Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 30 January 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Pappu’s prescription to Dalits: convert to other religion to escape caste oppression (2)

Patna: Amid reports of conversion and re-conversion from different parts of the State, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Pappu Yadav has suggested that poor Dalits can convert to other religions to escape caste oppression and prejudices. He also supported the Aamir Khan starrer PK and demanded a ban on militant Hindu outfits for protesting against screening of the movie in theatres across the country. “Dalits and poor people who are victims of caste oppression and prejudices in society should convert to Christianity, Buddhism or any other religion of their choice. This is the only way for them to get rid of the so-called thekedar [contractors] of religion,” declared the RJD MP from Madhepura. Mr. Pappu Yadav, who, of late, has waged a war against corrupt doctors, further said that he too would have converted to another religion had he been born in a poor and oppressed caste. “There is no way out to escape from these dharm ke thekedars [religious contractors]”, he told The Hindu wondering why some people have any objection to poor people converting to any other religion for their growth. “Why don’t they do something for their welfare instead of hyping up their re-conversion?”, he asked. He further said that only those people who were opposing conversions were against reservation for the backward and deprived sections of society. “Do they think that those who have converted are their personal property?”, asked the heavyweight MP, whose wife Ranjit Ranjan too is a Congress MP from the neighbouring Supaul Lok Sabha constituency. They are the lone MP couple in the 16th Lok Sabha. While lashing out at Hindu outfits like Bajrang Dal and others opposing the screening of PK, he demanded a ban on them while suggesting that everyone should watch this “entertaining” movie. “I demand a ban on Hindu outfits indulging in vandalism on movie theatres and burning posters of the film. Films are the mirror of society but organisations like Bajrang Dal are making this issue political for their vested interest”, he said while admitting that he watched the movie and found it a “complete entertainer with nothing objectionable”. He said, he had also asked members of Yuva Shakti, a youth organisation formed by him, to confront those protesting the screening of the film and indulge in vandalism. “When BJP veteran L.K. Advani has found the film quite entertaining, why should not those who are protesting it?”, he asked. Recently, the five-time MP, hit the headlines for waging a war against corrupt doctors fleecing poor patients in various ways in the State. He had even prescribed fees for the doctors as per their qualifications and degrees to charge from the patients. The doctors, though, have been opposing his move but the MP has been receiving a warm response from the locals wherever he held a people’s court to raise the issue. “In the next two-three days, I’m also going to file a defamation suit against state BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi who had earlier said that the doctors of the State are frightened because of me. Giving such statements, he is tarnishing my image,” said Mr. Yadav who, earlier, was acquitted of the murder of former Purnea MLA Ajit Sarkar.

Asked about the political situation in the State, he said Bihar needed leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee “to make the functioning streamlined and corruption-free.” (The Hindu 1/1/15)

2. Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins discrimination against Dalits: Mayawati (2)

Lucknow: BSP supremo Mayawati Saturday accused the Narendra Modi-led NDA government of discriminating against Dalit icons like party founder Kanshi Ram and social reformer Jyotiba Phule while awarding Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya. She said the move shows the “casteist” mindset of the Modi government. She also attacked the Centre for adopting the “ordinance route” on key issues terming it “anti-farmer and made with an intention to give undue benefit to the business community”. “The BJP government has the same discriminatory attitude as that of the previous Congress-led UPA government. The Congress government had not declared national mourning after the death of Kanshi Ram and the BJP government has continued with the same casteist mindset. It has given Bharat Ratna to two persons from the same caste, which my party does not oppose, but none from the Dalit or OBC category was chosen,” she said. Mayawati said Kanshi Ram should have been given the highest civilian honour for his sacrifice and hard work for the upliftment of Dalits. “Similarly, Jyotiba Phule, who belonged to a backward caste, should have been given the award for working in the field of education and and efforts to establish equality in society. Taking exception to the Modi government adopting the ordinance route, Mayawati said this was not in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. On the land acquisition ordinance, she said it was against the interest of farmers. “I do not find it right…the amendments could have been brought in the next session of Parliament,” she said, adding interests of capitalists were being safeguarded by the government. She said the NDA government has not shown any interest in last seven months of fulfilling the promises made during the elections. She alleged that as per a conspiracy, the quotafor Dalits and backwards was being neutralised by allocating major works to the private sector. Mayawati also criticised the organisations affiliated to BJP, saying they were hatching a conspiracy to spoil the atmosphere by raising the issue of conversion and promising a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. To a question on replacing Planning Commission by a new think-tank, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), she said government should concentrate on solving problems of the poor and unemployed. “Changing names will not usher in any change in the country,” she said. (Indian Express 4/1/15)

3. Dalit girl burnt alive at home in Ghaziabad, police suspect honour killing (2)

GHAZIABAD: A 16-year-old girl was burnt alive in her house in Hapur on Saturday during what her father claimed was a robbery by four men. But a dodgy account of events the father gave has turned suspicion on him, with the police not ruling out the possibility of an honour killing. In the complaint he filed at Kotwali police station, Mahesh (45) claimed his daughter was killed by the four robbers for putting up a resistance. According to Mahesh, they broke into the second floor house in Ganeshpura, where the Dalit family lived, around 1am. The robbers allegedly took a pair of silver anklets from Mahesh’s wife and were leaving when 16-year-old Neetu raised an alarm. The men, Mahesh claimed, then doused her with kerosene and set fire to her. But this theory, police officers said, fell apart when investigators visited the crime scene and started making inquiries. None of the neighbours, for instance, reported hearing any commotion from the building at the time Mahesh said Neetu was killed. Besides, there were seven family members in the house, including Neetu, at the time of the alleged crime but no one else was injured. Mahesh sells fruits to earn a living. Other than Neetu, he has three sons and a daughter. “The victim was wearing gold earrings and so was her mother. Yet, both ornaments were secure. This casts a doubt on the claims made by the family,” said Kotwali SHO Rajender Singh Yadav. Each family member also gave a different version of the cash allegedly stolen from the house. Another loophole the police found in Mahesh’s theory was his claim that the robbers had gained access to the house by jumping from the roof of an adjacent building. “We inspected the building where Mahesh lives. It’s not possible to jump into the house from the adjacent buildings because of the distance between them,” said Yadav. Hapur police superintendent R P Pandey said, “It seems the girl’s father filed a false complaint to mislead us. The girl, a school dropout, was working as a domestic help in several households. Suspecting her of having an illicit relationship, Mahesh had asked her not to work at some of the houses. It seems when she refused to obey him, her father and other members of the family killed her. A number of facts pointing towards honour killing have surfaced during our investigations.” The police are yet to receive the girl’s autopsy report. As of now, police have lodged an FIR against four unknown persons under sections 302 (murder), 302 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 394 (robbery) of the IPC. The SP said they would take action against the Mahesh based on findings of their probe. “Afresh FIR will be filed depending on the probe’s outcome,” said Pandey. (Times of India 5/1/15)

4. VHP rushes to prevent Dalits embracing Islam in Meerut (2)

Meerut: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has rushed to the “rescue” of about 60 members of a Dalit community who had threatened to embrace Islam after they were not allowed to worship at the Balmiki Ashram in Baghpat. The Dalits who are residents of Jamaalpur village in Meerut alleged they were not allowed to celebrate Balmiki Jayanti, birth anniversary of Saint Balmiki on October 8, 2014 at the Balmiki Ashram. They alleged that an upper caste priest of the Ashram had been discriminating against the Dalits. The U.P. unit of the VHP approached the families and assured that action will be taken against the priest if their allegations were found to be true. Shyam Sundar Singh, a member of the Dalit community told The Hindu that an upper caste priest had put a ban on their entry in the Ashram which he claimed belonged to Balmiki community. “There is an upper caste priest who has hijacked the Balmiki Ashram and for quite some time now has been refusing us the permission to perform pooja inside its premise. We have approached the administration against this kind of injustice,” he alleged. “If our grievances are not solved by January 26, all of us will convert to Islam en masse,” he reiterated the threat. The local VHP leader Sudarshan Chakra told The Hindu that he will look into the grievances of the Dalits to ensure the Dalits don’t convert. “We have approached the Dalit families who are angry at being discriminated. We are going to sort out their issues and ensure that they get access to the ashram and perform puja there,” he said. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

5. Dalit groups slam ‘casteist’ event in Hyderabad (2)

HYDERABAD: Banners recently put up across the city, inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) to the ‘tricentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families’ on January 11, has left some dalit Catholic Christian groups fuming. Lashing out at the organizers, these groups have termed the event as regressive and ‘casteist’ in nature. “Dalits can never organize such lavish gatherings. We fear that the CRA’s event would further alienate us from the mainstream, owing to our weak economic status. And this despite dalits representing 70% of the Christian population in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Jerusalem Mathaiah, president of All India dalit Christians Samakhya. He said dalit groups would stand in protest outside the venue, if the programme is not called off. “Though we have embraced Christianity, caste issues are still haunting us. We already feel wronged by the fact that not many dalit Catholic Christians have been elevated to high posts,” Mathaiah rued. When TOI contacted CRA office, Vijay Bhaskar Kommareddy speaking on behalf of the group said the tricentenary celebrations would be nothing more than a community event being organised to mark the conversion of the first Reddy member to Christianity 300 years ago. The incident took place in Anantapur in 1715. The CRA found support in Christine Lazarus, former MLA in the erstwhile AP assembly, who strongly came out in defence of the event. “We are living in a free country and there’s nothing wrong if a community comes together to celebrate an occasion,” she said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

TRIBALS

6. Project Palash gives new life to Jharkhand tribe (6)

NEW DELHI: The year 2014 definitely ushered in “acche din” for the Sabar tribe of Jharkhand. This endangered tribe, once trapped in the Maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. It is looking forward to the New Year with new hope, all thanks to Palash, that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction. Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Saraikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Out of 32 tribes in Jharkhand, nine are endangered. Sabar is also one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in the community getting listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Most Sabar people in Jharkhand now live in Samanpur, a village surrounded by hills and forests. Situated 60km from Jamshedpur, it doesn’t have proper road connectivity. “It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. People had not seen the light of civilization. A paradoxical situation of abject poverty prevailed in the prosperous forests. They lived in small huts of three-by-four feet, which they could enter only by crawling. They survived on roots and fruits from forests or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, joint director (industries), Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash. “We practically lived in the jungle, ate whatever we could gather from the forests. Never knew of education and even today I am illiterate. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month. There is still no road, hospital or anything,” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the 10 artisans who are present at the India International Trade Fair. Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass in one of the huts. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving. I was told that these articles had an unorganized market with meager incentives.” With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of 50 such artisans. And they now earn Rs 4,000 per month, said Vijay Sawar, an artisan. “To develop it as a model village, we need to increase our production base and participate in events like IITF. This village can also be projected as a tourism destination as it still retains its greenery,” said Sinha. The project has managed to wean many away from the Maoist movement, she added. “There is also a decrease in deforestation. Their life has improved. Now I hope these people will get the attention of the governments.” (Times of India 1/1/15)

7. Rift within govt over tribal rights (6)

New Delhi: The tribal affairs ministry has described the environment ministry circular relaxing the forest rights act provisions as in “violation of the law”. Tribal affairs ministry said diluting the forest act  had the potential to create public unrest in tribal areas, which are also Maoist-affected districts. The environment ministry in October, 2014 had written to district collectors that plantations notified as forests in 1930 and falling in areas having no tribal population should not come under the purview of the forest rights act, meaning that mandatory consent for the projects coming up there will not be required. “The letter violates the law,” said Hrusikesh Panda, tribal affairs secretary. He asked his counterpart in the environment minister Ashok Lavasa to immediately withdraw the circular dated October 28. Panda had also objected to the environment ministry issuing advisories on FRA without consulting them, the nodal ministry for implementation of the FRA. Panda also said the forest rights act does not provide any scope for an executive agency to relax the applicability of the law and the relaxation can be done only after a due process is followed. And in case of the October circular that due process was not followed. The secretary said that repeated dilution of the FRA has sent the message that the government was against “fair” implementation of the forest rights act and it was not desirable in the interest of “peace and governance” in forest areas. Panda also marked the copy of the letter to home secretary Anil Goswami saying that the issue needs to be taken up at the meeting on Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts, which are also the home for majority of tribals in India. Panda had also objected to repeated claims that the Forest Rights Act was leading to delay in project approvals and execution saying there was no evidence to this effect. “If there has been any study or evidence on delay of projects because of the processes of FRA, this should be brought to the notice of the (tribal affairs) ministry. Clearance of major projects take a long time because of the layers through which such clearance is given,” the letter stated. (Hindustan Times 2/1/15)

8. Govt urged not to divert SC, ST sub plan funds (6)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka State SC/ST Entrepreneurs and Industrialists Association has urged the State government not to divert funds allotted for Scheduled Caste Sub Plan/Tribal Sub Plan (SCSP/TSP) to projects other than those meant for development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Addressing a press meet during a workshop on SCSP/TCP Priority Allocation – 2015-16, Association President L Hanumanthaiah said that Rs 8,818.31 crore was allotted under the plan during 2013-14 and the allotment had been increased to Rs 15,834.18 crore in the current fiscal. “More than 50 per cent of the funds has been diverted for general schemes such as schools, colleges, roads, government buildings, drains, irrigation projects. The Planning Commission has strongly recommended that the diversion of funds for general schemes should not be more than five per cent,” said Hanumanthaiah. He said that SCSP/TCP Act provides that funds should be spent only for three purposes – members of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, their families and for general schemes. Elaborating further on the diversion of funds, JD(S) MLA from Mudigere constituency B B Ningaiah that approximately SCSP/TCP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore had been spent on irrigation schemes during the period 2010-11 till date. “I was in the SC/ST Welfare Committee to oversee the utilisation of funds for the downtrodden communities. On department-wise verification of projects, we found that  SCSP / TSP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore have been utilised for irrigation. After field visits, we also found out that a majority beneficiaries of the irrigation projects were not SC/STs. This is nothing but misuse of funds,” Ningaiah said. Taking lessons from the past, the association will set up its own monitoring system for utilisation of funds. It has also urged the government to utilise the funds for skill development of SC/ST youth. Association executive president G Srinivasan said that the funds under the scheme were being equally distributed among all the districts without considering the population of SC/STs. “Gulbarga has a maximum SC population, whereas Udupi has very less. But the funds are equally allotted to both districts. This leads to diversion of funds. Funds should be allotted to the districts based on the population of SC/STs in Karnataka,” he said. (Deccan Herald 5/1/15)

9. Adivasi group sniffs conspiracy theory (6)

Guwahati, Jan. 6: The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam today alleged a political conspiracy behind the recent killing of Adivasis and questioned the ongoing operation against NDFB (Songbijit), the militant group held responsible for the massacre. The association’s president Raphael Kujur alleged that the attack was politically motivated and demanded an inquiry to identify the political forces that might have used the NDFB (S) to attack the Adivasis on December 23. “Although the NDFB (S) carried out the massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage. Hence, apart from NIA investigation, a probe needs to be conducted into the political conspiracy angle too,” he said. Kujur also saw a pattern in the killing of Adivasis in the past decade. “There were attacks on Adivasis in Assam in 2006, soon after the Assembly election. The attack at Uriamghat in Golaghat district in August last year was carried out after the Lok Sabha election. The fresh attacks come ahead of the Bodoland Territorial Council election scheduled for this year and the Assembly election scheduled for next year. Although the NDFB (S) carried out the December 23 massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage,” he said. So far 81 people have died in the December 23 attacks (66 Adivasis), backlash (12 Bodos) and police firing during protests (three Adivasis). Over 2.86 lakh people, both Adivasis and Bodos, have been displaced in Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Udalguri districts. The association also said that though the Centre had rushed hundreds of army and paramilitary forces to Assam soon after the attack, it had not yet yielded any results. “Cadres of the rebel group are still moving freely with arms in many places and recently they looted cattle and goats from Adivasi villages at Majbat in Udalguri district and Mainaupur village in Chirang district,” Kujur said. He alleged that the administration in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts were forcing displaced Adivasis to leave the relief camps without making security arrangements in their villages. “Ration has been stopped in some camps. People are caught between the fear of militant attacks and the administration’s warning to leave relief camps. We demand that fixed pickets must be set up in the vulnerable areas before sending relief camp inmates back to their villages,” he added. According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, eight relief camps have been closed down in the past 24 hours and over 24,600 people have been sent back to their villages. More than 1.29 lakh people are still taking shelter in 77 relief camps.The executive committee of the association today decided to stage demonstrations for two hours in every district and subdivisional headquarters on January 19 and light lamps in each Adivasi household on January 23 to pay tribute to the deceased. (The Telegraph 7/1/15)

WOMEN

10. 50% girls would cancel wedding if in-laws demand dowry (8)

Kolkata: More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey.DH Illustration For Representation Purpose Only More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey. When single Indian women were asked in a survey by Shaadi.com about what they would do if they learnt about a dowry demand made to their parents, 51.4 per cent women said they would call off their wedding. Another 48.6 per cent women said they would name and shame the would-be in-law’s family by publicly humiliating them, as per the survey. The online poll received 5,680 responses from single Indians in the age group of 24 to 35 years. When single Indian men were asked how dowry seekers should be treated, 59.8 per cent of them said such persons should be instantly jailed, while 40.2 per cent said those making the demand should be socially humiliated. More than 75 per cent respondents felt dowry could be prevented, the survey said. Commenting on the survey, Gourav Rakshit, COO of Shaadi.com said the website was working towards making India a dowry-free society. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

11. PM to Launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ Programme from Haryana (8)

CHANDIGARH: Modi will launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme, a nationwide scheme aimed to address the dipping child sex ratio and empower girl child in the country, from Panipat in Haryana next month. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today said the Prime Minister, in his first visit after the formation of BJP government in Haryana, would launch the programme from Panipat in Haryana on January 22. The nationwide programme ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is in the direction of preventing unfavorable impact of declining sex ratio in the country and also to sort out this serious trouble, Khattar said in a release here. The prime objective of this programme was to bring a change in people mindset towards girl child on or after her birth. Preventing determination of sex, female foeticide, ensuring safety of girls, their best possible care and providing quality education are integral part of this programme, he added. Khattar said a national level media and multi-sectoral campaigns in 100 districts in the country would also be carried out under the programme. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme would be implemented in 12 districts of Haryana namely Mahendergarh, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Rewari, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Karnal, Yamunanagar, Kaithal, Bhiwani and Panipat which have the lower girl child sex ratio. The Chief Minister said a two-day seminar-cum-conference would also be organised on the beginning of the programme on January 20 and 21 next month. He said Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee would be special invitee in the seminar. Besides, women and child development ministers and Principal Secretaries concerned of all states have also been invited to express their views in the seminar. PTI (New Indian Express 1/1/15)

12. Strip search: police record statements (8)

Kochi: The city Vanitha police cell recorded the statements of the women employees of a company in the Cochin Special Economic Zone who were allegedly subjected to a strip search after a used sanitary napkin was found in the office washrooms. “The complaint was filed by 15 employees of the company. We have recorded the statements of a few of the women and will probe the matter further in the coming days,” said an officer of the women’s cell. CSEZ Development Commissioner Safeena A.N. said the SEZ had a committee in place to look at complaints of sexual harassment. “The SEZ office has such a committee and all complaints received there are resolved quickly. In this particular issue, none of the women filed a complaint with us,” Dr. Safeena said. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

13. 30 per cent of all rapes by live-in partners, on promise of marriage (8)

New Delhi: Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. DH illustration Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. Women reported being raped by strangers only in four percent of the 2,069 rape cases registered with police till mid December, 2014. In any case, incidents of alleged rape in the national capital in 2014 have gone up by almost one-third since the previous year, police revealed during a press conference on Friday. Twenty per cent of the rape cases this year remain unsolved, said police. Culprits in 60 per cent of the solved cases were nabbed within a week of the crime being reported, police claimed. Friends of victims or of their family members were the main perpetrators of the crime, accounting for about 45 per cent of the reported rapes in Delhi this year. Other main perpetrators were neighbours at 20 per cent and relatives in 13 per cent of rape incidents, Delhi Police’s annual report said. Over 4,000 complaints of molestation, a 25 per cent rise since 2013, were registered during the same period. Police managed to solve 67 per cent of these cases. A senior officer told Deccan Herald that the involvement of strangers in molestation incidents was higher as compared to rapes because of which many culprits continued to roam scot-free. Police’s ability to work out complaints related to eve-teasing has been even poorer. Of the 1,282 such cases registered till mid-December last year, only 54 per cent were solved. Incidents of eve-teasing increased by 45 per cent over one year. Commissioner of Police B S Bassi said women are being trained to fill the “physical capacity gap”. He said Delhi women would be trained to take on men when harassed or not given due respect. Over 15,000 women in the capital have been trained in self-defence this year and about 1.25 lakh over the last 12 years. Apart from the basic self-defence techniques, they are also taught how to use their belongings like pens, dupattas and handbags to protect themselves from molesters and snatchers. Bassi, however, said that was not adequate. He said he wanted to see women undergo unarmed combat training for a year and emerge with a minimum of a brown belt in karate. (Deccan Herald 4/1/15)

14. Modi govt proposes to set up 150 teams to probe crime against women (8)

New Delhi: The Centre has proposed to set up 150 special investigative units on a pilot basis, in some of the most crime-prone districts in the country to probe grievous offences against women, particularly rape, dowry harassments, acid attacks and human trafficking. As part of the new initiative, the Home Ministry has proposed to set up investigative units on crimes against women (IUCAW) in 20 per cent districts of each state on a 50:50 cost sharing basis with the states. In a letter to chief ministers, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that there is a need to strengthen various elements of the criminal justice system, namely, investigation, prosecution and trials by courts to deal with the issue of rise of crimes against women. The Union home minister said the objective of these units will be to investigate cases referred to them, augment the investigative machinery of the states in relation to the heinous crimes against women, especially rape, dowry death, acid attack and human trafficking. The units will also instill confidence and encourage women to come forward and lodge their complaint and improve the gender ratio in the state police forces which is adversely impacting effective implementation of the legislations relating to women. Besides, these units will have the additional functionality of proactive policing, intelligence gathering, tackling organised crime, monitoring proper implementation of the legislative provisions, helping awareness generation and promotion of social participation in checking crimes against women, an official statement said. The ministry has proposed to set up 150 such IUCAWs units initially on a pilot basis in most crime-prone districts of each state. Each IUCAW will be headed by an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police assisted by two DSPs. Out of the total 2,250 personnel required for the 150 IUCAWs, 750 will be women. This will involve a total expenditure of Rs 84 crore annually, out of which Rs 42 crore will be provided by the Centre. (Zee News 6/1/15)

15. Government Order on Sexual Abuse in Schools (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Tuesday asked the schools under ST and SC Development department to sensitise and educate girl students through life skills to prevent sexual harassment and abuse. In fresh guidelines issued by the State Government for schools under the department, teachers and other employees have been asked to create an enabling environment for students in schools and hostels. Measures have been prescribed in the guidelines for prevention and protection from sexual abuse. Besides, a code of conduct and duties for teachers and other staff have also been issued. There should be frequent interaction between the teachers and students, the guidelines stated and asked the hostel authorities to record every movement of boarders and visitors. The guidelines also stated that school monitoring reports of the district welfare officers (DWOs), assistant district welfare officers (ADWOs) and district inspectors of schools will be submitted to the ST and SC Development Department through e-mail. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Mission Khoj to find missing kids (14)

New Delhi: The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) on Wednesday has launched an operation ‘Khoj’ for finding the missing children. Chairperson of DCPCR Arun Mathur said that the commission was concerned over the increasing number of missing children in the capital. He said that under the operation ‘Khoj’ the DCPCR will tap information about “missing children from all sources and circulate the same along with photographs to all networked Homes for immediate action.” A network of approximately 45 children’s homes in Delhi has been created and in case a child is found in one of the homes, the DCPCR will take appropriate steps to identify and reunite the child with his family. “The information will be sought through email ID missingchild.dcpcr@gmail.com and the reply is also expected on the same ID,” said DCPCR. The DCPCR decided to commission a study to assess and analyse the available data about rescue, recovery and post rescue procedures besides issues of inter-state coordination. Mathur said that the commission intends to enlarge the network to include more homes and organise regular meetings for sensitisation of the home in-charges. The Commission expects that through proper follow-up many cases related to missing children can be solved. According to the DCPCR, 7,235 children were reported missing in Delhi in 2013. Some 5,248 children went missing in 2012, 5,111 kids were reported missing in 2011. About 5,946 children went missing in 2009 and some 5,091 kids were reported missing in 2010. Some 6,268 children were reported missing from Delhi in 2008. Mathur said the DCPCR has been monitoring the cases both at an individual level as well as the policy level. “In individual cases, the commission issues notice to the concerned police station for an Action Taken Report in the matter. It was seen that the replies from the police station reach the commission quite late,” said DCPCR in a statement. A national consultation on inter-state coordination for rehabilitation of rescued child labourers came to the conclusion that there is not the need for strengthening the rehabilitation mechanisms of child labour in source states as well as in Delhi, but also the necessity of improving inter-state coordination. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

17. Railways’ SOP about rights of kids found on its premises still on paper (14)

The standard operation procedure (SOP) laid down by the Railway Board to safeguard rights of children arriving at and living on railway stations doesn’t seem to have amounted to much. It’s been a year since the Board passed an order to implement the SOP immediately, but the order has just remained on paper. The detailed SOP talks about the role various stakeholders need to play to ensure that children on railway platforms, including those who have run away from home, have gone missing from railway premises and who work there, are safe and protected. “We received the letter about the implementation of SOP a year back, but we have not been given any funds to implement it,” said a city station master. “I have written several letters to my superiors for kick-starting the implementation of the SOP, but I haven’t got any reply so far.” According to the SOP, the railways needs to create children assistance centres at all major stations. It further demands that the railways make arrangements for proper clothing, toilet, first aid and medicine for children. “We don’t have a single centre; whenever we get such children, we make a basic entry in our register and hand them over to the Government Railway Police (GRP),” said a station manager.  The SOP instructs the railways to maintain a detailed record of children found alone or in distress on platforms. The station master is expected to maintain a record of the children — name, age, parents’ names, details of siblings, address, and reason for leaving home. The SOP adds that there need to be advocacy messages put up at stations to create awareness on this, installing a functional public telephone at the centres, and creating a sufficient fund with station masters to meet the expenditure on food, clothing, toiletries and first-aid kit, and commute cost when a child is taken to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). A station master, however, said, “We aren’t given any money to spend on the children, we spend from our own pocket. We just hand them over to the GRP, who later they take them to the CWC.”.. (DNA 4/1/15)

18. Cuttack police rescue 10 child labourers (14)

CUTTACK: Ten child labourers who were rescued by the police, were on Sunday sent to a local shelter home here after conducting an ossification test on them to determine their ages. The children were brought here from Murshidabad district of West Bengal by two agents to employ them as labourers in coal mines at Talcher. They were however, rescued by Chauliaganj police on Saturday after they alighted from a train here to catch a bus to Talcher. The police arrested one of the agents—Sheikh Majibul and sent him to court. On the other hand, the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) made arrangements to keep the children at a shelter home here until they are reunited with their families. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

19. Muzaffarnagar cops to launch hunt for missing kids (14)

Muzaffarnagar: Following directions of the state government, police have launched a month-long campaign called “operation smile” to trace missing children in the district. The drive will go on till January 31. Of the 11 children who had gone missing in 2014, three are still missing. According to senior superintendent of police, HN Singh, a task force has been formed for Operation Smile. The aim of the initiative is to trace and rescue children who had been reported missing in the district in the last ten years. “The campaign aims to identify, trace, locate and rehabilitate children who were either kidnapped or who had left home on their own and have been subjected to abuse, exploitation or employed as child labour,” Singh said. Police sources say that a list of missing children has been prepared. Once such children were identified as missing, cops will match their details with those of the kids in the list. Data from the district, zonal and state levels would be compared. It will also be shared at the national level. Cops will keep strict vigil at bus stands, railway stations, shelter homes and other public spaces. If children are found in these places, the police will take their details and upload them, along with photographs of the kids, on a dedicated portal for missing children. Recently, the operation was launched in Ghaziabad and was deemed a huge success. 225 missing children were traced and reunited with their parents. After the success of the campaign in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh’s principal secretary (home) instructed police officials in all districts to launch the operation. SSP HN Singh has ordered all station officers in the district to launch the drive in areas within their jurisdiction. (Times of India 6/1/15)

20. Street Kids Find Home and Mentor (14)

VIJAYANAGAR: Eighteen children of construction workers are looking at a bright future, thanks to the Right to Education Act and a kind education official. For many years, the street was their home, their playground and workplace. Today they have found shelter, protection and admission, and are basking in their newfound life. For these children, moving from the dusty, chaotic streets to a safe, steady and protected environment has been a life-changing experience. Children of workers who have migrated from Madhya Pradesh, they are grateful to Nagarathnamma D, Block Education Officer, South Range-2, for making it possible. When they were fending for themselves, they sold balloons on the streets, looked after their younger siblings, and played amid the dirty, dug-up roads beneath the Metro Rail bridges. They cannot believe they have a roof over their heads, food on their plates, books to read, a place to relax and play, and school uniforms and good clothes to wear. They even go on picnics and Metro rides. In 2013, 33 children were identified under the ‘out of school’ Education Department survey in Vijayanagar. The department initially put up a tent school and imparted a bridge course, preparing the children for school. Eventually, 18 children were admitted to five private, unaided schools. They have adjusted well, face no discrimination, and are coping with their studies, say officials. Schools that have admitted them are RNS Vidyaniketan, Holy Angels School, Sree Bharatiya Vidyalaya, Adichunchungiri English School, and New Cambridge School. If nine are studying in the first standard, the rest are in LKG. The schools follow the ICSE and the state syllabi. Nagarathnamma told City Express the department had to overcome much suspicion and opposition from parents. “They are homeless, illiterate, and speak only Hindi. Since they had been working on the stretch along Yelahanka, Peenya and Vijayanagar for 10-15 years, they were on the streets, with no avenues to educate their children. We managed to convince them about the importance of school,” she said. Nagarathnamma is passionate about educating such children and does her best to get them to school.”Of the 33 we initially identified, 10-12 went back to Madhya Pradesh but the rest were clothed, housed, and admitted to big schools,” she said. She is assisted by many people, including teacher C H Chandrashekaraiah and parent Jayanthi. After much thought, they decided to house the children at the Government Model Primary School in Hosahalli and turned two big classrooms into a dormitory with an attached kitchen. Others pitched in to help. If Vijaynagar MLA Krishnappa looks after their daily breakfast needs and provides clothes, NGO Annapurna is donating their groceries. The group has not taken any funds from the government to run this initiative. Mela, a chirpy girl now enjoying her holidays on the streets with her big family of five siblings, is happy she is studying. Playing at the government school that has become their home, Kiran and his friends shower all their love on Nagarathana whom they affectionately call amma. Mela, who has started learning English and Kannada, said, “I enjoy going to school.” Thanks to the initiative, these children are finding a way out of their poverty and squalor. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

21. Minorities’ welfare still on the backburner in Telangana (7)

HYDERABAD: At a time when the Telangana government is making announcements, minorities continue to be discriminated against at the policy level in terms of eligibility criteria vis-a-vis other weaker sections, experts opined on Tuesday. At a meeting on ‘Development of Minorities in Telangana State – Possibilities and Challenges’ at Lakdi-ka-pul, speakers cited the example of schemes rolled out by the Centre. “The income ceiling for the minorities for pre-matric scholarships is Rs one lakh, for post-matric is Rs 2 lakh and for merit cum means is Rs 2.5 lakh. On the other hand for the OBC creamy layer it is Rs 4.5 lakh per annum. There must be parity in the ceiling,” said MIM legislator Syed Amin Jafri. He also underscored the glaring differences in age restrictions in availing bankable schemes. “While the SCs and the STs have a five-year age relaxation, there is no such provision for minorities. For minorities, the age limit for this scheme is between ages 21 and 40, whereas that for other communities is 21 and 45. The number of beneficiaries has decreased because of this and also because of an income ceiling of Rs 75,000 per annum. This is not right,” he said. Analysts said that the role of the AP state minorities finance corporation was reduced to that of a “post office”, with no schemes of financial inclusion. They expressed concern over the abysmal utilisation of budget for the welfare of the minorities. Of the Rs 1,030 crore allocation in Telangana, only Rs 174 crore has been released. Similarly, of the Rs 372 crore earmarked in AP, only Rs 126 crore has been released, they claimed. “There are only three months for the budget to lapse. In these circumstances, the Telangana government must increase the allocation for the next financial year to Rs 2,000 crore,” an analyst reasoned. Analysts observed that contrary to the missive of the Reserve Bank of India, which directed banks to earmark 15 per cent priority sector lending for minorities and meet this target by 2009, the current achievement stands at around 6 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and around 7 per cent in Telangana. Bureaucrat Mohammed A Abid said that many bureaucrats were under the impression that schemes for minorities were a “fad” and not a part of the “mainstream”. “For instance, the wakf act is not taught in the Lal Bahadur Shastri, National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. Sooner or later the two states will start recruiting. Muslims should see how they can enter lower judicial services and police,” he said. (Times of India 1/1/15)

22. Socio-economic status of minorities to be assessed (7)

Shivamogga: Balkhees Banu, Chairperson of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission, has said that the socio-economic survey of minorities in the State will commence by February-end. The survey, conducted once in 10 years, will help the government to assess the socio-economic status of minorities and design programmes for their uplift. The enumerators will visit every household as part of the survey and elicit answers to 58 questions, she said at an interaction programme organised by Shivamogga District Working Journalists Association here on Saturday. Cooperation of the local masjid committees, the district-level wakf advisory boards would be sought for the survey. Teachers from government and aided educational institutions would be deputed for the survey, she said. Ms. Banu said she had requested the State government to establish a legal cell in the commission. Many innocent youths were being booked under false charges during communal violence. The commission plans to extend legal assistance to such victims through the cell, she said. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had responded positively for the request, she said. In 2014–15, education loan was sanctioned to 2,000 students from minority communities who joined professional courses, under the Arivu scheme. The government wants to extend the benefit to 5,000 students in 2015–16, she said. The commission would recommend to the government to fill vacant posts of teacher in Government Urdu Schools at the earliest. The commission would organise programmes to promote communal harmony across the State and first one would be held in Dakshina Kannada district. President of the Shivamogga Working Journalists Association N. Ravi Kumar and general secretary Vaidya were present. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

23. Jain community’s PIL wants say in minority commissions (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a representation by the Jain community demanding to be treated on par with other minorities and given representation in the state and national minority commissions. Akhil Bhartiya Jain Mahasabha (ABJM) in its PIL alleged that the governments had been pursuing policy to appease the Muslim community alone by extending the benefits meant for minorities while ignoring other similarly placed communities. The petitioner said even after being declared a minority community, it had not got any governmental financial assistance as was given to other minority communities. Till date only 11 states have recognized Jains as minority group, it said and alleged that the Centre was not responding to its representation on this issue. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri, after a brief hearing, asked the Centre to consider the earlier representation given by the Jain community. ABJM alleged the government had ignored the interests of the Jain community. “The government has adopted an appeasement policy towards Muslims and in the name of the minorities all the benefits are being given to this community whereas other minorities are not being given the same benefit and status. It has come to notice and it is a matter of record that the government has always appointed chairman of Minority Commission from a particular community. The Muslim community is given the major share in the representation ignoring the interest of Jains. Till date no member of this community has found representation either in the State Minority Commission or in the National Minority Commission,” the petition said. Petitioner’s counsel Rajeev Sharma contended that there must be uniform criteria for governmental assistance to minority communities without any discrimination. The purpose of categorizing Jains as minority community would fail if they were not treated equally with other minority groups, he said. “The budget allocation and financial assistance for minorities by the Central/state governments is being utilized only for serving the political end and such assistance is totally denied to the Jain Community,” he said. Jain community was declared a minority community in January last year. Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrians were declared minority groups way back in 1993. (Times of India 8/1/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

24. Gujarat Police make ‘dummy terrorists’ shout pro-Islamic slogan in mock drill (7)

Ahmedabad: A video of police mock drill showing dummy militants shouting pro-Islamic slogan emerged on Thursday in Gujarat, a day after controversy erupted over men, playing the part of terrorists, being made to wear skullcaps in a similar exercise in Surat. Reacting to the Surat episode that came to light on Wednesday, Chief Minister Anandi Patel admitted it as a “mistake” to show people posing as terrorists in the drill in skullcaps. The latest video is of another anti-terror mock drill at Narmada dam site in Kevadia area of Narmada district. It shows policemen holding two dummy terrorists who were shouting “take our lives, if you want. Islam Zindabad (long live Islam)”. When contacted by PTI, Narmada Superintendent of Police Jaypalsinh Rathore said an inquiry will be conducted into the issue. “I came to know about this incident (of projecting terrorists as Muslims) through media. If such an incident has happened, we will conduct an inquiry and take necessary actions against those responsible,” he said. “The mock drill was a routine police exercise which was conducted a week ago in Kevadia area,” Rathore added. As the Surat episode generated controversy and invited criticism from several quarters, including from the chief of Gujarat BJP Minority Cell, Patel told a TV channel it is wrong to link religion with terrorism. “It’s wrong to link religion with terrorism. The issue has been resolved and the matter should be put to rest now. The mistake has been rectified,” she said. The anti-terror drills were conducted ahead of the two high-profile events being held in the state – Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (January 7 to 9) and Vibrant Gujarat Investors Summit (January 11 to 13) – both in Gandhinagar. (Indian Express 1/1/15)

25. Muslims must stop demanding reservation: Najma Heptullah (7)

MUMBAI: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah said on Saturday that Muslims should stop demanding reservation and should, instead, concentrate on empowering themselves with education and skills. On her second trip to the city after she joined the Narendra Modi-led cabinet, she was speaking the media and Muslim activists at Sahyadri Guest House, Malabar Hill, on Saturday, Heptullah said, “I have always maintained that reservation is a crutch, which saps the energy to face challenges. Muslims will not get reservation as the Constitution doesn’t allow quota on religious ground. I am a Muslim and a woman. Did I ever need reservation? The same applies to my fellow community members,” said Heptullah, claiming ignorance of the grounds on which the BJP government in the state has brought in a bill for Maratha reservation (16%) while keeping mum on the 5% Muslim reservation in government jobs and education declared by the Congress-NCP government. “I reiterate that Muslims should not waste time and energy, demanding quota as it is mere tokenism,” she said. She, however, promised to convey the disappointment of Muslims to the Maharashtra CM and the PM . Heptuallh said that of 7 lakh Wakf properties across the country, Maharashtra alone has 30,000. “If fully utilized, Wakf properties will generate around Rs 20,000 crore annually which can make the community self-reliant,” she said. Heptuallh announced the regional offices of National Minorities Development Finance Corporation which will undertake skill training of minorities. She said her department plans to set up a western regional office in Mumbai to take centre’s schemes to the beneficiaries in this part of the country. (Times of India 4/1/15)

26. After communal row, Hindus, Muslims join hands, demand justice for each other (7)

Agra: From the communal cauldron of UP, here’s a heartwarming story of Hindu-Muslim amity. Nai ki Mandi was the site of violence during the Barawafat procession on Sunday, to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammad. On Tuesday, however, Hindus and Muslims rallied together in the area. While Muslim shopkeepers urged police to release the two Hindus arrested on Sunday, Hindus gathered at the spot to demand proper security for Muslim shopkeepers. This show of solidarity even moved the cops who decided to release the arrested shopkeepers late in the evening. Tension had prevailed in the area on Sunday when a scuffle broke out between two groups after a dangling electricity wire allegedly touched a vehicle in the Barawafat procession. While one group alleged that the wire was deliberately kept loose with the intention of interrupting the procession, the other group claimed that it was because of the procession that electricity wires in the city got disturbed. The situation worsened when a few miscreants started pelting stones. Police had to intervene and FIRs were duly lodged against almost 500 persons for rioting and breach of peace. However, on Tuesday, the area presented a picture of communal amity that would have moved even a die-hard skeptic. Over 300 people, both Hindus and Muslims, joined hands to demand justice for each other. Muslim shopkeepers met senior police officials and requested them to release the two Hindu businessmen, Haresh Singh, a cable TV operator and PD Gupta, a jeweler, claiming they were innocent. “Those who started the violence were outsiders. They took their procession inside our market and created a ruckus. As far as we are concerned, police have arrested our innocent brothers and we will not rest till we get them released,” said Shabbir Quadri, president of the Nai ki Mandi market association. Endorsing his sentiments, Yamin Warsi, another shopkeeper, added, “We have been working in the Nai ki Mandi area for several years but there has never been a fight between Hindus and Muslims. There are some 300 shops in the market of which 70% are owned by Hindus and 30% by Muslims. Our president is a Muslim while other senior members are Hindus. We will continue to fight for our brothers till they get bail.” In reciprocation, Hindu shopkeepers organized a sit-in in the market demanding better security for Muslim shopkeepers. “Police should ensure that Muslims in the area do not feel threatened,” said Manish Agarwal, a shop owner from the area. Added Navendu, another shopkeeper, “Already their festival has been spoilt due to the ruckus and now their business is also getting hit as shops have been closed for the past two days. We feel strongly for them.” (Times of India 6/1/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

27. Over 100 reconverted to Sikhism in Amritsar (7)

Amritsar: Around 120 people from 15 families were re-converted to Sikhism from Christianity in a ‘ghar wapsi’ event in Amritsar. The families, who originally belonged to the Mazhabi Sikh community, were lured into Christianity. “We were lured into Christianity by saying that if we convert all our sorrows and worries will disappear, and ghosts would stay away. We are uneducated so we changed our religion then,” said Raj Kumar, who was known as Raj Masih, before his conversion. Reportedly, the conversion function was organised by Dharma Jagran Manch, a body associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), after people expressed their desire to return to Sikh faith. Many have accused that these conversions are done forcefully but Kumar said no one forced him to change his religion. Meanwhile, a Christian priest Father Dominic Emmanuel said the ones involved in forced conversions are not going succeed in their task. “By doing these kinds of things they are only trying to break the unity in this country. This country, in which people have lived in peace and harmony for 2000 years with people of all religions, these people are trying to break that unity and harmony,” he said. (New Kerala 1/1/15)

28. 3 churches come together to demand ban on ‘ghar wapsi’ (7)

AMRITSAR: Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of extending “tacit support” to the ‘ghar wapsi’ programme of saffron outfits, churches here have threatened to take to the streets if the government doesn’t impose a ban on the practice. Church of North India, the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army Church have also warned of legal action against communal forces trying to convert people forcibly. In a joint press conference by Diocese of Amritsar Church of North India, Diocese of Jalandhar of the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army Church, P K Samantaroy, bishop of Amritsar and moderator Church of North India, said Modi should give a clear-cut statement on the ‘ghar wapsi’ programme and tell the nation why the government has not been able to stop “forcible” conversions. “Keeping silent on such a sensitive issue construes his silent approval,” he said. Samantaroy added that all the heads of churches would soon hold a meeting and take up the issue of conversions at the national level. “We will also write to chief ministers and governors of all the states regarding truth of reconversion programmes,” he said. He alleged that organizations like RSS, Dharam Jagran Manch and Vishwa Hindu Parishad were carrying out forcible conversions through coercion in the name of ‘ghar wapsi’ to meet their political ends, which may benefit some vested interests, especially in the ruling party. Bishop Franco of the Roman Catholic Church alleged that conversions were merely a tool in the hands of communal and fundamentalist forces to divide the dalit communities to indulge in communal violence for their political gains. Divisional Commander of Salvation Army Church Major Manuel Masih said there were many dalit families in which half of the family members were Mazhbi Sikhs and the other half were Christians and the same was true in case of Balmikis. Father John of the Roman Catholic Church said religion was adopted by following the inner voice and not under any external pressure or monetary allurements. Director of Socio Economy Development Programme, Diocese of Amritsar, Daniel B Das said, “We all are Indians and we never left home. So, there is no question of ghar wapsi.” Samantaroy demanded that ghar wapsi programmes be banned, failing which the Christian community would be forced to take to the streets. (Times of India 5/1/15)

29. Dalit groups slam ‘casteist’ event in Hyderabad (7)

HYDERABAD: Banners recently put up across the city, inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) to the ‘tricentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families’ on January 11, has left some dalit Catholic Christian groups fuming. Lashing out at the organizers, these groups have termed the event as regressive and ‘casteist’ in nature. “Dalits can never organize such lavish gatherings. We fear that the CRA’s event would further alienate us from the mainstream, owing to our weak economic status. And this despite dalits representing 70% of the Christian population in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Jerusalem Mathaiah, president of All India dalit Christians Samakhya. He said dalit groups would stand in protest outside the venue, if the programme is not called off. “Though we have embraced Christianity, caste issues are still haunting us. We already feel wronged by the fact that not many dalit Catholic Christians have been elevated to high posts,” Mathaiah rued. When TOI contacted CRA office, Vijay Bhaskar Kommareddy speaking on behalf of the group said the tricentenary celebrations would be nothing more than a community event being organised to mark the conversion of the first Reddy member to Christianity 300 years ago. The incident took place in Anantapur in 1715. The CRA found support in Christine Lazarus, former MLA in the erstwhile AP assembly, who strongly came out in defence of the event. “We are living in a free country and there’s nothing wrong if a community comes together to celebrate an occasion,” she said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Quit Pakistani refugee camp, Afghans staying illegally told (13)

Islamabad : The authorities have asked Afghans staying illegally in a refugee camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to vacate within 15 days to avoid eviction, a media report said Saturday. “We’ve asked illegal Afghans to leave the Azakhel camp or face eviction,” a district administration official said. “We can shift them to Shamshatoo camp in Peshawar and provide them with tents and other necessary items if they show willingness,” Dawn online quoted the official as saying. He said around 1,500 Afghan refugees have been illegally living in Azakhel camp. After the massacre of school children in Peshawar last month, the government had begun surveys of refugee camps in the province, including those in Azakhel, Akora Khattak, Khairabad, Jalozai and Pabbi, to learn about illegal occupants. The government has already informed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees about the refugees living in Azakhel camp illegally. The official said the administration had asked Afghan refugees to reveal their plans after vacating the camp. He said if refugees wanted to return home, then the law-enforcement agencies would provide them with security. Meanwhile, Afghan refugees living in Azakhel camp have appealed to the government to extend the camp vacation deadline. (Business Standard 3/1/15)

31. No humanitarian aid to 3 lakh displaced (13)

Guwahati: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) here on Friday said that Assam government failed to provide relief, particularly warm clothes, baby food, safe drinking water and assistance for pregnant women and lactating mothers, to those among over three lakh internally displaced persons after the carnage in Assam. The ACHR, which had sent a team to study the condition of the relief camps however said that some food items were supplied by local public and organisations but sanitation and hygiene were almost non-existent in the relief camps. In its report released on Friday, the ACHR said that there are over 3,00,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Assam which is largest displacement of world in 2014. Pointing out that among those displaced 2,87,182 are adivasis (plantation workers) reeling under a man-made humanitarian crisis in 65 relief camps Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Chirang districts. The ACHR also said, “The Assam government has been hesitant to fully extend humanitarian assistance to all displaced persons in order to prevent more displacement and reduce cost of rehabilitation.” There are about 13,091 displaced Bodos taking shelter in 20 relief camps in Chirang district. Out of these 20 relief camps, three camps with a population of 2,219 Bodo inmates are unregistered camps, the ACHR in its report claimed. The team of Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) assisted by the Adivasi civil society organisations visited the affected areas on December 27. The ACHR team had limited access as curfew was imposed in Sonitpur and Udalguri districts, and the police did not allow visit to the interior places for security reasons. The ACHR team however visited Jiagabharu High School Relief Camp, Hugrajuli Relief Camp and Tinisuti Relief Camps. The ACHR has asked the Assam government to fully extend humanitarian assistance. (Asian Age 4/1/15)

32. 10,000 frightened villagers abandon homes in Kashmir (13)

Jammu: The number of people abandoning their homes in border villages of Jammu and Kashmir crossed 10,000 Tuesday amid heightened tension following Pakistan shelling on the international border that killed a trooper Monday. “Following indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas along the international border by Pakistan yesterday (Monday), more people have abandoned their homes close to the border in Samba and Kathua districts,” a senior official told IANS here. “The number of villagers lodged in makeshift accommodations at safer places has crossed 10,000 and their migration is continuing today (Tuesday),” the official added. Pakistan Rangers continued mortar shelling and firing at Border Security Force (BSF) positions in Kathua and Samba districts late Monday. “Pakistan Rangers targeted more than two dozen BSF posts in Kathua and Samba districts yesterday (Monday). The BSF retaliated effectively to silence Pakistan guns,” a senior police officer here said. The officer said no firing has been reported from the Pakistan side Tuesday morning. A trooper was killed Monday when the border outpost manned by him was hit by Pakistan fired mortar. BSF Director General D.K. Pathak will visit the international border Tuesday to take stock of the situation. (Business Standard 6/1/15)

33. West Pak refugees can now join paramilitary forces (13)

NEW DELHI: Seeking to address concerns of West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) settled in Jammu and Kashmir, the Home Ministry on Tuesday decided to consider such people for jobs in paramilitary forces. This came as Home Minister Rajnath Singh approved “certain concessions” for WPRs that include a direction to directors-general of all paramilitary forces to consider such people from the state, who are Indian citizens and have valid Voter IDs, for recruitment to the forces. Singh also wrote to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that similar concessions like waiving off the condition of producing domicile certificates and other identity certificates. Singh’s move came a fortnight after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs asked the Centre to take steps to ensure that these groups get benefits like other citizens. Jammu and Kashmir does not grant these section of people permanent resident status and they encounter problems in getting government jobs. According to the state government records, 5,674 families consisting of 47,215 persons migrated from west Pakistan and were settled in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts during partition. As of now, these people face difficulty to fulfil documentary evidence of residency in support of their applications as the paramilitary recruitment rules seek furnishing of domicile certificates from the candidates while the state government issues only Voter ID with Non-Permanent Residency (NPR) status to such Indian nationals. Singh also wrote to the state government to resume issuing the domicile certificates to refugees settled in the state so as to enable such people to avail equal employment opportunities. The Home Ministry has also issued instructions to the Department of School Education under Human Resource Development Ministry to accommodate the children of such people for admission to the Kendriya Vidyalayas in the state. (Deccan Herald 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

34. Maharashtra: RTI online on trial basis from today (1)

There is partial good news for people looking to file online RTI application at Mantralay. rtionline.maharashtra.gov.in will start functioning today on a trial basis. The trial period will give people the opportunity to give suggestions and raise objections if any. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said recently that the facility would start functioning from January. The government had been giving dates of its formal inauguration (four departments) since August, but kept postponing it. Even now, it’s not known when exactly the facility would formally be launched. “We are starting it on a trial basis. The principal secretary of IT department is not here, so this will be like a soft launch. Only after the formal launch will it start functioning at full stretch. As of now, people can look at the site and give suggestions or raise objections if any,” said Virendra Singh, director, Information Technology. The site that is in Marathi and English has the facility for filing application and for first appeal. It also has an option to know the status of one’s application. The mode of payment (RTI application fees) is internet banking, ATM cum debit card and credit card (Master/Visa). Thirty one of the 37 departments in Mantralay are shown on the site. All the departments within Mantralay would be covered first. The facility would be expanded to other public authorities later. Once an application is filed, the applicant will be given a registration number through SMS and email. According to RTI Act, for providing information, an applicant has to be an Indian citizen. Besides asking an applicant’s mobile number, e-mail (if any) and details of his/her card through which transaction will be conducted, there is little by way of verification to ensure that the person seeking information is an Indian. The central government too has the same issue. dna tried to get in touch with authorities, but could not get through to them. “Where is the question of suggestions and objections. It is not a policy decision. They adopted the central government software over two years ago, and were to start the facility early this year. It should at least have been ready when the CM made the announcement. This is the bureaucracy’s ploy to buy time,” said Vijay Kumbhar, an RTI activist. “The question of nationality should not be a big issue as most of the information sought is suo motu disclosure. In case of sensitive information, the PIO can check on the applicant,” he added. (DNA 1/1/15)

35. Security cover: Jashodaben continues her RTI fight (1)

Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wife estranged wife Jashodaben has again sought details of the security cover provided to her, filing an application under the Right to Information Act after she was denied answers to all her questions in her first letter, her brother said on Friday. Jashodaben had filed an application under the RTI Act in November last year with Mehsana police seeking details of the security provided to her after Modi became prime minister. Mehsana police, which denied her earlier request, had said the questions asked by her fell under the purview of the local intelligence bureau, which has been insulated from the RTI act by the Gujarat government. “She has filed an appeal before the superintendent of police of Mehsana district as the earlier set of questions were not answered by the police,” Ashok Modi told HT. He also queried why the police, in their original reply, had referred to Jashodaben as the daughter of Chimanbhai Modi, while in her application Jashodaben had called herself the PM’s wife. After Modi took over as the PM in May last year, the Gujarat government provided Jashodaben with four commandos at her residence. They tail her wherever she goes, including during her recent trip to Mumbai. In both her applications, Jashodaben stated: “I, the petitioner, who is the wife of Prime Minister Narendra Modi… travel by public transport while my bodyguards travel by official vehicle.” “I should be provided a certified copy of the order under which security is provided to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s family members, brothers, sisters and me,” she wrote, asking for details to be given within 48 hours as the issue pertained to a “life and death” matter. Elaborating, she cited the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her own commandos. “The commandos assigned to me have no official order by which they have been posted at my residence,” the application said. Jashodaben is a retired school teacher in her early sixties who lives with her brother Ashok in a north Gujarat village. (HindustanTimes 2/1/15)

36. 36000 RTI queries pending as CIC remains headless (1)

New Delhi: At a time when transparency and access to information have emerged as prerequisites of good governance, there are over 36000 pending Right to Information (RTI) queries pending at the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has been functioning without a Chief Information Commissioner for almost four months now. According to information furnished by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), 203 people, including all seven serving Information Commissioners and a former DoPT secretary, have applied for the top post, lying vacant since 22nd August. The information was provided to Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra in response to a RTI query. The query also revealed that the number of pending cases in the CIC bench increased by 47 per cent, from 7655 to 11212, in the four months since the retirement of the last CIC Rajiv Mathur. The government had invited applications for the post of CIC on 24th October. The last date for application was 23rd November. As on January 4th, there were 36,319 pending cases before the Central Information Commission. The bulk of these — 28,888 to be precise — were appeals while the rest (7,431) were complaints. According to the monthly progress reports put up by the CIC on its website, Vijay Sharma, at 5971, had the most pending cases (complaints and appeals) among the seven information commissioners, followed by Yashovardhan Azad at 4902 and Sharat Sabharwal at 3999. Manjula Prasher, the only woman member of the commission, had 3418 pending cases while Basant Seth, MA Khan Yusufi, and M.S. Acharyulu had 3408, 1491 and 1772 pending cases, respectively. When it came to disposing off applications in 2014, Mr. Acharyulu was at the top with resolution of 2891 RTI applications. He was followed by Mr. Sharma at 2660, Mr. Seth at 2351, Mr. Azad at 2202, Mr. Sabharwal at 2183, Ms. Prasher at 2036 and Mr. Yusufi at 1713. For the Chief Information Commissioner, the monthly progress reports shows zero cases disposed against 11317 pending complaints for the entire last year, which is interesting considering CIC Rajiv Mathur held the post till August 2014, after which it fell vacant. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

37. BJP armed with RTI reply, lashes out at AAP (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party relied on RTI replies to lash out at Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s claims of a ‘zero-raid policy’ during the 49-day rule. The BJP on Monday said that 151 raids were conducted on commercial establishments during the AAP government’s rule. “In recent meeting with traders in Nehru Palace, Kejriwal claimed that his government didn’t conduct a single raid. But, this is a lie. In a RTI reply, we got to know that during his 49-day rule, 151 raids were conducted,” said Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay. BJP alleged that from January 5 to January 31, 2014, 51 raids were conducted while from February 1 to 14 last year, 100 raids were conducted due to which, on an average, the national capital witnessed one raid every two hour during AAP tenure. Accusing former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of ‘misleading’ the people on the issue of tax collection, Mr. Upadhyay said, “Mr. Kejriwal had also claimed that during his tenure Rs. 5,666 crore was collected as tax collection, but RTI’s reply says that in the 49-day rule of AAP’s government, Rs 2033 crore was only collected.” Mr. Upadhyay said that between January 1 and 15 last year, Mr.Kejriwal’s government received a revenue of Rs. 231.92 crore and also, from January 16 to 31 in the year 2014, Rs 1505.24 crore were collected. From February 1 to 14 in 2014, Rs 296 crore tax was only collected, he claimed. The AAP responded to the allegations and said in a press statement that “a frustrated BJP is resorting to lies and misinformation about the tenure of the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi, since it has nothing positive to show about the seven months since its central government is controlling the national capital.” “The AAP reiterates its stand that no raids were allowed on ordinary traders during the tenure of Arvind Kejriwal government and VAT collection during that quarter was higher than in the same quarter in the preceding years. The BJP has hidden the fact that during the AAP government no raids were allowed on ordinary traders and it has also not revealed that raids which it is falsely referring to were sample checks conducted on petrol pumps, checks on liquor vends and notices to recover tax dues from repeat defaulters,” said the statement. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

38. RTI activist to file appeal against Kanchi acharyas (1)

PUDUCHERRY: A Chennai-based social activist has sought copies of the orders passed by a Puducherry court acquitting Kanchi seers – Jayendra Saraswathi and Vijayendra Saraswathi and 22 others in a murder case – to file an appeal against the court order. R Varaaki, a RTI and PIL activist from Chennai filed an affidavit before the Puducherry chief judicial magistrate seeking certified copes of judgment and all related documents in the murder case of A Sankararaman. He pointed out that the Supreme Court in the case of Subramaniaswamy and Manmohan Singh declared that ‘any citizen has got locus standi to set the criminal law in motion including filing revision petition against the order of acquittal passed by the sessions’ court. He said since the Puducherry and Tamil Nadu governments had not filed an appeal against the acquittal of the seers and 22 others he proposed to file a revision petition or appeal against the acquittal. Nine years after A Sankararaman, manager of Sri Varadharajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram, who levelled charges of financial mismanagement against the Kanchi seers, was found murdered the Puducherry principal district and sessions’ judge C S Murugan in November, 2013 acquitted the seers and 22 pointing out that the prosecution failed to prove the motive of the murder. Most of the main witnesses including the wife and son of the murdered A Sankararaman – Padma and Anand Sharma – respectively turned hostile. As many as 187 witnesses were examined and re-examined by the prosecution and defence counsels. Eighty-two witnesses and a lone approver, Ravi Subramanian, turned hostile. Kanchi seers, the main accused in the case, were also charged with criminal conspiracy, misleading the court by giving false information, criminal trespass and supply of funds to carry out the criminal activity. Puducherry government decided not to file an appeal following the opinion of the attorney general. (Times of India 8/1/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. City-based NGO sends 60 kids back to school (11)

KOLHAPUR: Avani, a city-based NGO surveyed around five districts in Western Maharashtra and two districts in Karnataka in its ambitious project. It identified over 200 kids who are without access to education or are employed. In all 63 children from the two states will attend school in the 2015 academic year due to the NGO’s efforts. Sattappa Mohite, Avani survey coordinator, said, “We arranged temporary schools for kindergarten students aged between three and five. For those above six years of age, we enrolled them in nearby zilla parishad schools during the work season in Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Bijapur and Belgaum districts.” Mohite added that families return to their native place once the work season is over. “We noted everyone’s address and surveyed the status of students’ continuity in education later in August, September and October. Surprisingly, many students were found attending schools, where they had enrolled earlier and those who were not attending, we managed to convince their parents to send them to school,” he added. He added that parents also supported the initiative and responded positively. “We are quite satisfied with the survey and the same kind of initiative will be organized in 2015 too,” he added. According to Mohite, for this survey they visited many villages in Radhanagari, Shirol, Karveer, Jath, Miraj, Mohol, Shrirampur, and Chandwad taluka. NGO members convinced 35 parents to send their children back for elementary education. The rehabilitation of these children for their education has given hope for the NGO to organise the same activity this year too. Under the Right to Education Act (2009) elementary education to the age group of 6-14 year children has been made compulsory and free at all government-aided schools. Kolhapur: For over 60 kids in Maharashtra and Karnataka, the early months of year 2015 will be hectic one. Though remaining busy and exhausted for hours is not a new thing for these kids, the only difference will be this time they will not be working for someone at any construction site, brick production unit, or at any sugarcane cutting and rather will be busy in doing their homework for their school assignment. Avani, the city based NGO in its one of the ambitious projects surveyed around five districts in Western Maharashtra and two districts in Karnataka, and identified over 200 kids either working or not having the facility of education. “We had arranged temporary schools for the kindergarten students for three to five age group, while for over six year old kids we had enrolled them in the nearby Zilla Parishad schools, during the work season in Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Bijapur and Belgaum districts,” said Sattappa Mohite, survey coordinator, Avani. Mohite added that, families migrate back to their native place once the work season is over. “We had noted everyone’s address and surveyed the status of students’ continuity in education later in August, September and October. Surprisingly many of the students were found to be attending the schools which they had started and those who were not attending, we managed to convince their parents to send them to school for the education,” he added. The parents too supported the initiative and have responded positively and we are quite satisfied that through this survey and the same kind of initiative will be organised in the year 2015 too, he added. According to Mohite, for this survey they visited many villages in Radhanagari, Shirol, Karveer, Jath, Miraj, Mohol, Shrirampur, and Chandwad taluka. The NGO members managed to convince 35 parents to send their children back for the elementary education. The rehabilitation of these children for their education has given a hope for the NGO to organise the same activity for this year too. It has to be noted that under the Right to Education (RTE), act, 2009, elementary education to the age group of 6-14 year children has been made compulsory for free at all government aided schools. (Times of India 1/1/15)

40. More than 4.5 lakh children out of school in MP (11)

More than 4.5 lakh of children in MP still don’t go to school. Also the state has earned the dubious distinction of having one of the worst dropout rates in the country, much higher than the national average. This as per a national sample survey of estimation of out-of-school children in the 6-13 age group conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). According to Right to Education (RTE) Act, an out-of-school child is either not enrolled or has been absent for more than 45 working days or has discontinued studies from school. MP’s neighbours have less number of out-of-school kids in comparison. While Naxal-infested and tribal- dominated Chhattisgarh has 1.6 lakh kids out of school, Gujarat and Maharashtra have 1.5 lakh and 1.4 lakh children, who don’t attend school respectively. However, two other neighbours- Rajasthan and UP have more number of out-of-school kids. While the former has almost 6 lakh such kids, UP has 16 lakh kids, who are out of school. Also, the total number of children in the state is more than 4 crore. The 4.5 lakh out-of-school children account for 3.78% of total kids in the state. Interestingly though, more number of urban kids are out of school (4.61%) than their rural counterparts (3.58%). The state is also among the worst performers where dropout rates are the highest among its neighbouring states. The state has a dropout rate of 52% compared to Chhattisgarh (42.8%), UP (28.9%), Rajasthan (36.6%), Maharashtra (29%) and Gujarat (44.4%). Among the 4.5 lakh kids, who are not in schools, around 77,000 are slum children while more than 50,000 are children with special needs (CWSN). MP also lags far behind the national average of around 37% in dropout rate of kids from school. SSA is government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE). It looks at elementary education for all as mandated by the 86th amendment to the Constitution which makes free and compulsory education to children between 6- 14 years of age a fundamental right. The survey’s findings were recently posted on the SSA’s website. Those surveyed cited poverty and economic conditions as the foremost reasons. Besides, girls reported that they needed to help in domestic work or take care of younger siblings. Surveyed households also reported education was not considered necessary by the head of the house. (Times of India 3/1/15)

41. Awareness drive on Right to Educationonline admissions (11)

Bengaluru: With admissions to seats under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in the State going online for the first time this year, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has asked all Deputy Directors of Public Instruction (DDPIs) and Block Education Officers (BEOs) to conduct awareness drives to better acquaint parents with the process. Speaking to Deccan Herald on Monday, Mohammed Mohsin, Commissioner, DPI, said: “The DDPIs and BEOs should conduct the awareness drive at every level, be it at the district or taluk level. They can take the help of local NGOs in this.” Mohsin said that handbooks highlighting the steps with regard to the process of admission to RTE seats have also been given. “The handbook lists all necessary steps for both online and offline admissions. The same will be used by DDPIs and BEOs in conducting their drives,” he said. An official from the department said that DDPIs and BEOs have been instructed to give wide publicity to the process of RTE (both online and offline) admissions. “It depends on the BEOs how they want to organise their awareness drives. It may be by way of conducting awareness camps or through other measures. However, the message should reach the poorest of the poor,” he said.   H B Manjunath, DDPI, South Bengaluru, said: “We are having a district-level meeting of headmasters and BEOs tomorrow (Tuesday). We will decide about conducting such awareness drives in the meeting. Once decided, I will issue guidelines to CRPs (cluster resource persons) and BRCs (block resource persons) to carry out an information drive.” Ever since the news about RTE admissions going online was announced, there has been a number of apprehensions about the move from parents and NGOs.  Many of them claimed that online admissions would not help the poor who have no knowledge about the Internet and computers.    (Deccan Herald 6/1/15)

42. Illiterate parents to blame for school dropouts (11)

Nikhil Sharma, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, January 07, 2015 A national-level survey has revealed that illiteracy of parents is one of the main reasons behind school dropouts in Chandigarh. A total of 1,090 children, all Dalits, have been reported as school dropouts in the survey and all have illiterate parents. The survey, “National Sample Survey of Estimation of Out-of-School Children in the age 6-13 in India, 2014″, was commissioned by Educational Consultants India Limited with support from the ministry of human resource development (MHRD). Interestingly, the survey, which was released last month, highlights that the education status of children get affected with the educational status and standards of parents. As per the findings of the survey, in the urban parts of the city, a total of 2.48 lakh children fall in the age group of 6-13, out of which 1.36 lakh are boys and 1.12 lakh are girls. Out of total number of children, 1,090 have been included in the category of dropout or out-of-school children. Interestingly, all dropouts are boys in the city and no girls have figured in the survey. One of the reasons mentioned in the survey due to which parents pull the child out of the school or children themselves opt out is the economical condition of the family. The study also reflects that a child is required to work in order to add to the household income. Other major reasons are parents do not feel the need for educating their children as they have enough monetary terms at home or business. Also, the children do not feel like studying as they do not get required atmosphere at home and thus, they show less interest in education. Anujit Kaur, principal of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16, said, “Sometimes it becomes really difficult to convince people to send their children to school. They claim earning good from their work and thus they say that the education is just a waste of time for their children. Hawkers or even beggars do not want their children to learn in schools.” (Hindustan Times 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Project Palash gives new life to Jharkhand tribe (21)

NEW DELHI: The year 2014 definitely ushered in “acche din” for the Sabar tribe of Jharkhand. This endangered tribe, once trapped in the Maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. It is looking forward to the New Year with new hope, all thanks to Palash, that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction. Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Saraikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Out of 32 tribes in Jharkhand, nine are endangered. Sabar is also one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in the community getting listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Most Sabar people in Jharkhand now live in Samanpur, a village surrounded by hills and forests. Situated 60km from Jamshedpur, it doesn’t have proper road connectivity. “It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. People had not seen the light of civilization. A paradoxical situation of abject poverty prevailed in the prosperous forests. They lived in small huts of three-by-four feet, which they could enter only by crawling. They survived on roots and fruits from forests or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, joint director (industries), Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash. “We practically lived in the jungle, ate whatever we could gather from the forests. Never knew of education and even today I am illiterate. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month. There is still no road, hospital or anything,” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the 10 artisans who are present at the India International Trade Fair. Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass in one of the huts. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving. I was told that these articles had an unorganized market with meager incentives.” With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of 50 such artisans. And they now earn Rs 4,000 per month, said Vijay Sawar, an artisan. “To develop it as a model village, we need to increase our production base and participate in events like IITF. This village can also be projected as a tourism destination as it still retains its greenery,” said Sinha. The project has managed to wean many away from the Maoist movement, she added. “There is also a decrease in deforestation. Their life has improved. Now I hope these people will get the attention of the governments.” (Times of India 1/1/15)

44. 63 million people faced with poverty due to healthcare expenditure (21)

NEW DELHI: A whopping 63 million people are faced with poverty every year due to “catastrophic” expenditure over healthcare which neutralises the gains of rising income and various government schemes aimed to reduce poverty, according to the health ministry. The draft of National Health Policy cites this as a significant reason for a new health charter as it seeks to ensure universal access to affordable health care. “Incidence of catastrophic expenditure due to healthcare costs is growing and is now being estimated to be one of the major contributors to poverty. The drain on family incomes due to healthcare costs can neutralise the gains of income increases and every government scheme aimed to reduce poverty. “Over 63 million persons are faced with poverty every year due to healthcare costs alone. It is because there is no financial protection for the vast majority of healthcare needs,” says the draft put out by the Health Ministry on its website for inviting public suggestions. Healthcare costs are more impoverishing than ever before and almost all hospitalisation even in public hospitals leads to catastrophic health expenditures, it says. In 2011-12, the draft says, the share of ‘out of pocket’ expenditure on healthcare as a proportion of total household monthly per capita expenditure was 6.9 per cent in rural areas and 5.5 per cent in urban areas. “This led to an increasing number of households facing catastrophic expenditures due to health costs (18 per cent of all households in 2011-12 as compared to 15 per cent in 2004-05),” it said. India needs a new health policy that is responsive to these contextual changes, it says while citing rising burden of non-communicable diseases and rapidly-growing health care industry as other reasons for framing a new health policy.  (Times of India 4/1/15)

45. 27% people in urban areas are poor, finds census (21)

New Delhi: About 27.6% of 377 million people living in urban India, or 104 million people, have been identified as poor, according to preliminary figures of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC). While the poor in rural India have been identified several times since 1999, this is the first time the urban poor have been identified. Started in 2011 by the UPA government, the SECC is being conducted to identify families falling below the poverty line (BPL) in urban and rural areas. It is expected to help the government better target the poor for its welfare schemes. For example, it will enable a homeless household to be targeted for a housing scheme, while an unemployed person can be targeted under a livelihood scheme. The survey was conducted by the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry in urban areas, while the rural development ministry was conducting the house-to-house exercise in rural areas. About 14.63 per cent of 17 million people living in Delhi have been identified as poor. Of all the states and union territories, Manipur (43.06%) has the maximum number of poor people living in urban areas followed by Bihar (41.4%), Tripura (40.75%), Odisha (39.4%) and Mizoram (37.9%). Prior to this census, the erstwhile Planning Commission had accepted a report of an expert group headed by Suresh Tendulkar that estimated the urban poverty ratio at 25.7% based on consumption expenditure. The SECC has used a three-stage process recommended by a panel headed by former Planning Commission member SR Hashim to identify the urban poor. These are — automatic exclusion, automatic inclusion and scoring index — all based on social, occupational and residential vulnerability. For example, a family stands to be automatically included as ‘poor’ if it does not have a home, or any income, or if the household is headed by a female or physically challenged person. Households having either a four-room house or in possession of any one of these assets — a four-wheeler, air conditioner and computer/laptop with Internet were automatically excluded. The third criteria is a scoring index that gives households scores from 0 to 12 based on their vulnerabilities with a higher score signifying more deprivation. Households that score 0 are ineligible to be included in the BPL list. The Union Cabinet needs to fix the cut-off score under which a household will be classified as ‘poor’. “The figures will go up marginally once the government decides up to what score a family will be included in the BPL list. We are going to the Cabinet soon to get the scoring list finalised,” said a housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry official. (Hindustan Times 5/1/15)

46. Ensure that Benefits of Government Schemes Reach Tribals: HC (21)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday held that health survey and other necessary surveys should be conducted in the tribal areas, including Attappadi, and that appropriate measures should be taken so that benefits of the schemes that have already been initiated by the State reach the needy. A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice A M Shaffique issued the order while considering a petition filed by High Court lawyer R Sudha, seeking a directive to constitute a body to ensure that the funds earmarked for the welfare of the tribal people are reaching them. The petitioner submitted that no proper steps were being taken in the Attapadi tribal area, and that infant deaths were occurring on account of starvation. “The authorities are not extending the benefits of the schemes as has been initiated by the State,” the petitioner said. The State Government submitted that various steps have been initiated for the welfare of the tribal people, and that a detailed affidavit had been filed. The petitioner submitted that the details and affidavit were insufficient.   The State assured that a fresh affidavit with the latest information would be filed.   The Bench observed that ‘filing of affidavit/statement in the court did not mean that it has actually been done’. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

47. Nearly two crore families in Tamil Nadu to get smart ration cards from June (21)

CHENNAI: The state government has approved a contract for Rs 318 crore end-to-end PDS computerization with smart ration cards. As many as 1.89 crore families would get smart cards by the year-end. The cards with biometric parameters would be rolled out in Perambalur and Nagapattinam districts in the month of June and the rest of the state would be covered by December this year. The database would be completely based on biometric data obtained under national population register and Aadhar. “This will put an end to bogus/ghost ration cards. The shops will be automated with an electronic point of sale (E-POS) device and the end server will manage all the transactions,” a senior government official said. The existing database is mired in controversy due to anomalies. In 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India slammed the government’s poor maintenance of PDS records. The audit found that the total number of persons (8.37 crore) included in the family cards in the previous year, was more than the population of the state by 1.16 crore, indicating large-scale existence of bogus cards. In its reply, the state had outlined its proposal to have biometric-based smart cards in two to three years to eliminate bogus cards. Sources said the Census department has captured biometric parameters of 74.71% of the 6.74 crore population aged over five years. Aadhar numbers had been generated to 95% of them, roughly translated to 4.78 crore. It is not uniform across the state with less coverage in districts like Chennai, Sivganga, Tirupur, Namakkal and Dindigul. The high coverage, exceeding 85% was recorded in Perambalur, Nagapatinam, and Ariyalur. More permanent centres to capture biometric parameters are afoot in district collectorates and local bodies. (Times of India 8/1/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

