishment of IIM in this part of the State. In support of his claim, Panda cited the case of Srimore in Himachal Pradesh where the Centre has decided to establish an IIM. Stating that there is no airport near Srimore, Panda said the nearest railway station is located 70 km from the place. “The State Government is playing with the emotion of people of Western Odisha over IIM location,” he said. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

73. This man cycles 40 miles every day to teach Lucknow’s slum children (11)

Lucknow: Every day, Aditya Kumar cycles around 40 miles with a heavy load of books and his few possessions on the back of his battered old bike to bring education to India’s slum children. The science graduate has dedicated his life to teaching in the slums of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, and home to some of the country’s most deprived communities. He takes no money for his lessons, which he gives all over the city, parking his bike up wherever he is needed and staging an impromptu outdoor lesson. “These children do not know what a classroom looks like. Until I met them, they had no reason to visit a school,” Kumar told AFP during one of his lessons, gesturing to a group of rapt-looking pupils. A Right to Education Act passed in 2009 guarantees state schooling for children from six to 14 in India. But education activists say schools are often overcrowded or inaccessible, or that the quality of teaching is so poor that children simply stop going. Poverty is also a major driver, with India home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. Kumar, who does not know his exact age but thinks he is in his mid-40s, has been conducting his mobile school for around two decades, with no fixed curriculum and no standard text books. Most of his pupils are under 10 and have no education at all. He teaches them functional English and mathematics, with the aim of getting them to a standard where they can start going to a regular school. “I can relate to the lives of these kids. I know how tough life can be for want of an education,” says Kumar. As the son of a poor labourer who wanted his children in paid work as soon as they were able, Kumar had to fight to go to school. He managed to find a place in a government-run establishment, but he ran away from home when he was a teenager because his parents insisted he stop studying and start earning his keep. For a while, he lived on the streets, before meeting a teacher who spotted his potential and helped him graduate from university in science. In return, Kumar helped his new mentor with his teaching — and found his vocation in the process. He has no teaching qualifications, however, and says he never had any ambition to become a proper school teacher. He believes he can make more of an impact on literacy through his mobile school, which he says reaches around 200 children a day.Government figures show that around 97% of children of primary school age are in education, but campaigners say the true figure is far lower. Many of those who do attend classes are failing to learn the basics, according to a major, annual survey of school children in rural areas released in January. Only one quarter of children aged eight could read a text book meant for seven year olds, the survey of 570,000 students found. “Overall, the situation with basic reading continues to be extremely disheartening in India,” the survey, by Indian education research group Pratham, concluded. Kumar’s solo efforts are applauded by child rights activists, including teacher Roop Rekha Verma who said it was “no mean feat” teaching from a bike. “I am so glad that his efforts have exposed so many underprivileged children to the world of words,” the former vice-chancellor of the University of Lucknow told AFP. “And with this exposure these children now have a reason to attempt accessing newspapers and books,” she said. But she stressed much more needed to be done to help India’s millions of impoverished children facing bleak futures receive an education. To earn money, Kumar occasionally does paid tuition for private students. But mostly he lives on charitable donations, sleeping on the streets like many of his pupils. When Limca — the makers of a soft drink that publishes India’s answer to the Guinness Book of Records — wanted to honour him for his work in 2014, the certificate had to be mailed to a well-wisher as Kumar has no fixed address. “I am used to it,” he told AFP. “I have learnt the art of surviving.” (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

74. School Student Strength Declining in State: Study (11)

BHUBANESWAR: The number of students in primary and upper primary schools in the State is reducing drastically. A recent study conducted by the School and Mass Education Department has brought to the fore the alarming trend. Official sources said between 2011-12 and 2013-14, the number of students in the schools run by School and Mass Education Department has come down from 52,39,597 to 49,24,453, a drop of 3.15 lakh. During 2010-11, there were 50,856 primary and upper primary schools in the State. The number increased to 52,521 in 2011-12. But, the number came down to 51,594 in 2013-14 as 927 schools were closed. A New Delhi-based organisation, ICRA, was entrusted to study the reasons of reduction of the number of students in primary schools in the State. In its study, the organisation has attributed poor quality of teaching, poor parent-teacher interaction, lack of resources and migration for livelihood for the declining trend in the students’ strength in primary education sector. Besides, the study has highlighted other important aspects for decline in school enrolment. ICRA has suggested orientation of parents, refresher training and capacity building programmes for teachers, maintenance of school report cards, preparation of monitoring plan and linkages with other departments like Women and Child Development to work out action plan for retaining students in schools. The report has also recommended evolving a tracking system for children, involvement of community-based organisations for ensuring enrolment, need for increasing school leadership to check the drop in number of students. After implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act, the School and Mass Education Department is emphasising on enrolment through various schemes including Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

75. A Project to Improve Educational,Living Standards of ST Students (11)

KOZHIKODE: A three-year project has been started by Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST) aiming to improve the educational and living standards of Scheduled Caste students studying in Model Residential Schools (MRS) in the state. The project, funded by the Ministry for Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes and supported by the Education Department, is the first of its kind started by the state. In line with the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in the country, MRS were designed to provide quality education for children belonging to SC/ST and below poverty line families. “The aim was lost midway when those Model Residential Schools failed to produce not even a single achiever,” said CREST Associate Programme Coordinator Vinod Krishnan. “Nine schools were selected from the state and personality development classes are being given to them, by including 60 days extra classes, complementing the syllabus,” he added. The selected model residential schools are in Punnapra (Alappuzha), Peermade (Idukki), Keezhmad, Aluva (Ernakulam), Vadakkanchery and Chelakkara (both in Thrissur), Thrithala and Kuzhalmannam (both in Palakkad), Ullyeri (Kozhikode) and Udinoor (Kasargod). The current MRS in Kozhikode district is functioning in a rented building. Most of the other Model Residential Schools do not have staff quarters and those with quarters, do not have primary facilities like water connection. So, teachers do not prefer to stay there. Week-long workshops are planned for each schools in the first phase. Eminent scholars will interact with the students and instill in them confidence. Instead of getting secluded from the society, they will be creatively motivated to succeed in life. To MRS, students are admitted up to class five, on the basis of an entrance examination held in February every year. Classes will begin in June as in the case of other schools having state syllabus. Usually the intake preference is for children from SC (60 per cent), and the rest belonging to children from BPL families and ST. (New Indian Express 17/3/15)

76. Capital’s schools violate education act, force students to sit for tests (11)

New Delhi: Nursery admissions may be under the scanner in the city but schools tend to get away with violating the Right to Education Act when it comes to admission in senior classes. While the RTE clearly states that for admissions between classes 1 and 8 schools cannot ask students to write tests or appear for interactions, schools in the city routinely ask students seeking admission in classes 5, 6 and 8 to do so. The latest in the list of these schools is Modern School, Barakhamba Road. The school invited aspirants who wanted admission in class 6 for an interaction. A list of candidates who were shortlisted for admissions was also put up on the website on Tuesday. When asked about the scheduled interaction, the principal of the school, Vijay Datta, asked for some time to ‘find out about the notice’. He however, did not respond to calls and messages after that. The website of the school shows the link where the names of the shortlisted candidates can be seen. The link, however, became inactive on Wednesday. Hindustan Times has a copy of the original notice posted on the school website. According to the notice, the interactive session will be held on March 21 at 9.30 am. Parents have been asked to drop the children to school at 9 am and pick them up by 11 am. According to activists, this is not the first time this has happened and several other schools do the same. “Every year, we get a large number of complaints by parents regarding similar tests being conducted by schools in senior classes. In the admission season, most of the attention is centred on nursery. Schools in the city are, however, guilty of flouting RTE guidelines,” said Khagesh Jha, member, Social Jurist, an NGO that works in the field of education. Another anomaly that Jha points out is that schools refuse to implement EWS quota reservations in non-entry level classes. According to rules, 20% of the students admitted in classes above nursery, kindergarten or 1 are supposed to be from the EWS category. This is because schools were given land on very low rates. “Schools are supposed to notify admission vacancies, along with the seats for EWS category, clearly in admission notices. None of them, however, do it,” Jha added. (Hindustan Times 19/3/15)

 

77. Right to education delay: 250 BPL kids await admission (11)

JAMSHEDPUR: The process of mandatory Below Poverty Level(BPL) children’s admission under Right To Education Act 2008 seems to be yielding no results as 250 poor candidates still await admission call from private English medium schools. Several candidates hailing from poor economic background, have submitted the requisite documents to their neighbourhood schools for seeking admission in accordance with the provisions of the RTE Act but they are still waiting for a call from the respective schools. “It’s over a few weeks since I am waiting for a call from the school. Hopefully, my ward will get free admission according to RTE Act,” said Rita, who lives in Gandhi Ashram in Sakchi. Rita is keen to get her child admitted to the nursery class of Dayanand Public School, Bistupur. The case of Videsh Jal, resident of Devnagar is also the same. “The school (MNPS) did not find my son eligible for admission in nursery as school claims he is over admissible age which according to RTE guidelines is not correct. I have approached the school again hoping to get a positive response soon,” said the poor father. Like Videsh and Rita, several BPL parents have claimed that schools have put their candidates on waiting list at entry level classes. It is learnt that several English schools have resorted to delaying tactics to thwart free admission of the BPL candidates in their respective institutions as mandated under RTE rule. (Times of India 21/3/15)

78. School education min wants CBSE schools under state vigil (11)

BHOPAL: To crack the whip on schools affiliated to CBSE, school education minister Paras Jain said CBSE schools should also be monitored by respective state governments. Jain was participating in a meeting of education ministers of various states chaired by HRD minister Smriti Irani, pertaining to new education policy in Delhi on Saturday. Meanwhile, uniform courses should be taught in all states of the country. For this, NCERT textbooks should be made compulsory in all states. BEd/DEd courses should be revamped for strengthening teachers’ training courses. Private school teachers should be given five years more to complete the professional courses as per Right to Education (RTE) Act. Jain also said RTE clause of not failing any student till class 8 should be revoked and board exams should be introduced in both classes 5 and 8 to improve results. English should also be made compulsory from class 1. Teaching of Hindi should be made compulsory under three-language formula in all states for making Hindi lingua franca of India. Besides, it can also be considered there would be no pressure of passing or failing exams in Hindi in non-Hindi states. (Times of India 22/3/15)

79. Right to Education struggles to make an impact (11)

New Delhi: Only 29 per cent of the seats reserved for disadvantaged students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act were filled in 2013-14, finds a new study. In Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, the percentage of seats filled was as low as three per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively. The top performing states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan together accounted for half of the national fill rate. The study, a collaborative effort of the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad, Central Square Foundation, Accountability Initiative (Centre for Policy Research) and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy draws on the District Information System for Education (DISE) 2013-14 data to provide a comparison of fill rate of RTE quota seats across private schools in 28 states. The report points out that of the 2,06,000 private unaided schools with Class I, only about 45,000 schools reported enrolling students under the provision in 2013-14. The states of Rajasthan (65 per cent), Delhi (48 per cent) and Uttarakhand (43 per cent) had the highest school participation rate, while Andhra Pradesh (0.1 per cent), Odisha (1 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (2 per cent) reported having the lowest school participation rate. According to Ashish Dhawan, founder and chief executive officer, Central square foundation, “even after five years of RTE, state rules and notifications of this provision are not clearly defined, this is leading to ineffective implementation across states.” (Business Standard 25/3/15)

80. Eligible Kids Miss Out on RTE Seats (11)

UDUPI: With the minority status of seven schools remaining unresolved in Udupi and Brahmavara blocks, eligible students will miss out on 161 free seats in these schools this academic year of 2015-16. There are 1,067 free seats in 74 schools in Udupi district. According to the Right to Education (RTE) Act, every school should reserve 25 per cent of its total seats for poor children aged between six and 14 years. However, the clause is not mandatory for schools with a minority status. The minority status is given to schools that have a large number of minority students. As a result, there were many schools lining up for the status. These seven private schools were among those claiming the status. Last year, parents admitted their children to the seven schools under the impression that education would be free of cost under the RTE. However, the schools moved the High Court claiming that they were minority institutions and could not reserve free seats. This forced the parents to pay the fees as the last date for filing the applications for free seats under the RTE was over. With the schools having approached the High Court, the students will miss out on 161 free seats. Deputy Director of Public Instruction of Udupi, Divakar Shetty, told Express that the process of accepting applications for the RTE seats was initiated, but not for these seven schools due to the stay order. He also said that the reimbursement grant of `1.54 crore given by the state government has reached the District Education Department and will be disbursed to the schools. Udupi District Education Officer Srikanth Urs said the issue has been brought to the notice of the office of Commissioner of Public Instructions. However, the issue would be solved by next year, he said. On the status of the RTE seats in the district, Urs said the admission process began on March 20. In case the students do not turn up for the seats, a second round of admission will be initiated, he added. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

81. Chhattisgarh PDS Scam: .. (21)

CHHATTISGARH:  Chhattishgarh police investigating the multi-crore rice procurement scam appear to have prima facie cleared Chief Minister Raman Singh of any involvement in it. Speaking exclusively to NDTV, Additional Director General of Police Mukesh Gupta said, “Prima Facie there does not seem to be any involvement of the Chief Minister in the rice procurement scam under investigation.” Mr Gupta’s statement comes in the backdrop of multiple raids conducted last month, where the police seized more than 300 documents and recovered Rs. 4 crores in cash. As many as 28 raids were carried out, mostly on Civil Supplies Department officials, across the state. Sources tell NDTV, that there are more than two dozen names of officials ranging from peons to department heads. These names were a part of meticulously maintained payoff records. Sources say, more than 50 entries were labelled as “for CM Sir” and the corresponding payoff amount against them is more than Rs. 50 Lakhs. “CM initials in the seized papers could also refer to Chinta Mani Chandrakar – an officer in the civil supplies department,” says Mr Gupta adding that his department will not spare someone because of their influence of position. The opposition in the state however is not convinced. A galvanised Congress has kick started a Padyatra to the capital where supporters are expected to converge on March 16 in a show of strength. “We want the Chief Minister to resign and the CBI should conduct the investigation” said Bhupesh Bhagel, Chhattisgarh Congress chief, who is leading the protest. Chhattisgarh has often been touted as a model state for its Public Distribution System by the BJP where subsidised rice is available to lakhs of poor families at Rs. 2 per kg. Reacting to the allegations, Mr Singh said “the Anti-corruption branch is conducting the investigations and will present its findings to the court”Sources tell NDTV that investigations could be complete within a week followed by filing of the chargesheet soon after. (NDTV 12/3/15)

82. Poverty kills 50% Trauma Centre head injury patients: AIIMS study (21)

New Delhi: Extreme poverty leads to the death of nearly 50% of patients with severe head injury cases within six months of their discharge from the trauma centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, an internal study has found. Almost all of them slipped into a vegetative state after sustaining severe head or spine injury, and the families did not have enough means to meet their nutritional requirements and provide nursing care, underlining the importance of hospice facilities that are scarce in India. The doctors at the centre followed up on 2,500 discharged patients from the neurosurgery department over a period of five years, starting 2008. Patients were observed for a maximum of one year before being declared vegetative. “These people belonged to migrant families in the Capital and usually were the sole breadwinners who left their village in search of work. Their wives were unable to generate enough money to keep them alive, especially with three-four kids to take care of,” said Dr Deepak Agrawal, senior surgeon at the trauma centre. The trauma centre – the only functional one in the Capital — gets about 200 injury cases in a day, of which about 40% suffer head or spine injury. 10% of those need admission, which means the hospital requires 10-15 vacant beds daily. In hospitals such as AIIMS, where shortage of beds is a daily problem, these patients with no chance of recovery– at least six at any given point – occupy beds for the want of any hospice facility. Over 3,300 people die in road accidents everyday in India and nearly a third of them result in severe head injuries but hospice facilities are scarce, resulting in terminally-ill patients occupying care beds and denying them to some acutely-injured patients. Due to lack of enough research, however, there is no consolidated data to gauge the enormity of the problem. About 20% of those discharged from the AIIMS trauma centre are in a vegetative state, which means there is no responsiveness and awareness due to irreversible injury to the brain. All these people need is nursing care to avoid bed sores and chest infection. These patients can’t eat regular meals; a mixture of a glass of milk, sugar, soybean powder and a little ghee or oil is what they require three times a day to survive. As most of the people in a vegetative state come from a very poor financial background, the families are unable to bear the maintenance cost. “We have seen many families get wiped out due to this problem. It’s high time the government takes note and focus on rehabilitation of such people or at least provide some financial assistance to their families,” Dr Agrawal added. (Hindustan Times 16/3/15)

 

83. India among 5 nations accounting for half of world’s hungry (21)

New Delhi: Five middle-income countries (MICs) which displayed strong economic growth in 2014 – India, Brazil, China, Mexico and Indonesia – account for 363 million, or a half, of the world’s hungry, according to a report released on Wednesday by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The 2014–2015 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) called on Governments of these middle income countries to reshape their food systems to focus on nutrition and health, close the gender gap in agriculture, and improve rural infrastructure to ensure food security for all. “It may seem counterintuitive, but these growing economies play a key role in our ability to adequately and nutritiously feed the world,” said Shenggen Fan, Director General, IFPRI, in a statement. He added that important strides towards global food security had been made in 2014, it was crucial to “keep these and other food policy issues high on the global development agenda to ensure we eliminate hunger and malnutrition worldwide”. The study noted that distribution specifics needed to be ironed out for India’s National Food Security Act that aims to provide subsidised food to 67 per cent of the population, while it also praised the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana scheme that aimed to open 7.5 crore bank accounts for poor households. Sanitation link The report highlighted the link between sanitation and nutrition, using findings from Bangladesh to show reduction in open defecation helped reduce the number of stunted children who were taller than those living in comparable areas with similar economic standing in West Bengal. Of the five countries highlighted in the IFPRI study, India measured poorest in terms of stunted children at 47.9 per cent, as compared to 35.6 per cent in Indonesia, 14 per cent in Mexico, 9.4 per cent in China and 7.1 per cent in Brazil. “It has become clear that the factors that influence people’s nutrition go well beyond food and agriculture to include drinking water and sanitation, the role of women, the quality of care giving, among others,” Fan said. The report also included a perception survey undertaken in January comprising responses from 1,000 individuals, most employed with NGOs, academic circles and Government/policy sectors, across 55 countries. Only 8 per cent of young respondents – those under 30 – believed that global hunger could be eliminated by 2025. Nearly 70 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with food policies in their own countries and a significant perception gap existed between sexes with only 23 per cent of women satisfied with prevalent food security measures as compared to 44 per cent of men. (HBL 20/3/15)

84. State’s poor kids left high & dry on World Water Day (21)

Guwahati: It has been 22 years since the UN started observing March 22 as World Water Day to focus on those who are not blessed with access to clean water, but the benefits have not reached people in Assam’s poverty-stricken hinterlands. Children in particular, who are malnourished and anaemic, are in serious risk of being affected by water-borne diseases like Fluorosis and arsenicosis. A balanced diet could help them combat these diseases, but for the poor, this is a distant dream. Prolonged exposure to arsenic causes cancer of bladder, kidney, lung and skin. It affects the central and peripheral nervous systems and can cause birth defects and reproductive problems. Former retired chief engineer, public health engineering department, and water crusader A B Paul, who is credited with pointing out fluoride and arsenic contamination in Assam for the first time, said, “Malnourished children are vulnerable to fluorosis and arsenicosis. Studies show that animal protein is essential in fighting these diseases.” According to the last National Family Health Survey, 41.1% children in the age group of three to five years are stunted and 35.8% are underweight. Besides, over 67.8% adolescent girls were found to be anaemic. Malnourishment and anaemia are rampant among tea garden communities. Studies show that water in nine districts of Assam contain fluoride beyond permissible limit. For arsenic, the number is 21. Around 1,970 villages, home to about 7.22 lakh people, are severely affected by arsenic contamination. (Times of India 23/3/15)

85. New land bill is ‘great’ threat to food security: CPI (21)

New Delhi: In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’.CPI on Thursday appealed to all the political parties and farmers to reject the new land acquisition bill, alleging that it was brought by the NDA government to “snatch” away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. The party also claimed that it will be a great threat to food security in coming days. CPI also said that the BJP Government’s proposals for 18 industrial corridors will engulf more than 35 per cent of cultivable land which will pave the way for thousands of villages to disappear and crores of people will loose their livelihood and this will bring a social chaos. In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’. “The bill has been brought by BJP-led NDA Government to allow foreign and local corporates, land mafia and builder lobby to snatch away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. This will be a great threat to our food security in coming days. “The CPI calls upon to all political parties to reject this bill in Parliament and save the rural people from a catastrophe,” the party said in a statement. The party said that while the new proposal of the government has withdrawn the clause of 80 per cent consent of farmers before their land is acquired, it also withdraws the social impact assessment which is an issue of “paramount importance”.”A genuine fear on Land Acquisition Bill 2015 has began haunting agrarian community,” the statement said. Meanwhile, during the Plenary Delegate Session, the draft Political Resolution approved by the National Council of the party was introduced. It analysed the current political situation and outlined the political tactics to be adopted by the party in the coming period. (DNA 26/3/15)

86. Centre should not hurry implementation of National Food Security Act: ICRIER (21)

NEW DELHI: The Centre should not “hurry” the implementation of the National Food Security Act in the rest of 25 states and UTs given the present level of unpreparedness and “apprehensions” over its delivery, says an ICRIER paper. The NFSA, passed by Parliament in September, has been so far rolled out in 11 states and Union Territories. The rest of 25 states/UTs have not implemented it yet. The deadline for implementing it has been extended twice, to April 4. The law aims at providing legal entitlement to 5 kg of subsidised foodgrains per person per month at Rs 1-3/kg to two-thirds of the country’s population. “However, given the present level of unpreparedness and uncorrected systemic inefficiencies of the state PDS machinery, the likelihood of states defaulting on even the extended deadline is high,” said the ICRIER working paper co-authored by former CACP chief Ashok Gulati. “Therefore, the immediate suggestion is not to hurry the NFSA implementation process, especially not without satisfying its pre-conditions in each state,” it said. This time should be used to carefully re-visit the objectives of the Act and provisions looking for efficient ways to attain them, it added. Highlighting key challenges in implementing NFSA, the paper observed, “There are wider apprehensions that the Act will fail to deliver on the promises made or will deliver at a huge cost, which may not be worth the price.” The bigger operational challenges include ensuring the adequate supply of grains every year, lowering per person entitlement or population coverage particularly when the population is expanding, unpreparedness of the implementing states, and slowing down the natural process of agricultural diversification by increasing the relevance of rice and wheat in the system, it added. On unpreparedness of implementing states, the paper said that the progress on the public distribution system (PDS) improvement initiatives is both slow and below expectations. “….states have been implementing the NFSA with old TPDS beneficiaries being rechristened as NFSA beneficiaries instead of undertaking fresh surveys/efforts to identify beneficiaries. This is undesirable and does not conform to the reform process initiated under the new system,” it said. As on August 1 2014, 100 per cent identification of beneficiaries has been completed only in six states – Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan – out of the 11 NFSA implementing states. The identification is still partial in the remaining five states – Bihar (87 per cent), Delhi (44 pc), Himchal Pradesh (73 pc), Madhya Pradesh (88 pc) and Chandigarh (40 pc). (The Economic Times 30/3/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

87. MGNREGA downsized in R’than in past 5 yrs (14)

JAIPUR: The funds earmarked annually under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Rajasthan have been downsized by over 70 per cent in the last five years. In 2009-10 around Rs 8,731.32 crore was allocated under the scheme which was gradually cut down to Rs 2,960 crore in 2013-14. The programme has fallen off track as the Congress and BJP governments in the state could not utilise the sanctioned funds completely, which eventually led to decrease in the funds sanctioned. The slow pace of implementation of the scheme is evident from the fact that number of beneficiaries have also fallen by over 90 per cent in the last five years. In 2008-09 around 25 lakh families were given 100 day jobs. The number dropped to just two lakh families in 2013-14. Agreeing upon the facts, the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Surendra Goyal said the scheme is a demand oriented and the demand for work has been constantly falling. “The decrease in number of beneficiaries is due to decrease in demand for work. This is also the reason that funds could not be fully utilised in the last few years, which led to reduction of annual funds sanctioned under the programme,” said Surendra Goyal. However, experts feel that root cause of all the problems is the inability of the state government to converge the 14 line departments with the scheme. Due to various reasons many departments were reluctant to converge with the programme. A team of local officials was also sent to Madhya Pradesh to study the convergence model in the MGNREGA. But none of the governments could replicate the model in proper spirit. “Under the convergence model, MGREGA workforce is used to complete various works of government department. The material is supplied by the department concerned and workforce is paid under the scheme. It’s dual benefit as department save labour cost and also demand for work generates under programme,” said a rural development department senior official. Many legislators of the ruling party are of the view that according to National Sample Survey there has been a sharp increase of 50 per cent in rural labour force. Despite this, the demand for work in MGREGA has been on a constant decrease. “It’s true that government’s efforts for the convergence of departments with the programme have not been satisfactory. Our government is taking the issue seriously and I hope to get good results in future,” said Gulab Chand Kataria, the Home Minister and the second most powerful person in the BJP government. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

88. Ghost workers, fake job cards mar MGNREGA implementation (14)

Gaya: Implementation of MGNREGA, the flagship employment guarantee and poverty alleviation scheme introduced by the UPA, is replete with instances of ghost workers, fake job cards, non-existent schemes and siphoning-off public fund in fraudulent manner in Gaya district. Eleven job card holders of village Chabura under Konch block of the district deny having either worked or received any payment for MGNREGA work but their names appear on payment register of the panchayat. They allege, the local mukhiya, alongwith her husband and a section of government officials siphoned off Rs 40 lakh on the basis of forged documents. For example, Sharda Devi, Suresh Yadav, Bachchu Sao, Baleshwar Yadav, Laita Devi, Joot Das and Yogindra Yadav are shown to have worked and received payments ranging between Rs 9,180 and Rs 25,734. Yogindra says though he has been issued a job card, he has never been offered job and yet an amount of Rs 25,734 has been withdrawn in his name by manipulating documents and putting false signatures. The villagers also suspect the involvement of bank officials in the ongoing racket. Not only that Kamlesh Yadav does not even live at his native village Baithi under Konch block as he is in a private job in Rafiganj area of Aurangabad district. But records show him as MGNREGA beneficiary having received Rs 7,000. Md Arif Khan of village Gohchak under Atri block in the district is an affluent farmer and owns 20 bighas of multiple crop land. Khan also owns a tractor. But block office reports show Khan as a job card holder who has regularly been doing earth work under the scheme. Records show that 400 trees have been planted at Solara village graveyard under Paraiya block of the district, barely 15 km from the district headquarters. Besides tree plantation, a handpump was also shown to have been installed. There is any trace of any tree or handpump . MGNREGA Lok Pal Rai Madan Kishore has been flooded with complaints of fraud. He has so far recommended realization of more than Rs1 crore from the fund managers and legal action against the scamsters. According to left activist SB Bhaskar, in many cases, the victims of fraud have been coerced into accepting having done work, while, in fact they neither did any work nor received any payment. (Times of India 15/3/15)

89. Fewer jobs as Delhi ‘neglects’ rural scheme (14)

New Delhi, March 15: Millions of villagers are on course to missing out on livelihood-sustaining work under the national job scheme this year if figures released by the government are any indication. The figures suggest that by the time this financial year draws to a close, far fewer families will have benefited under the scheme compared with 2013-14, while the number of persondays of work generated would also drop significantly. According to official data furnished by junior rural development minister Sudarshan Bhagat in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) had generated 135 crore persondays of work till February 17. The scheme, which provides for up to 100 days of work in a year for every rural household, generated 220 crore persondays in 2013-14. The number of households covered under the scheme was 48 million in 2013-14. The coverage till the middle of February this year was a little over 38 million (see chart). Experts said the scheme, a flagship project started by the UPA government, was unlikely to generate 85 crore mandays of work in the 40-odd days remaining in this year – counted from February 17 – and might not cover another 10 million families. The corresponding figures for both 2011-12 and 2012-13 were higher than this year too: they show that the scheme generated 218 crore persondays of work in 2011-12 and 230 crore persondays in 2012-13. The number of households employed was also higher – 50.6 million in 2011-12 and 49.8 million in 2012-13 – Bhagat said in a written reply. Social activist and former National Advisory Council (NAC) member Harsh Mander said the demand-driven scheme, implemented by panchayats, had been neglected ever since the BJP-led NDA assumed power at the Centre. “It is impossible to match the achievements of last year in generation of persondays and coverage of households. This is because the government has been systematically neglecting the scheme,” Mander said. Many states, including Bengal and Tripura, have complained that implementation has been affected because the central government, which shares the cost of material with states but bears the full expense on wages, delayed releasing funds. Jean Dreze, a former NAC member and economist, said he too had great doubts whether employment generation in this financial year would come “anywhere” near the corresponding figures last year. “The central government certainly bears a heavy responsibility for this – there have been unprecedented problems with the flow of funds this year, mainly due to the central government’s lack of commitment to the programme.” Mander said the ministry had selected 2,500 of the country’s 6,500 blocks for focus, which means the scheme – which involves mostly labour-intensive work like de-silting of water bodies and building embankments and roads, as decided by the panchayat concerned – might not be getting the attention required. The government had set aside Rs 34,000 crore for the scheme for 2014-15 but the finance ministry had cut the allocation by Rs 3,000 crore in December. The allocation for 2015-16 is Rs 34,695 crore. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has denied that the scheme is being neglected, has said the government might give another Rs 5,000 crore, depending on the availability of funds. Mander, however, said workers were not getting wages on time. “If poor workers have to wait for months to get their wages, they would not be interested to place demands for work. That is why there has been a drop in job creation and coverage of households.” Under the scheme, panchayats are to hold gram sabhas where families can place their demand for jobs. Social activist Shekhar Singh said the decline in the number of beneficiaries would ideally mean that the economic condition of villagers had improved. “But the economic condition of all rural people has not improved. There is still distress migration of labour. What is clear is that panchayat officials are not accepting the demand for MGNREGA work,” he said. Since the panchayats don’t get funds on time, they don’t entertain the demand for work, he added. (The Telegraph 16/3/15)

90. One crore workers to be covered under welfare fund (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The government is keen on inducting one crore workers from the unorganised sector into the Unorganised Workers Welfare Board, a scheme that was announced last year, according to Joint Commissioner of Labour M.N. Varahala Reddy. Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Zonal Sports Meet, organised by the Labour Department at the IGMC stadium here on Wednesday, he said the government had prepared a comprehensive plan for the unorganised sector, which included motor transport workers, pushcart vendors, auto drivers, domestic workers and coconut sellers, besides announcing a Rs. 5 lakh accident benefit policy for them. “The Central government’s policies such as Aam Aadmi Beema Yojana will also apply to them,” he added. Mr. Reddy said the Labour Department, which was earlier an enforcement-oriented outfit, had turned into a welfare-oriented one. “The new capital city is attracting a new workforce. We are fully prepared to nurture them for the new challenges. We are expecting around three lakh new workers entering the 13 districts to give an image makeover to Andhra Pradesh,” he added. According to Mr. Reddy, the emerging State has plenty to offer to the modern-day work force including IT, mechanical, electrical and electronics professionals, as several state-of-art facilities are expected to come up. He said the government was also keen on imparting training to children of workers to prepare them for future. “This is a platform for them to prepare for future challenges,” he added. Mr. Reddy said Vijayawada had a tremendous scope for hospitality and health sectors in the days to come, hence the demand for quality workers would always be in the ascending order. (The Hindu 19/3/15)

 

91. Changes in EPF, Child Labour Acts may be tabled next month (14)

The Centre is likely to introduce two Bills in the Parliament session next month to amend EPF and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said in Hyderabad today. Observing that changes are required in different laws in public interest, he said amendments are proposed in the EPF Act to benefit more workmen. The proposed amendments to the Child Labour Act would be discussed with the inter-ministerial group, said Dattatreya, who holds independent charge of the Labour Ministry. The government is keen on improving the ease of doing business in the country, but there will be no compromise on the rights and security of workmen, he said. “EPFO, with the help of technology, is gearing up to update annual accounts for 2014-15 of about 14 crore members in April first week. All members will have their provident fund balances by the end of first week of April, which is historic,” he said. The government is also working to extend social security benefits to the workers of unorganised sector, bringing into its fold a large number of workers under social security ambit, he said. Hailing the passage of crucial Bills in Parliament recently, Dattatreya alleged that the Congress and Left parties were trying to defame the NDA government through a false campaign that it is “pro-corporate.” Noting that it is the right of political parties and MPs to voice their views, he, however, said it is not proper for them to disrupt the Parliament and government’s business. He emphasised that the government’s endeavour is to provide employment opportunities to the youth, and said the ‘Digital India’, ‘Skill India’ and ‘Make in India’ programmes of the NDA government would provide large scale job avenues. The Labour Ministry would be instrumental in providing employment and work opportunities to one crore people in the next two-three years, Dattatreya said. Alleging that the Land Acquisition Act passed by the UPA government had certain defects, he said the compensation for loss of land has been increased four times by the NDA government now. The governments would take up land acquisition only for public interest projects like railways and not for private persons or companies, he assured. Highlighting that Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya laid emphasis on ‘Antyodaya’ (welfare of poorest of the poor), Dattatreya said the Narendra Modi government would not take any decision against the interest of the poor and downtrodden. (Business Standard 22/3/15)

92. 3.65L jobless youth in Punjab, just 352 got allowance (14)

CHANDIGARH: Two Punjabs seem to be existing side by side when it comes to money power. One is facing its worst unemployment crisis and the other that is spending extravagantly. State minister Ajit Singh Kohar on Tuesday, in a reply to Congress leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar, said that 3,65,771 unemployed people in Punjab were registered with the employment exchange. The number is the maximum for the corresponding period between March and December in the last five years. While Kohar did not have the number of jobless who received government allowance till date, an RTI reply with Jakhar revealed that a paltry 352 had been receiving a monthly allowance. The grant has been fixed at Rs 150 for those who are matric pass and Rs 200 for those who have studied up to class 12. However, according to the Economic Survey 2014-15, the average per capita income expenditure for the ruralites has now shot up to Rs 2,345, only behind Kerala at Rs 2,630 in India. This comes as no surprise as most residents in rural areas make trips to foreign countries, either for a vacation or jobs and purchasing big cars. Around 23 lakh people across rural precincts Sangrur, Moga, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur had applied for fresh passports and 1.97 lakh from the same areas purchased two wheelers and four wheelers. Among urbanites, the expenditure is Rs 2,794 — considered low when compared to other states. The report also reveals that per capita income in Punjab has increased, albeit marginally, to Rs 49,529 and Rs 47,854. The government data also said that about 36,000-odd have been provided jobs. The youth unemployment rate, for the age group of 15-29 years is reeling at 7.7% in rural area and slightly less at 6.3% in urban Punjab. (Times of India 25/3/15)

93. Rs.279-crore works under job scheme (21)

KANNUR: Works estimated at Rs.278.85 crore will be carried out in the district in 2015-16 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). This was disclosed in a district panchahyat meeting held here on Wednesday which approved the District Poverty Alleviation Committee’s action plan for the next fiscal. As per the action plan, the amount will be spent in 19,304 works. The meeting decided that the MGNREGS works would stress on protection of natural resources. The other works include 6,809 works estimated at Rs.139.88 crore for protecting individual assets of the weaker sections, 220 projects for developing basic infrastructure required by self-help groups, and 5,158 works with a total estimate of Rs.54.62 crore for developing rural infrastructure. (The Hindu 27/3/15)

94. Kerela Government will Take Efforts to Bring Khadi Workers Under MGNREGS: Minister (14)

KANNUR:Minister for Rural Development K C Joseph has assured that the state government would continue its efforts to include workers of Khadi and Village Industries under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Inaugurating the state-level exhibition organised jointly by Kerala Khadi and Village Industries Board and National Khadi and Village Industries Commission at Town Square here on Sunday, the minister said that the government’s efforts to include the Khadi sector under MGNREGS had not succeeded.However, the government would continue to exert pressure on the central government to incorporate Khadi workers as the beneficiaries of the employment guarantee scheme to ensure steady wages, he added. The minister regretted that the Khadi workers are poorly paid and are devoid of social security. In o rder to save the Khadi sector from decline, it should be ensured that the workers are paid a decent remuneration for their work. There should be schemes to ensure the welfare and social security of these workers, he added. The minister also inaugurated the first sale of the exhibition. Khadi Board vice-chairman K P Nooruddeen presided over the function. P K Sreemathi MP, A P Abdullakutty MLA, district panchayat president K A Sarala and District Collector P Balakiran spoke. The Khadi expo is being organised in connection with the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa. Products from more than 70 units under the Khadi and Village Industries Board would be on display at the expo. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)

RESERVATION

95. Allotment of RTEseats through online lottery system begins (25)

Bengaluru:  The process of allotting seats under the reserved quota of the RTE Act took place here on Wednesday through the online lottery system for the first time in the State. Justice Y Bhaskar Rao, Lokyukta, inaugurated the online system in the presence of Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kimmane Ratnakar and Education department officials. Mohammed Mohsin, Commisioner for Public Instruction, said that the school education department received around 3.89 lakh applications of which 2,57, 942 will be eligible for allotments. As many as 1,11,329 seats are available in 11,202 schools this year, he added. Of these as many as 57,797 seats are for class I and 53,532 seats are for UKG.  The online lottery seat allotment system involves three processes – cleansing and updating process that weeds out duplicate and double forms from the database, randomisation process that generates a unique ID for eligible candidates. Finally the lottery number ranking process assigns lottery numbers to applicants based on the unique ID. The system then allots seats based on the lottery numbers of candidates, priority mentioned and the reservation claimed such as ST, SC or OBC. Vacant seats in each category will be transferred to the next category, said Mohsin.   Candidates from weaker sections of the society such as orphans, transgenders, HIV patients, children with special needs, migrant children, streetchildren will be given seats directly without any lottery process. There is no income limit for SC, ST, Category 1 whereas for OBC candidates, the income limit has been divided in three slabs namely – Rs one lakh and below, Rs one lakh to two lakh, above Rs two lakh to 3.5 lakh. As many as 50,175 applications have been received from SC candidates for 34,074 seats. So far as ST candidates are concerned, 13,262 applications have been received for 7,901 seats. Lastly, for OBC as many as 1,72,527 applications have been received for 69, 354 seats.  Speaking at the programme, Rao said that the Lokayukta would be watching the entire process closely for any instances of corruption. “All those education officers and schools who are either indulging or encouraging corruption will not be spared. The government has taken a good step to eradicate corruption,” he said. He highlighted the need to bring tribal children, who could not apply through online means, into the fold of education. There are around 42 lakhs such tribals in need of education , he added. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

96. SC to pronounce verdict on quota for Jats on Tuesday (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce judgment on Tuesday on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the reservation for Jats by including them in other backward class (OBC) category. The judgment, reserved on December 17, 2014, will be pronounced by a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. The batch of petitioners, while challenging the United Progressive Alliance government’s decision to extend reservation to Jats by including them in OBC category, had contended that Jats were politically and socially advanced and the decision to extend reservation to them was politically and electorally motivated. The UPA government had announced reservation for Jats on the eve of general elections held in May 2014. Ironically, the Narendra Modi government too backed the UPA decision to extend OBC reservation to Jats saying that it was not inspired by electoral considerations but a bonafide decision in public interest. “As regards the averments that the central government with a motive to gain benefit for the ruling political parties in the forthcoming general election issued the said notification, this fact is denied as unfounded,” the central government had said in its affidavit filed in the apex court August 11, 2014. “It is a submitted that the central government has acted bonafide and in public interest,” it had said. Seeking the dismissal of the petition by OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti and others challenging the extension of OBC reservation to Jats in nine states, the affidavit had said: “In the present case, the advice tendered by the National Commission for Backward Classes was rejected by the cabinet for the reason that the commission has not adequately taken into account the ground realities.” (Business Standard 16/3/15)

97. Chalavadi community urged to participate in survey (25)

RAICHUR: Upholding the imminent Social, Educational and Economic Survey in the State as a “good move” to know the actual socio-economic status of different communities, Chalavadi community leaders called upon community members to take part in it. Addressing a media conference at Reporters Guild here on Monday, Mr. Chalavadi Narayana Swamy, Chairman of Karnataka State Forest Development Board, said that the survey would help the government understand the social, educational, economic conditions of communities and better design focussed welfare programmes. “Chalavadi community members are known by 40 different names in different regions. All the names are synonyms to Chalavadi and we therefore appeal the community members to mention their caste as Chalavadi only, so that the numerical size of the community could also be ascertained,” he said. Mr. Swamy opposed the extending of the same reservation facilities that Scheduled Castes enjoy to those who had converted from different Scheduled Castes to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other religious faiths. “One choosing and following a religion one wants is one’s own unquestionable right. A person, however, once converted from a Scheduled Caste to another religion would no longer belong to the category and so cannot claim reservation and other facilities offered to Scheduled Castes. Therefore, the people will have to carefully choose their religious and caste identity during the survey,” he said. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

98. Supreme Court verdict on Jat quota a blow to politics of reservation (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court verdict asking the government to move away from caste-centric reservation for backwards deals a blow to politics of reservation often played in the most blatant manner just before polls. The verdict is landmark for several important reasons. First, it forces the policy makers to think creatively beyond caste for identification of socially and educationally backward classes. For decades successive governments have found caste-based quota an easy way out to achieve the constitutional goal of equality to undo historic injustice to backward castes in Hindu society. Second, the fact that the SC rejected old data to justify inclusion of Jats in the OBC category and emphasised that all citizens were advancing on every front – social, economic and education — should serve as a reminder to politicians and bureaucrats who are not in sync with the changed social realities and continue to have a 20th century mindset. The top court has given them a jolt. The constitutional mandate under Article 16(4) and Article 15(5) that deal with reservation in jobs and education respectively is to ensure equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The government’s affirmative actions are based on positive discrimination. But the manner in which reservation policy has been pursued by successive governments — irrespective of their political ideology — created social discord and deprived many deserving socially and educationally backward groups of its benefits. Reservation policy, if not properly thought out, becomes even more discriminatory, rather than a means of achieving social justice. Be it the 1990 decision of VP Singh’s government to introduce quota in jobs for OBCs or the 2008 decision of the UPA-I government to extend it to education — the decisions led to prolonged agitation and social unrest. In both the cases the SC verdicts had the calming effect as it enjoys public confidence more than that enjoyed by the legislature or the executive. What made the 1992 Mandal verdict acceptable was the court’s decision to put a 50% ceiling on reservation and exclude the creamy layer among OBCs. The top court has once again shown judicial statesmanship by displaying a progressive and realistic approach to reservation that would ensure that “only to the most distressed” benefit from it. A similar approach is needed to rationalise reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by excluding the rich among these communities. This would ensure that only the most deserving SC and SC candidates get the benefit of reservation. Left to politicians, such progressive decisions would never happen. If judges can innovate, why can’t politicians? (Hindustan Times 18/3/15)

 

99. 33 per cent women quota in UT police (25)

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday announced 33 per cent reservation for women in police forces of Union Territories, including the national capital, for posts from constables to sub-inspectors, in a bid to make police more gender-sensitive. The Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Friday gave its nod to the decision, which came against the backdrop of rising demands for preventing crimes against women, particularly in the backdrop of the brutal 2012 Delhi gangrape case . The government said the decision will also instil confidence among women and enable them to approach police without hesitation for seeking protection and assistance. This decision will help augment the number of women in the police force of all UTs and the Delhi police so as to make them more gender-sensitive, it said. The reservation will also cover reserved categories like SCs, STs and OBCs. Notably, after the brutal December 16 Gangrape case, the Justice Verma Committee, which recommended major changes in criminal laws, had also flagged this issue. The government on Friday noted that a “skewed police force” is a major practical barrier in effective implementation of legislations intended for the protection of women. “The police is the first line of interface between citizens and the law enforcement machinery. It has been observed that many women do not approach the police as they may have to confide or report the incident to a male police officer. “This is particularly so in respect of sex-related crimes,” it said. Meanwhile, over 758 Appropriation Acts, which have lost relevance and are clogging the statute books, are set to be repealed as the Cabinet cleared a proposal to bring a bill in this regard. The move is in line with the NDA government’s decision to do away with irrelevant laws, including Railways (appropriation) Acts. (Asian Age 21/3/15)

100. SC ruling on Jat quota warning bell to political class (25)

The Supreme Court’s verdict quashing the government’s decision to grant politically-dominant Jat community the OBC (Other Backward Classes) status in nine northern states is  futuristic. The verdict sounds a warning bell to the political class which used reservation as a potent weapon to grab votes. Dealing with challenge to the March 4, 2014 notification, the court strikes at the root of the problem. It has been noted that political considerations played a bigger role in granting such status. Without mincing words, the court went on to point out the need for review of the list every 10 years as per the Constitutional mandate. This would definitely not have hurt the deserving and deprived ones. In the instant case, the demands of politically-organised Jats were long pending as they were already declared OBC in their respective states. The underlying message by the apex court to the political class is very clear. The perception, mathematical formulae evolved on the basis of social and educational indicators or relative inclusion of other groups could not be used to form the basis for providing such largesse by the state. In the 1992 Indira Sawhney case (Mandal), the SC held that the terms “backward class” and “socially and educationally backward classes” are not equivalent and further that in Article 16(4) of the Constitution backwardness contemplated is mainly social. So, the court said that a social class could be understood as an identifiable section of society which may be internally homogenous (based on caste or occupation) or heterogeneous (based on disability or gender, say transgender). Thus, neither caste nor historical injustice could be the sole determinant factor, the court said. In identity politics, these have been the only basis for such preferential treatments. Backwardness is a manifestation caused by the presence of several independent circumstances which may be social, cultural, economic, educational or even political, it said. “Owing to historical conditions, particularly in Hindu society, recognition of backwardness has been associated with caste. Though caste may be a prominent and distinguishing factor for easy determination of backwardness of a social group, this court has been routinely discouraging the identification of a group as backward solely on the basis of caste,” the SC bench observed. The affirmative actions by the state as envisaged under the Constitution must be meant for the most deserving. This could be ascertained if new benchmark or criteria are put in place. Certainly, contemporaneous statistics and not outdated data as seen in case of Jats could be look into. According to the SC, new practices, methods and yardsticks have to be continuously evolved moving away from caste centric definition of backwardness. This alone can enable recognition of newly emerging groups in society which would require palliative action. “The recognition of the third gender as a socially and educationally backward class of citizens entitled to affirmative action of the state under the Constitution in National Legal Services Authority Vs Union of India is too significant a development to be ignored,” the court noted. “In fact, it is a path finder, if not a path-breaker,” the court remarked while emphasising the need for the state to observe high degree of vigilance for discovering new emerging forms of backwardness. The “historical injustice” that manifests in caste identification could result in “under protection of the most deserving backward class of citizens”… (Deccan Herald 24/3/15)

101. PM Vows to Address Jats’ Quota Woes within Legal Framework (25)

NEW DELHI: With the perception on the Land Bill still loaded against the BJP-NDA Government, the Centre on Thursday reached out to Jats and paid heed to their demands on reservation, which was struck down by the Supreme Court recently.  When the 70-member delegation, accompanied by the BJP MPs from Jat-dominated states, called on  Modi, he not only heard them ‘carefully’ but also assured a solution from within the ‘legal framework.’ The delegation also met BJP chief Amit Shah.  “The Prime Minister carefully listened to the issues raised by the delegation. He said the government was studying the Supreme Court ruling and would try to find a solution to the issue from within the legal framework,” a statement from the PMO said, adding that other issues related to the community also figured in the discussions. The PM urged the delegation to take the lead in implementing the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme, an initiative aimed at saving the girl child. The SC order to scrap the reservation for the Jats under the OBC quota, a decision which was announced by the UPA Government in nine states ahead of the 2014 polls, has been a headache for the NDA Government. (New Indian Express 27/3/15)

102. Government firm on opposing dalit tag for converts (25)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to oppose the demand for dalit status for “converts” to Christianity and Islam, arguing that only Hinduism recognized “caste system” and “untouchability” that led to the creation of a special category called Scheduled Castes. An interesting reason cited to red-flag the demand is that the Constitution provides reservation in legislatures to dalits and tribals to “compensate for the social injustice” suffered by them over centuries and extending this benefit to converts would impinge on the rights of SCs/STs. While the move was expected after social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot made the government stance plain in an interview to TOI on October 10 last year, it is now learnt that his ministry detailed reasons to the Union law ministry to oppose in Supreme Court the petition seeking SC status for converts.The unambiguous opposition from the BJP government is a sharp departure from the UPA regime’s strategy to buy time – in 2005, entrusting a national commission to study the issue and in 2011, deciding to wait for ‘socio-economic caste census’ for data to commission further studies. As polarizing as it is complicated, the issue is rooted in the reasoning that SC status — limited to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists — should be made religion-neutral, thereby opening it to Hindu “untouchables” who converted to Islam and Christianity. Strongly objecting to the demand, the BJP government argues that “untouchability” was a peculiar aspect of Hindu religion that “denied to disadvantaged castes the fundamentals of human dignity, human self-respect and even some of the attributes of human personality”.Linking this “evil practice” exclusively to Hinduism, the government says mere social “backwardness” cannot put converts at par with dalits whose backwardness arises from the traditional practice of “untouchability”.The Centre argues that recognizing SC among followers of Islam and Christianity would amount to violation of the basic tenets of these religions since they do not recognize the caste system. Besides, stretching the quota frontiers to Christianity and Islam would necessitate an increase in the quantum of reservation which would result in the upper ceiling of 50% being breached, the Centre argues. According to the Centre, identifying dalit converts is not easy – since conversions have been happening over several centuries, the caste of an individual’s forefathers cannot be ascertained, especially where the descendants have left the original caste-related occupation. On the contrary, the government argues that dalit converts form part of OBCs in states and at the Centre, benefitting from job reservations and welfare schemes catering to backwards as also religious minorities, adding it would be “iniquitous” to grant “converts” the benefits targeting SCs. Crucially, the apprehension that rendering the SC list religion-neutral would encourage conversions, expressed by minister Gehlot in his interview to TOI, does not figure in the social justice ministry’s list of reasons to oppose the demand of dalit Christians/Muslims. (Times of India 30/3/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

103. Disabled denied dignity, rights by uncaring city (1)

Guwahati: Notoriously unfriendly towards differently-abled persons, the city’s attitude, many feel, has worsened. “Accessibility in public places for the disabled is a major problem. Though Guwahati seems to be one of the fastest-growing cities in South East Asia, it is yet to improve facilities for the disabled. If you don’t have your own vehicle, it’s almost impossible to move around in the city. I have faced so many problems. All my friends have my ATM pin as I find it difficult to operate the machines,” said Arman Ali, executive director of Shishu Sarothi, a city-based NGO that works for the differently-abled. Ali added that he has approached the administration of Kamrup (Metro) district to take steps in this regard. “Some good steps have been taken, but a lot remains to be done. We need political will and a holistic approach to help the disabled. We do not want sympathy, but the right to live with dignity,” he said. Medal-winning para-athlete Suvarna Raj, who was in the city recently to be felicitated, also expressed her unhappiness over the lack of facilities for the disabled in the city. “I feel Guwahati has a long way to go in terms of being accessible for persons with disabilities. I am a wheelchair-user and the organizers of the event were aware of this. Still, there wasn’t any provision of a ramp on the stage. I had to be carried up to the stage before the prize distribution began and made to sit behind the dignitaries before the ceremony started. This was most upsetting,” she had said. Bhaben Barman, principal of Guwahati Blind School, termed lack of awareness a major hurdle. “Even guardians are not aware of how to go ahead. Around 10% of our students face problems in travelling. Of late, some NGOs have started coming forward to help people with disabilities,” said Barman. (Times of India 11/3/15)

104. HC to probe antecedents of human rights organizations (1)

MADURAI: Shocked over reports of many office-bearers of private “human rights organisations” facing heinous criminal charges including murder and extortion, the Madras High Court Bench here has decided to find out the antecedents of such people and their sources of funding. Passing interim orders on anticipatory bail applications filed by as many as nine such individuals based in different districts under the jurisdiction of the High Court Bench, Justice P.N. Prakash has directed the police to file reports listing out criminal cases that had been booked against them. The judge also appointed advocate Veera Kathiravan as an amicus curiae to assist the court in deciding the cases and directed the counsel for the petitioners to submit documents relating to incorporation of the organisations, details of their bank accounts and the activities undertaken by them. He has further directed the High Court Registry to club all advance bail applications filed by those claiming to be office-bearers of human rights organisations and list them for hearing on Monday in order to give a quietus to the issue after hearing their counsel, the prosecution and the amicus curiae. The orders have been passed on applications filed by Ulagappan alias Alagappan facing a case registered by Ponamaravathy police in Pudukottai district, Rajaraman alias Bharathiraja booked by Gandhi Market police in Tiruchi district, R. Vijayabose booked by Kottar police in Kanyakumari district. Identical orders had been passed also on petitions filed by D. Senthil Servai facing a case booked by Karaikudi North Police in Sivaganga district, P.L. Lawrence booked by Colachel police in Kanyakumari, S. Ratheesh (Pettai police in Tirunelveli district), Balamurugan (Nilakottai police in Dindigul district), Raman (Manapparai police in Tiruchi district) and Chinnaiya alias Chinnaiya Baskar (Pudukottai town police). (The Hindu 15/3/15)

105. US jails sex-trafficked kids in human rights abuse, groups say (1)

Washington: The United States violates human rights by treating sex-trafficked children as criminals and throwing them into jail, rights groups told an international commission on Monday. Federal and international law requires that children in the commercial sex trade are treated as victims of trafficking, not as prostitutes. But most US. states and localities fail to apply the law, the groups said at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviews human rights abuses in the region. Criminalising child victims of the sex trade traumatises youngsters, Yasmin Vafa, legal director at the Human Rights Project for Girls, and Santiago Canton, executive director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told the commission. “When girls are incarcerated for the experience of being propertied and serially raped, their ability to return to family, community and school is less likely, which only serves to tighten the traffickers` control,” they said in prepared remarks. Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking each year, with 13 to 14 being the average age a child is first forced into sexual acts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Each year, more than 1,000 children are arrested in the United States for prostitution, most of them not of a legal age to consent to sex, the US Justice Department says. One study found that the city of Dallas, Texas, detained 165 juveniles on prostitution and related charges in 2007, and that in Las Vegas over 20 months, 226 children were brought before the juvenile court. Despite US federal law and international protocols, many state and local law enforcement officers continue to arrest and incarcerate children as prostitutes, even in the 15 states that have adopted “safe harbour” laws designed to shield children from prison where they can be raped again. By bringing the issue before the IACHR – an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) – the rights groups are seeking to apply international pressure on the US government to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and set national standards of care for child victims of sex trafficking. “I am quite alarmed and deeply disturbed,” said Rose Marie Belle Antoine, an OAS member who presided over the hearing.  The IACHR offers a human rights forum for the 35 OAS member countries in the Americas, but because the United States has not recognised its judicial authority, no court case can be brought. Ambassador Patricia Butenis, acting director of the U.S. State Department`s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission the United States agrees children should not be criminalised as prostitutes, as federal law specifies, and recognises that “tragically it still occurs”. Asked what more the United States can do to implement federal law, she said, “Politics in the United States are complicated.” Government officials spelled out a series of programmes they run to support state and local law enforcement, families and welfare agencies in tackling child sex trafficking. A number of bills are before the U.S. Congress to improve services for sex-trafficking victims, but both federal and state budgets are extremely tight to fund victim support programmes. (Zee News 17/3/15)

 

106. NGO alleges rights violations in destitute home (1)

SHIMLA: Gross violation of human rights of poor inmates residing at the government-run Nari Sewa Sadan in Mashobra near Shimla has been alleged by a Shimla-based NGO. It claimed that breaking all set norms, a newborn girl of an abused unwed inmate was separated from her mother and shifted to Kids Home in Shimla. It further claimed that last rites of dead inmates were not being performed as per their religious faith. While interacting with media persons in Shimla on Sunday, Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust, said that information gathered under RTI revealed that out of total 30 inmates, about 26 are suffering from severe mental illness and many are physically disabled. He said that they are unable to manage themselves during menstrual cycles and to meet nature’s call. He said one unwed woman, who was brought to the destitute home from Una some months ago, delivered a female baby in the last week of January. “When the government was busy celebrating Beti Bachao campaign on International Women Day on March 8, the newborn was separated from her mother, violating the guidelines of government of India which state that mother’s milk is mandatory for child’s health. Now the girl is staying more than 10 kilometers away from her mother,” he added. He said that information gathered under RTI showed that inmates were never checked up by any endocrinologist. He said that inmates were suffering from different psychological problems but have no access to any psychological counseling. Ajai Srivastava demanded a high-level inquiry so that responsibility could be fixed for violation of human rights of the defenseless destitute inmates. (Times of India 23/3/15)

107. NGO complains to UN against attacks on Christians (1)

MUMBAI: Mumbai based NGO Watchdog Foundation has complained to the United Nations against the increasing attacks on Christians in India. The letter states, “Citizens particularly belonging to Christian denomination have been subjudicated by the fundamentalist organisations operating freely in India under the very nose of the federal/state Government. There have been attacks on the community, churches being vandalised, nuns being raped and murdered. We feel there fermented Western apathy towards gross human rights abuses committed by the fundamentalist groups in India.” The NGO has urged the UN as custodian of humanity to interrogate the “so called world largest democracy” to see if it deserves it so proudly it claims. “Whilst Indian regularly stakes a claim for being model multicultural society built on principles of secularism, the reality is that across India ethnic cleansing of religious minorities at the hands of fundamentalist organisations is a regular feature. Despite the Indian Prime Minister being chided by none other that US President Barak Obama, nothing has changed. Today one more church in Panvel, near Mumbai has been vandalised.” ”It seems to us that only the political system of India attract any kind of scrutiny by the Westerns media during General Elections campaign.Every General Elections India gets billed as worlds largest democracy, but what about the sufferings of the minorities. If this trend is not arrested in time this beloved country shall go the same way as some of the Gulf Countries are facing internal strife.” (Times of India 23/3/15)

108. Sathasivam likely to be next chairman of NHRC (1)

New Delhi: Kerala Governor P Sathasivam is understood to have given his consent to the Centre to be considered for appointment as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) when its present chief K G Balakrishnan completes his term in June. A former Chief Justice of India (CJI), Sathasivam was appointed Governor of Kerala following the resignation of Shiela Dikshit in September last year. However, with Balakrishnan’s five-year term due to end on June 6, the search for his successor has led to the Centre seeking to know Sathasivam’s mind in this regard, highly placed sources said. The post of NHRC chairman has always been held by a former Chief Justice of India since the panel was set up in 1993. Prior to Balakrishnan, other CJIs who graced the post include Ranganath Misra (1993-96), M Venkatachaliah (1996-99), J S Verma (1999-2003), A S Anand (2003-2006) and S Rajendra Babu (2007 to 2009). When approached, Sathasivam apparently evinced interest in playing a more active role like that of the NHRC chairman, which would involve his vast experience as a judge compared to a rather ceremonial role in Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, the sources said. On March 15, Sathasivam broke the tradition and expressed concerns over the disruptive behaviour of legislators in the Kerala Assembly when the state budget was presented. His office even issued a press note saying that the ugly nature of the events justified invoking Article 356 and reporting as such to the President. Under this Article, the President can dismiss a state government or dissolve a State Assembly or keep it under suspended animation in the event of a failure of the constitutional machinery in that state. This was after the Legislature Secretary had informed him about how the Speaker’s chair was forcibly wheeled away and thrown into the well of the House and his public address system destroyed. The ruling United Democratic Front, including Finance Minister K M Mani, had disapproved mention of Article 356. But the Opposition Left Democratic Front has welcomed it, saying their stand has been validated. Interestingly, Sathasivam was appointed Governor of Kerala in the middle of a raging debate over whether such political appointments will compromise judicial independence. This was for the first time a retired CJI was appointed to serve as a governor of a state. (Deccan Herald 26/3/15)

109. Advance bail denied to ‘human rights activists’ (1)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday dismissed en masse 16 anticipatory bail applications filed by people accused of deceiving the gullible by misusing the words ‘human rights’ in name boards and letterheads of non-governmental organisations run by them. Justice P.N. Prakash refused to grant the relief to any of them on the ground that they should be necessarily subjected to custodial interrogation. He also observed that “all people can be fooled sometimes, some people can be fooled at all times but all people cannot be fooled at all times.” Shocked that some of the petitioners were advocates, and some others were murder case accused, the judge pointed out that in the recent years, “it was observed that name boards and banners bearing titles such as ‘human rights organisation’ have suddenly mushroomed in every nook and cranny of the State. “Self-proclaimed human rights activists have surfaced everywhere, flying the flag of the United Nations and other organisations on their vehicles… and including the names of eminent personalities such as former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and Justice P.N. Bhagwati in their letterheads. “With visiting cards and letter pads so printed, these individuals are emboldened to interfere not only in public affairs but also in the affairs of the common man. No one dared to question them fearing that they are part of the State machinery.” The issue came to the adverse notice of National Human Rights Commission, which on September 25, 2009, and December 29, 2010, asked the State government to crack down on such dubious organisations and make sure that no private organisation used the words ‘human rights’ in its name. Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission itself lodged complaints against as many as 16 organisations across the State for misusing the term. “All these measures did not deter the petitioners herein from closing down their shops and they were continuing to carry on with their activities with impunity under the very nose of the police, perhaps with their blessings,” the judge added. He also recorded the submission of advocate Veera Kathiravan, appointed as amicus curiae , that the dubious organisations diverted funds received from abroad for their subversive activities. (The Hindu 27/3/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

110. Clarify on when beef order was notified, says HC (19)

MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Wednesday sought a clarification from the state government on the date when the new Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which bans the slaughter of bulls and bullocks and makes the possession or sale of beef a crime, came into force. The court’s direction came after advocate Yusuf Muchhala, counsel for Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers’ Welfare Association, told the court that its animals, which were being taken out from the Deonar abattoir, were seized. The government claimed that it had notified the law on March 4. Advocate Muchhala claimed that the notification had not been produced during the court hearings either on March 3 or March 5. It was only when the association pointed out that the law could not come into force unless it is published in the official gazette that the state seemed to have furnished a copy at the Deonar abattoir. The advocate further claimed that it was only on March 9 that a copy was given to them and it was available on the government website. Advocate Muchhala cited judgments which stated that a law could be enforced only after it was in public domain. The police had seized the cattle before the law was notified, the advocate contended. The HC asked the state to place on record the documents related to publishing the law in the official gazette. While earlier, cow slaughter was banned, the new rule that was granted sanction by the President of India in February 2015, added bulls and bullocks to that list. (Times of India 12/3/15)

111. Haryana makes sale of beef a non-bailable offence (19)

CHANDIGARH: After Maharashtra, Haryana on Monday passed a much more stringent bill banning sale of beef. According to the legislation, the rigorous imprisonment for selling beef would be five years — same as that in Maharashtra — and the fine of up to Rs 50,000. The western state has kept it at Rs 10,000. In case the convict fails to pay the fine, in Haryana he/she will have to spend up to one year more in jail. The Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Bill 2015, passed by the assembly unanimously, bans sale of all kinds of beef. As per the law in force so far, sale of beef was banned but there was no prohibition on packaged beef. This distinction has also been removed. “No person shall sell or offer for sale or cause to be sold beef or beef products..,” reads the bill, which was tabled in the assembly by animal husbandry minister Om Prakash Dhankar on Monday. According to the bill, a person convicted of cow slaughter can be sentenced up to 10 years in jail, apart from a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. There is provision of additional imprisonment of up to one year if the fine is not paid. The bill makes both violations — cow slaughter and beef sale — non-bailable. During the trial for cow slaughter and sale of beef, the burden of proving the innocence would be on the accused, much like other most stringent laws like the Dowry Act. The bill also mentions that any person found indulging in export of cow for the purpose of slaughter either directly or through his agent can be sentenced up to seven years of jail term with a fine of up to Rs 70,000. Any person desiring to export cows out of the state will have to apply for a permit from the government stating the reasons for which they are to be exported along with the exact number of cows and the name of the state to which they are proposed to be sent. Such persons will also file a declaration that cows for which permit of export is required will not be slaughtered. However, no permit for export of cows will be issued for a state where cow slaughter is not banned… (Times of India 17/3/15)

112. Collegium illegal: Govt (19)

New Delhi, March 18: The Centre today defended the controversial National Judicial Appointments Commission, saying the existing method of selecting judges was “illegal”, but struck a conciliatory note as it pleaded with the Supreme Court to give the new system an opportunity to work. Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, however, gave no hint when the NJAC would come into force, replacing the collegium system. The NJAC bill, which has got presidential assent, has not been notified yet. It was on this ground that Rohatgi sought the dismissal of a batch of petitions that have challenged the commission’s constitutional validity. “Lordships will test the validity of an act only when the law is brought into force, when it is capable of affecting the rights of the people…,” Rohatgi told the bench of Justices A.R. Dave, J. Chelameshwar and Madan B. Lokur. Alternatively, he urged the judges to refer the issue to a Constitution bench of at least five judges as it involved a question of law. “Should your lordships decide to entertain the petitions, then it must go to a five-judge bench,” he argued. In August last year, Parliament had passed the NJACBill, 2014, and an amendment bill to replace the collegium system, under which a panel of five judges used to select judges for the high courts and the Supreme Court. It led to the petitions that challenged the commission’s validity on the ground that it affected the basic structure of the Constitution that had accorded primacy to the Chief Justice of India in the appointment of judges. Under the NJAC, a panel of six members – the CJI, two senior-most judges, the Union law minister and two eminent experts – will select and transfer judges. Rohatgi referred to jurist Fali Nariman’s argument to contend that the existing system was illegal. Nariman had said the Narendra Modi government had ignored the earlier NDA regime’s bill of a better variant of the NJAC with primacy to the judiciary, as suggested by the Justice Venkatachallaiah panel. He said the Venkatachallaiah commission, too, had said there should be an NJAC and the power of appointment should not be vested only with the judiciary, thus disagreeing with the collegium system. “According to us, the present collegium system is illegal,” he said. “(But) Venkatachallaiah is not a statute. Today, Parliament is not accountable to Mr Fali Nariman or Mr Venkatachallaiah,” he said. Ideally, the court should “allow the (new) system to work, see how it works and not nip it in the bud”, he said, but avoided any assurance on when the law would be notified. Supreme Court Bar Association president Dushayant Dave supported Rohatgi, saying the arguments of the petitioners are “based on fallacy”.Santosh Paul, appearing for the NGO Change India that opposes the NJAC, cited the example of the UK judicial commission on which the NJAC is modelled. He said: “No politician is part of the (UK) commission. Affiliation to any political party is considered an encroachment of judicial independence.” He said a constitutional amendment comes into being on the date it gets the President’s assent. In this case, the assent came on December 31. The arguments will resume tomorrow. (The Telegraph 19/3/15)

 

113. PIL filed over difficulties faced by non-custodian parents, children while meeting at family courts

Mumbai: A PIL has been filed in the Bombay High Court to bring to the court’s notice the difficulties faced by children and non-custodian parents who are not permitted to meet outside the cramped Child Access Room in the children’s complex at family courts. Petitioner Kishwar Mirza has alleged that in spite of guidelines being issued to the family court, non-custodian parents are not allowed to meet the child outside the Child Access Room during the pendency of the parents’ divorce case. According to the petition, guidelines named “Child Access & Custody Guidelines ” formulated by an NGO named Child Rights Foundation, and the Guardian Judges of the Family Courts in the State of Maharashtra, were circulated to the Family Court Judges and Marriage Counselors across the state by the Registrar, High Court in January 2011. “However, the same has not been implemented/approved brought into force/effect, and the same merely lies idle on the desk of the benches of the Family Courts,” the petition says. The guidelines reportedly detail the mode and manner in which access/visitation is to be provided to the non-custodial parent. The petitioner has urged HC to approve the guidelines and direct the principal judge of Family Courts to implement them. Moreover, the petition requested the Court to permit a Panel of renowned practicing psychiatrists to visit the Family Court to ascertain the medical/psychological conditions of the children and submit a report accordingly. The petition says that the children are exposed to a litigating environment which is “ruining and poisoning their normal growth”. Alleging that the non-custodian parent feels as if he or she is meeting a jail inmate at the Children’s Complex, the petitioner urged the court to frame guidelines pertaining to the issues. (Indian Express 24/3/15)

114. After 66A is scrapped, Sec 67 of same Act lands Chennai techie in jail (19)

CHENNAI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Section 66A of Information Technology Act saying the clause struck at the root of liberty and freedom of expression. It, however, does not mean that sending abusive messages through a computer or communication device will exempt an offender from conviction. A cyber culprit can still be sentenced under similar provisions of the IT Act, IPC and state-enacted provisions that criminalize harassment. A software engineer learned this the hard way. Srinath Nambudri of Karnataka will now cool his heels in prison for one year on the charge of harassing a woman colleague after she spurned his advances. The cyber cell of the CB-CID, in December 2011, had registered a case against Nambudri under various provisions including Section 66A of IT Act (sending offensive and menacing electronic mail. On Tuesday, even as the Supreme Court said Section 66A of the IT Act was unconstitutional and struck it down, a city court, perhaps following the dictum, absolved him from conviction under the section. But he was found guilty of charges under Section 67 (punishment for publishing or obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act, 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation, if threat be to cause death or grievous hurt) and 509 (uttering any word or making any gesture to insult the modesty of a woman) of IPC, along with Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998. According to police, Nambduri was working as a software engineer at TCS, Siruseri. He was attracted to a colleague, and expressed his love to her. When she spurned his advances, an infuriated Nambudri started sending several obscene and derogatory emails to her from April 2011. On one occasion, when the woman went to the US on an official visit, he emailed malicious contents about her to the company’s head. Nambudri also sent a morphed nude picture of the woman to her brother. “He continued to stalk and eve-tease the woman electronically for several months,” said special public prosecutor Mary Jayanthi… (Times of India 26/3/15)

115. Anti-dowry legislations must not be anti-men, demand activists (19)

NAGPUR: Men’s rights activists have always harped on the misuse of Domestic Violence Act and anti-dowry laws. They are now further upset about a proposed amendment to section 498A of Indian Penal Code, which makes it a compoundable offence. The activists feel that this will only lead to an increase in the number of false cases and abuse of the law. NGO Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) has objected to the proposed amendment, while also making several suggestions that can help implement the law in a better way. SIFF describes as state sponsored extortion the move to favour feminists through biased laws without consideration of men’s abuse. The organization has demanded that divorce and dowry related cases be dealt with in a more accountable way. “Even the government acknowledges the extensive misuse of dowry laws in the country. It’s not a new phenomenon. We have been bringing it to the attention of authorities for years,” said SIFF president Rajesh Vakharia. He added that the judiciary itself was responsible for this misuse, as it has focused on making the laws so women-friendly that it has ended up making it abusive towards accused men. SIFF presented several examples to point out how the Criminal Procedure Code is broken blatantly by the police and judiciary in cases of marital discord and dowry. Despite the rules, police don’t provide any counselling before registering a case under both laws. Moreover, they arrest the accused and even their relatives against whom a complaint hasn’t been made, without a warrant. Bail petitions of accused in these cases often take months to be cleared even if a man is willing to cooperate in the investigation. No action is taken against a complainant or her relatives even if they physically abuse the accused or his relatives. Even if cases linger on for years, judges take no action on women for not attending hearings. “It is sad that instead of working to resolve these procedural hurdles, which result in abuse of men, the government is planning to make this law compoundable. It is already compoundable in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. After the law was made compoundable, the misuse of this law increased manifold in these states,” said SIFF spokesperson Jyoti Tiwari. ..(Times of India 26/3/15)

116. Draconian anti-terror measures a concern: Former chief justice (19)

MUMBAI: While terrorism needs to be condemned, counter-terrorist measures, including draconian laws too are matters of concern, said chairperson of National Human Rights Commission and former chief justice of India Justice KG Balakrishnan. At a conference on international terrorism in Mumbai on Sunday, Justice Balakrishnan said anti-terrorist laws have put a large number of people in jail without trial and conviction. “It is a matter of worry,” he said. Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, chief justice of Bangladesh, said his country always supported global war against terrorism, but its ability to combat terrorism is undermined by weak institutions, porous borders and limited law enforcement capacity,” he said. NGT chairman Justice Swatentar Kumar likened terrorism to free air capable of transcending borders and checks. He urged members of younger generation and students to be aware implications of terrorist acts. Justice Chauhan, chairman of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, said government should focus on employment policies across the nation, especially in border regions, so that hungry and unemployed do not land in the trap of rival nations. (Times of India 30/3/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

117. Activists threaten case on Omar Abdullah (1)

Srinagar:  A civil society group in Jammu and Kashmir said on Wednesday that it will file a criminal case against National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah if a senior police officer stands by his allegation that as chief minister he had asked him to “bump off” separatist leader Massarat Aalam when arrested in October 2010. The police officer, Syed Ashiq Hussein Bukhari, a former senior superintendent of police (Srinagar range), had earlier claimed that that the then chief minister had on hearing about the arrest of Mr. Aalam from the outskirts of Srinagar city on October 18, 2010 after a four-month hunt, asked him (Mr Bukhari) on the phone why he had been arrested and not bumped off. The former police officer, who had after his retirement announced to join (now) the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, also reportedly said that apart from getting a cash reward of `1 million earlier announced by the government for information leading to the separatist leader’s arrest, he was given additional `1.5 million by the then chief minister “from his own pocket”. The police officer also claimed that Mr Abdullah paid him `1.5 crore through four cheques for his “outstanding work”. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said in a statement here, “These allegations confirm the truth that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have known. That extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances and other crimes have been routinely used by the Indian state to control the population of the state.” It added, “Fake encounters, as proposed by Omar Abdullah in the case of Massarat Aalam, has been a regular tool of the State. Further, money – in the form of cash rewards for these crimes – has fuelled and sustained the work of various armed forces personnel, including police, in carrying out the necessary crimes.” The JKCCS said that the allegations levelled by the former police officer “merely substantiate the pre-existing evidence on the numerous fake encounters and other crimes committed in Jammu and Kashmir” and reiterated the demand for impartial and fair investigations to uncover the truth of past violations, including attacks on political leaders such as the killing of separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz in 2008. “The reported statement of Omar Abdullah is also reminiscent of an earlier reported statement of January 13, 2001 of the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah that his orders to the police are ‘wherever you find a militant, dispatch him to Allah as I do not want to fill jails’. “This mirrors the later Indian Army Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations released on December 31, 2006 which speaks of ‘neutralizing all hostile elements in the conflict zone that oppose or retard the peace initiatives and secondly, at transforming the will and attitudes of the people”. The group also said that Mr. Bukhari himself has numerous allegations of human rights violations against him in addition to responsibility, directly and/or under the principle of command responsibility, for the killing of 18 persons in Srinagar, upon him taking control of Srinagar as SSP in June 2010. “The present reported allegations must lead to formal proceedings i.e. criminal investigations. The cynical use of the media by criminal insiders to score personal political points is not a substitute for formal criminal proceedings,” it said adding “Further, while Ashiq Bukhari reveals part of the criminal enterprise, as did former Army Chief (retired), General V.K. Singh earlier regarding Army funding in Jammu and Kashmir and the role of then SSP Anantnag, Farooq Khan, in the Pathribal fake encounter, numerous others remain silent and continue to enjoy the comforts of the State”. The JKCCS further said the latest revelations by former police officer “must lead to a public accountability of all cash rewards given to armed forces including police which as Indian State mercenaries have committed crimes in Jammu and Kashmir…The corruption that fuels crimes must be investigated, along with the crimes themselves.” The group spokesperson and human rights activist Khurram Parvez added, “As an immediate step, ex-SSP Ashiq Bukhari must stand by his statements and we will file a case against then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.” (Asian Age 12/3/15)