48. Farm workers plan nation-wide strike (14)

VELLORE: The All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxists) has decided to launch a nation-wide agitation if the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance Government does not give up its move to dilute the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), according to Sunith Chopra, all-India general secretary and S. Thirunavukkarasu, all-India president of the Union. Talking to newspersons on the sidelines of the meeting of the general council of the Vellore district unit of AIAWU here on Tuesday, they said that even though the various unions of rural workers have fought for and won job security through the introduction of the MGNREGA, the Modi government is using backdoor methods to violate the right to work that has been won by the rural masses. The methods include cutting down the outlay, attempting to limit the area of operation of the Act, limiting payments in banks to Aadhar card holders, holding back wages, and trying to introduce machinery and contractors. “We believe MGNREGA to be part of our basic right to life and we will not allow it to be bartered away”, he said.False propaganda “It is a false propaganda being spread through motivated agencies”, Mr. Chopra said when his attention was drawn to the grievance being expressed by the farmers that they do not get labour in view of agricultural workers being weaned away for works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In fact, farming activities have declined owing to the large-scale migration of farmers to the urban areas in search of employment. “With 60 per cent of farmers having migrated, we have had the largest migration of farmers in the last 90 years. This migration can be prevented if MGNREGA is strictly implemented”, he said. Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said that the workers were getting wages only for about 40 to 50 days in a year against the promised 100 days. “Workers will certainly come for farm work if the farmers / landlords provide higher wages than what they got under MGNREGS”, he said. Mr. Chopra said that 10 lakh acres of farm land have gone to the non-farm sector, while nine lakh farmers have sold their land and become agricultural labourers dependent on MGNREGS. G. Mani, Tamil Nadu state secretary of the AIAWU, said that the union would be organising a `kathiruppu porattam’ (waiting agitation) in front of the Collectorates, Revenue Divisional Offices and taluk offices throughout Tamil Nadu on January 20, when poor landless workers would wait in front of the offices till they were given free house site pattas and till the old age pension was restored to those for whom it was cancelled. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

49. 25,000 NREGA workers in RR yet to get wages (14)

HYDERABAD: A well-known private bank and state government officials are literally slugging it out on every front after a dispute arose regarding payment of workers under the NREGA scheme. The officials of the Rural Development Department of Rangareddy district had slapped a criminal case against the Axis Bank at Gandhinagar police station for misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 2 crore some weeks ago. The bank was chosen to disburse the funds under the central government scheme for the district. Caught in the midst of it are the 25,000 workers who are yet to get their dues after toiling hard for projects pertaining to various land development projects in Rangareddy district. It all began when the officials found out that a large number of workers had not received payments between April and June 2013. In a series of official mails (which are in possession of this newspaper) which began soon after, the district officials squarely blamed the bank for its inefficient fund monitoring system involving its various business correspondents. The officials had asked the bank to disburse the amount meant for the employees but the higher officials of the bank conveyed through the mails that they were still working on the issue. The bank made a part-payment of a few lakhs in late 2013, however there was not much headway since then. The officials had also requested the government not to have any business tie-ups with the bank in future. “We have given them the complete list of the workers who had not been paid,” said C. Chandrakanth, Project Director, District Water Management Agency, Rangareddy district who is pursuing the case. “We had asked them to show the proof in case they had made the payments. Till date, they could not do so and are indulging in time buying tactics. It is their responsibility to make sure that the payments reach the workers through proper channels. If they had failed to do so, they have to make that payment. The poor workers need to be paid with interest and we will fight till the case reaches a logical end,” Mr Chandrakanth said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

50. Allow flexibility to employees in PF deduction: Employees’ plea to govt (14)

New Delhi: Around 500 companies, including many big ones, have written to the Union government to allow employees more flexibility in their retirement funding. “The petition to the ministry of labour requests giving all employees three individual choices in deciding how they are paid their salary,” stated recruitment consultant TeamLease, also involved in drafting the petition. A person who has seen the petition said some of the companies are Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Enterprises, Larsen and Toubro Infotech, Mahindra Finance, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, HDFC Bank and Biocon. In a joint communique to Union labour secretary Gauri Kumar, these companies have asked that employees be given an option on whether or not to opt for the (currently statutory) 12 per cent deduction in their wages for contribution to the Provident Fund. “At present, 94 per cent of workers in India are working in the informal sector. Giving a choice to such employees will incentivise them to join the formal workforce,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, convenor of the effort on the petition and a co-founder of TeamLease. At present, both employees and employers mandatorily contribute 12 per cent each of the former’s salary towards employees’ PF contribution. This is applicable to any company employing more than 20 people. The petition asks for a choice to employees on whether to park the employer’s contribution with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) or the National Pension System, the latter regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.  According to the norms, only salaried employees can contribute towards EPFO; any individual above 18 years of age can invest in NPS till the retirement age of 60. At present, EPFO doesn’t invest part of its total funds in the equity market but NPS can. “India’s labour laws mandate the highest salary  deductions among various countries in the world; in a cost-to-company term, this can mean a 44.31 per cent salary deduction for low wage employees. And, contrary to public objectives, this is only 5.32 per cent for high wage employees,” stated the letter. Economic data tells us that most low wage employees do not have such high saving rates and this leads to high attrition and informal employment, as these employees cannot live on half their salary, the letter added. “What safety net do we talk about when 94 per cent of employees are out of it? We want to give the workers a simple choice to divest their funds according to their needs,” said Chakraborty. Employers, she said, were keenly awaiting the Union government’s reaction in the coming Budget session of Parliament in February. Recently, the Union labour ministry had proposed some changes in the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, to empower the government to waive or reduce the share of employees’ contribution towards the PF, if it feels the financial position of any class of companies covered under EPFO is getting weaker.(Business Standard 6/1/15)

51. Kerala pushes for more works under job scheme (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State on Tuesday requested the Union government to include more works, including paddy cultivation, dairy farming, coconut farming, and production of coir yarn, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In a memorandum submitted to Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, the State made the following suggestions: MGNREGS workers to be part of paddy production expansion initiatives by engaging in land development activities such as bunding, fertilizer application, irrigation, harvesting and so on, apart from weeding, tilling, and land preparation. Cleaning sheds, feeding and milking of cattle, and so on as part of dairy farming using MGNREGS workers. Use of the workers for removal of disease-affected juvenile palms, old and senile palms, and replanting as part of coconut farming Inclusion of coir production – husk collection, retting and defibering, spinning, and bundling Inclusion of Khadi and handloom work under MGNREGS and payment of wages to the workers under the scheme Minister for Rural Development K.C. Joseph submitted the memorandum. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

52. Unemployment Rate Up at 4.9% in FY14: Labour Ministry (14)

New Delhi: Unemployment rate in India rose to 4.9 per cent in 2013-14, mainly on account of an increase in joblessness in rural areas despite the government’s flagship employment scheme MGNREGA. According to the latest survey report by Labour Bureau, a wing of Labour Ministry, the unemployment rate inched up to 4.9 per cent at all India level last fiscal year, from 4.7 per cent in 2012-13. On the positive side, the unemployment rate dropped in urban areas to 5.5 per cent in 2013-14, from 5.7 per cent in the previous fiscal year. Meanwhile, although 93 per cent of the households in rural areas benefited from MGNREGA, the unemployment rate increased to 4.7 per cent last fiscal year, compared to 4.4 per cent a year ago. Unemployment rate among men increased to 4.1 per cent in 2013-14, from 4 per cent in 2012-13. Among women, it increased to 7.7 per cent last fiscal year, from 7.2 per cent in 2012-13. However, the unemployment rate among women came down to 12.4 per cent in urban areas, from 12.8 per cent in 2012-13. The study revealed that the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is estimated to be 52.5 per cent last fiscal year, whereas the Worker Population Ratio (WPR) is estimated to be 49.9 per cent. As many as 49.5 per cent people are estimated to be self-employed, followed by 30.9 per cent as casual labour, 16.5 per cent wage/salary earners and the rest 3 per cent as contract workers. About 60.5 per cent of people aged 15 years and above, who were available for work for all the 12 months during the period, were able to get work throughout the year. In rural and urban sectors, this proportion was 53.2 per cent and 78.5 per cent respectively The ‘Fourth Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey 2013-14′ has been conducted in all the states/UTs by covering all the districts. The field work was executed from January to July last year. A total of 1,36,395 households were covered by the survey – 83,385 in rural areas and 53,010 in urban areas. (NDTV 8/1/15)

RESERVATION

53. ‘Quota for Dalits in Pvt Sector Essential’ (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Lok Janshakthi Party(LJP) leader and Union Minister for Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan said that providing quota for Dalits in jobs in the private sector was essential for their uplift in the country. Speaking to ‘Express’ here on Wednesday, he said that it was not true that the living conditions of the Dalits were remaining the same even several decades after Independence.“There are definitely changes in the living conditions. But it has to  get further momentum. But what has been there  is only job quota in government service. Even that too is not distributed in a just manner in all parts of the country. What is actually required for Dalits is quota in jobs in private sector as well,’’ he said. When pointed out that though he had been in various Union Cabinets since 1989 there is little  progress for the community to which he belonged, Paswan said  during the the first UPA regime he could persuade the  government to include the job quota for Dalits in private sector in its Common Minimum Programme(CMP). However, under the second UPA regime, it was deleted from the  CMP. When asked about the pathetic living conditions of Dalits in Bihar and UP despite the successive rule by parties of the Janata Pariwar and so-called  socialists, Paswan said it was true that  there was backwardness and poverty among the Dalits. He said the ‘’misrule’’ of the so-called Janata Parivar outfits which had been ruling the state of Bihar for the last several years, was responsible for the stagnation in overall development front. ‘’In Bihar, Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi ruled the state for 15 years. Under their misrule the state suffered a lot. Nitish Kumar who defeated them came to power promising a change. But now he is aligning with the Lalu. An alliance with Lalu Yadav means alliance with misrule. It was two days back that a police inspector was killed. Nitish Kumar is bringing back the Lalu raj in Bihar,’’ he said. Paswan hoped that if the SC, ST Parliamentary forum where all parties have representation could function effectively and bring the issues of Dalits to the government’s attention, there could be perceptible change and progress in the living conditions of the Dalits. (New Indian Express 1/1/15)

54. Muslim quota row: MIM to launch stir on Jan 6 (25)

Mumbai: Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) will launch an agitation against Maharashtra government’s decision to scrap job reservations for Muslims. The party will hold a rally in Beed on January 6, to be addressed by party President Asaduddin Owaisi. MIM MLA from Aurangabad, Imtiaz Jaleel and Byculla MLA Waris Pahan will also be addressing the gathering which will be attended by party workers from across the state. The party has asked all MIM units to submit a memorandum to respective district collectors or tehsildars on January 6 to register their protest against the state government’s indifferent attitude towards reservation for Muslims, Jaleel said. “The state government has brought a bill in the Nagpur state legislative assembly session in December that will enable 16 per cent reservations for Marathas while refusing to bring an ordinance for continuing reservations for Muslims,” he said. The matter related to reservations for Muslims and Marathas is scheduled to be heard in the Bombay High Court, after the Supreme Court refused to entertain the petition of the state government. (Business Standard 2/1/15)

55. Muslims must stop demanding reservation: Najma Heptullah (7)

MUMBAI: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah said on Saturday that Muslims should stop demanding reservation and should, instead, concentrate on empowering themselves with education and skills. On her second trip to the city after she joined the Narendra Modi-led cabinet, she was speaking the media and Muslim activists at Sahyadri Guest House, Malabar Hill, on Saturday, Heptullah said, “I have always maintained that reservation is a crutch, which saps the energy to face challenges. Muslims will not get reservation as the Constitution doesn’t allow quota on religious ground. I am a Muslim and a woman. Did I ever need reservation? The same applies to my fellow community members,” said Heptullah, claiming ignorance of the grounds on which the BJP government in the state has brought in a bill for Maratha reservation (16%) while keeping mum on the 5% Muslim reservation in government jobs and education declared by the Congress-NCP government. “I reiterate that Muslims should not waste time and energy, demanding quota as it is mere tokenism,” she said. She, however, promised to convey the disappointment of Muslims to the Maharashtra CM and the PM . Heptuallh said that of 7 lakh Wakf properties across the country, Maharashtra alone has 30,000. “If fully utilized, Wakf properties will generate around Rs 20,000 crore annually which can make the community self-reliant,” she said. Heptuallh announced the regional offices of National Minorities Development Finance Corporation which will undertake skill training of minorities. She said her department plans to set up a western regional office in Mumbai to take centre’s schemes to the beneficiaries in this part of the country. (Times of India 4/1/15)

56. Pvt Colleges in Vellore Force SC/ST Students To Pay Fees (25)

VELLORE: Private educational institutions in the district, completely disregarding a Government Order, have been forcing students belonging to SC/ST communities to pay tuition and examination fees and several of them have not been allowed to appear for the examination over non-payment of the fees. The failure of authorities to act promptly has given a free hand to the institutions to harass the students demanding that they pay the fee in contravention of the GO of June 2012. The GO  says the institution should not collect fees from the students of SC/ST communities and the same would be paid to the institution by the respective district Adi Dravidar welfare officer after receiving the fund from the State and Central governments. A group of second and third year students of Ranipet Institute of Technology said they had not received scholarship of `21,700 per year since their first year. They have paid anywhere between `10,000 and 22,500 depending on the fee structure per semester.  “Initially, the management said I need not pay a paise as the fees will be covered under the scholarship. But they asked me to pay `10,000, claiming that they will repay it after getting the scholarship amount from the government,” said a second year EEE student of the institution. The management even threatened that those SC students, who do not pay the fees, won’t be allowed to attend the exams. “We have been marked absent for the last two hours of our Friday class despite the fact that we attended them. We were marked absent for not paying the fees. The principal told us that we will not be allowed to attend the semester examination on Monday, if we fail to pay the fee,” the student added. “The same thing happened during the last semester,” said Kumar (name changed), a second year student of Mechanical Engineering. Several students were not allowed to attend the examination as well as the lab test during the second semester for the same reason. Kumar, along with about 45 students, petitioned the district administration on Monday to take suitable action against the college administration for not waiving the fees as per the government order. For the polytechnic course, the government gives `6,500 for government quota and `21,700 for management quota. The institutions do not disclose this to the students and admit them with the false promise that they can study free of cost. The problem is experienced across the State as most of the private institutions do not comply with the GO to waive the tuition and examination fees for the SC students, said an official in the Adi Dravidar Welfare Office in Vellore. “Students had not been issued exam hall tickets, citing non-payment of semester fees of `14,000,” said an official. (New Indian Exprerss 6/1/15)

57. Muslims deserve reservations, says Owaisi (25)

Beed: The former Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra kept the Muslim community backward and it deserves reservations, MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi has said. The Sachar committee and other similar panels had recommended reservations for the Muslim community, he pointed out. “The Congress-NCP government kept the community backward and denied it benefit of reservations,” Owaisi alleged. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief was addressing an election rally here yesterday. As per the Articles 15 and 16 of Indian Constitution, a community which has remained backward should be given reservations, he said. The Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad clarified that his party is not against the reservation to the Marathas, but Muslims too should get their right. After the Bombay High Court stayed the Congress-NCP government’s decision to offer quotas to Marathas and Muslims last year, the new BJP-Shiv Sena government got passed a Bill in the state Assembly in December 2014 which gave reservation to Marathas in education and government jobs, but left out the Muslims. Owaisi also said that many Muslims are languishing in prisons without trial and even charge sheets are not filed for years together in such cases. Muslims account for only four per cent of Maharashtra police force and three to four per cent of government servants, therefore, reservation is necessary for them, he said. Journalist-turned MIM legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel said that Muslims were more backward than Dalits and for the last 65 years, they have been treated only as vote bank. “Now, the NCP and Congress are scared as we (MIM) have entered the fray. We will contest the municipal elections,” Jaleel said.  (Zee News 7/1/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

58. Bihar Human Rights Commission to digitize records in next three months (1)

PATNA: The Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) plans digitization of its records in the next three months for the convenience of petitioners. Addressing a press meet to apprise the media about the yearlong activities of the commission on Wednesday, BHRC chairman Bilal Nazki said, “While the number of cases coming to the rights panel has increased, the staff shortage keeps our hands tied. We hope the state government will appoint a registrar and an assistant registrar within a month, so that we are able to computerize our records.” The digitization of records will help outstation petitioners to check the status of their cases online. “A number of petitioners from far-off districts need to come to the commission or call to inquire about their cases. If the records are online, they’ll not need to come all the way to Patna,” Nazki said. A total of 5,598 cases were taken up by the BHRC in 2014, of which 3,688 were disposed off. “About 1,150 cases were rejected as they did not fall under the ambit of the commission. Over 80 cases were suo motu taken up by the commission on various issues,” he said. The commission has held sensitization programmes for students and police officers in the last few months. “We plan to take the sensitization programme for students to every district and form a task force which will help spread awareness among people. It is important that people become aware of human rights,” Nazki said. He added police officials in all districts, who directly interact with people, will also be covered under the sensitization programme. The commission also plans to organize interaction with the principal secretaries of various departments, so that solutions are obtained at the government level itself. BHRC members Neelmani said the commission held a briefing programme with IPS probationers on Wednesday. While most cases coming to the commission are related to police excesses, the commission also takes up various other types of cases, such as service matters, education and health sectors. BHRC member Justice Mandhata Singh and BHRC IG Pravin Vashista was also present on the occasion. (Times of India 1/1/15)

59. NHRC received 277 complaints on HR violations from JK this year (1)

Jammu: Signifying high incidence of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, National Human Rights Commission has received 277 complaints from the trouble torn state during the year 2014, taking the total number of complaints received by the HR watchdog in last five years to 1672. As per data available with Greater Kashmir, the commission has received 1672 complaints from J&K during last five years (till Nov 25, 2014). Out of these, 1180 have been disposed off while 288 are still pending with the Commission. In further breakup, the data reveals that in the year 2014, NHRC received 277 complaints till Nov 25, out of which 181 were disposed off and 96 are pending. In the year 2013, 389 cases were reported from the state of which 389 cases were disposed off and 73 are pending. In the year 2012, 411 cases were reported and 391 were disposed off while 20 are pending and during 2011, 371 cases were reported of which 272 were disposed off and 99 remained pending. The data further divulges that during 2010, NHRC received 224 complaints of which 206 were disposed off leaving 18 pending. Talking to Greater Kashmir, Secretary, State Human Rights Commission, Dilshad Ahmad Baba, said that maximum complaints reported to NHRC are about the excess by Army and paramilitary forces. He said that complaints related to state authorities are generally dealt by SHRC. Meanwhile, human rights activists in the State are of the opinion that the increase in registration of such cases was due to apathetic attitude of concerned authorities and less conviction rate. Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based HR activist, said rights violations were increasing with every passing day in the state which in turn has triggered civil resistance. He said that less conviction rate was the main reason for rise in human rights violations in the state. “On one hand government claims that Kashmir issue would be resolved through negotiations, on the other it uses every means to suppress the voice of the people,” he added. Jammu-based human rights activist Om Parkash expressed concern over indifference of authorities towards social injustice and the ‘defunct’ J&K State Human Rights Commission. (GreaterKashmir 1/1/15)

60. NHRC Seeks Report on Medical Neglect of Tribal Students (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Increasing incidents of medical neglect of ailing inmates of residential schools in tribal areas has drawn the attention of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Commission, which had asked the State Government to accord top priority to the health of inmates in tribal residential schools in November last year, has sought an action taken report on the matter. The direction has been issued on the basis of a petition filed by rights activist Akhand alleging serious neglect towards health concerns of the inmates. Neither were they provided with prompt and adequate medical care during illnesses nor were the guidelines on health check-up of the inmates complied with on a regular basis. The petitioner submitted that he had visited some residential schools in Rayagada district to find students and inmates living in utterly miserable conditions. The situation at Bankili High School under Konara block was the worst. “At the time of the visit, we found around seven students lying on the floor due to illness. On enquiring, we found that though they were unwell since days, they had not been taken to a doctor or accorded with proper treatment. They were being given medicines by consulting a local medicine store,” Akhand complained. He stated that the headmaster took the alibi of lack of fund provisioning by the Government for not taking the inmates to hospitals. Further, for a residential school that had around 600 boys and 110 girls, the infrastructure was pathetic. The kitchen was broken and food cooked in most unhygienic conditions leading to frequent health problems among the inmates. The authorities were totally indifferent to the health issues of the students. The petitioner drew attention of the Commission’s observations during its three-day camp sitting in Bhubaneswar in November last year, where it had broached on the very issue of health of the inmates. Commission member SC Sinha had called upon the Government to set up a unified structure involving different departments concerned as the School and Mass Education, ST and SC Development and Health to ensure proper coordination and effective redressal of education and health concerns. The Commission had also directed the Government to ensure that the ANMs and health workers pay proper attention to the health issues of inmates through regular visits and check-ups. However, the directions have not been acted upon, Akhand alleged. The NHRC has directed the ST and SC Development Department Secretary to submit action taken report within four weeks. (New Indian Express 5/1/15)

61. Rights body to give legal help to torture victim (1)

KOLKATA: The Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) has decided to provide legal support to a young man who was allegedly tortured by a police officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata. Bapi Rajbanshi of a South Kolkata slum was allegedly kicked several times in his genitals and rectum by Pritam Sekhar of the Gariahat police station. These led to severe injuries. The APDR is a Kolkata-based human rights organisation. The officer-in-charge of the police station, Ujjal Ray, has questioned the authenticity of the allegation. “If Mr. Rajbanshi and his family give their consent, then we will provide them legal assistance. But the case would be much stronger if he files it himself,” APDR vice-president Ranajit Sur told The Hindu here on Tuesday. In case they did not want to file the case themselves, the APDR would file a Public Interest Litigation in the Calcutta High Court. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

62. NHRC takes cognizance of reports about price hike of medicines (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today issued notices to the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Union Ministry of Commerce and Fertilizers and National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority over reports of hike in the prices of cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs. “The Commission has taken a suo-motu cognizance of a media report alleging that withdrawal of an order by the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) which may lead to arbitrary hike in the prices of 108 cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs. “Such a decision may amount to violation or denial of right to health to poor and marginalized citizens of the country,” the Commission said. The NHRC has sought a report from the concerned authorities in the matter within six weeks. Reportedly, the NPPA withdrew its May 29, 2014 guidelines on September 22, 2014 which were meant for putting a cap on the prices of 108 cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs to insulate them from arbitrary hikes through market mechanisms. The decision to do so followed an order dated September 19, 2014 of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP). This does not present any robust logic for doing away with a policy that was aimed at easing access of common man to medicines. While issuing the notices, the Commission has also observed that the availability of essential drugs at reasonable prices is extremely important for fullest enjoyment of right to health by the citizens of the country, especially the poor and the marginalized. Withdrawal of the guidelines dated May 29, 2014 is likely to impinge upon the access of common man to health and medicare.  (Business Standard 8/1/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

63. Madras HC: Right or wrong, court orders must be obeyed (19)

CHENNAI: Right or wrong, obey court orders, especially when the order is not appealed against or stayed, the Madras high court has said. Justice M Venugopal, refusing to initiate contempt of court proceedings against state information commissioner P Tamilsevan said, “An order passed, right or wrong, has to be obeyed. If a party is affected by an order, he ought to take prompt/diligent steps in resorting to further appellate or revision proceedings in accordance with law. He cannot ignore the order and plead about the difficulties of implementation at the time of initiation of contempt proceedings.” The matter relates to an application filed by Vijaya, who wanted information from the Andipatti deputy tahsildarunder the RTI Act. When the officer could not furnish the information, she moved the information commission for action in December 2013. Due to delay in action, she then moved the HC. She filed the present petition saying he had violated the HC order. In case of contempt, Justice Venugopal said an apology could not be used as a defence to purge the guilt of contempt. (Times of India 2/1/15)

64. Jail terms proposed for racial bias – NE discrimination panel suggestions accepted (19)

New Delhi, Jan. 2: The Centre today said it was “considering” two new penal code provisions to punish racial discrimination and racial insults, recommended by a panel as a safeguard for people from the Northeast living elsewhere in the country. Home minister Rajnath Singh announced a slew of other measures too for migrants from the region while signalling acceptance of the M.P. Bezbaruah committee’s recommendations. Officials clarified that the proposed Sections 153C and 509A would be general enough to cover anyone from any part of India facing any kind of racial bias. The law and justice ministry has agreed to the amendments, they added. Section 153C relates to “imputations, assertions prejudicial to human dignity” and aims to punish any discriminatory act on the basis of race or racial customs, behaviour or way of living. The draft provision says that if such an act causes or is likely to cause alarm or a feeling of insecurity among members “of that racial group”, it can attract a jail term of up to five years. It will be a non-bailable offence. Section 509A relates to “word, gesture or act intended to insult a member of a particular racial group or of any race”.One common complaint voiced by people from the Northeast is of being taunted with terms such as “chinky” or “Chinese”. Insulting a person on the basis of their place of origin or racial features or behavioural pattern will now be a bailable offence carrying a maximum prison term of three years. The Bezbaruah panel was set up in February after the lynching of teenaged Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania at a Delhi market on January 30 last year. It handed in its report in July, with the Centre committing to act on it within six months. “This is the sixth month, so we had to announce it now,” Rajnath said when asked if the announcement had been timed with an eye on the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections. Bezbaruah, a member of the North Eastern Council – which advises the Centre on the region’s social and economic development – welcomed the Centre’s announcement. “We had stated in our report that the immediate measure should be to amend the IPC while a debate goes on about a full-fledged anti-racial legislation,” he said over the phone from Shillong. Activists issued a qualified welcome. Binalakshmi Nepram, whom the Bezbaruah panel had consulted, said Rajnath had “skimmed through” some of the committee’s recommendations. For instance, Rajnath announced that the Delhi police would recruit 20 personnel from each of the eight northeastern states whereas the panel had recommended recruitment of 600 cops from the region, Nepram said. Rajnath also announced a panel of two male and five women lawyers to provide legal assistance to people from the Northeast in Delhi. “The Delhi government will also be providing compensation and monetary assistance to the Northeast people under the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011,” he said. (Telegraph 3/1/15)

65. PIL challenges NJAC in Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: A former solicitor general has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of Parliament enacted law which scrapped the 20-year-old apex court-evolved ‘judges appointing judges’ procedure, popularly known as collegium system. Former ASG Bishwajit Bhattacharyya termed the law creating a high-level National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) as a direct attack on the independence of judiciary and requested the court to quash it. Headed by Chief Justice of India, the 6-member NJAC would include two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Union law minister and two eminent people. One of the eminent people would be chosen from among scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, Other backward classes or women. “Primacy and vital role of the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) under article 124, 127, 128, 217 and 222 of the Constitution have been knocked out and has been substituted by NJAC where even two non-judge members could veto the choice of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court,” the petitioner said. “This amounts to a frontal attack on the office of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court and, therefore, this subverts independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of power and the basic feature of India’s Constitution,” he said. Bhattacharyya said it amounted to subversion of the Constitution by the executive to take over judiciary’s task of appointing and transferring judges of superior courts and was incongruent to fair play since the executive government itself was the biggest litigant in courts. “The NJAC Act and amendment of the Constitution are unconstitutional and violate the basic structure of India’s Constitution, as various clauses stipulated therein make a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary as also on the doctrine of separation of powers,” the petitioner said. The SC had earlier refused to intervene on the issue of Constitutional validity of the amendment when the Bill was passed by Parliament saying it was a premature to challenge. But it had allowed Bhattacharyya and other petitioners to move the court if other states approved the law leading to its notification. NJAC received presidential assent on December 31. (Times of India 6/1/15)

66. Government promulgates ordinance merging PIO, OCI schemes (19)

NEW DELHI: The Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, promulgated on Tuesday, relaxes the condition of one-year continuous stay in India before applying for Indian citizenship and allows a minor child born to Indian citizens to be registered as an overseas citizen of India (OCI). As per the amended Act, if the Central government is satisfied that special circumstances exist, it may, after recording such circumstances in writing, relax the period of one-year uninterrupted stay in the country, and allow different breaks not exceeding 30 days, for travel abroad. Besides providing for registeration of a minor whose parents are Indian citizens as OCI, the Ordinance also paves the way for registration as OCI by a child or a grand-child or a great grandchild of such a citizen. The new legislation enables registeration as OCI by such spouse of a citizen of India or spouse of an OCI registered under Section 7A and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the citizenship application. The Ordinance allows the government to specify, by a gazette notification, a particular date from which all existing PIO card holders will be deemed to be OCI cardholders. The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for acquisition, termination, deprivation, determination of Indian citizenship and other related aspects. The Act provides for acquisition of Indian citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization and incorporation of territory under certain circumstances. (Times of India 7/1/15)

67. Jain community’s PIL wants say in minority commissions (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a representation by the Jain community demanding to be treated on par with other minorities and given representation in the state and national minority commissions. Akhil Bhartiya Jain Mahasabha (ABJM) in its PIL alleged that the governments had been pursuing policy to appease the Muslim community alone by extending the benefits meant for minorities while ignoring other similarly placed communities. The petitioner said even after being declared a minority community, it had not got any governmental financial assistance as was given to other minority communities. Till date only 11 states have recognized Jains as minority group, it said and alleged that the Centre was not responding to its representation on this issue. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri, after a brief hearing, asked the Centre to consider the earlier representation given by the Jain community. ABJM alleged the government had ignored the interests of the Jain community. “The government has adopted an appeasement policy towards Muslims and in the name of the minorities all the benefits are being given to this community whereas other minorities are not being given the same benefit and status. It has come to notice and it is a matter of record that the government has always appointed chairman of Minority Commission from a particular community. The Muslim community is given the major share in the representation ignoring the interest of Jains. Till date no member of this community has found representation either in the State Minority Commission or in the National Minority Commission,” the petition said. Petitioner’s counsel Rajeev Sharma contended that there must be uniform criteria for governmental assistance to minority communities without any discrimination. The purpose of categorizing Jains as minority community would fail if they were not treated equally with other minority groups, he said. “The budget allocation and financial assistance for minorities by the Central/state governments is being utilized only for serving the political end and such assistance is totally denied to the Jain Community,” he said. Jain community was declared a minority community in January last year. Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrians were declared minority groups way back in 1993. (Times of India 8/1/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

68. Picked up by police, mechanic kills self; kin allege custodial torture (1)

CHENNAI: A 24-year-old two-wheeler mechanic committed suicide by hanging at his house on Friday after being allegedly tortured in custody at the Kilpauk police station. Relatives of Sudarshan staged a protest in front of the city police commissionerate seeking action against Ezhilarasan, the sub-inspector of the station. They said he was repeatedly taken to the police station many times since December 25. They alleged he was stripped and beaten up. They said police forced Sudarshan’s mother to pay 2,000 for his release. On Friday evening, Ezhilarasan took Sudarshan from his house claiming that a two-wheeler needed to be repaired at the station. He only returned around 8pm. “He was upset and in a bad mood. He committed suicide when his mother went out,” a relative said. A relative said the police officer used to collect money from Sudarshan, who has been running a roadside mechanic shop after his father died three years ago. A relative said the police officer used to collect money from Sudarshan, who has been running a roadside vehicle mechanic shop after his father died three years ago. (Times of India 4/1/15)

69. AFSPA extended in Assam by another year (1)

Guwahati: The Centre has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring Assam as a ‘disturbed area’ for another year beyond November 3 last, a State government release said here on Saturday. “The Government of India vide order dated November 4, 2014 has extended the earlier notification regarding ‘disturbed areas’ under the provisions of Section 3 of the AF(SP) Act 1958 for another one year beyond November 3, 2014 which is presently in force,” the release said. “The Government of India in exercise of powers under AF(SP) Act, 1958 has also declared, besides other areas, the area falling within 20 km wide belt in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya along their border with the Assam as disturbed area,” it said. “The Government of India extended and issued the notification after considering the law and order situation in Assam due to the violent incidents caused by the underground outfits,” it said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

70. Youth alleges torture by cop (1)

Kolkata: More than a month after an “unprovoked” attack by a policeman, a young man is still in trauma even as he is recuperating in a city hospital. Bapi Rajbanshi (28), a casual worker in a flower shop, says he was kicked repeatedly by a police officer in his genitals and rectum leading to profuse bleeding. Bapi, who lives in a South Kolkata slum, is recuperating in a city hospital. On Sunday, Bapi, told The Hindu that he was tortured by a police officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata “without any provocation.” The incident took place in the last week of November. “Pritam Sekhar, an officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata, caught hold of me and asked if I am an extortionist. On denying the claim, he started to beat me recklessly and took me inside the (Gariahat) police station,” alleged Bapi, lying on a hospital bed. However, the assault did not stop here. He was taken inside the station and beaten. In her complaint to officer in charge of the police station Ujjal Ray, the victim’s mother Bani Rajbanshi wrote, “…in presence of other police officers (my son) was brutally and inhumanly assaulted by fist blows and kicks” thus causing “severe pain (from) injuries (in the) abdomen and private parts” and he started urinating “black blood.” In the same complaint, a copy of which is with The Hindu, Ms Rajbanshi said that her “son’s condition deteriorated” as blood kept flowing with urine and he had to go through prolonged treatment in various hospitals. Eventually, on December 5, Rajbanshi was admitted to SSKM Hospital. While Bapi is clueless as to why he was assaulted, his lawyer Bimalkanti Danda claims that instead of taking any legal action against the accused officer, the police “locked my client after beating him severely”.Mr. Ujjal Ray, however, questioned the authenticity of the allegation against Mr. Sekhar. “As per the complaint, the assault took place on November 30, 2014. Then why was the complaint letter submitted almost a month later on December 29?” When asked whether any action had been taken against Mr. Sekhar, he said “inquiry is going on”. Explaining the reasons for the delay, Mr Danda said, “Within a few days of the assault, Ms Rajbanshi went to the police station several times, but her complaint was not registered. She was made to sit in the police station for hours every time she went there. Only after she sought legal help, did the police receive the written complaint.” He also claimed that the police asked Bapi “to keep shut if he wants to survive”. The officials however, refused to deny or confirm if the police station has an officer named Pritam Sekhar. “There is confusion about the name,” said an officer. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

71. Six cops suspended for custodial death (1)

LUCKNOW: In another case of “khaki terror” in Uttar Pradesh, six policemen were suspended in Agra district for their alleged involvement in a case of suspected custodial death of a 24-year-old youth. The suspended cops were posted at the Achhnera police station and action followed after a case under Section 302 of IPC against was registered on Sunday on a complaint by the deceased’s father. State IG (Law and Order) A..Satish Ganesh said the suspension order was issued late on Sunday night by the Agra SSP. Those suspended are Station House Officer Arun Kumar, head constable Jagdish Prasad and constables Ram Nath, Prem Narain, Suresh Babu and Manoj Kumar. He said the details of the case have been sent by the Agra SSP to the State ADG (Human Rights) and the other relevant authorities. Mr.Ganesh said the deceased’s autopsy was conducted on Monday and his body was handed over to his relatives. He told reporters police investigations have revealed that five cases, including a case of auto lifting at the Fatehpur Sikri police station, had been registered against him. The deceased, identified as Sanjay, was detained by the Achhnera police on Sunday on charges of motorbike lifting. He is alleged to have been beaten by the policemen as a result of which he died.Meanwhile, two other policemen, said to be relatives of Vir Pal Singh Yadav, one of the accused in the alleged rape of a minor in a police station in Badaun district, were suspended on Monday. Mr. Ganesh said efforts are underway to arrest the two constables, Vir Pal Singh Yadav and Avnish Yadav. They are absconding. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

72. 3 Chennai cops to face action for teen’s sexual torture in custody (1)

CHENNAI: A probe into the alleged sexual torture of a teenager in police custody has found the involvement of three police personnel. The CB-CID wing of the city police, which conducted the investigation following a report in TOI on the incident, has submitted its report and sources said departmental action will be initiated against the three police personnel soon. The 19-year-old, who was arrested for snatching a mobile phone from a woman, was allegedly forced to indulge in sexual acts with three minors in custody. The incident came to light after the youth, who was subsequently lodged in Puzhal prison, fell ill and doctors who examined him found severe infection and injuries on his private parts. He was admitted to a government hospital, where he underwent a surgery. Tamil Nadu director general of police Ashok Kumar directed CB-CID probe the allegation. Four SPs – P Perumal, T S Anbu, M V Jaya Gowri and V Nagajothi – were assigned to probe the case. They inquired with doctors at Government Royapettah Hospital, where the youth was treated, the prison doctor, prison officials, policemen, the youth, the three minors and their family members, before preparing their report. Sources said the report submitted to the DGP has confirmed the involvement of three policemen in the teen’s torture in the Mambalam police station on December 10. The report will be sent back to CB-CID for registering a case against the three policemen and carrying out further investigation. “A formal order will be issued on Wednesday,” a police officer said. During the investigation, all the 62 police personnel attached to the Mambalam police station were summoned for the identification parade held at the CB-CID office. The youth identified the three policemen in the presence of the investigation officer, superintendent of police Perumal, sources said. Police sources said special sub-inspector Ramadoss nabbed the youth for snatching a mobile from a pedestrian and handed him over to Mambalam police on December 10. Subsequently, police slapped four more bike theft and robbery cases on him. On the same day, they also arrested three minors on theft charges and kept them in the police station. It was alleged that the youth was forced to indulge in anal sex and oral sex with the minors. The next day, the three minors were admitted in a juvenile home and the youth was sent to Puzhal prison. (Times of India 7/1/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

73. Government blocks 32 websites to check ISIS propaganda (1)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has blocked 32 websites, including vimeo.com, dailymotion.com, pastebin.com and github.com, in an effort to curb ISIS propaganda, prompting a wave of online protests. An Indian “hacktivist” group, Anonymous India, has threatened reprisal. By Wednesday evening, however, websites that had complied with the government order to remove objectionable content had been unblocked, sources said. A confidential department of telecom order, dated December 17, instructing all internet service licensees to block the websites appeared online on Wednesday. When contacted to verify the news, Dr Gulshan Rai, director of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), told TOI the directions had been issued to internet service providers following a Mumbai additional chief metropolitan magistrate’s November order directing the government’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) to implement the same. He added that Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had approached the judiciary after interrogating Arif Majeed, a 23-year-old ISIS recruit from Kalyan. More recently, Bengaluru professional Mehdi Biswas was arrested for allegedly spreading ISIS propaganda on Twitter. “These websites were being used to invite youths to join ISIS. We had contacted the websites sometime back and asked for the removal of the objectionable content. At that time, our communications were ignored. Some of them have now agreed to work with the government. The websites that have complied are being unblocked,” Rai told TOI. The move met with opposition from the online community. While the tech community opposed the Github ban, others were upset about video-sharing websites like dailymotion.com and vimeo.com being taken down. “By blocking vimeo and dailymotion along with other websites, India is walking in the footsteps of Pakistan,” tweeted @baawraman. The list of websites in the DoT document was heavy on large text-sharing and collaboration websites, like Github and Pastebin, popular with coders and software developers. Many objected to the blocking of entire websites instead of specific URLs hosting problematic content. However, Rai explained that individual URLs could not be blocked because of the “high mobility of content” on the websites. “It can just be removed and pasted elsewhere. There are no checks and balances,” he said. Hacktivist group Anonymous India tweeted, “One fine morning, Indian government decided to block sites like Github. Now now, it is time to wake-up. Government of India, Expect Us,” a tweet from their handle @opindia_revenge said. As questions began to be raised on social networks, BJP IT cell head Arvind Gupta tweeted, “The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by the Anti-Terrorism Squad, and were carrying anti-India content from ISIS. The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the ongoing investigations, are being unblocked.” The sustainability of counter-measures like blanket blocking to contain threats is being questioned. Prasanth Sugathan, counsel at Software Freedom and Law Center, said such a move is short-sighted. “If you block one website, terrorists can always use another one. Or they will move to using encrypted channels, peer-to-peer communication or even telephones. One can’t block everything. In my opinion, such a move only inconveniences the daily users and doesn’t solve the long-term purpose,” said Sugathan. The sentiment was echoed by common Twitter users as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet from August 2012 condemning blanket blocking of websites was pulled out for recirculation. “As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech! Have changed my DP. ‘Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan.’ #GOIBlocks,” Modi had tweeted on August 24, 2012. Pranesh Prakash, policy director at Bengaluru-based Center for Internet and Society, questioned the lack of transparency around the practice of blocking websites under the Indian law. “Qn for govt: Why does the law require secrecy of web blocking orders when it doesn’t allow such secrecy for books, films? #GoIBlocks,” he tweeted, adding, “The 69A Rules don’t allow for transparency, accountability, time-limits on blocks, etc. So easily misused by govt. + courts + individuals.” The websites were blocked under section 69 A of the IT Act, 2000 and the IT (Procedure and sdafeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) rules, 2009. Currently, the Supreme Court is in the middle of hearing a clutch of petitions challenging several IT Act provisions, including blocking and takedown of websites. (Times of India 1/1/15)

74. Media should criticize, maintain credibility: PM Modi (1)

KOLHAPUR: Media should focus on maintaining credibility of news and emphasize on criticism instead of making allegations. Criticism of government work helps us run the administration more efficiently, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kolhapur on Saturday. “It is sad that today media emphasises on allegations instead of criticism. Allegations are simple and there is no responsibility to prove them. But when it comes to criticism, the reporter has to work hard, analyse the information and then file the story for which he is responsible. This brings credibility to the newspapers,” he said while speaking at a function organised to mark 75 years of the foundation of a Marathi daily. The prime minister said that criticism is important for strengthening the democratic institutions of the country. “This helps in keeping a check on all the government and NGOs. All the departments of the government and semi-government institutions should welcome the criticism. Criticism on government offices helps us to run the government more efficiently,” he said. Modi said that the media today faces an important challenge of credibility. Media persons have to take responsibility to maintain this credibility because everyone trusts the media more than anyone else, he said, adding that the role of media has changed from what it was 30 years ago. In his 18-minute speech, the leader cast a glance on the journey of newspapers from the day’s of the country’s freedom struggle. “The media has played major role in India’s freedom struggle. Even during the emergency, when major leaders were in the jail and there were restrictions on newspapers, people wanted to know the truth. The newspapers then played a major role in providing true information to the people and nurtured their faith in the democracy.” The event at the police parade ground in the city was held amid tight security. Maharashtra governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Union railway minister Nitin Gadkari and Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu also attended the function. Dignitaries from Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara across all the sections of society also attended the function. (Times of India 4/1/15)

75. Scribes set to meet CM over increasing assaults (1)

NAGPUR: Members of Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ) plan to meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday over increasing assaults and police’s apathy to take such incidents seriously. The senior office-bearers of Tilak Patrakar Bhavan Trust are also expected to join the deputation. Apart from meeting Fadnavis, NUWJ president Shirish Borkar stated that detailed information regarding a series of assaults and threats on scribes would be sent to the President of India. “We also have plans to send a detailed report to the Press Council of India, central and state human rights commission and other bodies regarding the recent incidents of harassment to the media persons working in the field,” said Borkar. He added that several journalists, including TOI’s scribes, have been humiliated but no concrete action has been initiated by the city police chief KK Pathak. “Police have been curtailing media’s freedom of expression,” he said. In a recent incident, an assistant PI from Ajni police station snatched camera and boom of GTPL cable news reporters and allegedly manhandled them on Monday while the journalists were covering an agitation. The equipment of the reporter was also damaged in the process. Trust president Pradip Kumar Maitra also appealed to the members of the NUWJ to remain ready for a bigger agitation against the establishments for reinstating the rights of media expression. (Times of India 7/1/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

76. No lives were lost in riots, violence (7)

NEW DELHI: Communal tension and law and order arrangements kept Delhi Police on its toes for most part of the year. However, not a single life was lost during these incidents as cops successfully managed to curb the violence in time. When Trilokpuri simmered with violence, Delhi Police judged the situation well in time and acting promptly which saved precious lives. It was not easy to control the mob which had anti-social elements inciting the public and leading them into initiating violence. Gunshots were fired and stones and Molotov cocktails were hurled in plenty. However, the cops not just handled the crises well but led by special commissioner (law & order) Deepak Mishra they also went on to use modern gadgetry like drones for surveillance and operational purposes. This was tried for the first time by any police force during riots. Cops fished out numerous sacks of stones, bricks and bottles kept hidden on the rooftops with the help of drones. As an aftermath of Trilokpuri riots, trouble mounted in areas like Bawana, Khajuri, Okhla, among others. Also, the Karbala issue did not give cops room to breathe along with multiple cases of violence throughout the year. Policemen also fared well in managing 11,890 protests and demonstrations in the city apart from managing peaceful Lok Sabha elections. With the figure shooting up to 4,170, Dharnas doubled from 2013 when the count was just 1,836. Demonstrations also almost doubled from 1,467 in 2013 to 2,409 in 2014. There were 1,044 processions carried out as well. The year also had the cops busy with visits of foreign dignitaries, including Chinese president XI Jinping and Vladimir Putin from Russia, amongst several others dignitaries. Tension also erupted when Kawariyas carrying out their Yatra in the city. (Times of India 3/1/15)

77. Tension in central Mumbai after communal clash (7)

MUMBAI: Tension prevailed at Lalbaug after a group of people allegedly hit people from another community at around 10pm on Sunday. Heavy police bandobast was deployed near Lalbaug flyover and all the bikers were being frisked and examined for their documents. A bike was reportedly set on fire. The reason for the tension between two groups was not clear. Sources said that a group of boys from a community were returning after attending Eid-e-Milad procession at south Mumbai when they got involved in a heated argument with some boys from another community at Lalbaug. The situation went out of control and some bikers were hit. A group of people, who hit the boys, was carrying lathis in their hand. A sizeable number of police personnel were dispatched to the spot and police restricted entry of vehicles from south towards north end at Lalbaug. Traffic routes were diverted. “There was no curfew but a curfew like situation. People were running to reach home early knowing the tensed situation,” said a source. A Sion resident woman who had gone to meet her friend at Tardeo was returning home in a cab along with her two year old baby when she saw people running helter skelter. “I got scared there were too many people running on the road. We didn’t know what exactly happened. I could see a large number of policemen all over the roads. All the flyovers till Sion were completely jam packed. Near King’s Circle, cops were checking all bikers, perhaps their documents too, and police vehicles were seen stationed,” she told TOI. An additional police commissioner said that the issue was sorted out and things were under control. No casualty or injury was reported to the police till news going to the press. DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni, city police’s official spokesperson, was not available for comment. (Times of India 4/1/15)

78. Hyderabad’s Kishanbagh suffers in aftermath of communal riots (7)

HYDERABAD: A religious flag was allegedly burnt. The result was ghastly: two communities clashed, stones were pelted, shots were fired, houses were burnt and lives were lost. But now, a good nine months after the incident, normalcy refuses to return to Kishanbagh, where communal clashes between Sikhs and Muslims broke out last May. The riots, triggered by the burning of the Nishan Saheb (Sikh religious flag), escalated into a major clash between the members of Sikh Chavani and the Muslims. The two groups have always had little waves of trouble every now and then, but this was a first major incident that saw three people losing their lives and over 50 injured. The riots were finally halted by imposing a curfew which lasted for over a week. However, the story did not end there. Following the riots, Rajendranagar police decided to nip the problem in the bud. As a result, many arrests from both communities were made. But, there were reports that security forces, including the Border Security Force (BSF), had not done enough. There was considerable flak which the police faced for having ordered firing to quell the mob in the area, dominated by around 1,500 Sikhs and over 4,000 Muslims. “After the riots, they arrested many people from our community. Over 40 people were taken in custody and kept there for a couple of weeks before being granted conditional bail,” says Tej Bahadur Singh. Tej himself was put in custody on charges of rioting and attempt to murder. He along with 40 others now has to go to the police station every week to sign, which he says is a cause of concern to them. “Riots happened from both sides. But what has followed has put a lot of our lives in trouble. We have to go to the police station every week for a signature. Sometimes we are called on immediate notice and have to rush to the station. This keeps us from returning to our normal lives and ends up interfering with our work,” he explains. As a result of the constant checking and search operations by the police, normal life in the area has taken a big hit. The people who are accused of the violations have to be available at the police station at short notices which has caused many of them to lose their jobs. In addition, the inquiry has caused many of the traders to lose their business as they are frequently at the police station to record statements. The case is no different with those from the other community. “The riots were a really bad thing that happened. What has followed is worse. There is no communal tension as of now, but then, the cops keep coming and checking for irregularities. Sometimes it ends up interfering with our normal lives,” explains Md Abdul Samad, a resident of Kishanbagh. “There are times we wish the clashes never really happened,” adds a concerned Samad. The cops, however, feel that they are right in carrying out the cordon and search operation. Kishanbagh has been known for such clashes for quite some time now. Mostly small groups clash and the issue is taken care of before it spirals into a big controversy like the last one. However, after the riots of May, the cops have increased the intensity of dealing with such issues. Despite that 17 people are yet to surrender on various counts of violation of law. (Times of India 7/1/15)

COMMUNALISM

79. VHP: PK makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way (26)

Demanding a ban on Aamir Khan-starrer “PK”, right-wing group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Tuesday termed the film part of a larger scheme to discredit Hindu religion and rituals. VHP spokesman Vinod Bansal told IANS that they have also demanded an overhaul in the film censor board which approved the movie, and a “change in its character” is needed. “The movie makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way. For those who are saying it hits at other religions too, all together the scenes of attack on Christianity and Islam will last for two minutes. But for the rest of two and half hours or more, they keep making fun of Hinduism,” said Bansal, on a day when protests were held at cinema halls in Delhi screening the film. “The movie is so insensitive, the character was an alien, but the director was not,” he said. Bansal called it a part of a scheme to discredit Hindu rituals. “We want an immediate ban on the movie, and the government needs to change the character of the censor board. Every one says that we should not have problem when the censor board has cleared the movie, the question is who is heading the board…” he said. Bansal added that National Investigation Agency (NIA) must probe the source of funding for the movie, after Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy’s claim that the movie was funded by ISI. Asked about the vandalism, the spokesman said: “Are the theatres not guilty of screening the movie and being a party to the malignant agenda.” He also claimed that there was no vandalism in Delhi theatres. “We staged peaceful protest at Delite cinema, and another protest at Priya cinema”.Asked to air his objections on the movie, Bansal said there is a long list. (Times of India 1/1/15)

80. Hindu Mahasabha wants Gandhi image off currency notes.. (26)

LUCKNOW: The Hindu Mahasabha is going full on to uphold its agenda of propagating Nathuram Godse’s ideology. In a fresh move, the Hindu Mahasabha has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Mahatama Gandhi’s photo be replaced on Indian currency notes with that of Veer Shivaji, Maharana Pratap along with image of B R Ambedkar who gave the country the Constitution post-Independence. So far, Ambedkar had been hailed as a Dalit icon by the Bahujan Samaj Party and its chief Mayawati to woo backward classes, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati had been by and large successful in her objective until 2014 Lok Sabha election, where Modi wave is said to have dented the Dalit votebank of the BSP to a certain extent giving hope to the BJP, which is patronised by the Rashtriya Swayemsewak Sangh (RSS), to woo them to party fold in the run up to Vidhan Sabha election scheduled to be held in 2017. Though Hindu Mahasabha claims having no association with the RSS whatsoever, ideologically speaking both the mahasabha and sangh pariwar sail on the same boat as far as “undivided Hindu nation” theory is concerned. The mahasabha has also urged the PM to stop universities and colleges from teaching students that Mahatama Gandhi is “father of the nation” when the same has not been done officially by the government. Hindu Mahasabha’s fresh demands follow plan to install bust at several places and construct a temple of Godse in Sitapur district. It is a one-month long awareness campaign that would continue until January 30, the day Mahatama Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, said Kamlesh Tiwari, who claims to be working president of the mahasabha which plans to observe January 30 as “shaurya diwas” putting up photographs of Godse at parks and other community centres and propagating his ideology on the day. Officially, it is observed as Martyrs Day. The shaurya diwas would be observed in 20 districts throughout the country. A Hindu Mahasabha delegation from the mahasabha would seek time from the prime minister and meet him in a bid to apprise him about the need to propagate Godse’s ideology, Tiwari said. (Times of India 4/1/15)

81. Godhra RSS school urges students to collect money for Madhav Vidyapeeth (26)

Vadodara: The students of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Godhra, run by the RSS education wing Vidyabharti, have been asked to collect donations for helping run a similar school in Bharuch. The students of Class VI-VIII are busy collecting “donations” for their sister-concern RSS school, Madhav Vidyapeeth, located at Kakadkui village in Bharuch district. The donations are aimed to “help educate children of tribals” in Bharuch as Madhav Vidyapeeth does not charge any fees from the students. The students of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Godhra have been collecting funds as part of an assignment from their school ahead of Makar Sankranti on January 14. Madhav Vidyapeeth is the latest addition to the list of RSS-run schools in Gujarat. The parents of students studying there, mostly form backward classes, said they were not informed about the assignment. A parent, who did not wish to be identified, said, “We expect the school to at least inform parents about such assignments being given to students to collect donations. Our children are going around the town after school hours asking unknown people for money to fill up the leaflets. Most students feel responsible about the assignments and it must be communicated to parents .” The trustee of Saraswati Vidyalaya, Prakash Soni, who is also a Sangh member, says the exercise will instil a “sense of responsibility” in the minds of the children and is not mandatory. Soni told The Indian Express, “The funds are being collected for Madhav Vidyapeeth in Bharuch which imparts education to tribal children from 125 villages free of cost. There are 300 schools in Gujarat run by Vidyabharti. A Vidyabharti leaflet distributed during the Madhav Vidyapeeth inauguration in Kakadkui said, “Vidyabharti is educating tribals to make sure they are aware of what is happening around them. It is unfortunate that people see Vidyabharti as a violent organisation. It is not true. The aim is to educate through the tenets of Hindu way of life.” (Indian Express 8/1/15)

82. Durga Vahini uses morphed Kareena image to reconvert ‘love jihad’ victims (26)

This is one magazine cover that will not make Kareena Kapoor too happy. A morphed image of the actress in half a niqab, was used by the Durga Vahini to launch another campaign to ‘reconvert’ hindu women who have married muslim men. PTI file photo of Durga Vahini members. This is one magazine cover that will not make Kareena Kapoor too happy. A morphed image of the actress in half a niqab, was used by the Durga Vahini to launch another campaign to ‘reconvert’ hindu women who have married muslim men. The image which was used on the cover of the latest issue of Himalaya Dhwani also ran with the rider of ‘conversion of nationality through religious conversion’. Rajni Thukral, who brings out the magazine was quoted in Hindustan Times, as saying, “Sixteen Hindu women who married Muslim men posing as hindus have approached us for ghar wapsi. We have already reconverted two. One has also been remarried,”. Durga Vahini, is the young women’s wing of the VHP where women between the ages of 15-35 are taught self-defence techniques. It has in the past been known for starting riots in Bijnor in 1990 and also ransacking the Orrisa assembly in 2002. (Deccan Herald 8/1/15)

TERRORISM

83. Probe agencies want single anti-terror mechanism (12)

NEW DELHI: Investigating agencies have recommended the setting up of a central anti-terror mechanism placing intelligence and investigation wings under a single command for more coordinated action against emerging internal security challenges. The Union Home Ministry has received a proposal that such a unified body, encompassing the intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination wing; forensic divisions; and investigation and prosecution wings, be created through an executive order. The Central Bureau of Investigation was also set up in the same manner under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. It has been suggested that the Multi Agency Centre and the operations wings of the Intelligence Bureau, other than those dealing with political intelligence, be brought under the new setup. “However, many IB officers have expressed reservations about such a mechanism. They also have concerns about the safety and security of field officers and the secrecy of covert operations,” said a senior official. Arguing for insulating the intelligence wing from any vulnerability under the proposed single command, some security experts said all the divisions could function independently. “In fact, we need such a mechanism, as investigations into cases of Left-wing extremism are altogether different from those involving outfits like the Indian Mujahideen. We need dedicated units to pursue specific areas,” an official said. Even the National Investigation Agency, which has statutory powers under the NIA Act to probe terrorism cases either with the consent of the State governments or on the direction of the Union Home Ministry, can be brought in as the investigation and prosecution wing. It was after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack that the then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, suggested setting up of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), on the lines of the one in the United States and the British Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, for coordinated counter-terror operations. However, concerned that such an agency could well be abused by the Centre for political ends, many Chief Ministers struck down the idea primarily because the unit was to function under the Intelligence Bureau and, unlike the U.S. agency, it would be empowered to conduct searches and arrests under Sections 43 and 43A of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In 2012, the Centre came up with an office memorandum defining the functions, powers and duties of the NCTC as a single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter-terrorism measures, which would work through the existing agencies in the country. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

84. Abandoned Pakistani boat found off Gujarat coast (12)

NEW DELHI: Around a fortnight before a suspect Pakistani boat blew itself up after an hour-long chase by Indian Coast Guard, a mysterious fishing boat found abandoned off the Gujarat coast had created a ripple within the intelligence establishment. According to intelligence sources, the alleged Pakistani fishing boat was found empty 10-15 days back, floating in the Arabian Sea off the Gujarat coastline. Not only were there no men on board, but no item of interest or equipment was found on the vessel, making agencies wary if it was abandoned by a group of infiltrating terrorists before they shifted to another vessel and possibly made their way to the Indian coast for a possible terror act here. “The Coast Guard as well as states like Gujarat and Maharashtra were alerted to keep an eye in the Indian waters as well as along the coastline, and track any suspicious movement,” said an official. During the 26/11 attack, the 10-member LeT attack module had left the Karachi port in a Pakistani vessel, before intercepting an Indian fishing vessel, MV Kuber, off the Gujarat coast, for the onward journey to Mumbai. They finally landed at the Mumbai coast (Colaba) in an inflatable dinghy, before splitting and heading for the terror targets that included Taj Hotel, Leopold Cafe and Nariman House. (Times of India 3/1/15)

85. Patna blast case: NIA files charges against 10 (12)

PATNA: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court, Patna, on Tuesday framed charges against 10 accused, all suspected to be members of banned Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) for the serial blasts at ‘Hoonkar’ rally addressed by then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at Gandhi Maidan here on October 27, 2013. NIA special judge Anil Kumar Singh also directed the prosecution to produce witnesses from January 19 onwards. Altogether six persons were killed and 89 others were injured in the serial blasts. Charges were framed against Umer Siddique and Azharuddin Queshi from Chhattisgarh, Ahmad Hussain and Fakkruddin, both native of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Haidar Ali alias Black Beauty, Numan Ansari, Mohammed Mujibullah Ansari, Mohammed Firoz Aslam, Mohammed Ifteqaar Alam and a juvenile – all the six accused are native of Ranchi, Jharkhand. The charges framed under sections 120(B), 153A, 307, 324, 436, 458 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code; Sections 3 and 4 of Explosive Substances Act and sections 16, 17, 18, 18A, 18B, 20 and 23 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. The NIA investigation revealed that accused Haider Ali, who was SIMI in charge of Jharkhand, along with his associates conspired to target and attack Modi. In pursuance to this conspiracy, Haider Ali and his associates conducted reconnaissance of various rallies of Modi to take stock of the security arrangements and plan for attacks. The accused realized that it was not possible for them to reach Modi during his rallies due to stringent security arrangement, so they decided to trigger bomb blasts at public rally which would result in a stampede, the investigation said and added the accused targeted the rally and collected explosives from Mirzapur and other requisite materials from Ranchi. The charge sheet suggests Haider Ali and his associates, all are members of SIMI, had been motivating and recruiting young boys from Ranchi and other places by showing them jihadi videos and videos of alleged atrocities on Muslims across the world. They followed ‘Sithio Module’ formed by Haider Ali, the charge sheet said. Earlier the special court of NIA framed charges against Imtiyaz Ansari against whom NIA had filed the first charge sheet on April 24, 2014, in connection with the same case. (Times of India 7/1/15)

86. Two more terrorists executed in Pakistan (12)

Islamabad: Two convicted terrorists were hanged till death in Pakistan Wednesday morning, media reported. The latest executions have brought the number of those hanged until death to nine. The executions started as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on capital punishment in the country in the aftermath of the Peshawar carnage that left some 150 people, most of them children, dead, Dawn online reported. Prison officials had already received the death warrants for the two men a couple of days ago. The warrants were issued by anti-terrorism courts as mercy petitions of the convicts had been rejected by the president Monday. The convicts: Ahmed Ali alias Sheshnag and Ghulam Shabbir alias Fauji alias doctor belonged to a banned organisation. Ahmed Ali, a resident of Shorkot, Jhang district, was handed capital punishment for killing three men: Altaf Hussain, Mohammad Nasir and Mohammad Fiaz and injuring Mohammad Pervez and Mohammad Siddique on the Railway Road in 1998. Ghulam Shabbir, a resident of Talamba area of Khanewal district killed Deputy Superintendent of Police Anwar Khan and his driver Ghulam Murtaza on the Bohar Gate Road Aug 4, 2000. Charges of sectarian violence were also proved against him. He was sentenced to death by a special anti-terrorism court June 21, 2002, and the conviction was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Both convicted men were hanged at 6 a.m. Earlier, strict security measures were taken around the jail precincts and the adjoining areas. Army personnel were deployed outside the jail, while elite force personnel were positioned inside the prison premises. Following the removal of moratorium, President Mamnoon Hussain has turned down mercy appeals of 17 convicts for death penalty. Since then, nine prisoners have been executed. After the moratorium was lifted, the first executions took place December 20, 2014. Aqeel alias doctor Usman and Arshad Mehmood were executed in Faisalabad on that day. A couple of days later, December 22, 2014, four more convicts, Zubair Ahmed alias Tauseef, Ikhlas Ahmed alias Roosi, Ghulam Sarwar and Rashid Mehmood alias Teepu were also hanged at district jail in Faisalabad. All four militants were convicted of their involvement in an attack on former president Pervez Musharraf. Later, December 31, 2014, Niaz Mohammad, a former Pakistan Air Force junior technician who was also convicted in the Pervez Musharraf assassination attempt case was executed at the Peshawar Central Prison. Even now though, 7791 prisoners are on death row in the country. (Business Standard  7/1/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Suspected Maoist attack on stone quarrying unit in Kannur distirct of Kerala (12)

Thiruvananthapuram:  A suspected gang of Maoists attacked the office of a stone quarrying unit, situated near a tribal settlement close to forest region of Kannur district in the wee hours of Friday. The quarry has been facing protest from tribal people, indicating that Maoists are intervening in such issues sidelined by mainstream political parties in Kerala. According to police, a five-member armed gang damaged the furniture and took away CCTV cameras before torching the office of New Bharat Stone Crusher at Nedumpoyil under Peravoor police limits. They threatened the security staff at gunpoint and posted pro-Maoist notices in the premises of the office. The posters, issued on behalf of the western ghat zone of the CPI (Maoist), urged the tribals and farmers to gain control over soil, water and forest. The group, in military fatigue, raised slogans also. Later, the gang went to the nearby tribal colony. A woman named Radha told the media that they woke a family up to inform them that “we have attacked the quarry unit which has been causing trouble for you.’’ The colony had earlier also reported the presence of suspected Maoists activists more than once. Some of the colony inhabitants spoke in a manner that they were familiar with the members of the gang. This is the second suspected attack of Maoists at a stone quarrying unit in the western ghat region of North Kerala. In 2013, a quarry unit in Kozhikode district was attacked and an earth mover located in the unit was torched. Recently, Maoist pamphlet Kattuthee (forest fire) had warning against illegal quarrying units operating in the Western Ghats. Indicting the tourism industry for displacing tribals, it called for armed struggle to regain the control over soil, water and forest. Stone quarrying units and resorts have come up in large numbers in several sensitive zones in the Kerala belt of the Western ghat. A resort, which had allegedly erected on an alienated tribal land, had been attacked in Wayanad last month. Mainstream political parties have been silent on such stone units and resorts, which have come up floating norms. Friday’s incident came close on the heels of Kerala home minister Ramesh Channithala’s two-day visit to tribals belts in Wayanad as part of steps to instill confidence among tribals about government machinery. Chennithala had spent his new year in Wayanad dining with tribals. Chennithala said, “the attack in Kannur was a handiwork of those supporting Maoists.’’ (Indian Express 2/1/15)

88. Naxals: search on Varushanadu hill intensified (12)

THENI: The teams covered even village temples and tribal habitats in the Western Ghats as Maoists could easily win the confidence of tribal people  A special Naxal squad in association with forest officials intensified search operation on Varushanadu hill on Sunday to check possible migration of Naxals from Kerala, in the wake of an encounter between Thunderbolts personnel and an armed group in Wayanad district in Kerala. The team combed the hill bordering Kerala since morning. The operation would continue for some more days, said the police. Q Branch police had stepped up combing operation in the reserve forests along the Kerala border, especially the Western Ghats on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, and also in upper Kodaikanal hill in Dindigul district. The teams covered even village temples and tribal habitats in the Western Ghats as Maoists could easily win the confidence of tribal people by fulfilling their basic needs and offering timely help. They suspected that they could mingle with nomads easily. A special team had watched even Sri Mangala Devi Kannagi Temple area where movement of men was very less. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

89. Two tribals killed by Maoists amid anti-rebel operations at Andhra-Odisha border (12)

Malkangiri (Odisha): Two tribals were killed by Maoists on suspicion of being police informers here, even as security forces launched an operation against the rebels at Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border. Around 30 armed ultras stormed Keriaguda village last night and took away the two youths from their houses, police said on Monday. Their bodies were later found by locals beside a forest road in the outskirts of the village, they said. The victims, who have been identified, were believed to have been beaten to death by the red rebels who suspected that the two were police informers, police said. A joint anti-Maoist operation was launched in the cut-off areas of Malkangiri district along Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border yesterday by the elite Greyhound police of Andhra Pradesh and Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel of Odisha, IG (South-West), YK Jethwa said. The operation was launched following information about activities of Maoists in the area and there were reports about exchange of fire taking place in few locations, he added.  (Zee News 5/1/15)

90. 5 Maoists ‘killed’ in joint Andhra-Orissa operation (12)

Bhubaneswar: At least five Maoists are suspected to have been killed in a significant anti-Maoist operation involving Greyhound force of Andhra Pradesh police, Orissa’s Special Operations Group and state police that started in the cut-off area of Malkangiri district on Sunday night. Inspector General of south-western range Yashwant Jethwa, however, said officially the deaths cannot be confirmed, as the teams have not recovered any body. “The operation is still on. There were three encounters in the last 24 hours. We have got information that there have been five casualties from the Maoist side. We can confirm about any casualties only after our teams return from the spot,” said Jethwa, adding that there was no casualty from the police side. Jethwa said the teams recovered several bags and grenades from the spot. The cut-off area, separated from mainland Orissa for last five decades due to Balimela reservoir, has been a hotbed of Maoist activities since last decade.  As the area is closer to Andhra Pradesh, Maoists from Andhra have been active there for over a decade. Maoists had abducted former district collector R Vineel Krishna in February 2011 from a village in cut-off area. Police officials said the operation started following intelligence information that the Maoists led by central committee member of the party Ramakrishna alias RK were running training camps at Vejingi and Pingapuram in the cut-off areas. However, police officials could not confirm if Ramakrishna managed to escape. They, however, said RK was probably addressing a plenary session in the area. Meanwhile, Maoists killed two tribals in Malkangiri district on Sunday night. About 30 armed rebels went to Keriaguda in Kalimela police station area in the evening and called out Jaga Kabasi and Jaga Sodhi. After conducting a ‘praja court’ in the village, they tied up the two villagers to a tree and beat them to death. (Indian Express 7/1/15)

TRAFFICKING

91. Bihar launches operation against child trafficking (1)

Patna, Jan 1 (IANS) Bihar Police Thursday launched a special drive named “Operation Mahavir” against trafficking of children, an official said. “We have launched ‘Operation Mahavir’ to trace and free children who are victims of human trafficking,” said Additional Director General of Police (Weaker Section) Arvind Pandey. He said police will observe 2015 as the year to free child victims of trafficking. A team of policemen has been set up in each of the 38 districts to crack down on gangs involved in trafficking of children. Police will closely monitor places like brick kilns, roadside hotels, markets, bus stands and railway stations to trace missing children. The Bihar government had told the Supreme Court in October 2014 that 2,241 children who went missing from the state have been recovered, while at least 617 were still untraced. (Yahoo News 1/1/15)

92. Three kids rescued, ZYF condemns trafficking (1)

Imphal: In the wake of the kidnapping of three minors from Tamenglong district by a 45-year-old man, Ozish, the Zelingrong Youth Front (ZYF), Assam, Manipur and Nagaland has cautioned people to be more vigilant and check the menace. Strife-torn Manipur has witnessed frequent cases of trafficking of children mostly from Tamenglong and other hill districts to other states over the last five years. Child activists, NGOs and government agencies have rescued hundreds of children from several unregistered homes in south Indian cities. The accused, Ozish from Maharastra, was travelling his car with the three kids towards Imphal when a CRPF frisking team rescued the children and pulled him up from Khambiron check post in the Zeliangrong-dominated district on Friday morning. Hailing from Nungba area, the kids revealed that they were kidnapped by the man and before long, irate locals torched Ozish’s car. A local court on Saturday remanded Ozish in police custody for a week. The children, all below 10 years of age, were kidnapped from near Puiluan, said the ZYF in a statement. ZYF cautioned people particularly the Zeliangrong community living along National Highway 37 ( Imphal-Silchar route) to be more vigilant as criminal activities frequently take place along the highway. An inquiry conducted by the ZYF revealed that Ozish had been travelling across the country in his car since July 2014, the statement said. (Times of India 5/1/15)

93. Up to 8,000 Nepali girls trafficked to Dubai (1)

NEW DELHI: A multi-agency international operation, led by Central Bureau of Investigation, has stumbled upon an organized racket of trafficking of young Nepalese girls to Dubai for alleged prostitution and Delhi’s IGI airport is the transit point for their travelling to the gulf country. The investigation has revealed that nearly 6000-8000 Nepalese girls aged between 20 to 30 years have been trafficked to Dubai via Delhi till December 2014. The agency has informed the ministry of external affairs, ministry of home affairs, bureau of immigration and Nepal authorities through Interpol about the organized syndicate, which sends the girls on tourist visas. The sources said during the inquiry which was being covertly conducted by the agency, probe officers collected information from Foreign Regional Registration Office, Air India, Qatar Airways, Bureau of Immigration and 15 travel agents based in Delhi. Giving details of modus operandi of the alleged trafficking, a senior agency official said, the girls are booked with tickets, provided visa and hotel reservation in Nairobi via Dubai for tourist purposes but when they land in Dubai, their tickets for Nairobi and hotel bookings are cancelled. The girls also carry with them ‘Paper Visa’ to work in Dubai which they keep hidden with them. Once the tickets are cancelled in Dubai, they go to their agents there, stay for two-three months and come back, the official claimed. When asked about Nairobi connection when they can easily go to Dubai and come back as they have valid documents, the official said there could be many reasons–the Nepalese officials seek details of employer and nature of work and prostitution is never encouraged, girl going to Dubai for work is a social stigma among others. The sources said after getting a tip-off, agency had carried out a surprise check which revealed that 76 girls were travelling to Nairobi via Dubai on an Air India flight in July 2014 after which records of such travels were checked. “We could not take any action as all the documents were found proper,” an official said. The official said that agency has written to MEA, MHA and other concerned authorities to look into the issue and plug the loop holes in the immigration system which is exploited by the agents to supply girls to gulf countries. It is very difficult to know if the person has completed his journey as per the travel itinerary specially on a paper visa, the official said adding that there were other loop holes also which have been flagged in the correspondence to the MEA and MHA, which controls the Bureau of Immigration. “We found that Indira Gandhi International Airport has emerged as a major transit point for alleged prostitution rackets supplying girls to gulf countries through such channels. We estimate about 6000-8000 girls being trafficked in such a manner till December alone. We have asked the MEA to look whether Indian girls or the girls of other SAARC countries are also sent in this manner,” the official said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

CORRUPTION

94. Property papers of over 40 acres recovered in raids (5)

RAIPUR: On-going searches by a joint operations team of Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the premises of six officials of Chhattisgarh irrigation department, who were raided on Tuesday, has led to the recovery of documents relating to 40 acres of property, 2kg gold besides Rs 6 crore cash that was seized earlier. Raids were conducted on officials, including chief engineer BS Vaishnav and executive engineer Alok Agarwal and M Kujur, after a tip off. Their interrogation had subsequently led to more raids on the premises of their associates from where huge quantities of cash and other valuables were seized. Raids were conducted at 16 premises and over 100 personnel of EOW and ACB carried them out. (Times of India 1/1/15)

95. At least 102 govt employees in MP Lokayukta net in bribery case (5)

Indore: The Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta police caught red-handed 102 state government employees, from top rank officers to peon, for allegedly accepting bribe in Indore division last year. “A total 130 criminal cases were registered after 102 state government staffers were caught red-handed accepting bribe in 83 traps laid by the anti-corruption watchdog last year in the division,” Indore Lokayukta Superintendent of Police Arun Mishra told PTI today. He said that ill-gotten swanky houses, besides properties fetching Rs 7 to 8 crore according to present market value, of three officers including assistant engineer, have been attached under Madhya Pradesh Special Court Law, 2011 during last year in the division. The attached immovable properties are being used to run ‘aanganwadis’ and schools, he said. The Lokayukta police registered 37 cases against people for “misusing” official position, he said. Besides, chargesheets were filed in special courts in connection with 45 cases of corruption, Mishra said. The courts pronounced punishments in 22 cases, while in two cases the accused were acquitted, he said adding that the rest of the cases were being heard in courts. (Zee News 2/1/15)

96. 91 illegal appointment cases detected in Jorhat (5)