118. Custodial Torture Case of Dalit Farmer goes to CB-CID (1)

CHENNAI: Madras High Court has directed the CBCID to probe the alleged custodial torture of a Dalit in Kaveripakkam  police station in Vellore district while granting him Rs 2 lakh as  interim compensation. Justice T S Sivagnanam gave the directions recently while disposing of a writ petition by Poovarasan, an agricultural labourer of Athipattu village. According to petitioner, he was arrested on the night of September 23, 2014 and taken to Kaveripakkam police station where he was beaten up brutally. He was produced before the District Munsif-cum-Judicial Magistrate in Wallajahpet around noon the next day, who referred him to a local hospital for medical examination. As the injuries were heavy, the doctors there referred him to the Government Hospital in Vellore. Even then, according to the  petitioner, the police made an attempt to kidnap him when he was on way to the hospital in an ambulance. However, he was brought back to the court following the intervention of the magistrate, who after chiding the police personnel, granted bail to the victim. As Poovarasan could not expect justice from the local police, his counsel V Suresh of Peoples Union of Civil Liberties, filed the writ petition in the High Court. He also demanded a compensation of `50 lakh for the sufferings underwent by Poovarasan at the hands of the police. Based on the medical records, produced by the Public Prosecutor, the Court concluded that the injuries on Poovarasan was inflicted at Kaveripakkam police station on September 23, 2014. The records suggested that the injuries were inflicted using wooden rod. The Judge observed that there is sufficient material to come to a prima facie conclusion that  Poovarasan was assaulted on the premises of the Kaveripakkam police station by police personnel. Surprisingly, the counter affidavit filed by Vellore Superintendent of Police does not deal with these issues, except merely denying all the averments made by the petitioner, the Judge noted. It does not speak about the action taken on the petitioner’s complaint dated September 26. Further, the Judicial Magistrate in his order dated September 24, has noted the fractures and multiple injuries sustained by the petitioner and suggested treatment and hence, he had granted bail. All this made out a prima facie case, Justice Sivagnanam said. Hence, the court directed the local police to forward the complaint given by the petitioner on September 26, 2014 to the Director General of Police who in turn must entrust the investigations to a competent officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, CBCID. The Court observed that till the investigation is completed by the CB CID and a final report is filed, the petitioner was entitled for an interim compensation of Rs 2 lakh and left it open to the petitioner to work out his remedies after the conclusion of the proceedings. (New Indian Express 17/3/15)

119. Centre to take final call on AFSPA: J&K Governor (1)

Jammu: J&K Governor N N Vohra today noted that the final decision on the continuation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state would be taken by the central government. “Keeping in mind the fact that the situation is steadily improving, the government will examine the need for de-notifying ‘disturbed areas’ and this in turn, would enable the central government to take a final view on the continuation of the AFSPA in such areas,” he said while addressing the joint session of the state legislature. “In this context, the coalition government will thoroughly review the security in J&K and examine the need and desirability of all the special laws which are being applied in the state,” he said. Vohra maintained that there has been “progressive improvement” in the security environment in the state. “In the recent years there has been progressive improvement in the security environment. To build greater and sustained public confidence, the coalition government is committed to ensure that the people of the state are enabled to fully enjoy the peace and normalcy dividend,” he said. The Governor pointed out that the government would also address the concerns of the people living on the border and those in the remote and far flung areas of the state. Vohra added that the state would work on returning the land taken by the security forces to its owners. “A very important step which the government will implement shall be to ensure that all lands, other than those which have been given to the security forces on lease, license or through acquisition under the provision of the land acquisition act; must be returned to the rightful legal owners within a given time frame,” he said. (Business Standard 18/3/15)

 

120. ‘They treated us worse than animals’: SFI activists in Shimla allege police brutality (1)

Shimla: Amid allegations of police brutality and torture, a Shimla court on Friday rejected the bail pleas of six Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists, who are in jail following violent clashes with the police outside Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday. The activists, including SFI state president Puneet Dhanta, were arrested on charges of rioting and lawlessness. They were protesting against decisions, including a fee hike, taken by the Himachal Pradesh University and the state government. Outside prison, SFI activists who were part of the protest allege they were beaten up and tortured at the police station. One of the activists, Pallavi, who sustained injuries to her face, has sought shelter with a local family fearing arrest. Another activist, Lokinder Kumar, showed torture marks all over his body and said he can’t walk, sit or eat properly. Kumar, who has also been named in the FIR, had an additional charge added against him for allegedly escaping from police custody from the local hospital, where he was taken for a medical test.SFI national president Dr V Sivadasan, who was also injured, is being treated in New Delhi. He was granted bail on Friday. Rama Kant Mishra, CPM’s 62-year old office secretary, said he too was treated in an “inhuman manner” at the police station along with other SFI activists. Mishra says he was was not part of the agitation, but was rounded up from the CPM state office along with other SFI activists. He was in the office after addressing the SFI rally, and was planning to return to Delhi, when he was picked up. Mishra said, “I pleaded with them not to beat me up as I am a heart patient. Three-four people pounced on me with lathis. They hurled abuses when I asked if they were carrying search warrants to enter the CPM office. They treated us worse than animals.” “Sivadasan was stripped naked, kicked repeatedly by policemen. I saw lying on the floor, being beaten non-stop.” Kumar, too, recounted a similar experience. “I was saving some women activists during the lathi charge. At one point, I felt I might die, so I raised up my hands and surrendered. But they showed no sympathy and thrashed me.” SP, Shimla, D W Negi said, “I won’t deny that some SFI activists, who were taken to the police station, may have been dealt with sternly. After all, they were not taken there to be worshipped or rewarded for creating lawlessness .”.. (Indian Express 22/3/15)

121. AFSPA to be gradually scrapped from Jammu and Kashmir: Mufti (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedJammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedTwo days after twin terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir killed three security personnel, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Monday said his government would initiate the gradual process of scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state. “There are certain reservations as far as the Defence Ministry and some army officials are concerned, but we will try to start the gradual process (of scrapping AFSPA),” Mufti told the state Assembly. “Until you completely revoke AFSPA, make your people accountable,” he said. Referring to his recent discussion with GOC-in-C Northern Command Lt Gen DS Hooda, Mufti said, “I told him that you have to have a standard procedure.” On the alleged encounter in which two youths were killed in Budgam district, he said, “Two people were fired upon by the army and killed, but I came to know that when prime minister was informed about it, he ordered an enquiry into it. “The two boys were not terrorists but innocent civilians. He (the PM) asked the army to take the responsibility.” Mufti said the prime minister made sure that the culprits in the Machil Fake encounter case too were punished. “In Machil Fake encounter case, they killed innocent people for medals but the army court-martialed them and made sure that they were punished,” he said. (India Today 23/3/15)

122. Political parties react cautiously to court verdict (1)

New Delhi: The massacre of 42 Muslims in 1987 in Meerut’s Hashimpura locality must rate as one of the most shameful cases of custodial killings in independent India. Yet the recent acquittal by a Delhi court of the 16 accused personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary on March 20, 28 years after the event, has evoked a muted response from political parties, leaving the outrage to civil rights groups. If the Congress’s Pramod Tiwari, a minister in the UP state government in 1987, has been reported accusing both the prosecution and the investigating agency (CB-CID) of failing to do their duty sincerely, BJP State president Laxmikant Bajpai, while avoiding comment on the court’s decision, has blamed the prosecution for not being able to prove its case, while pointing out that the Congress had been in power at the time of the incident and that the Samajwadi Party is currently ruling UP. Mr. Bajpai, however, failed to mention that the BJP was in power at the Centre (1998-2004, and from May 2014 onwards) and in UP (1991-92 and 1997-2002) in the intervening years. The incident took place on the Congress’s watch – it was in power both in UP and at the Centre — in 1987 and the party evidently does not want to draw attention to that by being vocal on the judgment. The BJP apparently does not wish attention to be drawn to the fact that the episode occurred during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and corresponding anti-Muslim violence that eventually propelled it to power in UP in 1991. As for the SP, currently ruling UP, and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has been in power in the State more than once over the last 28 years, both have merely expressed their sympathy for the Muslim victims. The strongest response has come from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has demanded that the verdict be appealed and the case “strongly pursued” in a higher court. In a statement, the party said, “The acquittal due to insufficient evidence highlights the callous manner in which the prosecution of those guilty for communal killings are being conducted.” PAC personnel had rounded up close to 50 Muslims from Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, during Hindu-Muslim riots, shot them dead and dumped their bodies in water canals — 42 bodies were later discovered, while there were five survivors who surfaced later. This incident led to a long legal battle in the courts. Now, a lower court in Delhi has acquitted all the surviving accused for lack of evidence. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

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

Gandhinagar: As many as 61 persons died during police custody in the last five years, the Gujarat government today informed the state Legislative Assembly. Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel said this while replying to Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani who had sought details about custodial deaths. In her written reply, Patel stated that a total of 61 persons have died in police custody in the last five years (as on November-2014). Out of these, thirty died a natural death, while thirty others committed suicide. Surat city registered seven deaths in police custody, including four suicide cases. Others include Banaskantha district (five deaths) Ahmedabad city (four deaths), Anand (three), Morbi (three), Bhavnagar (three) and Kutch-West (three). (Zee News 26/3/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

124. TV channel targeted for talk show (1)

Chennai: The office of Tamil news channel Puthiya Thalaimurai was attacked on Thursday by a motorcycle-borne gang with crude bombs, just days after it was forced to cancel the telecast of a programme at the instance of Hindutva outfits. No one was injured in the incident. The bombs stuffed in a food carrier and a ‘soap box’ exploded outside the office, but caused no damage to property. While the city police arrested six persons involved in the attack, the president of Hindu Ilaignar Sena, Jayam A. Pandian, surrendered in a Madurai court claiming responsibility for the incident. Around 3 a.m., four men on two motorcycles hurled two bombs into the compound of the channel’s office on the Guindy Industrial Estate. Both exploded with a loud noise shocking security personnel N. Janakiraman and S. Rajasekar on duty and mediapersons on night shift in the building. It was a low-intensity blast as the bombs were assembled using firecrackers, the police said. CCTV cameras installed on the office premises captured the images of the attack and a preliminary examination by the police of the footage revealed dark pictures of the suspects, who were spotted loitering in the area 30 minutes before the attack. On Sunday, a cameraman of Puthiya Thalaimurai was attacked allegedly by some Hindu Munnani cadres, who had gathered outside its office to protest against the scheduled telecast of a controversial debate by the channel. The debate was on the question whether the ‘thaali’ (the ‘mangalsutra’ worn by married women) was still relevant in this day and age. Hindu outfits claimed it was an affront to Hindu culture. Chennai Police Commissioner S. George said the six persons involved in the attack were — Venugopal (29), Saravanan (24), Siva (22), Murali (32), Raja (22) and Mahadevan (27) — all employees of a travel agency owned by Jayam Pandian in Koyambedu here. A motorbike used for the crime and unused crackers were seized. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

125. Ban on airing India’s Daughter to continue (1)

NEW DELHI: Remarking that media trials tend to influence judgments, the Delhi High Court on Thursday said although it had no objection to screening of the BBC documentary India’s Daughter , the matter can only be decided after a verdict regarding the fate of the convicts by the Supreme Court. The Division Bench further said that whether the ban be lifted or not can only be decided by an appropriate Chief Justice’s Bench. “We are prima-facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, but only after the Supreme Court decides the appeals,” said a Division Bench of Justices B. D. Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva. It also refused to pass any interim orders on the appeal asking for the ban to be lifted. “Had it been originally placed before us, we would have asked you to place material before us on why ban be lifted. But it has come here from the Roster Bench of the Chief Justice, so we will not pass any interim orders. Let the Roster Bench decide it,” the court said. The judges spoke at length over the subject of media trials influencing court decisions. “Media trials do tend to influence judges. Subconsciously, a pressure is created and it does have an effect on the sentencing of the accused. Whether he [accused] has shown remorse or not will be considered at the time of his sentencing. Why not wait till the Supreme Court decision?” The petitioners in the case also said that such a ban might result in more gags. They added that the video had anyway spread via the Internet, with no law and order situation arising, so they could not see a point to its ban. Though the Court partly agreed, it also said that it was forced to impose these restrictions since sub judice matters are being reported brazenly these days. The government had claimed that permitting the video will mean, giving the convict a platform to air his views, which were only derogatory statements against the victim. (The Hindu 13/3/15)

126. 75 media persons killed in Syria since 2011: Report (1)

Geneva: Journalists paid a heavy price for informing people about the sufferings in the Syrian conflict, with at least 75 media persons being killed in the war-torn country since March 2011, a report said on Tuesday. The findings of the study by the Swiss-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) were presented at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) here on Tuesday, Xinhua reported. “During the past three years, Syria was the most dangerous place for journalists to work,” the PEC said in a statement. It noted that a peak in the horror was reached when three journalists — Kenji Goto of Japan, and Steven Sotloff and James Foley of the US — were beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. The PEC also expressed concern over the fate of Mazen Darwish, the director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, who was detained in February 2012 along with his two colleagues, Hani Zitani and Hussein Al Ghurair, and called for their immediate release. Syria, along with the neighbouring Iraq, has faced the brunt of the IS, which controls large territories in the two countries. The IS had proclaimed a caliphate under its ruler Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the areas it controls in the two countries. The PEC is a non-governmental organisation with special consultative UN status, and was founded in June 2004 by journalists from several countries with the aim of strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest, or on dangerous missions. (Business Standard 17/3/15)

127. Attack on TV channel condemned (1)

KRISHNAGIRI: Condemning the recent attacks on writers and a private news channel, the district media came together on Monday to voice their protest against the rising acts of violence. In a demonstration staged at Anna Statue near here, the media came on board to condemn the hounding of Tamil writers including Perumal Murugan, Puliyur Murugesan and the last week’s crude bomb attack on a private television channel. The protestors wanted both the State Government and the police to prevent such attacks. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

128. Bombay High Court bats for freedom of speech (1)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Tuesday in its order held that a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government or its measures by way of criticism or comments so long as he does not incite violence against the government or do so with the intention of creating public disorder. A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N.M. Jamdar passed the ruling while hearing public interest litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Sanskar Marathe. The PIL was filed after the arrest of Kanpur-based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on September 8, 2012. Trivedi was arrested after a sedition charge of section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code was slapped on him for drawing cartoons and caricatures allegedly insulting the national emblem and Parliament. Soon after the petition was filed, the state government had come up with a draft circular for police stations on how to handle such cases. The court, however, continued hearing the petition on the limited question of invocation of section 124 A of IPC and the permissible lawful restriction on the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of public order. The judges in their order clarified that they were not hearing the petition with respect to any offence alleged to have been committed by Mr Trivedi. While disposing of the petition the judges asked the government to widely circulate the guidelines to all authorities concerned. An FIR under the sedition charge was filed against Mr Trivedi after his cartoons were displayed at the movement started by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. The judges, however, after seeing those cartoons observed, “Having seen the seven cartoons in question drawn by the third respondent (Trivedi), it is difficult to find any element of wit or humour or sarcasm.” The judges further said, those cartoons “were full of anger and disgust against corruption prevailing in the political system and had no element of wit or humour or sarcasm.” According to judges for that reason the freedom of speech and expression available to Trivedi to express his indignation against corruption in the political system in strong terms or visual representations could not have been encroached upon when there is no allegation of incitement to violence. (Asian Age 18/3/15)

 

129. Government welcomes SC judgment on Section 66A: Prasad (1)

New Delhi: Welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, on Tuesday, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said people in power should be tolerant and liberal towards criticism. “We welcome this decision by the Supreme Court. The government is committed to free speech. India is a democratic country and free flow of ideas should be respected. We do not seek to curtail any right,” Prasad told reporters in a press meet here. The minister, however, said it was important to have self-regulation as well when expressing thoughts in social media. “There are lakhs of people in India indulging in social media. I am a supporter of self-regulation and would like to say it is important to have self-regulation,” he said. He said social media platforms should also practise some ‘self-restraint’. Earlier in the day, he said the government did not favour gagging dissent or honest criticism on social media. Prasad said: “We respect communication of ideas on social media, not in favour of curtailing honest criticism, dissent on social media.” Earlier, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 66A violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech. “Section 66A of the IT Act is struck down in its entirety,” said the apex court bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. “Our Constitution provides for liberty of thought, expression and belief. In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme. The law (Section 66A) is vague in its entirety,” said Justice Nariman pronouncing the judgment. The minister said the government absolutely respects the right to freedom of speech and expression on social media and has no intention of curbing it. “Only reasonable restrictions apply on social media, as they do in routine normal day to day life in the physical world under Article 19(2) of the constitution of India. We will have to understand that we cannot set a different standard of public morality for speech & expression in cyberspace from speech in other mediums and in the public domain,” the minister added. The Supreme Court has “read down” Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act which states that “upon receiving actual knowledge, or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner”. Taking a dig at the earlier United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Prasad said: “When the UPA Govt came out with draconian provisions under 66A, BJP in opposition firmly opposed it and said that ’66 is unacceptable in current form’. BJP resolutely stood up against the censorship and blocking on social media done by UPA government.” “Once in government, it took its opposition to the draconian provisions of 66A on record in Court Proceedings. New Affidavits filed by NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government in Hon’ble Supreme Court clearly show the marked difference in the approach from UPA Govt.,” he said. “NDA government, in what can be dubbed as a landmark moment in India’s Internet history, has accorded the same amount of freedom of speech and expression that a citizen of India is granted in normal life under our constitution by our founding fathers,” Prasad added. (Business Standard 24/3/15)

130. Scrapping of Section 66A of IT Act: Khushbu says social media should have self-regulation

CHENNAI: Newly appointed national spokesperson of the Congress, Khushbu Sundar, on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court order that scrapped Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act. However, she said there had to be some self-regulation within the social media. “Whether it is celebrities or politicians, or others, they have to draw a line beyond which they should not cross,” Khushbu said here. She was answering questions at her maiden press meet, a after she was appointed as the Congress spokesperson. She defended party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s month-long sabbatical saying, “He is a human being.” “Rahul has taken leave of absence and everybody has to wait till he comes back,” she said. Asked whether she had left the DMK because she felt strongly about the lack of democracy in that party, Khushbu said she had not mentioned the reasons when she quit the party last year and would never be provoked to reveal it. “I can only say that my respect and regard for DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi remains undiminished,” she said. On the possibility of her being named as the party’s CM candidate for the 2016 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Khushbu said it was hypothetical and it was too early to speak about that now. On some detractors saying that she had little knowledge of state and national issues, Khushbu dared them to ask her questions. “I was appointed only last evening as a spokesperson and am not a member of the party’s planning committee,” she said. She took a dig at AIADMK leader and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa and chief minister O Panneerselvam saying “Amma remains within her house, while OPS has only now dared to sit in the CM’s chair in the state assembly.” Responding to another query, she played down factionalism within the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee saying all were members of one party. (Times of India 25/3/15)

131. Scribes stage House walkout (1)

Shillong, March 25: Journalists in Meghalaya today walked out of the press gallery in the Assembly – when chief minister Mukul Sangma replied on a discussion on state budget, as a part of the boycott against him for calling the media “publicity houses of terrorist organisations”.More than 50 reporters from the print and electronic media, as well as photographers, walked out of the House as soon as Mukul stood up to speak. Media houses in Meghalaya have started to boycott the chief minister since March 23 after he refused to withdraw derogatory statements he had made against the media on the floor of the Assembly recently. On March 10, while replying to a motion on the government’s failure to promote tourism in Garo hills Mukul lambasted national and local media for “negative reporting” about the Northeast, including Meghalaya. Despite the demand from the media to withdraw such remarks, Mukul on March 20 said in the Assembly that no words spoken by him during the course of his reply (on March 10) were unparliamentary. He said every member of the Assembly enjoys the privilege to speak in the House, adding that any attempt to gag the members amounts to breach of that privilege. Disapproving of Mukul’s stand, the mediapersons feel no legislator has the right to make sweeping statements against anyone in the House and hide behind legislative privileges.Meghalaya, which drafted a sports policy many years ago and could not come up with the final draft, has contemplated entrusting the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong to prepare the much-awaited policy. Replying to a question raised in the Assembly by Independent legislator Saleng A. Sangma, sports and youth affairs minister Zenith Sangma said the state government was planning to entrust IIM Shillong with preparing the policy and that this would require at least seven to eight months. Zenith said a state resource group was constituted on May 20 last year headed by former home minister, R.G. Lyngdoh, the president of Meghalaya State Olympic Association (MSOA), to prepare the draft policy. However, the group had only two sittings till today and has not been able to complete the exercise tasked to it, though it was assigned to complete the drafting of the policy within two months. The Opposition, however, attacked the government for its failure to finalise the sports policy as it is still at a drafting stage. They also sought a clarification from the minister if a sports quota would be included in the proposed sports policy. (The Telegraph 26/3/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

132. RTI query on Gujarat riots stonewalled again by PMO (7)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office has once again refused to release details of the correspondence during the Gujarat riots between then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, citing “third party objections.” RTI activist Subhash Agarwal wrote to the PMO in December 2013 seeking complete copies of correspondence between Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Modi between February 27, 2002, the day the Sabarmati Express was set on fire in Godhra, and April 30, 2002, by when the worst of the post-Godhra riots was over. After first refusing to give the information, a decision overturned in appeal, the PMO replied to Mr. Agarwal in April 2014 that it was seeking consent of third parties. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

133. Muzaffarnagar riots: Displaced people to get pension benefit (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: The state government has decided to extend the benefit of the ‘Samajwadi Pension Scheme’ to almost two thousand persons displaced due to the Muzaffarnagar riots. “The benefit of Samajwadi pension scheme would be provided to the displaced families affected by the riots in the district. Some 2,065 people who were displaced because of the riots in Jolla, Paldi, Shafipur, Loee Sarai and other places have filled-up the forms, which will be scrutinised, to provide them the benefit of the scheme,” additional district magistrate, Indermani Tripathi said. The district authorities have identified 45,245 people for the ‘Samajwadi Pension Scheme’ which included two thousands riot-hit victims. (Times of India 15/3/15)

134. Section of media to blame for biased coverage of riots’(7)

HYDERABAD: Studies have revealed that sections of the media were biased in reporting communal incidents such as the post Godhra riots in Gujarat and the violent aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, said eminent journalist N Ram. Addressing a gathering at the Manuu conference, Ram said a report by the Press Council of India (PCI) and the Editor’s Guild had noted that a section of the media had adopted a “general culpability in adopting a celebratory attitude” after the demolition of the mosque. He said that PCI report described that the Hindi media had played a “karsevak role”.Touching upon the post Godhra riots, Ram said, “There was a differential coverage between the English and Gujarati media. While the national media was applauded for truth telling, the mischievous role of the Gujarati newspapers is a fact that fact-finding missions have said cannot be glossed over. Fuelling disorder is a criminal offence.” Ram also said that UPA – II had withheld the 2011 census data which showed an upward trend in the Muslim population. This, he said, was in view of the 2014 elections. Blaming the media partly for the portrayal of Muslims, eminent journalist Shekhar Gupta said Muslims were the “usual suspects” in terror attacks. “So many Iftekhars and Irfans have been caught and later other groups were found to be involved. Anybody who is kept in police custody for six months or a year is ruined for life,” he said. He noted that movies in the 80s and 90s perpetuated the stereotype of Muslims being terrorists. “Sunny Deol films were totally communal. That was when global terror began and profiling began.” Touching upon the subject of Muslims in newsrooms, Gupta said: “Muslims in media are trusted as anybody else. Newsrooms are not inclusive in terms of caste.” Noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said that the media houses are concerned about an increase in TRP which has led to a negative portrayal of Muslims. Many media houses invite Muslim intellectuals from the north, thereby ignoring the voices from the south, he said. “If you want a Muslim voice, don’t get him from Delhi of Lucknow but from Hyderabad,” he said. He noted that a Muslim parliamentarian such as Asaduddin Owaisi was unlikely to be invited on a debate on the land acquisition bill because the media was more interested in a “Togadia versus Owaisi” debate. “Movies in the 80s and 90s perpetuated the stereotype of Muslims being terrorists. Sunny Deol films were totally communal. That was when global terror began and profiling began.” (Times of India 18/3/15)

135. Communal post on FB triggers tension in Bhandara (7)

BHANDARA: Timely action by Bhandara police prevented a flare-up between two communities after a Std X student’s derogatory Facebook post briefly sparked tension in the city on Monday night. The student posted an objectionable photograph about a place of worship of Muslims while a friend of the boy wrote a derogatory remark about Prophet Mohammed on the post. This led to members of the aggrieved community barging into the boy’s friend’s house and thrashing him. Police registered an offence under relevant sections of IT Act and Indian Penal Code. The juvenile offenders will be produced before the court on Wednesday. The situation of the town is peaceful and under control, police said. Sources added that the juvenile student would regularly attend camps of right-wing organizations and was in close contact of their activists. According to reports, the 16-year-old boy, who is appearing for his Std X examination, sent the image in question to his friend via Facebook. His friend added an offending remark to the photograph and broadcast it among his friends. One of the friends is a Muslim and he informed members of his community about the post. Enraged, some members of the community went to Bhandara police station and lodged a complaint against the mischief mongers. Some others barged into the second student’s home in the night and thrashed him. Police were informed and rushed to the student’s home. Seeing this, the mob fled from the scene. The student was rushed to government general hospital at Bhandara. The student’s mother lodged a police complaint, mentioning the names of five youths. These youths have been arrested and booked under relevant sections of the IPC. On Tuesday, a group of activists met superintendent of police Kailash Kanse and demanded the arrest of another fifty persons who, the activists claimed, were involved in the attack. The activists said they were not satisfied with the replies given by Kanse. Kanse told TOI that the juvenile students were using the social networking site to create tension between two communities and their guardians should be watchful about their activities. The juvenile student appeared for his Std X examination under police protection on Tuesday. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

136. Curb hate speech that triggers communal riots, says Teesta (7)

CHENNAI: Communal flare-ups get noticed only when the violence takes place. But the events that cause the flare-ups should be duly dealt with so that they don’t take place, said Teesta Setalvad, well-known civil rights activist on Friday. In her speech during a seminar held in the city, Setalvad recalled the history of communal violence in the country and said that despite stringent laws in place, hate speeches often went unpunished in the past. Young people are impressionable and get swayed by hate speeches but premier educational institutions do not seem to care about the impact these speeches are having on their students. “College campuses like IITs and Banaras Hindu University do not have a problem in people like Subramaniam Swamy attacking certain communities while delivering speeches,” she said. Teesta also asked the younger generation to step out of their classrooms and social media to understand real history. Pointing out that the trigger factors for communal violence vary from place to place, Setalvad said there was a need to engage judges and policemen with people on the ground to get a clear picture of the situation leading to and following communal violence. “After 2002 post-Godhra communal violence, we were able to file many cases pertaining to it only after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) went on a field visit and recorded statements,” said Setalvad, who runs Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO that filed petitions on behalf of the victims of Godhra riots. (Times of India 21/3/15)

137. Political parties react cautiously to court verdict (1)

New Delhi: The massacre of 42 Muslims in 1987 in Meerut’s Hashimpura locality must rate as one of the most shameful cases of custodial killings in independent India. Yet the recent acquittal by a Delhi court of the 16 accused personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary on March 20, 28 years after the event, has evoked a muted response from political parties, leaving the outrage to civil rights groups. If the Congress’s Pramod Tiwari, a minister in the UP state government in 1987, has been reported accusing both the prosecution and the investigating agency (CB-CID) of failing to do their duty sincerely, BJP State president Laxmikant Bajpai, while avoiding comment on the court’s decision, has blamed the prosecution for not being able to prove its case, while pointing out that the Congress had been in power at the time of the incident and that the Samajwadi Party is currently ruling UP. Mr. Bajpai, however, failed to mention that the BJP was in power at the Centre (1998-2004, and from May 2014 onwards) and in UP (1991-92 and 1997-2002) in the intervening years. The incident took place on the Congress’s watch – it was in power both in UP and at the Centre — in 1987 and the party evidently does not want to draw attention to that by being vocal on the judgment. The BJP apparently does not wish attention to be drawn to the fact that the episode occurred during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and corresponding anti-Muslim violence that eventually propelled it to power in UP in 1991. As for the SP, currently ruling UP, and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has been in power in the State more than once over the last 28 years, both have merely expressed their sympathy for the Muslim victims. The strongest response has come from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has demanded that the verdict be appealed and the case “strongly pursued” in a higher court. In a statement, the party said, “The acquittal due to insufficient evidence highlights the callous manner in which the prosecution of those guilty for communal killings are being conducted.” PAC personnel had rounded up close to 50 Muslims from Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, during Hindu-Muslim riots, shot them dead and dumped their bodies in water canals — 42 bodies were later discovered, while there were five survivors who surfaced later. This incident led to a long legal battle in the courts. Now, a lower court in Delhi has acquitted all the surviving accused for lack of evidence. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

138. Clean chit to Tytler in 1984 riots case: ‘Upset’ Phoolka to file protest petition (7)

NEW DELHI: Expressing his disappointment over the CBI’s move to file a closure report giving clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 riots case, senior advocate HS Phoolka on Wednesday said that he would file a protest petition regarding the same. Phoolka said it is very unfortunate that the CBI quietly filed the closure report giving clean chit to Tytler on December 24, 2014. “There has been a hearing in the court after that but this matter has been kept top secret and confidential. Why a matter of such great importance is kept confidential? The people want to know,” he told ANI here. Phoolka also lashed out at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, for keeping silent on the entire episode despite being aware of the CBI’s move in this case. “The Akali Dal and the Gurdwara Committee were aware of it and even they did not inform the people. When Jagadish Tytler was given a clean-chit in 2009 during the UPA Government, the Akali Dal and the BJP raised such a hue and cry in the Parliament that the house had to be adjourned,” Phoolka said. “Now when their government is in power, they quietly want to ensure that Tytler is given the clean-chit,” he added. The senior advocate further said that he would file a protest petition challenging the clean-chit given by the CBI to Tytler. “Fortunately, till today, the court had not accepted this clean chit, we will definitely protest (against) this. We would have done this earlier if we were aware of it,” he said. Tytler was among the three prominent leaders named in the reports on anti-Sikh riots case. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which claimed the lives of almost 3000 Sikhs, were triggered by the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards. (Times of India 25/3/15)

139. Kishtwar riots: Final inquiry report changes line, indicts ex-minister Sajjad Kitchloo (7)

Srinagar: Former Minister of State for Home and sitting National Conference legislator in the Upper House of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature, Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, has been indicted by a one-man judicial commission that inquired into the communal riots that left three dead and over 80 injured in Kishtwar on Eid in 2013. The Commission, headed by retired High Court Justice R C Gandhi, indicted nearly five dozen people, including senior IAS and IPS officers, for their role in the violence. Among the officers named are then IGP (Jammu) Rajesh Kumar, then DIG (Ramban-Doda-Kishtwar) Ashkoor Wani, and the then Kishtwar DC and SP Mohammad Saleem Choudhary and Dr Sunil Gupta respectively. Kumar is now director of the Sher-e-Kashmir Police Academy in Udhampur, Wani is DIG, Traffic in Jammu, Gupta is SP, Leh, and Saleem Choudhary is with the Rural Development Department.The Commission has recommended a probe into the role played by civil and police officials posted at that time in Kishtwar town, sources said. It has hinted at a “larger conspiracy” behind the communal clashes, pointing out that the rioters had come prepared with containers full of kerosene. Sources said the Commission has referred to the deposition of a police officer who had, quoting a forensic report, said kerosene was poured before residential and commercial buildings were torched. During a nine-hour rampage, rioters had torched a large number of buildings on August 9, 2013. As the violence spilled to other places, the then Omar Abdullah government had imposed a curfew in various areas of the state, and put Kishtwar out of bounds, including for the media. The inquiry has, however, exonerated the bodyguard of local BJP leader Sunil Sharma, now Minister of State for Revenue and R&B, of the charge of inciting trouble by ramming his motorcycle into people in the Eid procession. Quoting witnesses who said he was beaten up by the mob, the Commission has said that the man appeared in fact, to have been a victim of the violence. It was Sharma who told reporters on Sunday that the Commission had indicted Kitchloo in its final report. The indictment for playing an active role in the violence comes a year after the same commission of inquiry had, in its interim report, exonerated him of “any involvement at any level” in the riots. Kitchloo on Sunday expressed surprise over the report, and both the National Conference and Congress termed it “suspect”, and described the inquiry as “partial”. “I don’t think so (that the Gandhi Commission has indicted me). How is it possible that he will indict me? He had given me a clean chit in the interim report,” the former MoS Home told The Indian Express. “It is all politics. Everybody in the state knows who planned the riots, and why.” Justice (retd) Gandhi himself said many witnesses had come forward after he submitted his interim report. “I won’t say (whether Kitchloo has been indicted or not). You read both the reports and then draw a conclusion,” he said. The National Conference said the contradictory reports reflected on the credibility of the Commission. “We have not seen the report as yet. If the media reports are true and Justice R C Gandhi Commission has indicted Kitchloo, it puts a big question mark on the credibility of the commission,” NC provincial president Devendar Rana said. “If he (Justice Gandhi) has now indicted Kitchloo, it means that either the earlier report, or the latest report is politically motivated. Either way, it makes the Commission of Inquiry suspect,” Rana added. Kitchloo, who was also the Kishtwar MLA at the time of the riots, had resigned after the BJP accused him of having played a partisan role in the violence. After the Gandhi Commission’s interim report said “no evidence” had been found of his “involvement at any level, though he was in the town that day”, Kitchloo was re-inducted as MoS Home. “It seems that the Justice wants to keep happy whosoever is in the government,” Ghulam Nabi Monga, senior Congress leader, said. “Had he (Justice Gandhi) written in his interim report that there was a prima facie case against Kitchloo, this would have been understandable. But how can you declare somebody innocent in the interim report, and accused in the final report?” Communist leader M Y Tarigami said he was “surprised”, and demanded an “objective assessment of the whole situation”. “The fact is that certain elements vitiated the environment, polarised the situation for political ends,” Tarigami said. “There is a vested interest of some outfits to polarise the state. That was evident from the recently held elections as well.” The PDP said it had not gone through the report. “Let’s first go through the report,” chief spokesman and Education minister Nayeem Akhtar said. “It would be then sent to the cabinet for a decision. We have not seen the report and it would not be proper for us to comment at this point of time.” (Indian Express 30/3/15)

COMMUNALISM

140. Speculation peaks over RSS reshuffle (26)

NAGPUR/MUMBAI: Amid intense speculation on a major reshuffle at the top level of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the outfit will meet for its triennial three-day conclave beginning Friday in Nagpur. Would Dattatreya Hosabale, considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, be elevated as the executive head of the RSS? And would Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi, the organisation’s man and second-in-command, step down the RSS hierarchy? There is a strong buzz that Mr. Hosabale, who is from Karnataka and currently holds the position of the joint secretary (sah karyavah), could be elevated to the post of sarkaryavah, the executive head of the body. The sah karyavah, who technically controls the organisation’s actual functioning, is essentially the second-in-command and just one rung below sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat. Mr. Joshi currently holds that post. Even as there is a strong buzz within the RSS that Mr. Joshi could step down, sources hinted that he could be asked to assume new duties in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

141. RSS’s Nagpur meet decides on inclusive Hinduism as key strategy for next 3 years (26)

NAGPUR: “One well, one temple and one crematorium” for all Hindus— that’s going to be the key strategy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the next three years as it seeks to unite all those who profess the faith by ending caste discrimination and bringing back to the fold those it sees as having moved away. It’s also looking to make the Northeast a focus area, expand in the south and push to give regional languages greater importance as opposed to the learning of “a foreign language”. These were among the themes that emerged at the Sangh’s Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Nagpur, where more than 1,400 representatives discussed ways of taking the saffronBSE 4.38 % agenda forward. During the three-day meeting that concluded on Sunday, the RSS took stock of a caste survey it had commissioned recently in more than a dozen states. Karyakartas were asked to make presentations about discrimination and ways of countering it, a project that Sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat is said to be keen on. Sevaks were asked to intensify programmes in all states in the coming months by organising ‘janajagran’ committees. “Last month, the Sangh itself had organised an event where we had called saints and heads of mutts who practice untouchability or some sort of caste discrimination to reason with them,” a senior member said. Additionally, the RSS had conducted drives to engage the migrant tribes of Uttarakhand that venerate Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap but were said to have drifted away from Hindu traditions in recent times. Also, more RSS leaders have been paying respects at Buddhist diksha bhumis (conversion venues), members noted. “The number of people attending programmes to listen to Hindu dharma has increased,” RSS general secretary Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi said. “This shows there is a growing interest among the community in being one.” The symbol of the Pratinidhi Sabha this time was Rani Gaidinliu of Nagaland who fought the British and opposed conversions of tribals to Christianity, suggesting the Northeast is a priority area for the RSS. One of its projects focuses on “making them aware of the similarities that exist in their birth, death and worship rituals with Hindu rituals,” said a member. Joshi said the focus of the Sangh for the next three years will be samavesh (inclusion) and samiksha (analysis). “We have reached only 54,000 villages now but the fact that we could open shakhas in 10,000 new kendras in the last few years shows there is an interest.” The sabha also passed a resolution demanding that that elementary education should be in the mother tongue or in state languages as “a person learning a foreign language gets alienated from his surroundings, traditions, culture and values of life”.The Sangh is planning a drive to increase the number of shakhas in southern India, the blueprint of which was prepared in the sabha. New chiefs were named for the southern units on Saturday and the growth plan will be discussed in a few days. More than 25 affiliated groups working in the educational, intellectual, political, cultural and social fields presented their report cards on Saturday and Sunday. RSS leader J Nandkumar said Sangh-run educational institutes had registered tremendous progress in the last three years. “The plan is to expand to every district, to reach out to as many households,” he said. In the coming months, activists will meet state education officials to look at the prospects of increasing the focus on regional languages. Senior RSS leaders feel previous attempts to unite Hindus had not succeeded because of differences within. “This year is (former Sarsangchalak) Balasaheb Deoras’s 100th birth anniversary. He chose the first non-Brahmin sarsangchalak and opened multiple doors to Dalits. We at the Sangh feel this is the best time to intensify the drive,” one member said. He added that reports presented by the karyakartas highlighted the need to intensify the effort. “For instance, in Bihar, our study shows that people over the age of 50 are not willing to change but they are open to us talking to their children about it.” The mood at the first Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister was upbeat with over a nearly 30% increase in shakhas and sevaks in the last few months. With Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah camping out at the Sangh hostel for all three days and holding crucial meetings with Bhagwat, the evenings were said to have been filled with political discussions, including plans for elections in Bihar, West Bengal and other states besides the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. It is believed that there were at least two detailed discussions on the vacant general secretary positions in the BJP and a cabinet reshuffle. A senior RSS member said political decisions have never been a key element of Pratinidhi Sabhas. “For the RSS, the BJP is just one of the frontal organisations among its 42 affiliates. It makes more sense for the Sangh to focus on organisations such as the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) or educational institutes that directly fall under it and can take the agenda forward,” one member said. (The Economic Times 16/3/15)

142. VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi stokes fresh controversy, says Mahatma Gandhi was a British agent

Lucknow: In comments that may trigger a huge controversy, firebrand Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sadhvi Prachi on Tuesday called Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi a British agent. In an apparent dig at Mahatma Gandhi, the controversial VHP leader said India got freedom from the British rule not by spinning the charkha, but because of sacrifices made by brave sons like Veer Savarkar and Bhagat Singh. Addressing a Hindu Sammelan in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district, the saffron clad leader further said that every Indian national, whether Hindu or Muslim, should be allowed to bear only two children. If somebody opts for more than two children then that person should be deprived of all the government facilities, the Sadhvi opined. She further said those who do not chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai’, “Vande Mataram”, insult the national flag and those who indulge in cow slaughter have no right to live in India. Sadhvi Prachi is not new to courting controversies. In the past she has several times made remarks at public functions which created huge political uproar. She had earlier kicked up a storm by saying that if persons of other community produce 40-50 children, then Hindus should also raise four children. Last month the VHP leader had stoked a controversy by making inflammatory remarks on the issue of ‘love jihad’. The latest hate speech came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning to party leaders to restrain from making controversial comments which can overshadow his government’s agenda of development and economic reforms. (Zee news 18/3/15)

 

143. VHP will campaign to fight untouchability (26)

New Delhi: After its “ghar wapsi” campaign, seen by many as a strategy for Hindu consolidation, came under criticism, the VHP seems to have changed tack to propagate its views. Citing a resolution passed during the 1969 “Udupi conclave” of saints, which said “Hindava sarve sahodaraha (All Hindus are brothers)”, senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia on Saturday said the organisation will launch a nationwide campaign against “untouchability”. The Sangh Parivar is of the view that the ostracism of people belonging to the so-called “lower caste” is one of the main reasons for religious conversion. The Parivar’s “ghar wapsi” campaign is aimed at bringing back to Hinduism those who converted. Maintaining that all Hindus are “genetically and racially” the same, the VHP leader said there is no place for untouchability in the Hindu religion. Giving details of the action plan regarding the campaign against untouchability, Mr Togadia said all Hindus, including SC/STs, should be allowed to enter temples, drink water from the same well as others, have the same crematorium and every Hindu family should adopt an SC/ST family and should share food and participate in functions with them. He said VHP leaders, saints and volunteers will visit more than six lakh villages to propagate the message against untouchability, which is against Hinduism. Mr Togadia, who reportedly doesn’t share a good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said he has been “too busy” with his work to assess the performance of the BJP government at the Centre. On the issue of beef ban in some states, he said in the name of personal freedom, one cannot disrespect the tradition and culture of the country or else there could be reactions. On the recent developments in J&K, including the release of separatist leader Massarat Aalam, Mr Togadia said: “Massarat Aalam has been released. Terror attacks are rising. The nation is watching… The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, with his actions, has compromised national interest.” He, however, declined to comment on the BJP’s decision to ally with the PDP but insisted that “national interest and national security should not be compromised”. The Hindutva firebrand leader also batted for the abrogation of Article 370, a long-time demand of the BJP, saying that the VHP remains committed to it. He also took a swipe at those blaming Hindutva groups for attacks on churches. “Churches had been attacked in Pakistan and Syria as well but Hindus should not be blamed for everything,” he said. (The Asian Age 22/3/15)

144. Hindutva forces gaining ground: Muslim board (26)

JAIPUR: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said here on Sunday that Hindutva forces had been emboldened after the new government came to power and a conspiracy was on to convert India into a fascist state. The three-day 24th national-level convention (general meeting) of the Board, which concluded here, decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi only ‘if required’ to take up the problems faced by minorities. Over 200 members deliberated upon the political situation in India, particularly in the wake of the ghar vapsi conversion campaign and attacks on minorities. In a resolution passed at the meeting, the members condemned various State governments for introducing Surya Namaskar and yoga in schools, saying religion should be disassociated from education. The meeting condemned the continued attacks on minorities and attempts at conversion, which, the members said, did not augur well for the country. Muslims wanted good relations with their Hindu brethren, it was said at the meeting. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board was created to adopt strategies for the protection of Muslim personal law, importantly the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. Briefing presspersons after the meeting, AIMPLB secretary Mohammed Abdul Rahim Qureshi said the participants condemned the Centre’s ‘failure’ to act against Hindutva forces. Calling upon Muslims to come together, the resolution said: “Islam needs to be presented in the right perspective to the world.” (The Hindu 23/3/15)

145. Chhattisgarh congress walks out on allowing employees to participate in RSS activities (26)

RAIPUR: Slogans of “Jai shree Ram” and “Bhagwakaran nahi Chalega” (saffronisation would not be allowed) echoed in the Chhattisgarh assembly on Wednesday as the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress members indulged in a game of one-upmanship over the government’s recent decision allowing its employees to participate in activities of RSS and ‘shakhas’. Accusing the government of attempting to “saffronise” the employees, Congress legislators also staged a walkout to protest against the Speaker’s decision disallowing a discussion (under rule 131) on the subject. Congress leader Amit Jogi raised the issue during the zero hour and said the RSS cannot be called a non-political organisation. Accusing the government of politicisation of its employees, Jogi said the decision was wrong as all employees were bound by the Constitution. Joining him Congress legislator, Satynarayan Sharma, and other MLAs said the matter was serious and they would not allow the saffronisation of the administration. The MLAs further sought discussion on the issue under the rule 131. Speaker, Gaurishankar Agrawal, said he had received the notice for discussion and would consider it in due course. When he disallowed the discussion, Congress MLAs started shouting slogans – ‘Bhagwakaran nahi Chalega and Bhagwakaran band karo (stop saffronisation) – and staged a walkout. Countering their slogans, BJP MLA Mahesh Gagda and others started shouting slogan-’Jai Shree Ram’ inside the House. The sloganeering continued till the time the Congress workers walked out of the house. The Chhattisgarh government had last month revoked the ban on the participation of government employees in RSS activities. The decision had then also provoked a strong response from the opposition. (Times of India 25/3/15)

146. Sangh gets Appsolute makeover to spread ideology, connect with youth (26)

Lucknow: Locating a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shakha or information about its ideologues and ideology is now just a click or a touch away on your smartphone. The RSS has launched seven mobile phone applications with aim to widen its youth base by spreading its “nationalist thoughts”. The move, a senior RSS functionary said, came after the Sangh realised the power and reach of the social media, which was evident by the role it played in BJP’s massive win in last year’s Lok Sabha elections. The applications are now available on the android phones. One of the applications is ‘RSS mobile’ with which one can locate the nearest Shakha. So far, locations of shakhas being organised in three cities including Bangalore, Hyderabad (RSS calls it Bhagyanagar) and New Delhi, can be found through this application. The application also hosts a number of other features such as a panchang as per Hindu calender, Sangh Samachar (news reports of RSS), books on RSS, wall papers and Sangh parivar’s songs among others. Quotable quotes by thinkers and leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former President A P J Abdul Kalam, philosopher Chanakya among others and profiles of all former Sarsanghchalaks and present RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is also available. ‘Prerna Suman’, another application, provides the biography of RSS founder K B Hedgewar, RSS ideologue Madan Mohan Malaviya, socialist Ram Manohar Lohia and first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. (Indian Express 30/3/15)

TERRORISM

147. Three killed, 23 injured in Manipur blast (12)

Imphal :  At least three people were killed and 23 injured in a powerful bomb blast at a crowded marketplace here in the Manipur capital on Wednesday evening, police said. Some media reports said four people were killed in the explosion triggered by a separatist outfit. “An IED (improvised explosive device) planted near a chicken shop at Khwairamband Keithel exploded, killing three people on the spot and wounding 23 others, including women,” a police official said. Inspector General of Police Clay Khongsai had earlier told IANS that three people were dead and 21 were injured. The injured, most of them either shoppers or vendors, were immediately taken to the central government run Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS). Local media reports said another man succumbed to his injuries in the hospital, taking the toll to four. Police officials were unavailable to confirm the death of the fourth person. RIMS sources said the condition of at least six of the wounded was critical. Among those killed, two were non-locals. One was identified as Mithu Yadav, a resident of Bihar, while the identity of the other person was yet to be ascertained. The third person killed in the blast was identified as Md. Suman Khan, a resident of Kshetri Awang Leikai of Imphal East district. Police officials along with additional security forces have rushed to the spot and launched a combing operation to nab those responsible for the blast.

Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, who also holds the home portfolio, told reporters: “We have asked police to nab the militants responsible for the blasts at any cost.” Manipur has about 40 militant outfits. While more than 20 armed groups have tripartite ceasefire agreements with the state and central governments, the Coordination Committee, an umbrella group of six militant outfits, has been rejecting an offer of peace talks. (Business Standard 11/3/15)

148. 13 Militants Killed in Pakistan (12)

KARACHI:  At least 13 militants have been killed in two different search operations by Pakistani security forces in the restive Baluchistan province in last 24 hours, a minister said today. Baluchistan Home Minister, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti told reporters in Quetta that the insurgents were killed in two separate operations yesterday night and today morning in the Dera Bugti district. Bugti said seven militants were killed yesterday by Frontier Corp troops while six more were killed today morning in the Dera Jun and Rustom gasfields in Dera Bugti. “On Wednesday operations were carried out in Pirkoh areas of Dera Bugti and seven militants were killed in armed clashes with the security forces,” he said. The militants were involved in targeting security forces and blowing up gas installations in the district, a spokesman said earlier today. Rocket launchers, improvised explosive devices, bombs and other weapons were recovered from the militants, who belonged to a defunct militant group operating in the area, he added. Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan province is rich in minerals and resources but has been hit by violence from separatist groups since the death of tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in a military operation in the area in August, 2007 during the tenure of former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. Bugti said that insurgents belonged to the Baluchistan Republican Army (BRA). (New Indian Express 12/3/15)

149. Pakistan mourns church victims, Christians protest (12)

Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday mourned the dead in the deadly suicide attacks on two churches in Lahore that killed 15 people, as Christians took to the streets to denounce the ghastly massacre. Provincial governments declared Monday a day of mourning. All missionary schools and colleges were shut across the country, officials and the media reported. Security was stepped up in churches and missionary institutions while patrolling by police and Pakistan Rangers were enhanced, Dunya TV quoted officials as saying. Prayer ceremonies were held in churches across Pakistan on Monday. Two powerful explosions on Sunday rocked the Catholic Church and the Christ Church in Lahore’s Youhanabad area, home to the country’s biggest Christian population. The churches are separated by half a kilometre. Jamatul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack which took place as large crowds were in the area to attend the Sunday prayers. Violent protests erupted at the site after the blasts, with a 4,000-strong Christian mob armed with clubs smashing vehicles and setting fire to two suspected terrorists. Television footage showed dozens of stick-wielding men ransacking the city’s metro bus terminal. Protesters also clashed with the police. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the anger and grief of the Christian community in the wake of the terror attack strengthened the government’s resolve to counter terrorism. “Our Christian community has rendered invaluable services to the motherland, particularly in the social sector, and we consider them as our honour and pride,” Sharif said. Pakistan’s Christian community on Monday took to the streets in Faisalabad and Lahore. Protesters gathered at Faisalabad’s Millat road where they burnt tires and attacked a rickshaw, Dawn online reported. They also blocked the Kamalpur Interchange on Faisalabad motorway. Following the mob attack on the metro bus terminal in Lahore, authorities curtailed bus routes on Monday. In Karachi, hundreds of Christians blocked roads. There were also demonstrations in Peshawar in the country’s north-west and in the cities of Multan and Quetta. On Monday, police registered cases over the twin bombings. Senior Superintendent of Police Rana Ayyaz Saleem said discussions were on file a case over the retaliatory violence too. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar described the church bombings as tragic and said the extremists appeared intent on dividing Pakistan. He said attacks on mosques and churches depicted the “wretched condition” of terrorist outfits outlawed by the government. The minister said further steps were needed to eradicate militancy in the country. (Business Standard 16/3/15)

150. India demands UN action against terror threats to Afghanistan (12)

United Nations: India has lashed out against the “systematic state supporta” from outside to terrorist organisations bent on destabilising Afghanistan and has called on the UN Security Council to act immediately against the threat from these forces. Speaking at a Security Council debate Monday on aid to Afghanistan, India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said, “It is terrorism and not tribal differences or ethnic rivalries, which is the main source of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan.” “Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s report to the Security Council last month on Afghanistan and international security backs up this view of India,” he said. “These terrorist groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT, are active despite the efforts of the valiant personnel of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and the international coalition forces,” Mukerji said. “It is obvious that their activity cannot be sustained without systematic state support from beyond Afghanistan’s borders.” Although he tactfully avoided naming names, singling out Lashkar-e-Taiba made clear the source of the “systematic state support.” The terror group is based in Lahore and operated training camps in Pakistan-administerd Kashmir, a fact acknowledged by the US State Department. “Reports indicate these groups are mutating into more virulent forms, in a region already impacted by terrorism,” Mukerji added. “The Council must act against this threat with a sense of urgency.” Ban’s report said that “the rise in the overall number of security incidents recorded indicates a mounting challenge to the Afghan security forces from insurgent groups.” Highlighting the growing violence, it said, “In 2014 there were 22,051 recorded (insurgent) incidents, which surpassed those of 2013 by 10 per cent. In terms of incidents recorded over the past 13 years, 2014 was the second-highest, after 2011.” Acknowledging that “as anticipated, violence has escalated”, Pakistan’s newly-appointed Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi asserted that her country’s “military operation has targeted all terrorist groups without distinction”.The trend of Afghanistan warming towards Pakistan and China under the new government of President Ashraf Ghani and Beijing’s backing for the Islamabad-backed dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban was in evidence during the Security Council discussions. Ban’s report set the scene by referring to last month’s China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue in Kabul. It said, “Both China and Pakistan pledged to support the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.” The three countries discussed “the peace and security situation in the region, as well as the need to deepen trilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and security”, it added. Lodhi said Afghanistan and Pakistan “share a vision of a partnership built on multiple pillars of common security and economic interests”. She added, “We welcome China’s closer engagement in promoting reconciliation and economic development in Afghanistan.” And Afghanistan’s Permanent Ambassador Zahir Tanin reciprocated, “We welcome the new phase of cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan towards the shared goal of peace and reconciliation.” And as for Beijing, he added that Kabul would like to “express our appreciation to the People’s Republic of China for its help facilitating the peace process”.Ban’s special representative to Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom mentioned among reasons for “renewed hope for peace” the dialogue between Islamabad and Kabul on peace, trade and security. Wang Min, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative, said that the international community should adapt to the new reality in Afghanistan and promote a broad-based reconciliation process. (Business Standard 17/3/15)

 

151. J&K assembly passes resolution against terror attacks in Samba and Kathua (12)

NEW DELHI: J&K assembly on Sunday passed resolution against attacks in Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu and urged government of India to take up the issue with Pakistan. Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed condemned terror attacks in Jammu, saying it is a conspiracy to derail peace process. “If they (Pakistan) wants peace, reconciliation, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, its establishment must control them (terrorism),” he told the J&K assembly after opposition created a ruckus demanding adjournment of the question hour. This is the first statement that has come from the CM after the twin attacks in Jammu.Expressing hope that peace would return to Jammu and Kashmir soon, he said, “People of J&K have given a mandate. My suggestion is to introduce a resolution to condemn such attacks. “This is not the first attack that has taken place in the state. I am sure peace will soon return as it happened during 2002-2007,” Sayeed told the assembly. “If Pakistan wants friendship with us (India), then they will have to help bring in peace to the state. Pakistan will have to tell people involved in such attacks that they should desist,” Sayeed said. He said during the tenure of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf “peace prevailed” on both sides of the border and Line of Control. Earlier, confusion and noise marred the budget session proceedings of the J&K assembly as the opposition demanded a resolution over the twin terror attacks in Kathua and Samba districts. As the house assembled for finance minister Haseeb Drabu to present budget proposals for 2015-2016, National Conference and Congress legislators demanded a resolution in the assembly over the terror attacks on Friday and Saturday. Efforts by Speaker Kavinder Gupta failed to bring the situation under control following which some ruling BJP legislators tried to move into the well of the house.Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed told the opposition that if they respected the dignity of the house, they should not interrupt its normal proceedings. He said a resolution on the subject could be taken up for discussion. Asserting that these attacks were attacks against peace in the state, the chief minister requested the speaker that the house should pass a unanimous resolution condemning the attack. Devinder Rana of the National Conference said his party had already brought in a resolution in the house which the speaker said had been disallowed. Not satisfied by the chief minister’s statement, all the opposition National Conference legislators led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah walked out.Securitymen during encounter with the militants Rajbagh police station in Kathua district. On Saturday, two militants had opened fired and lobbed grenades at an Army camp in Meshwara area of Samba. Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar had later informed the Parliament and media that the two militants were killed in the heavy gun-battle that followed. On Friday too, two heavily-armed terrorists, posing as soldiers in Army fatigues, had stormed a police station and killed three people before they were gunned down at Rajbagh in J&K’s Kathua district. “The two back to back terror attacks in Jammu is an attempt by the militants to boost their morale which has come down due to the Army operations (in the state),” Parrikar had said. (Times of India 22/3/15)

152. Gujarat anti-terror bill, an old wine in new bottle (12)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, which replaces the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill, continues to include the provision of interception and confessions as admissible evidence. The bill is likely to be tabled in the House for discussion and approval on March 31, the last day of the ongoing Budget session. These were some of the points of conflict in the earlier bill, which was designed on the lines of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and rejected in 2004 and 2008 by the then Presidents A P J Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil, respectively. The bill has been passed for a third time by the Assembly, but it is still pending with the President. The state government has once again prepared a new draft of the bill and rechristened it to cover terrorism. However, the proposed GCTOC Act also applies to ponzi and multi-level marketing schemes to control economic offences, besides large scale gambling and “cyber crimes having severe consequences”.The contentious provision of admissibility of evidence collected through intercepted calls of the accused has been justified in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’, saying it was “considered necessary to enact a special law with stringent provisions, including the power to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication.” As per the clause-14 of the new bill, evidence collected through “interception of wire, electronic or oral communication… shall be admissible as evidence against the accused in the court”. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, however, had in 2004 objected to the particular clause-14 and returned the earlier GUJCOC bill to the government led by the then CM Narendra Modi, asking it to remove the provision. Later in 2008, the bill was passed after deleting the clause related to interception of communication, as per Kalam’s suggestion. The new bill says that every accused will have to be furnished with the order of the relevant authority under which the interception was authorised or approved, in not less than 10 days before the trial. However it allows for “…the period of 10 days may be waived by the judge trying the offence if he comes to the conclusion that it was not possible to furnish the accused with the aforesaid information ten days before the trial, hearing or proceeding and that the accused may not be prejudiced by the delay in receiving such information”. Earlier, the GUJCOC Bill was also rejected by Patil, who had suggested some more amendments. One of them was to eliminate the provision which allows confession made before a police officer to be admitted in the court as evidence. However, ignoring the suggestion, the state government had once again passed the bill in 2009 for the third time and sent it for President’s approval. The bill is still pending with the President. In the new bill, the government has retained the provision related to confession made before a police officer in clause-16. It is proposed that the officer should be of Superintendent of Police (SP) rank or above. (Indian Express 26/3/15)

153.  ‘Over 80,000 Pakistanis killed in U.S.-led anti-terror op’ (12)

Islamabad: More than 80,000 Pakistanis, including over 48,000 civilians, have been killed in the decade-long U.S.-led war against terror in the country, according to a new report. The report, titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror”, was released by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival, The Express Tribune reported on Sunday. The report, dealing with the conflict from 2004 until the end of 2013, shows that a total of 81,325 to 81,860 persons — including 48,504 civilians, 45 journalists, 5,498 security personnel and 26,862 militants — lost their lives in the terror operation. It also said that around 1.3 million people were directly and indirectly killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of U.S.-led wars in the regions during the same period. One million people were killed in Iraq and 220,000 in Afghanistan as a result of the war, it said. “The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware,” the authors of the study said. “And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries could also be in excess of 2 million,” they said. The report scoured the results of individual studies and data published by United Nations organisations, government agencies and non-governmental organisations. (The Hindu 29/3/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

154. ‘Maoist violence has declined in the country’ (12)

VELLORE: Maoist violence has declined in the country from 1,000 killings during 2008, 2009 and 2010 to about 300-odd now, K. Vijay Kumar, special security adviser, Union Ministry of Home Affairs said. “This is a sign that two-third violence has come down. But that does not mean that they (Maoists) are incapable of causing hiccups and giving surprises,” he said. He was here for a programme at the VIT University on Wednesday. Speaking to The Hindu , he said there were two to three Maoist-affected States that were being concentrated upon. “Chattisgarh and Jharkhand contribute about 30 per cent each that is two-third in the country. The governments are trying to tighten efforts here,” he pointed out. “The Central government has a good policy in dealing with Maoists. It has a two-pronged approach for bringing in development and rehabilitation and also for surrender of Maoists,” he mentioned Mr. Kumar said they were concentrating particularly on Chattisgarh and Jharkand. “Overall, State governments have done well in coordination with the Centre,” he noted. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

155. No ‘Rambo-style’ operations in Naxal areas, SOPs being revised: CRPF (12)

New Delhi: CRPF will desist from undertaking any “Rambo”-style operations in the Naxal-affected areas even as the standard operating procedures in that regard are being rejigged, the chief of the country’s largest paramilitary force has said. Also, in the Left Wing-Extremism operations theatre, more than one lakh central security troops, apart from state police forces, will now be able to get better feed and intelligence data from technological gadgets as the NTRO’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) base has now been operationalised right inside the Naxal hotbed in Chhattisgarh. “We don’t need to do Rambo-style operations… we don’t want that. When we ask our boys to perform a task (in Naxal- affected areas), they do it with a prompt sincerity and hence it is our responsibility to see that they are safe,” CRPF Director General Prakash Mishra told PTI. The former Odisha DGP, who took charge of the lead anti-Naxal operations force a few months back, said that the operations of the force will now be more focused and intelligence-based rather than being done by deploying security personnel in “herds” to effect a Rambo-type offensive that requires a huge number of boots on the ground. “We believe quality operations with specific intelligence should be the aim. I have already said all large operations where a large mobilisation of forces is required will need to get clearance from the headquarters,” the DG said. He added that the SOPs in this regard were being “fine-tuned and rejigged”. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) chief, after taking charge of the three-lakh-strong force in December of last year, had made it known that his “top priority” was to ensure fewer or zero casualties involving personnel in anti-Naxal operations. Mishra had earlier said that such operations, where there are a big number of troops on the ground, leads to larger visibility of personnel in the operation area, thereby making them vulnerable, tired and easier to be spotted and identified. Close to 100 security personnel were killed in these operations last year with the major cause of death being Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks or ambushes staged either by Naxal or security forces. The DG, who has toured almost all the major Naxal-violence affected states, said that the new UAV base in Chhattisgarh’s Bhilai was a step in the direction of giving better intelligence and technical aid to the troops on the ground. The UAVs were till now based in Andhra Pradesh and used to undertake sorties from there under directions of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). Efforts to get the UAV base located in the Naxal heartland gained momentum after security forces complained about the delay in the help being provided by these machines owing to the distance from their base to the scene of Maoist activity. .. (Indian Express 15/3/15)

156. Kerala: Two civil rights activists released on bail in Maoist attacks case (12)

Thiruvananthapuram:  Kerala High Court on Tuesday granted bail to two civil rights activists who had been arrested in connection with suspected Maoist attacks. Advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, an employee with state insurance department, were arrested in the last week of January this year in connection with an attack on the NHAI project office in Kochi. They were known as ultra Left sympathizers in Kerala. Both were charged under section 13 (b) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Several intellectuals and Amnesty International India have demanded unconditional release of Sarathy and Cooper. Sarathy was taken into police custody from Kozhikode, where he addressed a press conference to announce a meeting to be held in protest against the “Maoist hunt of police.” On the same day, Cooper was taken into custody from his office in Kochi. Police had earlier stated that both of them were not involved in the attack on the NHAI office, but were active in frontal organizations of the Maoist movement under the guise of human rights activists. Cooper had challenged police action saying that how the police could arrest him on the reason that he had possessed notices issued by a registered human rights organisation. (Indian Express 17/3/15)

 

157. 2 police jawans die in Naxal ambush (12)

CHANDRAPUR: Two police jawans were killed in an encounter between Gadchiroli police and Naxalites in Hekker forest in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli on Sunday. Reports that one more jawan was injured in the gun battle could not be confirmed. Sources claimed that search operations were underway in the forests under Jambiagutta outpost since last five days following intelligence about Naxals camping in the area. While the police party was returning to the base after the daylong search operation late in the afternoon, they were ambushed by Naxalites in Hekker forest, around 25km from Jambiagutta outpost. Reports suggest that a fierce gun battle took place in which two jawans were killed and one was injured. The dead jawans have been identified as Joge Atram and Swaroop Kumar Amrutkar. Sources claimed that Joge Atram was a fresh recruit and inducted into the force only a couple of months ago. Earlier, he had served the police force as a special police officer (SPO). The Naxalites who laid the ambush fled into the jungle following rising pressure from police side during the encounter. Police have so far not made any claims about casualties to the Naxal side. There were reports of Naxals triggering a landmine blast during the encounter, but they could not be confirmed. Bodies of the two dead jawans had not been brought back to Gadchiroli till the filing of this report. (Times of India 23/3/15)

158. Jethwa Calls upon Tribals to Shun Maoists for Growth (12)

NARAYANPATNA (KORAPUT):In a bid to dissuade the people from joining the Maoists and repose faith in security forces, Yeshwant Jethwa, IG, South West range, on Wednesday called upon the tribal youths to join hands with the administration for development of their area. Addressing a mammoth gathering during a community policing programme at Narayanpatna, the epicentre of Maoist activities in the KBK region, Jethwa pointed out that people of the bordering pockets of the area were neglected due to Maoist activities. The Red rebels are the root cause of backwardness of the area and their activities should be stopped for all-round development of the tribals, he said. Stating that Odisha Police and para-military forces have stepped up efforts to wipe out Maoists in Narayanpatna, Bandhugam and other pockets, Jethwa sought the support of locals. “We are ready to end the Maoist menace but locals should join hands and boost our efforts”, he said. Speaking on the occasion, Koraput Collector Yamini Sarangi highlighted the development schemes meant for Maoist infested areas and called upon the people to avail the benefits. Among others, Koraput SP CS Meena, BSF DIG AK Sharma also addressed the people. During the police-public interaction programme, locals sought development of infrastructural facilities and security for those who have been fighting against Maoists. During the programme, festive mood gripped Narayanpatna for the first time in over a decade. The locals, who have been living under the shadow of Maoist fear, danced with the men in uniform and participated in games organised on the occasion. The police administration also organised a health camp where over 500 people were screened. The locals said earlier it was not possible for the administration to host even a normal event due to the presence of Maoists and CMAS activists. However, regular combing operation by the police and BSF could free Narayanpatna and Bandhugam from the clutches of Maoists. Over 200 hardcore Maoists have been arrested, over 2000 CMAS activists including their leader Nachika Linga surrendered and a dozen Maoist camps destroyed in the bordering areas in past couple of months. (New Indian Express 26/3/15)

159. 2 CRPF personnel injured in bomb blasts triggered by Naxals (12)

Raipur: Two CRPF personnel were on Friday injured in separate pressure bomb blasts triggered by Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, police said. The blasts occurred at separate spots near Fundri village when the paramilitary personnel were conducting anti-Naxal operations under Bhairamgarh police station limits, Bijapur Additional Superintendent of Police Indira Kalyan Elesela said. The security personnel accidentally came in contact with pressure bombs planted by the Maoists in Fundri hills area that exploded, injuring sub-inspector B B Rai and constable Ravi Hari Patil belonging to 199th battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), he said. Reinforcement was rushed to both the places and the injured personnel were brought to Bijapur district hospital. Later, they were airlifted to Raipur for treatment, he said. A combing operation was underway in the region to nab the culprits, he added. (Indian Express 27/3/15)

160. Jharkhand to enact legislation to contain trafficking, says Das (1)

RANCHI: Chief minister Raghubar Das on Saturday said the government would soon introduce legislation to check human trafficking. “We will make an Act to stop trafficking, which not only exploits people economically, but also exploits them mentally and physically,” Das said at the end of the two-day 4th Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave. Das said young women from Jharkhand were taken to other states and were promised good payment, but most of them they were exploited. “I have come to know that brokers give their victims only Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 (per month as salary) instead of the actual promise of Rs 12,000-13,000, and pocket the remaining amount… This situation calls for formation of an act to regulate these agents and placement agencies,” said the chief minister. Das also promised to introduce a nother legislation that would enable seizure of traffickers’ properties that could be developed into skill training centres and schools. “Trafficker Pannalal Mahato possessed properties worth crores of rupees by selling girls. A law will be passed so that such properties can be confiscated and developed to open schools and training centres for trafficked children,” Das said at the conclave that was organized by the US Consulate General and NGO Shakti Vahini. The chief minister said the money in the proposed corporate social responsibility would be used for rehabilitation and training of trafficking victims and companies and industries would be asked to utilize the CSR money to provide skill development training. (The Economic Trimes 28/3/15)

TRAFFICKING

161. Offence cases against children pending trial: HC seeks details (1)

Bengaluru: The High Court of Karnataka on Thursday asked the government to give the number of cases of offences against children pending for trial in various courts in the State. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy also asked the State what specific steps had been taken to trace 782 children, who remain untraceable from among the 2,523 registered cases of missing children, between January 2014 and October 2014. The Bench was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by the High Court’s Legal Services Committee and Justice and Care, a non-profit organisation, complaining about the increase in instances of trafficking of children and women. (The Hindu 13/3/15)

162. US jails sex-trafficked kids in human rights abuse, groups say (1)

Washington: The United States violates human rights by treating sex-trafficked children as criminals and throwing them into jail, rights groups told an international commission on Monday. Federal and international law requires that children in the commercial sex trade are treated as victims of trafficking, not as prostitutes. But most US. states and localities fail to apply the law, the groups said at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviews human rights abuses in the region. Criminalising child victims of the sex trade traumatises youngsters, Yasmin Vafa, legal director at the Human Rights Project for Girls, and Santiago Canton, executive director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told the commission. “When girls are incarcerated for the experience of being propertied and serially raped, their ability to return to family, community and school is less likely, which only serves to tighten the traffickers` control,” they said in prepared remarks. Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking each year, with 13 to 14 being the average age a child is first forced into sexual acts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Each year, more than 1,000 children are arrested in the United States for prostitution, most of them not of a legal age to consent to sex, the US Justice Department says. One study found that the city of Dallas, Texas, detained 165 juveniles on prostitution and related charges in 2007, and that in Las Vegas over 20 months, 226 children were brought before the juvenile court. Despite US federal law and international protocols, many state and local law enforcement officers continue to arrest and incarcerate children as prostitutes, even in the 15 states that have adopted “safe harbour” laws designed to shield children from prison where they can be raped again. By bringing the issue before the IACHR – an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) – the rights groups are seeking to apply international pressure on the US government to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and set national standards of care for child victims of sex trafficking. “I am quite alarmed and deeply disturbed,” said Rose Marie Belle Antoine, an OAS member who presided over the hearing.  The IACHR offers a human rights forum for the 35 OAS member countries in the Americas, but because the United States has not recognised its judicial authority, no court case can be brought. Ambassador Patricia Butenis, acting director of the U.S. State Department`s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission the United States agrees children should not be criminalised as prostitutes, as federal law specifies, and recognises that “tragically it still occurs”. Asked what more the United States can do to implement federal law, she said, “Politics in the United States are complicated.” Government officials spelled out a series of programmes they run to support state and local law enforcement, families and welfare agencies in tackling child sex trafficking. A number of bills are before the U.S. Congress to improve services for sex-trafficking victims, but both federal and state budgets are extremely tight to fund victim support programmes. (Zee News 17/3/15)

163. Woman among three held on trafficking charge (1)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Two Town police arrested L. Leela (38) of Ganjipeta for allegedly indulging in trafficking of young women along with two other persons in Chennai. According to Two Town Police Station Inspector Mallikarjun Rao, Gopalan of Chennai and Srinivasa Rao of Gudur had employed Leela to lure young women for jobs as housekeepers in Malaysia and Singapore, with the intention of employing them in the flesh trade business. Leela was first exposed in a sting operation by a television channel and later after seeing the reports, Nookaratnam of Ganjipeta approached the Two Town police and lodged a complaint accusing Leela and the two at Chennai for trafficking women. Talking to The Hindu , Nookaratnam said that she was one of the earlier victims of Srinivasa Rao and Gopalan. “I was sent as a housekeeper on a tourist visa to Malaysia a few months ago. On reaching a city in Malaysia, I was taken to a beauty parlour and groomed up. And later put into flesh trade by force. My passport was taken by the organisers and it was a torturous experience, entertaining over 10 clients on a daily basis. After two months I was sent back,” she said. According to the Inspector, Leela was also one among the many who ventured to go to Singapore or Malaysia for better earnings, but was told by Srinivas to lure a few other women, so that she could earn some incentives.It was learnt that she had already sent a woman by name Raju from the city and was in the process of gathering a few more, when she was exposed. The police are on the job to apprehend Srinivasa Rao and Gopalan. Meanwhile, the City Task Force have taken into custody Sai Prasad, a law student, who was responsible for processing the passports. (The Hindu 18/3/15)

 

164. HC directs district judge, CJM to speed up trafficking trials (1)

PUNE: The Bombay high court has directed the principal district judge and the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Pune to ensure that cases of trafficking of minor girls and women are assigned to the sessions judge who can give priority to their trials. The high court has also directed them to take steps to ensure that there is no delay in magisterial courts committing the proceedings in such cases to the sessions court. It further gave a month’s time to the district judges and CJMs across the state to give their views on a set of proposed guidelines for speedier trials in such cases. The bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice G S Kulkarni passed a four-page order to this effect on March 19 while hearing a criminal PIL filed by NGO Freedom Firm against the commissioner of Pune police others. Among other things, the NGO has raised various issues regarding the proceedings under the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, 1956, and offences under the Indian Penal Code in relation to trafficking of minor girls and women and has proposed certain guidelines for speedier trial of such cases. The petitioner, represented by lawyer Gayatri Singh, has pointed out that cases remain pending for many years due to reasons like the accused not being traceable. But the victims, many of whom are minors at the time the offence was committed, remain in children’s homes and are not released as the criminal case concerned is pending. Additional public prosecutor Aruna Pai placed on record a report filed by senior police inspector of the Faraskhana police station, detailing the cases pending in the Pune sessions court. The bench referred to this report and observed, “Many cases are pending since 2007-08. It also appears that in many such cases, which are pending for as long as four to seven years, the accused are not traceable in spite of issuance of non-bailable warrants and proclamations.” Pai submitted that unnecessary delay occurs on account of the time taken by magisterial courts to commit the cases to the sessions court. She further submitted that often the accused, particularly those charged with trafficking, go absconding after they are released on bail and police also find it difficult to trace the persons who stand sureties for such accused. As such, the investigating officer should be given an opportunity to verify the existence and antecedents of the sureties before the accused, who face charges of trafficking and running brothels, are released on bail, she said. She suggested stringent conditions for bail in such cases, like the accused being asked to file an affidavit mentioning the names, addresses and other particulars of sureties and giving the investigation officer an opportunity to verify such particulars before granting bail. Pai submitted that instead of granting bail to the traffickers, the trial court ought to see that such cases are expedited and the trial should preferably be completed in six months. The bench referred to these submissions while observing that the principal district judge and the CJM should take steps to ensure that there are no delays in the committal proceedings and that the cases be referred to judges who can give priority to trial of such matters. (Times of India 22/3/15)

165. 1,000 Children Missing, Jharkhand Emerges Trafficking Hub (1)

KHUNTI, JHARKHAND:  Jharkhand has emerged as India’s trafficking hub with thousands of tribal boys and girls, particularly minor girls being trafficked out of the state each year to Delhi and beyond. More than 4000 children went missing from the state in the last 10 years, and over 1000 are yet to be traced. Most of the missing children are from tribal communities, particularly minor girls who are trafficked to Delhi and beyond. While most of these girls go out for work, there has been a rise in the case of sex trafficking in the state too. Take the case of a 14 year old girl, trafficked from Khunti in Jharkhand to Sangrur in Punjab this January, and sold for Rs. 1 lakh to a 55-year-old man, as a child bride. She had been kidnapped after she was taken on an outing by a woman from her village, who has since been arrested along with four men.Another couple from Khunti , haven’t heard from their 12-year-old daughter since last November last, when she vanished from their home while here parents were out. The alleged trafficker has been arrested, but there is no trace yet of the girl. “Maybe someday my daughter will realise this is home and make noise, who knows,” says the emotional mother, who works at a stone crushing unit. Activists say the number of trafficked children is hugely under reported, and that the actual figures could be in lakhs. Rishi Kant , who runs Shakti Vahini, says, “Delhi has emerged as a major destination for these girls. Most of them are taken there to placement agencies with no registration, etc.” There is some good news too. Sub inspector Aradhana Singh has been in charge of Khunti’s child trafficking unit since 2014. Her catch in the last year was 20 big traffickers, including the biggest of them all, Panna Lal Mahto , who in the last decade could be responsible for the trafficking of over 20,000 girls. “I don’t think just his arrest makes any difference . He has a network of agents we need to break ,” says Sub Inspector Singh. (NDTV 23/3/15)

166. Jharkhand to enact legislation to contain trafficking, says Das (1)

RANCHI: Chief minister Raghubar Das on Saturday said the government would soon introduce legislation to check human trafficking. “We will make an Act to stop trafficking, which not only exploits people economically, but also exploits them mentally and physically,” Das said at the end of the two-day 4th Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave. Das said young women from Jharkhand were taken to other states and were promised good payment, but most of them they were exploited. “I have come to know that brokers give their victims only Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 (per month as salary) instead of the actual promise of Rs 12,000-13,000, and pocket the remaining amount… This situation calls for formation of an act to regulate these agents and placement agencies,” said the chief minister. Das also promised to introduce a nother legislation that would enable seizure of traffickers’ properties that could be developed into skill training centres and schools. “Trafficker Pannalal Mahato possessed properties worth crores of rupees by selling girls. A law will be passed so that such properties can be confiscated and developed to open schools and training centres for trafficked children,” Das said at the conclave that was organized by the US Consulate General and NGO Shakti Vahini. The chief minister said the money in the proposed corporate social responsibility would be used for rehabilitation and training of trafficking victims and companies and industries would be asked to utilize the CSR money to provide skill development training. (Times of India 29/3/15)

CORRUPTION

167. Coalgate scam: Manmohan Singh, Birla accused (5)

New Delhi: A special CBI court here on Wednesday summoned former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused in the Coalgate scam, a significant development that is likely to have a cascading effect on the country’s political situation. The case pertains to the allocation of Talabira II coal block (in Orissa) to Hindalco in 2005 and involves industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, who, along with former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, have also been summoned as accused. The court observed that the former PM was “roped” into a criminal conspiracy to “accommodate” a major private company in coal block allocation. Dr Singh held the coal portfolio in 2005. Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar in his order clarified that he was fully conscious of the observations made by him as the then minister of coal was none else but the then Prime Minister. “It will be also not wrong if I say that while coming to such a conclusion about prima facie involvement of the then Prime Minister in the present matter this court had to act with a heavy conscience and with full realisation the present order or the observations/conclusions being made here will have over the morale of the country as a whole,” he said. If found guilty, the accused may face punishment of up to life imprisonment as the court has taken cognisance of offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servants or by banker, merchant or agent under the Indian Penal Code and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The court noted that Dr Singh chose to keep the coal portfolio with him and “prima facie he cannot claim that being the Prime Minister he could not be expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case”. It said the “omission” of not referring the request of Hindalco to the screening committee in accordance with established procedure prima facie showed that it was a “conscious decision” by the accused to accommodate Hindalco in a joint coal block comprising Talabira-II and Talabira-III coal blocks. It observed that Dr Singh’s approval in violation of established procedure and already approved guidelines “clearly resulted in defeating the efforts of Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC) “to establish a 2,000 MW power plant in Odisha”. “His (Dr Singh’s) action thus prima facie resulted in loss to NLC, which was a PSU, and facilitated windfall profits to a private company, Hindalco,” the judge said….  (Asian Age 12/3/15)

168. Coalgate: Manmohan Singh to move Supreme Court against summons (5)

NEW DELHI: Manmohan Singh’s lawyers, led by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, are likely to move the Supreme Court to challenge the trial court’s order summoning the former PM as an accused in the alleged irregular allotment of Odisha’s Talabira II coal block to a joint venture of Hindalco. The option of moving Delhi HC to challenge the trial court decision, the normal course of grievance redressal in a three-tier justice delivery system, is ruled out because of a July 25, 2014 apex court order, which monitored the CBI probe into the alleged irregular coal block allotments during the UPA and previous NDA governments and cancelled all 214 allocations during that period. “We make it clear that any prayer for stay or impeding the progress in the investigation/trial can be made only before this court and no other court shall entertain the same,” the July 25 order said. Special Judge Bharat Parashar, trying the coal scam cases investigated by CBI under SC supervision in his summoning order focused on Singh’s role, not as PM but as coal minister. The trial judge said Singh as coal minister allowed reopening of the allocation “even though he himself had permitted approval of the minutes of 25th Screening Committee recommending allocation of the same block to Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), a PSU”. “Repeated reminders from PMO, written as well as telephonic, to ministry of coal to expeditiously process the matter in view of letters received from Kumar Mangalam Birla prime facie indicate the extra undue interest shown by PMO in the matter,” the judge said. Singh’s action, the judge said, defeated NLC’s efforts to set up a 2,000-MW power plant in Odisha. “His action prima facie resulted in loss to NLC, a PSU, and facilitated windfall profi ts to a private company, Hindalco.” Sibal thinks little of the trial court’s order and feels it would meet a fate similar to the summons issued to Sunil Mittal and Ravi Ruia by the 2G spectrum scam trial court. SC had quashed the summons to the industrialists. Asked if the strong opinion of the trial judge posed diffi culty for Singh, Sibal said: “The conspiracy and criminal breach of trust charges perceived by the judge from the investigation report and accompanying evidence have no (legal) limb to stand on.”  ”If taking an administrative decision and asking the coal ministry to expedite the process could land a PM in litigation, that too as an accused after he demits office, then every PM would be wary of taking such decisions for the fear of being summoned as an accused. There’s no evidence to even prima facie conclude Singh indulged in any wrongdoing, forget corruption,” he said. (Times of India 13/3/15)

169. Kerala assembly chaos echoes in Parliament (5)

New Delhi: The fracas in Kerala assembly today found its echo in both Houses of Parliament, with Congress and Left members from the state indulging in a verbal spat and the Chair disallowing them from raising of the issue. As soon as the Question Hour began in Lok Sabha, members of Left parties and Congress from Kerala raised the issue that soon turned into a verbal spat, prompting the government to urge the Chair to ensure that the issue is not allowed to be raised in the House. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu urged Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to disallow them from raising the matter as it pertained to a state legislature. In the Rajya Sabha, K N Balagopal (CPI-M) tried to raise the issue during Zero Hour but was disallowed by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, saying whatever references made about Kerala Assembly have been expunged. Balagopal got up to raise the issue of the happenings in Kerala when the budget has to be passed by the state assembly and alleged that top leaders of the ruling coalition UDF were facing charges in the bar bribery scam. Kerala Assembly today witnessed unprecedented and ugly scenes as Finance Minister K M Mani, facing allegations in the bar bribery issue, presented the state budget amid stiff resistance by LDF-led Opposition who tried all means to thwart his attempt. In the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge tried to raise the issue of attack on Tamil T V channel allegedly by a Hindu outfit, but the Chair disallowed him. (Deccan Herald 13/3/15)

170. Number of women caught in bribery cases rising (5)

AHMEDABAD: Till 2012, the number of women caught as primary accused or intermediary in a bribery case by state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) was minuscule. However, in past three years, the number has shot up steadily. In past six months the agency has caught eight women across the state on graft charges including two class I officers. The percentage however in overall cases is less than 5%, admits ACB officials. “A case is a case for us and we don’t see gender when it comes to registration or investigation of cases. However, it is a fact that the number of women getting booked in graft cases have gone up,” said a senior ACB official. ACB officials said that in most of the cases where the women were caught, it was found that their husbands were involved as middlemen. “While in one of the case the accused husband was working in her office as a clerk, in another the woman’s husband used to deal on her behalf and get her files for clearance. Thus, they were made co-accused in the cases,” said an official. Officials cited an interesting case registered in 2014 where they had received a complaint of corrupt practices at a village in north Gujarat. The village had a woman sarpanch. During their investigation, ACB found that it was the sarpanch’s husband who used to get money for getting the work done while the sarpanch did not know about it. ACB had arrested the man in the case as they did not find evidence against the sarpanch. (Times of India 17/3/15)

171. With Auctions, Corruption is Disappearing from India: Jaitley (5)

NEW DELHI: Corruption is disappering owing to the way the government is managing the allocation of the country’s natural resources, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said citing the on-going auctions of spectrum and coal mines whose earlier allotments were cancelled by the Supreme Court. “Corruption is disappearing from the Indian dictionary, if you see spectrum, coal,” Jaitley told the Lok Sabha in his reply to the debate on his first full union budget presented last month. Addressing an intervention by a Congress member, the finance minister said: “In spectrum, you brought in a host of cases, in coal…all the corruption was caught by the Supreme Court, the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General). Referring to the former prime minister in this connection, Jaitley said that “Manmohan Singh in his first two months in office in 2004 had said coal blocks should be auctioned, but till 2014, nothing had been done”.”Today because of this faulty decision, we have a situation in which the former PM has been caught. In future, there should not be a situation in which an ex-PM is summoned by court.” In fact, in a move designed to be doubly sure about coal allocations this time around, the government is re-examining the e-auction of coal blocks won by Balco, Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) and BS Ispat. JSPL was the successful bidder for Gare Palma IV 2 and Gare Palma IV 3 mines, Balco successfully bid Gare Palma IV/1, and BS Ispat bagged Marki Mangli III mine. The central government has asked for a review of the bidding process of the mines by the nominated authority, which has published the results of only 8 out of 13 mines that have been auctioned. The bids for the five undeclared blocks closed in five to eight rounds, while difference between the opening price and closing price was much lower than other blocks, a coal ministry source told IANS on Tuesday. For instance in case of the Brinda and Sasai block, bidding opened at Rs.1,802 per tonne and closed at Rs.1,804 per tonne. Similarly, bidding for the Meral mine opened at Rs.725 a tonne and closed at Rs.727 a tonne. (New Indian Express 18/3/15)

 

172. SIT to probe land allotment scam (1)

CHANDIGARH: Haryana Home Secretary has constituted a five-member Special Investigation Team to probe the 13-year-old industrial workers land allotment scam of Panipat – in which affluent people had fraudulently applied for 897 plots meant for the workers. Earlier the State Chief Secretary had submitted his status report to the Lokayukta in the case. The investigation into the scam, in which 31 people had been named in the First Information Report, had got murkier after it was alleged some officials of the State Vigilance Bureau and Haryana Urban Development Authority had colluded to scuttle the probe. The Lokayukta has now asked the Special Investigation Team to complete its probe within six months. However, Right to Information activist P.P. Kapoor, who had first brought the case to light when he had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court several years ago, has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter alleging that certain officials of SVB had earlier tried to thwart the investigation. It was in January this year that the probe gathered momentum with the Lokayukta directing the Director General of Police to file an investigation report into the case which pertained to wrongful allotment of plots meant for industrial workers to influential people. While the allotments were made by the Om Prakash Chautala government, even during the 10-year Congress rule the case made little headway as no arrests were made in the multi-crore scam. Mr. Kapoor had moved the Lokayukta on June 26, 2014 and subsequently the ombudsman had directed the Chief Secretary (Home) to file a report within 45 days. However, when for over five months the investigation report was not submitted, the Lokayukta on January 8 directed the DGP to submit the report. The case pertains to allotment of 897 freehold residential plots for industrial workers in Panipat by Haryana Urban Development Authority in 2002. Following complaints about irregularities in allotment, State Vigilance Bureau had started investigations in December 2005. Subsequently, through his RTI petitions, Mr. Kapoor exposed how several plots were allotted on fraudulent applications. He also filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2008 and submitted a list of 85 ineligible allottees, many belonging to influential and affluent families. The court had then directed SVB to probe the matter. The Bureau later submitted that false affidavits and fake experience certificates were used for applying under the scheme and a case was registered against 21 persons. But Mr. Kapoor alleged delay by SVB in investigation and attempts by HUDA to protect its officials who made the allotments. (The Hindu 21/3/15)

173. Coal scam much bigger than it was thought: PM (5)

Hussainwala: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the coal blocks allocation scam during the tenure of the previous UPA government at the centre was much bigger than the figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report. Addressing a martyr’s rally after paying homage to martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev at their memorial in Hussainiwala in Punjab’s frontier district of Ferozepur, the prime minister made a direct attack on the UPA government over the coalgate scam. “The coal scam was thought to Rs 1.76 lakh crore as per the CAG report. Some people said that the amount was exaggerated. It has turned out to be much bigger than that figure. Only 20 coal blocks out of 204 blocks have been auctioned by our government so far and over Rs.two lakh crore has already collected. Rest of the coal blocks yet to be auctioned. Imagine how much more money will come for the development of the country,” Modi, sporting a yellow turban, which is symbolic to martyr Bhagat Singh, said. “Corruption has ruined our country,” he lamented, adding that martyrs like Bhagat Singh had not sacrificed their lives to see the country in this situation. Highlighting another scandal related to purchase of LED bulbs by the UPA government, Modi said: “The previous government bought LED bulbs at Rs.300 per bulb in 2014. We have bought the same for Rs.80 apiece. There was rampant corruption everywhere.” Modi arrived here Monday afternoon and paid homage to freedom struggle martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. The prime minister placed a wreath at the martyrs’ memorial and bowed with folded hands. (Business Standard 23/3/15)

174. Himachal governor declines Dhumal’s prosecution (5)

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Governor Kalyan Singh’s decision to decline sanction for the prosecution of former chief minister and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal is all set to snowball into a major legal controversy. Responding to the developments, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Tuesday made it categorically clear that it’s now for the courts to decide the issue. Acting on a plea by Dhumal, the governor asserted that enough evidence was not there to prosecute the BJP leader. The Rajasthan governor, who holds additional charge of the hill state, called for the documents relating to the case and made his observations in a communication to the state, official sources said. The state Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau filed a charge sheet against Dhumal and three top government officials, who are now retired, on March 13 for alleged misuse of position when Dhumal was the chief minister in 2007. Official sources said that in a knee-jerk reaction to summoning of the records, the government on the same day filed the charge sheet. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act for favouring Indian Police Service (IPS) officer A.N. Sharma. Clarifying his government’s stand, Virbhadra Singh said the government decided to file charge sheet in the court after previous governor Urmila Singh, whose term ended on January 24, advised the government that there was no need for her intervention to grant prosecution sanction against Dhumal. The chief minister told reporters here that Urmila Singh took the call after taking legal opinion and taking into consideration Supreme Court rulings. Refusing to comment on Governor Kalyan Singh’s decision, Virbhadra Singh said: “He (the governor) might be advised to write this way.” The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau last June registered a case against Dhumal for alleged misuse of position. Former IPS officer Sharma, who is also named in the first information report (FIR), had applied for voluntary retirement from the police service to contest the 2007 assembly elections on a BJP ticket. But he did not get the ticket. At that time, the Congress led by Virbhadra Singh was in power in the state. In the 2007 assembly elections, the BJP returned to power. The BJP allowed Sharma to withdraw his resignation to rejoin the service. The BJP government led by Dhumal promoted Sharma to the rank of inspector general of police. The FIR was registered under different sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Then chief secretary Ravi Dhingra and then home secretary P.C. Kapoor, whose prosecution sanction was granted by the court on March 11, were also named in the case. (Business Standard 24/3/15)

175. Congress to target BJP in 3 states on corruption (5)

New Delhi: The Congress has made three BJP-ruled states, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, its target on the corruption issue and decided to raise malpractice in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board and rice scam in the Chhattisgarh PDS scheme in Parliament next month. “We are exposing the Rs 4,000-crore betting scam in Gujarat soon,” Congress officials said.While the party is mounting pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act on the reports of scams in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it has demanded Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to be made an accused in the Vyapam scam. On Wednesday, AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi demanded that Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh step down and the PDS rice scam be probed by a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge. While the Gujarat Assembly polls are due in January 2018, MP and Chhattisgarh would go to the polls expectedly in December the same year. A change of guard in these three states by the BJP leadership could be seen as a victory for the Congress and if these chief ministers continue till the polls, then the Opposition will make corruption and scams a major poll issue. Scams in 2G spectrum and coal blocks allocation during the UPA regime became a major poll issue against the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections along with the allegations of irregularities in the Commonwealth Games. Building a case against the PDS rice scam in Chhattisgarh after a diary surfaced containing names of the alleged beneficiaries, Mr Singhvi said: “In the garb of providing rice at Rs 1 per kg under the much-touted PDS scheme, the BJP government in Chhattisgarh has created a well-oiled corruption machine in connivance with rice mill owners… to earn thousands of crores in kickbacks and commission.” At a joint press conference attended by top party leaders from Chhattisgarh and AICC general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, Mr Singhvi also accused the Raman Singh government of resorting to corruption in distribution of commodities like salt, gram flour, kerosene and wheat. The magnitude of the scam could be gauged from the fact that during the past 11 years of the BJP rule in Chhattisgarh, the amount spent from public exchequer on procurement of paddy as also procurement and supply of various PDS items through the State Civil Supplies Corporation is approximately Rs 1,50,000 crore, the party said. Mr Singhvi alleged that the diary of one Shiv Shankar Bhatt of the State Civil Supplies Corporation revealed the story of “unprecedented corruption of unimaginable magnitude” by the chief minister, his wife, sister-in-law and in-laws as also some state ministers and officials. The Congress leader claimed that commissions were paid by millers for adulteration of bad quality rice in good rice meant for distribution under PDS. State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel and CLP leader T.P. Singhdeo were present at the press meet. Mr Singhvi said the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), probing the scam, has recovered two more diaries exposing the “well-oiled wheel of corruption”. Demanding an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court/high court judge into the scam, he said this was necessary as the ACB chief has himself conceded that it was beyond him to even think of probing those in the highest echelons of the state. The Congress also wanted Mr Singh to quit as chief minister to ensure that there is a “fair and impartial probe”. Mr Singhvi said so far only 12 junior-level employees of the corporation have been arrested in connection with the scam. (Asian Age 26/3/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

176. ‘Sunderbans hardly prepared for climate change, migration’ (9)

Kolkata: The fragile Sunderbans – the largest mangrove forests and delta region spread over both Bangladesh and India – is “hardly prepared” for climate change-related issues, experts said here on Thursday. Policy makers, academicians, civil society organisations and community development experts said gaps in preparedness in the face of submergence of islands in Sunderbans and the consequent mass migration needs to be addressed “immediately” and at a global level. “Bay of Bengal harbouring all coastal countries – Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Indonesia – have the highest record of disasters historically and the frequency of disasters is six times more in this region than that in any part of the world,” said climate change expert Saroj Dash. He was speaking at the third sub-regional workshop on community resilience to climate change in Bay of Bengal organised by World Vision India. The previous editions of the workshop were held in Odisha (2012) and Dhaka, Bangladesh (2013). “Sunderbans flanked by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal is one of the most vulnerable regions of the world and one of the most densely populated region on earth. It is hardly prepared for even partial submergence and consequent mass migration,” said Dash, regional technical co-ordinator, climate change, Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian organisation. Observations such as these will be part of a charter that will feed into two forthcoming key global events – the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, and finally targeting the Sustainable Development Goals 2015. Aiming to build resilience to climate change in the region, the charter will focus on women and children. “Women and children are the most vulnerable because of food security, health and migratory issues. “Their identities and empowerment have a lot to do with their homes and if that is washed away due to floods and other disasters, then they suffer,” said Ardhendu Sekhar Chatterjee, a leading figure in sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry. In addition to highlighting adaptation, biodiversity, climate change impact monitoring and assessment, experts also called for building up more active networks of parliamentarians of countries in the Bay of Bengal. “The need of the hour is to build up more and more active networks of MPs to combat climate change. Capacity development of parliamentarians could also have a positive impact on international climate negotiations,” said Mukul Sharma, regional director-South Asia, Climate Parliament. (New Kerala 12/3/15)

177. MPCB slaps notice on Sterlite for violating green norms (9)

AURANGABAD: The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Friday issued a show cause notice to industrial giant Sterlite Technologies Ltd for allegedly violation of consent conditions following a case involving dumping of hazardous acid, a byproduct of the company, into the Kham River. The MIDC Waluj police had on March 28 arrested five persons, including a corporator and a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader, for allegedly dumping spent hydrochloric (HCL) acid in the river passing through the Waluj industrial area. Eventually, the police and MPCB found that spend hydrochloric acid was a by-product of the Sterlite unit. The board stated that the company has violated the consent norms under Section 26 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and under section 21 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 and under the Hazardous Waste Management Handling and Trans-boundary Movement Rules, 2008.. “The consent obtained by the company for manufacturing of optical fiber, silicon tetrachloride (SiCl4), glass performs, power generation, hydrogen, oxygen and by-product as Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), HCL and Sodium Hypochlorite was valid up to June 30, 2014,” read the notice. “However, it was obligatory on the part of the company to comply with the conditions stipulated in the consent,” it added. The MPCB said when the company had shown HCL as a byproduct in consent and on paper, it was sold as byproducts to parties. But ultimately it was observed that it was dumped into the Kham River illegally, polluting the river and violating the provisions of the Environment Act, it added. The MPCB stated that though the renewal consent was approved by it at a meeting held on September 23, 2014, the company failed to submit the required documents till date. “Whereas, the inspector of the Waluj police station has found seven tankers carrying HCL near the banks of the Kham River standing on the premises of Gujarat Freight Transport Office early on February 2 morning. One tanker disposed the entire acidic effluent containing spent HCL willfully and purposely into the Kham River through pipeline,” the notice stated. “All the seven tankers were detained by the police and an FIR has been lodged against the seven tankers disposing spent HCL acid with the Waluj police station. On the request of the Waluj police station, the MPCB sub-regional officer collected effluent samples from all seven tankers. The analysis reports of all the effluent in the tankers were found highly acidic in nature with pH less than 1 and high Total dissolved solids (TDS) and chlorides,” it added. “Moreover, when the MPCB officials visited the industry for investigations, it was found that the seven tankers carrying HCL acid were found to be of Sterlite and was sold to contractors of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Kalyan. The industry did not bother to comply with the environmental Laws and was negligent towards pollution prevention,” the board stated in the notice. The board has instructed the company to submit its reply within seven days after the receipt of the notice. If it fails to do so, the board then would issue directions to close down its manufacturing unit and direct authorities concerned to disconnect water and electricity supplies. Anil Bhadauria, Sterlite plant head, Aurangabad facility, said, “Our plants have always followed the best standards in manufacturing and research, and we remain committed to our stated goals of quality and environmental sustainability.” “The byproducts are allowed to be sold to recyclers/end-users as per provisions of law. These companies are responsible for utilising the same. Sterlite is in no way connected with the recent incident of HCL disposal,” he said. “We have already initiated legal action against companies involved in the incident. Besides, we have also invested close to Rs 50cr in setting up ‘Advanced pollution control systems’ at our Waluj facility and effluents are treated 100% within the facility,” said Bhadauria. “The management will now ensure that HCL containers are fitted with GPS system to track their movement henceforth to avoid any nuances in future,” he added. (Times of India 14/3/15)

178. NGO seeks execution of NGT order in Delhi (9)

New Delhi: The All India Lokadhikar Sangathan has written to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee urging immediate execution of the National Green Tribunal’s order to shut down stainless steel pickling units in Wazirpur, New Delhi. “We are in the process of moving an application before the Tribunal soon for the execution of the directions due to the continuous pollution of river Yamuna because of negligence by the DPCC in not taking action against illegal functioning of industries,” said Girish Kumar Pandey, President of the All India Lokadhikar Sangathan. In its order of January 22, the NGT had asked DPCC to shut down 17 pickling units. The NGT had also directed the DPCC to ensure that no unit should operate without the consent of the Pollution Control Board in the region. The tribunal had issued notices to several industrial units in October 2014 for discharging harmful effluents into drains that empty into river Yamuna. (HBL 16/3/15)

179. Concern over pollution by power plants in VidShakti Singh, (9)

NAGPUR: The environment activists and NGOs from across the city on Tuesday gathered to discuss and formulate plans through which they could make a difference to prevent ecological damages taking place in Vidarbha. According to majority of such NGOs, by setting up power plants in Maharashtra concentrated across Vidarbha, the water resources and forests of the region were being compromised at the cost of supplying power to other parts of the state. The discussion took place in the meeting organized by RTM Nagpur University Alumni Association (RTMNUAA) at Nagpur University Library, where Advocate Shrihari Aney was guest speaker. NGOs like Vidarbha Environmental Action Group (VEAG), Vidarbha Connect, Shrusti Paryavaran Sanstha and other local organizations took part in the meeting. Aney said, “Adivasis and farmers, who formed the major human resource of Vidarbha, were being treated absurdly. By creating reserved forests for power plants the government had simply knocked out Adivasis who otherwise used forest for their own livelihood.” Talking about the power plant harming the farming sector, Aney said, “The government instead of creating canal irrigation for farmers to use water is selling the same to power plants.” On this, the RTMNUAA secretary Sudhir Paliwal said, “The upcoming Adani Power Plant project undertaken at Pench will basically steal surplus water from Pench river. The river being the artificial reservoir created by early fishermen is still being used for breeding fish. The complete reservoir is going to be ruined to entertain the upcoming project, hence wasting water as well as livelihood of those fishermen.” Another troubling factor discussed was of Koradi Power Plant, which was continuously emitting mercury, thus polluting its lake. He also told, “Koradi has been majorly supplying fish and milk to Nagpur, which are highly infected with mercury.” According to Paliwal, National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been suggesting eco-friendly norms for setting up as well as running the thermal power plants where the radio activity in the ambient air should be measured regularly. “We also suggested instead of investing fresh water of the city in such power plants, treated sewage water be used,” he said adding the state government had been openly neglecting these suggestions. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

180. NGOs asks Centre to stop building mega dams (9)

IMPHAL, March 19 – The North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF) has asked the Government of India to stop construction of the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri dam project, 2700 MW Lower Demwe HE project and the 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam. Expressing strong disapproval over the Union Government’s decision and its initiation of building mega dams and various other multipurpose hydroelectric projects across the entire Northeastern States, NEDF, a conglomerate of different NE-based NGOs, has demanded revocation of all such policies including Manipur Hydro Power Policy 2012 in public interest. This was conveyed to media persons at a hurriedly called press conference here by the NEDF. The press meet was attended by NGO activists from Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and NEDF members. The NGO representatives expressed serious concern over the aggressive plan of the Government of India to construct more than 200 mega dams across North East which will lead to complete destruction of the rich biodiversity of the region, without addressing the needs of the local populace. They further alleged that such move to construct mega dams was initiated without impact assessment and without prior informed consent of the people. The Forum further asked the international funding agencies like Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Japanese Bank of International Cooperation to discontinue financing energy projects without recognising the traditional right of indigenous people over their land and without taking free, prior and informed consent. The forum members further demanded the decommissioning of all the non-performing mega dams. It also asked the government to assess the performance of previously failed and underperforming dams in the region. It further asked the government to cease the militarisation in the name of development in the NE region and respect the human rights of the indigenous people as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of People, 2007 and recommendation of the World Commission on Dam. (The Assam Tribune 20/3/15)

181. mIndia should prepare to face extreme weather, warn scientists (9)

Bengaluru: Around the same time as Cyclone Pam flattened the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu early this month, untimely rains and hailstorms lashed Maharashtra in India destroying at least 5.5 million hectares of winter crops. That was a big jolt to the nation still recovering from the worst calamity of its kind in Uttarakhand in June 2013 when thousands perished in flooding and landslides induced by heavy rains and, in September 2014, from the flash floods in Srinagar, the deadliest to hit the valley in 60 years. The list of extreme weather events that crippled life in India in recent times gets longer when one includes the July 26, 2005, downpour — the heaviest in recorded history — that flooded the entire city of Mumbai and the August 6, 2010, cloudburst in Leh that dumped 14 inches of rain in two hours. It was not just the extreme rain events that have surprised weathermen. The longest heat wave that swept northern India in June 2014 drove Delhi’s temperature to 47.6 degrees Celsius, the hottest in 62 years. According to Global Climate Risk Index, published by Germanwatch, India is one of the three countries (besides the Philippines and Cambodia) affected by the most extreme weather events in 2013. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that “rainfall patterns in peninsular India will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events”.”There has been a 50 percent increase in extreme rainfall events during the past 50 years in India,” Jayaraman Srinivasan, chairman of the Divecha Centre for Climate Change in Bengaluru, wrote in the journal Current Science after the Uttarakhand disaster. “During the past few months there have been a few unusual weather events but there is no clear indication that these are related to global warming,” Srinivasan told IANS. “I would argue that earth’s weather and climate are governed by non-linear processes, and hence one should expect unusual weather events now and then.” He, however, added that “extreme rainfall events will increase as global warming proceeds unabated, and hence it is absolutely essential for us to be prepared to tackle more extreme rainfall events in the future”. Bhupendra Nath Goswami, former director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, says his studies have shown that the occurrence of “extreme rainfall events” had been increasing over the country in the last five-six decades. “We can say with a high degree of confidence that this increasing trend is due to global warming,” Goswami told IANS. Global warming, Goswami said, “increases the moisture holding capacity of the atmosphere and makes it more convectively unstable, facilitating a stronger rain event. “Because the atmosphere has become more unstable over the whole country, one or more such events can occur anywhere at a given time.” Goswami said that all climate models predict an increasing trend of these extreme events into the future. Therefore, “there is strong reason to prepare ourselves to face the potential disasters associated with increasing frequency and intensity of these events”.”This erratic behaviour is a regional manifestation of climate change,” says R. Krishnan, a senior scientist at IITM, who has made a detailed analysis of long-term climate data sets. “Our findings show that the pronounced surface warming of the Tibetan Plateau has altered the spatial distribution of atmospheric temperature, strengthened the sub-tropical westerly winds over the region and created favourable conditions for increased variability of the Western Disturbances activity,” Krishnan told IANS. Western disturbance is a low pressure system that originates over the Mediterranean sea and moves eastwards, bringing winter rain and snow to the north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent. Some British scientists suggest a possible link between the extreme events in mid-latitudes and rapid loss of the ice cap that covers the Arctic Ocean….  (Zee News 24/3/15)

182. Centre mulls giving 90 per cent afforestation fund to states (9)

MUMBAI: In a bid to boost afforestation activities, the Centre is mulling to hand over 90 per cent of the Rs 36,000 crore compensatory afforestation management fund directly to all the states, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said. The fund was created from the penalties collected from corporates for not meeting the mandatory compensatory afforestation drives. “We want to pass on Rs 33,000 crore or 90 per cent of the compensatory afforestation management fund worth Rs 36,000 crore directly to the states to boost the environment activities across the country,” the Union minister of state for environment, forests and climate change said during an Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) event here late this evening. The minister, however, said that for the funds to be directly transferred to the state, the Forests Act has to be amended. The Centre is also planning to bring in a new set of regulations by amending the existing ones. “We are planning to introduce the new set of laws and regulations during the second part of the ongoing Budget session. The idea is to ensure concrete action for greening the forests in degraded forest land,” Javadekar told PTI on the sidelines of the event. The minister outlined the blueprint on policy measures by his ministry and the government while addressing the gathering earlier. Stressing optimum use of advancing technology, he said, “We want to incorporate latest technology to change environment protection via focused regulatory mechanism through three pertinent measures namely, round the clock pollution monitoring of 3,026 industrial units in the seven most polluting sectors; leveraging satellite technology to monitor projects, and finally GPS-based management monitoring and compliance regime to ensure implementation.” Talking about the initiatives being undertaken by the government towards maintaining a balance between development and ecology, he said, “We are in mission mode, not commission mode. With our clean water, clean air, clean energy mission, we are determined to change and allow growth on one hand and protect the environment on the other.” “We will be going to the upcoming Paris Agreement on climate change in December with a positive agenda with a view to increasing the energy efficiency by 20-25 per cent in all sectors,” he added. (Times of India 25/3/15)

183. Environmental laws being reviewed to give more teeth: Prakash Javadekar (9)

HYDERABAD: The Centre is reviewing all environmental laws with an aim to give them more teeth and hand severe punishment in cases of encroachment and violation, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Saturday. Speaking to PTI here, Javadekar said two Forest Acts, and one each in environment protection, air, water and bio-diversity govern the whole environmental regime. “We are reviewing all these laws to make people participatory in it … make them more meaningful and give more teeth. Instances of violations and encroachments will be severely punished,” he said. The minister said the government will come out with draft laws after completing the review work, he said. Earlier, interacting with joggers at KBR Park here, Javadekar said India is currently faced with the problem of shrinking space and limited resources. “We (India) are just 2.5 per cent of the world’s land mass, and we are 17 per cent of the (global) human population and 70 per cent of cattle population. It’s a huge pressure on land resources,” he added. (Times of India 28/3/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

184. Farmer who took part in ‘Chai pe Charcha’ kills self (20)

MUMBAI: A farmer from Vidarbha region who had attended the ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed suicide, said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil here on Wednesday.Image for representation A farmer from Vidarbha region who had attended the ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed suicide, said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil here on Wednesday. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Modi had addressed a series of ‘Chai pe Charcha’ programmes which received tremendous response. “Farmers who had participated in ‘Chai pe Charcha’ with Modi, are committing suicides,”  Patil, NCP group leader in Maharashtra Legislative  Assembly, told reporters in the Vidhan Bhavan complex, while referring to the suicide committed by Vithal Rathod (45), who hailed from Dabhadi village in Yavatmal. He had committed suicide on February 24. “On March 20 last year, Modi held a ‘Chai pe Charcha’ at Dabhadi village in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha. He assured farmers that if they elect him, he will solve all their problems. It’s nine months since he (Modi) came to power. Farmers waited for a long time, but with no relief coming, Rathod committed suicide,” he said. He said Rathod committed suicide “due to burden of loan”. “It is the biggest failure in the country that the assurance given by its top leader cannot give confidence to farmers,” Patil said. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

185. Farmers want govt. to ensure them guaranteed income (20)

BENGALURU: With two days left for the presentation of the State Budget, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha president Kodihalli Chandrashekar on Wednesday demanded that the government ensure them guaranteed income by setting up a farmers’ income guarantee commission. But differing in terms of approach, Economist Abdul Aziz advocated the need to consider farmers as a “special social category” on the lines of oppressed sections such as Dalits and backward classes so that they too would get support guaranteed from the government for their welfare, including reservation in jobs and education. Expressing concern over the plight of farmers at a seminar on ‘Farmers and budget’ organised by the KRRS and Hasiru Sene here, Mr. Chandrashekar alleged that both the State and the Centre were looking at the agricultural sector only from the point of food security of the country and they did not have concern for the welfare of farmers. Alleging that the Union Budget had ignored agricultural sector and focussed only on corporate welfare, he said farmers were now looking forward to getting some support from the State Budget. University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, Vice-Chancellor H. Shivanna assured farmers of holding a meeting with their representatives to elicit their views and conveying them to the government. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

186. Farmer suicides: 20 yrs on, no relief yet for families (20)

HYDERABAD: The official claim notwithstanding, governments of AP and Telangana have failed to pay compensation to the kin of farmers, who committed suicide due to mounting agricultural debts. As many as 28,358 farmers committed suicide in Telangana and 12,016 in Andhra Pradesh in the last two decades, according to National Crime Records Bureau. But rights activists claim that only 4,442 ryot families in Telangana and 2,200 families in Andhra Pradesh received the much-touted compensation from the government under the ‘economic support and rehabilitation package’. This in other words means that a mere 15% of farm families in Telangana and 18% in AP actually benefited from the compensation package. A fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) on Sunday visited five villages in Chevella and Vikarabad mandals of Ranga Reddy district to ascertain the government claim that compensation is paid immediately to the kin of farmers, who committed suicide. The HRF team led by its general secretary VS Krishna randomly selected families of seven farmers, who had ended their life unable to bear frequent crop loss and consequent financial burden. The team was surprised to find that only one of the seven families had actually got the compensation. The HRF members interacted with the farmers at Kesaram, Kammeta, Kandlapalli, Dannaram and Pileru villages. Kummari Ramulu, a tenant farmer, who grows cotton in Kesaram village of Chevella mandal, killed himself unable to cope up with the pressure of money lenders from whom he borrowed about Rs 3 lakh for cultivation. He consumed pesticide on November 17, 2014. Even after four months, no government official visited the family for verification and payment of compensation. There are two more victims in the same village, whose families do not even know that they are entitled to compensation. Of the seven families the team visited, only one from Pileru village in Vikarabad mandal has received the compensation. “This clearly shows the careless attitude of the officials. Even after several months no official has visited the devastated families. Farm suicide is a crisis of unimaginable proportion. The least the government could do is to ensure the families are looked after,” Krishna said. When contacted Chandra Mohan, RDO of Chevella, who chairs the compensation committee, said they are trying to speed up the process of verification to pay compensation. “We are trying to verify as many cases as possible so that the families do not suffer. It is true that there has been a delay in the verification process, but I have instructed officials to get data at the earliest.” (Times of India 16/3/15)

187. Farmer unions begin 4-day protests in Malwa (20)

BATHINDA: Demanding five-marla residential plots for homeless, financial assistance to families of labourers who committed suicide, arrears of MNREGA scheme and old-age pension, hundreds Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union members on Tuesday started a four-day dharna at deputy commissioners’ offices in more than half a dozen districts in Malwa region. Dharnas were held in Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Barnala, Mansa, Sangrur and Bathinda. As the protesters were not allowed to hold a dharna near the district administrative complex in Bathinda, they held it at children’s park. “Punjab government in 2014 had promised to allot plots to homeless labourers, but has not done it till now. The government has also failed to financially compensate the suicide-hit families and is not giving money meant for MNREGA and pension to deserving persons,” Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union state president Jora Singh Nasrali and general secretary Lachman Sewewala said. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

188. Two more farmers end lives, one die of shock due to crop loss (20)

Kota: Two more farmers allegedly committed suicide while another died of shock after seeing their crops destroyed in untimely rains, police said on Sunday. Premshaker Meena (20) allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself on Saturday evening in Ladpur village of Keshoraipatan police station area of Bundi district, they said. Premshanker committed suicide as he was deeply distressed after seeing the destruction of his crops caused by recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm, they said. The body was found hanging from a tree in a field, police said, adding, a case under section 174 of CrPc was registered in this regard. In a second such incident, 21-year-old Vinod Meena, a resident of Ramnagar village of Boodadit police station, allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison after seeing the damaged crops in his four bighas of land on Thursday evening. The body was found among the bushes on the way to nearby village, police said, adding, that after conducting post-mortem the body was handed over to the family members. In another incident, Rameshawar Tiwari (68), a resident of Hanotiya village of Kota district died on Friday. According to the family members, Tiwari suddenly fell ill and restless after seeing the damaged crops of coriander over his 40 bighas of land. He was rushed to hospital where the doctors declared him dead. Meanwhile, farmers at Jalunda village of Bundi district claimed that no survey team or relief work has reached them yet. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had visited villages in the district here on March 20 where she met farmers, who have suffered crop and livestock losses, and expressed solidarity with them. When asked about the survey and relief work, ruling BJP MLA from Ladpura area of Kota Bhawani Singh Rajawat said the state government has already announced a relief package to the rain-affected farmers and ensured that assistance to the farmers would reach within five to six days. State president of Rajasthan Pradesh Kisan and Khait Majdoor Sandeep Singh Choudhary demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per bigha of land for the rain-hit farmers across the state. He also demanded exemption of electricity bills for the affected farmers for the next six months. At least 11 farmers have died so far in Kota division of Rajasthan. (Zee News 22/3/15)

189. 89 farmers have committed suicide: Gujarat Government (20)

AHMEDABAD: The State government which has been claiming that no farmer in Gujarat has committed suicide has admitted that in the state 89 farmers have committed suicide in the state since 2010. However of these 11 suicide were directly related to failure of crop of increase in debt due to farmer. In reply to the question of Viramgam MLA Tejashreeben Patel, the state government said that of the 11 death in three and half years there were three suicide related to increase in depth due to agriculture, while another eight death were due to increase in debt and 78 suicides were due to other reasons. The Government has stated that no farmers had committed suicide due to crop failure. The Government said that the three suicide which were committed due to increasing in debt due to Agriculture one each death was reported from Amreli, Bhavnagar and Surat district. These three suicides occurred in seven months of July. Also due to increase in debt the eight death were reported from three from Jamnagar, two from Porbandar and one each from Surendranagar, Gandhinagar and Dang. The officials said refusing to quote said in 2014 there was a delay in the rains and the farmers who had gone in for early sowing were forced to commit suicide. Similarly the other eight deaths which were reported due to increase in debt was because the farmers were getting money from private lenders instead of going to the banks. However, farmers union refusing to be quoted said that these eight debt were also directly related to the agriculture as the farmer is forced to borrow money if he does not good income of his produce. Also of the 78 suicide deaths also the government has tried to divert it to other issues. “One should go and inquire each case and they will find out that all the deaths were due to increase in debt of the farmers due to failure of crop.” (Times of India 24/3/15)

190. ‘Give aid to farmers in Rajasthan’ (20)

The Opposition Congress Wednesday demanded a similar relief package to Rajasthan farmers as the one given to the farmers in Jammu and Kashmir following the natural calamity there last year. Claiming that farmers are committing suicide due to heavy rains and hailstorm, Congress MLA from Sapotara Ramesh Meena accused the BJP government of not providing compensation to farmers. “The farmers are severely distressed as they see no hope of government relief. The government must write off their loans and electricity bills,” he said, adding that 14 farmers have already taken their lives as they are counting losses from crop damage and loss of cattle. “J&K was given special assistance of Rs 1,000 crore but Rajasthan is not being provided special package despite the fact that the BJP is in power at both the Centre and the state,” he said. Relief minister Gulab Chand Kataria, however, claimed that the state government has acted swiftly. “Families of farmers who died because of rains and hailstorm have been provided Rs 3 lakh. The government had transferred money online into the accounts of district collectors on the basis of their demands,” he said. According to him, the Girdawari report would be submitted in the next three days after which the farmers who have suffered more than 50 per cent damages would be paid relief. Kataria however asked the legislator not to link suicide deaths with those affected by the natural calamity. He said that the government has been verifying cause of their suicide. Meanwhile, two more farmers committed suicide in Kota division bringing the total number of farmers’ suicide because of financial distress due to hailstorm. So far, seven farmers have died in Bundi, four in Kota and three in Baran districts. Premshaker Meena (20) allegedly hanged himself on Saturday evening. Premshanker committed suicide as he was deeply distressed after seeing the destruction of his crops the police said. In another incident, 21-year-old Vinod Meena, a resident of Ramnagar village allegedly consumed poison after seeing the damaged crops in his four bighas of land. Rajasthan Pradesh Kisan and Khait Majdoor Sangh President, Sandeep Singh Choudhary has demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per bigha of land for the rain-hit farmers across the state. (Asian Age 26/3/15)

191. Ban on potato export led to farmers’ suicide: Opposition (20)

Kolkata: Experts and Opposition leaders heaped criticism on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Government’s policy of banning the export of potato to the neighbouring States for its reduction in demand in these States. They said that the decision was not financially logical and had contributed to reduced prices of potato this year leading to farmers’ suicide. State’s Agriculture Minister Purnendu Basu refuted this statement. So far, 17 potato farmers’ suicides have been reported in Bengal. In 2013, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had imposed restrictions on export of potato to other States to curb its rising price in Bengal, which continued for one-and-a-half years. These restrictions were however eased last year. Encouraged by the profit gained from potato farming last year, farmers had sown potato in more than 4 lakh hectares of land. The chairperson of the Pradeshik Krishak Sabha, the peasant wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Madan Ghosh said that the West Bengal Government’s decision to restrict the export of potato to neighbouring States left them with no choice but to increase their own yield of potato. “As a result, traders from other States lost interest in importing potato from West Bengal and our farmers lost an essential means to sell their crop,” he told The Hindu here on Sunday. Mr. Ghosh said that the potato production this year had crossed 1 crore tonne compared to the normal yield of 90 lakh tonne. “So the State government’s decision to purchase 50,000 metric tonne directly from farmers is grossly inadequate,” he said, adding the State’s cold storages maximum capacity was only 65 lakh tonne. Speaking in the same vein, professor of Economics and Rural Development in Vidyasagar University Sebak Kumar Jana said that the decision to ban export of potato was not financially logical. “If there was adequate infrastructure to set up more cold storages, such a loss to farmers could have been avoided,” he added. Professor of Economics at Jadavpur University Joyashree Roy, however, said that to associate potato farmers’ suicide directly the with low price of the crop would be scientifically justified. Mr. Basu, however said that the restriction on potato export was imposed to prevent large-scale shortage of the crop in Bengal as it was illegally exported to Uttar Pradesh, which had low crop production in 2013. “So, it was a positive step by the State Government that prevented the acute shortage of potato in West Bengal,” he told The Hindu . Mr. Basu said that some dishonest potato traders were also responsible for the present crisis as they were not buying potatoes from farmers to pressurise the State Government for their vested interests. (The Hindu 30/3/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

192. Farmer outfit begins 4-day sit-in against proposed Land Acquisition Bill (4)

BATHINDA: Accusing the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of taking anti-farmers steps, including taking up Land Acquisition Bill in the parliament and failing to implement the Swaminathan commission recommendations about fixing minimum support price of crops by giving 50% profit over input costs, peasant organization BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) on Tuesday started four-day protests outside the offices of deputy commissioners across the state. At Bathinda, police stopped the protesters from holding dharna at the DC office and had to be organized at Children’s Park. BKU activists had a heated exchange with the police over denial of right to protest outside the DC office. They also accused the Punjab government of failing to provide compensation to suicide-hit farm families. The organization also demanded that compensation be raised to Rs 5 lakh per family from the current Rs 2 lakh. BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said, “The Modi government has decided to make certain amendments in the Land Acquisition Bill taken up by the previous UPA government, but it has been learnt that the proposed changes in the bill are tailor-made for big business houses and are not being made keeping the interests of farmers or small landowners in mind. We want complete justice to farmers and will reject any bill that is not in line with the aspirations of the farming community.” (Times of India 11/3/15)

193. Amendment to land Act a ‘death warrant to farmers’ (4)

BALLARI: Chamarasa Mali Patil, president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene, has described the Bharatiya Janata Party -led National Democratic Alliance government’s amendment to the Land Acquisition Act as a “death warrant to the farmers”. He told presspersons here on Sunday that Union government was working against the interest of the working class, especially the farming community, which was evident by the clauses incorporated in the amendment to the Act that would enable forcible acquisition of land. “The acts of Mr. Modi are contrary to what he had promised prior to coming to power. Going by the manner in which his government is functioning, ‘achche din kabhi nahi ayenge’. The amendments brought in are aimed at giving a red carpet welcome to multinational companies and the corporate sector without any hassles,” Mr. Patil alleged. He said that the farmers would stage a dharna at New Delhi on March 18 to press for withdrawing the amendments. “Around 3,000 farmers from all over the State will participate in the New Delhi chalo programme,” Mr. Patil said.

“Diabetes, hyper tension among other health hazards have become common among the people with the introduction of hybrid seeds. One cannot imagine further deterioration of public health with introduction of GM seeds. With that in view the government should completely ban their use in the country,” he said. If Mr. Modi did not respond to the farmers demand positively, we will be compelled to launch ‘Modi hataao, Desh ko bachao’ campaign, he said. Darur Purushotamgouda, president of the district unit of the KRRS and Hasiru Sene, was present. (The Hindu 16/3/15)

194. Rights of Polavaram displaced not documented: report (4)

HYDERABAD: Details of the rights of tribals living in the submergence area of the Polavaram Project, as enunciated by the Forest Rights Act, are not even documented, before which the tribals are being displaced, said a fact finding report by a city-based voluntary organisation. The organisation, Human Rights Society, through a press meet on Monday, revealed that the individual and customary traditional rights of the tribals have not been codified and gazetted by the governments yet. Even before it is done, they are being displaced with a nominal compensation. While releasing the report of a fact finding team which visited seven affected villages, N. Rajeswara Rao, the general secretary of the society, demanded that details of the rights of each individual, his family, his community, lands under cultivation, and grazing lands should be documented along with traditional customary rights and boundaries of the community enjoyment areas. It should be done under the supervision of Grama Sabha, and the recommendations accepted by the government. Former AP High Court justice A. Gopala Rao, who headed the team, noted that revenue records in the villages were fudged so that names of outsiders are replaced by the names of original tribal residents who will end up not receiving any rehabilitation package. Nobody in the seven villages have received the relief and rehabilitation settlements, he said, and pointed out that even while increasing the project cost since 2005, it has not occurred to the government to increase the amount payable for those being displaced. Though land for land and house for house are on offer, land and housing plot are separated by long distances, unlike in the present villages where they are adjacent to each other, Justice Rao said. The team visited the villages named Mamidigondi, Devaragondi, Ramayyapeta, Thota Gondhi, Singanapalli, Pydipaka and Chegondipally, which are the first to be submerged by the project. Team members demanded that the government conduct meetings, interact with the gram sabha and local politicians, and preparing a road map based on mutual agreement and consent, before laying the next brick for the project. The issue of rehabilitation should be discussed by the State and Central governments within these parameters. The package should be as per the directions by the monitoring committee, and if the package is found to be lagging in reference to the fixed benchmarks, construction should be deferred or stopped. In the interests of the rights of the project-affected families, the area of relocation should be declared as Scheduled Area, so that the protection and benefits of being Scheduled Tribes are not lost, Mr. Gopala Rao demanded. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

195. Consent of land owners must for acquisition in U.P. (4)

LUCKNOW: Land for the development of State-funded projects in Uttar Pradesh will now be acquired through mutual agreement with land owners and land holders. The new system of land acquisition was granted approval by the State Government in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Informed sources said the system has been introduced to tide over the delay in acquiring land under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and to prevent any legal tussle with land owners. The compensation for the land acquired in urban areas will not be more than two times the market value/circle rate and in the rural areas not more than four times the market value/circle rate of the land. The land owners will also be paid for the property, trees and standing crops on their land. If land cannot be acquired through mutual agreement, then action would be taken under the provisions of the 2013 Act and the concerning government orders, an official said. Approval was granted to the Uttar Pradesh Goonda Control (Amendment) Bill, 2015. A significant feature is the inclusion of the provisions related to cattle smuggling, sexual exploitation, child labour, bonded labour, beggary and the illegal trade in the removal of body parts in the Amendment Bill. The Uttar Pradesh Gangster’s and Anti-Social Activities (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was also given the Cabinet approval, informed sources said. The Government has also decided to increase the pension (“sammaan raashi” ) to the MISA ( Maintenance of Internal Security Act ) and DIFR (Defence of India Rules) detenu during the Emergency ( June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977 ) by Rs. 4,000. They will now get a pension of Rs. 10,000 per month. The Cabinet decision would be effective from the date of the Government Order (GO). Pension to freedom fighters and their dependants has also been increased by Rs. 3.189. They will now be entitled for a pension of Rs. 12,000 per month and this decision will also be effective from the date of the GO. Among the other decisions, sources said, was the approval for The Uttar Pradesh Braj Planning and Development Board-Bill, 2015, which entails the integrated development of Mathura and the Braj region. The proposed Board would be headed by the Chief Minister. The Braj Planning and Development Council is also proposed to be constituted. Meanwhile, the land identified by the Revenue Department will be given free of cost on 90 years lease to the Agra Development Authority for the development of a “Roadside Café Street” of international standards on the Agra-Fatehabad road. A roadside café street on the lines of those in London and Paris would be developed on 7120 square metres of land. (The Hindu 18/3/15)

 

196. Meets with farmers for land acquisition to start in fortnight (4)

NASHIK: Meetings with farmers for acquisition of land for industries at Gonde and Sinnar will be started within a fortnight. Allotment of plots to industries at the proposed additional industrial estate at Talegaon-Akrale village in Dindori tehsil near the city is expected to start by June-end. The issue of land acquisition came up during the Zilla Udyog Mitra (ZUM) meeting on Friday. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) has identified around 5,000 hectares of land at various locations across the district for the estate in different stages of acquisition. District collector Deependra Singh Kushwah said, “With an aim to speed up the acquisition process, negotiations with farmers at Gonde and Sinnar for acquisition of land for the estate would be started in the next 15 days.” The MIDC has earmarked 128 hectares of land for the development of the new industrial area at Gonde village near Igatpuri and 127 hectares at Sinnar. MIDC regional officer (Nashik region) Ramdas Khedkar said, “We have already started the process of acquisition of 113 hectares at Sayane in Malegaon tehsil. Of this, 60 hectares have been acquired and we are in the process of getting the rest of the land. Of the Rs 36 crore approved, we have already distributed Rs 21 crore to the concerned farmers. In Dindori, we have notified 922 acres for developing an additional industrial estate of which we have acquired 500 acres. The process to develop infrastructure there has been started by our engineering department. Actual allotment of industrial plots at the additional industrial estate in Dindori is expected to begin by June-end.” Khedkar added, “We have earmarked 128 hectares at Gonde and 127 hectares in Sinnar. We need to hold meetings with the farmers to speed up the land acquisition process there. In Yeola, we have already acquired 109 hectares and we are in process of developing the infrastructure.” (Times of India 21/3/15)

197. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (4)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

198. Cabinet will decide fate of land bill: Jaitley (4)

New Delhi: Prevented by a near-united opposition from tabling the bill on fair compensation towards land acquired for development, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the union cabinet will take a decision on its future. “You’ll have to wait for the cabinet to take a decision,” Jaitley told a conference co-hosted by the external affairs ministry. “There is an opportunity for all of us, at least for the states that want to implement these provisions. They can’t be stopped by those who don’t want to implement these provisions,” the finance minister said. “You can’t have a situation like this: Where one state says ‘I will not grow’ and ‘I will also not allow others to grow’. This is not an acceptable economic proposition,” Jaitley added, just ahead of a cabinet meeting that was presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But there was no word on the land bill from the meeting. Even as the government managed to get parliament to pass some key legislations like the ones on insurance, mining and coal blocks, it did not have the strength to push the land bill in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament. Officially called the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2005, it was passed by the Lok Sabha, the lower house, on March 11. The government has maintained that it had promulgated an ordinance on this earlier after wide consultation with 32 states and union territories and that several opposition leaders, in fact, had even supported it in the past. In his latest periodic radio address, this time to farmers, Prime Minister Modi said lies were being spread on the new land acquisition bill, asserting that the proposed law was in their interest as it will improve infrastructure, employment, output and incomes in rural areas. “Misinformation which is being spread, that it (the bill) is against farmers. It’s a conspiracy to keep the farmer poor. It is part of the conspiracies not to take our nation forward. We have to protect ourselves from this, save the country, save the farmer,” he said. The new bill, proposed by the National Democratic Alliance, government, has evoked resistance from activists as also political parties, especially the Congress that wants the provisions of the land bill passed in 2013 be restored. As the bill has not been passed in parliament, the ordinance amending the 2013 Act will lapse. (Business Standard 25/3/15)

199. New land bill is ‘great’ threat to food security: CPI (21)

New Delhi: In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’.CPI on Thursday appealed to all the political parties and farmers to reject the new land acquisition bill, alleging that it was brought by the NDA government to “snatch” away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. The party also claimed that it will be a great threat to food security in coming days. CPI also said that the BJP Government’s proposals for 18 industrial corridors will engulf more than 35 per cent of cultivable land which will pave the way for thousands of villages to disappear and crores of people will loose their livelihood and this will bring a social chaos. In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’. “The bill has been brought by BJP-led NDA Government to allow foreign and local corporates, land mafia and builder lobby to snatch away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. This will be a great threat to our food security in coming days. “The CPI calls upon to all political parties to reject this bill in Parliament and save the rural people from a catastrophe,” the party said in a statement. The party said that while the new proposal of the government has withdrawn the clause of 80 per cent consent of farmers before their land is acquired, it also withdraws the social impact assessment which is an issue of “paramount importance”.”A genuine fear on Land Acquisition Bill 2015 has began haunting agrarian community,” the statement said. Meanwhile, during the Plenary Delegate Session, the draft Political Resolution approved by the National Council of the party was introduced. It analysed the current political situation and outlined the political tactics to be adopted by the party in the coming period. (DNA 26/3/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

200. UN report: Campaign has reduced mother and child deaths (3)

United Nations: A UN initiative to improve the health of women and children that attracted USD 60 billion over the past five years has led to a decrease in maternal and child death rates in all 49 targeted countries, according to a report. It cited declines in mortality rates for children under age 5 between 2010 and 2013 in the target nations ranging from 58.3 percent in Haiti to 16.3 percent in Bangladesh, 13.2 percent in Liberia, and 7.5 percent in Afghanistan. It also reported drops in the maternal mortality rate in the same period ranging from 22.9 percent in Zimbabwe to 16 percent in Ethiopia, 9.1 percent in Myanmar, and 3.9 percent in Vietnam. Despite “historic progress,” the report said, more than 17,000 children died before the age of 5 every day in 2013 around the world, which meant an annual total of 6.3 million. And it said 2,89,000 women died from complications from pregnancy or childbirth that year. Globally, the report said, 60 per cent of maternal deaths and 53 per cent of under-5 deaths occur in countries affected by conflict, displacement and natural disasters.”Through continued political commitment, an increase in innovative financing and strong partnership we can realistically end the preventable deaths of women and children within a generation wherever they live,” UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting to launch the report. The report credited the UN’s “Every Woman Every Child” campaign for many of the gains in the 49 priority countries. Those gains include 870,000 new health workers, a 193 percent increase in treatments to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, and a 25 percent rise in skilled care at births and in post-natal care for women. “Since 2010 alone, the world has saved the lives of some 2.4 million women and children,” Ban said. “More children are receiving medicines to combat diarrhoea, more babies are receiving proper nutrition and the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.” The UN chief said more women are also giving birth at health facilities and more women and girls are receiving sexual and reproductive health services that “they want and need.” Ban said the goal now is to end “the appalling tragedy of preventable deaths” and keep investing in the health of women, children and adolescents. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

201. Concern over High Infant Mortality Rate (3)

GUNTUR:Former president APJ Abdul Kalam has emphasised upon the need to do away with prescription of unnecessary diagnostic tests while describing the practice as ‘diagnostic pain’. Inaugurating the Ramesh Super Speciality Hospital here Sunday, Kalam said that a doctor should possess two hearts, a biological heart and a kind heart, so he/she can provide treatment irrespective of their financial standing. Pointing out at the high maternal and infant mortality rates in India, which was mentioned in the WHO’s latest report, he stressed conducting more research on the ways and means to address the issues and provide quality treatment to the needy. He listed out the virtues that those in medical profession should possess and also made the doctors and other members of medical fraternity present on the occasion take oath to address the ‘diagnostic pain’. Union minister for urban development M Venkaiah Naidu said that health was a vital cog in the development of a nation. Everyone should contribute to the improvement of the health sector, for the key for development of many countries and improvement of their wealth had been betterment of health services, he observed. The government was taking every measure to fulfill all the promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act. Development should not just get concentrated in Tullur, but also spread to Guntur, Vijayawada and other cities in the capital region, if it was to become truly a world-class capital city, he opined. The government sanctioned Rs 1,000 crore for improving basic infrastructure facilities like drainages and drinking water. But then, a change of mindset was required among people towards the government and the PPP model of development should be encouraged, the Union minister opined. Speaker Kodela Sivaprasad Rao, ministers P Narayana, R Kishore, K Srinivas, P Pulla Rao, MP R Sambasiva Rao and Dr. Ramesh were present. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

202. Improper biomedical waste disposal poses riskSulogna Mehta,(3)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Walk past any GVMC garbage dump at Ramnagar, Maharanipeta or the areas around King George Hospital (KGH) and you can be sure to spot used syringes, saline bottles or bandages strewn around dustbins. Rag-pickers and GVMC staff rummage through these bins and stray animals litter the hazardous biomedical waste on the roads – an open invitation to HIV, Hepatitis and other infections. Though biomedical waste should be properly segregated and then incinerated in a separate plant at Kappulupada on the city’s outskirts, in reality the norms are often flouted blatantly and hazardous waste is dumped in regular garbage bins, jeopardising the health of denizens. To blame are the ignorance and apathy of hospital staff and those collecting the waste as they don’t segregate it properly in respective colour-coded disposal bins. As per norms, biomedical waste should be segregated at the hospital itself and put into colour-coded bins or bags. Black bags are meant for throwing remnants of food, red bags for plastic disposables such as catheter, gloves and IV fluid bottles, while yellow bags are meant for disposing human waste including used dressing pads, plaster, and needles and so on. Also needle tips need to be destroyed in needle cutters and hubs disposed of in red covers. Commenting on the improper segregation, a senior surgeon from King George Hospital (KGH), said, “Even though the paramedics, ward-boys and staff are trained, they callously dump the waste in any bin that’s close at hand, irrespective of colour codes. There’s neither proper supervision nor any disciplinary action being taken for these acts of omission,” he said. The lack of timely availability of colour-coded bags, especially the frequently used yellow and black bags, also poses another problem. “The bags collected from various wards are overfilled and their mouths are not tied properly. Stray dogs cause a spillage while searching food,” pointed out another senior doctor. B Sivaji, director, Maridi Eco Industries (Andhra) Private Limited, the company that’s responsible for treating biomedical waste in the city, too blames the negligent hospital staff for the sorry state of affairs. “Our vehicles daily collect one to five tonnes of waste from various hospitals. Despite repeatedly training the staff and management of government and private hospitals, they don’t segregate the waste in respective colour-coded bags properly.” There are also allegations that used saline bottles are sold and syringes and needles not destroyed before being disposed. “Sometimes, hospital workers sell used saline bottles outside for Rs 50-Rs 100 and these are recycled or reused, putting public health at risk. Needles are also disposed of without breaking them in needle cutters exposing rag-pickers, GVMC sanitation staff and even our garbage collectors to the risk of HIV and other dangerous ailments if they come in contact with them,” Sivaji alleged. However, the staffer of a private hospital from Ramnagar alleged that though they do segregate the biomedical waste, the vehicles that carry the uncovered biomedical waste litter them on the road. According to official figures, one to five tonnes of biomedical waste is generated daily from various hospitals in the city and brought to the disposal site at Kappuluppada on the city outskirts. Per hour, around 250 kg of waste is incinerated at the five-tonne capacity plant, which has been leased out by the government for 33 years to Maridi Eco Industries. As per norms, biomedical waste should be segregated at the hospital itself and put into colour-coded bins or bags, treated and incinerated in a separate plant at Kappulupada on the city’s outskirts. (Times of India 17/3/15)

 

203. TB a Socio-Economic Disorder, Say Experts (3)

BENGALURU :Tuberculosis is not the responsibility of the health system alone; the society has to be aware and chip in too, say experts. Dr Shashidhar Buggi, director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, said, “Societal factors contribute to tuberculosis. Overcrowding, malnutrition, chronic alcoholism, smoking, poverty and societal situations contribute to TB infection. All of us are infected with the TB bacteria yet not all of us develop the disease. This is probably because we live in a clean house in a clean area, eat nutritious food and do not have chronic bad habits.” “If the infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, and rates of TB, malaria and dengue are known, one can predict the state of  society in that country. They are all interlinked and must be controlled to control TB,” he said. In 1990, about 44 out of one lakh people were dying because of tuberculosis in the state. This has decreased to 24 per lakh in Karnataka, said a source at the Department of Health. Detection of co-infection of TB and AIDS in people has become more treatable as well. Death rate due to co-infection has fallen from 25 per cent to around 11 per cent in the last 4-5 years, the source added.  A senior officer at the department told Express that the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) has been running for 14 years and its success rate is 85 per cent. “We are able to detect and treat more patients than we could earlier. The TB-HIV package to treat co-infection patients was introduced in 2008. Death rates have fallen because of the effectiveness of the programme,” he said. He added, “We have a Cartridge-based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test to detect TB in HIV patients. We had five machines till last year, now we have seven more. He said the officials at ART (Anti-Retro-viral Therapy) centres are being trained in a phased manner. Government set-ups have been asked to prioritise HIV patients and give early diagnosis, he added. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

204. 33,689 cases of TB in Mysuru since 2003 (3)

MYSURU: As many as 33,689 tuberculosis (TB) cases had been detected in Mysuru district between January 2003 and February 2015, according to figures from the Health Department. World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24 every year. The National TB Control Programme was launched in the district about 12 years ago. The sputum test of 3,46,858 suspected cases of tuberculosis had been undertaken since the launch of the programme till date, and 33,689 persons had been diagnosed with the disease. “These patients have been treated and 80 percent completely recovered,” a release said here. Primary health centres (PHCs) in the district have been equipped with facilities to conduct sputum test under the national programme. TB patients were also subjected to tests for HIV and diabetes. TB patients receive Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS), recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), at nearby hospitals and anganwadi centres. DOTS providers were being given honorarium for their services to the patients, the release added. Under the DOTS, patients are supposed to take medicine in the presence of a doctor or a nursing staff during the intense phase of treatment, which lasts two months. This makes the treatment effective and the patients compulsorily take medicines without fail under the department’s supervision and evaluation. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

205. Rs.34 lakh for KFD-hit areas in Wayanad (3)

KALPETTA: The Tribal Development Department has sanctioned Rs.35 lakh to disburse provision to the tribal people in the Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) or monkey fever-hit areas in the district. The amount was sanctioned under the food support project of the department, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P.K. Jayalakshmi said in a press release here on Wednesday. Earlier, the department had allocated Rs.10 lakh to the Health Department and Rs.9 lakh to the Animal Husbandry Department to execute preventive measures to combat the spread of the disease, Ms. Jayalakshmi said. Apart from this, the department would hand over Rs.2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased as solatium and Rs.10,000 each to the KFD-affected persons, the Minister said. (The Hindu 26/3/15)

206. India has highest number of deaths of children under five years of age (3)

NEW DELHI: India accounts for the highest number of deaths of children under-five years of age with 50% of such deaths caused mainly due to malnutrition, a new policy paper has said. The paper, prepared by Forum for Learning and Action with Innovation and Rigour (FLAIR), estimates more than 15 lakh children below five years of age died in India. Flair is a non-government organization engaged in policy research and analysis. A report by Unicef on child mortality also endorses the figure. According to the Unicef report, about half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. While India accounts for 22% of the total under-five children death worldwide, Nigeria contributes 13%. Lack of basic sanitation in India is seen as a key reason for severe child malnutrition burden. The policy paper suggests states like Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram and Sikkim, where 80% or more of the rural population have access to toilets, have the lowest levels of child malnutrition in India. However, child malnutrition rates are high in states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand where most households are without toilets. “Unhygienic environment combined with high population density creates a perfect storm for diseases to thrive, and malnutrition to flourish,” says Dr Raj Bhandari, advisor-health & nutrition in Flair. Bhandari, who has co-authored the paper, is also technical consultant to Unicef. According to Bhandari, the absence of sanitation exposes children to infectious diseases such as typhoid and diarrhoea, which rob them of their ability to absorb nutrients and make them vulnerable causing comorbidity. Apart from poor sanitation, food and nutrition insecurity, lack of health care and extremely poor conditions of public health including water are considered primary reasons of malnutrition. Highlighting the need for adequate public policy and finance, the paper says though there has been in general an increase in allocation in food and nutrition programmes between 2011-12 and 2014-15, but the share of nutrition schemes in total Union and respective state budgets have been highly inadequate considering the grim status of malnutrition. “There is an urgent need for the government to introduce nutrition as a development indicator in various other schemes such as the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS),” Bhandari said. While the paper appreciates the Centre’s move to give more funds to states, it points out that states should be able to utilize the funds in the right manner and implement schemes with proper monitoring. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 28/3/15)

HIV/AIDS

207. Depressed man kills wife and 2 kids, claims they were HIV +ve (3)

Betul (MP): A 40-year-old civil engineer allegedly killed his wife and two children in a forest near here, claiming that he committed the offence out of depression as he, his wife and daughter were suffering from AIDS, police said today. DH Illustration. A 40-year-old civil engineer allegedly killed his wife and two children in a forest near here, claiming that he committed the offence out of depression as he, his wife and daughter were suffering from AIDS, police said today. The accused (name witheld) surrendered before Amravati police in Maharashtra yesterday. The incident took place on the intervening night of March 3-4 when the engineer, working with a PSU at Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh, was returning from his hometown Amravati with his family, police inspector S K Singh told PTI today. He stopped his car close to Gaunighat under Multai police station limits near here and after alighting from it, he pushed the vehicle into a gorge. The accused then descended from the hill and set the vehicle with his family inside on fire, he said. After this, he claimed to have allegedly made a futile attempt to hang himself to death.