JORHAT, Jan 3 – Exposing an extreme case of corruption in Jorhat district, the findings of a district-level screening committee have revealed that 91 employees were illegally appointed in various offices of State Health department and hospitals including Jorhat Medical College Hospital (JMCH), who have already withdrawn several crores from the government exchequer, as their salaries for the past some years. Citing the detailed inquiry report and suggestions of the committee (received through RTI) at a press conference here on Friday, advocate Gautam Bora, Rintu Goswami and BJP State general secretary Santanu Pujari said the Deputy Commissioner of Jorhat has conspicuously refrained from taking any necessary action against the employees and the “corrupt” Health department officials and treasury officials who were found to be involved in the case of corruption. Pujari had sought documents from the Health department officials through RTI procedures in 2012, suspecting illegalities in the appointment, but the department’s officials allegedly refrained from giving him the official papers. However, as his repeated requests for a probe into the case, ultimately compelled the district administration to launch an investigation into the case by a 12-member screening committee. “The screening committee has observed that the placement of the field staff like vaccinator, SW and others in Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, Medical Institute and SHTO have created chaos in administration. Moreover, it is contrary to the interest of the public. The committee is of the opinion of stopping this kind of practice,” stated the screening committee’s report. The 12-member screening committee, comprising an Additional Deputy Commissioner, medical officers and a treasury officer detected the involvement of district malaria officer A Rahman, Guna Kalita (UDA), Sushil Dutta (head assistant), Mala Phukan (LDA), Md Siddique (retired accountant) Prabhat Saikia (bill clerk), Lakhyanath Pegu (UDA) in the case. During the probe, the committee found some other surprising facts about the massive cover-up by senior officials who refrained from preventing the illegalities in the offices concerned. While some employees were found withdrawing their salary without attending office, two others produced fake appointment letters. “Those employees were neither appointed nor transferred from any other districts to Jorhat. As powerful politicians and a few journalists of the electronic media are involved in the case, the officers did not take any initiative to stop this illegality in the district,” advocate Rintu Goswami stated. As the Deputy Commissioner is yet to take proper action against the corrupt officials to stop the illegal disbursement of public money from the treasury, advocate Goswami questioned the administrative role of the DC in this particular case. In their submission to the Deputy Commissioner, the screening committee also suggested action against the officials involved as per legal provisions. “The employees suspected to be involved in the case are still occupying their allotted tables in the same officilal capacity and thus creating problems in procuring official documents and related facts. Their continuation in service at the present positions will definitely hamper the process of investigation. The committee has expressed the opinion that the nexus existing in different branches of the Health department be broken up,” the report submitted to the Deputy Commissioner stated. (The Assam Tribune 3/1/15)

97. Corruption cases in TN up, but convictions see a fall (5)

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu appears to be a haven for corrupt government officials. The number of cases investigated by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption (DVAC) has been going up since 2000 but the number of convictions has been dropping. Data from DVAC shows that the agency investigated and made enquiries in 295 cases in 2000-01, a number that went up to 462 in 2013-14. However, the conviction rate has dropped from 53 in 2000-01 to 21 in 2013-14. Experts and anti-corruption activists say ineffective investigation, sluggish judicial system, political pressure and poor law enforcement have resulted in the steady decline in the conviction rate. In several cases, officials say, complainants backtracked or withdrew from cases due to pressure from political parties. In many cases, said sources, the accused “convinces” the complainant to “settle the case privately”, a euphemism for bullying or compelling a person to withdraw a complaint. The number of enquiries and investigations taken up by DVAC has declined from 750 in 2005-06 to 381 in 2012-13. The numbers saw a marginal increase to 462 in 2013-14. The number of traps laid by DVAC to nab corrupt government staff has also reduced from 312 in 2008-09 to 206 in 2013-14. DVAC conducts investigations and enquiries into allegations of corruption and builds the case, which then goes to court. However, the conviction rate is poor. Activists have said DVAC should be brought under the preview of the Right to Information Act, 2005. They allege that DVAC has been kept out of the RTI ambit to prevent citizens from obtaining information on corruption cases. However, officials says bringing DVAC under RTI will affect investigations. (Times of India 6/1/15)

98. Peon from Land survey dept booked for demanding Rs 4 lakh bribe in Raigadh (5)

Thane: A peon with the Land Survey office in Raigadh district who allegedly demanded Rs 4 lakh bribe has been booked by the Thane Unit of the ACB. Additional SP ACB Thane Unit Shrinivas Ghadge told PTI Wednesday that peon Chandrakant Goud, with the Land Survey office at Panvel demanded the sum from the complainant on December 11, 2014 for carrying out a survey of a plot in Kharade Khurd. Following this, the complainant approached the ACB which registered an offence against the peon with the Panvel police station yesterday, he said. The peon has been booked under section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1998. He has not been arrested yet, the officer added. The complainant is working as a liasoning officer with the Anthony Garage which had a plot of land in Kharade Khurd for which the survey was to be carried out. (Zee News 8/1/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

99. Pollution turning Taj Mahal yellow: Study (9)

NEW DELHI: India’s white marvel, the Taj Mahal, is slowly turning brownish-yellow because of air pollution, says an Indo-US study which also identifies the pollutants responsible for the effect. It says Taj is changing colour due to deposition of dust and carbon-containing particles emitted in the burning of fossil fuels, biomass and garbage. The study confirms what has been suspected for long — that Agra’s poor air quality is impacting India’s most celebrated monument. The research was conducted by experts from US universities — Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin — as well as Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Archaeological Survey of India. The paper was published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal in December. The findings can lead to targeted strategies to curb air pollution in and around Agra and more effective ways to cleanse the marble surface of the 366-year-old mausoleum, which remains by far the most visited man-made structure in the country with footfalls of more than 6 million in 2013. The researchers first analysed air samples at the site for roughly a year using filters and found high concentrations of suspended particles that could potentially discolour Taj’s surface. Clean marble samples were then placed at various points on the monument accessible only to ASI staff. After two months of exposure, the samples were analysed using electron microscope and X-ray spectroscope. The pollutants deposited on the marble were identified through these investigations. Researchers found 3% of the deposits to be black carbon, around 30% organic carbon (or brown carbon) and most of the rest dust. Black carbon is emitted by vehicles and other machines that burn fossil fuels. Brown carbon is typically released through burning of biomass and garbage, a common practice in the region. S N Tripathi of IIT Kanpur, one of the authors, said the team then used a novel approach to estimate how these deposited particles would impact light reflecting off the marble surface. “We found that black carbon gives a greyish colour to the surface while the presence of brown carbon and dust results in yellowish-brown hues,” he said. “Results indicate that deposited light absorbing dust and carbonaceous particles are responsible for the surface discolouration of the Taj Mahal,” the study concludes. Since 2008, ASI has been trying to fight the yellowing of the monument by giving it a clay pack treatment using the lime-rich Fuller’s earth (Multani mitti) to clean the marble surface. Researchers are now keen on studying the efficacy of this method and finding ways of improving it. “Now that we know what’s causing the yellowing, the focus should now shift to undoing the effect,” Tripathi said. (Times of India 2/1/15)

100. ‘Concerned people’ vow to protect Western Ghats (9)

The meet convened by the People for Western Ghats at Peaceful Society, Madkai, unanimously resolved to work for the protection and conservation of the eco-sensitive, biodiversity-rich wildlife corridor in the Western Ghats. Pandurang Hegde and Kalandand Mani initiated and guided the discussions wherein various issues pertaining to the present status of protection and conservation of the Western Ghats, the concept of responsible tourism, politics behind non-implementation of Western Ghats Environment Expert Panel and efforts which are going on to dilute existing environmental laws were discussed. Members of the organizing group expressed grave concern over unplanned tourism activities hampering the eco-sensitivity of the biodiversity rich Dudhsagar valley of the Mollem National Park. Hegde cited the example of successful eco-tourism model followed at Sirsi, in Karnataka. Nirmal Kulkarni mentioned how compensatory afforestation funds which were to be used mainly for the purpose of afforestation and infrastructure were instead being utilized for tourism projects. Vaishali Patil informed that in Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra, a political decision seems to be taken not to implement ESA. A government order dated June 4, 2014, requires that public hearings are to be conducted for people’s opinions on ESA implementation, wherein a government representative comes up to the public and asks people for their opinion. People many occasions are misinformed about the implications of the ESA this causes panic and gram sabha resolutions are passed refusing the ESA notification thereby working detrimental for Western Ghats. Claude Alvares informed that the matter on implementation of the HLWG & WGEEP reports have been disposed by NGT (Application 26/2012), leaving scope for challenging any notifications in this regard. He also said that the gram sabha, the Biological Diversity Act and the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act[1] are paramount in environmental decision making at the grassroots. Members also discussed on issues of forest clearance, private forests, land regulation, Forest Rights Act, CRZ regulations, need for environment impact assessment, cumulative impact and carrying capacity. 14 resource persons from Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka took part in the meet. (Times of India 5/1/15)

101. Foresters step up chop down of invasive plant types in TN (9)

CHENNAI: The forest department has intensified its efforts to eradicate invasive plant species that pose a threat to native varieties and the natural ecosystem of protected areas such as wildlife and bird sanctuaries as well as elephant and tiger reserves. Officials said they are removing alien species like lantana camara complex, prosopis juliflora, a kind of mesquite native to Mexico and South America, and wattle (Acacia) and will then take steps to improve critical habitat. The Rs 7.5 crore project will cover an estimated 3,000 hectares of the total protected area of 6,078sqkm, or roughly 29% of the state’s total forest area. Protected areas in Tamil Nadu are split into 15 forest divisions. Foresters are removing lantana and prosopis juliflora, which heavily infest around 2,000 hectares in Tirunelveli, Srivilliputhur, Hosur and Dharmapuri divisions, making the forests in these areas uninhabitable for wildlife. They are also removing wattle from around 1000 hectares in the Nilgiris and Kodaikanal. They have so far razed wattle on 325 hectares and lantana on 500 hectares. Species like lantana complex, which includes four species, are ornamental plants from Mexico that spread very fast and do not allow other plants, shrubs or even grass to grow in the area they cover. This alien species and wattle can have a calamitous impact on biodiversity because they cause large-scale migration of herbivores or a severe decline in their numbers, which in turn leads to shortage of food sources for carnivorous animals like leopards and tigers. Principal chief conservator of forests Rama Kant Ojha, who is also chief project director of the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project (TBGP), said foresters are using a standard technique to remove the plants. “We cut them at 3cm to 5cm below ground level, upward to the shoot before inverting the plant,” he said. “It is a systematic approach and a continuous process. We continuously monitor areas we have covered.” Prior to uprooting the plants, forest officials had conducted a survey to study the spread of alien plant species. They removed them pre- and post-monsoon. Officials said they are sowing seeds of local plants and grass seeds and have observed that local species were making a comeback in many places where invasive species were removed. The process, however, is long drawn. “After we remove the plants in one area, we have to move on to other areas where they have multiplied,” chief conservator of forests and TBGP project director Rakesh Kumar Dogra said. (Times of India 8/1/15)

102. Prakash Javadekar takes up ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (9)

Pune: Minister of State (MoS) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday participated in ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ in Pune. “I am very happy today that all the people, NGO’s, students and officers of the area in which I live in Pune , have come together to keep the surroundings clean,” said Javadekar. “Plastic, glass and thermacol increase the garbage. Daily around 15,000 tons of plastic garbage is produced out of which 9,000 ton is collected and 6,000 ton is left. This is very dangerous for our society,” he added. Talking of future plans in the same regard Javadekar said, “In every 100 meters a dustbin is going to be put. We are also planning to start a scheme under the name of ‘Plastic free India’. This is just the first step.” The cleanliness drive, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014, focuses on sanitation, hygiene and waste management. It encourages people to sweep, remove garbage, debris and unauthorized encroachments from roads, markets and residential places. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims at making India a clean country by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.  (Zee News 8/1/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

103. Take steps to stop suicides of farmers: TRRS (20)

SANGAREDDY: Telangana Rytu Rakshana Samithi (TRRS) has urged the policy makers to take steps to stop suicides of farmers. In a release here on Thursday, TRRS founder president Pakala Srihari Rao has alleged that casual handling of national agriculture policy has resulted in destroying economy of lakhs of farmers across the country apart from destroying gross domestic product (GDP). “The production cost of per acre has increased considerably while yield per acre has reduced drastically because of indifferent attitude by the rulers all these years,” he said. Profitable price to agriculture produce, linking of MNREGS to all agriculture operations, wavier of all private and crop loans of farmers, sanctioning of Rs. 1 lakh loan for each functioning bore well and implementing crop insurance in farmer friendly manner are some of the suggestions made by him. (The Hindu 2/1/15)

104. ‘Farmers suicide on rise since BJP came to power’ (20)

Hassan: Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda alleged, the number of farmers suicide has increased in the country after BJP came to power at the Centre. About 105 farmers suicide cases have been reported from Gujarat alone.An affidavit has been submitted to the Supreme Court in this regard, he said. Addressing a press meet, after attending a private programme here, on Sunday, Gowda said, his efforts to explain the status of the farmers of the State during the Winter Session of the Parliament turned futile. Though he had sought permission from the Speaker to speak about the plight of farmers in the Session, it was not considered. After a few days, he again sought permission under Act 193 as he was a former prime minister, it was also not considered. Though he has been seated in the first row, as he was a former prime minister, he was not given an opportunity to speak. “Should I attend the Parliament session just for Rs 2,000 allowance?” he questioned.  Pointing out the rumours that his Hassan stay has come to an end in a month, Gowda said, he was in Delhi attending the Winter Session. Later, he was involved in sorting out party issues and strengthening the party. He will visit Hassan on January 7 and 9, Gowda said. (Deccan Herald 5/1/15)

105. Cultivator reaps big with organic farming (20)

MADURAI: Unlike the usual trend of depending on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, an enterprising farmer here has adapted to organic farming and reaped a handsome harvest this year. A N M Tiruppathi from Kulamangalam village has revived the agricultural methods of his ancestors using cow and sheep dung and compost to enrich the soil, and adopted organic pesticides on his 15 acres of paddy cultivation. On Monday, Tiruppathi commenced the harvest of his land in the presence of officials from the agriculture department. The sample harvesting carried out on 20 cents of land in the presence of officials yielded 12 bags, with each weighing 66 kg. It is estimated that the harvest in one acre of land will touch the 60 bag-mark which, according to the agriculture department officials, is a good harvest. “He has been trying to convert his cultivation into the organic mode for many years and regularly sought information and ideas from us. He is an innovative farmer. The sample harvesting was quite promising,” said R Selvan, assistant director of agriculture. “When I was growing up, I saw my parents carrying out organic farming and switching to chemical inputs later. I have also observed how the quality of food grains deteriorated due to chemicals. Hence, I am reviving the organic agricultural practices and adapting them to the current trends. This way, I can harvest good crops which are eco-friendly and good for the health,” Tiruppathi said. To get the results, he has been regularly using green manure and cow dung on the soil and ploughing once every 15 days ahead of cultivation. To get quality seedlings, the nursery area was enriched with sea weeds, groundnut oil cake and pseudomonas, an organic insecticide that is used to control pest. “Wild paddy varieties are ideal for organic farming because they are resilient and require less agricultural inputs. Thus great expenditure is cut down on inputs, improving our profits,” Tiruppathi said. “It is a positive trend among the farmers in our district at present, since many are turning towards organic farming for good. There are innovative farmers who did not hesitate to combine modern technology and traditional knowledge,” said Jayasingh Gnanadurai, joint director of agriculture. (Times of India 5/1/15)

106. GM crops a solution to growing farmer suicide? (20)

Mumbai: Speakers said that there were some misunderstandings among the people regarding GM crops which needed to be addressed on a priority basis. Genetically modified crops can be a solution for the growing farmer suicide in the country. Speakers at the 102 nd Indian Science Congress while discussing in the symposium on “GM crops: the use of Modern Biotechnology in Agriculture” said that GM crops would be the long-term solution for the country. However, they added that there were some misunderstandings among the people regarding such crops which needed to be addressed on a priority basis. While highlighting the misunderstandings of the people regarding GM crops Dr Anupan Varma, senior scientist of the Indian national Science Academy said that people regarded genetically engineered crops to be against nature and harmful for consumption. Citing many examples of GM crops Dr Varma explained the need for resorting to modern technology and stressed on the need to give serious thought on the same. “Today India is doing well in the field of agriculture and is considered one of the foremost in cotton production due to the modern means of production adopted by the policy makers. However, the issue facing us is of bio-safety and a solution needs to be found by doing extensive research on different methods that can be adopted to avert the dangers of bio-degradation,” said another speaker. (Asian Age 6/1/15)

107. Agriculture extension service strengthened (20)

Coimbatore: The extension service in the agriculture sector in India has been strengthened and the ministry was paying special attention to technology transfer to farmers, a top official said here on Tuesday. Technologies are reaching farmers through various means, including training, regional melas, publications, exhibitions and production of video films, O P Dhahiya, Director, Farm Information, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, said. In his address to the Southern Regional Agricultural Fair and state-level farmers’ Day at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, he said the service in cooperation with the State extension wing has brought in phenomenal improvement in agricultural development and increased farmers’ income. Inaugurating the Fair, C Rajendran, Joint Secretary, Deparment of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu,said doubling productivity and tripling farmers’ income was their motto. Since most farmers involved in food production are poor, the government was aiming at promoting welfare schemes for them, he said, adding value addition and storage facilities would be given more importance in years to come. K Ramasamy, Vice-Chancellor, TNAU said regional fairs were organised with the objective of allowing farmers know the technologies and scientists and extension workers to know what was to be done in future. Despite 11 districts in last year and 31 districts in penultimate year were declared as drought hit, Tamil Nadu produced 11.3 million tonnes of foodgrains, he said. He asked farmers to regularly visit the fields and properly utilise technologies in an era of changing food habits and climate. With the theme ‘Profitable and Sustainable agriculture,’ hundreds of farmers from Southern States – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry are participating in the four day fair. (Business Standard 7/1/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

108. Trinamool opposes ordinance amending Land Acquisition Act (4)

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress, which has vowed not to implement the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, took out rallies across West Bengal Wednesday, protesting the “black ordinance” approved by the Narendra Modi cabinet. “The ordinance has been approved without any consultations with the chief ministers of the states. The ordinance has been cleared undemocratically and we will never allow this draconian law to be implemented in Bengal,” Trinamool trade union leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay said. Taking out rallies in the city as well as in other districts of the state, including North 24-Parganas and Birbhum, the Trinamool leaders burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as copies of the “black ordinance”.Accusing the Modi government of “bulldozing” democracy, Trinamool supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday asserted that her government will not implement the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act. “As long as I am alive, I will never allow any forcible acquisition of land. They will have to acquire land only on my dead body,” Banerjee had said Tuesday, calling the people to burn the “black ordinance” that was approved by the Modi cabinet Monday. The amendment to the Land Acquisition Act was approved to remove “procedural difficulties” in acquiring land for national projects and to “further strengthen” provisions concerning “affected families”.”Trinamool and Mamata Banerjee will never allow such a draconian law to be implemented in Bengal. We will continue to protest against the Centre’s attack on democracy,” Chattopadhyay, leading a rally in the city, said. (New Kerala 1/1/15)

109. Left Front stir against ‘anti-farmer’ land act (4)

Kolkata: The CPI-M led Left Front in West Bengal Friday announced a state wide agitation Jan 5 against the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, calling them “undemocratic” and “anti-farmer”.Front chairman Biman Bose said the ordinance approved by the Narendra Modi cabinet to amend the law doesn’t caters to the interest of the farmers. “During the (erstwhile) UPA regime, when the land amendment bill was brought before the parliamentary standing committee, it was agreed that interests of all those associated with land, apart from land-owners, will also be looked into. But this ordinance has omitted those clauses,” Bose told media persons here. “The step by the central government making changes in the Land Acquisition Act is anti-democratic and anti-farmer,” he said, adding that the Left will Jan 5 undertake a statewide agitation. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too has opposed the amendments to the act that seek to remove “procedural difficulties” in acquiring land for national projects and to “further strengthen” provisions concerning “affected families”. (Business Standard 2/1/15)

110. Land acquisition act amendments for enhanced compensation: Jaitley (4)

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Sunday came out against criticism of the amendments to the land acquisition act, made through an ordinance, saying they “balance the developmental needs of India, particularly rural India” and provides enhanced compensation to the land-owners. In a Facebook posting, titled “Amendments to the Land Acquisition Law – The Real Picture”, he said that the 2013 Act had “over 50 drafting errors” and the “provision” in the ordinance with regard to rectification of errors “will be used to cure most of them. “Some are being cured through this ordinance which alters the earlier mandate of the 2013 law that unused land has to be returned five years after the acquisition. The earlier provision was clearly defective”.”Creation of smart cities, townships, industrial corridors, business centres, defence projects, cantonments, ports, nuclear installations, building of highways, irrigation projects, dams have a long gestations period. They cannot be completed in five years. “If the earlier provision is to be effected, we would be a nation of incomplete projects on account of defective legislative drafting,” he said. Countering criticism of the acquired land to be also given to developers, he said that the draft provisions of the 2013 Act “enthusiastically provide that no part of an acquired land could be used for a private educational institution or a hospital. “How will new smart cities and townships come up? Will they only have a civil hospital and a government school/college and no other healthcare and educational institutions will be allowed to be established there? “The ordinance permits hospitals and educational institutions to be established on an acquired land. That is the purpose of acquisition for townships. A township without a social infrastructure would be inherently incomplete.” Jaitley said the needs of “a modern growing and developing India need a balanced approach” where “development and justice to the land-owner must coexist. One cannot be done at the cost of the other”. According to him, the amendment ordinance “is based on extensive consultations where state government of most political parties supported these changes. Those who are opposed to it can certainly mandate their party’s state governments not to use the provisions of the ordinance. History will judge how these states will lose out in the era of competitive federalism. On Dec 31, the government promulgated an ordinance to amend provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. (Business Standard 4/1/15)

111. ‘Ordinance will harm rural population’ (4)

New Delh: Alleging that the ordinance passed by the Centre on land acquisition is against the interests of farmers and the rural population of the national capital, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal announced on Sunday that the party will not allow the BJP government to acquire land of farmers in Delhi without their consent. The party said that the public meeting marked the beginning of the AAP’s nationwide campaign against the ordinance and the party will organise protest meetings across the capitals of states and district headquarters from Monday onwards. Addressing the party’s Village Dialogue at Chattarpur, the former chief minister of Delhi said that the ordinance brought by Narendra Modi government to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 is against the interests of farmers and the AAP will strongly oppose it. “Both the changes made in the ordinance to amend the 2013 law will adversely affect the farmers and rural population of Delhi. The party is of the clear view that land owned by farmers can only be acquired by the government, if they are in favour of it and forcible acquisition cannot be allowed,” he said. He asserted that the Modi government had imposed its wrong decision on the country by removing the clause from the 2013 law on land acquisition which made it mandatory to seek a consent of around 70 per cent land owners of the area, but the ordinance states no consent will be required for acquisition in five particular categories, which are so wide that government can now acquire land for private companies without caring for farmers. Referring to the second change made by the ordinance, which removes the clause related to return of land to the owner in case the purpose for which it was acquired is not completed within five years, Mr Kejriwal said this change in the 2013 law is particularly detrimental to the interests of poor people of Delhi. Citing the example of unauthorised colonies, the AAP chief said that in some parts of Delhi such colonies have come up on the land owned by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). “These colonies have not been regularised since a long time due to wrong policies of successive governments, does it mean that now the government agencies will become the owner of this land according to the provisions of the ordinance,” he questioned. He said according to this ordinance, the land on which unauthorised colonies stand will now be called government land, which means that it can demolish these colonies at will or it can eve charge a higher amount from house owners in the name of regularising them. Mr Kejriwal said the ordinance on land acquisition has been brought to please the corporate houses which had spent a hefty amount on BJP’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. (Asian Age 5/1/15)

112. ‘Take people into confidence before amending LA Act’ (4)

HYDERABAD: Concerned citizens representing a broad spectrum of political parties and people’s organisations on Tuesday expressed their fears over the way amendments were being proposed to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 in the form of an ordinance and said people’s consultation was a must before any amendments were made. At a round table conference on the ordinance issued by the Government of India on Land Acquisition, Relief and Rehabilitation Act 2013, organised by the Bhoomi Upadhi Hakkula Vedika and Dalit Bahujan Front, Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) chairman M. Kodandaram said in the past, land was acquired only for irrigation projects or for large factories, but post 1990s, private parties with influence have managed to acquire large tracts of land. While influential people managed to get away without losing their land, it is the poor who always suffered, he said, adding that any amendments to the draconian Act could be proposed only after extensive consultations with the concerned people. He wanted the government to withdraw the proposed amendments, saying it amounted to violation of people’s rights. Senior journalist Mallepalli Laxmaiah from the Telangana Intellectuals’ Forum said that earlier there was a social mobilisation aspect to land acquisition to establish whether it was for a public purpose or not. The government could take any land, but for specific purposes only, if it were for infrastructure development or housing and the like, but public consultation was an integral part of the process, he pointed out. Others who spoke on similar lines included P. Shankar representing the Bhoomi Upadhi Hakkula Vedika, Congress leaders M. Kodanda Reddy and Addanki Dayakar, researchers Usha Seetalaxmi and Ashalatha, Secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, Andhra Pradesh, P. Madhu and Malla Reddy of the CPI(M), former MLA of the CPI Gunda Mallesh, K. Goverdhan of the CPI-Marxist Leninist (New Democracy) and Sunil of the Rural Development Institute (The Hindu 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

113. ‘Health system in India ill-equipped’ (3)

New Delhi: Expert said that the weak health system in the country is not geared to provide an effective response on major health indicators, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and child nutrition. Public Health Foundation of India president Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, said that India’s health system is ill-equipped to deal with these concomitant challenges, at the desired level of access, affordability and quality. While some tertiary care institutions are world-class, primary and secondary care services have suffered from gross neglect, Prof. Reddy added. Prof. Reddy was giving annual oration of Ganga Ram Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (GRIPMER on “Health Assurance: Giving Shape to a Slogan”. Highlighting India’s challenges and solutions in providing Universal Health Care (UHC), Prof. Reddy said, “India is confronting multiple health challenges but its weak health system is not geared to provide an effective response. On major health indicators, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and child nutrition.” “Low levels of public financing, severe shortages in several categories of health professionals and frontline functionaries, weak regulatory systems and variable standards of governance across states have combined to debilitate India’s health system over the years,” he added. He pointed out that India compares poorly with many developing countries, including several South Asian neighbours. At the same time, there is a surge in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, mental illness, respiratory disorders and other chronic diseases which are killing or disabling millions of young or middle-aged adults. On the occasion, chairman (board of management), Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr D.S. Rana, said that 90 research project of the GRIPMER are being funded by the ICMR, department of biotechnology, WHO, department of science and technology, ministry of environment and many others. (Asian Age 1/1/15)

114. Government set to revamp health policy for BPL families (1)

New Delhi: Introduced during the UPA regime, the government is all set to revamp the existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a scheme that provides cashless health insurance of up to `30,000 per year to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. While, the scheme is at present managed by the labour ministry, it will soon be transferred to the health ministry. The Union health ministry has already worked on the broad contours of the scheme and a meeting to this effect has already been taken in the PMO recently. According to senior officials in the health ministry, the existing scheme, once streamlined, will be part of the newly-proposed National Health Assurance Mission (NHAM) — which plans to offer a basket of services by providing 50 essential medicines, diagnostic services, etc. The scheme is likely to be started from January in a phased wise manner. To start with, the RSBY will be responsible for providing secondary health services, unlike the NHAM — which will help poor get free treatment. RBSK covers over three crore workers from the unorganised sector. The Central government under the ministry of labour & employment, had launched the RSBY in 2008. According to the government figures, while the population coverage under the various schemes increased from almost 55 million people in 2003-04 to about 370 million in 2014 (almost one-fourth of the population). Nearly two-thirds (180 million) of this population are those in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category. Evaluations show that schemes like RSBY, have improved utilisation of hospital services, especially in private sector and among the poorest 20% of households and SC/ST households. However, there are some problems. “One problem is low awareness among the beneficiaries about the entitlement and how and when to use the RSBY card. Another is related to denial of services by private hospitals for many categories of illnesses, and over supply of some services improve access to hospitalisation services and to protect households from high medical expenses,” the newly-proposed health policy 2015 reads. The RSBY scheme which is now all set to be shifted to the ministry of health & family welfare, will help the state and Central ministry move to a tax financed single payer system approach. (Asian Age 3/1/15)

115. Tribal health issues to be targeted separately (3)

New Delhi: Separating tribal health issues from the mainstream, malaria, sickle cell anaemia, nutrition and maternal and child health would now be targeted in a new initiative of the government. “Statistics say that the tribal health issues are different from the mainstream health issues as a result of which they are in the bottom line of indication,” an official release said here Tuesday. All these special tribal health issues would be discussed threadbare at a seminar jointly being organized by the ministry of tribal affairs and the Indian Council of Medical Research, the release said. The main objective of the day-long seminar to be held Wednesday is to share good case studies and researches to eradicate burning health problems of the tribals and to find out how the findings from these case studies can be replicated by other states. The seminar would also discuss the role of various ministries and agencies, including NGOs. The release said that the initiatives would be taken to make small and affordable measures which can significantly reduce the health risks that women face when they become pregnant. A web-enabled mother and child tracking system is also being implemented by the health department as a mission mode project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) to register and track every pregnant woman. (New Kerala 6/1/15)

116. NGO launches campaign on sanitation hygiene (3)

Habitat for Humanity, an NGO engaged in housing and sanitation, has initiated a sanitation behaviour change movement around the coastal belts of Puducherry using street plays and dance skits. Rolled out under the ‘Sensitise to Sanitise Campaign’, the drive focused on bringing behavioural change among coastal residents and raising the need for sanitation hygiene. The programme reached out to over 600 coastal residents who were sensitised on the importance of hygiene, especially the need to end the practice of open defecation, and the risks of disease from poor sanitary lifestyles. As part of a handwashing drive, residents — especially children — were taught to properly wash hands to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers in India. According to Rajan Samuel, managing director, Habitat for Humanity, India, more than 70 per cent of Indians practise open defecation due to lack of access to functional sanitation facilities. “Even where facilities are available, people prefer to practice open defecation due to cultural and social barriers…we are keen to bring about behavioural change through structured education and awareness campaigns,” he said. (The Hindu 8/1/15)

HIV/AIDS

117. HIV positives find perfect matches, new lives (3)

NASHIK: Youth living with HIV/AIDS are increasingly breaking the shackles of social stigma to start life afresh in the form of life partners through a city-based non-governmental organization. Ravindra Patil of Yash Foundation, the NGO working with support from Mahindra & Mahindra as part of its corporate social responsibility, said they have come a long way since 2007 in terms of providing nourishment to children living with HIV/AIDS and rehabilitation programmes and opportunities to women living with the disease, especially after they lost their husbands and abandoned by family members. “Our focus is now on match-making so that the young people living with HIV/AIDS can lead a positive life,” he said. Rajesh, a mechanical engineer from Mumbai, “I was 28 when I was diagnosed with AIDS. The world surrounding me changed all of a sudden and I felt that all doors of opportunities were closed for me. Leading a regular life appeared impossible. It was like being confined in a dark room. For couple of years, I struggled to come to terms with the fact and I was losing on health. But it was after I got in touch with the foundation that I realised that there is life beyond HIV/AIDS. Members of foundation helped me find a bride. And life is beautiful once again,” Starting with enquiries from eight eligible PLHAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS) and converting one into marriage in 2010, the foundation in 2014 received 180 enquiries. Three marriages were solemnised and another eight confirmed. “After working with children for three years, our focus shifted to the youngsters and hence we started Mangal Maitri, an annual event that brings the prospects together. Considering the figures, 2014 was the best in the past three years. Currently, as 22 youths have found partners for themselves through our organisation. The prospects are bachelors as well as the ones who are in their widowhood,” Patil said. The first marriage solemnised by the organisation was between the two individuals, whose partners had succumbed to the disease. They both adopted each other with their children and that started off the marriage. “There are common queries about trying to look for people from the same castes. But there are also others who want to go ahead with life with a suitable person,” Patil added. Similar is the case of Shankar and Sarita, who got married in 2012. They now have a one-year child. While Shankar works with an engineering firm, Sarita is in the medical field. Both of them acquired the disease from their parents. However, timely monitoring and treatment ensured they being in better health till date. “I joined the NGO sometime around 2008. I was in college then. I participated voluntarily in programmes organised for the positive people. I eventually came across Sarita, who had registered in the marriage bureau of the NGO. We are from different castes but our parents were for us living together,” said Shankar. (Times of India 1/1/15)

118. Ability of HIV to cause AIDS slowing: study (3)

London: A research study has found that HIV – and as a consequence AIDS — is slowly becoming less aggressive in parts of Africa. These are the significant findings of a study conducted by Professor Philip Goulder and his team at the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University that have been published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. Based on a study of about 2,000 pregnant women in Botswana and South Africa, the team has demonstrated that the weakening of the immunodeficiency virus is due to its rapid evolution and ability to mutate over time. In Botswana the epidemic took off in the 1980s, a decade before it hit South Africa. “Overall we are bringing down the ability of HIV to cause AIDS so quickly,” Prof. Goulder told Reuters. Scientists were aware that a gene known as HLA-B*57 in a person acted as a protection against the HIV virus. The new study finds that the virus has adapted to the gene, which therefore no longer offers protection. However, the unforeseen result of this is that the mutation of the virus also weakens it and reduces its ability to replicate. One reason for this could be because of the growing use of HIV drugs. “HIV adaptation to the most effective immune responses we can make against it comes at a significant cost to its ability to replicate,” Prof. Goulder told Reuters. “Anything we can do to increase the pressure on HIV in this way may allow scientists to reduce the destructive power of HIV over time.” Although it is too early to extrapolate the findings to other regions of the world, the study “does serve to highlight the tremendous progress that has been made in the response to HIV since the virus first gained attention as a public health threat. It also serves to highlight the vital nature of funding for research to improve our understanding of the virus and to develop potential vaccines and treatments,” Matt Grady, Policy & Networks Adviser of the campaign group STOPAIDS told The Hindu. He said that although there had been a huge increase of people accessing treatment, today 60 per cent of adults living with HIV are outside the treatment net. “Without the financial and political leadership required to accelerate towards the end of AIDS, potential scientific breakthroughs like the one announced will not have the impact needed,” Mr. Grady said. (The Hindu 2/1/15)

119. NGO bid for HIV/AIDS awareness (3)

GUWAHATI, Jan 3 – With an aim to promote awareness about the prevention of HIV/AIDS, the Population Health Services, India (PHSI), North-East, launched a communication van activity at the start of the New Year. Specifically targeting the rural populace and youths, the van will hold an awareness campaign about the correct and consistent use of condoms. The PHSI, a non-profit NGO with pan-India operations, is supported by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), which monitors and supervises its activities. The organization has its presence in the North-eastern States of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The van is going to travel around the State in the five districts of Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup, Dhubri, Sonitpur and Barpeta. The van was flagged off by Probal Baruah, Field Operation Manager, PHSI-NE. “Principally supported by the NACO, we also have an activity sharing collaboration with the Assam State AIDS Control Society. The communication van is an SUV which carries awareness messages regarding condom usage. The principal motive of the PHSI-NE is to spread awareness regarding HIV/AIDS,” Pranom Datta Mazumdar, Communications Manager, NE, told The Assam Tribune. The respective promoter in each district will travel along with the van, and conduct interpersonal communication activity among the general population, specifically targeting the rural masses, migrant labourers and the youths. The activity has already been initiated in some of the areas under the Chandrapur block, targeting migrant labourers and the youths in general. “The communication van activity of the PHSI-NE will certainly enhance the visibility about condom promotion in Assam and help in reaching the general masses, thus leading to awareness about precaution from HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infection and prevention of unwanted pregnancies,” said Mrinal Kanti Ghosal, State Programme Manager of the organization. (The Assam Tribune 3/1/15)

 

 

 

Posted by admin at 9 January 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Now, Bihar govt to give free land to landless urban SC/ST families

Patna: In yet another important decision to woo Mahadalits, the Jitan Ram Manjhi government has decided to give free land to urban scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families to build homes. The state government has already been giving three decimal land to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families across the state. The Bihar Cabinet on Wednesday decided to give free land up to 30 square metre land to a landless SC/ST family on lease for 30 years. Cabinet secretariat principal secretary B Pradhan said: “Land plots to be given to urban landless Dalit families will be purchased on circle or government rate. Land categories meant to given to urban Dalit on lease for 30 years will be khas mahal, kaiser-e-hind and gair majarua (land types).” The lease can be renewed after 30 years. The decision assumes political significance with Manjhi trying to further consolidate his position as a Dalit leader. Former CM Nitish Kumar had started the scheme to give three decimal land to Mahadalits but it had several loopholes such as wrong identification of beneficiaries. (Indian Express 19/12/14)

2. Dalit Women Major Victims of Abuse: NGO (2)

MADURAI: Claiming that there has been a rise in the number of women from oppressed communities being subjected to sexual harassment, A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO working for securing Dalit rights, said  58 per cent of the victims  were Dalits. Addressing a meet to discuss the ‘Social, Economic and Political Condition of Dalit Women in the State’, Kathir called for new policies to empower Dalit women. “A total of 677 rape cases were registered by the police in 2011, where the victims were Dalits. The numbers touched 736 in 2012. This year, till November, as many as 923 cases have been booked,” said Kathir. Referring to another disturbing trend, Kathir said, “Many rape cases against Dalit women go unregistered every year. Of the registered cases, over 2,000 were still pending in courts,” he said, adding that over 7.5 lakh cases in relation to various atrocities were pending. “Dalits are discriminated not only by upper caste people, but also by the pillars of democracy. Though there are rules to prosecute those tormenting Dalits, implementation leaves a lot to be desired for. Even judiciary has failed to provide justice to the victims and they are forced to run from pillar to post to get themselves heard,” he said. Recounting her harrowing tale, Muthulakshmi, a Dalit woman from Tirunelveli, said she had been waging a lone battle to save her land from falling into the hands of the caste Hindu oppressors. “We have approached the police several times seeking help, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. They did not act against the caste Hindu group, which beat up my family members. It was only after Evidence took up our issue that we got some respite,” she said. Mayakkal, another Dalit woman from Kodaikanal, said that caste Hindus had grabbed a half-acre tract of land from her. “Though I have been fighting the case legally, the police have not come to help us.” (New Indian Express 21/12/14)

3. Dalit panchayat president discriminated by non-dalits (2)

SIVAGANGA: A case was registered against five people for allegedly removing the name of a dalit panchayat president from a temple board because they did not want it to appear alongside theirs. M Chinniah, a member of the dalit community, is the panchayat president of Manelmelpatti panchayat, close to the town of Thirupathur. The villagers had decided to construct an annex building for the Anthara Natchiamman temple, to function as a treasury. Donations were collected and a notice board was printed to engrave the names of the donors who contributed more than Rs 5,000. The board, it was said, would be installed on the wall of the temple to honour their contribution. According to M Kandasamy, district secretary of CPM, Chinniah donated Rs 11,101, almost twice the amount specified to get the donor’s name engraved on the board. He was an affluent person, and owned earthmovers and a brick kiln, Kandasamy said. Initially, the villagers kept their word and engraved his name on the board, but many non-dalits were reportedly dissatisfied with the move. They approached him on December 4 and told him that they did not want his name displayed along with theirs, and apparently asked him to have it removed. After he refused, they allegedly erased his name from the board using a machine. The space where the name has been scraped off is visible on the granite plate. Chinniah lodged a complaint with the Kannavarayanpatti police, but no FIR was filed. Following this, he approached the Madurai bench of Madras high court and obtained a direction to police to file an FIR. An FIR was filed against five people from the village, identified as Saminathan, Kalaivanan, K Ramasamy, a second Ramasamy and Palanikumar under Sections 157, 427 and 294(b) of IPC and Section 3(1)(c) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Kandasamy demanded that those responsible for the act be arrested, since the person they were trying to humiliate was the president of the panchayat. A Dalit panchayat president in Sivaganga district has been humiliated by his fellow villagers who have forcefully removed his name from granite sign board, because they did not want their names to appear beside a dalit on a coveted sign board in the temple premises. M Chinniah a dalit is the panchayat president of Manelmelpatti panchayat which is very close to the town of Thirupathur in Sivaganga district. The villagers had decided to construct an annex building for the Anthara Natchiamman temple, which was to function as the treasury of the temple. They had collected donations, and a notice printed for this purpose said that those who donated more than Rs 5000 towards the cause would have their names engraved in the granite slab that was to be installed on the wall of the temple, as an honour for their contribution. According to CPM Sivaganga district secretary M Kandasamy, Chinniah who is a quite affluent in the sense that he own’s some JCP machines and also a brick kiln had come forward to donate, Rs 11,101, which was almost twice the amount specified for receiving the honour of having your name engraved on the wall. Initially, the villagers kept their word and engraved his name on the name plate, but many non dalits were dissatisfied with it. Many of them had approached him the on Dec 4, this year and told him that they did not want to have his name displayed along with theirs and told him politely that they were going to have it removed. Chinniah had lodged a complaint with the Kannavarayanpatti police, but no FIR was filed. Following which he approached the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court and obtained a direction to the police to file and FIR. An FIR was filed against five persons from the village including Saminathan, Kalaivanan, K Ramasamy, another Ramasamy and Palanikumar under Sections 147, 427 and 294(b) of IPC and Sect 3(1)(C) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. However, his name has been erased from the name plate using a machine and is conspicuous. Kandasamy says that steps should be taken to arrest those responsible for this act, because the person who they are trying to humiliate is the president of the panchayat. (Times of Inda 24/12/14)

4. On Xmas, 60 Dalit Christians rejoin Hinduism (2)

KOTTAYAM: Over 60 Dalit Christians joined Hinduism at a ‘Ghar Vapsi’ programme organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Thursday, Christmas Day. VHP seva pramukh Mr. Prakash said the initiative, taken out with the participation of the Arya Samaj, was held in two places, one at Puthiyakavu Devi Temple at Ponkunnam where 46 people from 21 families rejoined Hinduism. The second one was at Sreekrishna Swamy Temple, Thirunakkara, where 17 persons from 11 families converted to Hinduism. All of them were converted Christians from the Dalit segment, mostly from Cheramar and Sambavar communities, Mr. Prakash said. The ceremony at Kottayam commenced at 9.30 a.m. under the supervision of priests from Arya Samaj and VHP. Another 18 families had expressed interest in rejoining Hinduism and the process would continue, Mr. Prakash said. He said the converts had approached the VHP voluntarily. “Many of them were recently converted to Christianity and were dissatisfied with the new system. So far, people of their original faith had made no move to welcome them back. We opened a door and they felt they were welcome,” he added. “Most of those who rejoined Hinduism were common people who were influenced either by social or financial inducements by those who tried to convert them to Christianity. We have to take care of such needs of these people,” he said. (The Hindu 27/12/14)

5. Dalit family murder: Court directs bank account of victim’s kin to be frozen (2)

Pune: In yet another turn in the triple murder of a Dalit family in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, a local court on Monday directed the bank account of the Jadhav family to be sealed. The district and sessions court also directed the police custody of one of the accused, Dilip Jadhav, to be extended till January 1, 2015. The court has directed that the ‘goodwill cash’ flowing into the Jadhavs’ bank account in the form of sympathy as well as legal aid be probed by the police. The amount given by the State, individual politicians and organizations in a spirit of commiseration has accreted in excess of Rs.1 crore.

“The court wants details of the usage of this money probed as it may yield important clues towards strengthening the investigation’s conclusions,” said Inspector General of Police (Nashik Range), Pravin Salunkhe, speaking to The Hindu. The protracted, three-month investigation into the high-profile crime ended with a sensational denouement after the district police nabbed the complainant, Prashant Jadhav, in connection with killings, while stating that the crime was not caste-motivated. The police later apprehended Prashant’s brother, Ashok and his father, Dilip Jadhav, in connection with the crime which they believe was a family dispute. The money was specifically given to help Sanjay’s traumatized parents, Jagannath (75) and Sakharbai (70), to cope with the crisis. Along with several other activists, the parents refuse to believe the police’s version of events and had staged a rally earlier this month in Mumbai to register strong protests. According to them, the police have allegedly fabricated the sequence of events to deflect attention from the crime being a caste-atrocity. Their son, Dilip and their grandchildren, Ashok and Prashant, have been falsely taken into custody, they allege. It was Prashant who had filed the first information report (FIR) on October 22 soon after the murder of his uncle, Sanjay Jadhav (42), his aunt Jayashree (38) and his cousin, the teenaged Sunil (19), came to light. Dilip Jadhav is the deceased Sanjay’s older brother. The dismembered bodies of Sanjay and Jayashree were found strewn on their farm plot by their relatives the village of Javkhede-Khalasa in Pathardi Taluk. The discovery of Sunil’s decapitated body, which was found scattered along with other body parts, led to an upsurge of popular anger across the State, with Dalit groups and several prominent activists alleging the murders to be a clear example of an ‘honour killing.’ (The Hindu 30/12/14)

TRIBALS

6. Adivasis Celebrate in Front of Secretariat (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The Adivasi struggle and perseverance of 163 days seeking land and other rights culminated triumphantly on Thursday after the state conceded to the demands of the tribes of Wayanad. Adivasi youth, social activists and even IFFK delegates danced to the tunes of tribal folk songs on the road in front of the Secretariat. President of Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) C K Janu confirmed that the Cabinet had approved all the eight demands tribal folk. The demands included implementation of PESA Act, 1996, withdrawal of criminal cases against participants of the Muthanga agitation and their rehabilitation. The jubilant tribes collectively said that it was their non-violent protest and perseverance that had seen results. It was an overwhelming scene as even tourists from abroad and passersby joined the celebrating Adivasis, who brought the state government, which had been ignoring the demands of the tribes brutally repressed by the police in 2003 in Muthanga, to its knees. Adivasi folk paid obeisance to their Gods once they received the copy of Cabinet minutes which agreed to the demands put forward by them. Various religious heads also visited the protest tent of the Adivasis to share their happiness and to congratulate them on the victory of their revolutionary ‘standing stir.’ (New Indian Express 19/12/14)

7. Rs 5 Crore Package for Tribal Development in Thondernad (6)

KALPETTA:  Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P K Jayalakshmi has announced a special package as part of a coordinated action plan for the sustainable development of tribal colonies in the Thondernad panchayat in the district. The Minister said the special welfare package was being introduced to prevent extremists from cashing in on the backwardness of the tribal belts.The State government has sanctioned a sum of `5 crore for the scheme aimed at the socio-economic development of tribal communities in the region where frequent sighting of suspected cadre of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was reported in the recent past, she said here on Sunday. The plan was approved at the meeting of the state-level working group chaired by Principal Secretary, Department of Scheduled Tribes Development, Subrata Biswas, she said, adding that the implementation of the project was expected to be completed by March 31, 2015. The proposal, to be implemented under the Additional Tribal Sub-Plan, would directly benefit over 200 tribal families in the panchayat. The forest cover constitutes 56 per cent of the total geographical area of the panchayat with a total tribal population 4,374. The Minister said the special `5-crore package, which was in addition to the various ongoing tribal welfare projects, would be implemented in the 15 wards of the panchayat. The project would cover colonies of Kombara, Churuli, Maradi, Perinjerimala, Pannipadu, Chappayil-Mundayil, Karinkal Ittiladiyil, Kattiyeri, Kattimoola, Karkottil, Mattilayam and Arimala, said the Minister. Basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sub-ways, housing and drinking water facilities, electrification, toilets, trenches and electric fencing would be ensured under the special scheme. Special attention would be paid to skill-development and training programmes. In a bid to encourage entrepreneurship, the Tribal Department will promote micro-level enterprises in poultry, dairying, goat rearing and allied agricultural activities apart from distribution of sewing machines to tribal women. Community halls would also be established across the panchayat under the project which would be need-based and area-specific to suit people, the said. The Puthusseri Alakkal colony in the panchayat would be brought under the Scheduled Tribes Department’s Hamlet Development Project. The `1-crore project would benefit as many as 60 tribal families in the colony. Moreover, the Kunhome colony would be developed into a model tribal settlement, she added. (New Indian Express 22/12/14)

8. Bodos Kill 65 in Assam, Three Die in Police Firing (6)

GUWAHATI: Three people were killed in Assam Wednesday when police fired at thousands of angry adivasis who took to the streets, a day after Bodo militants massacred 65 unarmed tribals. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told the media that 37 tribals were killed in Sonitpur, 25 in Kokrajhar and three in Chirang districts as the Bodos went on a killing spree late Tuesday. Those slaughtered include 21 women and 18 children. Gogoi said curfew had been imposed in the affected areas and he had briefed both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the situation. “The central government has taken the matter seriously, and we are going to deal with the militants firmly,” he said. “We are not going to surrender to them. We cannot allow these forces to continue.” Modi expressed grief over the killings, and announced Wednesday ex-gratia of Rs.2 lakh each to families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to the seriously injured. The Prime Minister’s Office said Rs.86 lakh will be released to the Assam government. Rajnath Singh is set to visit Assam Wednesday evening. He will be accompanied by Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and they are likely to visit the areas hit by the violence. Rijiju said: “It is very unfortunate this kind of violence has taken place… If we have to develop the northeast, peace must prevail.” Both Modi and Rajnath Singh telephoned Gogoi Tuesday night and promised all help to deal with the situation. The killings have been blamed on the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). The attacks in all three districts began around 6.15 p.m. Tuesday, almost simultaneously. On Wednesday, three people were killed in police firing after thousands of adivasis who took out a procession at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur district indulged in violence. “The army and paramilitary forces have been assisting the police in handling the situation,” Gogoi said. He said the central government had promised to send 55 companies of paramilitary forces. Twenty companies were likely to reach Assam Wednesday evening. The NDFB faction opposed to peace talks had warned it would retaliate after Assam Police launched an operation against them, particularly in the area bordering Bhutan. The police Sunday killed two Bodo militants and seized arms and ammunition from them. Gogoi said: “The NDFB militants have targeted innocent people as they wanted a soft target to retaliate. “It is barbaric and inhuman. They have killed minor children. There cannot be any justification for such killings.” He urged the electronic media not to show graphic images of the dead and wounded. Officials said additional forces had been sent to the affected areas. Curfew has been imposed in parts of the three districts. “Our first priority will be to restore peace. We will take all measures to ensure there is no escalation in the violence,” the chief minister said. Tension has gripped the three districts, where scores of people have fled their homes and taken shelter in safer places fearing further attacks by the militants. The Assam government has announced ex gratia of Rs.5 lakh to families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to those injured in the violence. (New Indian Express 24/12/14)

9. Adivasis flee to West Bengal (6)

Kolkata: Hundreds of Adivasis from Assam have taken shelter in Alipurduar district of West Bengal to escape the violence in Kokrajhar and other adjoining districts of the neighbouring State. Additional Superintendent of Police Akash Megharia told The Hindu on Thursday that Adivasis, particularly Santhals, had arrived at three-four places in the district, and necessary arrangements had been made for their stay. Most of the people were housed in a community hall under the Changmari gram panchayat. Some had sought refuge in Haldibari and Bithibari. The people, carrying their essentials, had come primarily from Kokrajhar district. Mr. Megharia said that along with the State police, one company of Central Reserve Security Forces had been deployed in the area to ensure security. Expressing her anguish over the killings, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on a social networking site: “Many Adivasi families have started coming to our State for shelter. We have made necessary arrangements to help them and we will continue to do so.” Alipurduar district, which borders Assam, witnessed a similar influx in August and September 2012 when violence between two communities was reported in the districts of lower Assam. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

10. Raghuvar Das assumes office as CM (6)

Patna: The Bharatiya Janata Party leader Raghuvar Das was sworn in as Chief Minister of Jharkhand in Ranchi on Sunday. Three BJP MLAs and one of the All-Jharkhand Students’ Union were sworn in as Ministers. Governor Syed Ahmed administered the oath of office to them. Mr. Das is the first Chief Minister of the State from outside a tribal community. Neelkanth Munda, C.P. Singh and Louis Marandi from the BJP and Chandraprakash Chaudhury from the AJSU are the new Ministers. More Ministers are likely to be appointed as, by law, the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly allows a 12-strong Cabinet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah could not attend the swearing-in as dense fog in Delhi upset their travel plans. Union Ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Radha Mohan Singh; Union Ministers of State Sudarshan Bhagat and Jayant Sinha; and Raman Singh and Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Ministers of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, attended the function. The former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren, was present. The 14-year-old State of Jharkhand has a coalition government with an absolute majority for the first time, with the BJP securing 37 seats and the AJSU bagging five in the Assembly election. Nine governments have ruled the State, and President’s Rule was imposed thrice. After the swearing-in, Mr. Das went to the Karmatoli locality of Ranchi and wielded a broom to initiate the Swachh Bharat campaign in the State. He later attended a meeting with top officials in the Secretariat. The appointment of Mr. Chaudhury, 45, as Minister has raised eyebrows as he faced corruption charges while he was a member of the Madhu Koda Cabinet from September 2006 to August 2008. In August 2010, the Jharkhand High Court ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the assets of Mr. Koda, Mr. Chaudhury and other Ministers. Again, the CBI raided his house and office in May 2012 for his alleged involvement in a cash-for-vote scam during the Rajya Sabha elections. In 2009, Income Tax officials raided the house of Manoj Kumar Singh, former personal assistant to Mr. Chaudhury, and reportedly unearthed details of fixed deposits of Rs. 14 crore in banks. (The Hindu 28/12/14)

WOMEN

11. All 200 of them said no to dowry (8)

HYDERABAD: It was a matrimonial meet of a different kind. The young men came with a vow not to succumb to the social evil that is dowry, and the women had happiness written all over their faces. The ninth consecutive ‘Swayamwara’, a matrimonial meet organised by Idon’tWant Dowry.com, at Bhaskara Auditorium at the B.M. Birla Science Centre on Sunday saw nearly 200 men and women participate. Starting off on a dull note, the meet eventually saw participants turn up in big groups. Participants who registered voiced their partner preferences, while organisers made efforts to find a suitable match among those who turned up. Among the participants, 120 were men and the rest were women. The objective of the meet was to help registered candidates find suitable matches and tie the knot without involving dowry, which, the organisers said, should be weeded out. The initiative’s founder Satya Naresh said though there was no way one could be certain if any of the men registered with them would ask for dowry, or if the women would succumb to such demands. “We cannot be sure if the participants agree on dowry after we facilitate their meet. If any of the parties comes back to us, we would suggest they lodge a complaint. However, before registering candidates for a meet, we enquire with them about dowry. Only if they assure us that they would not accept or ask for dowry, do we register them,” he said, adding that three couples among those who participated on Sunday, could possibly get hitched. (The Hindu 22/12/14)

12. More women should be at all levels of governance: LS Speaker (8)

New Delhi: Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan today said increasing women’s participation in local, state and national levels of governance was the need of the hour as equal participation of women in decision-making was an important aspect of their empowerment. Inaugurating the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CPA) India Region Seminar here, she said women empowerment is not only about their political, social and cultural development but bodily, spiritual and ethical freedom too. “Empowerment of women opens up avenues of social development. Increasing women’s participation in local, state and national levels of governance was the need of the hour,” she said at the programme attended by Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi and Harsimrat Kaur Badal. Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the CPA India Region Meenakshi Lekhi, two representatives from each of the state legislatures and other delegates participated in the seminar. The theme of the seminar was ‘Women are Central to India’s Development’. The Speaker said “when we talk of empowerment of women, it implies giving them their due place in the decision-making process and giving them the right to lead a dignified and meaningful life”.She said the government was making serious efforts to universalise education and taking steps to curb incidents of violence against women through GPS technology-enabled transport. Interlinking police stations through ICT and centralisation of criminal records were indeed important, she added. (Business Standard 22/12/14)

13. 2014 Saw Rise in Offences Against Women in Courts (8)

NEW DELHI: An alarming rise in cases of sexual offences against women and children by Delhi’s trial courts in 2014 remained a major concern notwithstanding few successful prosecutions, including Dhaula Kuan gangrape case involving a woman from north-east. Exactly 45 days after the five rapists in the Dhaula Kuan case were sentenced to life term, the national capital was shamed again when a woman executive was raped by the driver of a US-based cab service provider putting a question mark on prosecution as the accused turned out to be a repeat offender committing the fresh crime while out on bail in a 2013 case. The year gone by also witnessed some contentious decisions of acquittals and remarks that courted controversies with one judge terming “pre-marital sex” as “immoral” and against “tenets of every religion” and another judge holding that “sexual relations between legally wedded husband and wife, even if forcible, is not rape”.However, away from the above two cases, a Tis Hazari court came out with an important verdict in which it said “because a woman is a sex worker, it does not confer a right upon anyone to violate her dignity,” and awarded 10 years jail to four youths for abducting and gang raping a Rwandan refugee. While acquittals in sexual assault cases were climbing, there were cases, particularly against minors which resulted in convictions and most prominent was of a couple who was punished for jail terms of 10 and 7 years for kidnapping a 13-year-old girl and “subjecting her to horrific and sadistic sexual assault repeatedly”.The minors, who were victims of sexual assault, in most cases were the sufferers at the hands of their relatives     but the accused succeeded in getting away without the maximum punishment of life imprisonment. In one case the accused who was 26-year-old uncle of the nine-year-old victim was jailed for 10 years while in another, a relative got away with seven years imprisonment for assaulting an 11-year-old child. Safety of minors in public places also became a concern and a 60-year-old man was held guilty of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in a temple even as other such cases like the April 2013 case of rape of six-year-old in east Delhi which is yet to be decided despite being prosecuted in fast-track court especially set up after the December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder case. The six fast track courts grappled with over 1500 cases of sexual offence and disposed around 460 cases till December 20 and out of the total disposed of cases, including 36 matters of gang rape, there were 80 cases of conviction with 377 cases resulting in acquittals. Over 1200 cases are still pending in various fast track courts, including 310 cases at Rohini court, 250 cases at Karkardooma court and 306 cases at Saket court, which hoggedthe lime light  in 2014 for the case registered against Aam Admi Party leader and Delhi’s former Law Minister Somnath Bharti for allegedly molesting 12 African women at his controversial midnight raid. Former BSP MP Dhananjay Singh also faced tough time at the Karkardooma court before he was acquitted in a rape case lodged by an east-Delhi woman, who herself turned hostile. The relief also came to former Haryana MLA and businessman Gopal Kanda who was granted bail in the air hostess suicide case. While there was rise in acquittals, a trial judge referred to Asian Centre for Women Rights’ report and said incidents of child rape have multiplied in the last decade and they have created a furore in the society. However, some successful prosecutions noteworthy were the refusal of the court to spare a music teacher, who cheated a woman and raped her on the false promise of marriage and a married man was held guilty of rape as he had deceitfully entered into a wedlock by posting his fake profile on a matrimonial website. Fake cases to “settle personal scores” also engaged the six trial courts in the year gone by and a model was prosecuted for the offence of perjury for lodging a false rape case against her brother-in-law with the court observing that it will be “failing in its duty if she is let off without punishment for giving false evidence”.So was the case of a 64-year-old man, who was acquitted of the charge of raping his house maid with court observing that he was a senior citizen suffering from several ailments and it was “an onerous task to decide who was the real victim” holding that the maid falsely implicated him to extort money. In another case, three women accused of forcing nine girls, including a minor, into prostitution and abetting their rape, were acquitted by a court which said the Delhi Police failed to trace most of the victims while the others turned hostile. In a sensational case of gang rape and sodomy with three school-going kids in 2010, a court brought the curtain down by acquitting a cab driver with a direction for lodging of a case against two cops for falsely implicating him. A court acquitted a man of the charge of sexually harassing a 17-year-old girl, saying it was a motivated case but expressed inability to punish the minor due to protection granted to her under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. (New Indian Express 24/12/14)

14. Khap panchayat orders chopping off woman’s nose (8)

JAIPUR: In a shocking decision, a self-styled social panchayat in Barmer district has ordered chopping off the nose of a woman for complaining of rape against her father-in-law which led to his arrest. The pronouncement was made by a khap panchayat of Luharwa village under Dhorimanna village in Barmer which also ordered that the maternal family members should be socially boycotted. In a petition made to the police, the woman alleged that she was being sexually harassed by her father-in-law for a long time and had even raped her following which she had lodged a complaint with the police. The police consequently arrested her father-in-law. However, the accused came out on bail this week and convened a khap panchayat where it was decided that the nose of the young woman should be chopped off for complaining to the police and her family should be socially boycotted for supporting her. The victim and her father have sought police protection. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

15. No bigger sin than female foeticide, says Modi (8)

Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday denounced the practice of female foeticide prevailing in the country, saying “there is no bigger sin” than this and sought the help of people in the field of art and culture in “shaking” the society to stop the menace. “In a country where Rani Laxmi Bai is hailed, there is the practice of female foeticide. There is no bigger sin,” he said at a function in Banaras Hindu University here as part of ’Good Governance Day’ celebrations. Modi, who was talking in the context of his ‘Beti—bachao’ programme, asked whether a message could be spread for stopping this practice. In this direction, he suggested that people in the field of art and culture could play a role by “shaking the society as they did during the freedom struggle“.He also suggested holding of ‘kavi sammelans’ on the social evil along with spreading the message about cleanliness. “Please work for the nation…Dreams can be fulfilled,” he said. The Prime Minister also expressed concern over the problem of malnutrition of women and children in a country where there is a tradition of feeding even “ants and cows”. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

16. Government plans to improve sex ratio in next 2 years (8)

KOLHAPUR: The Kolhapur district is one among 10 in Maharashtra to be selected for the Bharat Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan, an initiative of the Union ministry of women and child development to combat the gender imbalance in India. Altogether 100 districts were selected for the project across the country, of which 10 are from Maharashtra. Other districts include Aurangabad, Jalgaon, Sangli, Buldhana, Beed, Washim, Osmanabad, Ahmednagar and Jalna. The Union ministry issued guidelines to the district collectors on how to achieve the target set for years 2014-15 and 2015-16. The initiative aims to improve the sex ratio at birth in the selected 100 districts, where the gap between per thousand males against per thousand females is either 100 or greater than 100. The ministry adopted three criteria on the basis of sex ratio for the selection of these districts. These were districts below the national average (87 districts from 23 states), districts above national average but showing a declining trend (8 districts from 8 states) and districts above the national average and showing a rising trend (5 districts from 5 states). Collectors and commissioners of the selected districts have been asked to prepare an implementation programme and monitoring the progress at district, taluka and gram panchayat levels. The ministry has also asked administrations to implement the district action plans as soon as the state transfers the funds to the district. Among the other suggestions, the ministry is keen on implementing Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act in the selected districts. Districts have asked to measure baseline data of child sex ratio and sex ratio at birth by December31. “Strengthen district PCPNDT cells by recruiting at least five human resources, cell administrator, legal consultant, inspector (Rtd.) for monitoring, and data entry operators. Office equipment and space within the district collector’s office should also be provided,” the ministry’s guideline reads. According to the guidelines, district administrations will have to map all available ultra-sonography machines, including individual machines and not just clinics, in the districts and update this data every three months. Varsha Deshpande, an anti-female foeticide campaigner said that state should strictly implement the Act and monitor progress of cases, which are before the judiciary. Deshpande said that there are 417 cases pending in various courts across the state. “If we are serious in curbing female foeticide, the legal system should work to appoint appropriate lawyers for every case,” she said. (Times of India 28/12/14)

17. With proposals on paper, women empowerment still a far cry (8)

NEW DELHI: Despite claims by the Modi government, 2014 has turned a cropper for women empowerment and child rights. Three significant proposals, including a bill to enhance the powers of the National Commission for Women, continue to remain on paper. The women and child development ministry had also proposed setting up of one-stop crisis centres for women in distress and sought the appointment of chairperson and members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. However none of the decisions have moved forward. Sources said all three proposals are pending before the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The draft NCW bill was expected to provide powers of a civil court to the women’s commission. The bill also mandates that a judicial member be appointed as head of the Commission and powers be given along the lines of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The bill is expected to allow the Commission to order a police probe and summon reports besides powers to penalize. In fact, the bill was cleared by the law ministry in November and listed for introduction by the WCD ministry in the just concluded winter session. Sources said the proposed legislation had hit a roadblock with the highest echelons of government expressing reservations that if such powers were given to the NCW, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes would also have to be brought on par. WCD minister Maneka Gandhi was not available for comment. Sources also said the appointment of the NCPCR chairperson and members had been proposed by the WCD ministry some months ago but there had been no word on the matter. For the last two months, the child rights agency exists only on paper. Term of its six members got over earlier this year while its chairperson Kushal Singh finished hers in October. The ministry has also been pushing for the one-stop crisis centres for women in distress but clearances have not been forthcoming in the flagship scheme either. (Times of India 30/12/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

18. Unicef & firms team up to protect tea kids (14)

Guwahati, Dec. 18: Unicef today launched a joint project with seven prominent tea companies and retail chains in order for protection and welfare of children and adolescent girls in Assam’s tea gardens. The project, to be initially implemented in three major tea growing districts – Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar – aims to strengthen child protection mechanism and integrating child rights issues, promoting responsible business practices and building tea supply chain in the next three years. Tushar Rane, chief of Unicef, Assam field office, said it would cover 104 tea gardens and 350 villages in their peripheries with a focus to empower and safeguard children and adolescent girls. “Besides, 63 additional tea estates in these three districts will be gradually involved with various capacity building and advocacy initiatives. We will work in partnership with the tea community, garden owners, tea companies, government departments, police and all related agencies to make sure that the children in the tea gardens enjoy their rights guaranteed under different acts and child labour, child marriage and other issues are tackled jointly,” Rane said. Sixteen of the 27 districts in Assam have major tea cultivation and the state contributes more than 51 per cent of country’s total tea production. Tea workers, who were mostly brought by the British to Assam from eastern Indian and southeastern states before Independence, currently constitute about 20 per cent of the state’s population. But welfare issues of the garden workers and their children have remained neglected and child labour, child marriage, trafficking, school dropouts and malnourishment still rampant. Child Protection Chief of Unicef India, Joachim Theis said the project would also focus on affecting behavioural changes among tea communities. Chairperson of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Runumi Gogoi, said child trafficking, child labour and child marriage were serious problems in the tea gardens. The project aims to provide life-skill training and education to nearly 25,000 girls and 10,000 community members to protect themselves against abuse and exploitation. Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association, Bharatiya Cha Parishad, ASCPCR, Ethical Tea Partnership, among others today resolved to join Unicef as partners in the tea project. The project is being funded by tea companies – Tata Global Beverages, Taylors of Harrogate, OTG, Typhoo, UK retailer Tesco and IDH and Sustainable Trade Initiative. Anurag Priyadarshi, global sustainability head of Tata Global Beverages Ltd, said the company decided to join the project to ensure end of child labour and child abuse in tea gardens. (The Telegraph 19/12/14)

19. 18 child labourers rescued in Odisha (14)

BERHAMPUR: Eighteen child labourers were rescued from restaurants and eateries in Bhanjanagar of Ganjam district in Odisha. They were rescued during a raid by district level task force against child labour, which included members of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Childline, police and District Child Protection Officer (DCPO). All the rescued children were boys between 12 and 14 years of age. They were from economically backward families of Bhanjanagar and adjoining areas. The rescued children have been sheltered in Childline of Berhampur and their parents have been contacted by the authorities. Counselling of rescued children and some of their parents by Childline authorities has revealed that poverty was not the only reason behind children becoming child labourers. “We found that in most cases, lack of parental care and guidance rather than economic condition was the reason behind the child labour status of these children,” said Prabhuprasad Patra of Berhampur Childline.It was found that most of these children had failed to cope up with education in schools. The father of one such child is a migrant labourer in Surat. There was another child from Kulada, who had run away from home three times in the past to escape from studies. In the past, this child had been brought back from Baliguda in Kandhamal district, where he was working as a child labour. But the child had again preferred to be a child labour in Bhanjanagar rather than opting to pursue education. Convenor of Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) Sudhir Sabat said it has revealed the drawback of the Sarvashikshya Abhiyan in rural areas. Mr Sabat demanded rehabilitation of these rescued children through proper counselling of children and their parents. (The Hindu 24/12/14)

20. Plea in HC to eradicate begging by children (14)

New Delhi: Highlighting the plight of child beggars in the city, a PIL has sought Delhi High Court direction to ensure their rehabilitation and eliminate child beggary. After brief arguments, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice P S Teji posted the matter for further consideration on January 7. “The issue of child begging is already seized by the Supreme Court and it was already monitoring the same. We will keep the matter pending,” the bench said. The PIL, filed by Ajay Gautam, sought directions to identifying exact number of destitute children who are involved in begging and to review the steps taken to solve this problem. “The Delhi government exhausted every possible tool to eradicate beggary during the run-up to the Games. However, immediately after the games, the situation became the same,” the plea claimed. It contends that though Delhi State Commission for Protection of Child Rights was formed on July 7, 2008, to eradicate child beggary in the city, it has failed in its task. “While the Centre has enacted variety of legislation for children, it has failed to ensure that children do not beg,” the plea said. (Indian Express 26/12/14)

21. Child rights panel visits relief camps (14)

GUWAHATI, Dec 27 – Members of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, headed by its Chairperson Runumi Gogoi, today visited the violence-affected children in three relief camps in Kokrajhar district. Child rights activist Miguel Das Queah also accompanied the Commission and took account of the situation there. The Commission will visit the relief camps in Sonitpur on January 7, after which a joint report will be compiled and handed over to the State government for necessary action. Members of the Commission observed that relief materials were inadequate and that there was a need to provide the children with psycho-social support. “There is also a need to engage more medical teams in the relief camps besides improving the provision of water supply and sanitation,” Miguel said. (The Assam Tribune 27/12/14)

22. 13 children run away from boys’ home (14)

Bengaluru: A meticulously planned operation by 13 boys to flee from the State Home for Boys on Hosur Road was executed on Monday morning. However, two of the children were found within an hour and taken back to the home. A search is on for the others. The children are all in their teens. The boys are from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Maharashtra.They were either rescued child labourers or those who had fled from their homes and found on the streets. After a month of planning, they fled the home for boys on Monday around 3 a.m. after cutting a rod of a window using a blade. It is believed that they got the blade by bribing one of the security guards. “The children cut the rod while other children were washing vessels so that the noise would not draw the attention of the staff,” a source said. Of the 13, the Wilson Garden police found one at Dairy Circle. Police sources said that the boys repeatedly requested not to be taken back to the “jail” they had fled from. Meanwhile, child rights activists have said that this incident should serve as a wake-up call to the Department of Women and Child Development to bring “systemic changes” and improve conditions at the boys’ home. Executive Director of BOSCO George P.S. said that the home is short-staffed and there is a delay in repatriation of the children to their families. “Age and language appropriate programs have to be designed to keep them occupied all through the day. A compact and well-designed program under the supervision of child sensitive staff is the need of the hour,” he said. (The Hindu 30/12/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

23. ‘Minorities being treated as mere vote bank’ (7)

BAREILLY: On the occasion of World Minorities Rights Day, several Muslim organizations across different sects came together on Thursday and rued how the community was being treated by the political leadership as “mere vote bank”. Muslims from Bareilly, Moradabad and adjoining areas also regretted the fact that several welfare schemes announced for them in the past never took off. The participants also shot off a letter to PM Narendra Modi. All India Muslim Personal Law Board president Maulana Mohammed Mufti Raees Ashraf told TOI: “Muslims, including Ulemas and intellectuals, gathered for a meeting in Bareilly on Thursday. It was discussed that minorities in the country do not feel safe. We have decided to boycott celebrating the day until both central and state governments fulfil their promises made at the time of elections.” All India Imam Masjid Association vice-president Maulana Nasir Husain Ashrafi, too, condemned tokenism in the form of observing a day to espouse the minority rights and then forget everything about them. Saleem Baig, an RTI activist who has filed several RTIs to know the current status of minority schemes announced by various political parties, said, “We have become mere vote banks. Schemes for the upliftment of minorities are announced just for show and their budget is later allotted to some other schemes.” Baig said that though the formation of a Waqf Nigam and Saman Avsar Ayog were recommended by the 2006 Sachar Committee and even the central government had promised to set them up in the same year, it still remains a pipe dream. “Through an RTI filed last year, I came to know that no time frame has been fixed for setting up a Waqf Nigam,” he said. Hazrat Maulana Abdul Quayyum, general secretary, All India Tanzeem-e-Ahle-Sunnat, said, “Most of the schemes for protection and development of minorities in the country are announced during the election time to woo voters. But majority of these scheme remain only on paper.” During the meeting, the fate of the much-touted 2012 central government scheme, Padho Pradesh, which promised interest-free loans to minority students aspiring to study abroad, was also discussed. “It was revealed in an RTI reply dated June 2014 that the government had sanctioned a sum of Rs 10 crore in 2013-14. In the financial year 2014-15, only Rs 4 crore were left of that. However, when I enquired about the number and details of beneficiaries under the scheme, it was revealed that till now, not a single person had been benefitted,” Baig said. The RTI activist also took on the ruling Samajwadi Party, which had announced schemes like Rin (loan) Mafi Yojna and medical quota for minority students in their election manifesto. “However, it was revealed through an RTI query in September 2014 that both of these schemes have not been implemented in the state yet,” he said. (Times of India 19/12/14)

24. Assam violence: NDFB(S) is unpredictable, say officials (7)

Guwahati: According to Assam police chief Khagen Sarma, Tuesday’s attacks on mostly Christian adivasis could have been in retaliation to an offensive against the outfit that ‘neutralised’ several top guns. “It is difficult to say why adivasis have been targeted. You never know when and where these people will unleash violence,” said CM Tarun Gogoi. The adivasis, along with migrant Bengali-speaking Muslims, are among the largest of over 30 non-Bodo communities across four districts under the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Together, they comprise more than 75% of the BTC population, making the Bodos a minority. Sonitpur is not under BTC, but Bodo militants want swathes of this district under self-rule territory. The British brought Bengali Muslims and adivasis to the area over 100 years ago to grow rice and work in tea plantations respectively. Non-Bodo groups claim  policy-makers ignored their rights when BTC was created in 2003, and a clause that required 50% Bodo population for a village to be included in the council, was a cause for concern. The Sanmilita Janagosthiya Aikya Mancha launched a series of agitation that petered out until the Lok Sabha election last year. They also helped a former United Liberation Front of Asom rebel wrest the Kokrajhar seat that had a Bodo representative for years. Forty-six Muslims, the largest non-Bodo voting bloc, were killed before the results, presumably as a punishment for their political choice. The NDFB(S) was blamed, but involvement of other Bodo groups was not ruled out. “Control over land is at the core of violence in BTC areas, though many consciously try to bring about polarisation along religious lines,” said academic Udayon Misra. Army officials said it was easier to attack in remote areas bordering Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh without running into security forces. But the militants could also have driven home a message — not to repeat the ‘mistake’ of the Lok Sabha polls in the polls for BTC scheduled next year. (Hindustan Times 25/12/14)