However, later he felt guilty of killing his family and surrendered before the Amravati police yesterday following which he was brought here, the inspector said. Police later recovered the bodies of his 38-year-old wife and two daughters, aged 9 and 2, he said. During interrogation, the accused told police that he was under depression after contracting AIDS in Delhi. He said that his wife and younger daughter too were HIV positive because of which he was quite disturbed. The accused claimed that earlier too he and his wife had planned to kill their children and end their lives by consuming food laced with poison on March 1 at Amravati, but dropped the idea at the last minute, the police officer said. Meanwhile, the family members said that they were unaware of the accused and his family being infected with HIV. Police have booked the accused under sections 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of IPC, Singh said adding, further investigation was on in the case. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

208. Old data hides spurt in HIV positive cases, say NGOs (3)

Here’s a paradox: The government of Bihar has the most schemes for persons with HIV/AIDS, and at the same time apathy, inefficient reporting, gaps in the health delivery system and red tape are pushing the state towards an HIV epidemic. Even as the spread of HIV seems to have been brought under control in the southern states, Bihar, once known as a ‘low prevalence’ state, has over a lakh of HIV positive persons, with new detections happening practically every day. The issue was brought up on Friday, during discussions on the release of a study of ‘Issues affecting PLHA’ (People Living with HIV/AIDS) in Patna district attended by NGO representatives, doctors from primary health centres of two blocks, ICDS functionaries and Women’s Development Corporation (WDC) representatives. The questions being asked were: “Why doesn’t Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS) update its obsolete data? Why is the procurement and dispensing of ART medicines inconsistent? Why is there no reporting on indents? Why is BSACS reluctant to engage with NGOs and networks of people with HIV and AIDS?” These questions just hung in the air. No representatives from BSACS were present. They ignored the invitation, it seemed. “BSACS hasn’t updated its data base for ages. In the absence of current data, we are forced to use 2011 data. Yet, ART centres and ICTC centres are updating their records on a monthly basis. If BSACS Patna cannot afford a data entry person, may be the NGOs should offer some technical assistance,” said Dr Diwakar Tejaswi. The old figures do not give the true picture of the HIV incidence in the state. One of the key findings is that the number of PLHA who have actual access to the government schemes for PLHA is very small (so far about one per cent for Antyodaya and two per cent for Parvarish). PLHA may have heard of some schemes (such as the Shatabdi AIDS Yojana) but are clueless about how to go about applying for the benefits in the absence of proper guidelines and procedures laid down and publicized by the government. “I am happy to say that in spite of the bottlenecks, the Parvarish Yojana (which is a stipend for HIV positive and affected kids) has finally kicked in, and some 24 beneficiaries in two blocks will soon receive their allowances,” said Sanjit Singh, a representative of CHMU, the organization that released the report of the study. “Every month, we come across at least two more people with HIV,” said a PHC staff from Maner block. A WDC official called for greater coordination and synergy between NGO networks and government so that they could address the issues of women with HIV in certain short stay homes, citing a case from Vaishali district. Women with HIV have the heaviest burdens to bear. “Women with HIV continue to face multiple threats such as physical and emotional violence, especially from the husband’s family, and widowhood often means that the woman loses the support of in-laws. In many cases, the woman either returns to the parents’ home or lives on her own with her dependants,” read the document. The ART delivery system remains problematic. Essential tests such as the CD4 count are often not conducted either due to non-availability of kits or for some other ‘technical’ reasons. One of the recommendations from the survey, readily endorsed by the primary health centre personnel, was that medication for opportunistic infections could be made available to the PHC, so that it could be readily available to PLHA, rather than have them travelling several kilometres to the government hospitals. “HIV testing kits should be given to PHCs. After all, it is at the PHC where antenatal care is given. If the HIV test can be done as well, it would further help in detecting prenatal HIV cases and ensuring proper PPTC and safe delivery of the child,” said a doctor. “Copies of the study and the recommendations from the conference will be presented to government departments concerned as well as BSACS. NGOs are not here to confront BSACS or government, but to work together with them to improve the system,” CHMU coordinator Chandy told the delegates. (Times of India 14/3/15)

209. HIV+ Lankan Man Dropped Off on TN Boat (3)

RAMESWARAM:In a bizarre incident, a Sri Lankan national who has confessed to being HIV positive, was alleged to have been forcefully dropped into a boat of Indian fishermen by an unidentified Sri Lankan national in another boat, near Katchatheevu on Sunday. According to police, the unidentified Sri Lankan national intercepted the Indian fishermen in their boat near Katchatheevu and made them take one David Gajendrachith (42) of Puttalam with them. After the Sri Lankan had dropped Gajendrachith in the Indian fishermen’s boat, he sped off in his boat toward Sri Lanka. The four fishermen Naina Muhammed, Valli Muthu, Samaya Muthu and Arumugam from Mandapam handed over Gajendrachith to the Mandapam police on Sunday evening. The senior police officer in charge of the inquiry, said that Ganjendrachith confessed to being HIV positive and was carrying tablets for the illness with him. The police said he did not possess a passport. “We have registered a case and are investigating the case from all angles,” said the officer. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

210. HIV/AIDS sets alarm bells ringing in Chhattisgarh (3)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh has failed to secure maternal health, besides remaining a laggard in promoting use of contraceptives as an alternative to female sterilization, according MDG India Country Report 2015. Also, high HIV prevalence among youth, pregnant women and adults remain a cause of concern. In the third part of series on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) achieved by state, TOI analyses how Chhattisgarh and neighbouring MP fare on both parameters at national level. Among major states, maternal mortality rate (MMR) (i.e. maternal deaths per one lakh live births), ranges from 61 in Kerala to 300 in Assam (highest) in 2011-13. MMR in BIMARU states of Bihar/Jharkhand (208), Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh (221), Rajasthan (244), Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand (285) and Orissa (222) was reportedly much higher than all India level estimates (167). Four states UP, Bihar, MP/CG and Rajasthan together contributed to 67% of MMR in the country. Chhattisgarh and MP were also going to miss MDG target for 2015 (150.7) by a huge margin of 40 points. Maternal mortality rate (MM Rate), number of maternal deaths in age 15 to 49 per lakh of women was also among highest (20.2), only below UP and Rajasthan and almost double that of national average (11.7). Life time risk or probability that, one women of reproductive age (15 to 49) will die due to child birth within six weeks after delivery was 0.7%, higher than average. As per the sample registration system estimates of 2011-13, 68% of maternal deaths were women in the age group of 20 to 29 years. Though Madhya Pradesh along with Andhra Pradesh is expected to achieve universal coverage of births by skilled health personnel up in 2015, the proportion has actually dipped in the state from 2009 where it was 56.4% and would be 50.5% in 2015. There have been around 2,500 deaths because of HIV/AIDS in 2011 (last available date). This was lower than MP’s 3,324 while highest was Andhra Pradesh (31,347). However, prevalence of HIV in youth, young pregnant women and adults was much higher than MP and more than national average in youth category while at par in the rest. Also Chhattisgarh reported double the number of new infections (4,565) than MP (2,387)in 15+ age group which is a cause for concern. This could be attributed due to the fact that condom use rate was lower in Chhattisgarh than MP (2.9 and 4.8 respectively). Both states were also lower on condom use rate among contraceptives use in India (5.2). While female sterilizations remain the preferred choice of contraceptives in both urban and rural pollution, it doesn’t protect against HIV incidence. MP and Chhattisgarh reported more than two lakh malaria cases in 2014 out of the 10.7 lakh total cases in the country with over a lakh cases reported from the latter state. MP reported more deaths in 2013 but fewer deaths than Chhattisgarh in 2014. More than a 1,000 deaths were reported pan India in 2013 and 2014. 85% cases in 2014 in CG were caused by Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is critical as it is prone to develop severity and death. (Times of India 22/3/15)

211. Single-window system to extend facilities to AIDS patients (3)

MANGALURU: The district will get a single-window system to extend various government facilities to those affected by AIDS. The Aids Prevention and Control Unit to be set up at the district hospital will act as the single window agency, said Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim. He was chairing a meeting on AIDS prevention here on Monday. The unit is being set up as per the directions from the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society to make the required documents available to those suffering from AIDS to help them get various government benefits. Mr. Ibrahim said those suffering from the disease may directly approach the unit or NGOs concerned to avail government schemes. The government aims to bring those affected by AIDS to to the mainstream of society as they hesitate from availing social security schemes. The government is providing financial help to the children, aged below 18 years, of those affected. Also, the government is reimbursing the travel cost for patients who visit ART centres for treatment. District AIDS Control Officer M. Kishore Kumar said that 7,549 people had been identified as HIV positive since 2007 in the district. Some facilities have been provided to them, including housing, self-employment scheme and Antyodaya ration card. (The Hndu 25/3/15)

212. Highest HIV+ cases in four years (3)

MEERUT: In a recent disclosure by the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) for AIDS at P L Sharma district hospital the city recorded highest number of HIV+ cases in four years. Statistics reveal a marked increase of 50% in the number of patients testing positive between 2011 and 2014. A total of 102 positive cases made of 84 males, 17 females and one transgender were recorded in the past year. In comparison, 2011 had a total of 68 HIV+ cases. Interestingly, 2013 showed a steep drop in the number of positive cases. Dr J P Singh, in-charge, ICTC, said, “Maximum cases in AIDS are caused by unprotected sex. Sex education in schools is necessary so that young people can protect themselves.” Yogesh Kumar, counsellor, ICTC, too agrees that one of the primary reasons for the spread of AIDS is the practice of unsafe sex. Singh further adds, “There is an increase in the number of patients visiting the centre from 2,222 in 2011 to 7,054 in 2014. This points to the fact that the disease has become less of a taboo. We just hope that awareness levels would also increase simultaneously.” Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 26/3/15)

213. Ex gratia granted to HIV-infected (3)

GUWAHATI, March 28 – Under the Assam Chief Minister’s special package of ‘One time financial assistance to widows of HIV/AIDS patients’, the Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) released an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each to 50 HIV-infected/affected widows of the State during the financial year 2014-15. The scheme was launched by the State Government in 2012 and since then a total number of 272 HIV-infected/affected widows have benefited with this scheme. Till date, an amount of Rs 2.72 crore has been spent under this scheme. The scheme has covered 155 beneficiaries and in 2013, 1,4 67 beneficiaries benefited under this scheme. (The Assam Tribune 29/3/15)

Posted by admin at 10 March 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Social boycott of Dalits can’t be ended by judicial order: SC (2)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that it cannot pass an order to end alleged social boycott of the Dalit community in violence-hit Mirchpur village in Haryana as it would be an “ineffective” one. “What is the solution to end the social boycott? The courts cannot say that end the social boycott of Dalits. It would be an ineffective order,” the social justice bench of justices MB Lokur and UU Lalit said. The court was hearing a PIL seeking rehabilitation and relocation of Dalit community members from Mirchpur in Rohtak district. An old Dalit man and his physically-challenged daughter of the village were killed by members of dominant Jat community in 2010, sparking fear among the Dalits. The bench today asked the counsel for Haryana to apprise it as to whether a judicial panel headed by Justice Iqbal Singh has filed its report on the incident. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Dalit community members, said that they are living under constant threat as the dominant community members feel that because of them some persons have been convicted in the case. Moreover, the appeals against the conviction of some members of the dominant community are pending in the Delhi High Court and Dalits feel threatened, he said. “We are also suffering the social boycott,” he said, adding that the entire state is not hostile to the community and hence, they be given land at some other place to live. The counsel, appearing for Haryana, however, said that one company of CRPF personnel is camping in the village since 2010 and there has been such incidents thereafter against Dalit community members there. Meanwhile, Gonsalves said that he will not press for the relief that the members of Dalit community be rehabilitated in Delhi and added rather, they be given land at some other place in Haryana itself. Earlier, the apex court had dubbed the incident as “scar on the society” and had expressed its anguish after the then Congress-led state government said the 70-year-old man and his handicap daughter were “trapped” in the house after it was set on fire and the trial court has not held their death as murder. Earlier, the 15 convicts, belonging to Jat community, were held guilty for setting ablaze victim Tara Chand’s house, which caused the death on April 21, 2010 at Mirchpur. The incident took place after a dispute between Jat and Dalit communities of the village. They were convicted in the case by a Delhi trial court on September 24, 2011. Three persons were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court on October 31, 2011 for their involvement in the killings. Five others were sentenced to varying jail terms up to five years and seven convicts were let off on probation for one year. The court had earlier acquitted 82 out of 97 accused in the case saying the allegations levelled against them were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The accused resorted to rioting and attacked the houses of members of Dalit community on April 21 as a pet dog of a Dalit had barked at a group of Jats two days ago when they were passing through the colony, according to the charge sheet. They got enraged when a Dalit boy objected to hurling of stones by Jat youths at the dog, it had said, adding later it led to the killings. (Zee News 20/2/15)

2. Attack leaves Dalits terrorised; police drag their feet on taking action (2)

Bengaluru: Around 100 Dalit families living in a separate colony at Harobele village on the outskirts of the city were allegedly attacked and terrorised by upper caste people over a trivial row in January. Though the incident indicated the practice of untouchability and atrocity, the jurisdictional Sathanur police took a month to register the complaint and that too after a city-based NGO approached the National and State human rights commissions. Men and women were beaten up and their houses damaged. They were threatened with dire consequences, forcing the families to flee and take shelter in a nearby field the whole night on the day of the attack. “We even approached the State police chief and got a direction issued to the Ramanagaram Superintendent of Police to take immediate action on January 16. But neither have the police taken up a complaint nor acted against the attackers,” Mariswamy, a member of the All-India Human Rights Council told The Hindu. According to him, the village practises untouchability as the Dalits (Christians) are not allowed to enter the hotel and the barber’s shop, and do not even have access to houses of the upper castes. They have a separate barber’s shop, he said. The attack was a fallout of an incident where Upkar Raju (57), a Dalit from the colony and theatre artiste, was bashed up by “Kerosene” Prakash on January 11 over a trivial row, according to the complaint. Raju’s daughter Mary (22), who came to the rescue of her father, was also abused and beaten up. Upset by this, Raju’s two sons Naveen (27) and Antony (20) went to Prakash’s house to enquire about the incident. Enraged by this, a group of 20 people not only beat up the boys, but also chased them to their colony; they also attacked other men and damaged houses, according to the complaint. The Sathanur police on Saturday registered a case against Prakash and others under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “We have taken up a case and are investigating,” a senior police officer said. (The Hindu 22/2/15)

3. RS passes bill to include certain communities in SC list (2)

New Delhi: A bill to include certain synonymous names of communities under Scheduled Castes category in Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha and Dadra and Nagar Haveli was passed by Rajya Sabha Tuesday. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by a voice vote. Replying to a debate on the bill, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said the law has been further amended to modify the SC list in three states and one Union Territory. Expressing concern over the diversion of the SC sub-plan fund in various states including Delhi and atrocities on SC people, he said the government is taking several measures to help them and is also taking active measures. He also mentioned that the government has a proposal from the Bihar government with regard to inclusion of more castes in SC list. “This will entail some additional recurring and non-recurring expenditure on account of benefits of schemes meant for the development of SCs to which the persons belonging to the newly-added communities will become entitled, as a result of enacting the bill,” the bill reads. As per the bill, communities such as ‘Kabirpanthi and Julaha’ in Haryana, ‘Bhovi, od, odde, Vaddar, Waddar’ in Karnatka, ‘Dhoba, Dhobi, Dom, Dombo, Duria Dom, Katia, Kela, Nalua Kela, Khadala and Turi’ in Odisha and the community of ‘Chamar’ in Dadra and Nagar Haveli are included in the SC list. Participating in the debate, Ali Anwar Ansari (JDU) Ali Anwar (JDU) sought inclusion of Haryana’s Mev community under Scheduled Tribe (ST) category on par with Meena tribe. He alleged that the community, which fought against Babar’s invasion and sacrificed 1200 lives, was not included in the list simply on basis of their religion because they fell under Mewati Muslim category. (Zee News 24/2/15)

4. Dalit family thrown out of their house and threatened (2)

Gadchiroli: A Dalit from Laxmipur village in Kurkheda taluka named Hiralal Shende, demanded stern action against the Purada police station officer for allegedly shielding the accused who threw away his belongings as well as compelled his family to leave his house and village, police sources said on Wednesday. After the incident, Hiralal met the Superintendent of Police here on Tuesday and submitted a memorandum to him requesting for stringent action against the erring police officials and those who harassed him as well as his family. “On February 11, around 13 people entered my house and threw away all my belongings out of my house. They molested my wife and broke portraits of Lord Buddha and Dr Ambedkar,” Shende said. “You will not be allowed to stay in the village until you agree to graze our cattle. They also destroyed our food and then virtually drove me as well as my wife out of our house, warning us to leave the village immediately,” Shende’s complaint said. “The next day I went to the Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police office and submitted a complaint. The officials asked me to lodge a complaint at the Purada Police Station. I approached the police station on February 13 and submitted the same complaint but instead of registering my original complaint, the police gave me a non-cognisable offence letter. They failed to take any action against attackers,” the complaint said. “My family has been terrorised due to this incident and it has become difficult for us to return to the village. We have been wandering since the incident and are homeless. The attackers can do anything to my life any time,” he said in his complaint. “Therefore, stringent action should be taken against the police station officer for shielding the accused. Action should also an action be taken against the attackers,” Shende said in his complaint. When asked about the incident, police sub-inspector Sagar Khare of Purada police station claimed that the complaint is being probed and action would be taken after the enquiry. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Tribal communities resolve to safeguard indigenous cultures despite odds (6)

ERODE: Members of Oorali, Sholagar, Irular and Badaga tribal communities living in Sathyamangalam hills converged at Hasanur on Saturday to commemorate World Mother Language Day by deliberating on ways to safeguard their language, culture and their way of life, overcoming their downward economic spiral. The programme organised jointly by the National Advocacy Council for Development of Indigenous People (NACDIP), National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC), and Thalavadi Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (TAMS) witnessed representatives of the tribal communities making a strong case for implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006, for their academic and economic betterment. The Act provides for appointment of a teacher at the anganwadis run by Integrated Child Development Services to teach children in the pre-Dravidar languages spoken by the tribes, K. Krishnan, NASC, said. A foundation in native language was necessary for the tribal children to acquire skills in other languages that are vital for their academic progress at a later stage. There was an imperative need for the tribal communities to develop scripts so that the native wisdom pertaining to wild life, rain pattern and medicinal herbs could be transferred down the generations, Mr. Krishnan said. Tribal people whose presence was necessary for safeguarding forest wealth ought to be well taken care of, Mr. Krishnan said. Bhavani Sagar MLA P.L. Sundaram said preservation of native languages must be accorded prime importance since the thinking process takes place only in mother tongue. The MLA wanted the State Government to implement the Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit. Tribal people must learn to be assertive to pre-empt extinction of their cultures, Mr. Sundaram said. Hassanur Ranger Palanichamy said Village Forest Committees were being enabled to access non-timber forest produce and derive optimal economic benefits without scope for involvement of intermediaries. Tribal communities were being involved in conservation of forest wealth through their induction into the Department as tribal watchers and anti-poaching watchers. A proposal for eco-tourism submitted to the government envisages creation of permanent employment opportunities for 200 members of tribal communities, Mr. Palanichamy said. Village Forest Committees were functional in nine forest settlements in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve and three in Gobichettipalayam, Special Tahsildar, Adi-Dravida Welfare, Sathyamangalam, Meekshi Sundaram said. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

6. PUCL moves NHRC against ‘police violence’ on Odisha tribals (6)

KOLKATA: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Sunday appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide “immediate protection” to tribals of Sundergarh district in Odisha, alleging that they are being tortured by the police for opposing the State government’s move to bring tribal villages in the district under the Rourkela municipal corporation. The PUCL’s complaint said the residents of Jagda, Jhartarang, Suidihi and other villages in Sundergarh have been protesting ever since the government issued the notification in 2013 because the district is governed under Schedule V of the Constitution, framed to protect tribals in the Scheduled Areas of nine States. The notification would facilitate the “illegal inclusion” of their panchayats in the Rourkela municipal corporation to develop Rourkela. “The government’s intention… is to bring Rourkela under the ‘Smart City’ project, and thus the process to forcibly acquire additional land was initiated,” said Atindriyo Chakrabarty, a Kolkata lawyer who accompanied the PUCL’s fact-finding team to the area. Sharanya Nayak, a PUCL member in Odisha, mailed the complaint to the NHRC on Sunday. Although district officials assured them of help and two MLAs supported the economic blockade the villagers had imposed, the police arrested 72 tribals from various places on January 20, the PUCL said. The residents alleged that the police entered villages on January 20 and beat them up, without sparing women and children, and warned of atrocities against the women. Although 12 women were freed on bail, four FIRs were registered, with charges of attempt to murder, against some villagers, who have gone into hiding, the PUCL has said. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

7. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (6)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

8. Justice still a distant dream for most forest-dwellers in State (6)

BENGALURU: Even six years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 coming into force, the government has failed to extend the benefits of the legislation to over 70,000 tribal families in nine districts of Karnataka. Instead of correcting “historical injustice”, delay in implementing the legislation (the Act was notified in 2008), is only fanning discontent among tribal people and traditional forest-dwellers. Of the 2,58,780 applicants belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) and community rights seekers, a meagre 7,700 have got title deeds between 2010 and 2015. As many as 1,73,082 applications have been rejected so far for various reasons, according to statistics released by the Department of Social Welfare recently. Elected representatives cutting across party lines are demanding implementation of the Act in “letter and spirit” and are urging the government to extend the time for people belonging to ST and OTFDs to submit applications. Tribal organisations are also demanding a “review of the applications” rejected so far, and have blamed the Wildlife Act for the delay in implementation of Forests Rights Act. At the same time, the Forest Rights Committees have their own reasons for receiving and rejecting applications. While the Uttara Kannada district received the highest number of applications, Shivamogga district received the lowest. Peeved at the way the government had dealt with the matter, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Kagodu Thimmappa raised the issue in the recent legislature session. Upset with the apathy of the authorities, he even cautioned of holding a protest. Interestingly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Revenue Minister V. Srinivas Prasad and Social Welfare Minister H. Anjaneya recently visited haadis (tribal settlements) and assured the residents of implementing the Act. Despite, assurances from those at the helm of affairs, nothing has changed at the ground level, regrets S. Srikanth, convener of the Tribal Action Committee. (The Hindu 25/2/15)

9. ‘Give tribal people control of at least half of natural resources on their land’ (6)

MYSURU: The Kabini reservoir in H.D. Kote near here may be the source of electricity and drinking water for residents of Bengaluru and Mysuru. But, the tribal people living in the area are allegedly not even given permission by the forest authorities to drill borewells to meet their drinking water needs. Citing this as an instance of denial of benefits to the local population from the natural resources available on their land, founder of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) R. Balasubramaniam emphasised the importance of giving tribal people control of the natural resources on their land if any meaningful progress was to be made for their development. He was delivering the keynote address at an interaction programme with 263 tribal people from Chhattisgarh, who are on a weeklong tour of Karnataka as part of the National Tribal Youth Exchange Programme with the aim of drawing tribal people into the mainstream. “The Kabini reservoir produces 27 MW of power and around 26 MW is sent to Bengaluru. The reservoir also meets the drinking water of people in Bengaluru and Mysuru. But, the Forest Department refuses to give permission to tribal people to drill borewells to meet their drinking water needs,” Dr. Balasubramaniam lamented. As long as such lopsided planning continued, H.D. Kote taluk would remain at the bottom of human development indicators, he said. Dr. Balasubramaniam said a similar situation prevailed even in Chhattisgarh, where natural resources are controlled by private corporations in Delhi. Tribal people should be given control of at least half of the natural resources on their land. Their development should not be dictated by the plans drawn up by governments and NGOs. “Instead, they should have a say in the matter,” he said. Later, the visitors from Chhattisgarh interacted with a group of Jenu Kurubas, Betta Kurubas and Yerawas from H.D. Kote taluk, sharing views on their livelihood, challenges, and opportunities. “There are 72 girls among the visitors, who are in the age group of 15 to 29,” said M.N. Nataraj, Mysuru District Youth Co-ordinator of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghatan. The group later visited Mysuru palace, the zoo and Brindavan Gardens before returning to Bengaluru. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

WOMEN

10. Himachal CM Expresses Concern Over Declining Female Sex Ratio (8)

SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh today expressed concern over the declining female sex ratio in the state, especially in areas adjoining Punjab and said that it was an indication that people were resorting to sex selective abortions and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques. Addressing a public meeting at Dadasiba in Jaswan Pragpur Constituency here, the Chief Minister warned that the grants of those panchayats where female sex ratio was declining, would be stopped and no financial aid would be given for development. “Action would be taken against those who were found indulging in illegal practice of aborting the girl child,” he said. Singh said that it was wrong to differentiate between boy and girl in the present era where women were excelling in every field and held in high esteem. “We should spread the message of protecting the girl child for ensuring a balanced society as I am keenly watching the trend of declining female sex ratio,” he said, adding that he was well aware that some people were going outside the state to abort the girl child, which was inexcusable. Speaking about the setting up of Central University Campus in Kangra, he alleged that it was the BJP which was creating hurdles and spreading rumours about its establishment. “No doubt the Central University will have its main Campus at Dharamsala but surely the people of Dehra won’t be bereft of its benefits or advantages,” he said. He said that the Central University would be established at Dharamsala and its affiliated colleges would be opened at Dehra. The Chief Minister said that many schools were opened in the state and now the need was to open primary schools and that too in those areas where the topography demands so or where there was a necessity and not otherwise. He announced a Police Post for Dadasiba and the introduction of three more trades in ITI from the next academic session. Besides, he said that a Government College would be opened at Dadasiba and granted a Sub-Tehsil status. (New Indian Express 23/2/15)

11. Twin City Sees Spurt in Crime against Women (8)

BHUBANESWAR: In a disturbing trend in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, crime against women has increased by 70 per cent in 2014 as compared to the previous year. Among the incidents of violence against fair sex, rape cases rose to 138 from 81. What is alarming is that the cases of rape involving minors have gone up in the Twin City. The number of minor rape victims shot up to 76 in 2014, registering 43 per cent increase over the previous year. With 89 cases of eve-teasing and molestation recorded in Cuttack in 2014, the figure increased by a whopping 170 per cent compared to 2013. However, the Capital recorded a downward trend in such cases. Similarly, 143 cases of domestic violence and dowry torture were registered in 2014 as against 88 in 2013. Presenting the figures here on Monday, Police Commissioner Dr RP Sharma said a rise in the number points to the fact that more women have come forward to report the atrocities and police have registered their complaints. Cases of swindling involving money circulation rackets and fraud construction firms have also been a cause of concern for the Commissionerate Police. In 2014, number of swindling cases jumped to 551 from 381 in the previous year. However, there was a decline in number of murder in Bhubaneswar where 42 cases were registered though Cuttack recorded a marginal rise from 34 in 2013 to 36 in 2014.  While 15 cases of dacoity were registered in both the cities, police managed to foil 30 attempts. Robberies, though, have surged in the Capital where 123 cases were registered in 2014 as compared to 88 in 2013. In 2014, the Commissionerate Police booked 674 persons in 684 excise cases and seized 5,500 litres and 13,500  bottles of liquor. A penalty of Rs 3,32,22,500 was realised from the violators booked in 66,160 cases registered under Odisha Urban Police Act. Similarly, 466 habitual offenders were detained and 5847 non-bailable warrants executed in 2014, Sharma said while addressing the media. With 92 firearms and a huge cache of ammunition seized in 2014, the Capital City failed to contain the flow of illegal weapons. Around 1000 kgs of ‘ganja’ were seized in nine separate raids during the period. Statistics-wise, the overall situation has shown an improvement in 2014 compared to 2013. From 5,634 cases registered in 2013, the number fell to 5548 in 2014, the Commissioner said. The Twin City has a sanctioned strength of 277 sub-inspector posts of which 174 have been filled up. Similarly, six Inspector and 10 assistant sub-inspector posts are lying vacant in the Commissionerate Police. “A fully manned force would mean that officers handling criminal cases can focus solely on investigation. We have written to the State Government for enhancement of manpower and strengthening the fleet of PCR vans,” Sharma said. In 2014, the Twin City recorded 822 road accidents which claimed 271 lives leaving 749 injured. As many as 347 accidents occurred on National Highways in which 156 lives were lost. (New Indian Express 24/2/15)

12. Women are not given fair share of respect: Court (8)

New Delhi: A Delhi court, while awarding 10 years jail term to a 63-year-old for attempting to outrage the modesty of his pregnant daughter-in-law that led her to commit suicide, observed that if a woman is not safe at her own house, she is safe nowhere. The court also noted that intra­familial sexual abuse’ is a deep-seated malady in the social order and a crime which most of the family members tend to hide and this kind of relationship is never consensual. The court said that the victim committed suicide after being harassed by the accused Bharat Singh Rawat and awarded him the jail term. A case against him was lodged with the Sultanpuri police station. The court said that such cases should be treated with more severity, as it’s an offence committed in secrecy within the four walls of the house. The court said that instead of providing her a shelter, the accused took advantage of the situation and had tried to outrage her modesty when her husband (the accused’s son) was not home. “The trick was very simple. Either the deceased submits to his evil designs or else face social disgrace and defamation,” the court said. The woman was found hanging at her matrimonial house in September 2008 within two years of her marriage and a suicide note was recovered from her before her post mortem. Meanwhile, another court, while convicting two men guilty of beating a man who later died following an argument over an eve-teasing case, noted that the women have not been given their fair share of respect. The court held the accused, Suraj and Ajay, guilty of voluntarily causing hurt to one Sewa Lal who had opposed eve teasing. Both were, however, acquitted from the charges of culpable homicide and not amounting to murder. (Asian Age 25/2/15)

13. Run For Women Empowerment to be Flagged Off on Women’s Day (8)

CHENNAI: In an initiative to empower women, Seek Foundation in association with St Brittos college will organize ‘Womanathon’, a marathon for women on March 8, 2015 to mark Women’s Day. “With the growing number of atrocities and cases against women we have decided to bring awareness in the community by holding a marathon where only the women will participate,” said Vimala Britto, founder of Seek foundation an ngo that works for social welfare. ‘Run with Her’ is the theme of the event. It will be held across three cities – Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad on March 8.  “The people who can do most to improve the situation of so many women and girls are men. It’s in their hands to stop violence against women.  This run is mainly a run for respect,” said Nithyshree from Quanta G events. More than 40,000 men and women are expected to participate in the run. Cyclist Neville Billimoria who too had presided over the press meet stressed on the need to spread awareness and stop violence against women, “It’s important that each one of us takes a stand and puts an end to every form of torture or bad behavior meted out to women folk. I am in full support of this run.” The run will be started at 6 am near Gandhi statue in Marina beach on March 8, 2015. (New Indian Express 27/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. 2,091 missing children traced in Mumbai (14)

MUMBAI: The city police have traced 2, 091 children out of 2,527 children who went missing in 2014 in the special drive to trace the missing children. Interestingly out of this 2,091 traced children 1,249 are girls alone and rest are boys in the age group of 2 to 15 and 16 years old. According to the statistics the 2013 there were 2,979 children including girls and boys went missing and out of which police traced 2,243 out of which while 968 of them were boys and 1275 were girls. Police said that around 10 percent of children are still missing and they are doing their best to trace them. Many of these children were found begging outside religious places and some of them were push into child labour. Police said that this year in last two months they have traced 137 children. The tracing children began in November after Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria announced the special drive to trace missing persons. “We have started the special drive to trace missing girls and boys under the age of 18. I have asked our teams to go back to 10 years and track each missing child,” Maria had said. Now every police station there are atleast three to four policemen who are dedicated only to trace the missing children. Maria has also announced a cash rewards for the police team which traces a child. (Times of India 22/2/15)

15. Centre to Make Amendments to Child Labour Act: Minister (14)

HYDERABAD: The Union government is all set to make amendments in the Child Labour (Prohibition and regulation) Act 1986 to enforce stricter punishment to the violators in the ensuing budget session of the Parliament slated to begin from Monday. Speaking to newsmen here on Saturday, Union labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the Bill would be introduced in the budget session to prevent the practice of employing children below 14 years and prohibiting adolescents( 14 to 18 years of age)in hazardous occupations. Besides the legislative actions, he said the Union labour ministry had undertaken programme called the National Child Labour Project for rehabilitating working children in 270 districts in the country. Around 6,000 special training centres, under the said project, was providing non-formal(bridge)education, vocational training, stipend of Rs 150 per month among other facilities to enrolled children. The project is being operational in eight districts of Telangana, he added. An amendment to the Factories Act, 1948 and Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Bill will also come up before the Parliament in this budget session, the minister informed. “Although Factories Act vests the power of enforcing the provisions of the said Act with the state governments, any amendments to the Act proposed by states require the consent of the President of India. To bring more flexibity to this, we are bringing an amendment,” he explained. Dattatreya said the new Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Bill is aimed at regulating factories with workforce less than 40. Terrorist Activities: Dattatreya lamented that Hyderabad has become a nerve centre for terrorism and terro-related activities in the country. In order to prevent the same, he demanded the TRS government to release a white paper on the efforts made to contain such acts. “The government should appoint a DGP-level officer to keep a vigil on the terrorist activities in the city,” he appealed to the government. He expressed sympathy with the kin of those killed in Dilshuknagar blasts, that rocked the city two years ago on this day. Taking a dig at the MIM, he said some political parties were making provocative speeches using religion for their political benefits. (New Indian Express 22/2/15)

16. Why paper laws and policies are inadequate to bring reforms on child rights (14)

Despite a number of legislations aimed at improving children’s conditions in India, not much has changed in reality, explains Puja Marwaha. Children may constitute 40 percent of the population, but they are not a vote bank. It is therefore no surprise that child rights reforms are moving forward at a snail’s pace. While there are policies and laws on paper, on the ground, India is still miles away from being the child-friendly nation it committed to be, when it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Even the money spent for reforms remains poor: in the 25th year of the CRC, child welfare was allocated just 4.64 per cent of the annual budget. In the South Asian Report on Child Friendliness of Governments of 2013, India tops the list in just one category i.e. legal and policy framework. But overall, it scores lower than countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan and is ranked fourth among eight nations—the other four being Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. India’s gender equality record is particularly dismal; it managed to better only Afghanistan’s score. Obviously, mere enactment of laws has not helped in areas such as education, health and protection. While there are several laws to deal with protection of child rights, the legal remedies needed to deal with violations of these laws are often not in place. For instance, there is no one law that explicitly bans all forms of corporal punishment across settings. Although the Right To Education (RTE) Act bans corporal punishment in schools, it does not talk of a mechanism for its implementation across schools. In June 2014, the CRC committee in its observations on India reiterates “great concern regarding reports of widespread violence, abuse and neglect of children. This includes family settings, alternative care institutions, schools, and the community.” The committee recommends that India should prohibit corporal punishment and “ensure that legal proceedings are systematically initiated against those responsible for ill-treating children.” As for the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012— experts feel that it is a law that’s skewed against children. It criminalises even consensual sex among those below 18 years, leading to a large number of rape cases being filed against boys mostly by the girls’ parents, who take undue advantage of the Act to end a relationship they don’t approve of. On the other hand, forced sex on married minor girls of ages above 15 by their husbands is condoned since the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 does not recognise marital rape. The CRC committee has pointed out that the non-criminalisation of sexual abuse of minor married girls above 15 “is inconsistent” with POCSO. It has asked the government to ensure that sexual abuses in such cases are also criminalised.  With reports of sexual abuse of children on the rise in schools and homes across the country, the CRC committee has asked the government to establish mechanisms, procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of all cases of child sexual abuse as well as necessary measures to ensure proper investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. With surrogacy on the rise in India, there are also a few concerns regarding a child’s rights in such an arrangement. What if a child is rejected due to issues such as disability, gender or complexion? The CRC committee has asked the government to ensure that the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (or any other legislation to be developed) helps regulate surrogacy and prevent its abuse. Illegal adoptions must also be stopped with appropriate legislation. There are concerns about the Child Labour Act, 1986 too. In the absence of a national database on the types and extent of child labour, which occurs not just in informal sectors such as domestic work, but also in hazardous ones including mining and quarry work, it may be difficult to eliminate this national shame.  While thousands of children continue to be employed, there are no regular inspections, and thus prosecutions and convictions are abysmally low. According to Census 2011 data, only 1061 convictions were reported in 2013 despite more than one crore children engaged as labourers. In addition, the rehabilitation of rescued children also lacks any comprehensive strategy or plan. One conclusion that emerges clearly from the current scenario is that if child rights is to be given the importance it deserves, the government needs to go beyond enacting laws and drive change at the ground level. (DNA 24/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. PM has dispelled doubts about being anti-minority: CSF (7)

MANGALURU: The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his special intervention, resulting in the release of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar from Taliban captivity after eight months. CSF general secretary Joseph Dias said: Not just the Christian community, but many who thought of the PM as anti-minority, will now have sufficient cause to re-consider. Getting the release of the Jesuit priest is no small achievement, especially since he had no connection with the Indian government nor was part of the mission in Afghanistan; rather he was working for an NGO, as were hundreds of others in the line of Taliban fire. After, Modi’s statement on religious freedom, most in the Christian world, including CSF wanted the PM to walk the talk and waited patiently. With India securing Fr. Alexis’ release, we are even more open to cordial relations with Modi, as the kind gesture showed his priorities, besides being a diplomatic coup of sorts. It also shows the difficult conditions Christians work in, out of love for their faith, not just in distant parts of the country, but also the hostile environments of the world.” Dias appealed to rein in the fringe elements who were rearing their heads, like Mutalik of the Ram Sena, who had been put in place by the Goa government. The forthcoming session of Parliament could also be used by the PM to assure minorities that no national anti-conversion law is proposed by the government, Dias added. According to CSF, the minorities now need to engage with and assist the government, in taking India to greater heights, in keeping with Modi’s ‘Sabka Vikas, Sabka Saath’ agenda, as the Prime Minister seems to be going out of his way in the face of opposition from the Hindutva forces and needs to also deal with terrorism and fundamentalism from other minorities too. (Times of India 23/2/15)

18. Minorities to protest BJP’s policies (7)

CHENNAI: Organisations representing religious minorities have come together to organise a mass protest in Chennai on February 28 against the “divisive policies” of the BJP and its affiliated outfits. The demonstration will see Christian and Muslim organisations of all denominations sharing the platform. Event coordinator Inigo Irudayaraj said all political parties except the BJP and its allies have been invited for the event. “The MDMK, the VCK and the Left have agreed to participate,” he said, adding that several Jain, Buddhist and Hindu groups have also been invited. On Sunday, churches across Chennai informed the faithful about the demonstration seeking large participation. “The last time when different denominations of the Christian community came together for a protest was against an anti-conversion law passed by the Tamil Nadu government. Now, issues such as ‘ghar wapsi’ and attacks on churches have got us together,” he said. However, despite seeking permission for the agitation on February 2, the police have not replied. Therefore, the organisations have decided to move the High Court. (The Hindu 24/2/15)

19. Notice to Haryana on removal of state minorities commission chairman, members (7)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday issued notice to the state government for its decision to remove the chairman and members of the Haryana State Commission for Minorities. A division bench headed by Justice S K Mittal has asked the Haryana government to file its reply on March 3 after hearing a petition filed by chairman of the commission, Trilochan Singh, and one of the members. The petitioners alleged that they were not given any opportunity of being heard before removing from the commission. In July 2014, the then Congress-led state government had constituted Haryana State Commission for Minorities to safeguard the interests of minority communities. Trilochan was appointed as chairman of the commission while Ishaq Mohammed, an advocate and local Congress leader from Mewat, Dr Stella Portar, a senior Congress leader, and Harbhajan Singh Khera, a local party leader, both from Rohtak, were appointed as members of the commission. The commission was authorized to examine, investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards for the minority communities. The other functions of commission included planning process of socio-economic and educational development of the minority communities and to evaluate the progress of their development. However, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana had removed the commission members in January. (Times of India 26/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Muslim trusts want custody of campus (7)

Mumbai: The recent announcement by Ravindra Waikar, minister of state for higher and technical education, of setting up an educational hub on the Ismail Yusuf College campus at Jogeshwari has prompted activists and Muslim trusts to protest against the minister’s proposal by forming a group that will not only stop the government from going ahead with their plans but also get custody of the campus. Announcing the decision on Saturday, the group named Ismail Yusuf Campus Bachao Samiti said that they were against an aggressive protest. The samiti consists of Dr Zaheer Kazi, president of Anjuman-i-Islam Trust, social activists like Sudheendra Kulkarni, Anil Tyagi, Prabhakar Narkar and Kishore Jagtap who work on issues related to students and people from the minorities and backward classes and MLA Kapil Patil. “Our demand is that as the government has failed to fulfil the purpose of providing facilities to encourage higher education amongst Muslim youth, it should hand over the custody and management of the campus to a Muslim trust so that it can achieve the vision of Sir Mohammad Ismail Yusuf who had donated Rs 30 lakh to the governor of Mumbai in 1914 to set up educational facilities for Muslim youth and minorities,” said Dr Kazi. Activist Kulkarni said “We appeal to the government of Maharashtra to immediately stop its plans to encroach upon land belonging to Ismail Yusuf College, which was donated by a Muslim philanthropist for Muslim education,” said Mr Kulkarni. Speaking about the issue, MLC Patil said that as both the Sachar Committee and Mehmood-ur-Rehman committee had pointed to lack of education as the main reason for the backwardness of Muslims, the government should hand over the custody of the college campus to a Muslim trust so that the land could be properly used for the intended purpose. (Asian Age 22/2/15)

21. Over 180 million Muslims in India but they are not part of global terror groups: Govt (7)

New Delhi: The government might not have officially released the religious data of Census 2011, but in a presentation before an international delegation in the United States it said that over 180 million Muslims were living in India, constituting 14.88 per cent of the total population. It also asserted that despite a large Muslim population in India, there was hardly any case of the community members joining violent pan-Islamic groups. Representing India at the White House hosted Summit to Counter Violent Extremism last week, Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chief RN Ravi told a delegation, where representatives from 60 countries were present, that “the usual alienation of minorities is not valid in the Indian context. Going by the usual definition of minority, their population is over 260 million i.e over 21 per cent of India’s population. There are over 180 million Muslims in India.” The data given by the government at an international platform assumes significance after US President Barack Obama, during his India visit, said: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines, and it is unified as one nation.” Due to various political considerations, the religious data of Census 2011 were never released by the UPA government. When the NDA government came to power, they decided to release the religious data, which still has not been done. The Indian Express reported on January 24 that Hindus comprised 78.35 per cent of the total population of 121.05 crore, compared with 80.45 per cent of the total population in 2001. In absolute terms, Muslim population increased 24.4 per cent to 17.18 crore from 13.8 crore during 2001-11. Muslims were 13.4 per cent of the total population in 2001. Ravi also told the delegation: “The recently held elections in Jammu and Kashmir – a Muslim majority state of the Indian Union – in which over 65 per cent electorate peacefully cast their votes is a testimony of its success story.” He further said, “India’s response to violent extremism is calibrated in a way that prevents disproportionate use of force by the state.” On the other hand, one of the civil society representatives from Pakistan told the delegation: “At least 26 terrorist organisations operating in Pakistan like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Taliban, Haqqani network had people in leadership roles who came from madrasa background. The government had to go into the root cause of this and reform madrasa education.” (Indian Express 24/2/15)

22. Village tense after Adityanath’s outfit enters land row, ‘150 Muslim families leave homes’ (7)

Lucknow: Tension prevailed in Madhopur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district after 150 Muslim families reportedly left their homes Monday, fearing a backlash from BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) over a land dispute. Heavy police force including PAC personnel have been deployed in the village to prevent any disturbance. Kushinagar additional district magistrate Ram Kewal Tiwari admitted that there is tension in the village. “It is a property dispute. There was a minor clash and we deployed PAC. HYV is active in this region and they often hold meetings, but we handle the situation,” Tiwari claimed. He, however, denied that Muslims have left the village. HYV held a meeting at Madhopur on Monday to show solidarity with the village’s Hindus following a property dispute. The outfit has reportedly given call for a Hindu mahapanchayat on March 3 if its demand of handing over possession of a 1.5-acre disputed plot to a Hindu villager is not met. “We had gone there to show solidarity with our worker Digvijay Kishore Shahi who was assaulted by a Muslim when he resisted their move to grab his land. Since the Muslims have done wrong, they have fled. We are not responsible,” Sunil Singh, state president of HYV said. He added: “Digvijay owns that land. The district administration admitted it but refused to hand him the possession before Holi claiming that communal atmosphere will be vitiated. We cannot wait for that long. On March 3, we will hold a Hindu mahapanchayat”. Locals said the issue erupted following a land dispute between Digvijay Kishore Shahi and another villager Ameen. The 1.5 acre plot belonging to the gram panchayat is close to the village and both groups are staking claim to it. On February 13, a clash broke out between the two groups. Muslims claimed that nearly 1,000 HYV workers attacked them. The district administration deployed PAC and a case was registered on Shahi’s complaint. Two Muslim men were arrested. “We continued to stay in our village after the incident. But, HYV announced a big meeting on February 23. We sought help of local administration but no one came forward,” Aurangzeb (22) said.  Social worker Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui said: “Police told villagers told to leave the village before the HYV.” Aurangzeb said Muslims left the village on February 22 to avoid confrontations. He added that the HYV meeting was attended by nearly 1,500 workers, including state president Sunil Singh. Provocative speeches were delivered during the meeting. The Muslims are yet to return home, he claimed. (Indian Express 25/2/15)

23. Centre’s scheme for madrassas lost in translation (7)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government had allocated Rs 100 crore for modernization of madrassas in the last budget while the erstwhile UPA government had earmarked Rs 182.5 crore for the same in 2013-14. However, a lack of awareness about the scheme and language barrier seem to have prevented a majority of madrassas from availing its benefits. According to an RTI application filed by NGO Zakat Foundation in 2013, only 2,800 madrassas benefitted from the central scheme. The reason for many not availing the benefits was because information about the scheme had not been translated into Urdu from English. “The scheme has been there since 1996 but the funds have been curtailed over the years. There is a lack of awareness—not many know about the scheme as it’s not properly advertized. Madrassas are going for an image makeover and apart from the religious teaching, education is imparted there,” said Zafar Mehmood of Zakat Foundation. According to people associated with Madrassa committees, most of these institutes are community-funded. Some of the community heads believe that Rs 100 crore is a mere tokenism and is not sufficient even for all Madrassas in Delhi. “There are 33,000 madrassas in India, according to the Sachar committee report and many more must have come up by now. And this amount is too small to strengthen and modernize all the institutes. Madrassas are just like any other schools which need an investment of at least Rs 1 crore,” said Zafrul Islam Khan of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat. However, many argue that till the time these institutes aren’t recognized and affiliated to any education board, modernization will not help. (Times of India 27/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

24. PM Modi saved me, says released priest Alexis Prem Kumar (7)

New Delhi: Indian Christian priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar who returned to India eight months after his abduction in Afghanistan, gave the credit of his return to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that it was because of him that he was here. “This is because our Prime Minister Narendra Modi (that) I am here. He saved me. This evening he talked to me when I was at the Kabul Airport. Possibly, he took a lot of interest in rescuing me,” Kumar told reporters after arriving at Delhi airport here this evening. Earlier, the announcement of the release of the 47-year-old private aid worker from Tamil Nadu was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through tweets. “Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan,” he tweeted. “Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity,” he added. Prem Kumar was abducted in Herat province in western Afghanistan by unidentified gunmen on June 2 last year. “The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels by the Prime Minister,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. “Father Alexis Prem Kumar is now back in the safety of his homeland and arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon,” he added. He expressed India’s “deep gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly over the last 8 months to help in this humanitarian task of ensuring the safe release of one of our citizens”.At the time of his abduction, Prem Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international NGO, and was engaged in the educational field in Afghanistan. He was its Afghanistan Director and had been in the country for over three years. He had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25-km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS had said then. Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. Four days after the abduction, Afghan authorities had announced that three Taliban members had been arrested in connection with the case. (DNA 23/2/15)

25. ‘Mother Teresa a noble soul’, says Kejriwal after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s ‘conversion’ remarks

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday strongly objected to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s objectionable comments on Mother Teresa. Bhagwat had on Sunday stoked a controversy by saying conversion to Christianity was the main objective behind Mother Teresa’s service to the poor. Kejriwal, the newly elected Delhi chief minister, who worked with Mother Teresa long back, termed her as a ‘noble soul’ and urged the RSS top brass to spare her from such views. Speaking at a function organised by NGO ‘Apna Ghar’ near Bharatpur in Rajasthan, the RSS chief said, “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.” “The question is not about conversion but if this (conversion) is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued,” he said. “But here (at the NGO), the objective is purely service of poor and helpless people,” added Bhagwat. The RSS Chief was addressing a function in village Bajhera, near 8 kms from here, where he inaugurated ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ in the NGO for helpless women and children. Later, RSS said on its twitter handle that the media reported “wrongly” and Bhagwat had only replied to former BSF DG’s comments. (Zee news 24/2/15)

26. Mangalore church attacked despite PM’s appeal (7)

Bangalore: A church in Karnataka’s Mangalore was vandalised on Tuesday night, just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to protect all religious minorities. “A small stone of the size of 1-2 centimetres was thrown at the St Joseph Vaz worship centre near Deralakatte, damaging the windowpane, but no damage has been done to the idols of Mother Mary and Infant Jesus,” Mangaluru city police commissioner S Murugan told PTI. Over the last two months, eight mosques have been stoned in the region, though no churches were targeted in recent months. Karnataka health minister UT Khader visited the spot. Murugan said the incident could have been carried out by a mischief-monger, but it could not be established immediately whether a group of people were involved. Mangalore was the epicentre of a wave of attacks on Christian properties in 2008, when alleged Bajrang Dal and VHP activists attacked prayer halls and beat up preachers in what they said was a response to conversions. The fresh incident would embarrass not just Congress-ruled Karnataka, but also the central government, as PM Modi, at a religious function in Delhi last week, had condemned increasing attacks on Christian institutions. “My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” Modi had said at a function organised by the Catholic church. The PM’s statement was a reaction to the series of attacks on churches in Delhi, with over five places of worship vandalised over two months. Modi’s stand was welcomed by minority leaders and opposition political parties, but downplayed by the Hindu rightwing organisations. (Hindustan Times 25/2/15)

27. Ban Togadia’s entry, Kandhamal Christians urge government (7)

BERHAMPUR: The Christian community of Kandhamal district in Odisha wants the government to restrain Vishva Hindu Praishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia from entering the communally volatile region. According to VHP sources, Mr Togadia is expected to attend a public meeting in Phulbani, the district headquarter town, on February 28 as part of golden jubilee celebrations of the organisation. The Christian community of the district, which was worst affected during the communal riots in 2007 and 2008, fear that Mr Togadia’s inflammatory speech will be detrimental to the fragile communal amity of Kandhamal. Christan Jan Kalyan Samaj, an organisation of religious minority in Kandhamal district, has already approached the Kandhamal district administration and the police with the request to ban the entry of Mr Togadia into the district. “We have also written to Odisha Chief Minister, Prime Minister and President of the country to check Mr Togadia’s entry into Kandhamal,” said secretary of the organisation, Suranjan Nayak. The inflammatory speeches of Mr Togadia few days after the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in August 2008 had aggravated communal riots in the district. At least 38 persons had been killed and thousands had been rendered homeless. In another development, Ramakant Baliarsingh, a Christian resident of Brahmanigaon area of Kandhamal district has filed a petition before Kandhamal district magistrate on February 24 urging restriction on activities of Mr Togadia in Kandhamal district. Manas Ranjan Singh, advocate of the petitioner, said this petition had been filed under Section 144 of the CrPC to restrain Mr Togadia from entering Kandhamal and delivering communally inflammatory speech. The VHP activists termed the demands for ban on entry of Mr Togadia into Kandhamal district undemocratic. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. ‘Lankan refugees should not be forced to leave’ (13)

MADURAI: The ‘Samam Kudimakkal Iyakkam,’ a Madurai-based human rights organisation, has appealed to the Union government to sign the 1951 United Nations Convention Related to the Status of Refugees. In a resolution passed here on Friday, it said the government should come out with a law on refugee rights. Thyagu, Editor, Tamil Desam, felt that discussions on refugees centred around only the facilities made available to them and not their rights. He wondered how the refugees could be sent back when Tamils living in Sri Lanka were still under surveillance of the army. The government was talking about sending back only refugees from Sri Lanka and not those from Myanmar, Bangladesh or Tibet, Mr. Thyagu said. Human rights educationist Devasagayam said that Sri Lankan Tamils were neither accepted as refugees nor recognised as citizens here as India was not a signatory to the UN Convention. According to a press release, C. J. Rajan, State president, Samam, said that Sri Lankan Tamil refugees residing in camps across Tamil Nadu should not be forced to go back. The individual’s wish should be ascertained before making any attempt at deportation. The government should not act in any manner that would be detrimental to freedom of Sri Lankan Tamils living in 107 refugee camps in the State. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

29. HRW urges Pak to halt forceful return of Afghan refugees in wake of Peshawar school attack

 Islamabad: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Pakistan to halt forced return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan in the wake of the recent Peshawar school attack. A substantial rise in the number of Afghan refugees leaving the country has been noted since the Dec 16 Taliban attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School. According to Dawn, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that nine times as many Afghan refugees repatriated from Pakistan in January 2015 than in December 2014. The increase in the count of refugees leaving the country seems to indicate that they are being forced to go back to Afghanistan by the local authorities. Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said that Pakistani officials should not be scapegoating Afghans because of the Taliban’s atrocities in Peshawar. He further said that it was “inhumane” and “unlawful” to coerce Afghanis to return to places where they were likely to face harassment and abuse, the report added. (New Kerala 24/2/15)

30. Don’t question Christian missionaries: Alexis Prem Kumar (13)

New Delhi: Statements such as those made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat questioning the intent behind Mother Teresa’s service are politically motivated, according to Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was just released after eight months of Taliban captivity in Afghanistan. Kumar, in an interview to PTI today, said he did not have any mindset of conversion while working with refugees in Afghanistan and even this identity was not of a Christian priest as people knew him as “Mr Prem Kumar”.”For me religion is not the thing. For me goal of religion is service. To bring humanity joy, peace, justice and equality. All the religions must work towards that. That must be the goal. Actually all this fight is politically motivated… That is way I think India must grow out of it,” he said on the statements of Bhagwat on Mother Teresa. Recounting his experience of captivity, Kumar said that he was not tortured even once by the militants during the eight months and they took good care of him by providing him good food and basic facilities. “The only torture was that they had kept me tied 24 hours. I could not move around,” he recounted. He said he was grateful to the efforts undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his release. Kumar, 47, who was serving for three years as Country Director of Jesuit Refugee Service, a voluntary group working for the refugees, in Afghanistan was abducted by a group of Taliban militants on June 2, 2014 from Sohadat village, 25 km from Herat where he had gone to inspect a school supported by his organisation. “The talks of militants planning to kidnap a foreigner were very common. But it was only after attack on Indian consulate in Herat in May that Indian diplomats had warned me to be careful in my activities. This was the first serious warning that was issued to me,” Kumar said. Kumar said the regional director of his organisation held hectic negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar during the period even as government of India continued with its efforts. Describing his kidnapping, he said no one in Sohadat had any idea that he would be visiting the area as he had planned to visit Bamyan to oversee work done by his organisation but the flight was cancelled. “It was a routine early morning visit to Sohadat after 15 days to the area. I had also gone to nearby district from where I returned at about 12.30 in afternoon. When I came back, I saw four people in an SUV full of weapons approaching us. They just asked who was the foreigner and fired upon a building,” he said. Kumar said in order to save his people from militants he came forward and identified himself. “They put me in the vehicle, tied my hands and blindfolded me. They kept driving for nearly eight hours after which we rested the night in a cave,” he said. According to Kumar, “Language was a major problem. During entire period of eight months, I did not see a single child, woman or an elderly person. I could only guess from Helmand river and desert that I was kept some where around Baluchistan and Afghanistan border but I could be completely wrong.” He said he did not speak to his family or any Indian official during the entire eight-month period but he knew that his captives were in touch with the family members through his cell phone which was taken by them. He said the group that kidnapped him had handed him to another group of armed men who kept him in captivity during entire period and kept shifting bases. “When the first group handed me over to the second group, I was told that they had sold me for 20 million dollars, a figure which I did not believe,” he said. “Sometimes I was shifted within eight days while at some other places I was kept for nearly 81 days,” he said. On January 15, Kumar said they informed him that he would be released soon but it took nearly one month that he was actually released. “They left me at a place where firing was going on. One of the militants gave me his cell phone and from other side for the first time I could hear English. It was then I realised that I am safe. They asked me to run towards a highway, where officials were present,” he said. DNA 25/2/15)

31. My captors starved with me and told me I’d live, says Jesuit priest.. (13)

CHENNAI: Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was released from captivity in Afghanistan, said on Thursday that he didn’t know who his captors were. He said he didn’t know the reason for his abduction. Addressing a press meet at Loyola College in Chennai, Fr Alexis narrated the hardships he had undergone in captivity. The priest said he had lived in harsh environment after being abducted by some men while he was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service in the Herat province. The men moved him from one place to another after abducting him on June 2. He said his hands and legs had been chained. The chains were removed only when he wanted to relieve himself. A gun wielding man was watching over him always. “The man who was tasked with watching me was nice to me. He was clueless about why I was held captive. He kept reassuring me that I would live,” the priest said. Fr Alexis said he had starved at times. “But my captors also starved with me as there was no food.” Fr Alexis, hailing from Devakottai in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu, was released after India pursued his case at the highest level. “While releasing me, my captors warned me that they would shoot me if they saw me again in Afghanistan,” the priest said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

32. PIO Should Give Reason For RTI Rejection: Government Asks Departments (1)

NEW DELHI: Centre has asked the Ministries to ensure proper disposal of applications and appeals filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, as per the specified guidelines. The Public Information Officer (PIO) should communicate reason for rejection, period within which appeal can be filed and particulars of appellate authority while rejecting a RTI application, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in an order. An applicant should be given details of further fees to be paid, the calculations made to arrive at the amount of fees asked and the fact that the applicant has a right to make an appeal about the amount of fees so demanded, it said. While disposing off first appeals, the first appellate authorities should act in a fair and judicious manner. It is very important that the order passed by the first appellate authority should be a detailed and speaking order, giving justification for the decision arrived at, the DoPT said. If an appellate authority while deciding an appeal comes to a conclusion that the appellant should be supplied information in addition to what has been supplied by the PIO, he may either pass an order directing the officer to give such information or he himself may give information to the appellant, it said. The appellate authority should ensure that the information ordered by him to be supplied (by PIO) is given to the appellant immediately, the DoPT said. “It would, however, be better if the appellate authority chooses the second course of action and he himself furnishes the information along with the order passed by him in the matter,” it said. A citizen can also seek information on governance-matters by exercising his Right to Information. (New Indian Express 22/2/15)

33. CIC notice to Delhi Transport Department (1)

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued a show-cause notice to the Delhi Transport Department for not giving information sought by an RTI applicant on the Justice (retd.) Mukul Mudgal inquiry committee report. “The commission has perused the record available in the file and directs the Public Information Officer, Transport Department, to show-cause as to why penalty should not be imposed upon him for not providing the information within the prescribed time,” the CIC said in its order. Advocate Vivek Garg had sought copies under the RTI Act of a transport inquiry report prepared by the committee headed by Mr. Mudgal, a former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “My application was transferred to various divisions. But I did not get any response from the Transport Department. Aggrieved , I moved the CIC,” Mr. Garg said. Delhi Lt Governor had in 2013 ordered an inquiry into the allegations on collection of fees by M/s ESP India Private Ltd without conducting Loaded Mode Emission test and the omission on the part of officers of the Transport Department. The committee, which had former IAS officer Ramesh Chandra as a member, was mandated to ascertain the amount collected by the firm from vehicle owners and the liability of the firm for any omission. It was to also suggest preventive measures to avoid such occurrences in future. “It is a multi-crore scam. I do not understand why the Delhi Government is shying away from sharing the report. They must put this report in the public domain for greater transparency on the issue,” Mr. Garg said. — PTI (The Hindu 24/2/15)

34. CBI sends backdated communications to RTI pleas (1)

New Delhi: In an example of callousness in handling applications filed under the RTI Act, the CBI has sent a reply dated even before the application was filed, apparently aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal. Sending backdated communication for application under statutory provisions is a serious offence under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Under Section 18 of the Act, a CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) can be slapped with a penalty for giving “false and misleading” information. If sending backdated communication was not enough, the CPIO of Anti-Corruption Unit of the agency also returned the postal order of RTI fee which is again an offence under the transparency law. Claiming exemption from disclosure under the RTI Act, CPIO Ratan Sanjay returned the RTI application, along with the fee, seeking status of closed Preliminary Enquiries related to allegations of corruption — an information which is provided in the annual report of the agency, a public document. Ironically, the reply no. 568/1-RTI/CBI/AC-II/2015 is dated January 3, 2015 whereas the application was dated January 16, 2015, showing that the agency might be using templates to respond to applications without applying mind to the information sought. Sending backdated reply apparently could also be aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal. The then Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra had sought the intervention of then CBI Director A P Singh, underlining that the agency was returning the applications after CBI was brought in the list of organisations exempted from the RTI Act. Singh had then directed the officials to not return the RTI applications but with new Director Anil Sinha at the helm of affairs, the practice of returning the applications has again started. (Deccan Herald 26/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

35. Modi lauds girls for doing well in exams despite helping at home (11)

NEW DELHI: Exhorting school students, especially boys, to believe in themselves, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday praised girl students, and said, “they do well in examinations despite helping their mothers in household work”.In his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme, the prime minister said it was very important to understand and know oneself well. “You don’t have to go far away… just see your sister or may be your friend’s sister who is appearing in the board examination and you would see she is assisting her mother in her household work while preparing for her examination and still does well,” he said. “Have you ever thought what power do they have? You will understand it’s just lack of confidence that makes us weak,” Modi said, asking students to develop it. (Times of India 22/2/15)

36. Court doubts govt’s RTE will, suggests lawyers’ panel (11)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Monday expressed dissatisfaction with the state government for its “lack of efforts” to implement the Right to Education Act in order to ensure admission of poor children on the 25% seats in primary section in private schools. A bench of acting Chief Justice V M Sahai and Justice R P Dholaria made oral observation that it believed that reliance cannot be placed on the state government for implementation of RTE laws for ensuring admission of poor kids in private schools. The court was of the opinion that for proper implementation, a committee of senior lawyers is required to be constituted which would come up with proposal for proper implementation of the law, said advocate Parul Joshi who represents petitioner NGO, Jagega Gujarat Sangharsh Samiti. Last month, the HC had asked 16 schools of the city, which were selected as model schools to implement RTE Act, to keep 25% seats vacant for poor students in their primary section. The petitioner NGO had claimed that these schools did not grant admission to poor students under RTE laws. These schools cited various reasons for not filling up the quota – the reasons varied from getting fewer applications, not fulfilling the criteria, etc. The petitioner submitted that most of these schools charge high fees and the state government’s allocation of Rs 10,000 towards fees for each student is not enough for them. Till now, 12,601 students have been granted admission in private schools, though the government has reserved 18,000 seats for them. In Ahmedabad city limits, against 2,000 seats reserved for admission in private schools, only 604 students have been admitted. In Ahmedabad district, against 1,400 seats, 779 kids have been given admission during current academic year. It was alleged that the schools selected as model schools in the city have not been following rules on various pretexts. (Times of India 24/2/15)

37. Govt circular deprives 3,800 students of RTE seats (11)

HUBBALLI: Vaishnavi Habib, studying in UKG at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, cannot seek admission under the Right To Education (RTE) Act because the government has instructed her school to provide RTE seats only for LKG. The same circular allows schools that do not have pre-primary classes to admit students to class 1 under RTE. Like Vaishnavi, over 3,800 students in Hubballi city alone cannot apply for RTE seats due to the restriction. Though private schools are ready to give seats in class 1, the circular restricts them from doing so. Vaishnavi’s father Vinayak Habib says that though his family falls under the below poverty line (BPL) category and his daughter is eligible for a seat under RTE, the circular is a hurdle. Bhaskar Jituri, a social activist who has approached the CM, the education minister, legislators and education department officials, said the government is denying students studying in pre-primary classes their fundamental right. “The circular states that schools having LKG should provide admission under RTE only to LKG. Such schools cannot provide admission to the first standard.” RS Patil Kulkarni of the District Parents’ Association accused the government of bowing to pressure from the private schools lobby. “We had submitted a memorandum to the Dharwad DDPI which he had forwarded to the commissioner. Instead of taking action, the government has issued the same content in an order dated December 7, 2014,” he said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

38. 27% of govt schools without DJB water: NGO (11)

NEW DELHI: Over a quarter of Delhi’s government schools are functioning without a water connection. Of the 798 that bothered to respond to a query filed under RTI by a Delhi NGO, 220—27.5%—reported they don’t have a Delhi Jal Board connection. “We work in the northeast district (there are 13 school districts in Delhi) and know of schools that have no water supply. We wanted to know what the situation is in other parts of Delhi,” says Rajiv Kumar who runs Pardarshita in New Seemapuri. Kumar believes that a similar RTI application filed in 2014 resulted in one school in the area getting connected. As per data received by the NGO, the maximum number of schools without connections is in the northeast district—50. In southwest B, there are 41 schools and in south, 30. However, the count in these districts may be higher simply because they have bothered to furnish complete lists. There are only 24 schools in northwest B that don’t have DJB connections as per the RTI responses but the actual number may be higher—there are several schools that haven’t replied. It’s the same situation with southeast—17 have declared they’re without water connections but over 40 haven’t responded. “Absence of a DJB connection does not mean there’s no water,” clarifies Padmini Singla, director, education. “In those cases, we give permission for bore-wells.” “Schools got bore-wells some time ago,” agrees Ajay Vir Yadav, general secretary of Government School Teachers’ Association. “If the school doesn’t have a RO system or there’s no maintenance, that’s pure negligence. However, bore-wells don’t function too well in certain parts of town.” On paper, there are provisions. “Most schools will tell you they use groundwater,” says Kumar. “But in reality you’ll find that in some schools there’s no safe drinking water. One principal tells me she calls the tanker but it comes three days late. There are also cases where the filtration systems aren’t cleaned regularly.” He also maintains that the list of schools without connections includes both old and new schools. (Times of India 27/2/15

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

39. National Food Security Act in NE: Paswan (21)

IMPHAL, Feb 18 – The National Food Security Act (NFSA) which was implemented two years ago in the country, will be implemented in North Eastern States by June/July this year. This was announced by Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on his maiden visit to Manipur after becoming a Minister in the BJP Government at the Centre, in Imphal on Saturday. Paswan was speaking to media persons at Hotel Imphal after attending a review meeting on the preparatory work for the implementation of NFSA in Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram. The Union Minister said that computerisation of data has been completed to the extent of 90 per cent in Mizoram and Tripura, Manipur has done 77 per cent and Assam 62. Assam and Tripura have informed that they will be ready to roll out the Act in June next while Manipur informed that they will implement the scheme by July. Paswan also informed that the ongoing mega-block due to Lumding-Silchar railway line broad gauge conversion through which the supply of food grains for Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and south Assam goes, will be lifted and the track will be made operational after March 31 next. “The Railways have targeted to complete the broad gauge conversion by March 2015,” he said and directed the concerned officials that all efforts should be taken to ensure adequate supply of foodgrains in the NE States. Earlier, Food Corporation of India (FCI) which transports about 85,000 MT of food grains per month for the NE States, had even plans to import rice from Myanmar. The monthly requirement of these States is 82,744 MT for which storage capacity of 12,6443 MTs is available with FCI against which the Corporation is having stock of 1,19,000 MTs of foodgrains in various godowns in the region. Regarding the complaint of anomalies in the distribution of grains through PDS, he said, “We are aware of such grievances, but it depends on the State Governments on how to improve the system.” After attending the meeting of Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in Guwahati, Union Minister Paswan airdashed here to lay the foundation for construction of food storage depots at Bishnupur and Sawombung on Sunday besides attending the review meeting of FCI and State officials. (The Assam Tribune 20/2/15)

40.  ‘Next-generation genomics key to global food security’ (21)

SANGAREDDY: Renowned agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan said on Friday that making a hunger and malnutrition-free society should be the ultimate goal of every agricultural scientist and stakeholder. Next-generation genomics backed by strong technological advancements will facilitate science-based agricultural innovations such as development of nutrition-rich crops to eradicate hunger. He was addressing the concluding session of the 5th International Conference on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement (NGGIBCI-V) held at the International Crops Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Over 300 delegates representing private and public sectors from 30 countries worldwide participated and deliberated on future collaborations and ways to integrate next-generation genomics into the future of crop improvement to contribute to global food and nutrition security. Genomics – or deciphering the genomic content of crop species using high-throughput and next-generation approaches – allows the scientific community access to ‘good genes’ to speed up breeding for superior crop varieties with agronomically important traits. “It is not so much a question of more food. It is more a question of better food,” opined Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer, MARS Inc. USA, while talking on genomics interventions to ensure food and nutritional security in developing countries. “Next-generation sequencing technologies are vital in feeding the ever growing global population,” said Asis Datta, founder and former director, National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), India. “It is important to train the next generation of breeders to deploy modern technologies for crop improvement,” stressed Jean-Marcel Ribaut, Director, CGIAR Generation Challenge Program (GCP), Mexico, in highlighting successful case studies in translating genomics research for crop improvement and the GCP’s role in providing the platform. “The challenge of producing more nutritious food to feed 9 billion people in 2050 amid the threat of climate change is enormous. Next-generation genomics is one of the ‘best bets’ for sustainably eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty. This powerful tool can dramatically increase our capacity to utilise genetic diversity and develop highly nutritious, stress tolerant crop varieties faster and cheaper than conventional crop improvement practices,” emphasised David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

41. 5,000 women from across district demand regular foodgrain supply (21)

KOLHAPUR: Around 5,000 women from across the district participated in a morcha organised by the Ration Bachao Samiti demanding regular supply of foodgrain at ration shops through the public distribution system (PDS). They also demanded cancellation of direct transfer of subsidy into the bank account of beneficiaries, saying that many poor people who do not have bank accounts or Aadhaar cards will not benefit from the scheme. Chandrakant Yadav, leader of the samiti said, “We voted the Narendra Modi government to power hoping that he will take steps to ensure that all the poor people, including workers and farmers who are mostly dependent on the PDS, will get foodgrain cheap. But, instead of preventing irregularities in the system, the government is ensuring that the least number of people come under the scheme to reduce the burden of subsidies.” “From 2008, we were agitating for foodgrain for all through the PDS which resulted in the central government passing the Food Security Bill. We are not against linking the Aadhaar card with the ration card or modernisation of the PDS so that the right people will get the benefit. But that does not mean reducing the quantity of foodgrain that people get under the system. We want 10kg of foodgrain per person which is 5kg per person now. We also want sugar through the PDS as it was done previously,” Yadav said. DN Patil, another member of the samiti said, “In 2013, the BJP organised agitations for food security bill and foodgrain for all. Now, after coming to power, instead of providing more foodgrain through the PDS to serve the motive of the Food Security Act, the government is reducing the customer base.” Pushpa Raj Deshmukh, state president of the All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation said, “Along with the demands of the people, the government should consider our long-pending demands also that include increase in transportation and supply commissions which have been stable since 2001. All the ration shop holders in the state are supporting the agitation and will participate in the next rally that would be organised at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on March 2 and at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.” On Tuesday, the rally began from Mirajkar Tikti around 12pm and reached the collector’s office via Binkhambi Ganesh mandir, Mahadwar road and Maharana Pratap chowk. The delegation of the Ration Bachao Samiti submitted a memorandum of their demands to the district supply officer Vivek Agawane who assured them to convey their message to the higher authorities. (Times of India 25/2/15)

42. Feed underprivileged kids with ‘Ticket to Cheer’ (21)

New Delhi: With the ongoing World Cup fever, the six-week-long campaign urges cricket lovers to showcase their love for the game and their team with a personalised ‘ticket to cheer’. “The ‘Ticket to Cheer’ campaign is an attempt to fulfil the basic need of satiating the hunger of children in school through mid-day meals. We are united in this cause with foodpanda which shares our desire to provide nourishment to children. “By targeting cricket lovers during the World Cup, we are hoping to add purpose to their passion and bring a ray of happiness into the lives of children,” Shridhar Venkat, CEO, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, said in a statement. The microsite, tickettocheer.com, has been created to facilitate cricket fans to support their favourite team, in a match of choice, during the World Cup by generating their own ‘Ticket to Cheer’. One ticket implies a contribution of Rs.750 to provide mid-day meals to a child for an entire school year. Foodpanda will also be sharing posts to cheer India on social media and for every cheer foodpanda will donate a meal from their side. “The World Cup is a great occasion to unite people for a common cause. We take this opportunity to encourage people to join us in serving 1.4 million children with the potential to lead a healthy and progressive life like any of us,” said Rohit Chadda, managing director and founder, foodpanda.in. Besides foodpanda, the initiative is also being supported by ESPN Cricinfo and Freecharge. (Business Standard 27/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. They came from Odisha with hope, rescued in Yelahanka 4 months later (14)

BENGALURU: Twenty-five labourers allegedly kept in bondage for almost four months, including 10 minors, were released from a brick kiln in Yelahanka, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, on Wednesday. All of them hail from Odisha. The labourers were rescued by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department. The owner of the kiln was arrested and an FIR has been filed at Sampigehalli police station. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), the non-governmental organisation that was also involved in the rescue, the owner of the brick kiln had visited villages in Odisha and brought them to Bengaluru. Each adult was promised Rs. 25,000 as advance upon arrival, but none was paid. Instead, they got Rs. 150 as weekly salary, while the children were not paid at all, said IJM. The minimum wage for a brick kiln worker in Karnataka is Rs. 252 a day. One of the labourers said the owner did not provide enough firewood for cooking, and worse, they did not have enough money to buy food. He claimed that while men began work at 3 a.m., women joined them at 6 a.m. The target for a couple was 1,500 bricks a day. The children had the task of lining the bricks in the sun and preparing to fire them, said the labourer. According to IJM, the labourers worked till 6 p.m. and had no weekly off. “On Sundays, the man of the family was allowed to go to the market to buy groceries, while his wife and children had to remain in the kiln,” said an IJM spokesperson. The labourers said they were beaten if they disobeyed and were not allowed to leave the kiln together as a family. Last week, the Karnataka High Court upheld a seven-year conviction for bonded labour in a case from Chickaballapur where 42 people were forced to work in a quarry. When contacted, the Sampigehalli police confirmed that an FIR was filed against the owner of the brick kiln under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. (The Hindu 20/2/15)

44. EPFO mulls medical benefits for its pensioners (14)

New Delhi: Retirement fund body EPFO is planning to provide medical benefits under its pension scheme through the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, a move which would immediately benefit around 46 lakh pensioners. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation’s (EPFO) Pension & EDLI Implementation Committee (PEIC) has recently concluded in its meeting held on January 30 that the pensioners should be extended the facility of medical benefits. “..medical benefit as an extra benefit should be recommended to Labour Ministry,” the committee concluded as per the minutes of the committee’s meeting held last month. It was suggested that the surplus in Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance scheme could be used for extending medical benefits through ESIC. It was also pointed out in the meeting that retired government employees are provided medical benefits under the Central Government Health Services and even unorganised workers are covered under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) but there is no such facility for EPFO pensioners. A senior official said, “If EPFO chooses the ESIC for extending health benefits to its pensioners then they would be able to use the OPD (out patient department) facility of ESIC hospitals and dispensaries as well as other health benefits provided by it to insured persons.” The recommendations of the committee were listed for discussion in EPFO’s apex decision making body Central Board of Trustees’ meet on February 19. But the meeting was deferred at the last moment. Now this proposal will be discussed in the next meeting of the Central Board of Trustees (CBT). mAfter deliberating on the proposal for extending medical benefits to pensioners, the CBT may send it to Labour Ministry for consideration and approval. However, for using surplus funds in the EDLI for the purpose, government would have to amend the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952 and the EDLI scheme. The committee wanted that the medical facility to pensioners should be provided free of cost and the EDLI funds should be used for the purpose. (Deccan Herald 22/2/15)

45. 70% state women not working: Survey (14)

MUMBAI: An analysis of Maharashtra’s labour force over nearly a decade looks much like a study in patriarchy. Nearly 70% of women are not in the labour force; the figure is 23% for men. A paper on the dynamics of the state’s labour force by Binoo Paul, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, launched at a seminar on informal employment on Wednesday, paints a stark contrast between the work done by men and women. The study, which analyses three rounds of the National Sample Survey from 2004-5 to 2011-12, has found that only around 1% of Maharashtra labour force are employers. For every 1,000 male employers, there were only 62 women employers in 2004-5. The figure doubled to 120 in 2011-12 but is still only 12% that of male employers. For 1,000 men who work as regular, salaried employees in the formal sector, the number of women has ranged from 201 to 244. Housework, though, is an area where women far outnumber men. For every 1,000 house husbands (men who attend to domestic duties only, or alongside the free collection of goods for the household), there are around 2 lakh women who do so. Paul attributes this to rigid gender relations. “Despite an increase in education attainment and urbanization, there is little improvement in the participation of women in paid work. In fact, the situation seems to have consistently worsened,” he adds. When it comes to gender inclusion at work, Paul believes there is a need for more planning and creative thinking. For instance, he believes there should be some consideration paid to washrooms, toilets, urinals and transit rooms for women, which would make it easier for them to access the workplace. Safety, too, is a big concern for women and restricts their entry into the labour market, points out Paul. As for the disproportionate number of women who perform household chores as compared to men, Paul believes this may have to do with the fact that marriage, as an institution, is skewed in favour of men. He believes Indian sociology may have something to do with the abysmally low number of women who are employers compared with men. “Much like the rest of India, property rights in Maharashtra are skewed in favour of men. To be an employer or an entrepreneur, you need capital,” says Paul. Interestingly, the analysis shows that a higher proportion of urban women are not in the labour force when compared with rural women. The figure of those not in the labour force ranges from 40.9% to 59.4% for rural women and 76.6% to 80.5% for urban women. But far fewer urban women are engaged in casual wage labour when compared with rural women. While the largest proportion of casual labour is in agriculture (75-79%), the largest proportion of regular salaried/wage work is in the service sector (64-67.8%). The study suggests that informal employment differs across religious lines. While 93.4% working-age Muslims are employed in the informal sector, 87.7% Hindus, 87.5% Christians and 87% Buddhists are in the informal sector. The percentage of Zoroastrians in the informal sector is negligible, and a disproportionate number of Schedule Tribes are employed in the informal sector. Agriculture employs 46.96% of the working population, but only 2.4% graduates. At the other end of the spectrum, 65.84% of those employed with the information and communication sector and 63.26% in the financial sector are graduates. (Times of India 26/2/15)

46. Capital’s dust pollution chokes unprotected construction workers (14)

New Delhi: Jitendra Kumar goes around in the dusty terrain of south Delhi’s Moti Bagh, where metro construction is progressing in full swing, supervising his subordinates as they go about their daily duty of mixing cement and setting the mortar. Kumar said these workers were initially given masks and gloves, along with their safety gear, to protect them from constant exposure to pollution. But now the company did not seem to mind compromising on the health of hundreds of workers in a bid to earn profits. In Delhi, around 4,000 tonnes of construction waste is generated every day. This constitutes around 40% of the total waste generated in the city. “We spend at least 12 to 14 hours in this dust daily. Though we have been given safety gear for protection, the damage caused internally is much greater. Earlier, we were working with masks and gloves. After our night shift, the entire area was sprinkled with water to let the dust settle down. But this has stopped due to insufficient funds,” said Kumar. In an affidavit submitted by the ministry of environment and forest to the Supreme Court last month, it was noted that dust particles were the highest source of pollution in Delhi. Dust contributed to 52% of particulate matter in the air with vehicular emissions contributing to only 6.6%.Construction workers at flyover sites work in worse conditions with private contractors not taking the trouble of providing any protective gear to them. One of them, Devyani, who has been working at the Wazirabad flyover on the Outer Ring Road, has no option but to carry bricks and cement on her head with her eight-month-old baby strapped to her back. Devyani said the constant dust in the air might be dangerous both for her and the baby but she cannot leave the child unattended. Experts and doctors said a person who is constantly exposed to dust particles ends up inhaling both visible as well as suspended particulate matter. “Over the years, these workers run the risk of inhaling silica, which escapes the filter mechanism of nose and the throat. This reduces the capacity of the lungs and makes the person vulnerable to diseases like tuberculosis,” said Dr Neeraj Jain, chest specialist, Ganga Ram Hospital. He said if such particles enter the airway and reach the end, they tends to accumulate in the lung tissues and cause injury to the lungs. Silica particles, for instance, give off toxic substances which are responsible for scarring of the lungs. (Hindustan Times 27/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Cabinet writes to Centre on quota (25)

Patna, Feb. 19: The state government today decided to send a request letter to the Centre to provide reservation to people belonging to Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in central services as on the pattern of Bihar. A resolution to this effect was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi here on Thursday. The move assumes significance in the wake of last week’s decision to give reservation to SCST people in government contracts. The cabinet also passed a proposal to give reservation to backward and extremely backward classes and women in government contracts up to Rs 25 lakh. The cabinet had earlier decided to give similar facility to SCST category in contracts up to Rs 75 lakh. Cabinet coordination department principal secretary B. Pradhan said a state-level commission would be set up for the uplift of scavengers on the lines of Rashtriya Safai Karamchari Aayog. It also decided in-principle to set up the Finance and Development Corporation for Extremely Backward Classes. Pradhan said the cabinet gave its nod for setting up a traffic police station at Muzaffarpur. A proposal to adopt a new youth policy for the state was also passed by the cabinet. To woo voters of Mithilanchal, the government passed a proposal to declare Saurashtra Mela a state festival. It also decided to raise the monthly remuneration of gram kachharis from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000. A total of 23 proposals were passed by the cabinet. The political instability in the state has taken a toll on the meeting of the board of governors of Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in which many important decisions were to be taken. “The meeting, earlier scheduled to take place on February 21, has been deferred owing to political uncertainty. The date of next board of governors’ meeting has now fixed for February 28,” said the IGIMS director, N.R. Biswas. Sources said the IGIMS administration was forced to take this decision because the health minister happens to be the chairman of the board and in his absence, the meeting could not be conducted. At present, urban development and housing department minister Samrat Chaudhary is holding the additional charge of the health department. (The Telegraph 20/2/15)

48. Dalits demand quota in private sector (25)

SHIMLA: The first convention of Dalits was organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kullu this weekend. It formed the Himachal Dalit Shoshan Mukti Sabha at the two-day convention that ended on Sunday and attended by more than 140 delegates, said Tikender Panwar, CPI-M leader. Himachal Pradesh has the highest number of Scheduled Caste population after Punjab. The Dalits in Himachal like elsewhere are also the poorest and have the least resources including the land holdings. The Dalits shared their bitter experiences of humiliation and atrocities that had been committed on them in an otherwise sleepy State. They demanded a special session of the Vidhan Sabha on Dalit atrocities, reservations in private sector, special packages and rewards for inter-caste marriages, redistribution of agriculture land and 200 days’ minimum jobs in MNREGA for the SCs. The convention elected Paras Ram from Mandi as its president and Lokendra from Kullu as its general secretary. The convention was also addressed by S. Srinivas Rao, leader of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Morcha, who said the Dalits should organise to form a democratic movement and not get into the politics of identity. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

49. RS passes bill to include certain communities in SC list (25)

New Delhi: A bill to include certain synonymous names of communities under Scheduled Castes category in Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha and Dadra and Nagar Haveli was passed by Rajya Sabha today. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by a voice vote. Replying to a debate on the bill, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said the law has been further amended to modify the SC list in three states and one Union Territory. Expressing concern over the diversion of the SC sub-plan fund in various states including Delhi and atrocities on SC people, he said the government is taking several measures to help them and is also taking active measures. He also mentioned that the government has a proposal from the Bihar government with regard to inclusion of more castes in SC list. “This will entail some additional recurring and non-recurring expenditure on account of benefits of schemes meant for the development of SCs to which the persons belonging to the newly-added communities will become entitled, as a result of enacting the bill,” the bill reads. As per the bill, communities such as ‘Kabirpanthi and Julaha’ in Haryana, ‘Bhovi, od, odde, Vaddar, Waddar’ in Karnatka, ‘Dhoba, Dhobi, Dom, Dombo, Duria Dom, Katia, Kela, Nalua Kela, Khadala and Turi’ in Odisha and the community of ‘Chamar’ in Dadra and Nagar Haveli are included in the SC list. Participating in the debate, Ali Anwar Ansari (JDU) Ali Anwar (JDU) sought inclusion of Haryana’s Mev community under Scheduled Tribe (ST) category on par with Meena tribe. He alleged that the community, which fought against Babar’s invasion and sacrificed 1200 lives, was not included in the list simply on basis of their religion because they fell under Mewati Muslim category. Ahmed Hassan (Trinamool Cong) demanded socio economic survey by the Rural Development department to be completed to enable the government decide on who to be included in the SC/ST list. A W Rabi Bernard (AIADMK) demanded that Dalit Christians be included in the list of SCs. Veer Singh (BSP) sought enhancement of reservation quota for SC saying that their population had increased over time but the quota remained stagnant. “Also, there should be check on diversion of funds meant for such communities like in case of diversion of Rs 744 crore Scheduled Caste Sub Plan to projects related to Commonwealth Games,” he said. T K Rangarajan (CPI-M) demanded formation of a Commission which should visit every state to assess communities inclusion into SC/ST categories besides evolving some mechanism for it. Ramdas Athawale (RPI), Vijaylaxmi Sadho (Cong), Nand Kumar Sai (BJP) and S Thangavelu (DMK) wanted increase in reservation quota for SC/ST while Bhushan Lal Jangde (BJP) drew the attention of the governemnt towards SC/ST communities in Chhattisgarh which were devoid of ration cards. Anil Kumar Sahani (JDU) said successive Bihar governments have been advocating for inclusion of certain communities in the list but in vain. Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD) sought the government to dalit Muslims and Christians should also been included. (Deccan Herald 24/2/15)

50. Dalit reconverts will get all sops: Supreme Court (25)

New Delhi: If a Christian reconverts to Scheduled Caste, he is entitled to all SC benefits if the community accepts him into its fold, the Supreme Court held on Thursday. Giving this ruling a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and V. Gopala Gowda said, “A person whose parents belong to a Scheduled Caste before their conversion to Christ-ianity can, on conversion or reconversion to Hinduism, be regarded as a member of the Scheduled Caste so as to be eligible for the benefit of reservation for Scheduled Castes.” Writing the judgement, Justice Misra said, “The practice of caste, however irrational it may appear to our reason and however repugnant it may appear to our moral and social sense, is so deep-rooted in the Indian people that its mark does not seem to disappear on conversion to a different religion. If it disappears, it is only to reappear on reconversion.” (Deccan Herald 27/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. Various civil society organizations condemn threat on Thoudang editor (1)

IMPHAL, February 19: Various civil society organizations have strongly condemned the act of unknown gunmen who came looking for Naharolgi Thoudang editor Khoirom Loyalakpa at his residence. In a press release, the United NGOs Mission Manipur, North East Dialogue Forum, Social Welfare and Development Centre, Women Action for Development, Social Action Development Organization, Social Development Foundation, United Tribal Development Project, Peoples` Platform Secretariat, People Action Development H-37, Life Development Organization, Centre for Social Development and Village Women Coordinating Committee have strongly condemned the incident. `We are deeply shocked to hear the news of attacking the residence of Khoirom Loyalakpa, Editor, Naharolgi Thoudang, the Local daily newspaper on 17th February 2015 at around 10.30 am at Kontha Khabam Mayai Leikai by four armed persons while he was out of his residence,he statement said. `The four masked armed men asked for Loyalakpa in the presence of his 94 years old mother and 97 years old father. Every nook and corner of the residence was searched with an arrogant action by holding a gun in their hands, it further said. `94 years old mother of Loyalakpa was mentally shocked after the action of the four masked men, and she is still traumatized, it said. `We strongly condemned such act of serious human rights violation,it said. `We also condemned the attack on Noren Ningombam along with his cameramen Bipin Sharma, the bureau chief of “Impact TV” on 13th February 2015 at Moreh by the four personnel of 9th Assam Rifles while they were covering a mob gathered at Moreh police station to demand the release of a man arrested earlier,`it further said. The people in Manipur already experienced the assassination of Konsam Rishikanta of Imphal Free Press and others few years ago, it said. Attacking civilians, journalists, human rights defenders, women and children are fall under War Crime which has to be obliged by Indian State, it said. `We urge the Government of India and Manipur to investigate the cases mentioned above by establishing an independent committee and take up legal measures to the perpetrators and punish them under the rule of law,` the statement added. (Kangla Online 20/2/15)

52. Attempt to divide farmers: Activists (1)

New Delhi, Feb. 23: Ten civil society groups today got together to demand scrapping of the land acquisition ordinance and accused the government of trying to divide the protesting farmer bodies. The government recently spoke to two pro-farmer bodies, the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj yesterday and the Ekta Parishad today. Madhuresh Kumar, convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements – a conglomeration of left-of-centre organisations – said the government’s dialogue with select farmer bodies was an attempt to divide the movement. Among the other groups present at the joint news conference were the All India Union of Forest Working People, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Yuva Kranti and the Campaign for Survival and Dignity. Social activist Medha Patkar said these groups would not accept any compromise formula but would intensify their agitation for the scrapping of the ordinance. They are likely to meet President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow. “The government is engaging in false propaganda that the land ordinance is beneficial to farmers and is necessary for building rural infrastructure like drinking water supply, electricity, roads and houses for the poor,” Patkar said. She denied the Centre’s contention that the 2013 land acquisition act which the ordinance amends was too stringent, saying neither the Centre nor any state government had attempted acquiring land under its provisions. The UPA-steered law was prepared after consultations, she said, while the NDA government did not speak to any stakeholder except the state governments before promulgating the ordinance. Union home minister Rajnath Singh today met a delegation from the Ekta Parishad, which is organising a march of 5,000 landless people to Delhi from Palwal in Haryana. They are demanding, among other things, scrapping of the ordinance and a law granting the landless a right to homestead land. Singh promised to take the matter up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said the National Land Reforms Council, headed by the Prime Minister, would be reconstituted in keeping with the Parishad’s demands. The government had formed the council in 2008 to suggest ways of redistributing excess land among the landless, among other things. But the council hasn’t held a single meeting. (The Telegraph 24/2/15)

53. Amnesty International criticises Modi govt’s rights record (1)

London, In its Annual Report 2015, Amnesty has highlighted poll-related violence in May, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns. Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government, saying under the new regime India had witnessed a rise in communal violence and its Land Acquisition Ordinance has put thousands of Indians at “risk” of forcible eviction. In its Annual Report 2015, released here, Amnesty highlighted poll-related violence in the lead-up to the May 2014 General Elections, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns. “National elections in May saw a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party come to power with a landslide victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned on promises of good governance and development for all, made commitments to improve access to financial services and sanitation for people living in poverty. “However, the government took steps towards reducing requirements to consult with communities affected by corporate-led projects,” Amnesty said in its report. The report highlighted that “the authorities continued to violate people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression. There was a rise in communal violence in Uttar Pradesh and some other states and corruption, caste-based discrimination and caste violence remained pervasive.” In reference to communal violence, it noted that, “A string of communally charged incidents in Uttar Pradesh prior to elections led to an increase in tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities…Politicians were accused of and in some cases criminally charged with making provocative speeches.””…In December, Hindu groups were accused of forcibly converting several Muslims and Christians to Hinduism,” the report said. The rights body also went on to single out the Land Acquisition Ordinance for criticism as it described the move as a new “risk” to thousands of Indians. “In December, the government passed a temporary law which removed requirements related to seeking the consent of affected communities and assessing social impact when state authorities acquired land for certain projects,” it said. “Thousands of people remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and lands for large infrastructure projects. Particularly vulnerable were Adivasi communities living near new and expanding mines and dams,” it added. While the group recognised “progressive legal reform”, it was critical of India’s “overburdened and under-funded criminal justice system“.Amnesty pointed out two court orders as important “gains” for India in 2014, including a Bhopal court’s decision in November to demand that its criminal summons against the Dow Chemical Company be re-issued and a “landmark judgment” by the Supreme Court in April granting legal recognition to transgender people. (The Hindu 25/2/15)

54. Rights violation at smelting units alleged (1)

Palakkad: Jana Jagratha, a civil society organisation, has approached the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) seeking its immediate intervention to stop constant abuse of human rights by iron smelting factories at Kanjikode. The organisation urged the commission to intervene in the issue and put an end to the human rights violations at the earliest. “In a blast at Minar factory on January 16, 2015, a migrant labourer from Bihar was killed and another one was injured. The bereaved family has not yet been compensated. This is not an isolated incident. Almost all workers in the factories there have been denied proper wage, food, rest, and good working conditions,” said P.S. Panicker, secretary of the organisation. There are 30 iron and steel factories at Kanjikode and 750 permanent and 1,226 contract labourers are working in these factories. “The workers here have not been getting enough rest and they live in absolutely unhygienic conditions,” said Mr. Panicker.Commission member R. Natarajan had accepted the complaint and directed its chief investigation officer to conduct a probe. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Industry happy over likely amendments in Factories Act (19)

LUDHIANA: In what may be termed as a big development, finally the process to amend the Factories Act, 1948, by the Union government is likely to be completed soon. Amendments in the Act would be important for the industrial city of Ludhiana. Giving this information, Badish Jindal, chairman of Federation of Association of Small Industries of India (FASSI), and the member of the tripartite committee on labour, said last amendment in the Act was made after the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Speaking to TOI, Jindal said meeting of tripartite committee held under the chairmanship of Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatriya, all the ministries and prominent industrialists and workers, the ministry has drafted the amendments, which will be sent to the Parliament for amendments in Factories Act. As per the information, the most important amendment would be to end the Inspector Raj. End of the Inspector Raj would be a boon for the industrial community, as no inspector-level officer would be empowered to enter the factory premises as per his whims and fancy. “The inspection system would be made online and only if the senior authorities of the department would be convinced about any complaint, then the inspection would be carried out physically”, said Jindal. Apart from this, the draft amendments would be having the provision for setting up the Labour Courts within the factory premises for the speedy disposal of the cases. Another crucial things would be that children below 15 years can not be deployed in factories, violation of which would invoke harsh penalties. One important amendment likely to benefit the workers would be pertaining to the overtime hour limit. “Presently, the workers can do overtime for 50 hours in three months but now the committee has proposed to extend 50 hours to 125 hours in three months”, informed Jindal. The committee has also proposed that under adequate safeguards and safety provisions, the women workers can work during night shifts also. Any person with disability or pregnant women’s won’t be allowed to work in Pipe Chamber. The new Factories Act will have more penalty provisions on all the evasions by the employers. (Times of India 23/2/15)

56. Is govt’s will the hurdle for judicial reforms? (19)

NEW DELHI: Legal reform is one of the priorities of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, an intent it has reiterated through the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament on Monday. However, in the last nine months the government has not been able to achieve much progress on judicial reforms. The much debated National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which replaced the Supreme Court collegium through a constitutional amendment, has been kept in abeyance for the lack of government’s will to notify it. The unofficial reason, of course, is a pending litigation in the SC challenging the NJAC. But, sources said nothing prevents the government from notifying the NJAC and going ahead with framing of its rules and procedures. The government had through recent communications to the chief justices of high courts impressed upon the need to improve the criminal justice system by strictly implementing the amendments made in the Code of Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure Code. One of the issues raised was on repeated adjournments given by courts delaying the process of justice delivery and thus increasing the pendency list. A proposal was discussed to link adjournments with the judges appraisal system. However, all high courts have their own independent appraisal system and there has been no headway in bringing uniformity in judges’ appraisal system across the country. The key to expediting justice delivery is to have a full strength subordinate judiciary. Currently, there are more than 4,400 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 19,518. The high courts too have a similar problem. Against a sanctioned strength of 984 judges there are at least 348 vacancies. One of the proposals of the government was to frame an All India Judicial Service on the lines of civil services, particularly, after several HCs told the government that one of the main difficulties faced by them was finding suitable candidates who can satisfy the eligibility conditions and are able to clear the written examinations. However, despite repeated attempts the government has been unable to convince the higher judiciary on constituting such a service for the recruitment of judicial officers. (Times of India 24/2/15)

57. Delhi HC seeks govt reply on PIL against law protecting unauthorised constructions (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the Centre and city government’s responses on a PIL challenging an NCT law and its recent amendment by which unauthorised constructions up to June 1, 2014 have been protected from punitive action. Prior to the latest amendment to National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act, 2011, unauthorised constructions only up to February 8, 2007 were protected. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi government and sought their replies by May 4 on a PIL by NGO, Campaign for People Participation in Development Planning which has challenged the constitutional validity of the Act. The petition, filed though advocate Anil K Aggarwal, has said that by ordering a “complete embargo” on any punitive and coercive action against encroachment on public land and utilities and unauthorised and irregular construction of building, a “free hand” has been given to the violators of law to deface coordinated spatial planning of Delhi. It has sought quashing of the Act and amendment and declaring all effects of the legislation as “ab initio null and void”.It has raised the apprehension that if something is not done soon to bring the effect of these legislation to naught, then “the day is not far when instead of serving as a model of urban development for other parts of the country to follow, the chaotic Delhi will wither and collapse under the burden of ill-planned, haphazard growth”.It has alleged that by way of these legislation, the government have “belied the promises held out by it to all law-abiding citizens for the last more than 7 years that after notification of Master Plan – 2021, no haphazard/unplanned development, construction and use of buildings and encroachments over public land and utilities, beyond February 8, 2007 shall be tolerated or overlooked”. The petition has alleged the laws were enacted by the Centre to “cover up their failure” to prevent unplanned development as well as encroachments over public land and utilities. The PIL has said the Centre “enacted the legislation against all norms of disaster mitigation, knowing that all unplanned/illegal constructions and development, rapidly erected overnight, inherently structurally unsafe and entail immense risk to lives of the people occupying the same”.It has sought directions to the Centre and city government “to facilitate the municipalities to frame improvement scheme for the unplanned colonies with the active participation of the councillors, elected representatives of the people”.The petition has also asked for directions to the government “to constitute a metropolitan planning committee to assimilate and coordinate development plans and improvement schemes prepared by the respective municipalities”. (Zee News 25/2/15)

58. Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act (19)

New Delhi:  After marathon arguments, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its orders on pleas challenging the validity of provisions of the IT Act giving powers to arrest those who write offensive posts on social media. Petitioners – a law student Shreya Singal and other NGOs – had petitioned seeking quashing of Section 66 A of IT act. These petitions were filed after two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra were arrested after they made comments on the protests after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2012. The lawyers of the petitioners argued that the definition of provision Section 66 A – grossly menacing, offensive and materials which cause annoyance to public – is vague and it may lead to abuse of the provision. They also argued that even genuine comments criticising a person, caricatures are treated as an offence and people are harassed. When the petition was heard initially in 2014, the union home ministry issued directives to all state governments that arrests under Section 66 A can only be made with the approval of senior police officers. The Centre, justifying the provisions of IT Act, argued that abuse of law is not a ground for quashing it. During the hearing, the top court questioned the Centre, “How workable is it if you had millions of Facebook comments and thousands of complaints?” The Centre replied that whenever government receives a complaint, a request is made to the service provider to remove material content and the service provider removes the content or disables it. The Centre added that the government has made over 25,000 requests to service providers and there was 79 per cent compliance by the service providers. After hearing the arguments from all parties the top court reserved its judgment. (NDTV 27/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. HC seeks reply on CCTVs in police stations (1)

ALLAHABAD: Hearing a PIL seeking installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all police stations of Uttar Pradesh in order to check human rights violations, the Allahabad High Court has directed the state’s principal secretary (Home) to file reply (counter affidavit) within six weeks. Hearing a PIL filed by Vinay Kumar Pandey, a Maharajganj based advocate, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud and Justice Suneet Kumar directed to list this case after six weeks for next hearing. According to the petitioner, as per a report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), UP stands second after Maharastra in number of custodial deaths, custodial torture and rapes in police stations. In this backdrop, the petitioner suggested that if CCTV cameras were installed in each room and corridor of every police station across the state, increasing incidents of human rights violations could be checked to a great extent. In order to prove his contentions, the petitioner also submitted a report of Law Commission 2012, which had also suggested modernization of police stations in Uttar Pradesh, including installation of CCTV cameras in every police station in order to check human rights violations. The petitioner submitted certain documents which showed as to how installation of CCTV cameras in police stations helped in checking violation of human rights to a great extent in some foreign countries. The principal secretary (Home), director general of police and National Human Rights Commission have been arrayed as respondents in the PIL. (Times of India 22/2/15)

60. PUCL moves NHRC against ‘police torture’ of tribals (1)

KOLKATA: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Sunday appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide “immediate protection” to tribals of Sundergarh district in Odisha, alleging that they are being tortured by the police for opposing the State government’s move to bring tribal villages in the district under the Rourkela municipal corporation. The PUCL’s complaint said the residents of Jagda, Jhartarang, Suidihi and other villages in Sundergarh have been protesting ever since the government issued the notification in 2013 because the district is governed under Schedule V of the Constitution, framed to protect tribals in the Scheduled Areas of nine States. The notification would facilitate the “illegal inclusion” of their panchayats in the Rourkela municipal corporation to develop Rourkela. “The government’s intention… is to bring Rourkela under the ‘Smart City’ project, and thus the process to forcibly acquire additional land was initiated,” said Atindriyo Chakrabarty, a Kolkata lawyer who accompanied the PUCL’s fact-finding team to the area. Sharanya Nayak, a PUCL member in Odhisa, mailed the complaint to the NHRC on Sunday. Although district officials assured them of help and two MLAs supported the economic blockade the villagers had imposed, the police arrested 72 tribals from various places on January 20, the PUCL said. The residents alleged that the police entered villages on January 20 and beat them up, without sparing women and children, and warned of atrocities against the women. Although 12 women were freed on bail, four FIRs were registered, with charges of attempt to murder, against some villagers, who have gone into hiding, the PUCL has said. Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Juel Oram has urged Odisha Minister for Housing and Urban Development Pushpendra Singh Deo to “examine the matter afresh.” “They [the villagers] have further alleged that the areas which are far from Rourkela town have been included in the proposed municipal corporation, whereas areas within the Rourkela municipal limits have been excluded,” Mr. Oram said in his letter, naming more than six areas which are “neither included in the gram panchayat nor in municipal areas.” The rights of the tribals are also violated as the areas were supposed to be governed under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, said Mr. Oram, the lone BJP MP from the State, elected from Sundergarh. Denying any atrocity on the villagers, Superintendent of Police, Rourkela, Anirudh Kumar Singh told The Hindu on the phone that 300 persons were detained on January 20 because they had imposed an economic blockade. “We had to use force to remove the villagers who had squatted on roads, preventing the movement of buses. That’s the only force we used. All of them were released the next day [January 21]. About seven to eight cases were registered in November, 2014 when villagers blocked trains and the National Highway. Parts of Sundergarh are being included in Rourkela to urbanise the area,” Mr. Singh said. He blamed the “vested interests” of some people of the panchayats for the protest. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

61. New Act lets cops get away with murder (1)

MUMBAI: Citizens’ groups and human rights bodies fear the 2014 Maharashtra Police Act may give rise to a delinquent police force that can “get away with murder”.Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Police Reforms Watch jointly conducted a conference to push for a discussion on the subject in the upcoming assembly session. Human rights lawyer Vijay Hiremath said the Maharashtra Act makes no mention of section 197 of the CrPC, according to which no police officer can be tried without state/union government sanction. This was used to allow the policemen involved in the custodial killing of Khwaja Yunus and the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter killing to get away with murder, he adds. Pointing to the need to snap the link between politics and police, activist Gerson da Cunha says the new law makes matters worse. Dolphy D’Souza of Police Reforms Watch says the law, passed by the previous government, is among the worst in the country. Saurav Datta of CHRI said the social media lab of the Mumbai police has begun monitoring WhatsApp. “The manner in which this cell monitors WhatsApp flouts all norms,” says Datta. (Times of India 26/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

62. Media Need Respect, Dignity: Big B (1)

MUMBAI: Actors and the media are known to share a “love-hate” kind of relationship, but megastar Amitabh Bachchan took to his official blog to laud the dedication of mediapersons, saying they deserve “respect” and “dignity”. “I do feel, that the job assigned to a member of the media has an agenda too. They get briefed from their seniors, much like what we are subjected to by our writers and directors,” the 72-year-old posted on srbachchan.tumblr.com. “They have a job on hand. They are under instructions and they are carrying out their job. They need the respect and dignity of their presence,” he added. The actor, who has been tagged as “Bollywood’s Shahenshah”, also noted that instructing journalists to ask a particular set of questions is unfair. “Once agreed to meet the press or the media, then dictating to them what they can ask and not ask is really expecting too much. It also is freedom curbing. If you do not wish to make a statement or say something for public consumption, do not agree to meet the media. “But once agreed, be prepared for all kinds…they could be favourable to you, or uncomfortable. You may chose to at the moment to keep silent or not comment at all. But…to expect that it shall be within the precincts of what you desire, may not entirely be possible…at least that is what my experience says,” Big B shared. Meanwhile, the screen icon is gearing up for the release of his films “Piku” and “Wazir”. (New Indian Express 21/2/15)

63. TS bars journalists from entering CMO, retracts (1)

HYDERABAD: The government of Telangana barred the entry of journalists into the C-Block that houses the Chief Minister’s office and a part of the General Administration Department for a few hours on Monday, but relented later in the evening with the CMO officials stating that there were no such orders “as of now”. Two days after the TS government hinted at regulating the entry of journalists into Secretariat, on Monday around 2.30 p.m. a police constable Sidda Reddy, on security duties at C-Block, went into the office of the Chief Minister’s Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) V. Jwala Narasimha Rao located on the ground floor and informed journalists (print and electronic media) there that orders were received from the Information & Public Relations Department not to allow entry (of journalists) with immediate effect. The constable led the shocked journalists out of the C-Block even as some media personnel frantically called up Commissioner of I&PR R.V. Chandravadan immediately to know the reality. However, he replied in negative. It became evident that the government had started implementing its decision by first regulating entry into the Chief Minister’s office premises. Officials were not forthcoming when journalists grilled them about the motive to ease them out of the C-Block. The journalists took up the matter with Telangana State Press Academy Chairman Allam Narayana, who reached there due to his scheduled meeting in the CMO. “There are no orders (GO) issued so far barring the entry of journalists into the C-Block and the incident could be due to a communication gap,” he told the agitated journalists, who gathered near the media lounge. Not convinced by his clarification, the journalists argued with him as to how a police constable would send them out without getting instructions from the higher-ups. Mr. Narayana held discussions with the journalists for over an hour and gave an assurance that he would take up the matter with the Chief Minister. Later, the CPRO also stated that there was no ban on journalists’ entry “as of now”. Congress general secretary Konagala Mahesh, in a statement derided the government for curtailing the movement of media inside Secretariat. (The Hindu 24/2/15)

64. Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act (19)

New Delhi:  After marathon arguments, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its orders on pleas challenging the validity of provisions of the IT Act giving powers to arrest those who write offensive posts on social media. Petitioners – a law student Shreya Singal and other NGOs – had petitioned seeking quashing of Section 66 A of IT act. These petitions were filed after two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra were arrested after they made comments on the protests after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2012. The lawyers of the petitioners argued that the definition of provision Section 66 A – grossly menacing, offensive and materials which cause annoyance to public – is vague and it may lead to abuse of the provision. They also argued that even genuine comments criticising a person, caricatures are treated as an offence and people are harassed. When the petition was heard initially in 2014, the union home ministry issued directives to all state governments that arrests under Section 66 A can only be made with the approval of senior police officers. The Centre, justifying the provisions of IT Act, argued that abuse of law is not a ground for quashing it. During the hearing, the top court questioned the Centre, “How workable is it if you had millions of Facebook comments and thousands of complaints?” The Centre replied that whenever government receives a complaint, a request is made to the service provider to remove material content and the service provider removes the content or disables it. The Centre added that the government has made over 25,000 requests to service providers and there was 79 per cent compliance by the service providers. After hearing the arguments from all parties the top court reserved its judgment. (NDTV 27/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

65. Prohibitory orders imposed in Shimoga after communal clash (7)

Bangalore: Tension prevailed in Karnataka’s Shimoga town on Friday following communal clashes that broke out on Thursday evening after a rally by Popular Front of India (PFI). One person had died and two were injured in violence during the rally. Prohibitory orders were clamped in the town by the Shimoga district administration on Friday. The violence broke out after members of the PFI, a Muslim activist group, staged a rally in the city to mark the birth of a founder. Some of the participants were confronted by locals for allegedly throwing stones at vehicles during the rally, resulting in the outbreak of violence. According to the Shimoga police, three persons who were riding on a bike were attacked in  Gajnur, resulting in the death of one and serious injures to two. The deceased was identified as Vishwanath, 30, from the nearby Bhadravati town. News of the death and clashes led to more people from both communities coming out on the streets and attempting to set fire to some establishments in the town. The police brought in reinforcements in the night and brought the situation under control. Prohibitory orders were imposed in the town and schools and colleges remained closed on Friday. Commercial establishments and banks, however, opened for business. The PFI rally in Shimoga came close on the heels of a major rally in the town organised by right wing groups led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Police claimed to have arrested a few persons who were involved in the clashes. Additional Director General of Police (internal security) Amar Kumar Pandey and Inspector General of Police (eastern range) Nanjunda Swamy have been stationed at Shimoga to monitor the situation. The district in-charge minister Kimmane Rathnakar, meanwhile, announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the family of Vishwanath. (Indian Express 21/2/15)

66. 4 get 10 years in jail for plotting bomb attacks in Chennai (7)

CHENNAI: A special court in the city on Monday sentenced four members of a Muslim radical organisation to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for plotting bomb blasts at temples in Chennai in 2002. According to the prosecution, police were on an alert after receiving a tip that Muslim Defence Force (MDF) was planning explosions at important Hindu temples in the city to foment communal violence on December 6, 2002, the 10th anniversary of Babri masjid demolition. Special public prosecutor N Vijayaraj said during a vehicle check, a police team led by sub-inspector Mahindran apprehended two MDF operatives, Zakir Hussain alias Zakirah, 28, and Towfiq alias Yasir, 27, with 5kg of explosives, 40 gelatin sticks and detonators near Rajaratnam Nagar bridge in Kodungaiyur on November 29, 2002. Subsequently, a case was registered under Sections 5, 9 (B) and (1) (a) of the Explosives Substances Act and 120(b) (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. Based on information from the duo, police seized a large amount of explosives from Mallipattinam in Thanjavur district, and arrested two more people, Nizamuddin and Abdul Quadir. The case was later transferred to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department After investigation, police chargesheeted 23 people in the case. On completion of the trial, P Murugan, judge of the special court for bomb blast cases in Poonamallee, sentenced Zakir, Towfiq, Nizammudin and Abdul Quadir to 10 years of RI. The court also slapped each with a fine of 5,000. The court acquitted 17 accused as the prosecution was unable to prove charges against them. Two of the accused are absconding. MDF was founded in Saudi Arabia by Abu Hamsa, 35, of Hyderabad with the objective of extending Islamist fundamentalism to south India. MDF reportedly also had links with Lashkar-e-Toiba, responsible for the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. According to police Zakir had confessed that he had gone to Saudi Arabia and befriended Abu Hamsa in Riyadh. (Times of India 24/2/15)

67. Village tense after Adityanath’s outfit enters land row, ‘150 Muslim families leave homes’ (7)

Lucknow: Tension prevailed in Madhopur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district after 150 Muslim families reportedly left their homes Monday, fearing a backlash from BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) over a land dispute. Heavy police force including PAC personnel have been deployed in the village to prevent any disturbance. Kushinagar additional district magistrate Ram Kewal Tiwari admitted that there is tension in the village. “It is a property dispute. There was a minor clash and we deployed PAC. HYV is active in this region and they often hold meetings, but we handle the situation,” Tiwari claimed. He, however, denied that Muslims have left the village. HYV held a meeting at Madhopur on Monday to show solidarity with the village’s Hindus following a property dispute. The outfit has reportedly given call for a Hindu mahapanchayat on March 3 if its demand of handing over possession of a 1.5-acre disputed plot to a Hindu villager is not met. “We had gone there to show solidarity with our worker Digvijay Kishore Shahi who was assaulted by a Muslim when he resisted their move to grab his land. Since the Muslims have done wrong, they have fled. We are not responsible,” Sunil Singh, state president of HYV said. He added: “Digvijay owns that land. The district administration admitted it but refused to hand him the possession before Holi claiming that communal atmosphere will be vitiated. We cannot wait for that long. On March 3, we will hold a Hindu mahapanchayat”. Locals said the issue erupted following a land dispute between Digvijay Kishore Shahi and another villager Ameen. The 1.5 acre plot belonging to the gram panchayat is close to the village and both groups are staking claim to it. On February 13, a clash broke out between the two groups. Muslims claimed that nearly 1,000 HYV workers attacked them. The district administration deployed PAC and a case was registered on Shahi’s complaint. Two Muslim men were arrested. “We continued to stay in our village after the incident. But, HYV announced a big meeting on February 23. We sought help of local administration but no one came forward,” Aurangzeb (22) said.  Social worker Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui said: “Police told villagers told to leave the village before the HYV.” Aurangzeb said Muslims left the village on February 22 to avoid confrontations. He added that the HYV meeting was attended by nearly 1,500 workers, including state president Sunil Singh. Provocative speeches were delivered during the meeting. The Muslims are yet to return home, he claimed. (Indian Express 25/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

68. VHP to go against BJP’s diktat on ‘ghar wapsi’ (26)

HYDERABAD: Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asking the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to abandon the controversial Ghar Wapsi religious reconversion programme, the latter is planning to go ahead with it in the two states. The BJP’s debacle in the Delhi elections has poured cold water on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Hyderabad in March-end. The party has asked the VHP , which claimed to have welcomed back over 5,000 people from other faiths into the Hindu religion in the past two months, to put a brake on the Ghar Wapsi programme in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Ill at ease with the BJP’s stance, the VHP , however, has pledged to continue the reconversion drive from March 21, when it launches the Ramotsav campaign. The celebrations in the two states would come to an end on April 4 with Hanuman Jayanti. The BJP’s change in stance became evident with Modi’s statement earlier this week that his government was com mitted to protecting the freedom of faith. The change, according to sources, came after it received a drubbing in the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party in the national capital. “There are certain changes in the party’s approach. It was decided not to send Modi to address political rallies in the states since there is a tendency to link the party’s electoral performance in those states to his leadership. Also, we have requested the VHP to put Ghar Wapsi on hold in Telangana and AP at least for now,” said a BJP leader. The BJP’s move is seen as politically significant in the backdrop of the elections which are due for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). Telangana BJP president G Kishan Reddy said Modi’s Hyderabad visit is like ly only in August-September, which would be well past the municipal elections. Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said there would be no Ghar Wapsi unless people voluntarily come forward to be reconverted. “As such, there is no question of starting reconver question of starting sion or stopping it.If the people are willing, there will be reconversion.If there are none, then what is the point of organizing a Ghar Wapsi event,” he said. But the VHP is determined to take up Ghar Wapsi during Ramotsav, when it organizes Seetarama Kalyanam at the mandal level in both Telangana and AP . “Whatever Modi says may be suitable for his politics, it is not binding on the VHP ,” said G Satyam, VHP central joint secretary . “While the BJP is a political party, VHP is an independent organization whose cause is to protect Hindu tradition.” VHP’s defiant note comes at a time when the Sangh Parivar has decided to join hands with the Ekta Parivar, which has launched a nation-wide agitation in support of Anna Hazare’s campaign against the Modi government’s anti-farmer land policy, focusing mainly on the Land Acquisition Act. While Ekta Parivar launched a paday atra from Palwal in Haryana to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, RSS leader Govinda Acharya ex pressed the Sangh Parivar’s solidarity with it. In Telanga na and AP , the constituents of the Sangh Pari var, including RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, are set to take sts on February 24, part in protests on February 24, when Ekta Parivar has called for a nation-wide picketing.”The VHP supports any activity taken by anybody which is in the interest of the country and its people. As our objective is the wellbeing of the country, we will do whatever it takes,” Satyam said. (Times of India 21/2/15)

69. Conversion was Mother Teresa’s real aim, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says (26)

ALWAR: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Monday said that the prime motive behind Mother Teresa’s service to the destitute was converting them to Christianity at a function in a village in Bharatpur, adding that her selfish aim devalued the virtues of a noble cause. “It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity,” said Bhagwat. “In the name of service, religious conversions were made. This was followed by other institutes, too,” he said. Bhagwat was overseeing the functioning of an NGO, Apna Ghar, and inaugurated a ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ for helpless women and children. He applauded their work and maintained that it was dedicated to the service of the poor and helpless. At the function, former DGP of Border Security Force Prakash Singh, too, criticized Mother Teresa. “There are many other organizations that have done far more good work than her. But Christians with the help of media were able to publicize their work,” said Singh. He also mentioned that during his posting in the Northeast, he had witnessed forced conversion of tribal by Roman Catholics. Mother Teresa’s organization, ‘Missionaries of Charity’ works for the homeless and ailing across the country. The comments follow a series of attacks on Christian places of worship in Delhi and elsewhere. Mother Teresa, around the time she was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress, on July 01, 1971. (Earlier this month, priests, nuns and parishioners had clashed with the police in Delhi as they staged a protest against the attacks in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Last week, the home ministry had stepped in directing the police to bring the culprits to book. At a gathering to pay tributes to Indians beatified by the Vatican as saints in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke out on the issue, saying his government “will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly”. (Times of India 24/2/15)

70. VHP gives PM Modi time till May 2015 for temple (26)

Lucknow: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has given Prime Minister Narendra Modi time till May 2015 to resolve the Ram temple issue in Ayodhya, failing which the VHP will launch a mass agitation. VHP spokesman Sharad Sharma said on Wednesday that 70 acres of land was needed for temple construction but a large part of it is being dubbed as disputed by Muslims. “The Modi government has come to power on the agenda of development and initially we did not wish to disturb the government but saints and seers will now be meeting the Prime Minister in May 2015 to demand that a law be enacted in Parliament and clear hurdles in the path of temple construction,” he said. The VHP has already started warming up the temple movement and will be celebrating Ram Mahotsav next month across the country. Idols of Lord Ram will be installed in all villages and subsequently immersed after Ram Navami. The idea is to popularise Ram Mahotsav like Ganesh Utsav and Durga Puja. The VHP has also rejected the plan mooted by some saints and Hashim Ansari, one of the plaintiffs in the Babri case, for a joint shrine at the disputed site. The VHP spokesman said that “people who have no locus standi have been trying to show interest in the case and raise such issues”. Mr Ansari had recently said that a temple and a mosque could be constructed at the same site with a 100-foot-high wall separating the two. Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Sunni waqf board, said that the there is no point in arriving at a compromise formula without the VHP which is a part of the case in court. It may be recalled that the Allahabad high court, in 2010, had ordered to trifurcate the disputed 70 acres of land and give the makeshift temple area to Ram Lalla Virajman (a party in the case) while handing the platform and Sita Rasoi area to Nirmohi Akhara and one-third portion to the Sunni waqf board. (Asian Age 26/2/15)

71. Chhattisgarh: Government staff may join RSS; no service rules under violation (26)

Raipur: Kicking off a political storm, the Chhattisgarh government has issued a notification that allows government servants to join RSS and participate in its activities. The Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965 prohibit a government servant from taking part in politics. “No government servant shall be member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity,” states Rule 5(1). However, the state government, in a notification dated February 23, with the subject line “regarding participation of government servants in activities of RSS”, said that “as far as Rule 5(1) of Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965 is concerned, its restriction does not apply to RSS”. The notification was signed by Additional Secretary (General Administration Department) K R Mishra, and copies were marked to almost all major government officer-bearers in the state, including Principal Secretary to Governor; Chief Minister’s Office; Principal Secretary, Vidhan Sabha Secretariat; Registrar General, High Court; Public Service Commission; Human Rights Commission; Lok Ayog; Information Commission and all collectors and divisional commissioners. Opposing the notification, the Congress termed it as “politicisation of administration”. “It is an unconstitutional move with clear political colours. It will indoctrinate government servants. They will go to shakhas and will no longer remain impartial,” said former chief minister Ajit Jogi. “It is an attempt by the government to force officers to visit RSS shakhas. It will blur the dividing line between the government and a political party. The BJP’s top leadership is annoyed with Raman Singh. He wants to save his chair and please them. The present move confirms his desperation,” said PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel. “Officers will now openly speak and work in favour of RSS-BJP. It will damage democracy in Chhattisgarh,” he added. Welcoming the move, the RSS claimed that it was not a political organisation. “This rule was made by the British but still continues. This government has done a good thing. The RSS is not a political party, we are a social organisation,” said Deepak Vispute, RSS’s Chhattisgarh Sar Sanghchalak. Asked about the RSS’s involvement in campaigning for the BJP, he said: “We never asked people to vote for BJP. RSS ne wahi kaha jo Election Commission ne kaha — matdaan karo. We only asked people to vote for rashtra hit.” When pointed out that RSS leaders occupy top political posts, Vispute said: “Our swayamsevaks are in various fields. Some of them are in politics also, but we are a cultural organisation.” … (Indian Express 27/2/15)

TERRORISM

72. Indian aid worker held hostage in Afghanistan returns (12)

New Delhi: India has secured the release of Jesuit priest Father Alexis Premkumar Antonysamy, who spent eight months in captivity in Afghanistan. Announcing his release in a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Fr Alexis Premkumar from captivity in Afghanistan.” “Have spoken to Father Alexis Premkumar. Informed happy family of the Father of his safe return after 8 months in captivity,” Modi added. Father Premkumar, an Indian citizen, was kidnapped on June 2, 2014 from Herat province in western Afghanistan by terrorist elements.  After landing in Delhi, the relieved priest said, “I want to thank the Almighty. I thank him first. Also this is because of our PM Modi that I am here.” At the time of his abduction, Premkumar was working with the Jesuist Refugee Service, an international NGO, that carried out work in the educational field in the war ravaged Afghanistan. Soon after his abduction, the deputy police chief of Herat, Mohammad Nadir Fahimi stated six gunmen had abducted Premkumar and might have taken him to Gulran district. He stated that Afghan authorities were working with “district elders” to mediate his release.  Premkumar was the country director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Afghanistan. A native of Tamil Nadu, he has been working with the JRS for more than a decade. After serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu, he has been serving in the education programme in Afghanistan for the last three years. “The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels by the Prime Minister.  Arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon,” External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. (Deccan Herald 23/2/15)

73. IS kidnaps 56 Christians in Syria (12)

Damascus: The Islamic State (IS) militants Monday kidnapped 56 Syrian Christians of Assyrian minority in Al-Hasakah province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Assyrians were abducted from the town of Tal Shamiram in the countryside of the predominantly-Kurdish city of Hasaka, Xinhua reported. Tens of other Assyrians were also taken into captivity by the IS in the town of Tal Hurmos, adjacent to Tal Shamiram, according to the London-based watchdog group. The IS repeatedly attacked minority groups across Syria and most recently in Libya, where the terrorist group abducted and executed over 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians, branding them the “worshipers of the cross.” (Zee News 24/2/15)

74. Educated, rich militants worry forces (12)

Srinagar: The security forces combating the 25-year-old insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir are worried by highly educated youth, including those from affluent families, joining the ranks of militants. The state authorities seem to be equally perturbed about the trend and are already trying to find the reason behind it. The alarming issue again came to the fore on Wednesday when the authorities discovered that one of the two militants killed in a 24-hour gun battle with security forces in a remote village of southern Shopian district was not only a post-graduate in English and also held a B.Ed. degree, but had quit a government job a few months ago to become an active member of indigenous militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The clash took place just a day after the Army released a report wherein it said that post-2010, highly educated youth were joining militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, which was “a very disturbing” trend. Also, deputy inspector-general of police (South Kashmir) Ali Muhammad had acknowledged the fact and said it was a worrying trend. He told reporters in Anantnag Tuesday the police was making every possible effort to engage youth in sports and other extra-curricular activities and was also holding counselling sessions “to prevent them from falling into the trap”. Wednesday’s encounter took place in Heff village of Shopian and one of the militants killed was 24-year-old Ashiq Hussain Dar, a resident of Turkewangam village of the same district, who had joined the militants in August 2014 after working for three months as a government official. The other militant killed in the encounter has been identified as Shabir Ahmed Ganai, also a local resident. An Army major and three jawans were injured in the clash and were immediately evacuated to the 92 Army Base Hospital here, police and Army sources said. Police confirmed the slain duo were associated with the Hizb and said the firefight began on Tuesday afternoon after it received specific intelligence inputs about the presence of militants in the village, 52 km from here. As a joint team of the local police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group and the Army began a search operation, the hiding militants opened fire on them, triggering an encounter, it said. The operation was halted at night and resumed in the early hours of Wednesday, reports said. The Army said the joint operation to flush out militant dead or alive started at 3.40 pm on Tuesday. “The terrorists were holed up in a house in village Heff Shirmal near Shopian town. As soon as the troops closed in on the house, the terrorists opened heavy volume of fire from the house. This led to heavy exchange of fire and the operations lasted through the night of February 24 and 25 and the daytime of February 25,” it said in a statement. “The operation to flush out the terrorists from the house was conducted very deliberately to avoid any collateral damage,” the Army added. The Hizb on Wednesday threatened to exterminate all those “informers” of the Army who, it alleged, are helping security forces trace and kill militants in Kashmir. “There is an active network in Kashmir that is helping the Indian Army trace and kill the mujahideen. We have identified all the men working for this network and in coming days we will teach them a lesson,” Hizb operational spokesperson Baleeg-ud-din told local news agency CNS. (Asian Age 26/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

75. ‘Maoist’ arrests: Families of accused allege denial of rights (12)

KOCHI: The relatives of activists Thushar Nirmal Sarathy (36) and Jaison Cooper (37), booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for Maoist links, have accused police of highhandedness. Thushar’s wife Uma said she was barred from the district court premises on February 6, on orders from police officers, when the case was taken up. She was also not allowed to give some books to him, on the grounds that he could only read whatever was available at the prison library. “The search and arrest itself were carried out without a proper warrant,” said Uma, who works in an IT firm. “I had to seek legal aid to remain on the court premises and give books to Thushar. His brother Sooraj was still not allowed to meet him. We are denied our rights and police are terrorizing us. Sooraj was treated like an accused at the circle inspector’s office, where he went to meet Thushar.” Police had arrested Thushar and Cooper, an employee with the state insurance department, on January 30 following the ‘Maoist’ attack on NHAI project office here. Thushar was arrested from Kozhikode after he addressed a news conference, condemning the police hunt, while Cooper was taken into custody from his office here. The evidence cited against Thushar was that he possessed pro-Maoist literature and Sreekanth Prabhakaran, a student booked under the UAPA in December last, had called him over phone. Against Cooper, police had claimed possession of pro-Maoist literature and posting pro-Maoist messages on social networking sites. “The pamphlet that allegedly promotes Maoism was in fact a notice issued by the Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam, a human rights group for which they worked,” Uma said. Police had claimed that they were not involved in Maoist attacks but were active in ‘front organizations’ of the movement. Cooper’s friend Prasanth Sarangadharan said: “They harassed him even before his arrest. They didn’t bother to inform friends and relatives when they were arrested. Our social networking accounts and calls are constantly monitored.” . Uma said police had issued a lookout notice against the two last yearo, while they were taking part in a protest against two crusher units in Wadakkancherry, which was repealed later. Meanwhile, police denied allegations that the families were not informed of the arrests. “Both have received calls from a public telephone booth and that is suspected to have come from ‘Sakhavu’” said Baiju Poulose, CI, Hill Palace station. Sakhavu is the missing man behind the recent Maoist attacks. (Times of India 19/2/15)

76. Naxal Blast Injures Two Policemen in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Two police jawans were injured in a pressure bomb blast triggered by Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district today, police said. The blast occurred near Emargunda village when the security personnel were carrying out a combing operation in the Gangaloor police station limits, a senior police official told PTI. The security personnel accidentally came in contact with a pressure bomb planted by Maoists outside of the village. In the explosion, head constable Rajesh Sen and assistant constable Asharam Netam sustained injuries, he said. Reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured policemen are being brought to a local hospital for treatment, he said. A search operation was underway in the region, he added. Maoists had earlier given a day-long bandh call for today in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to protest against the alleged displacement of tribals due to development projects. (New Indian Express 20/2/15)

77. Naxal beats up foresters on charges of corruption (12)

GADCHIROLI: A forest guard and round officer were thrashed by senior Naxal cadres to protest alleged corruption by their department. Senior Naxal cadre Vikas took an aggressive stance against foresters at Yedaskuhi village in north Gadchiroli to convey their dissent against the department. Sources stated that the Naxals were trying to mount pressure on foresters and also on the local population for dominance during the forthcoming Tendu leaves picking season in the district which is a multi-crore seasonal industry. Naxals aim to collect substantial party funds from foresters, tendu contractors and transporters during this tendu season. The rebels also collect donations for the party from the tribal population who engages in picking tendu. A senior police official stated that Naxals targeting foresters is nothing unusual on various issues, ranging from corruption to exploitation of tribals. “Intelligence agencies have underlined the fact that a section of Naxals are trying to capitalize on the wrath of the tribal against foresters and are also trying to incite them to target the grassroots level personnel like forest guards and round officers,” said a senior officer. He added that Naxals are targeting foresters on local issues like bamboo cutting and transportation, auction of tendu, allotment of stretches for farming and trading of the local forest produce. According to a reliable source, Naxals manhandled the two foresters protesting corruption in allotting solar powered pump machines to tribals for farming. It’s also learnt that some goof-ups related to allotment of compartments led to destruction of substantial stacks of bamboo in Khobramenda. The tribal population was deprived of daily wages too as the work allotment had come under scanner leading to major public loss, it was learnt. The incident has left the senior Naxal cadre angry too. Police also stated that surrendered Naxal cadre Gopi, once a senior leader in the party, has also informed that top forest officials extended monetary favours to Naxals through their messengers. The revelation has also tarnished image of the rebels, leading to their wrath. Sources said that Naxals are also targeting foresters for being hand-in-glove with teakwood smugglers in south Gadchiroli. The rebels are learnt to be unhappy with foresters for allowing contractors to misuse sand and gravel from the forest and riverbeds for construction of roads and undertaking other activities. (Times of India 25/2/15)

78. Assam police arrest two Maoists, recover arms (12)

Jorabat: Assam Police have arrested two suspected Maoists and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunitions from Jorabat area of Guwahati Wednesday evening. According to reports, the police had launched an operation in the area based on intelligence inputs. The arrested, meanwhile, have been identified as Biswajit Sangma and Runa Sangma who were allegedly involved in an illegal arms consignment. “The nabbed duo had carried the arms-ammunition from Dimapur in Nagaland to Meghalaya and they were suspected to be involved with terrorist group in Meghalaya,” a top police official said. One AK-47 rifle with two magazines, 164 rounds of live ammunition of Insas rifle, six rounds AK-47 rifle ammunition and 380 rounds 9 mm pistol ammunition were recovered by the police. (Zee News 26/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

79. State to focus on rehabilitation to fight trafficking menace (1)

Ranchi: Alarmed over the increasing instances of trafficking, the State Government is planning to stress more on the rehabilitation of the rescued persons providing them better opportunities and living conditions at their native villages. According to Social Welfare, Women and Child Development Minister Lois Marandi, an effective rehabilitation programme for the rescued individuals was needed to check the menace. “Bringing them back home is not important. What is more important is rehabilitating them properly as most of the time, they are not accepted by their families,” said Marandi. “The State government, taking the issue seriously, was also planning some effective measures against the menace which is likely to be implemented soon after a thorough discussion with the CM,” Marandi added. According to the data available with the government, there has been a steep rise in the cases registered every year in the State. As many as 147 cases of human trafficking was registered in the year 2014 against 96 cases registered in 2013. Maximum of 42 cases were found to be registered in Gumla while Khunti remained on the second position with 23 cases. Ranchi was on the third rung with 16 cases of human trafficking in the year 2014. Senior officials of the state police also believed that the issue cannot be resolved by the police alone until the state itself comes in a bigger way and the concerned departments are clearly told their mandate that what exactly should be done by them. Officials of Crime Investigation Department (CID), stressed on multifold initiatives to be taken jointly by police, State government as well as other civil societies dealing with the issues. “Trafficking will continue in the State till some of the issues like push factors (poverty and unemployment) as well as the pull factors (greater opportunity and better life) are adequately gratified at their native places,” said ADG (CID) SN Pradhan. “I think the State should have to come in a bigger way into this as no respite could be achieved by outsourcing the responsibilities to others,” said Pradhan. Referring to the efforts made by the police department, Pradhan added that a hotline has been set up with the Delhi Police providing a list to them which was being monitored by them. A feedback is also being provided to us from time to time so that a close vigil could be kept on them. The department has also been working very closely with some of the NGOs, he added. The ADG, however, asserted that the issue needs a better ownership by the State. “Thirdly, a data is being created at the resource centre so that one stop monitoring could be done centrally. Once the data base is created, we will soon hand over the list to the concerned police station to find them out,” added the ADG. Pradhan, however, said that the menace of trafficking still continues as the rehabilitation part of the rescued individuals is not being done properly in the State. “Stress must be given on the rehabilitation part of the rescued persons so that they are not forced to get into the trap of the traffickers again due to the lack of ground facilities at their native places,” added the ADG. Pradhan further added that a chain system has developed where an important role is being played by the relatives. “The problem has now entered to a vicious circle where an important role is played by the relatives of the individuals who are being trafficked,” Pradhan said. “It is not the agents who are doing it, but the relatives who have now become agents of agents, and have become a part of the supply chain for the agencies involved in trafficking,” he added.  (Pioneer 22/2/15)

80. Mobile app to help girls fight traffickers (1)

Kolkata: A mobile app is giving a new ray of hope to girls in villages of some West Bengal districts, where incidents of child marriage and girl trafficking have been alarming in the past few decades. “GPower” was launched as a joint venture of Accenture and NGO CINI (Child in Need Institute) last year following a survey on the condition of educational programs among girls in South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad districts. It has helped in saving over 200 girls spread around 20 villages from either being trafficked or being a victim of child marriage, its makers claim. “At the fag end of 2013, we decided to conduct a survey on condition of educational programs among girls in South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad. At that time we came to know about the vulnerability of the adolescent and teenage girls aged between 10-19,” CINI’s Assistant Director Indrani Bhattacharya said. “The education of the girls were stopped either midway or they were trafficked. Some of them were traced back. But we felt the need for such a software which could help us in preventing trafficking, child marriage and keep a regular track of these girl child,” she told PTI. “Then in March 2014 the mobile app was launched. It is a multi-pronged approach to save the girl child,” she said. “The project is a huge success. It is limited to 20 villages due to lack of funds. We have a target of reaching out to 7000 girls from 100 villages of South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad in next 3 years,” she said. When asked how does this app works in providing real time data and prevents trafficking, Bhattacharya said there are two-three stages. Firstly, community facilitators or teachers in the villages are trained and provided with tablets/android phones which have GPower mobile app installed in it. We have now community. Their job is to register each and every detail of adolescent girls aged between 10-19 in those villages. Using cloud-based technology, GPower ensures quick transmission of data to centralised servers, which allows real-time data analysis. “Its analytic-based functions then process the data to provide instant insights. These insights create a continuous information flow that not only allows tracking of individual cases of vulnerability, but also reveals trends and allows forecast of results,” she says, adding action is taken depending on which of the three zones of safety a girl falls. (Deccan Herald 23/2/15)

81. Ghaziabad police to represent India at UN seminar on trafficking (1)

GHAZIABAD: The Ghaziabad police authority will represent India at the United Nations seminar on human trafficking in Africa next month, an official said on Sunday. Senior Superintendent of Police Dharmendra Singh will attend a seminar to represent India in Djibouti (a country in African continent), to be convened from 16th to 18th March, DSP Ranvijay Singh said. He said that the seminar will be organised at United Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC), the only entity of UN focusing on criminal justice and combating human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The SSP will share his experiences with police chiefs of various nations, he said. The district police authority came into the limelight with the rescue of more than 600 missing children from different parts of the country as part of ‘Operation Smile’The Home Ministry had asked all the State governments to replicate ‘Operation Smile’ in their respective areas.— PTI (The Hindu 23/2/15)

82. Trafficked tribal girls forced to conceive, deliver babies for sale (1)

Lohardaga/Gumla: From the time she was 13, Phulmani (name changed) was forced to act as a surrogate mother and deliver six children by human traffickers from Jharkhand, widely considered a hotbed of modern day slavery. Phulmani, now 31, was made to breastfeed the children – all born in consecutive years in Delhi – for about six months before giving them to the agents who sold them off. The resident of Patru village in Gumla district was rescued by rights activists and returned to Jharkhand last year. Her experiences have left her emotionally and physically scarred.  “They treated me like a money minting machine. My will never mattered to them, all they wanted was me to deliver babies for them,” she said, avoiding eye contact. Phulmani was lured to Delhi by an agent from her village with the promise of a job in the national capital. She worked as a domestic help in a posh locality in her first year in Delhi before the inhuman treatment began.  She has no idea who bought her babies or what became of them. But now she is seeking justice and has filed a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Gumla. Rights groups have complained for long that well organised rings have been trafficking girls and young women from Jharkhand. According to civil society groups, about 10,000 children are trafficked from Jharkhand every year to either work as domestic help or sex workers, but trafficking for forced surrogacy has never been heard of before.  The CWC in Gumla came across another case of trafficking for surrogacy from Lotwadugdugi village in Palkot block. The girl was trafficked to Delhi when she was just eight years old. Now 29, she returned to Jharkhand last year and alleged that she was forced to deliver at least 10 babies, said Alakh Singh, a member of the CWC. “It is not a regular pattern, but we have come across a few such cases in the past. It is a major concern if such practices are happening in the state,” said additional director general of police (CID) SN Pradhan. Like Phulmani, some more girls from Gumla and Lohardaga districts of Jharkhand were trafficked for conceiving children, local residents claimed. Some girls were even forced to conceive babies for sale in Jharkhand, they alleged. Jagatram Mahato, an elderly man from Arahasa village in Lohardaga, said teenagers from his village had been lured to Delhi and some northern states for forced surrogacy.  Some of them even gave birth to children in the village. Later, the agents came and took the babies,” he said. While a few girls were paid a negligible amount for being surrogate mothers, a majority did not get even a penny, he said. However, police said they could not act unless FIRs were filed about such cases. A majority of the girls did not bother to complain to the police, probably due to fear, villagers said. The NGO Shakti Vahini says it has rescued more than 100 girls from Jharkhand in Delhi. Bachapan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the NGO run by Noble Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, says it rescued almost 80,000 children across India, of whom 15% to 20% were from Jharkhand and Bihar. (Hindustan Times 25/2/15)

83. Submit report on placement agencies, NHRC tells police (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance of reports that the surging demand for domestic helps is fuelling a business thriving on human trafficking due to unregulated placement agencies here. Hundreds of agencies are allegedly involved in the business of selling domestic workers. The root cause of exploitation of tribal people, mostly women and children, and those hailing from rural areas is that there is no hold on the placement agencies. According to the reports, the placement agencies have allegedly emerged as the hubs and transit points for human trafficking. The Commission has observed that the contents of the reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of women and children. It has issued notice to the Delhi Police Commissioner, asking him to respond within two weeks with a report on placement agencies. It has directed that his report will include the number of placement agencies, registered or unregistered, functioning here as well as the information on steps taken to keep a check on them. (The Hindu 27/2/15)

CORRUPTION

84. Spare judiciary from corrupt practices: Supreme Court (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday sent out a loud warning to the high and mighty, including politicians, not to try to change the course of judicial proceedings with corrupt practices and said any such attempt would be dealt with an iron hand. “Please keep corrupt practices away from judiciary. At least this institution should be spared,” a bench of Justices T S Thakur and Rohinton F Nariman said while hearing a petition by mining baron Gali Janardhan Reddy, who is accused of paying a bribe of Rs 10 crore to a trial judge for getting bail. Reddy approached the court seeking that two cases filed against him — one for illegal mining and another for bribery — be heard together as the facts and evidence of the cases arose from the same offence. Expressing concern over attempts to bribe judges, the bench said, “People are having so much money that they are now bribing judges. When money comes in abundance, then people don’t know what to do with the money. They try to subvert the entire system and judicial process. Anyone who plays with the court system must be dealt with heavily. This virus has to be eliminated.” It added that people who adopted corrupt practices like bribing a judicial officer were actually attempting to hijack the system. The bench asked the counsel appearing for Reddy how much money was allegedly paid to the judge. The lawyer tried to skirt the question but the bench insisted on knowing the amount. “Don’t feel embarrassed to tell the amount,” the bench said. The counsel said the allegation against his client was that he paid Rs 10 crore. Reddy submitted that the two cases against him were related and should be tried together. He said his defence would be exposed if the cases were not clubbed together. “What defence can a person have for bribing a judge,” the bench asked. The CBI has alleged that trial judge T Pattabhirama Rao granted bail to Reddy after the mining baron agreed to pay Rs 10 crore. The judge was later suspended by the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the CBI filed an FIR against him, his son and five others including Reddy. (Times of India 20/2/15)

85. CBI, CVC give view on Lokpal amendments to Parliamentary panel (5)

New Delhi: CBI and CVC have given their views on the provisions of the Lokpal amendment bill to a parliamentary panel examining it. “We have got the views from Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). These are under consideration of the committee,” E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, who is heading a parliamentary committee examining the Lokpal Bill, said. He said the committee had earlier invited memoranda containing views or suggestions from the individuals and organisations through public advertisement on the proposed changes in the anti-corruption legislation and they are being looked into. “We are taking up the matter of the bill one by one. We cannot given any timeframe (as to when the panel will be giving its report). But it is a priority for us,” Natchiappan told PTI.

A 31-member Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by Natchiappan, is examining the Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014. The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 8 last year. The committee has been mandated to examine the bill and submit its report by March 25. He said the Department of Personnel and Training, nodal authority of the central government for anti-corruption matters, is also providing its input on the proposed changes in the Lokpal Act. The amendments seeks to provide for the alternative of leader of single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha in the event there is no Leader of Opposition in the House, for being represented on the selection panel for appointments of chairperson and members of Lokpal. It aims to provide for qualifications for appointment of Director of Prosecution in the CBI for the sake of its functional independence. The bill also seeks to lay down the tenure of the eminent jurist nominated as member of the Lokpal and to provide for a scheme wherein the filing of information by the public servants is brought in harmony with the provisions of the respective acts, rules or regulations as applicable to different categories of public servants. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Lokpal selection committee, led by the Prime Minister, has as its members the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member. Ahead of the announcement of the general election last year, the UPA government had appointed an eight-member search committee in February in a hurry with Justice (retd) K T Thomas as its chairperson. The other members were Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), F S Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), M L Kumawat (former BSF chief), H K Dua and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha MPs) and S Y Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner). But later both Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel. (DNA 22/2/15)

86. MP governor booked in MPPEB scam (5)

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh governor Ram Naresh Yadav was on Tuesday booked for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board scam along with 101 others, including former MP technical education minister Laxmikant Sharma and mining baron Sudhir Sharma. Eighty-six-year-old Yadav, charged with misuse of office because he wrote letters recommending selection of candidates in his official letter-head, is perhaps the first governor to be booked in a cheating case. He has also been charged with forgery and corruption. Yadav, the Janata Party chief minister of UP in 1977-79, later joined the Congress, and was sworn in as MP governor by then President Pratibha Patil in 2011. Legal experts said although the STF has booked the governor, it would require presidential sanction to chargesheet him. The governor had allegedly sent a list of three candidates to MPPEB racketeers Pankaj Trivedi, former exam controller, asking him to ensure that they passed the examination of forest guard recruitment in 2013, police sources said. The FIR follows a hearing in the matter in the Madhya Pradesh high court on February 20 in which a division bench said, “The STF is free to proceed against the high dignitary.” The MPPEB scam is a massive admission and recruitment scandal involving politicians and top government officials. The governor’s role came under the scanner after the arrest of his officer on special duty, Dhanraj Yadav. His son, Shailesh Yadav’s name too cropped up during investigations when an accused alleged he took money for recruitment of contractual teachers. Two of the three candidates recommended by Yadav were identified as Satish and Mahesh, both of Azamgarh, UP. Others booked were those who’d appeared for the test, and asked to fill answers that they knew and leave the rest of the sheet blank. The blanks were later filled by MPPEB officials including principal system analyst Nitin Mohindra, the key accused, who was arrested in 2013. This is the 54th FIR in MPPEB scam, which involves several politicians, senior officials and businessmen. The opposition Congress, the party to which Yadav belongs, has been calling for Yadav’s resignation and a CBI probe into the irregularities. It had also boycotted the governor’s address on the opening day of the assembly’s budget session on February 18. (Times of India 25/2/15)

87. Modi govt has no intention to bring black money: Ram Jethmalani (5)

NEW DELHI: Noted advocate and former BJP leader Ram Jethmalani met anti corruption crusader Anna Hazare today to discuss the issue of black money, which the saffron party had promised to bring back once it came to power. Lashing out at the government, Jethmalani said that the government was not serious about bringing back black money stashed abroad. “My motive to meet Anna Hazare was that it seems from the government’s statement that they have no intention to bring black money. And since I have been a leader in this movement, it is my duty to discuss this with him,” Jethmalani said after his meeting with Hazare at the new Maharashtra Sadan. “You ask him (Hazare) about this. It would be breach of confidence for me to tell you what he replied. What is our strategy is not to share with enemies,” Jethmalani added. When he was asked about the issue of black money, the senior advocate said, “Government is not serious to bring it back.”  Earlier in the day, Hazare lashed out at the Centre for trying to mislead people over the issue of black money. “He (Narendra Modi) claimed that black money will be brought back to the country and every bank account will receive Rs 15 lakh, but people haven’t even received Rs 15 since last nine months,” Hazare said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

88. Environmental loss in Sundarbans worth Rs 1,290 cr: World Bank (9)

New Delhi: Environmental damage in the climate change-hit islands of Sundarbans is costing India Rs 1,290 crore each year, estimates a latest World Bank report. The cost of environmental damage associated with ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss is about Rs 6.7 billion (Rs 670 crore) annually, while the cost of health effects due to poor environment is estimated at Rs 6.2 billion (Rs 620 crore), it says. The total figure of Rs 1,290 crore is about ten per cent of Sundarbans’ GDP in 2009. Released here recently, the report ‘Building Resilience for Sustainable Development of the Sundarbans’ is prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the West Bengal government. “The losses stem from a combination of factors associated with unsustainable and inefficient economic activities – for example, mangrove destruction, impact of cyclones, reduced agricultural yields and unsustainable fisheries – as well as destruction of ecosystem services,” the report says. Sundarbans is an archipelago of 54 islands and is home to about 44 lakh people. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is hit hard by an increase in floods, storms, salinity and erosion caused by rising sea-levels and global warming. Damage costs from cyclones were found to be the highest in the research at Rs 2.9 billion and include damages to houses, agriculture, human injuries and fatalities. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects an increase in sea level and intensification of present climatic variability. (Business Standard 22/2/15)

89. Another 450 Climate Reality Leaders to be trained on climate change (9)

NEW DELHI: High-profile leaders in renewable energy are joining Nobel laureate and former US vice-president Al Gore here to train another 450 Climate Reality Leaders on the science of climate change and solutions for the climate crisis while developing skills to effectively communicate about both the challenges and opportunities, the Climate Reality Project announced on Monday. The February 22-24 event marks the 27th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training, and will focus on India’s renewable energy potential, as well as the key role the country plays in the lead up to the highly anticipated COP 21 climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year. World-class experts will speak on a variety of topics relevant to India and climate change, including its effects on the country, opportunities for renewable solutions, and how grassroots engagement can benefit people across India. The speakers include Ken Berlin, president & CEO, Climate Reality Project; Sanjit Bunker Roy, founder, Barefoot College; Ajay Mathur, director general, Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Angela Rutter, director of strategic engagement, Australian Conservation Foundation. “There are many reasons to be optimistic about our ability to solve the climate crisis,” said Gore, chairman and founder of the Climate Reality Project. “The Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in New Delhi, which will bring together committed activists and citizens from all over India and from several others nations, gives me yet another reason to be hopeful. After completing this training, these leaders will be empowered with the best tools possible to communicate this message of hope to their own communities,” he added. Kamal Meattle, trustee, the Climate Reality Project, India spoke about the implications of climate change for India and apprised the climate leaders about the current situation in the country. “India is an important country when it comes to climate action, as it is already experiencing negative effects of climate change, including extreme rainfall, flooding and significant changes to agricultural patterns without the infrastructure to easily adapt. While the country has a low per-capita historical responsibility for emissions, India also has the opportunity to pursue an inclusive and sustainable development pathway, to secure a healthy, safe and prosperous future for its citizens and the world,” a Climate Reality Project statement said. Thus far, the Climate Reality Project has trained over 7,000 Climate Reality Leaders from more than 100 countries, including recent trainings held in Istanbul, Chicago, Johannesburg, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro. (Times of India 23/2/15)

90. High air pollution cuts most Indian lives by 3 years (9)

India’s high air pollution, ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) among the worst in the world, is adversely impacting the lifespans of its citizens, reducing most Indian lives by over three years, a new study has said. Over half of India’s population — 660 million people — live in areas where fine particulate matter pollution is above India’s standards for what is considered safe, said the study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard and Yale published in Economic & Political Weekly. If India reverses this trend to meet its air standards, those 660 million people would gain about 3.2 years onto their lives, the study said. Put another way, compliance with Indian air quality standards would save 2.1 billion life years, it said. “India’s focus is necessarily on growth. However, for too long, the conventional definition of growth has ignored the health consequences of air pollution,” said Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). “This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely. Other studies have also shown that air pollution reduces productivity at work, increases the incidence of sick days, and raises health care expenses that could be devoted to other goods.” The new figures come after the WHO estimates showed 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India. “The loss of more than two billion life years is a substantial price to pay for air pollution,” said Rohini Pande, also an author and director of Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School. “It is in India’s power to change this in cost effective ways that allow hundreds of millions of its citizens to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Reforms of the current form of regulation would allow for health improvements that lead to increased growth,” Pande said. The authors — who also include Nicholas Ryan of Yale, Janhavi Nilekani and Anish Sugathan of Harvard, and Anant Sudarshan, director of EPIC’s India office — offer three policy solutions that would help to cost-effectively decrease India’s pollution. One initial step would be to increase its monitoring efforts and take advantage of new technology that allows for real-time monitoring, the authors said. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

91. Minimum support price cannot be 50% more than cost of produce, Centre to SC (20)

NEW DELHI: Farmers’ plight has worsened due to the non-remunerative nature of agriculture but the Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it would not be able to enhance the minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural produce to be 50% more than the input cost. A PIL filed by Consortium of Indian Farmers Association had complained that agriculture had become non-remunerative and was driving farmers to borrow heavily from local money-lenders. Unable to repay loans, farmers were committing suicide, it said. Suggesting a quantum jump in the MSP to help them overcome their pitiable financial condition, the association had demanded implementation of the National Policy for Farmers. Appearing before a bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and N V Ramana, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh submitted the Centre’s affidavit, which said MSP for 22 agricultural commodities and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane were recommended by the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). MSP and FRP were fixed keeping in mind the cost of production, demand and supply, price trends in domestic and international markets, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors and the likely impact of MSP on consumers, the affidavit said. “It may be noted that pricing policy, that is fixing of MSP, is not a ‘cost plus’ exercise, though cost is an important determinant of MSP. The pricing policy seeks to achieve the objective of fair and remunerative prices and is not an income policy,” the agriculture ministry said. “Hence, prescribing an increase of at least 50% on cost may distort the market. A mechanical linkage between MSP and cost of production may be counter-productive in some cases. No comparison can be made about increase or decrease of price of one commodity as compared to other commodities as the same depends on demand and supply and market forces,” the affidavit said. It said India accounted for only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area and 4% of its water resources but had to support 17% of the world’s population and 15% of the world’s livestock. “The government has taken all possible steps for implementation of National Policy for Farmers, 2007 for development and growth of agriculture and allied sectors as well as for the betterment of farmers,” it said. (Times of India 21/2/15)

92. Farmers’ unions to protest outside parliament against land ordinance (20)

New Delhi: Several farmer unions from across the country will launch an indefinite agitation against the government’s land ordinance outside Parliament House Tuesday, which will see participation of social activists Anna Hazare and Medha Patkar. The protest will be held with the slogan of ‘Bhoo Adhigrahan Nahi, Bhoo Adhikar chahiye (We want Land Rights, not Land Acquisition)’ and will coincide with the second day of the Budget Session, Patkar said at a press conference here. Patkar Monday also joined Hazare on the first day of his two-day dharna at Jantar Mantar here. Hazare said several farmer unions are also joining him Tuesday at Jantar Mantar on the second day of his dharna, from where his movement would spread to rest of the country. “We reject the ordinance which is unacceptable to farmers, farm labourers and all traders, fishermen and others, associated with the occupation and hence it was felt necessary to bring together the agitations going on in different parts of the country,” Patkar said. Saying that the government was likely to introduce a bill to make the ordinance a law during the Budget Session, the Narmada Bachchao Aandolan activist said, “They might also initiate the process of bringing changes in the Bill, hence on the very first day of the Budget Session, we will make it known that it is unacceptable to us.” Outrightly rejecting the “government’s bid” to initiate talks with farmers’ unions on the issue, she said any such attempt would be to “sabotage the movement”. Calling for support from various parties against the ordinance, leaders from left-wing farmer unions said that they had issued an “open letter” to all such outfits on the issue. “We want to appeal to all political parties not to get trapped in the sinister designs of the BJP government,” said CPI leader and All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Atul Anjan. Clarifying that the agitation was not an attempt to distance itself from Anna’s dharna, National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) member Ranjit Rafiq said, “He had agreed to support our agitation but when he was coming here, his supporters in Delhi said they too wanted to join him.” Besides, CPI’s All India Kisan Sabha and NAPM, farmer unions like Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Kisan Manch, and Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan, among others, would also join the agitation. In a separate press conference, All India Agricultural Workers Union of CPI(M) also expressed its support to the agitation and demanded a “10 per cent allocation” in the Budget for agriculture. (Indian Express 23/2/15)

93. Ban on jallikattu: 3,000 farmers to observe fast in Chennai (20)

CHENNAI: Around 3,000 farmers from all over Tamil Nadu would observe a daylong fast at Valluvar Kottam in Chennai on Thursday to garner support for resumption of jallikattu (taming of bulls), which has been banned by the Supreme Court. The fast has been organized by Gowher Aziz, animal activist and member of the National Cattle Commission. Gowher told TOI that 3,000 farmers and animal activists would participate in the fast to save jallikattu bulls and Tamil tradition. “Ever since the ban on jalllikattu came into force, many pedigree bulls reared by farmers in the state have been sold to dubious organizations which claim to be saviours of cattle but are engaged in extracting semen from them to export,” she said. She alleged that the bulls were being mistreated by such organizations. Gowher said at a time when indigenous bull species were facing extinction, sports like jallikattu would encourage farmers to breed them. The Centre proposes to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to lift the ban on the use of bulls in jallikattu. A notification issued by the central government on July 11, 2011 banned their use as performing animals either for jallikattu or events of bullock cart races in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country. Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to denotify bulls from the list of performing animals to help conduct the event during Pongal in January last. (Times of India 25/2/15)

94. Land Bill: BJP forms 8-member panel to talk to farmers (20)

New Delhi: Parliament sessionBJP chief Amit Shah formed an eight-member committee on Tuesday to seek suggestions from India’s farmers on the controversial Land Acquisition Bill which was earlier presented in the Lok Sabha amid a huge uproar. Former Union minister Satyapal Malik is the convener of the committee, which will hold discussions with farmers and other organisations on land acquisition. The other members are MPs Bhupender Yadav, Ram Narayan Dudi, Hukam Dev Narayan, Rakesh Singh, Sanjay Dhotre and Suresh Angadi, along with chartered accountant Gopal Agarwal. Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh introduced the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 which seeks to replace the ordinance promulgated by the NDA government on December 30, 2014. The government had promulgated the ordinance making significant changes in the Land Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, Public Private Partnership projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.  An outraged opposition led by the Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha raising slogans against the amendment to the 2013 law passed by the then Manmohan Singh government. “This is not right that despite opposition it (NDA government) introduced the bill. It did not send the bill either to the standing committee or select committees. This attitude of the government of bulldozing bills is not right,” Congress Leader of the House Mallikarjun Kharge said. Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said his party opposed the bill. “This is the most anti-farmer and anti-poor legislation possible. In one stroke, it (government) has added a part in which four-five different kind of projects… It has taken away the social impact assessment clause.” Biju Janata Dal MP B Mehtab said that his party was opposed to two changes in the original act – doing away with the consent clause and the scaling down of social impact assessment. Responding to the opposition charges, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said: “Minority cannot dictate over the majority. We are not bulldozing.” “It (opposition) does not want to discuss. In June 2013, 32 state governments made a representation that the act makes development impossible,” he said, adding, “If anybody has any objection, then they have to discuss. We are with the farmers.” Social activist Anna Hazare is also holding a two-day protest against the Modi government’s decision to amend the 2013 land law. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also expected to join his former mentor’s demonstration at Jantar Mantar in the national capital. Meanwhile, amid stiff opposition to government’s move to amend the land Act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday made it clear that there was no going back. The BJP was, at the same time, preparing for discussions with NDA partners to make the legislation more “effective” and “farmer-friendly”.At the meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Party, Modi said the bill will benefit farmers and that the amendments brought by his government were based on suggestions and demands made by Congress-ruled states and their chief ministers. He asked his party MPs to “bust the myths” propagated by opposition parties on it, sources said. To make the land ordinance bill more effective in favour of farmers, the BJP and NDA leaders will meet on Tuesday evening to discuss and work out means to further improve it. (India Today 25/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

95. Land acquisition ordinance: Anna Hazare vows to fight Modi govt’s ‘anti-farmer’ bill (4)

NEW DELHI: Veteran social activist Anna Hazare on Monday launched his protest at Jantar Mantar against the ordinance on Land Acquisition Bill. Terming the Narendra Modi-led government’s Land Acquisition Bill as “ant-farmer” Anna Hazare vowed to fight it. The move is bound to spell trouble for the present government which is keen on pushing the ordinance. “BJP went for an ordinance on land acquisition which is not in favour of democracy,” Anna said. In response to a query on whether AAP leader Kumar Vishwas was joining his agitation, Anna Hazare said, “If people from parties come on our stage then people would think that it’s a party protest.” The social activist also today hinted at a bigger agitation at the Ramlila ground if the Narendra Modi government did not heed to his demands on the issue. Hazare said the two-day protest will be followed by a three to four month long ‘padyatra’ across the country to make people aware of the “anti-farmer” provisions made by the Centre in the ordinance. “If the government doesn’t take the ordinance back, then the people will also continue with their agitation. The activists will make aware the farmers (of the amendments). There is a chance that farmers from across the country will gather at the Ramlila Maidan in the next three-four months,” he said. 77-year-old Hazare has been highly critical of the Modi government for making certain changes in the Land Acquisition Act through an ordinance. On December 29 last year, the government had recommended promulgation of an ordinance making significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. A group of farmers who began marching from Haryana’s Palwal on Friday are joining Hazare at the venue on Monday to demand withdrawal of amendments to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. (Times of India 23/2/15)

96. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (4)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

97. Land acquisition ordinance: Opposition tears into Narendra Modi govt (4)

New Delhi: Facing flak from a united Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Narendra Modi government today expressed its intent to hold discussion with all parties to find a way out on the new land bill to replace the contentious ordinance on the issue. As members from Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and JD-U targetted the government over provisions of the land ordinance calling it “anti-farmer” and aimed at “benefitting corporates”, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley assured them that he would convey the suggestion to the concerned minister to “hold discussions with parties” on the issue. The House resumed its normal business at noon after the Finance Minister’s assurance following a heated discussion which went on for an hour. Jaitley’s remarks came in response to the comments of Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, who said the government should talk to all parties and find a way out so that farmers’ interests are protected while development activities are carried out. Yadav said that while it is true that at times acquiring land becomes difficult but a way should have been found out through discussions. “You should have taken the Opposition into confidence,” he said. “I do not want a deadlock in Parliament. You talk to all parties and find a way out,” he said. K C Tyagi from JD-U also supported Yadav’s demand for a discussion on the issue at an all-party meet. Jaitley later said that Yadav has made some suggestions in the right spirit. “Responding in the same spirit, I will convey his suggestions to the minister concerned to have discussion with parties.” Deputy Leader of Congress Anand Sharma said that since Government has acknowledged the need to consult all parties, “he (Jaitley) should go a step further” and say that “till consultations are completed, the ordinance will remain suspended”. To this, Jaitley was seen waving his hand indicating a negative response. Soon after obituary references and listed papers laid on the table in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma (Cong) said Congress and three other parties have given a notice under rule 267 for suspension of the business as the government has bypassed Parliament to amend a law that was passed in 2013 through consensus of all parties including BJP. Responding to this, Jaitley said 639 ordinances had been promulgated since Independence, of which 80 per cent under Congress rule. Jaitley said as many as 70 ordinances were promulgated under first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and 18 the under United Front and listed the ordinances promulgated multiple times during the previous UPA regime.