25. Minority cell seeks Modi vow (7)

New Delhi, Dec. 25: The National Commission of Minorities has passed a resolution on “Good Governance Day” to urge the Narendra Modi government to reassure all minorities that their constitutional rights would not be compromised. In the resolution, the apex government body in charge of the welfare of minority communities also highlighted the “pain and anguish” of Christians over the government’s decision to observe Good Governance Day on Christmas Day. Expressing concern over the ongoing “re-conversion” programmes undertaken by some Sangh parivar outfits, the panel said the government needed to send across a message that it was committed to the security of all citizens, including minorities. “We have passed a resolution in the wake of religious conversion programmes of Christians and Muslims across the country. This is creating fear among the minds of the community members and the government needs to take action on the ground to ensure the rights of minorities guaranteed in the Constitution are protected,” Mabel Rebello, the NCM member who represents the Christian community, told The Telegraph. The resolution will be sent to minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla and home minister Rajnath Singh tomorrow. “We have received complaints from several Christian groups in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, who expressed shock over the government’s decision to replace Christmas with Good Governance Day. In their complaints, the organisations highlighted their deep pain and anguish,” she said. According to the complaints, over the past six months, Christians have been regularly attacked across the country, particularly in Chhattisgarh. Earlier this month, prominent Christian leaders had requested the Prime Minister to act against hate speeches following an alleged arson attack on St Sebastian’s Church, one of east Delhi’s biggest churches, on December 2. A senior NCM member, however, rued that it was a quasi-judicial body and had its limitations. “In fact, the commission does not have any real powers and it is not binding on the government to implement our recommendations.” The panel has the power to take cognisance of cases related to six minority communities and send its team to carry out a probe independently. “But we can only make recommendations,” he said. He recalled how no action was taken on the NCM’s recommendation over the hate speeches by BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath before the September bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. The NCM had passed a resolution then, condemning “the communally charged statements attributed to prominent people in public life which are creating this atmosphere of mistrust and heightened tension”. The member said: “But the government did not take any action against those people. Even the Prime Minister is silent.” He also pointed to the silence of Heptulla over the continuing hate speeches and “re-conversion” programmes. (The Telegraph 26/12/14)

26. National Commission for Minorities condemns statements ‘making minorities insecure’ (7)

New Delhi: In a resolution passed on Friday, the National Commission for Minorities  has condemned statements implying that religions like Christianity and Islam are not native to India. The commission said that such statements are creating a sense of insecurity among minority communities in the country and urged the government to ensure that all persons in public life refrain from making statements that can cause polarisation. “The Indian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of religion (Article 25) and any attempt to curtail this right goes against the Constitution of India. Ours is a secular nation where all religions are given an equal status and all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate their religion. Claiming religious monopoly for any one religion in a multi-religious, secular state and forcible conversions through inducement, allurement and coercion violate the Constitution, and must be strongly condemned,” the resolution said. It described the statements as “irresponsible and uncalled for.” The NCM did not name any persons or organisations. However, in the wake of a Parliament session where Rajya Sabha saw no business over the conversion debate, the resolution seems to suggest that NCM, which maintained low profile since NDA government came to power, has woken up to the “ghar wapsi” debate. (The Indian Express 28/12/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

27. 99 per cent of Muslims in India were Hindus: M G Vaidya (7)

Nagpur: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s senior ideologue M.G. Vaidya claimed that 99 per cent of Muslims in India were Hindus. Defending the ‘ghar vapsi’ initiative of the Sangh Parivar, Mr Vaidya said those who were converted were now returning to their old “home”. In an exclusive chat with The Asian Age, Mr Vaidya strongly advocated that the secular structure of the country could be preserved only if Hindus remained a majority. Keeping this view in mind, the idea of re-conversion or ‘ghar vapsi’ was initiated in the Hindu religion in the 60s, he claimed. “In 1964-65, all Shankaracharyas, Mahants and saints of the religion met in Udipi in Karnataka and decided to allow re-conversion. This was the first public declaration made by the leaders of the Hindu society. Before that there was almost a social ban on conversion in the Hindu community,” Mr Vaidya said. According to Mr Vaidya, people were originally converted from Hinduism and therefore ‘ghar vapsi’ is not conversion, but re-conversion. “Who were the Muslims in India? 99 per cent of them were Hindus. How they were converted, history knows. We are only doing their ‘ghar vapsi’,” he argued, defending mass conversions of Muslims in Agra that has kicked up a hornet’s nest across the country. He however expressed his unhappiness over the publicity of the ‘ghar vapsi’ campaign saying that it was not necessary to advertise it, and make a show. He also opined that making a show of the campaign could not be seen as an offence. Mr Vaidya further said that only Indian Muslims could save Islam because they believe in plurality. “Hindus believe in the plurality of religions, while Muslims do not. You can see how Shias and Ahmediyas are being targeted in Pakistan and elsewhere. Muslims have to change according to the times. However, only Indian Muslims can save Islam because they believe in plurality,” he said. Being a former MLC and ex-editor of Tarun Bharat newspaper, Mr Vaidya was felicitated by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in an event organised by ‘VS Page Sansdiya Prashikshan Kendra’ of the Maharashtra Legislature on the first day of the Winter Session. The 92-year-old former spokesperson of RSS, who was in news for asking Muslims to willingly relinquish claim in favour of Hindus over the disputed land of Babri Masjid, also said that Muslims should themselves appoint a commission to find out which temples were destroyed and mosques were built on it. (Asian Age 22/12/14)

28. VHP to hold ‘ghar wapsi’ for 4,000 Muslims in Ayodhya in January (7)

AYODHYA: The VHP will hold a ‘ghar wapsi’ programme for 4,000 Muslims in Ayodhya next month, saffron outfit functionary Ram Vilas Vedanti said on Tuesday. Vedanti, a former BJP MP, refused to disclose the identity of the families, saying then the administration would not allow them to embrace Hinduism. He said most of the families were from Faizabad, Ambedkarnagar, Gonda, Bahraich and Sultanpur. He said the Muslims had willingly come forth for conversion. In his reaction, Faizabad DIG Sanjay Kakkar said those issuing such statements were trying to create communal tension in the area and action would be taken against them. (Times of India 24/12/14)

29. Another Muslim family of 12 becomes Hindu in Agra (7)

Agra: ReconversionThe local police is investigating the matter to ascertain if any form of coercion was involved in the conversion. (Picture is for representation purpose only)The national furor raised by the Ved Nagar ‘reconversion’ issue of over 300 Muslims in Agra is yet to settle down, when another Muslim family of 12 has voluntarily converted to Hinduism in Achhnera tehsil of Agra, changing their names to reflect their new religious identity on Christmas. At a time when the Government of India is under pressure to explain the ‘reconversion’ movement operated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other Hindu organizations, this new reconversion in Agra could drag it down deeper into muddy waters. Gatheli Ram, who was known as Rehmat Ali just a few days earlier, said that his family was the original resident of Ole town in Mathura district and about 25 years back, they came to Dawli village of Malpura in Achhnera Tehsil of Agra. He said that they had no identity documents or documentary residence proof like Ration Cards of either Ole or Dawli, but they could prove their nationality through numerous family relations they had in the region. He said that he hoped he will get identity documents like Aadhar card soon, however he refused to link this to his recent conversion to Hinduism and said that his decision to become Hindu was completely voluntary. Luv Pandit, a local RSS operative who claims he is inspired by the Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat said that he organised this reconversion event after the mega reconversion in Aligarh on Christmas was postponed due to political pressure. He said that he was merely a facilitator in this reconversion and it was completely the choice of Rehmat Ali to become Gatheli Ram. He said that this family of laborers has expressed their full faith in Hinduism and are openly expressing their joy in becoming Hindu. Although the local police is investigating the matter to ascertain if any form of coercion was involved in the conversion, the Muslims of Agra are not willing to take this issue lying down, claiming that the entire matter reeked of the duplicity of Hindu organizations, who were openly forcing Muslims into accepting the Hindu faith, in full support of the local administration. National All Party Muslim Action Committee chief Haji Jamiluddin said that the Dawli reconversion was fake and the communal Hindus were trying to damage the secular fabric of the country. He demanded that the government should take strict action in this matter. Hindustani Biradari secretary and social activist Ziauddin said that some people are deliberately stoking up the fire of religious conversions in order to create unrest in the country and such elements should be stopped at all costs. He said that this appears to be a political strategy to capture the maximum votes in the 2017 UP assembly elections and such people are not bothered about the country or the people. (India Today 27/12/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

30. Vishwa Hindu Parishad re-converts 30 Christians in Kerala (7)

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Sunday claimed it converted several Christian families “into the Hindu fold” in the state as part of the Ghar Wapsi programme. VHP Alappuzha district president Prathap G. Padickal said that 30 Christians converted at a function at Thayyannur Lakshmi Narayana Temple in Cheppad panchayat. Temple administrator S. Sasikumar, however, said nine persons converted in the function. Mr Padickal said VHP was planning to hold similar public conversions. “Nobody can call it conversion because the people are coming back to their home ‘dharma’. All we did was to facilitate it. We will continue to do it for those who are interested.” VHP leadership claimed it organised conversions in Kottayam, Kollam, Ernakulam and Kasargod districts but declined provide the number of people converted. The State government took the reports on conversion seriously, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said. “The police will look into the event from the constitutional point of view,” he said. The VHP is yet to reveal the identity of the converted persons in Alappuzha. Mr Sasikumar said they belonged to ST community but were denied benefits of government schemes as they were Christians. “Their forefathers converted into Christianity but the new generation was not interested to follow the faith,” Mr Kumar, an active BJP worker, said. “In 2012, a ritual was held at Chettikulangara temple and they had got a certificate from the Travancore Dewaswom Board. But it hardly helped them get benefits of government schemes. Hence their decision.” Local residents told DC that there was an hour-long puja including ganpathihomam at the temple as part of the ceremony, which started at 10am. The narrow roads that lead to the temple and surrounding areas were decorated with VHP flags. As many as 100 VHP activists attended the programme. K Soman, a senior BJP leader in the district told DC that the entire programme was conducted by VHP. “The district BJP unit was unaware of it,” he said. Kerala Catholic Bishop Council declined to comment on the development. KCBC secretary-general and spokesperson Fr. Varghese Vallikatu said it would not be proper to comment on such a matter without the details of the incidents. SNDP Yogam General Secretary Vellappally Natesan said that banning religious conversion by law is the only way to protect secularism and religious harmony. “The State and Central governments should come forward to make such a law,” he said. Veallappaly however, declined to oppose the campaign launched by the VHP and other Hindu outfits in the state to reconvert people to Hinduism. Reconversion is possible only when people are ready to come back, he said. On the question of the caste status of the people getting reconverted into Hinduism, he said, “the matter needed a serious study.” (Asian Age 22/12/14)

31. ‘We converted for quota benefits’ (7)

ALAPPUZHA: Forty-four-year-old Joy, who led his family at the ‘Ghar Vapsi’ ceremony at Cheppad in Alappuzha district on Sunday, says he converted to Hinduism three years ago. He has done it once again to ensure that he and his family are officially accepted as Hindu Pulayas, which will make them eligible for reservation benefits. A daily wage labourer, Joy lives with his wife and two daughters in a decrepit hut in Kanichanallor at Cheppad, near Haripad. His parents, George and Janamma of the Palatharayil house, converted from Hinduism to become Pentecostal Christians several years ago. According to official records, they are Christian Cheramar. However, since the community did not come under the Scheduled Castes, they were unable to avail themselves of any benefits that their relatives enjoyed. “We had converted back to Hinduism three years ago through a ritual held at the temple at Chettikulangara. However, we were told by the Cheppad village authorities that the certificate provided by the Travancore Devaswom Board was not sufficient to be formally registered as Hindus.” His family then approached the Chengannur unit of the VHP seeking its assistance. “We were not offered any financial assistance to convert… They have offered to take up our issue,” he said. (The Hindu 23/12/14)

32. Goa Archbishop expresses concern over condition of minorities (7)

PANAJI: Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao on Tuesday endorsed a statement by the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India, a member of the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) which comprises all the other Christian groups in the country, expressing concern over the current situation of the minorities, particularly Christians in the country. “The recent reports from Bastar, where a Catholic school was forced to put the statue of Sarsawati on the compound and children were forbidden from addressing the principal with the honorific “Father”, the burning of a church in Delhi; the declaration of ‘Good Governance Day’ on December 25 to undermine the importance of Christmas; the provocative call by some fundamentalists to convert 4,000 Christians to Hinduism in Agra on Christmas Day; and the regular targeting of the Christian community, calling them even anti-national, are a cause for concern,” the statement said. On the recent controversy over Christmas holiday, it said: “Christmas is the only holiday that Christians have in the whole year when we join the rest of the world in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. A circular by the Navodaya School Commissioner to keep certain government-run schools open on that day is perceived by the Christian community as an insult to the importance of Christmas Day.” The NUCF has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remind the people that development cannot take place in the country if there are attempts to disrupt communal harmony prevailing in the country for centuries. (The Hindu 24/12/14)

33. 59 Christians ‘convert’ to Hinduism in Kerala (7)

Kottayam (Kerala): Fifty-nine people ‘converted’ to Hinduism on Thursday in Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy’s home district Kottayam, a day after he said there was no forced conversion in the state. As many as 42 people from 21 families — all of them Christians — took part in temple rituals, and amidst chanting of slogans became Hindus in Ponkunam in Kottayam district. Another 17 people from near Kottayam town also became Hindus at a temple function. State Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary V Mohanan said what happened on Thursday and last week – when 35 people became Hindus – “was not conversion, but re-conversion”.”Right from the time the VHP became active in Kerala, re-conversion has been taking place but there has been no forced conversion at all.”What we do is all those who have gone out of Hinduism, when they express their wish to return, we help them,” Mohanan said in a press statement issued here on Thursday. Chandy had on Wednesday said Kerala has always stayed clear of forced conversion and if any individual decides to ‘convert’, no one can stop them. Hindu Ayikya Vedi leader Bhargava Ram told the media to come out with proof that there was pressure on people to ‘convert’ to Hinduism “We have been doing this ceremony of making people Hindus in temples in full public glare. Today, when the function took place, the media was there and we told the media to please ask those who converted if they were under pressure. “I challenge the authorities to register a case against us, as forced conversion is against the law of the land,” he said. Many people appeared before the media and said they decided to ‘convert’ on their own and there was no external pressure. CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, however, said there was a secret understanding between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Chandy. (Time of India 25/12/14)

34. Anthology on Jesuit Fathers’ contribution (7)

The Goethals Indian Library and Research Centre of St. Xavier’s College has published a book on the lives of the Jesuits who lived and worked in India, especially in Bengal, since the early 19th century. The anthology was released by Father P. Franck Janin, Jesuit Provincial, South Belgian Province and Luxembourg, at Dhyan Ashram in Joka on Sunday. Edited by Father Albert Huart and Father J. Felix Raj, Discovery of Bengal: The Jesuit Design marks the 200th year of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. The book records the academic, social, cultural and spiritual contributions of the Jesuit fathers in shaping the moral growth of the race and the country. Among the Jesuits who feature in the book are Fathers Henry Depelchin, Achille Verstraeten, Paul Joris, Cardinal Lawrence Picachy, Camille Bouche and Andre Bruylants. “They attracted heartsby the qualities they displayed and posterity retains them as lessons of life learnt forever. Even after 200 years, their words and works reach those for whom they were intended – the inhabitants of The Kingdom of God. These men of moral might were armed with supreme sense of sacrifice and were gifted with grace and the zeal to establish ‘Good News of God’ and the promise of justice for humanity,” said Felix Raj, the principal of St. Xavier’s College. “Humility, fortitude, power of prayer and passion for performing God’s will on earth endowed these Samaritans with the benediction that brought the light of the Lord to the masses of Bengal. This collection scripts the eternal immortal lives of the Jesuits who are today and forever in fellowship with us and with God.” Copies of the anthology are available from the Goethals library at the college. (The Telegraph 29/12/14)

35. NHRC notice to five states over atrocities on Christians (1)

New Delhi: The NHRC has issued notice to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu over alleged acts of violence and atrocities against Christians. Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a report from the chief secretaries of the states within three weeks. In Madhya Pradesh, churches have reportedly been vandalised in addition to incidents of arson, stone pelting, attack on pastors and forcible conversions. Similarly in other states, diktats on missionary schools have been given, Sunday services have been disrupted and the entry of Christians in some villages has been barred as well. In parts of Chhattisgarh, refusal to supply ration to Christians has been reported. “The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion,” the NHRC said. (Business Standard 30/12/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

36. Tibetans to Vote for The First Time in Delhi (13)

NEW DELHI:  Marking a first in the national capital, children of Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off date of 1950 and 1987, would be eligible for enrollment in the voters’ list for the Delhi Assembly elections, officials said. “According to the order issued to Delhi’s Chief Electoral Office (CEO) by the Election Commission of India (ECI), dated December 8, children of Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off date of 1950 and 1987, are eligible for enrollment in Delhi,” Deputy Chief Electoral Officer A K Srivastava said. The Ministry of Home Affairs though, is in principle, against giving voting rights to all refugees living in India…But, the Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) concerned should not deny enrollment to children of such Tibetan refugees, the order said. According to the ECI guidelines, those Tibetans born in India on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987, have the right to exercise their franchise. The guidelines came into force following an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees. A majority of Tibetans living in Delhi, reside in Majnu Ka Tilla, which is one of the largest Tibetan settlements colony falling under Chandni Chowk constituency. Officials said, “There is no census on the number of such Tibetans in the capital. And, their exact number can only be ascertained once we begin the enrollment process.” (New Indian Express 21/12/14)

37. Citizenship to Bangla Hindu migrants unlikely (13)

NEW DELHI, Dec 23 – The Centre is not inclined to offer citizenship to the Hindu Bengalis who had fled from Bangladesh to India after 1971 and instead may offer them Long Term Visa (LTV), highly placed sources said. A meeting convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), with representative associations especially of minority communities from neighbouring countries to address their grievances related to grant of LTV and Indian citizenship, proved to be an unsavoury experience for Hindu Bengali organisations of Assam. The meeting, chaired by Additional Secretary (Foreigners) in the MHA BK Prasad with about 75 representatives from 15 associations discussed problems being faced by minority communities from neighbouring countries in acquiring LTV and citizenship. The representatives were also told about the procedure for grant of LTV and Indian citizenship and the various initiatives undertaken by the MHA towards addressing their grievances and difficulties, official sources said. The Bharatiya Loka Manch (BLM), a joint body 10 Hindu Bengali organisations, however, alleged that they were insulted and they felt ‘betrayed’ by the attitude of the Home Ministry officials. “We were not allowed to put across our point of view at the meeting as officials focused on those to who came from Pakistan,” alleged president of BLM Sudendu Mohan Talukdar, who said that they protested the behaviour of the MHA officials. He charged that the government was interested in talking about LTV only and not granting citizenship. The joint body wanted all Bengali Hindus, who fled Bangladesh after facing atrocities, to be granted Indian citizenship. Talukdar also blasted the BJP and its seven MPs for not cooperating with them and leaving them in the lurch. Meanwhile, sources said that the Centre is only keen on talking about LTV and not granting citizenship to those who came after 1971. However, the Bengali organisations said they are not sure about the Centre’s stand even on those who came during 1947- 1971. Meanwhile, it was decided that teams of MHA officials would fan out to 24 identified districts for citizenship in eight States and 14 districts for LTV cases of these applicants. The visiting officials will hold camps during the next two months and assist the applicants in the settlement of citizenship and LTV cases. However, Assam is not among the destination states. (The Assam Tribune 24/12/14)

38. 3 relief camps set up in Alipurduar (13)

Alipurduar: Three relief camps were set up in neighbouring Alipurduar district of West Bengal for refugees leaving their homes in Assam. Additional SP Akash Megharia said while an estimated 300 refugees were still residing in the camps, 200 others have left in the past two days. The refugees crossed over to the Bengal side in the wake of the firing. The administration has deployed one company of CRPF for security purpose at the camps in Kumargram block and made provisions for drinking water and food for those having left their homes in the wake of the massacre in Kokrajhar, Sonitpur and Chirang districts. Atlast 78 persons were killed in the NDFB (S) violence in lower Assam since Decemmber 23. (Business Standard 25/12/14)

39. Relief pours in for refugees (13)

Alipurduar, Dec. 28: A number of organisations here today started collecting relief materials to help the Assam refugees staying in four camps in Kumargram after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit yesterday. John Barla, an Adivasi leader from the Dooars, today visited the camps and enquired about the refugees. “We distributed blankets and clothes among the refugees. We will request the Centre to restore peace in Assam so that the refugees can return to their homes. We also demand a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 2 lakh for the injured,” said Barla. All the organisations have been instructed by the state government not to collect cash and baby food. They have been asked to collect dry food, clothes, candles, and matchboxes. The collected materials will be deposited with the Kumargram block development officer for distribution. Militants belonging to the National Democratic Front of Boroland’s Songbijit faction had killed 64 Adivasis in the Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts of Assam on Tuesday. In Kumargram, near the Bengal-Assam border, relief camps have been set up by the West Bengal government in a community hall and three schools. Over 2,000 people have taken shelter in the camps since Wednesday. Ratul Biswas, the secretary of Manobik Mukh said: “Today, we collected clothes, rice and food grains. Tomorrow, we will again collect goods in another part of the town and will deposit the same with the BDO of Kumargram. We have already talked to doctors in the Alipurduar hospital and we will have a medical camp in Gayenpara soon.” Refugees in the camps of Kumargram are getting packaged drinking water, meals, blankets and clothes among other things. During her visit yesterday, Mamata had enquired about the refugees and camps from Kavita Das, the upa-pradhan of Gayenpara area. Kavita Das said: “Mamata didi has strictly instructed us to provide all necessary items to refugees in all camps. She asked whether children were getting food and clothes. The chief minister also told us to take anybody to the health centre if necessary. Today, we took a pregnant woman, Mani Hembram, to Kumargram block health centre for a check-up. Around 280 more people came today from Assam.” Leaders of different political parties from Assam today visited the relief camps to find out about the refugees’ condition. However, the leaders were surrounded by a group of women in the camps who asked them why they had not come earlier to enquire about them when they were in distress.Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma has said there should be a unified war against the perpetrators of terror in the country in the wake of the killings by NDFB (S) militants. “Why wage a war against terrorists only from outside the country? We must wage a war and wipe out the domestic variety first,” Mukul said. Stating that home-bred terrorists are more harmful in causing disharmony in society, he said, “We have to contain this. It is already late and everyday precious lives are affected by such acts of brutality.” “We need to correct our mistakes by dealing with this menace once and for all before it is too late,” he said. Urging those at the helms of power both in the Centre and in Assam to adopt a new stringent policy against the perpetrators of crime, he said it was high time to take action and make it visible on the ground. Condemning the blame game adopted by several political parties, he said, “It has always been the tendency to play the blame game after a distressing incident. Personally I feel it is a collective responsibility and instead of blaming one another we should come together to take responsibility.” The Meghalaya government has just completed disarming of two dreaded Garo outfits, the ANVC and its breakaway faction, the ANVC (B) and talks are on with another outfit that has unleashed terror in at least five districts in the Garo hills region. (The Telegraph 29/12/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

40. 6 RTI activists killed in 5 years, accused still at large (1)

Patna: Six RTI activists have been killed in Bihar in the last five years for daring to seek information from different authorities. Two of them — Rahul Kumar and Ram Kumar Thakur — were murdered in Muzaffarpur district in March 2012 and March 2013, respectively, while Murlidhar Jaiswal was killed in Munger district in March 2012, Rajesh Kumar in Bhagalpur district in December 2012, Ram Vilas Singh in Lakhisarai district in December 2011 and Shashidhar Mishra in Begusarai district in February 2010. In three cases, the main accused are yet to be arrested. Family members of Ram Vilas, who was killed at his native village Babhangawan under Lakhisarai police station area, were so much terrorized that they shifted his son Abhishek Kumar to New Delhi. “I have returned to my district town just a month back, but all my well-wishers and relatives are advising me to go back to Delhi. They say I may be killed any day as the main accused in my father’s murder case, Bumbum Singh, is still roaming free,” Abhishek told TOI.

“Thakur, a lawyer and RTI activist, was shot dead near Purushottampur village in Muzaffarpur district when he was returning by his cycle from the district court with his nephew. He was shot dead by six persons and none of them have been arrested yet despite a named FIR lodged against them. Raj Kumar Sahni is the main accused in the case. Similarly, the main accused in Jaiswal murder case — Bablu Mandal — is yet to be arrested,” National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) activist Ashish Ranjan said. A delegation of NCPRI led by Ranjan and noted RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai recently called on Bihar DGP P K Thakur and drew his attention towards alleged ‘police inaction’ in cases of RTI activists’ murder. “We have time and again been pressing the police for arresting the persons who killed six RTI activists. But to our dismay, the main accused in the three cases are roaming free and threatening the deceased’s family members,” Rai told TOI. He also said he has planned to file a PIL in the Patna high court, if police failed to take necessary action in these cases. When contacted, DGP Thakur said he had sought reports from the district police concerned in all six cases. ADG (law and order) Alok Raj, who is looking into the matter, said the police headquarters had demanded file of all the six cases from the district police. “After review at headquarters level, we will, if necessary, constitute special teams to nab the accused evading arrest,” Raj said. (Times of India 22/12/14)

41. Medical reimbursement of SC judges exempted from RTI: HC (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has held that reimbursements of medical expenses of the Supreme Court judges cannot be disclosed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, saying it does not serve any public interest. Justice Vibhu Bakhru held that the Central Information Commission (CIC) was in error to direct the Supreme Court Registry to provide the information sought, saying “medical records are not liable to be disclosed unless it is shown that the same is in larger public interest”.”In the present case, the CIC has completely overlooked this aspect of the matter. Further, the extent of medical reimbursement to an individual is also, in one sense, personal information as it would disclose the extent of medical services availed by an individual. “Thus, unless a larger public interest is shown to be served, there is no necessity for providing such information. Thus, a direction for maintaining records in a manner so as to provide such information is not warranted,” the court said. The court made the observations in its judgement on the plea of the Supreme Court registry against CIC’s order directing the apex court to maintain details of medical reimbursement availed of by each of its judges in the last three years to be furnished to information-seekers. The high court held CIC’s order as “erroneous”. (Zee News 22/12/14)

42. CIC to decide if corporate debt restructuring falls under RTI (1)

MUMBAI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) will soon have to decide whether a body set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), whose principal task is of restructuring corporate loans, falls under the public scrutiny through Right to Information (RTI) act.  The Corporate Debt Restructuring Cell (CDRC) set up by the RBI has refused to provide details of total amount sacrificed by public sector banks as a part of CDR packages and also the mechanism by which it was approved to an application under the RTI. In its reply to former CIC and RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, who had sought the information, the CDRC has said that it does not fall under the category of ‘public authority’ as it is neither owned, controlled or substantially financed by directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government. Subsequently, Mr. Gandhi’s first appeal too was rejected and he had now gone in to second appeal with the office of CIC. The appeal said that the CDRC website shows that it has restructured corporate debt of Rs. 3.7 lakh crore for 505 customers — an average of Rs. 668 crore per customer. It is also claimed in the appeal that 80 to 90 per cent of the restructuring is of borrowers from Public Sector banks. “The CDR cell has been created by a RBI circular. Despite having 38 members who are public sector banks and institutions and only 14 private sector banks it claims an independent status. Five of its seven core group members are public sector employees and 13 of its 19 employees are also employees who are getting their salaries from public sector banks,” said the application by Mr. Gandhi. While the CDRC in its reply to the first appeal did not dispute these numbers, it implied that the bank officers are not government servants. He added that the initial finance of the CDRC was provided by IDBI, a public sector bank and much over 75 per cent of subsequent finance is from public sector banks and institution. “It does not appear to have any legal structure and despite being created by a RBI circular, claims a virtual presence not accountable to anyone. If such an argument is accepted, all government organisations could create such virtual cells and deny information and accountability,” he said. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

43. PM’s wife denied information under RTI (1)

Ahmedabad: The Mehsana police have denied information sought under RTI by Jashodaben, wife of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the security cover given to her, on the ground that her queries were related to local intelligence bureau (LIB) which is exempted under the RTI Act. “The information sought by her (Jashodaben) was related to the LIB . Therefore, it could not be given to her and we have sent a written communication about this development to her,” Superintendent of Police J R Mothaliya of Mehsana district said. The reply given in writing to her also says the same thing. “The information sought by you (Jashodaben Modi) was related (to) the LIB and as per the Gujarat Home Department’s resolution number SB 1/1020018203/GOI/62 dated November 25, LIB has been exempted from RTI Act and therefore, the asked information cannot be given to you,” said the letter written to her by the public information officer and Mehsana Deputy Superintendent of Police Bhakti Thakar. In her RTI application filed before Mehsana Police on November 24, Jashodaben had sought several documents related to the security cover given to her as per the protocol, including the certified copy of actual order passed by government about providing security. She also wanted to know the laws and related provisions in Indian Constitution about security cover given to a prime minister’s wife. Jashodaben, 62, had asked the government to explain the definition of protocol and sought details about what is included under it and what other benefits she is entitled for as per that protocol. She also expressed unhappiness about the current security set-up, where her guards travel in government vehicles like car, while she, despite being the prime minister’s wife, has to travel in public transport. She also said that as former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her own security guards, she feel scared of her guards. She asked the government to make it compulsory for each guard to produce the copy of deployment order. Jashodaben, a retired school teacher, lives with her brother Ashok Modi at Unjha town of Mehsana district. After Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 26, she has been given security by Mehsana police. Mehsana police has deployed 10 policemen, including armed guards, who work in two shifts. (Deccan Herald 28/12/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

44. RTE applicable from nursery admission: HC (11)

INDORE: Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court (MPHC) on Friday directed that provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 would be applicable for admission nursery onwards. Private schools will have to give admission in nursery to 25% of students under RTE and state government will reimburse schools as per law, the court said. The order has come as a major relief for parents seeking admission for their children in nursery under the Act and will be of far-reaching significance across the country. Single bench of Justice Prakash Shrivastava rejected petitions of private schools, including Daly College, Emerald Heights, SICA and Sishukunj challenging applicability of RTE for admission in nursery/pre-school. In its order, the HC observed that the child is entitled to get admission in a school from the day he or she starts education and directed private schools to admit children in nursery, LKG and UKG under RTE. The government will have to work out modalities of reimbursement to private schools for admission to children in nursery and pre-school in three months. Madhya Pradesh additional advocate general Manoj Dwivedi said state education department had issued notices to private schools in September 2013 for turning down admission on 25% seats in nursery/pre-school to children under RTE. Opposing it, private schools challenged it by filing a slew of petitions on grounds that it is applicable only to children from 6 to 14 years of age and schools have to give admissions only from I to VII. Schools took the stand as children are below six years of age at the time of admission in nursery/pre-school children, RTE is not applicable. In their petitions, private schools have claimed neighbourhood, which forms main basis for considering admissions, is not defined properly under the Right to Child to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and that the Act has made no mention of nursery admissions. Petitioners have claimed that the Act has only made education mandatory for children from 6 to 14 years of age. Rejecting argument of private schools, the HC observed child is entitled to get education right from the time he or she starts going to school and made it clear the RTE is applicable for admission in pre-school/nursery. (Times of India 20/12/14)

45. Right to Education quota shift: From exemption for minority schools to online admission (11)

Pune: The Right to Education Act that came into effect in 2009 faced a lot of initial confusion as well as resistance to certain clauses, which led to major changes in implementation. Following a Supreme Court order, schools run by minority institutions that availed of no government grants were exempted from the rule of reserving 25 per cent seats for students of economically and socially weaker sections. A recent move was to make the process of filling the 25 per cent quota seats in schools in Pune, Mumbai and Panvel an online process. This was after parents of students from the poorer sections complained that they were prevented from entering schools even for admission. The government had last academic year held that RTE is applicable to all schools including unaided minority schools. Management of several schools opposed this. Parents seeking admission for their children were affected by the conflict and the resultant confusion. On May 6, the Supreme Court made things clear with its directive that the RTE admission criteria would not apply to unaided minority schools as as it is “ultra vires” to the Constitution and will hurt rights of minorities. Many parents of students seeking admission to schools availing of the 25 per cent quota were not allowed to enter the premises even to collect admission forms. Several schools, in their bid keep such students out of the admission process allegedly used “muscle power”. Their ploy was to declare later that they did not get any applications under 25 per cent quota. Putting a stop to that, an online admission process was started by Commissioner of Education S Chockalingam in Mumbai, Pune and Panvel for academic year 2014-15. In the coming year, it will be implemented in all municipal corporations in the state. After facing problems owing to variance in age limits set by schools and educational boards for admission, a proposal for a uniform age for admission was sent by the education department to the education ministry for clearance. If passed, there will be an age regulation from pre-primary level onwards in schools across the state no matter which board or management they are affiliated to. The education department has also started an ambitious project of making a database of students, teachers and managements for schools in the state. This will give students and teachers a mail id that can be used to access data about them no matter wherever they move in the state. This will make students’ transfer between schools, report cards, health cards etc online and move towards a paperless system. One of the major problems the government has to grapple with is exclusion of many deserving students from the RTE Act because of lack of awareness or documents. Many a time, students from the economically backward sections are not able to use the Act to get admitted to schools because their parents lack awareness about RTE or do not posses necessary documents.Setting up efficient help centres and a higher .. (Indian Express 26/12/14)

46. Nobel laureate’s take on education (11)

SANTINIKETAN: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Sunday said that the success of a school should not only be judged on the basis of the teaching it imparts. “It should also be seen whether the school is giving its students a scope to bond with the society better. Students come to school not only to learn, but also with an aim to make the social health better. The social health and education are inter-related,” he said while interacting with the audience at an event organized by the Pratichi (India) Trust here on Sunday. Sen also found the lower fertility rate in the state in the last couple of years a good sign. “It is a noteworthy matter that the fertility rate in this state is lower than a number of other states, including Kerala,” he added. (Times of India 29/12/14)

47. Jobless surplus teachers to fill vacant posts (11)

The teachers who lost their jobs after a rationing undertaken by schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act can now breathe a sigh of relief. The education minister has declared that the teachers who got cut off due to the surplus issue will be accommodated against vacant posts in schools. Moreover, 1,343 unaided schools are now eligible for the government grant. Of 5,500 unaided schools, 1,343 have been made eligible for the government grant. This has brought a big relief to their teaching and non-teaching staff. According to the teachers community, the staff who were working on very little salary will be now eligible for the salary grant. The issue of surplus teachers started after a government resolution was issued on November 20, 2013. The students and teachers ratio for class V is 30:1, from classes VI to VIII it is 35:1 and for classes IX and X it is 35:1. Because of this ratio, the teachers started losing their jobs. Two teachers have been fighting to get the justice for their colleagues who lost their jobs because of the surplus issue when the students and teachers rations were declared in RTE. The teachers will now be accommodated against the vacant post, claimed the teachers’ representative. Two of the teachers representatives, member of legislative council Ramnath Mote from Rajya Shikshak Parishad and Kapil Patil, MLC and president of Lokbharati, had raised this issue. Anil Bornare, spokesperson, Shikshak Parishad, said, “Since the education minister has given relief to surplus teachers, we will follow up with the department to even get grants for the remaining 4,000 unaided schools so that their 25,000 teaching and non-teaching staff members who have been working from 2001 with low salaries can get better payment.” MLC Kapil Patil too welcomed the decision. (DNA 29/12/14)

48. Corporation teachers begin ‘school wapsi’ campaign in Delhi (11)

NEW DELHI: Teachers in municipal schools have started a ‘school wapsi’ initiative for dropout students. Students who have dropped out or left school midway will be enrolled back under this initiative. To start with, schools in two central zone wards-Zakir Nagar and Nizamuddin-will be roped in. “We will extend the initiative in other schools depending on the results. Though many families are willing to send their kids back to school they are hesitant due to financial reasons. Poverty, child abuse or child labour are some of the reasons why kids drop out of school,” Arvind Mishra, vice-president, Akhil Dilli Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, said. (Times of India 30/12/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

49. Only food security card valid for free treatment (21)

New Delhi: Poor patients can avail free treatment at identified private hospitals here using their National Food Security cards from January 1. BPL cards or ration cards will no longer be valid documents from the new year, said a senior official of the Directorate of Health Services. So far, 73 lakh people who earn less than Rs 1 lakh annually have been issued National Food Security cards in Delhi, according to figures available with the Food Supplies and Consumers Affairs. According to state health department officials, one standard document will help more poor patients avail free treatment at the private hospitals under the quota reserved for them. “The older documents will now be replaced. There are more beneficiaries now as the number of BPL and ration card holders is less than that of the the National Food Security card holders. There will be a wider network of people who can benefit from the health schemes,” said a DHS official. “The food security cards will be the new document to establish that a patient is below poverty line or from the economically weaker section (EWS),” said the official. Currently, there are 43 identified private hospitals in Delhi which are supposed to provide free treatment to 10 per cent of the patients admitted in their wards and 25 per cent of patients in the Outdoor Patient Department (OPD). Hospitals have often been accused of turning away poor patients in spite of having vacant beds. Some hospitals have even failed to meet the benchmark of treating poor patients as defined by the state health department. Patients will also be able to avail the Delhi Arogya Kosh scheme through this document. This scheme provides financial assistance till Rs 5 lakh to patients for treatment of an illness in a government hospital or certain specific diseases in notified private hospitals. Circulars have been issued to medical superintendents of all government and identified private hospitals to update food security cards as valid documents beginning next year. Till now, patients could also use income certificates to establish the poverty level. According to health department officials, the free treatment scheme was often misused with forged documents being produced. “One standard document will rule out such possibilities and more genuinely poor patients can be accommodated,” said the official. However, several migrant labourers who did not have BPL or ration cards and now do not have the new document either can continue to avail free treatment after an undertaking from the DHS. (Deccan Herald 20/12/14)

50. PDS sugar leaves bitter taste in govt mouth (21)

Shillong, Dec. 22: Consumers in Meghalaya have started receiving sugar under public distribution system (PDS), but the state government is now bearing a financial brunt as it is procuring the item from the open market at a high rate. A symbolic distribution of sugar was organised at U Soso Tham auditorium, State Central Library here today where food and civil supplies and consumer affairs department minister Clement Marak distributed a few kilograms of sugar to some of the selected consumers in the presence of wholesalers and fair-price shop dealers. The sugar has the name of “ISS Grade Sugar-30.” The Meghalaya government was able to distribute sugar to the ration-card holders in the state after the Centre provided a certain amount of subsidy to buy sugar from the open market. The Centre is giving Rs 18.50 paise per kg as subsidy and the state has to bear the remaining cost. Interestingly, the Meghalaya government through its supplier is procuring sugar from the open market at the rate of around Rs 43 per kg, meaning, the state government has to bear extra amount of around Rs 24.50 paise per kg. According to sources, at present, the price of sugar in the open market of Meghalaya ranges between Rs 32 and Rs 36 per kg. The beneficiaries of PDS have been deprived of regular supply of sugar since July last year because the allotment from the Centre has stopped. The principal secretary (food and civil supplies), P.W. Ingty, said the state government has selected Kendriya Bhandar, the largest consumer co-operative society in the country, to supply sugar to Meghalaya by purchasing it from the open market. “Kendriya Bhandar was selected after passing through a tender process,” Ingty said. Ingty, however, justified the Rs 43 per kg-rate quoted by Kendriya as it includes purchase, handling charges as well as packaging of the sugar. But the food and civil supplies official admitted that the Meghalaya government would be losing revenue as it has to bear the additional expenditure after the central subsidy. Ingty said the state government is procuring 1,704 metric tonnes of sugar a month for the state through the supplier (Kendriya Bhandar). The expenditure per month is over Rs 7.3 crore. “Each ration card holder is entitled to 3kg of sugar a month and it is being distributed at Rs 13.50 paise per kg at various fair-price shops,” he said. The sugar will be stocked at various godowns and its distribution supervised by deputy commissioners. For the state capital Shillong, the deputy commissioner (supply) is using a godown of the Meghalaya State Co-operative Marketing and Consumers’ Federation Ltd. popularly known as ‘MECOFED’ at Mawlai Mawiong here. The sugar which Meghalaya is distributing this month to the consumers is its quota for October. The state is waiting to receive its quota for November and December. (The Telegraph 23/12/14)

51. Rich were top beneficiaries (21)

GURGAON: Though the income of members belonging to the EWS Co-op group housing societies should not exceed Rs.2,500 per month as per the Group Housing Scheme 1998, several members in the present case purchased their shares from the original members by paying hefty considerations. According to the details provided by the society, several members paid money ranging from Rs.9 lakh to Rs.25 lakh to buy shares from the original members. “The information supplied by the society reveals that following members who became members of the society have purchased their shares from original members by paying hefty considerations which could not possibly have been mobilised by a person belonging to Economically Weaker Section category,” said the order. One of the members, Mahesh Goyal, was an officer of the Haryana Urban Development Authority till recently and retired as Senior Accounts Officer on June 30, 2014. A complaint was received in his case that he had amassed properties which were disproportionate to his known sources of income in which a vigilance inquiry was also ordered”. “Not a single eligible person from the EWS or Below Poverty Line got land /flats earmarked for economical weaker section in the licensed colonies. I have visited more than 25 licensed colonies and Group Housing Society in Gurgaon. The people living in the houses/flats allotted to the EWS or BPL have all gadgets and equipment along with luxury cars. The people living in EWS flats / houses belong to higher/middle class category,” said Gurgaon Progressive Forum president Raman Sharma. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

52. Govt may rework housing target for poor to 2 crore units (21)

NEW DELHI: The housing ministry may reset the target and build two crore houses for the urban poor instead of the three crore planned earlier under NDA’s flagship ‘Housing for All’ scheme. Sources said the initial target with a total investment of Rs 22.5 lakh crore is being reworked. Recently the housing and poverty alleviation ministry made a detailed presentation on the scheme to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sources said the PM was largely satisfied with the presentation. However, government officials were tightlipped about the reason behind reworking the target. Under the new mission, all housing schemes for the urban poor such as Rajiv Awas Yojna and JNNURM will be brought under one umbrella and it will be named after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. NDA government has set 2022 as the target to provide pucca houses to all in urban areas with power and water connection. “We are yet to finalise the target. While a large portion of the housing demand in urban areas will be met by the private players, there is also a need to build houses for the poor,” a government official said. Each house for the urban poor would cost around Rs. 7.5 lakh. The housing ministry is looking at different options including interest subvention for affordable housing and the minister, M Venkaiah Naidu has already spoken about the need to bring down interest on housing loans. According to government estimates, there was shortage of 18.78 million houses in urban areas and more than 95% shortage is in the categories of economically weaker section and low income groups. Around 75% of the estimated housing shortage is concentrated in 10 states. While Uttar Pradesh has maximum share of 16%, Maharashtra accounts for 10% deficit. The Housing for All mission has four major components – slum redevelopment, affordable housing through interest subvention, rental housing for migrants and housing for urban destitute and homeless. (Times of India 29/12/14)

53. R’than tribal children battle malnourishment, death (21)

Baran (Rajasthan): Night has begun to fall and Kamla Bai is tossing chapatis on the griddle kept on the burning earthen stove in her partially-built house. The woman, who appears to be nearing her 60s, is in grief as her two-year-old grandson, Roop Kishore Raghuraj, died last month. What pricks Kamla Bai even more is that Kishore succumbed to malnourishment and she could not save him despite being an assistant at an Anganwadi –  government-sponsored mother and child healthcare centre. Kishore is not the only causality of malnourishment among the children of Sahariyas in Rajasthan’s Baran district – an underprivileged primitive tribal community of 1,25,000 which reported hunger deaths in 2002 and struggles to lead a life of two meals a day even today. Baran is some 300 km east of Rajasthan capital Jaipur, near the border with Madhya Pradesh. “He was admitted to the hospital (Malnutrition Treatment Centre) for nearly a month, but could not be saved. He was always sick and had stopped responding well,” Kamla Bai told this correspondent in Baran’s Kariria village. In Baran – where the poorest of the poor of Rajasthan live – most people till a couple of years ago were bonded labourers and lived a life of neglect. Today, almost all of them are daily wage migrant workers or earn by working in the paddy fields of rich farmers. Baran – one of India’s most backward districts – was in the news in September for the death of two children who were reportedly extremely malnourished. The issue kicked up a political storm. This correspondent visited several villages and hamlets in Sahabad and Kishanganj blocks of Baran, where most children have similar physical features – bloated stomachs, spindly legs and gaunt eyes. Before Kishore, the last victim of malnourishment was Mangal in 2013 in Kirari, the residents of the village said. “If our children fall sick we cannot do much. Either we are dependent on tablets sold in the village shop or the primary health centre which is very far from here,” Angoori, a mother of three, told IANS. Baran has nine Community Health Centres and one district hospital. From January till September, 1,583 malnourished children were admitted for treatment. Local NGOs claim that the numbers are much higher than the official figure. Though there are government schemes for the welfare of Sahariyas, the benefits do not reach all of them. Under one such scheme, each Sahariya family gets 35 kg wheat, two kg of dal and cooking oil and one kg of ghee per month. In one of the villages visited by IANS, many Sahariyas had voter identification cards – but no ration cards. “The problem is the leakage of supplies,” a Rajasthan government official said. IANS spoke to a very senior doctor, who has worked in the region for over two decades, about the problem. “The Integrated Child Development Scheme is a failure in Rajasthan. The Aanganwadis don’t function properly. In remote villages, they don’t open for months,” the doctor said, requesting anonymity. Aanganwadis cater to children in the 0-6 age group and provide outreach services to poor families in need of immunization, healthy food. “The consumption of food is shown in the record book, but that’s not the case. Either it ends up getting wasted since centres don’t open for a long time or it reaches the houses of the Aanganwadi workers,” the doctor said. He said the Malnourishment Treatment Centres are always short-staffed. Local journalist Firoze Khan, who has extensively studied the community, said Sahariyas are also to be blamed for their state. “They don’t want to be in the mainstream. They want to live in villages. They are averse to cities. They can only work here,” Khan said. Alcohol addiction among Sahariya men is also a problem, he added. One of the Additional District Magistrates gave a bizarre answer for the high malnutrition levels: “The problem is only among the children between 0 and 6 ages. Once they grow up and go to school, you cannot say they were ever malnourished.” (Deccan Herald 29/12/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

54. House panel says funds for MGNREGA not adequate (14)

New Delhi: Urging the Rural Development Ministry to seek a higher allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) from the Finance Ministry, a parliamentary panel has said the existing funds are not adequate for the scheme’s effective implementation.  The panel has also recommended a ‘review’ of the scheme. “Keeping in view the likely revision of wage rate and expected increase in outreach of households, the committee is constrained to note that the allocation made for the current year does not appear to be sufficient for effective implementation of the scheme,” the Standing Committee on Rural Development said in its report tabled in Lok Sabha on Friday. The committee, chaired by P Venugopal, recommended that the ministry should seek higher budgetary allocations for MGNREGA from the Ministry of Finance and Planning Commission so the shortage of funds does not become a “ground and a reason for slippage” in achieving the objectives of the scheme. The panel also asked the government to undertake an exercise to “completely review the scheme to find out reasons for dismal progress at ground level resulting in non-achievement of the objectives” for which the scheme was launched and to take corrective and remedial measures. (Indian Express 20/12/14)

55. PM Narendra Modi lauds unorganised sector workers of Gujarat (14)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday lauded the unorganised sector workers of Gujarat, saying the state had “zero-manday loss” which was one of the reasons for receiving substantial amount of foreign investment. On a visit to Varanasi, Modi addressed the sector workers at 20 locations across Gujarat through video-conferencing, as part of ‘Shramyogi Kalyan Mela’ of the state government. Praising the unorganised workers, Modi said Gujarat had zero-manday loss as all stakeholders followed the Gandhian spirit of working as a family. This, he added, is one of the reasons that the state was receiving large amounts of foreign investment. An official statement released in New Delhi said that as part of the activities for ‘Good Governance Day’, the Gujarat government launched several welfare schemes for unorganised sector workers. These schemes draw inspiration from the “Shramev Jayate” vision of the Union government, the statement added. Among the initiatives is ‘U-WIN’ – Unorganised Sector Identification Number, which will enable unorganised sector workers to avail the benefits of several government schemes. The Prime Minister congratulated the Gujarat government for these initiatives, and said other states could also emulate these. He also congratulated the state government for launching Rural Labour Commissionerates and Rural Labour Welfare Boards. (DNA 25/12/14)

56. Labour reforms for the unorganised sector a priority: Minister (14)

Kolkata: Labour reforms for the unorganised sector is a priority for the Narendra Modi government. And steps are being accordingly taken in this regard by the Centre, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, said here. According to him, some of the steps taken include the setting up of the Shram Suvidha Portal (SSP) where a unique labour identity number will be provided to workers (in the unorganised sector) of various establishments. Dattatreya was in the city to attend the Srei organised event, World Confluence of Humanity, Power and Spirituality. “My focus area will be the unorganised sector. We have taken a new initiative, the Shram Suvidha Portal (SSP), that will help provide labour identity number (LIN) to the establishments”, he said. So far, labour identity numbers have been provided by the Centre to 7.5 lakh institutions. The numbers will go up soon. According to Dattatreya, steps are being taken to further decentralise labour services with the Central government allotting a Universal Account Number (UAN). The UAN is a portable number which gives the members greater control over their money and links EPF and ESI services. The Union Minister claimed that he has already invited his State counterpart, Moloy Ghatak, to Delhi to discuss various matters including labour unrest. He maintained that one of the major areas of concern for his department was the “pathetic” situation of the plantation (tea gardens) workers in West Bengal and Assam. The Labour, along with the Commerce Ministry was looking at various schemes to help uplift the workers conditions, the Union Minister pointed out. (Business Line 28/12/14)

57. NREG Workers’ Federation to Take out March (14)

KOLLAM: Alleging derailment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) by the Central Govt, the state committee of NREG Workers’ Federation, affiliated to the AITUC, will take out a march towards Raj Bhavan in T’Puram on Tuesday. The state committee of NREG Workers’ federation alleged that as the number of working days were getting reduced, many people were opting out and this would considerably lead to the winding up of NREGP. “The Centre has decided to restrict the programme to 2,500 blocks. It was once carried out in 6,597 blocks,” NREG Workers’ Federation state president Chengara Surendran said. (New Indian Express 29/12/14)

RESERVATION

58. Maharashtra may quit AIPMT to free 15% ‘other state’ quota (25)

NAGPUR: The Maharashtra government is contemplating withdrawing from the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), so that it can utilize the 15% seats reserved for students from other states for local students. Higher and technical education minister Vinod Tawde made a statement in this regard in the legislative assembly on Thursday while replying to a discussion under Rule 293 moved by Yogesh Sagar, Madhuri Misal, Sanjay Kute, Shashikant Khedekar and others. This would make Maharashtra the fourth state, after Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Telangana, to not have the 15% quota for outside students. “Maharashtra has good facilities in medical education with its government-run colleges considered among the top in the country. As the state had agreed to be a part of AIPMT, 15% seats in our colleges are reserved for students from others states, and vice versa. This means, out of 2,000 odd seats in the colleges, about 330 are occupied by students from other states, which is a big percentage,” he said. Higher and technical education minister Vinod Tawde pointed out that in the last six years hardly 22-30 students from Maharashtra had preferred seats in medical colleges in other states, while some 330 students from outside used our seats every year. “It’s a big disparity, and our students, particularly those who can’t afford the fees of private colleges, are at the loss. We will approach the Supreme Court to exclude the state from AIPMT, which will be conducted on May 3 next year. If the court agrees, we will get 300 extra MBBS seats for state students,” he said. The former leader of opposition in council said that Maharashtra was part of the national entrance examination for many years and students from many states pursue medical education from the state under 15% All India quota. Former lecturer and now senior PMT trainer Sameer Phale said the decision would surely benefit the state students, as they would get additional 300 seats. However, it would be against the democratic set up of the country. “What about students from other states who want to take admission in Maharashtra colleges? At national level, such things shouldn’t be considered. States like AP and J&K had rejected the 15% quota since the very beginning of AIPMT.” He added that even the Armed Forces Medical College had stopped its own entrance exam following SC directives to start National Entrance-cum- Eligibility Test (NEET). “But after it was stopped by the SC, they admit students through AIPMT. Even MP and Chhattisgarh use AIPMT score for admissions. Now, if Maharashtra students want to take admission in AFMC or other colleges, they have to appear in AIPMT,” he said. (Times of India 19/12/14)

59. ‘We converted for quota benefits’ (25)

ALAPPUZHA: Forty-four-year-old Joy, who led his family at the ‘Ghar Vapsi’ ceremony at Cheppad in Alappuzha district on Sunday, says he converted to Hinduism three years ago. He has done it once again to ensure that he and his family are officially accepted as Hindu Pulayas, which will make them eligible for reservation benefits. A daily wage labourer, Joy lives with his wife and two daughters in a decrepit hut in Kanichanallor at Cheppad, near Haripad. His parents, George and Janamma of the Palatharayil house, converted from Hinduism to become Pentecostal Christians several years ago. According to official records, they are Christian Cheramar. However, since the community did not come under the Scheduled Castes, they were unable to avail themselves of any benefits that their relatives enjoyed. “We had converted back to Hinduism three years ago through a ritual held at the temple at Chettikulangara. However, we were told by the Cheppad village authorities that the certificate provided by the Travancore Devaswom Board was not sufficient to be formally registered as Hindus.” His family then approached the Chengannur unit of the VHP seeking its assistance. “We were not offered any financial assistance to convert… They have offered to take up our issue,” he said. (The Hindu 23/12/14)

60. Social activists slam government’s withdrawal of Muslim reservation (25)

Mumbai: Social activists and academicians have slammed the state government for withdrawing Muslim reservation and pushing its Hindutva agenda by approving reservation only for the Maratha community. Pointing at the high court’s interim order upholding Muslim reservation, they have raised doubt over the government’s intention behind taking such a hasty decision. Activist-Dalit poet J.V. Pawar said that the Maratha reservation decision was obviously to net Hindu votes and the BJP government did not need Muslim votes. “The BJP knows that Muslims are not going to vote for it and therefore, their reservation has been withdrawn despite the earlier government having introduced it.” Professor Fakruddin Bennur raised objections to the government’s excuse that reservation could not be given on the basis of religion. “This has remained the argument of the right wing since the 1950s. But articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution permit concessions to linguistic, cultural and religious minorities. When there is reservation for Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs in various forms, why deny it to Muslims? Is the BJP government marginalising Muslims to make them secondary citizens?” he asked. Stressing that there was greater need for Muslim reservation, head of the politics department, Mumbai University, Dr Jose George said that Muslims were more deprived as compared to Marathas. “The decision shows complete bias towards Hindus. We all know that Muslims are more backward socially and economically compared to Marathas,” he said. Dr George rubbished the BJP’s Constitution-related defence, saying that if laws could be amended for Maratha reservation, then why not for Muslims (Asian Age 25/12/14)

61. Maharashtra Council passes Maratha reservation Bill (25)

NAGPUR: The Maharashtra Legislative Council approved the Maratha reservation Bill on Wednesday, a day after the Assembly passed the legislation. The new law provides 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in admission to educational institutions and government jobs. “We consulted senior legal experts, including the Attorney-General, after the Bombay High Court granted an interim stay on the ordinance [issued by the previous Congress-NCP government to provide a 16 per cent quota to Marathas]. We received a partial relief from the Supreme Court, but, as advised by legal experts, we have passed the Bill in both Houses of the State legislature,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said. Mr. Fadnavis had earlier said that his government would field the Attorney-General and senior lawyer P.P. Rao to represent the State in the High Court, which stayed the ordinance. The court stayed the 5 per cent reservation in government employment for Muslims, but allowed a similar quota in education for the community. The Opposition continued its protest against the government decision not to table the Muslim reservation Bill and not to issue an ordinance to save the five per cent quota for the community provided by the previous government though an ordinance that lapsed on Wednesday. (The Hindu 26/2/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

62. Rights group to pursue case – Manorama verdict brings hope (1)

Imphal, Dec. 20: Encouraged by the announcement of compensation in the Thangjam Manorama case, a rights group has decided to pursue a petition pending in the high court seeking prosecution of the Assam Rifles personnel responsible for her death. Manorama was a 32-year-old Manipuri woman whose bullet-riddled body was found a day after she was picked up by Assam Rifles troops from her home in Imphal East on the night of July 10, 2004. The development has encouraged Human Rights Law Network, Manipur chapter, which plays an important role in filing cases in court against fake encounter killings, to pursue a petition pending in the high court. “In the light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, we will pursue a case pending in the high court. The case, filed by Manorama’s relatives in 2010, sought prosecution of the Assam Rifles troops responsible for her death,” Rakesh Meihoubam, director of Human Rights Law Network, Manipur, said. The then Imphal bench of Gauhati High Court kept the petition filed by Manorama’s mother and younger brother Thangjam Doren pending after the Assam Rifles moved the Supreme Court the same year (2010) to challenge a ruling passed by a division bench of the high court that upheld the validity of an inquiry commission. The commission, headed by retired district and sessions judge C. Upendra Singh, was set up by the Manipur government to probe Manorama’s killing. The division bench passed the order on two separate petitions filed by family members of Manorama and the Manipur government in 2005, challenging a ruling passed that year by a single bench of the high court. The single bench had ruled that the state government had no authority to set up the inquiry committee to probe the actions of Assam Rifles. It stated that the Assam Rifles personnel killed Manorama after “brutal torture”. Since there was no action on the report, Manorama’s family moved Gauhati High Court, which used to cover cases in Manipur. In 2010, the high court asked the state government to act on the Upendra commission report. The Centre challenged this ruling in the Supreme Court in 2011. The findings of the commission were made public only after the Union home ministry submitted the report to the Supreme Court on its directive. During one of the hearings, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to pay compensation to Manorama’s mother. “The Supreme Court’s order for payment of compensation has made it very clear that the personnel had done something that they should not have done at all. Therefore, in the light of the order, we will pursue the petition and appeal to Manipur High Court to take it up and hear the plea for prosecution,” Meihoubam said. He said the then Gauhati High Court had kept the petition pending because it wanted to see the outcome of the petition filed by the Assam Rifles in the Supreme Court.Manorama’s relatives and human rights activists in the state, while welcoming the apex court’s order for payment of ex gratia, demanded that the personnel involved in the killing should be punished. (The Telegraph 21/12/14)

63. UN chief calls on Sri Lanka to cooperate in human rights abuse probe (1)

New York: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki—moon has reiterated his call to Sri Lanka to cooperate with the on-going UN investigation of alleged human right abuses. Responding to a media query on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa reiterating that he will not participate with outside investigations, Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, was quoted by the Lanka Page web site, as saying that the Secretary-General has always encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to comprehensively address the post-war agenda. Colombo has vehemently refused to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council-led investigation. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

64. PUCL condemns Assam violence (1)

CHENNAI: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned Tuesday’s violence against tribal people in Assam and called for strong action to avoid a repeat of such incidents. In a statement, it said unarmed tribal people in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts of Assam were shot dead by gangs of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit). “PUCL is deeply concerned over the outbreak of murderous attacks once again. “It is apprehensive that unless the situation is handled firmly, a situation of mass death, destruction and displacement will recur as it did during the ethnic killings in mid-2012 in Kokrajhar and neighbouring districts resulting in nearly 100 being killed and over 400,000 people fleeing their homes,” the statement said. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

65. High Court sets aside NHRC order against Somnath Bharti (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday set aside an order issued by the National Human Rights Commission holding Aam Aadmi Party leader Somnath Bharti guilty of “racial prejudice and unlawful acts” against 12 African women during his controversial midnight raid in Khirki Extension in South Delhi. A vacation bench of the high court, while setting aside the September 29 decision of the NHRC, also directed the commission to hear the matter afresh and pass a detailed order by taking into account the evidence presented by the AAP leader in his defence. The court has also asked Mr Bharti to appear before the commission on the next date of hearing in January. The vacation bench of the high court passed the order while disposing of Mr Bharti’s appeal against its single judge bench decision to dismiss his petition against the NHRC’s September 29 ruling. Additional solicitor-general Sanjay Jain and Central government’s standing counsel Jasmeet Singh appeared for the Union of India in the matter. Advocate Deepak Khosla, appearing for Mr Bharti, had contended that the single judge bench had dismissed his plea as “premature” without “allowing fair opportunity to explain the facts of the situation before the NHRC and the legal grounds on which the writ petition was eminently maintainable.” Mr Bharti had sought that the commission’s ruling be declared a “nullity” as it was passed without giving him an opportunity to lead evidence in his defence. The leader had also asked for a compensation of `100 crore from the Centre, the NHRC and the city government. The NHRC had prematurely directed the Delhi government to pay Rs 25,000 compensation each to the 12 women, who had allegedly suffered racial abuse, illegal detention, intimidation, abuse, assault and indignity by the AAP leader, the petition claimed. The petition had also questioned whether the NHRC had the jurisdiction to award compensation based on mere “prima facie” findings. On December 22, the NHRC had accepted Mr Bharti’s request for hearing on the controversial midnight raid in January next and also directed the Delhi government to defer payment of monetary relief of Rs 25,000 to the victims, recommended by it on September 29, for a period of two months. (Asian Age 28/12/14)

66. NHRC notice to five states over atrocities on Christians (1)

New Delhi: The NHRC has issued notice to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu over alleged acts of violence and atrocities against Christians. Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a report from the chief secretaries of the states within three weeks. In Madhya Pradesh, churches have reportedly been vandalised in addition to incidents of arson, stone pelting, attack on pastors and forcible conversions. Similarly in other states, diktats on missionary schools have been given, Sunday services have been disrupted and the entry of Christians in some villages has been barred as well. In parts of Chhattisgarh, refusal to supply ration to Christians has been reported. “The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion,” the NHRC said. (Business Standard 30/12/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

67. Lok Sabha nod to bill to regularise e-rickshaws (19)

New Delhi: Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill to regularise e-rickshaws and provide for driving licences for these battery-operated vehicles, mostly plying in Delhi, with government promising to incorporate members’ suggestions in rules to be framed once it becomes a law. “This is an amendment bill. If we pass the bill, I will incorporate rules and regulations suggested by you,” Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari told opposition MPs who demanded that the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2014 be sent to standing committee for a closer scrutiny. Replying to a debate, Gadkari also spoke about “pollution- free India” and the government’s ambitious plan to convert polluting diesel buses to “e-buses.” He said the proposal is being discussed and he will come to Parliament once it is approved. Rejecting opposition’s allegations that the bill was hurriedly brought to gain political mileage in poll-bound Delhi, Gadkari said the government was pushing for its early passage keeping in mind the plight of one crore poor rickshaw pullers who struggle for their daily bread and butter. “The bill is brought not keeping in view Delhi elections,” the Minister said, noting that drivers and passengers of e-rickshaws are poor people and a court order has affected over 2 lakh people who depend on them for their livelihood. The Minister said an early passage of the bill will be a boon for one crore poor people who face a lot of health problems by plying cycle rickshaws manually. Gadkari said government has decided to provide low interest loan to the rickshaw pullers belonging to poor backward and minority communities to buy e-rickshaws. (DNA 19/12/14)

68. Woman ordered to give monthly maintenance to husband (19)

KOZHIKODE: A family court in Kasaragod has asked a woman to pay Rs 6,000 as monthly maintenance to her husband for spoiling his career by raising a false allegation of rape. Judge PD Dharmarajan passed the order on a petition moved by NK Sivaprasad of Nellikkunnu in Kasaragod under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act on Thursday. Sivaprasad, a music teacher, married VM Nivya on January 22, 2011 against the wishes of her parents while she was studying for post-graduation. They got separated in May 2011. Nivya returned to her parents and filed a complaint against Sivaprasad, alleging that he raped her by promising to marry her. Police filed a case against Sivaprasad for rape under Section 376 of the IPC. “On investigation, it was found that they were married. There was evidence such as the receipt from the temple where the marriage was solemnized, hotel records where they stayed and photographs of the reception in Kasaragod. They had also registered their marriage in Enmakaje panchayat,” said advocate US Balan who appeared for the husband. Nivya moved the family court for divorce after police filed a referral report saying the allegation is wrong. “We moved a petition demanding maintenance for Sivaprasad,” said Balan. “He had to stop his music sessions as girls refused to attend his classes. I argued that he is eligible for maintenance from his wife, who is now working as a lecturer at a reputed institution in Mangalore.” He said the provision for giving maintenance for the husband is available only in the Hindu Marriage Act. “This provision is not there in other marriage acts such as the Christian, Muhammedan or Special Marriage Act,” Balan said. “Section 125 of the CrPC should be amended so that husbands also can claim maintenance from wives with solid source of income. Now only the wife, children or aged parents can claim maintenance.” (Times of India 21/12/14)

69. HC bats for second wife’s rights, allows equal share of pension for 2 widows (19)

MUMBAI: Two surviving widows of a railway employee are entitled to an equal share of the monthly pension, the Bombay HC held recently. It upheld an order by the central administrative tribunal to equally divide a railway employee’s pension between his two widows based on railway pension rules, framed in a 1964 scheme that makes such provisions. The high court rejected a plea by the South East Central Railway, Nagpur division, to quash the tribunal’s order as being “flawed”. The Hindu Marriage Act, enacted in 1955, doesn’t recognise the second “wife” as legally wedded, when the first marriage still exists. “The tribunal was wrong in passing orders contrary to law,” argued the railways’ lawyer. The Bombay high court commended the Indian Railways for a “progressive” pension rule that protects “unfortunate women ensnared into void marriages”. The arguments made by the railway “do not appeal to us”, said the HC. “We cannot be oblivious of what is going on in society,” said the HC bench of Justices A B Chaudhari and P R Bora of the Nagpur bench while delivering the judgment last month. “Husbands fraudulently indulge in cheating the second woman, who falls easy prey to such a person for no fault of hers,” the judges said. The judgment may come to the aid of other “second wives”. The HC felt that other state and central government employers adopt the railway rules to provide relief to a woman whose marriage to a government servant is void under the Hindu Marriage Act. “While it’s true that courts cannot pass or enforce orders contrary to law, the question is should a second widow be left to starve by handing all pensionary benefits only to the first?” the HC said. The railways have not contradicted the Hindu Marriage Act nor placed a burden on the railway or treasury either, said the HC, it however ensured that a woman “trapped by a man into an illegal marriage” is secured a livelihood for the rest of her life. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex and Article 39 obligates states to promote laws meant to protect women’s right, the HC said. “Indian Railways deserves an applause for incorporating a rule, seldom found in service rules of other government organisations, that provides for equal pension to more than one widow of an employee.” Finding no merit in the Railway petition, the HC dismissed it. (Times of India 23/12/14)

70. PIL seeks state scheme for unmarried tribal mothers (19)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday sought a reply from the state to a public interest litigation (PIL) that highlights the need for rehabilitation of young unwed mothers among the Kolam tribe in the state. The PIL filed by the Natural Resources Conservation Organisation comprising members of Scheduled castes and tribes sought affirmative action for such tribal women, who were forced to give their own father’s name to the child and were deprived of concessions in reservation. The PIL filed through advocates Uday Warunjikar and his junior advocate Tandel said it appeared that contractors and their staff who visit these tribal areas were responsible for getting the girls and women pregnant. Most of the Kolam tribe resides in Yavatmal district in forest areas in about 400 villages along the state border. The belt is educationally backward, said the PIL. “The problem is not about pregnancies but about social development of tribal community,” the PIL said, seeking judicial intervention so that the state introduces schemes for such victims. (Times of India 25/12/14)

71. 6 states ratify Judicial Appointments Commission Bill (19)

New Delhi: Sixteen states have ratified a constitutional amendment bill which seeks to scrap the collegium system of judges appointing judges, bringing the government a step closer to put in place a new mechanism of appointments in the higher judiciary. Any Constitutional amendment bill requires ratification by at least 50% of the state legislatures. Sources said the Law Ministry has been informed by 16 of the 29 states that the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) bill has been ratified. The names of all the states which have ratified the bill was immediately not known. The Rajya Sabha Secretariat which had earlier this year sent the bill to the states for ratification is expected to receive authenticated copies of their approval in the coming days. Goa, Rajasthan, Tripura and Gujarat had last month ratified the bill. Also, UP assembly had ratified the bill last month with an amendment amid protests by BJP MLAs. Once the ratifications have been formally received, the bill will be sent to the President for his assent. Parliament had in August cleared the bill that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system, which has been under severe criticism. The bill will make way for the setting up of National Judicial Appointments Commission, which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 High Courts. The bill will grant Constitutional status to the NJAC and its composition. Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the Law Minister will be the other members of the proposed body. (DNA 28/12/14)

72. There’s no north-south divide: Madras high court (19)

CHENNAI: The Madras high court on Monday dismissed a “public interest petition” that objected to the court granting four to five days of holidays for “north Indian” festivals like Diwali, and imposed an exemplary cost of Rs 20,000 on the petitioner. Slamming a journalist who filed the petition and accusing him of raising divisive issues for publicity, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan said: “There is no north-south divide, but for the endeavours of persons like the petitioner, who seek to raise divisive issues only to gain publicity and create unrest among people. It is necessary for this court to come down with heavy hands on such endeavours.” Petitioner V Anbazhagan, claiming that till a couple of decades ago the high court had been granting just a day’s leave for Diwali, said that because chief justices of the HC happen to be from north India they tried to thrust northern culture on the people of Tamil Nadu. Granting four days of holidays in November 2015 for Diwali is unnecessary and it makes advocates jobless and affects court work, he said. Not more than one day should be declared as a holiday for Diwali, he said. Rejecting his contention, the first bench said the court’s calendar had been prepared after a lot of deliberations. “Whether advocates are rendered jobless or not is not the concern of the petitioner, as advocates and their representatives are consulted during the framing of the calendar. It need not be the concern of all and sundry,” the judges said. The petitioner cannot set the calendar of the court by raising a divisive issue “of mythological nature”, they said. As for the PIL’s averment that senior judges were being brought from northern states, they said: “It is immaterial who presides over this court as chief justice. That is an instant of policy of having an outsider as chief justice, possibly to have greater national amalgamation.” Noting that India was a vast country with various cultures, language and food habits, they said: “All these cultures combined together form the nation of India. It is something to be celebrated. It should not segregate the country into two parts by raising divisive issues, as the petitioner seeks to do.” The bench asked the petitioner to deposit the cost within 15 days at the mediation centre of the court. (Times of India 30/12/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

73. SC orders Rs 10 lakh interim compensation for the kin of Manipuri girl (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to give an interim compensation of Rs 10 Lakh to the kin of Manipuri girl ThangjamManoramaDevi who was allegedly raped and killed by Assam Rifles jawans in 2004. A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur passed the order while agreeing to hear Centre’s appeal challenging Gauhati High Court order of 2010 in which the HC had directed the state government to open and act upon the probe report prepared by retired district judge C Upendra Singh on the facts and circumstances leading to her death. On July 11, 2004, the bullet-riddled body of Manorama, then 32, was found at Laipharok Maring village in Imphal East. The previous night, personnel belonging to 17 Assam Rifles had picked her up from her residence at Bamon Kampu Mayai Leikai village in the same district after issuing an arrest memo. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Manorma’s family, said the apex court has granted leave but refused to stay HC order and directed the Centre to pay interim compensation. (Times of India 19/12/14)

74. Custodial Death: HC Stays NHRC Order to Pay Compensation (1)

KOCHI: The High Court has stayed an order issued by the NHRC, directing four police officials to pay compensation of `1 lakh to the legal heirs of a person who died in custody at the Thalassery police station in 2010. Justice A Muhamed Mustaque issued the interim order on the petition filed by Thamban Nambiar K, sub-inspector at the Dharmadam police station; James A J, senior civil police officer at the Peravoor police station;  Ambikamini U N, woman civil police officer at the Thalassery police station; and Joju Sebastian, civil police officer at the Karikkottakari police station, seeking a directive to quash the NHRC order. The petitioners stated that while they were serving as police officers at the Thalassery police station in 2010 in charge of guard duty, Komath Nazar, who was arrested in connection with a cheating case, tried to commit suicide inside the lockup by hanging himself using his dress. Then, the petitioners  intervened immediately, and took Nazar to the Thalassery Government Hospital. However, he died in the hospital.  Later, His wife Khadeeja of Muzhuppilangad approached the NHRC, which on January 31 issued the order to pay compensation. The report filed by the State Police Chief stated that the police officers, who were on guard duty at the time of the death, were responsible for the unfortunate incident. Counsel for the petitioners K R Sunil submitted that the police officers were not a party in the complaint, and that they were not heard by the State Police Chief before sending the report.  “The NHRC also flouted all principles of natural justice by not providing an opportunity to the petitioners to express their views, while passing an order,” the petitioners stated. (New Indian Express 23/12/14)