“No law can be passed by by-passing Parliament,” he said adding a bill to convert the ordinance into an act was in the Lok Sabha and would be brought to this House after it is passed by the Lower House. “So the new logic that is being constructed that Parliament is being bypassed is not justified,” he said. Later, Jaitley said the government has, through the ordinance, provisioned for four times compensation to farmers for land acquisition even in the 13 sectors which were kept out of the earlier land law passed during the UPA rule. Defending the ordinance provisions of exempting social impact surveys for acquisition for five purposes including rural infrastructure, housing for the poor and industrial corridor, Jaitley they will benefit the rural areas and asked the leaders opposing the Ordinance to read the law again. However, members were unrelenting in their criticism of the Ordinance and Jaitley’s plea to them to raise objections when the bill was brought in the House fell on deaf ears. Former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that Jaitley has “misled” the House by saying compensation has been increased four times for farmers whose lands were acquired under 13 laws. He said the government has done no favour by doing so as the land law passed in 2013 itself had a separate schedule in which it was clearly written that within one year, changes in compensation will be brought under those 13 laws. Sharma also countered Jaitley’s arguments on ordinances saying that ordinances under Nehru were spread over his 17 years in power and under extra-ordinary circumstances as the country had then just been partitioned. The ordinances under UPA had to be re-promulgated multiple time as the opposition had not allowed the House to function, he said. Sharma, a former Commerce Minister, also noted that nobody in the House was against the industry. Derek ‘O’ Brien of Trinamool Congress also accused Jaitley of giving “selective information” alleging the government has brought more ordinances than bills during its nine-month tenure. Recalling that his party Trinamool Congress had opposed the land law passed by the UPA in 2013, he said that after this Ordinance “they are looking like angels”. Sharad Yadav (JDU) said through the ordinance, the government was “bulldozing and trampling” on Parliamentary scrutiny because they have absolute majority. D Raja (CPI) said the ordinance was intended “to help the corporate and big business Houses.” Mayawati (BSP) said the ordinance was not in the interest of the farmers and favoured only few industralists and corporate houses. (Financial Express 25/2/15)

98. Government digs in heels on land ordinance  (4)

NEW DELHI: A day after Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari sought to make out a case for the government’s land ordinance at a press briefing, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made a spirited defence of the land reforms that have been denounced as “anti-farmer” and “pro-corporate” by a united Opposition and civil society groups. Sources said Mr. Modi is absolutely clear that he will not allow major changes to what he sees as one of his key reforms. On Wednesday, in discussions with Cabinet colleagues on how to tackle the dissent, Mr. Modi indicated that an all-party meeting would serve little purpose. Mr. Jaitley made a frontal attack on the Congress, under whose watch the Land Acquisition Act — that this government is seeking to amend — was enacted in 2013. (The Hindu 27/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

99. Why kids in rural India die of diarrhoea, pneumonia (3)

The reason why a large number of children under the age of five years die of diarrhoea and pneumonia, generally in rural India and especially in Bihar, has become abundantly clear. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the biggest killer diseases in children aged under five years in India. With 55 per 1,000 live births, Bihar has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. But 340 health-care providers who were studied in rural Bihar rarely practised what little they knew about treating children suffering from these two diseases. The results of a study were published a couple of days ago in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. “Vignette” interviews were conducted to assess how they would diagnose and treat children with these diseases. Later, the actual treatment offered by the health-care providers was assessed by sending “patients” pretending to suffer from the same symptoms as in the interviews. If the providers’ exhibited “low levels” of knowledge about the two diseases during the interviews, it was even worse during practice. Cheap, life-saving, widely available oral rehydartion salts (ORS) with zinc supplementation is the correct treatment for diarrhoea (2013 WHO recommendation). During the vignette interviews, a paltry 3.5 per cent of providers offered the correct treatment for diarrhoea. Another 69 per cent offered ORS, but it was in addition to other unnecessary treatments. Some even prescribed antibiotics. Shockingly, no health care provider prescribed the correct treatment for the “patients” with diarrhoea — only ORS. It was a few shades better in the case of pneumonia where the figure stood at 13 per cent. Again, if nearly 21 per cent of practitioners prescribed potentially harmful treatment (including antibiotics) without ORS during the interviews, an alarming 72 per cent offered dangerous cocktails that included antibiotics during practice. In the case of pneumonia, while 12 per cent prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia during interviews, the figure went up marginally to 15 per cent during practice. Severe pneumonia requires treatment with appropriate antibiotics. “Our ongoing studies aim to understand why providers who know they shouldn’t be prescribing antibiotics for conditions like simple diarrhoea continue to do so,” Dr. Manoj Mohanan from Duke University, North Carolina and the lead author said in a release. Besides wrong treatment, the researchers found that the health-care providers asked very few pertinent questions that would enable correct diagnosis and understanding of the severity of the diseases during practice than they did during interviews. Even the most basic diagnostic question of frequency of stools was asked only by 46 per cent during interviews and 30 per cent during practice. Similarly, in the case of pneumonia, only 27 per cent of the providers asked about rapid breathing and 25 per cent about signs of respiratory distress during practice. Most distressing was that during practice, 76 per cent of practitioners offered treatment despite not seeing the “sick” child with diarrhoea. It was 79 per cent in the case of pneumonia. Eighty per cent of the providers in the study did not have a medical degree from any system of medicine — allopathy, ayurveda, homeopathy or unani medicine. While those with formal medical training did have large gaps between what they knew and what they practised, they were “significantly less likely” to prescribe harmful drugs, the study found. (The Hindu 20/2/15)

100. Gujarat: Swine flu toll reaches close to 200 (3)

Swine flu has claimed 11 more lives in Gujarat, taking the total death toll in the state to 197 since January this year. In Surat and Vadodara, three deaths were reported; while two deaths each were reported from Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar. One person also reportedly died in Sabarkantha district. In view of the swine flu rush, the central government last week had placed an order to increase the national stock of diagnostic kits to test for the virus. Authorities are also procuring additional masks and doses of the anti-viral drug Oseltamivir. Swine flu is caused by H1N1 virus. Symptoms for swine flu include high fever, headache, muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and internal and external bleeding. (DNA 22/2/15)

101. 46 lakh people to be screened for diabetes (3)

BHUBANESWAR: Amid growing concern over increasing incidence of diabetes, the state government has decided to screen around 46 lakh people in 10 districts this year. These are Cuttack, Puri, Ganjam, Khurda, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Mayurbhanj, Kalahandi, Sundargarh and Angul. Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said people above 30 years will be screened in 10 districts. Besides, all pregnant women, tuberculosis patients and HIV positive individuals irrespective of age will also be examined for diabetes, as chances of the disease among them is higher, he said. Odisha doesn’t have any comprehensive data on the prevalence of diabetic population. Nayak said the screening would be part of the central-sponsored National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) in these districts. “Those identified with diabetes will be treated for free,” he said. During a pilot project in five districts of Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Balangir, Nuapada and Koraput, the government screened 29 lakh people above 30 years age group in 2013-14. About 6% to 7% of them were found to be diabetic. According to a 1990 study in coastal Odisha, prevalence of was 0.8%. At the current 7%, it has gone up by 700 times in 20 years. Health workers and paramedical staff would be trained in using glucometers and glucostrips for screening at the sub-centres of district headquarter hospitals, the minister said. Diabetes has been emerging as a major public health problem. “Going by prevalence in the five surveyed districts, we apprehend over 3 lakh diabetes cases would be detected during the upcoming screening programme in the 10 districts,” said state nodal officer, NPCDCS P K B Patnaik. The main reason for increasing incidence of diabetes in rural areas of the state may be attributed to the transition of people from being very poor to relatively well off with assured meals, said noted diabetologist Alok Kanungo. “When an underfed belly starts getting daily meals, s/he has chances of diabetes,” Kanungo said, adding for urban areas the causes are sedentary lifestyle. Director, Regional Medical Research Centre Santanu Kar said only a statewide survey would reveal the exact disease burden though it appears it has being emerging as a big cause of mortality and morbidity. (Times of India 26/2/15)

102. Soaring Maternal Mortality Rate Leaves Officials Red-faced (3)

VISAKHAPATNAM:The district registered as many as 127 maternal deaths per every 1,000 deliveries this financial year, while the state recorded 92 deaths, said panchayat raj minister Chintakayala Ayyannapatrudu. Addressing the district convergence meeting here Wednesday, the minister expressed his anguish over officials failing to control maternal mortality rate (MMR). He called upon the women, Panchayat Raj secretaries and officials of child welfare and medical and health departments to initiate concrete measures to bring the MMR to zero per cent. He directed the officials to make periodical visits to anganwadi centres and ANMs in all villages, and told the Panchayat Raj secretaries to bring down the MMR in the district. He also ordered the officials to convene a meeting every month with all the line departments at village-level, municipal ward-level and district-level to review the steps initiated in this regard. A district-level meeting should be convened on the fourth Monday of every month at 4 pm during which the officials concerned must submit the ground-level reports on the number of pregnant women visiting hospitals and the support extended to them by the field staff. He also announced that Rs 1 lakh would be given to each panchayat as an incentive if the village achieves zero MMR. Collector N Yuvaraj, ZP chairperson, MLAs, DMHO Sarojani, PD ICDS Chinmayadevi and DRDA project director V Satya Sai Srinivas were present. (New Indian Express 26/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

103. HIV awareness campaigns to be stepped up (3)

NAGAPATTINAM: The need for awareness is essential for tackling new HIV positive cases particularly in rural areas although the district has been listed under “Category C” districts of the State for comparatively minimal HIV positive cases and HIV prevalence, said Collector S. Palanisamy. The District Aids Prevention and Control Unit convened an awareness meeting for panchayat presidents to tackle HIV infections in rural areas on Thursday. Mr. Palanisamy said unborn baby could be treated adequately to prevent the infection of HIV from the mother thanks to modern therapy and medical invention available for HIV positive pregnant women. As many as 1,158 HIV positive cases had been reported in the district. Since the panchayat presidents had better rapport with rural residents, an awareness meeting was held by DAPCU to educate them on AIDS prevention and brief them about welfare schemes, rehabilitation measures available for HIV positive people, Deputy Collector S. Divyadharshini, Deputy Director for Health N. Kalusivalingam and Assistant Director for Panchayats Vishnubaran attended the meeting. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

104. Vaccine important in fight against AIDS (3)

Despite the progress in anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS, it was important to have a safe vaccine which can prevent the disease, health experts said here Friday. “There has been incredible progress towards a safe vaccine in the last eight months,” Wayne Koff, vice president of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), said at a conference here. Benny Kottiri, Health Science Administrator and senior researcher at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said the development of a vaccine was very important for containing the disease. According to V.M. Katoch, secretary department of health research, efforts to make a vaccine have to be intensified. “India has contained it. We can further contain the virus, but HIV will always be there.” “Vaccines will always be needed for select groups,” he added. He cautioned that the research to develop a vaccine has not had many new leads. “We have to revisit all the studies”.India has third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world with 2.1 million Indians accounting for about four out of 10 people infected with the deadly virus in the Asiaa Pacific region, according to a UN report. (The Economic Times 22/2/15)

105. HIV awareness campaign from March 2 to 8 (3)

Mandya: Expressing concern over the rising number of HIV cases in Mandya, the district administration has decided to launch HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns across the district. M.N. Ajay Nagabhushan, Deputy Commissioner of Mandya, told presspersons here on Wednesday evening that the district administration would launch a massive awareness campaign from March 2. Health and Family Welfare Minister U.T. Khader will inaugurate it. As many as 400 teams will be formed to spread awareness. Accredited Social Health Activists, Auxillary Nurse Midwifes, government employees, workers of Anti-Retroviral Therapy centres and Integrated Testing and Counselling Centres and volunteers will take part. The first phase of the campaign will be held in Mandya and Maddur from March 2 to 8. During the door-to-door campaign, volunteers will educate at least 1.38 lakh people, two from each family, in Mandya and Maddur taluks. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

 

Posted by admin at 27 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Unique tool to track atrocities against Dalits (2)

NEW DELHI: To monitor atrocities perpetrated against Dalits and Adivasis and to ensure speedy justice, a unique web-based tool — Atrocity Tracking and Monitoring (ATM) System — has been launched. The initiative falls under the aegis of the National Coalition for Strengthening SC/ST PoA Act (NCSPOA) by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ). A two-day training workshop will also be organised in the city next month to promote the use of ATM System among the stakeholders concerned. “The ATM System has been built with an objective to provide a tool in the hands of Dalits and Adivasis to report atrocities and avail of timely justice. We hope it will be useful for Dalit human rights activists and organisations, to create and maintain a repository of cases, track records, and facilitate information exchange for timely action,” said V.A. Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, NDMJ. “At present, more than 100 atrocity cases have been reported from different parts of the country. The users of the States concerned have sent e-mail and SMS notifications to the officials in their region regarding the cases of atrocities against Dalits,” he added. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (2001-12), the extent of atrocities committed against SCs & STs is enormous. Nearly 3,70,234 crimes have been committed against SCs & STs, 15,917 women have reportedly been raped, 7,900 murdered, 49,514 brutally attacked and severely injured, and 1,59,692 other forms of atrocities have been committed. Under the ATM System, anyone with Internet access can go to the website where a helpline number 9898915455 is given. As soon as a person sends a message on this number, the website automatically identifies its circle and sends a message. After the validation is done, the message goes to the authority concerned to facilitate necessary action against the case. The NDMJ, is a democratic non-party movement of Dalit survivors, defenders, academics, organisations headed by Dalits  to initiate advocacy and involve in mass action to address the issues of caste-based discrimination and violence (primarily untouchability and atrocities) to ensure dignity, equality and justice. (The Hindu 12/2/15)

2. 3 held for attacking Dalit who tried to fend off their dogs (2)

MEERUT: Three men were arrested from Khanjapur Kushaavli village of Meerut district after a Dalit man complained that he was attacked and insulted by them as he tried to fend off their pet dogs. The man complained that he had long endured the onslaught of pet dogs that belonged to a Rajput family, but on February 6, as two dogs set upon him, he warded them off with a stick. Gopal, the Dalit, said the dogs’ owners unleashed verbal abuse laced with caste-related insults. They also attacked him with knives and sticks. Gopal said he had taken the matter to police soon afterwards, but police were slow to react. “I was on the way to my shop when I was attacked by the dogs belonging to a Rajput family. Their dogs have always been a problem for my kids, who have often been attacked by the animals while passing by,” Gopal said. Dhanu Singh, Kaalicharan and Sanju, members of a Rajput family, had allegedly once told Gopal’s kids that the “dogs were better than them”. “On February 6, as the dogs grew aggressive, I tried to shoo them away with a stick. That was when Dhanu, Kaalicharan and Sanju came out of their house with knives and sticks. Angry that I had tried to hit the animals, the three of them thrashed me. I was cut in the face by a knife one of them used,” Gopal said. “Because I am a Dalit doesn’t mean they can call me what they like,” Gopal said, adding that he filed a complaint at the Sardhana police station that very day. Station officer Meher Singh of Sardhana police station said the three accused were arrested on Wednesday, and investigations were underway. Early Wednesday, Gopal had approached the office of the SSP seeking action in the matter. (Times of India 13/2/15)

3. All Dalits now Mahadalits, question is who’s their leader (2)

Patna: By expanding the Mahadalit bracket to include Dharis and Dhadis, sub-castes of Dusadh or Paswan, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has effectively staked his claim to being the leader of Bihar’s Dalits, a role so far associated with Ram Vilas Paswan. So far, Paswans were the only one of 22 Scheduled Castes kept out of the bracket. Mahadalit status entails benefits of over a dozen welfare schemes, including free land to the landless. And so far, Ram Vilas’s stand has been that Paswans, being the most “forward looking of Scheduled Castes”, did not need the Mahadalit tag. The LJP chief cannot, however, openly criticise the new move. He was the first prominent NDA leader to come out in support of Manjhi in his showdown with Nitish Kumar. “Manjhi is a fellow Dalit,” Paswan has said, describing him as a better CM than Nitish, but has steered clear of reacting to the cabinet decision. “In long-term politics, Ram Vilas Paswan and Manjhi are going to share same the Dalit space,” says a senior leader of Paswan’s LJP. “With Manjhi moving close to the BJP, there is bound to be competition between the two leaders.” “If Manjhi joins the BJP, the conflict would be less intense,” says a BJP leader, “but Ram Vilas Paswan can still lose some of his bargaining power with the BJP. If Manjhi floats a party, the BJP will have to deal with two allies with a similar profile. It will be a problem of plenty.” CM Manjhi said after the cabinet meeting: “The government saw no point in leaving Paswans out of the Mahadalit umbrella. In fact, we have proposed to appoint Paswans as chowkidars across the state.” The Nitish Kumar camp has already lodged a protest with Raj Bhavan, questioning how the cabinet of “a government of 13 MLAs” can decide ahead of a floor test. “It is not about what decisions have been taken by the cabinet but whether Manjhi can take such a decision when his government is in a minority,” says JD(U) leader Bijay Kumar Choudhary. As chief minister, Nitish had introduced the Mahadalit umbrella in 2007 after the Bihar State Mahadalit Commission recommended inclusion of 18 SCs in the category. Subsequently, three more SC groups were included, leaving out only the Paswans or Dusadhs. Following the inclusion of Paswans, there remains no distinction between Dalits and Mahadalits. Ravidas, Mushahar and Paswan are among the most dominant groups among the Scheduled Castes, accounting for 18 per cent of the population. And a caste conglomerate created with meticulous social engineering by Nitish Kumar now has three claimants to their leadership —  Nitish, Manjhi and Paswan. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

4. Dalit man’s nose cut off for breaking bread with upper castes (2)

Lucknow: Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). This virtually god-forsaken area in southern UP bordering Madhya Pradesh is one of the remotest and most backward regions of the state, and is infamous for continuing social evils like untouchability, dowry and female infanticide. The latest episode has been reported from Surpati village in Madhogarh area of Jalaun district where Amar Singh, a labourer, was dealt the horrific punishment by his masters belonging to the upper caste. The incident is even more alarming as the village is a Dalit-dominated one. The Surpati gram panchayat of three villages accounts for as many as 2,500 Dalits out of the total population of about 5,000. Dalits in this region are barred from even touching the utensils used by upper castes. They are also not allowed to draw water from the same well. Amar Singh had gone with his master’s family in the ‘barat’ (wedding procession) for a wedding to another village and had committed the “crime” of having food along with his feudal masters there. “Some people on the bride’s side raised the issue with them which created quite a scene at the wedding as the other guests threatened to leave without having food on discovering that a Dalit was also breaking bread with them,” Daddu Prasad, ex-minister and a prominent Dalit BSP leader told dna. Once they returned to their village, they decided “justice needed to be done”, he said. Their justification was simple, though rather gruesome. “Tumne hamaari naak katwa di. Ab hum tumhaari naak kaatenge. (since you caused us such humiliation, you shall get equivalent punishment),” they are reported to have told Amar Singh before pinning him down and cutting off his nose with a domestic knife. Family members rushed to his rescue and took the profusely bleeding Amar Singh to Jhansi for treatment. On being informed, Jhansi DIG AK Singh got a case registered against the named accused. He told reporters that they would soon be arrested. However, till late evening no arrest had been made as, sources said, the feudal landlords responsible for the ghastly act were “politically well connected”.Bundelkhand has witnessed such horrific incidents earlier, too. But, since it is a remote area, most of these incidents don’t even get reported in the mainstream media. “I know of places (in Bundelkhand) where Dalits go to other villages incognito to get a shave or buy things for daily needs as they can’t dare to do this in their own village,” says Vivek Singh, former Congress MLA from Banda. (DNA 17/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Govt Okays IFAD Loan for Primitive Tribal Groups (6)

BHUBANESWAR:The Odisha Government has agreed to a Rs 312-crore loan from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the Rs 800-crore Odisha PVTG Empowerment and Livelihood Improvement Programme (OPELIP). While conveying its consent to the Department of Economic Affairs, the Government has stipulated that the project must contain separate micro projects for each primitive tribal group. The project is aimed at changing the socio-economic condition of 62,356 households in 12 districts of the State. These households comprise 32,090 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) who would directly benefit from the programmes. Thirteen PVTGs are targeted to be covered under the eight-year project. The OPELIP will address issues of socio-economic backwardness through community empowerment, natural resource management, livelihood enhancement, community infrastructure and drudgery reduction. Over the project period, it is expected to trigger a 300 per cent increase in food production per household and net income by several times. Since most of the habitations of these primitive groups are characterised by poor housing, virtually no access to potable water and electricity, absence of sanitation and road connectivity, the project will support construction of over 300 drinking water projects, 542 school toilets, 4,000 housing units, 500 km of road connectivity and 50 km of electrification apart from other rural infrastructure. It will also focus on homestead production and forest-based livelihood by encouraging kitchen gardens, backyard poultry, goat rearing and other income generating activities. “A database for all 13 PVTGs to assess their exact population will be drawn up as part of the project. Besides, an approach paper for each group will be formulated so that their identity, sensitivity and uniqueness of culture can be acknowledged along with actual response to development,” the ST and SC Development Department said in the letter. Under the OPELIP, a community nutrition assessment will be conducted and all its activities will be investigated through a nutrition lens to ensure that crops and activities promoted result in household nutrition security. The project will also involve sustainable development and improvement of natural resources covering 20,000 hectare of land. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

6. Tribal people allege harassment (6)

ERODE: Members of a tribal community residing in Sholagar Colony on Bargur hills have petitioned the district administration, seeking its intervention for extricating them from ‘bonded labour’. According to Madhammal, a representative of the 20 affected families, adults were compelled to work for a wage of Rs. 50 per a day at a 150-acre-farm owned by two persons hailing from Karnataka. The affected families charged the two persons with encroaching on the farm provided by the district administration to the tribal people. The mutt management had confiscated a buffalo belonging to one of the affected families. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

7. Med Camp Need of the Hour to Identify HIV-infected Tribals (6)

PALAKKAD: The demand to conduct a medical camp in Attappadi Adivasi hamlets to identify people with AIDS has been slowly gaining momentum as tribal patients have started enrolling at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital for treatment. The tribal promoters who work with the Adivasis here told Express that there are many in Attappadi living with AIDS, but stress and fear are the major deterrents that prevent them from accessing medical care. The tribal promoters of Attappadi allege that the officials of Kottathara Tribal Hospital are reluctant to reveal the exact number of AIDS patients in Attappadi owing to pressure and HIV could be the reason behind the deaths of many here. “The statistics available with the hospital show that the number of AIDS patients in Attappadi is alarmingly high. “However, the report has not been published by the Department probably to avoid attracting yet another controversy in addition to the potential Maoist threat and infant deaths in Attappadi,” said one of the tribal promoters on condition of anonymity. However, the CDPO of Attappadi, Mayalakshmi said that she was told as many as 10 people were undergoing treatment for AIDS at Kottathara Tribal Hospital. “I am not sure whether the figure is correct or not. No camp has been conducted yet to identify people with AIDS, but it is on the cards and we will conduct a medical camp soon. “Even if we conduct a camp, we are apprehensive if tribals will cooperate due to the fear factor. As far as I know, no one has taken an initiative to identify Adivasi people with AIDS. In the Adivasi settlements of other districts, the officials concerned maintain proper data in this regard, but in Attappadi nothing concrete is available. “The Social Welfare Department cannot do anything now as we are at present occupied in implementing measures to prevent malnutrition deaths in Attappadi,” said Mayalakshmi. The manager of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) Seema Bhaskar opined that it is high time a medical camp is conducted in Attappadi. “The existing system has not been beneficial to tribals in any way and tribals do not feel the need of availing the facilities and medical expertise available at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital. This attitude must change. Only then the tribals will come forward to get their blood sampled and receive treatment if diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS. The National Rural Livelihood Missionwill start conducting an awareness camp from February 27 onwards with the support of the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM). The camp aims at making them aware of a healthy sexual life, the myths associated with treatment, AIDS and child health,” adds Seema. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

8. Manipur tribals ignore verification exercise (6)

IMPHAL: The verification of the nationality of migrant workers staying in Manipur is continuing in Thoubal district. Such exercises by activists had already been done in other valley districts. However, people in tribal dominated districts are not interested since they enjoy a constitutional protection against possession of land by non-tribals. The government is not intervening as it fears that it would provoke the activists to launch various forms of agitations. Over 36 organisations in Manipur had joined hands to demand the reintroduction of the Inner Line Permit which was lifted from Manipur in 1950. The migrant workers are required to furnish details including their photographs to the activists. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

WOMEN

9. Women under represented in higher education in India: Report (8)

New Delhi: Women continue to be under-represented in India’s higher education leadership despite nine-fold increase in the government expenditure on the sector between 2007 and 2012, according to a British Council report. While women constitute 44 per cent of the 27.5 million students in country’s higher educational institutions, they constitute just 1.4 per cent of the professoriate and 3 per cent of vice-chancellors in the universities, it noted. In most Indian universities, the representation of women academics is less than 40 per cent, added the report, titled ‘Women in Higher Education Leadership in South Asia: Rejection, Refusal, Reluctance, Revisioning’. “While in all categories of academic positions women are under-represented, this increases for higher positions. Thus, only 25.5 per cent of professors, 31.1 per cent of readers and associate professors, and 38.5 per cent of lecturers or assistant professors are women,” it noted, analysing a 2013 report of the government. The report, prepared by the British Council in collaboration with the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) of the University of Sussex, was released here at a two-day deliberation on the representation of women in higher education in South Asia. The event, organised by the British Council, concluded on Wednesday. An analysis of the government data also indicated that women with disability represent only 1.9 per cent of the overall total number of academics in India. “Muslim women are also under-represented in Indian higher education, both in relation to male academics and overall. Of the Muslim academics, only 33.5 per cent are women, which is only 14.9 per cent of the total number of academics in India,” underlined the report. The report found that women in higher education in South Asia, including India, were not prepared for leadership. There was also evidence that when they did aspire for leadership, they were frequently rejected for the most senior positions. Referring to interactions with women faculty, the report highlighted how the country’s universities’ selection procedures were “exclusionary and discriminated” against women. “First and foremost, most selection committees have only men. Very few have women. Most that I’ve gone through, have all men on the committee, for any position,” the report quoted a senior woman faculty. The British Council suggested that educational institutions should adopt changes in work practices. (Deccan Herald 11/2/15)

10. Men willing to stand up to parents against dowry, finds online survey (8)

MUMBAI: The results of an online opinion poll indicate that the youth seem to have taken matters into their own hands to end the social evil of dowry. A recent survey by a matrimonial website has shown that 44% of prospective brides would report their in-laws to the police if they sought dowry. Another indicator of a paradigm shift is that not just women, even men are willing to stand up to their parents against this practice. The online poll received 5,800 responses from single Indians aged between 25 and 36 years of which 3,318 were men and 2,482 women. The aim of the online survey was to determine what the modern generation thinks of dowry. An overwhelming 72.1% of male respondents said they would stand up against their parents if they demanded dowry, while 14.3% said they were unsure. While 87.3% of the female respondents said they would refuse to give dowry, 10.6% replied “may be”.When prospective grooms were asked what they would do if their own parents demanded dowry, 63.8% respondents said they would raise their voice strongly against it. Another 31.3% said they would try to convince their parents to not demand dowry and a smaller, but significant, 4.9% said they would report the crime to the police. Of the polled single women, 53.3% said that they would refuse the proposal if their parents agreed to give dowry, 44.2% said they would file a police complaint, but 2.5% expressed willingness to go along with their parents’ decision. The 5,800 respondents were those who had registered themselves with the marriage portal, shaadi.com. “We have always been clear about our intolerance towards the social evil of dowry. This survey reaffirms our belief that Indian men and women today believe in a marriage based on love and equality,” said Gourav Rakshit,chief operating officer of the website. Psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria was “extremely pleased to know that our Indian bride has finally evolved into a mature thinking adult”.She said, “The man, too, is finally accepting that accepting dowry is a crime. These small changes help us to grow and evolve as a society where gender equality will soon be the norm and the girl child will no longer be abhorred but respected.” (Times of India 12/2/15)

11. Violence against women cause for child marriages (8)

VIJAYAWADA: The increasing atrocities against women and young girls are forcing parents to marry off their daughters even before they complete schooling. The situation is grim in Krishna district where nearly 30 child marriages were reported in the last fortnight. Officials prevented more than 20 weddings, while some took place even before they reached the venues, police said. Child marriages were prevented at Vijayawada, Avanigadda, Gudivada, Machilipatnam, Vissannapet, Mudinepalli, Mandavalli and Tiruvuru in the district. “We hear pathetic stories from brides and their parents. But, most of them [parents] express fear of sexual assaults on minor girls as reported in the media,” said counsellor Ch. Vijaya Lakshmi. Krishna District Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Project Director K. Krishna Kumari said child marriages were rampant in the district, and that officials were holding awareness camps in villages with the support of NGOs to curb the practice. “Parents cite a number of reasons for marrying off their minor children, but we explain the other side of the practice,” said Child Welfare Committee Chairman B. Nagesh Rao. According to psychologist T.S. Rao, child marriages are common among lower castes. He stressed the need for creating awareness about health implications for girls. “My sister asked me to take care of her 14-year-old daughter two years ago, as she had fallen sick. Not able to give dowry, we did not send her to school and married her off. But, the WD&CW, Revenue and police officials counselled us, as my daughter was just 16,” said Sakkubai, the mother of a bride. Child Protection Officer Rama Devi said Sakkubai had been told not to send her daughter to her in-laws’ house till turned 18. “We counselled the bride, and officials will follow up the case,” she added. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

12. Kashmir to Kanyakumari on a bike to promote girl child (8)

CHANDIGARH: With just a bicycle, Hiralal Yadav had been touring the country to spread the message of saving the girl child – to cover its length from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. On Monday, Yadav was hosted by the Peace Club of Dev Samaj College of Education, Sector 36, in collaboration with NGO Yuvsatta. Here, the cyclist interacted with students as part of his countrywide ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao Abhiyan’. Yadav is promoting rights and dignity of girls and women in society. “Our traditions and rituals outline the existence of the Indian girl child. Amidst uproars of gender equality and law enforcement, female infants are still found dumped in trash by the dozen, while unborn lives continue to be sniffed out in the womb,” Yadav said, talking about female foeticide in the country. “Wrought with discrimination and prejudiced by rituals, our society has dealt the girl child a rough hand, starting even before birth, till the fag end of life. This is why despite all efforts, over six lakh cases of female foeticide happen annually in India,” Yadav added. He also quoted some lines of his self-composed poem on female foeticide which left the entire audience in tears. Addressing the students, he quoted a message of the late NASA astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, “The path from our dream to success exists; provided we have the sight to search, courage to walk on it and willpower to persevere”.Principal Jyoti Khanna shared that Yadav in the past had also undertaken many such campaigns in support of promoting national harmony, de-addiction, against drug abuse and prisoners of wars, for which he has been awarded by former president APJ Abdul Kalam. (Times of India 17/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

13. Rights groups to reach out to children in slums (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Exactly four months ago, when Hudhud ravaged the city, life came to a standstill for many. And the impact was severe for those residing in slums. More than 100 children from several slum areas narrated their nightmarish experience on that day, at a consultation meet organised jointly by the Child Rights Advocacy Foundation and the Visakha Forum for Child Rights (VFCR) on Tuesday. Students studying in classes VI and X in slum areas such as Kobbarithota, Jalaripeta, Ambedkar Colony, and Bukka Veedhi came forward to share their experiences. “There was no proper drinking water for almost one week. Our houses were submerged due to overflowing storm water drains. Except for a few NGO representatives who turned up to help us push things through, we did not receive any other help,” says Padma a resident of Bhupesh Nagar. Most of the slum-dwellers said that they were not able to afford vegetables and milk. Some of them said that there were no toilet facilities in their localities. Joint Collector J. Nivas, who attended the meeting as chief guest, explained the features of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, under which the government had increased the unit cost of the individual household latrine to Rs.12,000 from Rs.10,000. He said that people should consider construction of toilets more seriously and ensure that every household had one. As part of the relief measure, Mr. Nivas said that textbooks would be distributed to schoolchildren after conducting a review meeting with the DEO. Reaching out to the disadvantaged groups, convener of VFCR R.D. Sampath Kumar said that the forum would be distributing notebooks, geometry boxes, and a pair of shoes to 1,000 schoolchildren in a couple of weeks. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

14. Panel appointed to look into sexual abuse in Delhi schools (14)

NEW DELHI: To curb incidents of sexual abuse of school students, Delhi government has told the Supreme Court that it has asked all schools to have CCTVs, especially in corridors and at entrances, in addition to administering a pledge to boys to respect women. The government said it has also constituted committees at three levels—school, district and headquarters—to address issues relating to sexual abuse of students. Women members would be in majority in all these committees, it said. In an affidavit, the Directorate of Education said it has directed schools to appoint a nodal officer who would stay back in school after children leave to look into complaints of any child not reaching home. The government filed its response in compliance with a court order which on December 5 had issued notices to states on a PIL by advocate Vineet Dhanda expressing concern over safety of girl students in schools. The government said 70,000 teachers have been trained in gender sensitization in the last two years. It also said schools have been directed to talk to the local police to ensure a PCR van is stationed near schools at the time of opening and closing. It said a pledge has been included in the students’ diary saying they would respect and protect the dignity of women and the pledge was being repeated by students on numerous occasions in schools. The court last year had agreed to examine the arrangement made by states in schools to prevent cases of sexual abuse and had issued notices to the Centre and states. The PIL had sought direction from the court to the government to frame laws, guidelines and policies “fixing liability of educational institutions on whose premises sexual abuse takes place”. It had said the liability of schools should be spelt out in cases of physical and mental abuse. (Times of India 13/2/15)

15. Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal Urged to Take Up Issues of Street Kids (14)

NEW DELHI: An organisation of street children has urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to address their issues and include them as part of the government’s agenda. The organisation, ‘Badhte Kadam’, today said that it had faxed the letter to the CM’s office yesterday. “We are hopeful that he will successfully carry out his tenure while helping us to address our issues,” 16-year-old Chandni, a member of the group, said, adding that they had written a similar letter during the previous AAP government. Another member Jyoti, 14, said, “Our demands include ensuring legal identity to street and working children, proper implementation of all government schemes for underprivileged children and action against people involved in child labour.”   Director of Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), of which ‘Badhte Kadam’ is a part, said, “Children have a lot of hope from this government and I hope they take up the issues highlighted by them on a priority basis.”  (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

16. Child brides serve ‘probation period’ before marriage in Odisha village (14)

BHUBANESWAR:  Prior to marriage, teenaged brides in Odisha’s capital city are forced to spend time in their prospective in-laws’ house in order to assess if they fit the role of a suitable bride. This crude form of child marriage is still practised by many in the snake-charmer community residing in Padmakesharipur village in Bhubaneswar. Many girls are withdrawn from school, some even at elementary level, and forced into marriage alliances. “My daughter was just 12 when I arranged a groom for her. She has been helping her in-laws in household chores for the past four years. Finally, her in-laws have agreed to organise a formal marriage next week,” said Bharati Das, who is now busy arranging bridal gifts (dowry) for her daughter. The worrying aspect of teenage marriage practice in the community is that if at some point of time the would-be in-laws feel the bride lacks the physical ability to perform daily household assignments or the mental attitude to match the groom’s mindset and theirs’, the proposal gets rejected. “After the engagement, we send our daughter to work in the in-laws’ house in the daytime and give them the freedom to mingle with the groom,” Bharati said. This period, which is almost like a probation before marriage, is of concern for the bride’s family. Due to this free interaction, girls often risk dangerous pregnancies. Once a girl becomes pregnant, family members of the bride are left with no option but to adhere to the terms set by the groom’s family. “This is a tradition we have been following since time immemorial. Although the community is aware of the legal implications of child marriage, we don’t have leadership to assert and put an end to the practice,” said Shankar Das, a member of snake charmer community of Padmakesharipur. Jyotsna, a mother, said, “Since the marriage has to take place within the community which is confined to a single village in Odisha, the bride’s family has to look for a suitable groom. The desperation for a groom within the community, which has a higher percentage of girls forces the parents to opt for early marriage.” Many girls give birth long before they are physically and emotionally ready. Bharati, who is in her late thirties, already has a large family having several grandsons and granddaughters. The 752-family-strong community, which has lost the main occupation after a ban on snake charming, is now finding it difficult to eke out a living. While many end up begging, some daily wagers from the community seek solace in alcohol. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. Central fund for minority welfare (7)

HYDERABAD: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah assured that the Telangana state has her full support with regard to schemes for the welfare of minorities, according to a press communique issued by deputy chief minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali’s office. Interacting with a delegation of officials of the minorities welfare department, including the deputy CM, special secretary Syed Omar Jaleel, State Wakf Board (SWB) special officer M J Akbar and State Minorities Finance Corporation vice-chairman and managing director S A Shukoor, Heptullah said that senior officials of the ministry of minority affairs would visit the state on February 18 and take part in a dialogue with both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh government representatives to expedite the bifurcation of the SWB. The delegation apprised the minister of increase in the number of applications for pre-matric scholarships, which was more than the stipulated target. They urged her to consider releasing funds so that all applicants could avail the scholarships. Heptullah said that Rs 38 crore would be sanctioned for the multi-sectoral development programme (MsDP). The programme seeks to improve the socio-economic conditions of minorities by initiating schemes for healthcare, education, sanitation, skill development and income generation in districts, where they comprise 25%.In what could be a shot in the arm for Daairatul Maarif, a repository of Arabic manuscripts in Osmania University, she assured funds for digitisation of manuscripts so that they can be preserved better. In addition, the minister said that the Centre would also consider starting coaching programmes for various competitive exams. (Times of India 11/2/15)

18. BJP must better understand the India it seeks to govern (7)

Who knew that the BJP’s party offices would wear a deserted look on counting day in the capital, just eight months after Narendra Modi swept into power in the general elections? The ruling party and millions of its faithful will take a while to recover from the enormity of the defeat in the Delhi elections. They will come to terms with the fact that for all their relish about the Congress getting only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, they themselves narrowly avoided a blank result in Delhi polls. For their own and the nation’s sake, the BJP should absorb the right lessons from this defeat. A combination of factors worked against the BJP even though it marshalled the Prime Minister and 120 MPs into a campaign that left few stones unturned. For all its rhetoric about development and aspiration, the party failed to connect with the poor in ways that Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP have managed to, through sustained contact with neighbourhoods across the city. That was in a way expressed in the absence of local leadership beyond a few high profile leaders like Harsh Vardhan. That is a significant failing for a party in a country that is still largely poor. The BJP will need to, at the very least, rethink its narrative which is currently freighted towards the interests of the middle and upper classes. What should particularly shock the BJP is that it has lost support among the middle class which it had come to take for granted. The party’s development agenda has been consistently undercut by its own elements and its ideological affiliates who frequently indulge in misogynistic commentary, unleash unacceptable anti-minority rhetoric and violence while pursuing pointless campaigns against occasions like Valentine’s Day. The Sangh parivar seems completely out of step with what India’s cities and youth want. They are not interested in renaming minority festivals, nor in declarations by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that India is a Hindu Rashtra that needs to have “one language, one God and one religion”. Not only do such statements fly against the reality and idea of India, they fundamentally violate notions of fairness and individual freedom that young people intuitively embrace. The BJP must urgently seek to understand the India it seeks to govern, which formidable forces like the AAP seem to have a better handle on. It is time for Prime Minister Modi to speak out more explicitly against the regressive agenda that some of his party colleagues and allies espouse – and return to a singular focus on the development platform for which he was elected. (Hindustantimes 11/2/15)

19. Finally, Modi breaks silence, says won’t allow religious intolerance (7)

NEW DELHI: Breaking his silence over the rising incidence of attacks on churches and aggressive religious conversions, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that his government will ensure complete freedom of faith. Narendra Modi asserted that everyone had the right to retain or adopt the religion of his choice without coercion. He also warned that his government would not allow any religious group, of majority or minority communities, to incite hatred against other. “Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” Modi said. The PM’s comments come not just in the wake of hate speeches by fringe Sangh elements, but also after repeated concerns raised by US president Barack Obama about growing religious intolerance in India. In a strong warning to the fringe elements, Modi said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”He appealed to all religious groups “to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution”.Addressing a meeting organized by the Syro-Malabar Catholic church to celebrate Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphresia being declared saints by the Vatican, the PM’s comments would put to rest any speculation about any changes in conversion laws or in India’s constitutional commitment to secularism. The PM’s silence on the rising anxiety had led many observers to warn that Modi’s development agenda could be washed away by such controversies. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was also there for the meeting, said that the recent attacks on churches were “unacceptable aberrations”, and that the culprits would be punished. In one case, the guilty had been identified and brought to book, and in all other cases strong action would be taken. Mischief makers will have no place in our country, he said. The PM recalled the words of Swami Vivekanand — “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” The principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths, Modi said, has been part of the Indian ethos for thousands of years, adding: “And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.” Modi pointed out that India was the land of Buddha and Gandhi and “equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian”.The PM said he had a vision for a modern India, and its mantra was development. “In simple terms it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud,” he said. The PM referred to the declaration adopted at the interfaith conference held on December 10, 2008 at The Hague to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights by the UN. “We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen,” he quoted from the declaration. (Times of India 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Kiran Bedi writes to Election Commission over ‘fatwa’ (7)

New Delhi: After a humiliating defeat in the Delhi Assembly polls, BJP CM candidate Kiran Bedi has written to the Election Commission saying fatwas impact the freedom of choice to vote. On Wednesday, Ms Bedi blamed the “fatwa” by Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari appealing to Muslims to support AAP for her defeat in the BJP’s traditional stronghold of Krishna Nagar in East Delhi and sought a probe into it by the poll panel. She said the Election Commission should inquire the issue to find out whether the Shahi Imam’s appeal to Muslims a day before the polls had any impact on the electoral outcome. Ms Bedi claimed that though she was leading in the vote count, her vote share started dropping when counting of votes in a Muslim-dominated area of her constituency was taken up. “I was told that during the vote count in Krishna Nagar I was leading, but when the counting of votes of the area where the fatwa might have an impact was carried out, it started to drop,” Ms Bedi said, adding, “I lost by 2,000 votes when the counting reached that area.” A day ahead of the polls, Shahi Imam Bukhari appealed to Muslims to vote for AAP but the party promptly rejected the offer. Though it was an appeal by Bukhari, several BJP leaders called it a “fatwa”. “Fatwa means a diktat, a directive, it also means a hukumnama in a way. EC should examine whether fatwas issued last minute before the elections are good for the democratic process or not,” said Ms Bedi. However, the comments of the former IPS officer drew instant criticism from the Congress camp. “BJP saw a downfall (sic) since the day Kiran Bedi was nominated,” Congress leader J.P. Aggarwal said, dismissing her “fatwa” remark. Ms Bedi’s statements were noticed on Tuesday after the results were announced, when she said, “I have not lost. I gave it all my best. Let the BJP introspect. They will assess for themselves.” This after she took full responsibility for the poll debacle. (Asian Age 12/2/5)

21. U.P. villagers reject communal politics (7)

Nayagaon Akbarpur Chhendri (Kanth), A loudspeaker was installed in a small temple at Kanth in Moradabad last Friday. Muslim and Hindu villagers sat together with the local authorities and agreed to install it for a few days on the occasion of Mahashivratri. What happened in just an hour of discussion would have appeared “almost impossible” a few months ago, the villagers said. They spoke of the “mutual distrust” between the two communities and attempts of political players to polarise the region over the issue. Last June, the situation became tense after BJP workers violently protested against the removal of the loudspeaker by the administration, which acted on complaints registered by a member of the minority community. Tragically, during the protests, the then Moradabad District Magistrate Chandrakant lost vision in one eye. Residents of Kanth, where Dalits and Muslims live in a closely knit society, told The Hindu that political players in the region were trying to polarise the village by engaging in “competitive communal politics” ahead of the by-polls in western Uttar Pradesh in September. Alok, a scrap seller on the outskirts of the village, felt quite strongly about the peace of the village being a “casualty” in the aftermath of the controversy. “The issue of loudspeaker over a temple or a mosque is a simple issue that we could have sorted out had the political parties not jumped and made it a Hindu-Muslim issue,” he said. Despite being a high-school dropout, Alok said he was “wise enough” to see that political parties tried to cash in on the controversy. “You must notice the fact that no political leader visits the village once the by-polls were over in September last year,” he added. Moradbad MP Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh of the BJP had promised the Dalit community, which worships in the temple, to ensure that the temple got a permanent loudspeaker, Alok said. Mr. Singh along with other BJP MPs and Anisurrahman — the local MLA from the Peace Party, a relatively new political outfit — were at the forefront of an agitation against the decision to remove the loudspeaker. The BJP also planned to organise a Mahapanchayat over the issue, but the local administration banned it, leading to the protests in which Mr. Chandrakant lost sight in one of his eyes. (The Hindu 15/2/15)

22. Muslim clerics pose six questions to RSS (7)

KANPUR: A delegation of Muslim clerics led by the Sunni Ulema Council’s general secretary met RSS functionary Indresh and posed six questions to the Sangh including whether it has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’, which he claimed left the saffron outfit irritated. The Muslim delegation claimed that Indresh refused to answer their questions and instead said that a conference of Muslim organisations should be called where he would give the answers. “We had a meeting with senior RSS functionary Indreshji last night during which we asked six questions, but he did not have any answer,” Sunni Ulema Council general secretary Haji Mohammed Salees said on Tuesday. He alleged that Indreshji, who is pracharak and looks after minority affairs in the organisation, got “irritated” with the questions. “Our first question was whether RSS considers India a Hindu country. The second one was whether RSS has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’. The third one was whether this Hindu ‘rashtra’ will be according to Hindu religious texts or RSS has chalked out a new philosophy,” he said. Salees said, “The fourth question was what they want on religious conversion. The fifth one was what type of ‘rashtra prem’ (patriotism) RSS wants from Muslims. The sixth one was how RSS views Islam,” he said. He said that these were the six questions which Indreshji “failed” to answer. “They (RSS) did not have any format. They are shouting about ‘Hindu rashtra’ only on the basis of propaganda,” he alleged. Salees feared that if Hindu rashtra was built on Hindu texts, Dalits could once again not be allowed to enter temples. “We asked whether a new philosophy has been chalked out by RSS. If a new philosophy has been chalked out that means Hindu religion is not religious culture. In that case, anyone can convert,” he said. Salees said when the Constitution provides freedom of religion, why is the RSS afraid of bringing a bill. “We are not afraid. If any Muslim does not like Islam and wants to leave, he can go. We don’t have any law to keep anyone Muslim by compulsion,” he said. Salees said as far as love for the country was concerned their ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan. “In 1947, when the concept of two countries was decided, our ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan and accepted Gandhiji as our leader, India as our country and expressed faith in the Constitution,” he said. “What do they want from the Muslims? They should sing Vande Matram and bow before the picture of Bharat Mata, which they have visualized? We won’t accept it. It is against Islam,” he said. “The ultimate result of the 90-minute meeting was they (RSS) asked us to call a ‘sammelan’ of Muslims and they will reply (to our posers),” Salees said. “I said that when you cannot answer these questions in a room, then how will you do so in a conference. We then asked as to why should we call a conference,” he said. Salees said there was restlessness among Muslims over these issues and “I came to take reply to these questions being raised in our community.” “I believe whatever be our religion, we should be honest towards the Constitution. Religion is our personal thing. It is not an issue of the nation. We don’t even support the statements of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi. “Those flaring communal passion are not loyal to the country. The country will run on the principles of Gandhiji, it will not run on the statements of Owaisi or Sangh,” he added. Meanwhile, a city cleric, who skipped a meeting between Indresh and a delegation of Muslim leaders on Monday night, said there “was no point” in meeting a representative and that he would only meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to highlight issues pertaining to their community. “Salees had called me for the meeting but I have already met Indresh before and there was no point in meeting him again. I will respond to the request of a meeting only if Bhagwat will call us,” city cleric Alam Raja Noori said. “If we had met Bhagwat, we would have put forth our issues with their agenda of a Hindu nation. Talking with Indresh about our concerns will not affect organisation’s perspective,” he said. The cleric further said he was out of town when the meeting took place but even if he were here he wouldn’t have met Indresh. Meanwhile, Salees said Noori’s name was not included in the list of members who were to meet the RSS functionary and was only added later. Elaborating on the meeting, Salees said, on being questioned by Indresh on their alleged silence over remarks by AIMIM Asaduddin Owaisi, the delegation told him that Owaisi does not represent the views of the community. Equating him with the likes of BJP MPs Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Nirajan Jyoti, Salees said, “Owaisi is “just a Member of Parliament”. (Times of India 17/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

23. 8 Dalit Christians Re-convert to Hinduism at Pudukottai (7)

PUDUKKOTTAI: Eight Dalit Christians of  Ramanathapuram district re-embraced Hinduism in a Pudukkottai temple on Wednesday aided by Hindu Munnani cadre and a priest from Madurai Seva Ashram. According to Hindu Munnnai sources, Pudukkottai district, the ‘home coming’ was organised at Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar temple as it was the dalits’ kuladeivam (family deity). Ramamoorthi, district secretary, Hindu Munnani told Express that the dalits wished to re-embrace Hinduism as they worshipped Hindu deities for more than two decades even though they were officially Christians. The group’s letter to Hindu Munnani stated that the eight wanted help to reunite with their ancestor’s religion. Muruganandamji, a priest from Seva Ashram, Thiruparankundram, Madurai district did the rituals. Ramamoorthi said, “Their Christian names have been changed to Hindu names.” Meanwhile, Sudalai Mani, state secretary of Hindu Munnani told Express, “To avoid police torture in Ramanathapuram district we selected Pudukkottai district and the exact place was chosen by the eight as the temple is said to be their kuladeivam (family deity).” “In Chennai we had to face several hurdles by police when we planned a ‘home coming ceremony.’ Following this we selected another district,” Mani said, adding, “We never forced anyone and we organised the programme after the group requested. They visited Sabarimala for the last two decades though they were Christians. Now they have changed their religion officially.” The district police have begun questioning various Hindu activists, sources said. (New Indian Express 13/2/15)

24. Delhi convent school vandalised, PM summons Police Commissioner (7)

NEW DELHI: The Holy Child Auxilium School was vandalised in the early hours of Friday in the sixth attack on Christian establishments in the city in three months. Though the Delhi police are under the Union Home Ministry, it is rare for the Prime Minister to summon the Commissioner directly. The action comes after a series of attacks on churches and Christian leaders, resulting in accusation of Delhi police inaction despite representations to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The attacks and the allegation that the government did little to assuage the feeling of fear among the community are suspected to have contributed to the BJP’s rout in the recently concluded Assembly elections. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in Manipur on Friday. Mr. Modi spoke on the phone with Home Secretary L.C. Goyal, virtually directing him to personally monitor the Delhi police action. “The Prime Minister asked the Home Secretary to pay special attention to the rising incidents of crime and vandalism and to work towards ensuring the safety and security of women in the Capital,” a senior ministry official said. (The Hindu 14/2/15)

25. 36 Re-Convert at Ghar Wapsi Drive (7)

KOLLAM: In yet another massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive held in the district on Sunday, 36 people including members of a Roman Catholic family reportedly returned to Hinduism. The number of re-converted people in the district during the past two months has reached 115 with this drive organised by various Hindu organisations in the area. The drive was reportedly led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad local committe. In a massive drive held at Areekkara near Uzhavoor, members of as many as 25 families from Uzhavoor, Ramapuram, Monippally, Veliyannoor, Kadanadu, Kuryanadu, Kudakkachira, Melukavu, Kurichithanam and Marangattupilly took part. The participants were mainly from Cheramar Christian, Roman Catholic and Vedar castes. The drive was reportedly organised by the Uzhavoor Unit of VHP, the Areekkara Branch of SNDP Yogam and Sree Ramadasa Ashram, Chenkottukonam. The ritualistic ceremonies were held under the aegis of Brahmapadananda Swaraswathi Theertha Padar, the head of the Chenkottukonam Math and Brahmachari Praveeth Kumar, general convener of the Math. The first massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive in the state was held on last Christmas Day. As many as 58 took part in the programme held at Thirunakkara and Ponkunnam then. Later, another re-conversion programme was held in Uzhavoor on January 15, in which as many as 16 persons reportedly returned to Hinduism.As part of the efforts to forge the greater Hindu alliance initiatives, the Hindu conference organised under the aegis of the district unit of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) here the other day, resolved to bring in place various changes in ritualistic performances and activities in temples. According to VHP functionaries, the decisions of the conference will be implemented in 12 temples under the VHP district unit.  K P Prakash, VHP district seva pramukh, said that the main decision of the conference was to convert the temples as service centers to carry out social services to the public. “This will be implemented in 12 temples under VHP district unit in the first phase of the initiative. We also decided to allow the male devotees to have ‘darshans’ in the temples with tops (shirts, vests etc),” he said. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

26. CBCI Hails PM’s Assurance on Religious Freedom (7)

KOCHI: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India  (CBCI) welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that  the government would not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority and minority categories, to incite hatred against others. It was the first time the Prime Minister reacted to the recent incidents of attack on Christian places of worship in the capital city. CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis in a statement said those who attempt to sabotage the country’s secularism should understand the significance of the Prime Minister’s statement to bring in a change in their attitude and actions. The Cardinal had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue directive to the law enforcement agencies to provide protection and security to religious minorities so that they could follow faith according to their respective religions. Meanwhile, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC)  stated that the Prime Minister’s statement assuring religious freedom was a great relief for the minorities, among whom a feeling of insecurity was growing in the wake of the recent developments, including the ‘ghar vapsi’ programme and the attack on churches and church-run establishments in Delhi. “The proactive statement by the PM will definitely help to ease the tension prevailing in many places,” a KCBC spokesperson said. The KCBC further stated that the global developments  should be an inspiration for the people of India to maintain the country’s great tradition of secularism’’. (New Indian Express 18/2/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

27. Rajnath to Visit Tripura on Repatriation of Reang Refugees (13)

AGARTALA: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijuju will visit Tripura on Saturday to review the law and order situation and discuss the repatriation of Reang refugees, housed in six evacuee camps in the state, official sources said today. The Union Home Minister would arrive here by chopper from Imphal and then again fly by chopper for Khanthlang border outpost, a remote area in Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura district to hold meeting with BSF officers, SP, Police Control, Uttam Bhowmick said. From Khanthlang he would visit the evacuee camps of the internally displaced Reangs from neighbouring Mizoram and then return to Agartala to hold meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla at the Civil Secretariat, Bhowmick said. More than 32,000 Reang/Bru refugees were huddled in six camps after they took shelter in Tripura since 1997 following ethnic clashes with the local Mizos over possession of land. The Union Home Minister would return to Delhi on the same day. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

28. Rajnath Singh visits Bangladesh border in Tripura (13)

Agartala: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh accompanied by his deputy, Kiren Rijiju, Saturday visited the India-Bangladesh border in Tripura and discussed issues with officials and BSF troopers. The two ministers also met Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. “Rajnath Singh with Rijiju (minister of state for home affairs) and home ministry officials visited Khantlang in Tripura along the India-Bangladesh-Mizoram border,” a Border Security Force (BSF) officer said. The home ministers interacted with the BSF officials and troopers at the Khantlang border outposts (195 km from Agartala), along the Bangladesh`s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The militants set up camps in CHT and used the unfenced borders for their trans-border movements. “Senior BSF officials briefed both the ministers about the border issues and militancy related problems,” the BSF official told IANS on condition of anonymity. The home minister appreciated the BSF troopers for their role in maintaining security in the mountainous areas. Earlier both the ministers accompanied by senior home ministry officials arrived here from Manipur, capital Imphal and left for the bordering areas by an Indian Air Force helicopter. After visiting the border areas, the union ministers met Sarkar and senior state government officials in Agartala to chalk out a plan to repatriate the tribal refugees to Mizoram. Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was scheduled to attend the meeting but could not make it. About 32,000 Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, are staying in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 after fleeing their villages in Mizoram, following ethnic troubles after the killing of a Mizo forest official. Home Ministry`s Joint Secretary Shambhu Singh Jan 30 held a meeting in New Delhi with Tripura and Mizoram officials and discussed the repatriation of Mizoram`s tribal refugees. The Tripura government has been asking both Mizoram and the union home ministry to repatriate the tribal refugees to their homes in Mizoram. (Zee News 14/2/15)

29. Rajnath Singh assures all possible help in repatriation of all Bru migrants (13)

Kanchanpur: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured all possible help in repatriation of all Bru migrants in Tripura. The Home Minister was interacting with the representatives of Bru migrants living in relief camps at Kanchanpur during his visit to Tripura. The Government has released fund amounting to Rs. 242.35 crore for the year 2014-15 for maintenance of the Bru migrants living in relief camps. Earlier, Rajnath Singh has visited border areas along Chittagong Hill tracts to meet BSF personnel at Khantlang (North Tripura). BSF jawans have explained the functioning of monitoring equipments used at the BoPs. While addressing, Rajnath Singh has underlined the importance of their presence in border areas and saluted their courage. “I salute these brave men who stay away from home to perform their national duty,” he added. The Union Home Minister has met the Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar and reviewed the security situation in the state. While addressing a press conference, Rajnath Singh has said that Insurgency was the biggest problem facing the North-Eastern region. “Our government is committed to the North East development but insurgency and militancy hamper its progress,” he added. The Union Home Minister has appealed to insurgent groups operating in the North-East to shun violence and give the region a change to progress and develop. The Union Home Minister has assured Tripura government of all cooperation to deal with the issues of insurgency and other security related issues. The government is planning 100 percent repatriation of all Bru refugees and the Centre will provide all assistance to expedite the process, he added. The Union Home Minister appealed to Mizoram government to provide adequate security to Bru refugees and help them in their rehabilitation. (New Kerala 16/2/15)

30. Myanmar conflict: China rules out intervention (13)

BEIJING: China has assured Myanmar that it will not interfere in its domestic affairs, despite a cross-border surge in the Yunnan province of refugees, who are escaping fighting following a military offensive in northern Myanmar. Heavy fighting between the Myanmar army and Kokang rebels for control of Laukkai township in the northern Shan State, is causing civilians to flee across the border, Myanmar’s newspaper, The Irrawaddy , quoting a rebel source, reported. Despite the close ethnic ties between the Kokang people and mainland groups, China has made it plain it will not be drawn into the conflict. The Chinese are also debating whether a win-win partnership for durable peace in Myanmar with India and Thailand is possible, which could reconcile China’s “One Road, One Belt” strategy with New Delhi’s “Look East” policy. Analysts say that China wants to quickly restore stability in Myanmar, which is central to the fulfilment of the its grand strategy of the developing the 21st century Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to integrate the economies of Asia and Europe, anchored by China. A strongly worded editorial in Global Times , the newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party of China (CPC), stressed that the Kokang people are not entitled to the rights that Chinese citizens exercise. The write up follows an appeal in an open letter by Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin for support from Chinese people all over the world, spurring speculation in sections of the western and social media that a situation similar to Crimea has developed along China’s border with Myanmar, following the refugee rush. The editorial warned that that there “are no grounds for comparing Kokang to Crimea”, and those “who are stuck in such comparisons are either spouting nonsense, or have ulterior motives”. It added that, “China should play a role in fostering peace in northern Myanmar and persuading Myanmar government troops and ethnic armed forces to solve the problem through negotiations”. Recognising Myanmar’s criticality to the fulfilment of “One Road, One Belt” strategy, another commentary, appearing earlier this month in the Global Times , advocated joint efforts by China, India and Thailand to restore win-win peace in Myanmar. The commentary added that all three countries will benefit from stability in Myanmar, which can” become a hub that connects China, India and Thailand”. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

31. Over 96 p.c. of RTI pleas cleared (1)

MYSURU: Karnataka has disposed of 96.84 per cent of more than 4.25 lakh applications received under the Right to Information Act (RTI) last year. Information Commissioner Shekar D. Sajjan said here on Tuesday the maximum number of applications for information under the RTI Act pertained to the Revenue Department, which got 1,46,715 requests of which 1,32,358 were disposed of. The Department of Urban Development got 89,026 applications of which 83,550 were cleared, while 74,001 applications were received by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department of which 70,839 applications have been disposed of so far. During 2013-14, the government accrued a revenue of Rs. 59.95 lakh by way of fee collected from applicants. There is a proposal to establish two regional offices in the State. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

32. Info commission flays CMO officials for ‘negligence’ (1)

HYDERABAD: The chief minister’s office (CMO), it appears, is not interested in upholding the spirit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The information commission recently came down heavily on public information officers of the CMO, the minorities welfare department (MWD) and the AP State Wakf Board (APSWB) for not having furnished information under the RTI Act concerning the action taken with respect to mismanagement of wakf properties. The applicant, Khaja Aijazuddin, a lawyer, citing a 2008 SC order which directed the government of undivided Andhra Pradesh to probe the mismanagement of the APSWB in the last two decades, its issuing of no objection certificates and leasing of properties in its custody, sought a status report. According to Aijazuddin, the CMO forwarded the query to the MWD citing that no information was available. The MWD subsequently forwarded the application to the APSWB. When information was not forthcoming, the applicant filed the first appeal with the CMO, only to find out that it was transferred to the MWD. The applicant approached the commission with his second appeal. In his order (a copy of which is available with TOI) given on Monday, information commissioner S Imtiyaz Ahmed noted that the PIO of the CMO, “negligently” and “blindly forwarded” the application to another PIO with “malafide intention”. This, he reasoned, was akin to denying information. He also noted the information should be available with the CMO as the SC had ordered the state government to take necessary action. Ahmed described the attitude of the PIO and first appellant authority (FAA) of the CMO as “negative” with respect to the implementation of the RTI act. “This case is a classic example that even officials of the CM’s office are unaware of provisions of the Act and the procedure to be followed,” he lashed out in the order. “The PIO is seriously warned for not warning the procedure. Similarly the FAA (is) also warned for not adhering to the procedure contemplated under the act. He observed that it was “high time” the government conduct awareness programmes “particularly in the CMO periodically, in order to implement effectively the provisions of the RTI Act.” Issuing a show cause notice to the CMO, Ahmed directed the PIO and the FAA to provide the information to the applicant within 15 days of the order and submit to the commission a compliance report. “I was aggrieved with the functioning of the CMO with respect to the furnishing of information. How can they deny simple but crucial information? Hence I appealed before the commission, Aijazuddin told TOI on Thursday. (Times of India 13/2/15)

33. CBI misconstrues RTI Act exemption clause (1)

New Delhi: In an apparent misinterpretation of the RTI Act, CBI has claimed before the Delhi high court that it can only share information pertaining to allegations of corruption against its own officials and not the graft cases probed by it. The explanation not only goes against the preamble of the Act, which says that an informed citizenry is vital to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable, but also contravenes Section 24 of RTI Act under which CBI has been included in the list of exempted organisations by the previous UPA government, which was facing serious corruption charges probed by the agency. Recently, CBI has even started returning RTI applications citing the exemption clause despite clear orders from the CIC and its former director, A.P. Singh. Section 24 says that nothing in the Act will apply to exempted organisations provided the “information” sought by an application pertaining to allegations of corruption is not excluded under it. The definition of “information” says it is “any material in any form held by or under the control” of a public authority and, as per the definition, it may not necessarily be about the organisation from which the information was sought. The agency, while challenging the order of chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra through a writ petition before Delhi high court, apparently misconstrued the clause which exempts it from the RTI Act by only highlighting the portion of it which goes in its favour. Experts are of the view that the Right to Information Act is not about records of an organisation or its employees. The Act is about any information which is “held by or under the control” of a public authority. “A citizen can demand the information (any material in any form held by or under the control of a public authority) from CBI if it pertains to allegations of corruption. The claim that it will give information only where allegations are against its employees is a complete abuse of the law,” said noted activist Venkatesh Nayak. (Asian Age 16/2/15)

34. Can high court insist on its rules on RTI pleas, SC asks Gujarat (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the registrar of the Gujarat High Court on a plea by the State Information Commission saying that the high court could not insist on adherence to its rules for sharing information sought under the Right to Information Act. A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman issued notice to the registrar as well as former medical officer Mahendra Bhatt who had sought information from the high court under the RTI Act but was told by its public information officer that he should seek the information under the relevant provisions of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993 instead of the RTI Act. Bhatt was also told that if he was not a party to the proceedings in respect of which he was seeking information, then he would have to file an affidavit stating reasons for which the certified copy and other documents were required. This response came in reply to his application in 2010 seeking certain information along with documents and certified copies. The PIO told Bhatt to approach the high court for the required information either personally or through his lawyer on the payment of fee of Rs.3 to the deputy registrar, decree department. (New Kerala 17/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

35. 1,400 students to get admissions under RTE (11)

VADODARA: As many as 1,400 students from poor families will be given admissions in private schools under the provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act. The forms for the admissions under the system will be available from the district education office from Thursday. The state government awards a quota to each city for admissions under the RTE act since the last couple of years. A committee headed by municipal commissioner looks into the admission process after accepting forms. Chairman of the primary school education committee of Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) Keyur Rokadia who is also a member of the admission committee said that last year the state government had given a quota for 800 students for the city. “We were the only municipal corporation area in the state that admitted students on all the seats,” he said. District education officer and member secretary of the admission committee Navnit Mehta said that the children would be admitted in 82 Gujarati medium, 33 English medium schools as well as 11 CBSE and international schools. He added that forms for eligible students would be given till March 10. (Times of India 12/2/15)

36. AAP govt good news for RTE activists, pvt schools worried (11)

NEW DELHI: Having Aam Aadmi Party back in power is good news for Right to Education activists. They now have a government that’s “interested.” This was one area of governance that AAP had successfully stirred up during its 49-day stint. The activists didn’t approve of all the measures but agree that the “hulchul” helped. “Within three days, the government managed to get data with the help of volunteers on the status of compliance with the RTE Act’s infrastructure norms in over 900 government schools,” says Kumar Ratan of National Coalition for Education (NCE). While the volunteer system undermined the RTE-mandated school management committees, it also signalled AAP’s willingness to actively involve the community in the running of schools. “Education systems need participation of people and AAP gave civil society that space,” observed Ambarish Rai, national convener, Right to Education Forum. He intends to meet the new minister and ask him to “do it right” this time and begin with child-mapping—another RTE Act requirement that wasn’t fulfilled; strengthen the grievance redress and monitoring systems; and bring ordinary government schools to the standard of the special category ones. NCE is also thankful to AAP’s Manish Sisodia who, in his first stint as Delhi’s education minister, had halted the PPP project envisioned by a municipal body. “Sisodia has repeatedly stated that education is the state’s responsibility,” said Ratan. “AAP’s win is good news but they should uphold legal arrangements like school management committees and not further marginalize them.” Private school managements are reacting to AAP’s victory with cautious optimism. One school association chief admits he’s “apprehensive.” When AAP was in power, they had fully supported the nursery admission guidelines based on the LG’s order and took steps to tighten the screws on private schools. When HC upheld the autonomy of private schools in deciding nursery criteria in November, Sisodia had issued a statement against it. All this—together with talk of fee regulation—has one principal saying, “I know we’ll be troubled for the next five years.” Private school associations are willing to assist the government. “There could be an interesting interdependence between government and private schools. We could share resources, have common training programmes. Private schools will be happy to help out,” says Ameeta Mulla Wattal, chairperson, National Progressive Schools Conference. Members of the action committee for Unaided Recognized Public Schools, which fought in court the LG guidelines that AAP had so strenuously backed, will meet the new minister to “tell them about us (private schools), our performance and our problems.” “I hope they’ll think of the interest of the people and ensure that government schools are functioning,” says action committee president, SK Bhattacharya. “The government’s policy shouldn’t be based on rumours such as private schools fleece parents and have discriminatory admission policies,” comments Sushil Salwan, chairperson, Salwan Education Trust. Interestingly, Salwan believes that the first AAP government “neither expressed nor took steps that were anti-private schools.” He feels they were simply trying to “plug loopholes” in the existing system. (Times of India 14/2/15)

37. Primary Education Still Eludes Many (11)

BHUBANESWAR:Despite massive expenditure under Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan (SSA) and introduction of Right to Education (RTE) Act, primary education in the State still remains inaccessible to children in many areas. Shortage of teachers and dilapidated school buildings are major issues which are yet to be addressed by the Government though adequate funds are available under different Central and State schemes. Out of 36,399 primary and 21,945 upper primary schools in the State, at least 45,846 schools are yet to be provided a teacher for each class. Besides, rooms for each class are not available in 43,973 schools. Independent rooms for each class is available only in 2,885 schools. There is a teacher for each class in only 3,453 schools. The statistics provided by School and Mass Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra in a written reply to a question from Dilip Ray (BJP) paint a bleak picture of the primary education system in Odisha. Due to non-availability of rooms and teachers in most of the schools, students of two-three classes are taught in a single room by a single teacher, the reply stated. Though there is requirement of 2,24,330 regular teachers for both primary and upper primary schools as per the norms of RTE, only 1,15,833 teachers are available. The situation is being managed by the appointment of 73,736 siksha sahayaks and gana sikshaks. However, there is still a shortfall of 34,779 teachers. In Ganjam district alone, more than 8,000 posts of regular primary school teacher are vacant. About 6,000 vacancies have been filled up by siksha sahayaks. In Mayurbhanj district, posts of more than 7,000 regular teachers are vacant while in Kalahandi it is more than 6,000. The Minister has also admitted in response to another question that 1,721 high schools are functioning without regular headmasters. A large number of posts, including science teachers, are vacant in high schools. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

38. How is education cess used, asks NHRC (1)

CHENNAI: The National Human Rights Commission has given four weeks to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu to provide details regarding the use of its share of Education Cess provided by the Central government. The notice, available in the Commission’s website, seeks to know how the cess was used and whether it had provided facilities such as toilets in schools. The Chief Secretary has also been directed to inform the Commission about the amount of money “lying unused and how the State government proposes to use this money.” The NHRC member Justice D. Murugesan, had taken up the issue following a complaint by the Catalyst Trust, a non-governmental organisation, which had alleged that the apathy by the State government had affected girl children. Mr. Murugesan observed that the Right to Education, guaranteed under Article 21A of the Constitution, includes the right of students to have conducive atmosphere. Such rights should be ensured to all students and the responsibility lay with the State more so when a cess was collected for that purpose. Chairman Emeritus of Catalyst Trust R. Desikan said he took up the issue following a study which revealed that 80 per cent of the time people in the country sought medical treatment for food-and-water-related infections. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

39. 15 key promises AAP has made to people of Delhi (21)

Since the Aam Aadmi Party is all set to form the government in Delhi, TOI enlists key promises the party has made. (1) Delhi Janlokpal Bill: Resolved to bring Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill on coming to power. Delhi Lokpal will have the power to investigate and prosecute those charged with corruption. (2) 2.: Swaraj Bill AAP will also bring the Swaraj Bill to devolve powers to the people.Decisions affecting the local community will be taken by citizens and implemented by their secretariat. (3) Full statehood for Delhi: AAP will push for full statehood for Delhi. This will make bodies like DDA, MCD & Delhi Police accountable to the elected Delhi government. (4) Electricity bills to be cut by half: AAP will ask CAG to do an audit of discoms, and convinced that they are fattening the costs, AAP will reduce electricity bills by half. (5) Discom portability: AAP has promised to provide consumers the right to choose between electricity providers.This, they say, will create competition, leading to better services and lower tariffs. (6)

Delhi to be made a solar city: AAP will facilitate a phased shift to renewable and alternate sources of energy. (7) Water as a right: AAP will provide universal access to clean drinking water at an affordable price. This, they say, is every citizen’s right. (8) Free water: AAP to give free ‘lifeline’ water of up to 20 kilolitres (20,000 litres) per month to every household. But once consumption exceeds 20 kilolitres, full amount to be charged. Annual 10% tariff hike will be abolished & hikes will be after due consideration.(9) Reviving Yamuna: Will ensure 100% collection and treatment of Delhi’s sewage through an extensive sewer network and construction of new functional sewage treatment plants. (10) Public loos: AAP will build 1.5 lakh toilets in slums across the city and 50,000 toilets in public spaces.Of them, 1 lakh toilets will be for women. (11) New schools: AAP will build 500 new schools with a special focus on secondary and senior secondary schools to ensure that every Delhi child has easy access to quality education. (12) New colleges: AAP will open 20 new colleges under Delhi administration on the outskirts of the city in partnership with the villages of Delhi. (13) Regulate fees: AAP to regulate private school fees by publishing the fee structures & accounts online.Capitation fee will be abolished. (14) E-governance: All govt services & forms to be available online & on cellphone.Data on govt projects, progress, accounts & personnel will be posted online. (15) Smart Delhi . AAP promised free Wi-Fi in city. It will also install 10,000 CCTVs in DTC buses, bus stands and in crowded places as a deterrent against crime. (Times of India 11/2/15)

40. No Toilet in 80 Lakh Rural Households in Odisha (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as jaundice is spreading to new regions of the State, nearly 80 lakh households in the rural areas do not have toilets in their houses while as many households do not have drinking water connection. The situation in urban areas is similar where outdated pipelines and lack of garbage disposal have led to outbreak of jaundice which the State Government is finding difficult to bring under control. Official sources said only 1.59 per cent of the households in rural areas have pipe water connections while the figure is less than one per cent in 17 out of 30 districts in the State. As per the 2011 Census, 81.44 lakh households reside in rural areas out of 96.61 lakh households in the State. Only 1.29 lakh houses have water connections and 32.39 lakh families collect drinking water from the stand-posts in their villages. About 47.75 lakh families do not have drinking water facilities. These include tribal and inaccessible villages in Western and Southern Odisha districts. Coverage under piped water connectivity is less than one per cent in Sundargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Puri, Nuapada, Nayagarh, Koraput, Khurda, Keonjhar, Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Boudh, Bhadrak, Bargarh, Balangir and Angul districts.  Similarly, only 10.38 lakh families out of the total 96.62 lakh have toilet facilities as enumerated in 2013 baseline survey. Less than five per cent houses in Kalahandi, Nuapada, Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Sundargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Balangir, Boudh, Deogarh, Gajapati, Ganjam and Jharsuguda have toilet facilities. The issue cropped up in the ongoing budget session of the Assembly several times as jaundice has affected more than a thousand people in Sambalpur, Cuttack and other areas. (New Indian Express 15/2/15)

41. Malnourishment high among children of migrants: study (21)

JAIPUR: The level of malnourishment is high among children whose parents migrate in search of livelihood. Inherent malnourishment in mothers, lack of food and nutrition security, feeding and dietary practices and illnesses are some of the reasons identified for high levels of malnourishment. A study ‘Understanding hunger and malnutrition among high migrant communities’ conducted in south Rajasthan by Aajeevika Bureau and EdelGive Foundation has revealed that more than half the children were underweight in those communities where migration was high. Stunting or retarded growth was reported in 53 per cent of the children with 28 per cent of them severely so; 33 per cent are wasted (debilitated growth) with over 9 per cent of them severely so and one-fourth severely underweight. South Rajasthan — broadly Udaipur division — is a semi-arid region with a largely tribal population which owns small land holdings. Small land holdings are unable to help them sustain a livelihood which results in high levels of migration. Each panchayat, where the study was done, had 550-600 migrants. The study was done in four panchayats in one block — two had high levels of migrations and the other two low migration. The sample of 884 households, which had less than three children, was picked up from 13 villages. A total of 695 children under the age of three were weighed and measured as were 607 mothers. The median BMI (body mass index) of mothers was 18.1 with 58 per cent having a BMI of less than 18.5. An analysis has suggested inter-generational transfer of under-nutrition. When the mother is under-nourished, children are 1.8 times more likely to have severe malnutrition. Also, less availability of food items, small land holdings resulting in low produce and caring practices caused malnutrition. Roti was the only food item eaten by children daily and more than 60 per cent had access to it. Only 58 per cent were breastfed, and less than one per cent had daliya (porridge) which is supposed to be highly nutritious. The study further shows that children of migrating families were less likely to be enrolled at the anganwadi centres where the government provides supplementary food to pre-school children. Importantly, the anganwadi centres were less functional in areas with high migrating population. When a mother goes for work, the primary caretakers are grandparents in 57 per cent of the cases, father in just 4 per cent and elder brother in 5 per cent. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

42. Centre in no hurry to cut PDS cover for poor (21)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is not in a hurry to accept the controversial recommendation of the Shanta Kumar panel to cut the public distribution system beneficiaries for subsidised foodgrains to 40 from 67 per cent under the National Food Security Act, highly placed government sources have indicated to The Hindu. With several crucial Assembly elections in the offing this and the next year and the resurgence of the Aam Aadmi Party which is waiting to spread its wings in Punjab and Bihar, the Modi government is treading cautiously on important policy decisions. Assembly elections in Bihar, where the BJP is hoping to make a bid for power, is scheduled for later this year, and any backlash on account of reduced coverage under the NFSA is not something that the Modi government would like at this juncture. Incidentally, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan whose Lok Janshakti Party is a BJP ally at the Centre and in Bihar, has strong reservations about the suggestion to cut down the priority beneficiaries from the Targeted PDS.The Shanta Kumar committee recommendations have already drawn flak from several opposition parties. “Even if the UPA’s National Food Security Act was a Lok Sabha poll-eve gimmick, the NDA cannot be seen tinkering with it so as to reduce the percentage of beneficiaries. It will be a highly unpopular proposal on which there will be no political consensus,’’ highly placed sources told The Hindu. But some recommendations regarding the re-structuring of the FCI, modernisation of the PDS, conversion of godowns into silos, de-centralised procurement and raising the quantum of foodgrains to 7 kg per person from the present 5 kg may be taken on board. So far only 11 States have rolled out the National Food Security Act but none has the requisite infrastructure in place. The NDA has given time till June for States to get their act together. The NFSA includes the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Other Welfare Schemes and the Targeted Public Distribution System. The 67 per cent TPDS coverage includes 75 per cent population in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas. Under the scheme, rice is priced at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and coarse grains at Re. 1 per kg. States have to identify the beneficiaries as per a criterion and cap worked out by the erstwhile Planning Commission. The panel which was set up by the Modi government in August to make recommendations for re-structuring the Food Corporation of India, has suggested that the Centre “re-visit’’ the National Food Security Act to incorporate its recommendations. Among other key recommendations are raising the quantum of rationed foodgrains to seven kg per person instead of five, raising the cost of rationed foodgrains, shifting to cash transfers in lieu of foodgrains, a re-look at the regime for giving minimum support price for farm commodities, an open-ended procurement system, outsourcing of foodgrains storage and entry of private players into bulk handling of foodgrains. It justified its recommendations on the consideration of large foodstocks, lack of storage space and high food subsidy bill, budgeted at Rs. 1,02,476 crore for 2014-15. The allocation of foodgrains under the Act is estimated at 62.1 million tonne. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. Provide details of ‘missing’ bonded labour: NHRC (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed the Krishna district officials to submit the details of bonded labourers who went missing in three weeks. Deputy Commissioner of Labour (DCL), N. Suryanarayana, who appeared before the Commission on February 9, at New Delhi, submitted the documents related to the relief provided to 672 bonded labourers, who were rescued from different stone quarries in the district a few years ago. But, the Commission grilled Mr. Suryanarayana for failing to produce the details of the remaining 248 labourers who went missing. NHRC which was not satisfied over the poor implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 in Krishna district, directed to submit the information in three weeks, said sources in the Commission.Following a petition filed by a Visakhapatnam-based NGO, alleging poor implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, the Revenue Department officials raided the quarries at Ibrahimpatnam, Kanchikacherla and G. Kondur mandals. The officials identified 920 bonded labourers and issued release certificates to 672 labourers as per the Act. However, the officials could not find the whereabouts of 248 labourers and submitted the same report to the Commission.The NHRC which was serious about the negligence of the district administration in providing Rehabilitation and Relief (R&R) to the rescued labourers, directed to submit the details of the missing labourers. When the officials failed to respond in the stipulated time, the Commission served summons on the district Collector to present before it on February 9. Speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, Collector A. Babu said the DCL submitted the available information to the Commission and the case is under inquiry. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

44. Consultations begin to prepare comprehensive labour policy (14)

Bengaluru The labour department has begun the consultation process with various stake holders to gather inputs for a comprehensive labour policy that will cover both the organised and unorganised sector. This is the first time a policy initiative has been taken for the labour sector, which is governed by an array of central and State legislations. “We have started the consultation process with trade unions, employers, industrialists, industry bodies among others for their feedback and inputs for the policy. The basic framework of the policy will be completed in two to three weeks. We plan to come out with the policy document after another round of consultation and discussion,” Labour Commissioner D S Vishwanath told Deccan Herald. The labour department will also consult other related departments including industries, urban development, rural development and panchayat raj, agriculture marketing among others. He said the policy will be progressive, reflect the changing times and will cover both the organised and unorganised sector with a focus on giving a thrust to the economy. The officer said the policy will fix responsibilities of various stakeholders like the employees, employers and officials of the department. The State’s policy will go into various micro-level aspects of the labour sector including creating more employment opportunities, skill based training programmes to improve employability among others.Vishwanath said not many states in the country have comprehensive labour policies. Karnataka’s neighbour Tamil Nadu was among the first states to come out with a  policy for labour and employment. The Tamil Nadu policy for instance covers industrial relations, labour welfare board, unorganised workers labour welfare board, consumer protection, eradication of child labour, industrial safety and health issues, vocational guidance activities and private sector placements. It also deals with skill development initiatives, apprenticeship training schemes, Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) and Employees State Insurance (ESI). Asked whether the State government will amend various legislations pertaining to the labour sector like the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961, Karnataka Industrial Establishment Act, 1963, Karnataka Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1965, Vishwa nath said a final decision in this regard can be taken after the completion of the consultation process and after taking the view of labour and legal experts. (Deccan Herald 15/2/15)

45. Fast by construction workers (14)

NAGERCOIL: Members of the Construction Workers’ Association affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) observed a fast in front of the Collectorate here on Monday protesting against the “anti-labour attitude” of the Labour Welfare Office dealing with social security schemes here. They wanted the Department of Labour to implement a five-point charter of demands, which included immediate disbursal of pension to those who had applied before December 2014. They urged the authorities to formulate a simple mechanism to hear grievances of employees and trade union representatives and ensure renewal of identity cards without delay. The fast was inaugurated by C. Robert Bruce, district Congress committee president . P.S.J.B. Jose, president, Kumari District Unorganised Workers’ Association, presided. C. Anandakrishnan, district secretary, INTUC, concluded the fast. Labour Welfare Officer (SSS) D. Lakshmi Narayanan clarified that applications received up to February 10 for renewal and new registration were processed and ID cards given to beneficiaries instantly.In a special drive, steps had been taken to issue pension orders to over 800 to 1000 beneficiaries soon. So far, the Labour Welfare Office (SSS) had extended benefits, including education, death, maternity and marriage benefits, to over 21,000 beneficiaries, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan added. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

46. Miles away from home for livelihood (14)

HATNOORA (MEDAK DISTRICT): Ram Lal is in his mid 40s. He is native of Palama in Jharkhand, a tribal dominated area. His village is about 1,300 kilometres from here. Pradeep, in his 20s is from Purulia in West Bengal. His native place is about 1,500 kilometres from this tiny mandal headquarters located in Medak district. While Ram Lal is one of a 10-member team, Pradeep is part of six member team that came from Purulia. It takes about 48 hours to travel all the way to reach here for both of them. An both are here in search of a livelihood. A local contractor in Jharkhand hired them promising work and paid them an advance ranging between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 3,000. They were being offered regular work without any break. “We also can get work at our native place but is generally not continuous but here we are assured of work the entire month,” said Mr. Pradeep. Usually, workers being roped in from outside the State are being forced to work more. “The working hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a break for lunch and tea,’’ said another migrant labourer. They were not ready to disclose the problems they face as it may cost their job and contractor may send them back again. While they were being paid about Rs. 200 per day part of the amount goes to contractor as commission. “This old man’s payment per day is about Rs. 220 and he actually gets Rs.160 whereas the remaining amount goes as commission to the contactor,” said another labourer. “We will send part of the amount we generate here to our native place so that our family members live happily,” they say. The workers are being provided shelter in thatched huts or asbestos sheet covered temporary accommodation, which saves rent for them while the contractor can have over control over their movement. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Brinda Karat bats for quota for SCs/STs in private sector (25)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Reservation must be provided for SCs and STs in the private sector too in such a way it improved their livelihood, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat has said. Speaking at a seminar on reservations in private sector organised as part of preparations for the party’s 21{+s}{+t}all-India conference to be held during April, Ms. Karat dwelt deep into the reservation policy, the conditions in the past and present, and how the downtrodden Dalits were still being denied their due in the capitalism-driven conditions. The “Indian band of reservations, the undeclared reservation for SCs and STs” was there by confining them to menial jobs and denying them an opportunity to grow in the country’s caste system. After Independence, the capitalist path adopted had coexisted with this “reservation policy,” she said, and felt that had India adopted the socialist path, this undeclared reservation would have gone and everyone would have secured employment. There was no truth in the argument that free market would make some Dalits capitalist, as capitalism cooperated with caste and discrimination and intensified the rate of exploitation. “It is a shame that even now reservation in jobs of sweeper and sanitation worker is oversubscribed,” Ms. Karat observed. Caste-based and work-based reservation excluded Dalits while the huge backlog of vacancies for the reserved categories was mounting. She said that the CPI(M) demanded in Parliament a legal mechanism to solve the issue. It also sought reservation in contract and outsourcing jobs. “The number of employees from SC and ST categories in private industries was less,” she said quoting figures. A senior surgeon and president of Government Doctors’ Association G. Arjun urged unity among Dalit Bahujans in developmental activities for the communities. Dalits were being suppressed because they would start questioning and take over administration in future, he said. Secretary of district unit of CPI(M) K. Lokanadham presided. State secretariat member Ch. Narasinga Rao, city secretary B. Ganga Rao, district secretariat member P. Sesharatnam, and former Superintendent of Government Hospital for Chest and Communicable Diseases P. Subba Rao participated. (The Hindu 12/2/15)

48. STs reservation to be increased to 7.5 per cent (25)

CHITRADURGA: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Vice-President Ravi Thakur has stated that the reservation for Scheduled Tribes in different States had been increased to 7.5 per cent and the same would be implemented in Karnataka. Instructions in this regard would be given to the State government shortly. Addressing reporters here on Friday, Mr. Thakur said that commission members were touring the country to study whether the facilities extended by the commission have reached the actual beneficiaries or not. After the tour’s completion, a meeting would be held with State-level officers and steps would be taken to rectify the loopholes in the system. The people belonging to Scheduled Tribes in some States have already come to mainstream of the society and in some other States the condition of Scheduled Tribes is pathetic. “Keeping this in view, the commission has decided to implement new schemes and ensure their overall development,” he added. Mr. Thakur stated that steps have been taken to provide four acres land to people residing in forest areas and there are no such families of Scheduled Tribes residing in forest areas in Chitradurga, he added. Deputy Commissioner Shrirangaiah, zilla panchayat CEO N. Manjushri and district-level officers were present. (The Hindu 14/21/15)

49.  ‘Banjara community must give priority to education’ (25)

KALABURAGI: Minister for Higher Education R.V. Deshpande has called upon the Banjara community to give priority to education in order to improve its socio-economic condition. Inaugurating the Santh Sevalal Study and Research Centre in Gulbarga University here on Monday, Mr. Deshpande stressed on the need to educate children. “Education is the only tool for the empowerment of the community,” he said. He said the State government has allocated adequate funds to the Banjara Development Corporation for the uplifting the neglected community. Mr. Deshpande expressed displeasure over the fact that children were deprived of education much before being able to benefit from the reservation facilities provided for them.Out of 70 lakh people in the age group of 15 to 35, only 17 lakh pursued their higher education. “Only by increasing the gross enrolment ratio can the State can achieve real development,” he said. He assured that he would take up with the State government to establish Santh Sevalal Bhavan at Gulbarga University. Religious head of the Banjara Community Ramrao Maharaj donated a set of books relating to the Banjara community in their original dialect. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

50. States can’t amend laws with retrospective effect: SC (25)

New Delhi: State governments cannot amend a procedural law with retrospective effect to provide for quota in posts after commencement of selection process, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held. “In any case, the State Government cannot pass any order amending a procedural law regarding reservation in the matter of selection to posts, with retrospective effect, once the procedure of selection starts,” a bench of justices S J Mukhopadhya and V Gopala Gowda said. The verdict came on a batch of appeals filed against the 2004 judgement of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The High Court had upheld the finding of the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal saying the government can amend the procedural law with retrospective effect to provide reservation in the selection process to fill up certain posts. The state government, in pursuance of 1975 ‘Presidential Order’, had said that 70 per cent of “non-gazetted category posts other than Lower Division Clerk or equivalent posts were reserved in favour of local candidates.” As per the government order, a combined merit list a local and non-local candidates shall be drawn up to fill up the vacancies. Later, state government, on March 7, 2002, amended its order by “bifurcating combined merit list into two parts i.E. one reserved for local candidates and another for both local and non-local candidates.” Setting aside the HC order, the apex court said, “we hold that the G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002 is prospective and is not applicable to the process of selection started pursuant to Advertisement No.10 of 1999 including the 973 executive posts which were ordered to be filled up by the High Court pursuant to the advertisement. “The Tribunal erred in directing the APPSC to re-cast the merit list pursuant to G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002. The High Court by the impugned judgment dated 27th December, 2004 rightly held that the order passed by the Court will not affect the appointments already made to the executive post between 2001-2002 but erred in holding that the selection is to be made in accordance with G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002.” (Zee News 18/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. Nepal sets up panels to probe civil war crimes (1)

Kathmandu: Nepal set up two commissions on Tuesday to investigate long-simmering allegations of human rights abuses and disappearances during the Himalayan nation’s decade-long civil war, a government minister said. State forces and Maoist rebels alike have been accused of grave war-time abuses, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, rape and torture, during the years of conflict which ended under a 2006 peace agreement. Both sides pledged to look into the crimes within six months after signing the peace deal. But subsequent governments failed to investigate the accusations, fearing doing so would derail a tenuous peace between politicians and former rebels, leaving alleged perpetrators to rise through the military and political ranks. “This matter had been entangled for more than eight years,” law minister Narahari Acharya told reporters on Tuesday in Kathmandu after a Cabinet meeting during which the panels were set up. Mr Acharya said a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modelled after the one set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid, would investigate abuses committed during the conflict. A second panel, the Commission on Enforced Disappearances, would investigate the disappearances of more than 1,300 people still missing eight years after the end of the conflict. Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned Nepal for failing to keep promises of post-conflict justice and accountability, saying political parties were seemingly “intent on ensuring ongoing impunity” for crimes. Despite the long wait for action, advocates for victims’ rights were less than optimistic on Tuesday that the panels would deliver justice. Human rights lawyer Hari Phuyal said a flawed provision in the legislation under which the commissions were set up could be used to let perpetrators off the hook by employing ambiguous wording which could be used to grant amnesty. (Asian Age 11/2/5)

52. U.N. report on Sri Lanka rights record deferred (1)

JAFFNA: The U.N. Human Rights Council will defer the key report on Sri Lanka’s conflict, due in March, to September 2015. In what appears to be a clear shift in stance, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday said he had made a recommendation to the Council “to delay the consideration of a long-awaited report into alleged human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka for six months until September 2015.” Earlier, while addressing the Council’s 27th session in September 2014, the High Commissioner said: “I attach great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by this Council,” urging Sri Lanka to cooperate with the process in the interests of justice and reconciliation. He had then said: “I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses,” also voicing concern over apparent threats on religious freedom in the island. Less than six months later, during which time Sri Lanka witnessed a regime change, he said that deferring the report was the best option to allow space for the new government to show its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues. Mr. Al Hussein pledged his “personal, absolute and unshakable commitment” that the report will be published by September. The Sri Lankan government — which under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had refused any cooperation — was now “prepared to cooperate”, he said. The newly-formed Sri Lankan government, according to key sources in Colombo, has been lobbying Washington and New Delhi for support in Geneva. The United States, which backed the U.N. resolution, seems to have already softened its position. Following a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Washington recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that Sri Lanka’s January 8 election was a vote to “open up greater accountability and possibility for the preservation of human rights.” India too was keen on putting off the resolution in order to give the new government time. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

53. Politicians of all hues speak out against growing attacks on social activists (1)

MUMBAI: The attack on senior Communist leader Govind Pansare and his wife, Uma, sent shock waves across the state and sparked demonstrations at various places. People from all walks of life and politicians across the ideology spectrum spoke out against the growing culture of violence, especially against social activists. The incident brought back memories of the fatal attack on anti-superstition campaigner Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in August 20, 2013. Soon after the attack on the Pansares, shops and commercial establishments in Kolhapur downed shutters. Pansare spearheaded several popular agitations in Kolhapur, in keeping with the city’s long link with the leftist movement. Communist veteran and former MLA Narsayya Adam called for a concerted crusade against communal forces. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government would leave no stone unturned to catch the assailants. He said the possible role of a radical right-wing group would also be looked into. He also said in a tweet that he had asked for the use of an air ambulance to bring the Pansares to the city for treatment if required. NCP president Sharad Pawar said the attack on Pansare was an assault on the progressive ethos of the state. Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the law and order situation in the state was deteriorating day by day. “We want director general of police to be transferred immediately,” he said. Shiv Sena minister Divakar Raote said his party chief, Uddhav Thackeray, spoke to Fadnavis on the phone and urged him to thoroughly investigate the case. Minister for education and cultural affairs Vinod Tawde described the attack on the Kolhapur couple as “cowardly”.Senior Shiv Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut said: “Ideological differences cannot and should not be resolved through bullets…. Now we are in office. It is our responsibility to bring the Pansares’ attackers to book without any loss of time.” RPI-A chief Ramdas Athavale and Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti rued the climate of intolerance they said had been steadily growing in the state in the past few years. MNS chief Raj Thackeray said the attack went against the state’s robust ideological tradition. Senior left ideologue Ajit Abhyankar said the attack was proof of the growth of fundamentalist forces in the state. CPI leaders attended a protest march at Azad Maidan. The Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights urged the government to take action and “dispel the impression” that it was sheltering casteist-communal elements. (Times of India 17/2/15)

54. NHRC notice to DoT over delay in payment of retirement dues (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday took “serious view” of delay in payment of retirement dues to a BSNL employee and directed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to thoroughly enquire the case and fix responsibility of delinquent officials. “The Commission, taking a serious view of the delay in disbursement of retirement benefits, including pension and gratuity to a retired BSNL employee, has asked the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to get this matter thoroughly enquired and fix the responsibility of delinquent officers/officials,” an official statement said today. He has been given six weeks time to respond with the action taken report. The Commission had received a complaint from the wife of the retired official belonging to the Scheduled Tribe that after serving BSNL for nearly 40 years, her husband had superannuated on the March 31, 2014 but his terminal benefits were withheld by the Chief General Manager, BSNL, Jaipur. According to the petitioner, both of them were not keeping good health and were facing severe financial constraints. They had requested for the Commission’s intervention into the matter. In response to the Commission’s notices to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, the Commission was informed that on the 21st January, 2015 some terminal benefits, including Death-cum-Retirement Gratuity and Commutation Value of Pension were paid to the retired employee. However, the pension payment order was to be dispatched shortly. “On perusal of the material on record, NHRC Member, Justice D Murugesan, observed that terminal benefits were paid only after the Commission sought the report from the concerned authorities on the complaint of the employee’s wife,” the statement said. The pension orders were yet to be dispatched. The Commission takes a serious view of the fact that the DoT neither gave any explanation behind the delay in disbursement of the terminal benefits nor furnished any action taken report against the delinquent officers/officials, it added. (Zee News 18/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Supreme Court rejects CAG appointment plea (19)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a public interest writ petition filed by former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami and eight other eminent citizens challenging the appointment of Shashi Kant Sharma as the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices A.K. Sikri and Arun Mishra dismissed the PIL after hearing counsel Prashant Bhushan for the petitioners and Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi for the Centre. In their writ petition, Mr Gopalaswami, Admiral R.H. Tahiliani (Retd), former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral L. Ramdas (Retd), former Chief of Naval Staff, Dr B.P. Mathur, former deputy CAG, Ramaswamy R. Iyer, and four others sought a declaration that the appointment of Mr Sharma was non est or void as it was made arbitrarily by a procedure that did not withstand the test of constitutionality and also on the ground of conflict of interest. Mr Bhushan submitted that the process of selection of CAG was arbitrary and the zone of consideration had been restricted to civil servants, a limitation not found in the Constitution. In the present case, he said Mr Sharma had been arbitrarily selected without any transparency and without any criteria. The counsel said before being appointed as the CAG, Mr Sharma had served in key positions in the ministry of defence that involved decision-making powers over purchases running into tens of lakhs of crores of rupees. During the period 2003-2007, he was the joint secretary in the ministry of defence. He remained defence secretary when he was appointed as the CAG by the government. He said the court could interpret the Constitution as it had done in the “judges case” (when collegium system was introduced) to ensure a transparent procedure was followed and lay down guidelines for such key appointments. The CJI referred to Mr. Bhushan’s arguments and asked the AG whether the court was competent to interpret the Article relating to CAG’s appointment. The AG said “I don’t agree with the interpretation made by the court in the judges case. We can have a debate on this issue some other time. Can we say that all judges who were appointed on the advice of the Executive between 1950 and 1980 were bad and all appointments subsequent to 1980 were good. Under Article 148 of the Constitution the power of appointment of the CAG vested with the government through a proper procedure and persons only with highest integrity are considered for selection. As there is nothing wrong with Mr. Sharma, the petition should be dismissed.” Taking note of the submissions the Bench dismissed the PIL. (Asian Age 12/2/15)

56. Minimal use of building cess for workers ‘shocks’ Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: The government collects thousands of crores through construction cess, ultimately paid by people who booked flats, but less than 10% of the amount has been spent for the benefit of daily wage earners in the construction sector for whose welfare the tax is levied, a fact which has “shocked” the Supreme Court. The Centre told the court that around Rs 4,179 crore construction cess was collected in the last three years by eight states out of which only Rs 361 crore have so far been spent for the welfare of construction workers. A social justice bench of justices Madan B Lokur and UU Latit expressed serious concern over the miniscule amount spent on welfare of construction workers. “This is shocking,” the bench remarked saying it will examine how the money was being spent from the fund. It directed additional solicitor general P S Narasimha to provide details of all the schemes framed by the state governments for the welfare of workers. The Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Rule provides for levy and collection of cess on the cost of construction incurred by employers and the amount would be deposited with the Building and Other Constructions Workers Welfare Boards. The affidavit filed by the Centre said that the states of Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh have collected Rs 868 crore in 2011-12, Rs 1,606 crore in 2012-13 and Rs 1,705 crore in the last financial year. However, it said that the boards of eight states spent only around Rs 361 crore in three years. Maharashtra collected Rs 1,991 crore cess during the last three years but spent only 57 crore on welfare of construction workers. According to data the board in the state runs 17 schemes for workers. In Delhi, Rs 484 crore was collected under the scheme in three years out of which only Rs 38.60 crore has been spent so far on 18 welfare schemes launched by the board. Similarly, in Rajasthan, Rs 579 crore came to government coffers through cess during 2011-14 but only Rs 38 crore was spent for benefit of workers. The Supreme Court is monitoring the implementation of the social welfare act and it had earlier directed all the states to set up the board to frame and implement welfare schemes for the benefit of construction workers. Under the act every state is required to constitute a state welfare board to provide financial assistance for children education, medical treatment etc. The board is also supposed to give financial help in case of accidents and provide pensions, loans and group insurance to workers. The court took the task of ensuring implementation of the welfare law after a PIL was filed by an NGO, National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, alleging that the state governments which collected the cess was not passing on the amount to the welfare boards to extend benefits to workers as contemplated by the act. (The Hindu 15/2/15)

57. Supreme Court fixes 90-day limit for suspension of govt employees (19)

NEW DELHI: Protracted period of suspension of delinquent government employee has become a norm and such practice must be curbed, the Supreme Court on Monday said while fixing a period of ninety 90 days for authorities to complete proceedings against such an employee. The court said that an employee suffered ignominy and scorn of society due to prolonged period of suspension. “We, therefore, direct that the currency of a suspension order should not extend beyond three months … if within this period the memorandum of charges/chargesheet is not served on the delinquent officeremployee,” a bench headed by Justice Vikaramajit Sen said. It said suspension, specially preceding the formulation of charges, is essentially transitory or temporary in nature, and must be of short duration. “If it is for an indeterminate period or if its renewal is not based on sound reasoning contemporaneously available on the record, this would render it punitive in nature,” the bench said. “Protracted periods of suspension, repeated renewal thereof, have regrettably become the norm and not the exception that they ought to be. The suspended person suffering the ignominy of insinuations, the scorn of society and the derision of his department, has to endure this excruciation even before he is formally charged with some misdemeanour or offence,” the bench said The court passed the order on a petition filed by defence estate officer Ajay Kumar Choudhary who was kept suspended for a long time. (Times of India 17/2/15)

58. Delhi High Court rejects PIL seeking marital rape be made criminal offence (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a PIL challenging a provision in the penal law which does not consider rape as the sexual intercourse of a man with his wife who is a minor noting that a similar matter has been junked by the apex court. A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw dismissed as withdrawn the plea of an NGO highlighting the exception in Section 375 of the IPC which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. “Similar matter has been dismissed by the Supreme Court. We don’t see anything into this petition,” the bench said after which the NGO withdrew its plea. A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw dismissed as withdrawn the plea of an NGO highlighting the exception in Section 375 of the IPC which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife who is not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. Rit Foundation had submitted that the exception in section 375 was brought by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, which was enacted after the horrific gangrape case of December 16, 2012. In its petition, it had claimed that the exception to Section 375 of the IPC was to the extent that it grants immunity to a husband by raping his own wife, who is above age of 15 years, was unconstitutional. It submitted that the exception was “unconstitutional and violative of the Right to Equality guaranteed to married women under Article 14 of the Constitution as it decriminalises rape when the perpetrator is the lawfully wedded husband of the victim.” It had said that even though the law made a distinction between married and unmarried woman in this case, the basis of distinction does not have any rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the law, which is to protect women from sexual assault. The petition had also stated that marital rape has been criminalised in almost all major common law jurisdictions throughout the world, including in the US, the UK, South Africa and Canada. IBN Live 19/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. Custodial death reported in Vijayawada, another attempts suicide (1)

VIJAYAWADA: A suspect chain snatcher, Pulla Ramesh (28), allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison when the police apprehended him in the wee hours of Wednesday even as the victim’s family members cried foul over his death. Ramesh, a native of Gannavaram, was arrested in motor cycles theft cases in 2009. On information that a chain snatchers’ gang was moving at Ramavarappadu Ring Road, a police team under the supervision of Penamaluru Circle Inspector Jagan Mohan Rao, reached the spot. When the police caught Ramesh, he reportedly consumed some poison. He was rushed to the Government General Hospital, where the doctors declared him dead. But, the victim’s family members alleged that Ramesh died in police custody.In another incident, a suspect in a theft case, Govind, allegedly cut his throat with a sharp-edged instrument during interrogation in Chilakalapudi police station under the limits of Machilipatnam police sub-division in Krishna District in the early hours on Wednesday. The victim was rushed to a hospital where his condition is stated to be stable. Govind is a native of Rajahmundry in East Godavari district, said Chilakalapudi SI Nabi. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

60. Govt must answer for plight of undertrials (1)

NEW DELHI: Concerned over the plight of prisoners, the Delhi high court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre and Delhi government on deplorable condition of undertrials, including women and mentally challenged. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw gave the authorities’ time till March 5 to file their replies, taking suo motu cognizance of the issue after Supreme Court referred the matter to HC. The apex court, while deciding a PIL in November 2014, sent a reference to the high court in January to decide the issue as far as it concerns jails in Delhi. SC dealt with the PIL that raised the issue of the plight of undertrial prisoners, who are languishing in jails for a long time. SC had also observed that, while some work has been done by the state governments and other authorities towards implementation of the apex court directions, a lot remains to be done in the future. It had identified nine problem areas including overcrowding, delay in trial, torture, neglect of health and hygiene, food and clothing, management of open air prisons and deficiency in communication system. It had further asked all high courts of India to register a PIL and continue the proceedings. HC has also been dealing with two PILs to ensure that the inmates of Tihar Jail have their basic human rights fulfilled. Due to overcrowding, undertrials are being affected by numerous diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and typhoid, the PIL claimed. Of 3.81 lakh prisoners across the country, 2.54 lakh are undertrials. In many cases, the accused have spent more time in jail than the actual sentence which might be awarded to him in case of conviction. (Times of india 12/2/15)

61. Every effort will be made to repeal AFSPA: Paswan (1)

Imphal, February 14 2015 : Every possible effort will be made to repeal the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), 1958, assured Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister Consumer Affairs Food & Public Distribution during a felicitation programme hosted by Lok Jan Shakti (LJS) State Unit at Chajing Mairenthong, Langthabal on Saturday. The minister asserted that the LJS takes the fourteen-year-long struggle of Irom Sharmila for repeal of AFSPA very seriously. He stated that after his return to Delhi, he will talk with PM Narendra Modi and impress him on the need to repeal AFSPA. At the same time, special initiatives will be taken up to stop violence against people from Northeast particularly in Delhi and other cities of India, Paswan said. He also informed that during the regime of the previous NDA government he had made special efforts for the protection of people from Northeast. Later in day while addressing a press conference at Hotel Imphal, the minister said contrary to the charges from the people that essential items under Public Distribution Systems (PDS) do not reach them, the state authorities had claimed that essential items are being distributed regularly to the beneficiaries. He assured that the Central government will investigate why PDS items are not reaching the people. On Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Food Security Act, Paswan said there are high chances that the Act will be implemented in the state soon as 77 per cent of data entry work had been completed. Once the scheme is implemented, the minister explained, details of the beneficiaries will be made available in the website and to ensure availability of items, vigilance committees will be instituted, even at Panchayal level. The minister also reviewed the works that are being taken up for National Food Security Act in the sates of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. Ninety per cent of data entry is completed in Tripura and 62 per cent in Assam. He stated that according to information collected from relevant authorities, 77 per cent of data work has been completed in Manipur and the exercise is expected to be completed by July, paving the way for implementation of the Act. On Sunday, Paswan will lay the foundation stone for the ten metric ton capacity storage house at Imphal and five metric ton at Bishnupur. Prior to the press conference, Paswan interacted with officials and employees of Food Corporation of India (FCI) for a firsthand account of the methods employed in PDS distribution in the state. (Manipur R PAO 15/2/15)

62. Army washes hands off Sonitpur firing (1)

Guwahati: The Army on Monday said Sunday’s firing in Sonitpur district, in which an Assam Rifles (AR) jawan allegedly shot dead two men, was not a part of any counter-insurgency operation. The duo — Gautam Das and Babu Das — was allegedly shot dead by the jawan after they refused to serve him liquor, said Lt. Col. Suneet Newton, PRO (defence). “According to information available, the AR jawan got into a scuffle with the civilians,” he said. Sonitpur Police have arrested the accused, Karnel Singh Kapoor. “A woman, Jinu Das, also received injuries and has been admitted in Tezpur civil hospital. Family members told police that Kapoor opened fire when they refused to serve him liquor,” police sources said. Locals said the jawan was accompanied by other AR personnel who fled after the firing. (Times of India 17/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

63. Former editor facing death threats over cartoon (1)

MUMBAI: Shirin Dalvi, former Editor of Urdu daily Avadhnama had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking quashing of complaints against her and clubbing of all the FIRs. She has said that her life is in danger as she has received several death threats. Five FIRs have been filed against her in three districts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Thane and Nashik, under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” She has obtained anticipatory bail in one case, while she was granted bail after arrest in another. Complaints were filed against her after Avadhnama reprinted Charlie Hebdo’s cover page in its January 17 edition. After readers’ complaints, the paper issued an apology on January 18. But it closed down from January 19. Thereafter, Ms. Dalvi has said, she was hounded by a few people, making her go underground. “She has had to change her style of dressing, switch off her mobile phones, and lock up and leave her residence out of fear for her life,” her petition has said. “She is the only woman editor of an Urdu daily in the country. Today, there are multiple FIRs against her. She can’t stay at home, her children can’t go home, or can’t pursue their education,” senior counsel Mihir Desai, who represented Ms. Dalvi, told the court on Monday. He pleaded that all the FIRs against her be transferred to one police station and the State not take any coercive action against her. But the Maharashtra government, represented by Public Prosecutor Sandeep Shinde, opposed her plea. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

64. Women journalists more suited for off-field roles: Rathore (1)

New Delhi: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Friday said women in media would be better off pursuing off-field roles like that of news analysis as opposed to field reporting in view of safety, challenging conditions and odd hours of work. In contrast to the “reducing importance” of factual news business practiced by TV journalism, Rathore called for women scribes to take to print that is more about “analysis of the implication of the news”.In print, “your (women journalists) role could be far better utilized without going out in the field. Not that you should not go out. In the sense of safety and security, the working hours, conditions, and different roles attached as a mother, sister, or a wife,” Rathore told women journalists in a media interaction at Indian Women’s Press Corps here. Stressing the fact that his suggestion was free of any gender bias, he said avenues “like sports, battlefields, Maoist-infested areas become issues for women journalists to be present there”. (Business Standard 13/2/15)

65. Media Boycotts Manish Sisodia’s Press Conference After Entry Denied to Delhi Secretariat (1)

NEW DELHI: Media today boycotted the press conference of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia after journalists were denied entry into the Delhi Secretariat, even as officials claimed that the new government has not issued any direction in this regard. After a Cabinet meeting, Sisodia was scheduled to address the media about the government’s decisions at 5 PM. When the deputy chief minister entered the media room adjacent to a main entry gate of the Secretariat, journalists from both electronic and print media tried to first seek his response as to why they were not allowed inside. When Sisodia tried to pacify the journalists, photographers and cameramen, they didn’t relent and refused to attend the press conference. Seeing this, Sisodia walked away from the media room and then went towards his office. Journalists from print and electronic media were denied entry into the Delhi Secretariat throughout the day. When security personnels were asked about the reasons behind the ban of media’s entry, they said that they have directions from government officials in this regard. “We have orders from senior government officials not to let mediapersons enter the premises,” a security person said, claiming having received verbal instructions from the officials to that effect. Earlier in the day, Nagendra Sharma, media-adviser to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, also came to pacify angry media persons, saying that new government has not issued such direction which favours to ban the entry of journalists inside the Secretariat. “Before new government took charge, a circular was already in place which banned the entry of media into the Delhi Secretariat. “New government has issued no direction in this regard. Give me one or two days, I will sort out this matter,” Sharma told reporters here. Meanwhile, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi met Kejriwal at the Secretariat around 11.45 AM. It was described as a courtesy call. (New Indian Express 17/2/15)

66. India need to focus on privacy & data collection laws: Software Freedom Law Center (1)

New Delhi: As India moves towards becoming the world’s second largest Internet market, the need for privacy and data protection is of critical importance to safeguard interests of netizens, activists have said. According to Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), which provides free legal services to developers of free and open source softwares, Europe is having an “intense” debate on the right to privacy and protection of data, something which is missing in India. In wake of the global uproar caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations on US surveillance and increasing interest around data protection and privacy, it is time for a comprehensive review of India’s legislations that regulate surveillance, SFLC India Founding Director Mishi Choudhary said. “Europe is fighting for data protection and privacy, but here in India, we are not talking about these issues. I think the time is ripe to have a decision on to have a law on privacy and data collection,” she said.. SFLC is a donor-supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists and students to protect freedom in the digital world. Quoting SFLC’s report “Communications Surveillance in India’, Choudhary said the language of the law needs to be considerably narrowed down to specify objectively verifiable situations under which surveillance may be legitimately undertaken. According to the report, the procedure to be followed while conducting surveillance of communications must be “clearly spelled out in its entirety” and any opportunity for “misuse of authority must be done away with by holding the concerned agents of intercepting agencies to highest standards of accountability. The provision for an independent oversight of the surveillance process is a necessity and the regime of blanket denial of surveillance-related information requests made by the public must also be done with, the report added. Choudhary emphasised on the need to make the surveillance regime in India needs more transparent. The report said: “Citizens must have a legislatively recognised right to privacy, the violation of which will entitle them to constitutional remedies.” IBN Live 18/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

67. Supreme Court stays Teesta arrest after High Court rejects bail (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon stayed the arrest till Friday of social activist Teesta Setalvad of Centre for Justice and Peace and her husband Javed Anand in a “misappropriation case”. The Gujarat high court rejected their anticipatory bail petitions in the morning and they faced imminent arrest. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices A.K. Sikri and Arun Mishra restrained the Gujarat police from arresting Ms Setalvad and others on an urgent oral mention made by senior counsel Kapil Sibal that the Gujarat police had already reached Mumbai to arrest them following the dismissal of their petitions by the high court. He said the Gujarat police was to arrest her anytime and sought protection. The bench, while directing the matter to be listed for hearing on Friday, stayed the arrest till then. According to the Gujarat police, some former residents of Gulberg Society had alleged that Ms Setalvad and her NGO had restrained them from disposing of their properties after the Gujarat riots by promising them to purchase land and construct a memorial. However, the properties were never purchased on the ground that there was not enough funds. It was alleged that Ms Setalvad and her NGO had collected money from abroad by showing their condition and that the money collected would be used for their upliftment. The Gujarat police registered a criminal case against Ms Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, former MP Ehsan Jafri’s son Tanvir and two office-bearers of Gulberg Society, Salimbhai Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar, for embezzlement of Rs 1.51 crore. (Asian Age 13/2/15)

68. Court acquits 68 for lack of evidence in 2002 Gujarat riot case (7)

Ahmedabad: A trial court on Friday acquitted all the 68 accused due to lack of evidence in a case related to the 2002 post-Godhra riot at Seshan village in Deodar tehsil of Banaskantha district. Fourteen persons, including two children, were killed in the violence at the village — which is about 150 km from here — in the aftermath of the Godhra train-burning incident. Additional District and Sessions Judge V K Pujara of Taluka court, Deodar, said the statements of the witnesses did not support other evidence. 190 witnesses had deposed before the court. The first charge-sheet was filed in 2002, while 12 supplementary charge-sheets were filed subsequently. The prosecution had argued that accounts of the eye-witnesses clearly showed that all the accused persons were involved in the killing of 14 persons. But the defence pointed out that the witnesses could not recognise the accused during the identification parade. According to police, a mob of around 5,000 people, armed with swords and sticks, had attacked the village on March 2, 2002. The village had about 200 people of Baloch Muslim community, who had been living there since 1947. The mob killed 14 Muslims, including two girls who were five-year-old and 11-year-old, respectively, and two women. Two persons from the mob were killed in police-firing. Additional Public Prosecutor D V Thakor said the victims made representations before Justice G T Nanavati Commission, probing the riots, seeking a speedy trial. Following which an inquiry was conducted by Banaskantha SP S M Katara, while earlier the probe had been conducted by Deputy Superintendent of police Ravindra Patel. Ten out of the 68 accused were in jail for the last 12 years. (Zee News 14/2/15)

69. Government may make laws stringent (7)

New Delhi: The government is planning to initiate inter-ministerial discussion on the issue of attacks on religious places soon to ascertain whether the existing laws are sufficient or there is need for a special clause to specifically focus on this crime which will attract stringent punishment. “As of now, these offences are covered under different sections of the criminal law but the Centre plans to make it more stringent. Though the state police can initiate action under existing criminal laws also, but there is need to make it stringent to send out a strong signal,” a senior government functionary said. The spate of attacks on churches had evoked strong protests from Christian groups and both the PM and home minister Rajnath Singh had expressed concern over the incidents. The Delhi police chief is believed to have assured the PMO and the home ministry that these cases will solved in the next few days. But over the last few months, there has been a pattern to such attacks in the national capital, which also became an issue during the recently-concluded Delhi Assembly elections. There is a view within the government now that the Centre needs to focus primarily on governance and economic growth, which were getting influenced by fringe elements that were indulging in such incidents of desecration of religious places or conversion events like “ghar wapsi”. On its part the saffron outfits will also be told to strictly rope in its functionaries and stop them from making inflammatory speeches targeting religious minorities. (Asian Age 15/2/15)

70. Violence And Blame Traded Over Communal Tension in Kerala’s Nadapuram (7)

Thiruvananthapuram:  Charred walls and broken windows, this is the home 39-year-old Sulekha Mustafa has returned to three weeks after it was set on fire, forcing her to flee with her three children. Her’s is one of 40 Muslim homes in Nadapuram in Kozhikode, that was targeted allegedly by CPI (M) loyalists. The attacks had reportedly been in retaliation to the murder of a CPI (M) youth wing worker, allegedly by workers of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). “I am still scared. My children are still troubled mentally. We can’t sleep. We have horrible dreams,” says Ms Mustafa. The violence escalated during the funeral procession of 19-year-old Shibin, a CPI (M) youth worker. Six other youths were attacked along with Shibin, but escaped with injuries and have been hospitalised. Shibin’s family and the CPI (M) blame the IUML for the attack, that claimed the youth’s life. “What does Muslim League get by killing people like this? They will rebuild their houses. Where will we get our son from?” asked Bhaskaran, Shibin’s father, standing by his son’s funeral pyre.The CPI (M) and IUML however are both trading blame for the violence and are accusing each other of colluding with the police. “Muslim League is behind this brutal attack. Where was the police? It is Muslim League and police hand in hand,” alleges Mohanan Master, CPI (M) district secretary. It is the exact same charge that the IUML is levelling against the CPI (M). “This has been done by the CPI (M) and police hand-in-hand,” says Muslim Youth League state secretary Subair.The police however say they were outnumbered 10 to one when tensions escalated during Shibin’s funeral procession, but that the situation has been under control since. “”We couldn’t use arms or tear gas because of the procession for the dead body. We were outnumbered by 10 times. But no life was lost, and not a single incident has happened since that day till today,” said Kozhikode District’s Superintendent of Police, PH Ashraf. Nadapuram has a history of communal unrest and violence fuelled by political vendetta. The town has a special police control room to specifically address its communally sensitive nature. (NDTV 15/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

71. BJP’s Hindutva is ‘fake’, says Mutalik (26)

HUBBALLI, Estranged member of Sangh Parivar and Sri Ram Sene Chief, Pramod Mutalik has termed BJP’s Hindutva as ‘fake’. Addressing presspersons here on Wednesday, Mr. Mutalik said that the convention of Hindus being held under the banner of ‘Virat Hindu Samavesh’ in Hubballi should not become a ‘BJP convention’. He however added that Sri Ram Sena would support the Virat Hindu Samavesh. Mr. Mutalik sought to know why the BJP leaders’, who are now crying foul over ban on entry of Praveen Togadia into Bengaluru, did not utter a word when he (Mutalik) was banned from entering Goa. “BJP is following double standards on issues related to Hindutva”, he said.Mr. Mutalik said that Sri Ram Sene would oppose any ‘commercialised’ celebration of love on Valentine’s Day. “We will be celebrating February 14 as ‘Mata Pitru Dina’, he said. Clarifying that Sene was not opposed to love, he said that already the Sene volunteers had conducted awareness programmes against celebrating ‘Valentine’s Day’, which was being promoted for commercial reasons. The Sene volunteers would again be visiting schools, colleges and hotels in the twin cities and create awareness about the ‘Mata Pitru Dina’, he said. On February 14, the Sene volunteers would give roses to young boys and girls and the parents as part of their awareness drive. However to a query, Mr. Mutalik said that they would arrange the marriage of lovers with the consent of their parents. “But we will not allow any indecent expression of love in the open”, he warned. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

72. 35 people convert in Kerala under VHP’s ‘ghar vapasi’ (26)

Kottayam, Kerala: A group of 35 people on Sunday “re-converted” to Hinduism as VHP continued with its ‘ghar vapasi’ programme despite criticism from various quarters, with the outfit claiming that they hailed Dalit families who had converted to Christianity a few generations back. The rituals for “welcoming” these people to “their original faith” were held at a temple at Uzhavoor near here, said Aneesh Balakrishnan, a spokesman for pro-VHP “Kerala Hindu Helpline.” They belonged to 12 families of Cheramar community, “who had converted to Christianity a few generations back,” he said. With these ‘re-conversion’, in Kottayam district alone 120 peopled had “returned” to the Hindu faith in the last three months, Balakrishnan said. The VHP has also organised ‘re-conversion’ programmes in Alappuzha and Idukki districts in the last three months. He said the VHP with the cooperation of other Hindu outfits would be organising ‘ghar vapasi’ programmes in different parts of Kerala on all Sundays. The conversion issue has been in limelight in Kerala and was raised in Parliament too in December with the opposition attacking the government. The central government had said nether it nor BJP was involved in it and that it was for the state government to take necessay action. Chief Minister Oommen had then said the situation in the state on conversion did not warrant any government intervention. “There is no compulsory conversion or recoversion in the state and it will not take place also. If somebody voluntarily takes any decision, what can the government do,” he had said. (Deccan Herald 15/2/15)

73. People might belong to different castes, but their ideologies, values same: Mohan Bhagwat

Kanpur: Following controversies over “ghar wapsi” campaign and statements on increasing Muslim population by its affiliates, RSS on Sunday sounded a conciliatory tone, with its chief Mohan Bhagwat saying that people might belong to different castes and religions, but their ideologies and values as well as “ancestors” were the same. Bhagwat said “ancestors” for him meant those people who have sacrificed their lives for the country. He also asserted that RSS does not teach to “fight”, but trains people in self-defence and skills to protect others. Addressing Rashtra Raksha Sangam, a gathering of RSS workers, here, Bhagwat said certain forces want to divide people on different lines, but RSS believes that entire country is a single entity despite diversity in language, caste, sub-caste and place of living.The RSS chief said: “People may belong to different castes, religions or regions, but ideologies and values of all Indians are the same. They all have the same ancestors — those who have laid down their lives for the country.” Invoking socialist ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia, he said, “Lohia too said that lord Ram connected north and south, Krishna connected east and west and Shiva is present in every particle of the country.” The mention of Lohia by Bhagwat in his speech was significant because Samajwadi Party claims Lohia to be its ideologue and different wings of RSS, including BJP and VHP, have been accusing the SP government of Muslim appeasement and being responsible for communal riots in UP. Bhagwat also appealed swayamsevaks to unite Hindus and make them free from fear. “These views have been expressed in various speeches so far at different forums but only these speeches will not work any more. You will have to develop a habit to unite Hindus and shakhas are a medium to do that by creating such swayemsevaks who can unite Hindus. In shakhas, we never ask caste and religion of people,” he said. Over rising incidents of crime against women, the RSS chief said: “Not just education but how a man treats a woman reflects his character and that every woman must treated with respect.” Around 11,000 swayamsevaks attended the Sangam, organised at the Railways ground in Kanpur. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

74. Modi’s sermon on tolerance aimed at Christians, VHP says (26)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on religious tolerance is widely being seen as an assurance to the minorities in general and government’s outreach to Christians in particular in the wake of recent attacks on churches. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), however, said the media is reading the message wrong and the sermon of religious tolerance is actually aimed at “Christians who have been attacking Hindus”.It said the very fact that Modi chose to address a gathering of Christians on a day the Delhi Police brought out a report saying that 206 temples had been attacked as against seven Churches proved that the PM was asking Christians to exercise religious tolerance and “respect the Hindu religion”.VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, “The Prime Minister did not say ‘minorities’ nor did he mention any particular religion. The news traders are misreading his message to suit their agenda. When he has not taken any names, you have to see in what circumstances he has made the statements. The supposed attacks on churches have been going on for a while now but the PM never came out and spoke. He spoke only after the Delhi Police pointed out that 206 temples were attacked. He spoke on a day a temple was vandalized in the US.” Jain denied that Modi’s message was in any way an assurance to the minorities that their interests would be protected. He also said since it was not directed towards Hindu groups, VHP’s programmes of ‘ghar wapasi’ and protests against ‘love jihad’ would continue. “The PM’s message was aimed at those who attack other religions. It’s the Christian missionaries which publish literature insulting Hindu deities, run hate campaigns and insult Hinduism in general. This way they insult the nation. That is why Modi did not say these things addressing a congregation of Hindus. This means he has indicated to the Christian community that you should start respecting the Hindu religion,” Jain said. Addressing the national celebration function marking the elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi on Tuesday said, “My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.” In what was seen as a stern warning to fringe elements, he said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.” (Times of India 18/2/15)

TERRORISM

75. Boko Haram abducts 30 people in Cameroon, Nigeria (12)

Yaounde: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamic extremists have abducted about 30 people including eight Cameroonian girls and killed seven hostages in two bus hijackings in Cameroon and Nigeria, Cameroon residents and a Nigerian intelligence officer said. Boko Haram, who kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria last year in an incident that ignited international outrage, have taken eight Cameroonian girls hostage, said Chetima Ahmidou, the principal of a school in the area. The girls range in age from 11 to 14 and come from the town of Koza, he said yesterday. The bus attack took place Sunday about 18 km from Cameroon’s border with Nigeria. Seven other hostages were slain and their bodies scattered near the border, said Ahmidou, whose brother was the bus driver and was among those killed. Also Sunday, across the border in Nigeria, the Islamic extremists held up a bus in Akada-Banga village of Bama district and made off with about 20 people, including women and children, according to a security officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to reporters. Boko Haram has fought a 5-year insurgency against the Nigerian government, launching scores of attacks that left 10,000 people dead last year alone. In recent weeks, the terror group has intensified its assaults on neighboring Cameroon and Niger. Together with Nigeria’s other neighbors, Benin and Chad, they have pledged to form an 8,750-strong multinational force to confront the Islamic extremists. On Monday, Niger’s parliament voted to approve supporting the mission. The vote came just hours after a car bombing in the town of Diffa, which was blamed on Boko Haram, who had launched three other attacks on the town since Friday. The United Nations said yesterday that a small team of five experts from its peacekeeping department has deployed to provide support in readying the force. (Zee News 11/2/15)

76. Islamic State to be banned under UAPA (12)

NEW DELHI: The Union Home Ministry may soon issue a notification banning Islamic State, a terror outfit, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “It has been proposed to ban the IS, which was earlier known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). A notification may be issued soon,” said a Home Ministry official. The outfit has already been proscribed in India, as it is listed in the Schedule to the United Nations Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order. “The notification will explicitly put the outfit on the list of banned organisations,” the official said. (The Hindu 14/2/15)

77. Christians’ execution by IS: Egypt reserves right to respond (12)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday that his country reserves the right to respond at the proper time to the killing of 21 Coptic Egyptians in Libya by Islamic State (IS) militants, according to a Xinhua report. The president said that Egypt would be able to defeat terrorism because “Egypt is defending humanity”.On Sunday, the IS militant group published a video purportedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians abducted in Libya. Later, the Egyptian Orthodox Church confirmed the killings. The Egyptians were abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte in two separate incidents in December and January, only a week apart from each other. Sisi held an urgent meeting of the National Defence Council Sunday to discuss the killing of the Egyptian Christians. He urged the government to move swiftly to assist the families of the victims. “We all need to be united to fight terrorism,” Sisi said. The Egyptian president declared a seven-day mourning and also ordered the government to enforce a travel ban on Libya. Libya has been mired in chaos and civil war since October 2011, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) began supporting anti-Gaddafi rebels, ultimately resulting in the toppling of the Gaddafi regime. (New Kerala 16/2/15)

78. India among 60 nations to attend White House summit on terror (12)

Washington: Over 60 countries including India will participate in a White House summit on “countering violent extremism” beginning today in the backdrop of alarming growth of ISIS and recent terrorists’ attacks in France and Denmark, senior administration officials have said. While the first two days of the three-day summit are primarily focused on domestic extremism given that there was substantial increase in home grown terrorism, the final day, Thursday would see full participation of more than 60 countries including several ministers to focus on foreign fighters among others. India, which for the past several decades has been a victim of foreign supported terrorism and faces a challenge of domestic violent extremism that include Naxals and Maoists in particular, would be represented by R N Ravi, Chairman of the powerful Joint Intelligence Committee. “It’s a very full and very ambitious agenda to expand and deepen our global coalition to counter and prevent violent extremism,” a senior administration official said yesterday. The conference would highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalising, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the US and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks throughout the world. Led by US President Barack Obama, top officials of his administration including Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice would be addressing the White House Summit. Obama would be addressing the gathering twice in the summit. The significance of the summit has gained in the last few months in particular with the alarming rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, terrorists attacks in France and Denmark recently. “Countering violent extremism is only one element of all of the different tools that we’re bringing against terrorists, and specifically groups like ISIL,” the official said, adding that the focus would be on sharing information, how to make sure that all governments know those who may cause harm and what action can be taken. Noting that the US remains particularly concerned about the possibility of groups like ISIL recruiting Americans to fight, the official said the message at the White House and the agenda itself is not entirely focused on ISIL itself. “ISIL is the near-term threat that we all are focused on, but we also recognise in the United States there has been violent extremists that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and so the agenda for all three days is going to show a wide array of speakers and participants from all backgrounds who combat radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms,” the official said. (Deccan Herald  17/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

79. Chhattisgarh: Naxal Training Camp Busted, Cache of Arms Seized (12)

RAIPUR: Security forces have busted a naxal training camp and recovered a cache of arms and ammunitions besides the material used in making explosives in Dantewada district, a senior official said today. The seizure was made in forested Gonderas hills under Aranpur police station limits by a joint team of security personnel last evening, Dantewada SP Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI today. The cache included thirty seven gelatin rods, eleven detonators, two hand grenades, a country-made gun, a tiffin bomb, a pipe bomb, explosives, gun powder and materials used in making bombs, he said. A squad of Special Task Force (STF) and district force was on a three-day long anti-naxal operation in south Dantewada, around 400 km away from the state capital Raipur, since Tuesday, the SP said. While cordoning off Sopiras area in the region, they were tipped off about the Maoist training camp on the hill following which they started zeroing on at the location. On sensing the security personnel, ultras fled to core forest leaving behind their belongings which included ammunitions and explosives, the SP said, adding the seizure also included a huge number of naxal literature, some Maoist-related documents and magazines. (New Indian Express 12/2/15)

80. In G’chiroli, informers paid Rs 40L for getting Naxals arrested (12)

NAGPUR: Total cash rewards amounting to over Rs 40 lakh have been disbursed among secret informers who helped Gadchiroli district police nab Naxal cadres in the last six month. Rewards of around Rs 94 lakh have become due against 18 arrests since the policy came into force from August last year but Rs 54 lakh are still awaiting sanction. Gadchiroli police last week netted two Naxal cadres having cumulative reward of Rs 20 lakh on their heads, which included divisional committee (DVC) member Mainu Posudi alias Shivaji of north Gadchiroli division, from Etapalli. He was nabbed along with Platoon No 3 and Kasansoor area committee member Asmita Tumretti alias Savita. As per the state government policy, DVC Posudi’s arrest meant a reward of Rs 20 lakh for the informer and Savita’s arrest another Rs 4 lakh. In 2009, Gadchiroli police had caught DVC Jagdish Madavi. The arrest of Shivaji is second such top ranking cadre being netted by police in Gadchiroli after six years. SP Gadchiroli Sandip Patil stated the state government’s reward policy had triggered substantial enthusiasm among both civilians and government personnel to inform cops regarding Naxal. He stated that even government personnel were entitled for 50% of the reward amount and that had made the officers even more motivated. SP Patil stated six Naxals were arrested between January and February 15. After the reward policy was announced, some top cadres of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh have been netted in the district. Prior to Shivaji, Gadchiroli police had nabbed another DVC member, Jethuram Dhurva, alias Raju, who belonged to Oundhi Dalam of Rajnandgaon of Chhattisgarh in September 2014. Chhattisgarh’s Madanwada Dalam commander Kamlesh Gavde, alias Shamlal, too was nabbed in Gadchiroli in September 2014. In October 2014, Gadchiroli police had foiled a Naxalite plan of blowing up a polling booth in Dhanora by arresting Yesu Tekam alias Dunga who was a Platoon No 15 commander. “We are taking special precaution to maintain secrecy regarding the persons who generated the input,” said Patil. He stated that officers of SP rank could approve rewards of only Rs 10 lakh while the IG rank officer had the power to approve rewards between Rs 10 and Rs 20 lakh. Above it, they must be approved by the senior most officials of the state. (Times of India 16/2/15)

81. ‘Charging states for Maoist menace not logical’ (12)

Bhubaneswar: Disapproving the Union government’s move to ask Maoist-hit states to foot the bill for deployment of central forces, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the Centre to wave the charges.PTI File Photo for representation purpose only Disapproving the Union government’s move to ask Maoist-hit states to foot the bill for deployment of central forces, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the Centre to wave the charges. “The claim of Rs 1,450.29 crore by the Union government towards deployment of central forces appears to be quite unreasonable,” Patnaik said in a strongly worded letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. “In the present internal security scenario, joint and coordinated operations of the state and central security forces are the need of the hour. Such demands should not take precedence over the urgent operational requirements so far as deployment of central police forces is considered”, the chief minister said in the letter circulated to the media. Requesting the Centre to consider waving the charges completely, Patnaik, who also heads the state’s home department, reminded Singh that Odisha is training its own police force to fight the Maoists at a considerable expense. CRPF’s Director General (DG) had recently asked the Odisha government to pay up Rs 1,450.29 crore as deployment charges for its forces. Several divisions of the central reserve police force are engaged in operations against the Maoists in Odisha, where at least half of the 30 districts are in the red zone.  “Deployment of central police forces is considered essential to supplement the efforts of state police to counter left wing extremism which covers a large number of states. In this regard, the Odisha government has also recruited, trained and deployed a large number of police personnel for anti-naxal operations bearing huge expenditure from the state exchequer,” Patnaik has said in his letter. “It is the responsibility of both the Union government and the states to fight the left wing extremism by pooling together their resources”, Patnaik added. (Deccan Herald 16/2/15)

82. Landmines recovered in naxal infested Medininagar in Jharkhand (12)

Jharkhand: Security personnel on Wednesday ecovered four landmines from Kelkargarh-Dwarika Road of naxal-infested Palamau district, police said. The recovery was made when the district police force and Jaguar personnel were on a poppy-destroying campaign in the area, Superintendent of Police Mayur Patel said. The security personnel stumbled upon an exposed wire during their operation and launched a search in the vicinity, he said, adding that they spotted four landmines including three connected in a series. Later, the explosives were defused with the help of bomb disposal squad, he added. (DNA 18/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

83. Minor girls trafficked, raped yet Chhattisgarh cops fail to register FIR (1)

RAIPUR: In two separate incidents, minor girls were sexually assaulted, trafficked and repeatedly raped at Raipur and Raigarh districts respectively on Wednesday. While no FIR was lodged in both the cases, police excused themselves saying investigations were underway for authenticity of minors’ complaints. While on one hand state commission for protection of child rights was conducting workshop to sensitize police on dealing with issues related to crime against children, juveniles and child trafficking, police in state capital and Raigarh seemed untouched with the mandate to file FIR immediately after the complaint by child. According to Gudiyari police, a 12-year-old went missing on January 14 after she was scolded by her parents. The girl went to an old neighbour’s home near her locality. According to girl’s statement, she was adamant about returning home after which the woman neighbour Simran with the help of her relative Nagma, sent the girl to a household in Bhilai, Gudiyari TI Bhushan Ekka said. While he resisted divulging details to TOI, he added that the girl was trafficked to a family for money where the minor worked as domestic labour and was later sexually assaulted. He said that FIR wasn’t lodged against anyone except for registration of a missing complaint. We will have to investigate to find the authenticity of complaint and then FIR will be lodged, he said. In another case at Raigarh, a 17-year-old girl approached child welfare committee complaining that she was repeatedly raped by her cousin while she stayed with his family. Talking to TOI, Raigarh CWC chairperson Jessy Phillip said, “The girl was being raped for last two years and she said that she had delivered a baby whose whereabouts are not certain. The girl stayed with her father’s sister’s family after his death as her mother is mentally retarded. Her cousin, meanwhile, had repeatedly raped her and her aunt tried to cover up the matter which encouraged him. Driven to desperation, she came running to Jessy late on Wednesday and reported the matter. According to Raigarh police in charge Dilip Singh Sisodia, FIR wasn’t lodged till evening as the girl was sent for medical examination. While the time lost between lodging FIR to nab the accused and getting medical test done could play a crucial role in giving sufficient time to accuse to escape, a child rights expert in city says that it isn’t a pre-condition to get the medical, since the complaint came directly from the child. (Times of India 12/2/15)

84. Trafficking a social issue, courts alone can’t resolve it: Justice Sikri (1)

New Delhi: Calling human trafficking the “worst form of violation of human dignity,” Supreme Court Justice A K Sikri said the various laws and judgments issued by the apex court and the high courts on trafficking cannot regulate the problem as it is a “social issue”. Justice Sikri was speaking at the valedictory function of a three-day international consultation on Human Trafficking, organised by the Campus Law Centre (CLC), Faculty of Law, Delhi University, on Sunday. In his speech, he emphasised that judicial action alone was not enough to combat the problem. “The judiciary alone cannot monitor every case. Implementation of guidelines is in the hands of enforcement agencies,” Sikri said.He also said news reports showed that police were aware of traffickers, and those involved in trafficking also openly admitted to bribing police personnel. “Over 33,000 children go missing in the country every year. The UN has put China and India on the watch list of countries where human trafficking occurs,” Sikri said, citing statistics that indicated the extent of the problem. The judge also mentioned that two separate PILs were being heard by the Supreme Court on the issue. Delhi High Court Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Former Solicitor General of India Mohan Parasaran, in their speeches, also emphasised the socio-economic situation that allows for human trafficking. “Riots and sexual violence are a reminder that we continue to be a sick society,” Justice Nandrajog said. Parasaran stated that law enforcement officials were usually involved in trafficking and “veiled” the traffickers. “There is a need to bring the problem in the open and address it strategically,” he said. During a session on the challenges faced in rehabilitating victims of trafficking, Justice Nandrajog also mentioned studies which indicated that 22 per cent of traffickers had political backing. He also said more than 54 per cent of police personnel did not see trafficking and forced labour as a problem. The international conference was attended by delegates from various countries including Australia, Austria, Nepal, UK, USA, Egypt, Indonesia, and Korea, among others. The various papers presented at the conference will now be published and placed before the National Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court and other agencies for consideration, CLC professor in-charge Usha Tandon said. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

85. Traffickers eye labourers in Ranchi (1)

RANCHI: The focus of traffickers is gradually shifting from interior villages to the state capital. Traffickers are not just operating in rural areas but are also targeting labourers in Ranchi. Over the past few months there have been several cases of women and girls being trafficked from Ranchi, which have gone unreported. Early Saturday morning a group of daily wage earners who assemble at a designated spot to search for work or leave for their respective work sites, informed that some people approach them almost every day and try to convince them to go to Delhi to work as domestic helps. Sohri Devi, who comes to Lalpur Chowk of Ranchi from Jonha to work as a domestic help, suffered a loss due to a trafficker named Lakshmi. Talking to ToI, Sohri revealed that her 12-year-old sister who used to accompany her to work every day was taken to Delhi by Lakshmi. She said, “Lakshmi used to come and talk to my sister every day and convinced her to go to Delhi promising good payment. I used to tell my sister not to talk to her but two weeks later Lakshmi managed to come to our house and take my sister with her when I was not around. Since then my sister’s phone is continuously switched off.” Sohri was too scared to lodge an FIR against Lakshmi but after being convinced by a social activist, she agreed to lodge the FIR.  Like Sohri, Mantu Mahato, a daily wage earner has also suffered due to these traffickers when her 16-year-old sister-in-law was taken away from the roundabout when she had gone there alone to find work. He said, “One day I was not well and my sister-in-law came to work alone and never returned home. Next day other labourers at the chowk informed that she was taken by somebody called Raju to work in some other state.” Social activists believe that traffickers shifting their focus to the state capital, is not a good sign. Baidnath Kumar, a social activist said, “Traffickers have suddenly got the courage to operate in the state capital. I have come across many such cases in which girls have been trafficked from roundabouts of the city, right under the nose of police. Police should take the matter seriously. It is shocking that the girls who should be in school, are being trafficked. Instead of talking about awareness generation, the government should actually include awareness against trafficking in the syllabus.” Meanwhile, CID officials claim that if such complains come to their knowledge, they would immediately take action. IG CID, Sampat Meena said, “This is the first time that I have heard of such cases. If the relatives of the victim inform us about it, we will immediately take action.” She added, “Now that the traffickers are approaching roundabouts in state capital, we will also plan awareness drives among the daily wage earners at these roundabouts, so they get to know about the situation and do not fall into the trap of traffickers.” (Times of India 18/2/15)

CORRUPTION

86. After Kejriwal, here are other anti-corruption crusaders in global politics (5)

New Delhi: Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, leader of the Progress Party in Russia, has been a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin and is leading a campaign against corruption in the country.Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, leader of the Progress Party in Russia, has been a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin and is leading a campaign against corruption in the country.The emphatic victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has set a new benchmark for the anti-corruption crusaders all over the world who are struggling in their own ways to challenge the establishments plagued by the menace. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s rise in Indian political system catapults him to the league of international leaders striving to fight social inequalities. AAP was launched as a political party on November 26, 2012 as an outcome of a mass movement in favour of a strong anti-corruption legislation, Jan Lokpal. The club of anti-corruption crusaders is small but its leaders have managed to gain popularity to deliver clean politics. An immediate parallel can be drawn between Russia’s Alexei Anatolievich Navalny and Arvind Kejriwal. Navalny, a former lawyer, has emerged as one of the biggest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is the leader of the Progress Party and also contested elections to become mayor of Moscow in 2013. He was runners-up in the elections but surprised many with an impressive vote share. The anti-corruption crusader has been arrested several times and was also accused of fund fraud.In Spain, Partido X, a relatively new political party, is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign. Just like AAP, Partido X also came into prominence through street protests.In Spain, Partido X, a relatively new political party, is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign. Just like AAP, Partido X also came into prominence through street protests. If Russia has Navalny, Spain’s anti-corruption campaign is spearheaded by a relatively new political party Partido X which, like AAP, came into existence from street protests. Partido X emerged to challenge the established People’s Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party that have been in power for three decades. In Slovenia, bordering Italy, lawyer-turned-politician Miro Cerar is leading the crusade against corruption. Miro Cerar formed the party in his own name last year and registered impressive results, getting a good vote share in the Slovenian parliamentary elections. Cerar went on to become the Prime Minister of Slovenia.AAP’s victory in Delhi has been covered extensively by the Western press which has seen it as a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the Centre. The rise of AAP is also being followed closely by neighbouring Pakistan where the frustration against traditional ruling parties like the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was in power till recently, has been challenged by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). Khan has also emerged as a symbol of clean, anti-corruption politics in Pakistan. The electoral gains for AAP will set a telling example for similar crusades across the world. If Kejriwal is able to deliver what he and his colleagues have promised, AAP can set global anti-graft standards. (India Today 11/2/15)

87. 79% rise in graft complaints to CVC; crosses 63,000 mark in 2014 (5)

More than 63,000 corruption complaints were received by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in 2014, a rise of 79% over the preceding year. The anti-corruption watchdog said it received 63,288 complaints last year as against 35,332 in 2013. These complaints include those filed by whistleblowers and anonymous complainants. “The commission has processed a record number of corruption complaints in the last year. All of them were dealt with within the prescribed time-frame,” a CVC official said. The complaints were related to allegations of corruption in various central government ministries and departments, he said.  The total of 63,288 is based on CVC’s monthly reports for 2014. The final figure may go up or come down. “The final figure will be mentioned in the Commission’s annual report, which is tabled in Parliament after June every year and then made public,” the official said. Most of these complaints did not require any action due to lack of verifiable allegations and were merely filed as per the CVC corruption handling policy. Rest of them were sent to Chief Vigilance Officers of the ministries concerned for necessary action and report, he said.    The anti-corruption watchdog had received 37,039, 16,929 and 16,260 complaints in 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively, according to its annual reports. Similarly, 14,206 and 10,142 complaints were received in 2009 and 2008, respectively. In 2007 and 2006, the Commission had received 11,062 and 10,798 complaints, respectively. Also, 9,320, 10,735, 11,397 complaints were received by it during 2005, 2004 and 2003, respectively, as per the annual reports. (DNA 15/2/15)

88. Maha Sadan scam: Nephew, son of Bhujbal summoned (5)

MUMBAI: Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s son Pankaj and nephew Samir have been summoned by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to record their statements on the alleged illegalities in granting of contracts for the construction of Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. A week ago, the ACB had recorded the statements of two senior officials of the Bhujbal-controlled Mumbai Education Trust. The state guest house was built when Bhujbal was the PWD minister. ACB director-general Pravin Dixit on Monday confirmed Pankaj and Samir have been summoned. “Our sleuths will record their statements,” he said.  The Bombay high court has directed the ACB to submit a report on the status of the probe on or before February 28, said a senior official. “We will record the statements of Pankaj and Samir this week and if there is a need, we will summon Chhagan Bhujbal too,” he added. The case started after BJP MP Kirit Somaiya lodged a complaint with the ACB alleging largescale corruption in allotment of contracts to a Mumbai-based developer for construction of Maharashtra Sadan and sent a copy to then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Somaiya and Aam Admi Party leader Anjali Damania also filed a PIL before the HC, saying a special investigation team should be set up to probe the scam. The ACB sought an open inquiry against Bhujbal, then public works minister, but Chavan did not take a decision. Devendra Fadnavis took the reins of the state on October 31, 2014, and within a month approved the open inquiry. Prima facie, investigators have found suspicious transactions in the companies controlled by Pankaj and Samir that have been linked to the allotment of the Sadan contract. “The SIT will secure information from Pankaj and Samir on massive transactions in companies controlled or owned by them. The amounts are very huge, hence it was felt that the source of these funds should be probed,” the official said. (Times of India 17/2/15)

89. Information commissioners not disclosing their movable assets (5)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission may have ordered Supreme Court judges to declare their assets but it has shied away from disclosure of its own “movable assets.” Responding to a recent Right to Information application filed by Bengaluru-based activist Arun Agrawal seeking to know movable assets of the information commissioners, the CIC said, “No such information is maintained by it.” CIC is the transparency watchdog for all central government ministries. The stand taken by the CIC is in contravention to the recently enacted Lokpal Act which makes it mandatory to declare movable and immovable assets of every official working in the government. The website of the Central Information Commission has a column under which assets of all the seven Information Commissioners have been given summarily mentioning only properties owned by them and do not mention cash and other movable assets held by them. Declaration of assets including cash is mandatory for MPs, candidates contesting elections and public servants including Supreme Court judges. After the orders of the Central Information Commission, the Supreme Court judges have started declaring both their movable and immovable assets which are updated every year and posted on the website of the apex court. The order was upheld by Delhi high court. The commission had recently also directed the SEBI chairman to disclose assets and liabilities. Agrawal in his appeal sought disclosure of movable assets of the information commissioners saying if the CIC does not declare their movable assets, then adverse conclusion may be drawn which is not good for the institution of the CIC which is the last bastion of transparency. (Times of India 19/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