75. Valley vote not about Azadi, Article 370 or AFSPA (1)

With completion of more or less peaceful elections in which voters in the Kashmir braved the boycott call and came out to vote, deciphering the Kashmiri mind poses tricky issues. How do we read the fact that 55.5 per cent voters in the Valley turned out to vote? Kashmir-experts had pointed out in 2008-09 itself that the voter in the Valley makes a distinction between voting to elect a government and accepting integration with the Indian union. Only four per cent voters consciously saw these elections as being about Azadi, Article 370, AFSPA, human rights violation, etc. For most, the elections were about governance and delivery related issues. While some saw elections as about infrastructure issues or more immediate issues of floods, for a majority, elections were about development. The trend in the Valley was not very different from that of Jammu. The survey also asked respondents their opinion about the ‘Kashmir issue’ (Kashmir masla). (Table 7) The responses are enigmatic because more than four in every ten persons do not offer any opinion on this. Yet, it needs to be frontally recognised that very few Kashmiris endorse the ‘status quo’.  Equally clearly, merger with Pakistan too is not endorsed by more than one per cent respondents. The most dominant theme is ‘azadi’, autonomy, plebiscite, and/or self-rule. There is one clear change from 2008: the proportion of those who did not offer any response has increased manifold now. Whether this represents moderation in pro-azadi opinion or simply reticence is tough to tell. The fact that there is enough space for th‘ ‘separatist’ politics in the valley is however evident through other findings of the survey too. A large section in the Valley believes that Hurriyat is best suited for solving the Kashmir issue.  (Table 8)Similarly, respondents repose robust trust in th‘ ‘separatists’ — more than they trust the parties and the government. As far as the leaders are concerned, Syed Ali Shah Geelani enjoys greater trust than Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti.Popular response is unambiguous about the identity of the average Kashmiri. (Table 9) Asked how they identify themselves, three in every four respondents said they are ‘Kashmiris’. Only 15 per cent said they are both Indian and Kashmiri. Clearly, the normal pattern prevalent in rest of India, where people have negotiated with dual identity as Indians and belonging to a region, does not obtain in Kashmir Valley. In contrast, respondents in Jammu do not identify themselves much with Kashmir — they choose to identify more exclusively ‘s ‘Indian’ and only twenty per cent from Jammu region identify with Kashmir. Herein lies the complication of the state called Jammu & Kashmir. As our survey shows, on almost all issues the two regions do not see eye to eye. They think differently, they identify differently, they vote differently too. And the government thus elected has to govern for the entire state of J&K. (Indian Express 25/12/14)

76. PDP seeks assurance from BJP on Article 370 and AFSPA (1)

SRINAGAR: The stalemate over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir continued for the fifth day today as PDP sought assurance from BJP over certain issues like safeguarding Article 370 and revocation of AFSPA which form the core agenda of the regional party. “All options are still open, no decision has been taken yet on formation of government in the state with any other party,” PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhter told PTI here. He said the leadership of PDP, which emerged as the single largest party in the assembly elections, was discussing all its options for government formation including an alliance with the BJP. “There are certain issues which form our core agenda and require an assurance that these will be accepted by our potential alliance partner, whichever party it might be,” he said. Akhter said his party’s stand on safeguarding Article 370, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union, was non-negotiable. He also said that the party was committed on revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state, besides initiating a political process for resolution of Kashmir issue. Asked if his party would consider the demand for rotational chief ministership from any future alliance partner, the PDP spokesman said the negotiations have not reached that stage with any of the parties. He said Congress has also given a proposal for government formation to the PDP which is under the consideration by the party. On the National Conference’s offer of unconditional support to PDP for government formation, Akhter said his party has received no such communication so far from its arch rival. “As and when such an offer is received we will surely discuss it and decide the future course of action,” he said. Meanwhile, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said only Akhter is authorised to articulate the party’s views in the media on policy matters. “The statements of the Chief Spokesman (Akhter) should be taken as the stated position of the party on various policy issues. “In the prevailing hazy political scenario, unqualified comments in the media only add to the confusion and fuel wild speculation,” Mehbooba said in a statement. She said as a responsible political party, the PDP will take not only its cadres but the people of the State on board before arriving on any decision regarding the future course of action. “I want to assure my party cadres and the people that whatever decision is to be taken will be taken in the larger interest of the State and its people,” the PDP president said. She said the mandate given by the people to the PDP to represent the political aspirations and economic interests of all the regions and sub-regions of the state would be represented and valued in adequate measure. (The Economic Times 28/12/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

77. ‘Use social media with caution’ (1)

NAGPUR: Social media is seen as a platform to express and rant without any filters by most young users. However, this indiscriminate expression can often lead to trouble with the law. It is due to this that experts in the field advise caution when putting up one’s thoughts in a digital form. Various aspects of social media and judiciary, especially when it comes to the behaviour of the younger netizens were discussed at the Nagpur Cyber Security Summit, organized by NGO Cyber Awareness Organization (CAO) and the department of computer technology of Yashwantrao Chavan College of Engineering, on Saturday. A special session by director of Institute of Forensic Science Anjali Rahatgaonkar about the scope and opportunities in the emerging field of cyber forensics was also organized. A cyber security research club was also formed in the college. “We often don’t see the dark underbelly of social media which is made worse by ignorance among general public. There have been instances where messages circulated through instant messaging platforms and on social media led to the arrest of an innocent woman alleged to be a con artist and even riots,” said advocate Mahendra Limaye, founder of CAO. Head of the computer technology department AR Bhagat Patil added surveys pointed to an increase in cyber crime, especially that perpetrated by youngsters in the age group of 15-25. “While planning their seemingly covert operations, these young people don’t realize that their digital footprints can be traced back and get them into trouble,” he said. Secretary of District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) Kishor Jaiswal spoke about the conflicts between two provisions of Indian legislature – 66A and 19. While the former says that any content sent through a digital medium found offensive can land the sender in jail, the latter provides every citizen the freedom of expression. “Section 66A is tricky as offensive can be subjective and depends on the interpretation, change of language, etc. There are no clear case laws to deal with several situations that can arise in the age of digital communications. Therefore a responsible internet user needs to practise restraint,” he advised. Cleaning one’s digital footprints is as important as cleaning one’s house, said additional general manager of RTTC Nagpur Regional Telecom Training Centre Manish Shukla. “A service provider has access to at least six months’ worth of their clients’ digital history. From potential recruiters to police, anyone with the right reasons can have access to this history, too,” he said. (Times of India 21/12/14)

78. Focus on developmental issues, CM tells media (1)

KOTTAYAM: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has called upon the media to channelize their energies in focussing on the general interests of the society and the developmental challenges of the State, rather than concentrating on controversies. Speaking on the occasion of the presentation of media awards instituted by the State government here on Tuesday, Mr Chandy pointed out that initiatives like Kudumbasree, Aasraya, Student Police Cadets and palliative care provided by the local bodies have to be looked at close quarters to ascertain their impact in confronting the second generation challenges faced by the State. Constructive criticism was crucial component of ensuring effective democratic process as it would help those in power to make necessary changes in the policies they follow. In spite of being at the receiving end of criticism he had always appreciated scrutiny by the media, he pointed out. If the media in the State could focus on constructive criticism that would help those in power to do much more than anywhere in India, he said.In his presidential address, K C Joseph, Minister for Information and Public Relations said the situation existing in the visual media, both in terms of their working conditions and remunerations, was not on par with what was existing in the print and this has to be addressed. Mr Joseph also called upon the visual media to create a code of conduct for themselves so that the current cut throat competition for TRP where truth often become the scapegoat. The current situation would ultimately affect the credibility of visual media in general, he pointed out. The chief minister presented the awards carrying a purse of Rs.25,000 and citation each, to G Jayachandran, R Krishnaraj, Sameer A Hameed, Fausia Mustafa, Shaju K V, Shani P T, Shefeeque Khan and K R Gopikrishnan. He also presented the special mention awards carrying a purse of Rs.15,000 and citation each, to sarathchandran and Veena George. (The Hindu 24/12/14)

79. Political parties, writers rally behind Tamil writer (1)

CHENNAI: Political parties and writers have rallied behind Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who is under attack from the BJP and other Hindu outfits, for what they call the denigration of Lord Shiva and women devotees in his novel Madhorubhagan. The Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artistes Association (TNPWAA) on Saturday organised a demonstration here, in which senior writers participated to express solidarity with Mr. Murugan. TNPWAA general secretary Su. Venkatesan and president Tamilselvan alleged that the Sangh Parivar had sought to turn people of a particular area against a writer, hailing from the region. “Any attack on creative works and authors will only turn the clock back. Madhorubhagan deals with human relations in the backdrop of an age-old practice in a part of Tamil Nadu. It cannot be construed as an insult to women or religion,” they said and alleged that these kind of activities were on the rise after the BJP assumed office at Centre. While CPI(M) State secretary G. Ramakrishan spoke to Mr. Murugan and expressed solidarity, Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan, in a statement, said the demand for a ban on the novel was part of a larger design of the Sangh Parivar to convert Tamil Nadu into a land of clashes. At a press conference, TNCC president EVKS Elangovan said: “Such actions violate the fundamental right of expression. Artistic right to express should not be stifled.” Mr. Ramakrishnan wondered why the BJP and its offshoots wanted to ban a novel published in 2010. “No one can suppress the freedom of expression. I told Mr. Murugan that my party will stand by him,” he said. Alleging that the Sangh Parivar was emboldened to act as the cultural police after the BJP assumed power at the Centre, he urged the State government to provide adequate security for the writer and his family. Mr. Thirumavalavan said the Sangh Parivar had no right to interfere with the creativity of a writer, who had portrayed a tradition that was in vogue many years ago. Hindutva ideologue and writer Aravindan Neelakantan reiterated that the RSS had never favoured the idea of banning books. “Immediately after the ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Shiv Sena demanded similar measure against Riddles in Hinduism and its removal from Dr Ambedkar’s collected works. But the RSS opposed the ban and wanted it to be published,” he said. Accusing the media of blowing out of proportion the activities of a few fringe elements in Tiruchengode, he said the RSS had nothing to do with this incident. In his novel, Mr. Murugan had portrayed the life of guilt-driven childless couple in the backdrop of a “free, consensual sex ritual” held during the car festival of Arthanareeswarar temple in Tiruchengode. (The Hindu 29/12/14)

80. I&B ministry gaining steam on social media (1)

NEW DELHI: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading from the front, social media outreach of I&B ministry and its associated bodies has got a major boost with over 16 lakh followers on Twitter, nearly 90,000 YouTube subscribers and around 30 lakh likes on Facebook. Senior officials say the Information and Broadcasting ministry has utilised the new media to disseminate information in an unprecedented manner. “The celebration of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday on December 25 as the Good Governance Day is just one of the examples of how I&B ministry utilized the new medium aggressively. On Facebook, the ministry posted 35 times, including around 22 plates with Vajpayee’s poetry written on them. “And as per our information, in a single day, the reach of these posts was approximately 7.5 lakh people,” a senior official told PTI. On the same day, officials of the I&B ministry also posted another 43 posts on twitter which reached another 4,82,000 people approximately, officials added. These posts were retweeted in one day more than 8,460 times, they added. The Ministry of I&B and associated bodies like Press Information Bureau, All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan have established a sophisticated strategy to lead online coverage of important events live, an official said. And this strategy is evolving and the ministry is now planning to extensively use ‘Whatsapp’ and develop mobile applications to expand its reach in the social media space. Citing instances, where the ministry’s use of social media has been quite successful, officials named PM’s address at Madison Square Garden, IFFI opening and closing ceremonies, launch of flagship programmes etc. “The kind of impact this social media strategy has can be assessed from the fact that the total number of impressions of I&B Ministry’s Twitter account during the period when International Film Festival was held was a substantial 26 lakhs,” a senior official said. (Tims of India 30/12/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

81. Gujarat conversions spark anger (7)

Valsad/New Delhi: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) came under fire Sunday  from the Congress and other opposition parties after more than 200 tribal Christians were converted to Hinduism in Gujarat. “Extreme right wing is flexing its muscles. VHP/RSS through Hindutva … rewriting history and economic policies,” Congress leader Digvijay Singh posted on Twitter. Another Congress leader Rashid Alvi said such acts by right-wing outfits only created a bad impression about India across the world. “This is totally unfortunate whatever is happening. In the world, India had a different image of having people practising various religious beliefs, speaking different languages — based on which the country was built… These actions will only create bad impression about the country,” Alvi told ANI. “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and others are trying to destroy the country. If these people have been converted by coercion or inducement then it is a clear violation of law. But then what kind of image of India will be in the world,” he added. CPI leader D Raja also hit out at the VHP’s move saying, “India is not a Hindu Rashtra, but a democratic republic.” A Gujarat-based priest said he could not “accept that anyone who has been a Christian will convert to other religion by personal choice”.”VHP is forcing people and luring them to convert their religion,” Father Dominic was quoted as saying by Zee News. Saturday’s mass ceremony took place in a tribal village 350 kilometres south of Ahmedabad.”As part of the ongoing ‘ghar-wapsi’ programme, VHP re-converted 225 people from Christian community and took them back into Hindu religion,” said Valsad district VHP chief Natu Patel. VHP organised a ‘Maha Yagnya’ (ritual of the sacred fire) for “purification” of the tribals before taking them back in Hindu-fold and also gave each of them a copy of Bhagwad Gita. One of the converts told AFP they were promised ration cards and other financial incentives if they switched religions. The VHP ceremony came just hours after BJP president Amit Shah dared opposition parties to move a bill against “forcible conversions” The incident came against the backdrop of a raging debate over such programmes being organised by Sangh Parivar groups in various parts of the country. A controversy had erupted early this month when a right wing group had organised a ‘ghar-wapsi’ drive wherein it reportedly converted about 100 Muslims in Agra in Uttar Pradesh. The incident had created a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha, with the Opposition demanding a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A similar incident was also reported from BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh where a party MP had claimed 39 tribal Christians were re-converted to Hinduism in Maoist-hit Bastar district in October this year. If people are converting voluntarily,there should be no problem, but if force is being used, State Govt should take action: Venkaiah Naidu (Hindustan Times 21/12/14)

82. After Trilokpuri and Bawana, Delhi is nervous again (7)

New Delhi: Barely two months after he saw his neighbourhood burning, Trilokpuri resident Zeeshan Haider is again getting a sense of foreboding after RSS-backed organisations decided to felicitate converted Muslims from Meerut at a rally in central Delhi’s Ramlila grounds on Christmas. “The situation had just started getting better. Hindus and Muslims had started interacting amicably again, going about their business normally,” the 27-year-old told HT on Monday. “The talk about conversions may again polarise and lead to bitterness.” The poll-bound Capital has slowly been getting on the boil in the last few months. From Dalit colonies to campuses, from shop corners to office water coolers, talk swirls around imminent polarisation. November’s Trilokpuri violence that injured over 70 was immediately followed by communal tensions in northwest Delhi’s Bawana. Earlier this month, a prominent Catholic church in northeast Delhi’s Dilshad Garden burnt down amid allegations of foul play and religious polarisation in the city ahead of assembly polls likely early next year. As organisers put up tents for participants at the Ramlila grounds and the police up their presence, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent call to Delhiites to fund tribals so that they don’t convert has added to the murmurs. “Those who have willingly converted should be left alone. I know a few of them,” said Ramesh Singh, 47, a dry fruits trader from the old city. “But forcible conversions, be it from any religion, must stop.” Even BJP leaders are in two minds. “At a time when the Opposition is targeting then BJP over conversions, senior leaders should ideally stay away from such an event,” said a leader of the BJP’s Delhi unit, requesting anonymity. “But we don’t have much of a say in this. Seniors take the call. If they want members of the Delhi BJP to attend, we will have to,” he added. The RSS expects 25,000 to participate from across Delhi and the national capital region with around 5,000 of them from Gurgaon. “There will be RSS members, students of DAV schools and members of the Arya Samaj too. In support of the PM’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, there will be a special float (jhaki) and after the event, RSS leaders will clean the rally venue,” said RSS leader Vagish Issar. He said Dalits would participate in big numbers, a community the BJP wants to win over from the Aam Aadmi Party. Elections, after all, are just round the bend. (Hindustan Times 23/12/14)

83. Anti-conversion bill will create communal tension: Archbishop Moras (7)

BENGALURU: Bernard Moras, the archbishop of Bengaluru has said that the NDA pushing for the proposed anti-conversion bill was in contradiction of its election manifesto of upholding the secular tenets of the constitution and that is will create communal tension in the county, whose citizens have the right to follow the faith of their choice voluntarily. Chief minister Siddaramaih, and home minister K J George also condemned the move with the former saying the State will not support the bill. Rendering his Christmas message, Moras said that the move “desecrates the constitution and is usurping the constitutional rights.” “…All of us are against forceful conversion, but if persons, on their own free will, wish to embrace any religion, how can we label it fraudulent?” he asked. Stating that the Christian community opposes the bill in a bid to safe guard the secular fabric of the nation, he said: “If we aren’t making out opinions known to people, especially those in power, the anti-conversion bill will be forced upon us. The government, by forcibly introducing this wants to create communal tension and polarization in the country, and will unnecessarily cause a serious infringement of fundamental rights.” He also sought explanation from the government about other religious leaders propagating their religious tenets to the people here and abroad so as to make them embrace the religion they propagate. Answering a specific question on the sidelines before Moras spoke, George said: “Any government should respect the constitution and not bring about drastic changes to it. Just as the constitution does not support forceful conversions, it gives citizens the rights to voluntarily pick the religion they want to follow.” Siddaramaiah, made a more formal commitment by including his disagreement in his speech. “Hinduism prescribes mutual respect for all religions and beliefs, but some people like building walls between people and cause trouble. The makers of our constitution had a secular India in mind and nobody should contradict it. The congress is a secular party and we’ll not support this.” He added that there will be no compromise from the government here… (Times of India 24/12/14)

84. Tension in Assam areas, day curfew relaxed (7)

Guwahati : Curfew was relaxed for a few hours Sunday in Assam’s violence-hit districts where the death toll in ethnic violence now officially stands at 75, officials said. Tension persisted in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts in particular which accounted for most killings, Home Secretary Pratik Hajela said. Hajela added that the army and other security forces had intensified their operations against Bodo militants who massacred unarmed adivasis Dec 23 in three districts, inviting retaliatory violence. The security crackdown is taking place along the border with Bhutan. “We hope the situation will improve soon,” Hajela said. The army has deployed 66 columns for the operation. The central government has sent 50 companies of paramilitary forces to Assam. Another official said the district administrations Sunday relaxed the curfew imposed after the violence for a few hours but said the night curfew will continue. Security forces are particularly active in the four Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri. Operations are also going on along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in Sonitpur, the worst affected district. On Saturday, army chief Gen Dalbir Singh reviewed the situation in Assam in the wake of violence unleashed by the anti-talk faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). The violence has displaced over one lakh people in four districts. Hajela said Bodo militants killed 41 people, including 15 women and 14 children, in Sonitpur district. Another 31 tribals, including 10 women and four children, were killed in Kokrajhar district. The militants killed another three people in Chirang district. Three people also died in police firing at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur when thousands of tribals took to the streets to denounce the violence. Hajela said the dead included 61 adivasis, including the three in police firing, 12 Bodos and two Bengali-speaking people. “Although the NDFB’s violence affected three districts initially, its backlash spread to neighbouring Udalguri district. A total of 364 houses have been set on fire in the four districts. Hazela said the state government had prioritised relief work for the over one lakh people living in 81 relief camps. There are over 80,000 people in 52 relief camps in Kokrajhar, about 12,000 people in 11 camps in Chirang and 6,485 people in nine other camps in Sonitpur, he said. The government has opened centres across the state to collect donations to help out the homeless. “If anyone wants to donate clothes, foods or cash, they can. We will distribute these,” the official said. (Business Standard 28/12/14)

85. MP: Cow slaughter causes communal tension (7)

Curfew was clamped in Gairatganj town of Raisen district, 50 km from Bhopal, on Monday following communal tension over alleged cow slaughter in butcher’s market. Superintendent of police (SP) Deepak Verma said the police had received information about cow slaughter in a butcher’s market at Gairatganj. When a police team reached the market, skin and flesh of cow were recovered. “One of the butchers, who had sacrificed the cow, has been arrested while the other fled from the spot,” he added. After the incident, rumours led to communal tension in the area. Some incidents of arson and stone pelting were also reported. Saffron organisations also held a demonstration and created ruckus at the bus stand. Police used tear gas to control the situation and resorted to use of force to disburse the mob. District administration imposed section 144 in the town. But after reviewing the condition, collector JK Jain imposed curfew. In the violent incidents, about half-a-dozen people have received injuries. Additional police forces from Begumganj, Silwani, Sagar, Vidisha and Raisen have been rushed to Gairatganj. Collector JK Jain said police have arrested 13 people who were spreading rumours and intensifying tension in the town. Superintendent of police Verma said, “Police are trying to nab the other accused in cow slaughter incident. Now, the situation is under control. No reports of violence have been reported in the evening.” This is the third time when curfew has been imposed at a place in Raisen district because of communal tension. (Hindustan Times 30/12/14)

COMMUNALISM

86. Fresh row on conversions, ‘Hindus lured’ (26)

Lucknow: Reports of ‘conversion’ of scores of Hindus into Christianity through alleged ‘allurements’ triggered tension in some districts in Uttar Pradesh. Police sources here said as many as 70 people, mostly from the scheduled and backward castes, had reportedly converted to Christianity in Baharaich district, about 200 kilometres from Lucknow. Reports said a Christian outfit ‘lured’ these poor people of Kamalpuri village in the district into changing their faith and made them join a prayer meeting at a makeshift church. A police team was rushed to the village after reports of tension following conversion and the matter is being investigated, police sources said adding that some villagers alleged that they were being pressurised to change their faith.One person has been taken into custody. Report of alleged conversion also triggered tension in Gorakhpur district, about 275 kilometres from here. Hundreds of people came out to the streets and held demonstration against the alleged conversion of some Hindus into Christianity at Pipraich area on Wednesday evening. The saffron outfits have warned that they will oppose any attempt to encourage conversion of Hindus. “We will not tolerate if attempts are made to convert the Hindus by luring them,” said district Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) president Anand Shahi. The HYV was floated by Mahant Adityanath, the firebrand BJP MP from Gorakhpur. Six persons were arrested for allegedly encouraging the conversion, police said.The state government has already sounded an alert after the recent ‘mass conversion’ of over 250 Muslims into Hinduism at Agra. “The authorities have been directed to act swiftly in cases of conversion. While we cannot stop voluntary conversion, it must be ensured that no one was forced,” said a senior official here on Thursday. (Deccan Herald 19/12/14)

87. Our motive is not to convert people’s religion, but to win hearts: VHP leader Ashok Singhal

New Delhi: Defending the Ghar Vapsi campaign being carried out by some Hindu groups, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal on Sunday said that the motive is to make people aware of their ancestors. “We are committed to protect Hindutva. Our aim is not to convert people’s religion, but to win their hearts,” Singhal told reporters. Speaking at a book launch, VHP patron Ashok Singhal said it was due to their “struggle” in the last 50 years that Hindus have “regained” the lost “empire” of Delhi after 800 years. “Our culture and religion were subjugated and we struggled. In 800 years, a day has now come in which we can say we have a government which is committed to protecting Hindutva. Our values will be gradually established in the country. “We want an invincible Hindu society which works for the world’s welfare according to these values… We have never gone out to convert the world but to win over their heart,” Singhal said, apparently referring to the recent row over conversion. Referring to the BJP government, he said Hindus have come back to power in Delhi after Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan lost it in the 12th century. He claimed that various powers in their attempts to capture the world have brought it close to a world war. “You can see that in Australia and in Central Asia. The danger of ‘Islamic terrorism’ we can see in Europe. This war could have been stopped but the way different powers are in a race to establish their reign in the world, it seems this world war is inevitable,” he said. However, he said Hindus will not be a “player” in such a war as they have always sought to win the world by love and believed in spiritual and not material victory. “They (others) are showcasing their strength on the basis of hate… World will have to think that if we have to live together then we can do so only on the basis of mutual love that India has been propagating,” he said. (Zee News 21/12/14)

88. Large-scale re-conversion likely on Christmas (26)

KOCHI: Even as the controversy over ‘ghar vapsi’ is raging, around 200 persons, mostly Christians, have been brought back to the Hindu fold during the past few days by the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Kerala. Indications are that a large number of people would be brought back to the Hindu fold on Christmas Day, though VHP sources said that no major events had been specially planned for the day. Sources close to the developments indicated that preparations were under way for re-converting close to 300 persons on the day at different centres, including Ernakulam and Idukki districts. Leaders of the Kerala unit of the organisation said the re-conversion drive would go full-throttle in the coming days and there were no directions from the national leadership to put the campaign on hold. While 80 per cent of the re-conversions were from Christianity, a few incidents of Muslims returning to the Hindu faith had also taken place. People who were converted from Ezhava, and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities to Christianity had been mostly returning recently. Muslims too had returned at functions held at some parts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, sources said. Dharm Prasar, the VHP organ focusing on re-conversion, is planning to bring back 250 families by the year-end. Around 80 families have already returned to Hinduism at regional events held at Thodupuzha, Mavelikara, Kollam, Kasaragod, Thrissur, and Ernakulam. The events were being planned as low-key affairs considering the likely resistance that may come up against re-conversions, sources said. VHP Kshetriya Sanghatana secretary K.N. Venkiteswaran, when asked about the plans for mass conversion programmes on Christmas, said if people came forward to return to Hinduism on that day, the homecoming would be arranged. The VHP leader, who claimed that the drive had received overwhelming response, said the organisation would facilitate people returning to their original faith. The helpline run by the VHP had been receiving close to 200 calls a day seeking support to return to Hinduism, he said. The re-conversion drive, an ongoing process, would continue in the coming days and those willing to return to “Swadharma” would be given all protection and guarded against any social discrimination, VHP leaders said. Annually, around 2,000 people had been coming back over the years. Fear factor was holding back Muslims from coming back to Hinduism, he said. (The Hindu 23/12/14)

89. 11 Muslims converted to Hinduism, says VHP (26)

ALAPPUZHA: A few days after arranging the reconversion of 30 Christians, the Chengannur district unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Wednesday claimed to have converted 11 Muslims to Hinduism at a ceremony in Kayamkulam. As in the previous instance, the conversion ritual was kept under wraps by VHP functionaries until its conclusion. The ceremony took place at Kizhavoor Yakshi Amman Temple at Varanappally from 7 a.m. for around two hours in the presence of VHP workers. VHP Chengannur district president Prathap G. Padickal said the persons belonged to three families, one hailing from Arattupuzha and the others from Kayamkulam. “A member each of two couples had been forcibly converted to Islam as part of love jihad years ago,” he said and added that the third family hailed from Tamil Nadu and had settled in the State. “All the three families have been practising Hindu rituals and customs for some time. They had approached the VHP seeking our assistance for the conversion,” Mr. Padickal said. He refused to divulge the identities of the three families in order to “ensure their protection”. The VHP leader also declined to say whether there would be further conversions in the region in the coming days. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

90. Another idea from Hindutva lab: ‘bahu lao-beti bachao’ (26)

Lucknow: After “love jihad” and “ghar wapsi”, now its “bahu lao-beti bachao” campaign. Notwithstanding the controversy generated over the first two, Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has announced the launch of “bahu lao-beti bachao” campaign. Under it, they will “protect Hindu boys who marry Muslim or Christian girls” and will also create awareness among Hindu families “to protect their girls from falling in love or getting married to Muslim or Christian boys”. Bajrang Dal will launch the campaign from February 17 in Uttar Pradesh. Its office bearers here have already discussed the campaign at the “Hindu Sammelan” that the VHP recently organised across the country to mark its golden jubilee. VHP is an offshoot of Rashrtiya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Bajrang Dal state convenor Ajju Chauhan told The Indian Express that the “bahu lao-beti bachao” campaign will be a reply to “love jihad” and will seek to bring girls from Muslim or Christian communities as daughters-in-laws for Hindu families. “In ‘love jihad’, Muslim youths use fake identity of being a Hindu to marry Hindu girls for which they get funding from different organisations. But, in ‘bahu lao-beti bachao’ campaign, we will neither ask the Hindu youths to cheat girls, nor provide them any money to lure girls of other communities,” Chauhan said. He said Bajrang Dal will only provide protection to the couple —- Hindu boy and Muslim or Christian girl – if they face threat from their families before or after marriage. Bajrang Dal will also help any such couple to get married if their families oppose the decision, he added. The campaign will be launched in other states such as Kerala and Karnataka. A mass awareness campaign on ‘bahu lao-beti bachao” will start soon through street plays, pamphlets and hoardings. (Indian Express 28/12/14)

91. RSS open to re-conversion of Goan Catholics (26)

Panaji: In the midst of a nationwide row over the issue of re-conversion, a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) official said that the organisation was open to facilitate the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ of willing Goan Catholics, whose ancestors were forcibly converted during the colonial Portuguese era. Speaking to a select group of journalists in Goa, on the sidelines of a training camp for 15-year-old plus RSS volunteers, Sharad Kunte, who heads the Sangh’s intellectual wing for the western region, also said that the RSS was not actively seeking to re-convert people, but only serving as a facilitator or guide to those who wanted to come back into their original religious fold. “If they want to come back, we are ready to welcome them,” Mr. Kunte said, when asked about the Sangh’s position on Hindus who had been converted by the Portuguese centuries earlier. He spoke about Goa’s colonial past and the conversions to Catholicism, which had taken place under the erstwhile Portuguese rule. “It’s like this, the Portuguese had forcibly converted thousands of Hindus. They (those converted) are not around now, but I think their later generations are,” Mr. Kunte said, adding that even if present day Catholics in Goa did not wish to re-convert, the RSS has no issues with it. Goa was a Portuguese colony for more than 450 years until it was liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961 by the Indian army. In the earlier part of the Portuguese regime, a large number of Goans were converted, often by force by Catholic missionaries, according to documented historical texts. Goa has a population of 1.5 million out of which more than 26 per cent are Catholics. Mr. Kunte said that the RSS’s ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme had nothing to do with converting people by force. “For those who want to come back (to their original religion), we are only showing them the way,” Mr. Kunte added. Kunte was speaking to reporters after conducting a session on Saturday at the training camp which was attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Goa legislative assembly Speaker Rajendra Arlekar, among others A nationwide controversy erupted recently after a few right-wing Hindu organisations, some of which owe allegiance to the RSS, organised re-conversion programmes in some north Indian states to re-convert non-Hindus to Hinduism. The opposition, which had stalled the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha for several days on end over the issue, has accused the Hindu organisations of offering money as well as government perks to those who reconverted or were potential re-converts. (The Hindu 29/12/14)

92. In Bodh Gaya, 200 are ‘made’ Hindus (26)

Patna: Over 200 Christian Mahadalits of tiny Atia village in Bodh Gaya were “purified” on Monday under pressure from the saffron brigade to participate in their “Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) programme. The move was initiated by local BJP MP Hari Manjhi. The Sangh Parivar targeted the Mahadalit village because the villagers had embraced Christianity en bloc; they were segregated under brahminical orders from the Hindu mainstream and lived in extreme poverty. Manjhi, however, disappeared from the scene and rushed to Delhi just before the Ghar Wapsi programme was launched. According to sources in Bodh Gaya, Mr Manjhi left for Delhi after the BJP withdrew itself from the entire Ghar Wapsi episode. Till a fortnight ago the BJP had been supporting the Ghar Wapsi drive and had even sent a fact-finding team to Bhagalpur for the re-conversion of those who were baptised into Christianity. The BJP had staged a dharna outside the Bihar Assembly a few days ago to protest conversion en masse in the village. VHP members, while talking to this newspaper, said the “purification” was performed according to Sanatan rituals. The VHP members plan to start an Ekal Vidyalaya in the Christian-dominated Atia village with the sole purpose of educating the children and making them aware of the essence of Hinduism. “The villagers came to us and wanted to reconvert. We accepted their request and welcomed them and performed their shudhikaran (purification), and today around 200 men, women and children in the village returned to their original religion,” Shyama Singh of the VHP told this newspaper. (Asian Age 30/12/14)

TERRORISM

93. 26/11 accused Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi led charmed life in jail, fathered a child (12)

New Delhi: Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, granted bail by a Pakistani court on Thursday, led a charmed life in jail despite being a top member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Second only to Hafiz Saeed in the Lashkar hierarchy, Lakhvi was “treated like a state guest and not a terrorist” after being held in December 2008 in connection with the Mumbai terror strike. Lakhvi even fathered a child while confined on terror charges at Rawalpindi’s high-security Adiala jail. This information was given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by co-accused Abu Jundal, who was packed off to Saudi Arabia by his handlers in the Pakistani establishment in the wake of the international heat generated by the terror attacks. Both Lakhvi and India-born Jundal worked in close coordination to train and arm Ajmal Kasab and the nine others who came to Mumbai via the sea route. According to Jundal, Lakhvi called on him in Adiala jail to tell him about his marriage and fatherhood. Lakhvi’s child was kept a closely guarded secret even within the LeT ranks. Jundal’s revelations only reaffirmed the belief in government circles that Lakhvi was being protected by Pakistani authorities— the ISI and the army in particular. Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley, who made several trips to Mumbai to recce the terror targets ahead of 26/11, told the NIA when it went to Chicago to interrogate him that the then ISI chief, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, visited Lakhvi in Adiala jail. The American government, too, had shared intelligence with India that Lakhvi had access to a mobile phone in jail and that he continued to run Lashkar’s operations from behind bars. An investigative online journal, ProPublica, had reported that Pakistan’s then army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, had declined to confiscate Lakhvi’s cellphone. Lakhvi’s importance to the Pakistani establishment can also be judged from the fact that the military commander was guarded by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants even though he was housed in a high-security jail. For years now, Pakistan has also refused to hand over Lakhvi’s voice samples, needed to establish that he orchestrated the Mumbai attacks from a control room in Karachi. Lakhvi’s voice was identified by Jundal but protective Pakistani authorities, aware that this would amount to clinching evidence, did little to pursue the case against him despite several dossiers being handed over by India. (Hindustan Times 19/12/14)

94. Assam: Violence spreads as toll rises to 65, NIA to probe killings (12)

Guwahati: Violence spread in Assam on Wednesday as the toll in the massacre of tribals by Bodo militants rose to 65 including 21 women and 18 children, sparking a retaliation in which Bodo homes were torched and a police station attacked leaving three more tribals dead allegedly in police firing. According to reports, two Bodos people were killed when the Adivasi people burnt a number of houses belonging to the community in Kokrajhar district. There was no official confirmation of the deaths. Violence spread to a fourth district–Udalguri–when the militants of the anti-talks NDFB(S) who were behind the ethnic violence in three districts on Tuesday ired at villagers and burnt houses injuring one person. The attack triggered another round of retaliation in which the Adivasis set ablaze over 60 huts of Bodo people at Lamabari and Udalguri weekly market. Tribal plantation workers burn houses belonging to indigenous Bodo tribesmen after ethnic clashes in Balijuri village, in Sonitpur district  of Assam (Reuters) As authorities mulled an offensive against Songbijit faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the carnage as a “terror” act and that it will be dealt with accordingly. Army has been deployed in all the violence-hit areas and is ‘actively’ involved in maintaining law and order situation since last night, a defence spokesperson said. Curfew has been clamped in all the disturbed areas under Sonitpur, Chirang and Kokrajhar districts, police said. Singh rushed to Guwahati to review the situation at a meeting with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and top security officials. The Chief Minister urged Singh to order an NIA inquiry into the killings and the Union Minister consented to it, sources in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said on Wednesday night. 37 people were killed in Sonitpur district, 25 in Kokrajhar and three in Chirang district after heavily armed militants belonging to NDFB swooped down on remote Adivasi villages of the three districts last evening, Police said. Among the dead, 21 were women and 18 children, it said, adding 15 people were also injured. The Centre said it was rushing about 5,000 paramilitary personnel at the request of Assam Government even as the Chief Minister asked for more security personnel. Around 2,500 people have fled their homes and are staying in relief camps after the attack, an official said. An all-out offensive will be launched against NDFB militants jointly by police, paramilitary forces and army in the wake of the violence, sources said in Delhi. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Rajnath Singh in Delhi and attended by top officials of Home and Defence ministries and paramilitary forces, they said. Even as Gogoi said firm steps were being taken to prevent the situation from escalating, violent protests by Adivasis erupted against the killings. Police opened fire as angry protestors turned violent in Dhekiajuli of Sonitpur district, a police official said. The protestors, armed with bow and arrows, were marching towards the police station in Dhekajuli town and despite repeated appeal by police to stop, they marched on and attempted to storm the police station, he said. Police initially attempted to disperse the protestors by resorting to lathicharge, but opened fire when the situation worsened, the official said. Three persons were killed and several others injured in police action, he said. Angry protestors also set ablaze twenty houses allegedly belonging to the people of the Bodo community in Phuloguri in Sonitpur district. (DNA 25/12/14)

95. Centre extends ban on NDFB(S) for 5 years (12)

NEW DELHI, Dec 26 – Government has extended the ban imposed on NDFB (S), by five more years, reports PTI. The ban is applicable to all factions of NDFB, sources said today. The notification declaring the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) as an outlawed organisation under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for five years was issued by the Home Ministry on Monday, official sources said. The Home Ministry has approached a Tribunal set up by the Delhi High Court for the ratification of its order. The anti-talks faction of NDFB, led by Songbijit Ingti Kathar, has killed more than 70 Adivasi tribals in three districts of Assam in the last four days. Songbijit in 2009 fell out with the outfit’s top leadership and floated NDFB(S), now the most dreaded faction. Meanwhile, the Centre today extended the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with NDFB (Progressive) for six months till June 30, 2015. This followed tripartite talks with the representatives of NDFB (P) held on December 22, 2014. (The Assam Tribune 27/12/14)

96. Bangalore blast: NIA yet to be handed over probe (12)

New Delhi: With Sunday’s Bengaluru blast, the number of cases in which banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is under scanner has risen to almost half a dozen. But the Union home ministry is yet to hand over any of these cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). “The NIA had written to the Union home ministry almost three months back asking three cases — the Bijnor blast (September 12), Karim Nagar bank robbery (February 2) and Pune’s police station parking blast (July 11) – be handed over as it is suspected SIMI operatives were involved. But the ministry is yet to take a decision on it,” said a government official. A counter terror official added that the list of cases where SIMI operatives who escaped from Khandwa prison in September last year, is suspected to have been involved has become quite exhaustive. “Their role is also suspected in the Chennai train blast (May 1), Roorkee blast (December 6) and Rewari incident of September 25 when a bomb was detected in the nick of time from a passenger train,” he said. In most of the cases, forensic experts have said the improvised explosive devices used to conduct blasts consisted of an elbow shape pipe of around two inch diameter, timers, two to three detonators and nails as shrapnel. “Forensic experts have said the explosive was a paste of Potassium Chlorate, Ammonium Nitrate and some kind of lubricant. The IED signature in the Bengaluru blast looked similar. Despite a requirement of a coordinated probe by single agency in all these cases, the NIA has not been pressed into service,” he added. NIA sources said that all the probes are scattered across the country and if one agency were to probe them, it would require working with the state police by collating and analysing all leads. The NIA was formed exclusively to probe terror activities after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. (Hindustan Times 30/12/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

97. Naxalites hold raiding foresters captive; snatch away guns, ammo (12)

Chandrapur: The armed offensive initiated by forest department to check interstate teakwood smuggling in Maharashtra-Telangana border in Gadchiroli received a serious jolt on Saturday afternoon after Naxalites took a raiding party of forest department staffers captive and looted three self-loaded rifles (SLR) and 60 live cartridges from them in Konjed forest in Dechlipetha range. The Red rebels thrashed the foresters brutally, injuring at least half a dozen staffers of the raiding party, before they were allowed to walk away traumatized in the evening. Sources said that the forest department had dispatched a raiding party into Dechlipetha forest following a tip-off about movement of bullock-carts carrying illegally fallen logs by teakwood smugglers. A joint posse of 24 forestmen, including six guards and 17 van-majors (forest labourers) from Dechlipetha and Jimalgatta, led by a round officer began search operation in the forest near Konjed village in the morning. Foresters looking for teakwood smugglers, however stumbled upon the group of armed Naxalites in the jungle in the afternoon. The three forest guards, identified as SN Rathod, RV Nimrad and CK Choudhary, were learnt to have received more of the thrashing from Naxalites. The posse of around 50 Naxalites surrounded the forest staffers’ team and asked them to surrender. The entire team of 24 was then taken captive and three rifles and ammunition of 60 cartridges they were carrying were snatched away. Sources claimed that some foresters tried to confront the Naxalites and one of them even dared to level his gun at the rebels. But their trivial attempt was subdued brutally and those dared to confront were brutally thrashed. At least half a dozen members of forest department’s posse sustained grievous injuries in thumping. A section of the cops have expressed surprise as to why there was no efforts in resisting the arms loot from the trained forest guard. “No a single bullet was fired,” said an official expressing shock. The Naxalites reportedly warned the apprehended forestmen against carrying firearms in the forest and took their class for the failure of the department to curb rampant destruction of forests. The assaulted forestmen were allowed to walk away later in the evening. Foresters filed a complaint about the looting of firearms with Jimalgatta police station after returning to their base. They said that the Naxalites first separated the van majoors from the arm-wielding forest officials. The way the large posse of 50 armed Naxalites waylaid the foresters into the jungle smells of a well-laid plan. However, Sironcha DCF Prabhunath Shukla ruled out that it was a trap. He said that it was a mere coincidence that the forestmen met with the Naxalites. Earlier on December 5, 2009, Naxalites had captured the base camp in Somnur forest, near the confluence of Indrawati and Godavari river on the state border, where 35 forest department staffers were camping to curb cross-border teakwood smuggling. A posse of over 50 armed rebels had looted two guns and 20 cartridges from forest officers in the midnight raid at that time. (Times of India 22/12/14)

98. ISIS, Naxals kept home ministry busy in 2014 (12)

NEW DELHI: Terror outfit ISIS appeared to have emerged as a threat factor in the Indian security radar during 2014 which wrapped up on a tragic note with massacre of over 60 adivasi by Bodo rebels in Assam after witnessing unabated Naxal violence. However, there was considerable calm in Jammu & Kashmir, which witnessed a record turn out in the just-concluded largely peaceful assembly polls during the year in which over 560 incidents of communal violence came as a matter of concern. With the new government in saddle in Delhi and new minister Rajnath Singh in North Block, some occupants in Raj Bhavans nominated by the earlier UPA government, were nudged out and new ones appointed in their place. However, a few incumbents continued. The long struggle for separate statehood in Andhra Pradesh culminated in the creation of Telangana in June that become the country’s 29th state. The arrest of a Bangalore-based executive, who was operating a pro-ISIS Twitter handle to propagate the ideology of the Middle-East terrorist group, climaxed some disquieting events earlier in the year. The disappearance of four Mumbai youths in Iraq-Syria and return of one of them raised concerns over how some of the Indian Muslim youths have become radicalized through social networking sites and other cyber outlets. Intelligence Bureau chief Asif Ibrahim recently said there was an imminent danger of Indian youths moving to the conflict zone (Iraq-Syria), emerging as a role model and such developments may directly or indirectly pose a threat to the country. “The threat potential is accentuated with some lower rung elements returning from conflict zone,” he had said. The Indian hinterland continues to remain the prime focus of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits, particularly the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Indian Mujahideen, as the home ministry found that these groups were setting up their infrastructure in Bangladesh and using the porous Indo-Bangla border to send arms and ammunition into India. Blast in a madrassa in West Bengal’s Burdwan has pointed out designs of the terrorists of the neighbouring country to set up bases in India. The home ministry oversaw the creation of Telangana in two phases — one before the Lok Sabha polls and the other after the simultaneous elections to the assembly. Maoists violence continued to be top security challenge for the Home Ministry in 10 Naxal-hit states, particularly in Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh, where 14 CRPF personnel were killed in an ambush early this month. Altogether, nearly 200 civilians and more than 60 security personnel were killed in Left-wing violence. The home ministry says that Naxals have been extorting money to the tune of Rs 140 crore annually from contractors, businessmen and corporate houses while their front organisations are suspected to be receiving foreign funds clandestinely. The sudden unprovoked attack by Bodo tribals on adivasis in three Assam districts on Tuesday shattered the peace of northeast and caught the security establishment on the wrong foot. The massacre forced the government to adopt a tough stand when it decided to go all out against the insurgents. The home ministry deployed more than 1.2 lakh paramilitary personnel to provide security during the multi-phased Lok Sabha elections across the country and was credited with its successful completion with relative peace. During 2014, the home ministry extended the ban imposed on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) saying if not curbed, the outfit will reorganise and “disrupt the secular fabric” of the country. The extension came as the government found that the activities of the outfit continue to be “prejudicial to the integrity and security of the country”.Its five members, who had fled from a jail in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh, have become a new headache for the security establishment as there have been multiple intelligence inputs that the SIMI operatives were out to carry out terror attacks. The unprecedented floods in Jammu and Kashmir also saw the Home Ministry deeply involved in rescue and relief operations and restoring communication network. The Union home secretary himself was camping in Srinagar for nearly a week to personally supervise the entire operation. (Times of India 25/12/14)

99. Maoist group eyes Northern Kerala (12)

NEW DELHI: The banned CPI(Maoist) is eyeing fertile ground in at least three districts of northern Kerala – Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad. Exploiting popular sentiment against environmental pollution caused by mining and quarrying activity, exploitation of natural resources, alleged highhandedness and misdeeds of forest and police officials and displacement of tribals due to tourism projects and wildlife sanctuaries, the Maoists have announced their arrival in Kerala with recent actions including vandalisation of a forest outpost in Wayanad, MNC-owned fast food restaurants in Palakad and a tourist resort in Wayanad. Recently, CPI(Maoist), through its mouthpiece, highlighted alleged miserable condition of tribals in Manjeri in Malappuram district and blamed it on the attitude of forest and tribal welfare departments. It claimed to have forced the state government to address problems of the affected people, including tribals. The extremist outfit has already formed an armed squad in Malappuram district. A series of recent actions undertaken by Western Ghats special zonal committee of the CPI(Maoist) in Palakkad and Wayanad over the past few days have left the Central security establishment worried over Kerala being the latest entrant to the list of LWE-hit states. For instance, suspected Maoists vandalized a forest outpost in Wayanad and a forest range office in Palakkad on December 21 and 22. Another group targeted two fast food restaurants of multi-national companies in Palakkad on December 22. Pamphlets issued by the outfit were recovered from the attack site, giving the call for intensification of “class struggle” and asserting people’s right over land, water and forest resources. (Times of India 27/12/14)

100. Mobile towers to be set up in naxal-affected districts (12)

BHUBANESWAR: Mobile towers will come up in Berhampur, Cuttack, Keonjhar and Sambalpur districts. Telecom equipment maker VNL Limited has been identified as vendor for the project. Besides, BSNL has been asked to replace expired batteries of existing telecom towers. Left wing extremists have been consistently targeting telecom towers, which play an important role in keeping mobile phone communication intact, in southern Odisha districts like Gajapati, Malkanagiri and Rayagada. The instances of setting telecom towers on fire have come down in the recent past as towers are being installed near security establishments. After the gradual increase in deployment of security forces in naxal affected districts, extremists are finding it difficult to target towers. (The Hindu 30/12/14)

TRAFFICKING

101. Man held for selling 18-year-old girl into prostitution for Rs 3 lakh (1)

Mumbai: Social Service Branch (SSB) of the city police, on Thursday, arrested a man for allegedly trying to sell an 18-year-old girl into prostitution. The accused had brought the victim, a native of Madhya Pradesh, to the city promising he would get her a job in an event management company, the police said. They have rescued the girl. According to the police, the victim is from Indore and belongs to a poor family. “The accused is known to her family. Two days ago he told her parents that he would get her a job in an event management firm in Mumbai. The family then sent the victim with the accused to Mumbai,” said an SSB officer. In Mumbai, the accused was about to sell the victim to a prostitution racket and was supposed to get Rs3 lakh in the transaction. “We had received information that a woman would be sold for Rs3 lakh in a guest house at Gamdevi. Accordingly, we laid a trap and arrested the accused and rescued the girl. The accused was booked under charges of Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act and handed over to Gamdevi police,” the officer said. The accused was produced before a court which remanded him in police custody till December 24. Cops are investigating whether he has committed similar acts in the past. Police have also informed victim’s parents about their daughter being rescued. They are expected to reach Mumbai in a couple of days, police said. (DNA 20/12/14)

102. 31 Assam kids among 46 trafficking victims rescued from Haryana (1)

Guwahati: Forty-six persons from a village in Bongaigaon district in western Assam – 31 of them children – have been rescued by the police from a factory in Rohtak in Haryana, with the Assam Police now asking the Haryana Police to track the culprits, both employers and traffickers, in order to check the menace. Bongaigaon additional SP Imdad Ali said these people, which included a few families too, were lured with money by a gang of traffickers from Koreya, a village under Jogighopa police station and taken to Haryana about five months ago. “While the families were taken on the promise of jobs, they were kept confined in a godown attached to a factory and were paid only a few rupees on a daily basis so that they could not save money to run away,” Addl SP Ali said. “Members of two such families lodged an FIR a couple of weeks ago, following which we managed to track down the people in a factory in Rohtak district with the help of Haryana Police. But when we raided the place, the owner of the factory had already fled,” the Addl SP said. The rescued persons have been brought by train to Assam and they have reached their homes on Sunday afternoon, he added. The 46 who were rescued included 31 children, several of them adolescent girls, while three women also had infants. “The adults were initially paid a salary at the end of the first month of work, but later they were only given a few rupees for daily sustenance, with the owner ensuring that they could not save money to run away,” Ali said. The police are also on the look-out for three local persons – namely Rupchand Ali, Ibrahim Ali and Elahi Ali – who had allegedly lured the families to go with them to Haryana. The trio had reportedly handed over the group of people to two persons – Manoj Kumar and Tilak Kumar – in Rohtak, who in turn handed over the group to the owner of a factory that dealt in steel and iron scrap.(Indian Express 22/12/14)

103. ‘Bring law to prevent human trafficking’ (1)

Kolkata: At a time when trafficking of women and children continues to be a major concern for policy makers in West Bengal, activists have launched a signature campaign highlighting the need for a legislation to curb the activities of illegal placement agencies operating in the State. Activists cite instances of Chhattisgarh and Delhi where mechanism to regulate activities of placements firms have been introduced in recent past. Chhattishgarh, a State with significant tribal population, where migration and trafficking is common, has recently framed rules under the Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act passed by the State Assembly. In the Capital after the intervention of the Delhi High Court, a notification was issued in September 2014 which provides for compulsory registration of private placement agencies operating there within 30 days. “We urge the State Government to regulate the placement agencies operating here, form a committee to verify credentials of all placement agencies, define rights of domestic workers and ban employment of children by the placement agencies,” Rishi Kanta, an activist with NGO Shakti Vahini told The Hindu. Pointing out that the campaign has been endorsed by over 4,000 people on different social networking sites, Mr. Rishi Kanta said the campaign is aimed to complement schemes like Kanyashree Prakalpa, a scholarship scheme started by the State government aimed at reducing drop out of young girls. A compilation of the signatures will be presented to the State Department of Women and Child Development, Mr. Rishi Kanta said. Vinod Kumar Tikoo, a former member of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, also supported the initiative. Mr. Tikoo, who has worked in Chhattisgarh and Bengal, said that in certain rural areas of Chhattisgarh there were graffitis by a number of placement agencies. (The Hindu 28/12/14)

CORRUPTION

104. Bill to amend Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act tabled in LS (5)

NEW DELHI: In a bid to crack the political freeze over the appointment of Lokpal, the government on Thursday tabled in the Lok Sabha an amendment in the 2013 statute making room for Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to join as member of the high-powered panel empowered to select the top anti-corruption ombudsman. In the existing Act, Section 4 makes only the Leader of Opposition eligible to be a member of the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister. The amendment allows the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in the Lok Sabha to be member in case there is no “recognised” Leader of Opposition (LoP). This amendment brings the Lokpal Act in line with the Central Vigilance Act, 2003 and Right to Information Act, 2005 Further, the Amendment Bill provides that no appointment in the search committee or the proceedings of the panel would be made invalid “merely by reason of any vacancy or absence of a member” of the panel. The selection committee also has the Lok Sabha Speaker, 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, besides the opposition leader. Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh introduced The Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had earlier rejected Congress demands for LoP status to its leader. Congress with 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha has emerged as the second largest party after BJP’s 282 but fell short of 10 per cent of the strength of House, a requirement to get LoP status. This Amendment Bill also provides for qualifications for appointment of Director of Prosecution in the CBI and for its functional independence. The Director of Prosecution is appointed under the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs working of the CBI. (The Hindu 19/12/14)

105. Vigilance Detects Scam in Horticulture Scheme (5)

ROURKELA:  Vigilance sleuths have detected misappropriation to the tune of `59 lakh in implementation of a horticulture scheme at two villages of Nuagaon block in Sundargah district. They suspect that the total amount embezzled in the scheme may cross `2 crore. Welfare Extension Officer (WEO) Purna Chandra Majhi and project officer of an NGO, Public Interest & Welfare Activity Association, Simanchal Nayak (43) were arrested in this connection on Saturday and produced at Vigilance Court in Sambalpur. Cases have also been registered against incumbent Assistant Director of Horticulture, Rourkela, SP Nayak and his predecessor Sushil Seth besides Special Officer in Panposh Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) Sushant Das. Sources said corruption occurred in the financial years of 2012-13 and 2013-14 in implementation of Integrated Vegetable Farming & Mushroom scheme. The scheme was being implemented for BPL Scheduled Tribe farmers by Horticulture wing of Agriculture Department and Panposh ITDA through the NGO. The scheme amount was `2 crore for each of three crop seasons covering 22 villages. Investigation revealed that a fraud of `38 lakh and `21 lakh was committed at Bagdega and Jhariatoli villages respectively. Vigilance sources said the total misappropriation of Government fund may exceed `2 crore on completion of investigation in the remaining villages. The fund was misappropriated by showing inflated number of beneficiaries, negligible distribution of farm inputs and massive fraudulent spending on fake awareness programmes and appointment of ghost resource persons. (New Indian Express 21/12/14)

106. Rajasthan coop official, family sentenced in graft case (5)

AJMER: The former deputy manager of Rajasthan Cooperative Dairy Federation, Surendra Sharma, and his entire family were sentenced to six years imprisonment and fined Rs. 25 lakh each on charges of corruption and amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. Surendra Sharma, his wife Aruna and two children Gaurav (26) and Garima (24) will spend one more year in jail in case of defaulting on the fine. The court also ordered the family to deposit Rs 2.5 crore and all the gold and silver recovered from them during raids in the government treasury. It is, perhaps, the first time that a court has sent family members to jail for abetting the head of the family in corruption, though the primary case was against Surender Sharma. Mr. Sharma is said to have made money by taking commission on each truck of fodder sent to the villages. (The Hindu 22/12/14)

107. ‘Graft’ Figures at Meet (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The bribery allegations raised by a contractor against some councillors figured in the proceedings of the City Corporation council meeting here on Saturday. The allegations raised by the contractor was that certain councillors, whom the contractor did not name, had intervened in the works of contractors demanding bribe. Ambalathara ward councillor Mujeeb Rahman said that he will proceed with legal steps against the contractor for ‘’defaming’’ the councillors. ‘’The whole council was defamed by the allegation raised by the contractor. If he had faced such problems, he should have named the councillors instead of accusing the whole council. He could also have approached the Vigilance court if there were any issue of corruption,’’ he said. Councillors belonging to LDF, UDF and BJP together came out against the contractor’s ‘revelation’. They alleged that it was an attempt by contractors to shift the attention from their own failings as they fail to finish the work on time. ‘’If he was an honourable person, he would have revealed the name of the councillors who demanded bribe. Anyway we have to reconsider as to whether to continue works with these kind of contractors. We will seek a clarification and will inquire about this matter,’’ said Mayor K Chandrika. “He could have approached the anti- corruption officials or he could have adopted measures to trap corrupt persons. If he had done that, we would have lauded him,’’ the Mayor said.  Meanwhile, Opposition UDF members questioned the involvement of MLAs Thomas Isaac and V Sivankutty in the Corporation’s programmes. They also criticised Thomas Isaac for criticising the Corporation secretary through his facebook post. The Opposition members criticised the quality of the diary issued by the Corporation. (New Indian Express 28/12/14)

108. Bombay High Court stays FIR, probe against HDIL (5)

Mumbai: In a relief to real estate major Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL), the Bombay high court has stayed a lower court order asking police to conduct a probe against the company with regard to alleged irregularities in a slum rehabili-tation authority (SRA) project. The anti-corruption bureau filed a first information report on December 2 against the company and SRA officials for irregularities in an SRA scheme at Motilal Nehru Nagar in suburban Bandra in 2005-06 under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The high court stayed the FIR too. HDIL had moved the high court challenging the FIR and the lower court order ordering the probe. A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Anuja Prabhudessai earlier this month granted relief pending final disposal of the petition, noting that FIR names two senior SRA officials, and in such cases, as per a Supreme Court ruling, government’s sanction was necessary. The next hearing of the case will be on January 19. The FIR was registered against the principal secretary (housing) Debashish Chakrabarty, principal secretary (woman and child development) Ujjwal Uke, HDIL group chairman and the company’s 10 directors. At the relevant time, Chakrabarty and Uke were with SRA. According to the complainant, though he owned a tenement in the area, he was not allotted a shop after the area was redeveloped and there were some irregularities. (Asian Age 30/12/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

109. India remained positive, proactive in Lima: Javadekar (9)

New Delhi: India was “positive” and “proactive” in its approach to climate change negotiations that were concluded in Lima last week, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said Friday. Unveiling a publication on climate change adaptation, he said in view of India’s insistence in Lima on promoting adaptability as a measure to combat the global scourge, the publication was “timely” as it focuses on best practices to adapt to climate change in the country. A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) publication, “Rising to the Call: Good practices of climate change adaptation in India” is a collection of case studies on climate variability that indicate the effects of climate change across India. CSE’s deputy director general and the lead author of the book, Chandra Bhushan said: “Climate change has begun to hurt India. Weather extremes such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires have intensified in the recent past.” The publication also discusses the local response to extreme weather trends while highlighting the best practices that people undertake to adapt to climate variability. As clean and healthy environment means serious business to the Narendra Modi government, Javadekar said the government is passionate about climate change and has earmarked Rs. 100 crore to kick start India’s adaptation plan. (Zee News 19/12/14)

110. Over 70% urban slums in Rajasthan on open spaces, public parks: Report (9)

JAIPUR: More than 70% of urban slums in Rajasthan are on open spaces and public parks owned by local bodies. National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in its latest report on ‘Urban Slums in India’ also highlighted the dismal living condition of the people in these dwellings. In per 1,000 distribution of slums by type of ownership of land, a total of 697 are on the land belonging to local bodies in Rajasthan while all-India average is 367. Even drains and nullahs are occupied by large slums as about 235 slums out of 1,000 are in these locations. Slums along the railway lines on the contrary are lower than most other states and only 195 per 1,000 slums are found at such spots in the survey. NSSO conducted an all-India survey of rural and urban areas of the country under 69th round of NSS during July-December, 2012. The survey dwells upon drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and housing condition. The report which was released in November 2014 is being used by policy makers and researchers. The last survey of such kind was conducted in 65th round (July 2008-June2009). The report also noted that as many as 27% of all slums in Rajasthan have no electricity connection. In all other states it is 10% or less and nationally it is 7%. Most slums, 674 per 1,000 have pucca (concrete) houses while there is a significant number (268 per 1,000 slums) which are unserviceable kaccha. Urban slums that are mostly unrecognized lack basic facilities too. A total of 476 slums per 1,000 have no toilets while about 101 use dry pit. Similarly, slums with underground drainage were just 17 while most of them had open drainages and there were no drainages in 379 slums. Garbage collection which is a larger problem in all urban areas is a menace in slums. As per the survey report 443 slums out of 1,000 had absolutely no garbage disposal facilities. In 352 slum households garbage collection happens in 3 to 7 days. Apart from that, ohter benefits like school and health centres too are at a distance from urban slums in the state. Rajasthan is the only state in the country where distance of nearest primary government school from an urban slum is more than 5 kms. An estimated total of 33,150 slums existed in the urban areas of India. About 8.8 million households lived in these slums with 5.6 in notified and 3.2 in non-notified slums. Maharashtra with an estimated 7,723 slums, accounted for about 23% of all slums in urban India, followed by Andhra Pradesh (14%) and West Bengal which had a share of about 12%. (Times of India 23/12/14)

111. Farmers fear ecological threats due to tree felling (9)

Tirupur: Farmers in Merkkupathi village expressed concerns over the ecological threats looming large over the area surrounding the 90 acre irrigation tank situated in the hamlet. According to them, trees like neem and a few other varieties of plants grown in and around the tank are felled indiscriminately in the pretext of removing thorny plants. “The tank, once a perennial source of water for the farmers in its command area, over the years has now become rain-fed because of the environmental degradation happened to the surroundings over the decades that prevents water flow into the tank from jungle streams,” S. Kaliappan, a farmer who raises coconut and vegetables in the area, pointed out. He further said that if the trees were felled as presently done, the entire ecological balance would get disturbed. “Once the habitats of the animals like deer and rabbit, which live in the area, goes, they will stray out into the nearby hamlets where crops were being raised and eat produces like tomato, thus, affecting the farmers’ livelihood opportunities,” he added. Mr. Kaliappan said that he had sought an explanation from the revenue administration under the Right to Information Act on the tree felling happening in the area, about a fortnight back. “It is understandable that replies to my queries posed under the RTI Act application might take a bit longer but at least on receipt of my application the authorities should have conducted an inquiry to stop any irregularities in the cutting of the trees,” he added. The farmers expressed fear that once trees were cut in the area, it could pave way for encroachments and sand extraction too. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

112. Environment Ministry Plans Dedicated Forest Satellite (9)

NEW DELHI: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) would launch a dedicated forest satellite to keep an eye on the country’s forest cover on a daily basis. The ministry is in talks with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to work out intricate details of the project, which would facilitate real time data of forests in the country and help the officials monitor the hotspots, check illegal chopping of trees, get details of forest fire and update the national forest inventories. The move could bring a massive change in the management and monitoring of forests in the country, besides expediting green clearances which currently get delayed because of the unavailability of accurate forest data. Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar is taking special interest in the project, especially in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi issuing directions to all Central ministries to increase the use of satellite technology. The Railway Ministry has already sought the ISRO’s help for containing accidents on unmanned railway crossings, while Minister of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti has roped in the space agency to keep a tab on the polluting industries along the banks of Ganga. A senior MoEF official, who is privy to the development, said, “Currently, we get the data from other agencies but there are a lot of discrepancies. The data from the Forest Survey of India (FSI) puts the forest cover at 22 per cent of the country’s geographical area, while the ISRO has different figures. It is very embarrassing that the two government agencies have as many separate figures. Having our own satellite means we will get the raw data from the Indian Space Research Organisationand our experts can analyse forest cover.”  A dedicated satellite could offer the governments, businesses and communities insight into how forests in the region are changing. “The need (for a dedicated forest satellite) was felt as project clearances sometimes get delayed in the absence of accurate and up-to-date data related to pristine forest. “Several mining projects are also stuck because there is confusion over the density and quality of forest cover. While diverting forest cover for non-forest purposes, project proponents are expected to submit a detailed report of the number of trees felled. “Often, the data was found to be inaccurate. Having real time data will solve the entire problem and help in expediting green clearances,” the official said. Though the cost of the satellite would be decided only after the ministry finalises the specifications and the sensors it would require, Javadekar has decided to take up the matter with the Department of Space to make it cost-effective. The MoEF has notified its requirement and specifications to the ISRO and asked it to provide a detailed report on the cost and the  resources needed. Senior ministry officials have held several meetings with the ISRO to discuss the plan. Currently, the FSI brings out a report on the state of Indian forest once in two years. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has recently started using the Geographic Information System (GSI) to monitor afforestation across the country in lieu of diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes to companies for infrastructure and other projects. (New Indian Express 29/12/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

113. Centre downplaying Maharashtra agro-crisis: VJAS (20)

Nagpur: The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) which is documenting the Maharashtra agrarian crises since 1997 Saturday disputed central figures on the farmers suicides for the current year. It questioned the figures given to the Rajya Sabha by union Minister of State for Agriculture Mohan Kundaria that only 800 farmers have ended their lives in India, including 724 in Maharashtra, in this period “In Maharashtra, the Vidarbha region alone has reported 1,088 suicides and the drought-hit regions of Marathwada accounted for another 600 suicides, besides other parts of the state,” VJAS president Kishore Tiwari told IANS. Claiming that the central government was downplaying the crisis, he pointed out that in 2013, the state topped the National Crime Records Bureau figures with 3,146 farmers suicides, the highest in the country. “From 1995 till date, 60,750 farmers, including many women have committed suicide due to the agrarian crises in the state, with the situation becoming worse after 2004 with an average of more than 3,500 deaths each year till now,” Tiwari said. He said that Kundaria’s figures display “a very casual approach” of the NDA government to the agro-crisis gripping the country, and complete apathy towards Maharashtra where it is compounded by a severe drought. Referring to the ongoing cotton farmers protest and minimum support prices situation in Gujarat, he said that the government announced a Rs.1,100 crore relief package. However, this is not a solution to the agrarian crisis which has resulted from a policy shift of the centre since 1997, the reforms under GATT, permitting free trade and lifting of quantitative restrictions on import-export of agricultural commodities which has led to these suicides, Tiwari noted. He recalled the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of introducing renowned agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan’s formula for fixing MSP which should be considered before finalizing the Union Budget 2015-16. This could make agriculture more sustainable and ensure that no farmer is compelled to leave his traditional occupation or end his life, suggested Tiwari. (Business Standard 20/12/14)

114.  ‘Over 46 farmers committed suicide in Anantapur’ (20)

ANANTAPUR: Leaders of 10 Left parties, who visited the Anantapur district, on Saturday said more than 46 farmers committed suicide in the district while many more cases were not known.Ten left parties which went on one-day tour of the district include CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), CPI (ML-New Democracy), SUCI, RSP, CPI (ML-Liberation). Speaking to The Hindu , the left leaders said while tens of farmers continue to take their lives, the government seems to be least bothered to even enumerate them and release the amount of ex gratia to their kin. “This is the consecutive sixth year Anantapur was facing drought”, said Jagadish, district secretary of CPI. (The Hindu 21/12/14)

115. Agricultural labourers under job scheme seek payment of wages (20)

KALABURAGI: Landless agriculture labourers who work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Kalaburagi district staged a demonstration outside the office of the chief executive officer (CEO) of the zilla panchayat here on Wednesday seeking payment of wages amounting to more than Rs. 48.5 lakh. The labourers owing their allegiance to the Karnataka Prantha Krishi Koolikarara Sangha came in a procession to the office of the CEO and staged a dharna. They pointed out that in Jewargi Taluk’s Harwal Gram panchayat alone, labourers were yet to get Rs 23.32 lakh as wages. In Kollur Gram Panchayat, wages amounting to Rs. 12.12 lakh were pending due to the negligence of officials. The labourers alleged that the officials were denying employment to them despite submitting applications, and were executing works under the MNREGA using machines. They alleged that in many gram panchayats, elected representatives had forcibly collected job cards from agricultural labourers and were denying them jobs. The government should direct gram panchayats to return these job cards and provide them work under the MNREGA and make timely payment of wages, they added. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

116. Kelkar panel calls for free irrigation, power to farmers‘ (20)

Nagpur: Despite a Rs7,000 crore package and other sops by the Maharashtra government, a spate of suicides continues to rock the state, particularly in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. Now, highly-placed sources in the government say that the much awaited report of ‘Higher level committee on balanced regional development issues in Maharashtra’ has suggested 100% free irrigation and power to stop debt-ridden farmers from taking the extreme step. The BJP-led government is expected to submit the report of the panel under noted economist Vijay Kelkar at the end of the Nagpur session, probably on Wednesday. Interestingly, sources believe the panel has also recommended that if the blueprint of balanced development cannot be implemented properly, sub-state status or statehood to Vidarbha should be considered. The panel was set up by the then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in 2011 to suggest measures to remove the regional imbalance and lay down the role of the development boards. Though Kelkar, former chairman of planning commission, had submitted his report in October 2013, the Chavan government kept it under wraps to avoid a confrontation with its ally NCP. Sources say the panel makes a host of recommendations to remove the regional imbalance. This includes decentralization of water resources, system for measuring tribal development index on annual basis, restructuring regional development boards (RDB) with CM as chairman, establishing separate regional secretariats, and directly elected mayor for metropolitan regions with defined functional jurisdiction. To boost manufacturing activity and attract private investors, the panel is believed to have recommended rebate in sales tax and reduction in interest of borrowed capital in backward regions like Vidarbha and Marathwada. It also recommended adequate compensation for land to be used for power transmission. To improve the power scenario, Kelkar advises encouraging small power plants based on renewable resources. The report also suggests regional allocation of funds, with 60% of the divisible funds to be considered as ‘floor level’, which should be based on parameters like population, development gap, per capita income and area. For farmers, the report recommends that those possessing less than five acres be given fixed amount of Rs2,000 per month per household for next three years. Also, there are suggestions that rural youth should be provided Rs5-10 lakh business loan for dairy farming, horticulture, sericulture, cattle farming, fisheries, and for setting up Small Scale Industries (SSI). Some sources say the panel found that regional imbalance was due to low and unstable growth rates of agriculture sector, inadequate flow of private investment, infrastructure deficit in terms of assured irrigation, connectivity and quality of power, low level of governance, lack of resource flows from public and private sector, and importantly, low Human Development Index (HDI). The panel had taken a participatory approach, based on perspectives of the people of different regions, data analysis, expert knowledge, empirical analysis derived from commissioned studies, and included all stakeholders’ views. It suggested that institutional reforms were required towards capacity building for efficient use of public sector resources, reducing costs of doing business and also for promoting private investment flows. It also recommended governance reforms aimed at greater empowerment and accountability at regional and local level so as to achieve balanced development on a sustainable basis. (Times of India 22/12/14)

117. 12 farmers kill selves in 72 hrs (20)

During the last 72 hours, 12 farmers from Vidarbha region in Maharashtra had committed suicide due to crop losses, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samittee chief Kishore Tiwari announced here on Sunday. According to a press release issued by Kishore Tiwari, 12 farmers took their lives. All the farmers belonged to the cotton-producing belt of western Vidarbha. Saiyad Ansar Ali of Chikhalvardha village, Khushal Kapase of Dahegoan village, Punaji Manvar of Mangkinhi village, Someshwar Wade of Tamba village and Maroti Rathode of Nignur village are all farmers from Yavatmal district who committed suicide. Three farmers — from Wardha district namely Madhukar Adsar of Pimpalgoan village, Vithhal Taywade of Deoli village and Maroti Gode of Pimpalgoan village — also committed suicide. Two others, Shivanand Gite of Shivani village and Sunil Rakhunde of Gavthala village of Buldhana district as well as Sanjay Dakhore of Regoan village in Washim district and Nilesh Walke of Gunji from Amaravati district also ended their lives. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari pointed out that farmers’ suicide was a serious issue in the entire Vidarbha region. The government should think about increasing the minimum support price paid to cotton farmers, he said. The farmers’ suicide toll this month is 52, Mr Tiwari said. Two weeks ago, an Intelligence Bureau report on farmer’s suicide to the government voiced concerns over the spurt in such cases. The IB attributed “both natural and manmade factors” behind suicides. (Asian Age 29/12/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

118. 1,300 acres of SEZ land lying vacant in Hassan (4)

Hassan: The special economic zones developed by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board in over 1,300 acres on the outskirts of Hassan city lies deserted. While majority of the land is vacant, many units that have got land sanctioned have not started functioning. The industrial area was developed in 2007. In the last seven years, land has been allotted to 16 units. Among them, eight are functioning, two are under construction, three are in different stages of allotment and implementation and three are not functioning. The entire 250 acres of Hardware Zone have been allotted to one unit. But Opto Infrastructure Ltd., which has got the land in Hardware Zone, has only constructed a compound wall. The SEZs were developed by acquiring agricultural land. “People of the villages near Hassan gave their land away for a couple of lakhs. They thought many industries would come there and their children would get jobs. But, nothing has happened so far,” said B.R. Manjunath, a resident of Hassan. Now, farmers in nearby villages have been making use of the place to dry their agricultural produce. “If the land had remained with farmers all these years, they would have cultivated potato or ginger and earned good money,” said Prakash, resident of Katihalli. A.M. Kumaraswamy, Deputy Development Officer of KIADB, said the Board had issued notices to all those companies, which failed to start production within two years of allotment. “We warn them of withdrawing land if they do not start the industry,” he said. However, so far, the KIADB has not been able to withdraw an acre of land allotted, as the companies move court challenging the Board’s measures. (The Hindu 21/12/14)

119. infrastructural development are seen in the industrial corridor — Medha Patkar (4)

NEW DELHI — The Indian Social Institute (ISI) organised its annual Fr. Paul de La Gueriviere Third Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘Corporatisation of Democracy: Challenges for Inclusive Development’ on  Lodi Road. The lecture was delivered by social activist and the founder member of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Medha Patkar. The Institute was honoured to have Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi as the Chair of the programme. In his welcome note, Dr. Xavier, the Executive Director of the Institute, described Fr. Paul de La Gueriviere as a Great Missionary working for the upliftment and development of the marginalized section of the society and the conscience of the institute. Expressing concern about the way democracy is lived, he also strongly stated against the development that flows from the barrel of gun.