90. Carbon release from oceans leads to climate change (9)

London: Giving a fresh insight into how oceans affect climate change, a new study shows that carbon stored in deep in the Southern Ocean, re-connected with the atmosphere, drives a rise in atmospheric CO2 and climate change. There were heavy concentrations of dissolved CO2 in surface waters of the Southern Atlantic Ocean which coincided with the rises in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the last ice age. So, these regions acted as sources of CO2 to the atmosphere. Currently, the oceans contain around 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere and that carbon can exchange rapidly between these two systems. “The magnitude and rapidity of the swings in atmospheric CO2 across the ice age cycles suggests that changes in ocean carbon storage are important drivers of natural atmospheric CO2 variations,” said Miguel Martinez-Boti from the University of Southampton. While a reduction in communication between the deep-sea and the atmosphere in Southern Atlantic Ocean locks carbon away from the atmosphere into the abyss during ice ages, the opposite occurs during warm interglacial periods. They studied the composition of the calcium carbonate shells of ancient marine organisms that inhabited the surface of the ocean thousands of years ago in order to trace its carbon content. “Our new data confirms that natural variations in atmospheric CO2 between ice ages and warm inter-glacials are driven largely by changes in the amount of carbon stored in our oceans,” pointed out Gavin Foster from the University of Southampton. “These results will help to better understanding the dynamics of human-induced CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere since the ocean is an important carbon sink and the largest reservoir of carbon on our planet” concluded Patrizia Ziveri, professor at ICTA, UAB, Barcelona. (ZEE News 12/2/15)

91. Eco-activists to drag JLR into court over ‘illegal’ resorts (9)

Bengaluru: Environmentalists are planning to drag the state-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) into court in a week, contending that it does not have necessary permissions to operate its properties in various forests of Karnataka. They will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court. Information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act has revealed that eight resorts of JLR were neither given permission by the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL) or the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), nor have they got the approval of the Supreme Court. Thus, as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and those given by the top court in 2012, these resorts must be shut down or shifted out if they have not obtained permission, Santosh Martin, former honorary wildlife warden, Ballari, told Deccan Herald. Under the RTI, information was sought about the K Gudi wilderness camp in the BRT Tiger Reserve, the Bheemeshwari Nature Camp, the Galibore and Doddamakali fishing camps in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, the Devbagh Beach Resort in Karwar, the River Tern Lodge in Chikkamagaluru district, the JLR in Bannerghatta and the Dubare Elephant Camp in Kodagu district. The K Gudi camp was found lacking forest clearances. Bheemeshwari, Galibore and Doddamakali camps do not have permission from the SBWL, the NBWL and the SC. Forest Clearance (FC) wasn’t applied for. Devbagh was not applicable for permission from the SBWL and the NBWL and didn’t apply for FC. River Tern, Bannerghatta and Dubare too do not have FC clearance, Martin claimed.  As per the MoEF guidelines on taking up non-forestry activities in wildlife habitats and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, no construction of commercial tourist lodges, hotels, zoos and safari parks can take place inside national parks, tiger reserves and national parks. According to Martin, a letter was also written to the Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment, in December 2014, seeking details of the JLR running resorts inside sanctuaries, national parks and reserve forests without forest clearance from the MoEF and other approvals from the SBWL, the NBWL and the Supreme Court. But no reply was received to date. When contacted, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment, M Madan Gopal, promised to take up the matter with the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Vinay Luthra. He said JLR properties were launched by converting existing forest guesthouses into resorts and nothing new was constructed. They were launched to promote eco-tourism activities, which is a part of forest activity, he added. (Deccan Herald 13/2/15)

92. Need for increasing forest cover stressed (9)

SALEM: Mass sapling planting campaign, competitions, distribution of seedlings to farmers marked the environment protection awareness programme held at the Government School, Kamalapuram near here on Saturday. The programme was organised by the Green India Foundation NGO. Pazhanivelu, forest ranger, Danishpet, spoke on the need for increasing the forest cover for protecting the environment. The forests will bring adequate rainfall, which in turn will improve the ground water level in the surrounding areas, he said and urged the students to extend a helping hand by planting more saplings. A large number of students participated in the oratorical and other competitions held in connection with the event, prizes were distributed to the winners. The highlight of the event was the distribution of seedlings to the farmers who participated in the programme. Led by Sumathi, secretary of the Green India Foundation, students planted saplings on the school premises. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

93. Green pepper does a star turn for tribal farmers (20)

ANCHIYAL (IDUKKI DISTRICT): The tribal farmers of Vancvhivayal, a settlement inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), are a happy lot. For, they get the highest price for green pepper in the State as the entire lot is exported to Germany. In this hill-locked fertile forestland, all farmers grow organic pepper thanks to the effort of the Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation. The 63 families at Vancvhivayal are busy harvesting the crop and the yield is expected to be over 20 tonnes this year. They get Rs.270 a kg this season for their produce, which Rs.110 more than the local market rate. V.Radhakrishnan, secretary of the Eco-Development Committee (EDC), said the committee prompted the farmers to take up green pepper cultivation. In 2005, 20,578 kg of organic pepper fetched Rs.5,14,470 and last year, the farmers got Rs.52,63,940 selling 23,027 kg. “Every year, an international agency gives organic certification after testing the soil and the farmers are advised to stick to the organic mode. Moreover, it is their way of cultivation as they do not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers as the soil is rich. The farmers clear the weeds twice a year and the decayed leaves and weeds are the main agents that fertilise the soil,” says P.N. Sebastian, EDC facilitator. A PTR official said the foundation used to directly export the produce to Germany. However, due to official constraints, it invited bids from private agencies to procure pepper before the harvest season every year. “In 2013, 23,565 kg of pepper was sold at Rs.35,34,750 at Rs.150 a kg (market price Rs.129). Since we get a decent price, we are all happy to be pepper farmers,” says Remakutty, wife of Radhakrishnan. Valsa Yesodaran, a farmer, said every week the price of the collected pepper would be remitted in their bank account. “Other than arranging the organic certification and inviting quotations, the foundation does not have a role in collecting the material or transferring the money to the account holder. It is for ensuring transparency. All tribal farmers of Vancvhivayal are members on the EDC, which procures pepper from them,” a PTR official said. (The Hindu 13/2/15)

94. Farmers Enumerate Benefits of Bt Cotton (20)

BENGALURU: The debate over genetically modified crops rears its head every now and then, but for many farmers, it is an open-and-shut case. Take the example of Basavaraj F Rudagi and Kallanagouda Patil, of Saunshi and Uppinabetegere villages in Dharwad respectively. Basavaraj grows cotton on 15 acres of the 40 acres he owns, while Kallanagouda grows the crop on 10 acres. Both of them say Bt cotton has almost doubled their yield, increased their earnings and reduced the investment on pesticides and labour. According to experts, debates on GM crops are often riddled with ill-informed remarks about the risks of such crops. Genetic modification is a technology that cannot be ignored and may come handy to feed the 9 billion people expected to populate the planet by 2050, they say. The farmers appear to agree. They say Bt cotton seeds are easily available at agro centres and fertiliser shops. They are usually sold at `930 a packet, which includes 450 gm of Bt cotton seeds for the main field and 120 gm for non-Bt seeds that act as refugee seeds along the periphery of the main field. ‘Helps in Pest Control’:  Basavaraj says, “Bt cotton has been very helpful in reducing the damage caused by bollworm (an insect that damages the part of the cotton plant that can be sold).” “Earlier, farmers growing traditional cotton  had to spray pesticide 10 to 15 times during the peak growth period of cotton to control bollworm infection. Now, with Bt cotton, pesticide sprays have come down by 70 per cent, to just 3-4 rounds,” he adds. Kallanagouda says non-Bt growers used to get a yield of four to five quintals, which is a low return. “With Bt cotton seeds, we are actually investing less on pesticides and labour and getting a yield of 8-10 quintals,” he says. He puts the rise in earnings at 50-60 per cent, and adds with happiness that today, 90 per cent of the cotton generated in India is from Bt seeds. (New Indian Express 15/2/15)

95. UP govt to launch 1,000 agri-junctions across state… (20)

LUCKNOW: Going pro-farmer in a big way, the SP government is all set to launch 1,000 ‘agri-junctions’ across the state. The state budget to be tabled on February 24 is likely to have provision for the same. The aim is to provide not only farm inputs and equipment to farmers but also business opportunity to rural youth and employment to agriculture graduates. The scheme will be announced by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav soon and the government expects that kisan junctions would dot the entire agricultural landscape of the state opening business opportunities for the rural youth in large numbers and protect the innocent farmers from their exploitation from the banks to the retailers!  The one-stop will not only cater to all kinds of requirements of farmers, but also guide them in procuring loan from banks for the farm needs and to set up small-scale food processing units and availing technical facilities. Graduates with agriculture background would be shortlisted to run these junctions. According to reliable sources, the chief minister has ordered to provide a subsidy of Rs 60,000 each to the selected candidates to set up their own business .The agri junction will cost nearly Rs 4 lakh and apart from the subsidy, the remaining amount would be funded as loans by the NABARD and other nationalised banks. The State Agricultural Management Extension Training Institute (SAMETI) at Rehmankhera , Lucknow, is gearing up to provide a 12-day training programme for the shortlisted applicants. The government hopes that the agri shop promoted by it will take the chain of such marts being run bu corporate houses. “Agri junctions would not only provide all farm inputs to farmers, but also assist them in bank loans, and help them in availing the agriculture programmes of the UP government and the Central governments,” says a government official. The agri junctions can add on services like maintenance and repairs of farm machinery, animal feed, retailing of agriculture produce and processed agriculture products and even information technology kiosks. (Times of India 17/2/15)

96. 93 farmers committed suicide in 45 days in Marathwada region (20)

AURANGABAD: Forty-five days, 93 suicides. 2015 has started quite ominously for farmers in the perennially parched Marathwada region and activists blamed the fickle weather and the delay in release of government compensation for this. The divisional commissionerate has reported as many as 93 farmers’ suicides in Marathwada in the last 45 days since January 1. Last year, the region had reported 569 farmers’ suicides as against 207 in 2013. A committee of each taluka comprising the tehsildar, police officer, taluka agriculture officer, sarpanch and a panchayat samiti member probes a suicide case to confirm if the death was due to debt burden. A farmer committing suicide is eligible for compensation only if he possesses land and is debt-ridden. Moreover, he should have taken loan only from either nationalized or co-operative banks and registered money-lenders. There has to be follow up from the banks concerned for the repayment of the loan. Divisional commissioner Umakant Dangat said, “Farmer suicide is one of the biggest challenges before the administration. Crop failure and debts are considered the main reasons for farmers’ suicide. This is common in an area where the single crop pattern is in practice. Ensuring water security for the farmers via water management is the solution to the problem in a region like Marathwada.” He added that the farmers should be introduced to some sustainable means of farming system. Agriculture here needs to be supplement by allied activities like vegetable production, diary, so that farmer suicides are brought down to a great extent. Of the total farmers’ suicides committed this year in the region, 26 have been reported from Beed, closely followed by Nanded (20) and Osmanabad (18). Parbhani has reported one farmer suicide, while Jalna, Hingoli, Aurangabad and Latur districts have reported three, four, nine and 12 farmer suicides, respectively. “The delay in distribution of compensation is the biggest reason for the farmers to take the extreme step. Besides, the vicious cycle of crop loan in combination with erratic monsoon in the region leaves the farmers with no option but to take the extreme step,” said farmer activist Jayajirao Suryawanshi. Of the 93 deaths, the administration has 26 cases pending for inquiry because of which compensation has not been granted. District collector Naval Kishor Ram said, “Once a farmer suicide is reported, we send it to the block level committee including tehsildar, police inspector and agriculture officer. There are two levels of inquiries conducted and they ideally take at least one month. We ensure there is no delay in the release of compensation.” (Times of India 19/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

97. State may extend land pooling deadline (4)

GUNTUR: The State government is likely to extend the February 15 deadline to complete the land pooling process as less than 50 per cent of land has been pooled so far in the capital notified region covering 26 villages in the three mandals of Thullur, Mangalagiri and Tadepalli. According to reports, a little over 18,000 acres had been pooled so far with 46.95 per cent of farmers submitting consent letters (form 9.3). The government still has to acquire 19,000 acres. “At this point, the government is left with no other option but to extend the deadline by another 15 days. I don’t think the government will invoke provisions under the Land Acquisition Act when 50 per cent of land has already been pooled,” said a senior official. The APCRDA had issued notification in January first week but with most of the deputy collectors not reporting for duty, the process was off to a sluggish start. The total extent of land in the capital notified area according to the Revenue Settlement Registrar (RSR) is 53,720 acres. The CRDA notified 45,625 acres, out of which 8,001 acres is government land, 37,624 acres patta land. The number of khatadars in 1-B register is 24,818, of which 15,548 farmers gave consent letters as on February 9. As of now, land owners in Thullur, Nelapadu, Sakhamuru, Ananthavaram have shown enthusiasm in giving away their land. In contrast, those from the villages abutting the river bed such as Rayapudi, Undavalli, Penumaka and Tadepalli were reluctant for the same. For instance, the percentage of farmers who had given consent letters was 72.02 in Thullur-2, 65.42 in Nelapadu, 64.50 in Ananthavaram and 50.35 in Dondapadu. But the situation is different in riverfront villages, where farmers cultivate three to four crops. For instance in Rayapudi-1 and Rayapudi-2, the percentage of farmers who gave consent letters is 17.33 and 48.11 respectively, 14.56 in Uddandarayanipalem. But the initial resistance appears to have subsided owing to reconciliation. In Krishnayapalem and Lingayapalem, the percentage stood at 47.56 and 38.57 respectively. “We are determined to retain our lands and there is no way we are going to part with them,” said Mallela Harindranath Chowdary, president of PACS, Rayapudi. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

98. Anna Hazare to protest against Modi govt’s ordinance on Land Acquisition (4)

New Delhi: Anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare said on Sunday that he along with farmers from northern India will hold a protest, scheduled to be held on February 24, against the land acquisition ordinance, adding that he will request the Modi government to withdraw it keeping in mind the farmers’ cause. “I will participate in massive movement of farmers against land acquisition ordinance, to be held on Feb 24 in Delhi,” Hazare told reporters here, as per ANI. Hazare further said, “We will request the Govt to withdraw this anti-farmers ordinance through this movement.” The veteran social activist added that the BJP government has done injustice to poor farmers by allowing their land to be acquired for industrial purposes without their permission. A farmers’ body, last month, had announced that it would lay siege to Parliament on February 20 to protest the new Land Acquisition ordinance. The Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangthan had described the ordinance as a “kaala kanoon” (black law). The Union Cabinet in December 2014, had approved the ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act, adding five more areas which will be exempted from the requisites given in the act. Five areas were granted clearance for land for Defence purposes, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and housing projects for poor, industrial corridors, and infrastructure or social infrastructure projects, including those in public-private projects in which ownership of land will remain with the government. (Zee News 15/2/15)

99. Medha Patkar asks Mohan Bhagwat about how RSS plans to conserve Narmada (4)

Indore: Medha Patkar said that she and anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare would participate in a ‘Maha Dharna’ on February 23 and February 24 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to protest amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act using the ordinance route, by Narendra Modi’s government. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Monday asked RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat what his organisation plans to conserve Narmada and alleged that tracts of land along the holy river were being handed over to private companies under the pretext of implementing government schemes “Government policies have been charted out to hand over tracts of lands along river Narmada to private companies after grabbing them, but people displaced by big dam projects have not been compensated with land yet,” Patkar said at a press conference in Indore. “I want to ask Bhagwat what the RSS plans to do to conserve Narmada,” she said, seeking to know what was the RSS’ stand on big dam projects on the Narmada. “Bhagwat said that some organisations working on rivers where involved in anti-national activities. He should specifically name these organisations,” Patkar said. The activist said that she and anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare would participate in a ‘Maha Dharna’ on February 23 and February 24 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to protest amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act using the ordinance route, by Narendra Modi’s government. She said that these amendments were made merely to favour private companies and real estate developers. These amendments have been initiated to grab the lands of farmers, labourers, urban poor and fishermen, she said. (DNA 16/2/15)

100. AAP to fight ‘low’ compensation for land acquisition (4)

CHANDIGARH: Confident after their impressive show in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday announced not to let Haryana’s BJP government acquire even a single inch of land if it didn’t amend rules to offer low compensation to farmers. The law – Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – has given liberty to the states to frame rules for award of compensation to farmers in lieu of land acquisition. The states have an option to multiply the price of land in the rural areas up to two times its market value. The Haryana government decided that it would multiply the value of land with one – prevailing market rates – to offer compensation to property owners. A formal notification was issued on December 4, 2014 in this connection. These rules were made for entire rural Haryana. Explaining the impact of the decision, an official said, “As per adopted version of the compensation formula, the government pays Rs 100 crore to the farmers, it would have to pay Rs 200 crore for the same land if its value was raised by a multiple of two.” AAP national spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said the price fixation was to be on the basis of distance of rural land from urban areas but the Manohar Lal Khattar-led government adopted the lowest standard of compensation for the entire state. “For example, a farmer, who gets just Rs 50 lakh for a piece of land as per new rules, would have got Rs 1 crore if the upper limit of the compensation was adopted,” said Yadav, adding that now the compensation would be just 50% in comparison to the upper side reimbursement formula. “Even the previous Congress government in Haryana had opted for the upper side of land compensation in Gurgaon district on the pattern of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The Khattar government has opted the lower limit of compensation despite strong objection from farmers,” the AAP leader claimed. Accompanied by Haryana AAP leaders Ashawant Gupta and Rajiv Godara, Yadav said the state government must withdraw the anti-farmer rules on land acquisition. “We won’t allow the government to acquire any piece land on the basis of these rules,” he said. Additional chief secretary (revenue) Dalip Singh said the government has adopted the rules of compensation for land on the basis of recommendations of a committee. Sources said the procedure for framing rules to acquire land was initiated during the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government but final notification was issued by the current regime. An official claimed that many projects would have become unviable, if the government adopted higher limit of compensation. “Haryana has adopted the same compensation model as by many other states,” he added. Jawahar Yadav, officer on special duty (OSD) to CM, said they would welcome if the AAP could give some suggestions on the issue. AAP would launch ‘Jai Kisan Abhiyan’ from February 21 in Haryana. Party workers would offer packets of salt to MPs from Haryana asking them not to betray farmers, who produced food for them. Terming the land acquisition ordinance introduced by the Narendra Modi government in 2014 as anti-farmer, AAP workers would urge the MPs to raise their voice against it. (Times of India 18/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

101. Health Ministry holds review meeting on H1N1 (3)

NEW DELHI: The status of H1N1 influenza being reported from different states was reviewed by the Health Ministry at a high-level meeting held here on Wednesday. Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr Jagdish Prasad, representatives of leading government hospitals such as Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung, AIIMS, and from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) were present in the meeting that was chaired by Health and Family Welfare Secretary B.P. Sharma. It was noted that that during the period from January 1 to February 10 this year, the total number of H1N1 cases is 5,157 and number of deaths is 407. Largely the cases are from Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana whereas largely the deaths due to H1N1 are in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Telangana. The current trends of morbidity and mortality, the diagnostic and test algorithms being followed, availability of diagnostic kits and drugs, and other preventive measures were discussed. Based on the advice given by experts, it was decided that various health institutions treating H1N1 cases be advised for vaccination against H1N1 influenza for the concerned health workers in the hospitals in contact with H1N1 patients. This will be in addition to the proper personal protective measures being followed at the hospitals. Guidelines are being drafted for vaccination of healthcare workers and these will be shared with the states for dissemination to all health institutions. The Government of India has already placed an order for enhancing stock of diagnostic kits to be supplied to the lab network under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) being used for testing H1N1 influenza. To enhance the level of preparedness, additional 60,000 Oseltamivir medicines and 10,000 N-95 masks are being procured. In addition, NCDC has floated a tender for additional 10,000 diagnostic kits. In case of need, labs under ICMR have been identified across the country to provide additional testing facilities. In order to prevent panic and inconvenience to people, and to encourage only those cases requiring H1N1 testing are actually taken up for testing, it was decided that the communication strategy should create awareness among the general public regarding this aspect. (Times of India 11/2/15)

102. Maharashtra continues to face swine flu’s onslaught, toll rises to 58 (3)

Pune: With the alarming acceleration of swine flu, Maharashtra continues to face the onslaught of the lethal H1N1 virus with 13 people succumbing in the second week of February, taking the toll to 58. 11 of these cases, whose average age was around 50 years, suffered from other underlying ailments like diabetes and hypertension. Of the 58 deaths recorded, 35 people died in the first two weeks of February itself, while there have been more than 220 cases in the second week alone, said medical sources. The present toll has alarmingly exceeded the total of 43 deaths registered in 2014. Since January, a total of 415 people have been affected by swine flu and are undergoing treatment, with most of the cases concentrated in Pune and Nagpur. Scientists at the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) observed a dramatic 22 per cent rise in swine flu transmission since the beginning of February as opposed to the two per cent positivity rate in January. The districts of Pune, one of the epicenters of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and Nagpur, have already recorded more than 20 deaths each and the number is expected to rise with the onset of summer, said State medical authorities. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

103. Why rural children in India die of diarrhoea and pneumonia (3)

CHENNAI: The reason why a large number of children under the age of five years die of diarrhoea and pneumonia, generally in rural India and especially in Bihar, has become clear. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the biggest killer diseases in children in India. With 55 per 1,000 live births, Bihar has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. But 340 health care providers in rural Bihar rarely practice what little they know about treating children suffering from these two diseases. “Vignette” interviews with the providers were conducted to assess their knowledge of diagnosing and treating children with these diseases. Later, the actual treatment offered by the health care providers was assessed by sending “patients” pretending to suffer from the same symptoms as in the interviews. If the providers’ exhibited “low levels” of knowledge about the two diseases during the interviews, it was even worse in practice. Though during the interview 72 per cent of them correctly reported they would prescribe the cheap, life-saving oral rehydration salts (ORS) to children suffering from diarrhoea, in practice, none prescribed the correct treatment — only ORS. In practice, almost 72 per cent did not give ORS. Instead, they prescribed harmful drugs or antibiotics. The 17 per cent providers who did prescribe ORS also added antibiotics to the regimen, which is unnecessary, says a Duke University release. Antibiotics were prescribed despite the “patients” not asking for them. Eighty per cent of providers in the study did not have a medical degree. While those with medical training did have large gaps between what they knew and what they practiced, they were “significantly less likely” to prescribe harmful drugs. The results were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

104. Swine Flu H1N1: Signs, symptoms, diagnosis and prevention of the deadly H1N1 virus (3)

Swine Flu (H1N1) is the new virus that is killing people at large with no proper vaccination for the deadly disease. A total of 5157 H1N1 cases were recorded from January to February 2015 of which 407 patients died. The disease was first detected in Mexico in 2009 and then spread to many countries in the world. The influenza was earlier referred to as H1N1 because of the virus which was found in the lanoratory testing which were similar to those found in the pigs in North America. The scientists calls this a ‘quadruple reassortant’ virus and hence this new (novel) virus is now called ‘influenza-A (H1N1) virus’. While the virus is spreading across the country, here we is all you need to know about the the deadly virus. In pigs, influenza infection produces fever, lethargy, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing and decreased appetite Although mortality is usually low (around 1–4%), the virus can produce weight loss and poor growth, causing economic loss to farmers. Direct transmission of a swine flu virus from pigs to humans is occasionally possible (zoonotic swine flu). Swine flu deaths cross 620, chemists asked to stock Tamiflu In humans the symptoms of “swine flu” H1N1 virus are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general. Symptoms in humans fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Because these symptoms are not specific to swine flu, a differential diagnosis of probable swine flu requires not only symptoms, but also a high likelihood of swine flu due to the person’s recent history. The oral or nasal fluid collection and RNA virus preserving filter paper card is commercially available. This method allows a specific diagnosis of novel influenza (H1N1) as opposed to seasonal influenza. Former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot tests positive for swine flu The most common cause of death is respiratory failure. Other causes of death are pneumonia (leading to sepsis), high fever (leading to neurological problems), dehydration (from excessive vomiting and diarrhea), electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure. Fatalities are more likely in young children and the elderly. Swine Flu: Government to vaccinate health workers against H1N1 virus.. (India.com 18/2/15)

 105. ‘India yet to recognise healthcare as fundamental right’(3)

VELLORE: Sixty-seven years after winning Independence, India is yet to recognise and realise healthcare as a fundamental human right, as an entitlement for all is citizens and residents, observed N. Ram, Chairman of the Kasturi & Sons Ltd. and Publisher of The Hindu Group of Publications. Delivering the address at the graduation function of the College of Nursing (CON) of the Christian Medical College here on Tuesday, Mr. Ram said that India ranked very low in any objective international ranking of countries by health status. “Despite the advances made in the tertiary sector in the development of several large multi-speciality commercial hospitals, and also in the provision of a decent level of primary healthcare in a few States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, health deprivation on a mass scale stands out as one of the country’s intractable challenges”, he said. Quoting from the Ninth Kolkata Group Workshop chaired by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in February 2011, he said, “India’s public spending on health is among the lowest in the world. This has led to an extremely high burden of out-of-pocket health expenditures, which a huge part of the population cannot afford”. Mr. Ram said that the goal of publicly provided healthcare for all eludes us. It continues to recede from the sights of policy-makers who seem calamitously wedded to the idea that (as the Kolkata Group puts it) “private healthcare, properly subsidised, or private health insurance, subsidised by the State, can meet the challenge”. Quoting the statement of the Kolkata Group at the end of its Eleventh Workshop in February 2014, he said that what is absent is the political will to go beyond words in treating healthcare as a fundamental human right, where the essential need is “an integrated approach, with guaranteed access for all to qualified doctors trained in modern medicine. A comprehensive understanding of healthcare that must include provisioning of clean water, nutrition, sanitation and waste disposal is also essential”. Mr. Ram distributed Special Awards to the meritorious graduates. They included the CON Gold Medal for The Best Outgoing Student in B.Sc. Nursing Programme and the Alice Gnanamuthu Memorial Gold Medal for the Best All-round Student in B.Sc. Nursing Programme to Jyothi Merin George, and the CON Gold Medal for the Best Outgoing Student in Post-Basic B.Sc. Nursing Programme to P. Raju. Dr. Sunil Thomas Chandy, Director, CMC welcomed the gathering. Dr. Selva Titus Chacko, Dean, CON, CMC gave the charge to the graduates. A total of 211 undergraduate and 28 postgraduates received their degrees. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

106. Apprehensions over blood safety interventions (3)

GUWAHATI, Feb 13 – The rate of new HIV infections through transfusion of contaminated blood in Assam has doubled the national average in 2014, casting serious apprehensions on the existing blood safety interventions in the State. While about one per cent of the total transmission of HIV is through contaminated blood in the country, in Assam it has risen to 2 per cent in the year 2014. Significantly, the rate of such new detections has increased in the last one year, unlike what is being witnessed in the country as a whole, a latest report of the Assam State AIDS Control Society stated. The State has a recent history of transmission of HIV infections through blood transfusions, where four people got infected after receiving blood from a government-run blood bank in Mangaldai in June, 2013. Reports available with The Assam Tribune reveal that as many as 1,077 new detections were confirmed by the health institutions during 2014 and that majority of the HIV infections (as on December 31, 2014) were effected through unprotected sex of heterosexual (multiple partners), followed by infections from parent to child (for children). As of today, the total number of HIV-positive cases detected till December 31, 2014 is 9,991, of which 6,082 were males, 3,445 females, 455 children and 9 transgenders. Among the districts, Kamrup (Metro) has 3,820 detections of HIV positive (status as on December 31, 2014), followed by Cachar and Dibrugarh with 2,137 and 652 detections respectively. However, if the place of origin of those infected is taken into account, Cachar tops the list with 24.43 per cent, followed by Kamrup (M) with 14.81 per cent. A senior official of the Health Department, when asked to comment on the disturbing trend, said the government is taking all necessary steps in this regard and as part of it licenses of five blood banks have been cancelled in the span of last one year or so. (The Assam Tribune 14/2/15)

107. Med Camp Need of the Hour to Identify HIV-infected Tribals (3)

PALAKKAD: The demand to conduct a medical camp in Attappadi Adivasi hamlets to identify people with AIDS has been slowly gaining momentum as tribal patients have started enrolling at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital for treatment. The tribal promoters who work with the Adivasis here told Express that there are many in Attappadi living with AIDS, but stress and fear are the major deterrents that prevent them from accessing medical care. The tribal promoters of Attappadi allege that the officials of Kottathara Tribal Hospital are reluctant to reveal the exact number of AIDS patients in Attappadi owing to pressure and HIV could be the reason behind the deaths of many here. “The statistics available with the hospital show that the number of AIDS patients in Attappadi is alarmingly high. “However, the report has not been published by the Department probably to avoid attracting yet another controversy in addition to the potential Maoist threat and infant deaths in Attappadi,” said one of the tribal promoters on condition of anonymity. However, the CDPO of Attappadi, Mayalakshmi said that she was told as many as 10 people were undergoing treatment for AIDS at Kottathara Tribal Hospital. “I am not sure whether the figure is correct or not. No camp has been conducted yet to identify people with AIDS, but it is on the cards and we will conduct a medical camp soon. “Even if we conduct a camp, we are apprehensive if tribals will cooperate due to the fear factor. As far as I know, no one has taken an initiative to identify Adivasi people with AIDS. In the Adivasi settlements of other districts, the officials concerned maintain proper data in this regard, but in Attappadi nothing concrete is available. “The Social Welfare Department cannot do anything now as we are at present occupied in implementing measures to prevent malnutrition deaths in Attappadi,” said Mayalakshmi. The manager of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) Seema Bhaskar opined that it is high time a medical camp is conducted in Attappadi. “The existing system has not been beneficial to tribals in any way and tribals do not feel the need of availing the facilities and medical expertise available at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital. This attitude must change. Only then the tribals will come forward to get their blood sampled and receive treatment if diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS. The National Rural Livelihood Missionwill start conducting an awareness camp from February 27 onwards with the support of the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM). The camp aims at making them aware of a healthy sexual life, the myths associated with treatment, AIDS and child health,” adds Seema. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

108. NGO working on AIDS gets $350,000 aid (3)

New Delhi: Global NGO, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), has received a grant of $350,000 from leading pharmaceutical and healthcare firm Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) to support implementation of the Human Vaccines Project that seeks to transform disease prevention across the world. The GSK grant is aimed to help the NGO establish the project’s global consortium and plan its research programme. “For all that we have achieved with vaccines, there are still far too many diseases that we can’t prevent and which have a devastating impact, particularly in the developing world,” said Emmanuel Hanon, senior vice president, vaccines research and development, GSK. “The more we can do – both individually and collectively – to overcome the current scientific challenges the better. We are very pleased to support the Human Vaccines Project and we encourage others to join us in this potentially ground-breaking initiative,” he added. The project aims to address the common scientific obstacles preventing development of vaccines against major and emerging infectious diseases and cancers and complement ongoing disease- specific vaccine development efforts. (Business Standard 16/2/15)

109. HC directs HIV-affected man to pay maintenance (3)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has observed that a person cannot seek exemption from paying monthly as well as annual maintenance amount to his estranged wife and children just because he happened to be a HIV patient. Disposing of a revision petition filed by a Government Health Inspector suffering from HIV, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan said: “Being a parent, the revision petitioner is also bound to maintain and educate the children so that they can come up in their life.” The judge pointed out that the petitioner had entered into wedlock in 1991 and begot one daughter and two sons in quick succession. He continued to live with his family until 2006 when his wife was reportedly driven out of her matrimonial house along with the three children. The woman filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights before a Sub-Court in Kumbakonam and obtained an ex-parte order in her favour. Yet, the petitioner neither agreed to live along with the family nor did he challenge the ex-parte order before the appropriate appellate forum. Hence, she sought maintenance in 2012 and a Judicial Magistrate at Papanasam ordered payment of Rs. 2,000 a month to the woman and Rs. 1,000 every month to each of the two minor children. It was also ordered to pay Rs. 25,000 annually towards educational, medical and festival expenses. Holding that the monthly maintenance amount awarded by the Judicial Magistrate could not be termed exorbitant in view of ever-increasing cost of living, Mr. Justice Sathyanarayanan reduced the annual payment amount alone from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 20,000. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

 

Posted by admin at 19 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit IAS and IPS officers neglected: Puthiya Tamilagam (2)

MADURAI: Puthiya Tamilagam founder K. Krishnasamy, on Monday, wanted the Centre to frame rules which ensured that important posts for IAS and IPS officers in all States were given in rotation to officers belonging to Scheduled Castes. Addressing the media, he accused the AIADMK Government of neglecting the senior IAS and IPS officers belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State in appointment to important posts. “When both the Dravidian parties have never posted a Dalit officer as Home Secretary, the AIADMK Government does not appoint them in any of important positions,” he said. After 1967 not even a single Dalit IAS officer has become Home Secretary in the State. Similarly, the AIADMK Government ignored Dalit IPS officers for top posts in the Police Department, he said. The Centre’s role is only in recruitment of the civil servants who are then deployed at the mercy of the State Governments. “The Centre should issue a standing order that would ensure that the posts like Home Secretary and Chief Secretary are given to Dalits on a rotation basis,” he said. Though he said that he was not completely in agreement with the senior IAS officer C. Umashankar on his contention for taking up religious preachings, he said it could be out of neglect by the Government that the IAS officer, known for his integrity, converted to Christianity. Dr. Krishnasamy said that Tamil Nadu stood second in rime against oppressed classes in the entire nation, next only to Uttar Pradesh. “Among those incidences, the southern districts accounted for the majority,” he said. “Southern districts have turned into a field for atrocities against Dalits,” he said. He said that he would seek the intervention of President of India for a setting up a special investigation team to probe into atrocities against Dalits. Dr. Krishnasamy sought the Government to set up special courts to try cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act expeditiously. (The Hindu 3/2/15)

2. Dalit families facing discrimination: AGM (2)

KANNUR: Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGM) convener M. Geethanandan has alleged that Dalit families in a village near Azhikkal here are facing discrimination in connection with a local temple festival. Mr. Geethanandan said at a press conference here on Monday that the Dalits in the area were facing threats of violence and caste polarisation following the announcement of a stir by the Kerala Pattika Jana Samajam (KPJS). The KPJS stir was against what it called “untouchability” in connection with the “ezhunnellippu” ritual at Azhikkal Pambadiyal Temple.Mr. Geethanandan said that the KPJS would organise a fast from February 4 to 7 against the alleged caste discrimination in the temple. A rally by the Dalits would be held on February 7. The AGM convener also said that the exclusion of Dalit households from the annual ritual was a violation of the Civic Rights Protection Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.The response of the temple authorities to this was that the annual ritual would by custom be performed by the Thiya community alone. He said that nearly 400 Dalit families lived in the neighbourhood.The samajam would participate in the talks convened by District Collector P. Bala Kiran on February 3 to discuss the issue, he added. KPJS general secretary Thekkan Sunil Kumar was among those present at the press conference. (The Hindu 3/2/15)

 3. ‘Protect Dalits of Kalayarkoil’ (2)

MADURAI: The Sivaganga Superintendent of Police should review the action taken on complaints of atrocities against Dalit families living around Kalayarkoil, a fact-finding team has said. The three-member team, led by former MLA R. Krishnan, which visited Kalayarkoil and surrounding villages on Tuesday, alleged that many attacks on Dalit families did not come to light due to police inaction. When there was an attack on Dalit habitations in Gandhi Nagar in Sembanur panchayat on January 16, instead of booking the culprits, the police filed cases against 10 Dalits, including four women. The residents alleged that a tea shop in the village was practising two-tumbler system and wanted the police to set up an outpost as they were living in fear. A release from the fact-finding team said that Dalits of Easanur were denied their traditional right to worship at the Ayyanar Temple during the annual festival through promulgation of prohibitory orders. Dalits were prevented from using the common cremation ground at Velarendal village by the dominant castes. A family of eve teasing victim had to leave Indira Nagar in Maravamangalam after the police filed a cast against it. The release also referred to the attack on Kanchipatti panchayat president Sekar by dominant castes. The team urged the Collector, T. Munusamy, to initiate action against the police personnel who did not act on complaints of atrocities against Dalits and for withdrawal of cases foisted on Dalits. The SP should be instructed to review the action taken on complaints filed by Dalits. The team comprised P. Kavitha Kumar, journalist, and Viduthalai Veeran of Adi Tamizhar Viduthalai Iyakkam, besides Mr. Krishnan. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

4. VHP to promote interdining with Dalits (2)

HOSUR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia on Saturday said his organisation would launch a movement for Hindus of all communities to remove untouchability and promote interdining with Dalits. “Up to the point where Togadia is allowed inside a temple, a Dalit will also be allowed entry,” he told The Hindu, when he was asked if he would launch a temple entry movement where Dalits were denied entry. “The VHP will launch a movement in six lakh villages to interdine with Dalits, to drink out of the same well, and to have common graveyard,” the VHP’s international working president said. Mr. Togadia was denied entry into Bengaluru for the VHP’s national conference scheduled for Sunday. Arriving in Hosur, he launched the VHP’s ‘Happy Healthy Hindu Scheme’ — a six-point action plan to ring in “prosperity for the Hindus by providing food, health care, education, job, trade and security.” The action plan was to ensure that every Hindu would act to remove untouchability and dine with Dalits. Criticising Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Mr. Togadia said he was due to launch the scheme in Bengaluru, but he had to do it from Hosur. “Mr. Siddaramaiah does not want health and prosperity for the Hindus of Karnataka,” he said. Steering clear of any controversy, he said the only VHP activity for Valentine’s Day was “to bring prosperity for Hindus.” Earlier, in his speech, Mr. Togadia touched upon issues such as ‘love jihad’, conversions, cow slaughter and Haj subsidy. (The Hindu 8/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Forest Officials Attacked Us, Gotti Koyas Tell Visiting HRF Team (6)

MADEPALLI (KHAMMAM DISTRICT):“More than 20 forest officials descended on our settlement suddenly and started attacking each and every house. Some of the houses were set on fire and some others were razed to the ground. They threw the utensils and clothes out, and drove us away from our houses,” said Kunjam Jogaiah, a Gotti Koya tribal, from Madepalli village in Enkoor mandal. Jogaiah was explaining an alleged attack by forest officials to a team of the rights activists led by VS Krishna, general secretary, AP and Telangana Human Rights Forum (HRF), who visited his tribal settlement on Saturday. The tribals said the attack was carried out by the Tallada subdivision forest officials on Tuesday. “Since there is no shelter left for us to even to sit, we are currently living under the shade of the trees,” the Gotti Koyas said. According to sources, around 30 families consisting of 200 members have been living at Madepalli village in Enkoor mandal since the year 2000. Some of them have even have ration cards registered under the state’s name even though they are from Chattisgarh state. “This is not their first attack. They have done the same in the past, four to five times, demanding that we leave the place,” Jogaiah said and alleged that some forest staff had even stolen our Rs 14,500 cash and took away some utensils. It is said that the locals were awarded an interim order on October 24 in 2014 which gave them permission to stay at the same place till the case is resolved. “But the forest personnel did not stop their harassment. They carried out the attack on us despite the HC order,” said Kunjam Jogaiah. We are being forced to live on the trees, said Kursam Ramesh, a tribal. The Gotti Koyas claim they are eligible for pattas for their ‘podu’ lands under the Forest Rights Act 2006,. “The forest officers have no right to vacate us,” they said. HRF leader VS Krishna condemned the act of the forest department. He said the attack on the Gotti Koyas should be considered as a contempt of court. (New Indian Express 1/2/15)

6. Tribals Threaten Jail Bharo against Ash Pond (6)

ROURKELA: The members of Adivasi Mulbasi Bachao Samiti (AMBS) have threatened to court arrest to protest construction of ash pond of NTPC-SAIL Power Company Pvt Ltd (NSPCL) at Barkani village under Bondamunda police limits here. Speaking to mediapersons on Monday, Birmitrapur MLA and Samata Kranti Dal president George Tirkey said, “AMBS members will participate in the ‘jail bharo’ on February 6 and stay in jail till their demands are fulfilled.” Alleging that the tribals were exploited by the Government, Tirkey said the company would not be allowed to go ahead with the NSPCL project at Barkani as it would displace the villagers who have been living there for several decades. The Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) has provided about 140 acres to NSPCL to set up the ash pond at Barkani, but a section of tribal villagers claims that the land belongs to their ancestors. Tirkey said thousands of acres of land of the tribals acquired by RSP long time back still remain unutilised. Tirkey was accompanied by former JMM MLA Halu Mundari and AMBS convenor Letha Tirkey. Besides the ash pond, NSPCL has proposed to set up power plants of 250 MW on 148 acres of land provided by the RSP in the second phase. Sources said after considerable delay due to protest by tribal villagers of nearby areas, earth digging work was started last week amid tight security. About a fortnight back, a section of tribals, led by George Tirkey under the banner of AMBS, had disrupted train services for 29 hours to protest formation of Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) and inclusion of Jagda and Jhartarang gram panchayats in it. A high-level meeting, held at Bhubaneswar on January 29 to discuss the issue, was attended by Housing and Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo, Tirkey and AMBS leaders. Citing Constitutional provisions, Tirkey had claimed that formation of RMC and inclusion of the two GPs in the ‘Scheduled District’ of Sundargarh violate special protection given to the tribals and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. After the meeting, it was left to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take a decision on the issue. (New Indian Express 3/2/15)

7. Scheme for protection of tribal culture on the anvil: Jual Oram (6)

MYSURU: Pointing out that several tribal practices and languages in the country were facing the threat of extinction, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram said the Centre will launch a scheme aimed at protecting tribal culture after the conclusion of the Budget session of Parliament. Mr. Oram, who attended the 5th International Conference and Gathering of Elders at Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashram here on Wednesday, said there were 598 scheduled tribes in India, who spoke 432 languages and dialects, many of which did not have a script. “Unless efforts are made to conserve and protect them, they will become extinct soon,” Mr. Oram said.Speaking to reporters, Mr. Oram said the government had planned to protect languages as well as tribal practices as part of a scheme they were launching to protect the rich tribal culture of the country. There are several songs and dance programmes of the tribal people, which had not been documented. The proposed scheme will ensure that these practices are documented, he said. Mr. Oram said the Centre will also launch a scheme to promote sports among the tribal people. As the tribal youth excelled in sports, Mr. Oram said the government will provide necessary financial support for creating sports infrastructure for archery, kabaddi, football and hockey.21 outlets He said the Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), which helps in marketing tribal products, now had 21 outlets across the country. TRIFED, which made a turnover of Rs. 18 crore last year, also provides employment to 300 tribals, he said. He said the government, which recently decided to fix minimum support price (MSP) for minor forest produce (MFP) that ensures that nobody purchases the products for less that the fixed MSP, has also integrated the information on MFP into the Kisan Call Centre. “Anybody can obtain information about various MFPs in different places by calling the call centre,” he added. Responding to a question on tribals being driven out of forestland, Mr. Oram said the Forest Regulation Act ensures the tribal people their right to livelihood if they are practicing the same occupation for 25 years. “Such people will be provided with ‘patta’. During my next visit to Karnataka, I will review how many people have been issued such pattas and how many are pending”, he said. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

8. 250 Tribals from C’garh Visit CRPF HQ (6)

HYDERABAD: A group of tribal youths from neighbouring Chhattisgarh state visited  CRPF group headquarters at Chandrayangutta here on Monday. The youth are part of the seventh Tribal Youth Exchange Programme which is being organised by the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) working under the aegis of Union ministry of youth affairs and sports in collaboration with Union ministry of home affairs. The exchange programme started on February 5. On Monday, the participants visited CRPF group headquarters in Chandrayanagutta and the deputy commandant SP Tripati addressed the tribal youth and spoke about CRPF and how tribal youth recruitment takes place in the CRPF and the available prospects. They were given a traditional welcome with a band. Later, the participants visited Technology Training and Development Centre of IKP/DRDA in Ranga Reddy district and also RUDSET training institute of State Bank of Hyderabad to understand about the various training programmes that are available for youth which would enable them to be self-sufficient by starting economic activities. The participants later proceeded to Bakaram where they staged cultural programmes. Nearly 250 youth from Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Kanker, Bastar and Kondagaon are taking part in the programme. (New Indian Express 10/2/15)

WOMEN

9. Take Rs 41,000, forget rape: Bihar panchayat tells victim (8)

Patna: In a shocking incident, a panchayat in Bihar has ordered one of its members accused of raping a Mahadalit woman to pay her Rs. 41,000 and asked the victim to not report the incident, police said on Saturday. The incident occurred in a panchayat under Kodha police station in Katihar district. But the accused, a local muscleman, refused to pay the money. When she protested about his refusal to pay amount, the accused set her husband on fire injuring him badly, said a police official Sunil Kumar. This forced the victim to approach Katihar superintendent of police Kshatraneel Singh two days ago. Singh has ordered an investigation into the incident. “One of the accused Naresh Ravidas has been arrested while the main accused Prakash Ravidas is absconding,” police said. According to police, the incident occurred last month when the victim was called to panchayat building by the Prakash on the pretext of readying documents related to Indira Awas Yojana. “In her complaint to police she has informed that she was raped by him and threatened not to disclose it,” police said. Last year, a panchayat in Kishanganj district had ordered a minor girl, who was raped by four brothers and was seven months pregnant, to take Rs. 50,000 and undergo an abortion. When she approached police, an FIR was lodged and accused were arrested. In a similar case in September 2014, a panchayat in Muzaffarpur district ordered a minor rape victim to take Rs. 2 lakh and undergo abortion. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

10. Man seeks Rs 1cr as dowry, throws wife out (8)

BAREILLY: Dowry demands seem to have gone up in the city. For some, nothing less than Rs1 crore will do. This is evident from the fact that within a fortnight, two incidents have been reported wherein local girls from well-to-do families allegedly have been thrown out of their homes by their in-laws because they failed to pay a sum of Rs 1 crore as dowry. In the latest case, the daughter of a prominent businessman became a victim of dowry. The bride’s family is reported to have gifted valuables, including an Audi car of the latest version to the groom, But it was not enough. They could not give Rs 1 crore cash as dowry and their daughter had to bear the brunt. Earlier, in another case, an NRI businessman had also reportedly sent back his wife to her maternal home after her family failed to cough up Rs 1 crore as dowry. In the latest incident, Neetu, daughter of a prominent city businessman Narendra Singh, has filed a complaint with the Baradari police station against her husband and in-laws, accusing them of demanding Rs 1 crore as dowry after marriage and subjecting her to metal and physical abuse. In her complaint, Neetu alleged that she was married to Mayank, son of a well known jeweller of Meerut on January 20, 2014. At the time of marriage, Neetu’s parents had gifted cash and valuables, including an Audi car valued at around Rs 30 lakh to the groom. The total expense in the marriage came to around Rs 1 crore, claimed Neetu. According to her, once she stepped into her husband’s house, his family members, including her in-laws, came up with an additional demand of Rs 1 crore as dowry. They warned of serious consequences if their demand was not met by her family, claimed Neetu.. However, she and her family expressed their inability to pay Rs 1 crore. Then, Neetu claimed, she started facing harassment on a regular basis. Her family tried to bring about a compromise but after a short-term respite, she was tortured again, she claimed. On January 14, Neetu was allegedly brutally assaulted and thrown out of the house by her husband and in-laws. Neetu had to return to Bareilly. On Saturday, she along with her parents filed an FIR at Baradari police station. Talking to TOI, inspector, Baradari police station, Mohd Qasim said, “The matter is serious and we have registered a case under Section 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and the Dowry Prohibition Act against her husband, Mayank, his brother and parents. We will be summoning them for questioning soon to ascertain their role in the incident.” (Times of India 1/2/15)

11. More Indian women than men hit by cancer (8)

MUMBAI: More Indian women than men are diagnosed with cancer every year and it is reflected in insurance statistics that show more women in our cities claim medical insurance for cancer treatment. Blame it on physiology or the stereotypical image of an Indian woman who chooses to ignore her symptoms for long, the Big C exhibits a clear gender divide. But when it comes to fatalities, the figures turn upside down: more men die due to cancer annually than women. In all, 5.37 lakh Indian women got cancer in 2012 as against 4.77 lakh men, said the World Cancer Report. The same year, 3.56 lakh men died of the disease in comparison to 3.26 lakh women. In the past four years, 62-65%of cancer-related insurance claims were for women while it was only between 35-38% for men, said data released by private insurance firm ICICI Lombard. The claims were more for cancers of the cervix and breast, which are, according to the Indian cancer registry, the leading cancer types among women. The main reasons for the gender divide in cancer are hormones and habits. “Physiologically, women’s cells are exposed to more hormones and more hormonal fluctuations, leading to an increased susceptibility of cell dysplasia (abnormality),” said Dr Boman Dhabar, medical oncologist with Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central. He believes “oppression of Indian women” leads them to neglect their own health. “There are also socio-economic reasons such as lack of hygiene and toilets that lead to an increased incidence of cervical cancer,” said Dr Dhabar…. (Times of India 4/2/15)

12. Bihar woman sells 15-day-old to arrange for dowry (8)

Patna: In a shocking incident, an elderly woman allegedly sold her infant grandson for Rs.50,000 to arrange for dowry for her daughter`s marriage in Bihar`s Muzaffarpur district, police said Saturday. An FIR was lodged by Rukhsana Khatoon, whose 15-day-old child was allegedly sold by her mother-in-law to raise money for dowry for her daughter`s marriage, district police official Pramod Kumar Singh said. “Police have began an investigation into the incident after a case was lodged,” said Singh. This incident took place at Chainpur Wajid village under Manyari police station in Muzaffarpur, about 70 km from here Friday. Rukhsana`s husband is a daily wage labourer, who is currently working outside the state. Singh said that main accused mother-in-law and her daughter were absconding from the village after the incident came to light. “Police have began operations to arrest them,” he added. According to police officials, Rukhsana in her complaint said that her mother-in-law persuaded her to accompany her to show the child to a doctor in Muzaffarpur town. “My mother-in-law went inside doctor`s clinic with my child and soon returned empty handed. When i asked about my child, she told me that she had sold him to raise money for my sister in law`s dowry.” Rukhsana also informed police that her mother-in-law repeatedly accused her of not bringing dowry when she got married to her son three years ago. “My mother-in-law justified her decision to sell my son by saying that it was compensation for my failure to bring in dowry,” Rukhsana said. Village panchayat mukhiya (head) Aariful Rahman confirmed the incident to local police officials. (Zee News 7/2/15)

13. Himachal Government to Honour 50 Panchayats for Better Sex Ratio (8)

SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh government has decided to honour 50 Panchayats in the state for achieving better female sex ratio. The state government will honour the 50 gram panchayats who succeeded in improving child sex ratio in the age group of 0-6 years as per the census of year 2011, Health minister Kaul Singh today said. Presiding over a meeting of Supervisory Board constituted under PC and PNDT Act, 1994 here, he said that district level functions would be organised to honour these panchayats and to start with, the first function would be organised in Una district. He said that state government was committed to ensure strict implementation of provisions of PC and PNDT Act and maintaining the balance in the sex ratio. For creating mass awareness, camps would be organized at district level in which public representatives, ASHA and Anganwari workers along with the stakeholders would be educated about the importance of maintaining balance in sex ratio, who would further educate the people in their respective panchayats and areas. The Health minister said that any person could inform or report the cases of illegal abortion or sex determination on toll free number-102 and the name of the informer would be kept secret and a provision of rewarding him with Rs 10,000 as incentive had also been made. The minister said that for bringing further improvement in sex ratio in the state, the research work would be assigned to Central University, Dharamshala and first samples would be taken from Una district. He said that Lahaul and Spiti district had excelled in maintaining the best sex ratio in the state with 1033 girls against 1000 boys. The Supervisory Board has also suggested for enhancing the incentives to the families adopting family planning measures after the birth of single girl child from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 and to those after the birth of two girl child from Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000. (New Indian Express 10/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. 103 Child Labourers Rescued From Jaipur Brought to Gaya (14)

GAYA:  Altogether 102 child labourers rescued from Jaipur (Rajasthan) were brought today to Gaya in Bihar. The kids were working in cottage and small scale industries in Jaipur and were rescued in December last year. Confirming their arrival, Gaya District Magistrate Sanjay Agrawal said a seven-member team was sent to bring the rescued children after officials in Rajasthan informed about them.        “The children were working as labourers in bangle and handicraft industries. 53 of them are from Gaya, 13 from Samastipur, two from Muzaffarpur and the rest are from Banka, Nawada, Katihar, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Khagaria and Aurangabad districts,” Agrawal said adding, they belong to poor families and were trafficked to the Pink City by middlemen and labour contractors with promises of money and better living. The District Magistrate said the rescued children have been handed over to an NGO, Rescue Junction and efforts were being made to locate their addresses and reunite them with their families.  (New Indian Express 1/2/15)

15. 3-year-old girl kidnapped, raped and hung from tree in Bihar (14)

Patna: A three-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped, sexually assaulted and hung naked from a tree by men posing as employees of a private nursing home in north Bihar’s Madhubani district, police said on Saturday. The incident took place late on Thursday at a village in Madhubani, about 190 km northwest from state capital Patna. Reports said the girl had gone to the private nursing home, located under Bisfi police station, for a check-up along with her mother on Thursday evening. Police investigations suggest the abductors offered toffees to lure the victim. She was then taken to a nearby village, assaulted and hung upside down from a mango tree. “It appears the miscreants, after committing the crime, hung her upside down from the tree in the hope she would eventually die from the ensuing distress,” said Aunsi police outpost in-charge Sanjay Kumar. Kumar said the girl’s family had initially registered a missing person’s case when she could not be located at the nursing home for several hours. However, more serious sections of Indian Penal Code became applicable after she was found. An FIR has been lodged at the Bisfi police station of Madhubani. The girl was rushed to the Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) in the district headquarters town of Darbhanga, near Madhubani, where her condition is stated to be critical. Doctors treating the girl said she has multiple injury marks on her body, indicating she was assaulted both physically and sexually. “There are injuries on the victim’s private parts. Her condition is critical but stable,” said Dr Bhuvan at DMCH. One of the prime suspects in the case was caught by villagers on Saturday and handed over to the police. Madhubani’s assistant superintendent of police, AK Pandey, told HT the police were able to identify the suspect as Mohammed Tabrez, a 35-year-old married man. “We are questioning the suspect. He is believed to have played a role in the incident. However, information about the role of any other(s) in the crime will be known only after we have interrogated this man,” said Pandey. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

16. West Bengal: Panel wants child rights and laws in school syllabus (14)

Kolkata: To make children understand what rights they are entitled to, West Bengal’s child rights panel wants the students to be taught about them as part of the school curriculum. Ashokendu Sengupta, chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said they will recommend the state government to include various laws related to right to education and protection from sexual abuse a part of the school syllabus. “We do not want to put any extra load on the children but there should be at least one page somewhere in their book which tells them about their rights in a simple language. This will increase awareness. Only we know about child rights and laws but they must also know,” he told a news agency. The panel will soon meet the state school syllabus committee to impress upon them the need to include child rights at primary and secondary school level. Teenager Sikha Patra, who works as a peer leader and educator with child rights NGO Prayasam, said she would never have been aware of her rights as a child had she not been associated with activists. “My friends don’t know what are their rights as a child. Those in English medium schools are aware of these things but not those in Bengali medium ones. Therefore, child rights should be included in the school curriculum,” she said. UNICEF’s West Bengal chief Asadur Rahman also supported it saying basic rights about children should be there in the school syllabus. Rahman said that the Right to Education Act advocates for child-friendly schools where children and their parents are consulted in the institute’s planning. The child panel, which has constituted two sub-committees for studying the issue, said they are selecting parts of the Convention on Rights of The Child (CRC) which can be included in the curriculum. CRC was adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1989 and serves as a global index on child rights. Sengupta said that every school should tell the children that whenever they are in distress they can call 1098 – a 24-hour child helpline. “This is the most important thing. A child should know that when he is in danger he can call this number or can seek help for other children,” he said. They also want the inclusion of Right to Education (RTE) Act, which ensures free and compulsory education for children in the age group of 6-14 years, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 in the syllabus. “At the school level, they must have literature, posters and other materials to promote child rights,” the panel’s chairperson said. (Zee News 5/2/15)

17. 25 bonded child labourers rescued in city (14)

LUCKNOW: As many as 25 boys working as bonded labour were rescued from a bangle-making factory in Khajua locality of the city here on Monday evening. Aging between 8-14 years most of these boys hail from villages in Bihar and were making bangles in hazardous conditions for the past three years. They were all living in a ten-by-ten room besides being made to work illegally. They boys claimed they were never given enough to eat and were made to work for 12-14 hours a day for a meager Rs 1,500 a month. There were no off-days and health facilities. The boys were rescued in a joint operation undertaken by state police department’s Anti-Human Trafficking cell and social organisation Childline. Besides saving the boys, the team recovered dangerous chemicals compounds which are known to cause pulmonary infections like tuberculosis from the place. The police also arrested two persons named Mohsin and Jugal Kishore for making children work and risk their lives. FIR was also registered against the two for violating provisions of Juvenile Justice Act 2000, Child Labour Prevention Act 1986 and bonded labour prevention act 1976. Inspector Om Prakash Singh who headed the operation cited example of the youngest child Salman who got the job through a relative. TOI saw him bare-foot braving the chilly breeze in a t-shirt. “I have worked in Hyderabad and Jaipur too,” the boy told TOI. Oldest among the children Mohammad Akeel said they all were working to support their families. “Our parents do not have enough to feed the whole family,” he stated. Manoj Verma, member of Childline associated with the operation, informed that the children would be sent to shelter homes now and would later be re-united with their families. (Times of India 10/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

18. Minorities commission says Agra Muslims had ‘not converted’ (7)

AGRA: The UP Minorities Commission that was probing the December 8, 2014 ‘ghar wapsi’ incident in Agra — in which 200 Muslims from a slum colony were ‘converted’ to Hinduism by an RSS affiliate — has now said in its final report that no conversion had actually taken place on that day. The incident had triggered a national storm, with proceedings in both houses of Parliament disrupted for days over it. Members of the panel said on Monday that none of the Madhu Nagar slum people went through the conversion done by the Dharam Jagran Samiti. Maintaining that the people in question “remain Muslims”, the commission said that there was, however, “betrayal and cheating”. It also held the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) responsible for the incident, and termed it a grave failure. The commission has recommended action against the LIU, seeking “vulnerable areas” be identified in future so that such incidents do not recur. “No conversion has taken place in Madhu Nagar on December 8, 2014. The people living in there are still Muslims and are following Islamic culture and religion,” said Shafi Azmi, spokesman of the UP Minorities Commission and one of the four members to have visited Agra to probe the conversion incident. The other members who conducted the probe were Suhail Ayub Zinjani, Mufti Zulfkar Ali and Nassifful Hassan. At a press conference on Monday, the members said they will now submit the report to the state government. The committee also gave a 10-point recommendation to the UP government to avoid such incidents in future, including identification of vulnerable areas and providing proper education to those living there. Strengthening the LIU, conducting awareness drives and strengthening peace committees were also recommended. “Living in 6 feet/4 feet huts that allow barely enough space for two people, Madhu Nagar slum residents were fascinated with the idea of getting BPL ration cards,” Azmi said. A team of the minorities commission had visited the Madhu Nagar slum on December 20, 2014, after 57 Muslim families allegedly took part in a ‘ghar wapsi’ ritual conducted by the Samiti. Many of the Muslims later said they were promised ration cards and BPL cards in return, an allegation that was denied by the Samiti which insisted the Muslims wanted to convert on their own. (Times of India 2/1/15)

19. Religious intolerance in India would have shocked Gandhiji: Obama (7)

Washington: US President Barack Obama has said that if Gandhi were alive, the acts of religious intolerance in India would have shocked him while he also reminded Americans of the acts of the terrible deeds committed by Christians too in history. In the National Prayer Breakfast address on Thursday, Obama said “India was full of magnificent diversity – but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs.” He said such acts would have “shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”Obama, who is an admirer of Gandhiji, is just back from his India visit where he bonded well with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi but in a speech before leaving had expressed his concern over the religious intolerance in India and had said for the country to succeed it should not splinter along religious lines. Obama spoke of how “professions of faith [is] used both as an instrument of great good but twisted in the name of evil.” “From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith – their faith – profess to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it,” he said. He called ISIS a “brutal, vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.” He also warned the Christians saying “and lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place – remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” “No god condones terror,” Obama said adding that “we are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends. Tibetan leader in exile and Nobel laureate Dalai Lama was present at the venue whom Obama addressed as a person who “inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.” (new Kerala 6/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Hyderabad’s Muslim groups launch ‘Eradication of evils’ drive (7)

Hyderabad: Muslim leaders and organisations from various schools of thought came together on a common platform to launch a campaign here to eradicate evils from the society. The eight-day “Eradication of evils” campaign was launched with a public meeting here Sunday night. Addressing a huge gathering of men and women at Khilwat Ground in the old city, the Islamic scholars voiced concern over the fast spreading evils like alcohol, drug addiction, interest, dowry, and immorality. The speakers called on all Muslims, especially the youth, to not only protect themselves from this “flood of evils” but also save others by participating in such movements. Expressing concern over misuse of social networking sites by youth to indulge in immoral activities, they felt that instead of using technology as a tool for development, the new generation itself has become a tool in the hands of such sites. They underlined the need to evolvr a mechanism with the participation of all to help poor Muslims and thus save them from exploitation by financers. Renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Mufti Sadiq Mohiuddin Faheem, who presided over the meeting, advised parents to ensure that their children are educated and trained in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran. Khaja Arifuddin, president of Jamaat-e-Islami, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha units, said that the Quran describes Muslim ummah as the best nation produced for mankind, who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. He said it was high time that the community realised its responsibility and worked to fulfil it. M.K.M. Zafar, president of Jamaat’s Greater Hyderabad unit, said they made the campaign a collective effort by involving all sects of the community. During the campaign, Jamaat would organise various programmes for college students and youth and create awareness against the evils.(Business Standard 2/2/15)

21. ISIS are murderers and rapists, have to be condemned: Owaisi (7)

HYDERABAD: Condemning the deadly deeds of ISIS, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday said the activities of the terror group have nothing to do with the religion of Islam. “What they have done so far, all the Islamic scholars of various schools of thought have condemned it. They have raped people, killed people. Not only killed, in a bloody way, they have decapitated bodies, they have cut heads. They have burnt a person. “These are nothing to do with Islam or teachings of Islam. They have to be condemned. They are bloody murderers and rapists,” the Hyderabad MP told reporters here. As for some youth from Hyderabad reportedly trying to join ISIS, Owaisi said none can break law and that the youth should speak to religious scholars. Owaisi was speaking at a press conference held here in connection with the “centenary death anniversary” of Hazrat Anwarullah Farooqui, founder of Jamia Nizamia, a 144-year-old institution of Islamic studies. As part of the events, a seminar would be held on February 14 and 15 and a public meeting on March 20, organisers said. (Times of India 5/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

22. Church in South Delhi vandalized (7)

New Delhi: A Catholic church in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area was reportedly targeted by unidentified men during the early hours of Monday. This is the fifth incident of attack on Delhi churches since December, Though the Christian community called it an act of vandalism, the police insisted that it was an incident of burglary and have accordingly registered a case. The suspects are yet to be identified. There were no CCTV cameras inside the church and the police are scanning the footage from the nearby localities. The church authorities said that the culprits messed around with prayer items but did not take any valuable items. No money was robbed from the donation box either, said priest in-charge of the church, Father Vincent Salvatore. “The attackers ransacked the sacristy cupboards, opened the tabernacle and took the ciborium. They emptied it by putting the hosts on the table,” said A C Michael, former member, Delhi Minorities Commission. The incident took place between 2 and 3 am on Monday. The church authorities said the culprits jumped in from the main gate wall, broke open the church’s gate and ransacked the sacristy cupboards and other items. The matter came to light in the morning when the parish priest reached the church and saw the main door broken. He immediately informed the police control room upon which a team from Vasant Kunj (South) police station was rushed to investigate the matter. A senior police officer, who visited the site, said the church was not vandalised. “It is a case of burglary and we have registered a case. It looks like the handiwork of some drug addicts whom we should identify soon,” the officer told Deccan Herald, adding that the handiwork of three to five people is suspected. (Deccan Herald 2/1/15)

23. Christians allege authorities indifferent to their concerns (7)

New Delhi: Dismayed at the lack of response of the Central government and the administration to the unbridled attacks on its churches, the minority Christian community in the national capital feels threatened. Monday’s vandalism of a church in Vasant Kunj was the fifth such incident in the capital in the past two months. A “deeply disturbed” Christian community will be holding a “silent protest march” on Thursday from the Delhi Archdiocese on Ashoka Road to Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s residence. What has caused grave concern to the community has been the attitude of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom they met in December and found him not receptive to their concerns. The incidents, seen in the backdrop of the saffron brigade’s strident “ghar wapsi” programme for religious reconversion, has sent shockwaves through the community, which accounts for less than two per cent of Delhi’s population. Father Savarimuthu, spokesperson for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, says, “We are being perceived as a soft target, and what is striking is the silence of the prime minister on such issues.” The local police and the administration, alleges Savarimuthu, too have been attempting to downplay the attacks as isolated cases. Only in one of the five incidents have arrests been made, that too because of CCTV footage available at the Vikaspuri church. “Even in the Dilshad Garden incident in December in which the church was completely burnt down, without even probing the case, the police initially dismissed it as an incident of short circuit. However, police were later compelled to take the incident seriously,” said Savarimuthu. On Christmas eve when the community leaders met the prime minister to greet him, they also used the occasion to highlight their concerns, but allege it was dismissed as “media hype” and the “over-hyped reactions of a community that is educated and computer literate.” Opposition parties that had raised the issue in Parliament of a silent approval by the BJP government to the saffron brigade’s ‘ghar wapsi’ programme, have again highlighted the attempted polarisation on the cusp of Delhi election. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi lashed out at the PM questioning his silence. “I am not talking of cases in Odisha, this is the 5th such incident of vandalisation of a church in Delhi. I think it is reprehensible that you are making such tall promises and making such great statements about how lucky you are, and under your very nose without your comment, your rejection, your condemnation, not even a single word by you, this is happening time and again. It is an overall divisive agenda.”Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto, in a statement on Monday, accused the government of “failure to give protection to minorities and their religious structures.” He said the attacks were “aimed at creating a fear psychosis and tension among different communities.” In what can be read as a harking back to visiting US President Barack Obama’s departing words cautioning India against religious divide, the Archbishop said India’s image in the world of religious tolerance and religious diversity would be “irreparably damaged” if such incidents were not checked. (Business Standard 4/2/15)

24. Delhi Church attacks: Home minister assures Christians of impartial enquiry (7)

NEW DELHI: Acknowledging the concerns of Christians over the recent attacks on churches, Union home minister Rajnath Singh has directed the Delhi Police to ensure adequate security of Christian institutions in the capital. He also assured the community leaders, who met him at his office here on Thursday afternoon, of an impartial enquiry into the alleged vandalisation of five churches over the past two-and-a-half months. The six-member delegation of Christian community leaders, including former All India Catholic Union president John Dayal and advocate Jenis Francis, put three main demands before the home minister. This include adding Section 153 A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion), Section 295 and Section 295A (defiling a place of worship) to the FIR relating to the recent vandalization of a church in Vasant Kunj. The second demand is a court-monitored probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into the attacks on Christian institutions. Thirdly, the delegation sought security cover for churches, as part of which at least a couple of policemen would be deployed on the premises.”Police has done little and they describe the incidents as simple theft, burglary and trespassing. We told the home minister that these were not simple incidents but attack on our religious places,” Dayal told newspersons after meeting Singh. He claimed that the minister had directed Delhi Police commissioner B S Bassi to include Section 153A, 295 and 295A in the Vasant Kunj attack FIR. (Times of India 5/2/15)

25. 7,000 Christians faced threats in 2014, says Catholic body report (7)

Bengaluru: A report released by the Catholic Secular Forum has documented 120 attacks on Christians and their institutions across India in 2014. The report, which was made available to HT, lists five murders across India in little over a year. Madhya Pradesh (23) and Chhattisgarh (19), both BJP-ruled states, along with Congress-ruled Karnataka (14) account for nearly half of all incidents across India. Between December 2013 and December 2014, 7,000 Christians faced threats, violence and displacement. These included 1,600 women and 500 children. 300 members of the clergy and community leadership were also targeted during this period. The report also expresses concern over certain moves of the Union government such as making Christmas ‘good governance day’ and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s call to make Bhagwad Gita the national book of India. Joseph Dias, general secretary of CSF, told HT that the details of the report had been shared with human rights groups across the world. The CSF’s annual reports and their global reach offer some clues into the circumstances that led President Barack Obama to call for greater religious tolerance in India. The CSF’s 2013 report, which counted 4,000 offences against Christians in India, was used by Indian Christian groups in California to lobby for minority protection as one of the terms of reference for India-US talks. In a February 2013 memorandum, these groups sought a “house resolution that would make human rights and justice for religious minorities a priority in US-India talks.” Former judge of Bombay and Karnataka high courts Michael Saldanha told HT, “Representatives of countries such as France, UK, Australia, Italy as well as the Vatican have approached us for information. These countries have then proceeded to take these matters up with the Indian government.” Although several groups have met home minister KJ George in Karnataka over the attacks in the state, George claimed ignorance about the attacks. “I don’t think there have been those many attacks in Karnataka,” he said. (Hindustan Times 10.2.15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

26. Refugees given higher cash dole (13)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has been providing higher cash dole to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in the State than what has been allowed by the Union government. This was conveyed by a team of senior officers of the government to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice on Saturday. The State also brought to the notice of the committee the Centre’s decision on reduction in the sanctioned strength of staff to look after refugee camps. What was 280 had been brought down to 32, an official said. Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan and Director General of Police Ashok Kumar were among those who represented the State before the Committee, headed by E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan. (The Hindu 1/2/15)

27. CPI(M) urges for aid to Lankan refugees willing to return (13)

Chennai: Observing that the Centre and the state governments have a responsibility to ensure a secure and dignified life for Sri Lankan refugees, CPI(M) on Monday said financial assistance must be extended to those willing to return to the island nation. “The Centre and state governments should extend financial assistance for their return home and guarantee a support structure for their livelihood such as house to ensure that they lead a new life,” a resolution passed at the end of the party’s three-day state committee meeting said. The governments have the responsibility to ensure a secure and dignified life for the refugees, who wished to return to the island nation, it said, adding various schemes, including those with specific provisions to aid their return, should be created. Senior party leaders P Sampath, Prakash Karat, K Varadarajan, G Ramakrishnan, T K Rangarajan, U K Balakrishnan, A Soundararajan participated in the meeting, which concluded today. (Zee News 2/1/15)

28. For Lankan refugees, time may have come to return (13)

Karthigaichelvan: The Indian government is mulling the idea of sending Lankan Tamil refugees like Sujivani – over one lakh still live in India -back home to Sri Lanka. This is not the first time that a refugee-return operation is being mounted. The earliest was in 1987-90 after the signing of the India-Sri Lanka accord. But unlike previous attempts the biggest positive now is that the war is over and there’s little chance of armed conflict breaking out or an imminent danger to the lives of Tamils in Sri Lanka on a mass scale. The new regime has been making the right noises whether in bringing normalcy to Tamil homelands, providing powers to the provincial government, or in taking up substantial measures for political rights. In the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, the most likely candidates for return are those in India. Though better off than the poor in India, many Lankan Tamils believe return is a possible option for the future since as refugees they will never be able to lead the life of a citizen in India. Things have not been easy for those who have returned until now. Based on their experiences the refugees in India have come up with a range of proposals that would help the process of repatriation. The key question that they ask is the assurance of a livelihood since those who came back have reported that as the biggest problem in their homelands. Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka advise caution -much like the Tamil Nadu government that has stayed away from trilateral talks in New Delhi. “The permanent solution for the refugees is coming down to the mmother land. Though the new government has been showing some positive signs, it is too early to say that the situation in North has come to normalcy,” said Mano Ganesan, TNA MP, over phone from Colombo. Activist and executive producer of documentary film “Waiting in Hop”, Gladston Xavier said that the changes are visible in the northern areas of the country. “There has been steady progress in the returnees’ life in Sri Lanka. The progress has speeded up in the last six months. They say early bird catches the worm,” Gladston told TOI. “We have been screening the documentary in all refugee camps in Tamil Nadu as well as among diaspora Tamils. Many refugees who watched the film expressed a longing to go back home,” says Gladston. But nearly every refugee family has a Sujivani -who were born and raised here. Some 24,000 children were born in Indian camps. Raised in India, they are apprehensive about taking a risk. Sujivani is positive, however. “The army is less interfering now. Inflation is high and livelihood is still a challenge. But we are hopeful of the future,” she says. (Times of India 5/2/15)

29. Afghan families flee persecution in Pakistan after school attack: IOM (13)

KABUL: Thousands of Afghan families are fleeing Pakistan to escape harassment after a deadly Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar last December, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Afghanistan said on Saturday. More than 22,000 undocumented Afghans flocked across the border at Torkham in January, more than twice the figure for the whole of 2014, said Richard Danziger, the IOM’s mission chief in Afghanistan. Almost 1,500 others were deported in the same month, double the number of deportees in December. “It all started with the attack on the school in Peshawar,” Mr. Danziger told Reuters. “When something horrible happens, people start taking it out on foreigners.” Taliban militants attacked a school in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar in December, killing more than 130 children and prompting Pakistan to step up operations against insurgent hideouts along the border with Afghanistan. Cooperation between Afghan and Pakistani security forces has also improved since the attack and has led to the arrest of suspects in Afghanistan, where officials believe it was planned by the Pakistani Taliban. However, Afghans living in Pakistan are reporting incidents of harassment such as raids on their homes and police coercion, the IOM and other officials said. Most of the Afghan families settled in Pakistan decades earlier and have nowhere to go once they return, Mr. Danziger said. “Their lives are in Pakistan,” he said, adding it was unclear how long they would remain in Afghanistan. The flow of undocumented returnees increased steadily in January, from around 350 in the first week to 1,400 in the final week of the month. Mr. Danziger said it was difficult to predict when the numbers of refugees would ease. The unexpected arrival of thousands of people is pressuring Afghanistan’s limited resources and only the most vulnerable are receiving assistance. “We are down to helping the most desperate there,” Mr. Danziger said, adding that resources had been diverted from the Iranian border. Families lucky enough to qualify for help receive medical care, food and temporary shelter, but the IOM says it needs another $1.6 million to cope with an additional 17,000 vulnerable returnees this year. Most refugees are moving to nearby provinces including Kunar, the IOM said, where fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants has recently intensified. Others are heading for Kabul, where resources for thousands of internally displaced people settled there are already seriously strained. (The Hindu 7/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

30. RTI earns govt. bigger bucks than estimated (1)

HYDERABAD: Estimates of revenue generated through RTI (Right to Information) queries and actual revenue generated by the State government, has revealed great disparity over the years. Each RTI applicant is required to pay a sum for information demanded. Going by data from the last few years, revenue estimated by the GAD (General Administration Department) of united Andhra Pradesh is several times lesser than the proceeds the government actually mopped up. Even then, the officials did not raise the estimates, choosing instead to stick to targets of the previous year for the subsequent financial year. In 2010-11, the estimate for revenue raised through RTI applications was Rs.5 lakh, whereas the government ended up earning Rs.89 lakh. In 2011-12, the projected figure was again Rs.5 lakh, but the revenue generated was Rs.26 lakh. In 2012-13, the estimate was slightly increased to Rs.5.25 lakh and consequently the government received Rs.20 lakh that year. Reacting to the issue, P.V. Ramesh, Principal Secretary (Resources and Expenditure) at the Andhra Pradesh Government’s Finance Department said the target may have been ‘deliberately kept low’ since the State government did not expect to generate much revenue from the applications. Another finding is that the amount generated is not proportional to the number of applications, which has been increasing steadily. The number of RTI applications has increased steadily from 65,973 in 2009-10 to 1.45 lakh in 2012-13. However, revenue over these years has either remained stable or decreased instead of rising. “There can only be two reasons for this,” said RTI activist Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu. “Either there are a lot of Below Poverty Line (BPL) citizens who have made RTI applications, since it is free for them. This is a positive sign. Bu