Referring to caste system, the Chairperson of the programme, Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka, noted that the Indian society is not democratic and promotes hierarchy. He observed that exclusion is aggressively propagated in Indian society. Caste system was pointed out as the greatest fact that hinders the people from seeing the truth of oppression in society, stated Prof. Vijay Prakash. Prof. Ashish Nandi shared about various changes in Indian democracy. People’s choice for heroic figure was one such observation made. He also expressed regret at the fact that homelessness and pauperisation have become necessary parts of development. Terming the topic of the lecture to be close to heart and heartburning, Medha Patkar noted that inequality had taken the toll of not only the framework and process of democracy, but also of life. She equivocally stated that the benefits of infrastructural development are seen in the industrial corridor. Observing the pattern of land grabbing by the corporates with the help of the State, she also stated that democracy and State have been corporatised. Indian Social Institute, founded in 1951, is engaged in research, training, action and advocacy in socio economic development and the promotion and protection of human rights of particularly the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, the most Backward Castes, the Minorities, the unorganised and landless labourers and women. (New Observer Post 22/12/14)

120. Panel will decide min rate for land acquisition in state (4)

Mumbai: With several projects stuck because of problems in compensation to private land owners, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has decided to form a committee that will come up with a formula and decide the minimum rate to pay. The panel will be headed by chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya. The decision was taken following a discussion on Vidarbha development in the winter session of the state legislature, where several legislators pointed out the lacunae in the compensation procedure. Many projects in the state, including the Navi Mumbai airport, Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, and Jaitapur nuclear plant, have been stuck because of acquisition issues, which have resulted in huge cost escalations. “There was significant difference between the compensation being given if the central land acquisition policy was followed and the one given by the state. And the amount was completely different when directly negotiated by the agency. This was creating an atmosphere of mistrust among farmers giving up their land, and delaying the acquisition process,” the decision taken through a government resolution (GR) dated December 24 said. According to the GR, the seven-member committee headed by Kshatriya will include additional chief secretary (ACS) planning, and ACS finance, and principal secretaries of the water resources, revenue, forest, and urban development departments. It also called for the law and judiciary department to study the 2013 central land acquisition act, and then use it for helping the committee fix a formula, so that  a minimum rate can be arrived at. They have been asked to chart out a separate policy for acquisitions related to dam projects. The committee will need to ensure that all land to be acquired will follow a single formula, which will mean that all owners will get the same compensation. “According to the 2013 act,  you can’t pay any token compensation or advance. Also, social impact assessments need to be done. Currently, several land owners end up getting more than the market rate. The panel will have to take this into consideration,” a senior government official told HT. (Hindustan Times 26/12/14)

121. Haryana revokes land acquisition (4)

GURGAON: Keeping in view the larger interest of the farmers, the Haryana Government has decided not to acquire 3,664 acres and four canals across 16 villages for setting up the Manesar-Bawal Industrial Area in Rewari district. This decision was taken by the State Cabinet at its meeting held under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar here on Tuesday. A committee comprising Industries Minister Capt. Abhimanyu, Public Works Department Minister Rao Narbir Singh, and Minister of State for Co-operation Bikram Singh Yadav had been constituted to discuss the issue with the farmers. After detailed discussions with the land owners and representatives of the people of the area, the committee recommended that other options, including acquisition of less fertile land at other places along the (Mumbai-Delhi) Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, be explored. It is pertinent to mention here that the legislators of Ateli and Nangal Chaudhary have offered to make available more than 2,000 acres of land for this project as an alternative. According to government sources, the high compensation rate being demanded by the farmers was making the project unviable, forcing the committee to decide against acquisition of land and recommend relocation. The said project was conceived by the previous Congress government in the State and was opposed by the farmers. The farmers had resorted to large-scale violence on National Highway-8 two years ago following which the then Congress government put the land acquisition on hold and set up a committee for peaceful resolution of the matter. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

122. Farmers mull approaching court over land pooling (4)

VIJAYAWADA: Farmers, who upped the ante against the government’s move to acquire their fertile lands without giving a clear picture of compensation and other aspects, are mulling legal remedies in the event of forcible acquisition of their lands. These farmers asserted that they would take to legal recourse, if the government continues to mount pressure on them for parting with their lands. A delegation of farmers organisations and civil society headed by retired High Court judge justice P. Laxman Reddy interacted with farmers of Undavalli, Penumaka, Venkatapalem and other areas notified under the Capital Region on Friday under the “Rythu Chaitanya Yatra”. The delegation told the farmers that the government would not be in a position to forcibly take their lands, going by the provisions made in the Capital Region Development Authority Bill passed in the Assembly recently. If the lands were acquired without a voluntary consent of farmers, it would amount to acquisition there by attracting the provisions under the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 passed by Parliament. The delegations visit provided a platform to farmers to give vent to their strong Opposition to surrendering the lands. TThe delegation including Jana Vignana Vedika president V. Laxman Reddy, Bharatiya Kisan Morcha convenor Kumara Swamy and others visited Mandada, Uddandapalem and interacted with farmers on the issue, he added. (The Hindu 27/12/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

123. ‘India may not meet infant mortality rate target 2015’ (3)

Kolkata: Going by the current pace of decline, India is unlikely to achieve its target of reducing the infant mortality rate to less than 39 per 1,000 live births by 2015-end, said a senior UNICEF official. “The current Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of India, as per the Sample Registration System 2013, is 40 per 1,000 live births while the Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) as per SRS 2012 is 52 per 1,000 live births. “At this current rate of decline it seems it will be difficult for India to reach the target of less than 39 per 1,000 live births by the end of 2015,” UNICEF’s Health Specialist in India, Dr Gagan Gupta said. Though India accounts for the highest burden of Under-five deaths in the world, there has been a faster decline in its reduction as compared to the global fall, he added. “Globally the U5MR reduced by 49 per cent from 90 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 46 per 1,000 live births in 2013, while India achieved a reduction of 59 per cent in the Under-5 mortality from 126 in 1990 to 52 in 2012, which is higher than the global decline,” Dr Gupta said, citing the Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2014, estimates developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. “Neo-natal deaths account for 56 per cent of Under-5 deaths in India which is much higher than the global average of 44 per cent. The progress in reduction of neo-natal mortality has been slow,” he noted. In fact, four states Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan account for half of the Under-5 deaths in India. (Asian Age 22/12/14)

124. Government slashes health budget, already one of the world’s lowest (3)

NEW DELHI: Government has ordered a cut of nearly 20 per cent in its 2014-15 healthcare budget due to fiscal strains, putting at risk key disease control initiatives in a country whose public spending on health is already among the lowest in the world. Two Health Ministry officials told Reuters on Tuesday that more than 60 billion rupees, or $948 million, has been slashed from their budget allocation of around $5 billion for the financial year ending on March 31. Despite rapid economic growth over the past two decades, successive governments have kept a tight rein on healthcare expenditure. India spends about 1 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, compared to 3 per cent in China and 8.3 per cent in the United States. But hopes were high that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was elected in May, would upgrade basic health infrastructure and make medical services more affordable for the poor. The United Nations estimates about one third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people live in India. “We were not expecting (budget cuts) this time because of the commitments they made in the manifesto,” one of the health ministry officials said, referring to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “No reason was given … but there is shortage of funds. It is not rocket science.” The officials requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The finance ministry, which ordered the spending reduction and overruled objections from the Health Ministry at a recent meeting, did not respond immediately to requests for comment. The move reflects the government’s struggle to achieve its 2014/15 fiscal deficit target of 4.1 per cent of GDP. Dominated by private players, India’s healthcare industry is growing at an annual clip of around 15 per cent, but public spending has remained low and resulted in a dilapidated network of government hospitals and clinics, especially in rural areas. One of the Health Ministry officials said the cut could crimp efforts to control the spread of diseases. More newborns die in India than in poorer neighbours such as Bangladesh, and preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea kill more than a million children every year. The retrenchment could also derail an ambitious universal healthcare programme that Modi wants to launch in April. The plan aims to provide all citizens with free drugs and diagnostic treatments, as well as insurance benefits. The cost of that programme over the next four years had been estimated at 1.6 trillion Indian rupees ($25 billion). The Health Ministry officials had been expecting a jump in their budget for the coming year, in part to pay for this extra cost. “Even next year we don’t think we’ll get a huge amount of money,” said one official, adding that it was now unclear how the new programme would be funded. (Times of India 23/12/14)

125. WHO’s polio-free certification high point in health sector (3)

New Delhi: Eradication of polio from India was a high point in the health sector during 2014, which also saw some improvement in the country’s health indices like maternal and infant mortality rate though there was a lot of ground still to be covered. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision in November to change Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, a practicing doctor and a former health minister of Delhi, surprised many. His replacement, J P Nadda is considered a close aide of Modi and has been rather low key compared to Vardhan’s penchant for almost daily statements. Nadda is busy giving final touches to the NDA government’s ambitious National Health Assurance Mission, which aims to provide free health insurance to the poor. It is likely to be rolled out next year. There were mixed signals from the new government against the use of tobacco as after hiking cigarette prices it did not enforce its earlier proposal to ban sale of loose cigarettes and make tougher anti-smoking laws. The saffron party’s favourite health projects like promotion of ayurveda and yoga received official push. Government cleared National Ayush Mission (NAM) to address gaps in health services in vulnerable and far-flung areas of the country. Government has also approved setting-up of 18 new ayurveda colleges this year, against permission for only one such institution in the past three years. The Centre also came up with a proposal of opening AIIMS- like institutions in most states. India’s biggest recognition in the field during the year was seen in March when the World Health Organisation gave it a polio-free certification for reporting no new cases for three years. (Business Standard 25/12/14)

126. ‘Centre’s health fund cut will increase privatization’ (3)

MUMBAI: Calling the Union government’s recent health budget cuts an “assault on the poor and working people” of India, state health activists said they feared increased privatization of healthcare. The Centre last week slashed the health budget by 20%, citing fiscal strain. Worse, the HIV/AIDS budget was reduced by a third. Public health commentators are shocked with the move as India already had the lowest government spending on health. Jan Arogya Abhiyan, a statewide health advocacy coalition of NGOs, has issued a statement, saying the decision could be disastrous. Dr Anant Phadke of the Abhiyan said the new government had initially raised expectations by promising a National Health Assurance Mission. “The most basic requirement for any form of health assurance is an increase in allocation to at least 3% of GDP in the short term, 5% of GDP in the medium and long term (from the current abysmally low 1.2%),” he said. The message, said the Abjiyan’s statement, seemed to indicate there would be greater privatization of healthcare. “Experience shows privatized systems are associated with catastrophic household expenditure and impoverishment of people,” said Dr Abhay Shukla of Cehat, which is part of the Abhiyan. Secondly, experts said, it would be prudent in times of financial crisis, to allocate more for social sectors such as health. (Times of India 28/12/14)

127. India to achieve complete immunisation by 2020 (3)

New Delhi: Aiming to improve India’s poor immunisation coverage, the health ministry has launched “Mission Indradhanush” that seeks to give seven vaccines to every child by 2020 so that they don’t fall sick to these common diseases. Every child, who is either not vaccinated or partially vaccinated, would be covered under this new initiative by steadily increasing the coverage footprint. Three decades after launching the universal immunisation programme (UIP), almost 39 per cent of kids have either not received the vaccines at all or received only some of them. During the launch of the UIP, the government set up an aim of covering the entire country for six preventable diseases by 1989-90. But a 2009 UNICEF survey showed only 61 per cent of Indian children received the shots against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B. “We have identified 201 high focus districts in the country in the first phase which have nearly 50 per cent of all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children. These districts will be targeted by intensive efforts to improve the routine immunisation coverage,” Union Health Minister J P Nadda said, launching Mission Indradhanush on December 25. Out of 201 districts, as many as 82 districts are in just four states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Nearly 25 per cent of the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children of India are in these four states. Between 2009-2013, immunisation coverage has increased from 61 to 65 per cent, indicating only one per cent increase in coverage every year. To accelerate, the plan is to cover five per cent and more children every year in a mission mode to achieve the target by 2020. Nadda said the systematic immunisation drive would be through a “catch-up” campaign mode where the aim is to cover all the children who have been left out or missed out for immunisation. Under Mission Indradhanush, four special vaccination campaigns will be conducted between January and June 2015. While 201 districts will be covered in the first phase, 297 will be targeted for the second phase in the year 2015. (Deccan Herald 29/12/14)

HIV/AIDS

128. ‘India can be AIDS-free nation by 2030’ (3)

VIJAYAWADA: The United Nations envisions a world without AIDS, and it is aiming to make it a reality by eradicating the epidemic by 2030. “India can achieve the status of ‘AIDS-free nation’ by 2030 provided there is political will, allocation of adequate resources to fight the epidemic, introduction of legal reforms and involvement of the community,” said J.V.R. Prasada Rao, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS for Asia-Pacific. Speaking to The Hindu on Thursday, Mr. Rao said: “The number of fresh infections has come down to less than 50 per cent compared to 2000. Andhra Pradesh is also doing well in AIDS control drive. We need to shift focus to vulnerable population like sex workers, transgenders and MSMs.” He, however, added that the instance of HIV was on the rise among risk groups. “Treatment should be focused on these groups. Testing facilities should be augmented,” Mr. Rao. The diminishing external aid that pour in from all directions is yet another challenge, he admitted. “Some aid agencies have completely withdrawn funding precisely because they think that middle income nations like India can fund themselves,” Mr. Rao said. The government, according to him, should not wait for others to fund projects and instead should be ready with 100 per cent funding of the projects. Mr. Rao favoured striking down of Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises homosexuality. “The gay community has the right to health. It is a fundamental right. When we can give it to criminals in jails, why not these people? Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been abolishing a number of outdated laws. Striking down this law is the need of the hour,” he said. On the controversy surrounding the proposal to legalise prostitution, Mr. Rao said: “India is not ready for it. Our socio-cultural background doesn’t allow such a big leap. Instead, we should opt for decriminalisation. You should distinguish between child-trafficking and prostitution.” Mr. Rao said Andhra Pradesh and Telangana should prioritise the social health sector. On the future scenario, he maintained that a cure or a vaccine could be a game-changer. “But, I don’t see that happening at least in the next six to seven years,” he added. Citing examples of countries like Thailand and Cambodia where AIDS has been integrated in the general health care system, Mr. Rao said the Indian government should follow suit “perhaps in a phased manner”. Health as a priority should not be left out, he said, warning: “If you neglect it now, there could be a resurgence.” (The Hindu 19/12/14)

129. No place for HIV-infected in pension scheme (3)

NALGONDA: The issuing of social security pensions to HIV-infected patients and particularly vulnerable tribal groups aged between 50 years and 65 years is being delayed as the State government did not make necessary changes in the website to allow the uploading of these applications. The district administration had also identified the dejected women – married but living alone as their husbands left them without divorcing them – for issuing the pensions, but the officials are waiting for further directions from the State government. Speaking to The Hindu , DRDA, Project Director K. Sudhakar said that they have got 5,000 applications under HIV positive and dejected women category, but yet to issue pensions to people falling under these two categories. Meanwhile, there are about 650 Chenchu families living in Nalgonda mostly in Chandampet, Peddavoora mandals. Unlike other beneficiaries under old age pension scheme, the State government has announced that they would issue pensions to vulnerable tribal groups all those who aged above 50 years, but government has failed to make appropriate changes in the website to allow the uploading these applications. A Chenchu tribal from Chandampet, Anjaneyulu said that as many as seven people aged between 50 years and 65 years were waiting for the issuance of pensions at Gannerlapally tribal habitation. The HIV positive people and vulnerable tribal groups have appealed to the State government to immediately issue pensions to them. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

130. State Leads in Prevention of New HIV Cases (3)

COIMBATORE: The efforts of the State official has paid off as Tamil Nadu tops the table in the country in prevention of fresh HIV cases, while states like Odisha, Assam and Jharkhand, which were once considered as low HIV- prevalence states, struggle to control fresh infections. Tamil Nadu has managed to reduce new infections by 57 per cent over the last seven years. The number of fresh HIV cases in 2000 was 8,380 and in 2007 it reduced to 6,378. According to a recent data released by the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS), says that in 2013-14 only 2,738 fresh cases (-57 per cent) were registered. By comparing it with the national-level data provided by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the state was progressing at a much faster rate compared to the other states.   According to HIV sentinel surveillance, the prevalence in anti-natal clinic (ANC) is 0.38, which is lower than the national average. State Project Director Dr C N Maheswaran told Express that this was a result of massive awareness drive organised by TANSACS in coordination with the state government through mass media, interpersonal communication digital screens, internet, and mobile phones. Making counsellors available in all the health centres in every nook and corner of the state, promoting condom usage and providing them free of cost, specially designed awareness programmes for migrant workers and lorry drivers and free medical attention at testing centres have resulted in the reduction. The 89 Targeted Intervention (TIs)  in the state implemented through NGOs and Community-based Organisations (CBO) has helped them cover 69, 961 female sex workers, 481 injection drug users and 42,481 homosexuals in the state this year. Around 3 lakh new sexually transmitted infections (STI)/reproductive tract infection (RTI) episodes have been treated at 156 designated STI/RTI clinics. The 94 NACO-supported blood banks across the state have also helped them collecting 2 lakh infection-free blood units that have helped HIV patients. (New Indian Express 27/12/14)

 

Posted by admin at 30 December 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit minor girl raped in Warangal (2)

WARANGAL: A 17-year-old dumb Dalit girl was allegedly raped by an unidentified person in Inavolu village in Wardhannapet mandal of Warangal district late on Wednesday night. According to police sources, the minor girl, who resides with her parents in SC colony in the village had ventured out around 11 pm to attend nature’s call, when an unidentified person gagged her mouth and alleged sexually assaulted her. The girl had earlier in the night attended prayers in the colony and returned home. The assailant after raping her fled from the spot. The girl managed to reach the house and informed her father about the incident. Police said they suspect the involvement of local youth as they had information that some persons were seen consuming alcohol. One of them might have seen the girl going out of the house and followed her. Wardhannapet police registered a case and shifted the girl to local hospital for medical examination. Manhunt was launched to nab the culprit, police said. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

2. Manjhi invokes power of Dalits (2)

Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Thursday asserted that Dalits were strong enough to rebuff the forces trying to harass them. ” Hum chuha pakad kar khichna jante hain.. Jo koi garbar karega, hum uska tang bhi khich dengein (We know how to pull out a rat from its hole. We are also capable of pulling the legs of the ones doing something wrong),” Manjhi said, addressing a Dalit convention at Adapur in East Champaran district, 180km northeast of Patna. Manjhi is the face of Musahars – a rat-catching Dalit community. Manjhi’s “leg-pulling” rhetoric reminded his scathing attack on doctors when he had said the hands of the medicos doing their duty improperly should be chopped off. In an obvious bid to keep his mentor Nitish Kumar in good humour, Manjhi appealed to the Dalits to stand behind Nitish and the JDU, which had “honoured” him with the chief minister’s chair. At his eloquent best in the company of his Dalit brethren, Manjhi dwelt at length on the dignity of the Dalit communities. “The Dalits should not be dependent on welfare schemes like Indira Awas Yojana. The houses given under the schemes are like alms thrown before the beggars,” he said. He suggested the Dalits to take inspiration from tribal leaders Birsa Munda and Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar to attain “intellectual and fighting traits”. “For adopting the ideals of Birsa Munda and Ambedkar, you must bring about change in your way of living. You must shun liquor and send your kids to schools,” Manjhi advised the Dalits. “I shall not live forever. But the Dalits should keep on increasing their intellectual prowess to have the chief minister from among them in the future,” Manjhi said while addressing a felicitation ceremony organised by the Birsa-Ambedkar Kalyan Samiti at Bansi High School grounds: Transport minister Ramai Ram, another Dalit leader who accompanied the chief minister, said: “Nitish will be the chief minister again after the 2015 elections. All the Dalits should stand like a rock behind him, who has done more than anyone else for the Dalits and Mahadalits.” Manjhi, however, emphasised more on the Dalits’ cause than on making Nitish the next chief minister. “As many as 80 per cent Dalits are living below poverty line. A large number of them are still not enrolled as voters. As a result, their real numerical strength are not reflected in the counting of votes,” he said, appealing his Dalit brethren to be aware of their voting right. The chief minister also called for raising the reservation from present 49.5 per cent to 80 per cent for OBCs, SC/STs and other sections of the population. “I had the wish that the Paswan community members should have 100 per cent reservation in the appointment of chowkidars (village guards),” Manjhi said. (The Telegraph 12/12/14)

3. Dalits are now saffron forces’ foot soldiers (2)

Lucknow: After successfully polarizing Dalits against Muslims in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, saffron forces are now using them to lead the charge towards their goal of a grand ‘Hindu Rashtra’, believe social analysts and Dalit thinkers. This would not only harm communal amity but in the long run also hit the Dalit rights movement started by Ambedkar, they say. Nand Kishore Valmiki, leader of Dharm Jagran Manch and Bajrag Dal activists who allegedly led the execution of the `ghar wapasi’ of 50 Muslim families, is on the run after being named in the FIR accusing him of `forced conversion’. A resident of Valmiki Basti in Ved Nagar locality of Agra, 40 years old Nand Kishore hit the headlines after one Ibrahim of the same locality lodged a complaint against him for getting people lured to convert into Hinduism. Police said that they were investigating the case if Valmiki lured people to embrace Hinduism by promising them of getting them a BPL card. Valmiki reportedly managed to convince some Muslims in Ved nagar locality to come to a `Havan’, performed three days ago and get them photographed. He also convinced some of the people to pose as Hindus in front of some leaders from Sangh Parivar, by getting a `tilak’ ticked on the fore head. He, though, told them that they would not be converted and that they may continue to practice Islam. However, the next morning, people came to know that they have been converted into Hindus. Police said that during the investigations it was found that Valmiki told the people that the government wanted to help the poor by issuing them BPL card. In the process he asked people to fill up `some’ forms as well. SSP, Agra, Shalabh Mathur said that a team of police visited the slum in Dev Nagar and talked to the people who are at the centre of the row. “A non bailable warrant has been issued against Valmiki. We are carrying out raids in various parts of the city to nab Valmiki,” Mathur said. While Valmiki is on the run, many in the RSS and its affiliates, including BJP, have come out in his defence. The incident has provided another issue after ‘Love Jihad’ and cow slaughter to polarize the masses on religious grounds, which will politically help the BJP and strengthen Hindutava forces. “The incident shows how Sangh Parivar has been successful in polarizing Dalits, mainly Valmikis and Khatiks, to be part of larger Hindu identity,” said Dalit writer and thinker Kanwal Bharti. It’s a replica of the Gujrat model where saffron forces used tribals and dalits for their agenda, he added. “But what Dalits are not being able to understand here that they are being fooled by reactionary forces and diverted from the path of emancipation showed by Babasaheb Bhirm Rao Ambedkar,” he said. In Agra, he said, a misled Dalit is being chased by the police, while fruits of power due to polarization will be enjoyed by others. Dalits and Muslims have largely voted together in UP polls, expect during Ram Temple movement, till Muzaffarnagar riots which created a rift helping BJP sweep May 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Encouraged by the results, the Saffron brigade launched an aggressive campaign to woo Dalits. In June, BJP made removal of loudspeaker from a Dalit temple in Kanth a big issue. In September, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat supported caste based quota saying “reservation is needed till there is inequality in the society”. Later, RSS said Muslim invasion in medieval period created Dalits and tribals in India. “It’s a known fact that Sangh Parivar wants to bring all castes under Hindutava umbrella to achieve its objective of Hindu Rashtra. What we are seeing now is its dangerous execution,” said political analyst Sudhir Panwar. “The BJP already has big upper caste and OBC leaders. Polarization of Dalits will make it politically stronger,” he added. However, socially, he warned, the repercussions could be devastating. “It would marginalize Muslims and religious identity would overshadow the Dalit identity, derailing the years of struggle for social justice. (Times of India 13/12/140

4. Rescued Dalit women labourers’ horror tales (2)

Chennai: It was thanks to an NGO that rescued two teenaged Dalit girls, S. Violet Mary and M. Shanthi, from a life of unremitting labour that they lived to tell their tale at the 15th state-level Dalit women’s conference in the city on Sunday.The two girls were sent to a cotton mill in Dindigul district to work so they could return in three years with savings of Rs 30,000. It was a nightmare that the girls from Athoor village went through, working continuously for more than 12 hours. “About 15 were put in a small room and our day started as early as 3.30 am. An NGO helped us get out of the cotton mill where we were employed,” said Violet Mary. Dalit women from various districts narrated their stories, speaking of the discrimination they faced and how they fought for their rights. “There are 199 cotton mills in Dindigul district alone that employ more than 1 lakh women, and of them, 30,000 are Dalits. These mills announce various schemes, like Sumangali, Kanmani, Thirumagal and lure adolescent girls from economically backward sections with the promise of a lump sum payment of Rs 30,000 after three years. All these women work for hours together and the mills pay them only if they complete the three-year period,” said G.F. Viswasam, secretary of the Sirumalai Evergreen Multipurpose Community Development Society.The NGO has rehabilitated 93 women from the Sumangali scheme and has been giving them vocational training. Violet Mary and Shanthi discontinued their participation in the scheme within a month of joining it and are now in a tailoring programme. “As our seniors narrated various stories to us, we told our family and they accepted,” they said. The long working hours were not the only troublesome aspect. The mills selected girls only from families that had three or more children. “They are also subject to sexual harassment by supervisors,” said Viswasam. The story of bonded labourers from Maharajapuram, Chittoor district in AP, was even worse as 30 people from 15 families lived as slaves, literally, for 15 long years. Members of the Ambedkar Movement rescued them a few months ago. Kasturi, who still struggles to cope with the atrocities and discrimination she faced at an estate in Maharajapuram, said men and women were beaten up like animals just because “we asked the owner to hike our wages”.“We were given only `110 a day for work we did for 18 hours,” said Jeeva, another worker. (Deccan Chronicles 15/12/14)

5. Crusade for Dalits’ entry into temples (2)

Kolar: Kolar district is set to take a big leap forward to eradicate untouchability. Enthused by the response for ‘Grihapravesha’ — a campaign that made Dalits’ entry into the houses of ‘upper’ caste people possible in several villages in the district in the last five months — the organisers have now devised a programme to ensure entry of Dalits into Muzrai Department temples. Dalits comprise almost one-third the total population in the district. According to the District Social Welfare Department figures, of the 15.4 lakh population, 4,65,867 are Scheduled Castes and 78,875 are Scheduled Tribes in the district. Started by Mulbagal-based Arivu Kendra, led by G. Shivappa, an assistant professor with Government College for Women in Kolar, the ‘Grihapravesha’ has expanded. A number of organisations, such as the Karnataka Dalit Sangharsh Samiti, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, Samata Sainik Dal, and other like-minded people have joined hands in this endeavour. As a result, a wider platform — Dalitara Grihapravesha Rajya Samiti — evolved to take the campaign across the State. The committee has formulated a programme for the entry of Dalits into the temples, with ‘Namma Nade Asprashyate Mukta Bharatadede’ (Our march towards untouchability-free India), as the theme. There are 1,336 temples under the Muzrai and Religious Endowment Department in Kolar district. As a prelude, the committee had appealed to the district administration to create awareness about the provisions of a number of laws, including the Mysore Temples Act 1948 and the Civil Rights Protection Act 1955. The committee had lodged a complaint about Dalits being denied entry into these temples. Following this, Additional Deputy Commissioner R.S. Peddappaiah wrote to all the tahsildars in November to initiate action against those obstructing entry of Dalits into the temples. “This is a big morale booster for us,” Mr. Shivappa told The Hindu. Armed with this and other legal provisions, the committee has decided to launch the campaign on December 21 at Kadenahalli in Mulbagal taluk. “Dalits, accompanied by a number of dignitaries, will be taken into the Chowdeshwari and Someshwaraswamy temples at Kadenahalli to mark the launch of the campaign,” Mr. Shivappa said. Similar programmes will be conducted in all the 1,336 Muzrai temples in the district, he added. “Though Dalits can go to the temples in urban areas, the situation in the rural belt is pathetic. Untouchability is rampant with feudal ideas gaining the upper hand,” said Mr. Shivappa. (The Hindu 17/12/14)

TRIBALS

6. 42 tribal children not in school: SSA (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As many as 42 tribal children in the age group of 6 to 14 years residing in the hamlets of Kattakkada have never entered the portals of a school, preliminary data collected by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) show. The data collected also hint at the capital district having a good number of out-of-the-school category children in the urban and the coastal areas. Based on all these, the SSA is all set to launch a survey to identify children who have never been to school in the district. School enrolment of children in the age group of 6 to 14 years is mandatory, especially after the implementation of the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. The Podiamplathi tribal hamlet at Kattakada alone accounts for 32 of the 42 children who are not enrolled in school, and the remaining are from Mangode, Mukkothivail, Pattanipara and Anakal, District Project Officer, SSA, M. Rajesh told The Hindu. There are also a few unconfirmed cases of out-of-the-school students reported from tribal settlements in the Palode and Parassala areas. The data related to the number of children from urban and coastal areas having not enrolled are yet to be ascertained, said an official. “The capital city could be home to a number of children who have never been to school, particularly after the influx of the migrant population. A number of such children have been spotted at Varkala and Kovalam,” the official added. Last month, a meeting was convened by the sub-collector to discuss issues related to out-of-the-school children in the capital district. The meeting decided to conduct a survey involving the Local Self-Government Department, Kudumbasree volunteers, District Literacy Mission, and Anganwadis to find the exact number of such children. As a prelude to the survey, the District Level Vigilance Monitoring Committee will meet on December 13 to finalise the modalities of the survey, Mr Rajesh said. (The Hindu 10/12/14)

7. Students back tribals’ agitation (6)

Kochi: Various organisations took out protest marches in the city on Wednesday, which was observed as World Human Rights Day, in solidarity with the adivasi ‘Nilpu Samaram’ that has been going on in Thiruvananthapuram to protect the rights of the tribals. About 1,000 students and staff of Sacred Heart College took out a ‘nilpu samaram’ of their own in front of the college to express solidarity with the tribals’ protest. Fr. Prasant Palakkapillil, principal of the college, spoke at the protest action. Students held placards demanding protection of the land rights of the adivasi people. The students also sent about 1,000 postcards to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to stress their demand. A campaign to collect funds for those participating in the ‘Nilpu Samaram’ was also started at the protest. Activists of the Adivasi Aikyadardhya Samithi, meanwhile, took out a march from Rajendra Maidan on Wednesday evening demanding speedy action from the government. Various other groups organised protest meetings. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

8. PESA Act Important to Make Villages Self-reliant: Governor (6)

CHANDRAPUR: Hailing the PESA Act, Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao on Saturday said the law helps in implementation of various provisions for self rule for village communities in the scheduled areas. “Implementation of PESA ensures that panchayats and gram sabhas would be benefited by way of ownership of resources and rights in the scheduled areas in true sense and help in realisation of self-reliance in the villages,” he said while inaugurating a workshop on PESA and Forest Rights Act-2006 organised jointly by the district administration and tribal Welfare department. “PESA Act helps in implementation of various provisions for self rule for village communities in scheduled areas. The Act provides solution to many issues such as tribal land alienation, deprivation of rights on minor forest produce, lack of control of the residents over natural resources, lack of control over local plans and so forth,” he said. PESA was enacted to cover the “Scheduled areas”, which are not covered in the 73rd amendment or Panchayati Raj Act of the Indian Constitution. It was enacted on 24 December 1996 to enable Gram Sabhas to self govern their natural resources. The Governor stressed that Forest Rights Act 2006 also has a potential to change the way forests have been traditionally viewed and managed by the forest dwellers. “I firmly believe that those who have been traditionally protecting forests must have stake in livelihood from the forests as well as their sustenance,” he stressed. Rao directed the officials to work as facilitators, recognise the ownership of the communities over resources, train them in learning skills for livelihood and help them become independent. Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Hansraj Ahir, Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and other leaders were present on the occasion. (New Indian Express 13/12/14)

9. Village set to become conversant with Gondi (6)

ADILABAD: The Gunjala Gondi, or Koyatur, Lipi Adhyayana Vedika, Utnoor, will launch a six-month programme in December at Gunjala village in Naronoor mandal of Adilabad district to make the entire village literate in Gondi script. The aim of the programme is to make the Adivasi villagers capable of writing and signing applications in the Gondi script which was discovered in the same village some six years back. In a press release, Dr. G. Manoja of the Vedika said the results of an earlier programme to teach the script to Adivasi school students had fetched encouraging results. Not only young students showed an inclination to learn the script of their own language but made tremendous progress in learning their mother tongue in it. The programme will be inaugurated at Gunjala village and will be attended by Collector M. Jagan Mohan, Integrated Tribal Development Officer, Project Officer Prashant Patil. Also attending the programme will be Professor Jayadhir Tirumal Rao, convenor of the Vedika, and Professor S.R. Sarraju, coordinator of the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies and Translation, University of Hyderabad. (The Hindu 14/12/14)

10. Protest over death of Adivasi youth in firing (6)

KHAMMAM: The death of Karam Narasimha Rao, an Adivasi youth of Dosillapalli in Charla mandal, after being hit by a bullet during an anti-Maoist operation by the police on Saturday night set off protests in his native village in Bhadrachalam division on Monday. Narasimha Rao succumbed to the grievous bullet injury while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Hyderabad late on Sunday night. Tension mounted in Dosillapalli on Monday afternoon when a group of villagers staged protest demanding action against those responsible for the death of Narasimha Rao, a petty trader of the village. According to sources, the protesters shouted slogans dismissing the police version that the youth was injured after being caught in an exchange of fire between a police party and the rebels. When the police officials came to the village to inquire into the incident, the agitated villagers sought an open inquiry in the village to unravel the facts and bring the guilty to book. Meanwhile, the death of the Adivasi youth evoked widespread condemnation and vociferous demand for an impartial probe into the incident. In a statement, CPI (M) district secretary Pothineni Sudarshan Rao alleged that the police fired at Narasimha Rao and another youth suspecting them to be the ultras at Dosillapalli on Saturday night. “The police action amounted to unwarranted and unrestrained firing on tribal youth,” he charged alleging that similar incidents occurred thrice in the same Bhadrachalam division in the last couple of years. (The Hindu 16/12/14)

WOMEN

11. 1st non-Internet app for women in distress soon (8)

New Delhi: To help women in distress in the national capital, the city administration’s 181 helpline is set to launch the country’s first non-Internet based application by “the first week of January 2015”. All that one requires is to press the power button of the phone and the helpline would ensure that caller receives assistance on the spot within two to three minutes. After pressing the power button, an SOS message will be automatically transferred to 181. The new application would be first operational only on the Android phones and later on Windows and other mobile devices. The administration had launched the helpline for women in distress after the Nirbhaya incident about two years ago. Of the 12,11,887 calls made to the 24×7 helpline, it attended as many as 8,51,455 calls till December 8 this year. Civil rights activist and 181 head Khadijah Faruqui said that the helpline had managed to get 6,66,684 cases registered on the basis of the calls it had received so far. The helpline got 4,021 cases of abductions registered, 615 cases of acid attacks, 12,435 cases of sexual abuse of children, 79,782 cases of domestic violence, 1,771 cases of dowry deaths, 4,967 rape cases, 25,083 cases of sexual assaults and 2,216 cases of stalking. Of the total cases lodged at various police stations, the trial proceedings have been reported in as many as 40 per cent of the cases. Confirming that the helpline was soon going to launch its first telephone-based application, Ms Faruqui said this would be the first such App which can be operated without any Internet connection. The application has been developed by the Indraprastha Institute of Technology’s Pushpendra Singh and Shradha Jain. Once the message is transmitted to the helpline, it would automatically display the time and location of the caller. Ms Faruqui said: “Our priority will be to send any possible help to the caller within two to three minutes. We will immediately contact the nearby PCR vans, ambulances or mobile vans of the Delhi Commission for Women so that any of these provides the emergency help to the caller at the earliest.” The helpline head said the application would be launched after getting a static IP address. (Asian Age 10/12/14)

12. 38% of women killed are by partners: WHO (8)

NEW DELHI: Over one-third of murdered women across the world were killed by their male partners, a recent report by World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed, indicating how women face greater threat to their lives from their trusted ones. “When women are killed, it is often their partner who is responsible. In 2013, WHO and others estimated that as many as 38% of female homicides globally were committed by male partners while the corresponding figure for men was 6%,” said the first ever Global Status Report on Violence Prevention released on Thursday. Highlighting how murder (homicide) is a bigger problem across countries, it said world over at least 4.75 lakh murders were reported in 2012. About 60% of these victims were males aged between 15 and 44 years, which is the most productive phase of life. The report says homicide is the third leading cause of death for males in this age group. This status report has been prepared after collecting data from 133 countries, covering 6.1 billion people and representing 88% of the world’s population. The compilation of global data also shows that approximately one in every two homicides is committed with a firearm, and one in four with a sharp instrument such as a knife, although the mechanism of homicide varies markedly across regions. However, it has also found how between 2000 and 2012 homicide rates are estimated to have declined by over 16% globally. It’s higher in the case of high-income countries, but in low and middle income countries the decline is less. (Times of India 12/12/14)

13. Govt drops plan to amend Dowry Act (8)

NEW DELHI: The Dowry Act in its present form is here to stay for now. The government on Friday said it had dropped amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 proposed by the National Commission for Women (NCW). “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,” women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said in Lok Sabha. The move has been met with some relief by women’s rights activists who feared weakening of the law following a critical Supreme Court order. “I feel it is good that the government has decided not to dilute the law,” Ranjana Kumari from the Centre for Social Research said. Among the amendments that were planned included widening the definition of the word dowry and including penalty provisions for misuse of the act. 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”.On November 23, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled if a woman’s complaint accusing her husband and in-laws of cruelty under the dreaded Section 498A of Indian Penal Code turns out to be false, then the man is entitled to divorce. The bench quoted “Crime in India 2012 Statistics” published by National Crime Records Bureau to say that nearly 2 lakh people were arrested in India in 2012 under Section 498A, which was 9.4% more than in 2011. Among the other amendments that were proposed were a provision for separate penalties for giving and taking of dowry and penalties for non-maintenance of lists of gifts received at the time of marriage. There are reports of misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code by women to harass their husband and in-laws. (TOI illustration) There has been significant increase in the number of dowry-related cases in the last decade including Dowry Prohibition Act cases (300% increase), 498A cases (135% increase) and a 30% increase in the number of dowry deaths. All of these three rates are substantially higher than the rate of increase of all cognizable cases on average, which was 21%.Dowry-related cases accounted for nearly half of the increase in crimes against women between 2003 and 2013. (Times of India 13/12/14)

14. Harassed at home, over 79,000 women in Delhi dialled 181 (8)

New Delhi: The Capital has a notorious record on women safety in public places. But an analysis of the distress calls made to a government helpline reveals that they face harassment and violence inside their homes too. The 181 helpline for women— set up and being run by the Delhi government since 2012 after the December 16 gang rape has received as many as 8,51,455 complaints since its inception. An analysis of the calls to the helpline shows that 79,782 women reported matters related to domestic violence —most of them sexual in nature. Khadijah Faruqui, a lawyer and activist who heads the helpline service, said the government is now planning to add new safety features to the helpline including a GPS location tracking facility to ensure they can connect with the callers smoothly. The helpline received a total of 8,51,455 distress calls and 6,66,684 cases have been registered under various heads against these calls. “We need to strengthen the existing facility of 181 which is why we have chalked out a comprehensive plan, including a mobile app facility, which will help women to reach out to us,” said Faruqui. According to officials, though calls related to sexual assault are also substantial in number, the helpline has given a platform to those facing violence inside their homes. Sources said the Delhi government has also decided to allocate more funds for 181 which has been facing a fund crunch. “Matrimonial rape has emerged as a big concern as a number of calls received by us are related to that. Sexual violence inside homes is a cause for worry and we have tried our best to counsel the women and have helped them file complaints,” Faruqui said. Besides managing serious complaints like sexual harassment, attempt to rape, stalking, obscene calls, domestic violence or kidnapping, the helpline educates women about their rights and laws. The team led by Faruqui has 16 members, including four IT experts. “Nearly 12% of the matters are related to obscene calls and 26% are about domestic violence. Other calls that we receive are related to stalking, sexual harassment, acid attack, kidnapping and abduction,” said a senior Delhi government official. (Hindustan Times 15/12/14)

15. 5 Lakh Girl Children Will be ‘Missing’ by 2021: Activists (8)

CHENNAI: Decreasing female sex ratio may result in five lakh girl children ‘missing’ by the year 2021, warned activists, calling for a closer monitoring of the situation. Participating in a protest organised by Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion (CASSA) on Tuesday to raise awareness on the worsening child sex ratio in the country, activists said that because of the misuse of pre-natal diagnostics techniques for sex determination 53,158 girl children between 0-6 years went missing in 2011. The numbers went up from the previous year, which reveals the lack of monitoring, they alleged. There were about 4,000 scanning centres in Tamil Nadu in 2010 under scrutiny. As many as 28,458 girl foetuses were aborted in 2011. The number of such scan centres went up to 5,000 in the year 2014. The implementation of Pre-consumption and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Act has also been poor, they said. “For the past 10 years, the ratio of men and women  has been 1000:905, which has been declining continuously through the years. If this continues, it will become less than 900 in the year 2021,” said V Vasanthi Devi, former chairperson of Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women. National Family Health Survey reveals that 24 per cent of married women are married before 18 years.  Young mothers, suffering from malnutrition cause infant mortality like what happened in Dharmapuri. Poor implementation of laws by Social Welfare Department and Health Department is also a reason for these deaths, CASSA said.  “Government must take necessary actions to create awareness among the people about this,” said R Senthil, advocate and member of CASSA. (New Indian Express 18/12/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Nobel prize to Satyarthi raises hopes: Working children (14)

New Delhi: A federation of street and working children Wednesday said Nobel Peace Prize to activist Kailash Satyarthi has raised hopes for over 40 million children, who live on streets across India. “Satyarthi’s feat seem to have raised hopes for over 40 million children, who dwell on streets across India, but the question of freedom from child labour continues to stares them in the face,” Badthe Kadam said in a statement. Badthe Kadam’s national secretary Chandani said: “We have already conveyed our wishes to Satyarthi uncle through our newspaper Balaknama. But the children of this organisation still await for the day India would give us our dignity back by ensuring protection from child labour.” (Business Standard 10/12/14)

17. Police averse to filing cases, allege child welfare officials (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The spurt in the number of cases of child abuse and violation of provisions under the Right to Education Act notwithstanding, the district police appear to be averse to filing cases against the violators. The issue has become a bone of contention among the police and the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) officials with the latter lamenting that there was no prompt action in spite of complaints. The police officials, however, maintained that investigations were on into the complaints that had been lodged. The developments assume significance in the light of a host of people-friendly measures launched by city police commissioner A.B. Venkateswara Rao including ‘FIR at your doorstep’. The Child Welfare department officials are complaining that some station house officers are reluctant to register the cases despite receiving complaints. They are citing the alleged sale of a five-day-old baby girl as an illustration of the police indifference. Though an Anganwadi teacher Sujatha lodged a complaint with the Nunna police that a woman Shaik Noorjahan sold the baby, no case has been registered yet. WD&CW officials, who traced the baby, took her back when the mother expressed her inability to take care of the baby. The Nunna police on their part wrote a letter asking the officials concerned to hand over the baby to Ms. Noorjahan. “Inquiries revealed that Ms. Noorjahan had four children and she sold two babies. How can the police ask us to hand over the infant to a woman who has sold her babies?” District Child Protection Officer Ch. Vijay Kumar questioned. In another case, a 14-year-old girl lodged a complaint with Patamata police a month ago alleging that her employer tonsured and subjected her to cruelty. But, the police did not register the case till date. When contacted, Central Zone Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) K. Lavanya Lakshmi said the police are inquiring into the complaints. She evaded a reply when asked why cases were not registered in spite of complaints being filed. State Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Sumitra and Krishna District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman B. Nagesh Rao asked the police officers to take action against the SHOs who were not responding to child abuse and child rights violation cases. (The Hindu 12/12/14)

18. Child labour should go into pages of history: Satyarthi (14)

New Delhi: Making an emphatic appeal to “globalise compassion” and turn it into a “mass movement”, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi today said that he wants child labour to go into the “pages of history”.Satyarthi, who returned to India today, also pitched for the passage of the pending legislation against child labour, saying that history “won’t forgive” the legislators if the Bill does not get passed. “I want to make an earnest appeal to all the Parliamentarians, and also to other leaders to facilitate the passage of the key legislation failing which history and children of India won’t forgive them,” Satyarthi said. “Gandhiji turned truth, non-violence and peace into a mass movement. My appeal is to turn compassion into a mass movement. Let us globalise compassion,” the Nobel laureate added. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment (CLPRA) Bill which, once passed, will prohibit employment of children below 14 years in any occupation, bringing the law in consistency with the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. Earlier, Satyarthi accompanied by his wife Sumedha, visited Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat where they paid homage to the father of the nation. 60-year-old Satyarthi, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi said that he could “visualise Gandhi walking towards the stage” to receive the award while he was sitting at the podium at the nobel ceremony in Oslo. “When I was sitting at the podium, I was remembering him (Gandhiji) every single moment. I could visualise him walking towards the stage to receive the award,” said an emotional Satyarthi. On being asked how he would spend the prize money, Satyarthi said that he had previously “never seen” that much money in his life, quickly adding that he would spend “every single penny” for the cause of children in India and globally. “I have never seen or touched that amount of money in my life before. But I can assure you that every single penny will go to the cause of children in my country and globally. The money won’t even go to my own NGO,” he said. After landing in India in the wee hours today, Satyarthi tweeted, “Jai Hind. No words to express my feelings” adding “Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Heartfelt welcome home by fellow Indians”.Satyarthi, who jointly received the award along with Pakistani teenage education activist Malala Yousufzai, said that “sustainable peace” between India and Pakistan could only result from more mutual cooperation. “I am not a politician but as far as I understand more people to people contact, mutual cooperation is required for any kind of sustainable peace between the two countries,” he said. Satyarthi’s image of comforting Malala, when she broke down after seeing her blood-splattered clothes she was wearing the day she was attacked by the Taliban, at an exhibition in Oslo, was splashed by the media across the world. Expressing his gratitude to India’s “vibrant democracy and the judiciary”, Satyarthi said that change was “knocking a the door” which needs to be acted upon. “I am grateful to India’s vibrant democracy and the judicial system without which I could not have achieved anything. But at the same time I would like to say that change, hope, progress is knocking at the door. We need to act now,” the crusader against child labour said. Satyarthi said that the award has increased the weight of “moral responsibility” on his shoulders and that his job wouldn’t be complete till the day a “single child is enslaved”.The son of a police officer, hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Satyarthi also spoke about few “emotional moments” and how his friends and family called him “crazy” when he left his job as an engineer to join activism. “There were emotional moments in my family when I left my engineering job and joined activism. My friends said that I am working for a non-issue and they called me crazy,” the father of two said. Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) prides itself on liberating over 80,000 children from bonded labour in factories and workshops across India. Awarding the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize on Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Committee said that “Satyarthi and Yousafzai are precisely the people whom Alfred Nobel in his will calls ‘champions of peace’”.   (Deccan Herald 14/12/14)

19. Police and NGO rescue 83 minors brought from Bihar (14)

Mumbai: The Mumbai Government Railway Police (GRP), along with Pratham NGO, a child rights organisation on Monday morning rescued 83 minor boys who were brought in from the state of Bihar to be pushed into child labour in the city’s slums. Most of them are from Motihari, Champaran district in Bihar. Acting on a tip-off received by the NGO, a team of police officials and men from the Kurla GRP rescued these children after they got down at the LTT from the Jansadharan Express from Bihar. The boys are said to be in the age group of 10 to 16 years. There were more than 100 minor boys who were detained at LTT, but as their parents accompanied them they were let off. The rest of the 83 boys did not have their parents with them and so they will be sent to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). These boys will be allowed to go if their parents show up at the CWC. The rest of them will be sent to a children’s home at Mankhurd or Dongri. Programme manager for Pratham, Sharmishta Khandagale said, “Most of these children are made to work in small factory units and small hotels in areas like Govandi, Dharavi, Kurla, Madanpura and Byculla.” When asked if the ones who are handed over to parents are sent back by them, Ms Khandagale said, “It may be happening, but we can’t be certain about that. As of now, the parents were cooking up stories like they were brought here for studies.” The Kurla GRP has detained 38 people who were accompanying these children, but they haven’t been booked yet. There were others who had showed up at the LTT, but managed to escape following the raid. An official from the Kurla GRP said, “We have registered a case under Section 32 (production before committee by a police officer) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. We will hand them over to the CWC. We couldn’t register a case of child labour as they were not yet pushed into labour work.” (Asian Age 16/12/14)

20. 19 children rescued at Malpe harbor (14)

UDUPI: Nineteen child labourers, nine of them girls, were rescued from the Malpe fisheries harbour in a joint operation conducted by the Departments of Labour, Women and Child Welfare, Public Instruction, and Social Welfare, here on Tuesday. A release here said the operation was conducted after receiving a complaint that children were employed at the harbour. Gracy Gonsalves, Joint Director of Women and Child Welfare, said all 19 children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee. The girls were shifted to the Children’s (Girls) Home at Nittur here, while the boys were shifted to the Spoorthi Dhama at Koteshwara, she said. (The Hindu 18/12/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

21. Insecurities among minorities (7)

Dominic Emmanuel: Knowing fully well the track record of the Sangh Parivar — be it the RSS, VHP or the Bajrang Dal — the vitriolic statement by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, a Union minister, about “Ram-zaadon” (Ram’s children) and “Haraamzadon” (illegitimate children) is certainly not the last uttered against the minorities. Though she fired these derogatory remarks during an election rally, one can’t accept that such criminal declarations serve purely as a dish on the election menu. They are to be seen in the larger context of a mindset gone wrong horribly, courtesy the Hindutva ideology. Undoubtedly, the majority vote, which the Bharatiya Janata Party, received in the 2014 general elections, and the hunger to capture more states has emboldened hatemongers to have a go at the minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians. Whether it is the issue of making the Bhagavad Gita India’s “national scripture, the allegation of money from beef exports being pumped into terrorism, promoting Sanskrit as the third official language, preventing distribution of chocolates by Santa Claus in schools, “love jihad”, or rewriting history in a way that only glorifies Hindu culture, in just six months of the BJP coming to power, there seems no end to the ways the minorities in India are being marginalised and intimidated. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence over these issues, who during the election rallies thundered like a lion and told huge crowds at Madison Square Garden and in Sydney about the unity and inclusiveness of India — “Sabkasaath, sabkavikas” — is deafening. Recently, when someone remarked that the BJP is being guided by the RSS in pushing its Hindutva agenda, home minister Rajnath Singh quipped: “RSS is not an external force. I am from the RSS. The Prime Minister himself is a RSS volunteer. We are (RSS members) from childhood and will remain till we are alive. When we ourselves are from the RSS, then what influence will it have to wield?” Someone needs to remind Messrs Modi and Singh that the oath they took in the foreground of Rashtrapati Bhavan was to the Constitution of India and not by the RSS’ book of rules. During his speech in the Central Hall of Parliament, before the swearing-in ceremony, Mr Modi spoke about Parliament as the “temple of democracy”. We keep hearing statements from the likes of Goa minister Deepak Dhavlikar that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be able to make India a Hindu rashtra (nation) in the future if he got unstinted and full support and backing from ‘all of us’”. As if the 31 per cent (of the total votes cast in general elections) was not a vote for development but for a Hindu rashtra. Such people seem deaf to what Fali S. Nariman, the noted jurist, said during the seventh annual National Commission for Minorities (NCM) lecture, when he said: “We have been hearing… almost on a daily basis the tirade by one or more individuals or groups against one or another section of citizens who belong to a religious minority. The criticism has been that the majority government at the Centre has done nothing to stop this tirade. I agree”. He further added: “Those who indulge in hate speech must be prevented by court processes initiated at the instance of the commission (NCM) because that is the body that represents minorities in India… they must be proceeded against and the proceeding must be widely publicised… only then the confidence of the minorities in the NCM will get restored”. A criminal case should be initiated against Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti for “wanton vilification” of minorities, under section 153 (A) of the IPC. My concern is not just Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s utterances but the mindset of the resurgent Hindutva votaries clamouring for the creation of “Hindu rashtra”. As an idea this was promoted by ideologues like Golwalkar and Savarkar, who allegedly praised Hitler for his “nationalism” and for “creating a purity of race and culture in Germany” (cf. We or Our Nationhood Defined). Such mindset poses a threat to all minorities — women, dalits, and all linguistic, cultural or religious minorities — for their clear agenda is to eliminate all those who are different, even in the slightest way. They believe in “one nation, one people, one culture”. The Christian minority faces the greatest threat as, unlike the Sikhs and Muslims, who are concentrated in certain places, Christians are spread thinly all over. Nuns and pastors working in remote areas fear for their lives and their institutions. The authorities of Christian missionary schools are harassed, among other things, to instal statues of goddess Saraswati or asked not to sing hymns. A number of cases have been reported of pastors being beaten up for holding prayer services, even in places like Delhi (Kalkaji), in Greater Noida last September, leave alone in far-flung areas of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. And now churches are being attacked, the latest being the one on St. Sebastian Church in Dilshad Garden and last Saturday in Jasola, both in Delhi. The whispers within the community are rising, as is the fear. Mr Modi is not just the PM of Hindus. He is the PM of India. (Deccan Chronicle 10/12/14)

22. BJP demonising 15 pc minorities to scare 85 pc Indians, says Nitish Kumar (7)

Slamming BJP for pursuing what he charged was a brand of “communal politics”, former Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that the saffron party was trying to frighten 85 per cent of the people of India by demonising 15 per cent of the minority population. The JD(U) leader, whose party is being partnered by RJD in Bihar, also said that the tie-up with the Lalu Yadav-led outfit would not change his “principles of good governance”. Speaking on ‘Agenda Aaj Tak’, Kumar alluded to several controversial statements made by BJP leaders and the row over alleged forced conversions in Agra and said that the Narendra Modi government was working on the ground to divide society while talking up its development agenda in public. “They (BJP) talk about their strength. What kind of strength is this that you frighten about 85 per cent of the people (Hindus) by raising the bogey of 15 per cent of minorities? “They talk outwardly of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ but are working on ground to divide society,” he said. Kumar said there is no difference between RSS and BJP in its current “extremist” avatar, adding that the former was “marginalised” during the “moderate” Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term as prime minister. Kumar had been a Cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government. Kumar, who had resigned as Bihar Chief Minister following his party’s rout in Lok Sabha elections, said that the proposed merger of Janata Parivar offshoots was an attempt to strengthen the opposition. If the new outfit does well, then parties from other states can also join them, he added. Meanwhile, admitting that people had preferred Modi’s agenda over his in the Lok Sabha elections, Kumar, however, said that the “manufactured aura” around the Modi government remains but will fade away in time. The media and others will then think about the massive spending and the advertisement blitzkrieg which had driven BJP’s campaign for Lok Sabha polls. JD(U) had parted ways with BJP over Modi’s elevation as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. (Indian Express 13/12/14)

23. AP Minorities Commission Favours Fast-track Courts (7)

HYDERABAD: In order to address several issues concerning minorities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission has formulated several expert committees and a document of recommendations would be prepared and submitted to both the State governments, announced Abid Rasool Khan, Chairman, State Minorities Commission. The announcement was made following a round-table meet held on Saturday with the representatives of various non-governmental organisations. The commission has listed the need for fast-track courts for dealing with crime ag ainst women and children, the issue of talaq and khula (an instrument of separation between couple), the issue of money lenders, and the much controversial issue of uniform civil code (UCC) as major issues that need to be addressed immediately. Speaking to mediapersons, Rasool Khan said, “When the issue of Uniform Civil Code is being discussed at the national level, we should not stay behind in putting forward our views, express our concerns and safeguard our rights.” As many as 40 cases relating to crime against persons from minority communities were reported with the commission in the last 15 months. It includes 14 incidence of rape, four murders, 10 dowry harassment cases, 18 harassment cases involving in-laws, 2 cases of property rights violation, and two suicides where in victims were from minority communities, said Khan. (New Indian Exprerss 14/12/14)

24. Skill development scheme for 100% jobs for minorities: Govt (7)

New Delhi: A special skill development programme for minorities has been launched by the government with an aim to provide jobs to all of them who undergo it, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla said the skill development training programme of Maulana Azad National Academy for Skills (MANAS) was launched on pilot basis on the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. “Five Memorandum of Understanding were signed by MANAS and our aim is to provide 100 percent jobs to those who enroll in it,” she said during Question Hour. Replying to a supplementary, Heptulla said a community is declared minority on the basis of its economic status and there is no other benchmark like a particular percentage of population under which such status is accorded. She said of the 76 recommendations of Sachar Committee, which gave various suggestions for welfare of minority communities, 73 have been accepted by the government. Heptulla said the evaluation committee headed by Amitabh Kundu, which was set up to verify the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, has submitted its final report. “We are studying the Kundu Committee report and will see whether there are any short comings in the implementation process,” she said. The Minister said government is also trying to bring parity between scholarships given to minorities and SCs and STs and has requested the Finance Ministry to convert minority related scholarships as “demand driven”. (Zee News 17/12/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

25. Hindu outfits accused of converting Muslims in Agra (7)

LUCKNOW: A major row has erupted over the alleged conversion of over 350 Muslims to Hinduism in Agra by Hindu right wing organisations Bajrang Dal and Dharm Jagran Manch. The two organisations are also being accused of luring people with the promise of monetary benefits. The conversion is said to have taken place on Monday at Madhunagar slum area in Agra where the two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliates organised a “Purkhon ki ghar vapsi” (homecoming for ancestors) programme where around 60 Muslim families were converted amid chanting of hymns. The organisers now plan to hold a month-long training session for these “converts” on Hindu rituals and culture. Sources say the “converts,” mostly hailing from Bihar and West Bengal, were promised BPL and Aadhaar cards, besides free housing plots. But programme coordinator Ajju Chauhan later claimed the conversion was voluntary. However, a couple of people later told mediapersons that the organisers had promised monetary and other benefits under government-sponsored schemes. “We will look into the entire programme and order a detailed probe if needed,” said Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajender Choudhary. Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said the incident was the handiwork of communal forces who were trying to vitiate the peace in the State. She demanded strict action against such organisations. On the other hand, BJP MP Vinay Katiyar said there should be no objection to the programme as those who converted were originally Hindus and it was like homecoming for them. (The Hindu 10/12/14)

26. Agra conversion row: Oppn uproar continues in Parliament (7)

New Delhi: Uproar continued in the Lok Sabha on Thursday with almost all opposition parties demanding the suspension of the question hour and a discussion on the Agra “conversions”.As soon as the house met for the day, members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and CPI-M trooped near the speaker’s podium, and also raised slogans like “Modi sarkaar hosh mein aao” (Wake up, Modi government) and “Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai”.Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to allow a discussion on the issue. “You have full powers to suspend the question hour. The government has already agreed to a discussion, kindly allow us,” he said. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said that the matter should be taken “seriously”.”Otherwise, there might be riots,” he said. Nearly 300 members of some 60 Muslim families living in a slum on Agra’s outskirts reportedly embraced Hinduism on Monday. A day later the families claimed they were tricked into conversion in an event couched as ‘homecoming ceremony’. Opposition members had raised the issue in both houses of Parliament on Wednesday as well, while Islamic organisations took to the streets demanding protection to vulnerable members of the community. (Hindustan Times 11/12/14)

27. ‘Forced’ conversion irks Muslim groups (7)

MUMBAI: Outraged at the alleged forced conversions of over 200 Muslims in Agra to Hinduism and many more ghar vapsi (homecoming) ceremonies of scores of Muslims and Christians lined up by RSS-affiliates, Muslim groups in the city have condemned the move. They have asked the Akhilesh Yadav-led government in Uttar Pradesh to crack down on forces trying to “inflame communal passions in the name of conversions”.A section of senior clerics, after discussing the issue, has decided to depute a delegation to Agra to probe the circumstances in which over 50 poor Bengali Muslim families converted to Hinduism. “This is a serious matter and we don’t want to escalate the crisis but at the same time condemn the forcible conversions. In future, the UP government must take appropriate action to prevent such highly communalized initiatives by hardline Hindutva bodies,” said senior cleric Maulana Khalilur Rahman Noorie, general secretary, Association of Imams. Many saw this as part of the BJP-mandated effort to polarize Indian society. “While PM Narendra Modi says he wants to focus on development and even announced moratorium on communal issues for 10 years in his Independence Day speech, other affiliates of the Sangh Parivar are busy raking up controversial issues. The forcible conversion may further polarize Indian society, and the PM should rein in such forces engaged in weakening social harmony,” said former MLA Bashir Patel. Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, director of Markazul Maarif, a socio-cultural research organization, has sent a letter to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. “I have requested him to act firmly against the forces bent upon disrupting peace and harmony. Religion is a matter of choice and the Constitution grants Indian citizens the right to preach and practise their religions peacefully. Forcing someone to convert or luring a person to change his/her religion is a crime and must be dealt with firmly,” said Qasmi. (Times of India 14/12/14)

28. In Bulandshahr, no marriage lawns for Muslims (7)

Lucknow: Marriage lawn owners in Bulandshahr won’t let Muslims hold any functions on their properties because they “refuse to pay” and “leave the venue dirty”. Sandeep Kansal, who heads the marriage lawn union in Bulandshahr, has alleged that Muslims “issue threats” using BSP MLA Mohammad Aleem Khan’s name. “We are filtering the customers. For Muslims, we are avoiding bookings because of hooliganism and the fact that they leave the venue dirty. During their functions, there is over-crowding. Most of them refuse to pay and issue threats using MLA Aleem’s name,” Kansal claimed, adding that at least 5,000 people turn up for the functions, leading to traffic jams. Aleem, however, said he was unaware of any such issue. He added that if Muslims in Bulandshahr are denied bookings, he will get marriage lawns constructed for them. “I am not aware about any such development. No marriage lawn owner has brought this to my notice so far. Over-crowding by Muslims during functions is not fair. But if such thing (Muslims being turned down) happens, I will get 10 marriage lawns built for them,” Aleem told The Indian Express. The issue was first reported from Khurja. “I made six bookings and lost my entire year’s earnings. At least 500 plates were broken and mattresses were burnt. If you ask them for compensation, they threaten us,” R K Lala, president of the marriage lawn owners’ association in Khurja, claimed. Lala, who owns three marriage lawns in the area, said their decision was driven by business and not politics. In Bulandshahr, there are more than 50 marriage lawns. “Recently at one function, taps worth Rs 8,000 were stolen, window panes were broken and greenery was destroyed at my lawn,” Kansal claimed. He also alleged that some people slaughter animals in the lawns. Bulandshahr district magistrate B Chandrakala remained unavailable for comments. (Indian Express 16/12/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

29. Chhattisgarh: Hindutva targeting of Christians over conversions really about land? (7)

Raipur: Away from national glare, a silent religious conquest is taking shape in tribal Chhattisgarh. After the new dispensation took charge at the Centre, the ongoing tussle between the forces of Hindutva and Christians is going decidedly in favour of the former. Here are a few instances of how things have started changing in the state, particularly in its southern region. Since the BJP stormed to power at the Centre, Christians in southern Chhattisgarh are facing AFPSince the BJP stormed to power at the Centre, Christians in southern Chhattisgarh are reportedly facing a tough time. AFP * A priest appeared before the media in Jagdalpur in the company of local Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders a month ago and announced the Church’s decision to display pictures of the Hindu Goddess Saraswati in their schools. He also said the principals and vice-principals would be called acharya and up-acharya henceforth instead of ‘father’. * In the Bastar region, the VHP has objected to the distribution of sweets by Santa Claus among people during Christmas. It has instructed the community to replace sweets with ‘prasad’. * Around the time the BJP government took control at the Centre, five villages in Bastar, through their gram sabhas, passed orders prohibiting non-Hindus from practicing religious activities and prayers in their villages. Members of the Christian community allege that the VHP provoked people to pass the order and the state government is protecting them. * “People are holding mahapanchayats in other parts of the state for the last six months. Some of them are issuing circulars against the missionaries. Around 52 members of the Christian community have been attacked by the VHP activists in recent months,” Arun Pannalal, general secretary of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), has told the media. The Bastar incident last month was only a symptom of the communal problem affecting the state. …..(Firstpost 10/12/14)

30. 39 Christians re-converted to Hinduism in Bastar: BJP MP (7)

BASTAR: As many as 39 tribal Christians were re-converted to Hinduism in Bastar in October this year, BJP MP Dinesh Kashyap, who claims to have attended the VHP-Bajrang Dal event in Madhota village, said on Saturday. Bastar SP Ajay Yadav said an argument had taken place between the two groups on October 25. “But till now no complaint has been registered by any of the tribals who were re-converted,” he said. Kashyap, who is the Bastar MP, said that none of the conversions had been forced. (Times of India 14/12/14)

31. Catholic Forum miffed at Good Governance Day circular (7)

MANGALURU: The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), an NGO, has expressed shock over Union HRD ministry’s directive to schools to celebrate the birthdays of former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and Hindu Mahasabha leader MM Malviya by observing December 25 as ‘Good Governance Day’. Joseph Dias, general secretary of CSF said India is a secular country and if no such activities are held on the religious holidays of any other faith, then Christians should not be discriminated against. In a letter written to UNION HRD Minister Smriti Irani, the forum took strong exception to this move and requested the minister’s intervention. He observed that In Pune, an umbrella organization called the National Hindu Movement has targeted the New Year Celebrations, saying it is the first step to converting to Christianity and elsewhere in the country there are reconversion programmes being organized on Christmas day, which has hurt the sentiments of Indian Christians. Such activities, more importantly, will shatter India’s image in the developed world, carefully built by PM Modi and take India down the path that countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, etc are going through,” he warned. Regarding the minister’s clarification that the essay contest was only online and voluntary, Dias said it was only after the furore. The circular was clear,” he said. (Times of India 15/12/14)

32. Christians urge CM to stop Aligarh conversion prog (7)

Lucknow: Leading a strong opposition against the proposed conversion in Aligarh by Hindu outfits on December 25, a delegation of the All India Christian Council (AICC) met chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday and urged him to stop the programme. The CM assured them that no activity stoking communal hatred would be allowed. The AICC, along with Muslim and Hindu leaders, condemned religious conversions in west UP and said the PM should intervene in the matter and uphold the religious freedom of citizens given in the Constitution. “There should be no violence on December 25 or compulsive conversions in any part of the country. This is anti-Constitution and anti-religious freedom,” said AICC president Rev Joseph D’Souza. The AICC also demand a central inquiry into the reasons behind such conversions. “It is important to know who these converted people are and from which strata to where are they being converted? If they are being converted form Dalit and they still remain scheduled castes in the new conversion, what good are these conversions for the poor then,” asked Dalit leader Pankaj Prasoonn. Religious leader Sallahuddin Shibu said, “The poor Muslims and Christians have been lured to convert under the obligation to get ration cards. If the PM talks about one India and one Constitution, then his inaction on the issue tarnishes his image.” When asked about alleged Kushinagar incident where five Hindu families were converted to Christianity, council’s national coordinator Rev Kumar Swamy feigned ignorance. But he said, “Our stand towards any forceful conversion remains the same. It is only when Hindus, especially Dalits, come to us for conversion, then as a help to them we accept the request. Any forced conversion to and fro is against an individual’s religious freedom in India.” UP Masihi Association also flayed the conversion programmes calling them “a real threat to the unity and secular fabric of India, which should be nipped in the bud”. (Times of India 16/12/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

33. Efforts on to ensure night shelters for all: Naidu (13)

New Delhi: The central government is making efforts to ensure night shelters for all homeless people, specially those who have migrated to urban areas in search of work, Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said Wednesday. “The urban development ministry held a meeting in November with all state chief secretaries in the matter,” he informed the Lok Sabha during question hour. Naidu said that though providing shelters is the prerogative of the state governments, the central government stepped in after directions from the Supreme Court for it. “We support the scheme to have night shelters as part of the National Urban Livelihood Mission,” he said. The central government is also funding this scheme, the minister said, adding that efforts have also been made to rope in some NGOs and government land is being leased out for making such shelters. He said that migration from rural to urban areas is taking place in the country on a large scale as health and education facilities are unavailable in villages. Naidu also said that the government has firmed up a new housing plan which will be presented before the cabinet soon. (Business Standard 10/12/14)

34. As number of seafaring migrants surges, UN calls for better global protection efforts (13)

New York, Dec 11 (IBNS) Amid record high numbers of global migrant arrivals by sea, the international community is steadily losing focus on saving lives and intensifying its efforts to deny foreigners access to asylum, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned ahead of a Geneva-based forum devoted to protecting sea-bound migrants. This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars, Antnio Guterres, the UNs High Commissioner for Refugees, said on Wednesdayin a press release. Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage. According to estimates from coastal authorities and data points collected by the UN, at least 348,000 people have risked seafaring journeys worldwide since the beginning of 2014 as they flee conflicts and poverty. Europe, facing conflicts to its south in Libya, east in Ukraine, and southeast in Syria and Iraq, is currently seeing the largest number of sea arrivals with 207,000 people crossing the Mediterranean to reach its shores almost three times the previous known high of about 70,000, registered in 2011. However, the UN agency noted, there are at least three other major sea routes in use on Wednesdayboth by migrants seeking better economic opportunities and asylum seekers escaping conflict. In the Horn of Africa, some 82,000 people crossed the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea between1 Januaryand the end of November, leaving Ethiopia and Somalia for countries in the Arabian Peninsula. In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, an estimated 54,000 people have undertaken sea crossings, departing Bangladesh or Myanmar and heading to Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia. And, in the Caribbean, 2014 has seen almost 5,000 people take to boats as they escape the clutches of poverty and explore asylum options in the neighbouring countries. In addition to the difficulties of these journeys which often stretch across multiple borders and over thousands of kilometres, many of those migrating along these maritime corridors succumb to trafficking and smuggling networks coordinated by international organized crime. As the flow of migrants continues to swell, the UN said, many governments were finding themselves unable to either stem the flow or stop people dying along the journey. You cant stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more, Guterres continued. The real causes have to be addressed, and this means looking at why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and what can be done to crack down on the criminal networks who prosper from this, while at the same time protecting their victi It also means having proper systems to deal with arrivals and distinguish real refugees from those who are note, he said. Guterres words come as UN officials from its humanitarian and human rights agencies prepare to gather at UNHCRs 2014 High Commissioners Dialogue in Geneva an informal policy discussion forum whose focus this year is Protection at Sea. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, who was also in attendance at the UNHCR event, similarly cautioned that as wealthy nations continue to guard themselves from migrant arrivals and asylum seekers, they also risk transforming into xenophobic gated communities. Unilateral attempts to close borders are almost certainly futile, and the response cannot just lie in aggressive, and often counterproductive, anti-smuggling plans, affirmed Zeid in a press release. When migrants are left to drift for weeks without access to food and water; when ships deliberately refuse to rescue migrants in distress; when children in search of family reunification are detained indefinitely, denied education and care, or returned to perilous situations these are grave human rights violations. The UN rights chief pointed out that policies that seek to stamp out migration do not decrease the numbers of would-be migrants but, instead, exacerbate the dangers they endure creating zones of lawlessness and impunity. As a result, he continued, nations were encouraged to establish accessible corridors for legal migration and discourage the current siege mentality fanned by a growing number of populist politicians and leaders. Ultimately, unless they can access safe and regular migration channels, desperate people may continue to brave the perils of the sea in search of protection, opportunity and hope. In their place, we would probably do the same. And perhaps only this recognition of our common humanity can guide us to make the right choices in response, he concluded. (Sify News 13/12/14)

35. Refugees from neighbouring countries to be granted a 5 year long term visa (13)

NEW DELHI: Minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh seeking refuge in India will be granted a five-year long term visa (LTV) instead of a one-year visa, based on recommendation of the state government or UT administration. Besides, powers have been delegated to the FRRO/FRO to extend a short-term visa for this category of foreign nationals for a period of six months. A time-line of one month for FRRO and FRO and 21 days for the state government and union territory administration has been fixed for processing LTV applications. The sops promise to bring relief to minority nationals from neighbouring countries, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, seeking refuge in India on grounds of fear of religious persecution back home. Children of minority nationals from neighbouring countries, staying on long-term visa, can now take admission in schools, colleges, universities, technical and professional institutions without any specific permission from the state government or union territory administration, said a statement issued by the home ministry on Tuesday. Only an intimation is to be given in this regard to FRRO or FRO concerned. The state governments and UT have been empowered to grant permission to minority nationals from neighbouring countries staying on long-term visa to engage themselves in private jobs. State governments and UT administrations have now been empowered to grant an additional two places at any given point of time, apart from the place of stay, grant return visa for a maximum period of 90 days at a time and permission for change in mode of travel and port of exit in respect of minority nationals from neighbouring countries having a LTV or who have applied for the same. According to an estimate, about one lakh minority community refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan live in India. (Times of India 16/12/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

36. States Human Rights Commissions lack in transparency: NGO (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur are among six states which do not have dedicated websites for their Human Rights Commissions (HRCs) and most of the other states have inadequate compliance of suo-motu disclosures mandated under RTI Act, a report released by an NGO has claimed. According to a compilation released by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on the occasion of Human Rights Day being observed globally today, besides J&K and Manipur, the HRCs in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Sikkim also do not have their websites, making it difficult for people to register their grievances or to reach them. Interestingly, the link to Himachal Pradesh Human Rights Commission website–http://www.Himachal.Nic.In/hphrc– does not open-up, the CHRI said. The websites of Human Rights Commissions in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Kerala and West Bengal lack on suo-motu disclosure as mandated under Section 4 of the RTI Act, it said adding that most of the contents on them are available in English only. Whereas, Bihar Human Rights Commission has bilingual website–English and Hindi–and Maharashtra’s portal is in English and Marathi, the report said. “Most States Human Rights Commissions do not have their websites. The content mentioned on them are not updated regularly. It is difficult for the common man to raise their grievances with them,” said Venkatesh Nayak, who works with the CHRI. The data also shows rise in number of RTI applications pending with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in past five years. There were as many as 865 RTI applications pending with the NHRC in 2008-09 which rose to 2,409 in 2012-13, it said. There were 1,454, 2,034 and 2,455 RTI applications pending with the NHRC in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively, the compilation said. (Business Standard 11/12/14)

37. Consumer forum can’t act on RTI cases’ (1)

CHENNAI: A consumer forum cannot decide whether there is negligence or deficiency in service on the part of public information officers (PIO) or other authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, said the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. In an order last month, a bench comprising commission president Justice (retd) R Regupathi, judicial member J Jayaram and member P Bakiyavathi said the Supreme Court had said the Consumer Protection Act was in addition to the provisions of other law “unless there was a clear bar.” Whereas, the RTI Act had a provision which specifically said it was beyond the jurisdiction of courts. The matter relates to a petition filed by S Jeyaram who said that under the RTI Act, he had sought some information regarding Apollo Hospitals from the public information officer and deputy/under secretary of the health and family welfare department. As the PIO failed to furnish the details, he moved north Chennai district consumer disputes redressal forum. The forum rejected the petition stating the complaint was not maintainable. Jeyaram then filed an appeal in the state commission. He said that the relevant section of the Consumer Protection Act said: “The provisions of this act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.” As such, a person seeking information under the RTI Act could approach the consumer forum, he said In 2013, the national commission had said that a person seeking information under the RTI Act could not be considered as a consumer as according to the relevant provision of the RTI Act, he/she had the remedy of approaching the appellate authority. Also, the RTI Act provided PIOs with independent decision making authority to decide whether disclosure of information was in public interest, said the bench. Without being a consumer one could not seek remedy under the Consumer Protection Act, said the bench adding that after exhausting the options under the RTI Act, one could only approach the appellate forum for further reliefs and redressal of grievances. (Times of India 12/12/14)

38. RTI lessons help cops to understand cases better (1)

New Delhi: Lessons in handling Right to Information applications are doing good to Delhi policemen who are discarding frivolous pleas at initial stages itself with the help of a Delhi government consultant. “Many of the officials do not know that they can refuse to entertain a plea which uses more than 500 words,” said S C Agrawal, the RTI consultant who conducts lectures for officers and low-rung cops. Now, police officials have started counting wordage of the RTI pleas they get before getting down to answering them, he said. “Sub-inspectors and SHOs keep calling me on my phone for instant advice on how to go about dealing with applications,” he said. Agrawal, a qualified mechanical engineer, said from his interaction with police officers he came to know that RTI was being used mostly in dowry harassment or maintenance cases between estranged couples. “I have been telling police public information officers that they need not pass all information to the RTI applicants if it could harm the privacy of the ‘third party’,” he said. “My stress has been on educating policemen to invoke Section 11 of the RTI Act and seek the consent of the person about whom the RTI applicant has sought information. The affected party’s approval is needed to give out personal details,” he said. Section 11 for inviting comments of the ‘third party’ must be invoked within five days of receipt of Right to Information petition, and not in 30 days of receipt of RTI petition, as has been usually observed, he said.  Late transfer of a plea or seeking comments from the ‘third party’ can attract penalty-proceedings under Section 20 of RTI Act, he said. Agrawal, 64, who also holds the Guinness World Record for most number of published letters to the editor in newspapers, said while interacting with policemen he also found a tendency to deny information to RTI applicants in cases under investigation. “Due to lack of knowledge of the transparency law, policemen are denying information to even genuine applicants.” “Information can be withheld if its sharing impedes investigation but the policemen tend to block details even if the information is harmless and unlikely to influence the probe,” he said. He is also working on police department’s public information officers to avoid Right to Information communication that do not mention the dates of receipt of Right to Information petition. “Non-providing of date of receipt of RTI petition by the responding officer also results in filing of petitions in the Information Commission for alleged delay, while it may not be the case, thereby harming man-hours and money spent by all concerned including of Information Commissions, public-authorities and petitioners,” he said. (Deccan Herald 15/12/14)

39. Rs 2,000 crore Nirbhaya fund remains unspent (1)

New Delhi: It has been two years since the announcement of symbolic Nirbhaya Fund in wake of the December 16, 2012 gangrape, but apparently the allotted Rs 2,000 crore has not been spent at all, with the Central government seemingly undecided where the money could be utilised. There is ambiguity about any expenditure made by the government ,utilising the fund that was started in 2012 for the empowerment and security of women. Observers assert most of the Nirbhaya Fund has not been utilised, with ambitious plans like installation of GPS on public transportation, alarm buttons on mobiles, women’s helpline and one stop crisis centres staying mostly restricted to paper. The UPA-II government had sanctioned Rs1,000 crore for the fund in 2013 and another Rs 1,000 was added by the new NDA government in May this year. The fund was part of a series of reactionary measures by the government after the incident, in which it announced the fund for the safety and empowerment of women as tribute to the 23-year-old victim. An RTI last year, however, revealed that not a penny from the much-publicised Rs1,000-crore fund had been spent, even after a year. The director of the Centre for Social Research, Dr Ranjana Kumari, however, said that there has been no real clear roadmap of how the funds should be spent and there has been complete “ambiguity” about the projects on which the could be money used, if at all. “It seems the announcements were only for political gains. Women’s security was a political plank for all the major parties in the previous elections and many women perhaps voted for the new government for that reason.” Ms Kumari said that many of proposals by the women and child development ministry under then Nirbhaya Fund were either not approved or didn’t take off, and thus “technically” the money remains unused. “It is very distressing and a disappointment for all, in particular, for those who led the Nirbhaya movement.” The activist said the Union women and child development minister has not kept any communication or dialogue with the NGOs or with the civil society, so there has been no “clarity” on what the ministry has done with the fund. BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, last week, also said that the Nirbhaya Fund hadn’t been utilised fully, and noted the Union government had sanctioned finances under the fund for installing CCTV cameras in important places, but the Delhi administration had failed to use the fund in the absence of an elected government. (Asian Age 17/12/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

40. Sanskrit won’t disqualify any child from taking Class X board: Centre (11)

NEW DELHI: Attempting to bury the controversy over mid-term switch to Sanskrit from German in Kendriya Vidyalayas, the Centre on Monday gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court that performance in Sanskrit would not disqualify any child from taking the optional Class X board examinations. The HRD ministry gave this undertaking after counsel for some parents, Reena Singh, told a bench of Justices A R Dave and Kurian Joseph that students and parents were in utter confusion after the Centre informed the court that there would be no examination for Sanskrit this year because of the mid-term switch. She said those students who had studied German in Class VI and VII and were due to appear for the German exam this year in Class VIII might find themselves disqualified for the Class X board examination, which requires the student to pass the language paper in all three classes. Since Class VIII students were forced to take up Sanskrit, for which there would be no examination, they would not qualify for the Class X board, Singh said. The bench asked attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to take instructions from the HRD ministry on the concerns raised by parents. Rohatgi said Class X board examination was optional now. But he added, “No student will be disqualified because of mid-stream introduction of Sanskrit, for which there will be no examination this year. The marks obtained by the student in Class VI and VII alone would be taken into consideration as far as Class X board is concerned.”  The AG also clarified that the decision to introduce Sanskrit was implemented and there was no going back on it. However, the bench asked Rohatgi to seek clarification on the concerns raised by parents and posted the matter for hearing on December 16.  The court wanted the KV Sangathan to consult the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) on this issue and inform the court about it. (Times of India 10/12/14)

41. 15,367 out-of-school children in Kalaburagi district: Minister (11)

KALABURAGI: There are as many as 15,367 out-of-school children in Kalaburagi district and another 11,142 in Yadgir district, according to Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education Kimmane Ratnakar. In a reply to an unstarred question by Congress MLC Allamprabhu Patil in the Legislative Council, the Minister said several reasons contributed to the high number of out-of-school children in the two districts, which have been identified as educationally most backward districts with high illiteracy rates. The Minister in the same breath claimed that out of the total 15,367 children identified as out of school in Kalaburagi district, 11,014 have been brought back to the mainstream and in Yadgir district out of the total 11,142 out-of-the school children, 5,680 children have been brought back through several initiatives taken by the department. Mr. Ratnakar said that some of the reasons, why children remain away from school, which have been identified, include the distance from their residence to school, involvement of children in the household work by their parents, making the children work in other houses for generating income etc. Early marriage and girl students attaining puberty can also be reasons for them to stay away from school, he said. Other reasons cited by the Minister in the written reply included unattractive school environment, migration of the children to other places, fear of the teacher among the children, severe physical disability and other reasons. The government has initiated several measures to bring back these children by providing three-month and 12-month bridge courses , six-month residential seasonal training programme for migrant children who drop out of schools, school-based special coaching, starting tent schools for the migrant drop out children, home-based coaching for children with disabilities as well as other measures. (The Hindu 13/12/14)

42. No clue yet on RTE admissions as deadline ends (11)

Bengaluru: Lack of communication from officials of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with regard to admissions under the Right to Education Act (RTE) has left parents an anxious lot. DPI officials are still in the process of compiling a list of schools in every district, even as they have overshot the deadline. As per the schedule fixed by the  DPI, the Deputy Directors of Public Instruction (DDPIs) were supposed to upload on to the district websites a list of all schools in their districts by December 12. Once the DDPIs upload the list, the Block Education Officers (BEOs) can start preparing a list of seats available in every school. The deadline for the same is January 12, 2015. According to Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammed Mohsin, a review meeting to discuss the progress in the admission process will be held on December 15 (Monday). “There has been some delay as we had to finish the verification of schools as well. The list will be uploaded on to the district websites in two or three days,” he said, adding that the issue of illegal schools would also be discussed in the meeting. Recently, several schools were found functioning without adequate permission. Hence, the department had promised to compile a list of these schools and upload it on the website. Parents are anxious as they have little or no information about the admission process. RTE Task Force member Nagasimha G Rao said the Task Force was receiving at least 20 calls every day from parents seeking information. “The department should have issued a manual by now about the admission procedure. They have to start help centres to train parents regarding online admissions,” he said. Parents have no clarity on what exactly the online admissions will entail – whether the entire process would be online or whether only the applications were available online. Further, in spite of complaints, the department is yet to upload the addresses of the BEO offices. Meanwhile, DDPIs said they were compiling school lists and it would be ready soon. DDPI (Bengaluru Rural) K  M Gururaj said, “With regard to some schools, the name has figured in the lists of two neighbourhoods. That has to be changed. We will do it in two days.” In Shivamogga, the list was nearly ready and the officials would be uploading it on Monday, said DDPI T Narayana Gowda. “We are cross-checking the number of schools. Except for minor discrepancy in the number of schools, there is no problem,” he said.  (Deccan Herald 15/12/14)

43. Dropout rate remains high among girls in Delhi (11)

NEW DELHI: Government schemes and programmes designed to help girls continue in school aren’t working. At the primary level, the number of girls per 1,000 boys has fallen from 881 in 2010-11 to 867 in 2013-14. At the secondary school level, it has fallen from 859 in 2010-11 to 840 in 2013-14. Only scheduled caste (SC) students have a healthy ratio—in the 900s or even more than 1,000—at middle, secondary and senior-secondary levels. R Govinda, vice-chancellor, National University for Educational Planning and Administration ( NUEPA), however, doesn’t see it as a failure of government schemes and policies, or even a long-term trend. He says enrolment at the primary level increased tremendously after Right to Education Act was implemented in 2010. “It’ll take a few years for that change to show up in the statistics.” Govinda says more girls than boys drop out after finishing primary and middle levels, but those who enter secondary school usually stay on till the end. That isn’t the case with boys, which may explain the increase in sex ratio from secondary to senior-secondary. In 2010-11 the sex ratio was 859 at secondary level and 881 at senior-secondary level; in 2013-14, it declined to 840 at the secondary level but increased to 896 at the senior-secondary level. This is not because of greater participation of girls but because boys have started dropping out by this stage.  ”In Delhi, boys start dropping out when they move from municipal to government schools,” says Saurabh Sharma of Josh, a city NGO that is also part of the Right to Education Forum. “For five feeder municipal schools, there will be one government school. In that crowding, boys find it very difficult to survive. They may get out and start working.” He says the problem is shortage of schools, not resistance from parents. He disagrees with Govinda on the effectiveness of government schemes. “Most parents don’t even know how to apply for Ladli. There’s no one to tell them what to do. People have no faith in schemes,” says Sharma. Why do SC students have a better sex ratio? Sharma can’t explain that one. “Does this mean SC parents are more aware? I don’t think so.” Govinda says it could be because SC boys and SC girls drop out equally. The figures bear this out but only for 2010-11 when 12,747 boys and 13,836 girls transitioned to senior-secondary from 17,188 boys and 17,650 girls who were in Class X, and the sex ratio remained over 1,000. In 2012-13, the number of SC students increased from 77,470 in secondary to 81,853 in senior-secondary. (Times of India 17/12/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

44. Petition Seeks Direction to Centre to Not Implement DBTL (21)

MADURAI: A petition seeking to direct the union government not to implement the Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG subsidy system (DBTL) was filed before the Madras High Court bench on Tuesday. Petitioner S M Ananthamurugan, an advocate, also prayed for a directive to the government not to take steps to implement the “bank account-based” domestic LPG connection. He submitted that the central government should be directed to provide domestic refill LPG cylinders to the public following the earlier system. He alleged DBTL was unwarranted and useless and would affect the poor the most as most of them did not have bank accounts and were not in a position to get the government LPG subsidy. As the Centre could not insist on Adhaar card,they are now using the backdoor method by insisting on DBTL, he said. If the government really wanted to weed out ineligible LPG connection holders, it should conduct a fair assessment and find the persons living Above the Poverty Line and hand over their details with the gas agency and cancel their subsidy, he said. The case will be taken up for hearing on Wednesday. (New Indian Express 10/12/14)

45. UN agency reports record cereal crop as Ebola, conflict threaten food security  (21)

Despite world cereal production likely to reach an all-time record of more than 2.5 billion tonnes in 2014, a total of 38 countries are at risk of food insecurity, including 29 in Africa, with food insecurity worsening in several countries due to civil conflicts, adverse weather and the Ebola outbreak, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released on Thursday. The latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report shows that while bumper crops in Europe and a record maize output in the United States of America pushed cereal output 0.3 per cent higher than last year, agriculture and food sectors in many countries were hit by significant, damaging shocks. In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak, which began when crops were being planted and gathered pace during the farming cycle, led to a reduced harvest. Rice and cassava prices showed notable increases in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, and other cities in September. Harvests were also reduced by bad weather in the Sahel region, with agricultural output in Senegal expected to be 38 per cent below average. Conflict was responsible for serious impacts on food insecurity in several countries, including Syria, where a weak harvest, due to abandoned land, scarce labour, and damaged infrastructure, was exacerbating the effects of worsening civil conflict. An estimated 6.8 million Syrians some refugees in neighbouring countries faced severe food insecurity, with the situation in Iraq, where 2.8 million people were displaced, also acutely serious. In the Central African Republic (CAR), increased violence, coupled with crop production 58 per cent below average, put one third of the population in need of urgent food assistance. Prices of agricultural commodities have shot up by as much as 70 per cent this year and one in four households has resorted to negative coping strategies, including selling productive assets and slaughtering livestock. Pressure on food supplies also came from refugee movements, the report said, especially from Sudans Darfur region, northern Nigeria, the CAR and Mali. More than 6.5 million people need food and livelihood assistance in Chad, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia. Nevertheless, the report says that the increase in overall cereal output will outpace projected consumption, boosting cereal stocks to their highest level since 2000 and pushing the worldwide stock-to-use ratio, a proxy measure for supply conditions, to rise to 25.2 percent, its highest level in 13 years. (Sify News 13/12/14)

46. ‘State Govt maligning BJP by false information’ (21)

JORHAT, Dec 13 – At a press conference here on Friday, the BJP’s Tea Morcha alleged that the State Government has resorted to unfair politics to malign the image of the NDA Government in the State by misleading tea garden workers on the issue of withdrawing the subsidised foodgrains scheme. After the State Industry Minister Pradyut Bordoloi said a few days ago that the Centre had decided to stop providing subsidised rations to the State tea gardens from the beginning of the new year, various organisations of workers staged protests against the Government’s decision across the State and demanded of the Central Government to continue the supply of foodgrains according to the earlier subsidy scheme. “But the irony is that the Central Government does not have any such subsidy scheme for garden workers to withdraw in the first place. Only the State Government provides subsidised foodgrains to the workers to help the owners of tea gardens economically. The State Government has itself decided to withdraw such special subsidy for gardens and is blaming the BJP Government by providing false information,” said Dulen Nayak, State executive member of the BJP’s Tea Morcha. According to him, Industry Minister Bordoloi and former Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar tried to incite the tea garden workers by politicising the issue which has “no authenticity.” As both the Congress leaders are owners of tea gardens in upper Assam, they work only for the interests of owners, Nayak alleged. “Tea garden owners must provide foodgrains to the workers according to the existing order of rates. Bordoloi and Ghatowar are owners of tea gardens. It is the responsibility of tea garden owners to provide foodgrains as per the Plantation Labour Act ,1951,” said Nayak. Criticising the pro-Congress role of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), he said that the welfare of workers should be the priority of such an organisation which has remained silent on several issues like the delayed disbursement of provident fund deposits even in the Government-run tea gardens under the Assam Tea Corporation Limited. “They know the truth, but have remained a mute spectator with regard to these issues of workers who have been deprived of proper healthcare facilities, provident fund deposits, housing facilities, education, etc.,” said Nripen Tasa, district president of the Chah Morcha. BJP’s State general secretary Santanu Pujari also said that Congress ministers should refrain from inciting common people against the BJP by giving misleading information. “Please stop such dirty politics by providing misleading information to the common people. The Congress must also stop favouring only owners instead of implementing welfare schemes for tea garden workers,” said Pujari. (The Assam Tribune 14/12/14)

47. Tea tribe kids drop out of school due to poverty (21)

Guwahati: The tea plantation may be one of the largest economies of Assam but the poverty of tea plantation workers is forcing more than 23 out of every 100 tea-tribe children to drop out of school at lower and upper primary levels every year in Assam. However, overall combined dropout rate in lower and upper primary level in 2013-14 in Assam was a little over six per cent while the state’s overall literacy was 73.2 per cent. In a reply to a written question, Assam education minister Pradyut Borodoloi quoted data of district information system for education of 2012-13 and 2013-14, which said, “In the tea and ex-tea garden areas, 17.3 per cent children dropped out at lower primary level and 29.5 per cent left schooling at primary level.” The minister in his reply stated that poverty of parents, poor infrastructure of schools run by tea garden administrations, lack of trained teachers in these schools and non-cooperation from people involved with school management bodies have also contributed to this school dropout rates of children in tea garden areas. It is significant that majority of the schools, 450, are run by tea garden administrations while only a paltry 29 have been provincialised and funded by the state government. The minister stated that the government has taken up proposal to provincialise 157 more such schools. “We have asked those schools which have been left out to send proposals to us for provincialisation,” the minister said. The minister could not reply to a question about the literacy rate among tea tribes. (Asian Age 18/12/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

48. HC: Corpns delaying vendor law for hafta (14)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday was in agreement with an NGO’s statement that municipal corporations are not implementing the Street Vendors Act as they want the vendors to be at their mercy “to extract hafta from them”. “Absolutely. We completely agree with you,” a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul said in response to advocate Prashant Bhushan’s submission, on behalf of the NGO, that the Act is not being implemented as the civic bodies “wants street vendors at their mercy to extract hafta from them”.The bench also pulled up the municipal corporations of Delhi for violating its order not to evict street vendors till a survey is completed regarding the number of such roadside businesses in the national capital and as stipulated under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014. It also termed corporations’ conduct as “contempt of court”.”We had said that till survey is completed no street vendors are to be removed. There is complete embargo on evicting street vendors till survey is completed as per Street Vendors Act and a vending certificate is issued. This is contempt of court,” the court said. It also said “even today survey has not been completed” and added “consequently no street vendors can be evicted”.The court was a hearing a PIL filed by NGO National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) which alleged street vendors at Jama Masjid, Nahar Patti and Meena Bazaar areas here were evicted in August 2014 in view of Independence Day celebrations. The court sought a joint status report within three weeks from MCDs indicating whether any street vendors have been evicted from the aforesaid three areas. If they were evicted, then they are permitted to come back, the court said and listed the matter for further hearing on January 15, 2015. (Times of India 11/12/14)

49. Job scheme to focus on asset development (14)

Kozhikode: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that the State government will give more priority to asset development projects under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). He was speaking after inaugurating the newly constructed Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendra at Kunnamangalam on Saturday. Explaining the scope of the project in the agriculture sector, Mr. Chandy said the existing production could be largely increased with the expansion of the MGNREGS. “In the dairy sector too, we would be able to achieve self-sufficiency,” he said. The Chief Minister also laid the foundation stones for two asset development projects worth Rs.1.15 crore under the control of the Kunnamangalam block panchayat. P.T.A. Rahim, MLA, presided over the function. (The Hindu 14/12/14)

50. Labour department resolves 103 complaints (14)

NewDelhi: A total of 103 grievances, received from workers between December 2001 and December 2005, were redressed by the city’s labour department. Labour commissioner Jitendra Narain said the department has redressed 103 disputes and complaints of workers and public received from December 2001 till December 2005. “Besides enforcing the labour laws, the department has undertaken welfare activities for the benefit of the industrial workers and their families in the capital.” Mr Narain said the department has disbursed an amount of Rs 49,01,182 that has benefited 98 workers under various labour laws, including Employees Compensation Act 1923, Delhi Shops and Establishment Act 1954; Minimum Wages Act 1948; Payment of Gratuity Act 1972; Conciliation cases under I.D. Act 1947; Recovery of money under Award of Labour Court Section 33(C)(1) of ID Act 1947; Payment of Bonus Act 1965; Contract Labour Act 1970 and Minimum Wages Act 1948. He said that department was organising regular workshops on occupational safety and health in association with the Industrial Association. “Experiences and best practices in Industrial safety and health shall be discussed.” (Asian Age 15/12/14)

51. Proposal to reduce limit for EPF coverage (14)

New Delhi: A proposal to cover all companies having more than 10 employees under the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) scheme is under consideration of the government. “A proposal to reduce threshold limit for coverage under the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 from 20 to 10 employees is included in the proposed comprehensive amendment to the Act,” Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya informed Lok Sabha. Replying to another question, the minister said there was no proposal to provide any minimum wage pension to all workers of the unorganised sector. In his written reply, Dattatreya said the government had proposed to merge three schemes – Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (AABY) and Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) being run for workers of the unorganised sector and to provide the benefit of the scheme through a single smart card to workers.”This pilot project will be implemented in the 20 selected districts,” he said. The minister said the objective of these pilots is to ensure unorganised workers should have easy access to social security schemes, including registration, support for services, claiming benefits and grievance redressal through a single point of contact set up at a center near their place of residence. “The data for these schemes will be entered in the single smart card, which will be proof of eligibility for the schemes,” Dattatreya said. (Business Standard 16/12/14)

52. Informal Workers in Organized Sector (14)

The Minister of State (IC) for Labour and Employment, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya has said that no centralized data in this regard is maintained. Under the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970, Central Government is the “Appropriate Government” in respect of the establishments falling in Central Sphere.  The private companies, non-Government sector and unorganized sector come in State sphere. However, in the year 2013-14 the estimated number of contract labourers engaged by licenced contractors in Central Sphere was around 21.12 lakhs.  In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya said that the Ministry of Labour and Employment has launched a special drive to include contract and construction workers under EPFO pursuant to the initiative to provide Universal Account Number (UAN) to the EPF subscribers. The UAN will help them track their PF benefits across contractors. Hon’ble Prime Minister had launched Shramev Jayate Karyakram on 16th October, 2014 wherein a Shram Suvidha Portal was launched. This Shram Suvidha Portal currently applies to 4 major organisations under the Ministry viz. Office of Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS). This Portal, besides allotting a Unique Labour Identification Number to each establishment, will also comprise all details of both regular and contract workers. Till now, Unique Identification Number has been issed to 7,13,624 units. The Government has introduced transparent Labour Inspection Scheme in Central Sphere which will also lead to effective implementation of all the Acts including the Contract Labour Act. Further, Universal Account Number has been allotted to 4,21,000 EPF Subscribers to provide portability.  The Minister said that the interest of labourers in terms of wages and other service conditions are safeguarded under various social welfare legislations. Some of the prominent social welfare legislations are as follows: -  Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 , -Employees’ Provident Fund & Misc. Provisions Act, 1952, Employees’ Pension Scheme, 1995, Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, – Minimum Wages Act, 1948, -Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, Equal Remuneration Act, 1976  , Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, Mines Act, 1952, Factories Act, 1948, Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970. He said that as far as the security  in term of  wages to contract labourers is concerned,  under  Rule 25(2)(v)(a) of the  Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Central Rules, 1971, the wages of the contract labour shall not be less than the rates prescribed under  Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and in cases where  the contract workers perform  the same or similar kind of work as the workmen directly employed  by the principal employer of the establishment, the wage rates, holidays, hours of work and other conditions of service  shall be the same as applicable to the workmen directly employed by the principal employer doing the same or similar kind of work. The liability to ensure payment of wages and other benefits is primarily that of the contractor and, in case of default, that of the principal employer. (Govt./ of India PIB 17/12/14)

RESERVATION

53. OBCs to get 27% of govt petrol pumps (25)

NEW DELHI: The oil ministry has for the first time implemented a 27% quota for OBCs (other backward castes) in allotment of petrol pumps, even as it has decided to auction outlets on ‘premium sites’ and distribute others through lottery with a view to ensuring transparency. The latest round of reforms by the ministry, under the watch of Dharmendra Pradhan, displays a fine blend of welfare politics and sound commercial sense. The reservation will impact power equations in rural areas, while the auction will help maximize revenue and attract serious players. The OBC quota will also apply in the allotment of cooking gas dealerships. Over the last 2-3 months, state-run fuel retailers have advertised 35,668 locations for setting up petrol pumps and 7,000 cooking gas dealerships, both under regular and low-cost rural categories. The allotment policy also provides for 22.5% reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. After the OBC quota, the general category will come down to 49.5%. Reservation for other groups such as sportsmen, former defence personnel and family of martyrs will be accommodated under these three categories. The UPA had decided on the quota in July 2012 but it remained unimplemented. There are more than 40,000 petrol pumps in the country. The ministry has now asked fuel retailers to auction outlets on what it calls ‘A Sites’. These are pumps where the retailers spend a minimum of Rs 50-60 lakh for setting up all infrastructure and facilities, even purchase or lease the land. The dealer is then chosen to operate the pumps. Sources said the suggestion for introducing the auction method came from Pradhan during one of his marketing review meetings with oil company executives. “Why should companies spend money for dealers? Let those who mean business bid for a pump,” an executive from one of the companies quoted the minister as saying. Scrapping of interview of candidates from the dealer selection process removes one of the major sources of allegations of favouritism and nepotism. The ‘A Sites’ will have a reserve price of Rs 30-35 lakh, depending upon the location. Those interested in becoming operators will have to bid above this price as per their understanding of the business prospects of a location. In case there is tie with more than one bidder quoting similar price, the selection of the winner will be through lottery. All remaining sites will be allotted through lottery, which has so far been the practice for awarding cooking gas dealerships. (Times of India 10/12/14)

54. VHP to Oppose Telangana Government’s Move to Give 12 Per Cent Reservations to Muslims

SANGAREDDY: Senior VHP leader Praveen Togadia today said his organisation will oppose any move by the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led Telangana government in providing 12 per cent reservations to Muslims. Addressing a ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ here on the eve of the golden jubilee celebrations of VHP, Togadia, who is international president of the organisation, said the party will take legal recourse if the state government comes up with any such move. “VHP will oppose any move by the state government for providing 12 per cent reservations to Muslims and will take legal recourse if needed,” Togadia said. Providing of reservations to Muslims was one of the promises made by Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in its poll manifesto in April. Togadia also appealed to Hindus to eradicate untouchability and maintain unity “to save the religion”.”Each and every Hindu should maintain cordial relations with SC/ST’s and upper and lower castes should share common kitchens,” he said. Raking up the issue of “love jihad’, Togadia said VHP was not against “pure love”.”Love jihad is not pure because Hindu girls are converted to Islam after their marriage but in no case any Muslim boy gets converted to Hinduism.. This is clearly the ‘love jihad’ and we are against it,” Togadia said. He said that construction of the temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya is the matter of “self respect” to Hindus. VHP national president G Raghava Reddy and regional president Rama Raju also spoke on the occasion. (New Indian Express 11/12/14)

55. ST quota sparks row among tribal communities in WG (25)

ELURU: The notification for recruitment of 40 teacher posts in Agency school has sparked a row among the tribal community in West Godavari district, with the Koyas and Kondreddies at odds with their ST brethren of Banjaras (Lambadas) over the ST status. Reservations in government jobs in the Agency mandals of Buttayagudem, Polavaram and Jeelugumilli for STs have been pitting these ST sub-castes against each other for a long time. The issue of government’s notification for recruitment of school teachers through District Selection Committee (DSC), scheduled to take place in February next year, has set off a fresh row within the STs. The DSC-2015 is set to recruit 40 teachers in the Agency schools. During DSC-213, nearly 70 teacher posts found no takers from the STs for want of TET (Teacher Eligibility Test) qualification. Against this backdrop, a massive demonstration was held at the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) office at Kota Ramachandrapuram in Buttayagudem mandal under the aegis of the Adivasi Sankshema Parishad, Adivasi Sena and the Adivasi Teachers Federation on Wednesday, opposing recruitment of Lambadas in government jobs in the Agency under the ST quota. The STs , with their family history of residing in the Agency since 1950s, are only eligible for jobs, admissions in educational institutions and the other government entitlements under the ST quota as per the GO No. 3. The Revenue Department has been flooded with applications from ST candidates, seeking nativity certificates in a bid to conform to the GO 3. Meanwhile, Joint Collector T. Baburao Naidu, a tribal himself, was caught in the crossfire after he negated the claims of two Lambada candidates whose nativity was challenged by Koyas after their selection for the VRO posts in Buttayagudem mandal. Later, Bhanjara Hakkula Sangham protested in the city, seeking transfer of the Joint Collector for his alleged bias in favour of non-Banjara sub-groups. The Banjaras, a tribe inhabiting in the plains, were accorded ST status during Jalagam Vengal Rao’s government in 1976. Mudiyam Gangaraju, a Koya, of the Adivasi Teachers Federation, said Banjaras with a population around 20,000 had migrated from the neighbouring Telangana districts after 1950s. .(The Hindu 12/12/14)

56. Uttarakhand wants quota in employment, education for its people (25)

NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand wants Centre to treat people of the state as a special category like scheduled tribes and give them reservation in employment and education. It will also ask the Centre to provide “green bonus” to the state for preserving forests in the country. At the same time, cognizant of its status as political rival to BJP, Congress is using Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s priority to rejuvenate Ganga and “clean India” to seek clearance for pending projects recommended by Uttarakhand. The state argues that its financial status has dwindled after the Kedarnath floods and the Centre should help it tide over the trouble by financing key projects. Threatening to flex its muscles on these tricky demands, the state Congress will hold a big day-long demonstration in the capital on Thursday, to be led by state chief Kishore Upadhyaya, civil society groups and concerned citizens.  In what may put another polarizing issue on the table like the statehood demand of the 1990s, Upadhyaya said the state has specific cultural features and social practices like the northeastern states whose people are considered tribal. “The people of Uttarakhand should have been considered for the same affirmative action long back. It was also one of the demands of the statehood movement,” he argued. The state wants that its green efforts as the “lungs of the country” be rewarded with a ‘green bonus”, a cash reward that should be linked to development projects. The demand is seen as important in view of rising debate on climate change and mitigation efforts. Sources said the state will also press the Centre for a metro project from Dehradun to Haridwar, railway projects in the hill regions and renewal of the ‘industrial package”. Upadhyaya said while the PM has expressed his sentiments for “Holy Ganga”, he should also give special treatment to the land of the river’s origin. “We appeal that the proposal sent by the state government for conservation and cleaning of Ganga be cleared,” he added, also seeking Rs 10 crore to make “clean India” a success. (Times of India 18/12/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

57. Human rights not an outside concept: Lok Sabha speaker (1)

New Delhi: Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan Wednesday said human rights was not an “outside” concept as Indian culture talks not only of rights of human beings but also gives respect to plants and trees. Addressing a function organised to mark Human Rights Day here, she said it was sad to see girls, who are in their early 20s, being married off. “Whenever, I go to my constituency and to other areas of the country, I often see girls being married off at very early stage of their lives,” Mahajan said. “Why this is being done? It’s about her rights, her right to education, her right to choose life partner,” she said. The speaker said the concept of human rights and even the rights of non-living things has been imbibed in Indian culture for a long time. “Why it seems that the concept of human rights has come from outside… it’s been there in our country for a long time. Here we not only talk about human rights but the rights of trees and even non-living things,” she said. Mahajan said every person’s rights were equally important and must be protected at all costs. “Women are also humans as they too have similar feelings like men, so they should also be treated as humans when it comes to protecting humans rights,” she said. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s message was read out on the occasion. The function was attended by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman K.G. Balakrishnan. Mahajan also released six publications of the NHRC on the occasion. (New Kerala 10/12/14)

58. NHRC vows to strengthen human rights defenders (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on the eve of Human Rights Day on Wednesday, appealed to state governments to come forward on the occasion to endorse publicly the importance of this special day through various forums in order to help usher in a culture of human rights in the country. It has also pledged to stand up for human rights defenders (HRDs) whether in India or globally. The NHRC will on Wednesday organize a programme where Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan will release some NHRC publications for spreading awareness against rights abuses. The slogan of this year’s Human Rights Day – ‘Human Rights 365′, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. In a statement issued by the commission, its chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan said “Today, on 9th December, the day when the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) was adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly, the NHRC, India reiterates its resolve to strengthen the human rights defenders (HRDs) as an integral part in its strategy to strengthen the human rights culture in India and across the globe”. “The work of HRDs in partnership with other state and non-state actors will have a far reaching impact in improving and strengthening the human rights situation throughout the country and also globally,” the chairman said. “HRDs have always been instrumental in fighting for the cause of human rights. However, their efforts were provided impetus through the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which was adopted by UN General Assembly on 9th December,” Balakrishnan pointed out. “NHRC, India too right since its inception in 1993, has played a very important role in promoting and protecting the rights of HRDs. Justice Ranganath Mishra, the first chairperson of National Human Rights Commission always gave due opportunity and voice to the people who fought for promotion and protection of human rights,” he said. This work has not only been carried forward by the commission but there has been substantial expansion in its activities for promotion and protection of rights of HRDs, he said. (Times of India 10/12/14)

59. SC ruling on Sec 377 violation of human rights: LGBT community (1)

New Delhi: Members of the LGBT community and civil society activists on Thursday held a protest here against the Supreme Court verdict of 2013 criminalising gay sex, saying it represented a violation of human rights. At a public hearing organised by India HIV/AIDS Alliance, members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community claimed that discrimination against sexual minorities had become more severe since the verdict last year. “The Dec. 11 (2013) verdict has made our already vulnerable community even more vulnerable to harassment by police,” said an activist at the protest where LGBT community members called for access to healthcare services and increased efforts for the safeguarding of their rights. Sushant Divgikar, actor and a recent participant on TV reality show ‘Big Boss’, said, “I am deeply troubled by the daily injustice faced by my LGBT brothers and sisters. We need to fight the internalised homophobia and transphobia in our communities and transform our fear into courage to celebrate who we are.” James Robertson, Executive Director, Alliance India, said that even though sexual minorities are full citizens of the country, they are denied opportunities to earn a living, study and access health services. “Many families reject them and push them further to society’s margins, increasing their vulnerability to a range of harms, including HIV. We must join together to fight the insidious impact of homophobia and transphobia,” he said. Supreme Court had last year set aside a Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising gay sex and thrown the ball into Parliament’s court for amending the law. The judgement revived the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with life imprisonment in a setback to people fighting a battle for recognition of their sexual preferences. Later, the court had also dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by the Centre and gay rights activists against the 2013 verdict.   (Zee News 11/12/14)

60. Bharti moves HC against NHRC order (1)

NEW DELHI: Somnath Bharti on Tuesday moved the Delhi high court challenging the NHRC order holding him guilty of “racial prejudice and unlawful acts” against the 12 African women during his controversial midnight raid early this year. Justice Manmohan before whom the case was listed, however, recused himself and sent the matter to another court. The plea filed through advocate Deepak Khosla, claimed that Bharti was not given any notice of certain proceedings initiated by the NHRC ‘suo motu’ in January 2014. (Times of India 17/12/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

61. PIL in Madras high court challenges Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG scheme (19)

MADURAI: A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Madurai bench of the Madras high court challenging the central government’s move to link Aadhaar and bank account details with domestic gas cylinder connection as part of the Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL) scheme. Sivakasi-based advocate S M Anantha Murugan filed the PIL contending that the Supreme Court had restrained the oil companies from demanding Aadhaar card number to provide gas cylinders. “While so, the central government has introduced a new system, Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL), by which it demands details of Aadhaar/bank account of the customer. Hence, the government’s action should be restrained,” the petitioner said. When the matter came up for hearing, the division bench of Justices V Dhanapalan and V M Velumani ordered notices to the cabinet secretary, home affairs, petroleum and natural gas secretaries, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India’s chairman, Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization’s chief controller of explosives and state’s chief secretary. (Times of India 10/12/14)

62. Enact law to stop women from being branded ‘witch’: Rajasthan HC (19)

JODHPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Thursday asked the state government to enact a law to prevent social evils like ‘dayan’ (where women are branded as witch) and the system of ‘mautana’ (death money), prevalent mostly in tribal areas of the state. The court warned that either the government enact a law by February 11, 2015 or the court would declare Rajasthan a backward state. A division bench headed by acting Chief Justice Sunil Ambawani, while hearing a suo motu petition, considered the two traditions as malice to civilized society and stated that it can’t be allowed to exist in a progressive state. According to amicus curie Baljinder Singh Sandhu, the court had sought data on the issue and having taken into account growing incidents of the practice, it asked the government to enact a law in this regard by February 11, 2015. “If the state government did not take satisfactory steps by February 11, 2015, the court would think of declaring the state a backward one and insensitive towards human rights,” the court said. The ‘mautana’ tradition has created law and order problems. The ‘mautana’ tradition, literally the ‘death money’, prevalent predominantly in Mewar region covering Pratapgarh, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand and Udaipur districts, has created serious law and order problems recently. Mautana, or monetary compensation for death, started with the noble intention of providing relief to the victim’s family. But now, middlemen, even sarpanchs and panchs, vie for a cut of the compensation when the families or communities of the victims and the suspects reach a deal. Similarly, many women, regardless of their age, had been treated inhumanly by fellow villagers branding them ‘dayan’. Two weeks back, a woman was held responsible for the death of a horse in a village and was beaten up and made to sit on a donkey with her face blackened. (Times of India 12/12/14)

63. Second wife can file dowry harassment charges: HC (19)

HYDERABAD: Justice U Durga Prasad Rao of the Hyderabad high court has held that a person’s second wife has the right to lodge a dowry harassment case against him. The judge, while dismissing a petition filed by one Nalla Thirupathi Reddy, who wanted the court to quash a dowry harassment case lodged by his second wife, directed police to probe the incident. Reddy challenged his second wife’s locus standi on the ground that she is not the legally wedded wife but only a second wife. According to the respondent, the petitioner married her with the consent of his first wife as the latter was critically injured in a fire accident. Reddy took Rs 2 lakh in cash and a piece of land worth Rs one lakh as dowry from his second wife’s parents at the time of their marriage. Relying upon a Supreme Court judgment in the case pertaining to A Subash Babu versus the State of Andhra Pradesh, the judge said that a husband cannot ask for quashing of proceedings only on the ground that the complainant is his second wife. The apex court ruled that the absence of a definition of ‘husband’ to specifically include such persons who contract marriages ostensibly and cohabit with such women in the purported exercise of their role and status as ‘husband’, is no ground to exclude them from the purview of Section 304B or 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). (Times of India 14/12/14)

64. Centre Can’t appoint Vigilance Chief Without Our approval, Says Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court today said the Centre cannot appoint a Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioner without its approval, but the selection process for both posts can progress. “Before sending the appointments to the President, come to us. We are not concerned with who is being appointed, but we will see whether the due procedure is followed or not,” said Chief Justice of India HL Dattu while hearing the case. The court has been pushing for transparency in the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner. In an earlier hearing, former Chief Justice RM Lodha had said only talented people should be chosen for the post. The case is being heard following complaints that the Centre’s method of making the appointments are in violation of rules and a petition seeking more transparency in the matter. The Centre had sought the court’s permission to proceed with the appointment in both posts, which are currently vacant. Questioning the validity of the petition, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who was representing the Centre, told the court that anyone could challenge once an appointment has been done, but not before that. But the court rejected the argument and directed the Centre to submit the shortlisted names before they were sent to the President for approval. The Centre told court that advertisements have been published across the country and applicants are being shortlisted. The Centre is to submit the list of appointees on January 14, the next date of hearing. The Attorney General told the court he would submit the names in a sealed cover. (NDTV 17/12/14)

65. Cabinet approves GST Constitutional Amendment Bill (19)

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Constitutional Amendment Bill on Goods & Services Tax (GST), inching closer to the rollout of an ambitious indirect tax reform expected to raise revenues and boost growth The government aims to implement GST by April 1, 2016 and has been working overtime to get states on board. The tax reform is a centrepiece of the Narendra Modi government’s economic agenda. Sources said the government hopes to introduce the bill in the current session of Parliament. It may be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The tax reform measure has missed several rollout dates in the past due to lack of consensus between the Centre and states on a host of issues and the government is keen to get the bill approved in the current session. On Monday night, the Centre managed a breakthrough after finance minister Arun Jaitley assured the states of a fair deal. Sources said initially, petroleum will be kept out of GST but will be included in the new tax set up once states come on board. It may take two years but the government hopes to include it in the years ahead. Alcohol too is expected to be kept out of the comprehensive levy. Additionally, the Centre has devised a levy of 1% above the GST rate on select items and is assuring the states full compensation for revenue loss for three years, followed by 75% in fourth year and 50% in the fifth. The Centre does not see a significant amount of compensation to be paid as it expects collections through GST to be better due to fewer exemptions and a gain from service tax. Cabinet clearance assumes greater importance as there were few doubts after the recent empowered committee meeting wherein it seemed that consensus between Centre and states still eluded on few critical points,” said Pratik Jain, partner, indirect tax at consultancy firm KPMG , India. “Now with the bill all set to be presented in the current session of Parliament, it would be seen as enormously positive towards GST implementation from April 1, 2016. However, it would be important for all stakeholders to ensure that GST covers all transactions including petroleum, real estate and electricity in due course, if not immediately,” he said. The finance ministry had swung into action after state finance ministers rejected the draft GST Constitutional Amendment Bill last Thursday saying the provisions did not take into account their concerns and staunchly opposed the move to include petroleum under the GST ambit. The states also said the bill does not address their concern on the issue of entry tax. In a bid to bridge the trust deficit between the states and the Centre, Jaitley had approved the release of Rs 11,000 crore as compensation for loss on account of central sales tax which had been pending since 2010. He had also vowed to pay the pending amount as he moved to ensure that the states come on board for rolling out the tax reform measure which has the potential to add significantly to government revenues and overall economic growth. (Times of India 18/12/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

66. Rights bodies renew cry for AFSPA repeal (1)

IMPHAL: On the occasion of International Human Rights Day on Wednesday, various rights bodies in insurgency-hit Manipur have categorically called for scrapping the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The day also marked the sixth anniversary of Sharmila Kanba Lup (Sakal) or Save Sharmila group, a body of women activists and emas (mothers), who began a relay hunger strike on this day in 2008 to express solidarity with Irom Sharmila Chanu. Sakal members staged the relay-hunger-fast at a make-shift camp close to Jawaharal Nehru Institute of Medical Science (JNIMS) at Porompat in Imphal East where the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ is currently being forced-fed through her nose by the government. AFSPA gives unbridled powers to the armed forces even to the extent of shooting people on mere suspension. Human rights lawyer and president of All Manipur Bar Association (AMBA) Khaidem Mani said AFSPA has no place in India, the largest democracy in the world. Stating that AFSPA is clamped in selective regions and states like the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, Mani termed it as a racial law. He demanded immediate repeal of the Act. Human Rights Initiative (HRI) executive director Wahangbam Joykumar said the imposition of AFSPA for over three decades in Manipur given rise to fear psychosis among people, especially the youth. Speaking at another observance at HRI office here, Joykumar demanded immediate repeal of the act in no time. Expressing strong opposition to the growing trend of triggering mob justice across the state, Joykumar urged the government, particularly the law enforcing agencies, to stop it before Manipur turns into a total lawless state. (Times of India 11/12/14)

67. Amnesty for Sharmila’s unconditional release (1)

  IMPHAL, Dec 16 – Authorities in India must build on the central government’s decision to decriminalize suicide by dropping all charges of attempted suicide against Prisoner of Conscience Irom Sharmila and releasing her immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International India said today. Irom Sharmila has been held in detention in Manipur for over 14 years on repeated charges of attempted suicide. She has been on a hunger strike since November 2000 demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). On 10 December, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs stated in the upper house of Parliament that the central government had decided to repeal Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes attempting to commit suicide punishable with imprisonment for up to one year. “The Indian government’s decision to decriminalize suicide is in line with an increasing global trend. This move should lead to the immediate release of Irom Sharmila, who has been held in detention merely for exercising her freedom of expression in a peaceful manner,” said Shailesh Rai, Programme Director at Amnesty International India. Irom Sharmila has never been convicted of attempting to commit suicide. She has been regularly released after completing a year in judicial custody, only to be re-arrested shortly after as she continues her fast. In August 2014, a Manipur court had ruled that there were no grounds to charge Irom Sharmila with attempted suicide and instead described her protest as a ‘political demand through lawful means’, a belief thousands of her supporters have long held. Irom Sharmila was released after the verdict but she was re-arrested in farcical circumstances just two days later on the same charges. “Irom Sharmila should not have been arrested in the first place. Now that authorities have acknowledged that attempting to commit suicide should not be considered a crime, authorities in Manipur and Delhi should drop all charges against her, and start to engage with the issues this remarkable activist is raising,” said Shailesh Rai. (Assam Tribune 17/12/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

68. ISIS demands $1 mn to release beheaded journalist’s remains (1)

Antakya (Turkey): The Sunni jehadi organisation Islamic State wants $1 million for releasing the remains of the slain US journalist James Foley, media reported Thursday. Sources in contact with the ISIS said that the militant group was willing to provide a DNA sample from Foley’s remains to facilitate the deal, Buzzfeed News reported. If true, the attempted sale would highlight the ruthlessness behind IS’s hostage-taking enterprise that has provided the militant group with deep reservoirs of funds and publicity. Abducted in Syria in November 2012, Foley was beheaded Aug 10 this year by the ISIS as shown in a video released online by the militant group. At one point early this year, the ISIS held 23 Western hostages in Syria. Fifteen Europeans were freed as governments reportedly paid millions of dollars in ransom, but the British and US hostages were left behind. (Pioneer 12/12/14)

69. Media attacked by PTI protestors (1)

Islamabad, Dec 15 (IANS) Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) protestors Monday targeted the media, manhandling journalists as they covered their protest live from the Punjab’s provincial capital Lahore, media reported. The PTI workers hurled bottles towards a Geo News team and chanted hostile slogans, as the media team was trying to cover the PTI’s protest. Defying clear instructions from PTI chief Imran Khan to desist from misbehaving with mediapersons, the party’s activists relentlessly harassed the media, Geo News reported. The PTI workers’ resorting to such misdemeanour against the media is something that has become a matter of routine as a similar situation was witnessed in Faisalabad which was later repeated in Karachi and now in Lahore. As the last reports came in, the PTI workers continued to besiege the DSNG van of Geo News while hurling stones, bottles and whatever they could lay their hands on. (Sify News 15/12/14)

70. Journalists under attack, 66 reporters killed in 2014 (1)

Paris: Attacks on journalists have grown more barbaric and kidnappings have soared, Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday, after a year when violence against the media took centre stage and 66 reporters were killed. India has been ranked 141 in the World Press Freedom Index among 180 countries by the press freedom organisation which said freedom of press is often sacrificed in the name of national security. The beheading of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State group highlighted the extreme danger journalists face in covering modern conflicts. “Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world,” said Reporters Without Borders in their annual report released on Tuesday. There was a slight drop in the number of murdered journalists – down from 71 last year – thanks largely to fewer deaths in countries “at peace”. A total of 720 reporters have been killed since 2005. But kidnappings soared to 119 – up 37% on last year – thanks to the tactics of separatists in eastern Ukraine and militants operating in the Middle East and North Africa. Of those kidnapped, 33 were in Ukraine, 29 in Libya and 27 in Syria. Forty are still being held. “Local journalists pay the highest price, representing 90% of those abducted,” the report emphasised. “Of the 22 journalists currently being held by armed groups in Syria, 16 are Syrians. All of the eight journalists currently held hostage in Iraq are Iraqis.” The index mentions India as one of the countries where freedom of information is sacrificed to national security and surveillance and talks about Kashmir where “the work of journalists is handicapped by draconian news control policies”.”Criminal organisations, security forces, demonstrators and armed groups all pose a threat to India’s journalists. The violence and the resulting self-censorship is encouraged by the lack of effective investigations by local authorities, who are often quick to abandon them, and inaction on the part of the federal authorities,” it said. “In Kashmir, the authorities impose curfews and often block the internet and mobile phone networks.” Reporters Without Borders highlighted several cases of journalists punished by their governments, including that of Raef Badawi, a Saudi citizen-journalist who won the charity’s Press Freedom Prize this year and was sentenced in September to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” with his views on the Liberal Saudi Network. It also highlighted the case of Khadija Ismailova in Azerbaijan – “now Europe’s biggest prison for media personnel”. Her work on government corruption has made her a target of smear campaigns, blackmail and spurious legal charges. “Now she is being held on the absurd charge of ‘pushing’ a former colleague to attempt suicide, a charge that carries a possible sentence of three to seven years in jail,” the report said. Worldwide, a total of 178 professional journalists were in prison as of December 8, the same number as last year. … (Hindustan Times 17/12/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

71. Bengali slum dwellers caught in crossfire (7)

Agra: Domestic scrap dealer Mumtaz Begum dodges the television cameras in her slum. A member of the 350-odd Bengali Muslim community in Ved Nagar, Agra, Ms. Begum was allegedly converted to Hinduism on Monday by activists of Hindutva organisations. She said she took part in a ritual organised by several persons who held saffron flags, as she was promised a ‘Below Povety Line’ ration card and the government’s Unique Identification Number — entitlements her family has not received after migrating from Rampurhat near Kolkata around three years ago. “These people (with flags) filled out several forms for us on Monday before make us sit near the fire while they chanted prayers. They said that we will get all benefits from government and also get proper houses to live in. When they started photographing us after the ritual, I got scared and ran away,” she told The Hindu. Ms. Begum added that the police questioned her later that day and since then journalists and Muslim clerics have been making repeated visits. Based on a complaint from community leader Ismail, the police filed a case of disturbing public tranquility and cheating against one Kishore Valmiki. On Wednesday, Muslims from both Deobandi and Barelvi schools visited the slum, which has open sewers and no toilets. “This misfortune has come upon you and Agra because you strayed away from Allah. Stop dressing like unbelievers and grow beards. Make your women read the Quran and cover their faces,” shoe-trader Haji Ikram told a gathering of the slum’s residents. Ismail, who migrated from Tulia in West Bengal’s 24 Parganas to Agra 17 years ago, admits that they were attracted by the entitlements offered, but denies converting. “They said we would get all this if we pose for pictures with idols of goddess Kali. I didn’t know I was being converted. I still believe in Allah. We have never had any differences with Hindus and we don’t see ourselves as different from Hindu scrap collectors,” he said. Bajrang Dal’s Uttar Pradesh co-convenor Avneendra Pratap Singh alias Ajju Chauhan says that he was instrumental in ‘converting’ the Bengalis and that Mr. Valmiki is an associate of Rajeshwar Singh, Kshetra Pramukh of the Dharma Jagran Samanwaya Vibhag, who was also present at the ceremony. Mr. Singh claimed that the scrap dealers, who are on rented premises, worship Kali during Navratri. “Their ancestors are Hindus and they approached us to bring them home. Ration cards are too small an allurement to convert and they are saying this under pressure from Muslim leaders and the government,” he said. He claimed that 350 Bengalis were “purified”. A glance at a diary of the police Local Intelligence Unit revealed 57 names of Bengalis who participated in the Monday ritual. A police officer said that they appear to be Indian nationals and more names would be added. Local youth said that the Bengalis had brought disrepute to the area. “They are Hindus and if they reconvert to Islam we will expel them from this area,” local resident Shubham Shrivastava told this paper. Local elder RC Bhaskar, Founder of the Panchsheel Degree College here, explained that conversion is a new phenomenon in the Cantonment Area which has a BSP MLA. “Ambedkarite ideology has been the mainstream political discourse here in the last three decades. Of late, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has gained followers in Ved Nagar mainly from the upper castes from other districts who have built houses here. There is still no communal tension here, but incidents like this have created mistrust among people in Agra,” he said. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

72. Workshop by minorities commission to spread communal harmony (7)

MANGALURU: Chairperson of Karnataka State Minorities Commission, Balkhees Banu, on Friday said the Commission has planned to hold workshops across the state to inculcate among people the values of communal harmony, love among human beings and other issues. Speaking to presspersons here during her visit to the district, Ms. Banu said no religion preaches hatred and violence. Referring to recent communal violence in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, the Chairperson said she has urged people belonging to minority communities to walk a mile forward in extending friendly gesture towards others and live harmoniously. The workshops, Ms. Banu said would either be held at district headquarters or at taluk headquarters if people belonging to minority communities live in such places in large numbers. This is one of the several steps being envisaged by the Commission to ensure peace in society, she said. At Gangolli in Udupi, she prevailed upon the victims belonging to minority communities whose shops had been gutted allegedly by miscreants, to accept compensation of Rs. 25,000 each provided by the district administration, though the actual loss was more. She told the people from minority community in Ulaibettu area in Dakshina Kannada not to agitate over the issue and concentrate on harmonious living. Meanwhile, the Commission would get a formal report on Ulaibettu clashes from the district administration in about a week and would submit the same with suitable recommendations to the government, Ms. Banu said. She said during her meeting with the district administration on Friday, she raised several issues concerning the minority communities, including housing, ration, infrastructure etc., which she got to know from people who met her before the meeting. The administration has responded positively and promised to address the issues, Ms. Banu added. It is high time that people belonging to minority communities — Muslim, Christian, Jain, Sikh and Parsi —make use of several welfare schemes being offered by the State government. The Karnataka State Minorities Commission has urged the Dakshina Kannada district administration to withdraw petty cases filed against innocent people belonging to all the communities in connection with the recent Ulaibettu communal clashes. Commission Chairperson, Balkhees Banu told presspersons here, “The local people had no issues; it is the outsiders who make speeches and provoke people. While the rich would remain unaffected, it is the poor who suffer the impact.” (The Hindu 12/12/14)

73. Prohibitory orders imposed in Aligarh (7)

Lucknow, Dec. 14: Orders banning large congregations were imposed in Aligarh today ahead of conversions planned by the RSS on Christmas Day as the son of a key leader behind one such event in Agra last week was arrested. “I have instructed all districts under this (Aligarh) division to enforce prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC. We are not going to allow the conversion camp proposed on December 25. All steps are being taken to stop this,” Aligarh range DIG Mohit Agarwal said today. The order, which bars gatherings of more than four persons, will also cover the neighbouring Hathras, Etah and Kashganj districts. The areas, like Aligarh town, have an overwhelming minority population. The Dharma Jagran Samanway Vibhag, a Sangh offshoot, has announced plans to “reconvert” 5,000 Christians and Muslims. Uttar Pradesh BJP MPs, Yogi Adityanath of Gorakhpur and Satish Gautam of Aligarh, have said they will preside over the programme. Adityanath has accused the Aligarh administration and media of presenting a “distorted perception” of the plans. “People are willing to reconvert in our programme we call ghar wapsi (homecoming). The event will happen as scheduled and I will be there.” Vidyaram Pandey, an Aligarh RSS leader, slammed the curbs clamped today. “This is a programme for forging unity among Hindus. How can the police ban it? We will go ahead and hold it.” The showdown signals came even as the hunt for Kishore Valmiki, the leader alleged to be behind the Agra conversions and associated with the Jagran Vibhag, continued. Valmiki’s son Rahul and an RSS activist, Krishna Kumar, were arrested last night from Etah on charges of trying to organise more conversion camps, the police said. (The Telegraph 15/12/14)

COMMUNALISM

74. Oppn targets govt over conversion in Agra: ‘Bid to impose Hindutva agenda’ (26)

New Delhi: The opposition parties on Wednesday targeted the BJP and RSS in both Houses of Parliament over alleged forced conversion of 57 Muslim families in Agra and accused the government of following the Hindutva agenda, a charge rejected by BJP ministers. Soon after Rajya Sabha met in the morning, BSP chief Mayawati raised the issue, saying the Bajrang Dal — an offshoot of RSS —indulged in forced conversions in Agra earlier this week. “Secularism is part of the Constitution… they are violating the basic tenets. BJP has a hand in it,” she said. The BSP chief found immediate support from members of Congress, JD(U), Trinamool Congress and other opposition parties. Minister of State for Parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said no party has a “monopoly” over secularism, and according to information available with the government, an FIR has been registered in connection with the matter. Expressing shock over the issue, CPI’s D Raja said attempts were being made to impose the Hindutva agenda on everybody. “It’s a conscious attempt to impose the Hindutva agenda on everybody… The state government should take serious note and the (Union) Home Ministry must take serious note of this and they must act accordingly to uphold the basic values of the Constitution,” he said. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said the re-conversions were a ploy to vitiate the environment before Christmas. “The RSS chief has gone on record to say that for the first time they have got control of the central government (and) so, will pursue their agenda of transforming the secular, democratic Indian republic into their version of a rabidly intolerant fascist nation. That is what you see in practice,” Yechury said. Congress’s Anand Sharma said government should be directed to give a response. “This is a diabolic agenda of BJP and RSS,” he said. In the Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress MP Sultan Ahmed and SP members raised the issue, as they sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention. At least 200 people from 57 families, mostly slum dwellers, were reportedly re-converted to Hinduism at a ceremony organised by Dharma Jagran cell of RSS and Bajrang Dal in the cantonment area of Agra on December 8. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu later said “conversion and reconversion, if forced, is wrong”. He said, “There should be no conversion either through force or inducement.” He said the controversy was “an attempt to malign the government (at the Centre). It is an old card (of BJP’s opponents), which has failed in the past.” Law and order, he said, “is a state subject”, implying that the onus for taking any action, if needed, was on the Samajwadi Party government in UP. … (Indian Express 11/12/14)

75. ‘Love jihad’ is conversion ploy: VHP (26)

SANGAREDDY: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) opposes religious conversions and “love jihad” is only meant to convert people to Islam, its international working president Praveen Togadia said on Thursday. Addressing a ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ here on the occasion of the VHP completing 50 years of its existence, Dr. Togadia expressed the fear that Hindus could become ‘minorities’ in the next 100 years if they did not stop religious conversions. He called upon people to eradicate the caste system and urged them to dine with SCs and STs so that the latter would not feel alienated. He accused Telangana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao of following in the footsteps of the erstwhile Hyderabad ruler, the Nizam, and found fault with him for promising quota for minorities.  (The Hindu 12/12/14)

76. VHP reconverted 6,000 people to Hinduism in 5 years (26)

Mumbai: While reconversion drives organised by Sangh Parivar offshoots for Muslims and Christians had fueled much controversy and caused an uproar in Parliament, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) claims to have organised such ghar vapasi (homecoming) rites for around 6,000 converts in Maharashtra in the last five years. A senior VHP leader told dna that most of the people who had been reconverted to Hinduism were Christians as Muslims were comparatively “tougher nuts to crack”.”We have managed to reconvert around 6,000 people to Hinduism. At the national level, around 7 lakh people have been brought back into the fold in 20 years,” he said, while denying claims that threats and inducements were used to do this. He added that areas which have a high concentration of tribals, including those who have been proselytised to Christianity, see such activity. “Reconversions happen wherever we have sampark programmes. This is not a one-day process. At times, it may even take up to 10 years to reconvert a Muslim to Hinduism,” the VHP leader said, adding that this consisted of telling Muslims about their Hindu roots and about their ancestors being Hindus. “We convince them that their traditions and culture are rooted in Hinduism,” he said, adding that in case the family or individual is convinced, a shuddhikaran (purification) process is undertaken through priests. “After the purification rites, their names are changed and the priests and other people are witnesses to the ceremony. This is published in the gazette and they are given a legal certificate,” the leader added. However, the organisation’s leaders refuse to admit that many of these conversions of middle and lower castes from Hinduism to other faiths have historically been a fallout of the rigid caste system.The VHP leader said that after the reconversion, they took care to ensure that the converts gradually assimilate into Hindu society and were accepted there. The VHP leader said that they were however not planning to hold large programmes where such reconversions would take place. “This happens at the local level. We avoid publicity as this will lead to pressure on prospective converts from their co-religionists. So, we have to consider the security of the family even after they are brought back into Hinduism,” he added. “These people are like a daughter-in-law who has come into a new household. She will take time to adjust with new family members. Though they were originally Hindus, they were converted to other denominations hundreds of years ago. So, we organise various programmes where they are invited to Satyanarayan mahapuja and haldi kumkum for women. At times, they are asked to organise these rites,” he claimed, adding, “This helped them feel at home. Otherwise, they will feel abandoned once they became Hindus.” “Since many Muslim girls also marry Hindu boys, these women are also converted to Hinduism,” the VHP leader said. (DNA 14/12/14)

77. Vishwa Hindu Parishad for anti-conversion law (26)

Mumbai: Adding more fuel to ongoing controversy over religious conversions, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia on Sunday pitched for an anti-conversion law to prevent Hindus from being converted to other religions. However, defending conversion to Hinduism, he said that the forefathers of Christians and Muslims in India were Hindus. Mr Togadia was speaking at the Virat Hindu Sammelan organised by the VHP. Held at Bandra-Kurla Complex, the meeting was also attended by religious leaders and gurus from the Jain and Buddhist faiths. BJP leaders Vidya Thakur, MLAs Mangalprabhat Lodha and Ashish Shelar and MP Gopal Shetty were also present for the programme. Questioning what was wrong in recent controversial conversion at Agra, Mr Togadia asked why there was no support for an anti-conversion law, specially referring to Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. “They said the conversion at Agra was wrong. But what was wrong in that, Mulayamji? If it were wrong, then come forward and support the anti-conversion law. We will not allow any Hindu to be converted,” Mr Togadia said. Reiterating the VHP’s stand on the Ram temple issue, Mr Togadia said, “We will build the Ram temple. The Hindus will not get their honour back until it is built.” All the Hindu leaders present including the Shankaracharya laid stress on the issue and expressed expectation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would initiate it. Mr Togadia, however, softened his stand on backward castes and Dalits. “We do not believe in untouchability. We should eat together,” Mr Togadia said, indicating that the Hindu religion is acknowledging sections that have been deprived of their rights due to casteism. The programme managed to pull huge crowds. Sadhvi Saraswati grabbed attention by terming AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi a “barking dog”. (Asian Age 15/12/14)

78.  ‘Hindutva’ in focus as BJP faces protests (26)

NEW DELHI: This is an apprehension that many BJP leaders discretely expressed at informal party deliberations when Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko stormed out of the National Democratic Alliance earlier this month. After a lull, Tamil parties seem to be taking up the issue of ‘Hindutva’ once again, probably as a reaction to the growing concern that the BJP is trying to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu. While Mr. Vaiko listed the attempted imposition of ‘Hindutva’ ideology in the Dravidian heartland of Tamil Nadu as one of the primary reasons for leaving the alliance, the anti-BJP campaign gained traction on Wednesday with VCK leader and former MP, Thol. Thirumavalavan announcing a protest on December 23 against the alleged fascist Hindutva policies of the BJP government at the Centre. The protest date has been fixed in proximity to the visit of BJP national president Amit Shah to Chennai on December 20 and 21. Mr. Thirumavalavan listed a number of instances where the Centre was trying to impose a culture driven by ‘Hindutva’ on the rest of the country, including the recent controversy over announcing December 25 as ‘Good Governance Day.’ These were essentially anti-minority and anti-Dalit actions, he argued in a statement. A senior Tamil Nadu BJP leader said some in the alliance the party had put together for the Lok Sabha elections, including some Dravidian and Tamil nationalists groups, had kept in cold storage for a while usual accusations of ‘Hindutva’ against the party. “Since the alliance is changing shape and some have left, we were anticipating such a campaign,” the leader said. The party functionary also acknowledged need to articulate a strong reply to any such campaign. “We have a strong Union government focussing on development. We will focus on this,” the leader added. (The Hindu 18/12/14)

TERRORISM

79. No inputs to suggest Al-Qaeda, ISIS planning to target India- Government (12)

New Delhi: There are no intelligence inputs to suggest that Al-Qaeda and ISIS terror groups are working together to target Indian cities, Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, however, said a video was uploaded on September 3, 2014 containing the speech of Sheikh Ayman Al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda, in which he announced the establishment of a new Wing of Al-Qaeda, namely ‘Al-Qaeda in Indian Sub-Continent’ (AQIS). It is learnt that Asim Umar and Usama Mehmood have been appointed as the ‘Amir’ (chief) and ‘spokesperson’ respectively of AQIS, he said. Chaudhary also said Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi of ISIS in a video, uploaded on June 29, 2014 on internet, highlighted the alleged plight of Muslims in various countries including India and stated that rights of Muslims are forcibly being seized in these countries. “However, there are no intelligence inputs about specific threat to Bengaluru city by these two outfits,” he said. The Minister said there is a very close and effective coordination amongst intelligence agencies at the Centre and the state levels on intelligence sharing. The intelligence inputs about possible designs and threats are shared with the state governments concerned on a regular basis, he said. “The Multi Agency Centre has been strengthened and re-organised to enable it to function on 24×7 basis for real time collation and sharing of intelligence with other intelligence agencies and states, which ensures seamless flow of information between the state and the Central agencies. “This has resulted in busting of many terror modules, thus neutralising major terror attack plans. In addition, the Government continues to take all necessary steps to safeguard India’s territorial integrity and safety/security of its people,” Chaudhary said. (DNA 10/12/14)

80. ‘Mehdi Masroor Biswas extremely radicalised, believes beheading correct’ (12)

New Delhi: Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who is alleged to have been operating a pro-ISIS twitter account, has been dubbed by his interrogators as an extremely radicalised youth who believes that beheading of the “enemy” and making abducted women sex slaves was nothing wrong. The 24-year-old, who was arrested on December 13 in Bengaluru, told interrogators that he believed in the extreme form of Islam and that one day the so-called caliphate or Islamic State will come into existence in the world. “Mehdi described Indian Muslims as ‘sarkari Muslims’ who were incapable of fighting against government forces. He believes deeply that beheading of enemy and making abducted women sex slaves is nothing wrong,” official sources quoted the statement of the West Bengal-born youth. The electrical engineer-turned-jihadi propagandist, who was running the twitter handle ‘ShamiWitness’, told interrogators that since 2009, he has been following the political developments in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and became a ISIS sympathiser running a propaganda campaign for it. Mehdi said he was not aware of anybody joining ISIS and nor has he ever spoken to any fighter of the Islamic State with agencies now verifying those claims. He said that one of the three Mumbai youths who are still in Iraq-Syria is handling a pro-ISIS twitter handle and posting sympathetic tweets, sources said. Mehdi was apparently very hassled 4-5 days prior to his arrest and reportedly spoke to his mother, telling her that he was not sure about his future. Britain’s Channel 4 News had first aired the report regarding Mehdi’s link with the twitter account that is followed by foreign jihadis. Mehdi has been arrested under Sec 125 of IPC (whoever wages war against the government of any Asiatic power in alliance or at peace with the Government of India or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war), different sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Information Technology Act. (Zee News 15/12/14)

81. 132 children massacred in attack on school (12)

PESHAWAR: On a chilly winter day in Peshawar, parents rushed to prepare their children for their last journey before sunset. School uniforms with green blazers and grey flannel trousers soaked in blood were cut off from young bodies brought home, before they were bathed and wrapped in white burial shrouds and put into coffins, which then headed for the local graveyards. Tuesday was examination day at the Army Public School in Peshawar when six militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban stormed the premises and shot dead about 141 people, 132 of them students, going from classroom to classroom seeking their prey. Children who escaped saw their teacher being set on fire tied to her chair. As many as 250 lay wounded in a crime so heinous and horrific that within a few hours, most world capitals reached out to Islamabad. Clad in the steel grey shalwar kameez uniforms of the Frontier Corps, the militants entered the school around 10 a.m. via a graveyard at the back. Blowing up their vehicle, they sent a message that they were not returning. Survivors said the militants told them to recite prayers as they were going to be killed. (The Hindu 17/12/14)

82. Peshawar school attack among most inhuman acts (12)

New Delhi: The cold-blooded killing of more than one hundred school children by Pakistani Taliban gunmen in Peshawar on Tuesday must rank as one of the most inhuman acts of our times. If this is what jehad is supposed to mean, it is hard to tell how much support will remain for this Islamic notion at the people level in Pakistan after grisly Tuesday. Regrettably though, it is difficult to be sanguine that the Pakistani security establishment will at last learn a lesson and make an authentic and verifiable effort to cut at the sources of religious extremism and terrorism it has spawned over a period of decades- a richly documented fact. The track record holds out little expectation. Tears have been shed over the human toll taken by very serious incidents of terrorist violence inside Pakistan, but in a strategic sense the Pakistan military and its sinister departments have stayed with the idea of using extremism and terrorism as an instrument of state policy. India, and later Afghanistan, were made special targets under this policy. Although terrorists raised under the auspices of Pakistan’s military spooks were meant to do India-hunting to begin with, the natural dynamics inherent in that game turned that blighted country into the epicentre of world terrorism. There is hardly a major international incident that does not have some jehadi link with that country. While many in Pakistan have always been seriously concerned about extremism and terrorism that springs from it which was engulfing their society, they were numerically and politically not strong enough to challenge the Pakistani state, which is effectively controlled by the men in olive green. Some were co-opted. Not a few turned a blind eye, so long as Pakistan-trained terrorists hit India. Eventually, when the birds came home to roost, there was not much left to say, and the genie is now fully uncorked. In order to attract chiefly US funds to fill its military’s coffers, Pakistan from time to time advertises a bid to tame terrorists. An example of this is the zarb-e-azb campaign against the terrorists in Northern Waziristan, begun last June. It is to be seen if this will outlast the US military pullout from Afghanistan next door. Even Washington is likely to stop caring after that. The statement of the Pakistan foreign office on the hair-raising Peshawar attack spoke of the country’s resolve to root out terrorism “from the soil of Pakistan”. This can mean Pakistan’s terrorists may ply their trade elsewhere. In contrast, President Pranab Mukherjee spoke of the need for the world community to unite and coordinate efforts to root out terrorism from every country. This conspicuous difference underlines, above all, the mindset of the Pakistani establishment. (Asian Age 17/12/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

83. Two Maoists shot dead in Jharkhand jail, 10 escape (12)

Ranchi: Two hardcore Maoists were gunned down and three others suffered injuries when they tried to escape from Chaibasa jail while getting down from the prisoners’ van on Tuesday evening. Ten others, however, managed to flee. The incident took place in Chaibasa district, nearly 200 km from Ranchi. According to Jharkhand police sources, 54 prisoners were taken to a local court on Tuesday for their appearance before the judge. After returning to jail premises, the inmates were getting down from the police van when 15 prisoners tried to escape by throwing chilli powder in the eyes of the police. In the scuffle that followed, the jail guards fired on the escaping prisoners which led to the instant death of two Maoists. Three other prisoners, who sustained injuries, have been shifted to Sadar hospital where they are recuperating. The two killed have been identified as Tipa Das and Ram Vilas Tanti, both members of the CPI (Maoists). Meanwhile, as the news of the escape of 10 prisoners spread, the border of Chaibasa was sealed and a manhunt was launched. Since the incident took place at about 4:30 pm, police had very little time to look for the ultras in the dusk. Secondly, most of the Maoists lodged in Chaibasa jail have been apprehended from Saranda forest (the main hideout of  the ultras in Jharkhand), they are familiar with the difficult terrain and could make an easy escape.  “We have confirmed reports that two Maoists have been killed and three injured while trying to escape from Chaibasa jail. Ten others have managed to flee. The incident took place as the main gate of the jail was open after the prisoners’ van entered the jail premises. Prima facie, there appears to be a huge lapse on the part of the prison staff who left the gate open, thereby giving ample opportunity to the hardcore prisoners to flee,” said Jharkhand DGP Rajiv Kumar. (Deccan Herald 10/12/14)

84. Maoist attack: With officers killed, troops were in shock (12)

New Delhi: During the attack in Chhattisgarh on December 1, after the Maoists opened fire, the CRPF personnel tried to take cover wherever they could. The deputy commandant of the 223 Battalion B.S. Verma was badly injured in the first round of fire. Eyewitnesses say despite receiving a burst of fire on the right foot, he stood behind a tree on the other foot and kept firing at the Maoists. But he collapsed soon afterwards, probably due to excessive blood loss. Assistant commandant Rajesh Kapooria was also killed very early in the attack. With nobody in command, the troops, according to CRPF sources, became hysterical and began firing indiscriminately in all directions. It was so indiscriminate that the men are believed to have fired about 7,000 rounds of bullets in response to a few hundred rounds fired by the Maoists. With their ammunition exhausted, and several of their colleagues having died, many troops just stood motionless in a daze, revealed eyewitnesses. They were ultimately saved by CoBRA commandos who pulled them out and offered first aid to the injured. (The Hindu 13/12/14)

85. Jharkhand police arrest Maoist commander from Latehar district (12)

Latehar: The Jharkhand police along with the help of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Saturday nabbed a Sub Zonal Commander of the Naxal organization BKP (Maoist) from Kurund village of the Manika region in Jharkhand. “He (Maoist commander) was sub-zonal commander & an active member, his arrest is big achievement for this area,” Latehar Superintendent of Police Michael S Raj told ANI. The SP further said, “He was wanted for his involvement in 8 cases, he has confessed that Maoism is weakening over the time.” He added that the operation to arrest Santosh Khervar was carried out based on the intelligence input from security agencies. “We have arrested Santosh Khervar, who was a sub zonal commander and an active member of the Maoists. He was arrested from the residence of his friend,” Raj said. “Khervar was arrested with 25 rounds of SLR bullets, six mobile phones, 13 sim cards, around Rs. 27,000 cash and some Maoist receipts. He was an active member [of the BKP] and was wanted by the police in eight cases,” he added. Police made the arrest amidst voting was under way in the state. Fourth phase of the Assembly Elections took place in Jharkhand today at 5,482 booths, including 36 auxiliary ones. The state police on Thursday had arrested Naxal leader and alleged mastermind of Jharkhand jailbreak Sanjay Ganju, who carried a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. As per reports, Jharkhand fared as the state with the highest incidence of Naxal violence in the first quarter of this year. (Zee News 14/12/14)

86.  ‘Cheyutha’ to wean away youth from naxals (12)

TADVAI (WARANGAL DT.): With a view to wean away youth from naxals, the district police organised a mass contact programme in Medaram forest area where the DIG and SP reached out to hundreds of tribals here on Sunday. At a special programme termed as ‘Cheyutha’ the DIG, B Malla Reddy and SP, AK Jha distributed woollen blankets to over 300 Gothi Koya tribals and volleyball kits and dresses to more than 100 youths besides rice and other essentials to the parents of underground cadre. They also organised a mega health camp involving 13 doctors and about 50 para medical staff. The parents of present top cadre of Maoist party – Bathukamma, mother of Bade Chokka Rao alias Damodar of Kaluvapalli village; Dhanlaxmi wife of Eruva Siva Reddy alias Kiran; Yakamma sister-in-law of Kummarikuntla Saraiah; Sammaiah father of Koyyada Sambahaiah alias Gopanna and Satyam, father of Kadari Sadavali attended the programme. They expressed their desire to their relatives to surrender and come home. Wailing relentlessly, Satyam appealed to his son Kadari Sadavali who has gone underground since 16 years. “Your mother is about to die. You come home before she dies,” he said crying inconsolably. DIG Malla Reddy said the tribals need not worry about their safety as the police were always with them. He said the present State government was bent on developing all the tribal hamlets and improve their standard of living. “If your hamlet is free from violence, more development will come. If you entertain anti-social elements, development will not come. You cooperate with the police and they will ensure peace and law and order,” he told the hundreds of Gothi Koya tribals who came from over 30 habitations in forest belt. Mulug DSP R Mahendra Naik , SB Inspetor Jani Narasimhulu were present. (The Hindu 15/12/14)

87. Are the police losing ground in Warangal? (12)

WARANGAL: Is Warangal police losing their ground that they had built up working over a decade against the Moaist party naxals? The police say they had information that there was some movement of armed naxals in Eturunagaram and Tadvai forest areas of late. Nearly 400 greyhounds police fan the entire forest tracts extending from the hamlets abutting forest and extending upto villages in Karimnagar district and those of neighbouring Chhattisgarh State. According to the top police officials, hundreds of Gothi Koya tribals who migrated from Chhattisgarh state due to ongoing naxal activity there have raised settlements in deep forests of Eturunagaram and Tadvai and other agency mandals in Warangal district. In the recent past, some naxal squads moved into the forest here trying to establish contact with these Gothi Koya. “The naxals are in desperation to recruit new cadre. These Gothi Koya youth are easy targets to them. The naxals try to exploit their innocence and raise their own shelters here,” said a police officer. From the height of a blast here and an encounter there a decade ago, the Warangal police and the naxals lost their cadre to gain ground. It was the police who gained upper hand and succeeded in driving away the naxal groups from district. Though the police maintained that they were on vigil despite migration of naxal groups from district into other parts of the country, particularly to Chattisgarh on the other side of river Godavari, the latest information about the movement of armed squads is giving the police sleepless nights. Superintendent of Police Mr AK Jha said they got information that some naxals were moving in the forest in district and were trying to establish contacts with the migrant Gothi Koya population. We have new outposts all along the river Godavari keeping a watch on Maoists trying to cross into district. We have made many sacrifices to gain the ground and we are fully prepared to retain it,” Mr Jha asserted. (The Hindu 17/12/14)

TRAFFICKING

88. Minor Girl’s Kidnap Bid Foiled, Auto Driver Held (1)

BHUBANESWAR: A 28-year-old auto-rickshaw driver was arrested by the Commissionerate Police on charges of kidnapping a minor girl on Wednesday. The accused was identified as Sushant Palei of Fatehgarh in Nayagarh district. Sources said the girl, who had come to enroll in a private college here, boarded Sushant’s auto and asked him to drop her at Baramunda bus stand. Instead of taking her to the destination, Sushant diverted the vehicle towards Mendhasal area midway. Realising that the driver was treading an unfamiliar path, the girl jumped out of the vehicle and raised an alarm. Few locals spotted the girl and rescued her. They also caught Sushant who was trying to flee from the spot and handed him over to the police. Jatni police registered a case on the basis of the statements of the victim and eye-witnesses. Sushant was booked under Sections 323, 363 and 364 and Section 8 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. He was later produced in a local court which remanded him to judicial custody. (New Indian Express 11/12/14)

89. Made-in-Bihar bride shocker – Predators find new ways to lure girls into trafficking (1)

Katihar: Draupadi, one of the panchakanyas (group of five iconic heroines from Hindu epics), lived a life of dignity. But The Telegraph found a Draupadi whose life was exactly the opposite. The only time this avatar of Draupadi, Sadia (name changed), saw happiness was when she was leading a peaceful life with her six sisters and younger brother in Devipur, a village in Kursela block of Katihar district, 320km north of Patna. Her father worked at a factory in Gujarat to make ends meet. And then, in 2011, she got married. Her mother’s sister approached them with what looked like a handsome proposal, from a 33-year-old man in Panipat, Haryana. He looked just like the man who would complete her happy childhood. Sadia, then 17, was married off. She led a happy life as a newlywed for a couple of months. Then, one night, she found her husband’s younger brother in her bedroom. She was forced to share her bed with him, then another brother-in-law, gradually each of her four brothers-in-law, then her father-in-law. Soon, it was a new face everyday. Under the respectable garb of marriage, Sadia’s aunt had sold her off into sex trade. Sadia managed to escape but by then her life was shattered. Earlier this year, a remark by a BJP leader from Haryana about bringing brides from Bihar had led to a ruckus in the Bihar Assembly. JDU legislators had blocked House proceedings for three days, alleging that the BJP was out to malign women and girls from Bihar. But a visit to the Seemanchal area near the porous border with Nepal would open one’s eyes to the life of ignominy that most girls are condemned to because of rampant trafficking of girls for marriage and sex. Girls from Purnea, Katihar, Araria and Kishanganj, among others in northeastern Bihar, are soft targets. Bhoomika Vihar’s latest survey – of which a report has been submitted to the state government – says over 550 girls were trafficked in the past 36 months. There has been an 8-10 per cent increase in trafficking of girls for sex in northeastern Bihar. Of 564 trafficked girls, 438 were unmarried and 126 married. A total of 288 girls were trafficked from Kishanganj, 85 from Purnea, 72 from Araria and 74 from Katihar. Around 140 girls are yet to be traced. While the figures are alarming, they still do not reveal the shock that lies in the trend. Human trafficking has now taken the shape of pseudo love affairs and marriages, of which Sadia was a victim. Pseudo marriages take place to camouflage the ultimate goal of trafficking for cheap labour, prostitution and organs. Narrating her ordeal, a teary-eyed Sadia said: “My husband told me that my mother’s sister accepted a bundle of notes for my marriage. I was sold. He used to give me electric shocks if I resisted. I was attacked with a sharp object on my right leg (she shows the stitch mark). I overheard that my in-laws were planning to sell me off to a rich man in the adjoining village. I managed to escape and returned to my village.” Then, there’s Sonam (name changed), one of five daughters and a son in a family at Salempur village of Sameli block of Katihar district. From a poor family, Sonam’s mother worried how to arrange dowry and marry off her daughters. So, it looked like a godsend when someone approached her with a proposal for a dowry-free marriage with a good-looking boy. Sonam, then 12, married a 30-year-old man from Shripur. Her honeymoon did not even begin. Just the day after her wedding she raised her voice against domestic violence. She, too, had been trafficked for sex slavery. ….  (The Telegraph 12/12/14)

90. 26 trafficked girls brought home to Ranchi (1)

RANCHI: Two days after Kailash Stayarthi received the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions in the field of child trafficking, as many as 26 girls from different districts of Jharkhand who were trafficked to New Delhi returned to their families here on Friday. Rescued in a joint effort by New Delhi Police and Bharatiya Kisaan Sangh, the girls were brought back to Ranchi on Friday and reunited with their families. Hailing from Gumla, Simdega, Bokaro, Chaibasa, East and West Singbum, Sahibganj, Khunti districts, the girls, mostly in their early teens, were rescued last month from torture and oppression by their employers who had employed them as their domestic help. Once rescued, the girls were placed in a week-long transit camp before being brought back to their homes. Pramod Kumar Sharma, the state in charge of Bharatiya Kisaan Sangh (BKS) said most of the rescued girls were habitually beaten up by their employers. “Most of them were not paid and were subjected to torture,” he added. BKS members claimed to have helped four girls procure rupees four lakh as their outstanding wages and cases were lodged against the employers. Rescuers said the girls will be put through a counselling session before they will be inducted into government schools for higher education. (Times of India 13/12/14)

91. Global human trafficking racket busted in Hyderabad (1)

HYDERABAD: Police, on Sunday, busted an international human trafficking racket and rescued two women from Barkas in Old City. Two persons were arrested. The two victims rescued by Chandrayangutta police, were reportedly sexually exploited by their employers from Abu Dhabi, who also made them clean toilets with bare hands and cut tons of onions as a form of soft punishment. The arrested have been identified as Imtiyaz, 35, and his mother Fatima, while the victims were a 29-year-old housewife from Barkas and her 32-year-old cousin from Rakshapuram Colony. Both the women have two children each and the income earned by their alcoholic husbands was not sufficient to run the family, South Zone DCP V Satyanarayana said. As the women were looking for means to support their families, Fatima approached them with a job offer in Abu Dhabi. She told them that through her son Imtiyaz, who had provided employment to scores of people from Old city in Gulf countries, she could find them lucrative jobs as domestic helps in Abu Dhabi for a paltry down payment and a monthly commission in the earnings. “The victims who believed Fatima borrowed money at a high interest and paid her Rs 1 lakh each to go to Abu Dhabhi. Fatima told them that they will be able to send home Rs 30,000 per month,” Chandrayangutta additional inspector S Raghavendra said. On November 11, the two women boarded a flight at RGIA and reached Abu Dhabi, where they were received by their employer. After they started working, within no time the two women realised that they had to do a lot more than performing the traditional duties of a domestic help. “The women were sexually exploited not just by their employer, but even by his guests in a brutal manner. The victims were beaten up when they resisted,” Raghavendra added. Apart from this abuse, the employer used to make the victims clean toilets, including commodes, with bare hands. “Unable to bear the humiliation, when we finally mustered courage and protested saying that we came to Abu Dhabhi to do household work, the employer made us cut sacks of onions continuously as punishment,” one of the victims told police. Unable to bear the torture, the 32-year-old woman fell ill and had to be hospitalised. She was then sent back to Hyderabad by the employer on December 1. After reaching the city, she approached police and narrated the horrid tale. Cops immediately swung into action and picked up Imtiyaz. Through him, they managed to convince the employer in Abu Dhabhi to send the second victim to Hyderabad on Sunday. “We have recorded the statements of both victims on Sunday and arrested the brokers under Sections 420, 384 of IPC and relevant sections of PITA,” the DCP said. (Times of India 15/12/14)

CORRUPTION

92. Bar pay-off case: VACB for probe (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Wednesday received fresh legal advice that a criminal inquiry might be necessary to establish the truth in what has come to be known as the ‘bar hotel licence renewal pay-off case.’ The VACB legal adviser attached to the special court in Thiruvananthapuram is learnt to have communicated the recommendation to the agency’s investigating officer. VACB director Vinson M. Paul is likely to take a call on the matter in a few days, possibly after further consultations with legal experts and the government. The agency is conducting a verification of the contentious and politically explosive allegation that Finance Minister K.M. Mani had sought and accepted a secret pay-off from businessmen to renew the permits of bar hotels closed in April this year on the ground that they were substandard and barely met licence conditions. It has recorded the statements of several persons, including Kerala Bar Hotels’ Association (KBHA) working president Biju Ramesh who claimed that he was privy to the alleged pay-off purportedly made to the Minister at his private residence. Some hoteliers who Mr. Biju claimed were present at the time have not yet heeded the agency’s summons. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

93. Cabinet clears amendments to Lokpal Act (5)

New Delhi: The union cabinet Wednesday gave its approval for amending the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 to provide for inclusion of leader of largest opposition party in Lok Sabha in the selection panel in case there was no recognised leader of opposition in the house. The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also approved amendments to Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 for providing qualifications for appointment of director of prosecution in the Central Bureau of Investigation and for his functional independence. The cabinet also gave its approval for introducing a bill in parliament for amending the Lokpal Act. An official release said the proposed amendments will address some crucial deficiencies noticed in both the Acts. “As regards the composition of the selection committee for selection of the chairperson and members of Lokpal, by providing that when there is no leader of opposition in the house of the people, recognized as such, the expression ‘leader of opposition; shall include the leader of the largest party in opposition of the government in the Lok Sabha,” it said. “The amendments seek to synchronise the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act with the existing regulating acts, rules and regulations in respect of declaration of assets and liabilities by various categories of public servants. The proposed amendments will, also ensure functional independence to the director of prosecution under the DSPE Act,” it said. (New Kerala 11/12/14)

94. To fight corruption, we have to fight our greed: CBI chief (5)

New Delhi: Gullible investors get trapped in ponzi schemes because of their own “greed”, CBI chief Anil Sinha said on Saturday on the scam in which an estimated 25 lakh people have lost deposits in West Bengal and Odisha alone. “They (investors in ponzi schemes) are not suffering because CBI is not investigating these cases. They are suffering because of other reasons,” he said. The CBI chief was asked whether he would like a policy where the agency is allowed to take up probe cases of ponzi scam in which majority of investors come from poor and lower middle class sections rather than wait for state governments. “If we have to fight corruption in this country, there is a fundamental requirement that we have to fight our greed. When gullible people get trapped in such schemes, they are trapped because of their own greed…If we have to fight corruption, we have to have control on ourselves,” he said at the Aaj Tak Agenda. The 1979-batch IPS officer, who took charge of the agency on December 3, said he would not like to interfere in the work of other agencies who are mandated to probe such cases. Mr. Sinha said all the steps taken in the case are based on the available “facts and evidence”. “…We have to work as per mandate given to us. There should be not interference,” the CBI chief said. The apex court had observed that more than 25 lakh claims have been received in Odisha and West Bengal which is indicative of the magnitude of scam in terms of number of citizens that were “defrauded by the ponzi companies”. He said he has directed his officers to work without fear and total impartiality without thinking about consequences and also ensuring that “unnecessary harassment” should be avoided. Indicating that information on investigations will not come out easily in the open, Mr. Sinha said, “I strongly believe that very little information about investigations should come in public domain. Things which should not be in public domain, should not be in public domain at all. I can understand the curiosity of people but I cannot help that. There are very few things which we can put in public domain”. (The Hindu 13/12/14)

95. Kerala Finance Minister faces fresh corruption charges (5)

CPI (M)-led Opposition on Tuesday raised fresh corruption charges against Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, who is already facing Vigilance probe into the allegation that he had taken bribe to renew bar license. Opposition legislator V Shivankutty alleged that Mani, chairman of Congress ally Kerala Congress (M), had taken bribe of Rs 27.43 crore from various business verticals to reduce their tax. Placing materials to substantiate his charges, Shivankutty said an Assembly panel should probe into the issue. He said Mani used to raise the tax in the budget and then bargain with businessmen to reduce the tax proposals. The minister has taken Rs 5 crore from builders and another Rs 2 crore from stone quarrying units. Besides, he had taken Rs 6.40 crore from various business sectors promising to give stay on revenue recovery. He also took money from bakery owners and petroleum dealers to help them enjoy the benefits of lower tax regime, said the CPI (M ) legislator. The Opposition boycotted the assembly proceedings on Tuesday also after the Speaker denied permission to move adjournment motion on bar bribery issue, which has repeatedly disrupted the current assembly session. (Indian Express 17/12/14)

96. Rs 7 crore fake loot case: Woman inspector, two others caught for graft in Junagadh (5)

RAJKOT: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested three persons including a woman police sub-inspector of Junagadh for allegedly taking bribe in the sensational Rs 7 crore fake loot case. The ACB team from Rajkot nabbed Shahnavaz Bloch red-handed taking Rs 2.50 lakh from complainant Nathubha Jadeja, a resident of Nani Marad village in Dhoraji taluka of Rajkot district. Bloch allegedly took the bribe on behalf of woman police sub-inspector B M Bagda posted at the Junagadh taluka police station and constable Jignesh Vyas. Bloch, the middle-man was caught at the taluka police station compound in Junagadh. Jadeja had lodged a complaint with ACB that Bagda had demanded Rs 7 lakh from him in lieu of “not harassing him” in the ongoing investigation in the fake loot case of October this year. “Bagda used to repeatedly call Jadeja for investigation citing discrepancies in land documents that he had submitted,” said an official. In October, Junagadh police cracked the Rs 7 crore loot case which turned out to be fake and arrested the accused involved in the crime. Jadeja had sold his 56 bigha land in Nani Marad to one Sanjay Dhorajiya at the price of Rs 11 lakh per bigha. The deal was struck through two persons – Dhorajiya’s associate Bhura Hingroja and another person named Jamal. Dhorajiya had purchased 56 bigha land from Nathubha Jadeja in January this year at the price of Rs 11 lakh per bigha through Jamal and Hingroja. He had paid Rs 1.65 crore to Jadeja as initial money (baana) before the deal was sealed. Jamal and Hingroja also got land broking fees from it. Jamal and Hingroja had decided to extract more money from Dhorajiya and created a fake person named Ada Sheth. They told Dhorajiya that Sheth was from Mumbai and is willing to purchase this same land at Rs 17 lakh per bigha. On October 8, four persons intercepted the car in which Jadeja was travelling with Hingroja, Jamal and Karim to seal the deal. They pushed away Dhorajiya and Hingroja and kidnapped Jamal and Karim. Karim, who was acting as Rao, had even prepared a bag stacked with bundles of paper beneath and notes on the top. Jamal and Hingroja had hired the four men to intercept the car when it would pass near Ambaliya village to create a loot story. Moreover, they also left behind Hingroja and Dhorajiya to show the loot as genuine. (Times of India 17/12/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

97. Swachh Bharat: Just 20% of urban waste gets treated properly (9)

New Delhi: India’s pollution watchdog the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has woken up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat call and has asked states to ensure that all waste generated in cities is properly disposed off. The move comes after the National Green Tribunal pulled up the board for failing to enforce the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 that provides for proper segregation and disposal of the waste generated in cities.  This will prove a challenge for over 5,000 municipal bodies in India as only 27,000 tonnes of 1.44 lakh tonnes of garbage generated daily gets properly treated. Only about 40% of the garbage generated every day is picked up. “Many of the urban local bodies do not have capacity to treat so much waste,” a senior pollution board official said, adding that funding for the waste treatment projects was minuscule. A CPCB report submitted to the green tribunal pointed out that many of the state pollution control boards have failed to submit status reports on implementation of the rules since 2000 when it was notified – resulting in a limited amount of the information required by the CPCB to enforce the rules brought by the previous NDA government to ensure cleanliness in cities through a house-to-house collection mechanism. The report shows that even after 15 years, many state governments have failed to introduce the house-to-house collection system – which is implemented by Gujarat, Goa and Himachal Pradesh. Following the NGT rap, the CPCB issued a notification under the Water Act and Air Act making municipal bodies responsible for implementing the rule and made state pollution control nodal offices for monitoring the implementation of a roadmap for implementation of the rules. The road map will then be submitted to the green tribunal for further directions, CPCB officials said. (Hindustan Times 10/12/14)

98. Himalayan states discuss climate change (9)

New Delhi: Climate change and the bulging population are reasons for the rising temperature in Himalayan states, BJP leader Anurag Thakur said Thursday as nine Himalayan states discussed the issue. “If apple orchards have moved upwards in height and there is an increase of 4-5 degrees in temperature, the reason must be seen in population increase and climate change,” he said at the conclave of Himalayan states here. The regional consultation organised by GLOBE-India in association with Indian Environment Law Offices and Integrated Mountain Initiative focused on the effects of climate change in the region and explored ways to mitigate it. The representatives of the nine Himalayan states also demanded a special ministry for Himalayan affairs, said a statement. (Zee News 12/12/14)

99. Activists hail NGT intervention in loss of Sunderbans forest (9)

Kolkata: Environmental activists and experts have welcomed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order issued earlier this week directing submission of satellite remote sensing data on the loss of mangrove forest in the Indian Sunderbans. “Leave is granted to respondent no’s 3, 4 and 6 to file additional affidavit disclosing the loss of forest area with regard to felling of mangrove vegetation during the last decade, if any, based on the satellite remote sensing data,” the order of tribunal said. The respondent 3, 4 in the case refer to secretaries of Department of Environment and Forests, Government of West Bengal respectively, while respondent number 6 is Sunderbans Local Development Authority. In its order the tribunal has directed National Remote Sensing Agency at Hyderabad to “submit aerial and satellite remote sensing data with its analysis on loss of mangrove forest during last decade in the Indian Sunderbans on the next date of hearing”. Welcoming the tribunal’s intervention in the matter Ajanta Dey, joint secretary and project director of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society, said that large parts of the forest cover of the Sunderbans outside the tiger reserve is being cleared for making fisheries encroachment. Ms. Dey said that the felling of forest is a handiwork of few locals who are doing so under political patronage. Commenting on the tribunal’s order Tuhin Ghosh, faculty member of the school of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University said that large parts of Sunderban forest is being cleared for farming, fisheries and other activities. Mr. Ghosh also pointed that forest are cut also for fire woods as almost all the schools in the Sunderbans delta use fire wood for cooking mid-day meal. Meanwhile, speaking to The Hindu environmental activists Subhas Datta, who has been appointed Amicus Curie in the matter, said that he also brought it to the attention of the tribunal that environmental impact assessment (EIA) should be made necessary before giving clearance to any major investment proposal in the ecologically vulnerable region. “The tribunal directed me to file an application in this regard,” Mr. Datta added. The development comes at time when the West Bengal Government is trying to rope in industrialists for taking up several projects in the ecologically fragile Sunderbans archipelago. (The Hindu 12/12/14)

100. ‘Lima held no hope for an India facing extreme weather patterns’ (9)

New Delhi: The recently-concluded climate change talks in Lima failed to catalyze any optimism for the next round at Paris 2015, signalling little hope for India that is already reeling under extreme weather patterns, experts said. Time is of essence for India that ranked among top 20 in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about countries most at risk from extreme weather events, the experts told IANS. Effects of climate change are already evident in India, environmentalist Rajendra Shende told IANS. Increased intensity, increased number, and increased frequency of erratic weather patterns are crucial indicators, he said. Eight out of the ten warmest years in India were between 2001 and 2010, making it the warmest decade on record, said Arjuna Srinidhi who is managing the climate change programme at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “Here is a higher frequency of warm years in the recent past which is why we are saying there is global warming, the biggest contributor to climate change,” he added. Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as soot and methane that emanate from the large-scale crop burning in north India are cooking the Himalayas along with global warming that is causing the glacial retreat and a rapid surge in the Himalayan river systems. A skewed water table in the Himalayan region could potentially affect about four billion people in India, China, Bangladesh, and other neighbouring countries, said Shende who heads the Terre Policy Centre. Even a one-metre surge in the sea level due to a three-degree Celsius rise in the global temperature would be enough to cause significant climate-induced changes in the coastal regions of India and the neighbouring countries. ‘Climate refugee’ is a potential threat that India must account for, said environment activist Raghunandan. Countries like Bangladesh will be worst-hit by a surge in the sea level, resulting in large-scale displacement of people in the coastal region. And those displaced will take refuge in India, affecting as many as 10 million people in South Asia, he said. The arrival of the monsoon in northern and eastern India has also been affected by climate change. Raghunandan said he was worried at the drop in number of cold days and summers that have unusually long spells nowadays. “This is a trend that will only intensify,” he said. According to a study by the CSE, India experienced the entire spectrum of extreme weather conditions in the recent past. Frequent flash floods in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; successive cyclones like Hudhud in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha; and intense episodes of rainfall in typically dry/arid regions are sharp indicators of the presence of climate change in India. The heat waves in 2014 were above normal in parts of Rajasthan, Odisha and northeastern states the study said, adding that it claimed more than 500 lives in Andhra Pradesh with 169 people dying of intense heat wave in Hyderabad alone. As many as 73 reportedly died of sweltering summer heat in just seven days during June in Delhi this year, the study said. Terming global warming as an “atmospheric chaos”, Shende said it must be addressed to ward off the irreversible dangers that people may face in the future. (Business Standard 17/12/14)

101. ‘Clean India, Green India’ – NDA govt’s calendar for 2015 launched (9)

Delhi: Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley on Wednesday launched the Government of India’s calendar for 2015. Launching the calender Jaitley said that it “provided a platform for converging the two key flagship schemes of the government – Swachh Bharat and Digital India”. As per the official blog of Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the calendar combines the conventional and technological modes of communicating the initiatives of the government and while the theme of ‘Swachh Bharat’ was portrayed visually in the conventional mode, the mobile application of the calendar reiterated the government’s vision of taking the idea of ‘Digital India’ forward,” as per the Finance Minister. Jaitley said that the “digital version of calendar 2015 also reflected the vision of the government in taking forward the benefit of technology in information dissemination as no one could defy the growth and movement of technology.” He added that “Important information related to Government communication was embedded in the digital version thereby providing critical information to the people at large.” The Directorate of Advertisement and Visual Publicity, DAVP, has developed the digital version of the calendar with “socially relevant messages which would be accessible on real time basis through mobile phones”. Also, the “mobile app of the calendar would provide access to the latest tweets from the PMO, the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and the Press Releases on PIB website.” Plus, “in addition to being a window for all websites of Government of India, this informative application would serve as a planner to the users bringing news updates from AIR and DD News. The mobile app was developed for Android platforms initially which would be made available on other mobile platforms also in due course of time.” The blog said that the “calendar had been developed on the theme of “Clean India Green India” with focus on “Swachhta” and environment issues and the January page of the calendar displayed the launch of the “Swachh Bharat Mission by PM Modi.” Other pages are as follows – “The February page carried the message of ‘Swachh Vidyalaya’ and ‘Bal Swachhta Abhiyan’, the March page was designed on the theme, ‘Rejuvenating Rivers.’ The April Page of the Calendar portrayed “Clean Hospitals: A Healthy India,” May depicted the cleanliness drive of Railways, June focussed on Rejuvenation of the River Ganges, ‘Namami Gange’, and July on people’s participation in Swachh Bharat Movement. The August page was on the theme of Clean Villages; September month highlighted Solar Energy as clean and renewable source of energy; October depicted Wind Power as pollution free source of energy and November emphasized the need to preserve Himalayan Ranges. Wildlife conservation was the theme for the December month.” (Zee News 18/12/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

102. Farmers’ suicides: NCP targets Fadnavis govt. (20)

NAGPUR: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) launched a scathing attack on the Fadnavis government on Wednesday over the spate of farmers’ suicides and the drought situation in the State. The NCP fielded senior party leaders in both the Houses of the State legislature to speak on the drought situation when the government relented on the Opposition’s demand for an immediate discussion. “Devendra Fadnavis’ small tenure as the Chief Minister has witnessed more farmers’ suicides than any other CM’s tenure before him. Over 400 farmers have committed suicide in the last two months in the State. You [BJP] are ruling at the Centre and in the State. What has stopped you from providing relief to the farmers?” asked NCP leader Ajit Pawar while demanding “waiver of debts” and “immediate relief package” to the drought-affected farmers. Taking a dig at BJP MLA Chinsukh Sancheti who opened the debate and blamed the previous “Congress-NCP government’s mismanagement” for farmers’ suicides, Mr. Pawar said: “Stop blaming us. We are sitting in the Opposition because we might have made some mistakes. We accept that. Do you want to commit the same mistakes? You won’t be able to rule if the farmers of this State take to the streets against you.” Senior NCP leader and former minister Chhagan Bhujbal claimed that the previous Congress-NCP government spent Rs. 14,000 crore to deal with the drought situation and provide relief to the farmers. “Not a single agriculture product is getting proper market price under the BJP-Shiv Sena government. What will the farmers do? Take steps and make sure the spate of suicides stops. Give confidence to the farmers,” said Mr. Bhujbal. Calling Mr. Fadnavis “a clever CM and a good planner,” he asked him to deliver on his poll promises. Citing Union Agriculture Minister’s statement in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the State had not declared drought, Mr. Bhujbal asked the government to come clear on the issue. In the upper House, NCP State president Sunil Tatkare and Dhanajay Munde slammed the government for “delay” in announcing help to the farmers. NCP leaders dominated the debate in both the Houses as senior Congress leaders, including former Chief Minister Prithivraj Chavan, did not take part in the proceedings. State Finance Minister Sudhir Manguntiwar said that the government would reply to the debate on Thursday. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

103. Rs 7000cr for farmer relief (20)

Nagpur, Dec. 11: The Maharashtra government today announced a Rs 7,000-crore package to provide short- and long-term relief to peasants across large parts of the state, particularly in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions that have been reeling under drought-like conditions. “My government is firmly behind the farmers in distress in parts of Maharashtra and a total of Rs 7,000 crore would be spent to tackle it,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced in the Assembly, replying to a debate on the biting scarcity in many of the state’s 48,000 villages. By the state’s estimates, over 19,000 villages have recorded crop losses of 50 per cent or more. Fadnavis said this year’s yields had been the lowest in a decade, an indication that farmers were facing an unprecedented cash crunch. Farm suicides across Vidarbha and Marathwada have been on the rise, according to reports, and the state’s new BJP chief minister said the situation needed to be tackled immediately. “But we also need to fix the problems over the long term by improving our agriculture infrastructure and productivity, which is what I intend to do,” Fadnavis said. The package includes an immediate relief of Rs 3,925 crore, of which a part would be funded through central assistance as and when it is received. Maharashtra has demanded an aid of about Rs 4,000 crore from the Centre to tide itself over the scarcity this year and the central aid would be announced once the Union government sends its own team to assess the final kharif (monsoon) and rabi (winter) yield. As immediate measures, the government would waive farmers’ electricity bills for September, October and November and repay Rs 373 crore worth of loans they have taken from nearly 4,500 licensed private moneylenders. Nearly five lakh farmers from the affected areas have taken such loans, Fadnavis said. The immediate relief component also includes Rs 884 crore for the horticulture sector spread across 2.45 lakh hectares, Rs 215 crore for payment of electricity bills, Rs 425 crore for water supply and Rs 163 crore for wells and private water bodies, he said. The state government has already initiated steps to check illegal moneylending, the chief minister said, and asked farmers to lodge complaints with police to curb such practices. Fadnavis said Rs 400 crore would be spent on tackling water shortage. Around 3,000 tankers will be deployed to supply water in drought-hit villages till the situation improves. The package lays thrust on local-sector irrigation, such as community ponds and check dams. Together, the state intends to spend more than Rs 6,000 crore over the next five years to achieve the ambitious target of bringing roughly six million hectares under protected irrigation. In the last five years, the state government had spent Rs 8,377 crore on giving compensation to farmers who had suffered because of natural calamities, such as drought-like conditions or incessant rain, but spent only Rs 2,692 crore on agriculture development programmes. The government will spend Rs 34,500 crore over the next five years on creating basic agriculture infrastructure, including finishing incomplete irrigation projects. “Instead of providing aid, we intend to end the drought,” Fadnavis said. The government estimates that farm loans worth over Rs 8,000 crore would remain unpaid by the end of this financial year. It will bear the interest burden on unpaid loans to the tune of Rs 450 crore. (The Telegraph 12/12/14)

104. ‘Short-duration crop varieties can help fight agriculture stress’ (20)

HYDERABAD: Farm scientists need to direct their research towards challenges like water scarcity, soil degradation and bio-diversity loss, say experts. Development of short-duration varieties which are resistant to both biotic and abiotic stress, without sacrificing on yield, will solve the problem, said J S Sandhu, Agricultural Commissioner, Union Ministry of Agriculture here yesterday. He was speaking at the national seminar on ‘Emerging challenges and opportunities in biotic and abiotic stresses in agriculture’ at the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR). Technologies like micro-irrigation, nano-technology and geographic information systems will help address the biotic and abiotic stress in agriculture, Sandhu said. Climate change is making Agriculture complex, he said. He recalled that ‘Bengal Famine’ due to brown spot disease in rice and more recently, destruction of cotton crop due to boll worm had resulted in destruction of farm economy. The decline in monsoon last year by 29 per cent resulted in short supply of foodgrains by 16 million tonnes which was colossal, he said. S K Patil, Vice-Chancellor of IGKV, Raipur, said stress in agriculture arises due to population growth, climate change and declining land holding size. He emphasised on the need to design and develop farmer-oriented natural resource management strategies to solve abiotic stress in agriculture, particularly in fragile ecosystems. A Padmaraju, Vice Chancellor of ANGRAU, Hyderabad, said abiotic stress is more prevalent in rainfed ecosystem, whereas biotic stress is more in irrigated ecosystem. If both the stresses are addressed, production of crops can be increased. In the US, there are only four million farmers whereas in states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana there are 13 million farmers altogether. This excessive number puts pressure on land and other natural resources, he said. DRR’s Director V Ravindra Babu said the Directorate is working out strategies to overcome the problems related to both biotic and abiotic stresses pertaining to rice. The research is prioritised to address problems arising out of water scarcity, climate change, shrinking land and other natural resources, he added. (The Economic Times 14/12/14)

105. Farmers protest, demand MSP for crop (20)

RAICHUR:  Around 400 farmers, led by the Janata Dal (Secular), protested in Manvi, about 50 km from here, on Monday demanding scientific minimum support prices for their agricultural produce. They raised slogans against the Union and the State governments for their “anti-farmer” policies and blocked State Highway 23, that connects Raichur with Sindhanur, Koppal, Gangavathi and other towns. “Both the Union and the State governments are playing with the lives of farmers who have been hit hard by natural calamities and the price crash. Almost half of the cotton has already been sold out at reduced prices and the governments are not sready to open procurement centres to purchase the crop at scientific minimum prices,” Raja Venkatappa Naik, a JDS leader said. It is because of these anti-farmer policies of the governments that farmers are committing suicides, he added. He demanded the minimum selling price of Rs. 2,000 for a quintal of paddy and Rs. 6,500 for a quintal of cotton. Their other demands included shifting the regional headquarter of Cotton Corporation of India from Hubballi to Raichur and compensating those farmers whose standing crop were destroyed in the unseasonal rain, those who lost their crop in the floods in July and August. (The Hindu 16/12/14)

106. Protest held over denial of monetary aid to farmers who committed suicide (20)

WARANGAL: Scores of farmers and relatives of those who committed suicides staged a protest demonstration at the district collectorate here on Wednesday under the aegis of Human Rights Forum. HRF state president S Jeevan Kumar, district general secretary Badavath Raju and OPDR state president M V Krishnaiah said as per the district crime records, a total of 140 farmers committed suicides this year alone. But only 15 cases were identified as eligible to receive monetary assistance as per the GM 421. They said if the State government wanted to achieve ‘Bangaru Telangana’ it should extend financial assistance to all the families of farmers who committed suicide. It should also initiate steps to prevent such occurrences in future, they opined. The HRF leaders alleged that the three-member committee constituted at divisional level has not visited all the families. Despite several representations, the district administration did not focus on identifying the genuine cases. (The Hindu 18/12/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

107. National Highways may get exemption from resettlement and rehabilitation policy (4)

NEW DELHI: The Indian government may exempt national highways from the resettlement and rehabilitation provisions of the much-criticised land acquisition law as it looks to revive road construction as part of its overall plan to reboot infrastructure development in the country. A senior government official said that highway development, which has come to a grinding halt because of various reasons, including the virtual impossibility of acquiring land to build roads on, is being considered for exemption from various procedural requirements of the Act. While the government is considering a general relaxation in some provisions of the Act, a special exemption is being considered for national highways. That’s because, unlike industries, road developers can’t promise rehabilitation in terms of providing jobs to land holders among other things.”We are ready to compensate even more than what the land acquisition Act asks for but it involves a very complex process which we can do away with since infrastructure is a priority,” the official told ET. Compensation for land would be based on the highways ministry’s own norms, with R&R not feasible in such projects. Besides roads, similar so-called linear projects in sectors such as railways could also be given such treatment. The Narendra Modi government, elected on a mandate to step up development, wants to upgrade and expand India’s creaking, congested infrastructure that’s seen as a hindrance to growth and speed up projects by removing procedural hurdles. It’s considering legal changes to facilitate this. The Land Acquisition Act introduced by the previous Congress led United Progressive Alliance government has drawn flak from multiple quarters including industry and state governments besides central ministries and departments. Congress-ruled states have also raised concerns over the cumbersome procedures prescribed by law that have halted land acquisition for infrastructure projects. In 2013-14, a total of 4,260 km of national highways were developed, down from 5,732 km the year before. As of October, only 1,984 km has been developed in the current fiscal year. The department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) has also criticised the land acquisition law as an obstruction to development. Inter-ministerial consultations have already been initiated on the changes required, another official said. The government will also discuss the matter with political parties before amending the law.The new Act, which replaced the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, requires developers to get the consent of 80 per cent of land owners in the case of private projects and 70 per cent in case of public-private partnership projects. In order to fast track infrastructure development, roads minister Nitin Gadkari had said that bids would be called for highway projects only after 80 per cent of the land required had been acquired.”It will be helpful wherever there is a greenfield project because the land requirement will be significant,” said Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Infrastructure. (Times of India 10/12/14)

108. Supreme Court social justice bench hears PILs (4)

New Delhi: The newly-constituted special “Social Justice Bench” of the Supreme Court Friday had its first hearings and took up matters of Narmada dam project, shelters for homeless persons, welfare of construction workers and exploitation of children in circuses, among others. The special bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U.U. Lalit first took up the 2002 plea of Narmada Bachao Aandolan and asked parties, including NBA activist Medha Patkar, to file short synopsis by December 24 as it did not want to waste time going through records running into thousands of pages. “So all of you should have your brief ready on or before December 24. The time shall not be extended… We want the matter to be pushed…,” it said and fixed it for hearing on January 9. The court then heard a 2005 petition filed by Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram seeking welfare of tribals and asked the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit on the issues arising out of the public interest litigation. This matter was followed by the hearing of a PIL on exploitation of children in circuses in which the Supreme court had banned their participation three years ago. After briefly hearing the issues arising in matters like child labour, child trafficking and child bondage, the bench directed the ministry of women and child welfare to act as a nodal agency and convene a meeting of secretaries concerned of states and Union Territories to ensure compliance of its directions. It also directed the secretary of Union ministry of women and child welfare to hold meetings with other Central ministries concerned like MHA and labour. The first meeting involving all the stakeholders should be convened before January 12, it said. (Asian Age 14/12/14)

109. Medha Supports ‘Nilpu Samaram’(4)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Activist Medha Patkar was in the city on Sunday to offer support to the lengthy ‘Nilpu Samaram’. “158 days of the standing satyagraha has been completed. It is shameful for the government of Kerala not to have resolved the issues in spite of there being a dialogue with the Tribal Development, Forest and Social Justice Ministers and the Chief Minister as well as KPCC chief V M Sudheeran and leaders of ruling parties,” she said. Medha said that she would be meeting Chief Minister Oommen Chandy later in the night with members of the National Alliance of People Movement and other activists to discuss the issue. “They are ‘Adivasis’, the original inhabitants and everyone else has come to encroach upon their land,” she said. “A K Antony, in dialogue with the then Central government led by A B Vajpayee, had committed to the Adivasis to give 5 acres of land per family, including to those who were displaced unjustly, unconstitutionally and undemocratically. But that did not come true after one or two years of implementing. Whatever enactment the UPA government brought out, whether the New Land Acquisition Act, Forest Rights Act 2006 or PESA, none has been fully implemented,” she said. She added, “While Sudheeran and his colleagues are fighting the anti-liquor battle, which we are all for, they say they have almost reached a total consensus (on the Adivasi issue). Why is the outcome not visible?” She said that areas like Aralam, where the number of Adivasis is more than 8,000, should be grated the status of a scheduled area, and thereby ensure good governance. She compared the satyagraha, to the agitation for Narmada.  “We are used to standing on the waters of Narmada. The Modi government has decided that the water level be increased from 122 m to 139 m. Billions of trees, temples, mosques, schools, dispensaries, houses, townships and 245 villages are going to be drowned, if the Modi government goes its own way, considering only the interests of the corporates of Gujarat,” said Medha. (New Indian Express 15/12/14)

110. Slum dwellers in Bhubaneswar’s Ward 51 demand houses before eviction (4)

BHUBANESWAR: Residents of Farm Gate near Siripur Sabar Sahi in Ward 51 have demanded that they be relocated first and then evicted. About 150 families in the locality are faced with being displaced so that Biju Patnaik Airport can extend its boundary wall. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) decided last year to extend boundary wall towards the south-west side and asked for more land from the state government. The general administration department conducted a survey and found that around 150 families have to vacate the land to make way for the construction of the boundary wall. “We are not opposing the construction of the boundary wall or the displacement of people, but the families to be displaced must be given alternative accommodation before being evicted. The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has conducted a survey for construction of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) houses for the residents but no progress has been made,” said Nihar Mallik, president of Trinath Mazdoor Basti Sangha, a private body working for the welfare of slum dwellers. He said that since the residents have been enlisted as RAY beneficiaries, the government shouldn’t renege on its promise of providing RAY houses elsewhere after the residents are displaced. Airport director Sharada Kumar said they needed more space as the airport runway starts from that direction. “The matter is pending with the state government, which will take a final call. The land will be transferred in the name of AAI,” said Kumar. The present length of the airport boundary is 13 km, he added. Local corporator Binayani Jena said slum dwellers had been living in Sabar Sahi and Farm Gate localities for more than four decades. “About 90 per cent of those facing displacement are poor. They have set up their small businesses for earning their livelihood. I think the airport, which is going to be benefitted by extending boundary walls, should also announce some compensation packages for the displaced,” said Jena. The ward is also grappling with illicit sale of country liquor. “Alcoholics create a lot of problems here. I have requested the police to intensify patrolling and stop sale of liquor,” she said. (Times of India 15/12/14)

111. Brinda Karat Threatens Stir Over Polavaram (4)

HYDERABAD: With the Andhra Pradesh government planning to complete the Polavaram project in three years, tribal rights’ organisation, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Mancha has decided to take the government head-on, particularly on the issue of rehabilitation of tribals. CPM politburo member and AARM vice-president Brinda Karat, who was here to attend a two-day meet of the organisation, said Sunday that Polavaram was a key issue and they would not compromise on the rights of the tribals. “The Centre is completely ignoring the interests of tribals living in villages which will be submerged by the Polavaram project in the agency areas. This is an indication of criminal negligence,” she said. Stating that the Centre’s move amounted to denial of basic democratic rights of the tribals and violation of the Forest Rights Act, she alleged the Ministry of Environment was clearing a number of projects without regard to the tribals’ rights. “Ever since the NDA government came to power, the attack on tribal rights has increased,” she alleged and warned that her party would not keep quiet. (New Indian Express 16/12/14)

112. Jindals to return farmers’ land, says Mamata (4)

KOLKATA: Opening a new chapter in industry-government ‘bonhomie’, the Sajjan Jindal group has agreed to return to farmers the land acquired from them for the integrated steel project it had proposed to set up at Salboni in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipore district. Announcing this, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said the Jindals were doing it as a “token of respect to the farmers who had given their land.” The development is sure to be contrasted with Singur where there is a deadlock over return of 400 acres of land to farmers. “I will not be able to sleep easy till I get back the land,” she had said about Singur, making the return of land from the Tatas a top agenda of her government since she came to power in May 2011. Ms Banerjee said return of land at Salboni was the first step. In the second step, they will decide on what to do with the balance land vested with the government. She further stated that the company has not been able to keep its promise of giving shares to land-losers as the project did not fructify. The Jindals have announced that they were putting the project on hold as it was not a feasible one. They said they had neither the iron ore linkage nor the coal blocks (whose allocations were cancelled following the apex court order). The foundation stone for the Rs 35,000-crore project was laid on November 2, 2008 in the presence of former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Apart from the nearly 4000 acres given to the Jindals from vested land, the group also directly acquired 294 acres from farmers at Rs 3 lakh per acre. The land would be returned free and a committee has been set up under the District Magistrate. An official at Jindal Steel Ltd said there was no timeline on returning the land. (The Hindu 16/12/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

113. Infant mortality rate record of AP, Telangana worst in south India (3)

HYDERABAD: Newborns are not in the pink of their health in the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Both are jointly ranked worse than underdeveloped states such as Jharkhand and Uttarakhand in terms of infant mortality rate (IMR), with 41 out of every 1,000 newborns dying before they reach the age of one year. While IMR in Jharkhand and Uttarakhand stood at 38 and 34 infant deaths per every 1,000 live births respectively, the IMR for undivided AP state was much higher, which local officials largely attribute to the Telangana statehood agitation. What is worse is that it in terms of IMR, undivided AP figured at the bottom of south Indian states comprising Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, according to the just released ‘State of India’s Newborns-2014′, a nationwide survey report on neonatal health indicators. The report was prepared by international NGO Save the Children, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Union ministry of health and family welfare. The comprehensive survey, also supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, placed Kerala on top with an IMR of 12 deaths per 1,000 live births, followed by Tamil Nadu’s IMR of 21, Karnataka’s 32 and AP/Telangana’s IMR of 41 deaths. Something that is hard to believe was the undivided AP lagging behind remaining south Indian states even in other five key neonatal parameters as well, including neonatal mortality rate (death from birth to 28 days, per 1,000 live births), early neonatal mortality rate (death from birth to seven days), late neonatal mortality rate (death from eighth day to 28 days), post neonatal mortality rate (death from 28 days of birth to 364 days), and under five mortality rate (number of children dying before the age of five/ 1,000 live births in a year). But, the million dollar question on what’s ailing the neonatal care in government hospitals in AP and Telangana has not been addressed. “The damning report points to our failure in implementing centrally-funded schemes like Janani Sishu Suraksha Karyakram in AP and Telangana. The other main problem is lack of convergence among officials, primary health centres, medium-sized government hospitals and teaching hospitals respectively,” said Dr B Balram, vice-president, Telangana Government Doctors’ Association. However, both the commissioners representing Vaidya Vidhana Parishad (VVP) in AP and Telangana, P Kanakadurga and K Veena Kumari respectively, had a different take on the poor performance on neonatal indicators. “The bifurcation blues and prolonged statehood agitation had an adverse impact on the health delivery system. Besides there were health cadre strength issues,” said P Kanakadurga, commissioner, AP, VVP. Whereas her Telangana counterpart, K Veena Kumari, put the blame on the severe shortage of pediatricians in all the 44 state-run special newborn facilities in the undivided AP, out of which 18 are in Telangana and the remaining 26 in AP. “Though four pediatricians are needed to man a single special newborn care unit, we are doing with just MBBS doctors as they (pediatricians) are not willing to work for Rs 45,000 a month,” she said. (Times of India 10/12/14)

114. Medical body wary of new abortion bill (3)

New Delhi: Brushing aside opposition to its proposed legislation of allowing midwives to perform abortions, the health ministry has decided to take the draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill to the Cabinet. The FOGSI, an umbrella body of gynaecologists, and the Indian Medical Association have vehemently opposed ministry’s decision of allowing homeopaths and midwives to terminate pregnancy saying that “abortions performed by them could pose a grave threat to women and will give rise to sex-selective abortions”. While the ministry officials say that FOGSI members were the part of the consultations and supported the amendments earlier, however in their recent comments sent to the ministry on the proposed draft they have opposed the proposal. The IMA has been opposing it right from the beginning and have even written to the Prime Minister asking for withdrawal of the new amendments. The ministry on the other hand has decided to take the draft bill forward. “Let the Cabinet take a decision. In a country where there is a scarcity of MBBS doctors, how do we ensure safe abortions? The FOGSI has reversed its stand by joining hands with the IMA, but we don’t plan to make changes according to their wishes,” a senior health ministry official said. Dr Nozer Sheriar, from FOGSI, said that wider discussion on the issue made them change their mind. “We supported the amendments initially. However, there were lot of internal discussions and the position that we have taken now is that abortions should only be done by a gynaecologists or at least an MBBS doctor. As far as scarcity of doctors at the PHC level is concerned, I believe periphery needs to be strengthened,” he said. Significantly, the women and child development ministry, national commission for women and other women’s groups have supported the draft bill. “Approximately 64 per cent of the responses received by the ministry are in favour of the draft…. Service providers will be given appropriate training so that safe abortions can be conducted and women are saved. The draft says that ANMs will only provide medical abortion within seven weeks-then why this opposition we do not understand,” added the official. A proposed amendment also enhances the period of abortion till 24 weeks. (Asian Age 15/12/14)

115. Mothers, newborns being killed by poor sanitation (3)

London: Lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene in birth settings is killing mothers and newborns in the developing world, a new study has warned. In a flagship paper, 16 researchers from various organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), call to protect the lives of new mothers and their babies by improving access to safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene in health-care facilities and homes. The paper, published in PLOS Medicine, argues that despite improvements in health care, new mothers and newborns are still dying because a reliable supply of safe water, good hygiene practice and adequate toilets are often not present. A companion paper in PLOS ONE illustrates the situation in Tanzania, where less than a third (30.5 per cent) of births occur in places with safe water and basic sanitation. In 2013, one in 44 women in the country faced dying in childbirth in their lifetime. Globally, an estimated 289,000 women died from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth in 2013, a number which researchers say can be more rapidly reduced through better provision and monitoring of safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene to prevent infection and improve care. (Asian Age 15/12/14)

116. More infants died within month of birth last year (3)

NEW DELHI: The number of children dying in Delhi within 29 days of their birth has gone up in the past one year — from 876 in 2012-13 to 1,015 in 2013-14. Latest statistics released by Delhi government show maternal mortality, an indicator of public health system, has witnessed a sharp increase during the same period. According to government data, total 2,30,961 deliveries (1,96,109 at public hospitals and 34,852 at private hospitals) were conducted in 2013-14. Data on neonatal deaths only includes 17,458 newborns admitted to the Sick Neonatal Care Unit (SNCU) at 14 government hospitals. Experts say many neonatal deaths are still not reported. “The increase in number of such deaths should be seen in correlation with the total number of births. Also, we still have hundreds of newborn deaths being categorized under the still birth category,” said T Sunderaraman, a public health expert. He added that poor infrastructure and human resources at SNCUs is also to blame. “Neonatal ICU is a highly specialized service. It requires state-of-the-art infrastructure, which is completely missing from facilities run by Delhi government and municipal corporations,” said Sunderaraman. Experts say premature births contribute the highest to neonatal deaths. Infection is the second leading cause, followed by asphyxia (shortness of breath) and diarrhoea. Data also shows an increase in the number of children between 1-3 years being detected with protein energy malnutrition and low weight. There is bad news for the government on family planning front too. Except for Insertion of Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD), the usage of all other contraceptive methods has witnessed a significant decline in the last one year. This includes condoms, oral pills and sterilization of both men and women. (Times of India 17/12/14)

117. Heart diseases, lung diseases, stroke are India’s top killers (3)

New Delhi: The leading killers in India were ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke, accounting for 30% of all deaths in 2013. Tuberculosis and ischemic heart disease were the top two causes of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49, resulting in 408,114 lives lost in 2013. Among people 70 and older, ischemic heart disease claimed the most lives that year. The top cause of child mortality was neonatal encephalopathy in 2013, killing 212,686 children under the age of 5. In India, hypertensive heart disease and suicide took more lives in 2013 than in 1990, with deaths increasing 138% and 129%, respectively. Mortality from road injuries also increased 88% between 1990 and 2013. This largest-ever global health surveillance tracked 240 causes of deaths across 188 countries between 1990 and 2013. The data was sourced from registration of death, cancer registries, sibling history, police record, verbal autopsy, surveillance and survey, census, hospital and burial records. “The disease and death trends are more or less the same for India, where non-communicable diseases are now killing more people than infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia,” says Prof AA Mahdi, head of the department of Biochemistry, King George’s Medical University, Lucknow. He was among the team that validated data from India. Globally, both men and women were living longer in 2013, with global life expectancy for both sexes increasing from 65·3 years in 1990, to 71·5 years in 2013. In 2013, women were living 6·6 years more than they were in 1990 and men by 5·8 years. If the median rate of change of the last 23 years continues, on average, women will live to be 85·3 years and men 78·1 years by 2030. “India has had remarkable progress in reducing both child and adult deaths over the past 23 years. Average yearly rates of decline were 1·3% per year for adults and 3·7% for children, which pushed up life expectancy for India from around 59 years for women and 58 for men in 1990 to 69 years and 68.5 years respectively in 2013,” said Dr Jeemon Panniyammakal, Centre for Chronic Disease Control . Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). Diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory infections, neonatal causes, and malaria are still in the top five causes of death in children younger than five years. The most deadly infective agents are rotavirus for diarrhoea and pneumococcus for lower respiratory infections. “The bad news for India is that non-communicable diseases are rising and affecting people at a younger age than in most other parts of the world. In western societies, heart disease typically occurs after 70 years, but in India, more than half the heart attacks occur before the age of 70,” Dr Dorairaj Prabhakaran, director, centre for chronic conditions and injuries, PHFI. Increased life expectancy is mainly caused by a fall in death from lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases (contributing 2·2 years), cardiovascular and circulatory diseases (contributing 1·1 years), neonatal conditions (contributing 0·7 years), cancers (contributing 0·4 years), and chronic respiratory diseases (contributing 0·5 years). These gains were offset by increased death from diabetes and chronic kidney diseases, as well as musculoskeletal disorders. Globally, the five main causes that lowered life expectancy were deaths from HIV/AIDS in Africa; diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and other endocrine disorders in Oceania and central Latin America; mental disorders in high-income north America; intentional injuries in south Asia, high-income Asia Pacific, and southern sub-Saharan Africa; and cirrhosis in eastern Europe and central Asia. (Hindustan Times 18/12/14)

HIV/AIDS

118. Cops escort HIV+ widow home (3)

KOLKATA: A 34-year-old HIV-positive widow and her two children, who were rendered homeless for the last two weeks after being socially ostracized, were escorted back to their Dakshineswar home by the administrative officials on Tuesday afternoon — two days after the report on their ordeal was published in the Times of India on Sunday. After the TOI report revealed the trauma she had to undergo with the local police choosing to look the other way, the state transport minister and MLA from Kamarhati Madan Mitra, district magistrate of North 24-Parganas Sanjay Bansal and Kamarhati municipality chairman Gopal Saha took action to escort them back home. The activists of South 24-Parganas Network for People Living with HIV+, a non-government organization, including its president Khitish Mondal and coordinator Sebika Chowdhury, first took up the matter and brought it to media glare on Saturday. They also accompanied the widow and her sons on Tuesday to their house. The widow lived in a house on Abbas Ali Lane in Dakshineswar with her two sons. While her elder son is 14-year-old and studies in Class IX, the younger one is six-year-old and a student of Class II. Her husband, who was a grocer, had committed suicide in May after being hounded by neighbours following the HIV Positive diagnosis during tests prior to a brain tumour operation. The woman was thereafter asked to undergo a check and she too tested positive. The widow’s ordeal had taken a turn for the worse after a group of local landsharks allegedly conspired to evict the woman by instigating her neighbours. On November 23, she and her children were dragged out of their house and the door was locked from outside by some locals. The trio had been spending the nights on railway platforms since then. The woman was running from the pillar to post in search of help from the administration, only to be refused everywhere. She, accompanied by the NGO activists, then knocked on the doors of the local police station seeking their help. But, nobody took the matter seriously, till the TOI report brought to light the plight of the widow on Sunday. After returning to her residence on Tuesday, the woman heaved a sigh of relief and expressed her gratitude to TOI, the NGO activists, the minister and others who took helped her. “I suffered a lot along with my sons. I almost lost hope to return to my home. On Tuesday, the officials not only made arrangement for my safe return, they also asked my neighbours not to bother me anymore,” the woman told TOI. Gopal Saha said, “After I came to know about her plight, I sent the concerned officials of the civic body to look into the matter. We also tried to spread awareness against the social ostracism of a HIV+ while talking to the locals on Tuesday. Minister Madan Mitra also instructed me to take an immediate action for her safe return,” Saha told TOI. (Times of India 10/12/14)

119. Himachal has 7,629 HIV/AIDS cases (3)

Dharamsala : There are 7,629 HIV/AIDS cases in Himachal Pradesh, Health Minister Kaul Singh informed the state assembly here Thursday. In a written reply, he said the state government is providing to-and-fro bus fare to the HIV/AIDS patients and one attendant to reach the ART (anti-retroviral therapy) centre. The minister said the state government is also giving financial aid from Rs.300 to Rs.800 per month to the children living with HIV/AIDS, and to the children who have one of the parents living with HIV/AIDS. He said the government has been providing milk powder free of cost for one year for the newly born children of HIV/AIDS patients. (Business Standard 11/12/14)

120. Stigma still haunts HIV patients (3)

MANGALURU: Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader participating in an interaction with HIV-infected persons at Prajna Counselling Centre in Mangaluru on Saturday.— Photo by Special Arrangement Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader participating in an interaction with HIV-infected persons at Prajna Counselling Centre in Mangaluru on Saturday.— Photo by Special ArrangementA 35-year-old HIV positive woman from Munnuru village, who lost her husband 10 years ago, said her application for the allotment of a land site had been turned down by the local municipality after she revealed her health condition. “The official bluntly said that I am not entitled to any allotment,” the woman said, with tears rolling down her cheeks. She got the same response at the office of the Deputy Commissioner.  “As soon as we reveal our condition, we are discriminated against,” said a 28-year-old woman, who added she had experienced this at hospitals. “I have stopped going to the hospital when I am ill. There have been several occasions when I have forced my husband to get me discharged early,” she said. HIV-infected patients revealed their experiences of discrimination before the Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader during an interaction held at the Prajna Counselling Centre on Saturday. A 35-year-old woman, who has lost her husband, said eight days back Mangalore City Corporation officials bluntly refused a licence to construct a house saying that she has come from another part of the State. A 50-year-old man spoke about his plight over the delay by MCC to release funds to build a house. Another HIV-infected woman said that the rice given to them at the ration shop was not fit for consumption and that HIV-positive patients have not been told about their diet. Another woman expressed the need for monthly pension. Mr. Khader said from next month the government will be providing a single-window agency for HIV-infected persons to avail benefits — ration cards, housing and education. The AIDS Prevention and Control Unit in each district will receive applications and correspond with the respective departments. The Minister said the Department was finalising a healthy diet plan and added that disciplinary action will be taken against officials who discriminate against HIV-infected persons. He would also organise a meeting of HIV-infected persons with the Deputy Commissioner and other district officials in January. (The Hindu 14/12/14)

121. Only 24% of parents with HIV disclose health status to kids (3)

CHENNAI: For years, Ramani* did not know how to tell her two teenage daughters that their father had died of AIDS and that she had contracted the HIV infection from him. She even evaded questions on the cause of their father’s death until the day her 15-year-old daughter found a hospital file and asked her mother about the medicines she was taking. “I was surprised that my daughter did not get angry. She has learnt about HIV at school. In fact, she was supportive and said she would take good care of me. She suddenly sounded all grown up when she told me not to reveal about my health status to her sister,” Ramani said. Not many parents with HIV reveal their health status to their children. A study by National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis found that only 24% of people with HIV disclosed their status to their children. The study involved interviews with 115 parents with HIV. Those who disclosed it did so only to protect their children from risky behaviour or in the hope that they would be taken care of when they fall ill. While the rest did not reveal their status to their children because they were afraid of losing respect or being treated with indifference, the study highlighted the need to teach healthcare providers to help patients with full disclosure. Only 39% were able to disclose their status by themselves; in the rest of the cases, children came to know of their parents’ health condition on their own during hospital visits, reading case files or overhearing conversations between the parent and the health provider. The study said the trend was worrying as improper disclosure without clear explanations could frighten a child . Most of the disclosures were by those widowed, separated or divorced where the child would already be going through a trauma of a broken family. Disclosure was also more likely where both parents were positive. Not all children were accepting and understanding of their parents’ health status. At least half of those who disclosed, witnessed angry or mixed reactions from children. One-tenth of the parents who did not disclose had children who were HIV positive, leaving them with more burden of keeping even their child’s status under wraps that can be detrimental to the psychosocial well being of parents and their children (Times of India 17/12/14)

 

 

Posted by admin at 18 December 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Ahmednagar Dalit killings: CM Devendra Fadnavis sets deadline for police department (2)

Mumbai: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday expressed concerns over the state police departments failure to nab the culprits in the killings of three Dalits in Javkheda Khalsa village in district Ahmednagar. Fadnavis on Sunday visited the village where three Dalits of the family a mason Sanjay Jadhav (42), his wife Jayshree (38) and son Sunil (19) were brutally killed. Fadnavis said, “I am personally monitoring the case. I have made my point clear to the Director General of Police to set the deadline. There cannot be indefinite time period to conduct a case. They will have to come out with some answers in the case.” The Chief Minister said, “If the police fails in the time frame it sets the government is seriously consider handing it over to the CBI.” On October 20 and 21, villager reported the killings of three of the Dalit family whose body parts were thrown in well and strewn in their fields. The Chief Minister held interaction with the villagers, family members and local police officials. Talking to the family members he said, “All culprits who have committed the barbaric crime will be arrested and punished soon. The government cannot allow such heinous crime instate.” The Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athavale and Bhraip Bahujan Samaj Party chief Prakash Ambedkar visted the village and urged the government to ensure the culprits are booked. Earlier, Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao has also urged the DGP to set up a special task to look into the matter. The leaders of all political parties including NCP, Shiv Sena, MNS and Congress have also urged the government to expedite the case and punish the culprits. However, sources in the police department said, “From day one we are on the job. But unless we ascertain the facts it would be improper to name any individual or share the information.” (Indian Express 1/12/14)

2. Bengaluru records most caste discrimination cases (2)

Bengaluru: The Kuppegala incident in Mysuru district, where some school children refused to eat midday meals as it was prepared by a dalit cook, is not an isolated event. There’s rising discrimination against the scheduled castes/tribes in Karnataka according to government data. Annually, over 3,000 dalits (around nine persons per day) become victims of caste atrocities and discrimination. In 2009, police registered 1,254 cases across the state under the Protection of Civil Rights Act and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. Four years later, the figure rose to 1,708. Bengaluru records the highest number of offences against scheduled castes and tribes and that too is rising by the year. In 2009, there were 82 cases which went up to 130 in 2012. In 2012, Mysuru recorded 6 cases, Hubballi-Dharwad 10 and Mangaluru 25. Among the districts, the maximum cases, over 80, are reported from Belagavi and Kalaburagi. From investigator to sociologist, everyone says there’s widespread untouchability and discrimination against dalits, both overt and concealed, across the state in varied forms. Most places of conflict in villages are temples, hotels, hair-cutting saloons and washerman services. “In many places, hotel owners have come come up with a solution which pleases both dalits and other castes — they use plastic or paper plates and cups,” said a senior police officer. Sociologist Prof GK Karanth speaks about ‘concealed untouchability’ by dominant castes and ‘active withdrawal’ by dalits. “During assessment of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan programme, we found that many children were not eating at school, but bringing food from home. It was made to look like a ‘class phenomenon’, that they need free food. Also, cooks in schools and anganwadis are conveniently selected from an acceptable community. Many ways of concealed and subtle untouchability are practised,” Karanth said. He added, “Dalits avoid some places like a temple, barber’s shop or hotel where they won’t be served or entertained. It’s a defense mechanism to escape rejection and humiliation. So, the discrimination goes on, but without conflict.” Even today, a dalit’s life is difficult in the villages. Equality remains a mirage. At many places, there are problems over using water from the borewell. (Times of India 3/12/14)

3. Half of school dropouts in K’taka are dalits (2)

Bengaluru: Nearly half of the school dropouts in the primary section happen to be dalits. Figures show that as many as 1.38 lakh dalit children dropped out of school within two years of their enrolment as against a total of 2.9 lakh dropouts. In other words, 48% of dropouts are from dalit communities. This alarming revelation came from a report by The IndiaGoverns Research Institute based on government figures here on Thursday. The figure pertained to primary school section, from classes 1 to 5, and the period between 2012 and 2014. After sourcing data from the District Information System for Education, the institute segregated it at assembly constituency levels. The report said in 2011-12, there were 14.97 lakh dalit children studying in classes 1 to 5 in the state. In the next two years, by 2013-14, 1,38,864 children had dropped out. In the case of children from other communities, out of 38.6 lakh students, 1.52 lakh had stopped coming to school. Interestingly, the top-10 constituencies where most number of dalit students left school are reserved constituencies (represented by dalit MLAs). And all the 10 constituencies — Indi, Humnabad, Yelburga, Chincholi, Chittapur, Shorapur, Devadurga, Bhalki, Basavakalyan and Hadagali – are located in north Karnataka region. “Backwardness of the north Karnataka region, poverty and migration for employment contribute to the higher dropout rate among dalits,” said sociologist Prof GK Karanth. Veena Ramanna of IndiaGoverns Research Institute said much needs to be done. “Despite the present government’s focus on this (dalit) section, the problem has not been solved. It indicates a lot and calls for urgent intervention,” she said. (Times of India 5/12/14)

4. Dalit’s Eatery Ransacked By MLA’s Goons? (2)

MADURAI: A Dalit hotel owner at Usilampatti alleged that supporters of MLA Kathiravan ransacked his outlet for selling beef and pork. Kasi (45) of Ariyapatti village in the district, runs a hotel named ‘Deva’, opposite the office of the Usilampatti MLA P V Kathiravan in Usilampatti. Kasi said,“On December 2, supporters of the MLA came to his office for a meeting. They objected to the sale of beef and pork in my outlet located in front of MLA’s office. They also abused me referring to my caste and damaged my hotel,” alleged Kasi. The hotel owner lodged a complaint against MLA Kathiravan and his supporters with the Usilampatti Town police seeking action under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Kasi also claimed that Kathiravan instigated his supporters to damage his shop. Responding to this, Usilampatti DSP K Saravanakumar said that according to the investigating officer it was true that some persons had verbally abused Kasi demanding him to vacate the shop. But, MLA Kathiravan and his supporters were not involved in the issue. According to the DSP, investigations revealed that Kasi had damaged the hotel himself and had lodged a complaint claiming that the MLA’s supporters had ransacked his outlet. MLA Kathiravan was not available to comment on the issue. (New Indian Express 8/12/14)

5. Religious leaders’ bid to end mid-day meal boycott over Dalit cook (2)

MYSURU: Progressive religious leaders visited the government school at Kuppegala village, near here, on Monday and served the midday meals along with students in a bid to end the boycott of meals by upper-caste children. Even as the religious leaders, led by Basava Murugendra Swami, sat alongside the children and ate their meal, the attendance in the school, which had fallen in the last 10 days after a Dalit woman was appointed as a cook, went up to the regular level, reaching 138. The religious leaders, who had taken permission from the school authorities, arrived at the school just ahead of the time to serve the midday meals. After serving and consuming the food, the seers, including Chikkarudra Swami of Gowli Gurupeetha in Chitradurga and Basavalinga Murthy Swami of Bhavaikya Samsthe in Mysuru, interacted with the children and advised them to live harmoniously with people of all castes and creed. Later speaking to presspersons, Basava Murugendra Swami said it was unfortunate that a few “narrow-minded individuals were sowing the poisonous seeds of caste differences through the school. It is a crime”. Pointing out that there was no difference in the food prepared by a low-caste or an upper-caste person, the swami hoped their act of eating alongside the children would help drive out untouchability. Village elders, including taluk panchayat members and School Development Monitoring Committee members also ate the midday meal. Deputy Director of Public Instruction H.R. Basappa said all the children who attended the school on Monday ate the midday meal, which was prepared by the same set of cooks. “So, the issue is resolved,” he said. President of Karnataka Backward Classes Welfare Forum K.S. Shivaramu, who accompanied the religious leaders, said their visit had helped change the mindset of a section of the people in the village for the good of society. Meanwhile, leader of the Dalit Jagruti Samiti M.V. Manjunath welcomed the initiative of the religious leaders. “It is a welcome development,” he said. But, he appealed to the district administration to pay attention to the other issues of untouchability plaguing the village. He said it had already been brought to the notice of the Deputy Commissioner that Dalits were not allowed in the two Muzrai Department temples, the community hall, hotels, and hair-cutting salons in the villages. Authorities should intervene in the matter, he said. Meanwhile, a group of villagers, who gathered outside the school, complained that the district administration had been found wanting in making efforts to resolve the problem of untouchability that prevailed in the village. (The Hindu 9/12/14)

TRIBALS

6. Coming soon, lexicons of two tribal languages (6)

MYSURU: In an effort to preserve languages spoken by the tribal communities in Karnataka, the lexicons of Hakki Pikki and Dungri Garasia tribal languages will be launched shortly. Two dictionaries containing words spoken by the Hakki Pikki and Dungri Garasia communities have been prepared by the Mysuru-based Karnataka State Tribal Research Institute (KSTRI). KSTRI director T.T. Basavanagouda told The Hindu that many tribal languages were on the verge of losing their distinctiveness. “We didn’t want this to happen and hence, decided to safeguard the languages by printing the dictionaries.” Mr. Basavanagouda claimed that the dictionaries of tribal languages were being printed in the State for the first time. “It’s our maiden effort to keep the culturally rich languages alive.” The KSTRI had roped in language experts, including those from the tribal communities, to work on the dictionaries. He said there were plans to print the English and Kannada versions of the dictionaries. The KSTRI has taken the support of Mysuru-based Central Institute of Indian Languages to develop dictionaries in the languages of tribes such as Siddi, Hasalaru, Eruliga, Harin Shikari, and Marathi (spoken in Dakshina Kannada). (The Hindu 30/11/14)

7. Creating history in tribal education (6)

Palakkad: The Girivikas Gurukulam project pushed forward by the Nehru Yuvak Kendra (NYK) and the Scheduled Tribes Department is now creating history by helping hundreds of tribal youngsters in Palakkad district to pass higher secondary education and pursue their professional dreams. Interestingly, most of the tribal students approach Girivikas located at Malampuzha, near here, after failing in the higher secondary examination, especially in English and Mathematics. The institution with boarding facility initiates one-year training programme for these students. The students pass the examination and opt for higher education. “You can see the results all around,’’ said M. Anilkumar, district youth coordinator of NYK. Though the pass percentage at Girivikas was 100 per cent till a couple of years ago, a small variation occurred in the recent years. ‘‘We have decided not to compromise on pass percentage. We have reconstituted the faculty here with teachers having postgraduation and B Ed. Some of them have passed national and State eligibility tests,’’ Mr. Anil Kumar said, who controls the administration. The project, started as an experiment, aims at providing education and a congenial environment for study for tribal students in the district. It is one of the very few success stories from among the government projects for tribal people in Palakkad, Mr. Anil Kumar said. In 2004, the government allotted 1.5 acres of land and Rs.60 lakh for the construction of Girivikas complex. The project, following the informal Gurukula system of education, was started by the then District Collector, Ajayakumar. (he Hindu 1/12/14)

8. Schoolchildren launch ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’ to help tribals (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Drawing inspiration  from  the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ of the West, students of a city-  based higher secondary school have come up with ‘Rice Bucket  Challenge’ to help tribal communities in Kerala. Students of Carmel Girls’ Higher Secondary School have  collected a total of 1,500 kilo gram rice, 220 kilo gram of  red gram, 150 kilo gram of red cow peas and other essential  commodities to be distributed to various tribal hamlets as  part of the initiative. The school management said the foodgrain and cereals  will  be distributed to hamlets of Attappady in northern district of  Palakkad and Amburi and Kottur in the suburbs of the capital  city with the help of women’s neighbourhood network  Kudumbashree. The programme was initiated to create sense of social responsibility and commitment among children, school principal Sister Helma said in a release here today. Home Minister Ramesh Chennitha will soon launch the  programme  officially at a function in the school campus.PTI (The Hindu 3/12/14)

9. ‘To fulfill Bapu’s dream Modi must share food with tribals’ (6)

VARANASI: Bihar chief minister Jittan Ram Manjhi on Tuesday said that if Prime Minister Narendra Modi was really serious on fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of cleaning the society, he should sit together with tribals and Mahadalits and savour their food like rice and fish. On his maiden visit to PM’s constituency, Manjhi on Wednesday also took a potshot at Clean India campaign wondering, “Jhadu chalane se kya hoga (what will happen by sweeping with brooms).” He went on to add that cleaning minds to remove caste differences and untouchability was the need of the hour. Turning towards Bihar politics, he urged reporters not to read into the presence of former CM Nitish Kumar’s photograph in his office. “Nitish is an ideal. He brought Bihar back from utter backwardness and lawlessness,” he said adding, “I never thought of becoming a public representative but now I am the CM of Bihar. During my short tenure, I have drawn bigger lines than Nitish by introducing many welfare projects.” On joining hands with Rashtriya Janata Dal, the party blamed by JD(U) for backwardness and lawlessness in Bihar, he quipped, “We are not sitting in the lap of anyone.” Manjhi said that JD(U), RJD and Congress were likely to contest Bihar elections together. “If we manage required numbers, then the legislative party will decide the CM,” he added. He dismissed possibility of a repetition of Modi’s miracle in Bihar as “people are mature enough and cannot be repeatedly misled by false promises.” Stating that in absence of BJP-like resources he was unable to hype his campaign, Manjhi said rivals helped his ascension as chief minister by mocking at his innocence and added, “If they continue with the same practice, then one day I can even become the prime minister.” On his controversial statement that tribals were the only genuine natives of the soil, the Bihar chief minister said that his words were wrongly interpreted as he never meant that others were outsiders. (Times of India 5/12/14)

10. BJD MLA wants tribals rights upheld on Khandadhar mines (6)

Bhubaneswar: A ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator has urged the Odisha government to recognise the forest rights of Pauri Bhuyan tribals, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG), residing on the hills in Sundargarh district. The Odisha government has recommended prospecting license (PL) over Khandadhar iron ore deposits in favour of Posco India. Dambaru Sisa, the first legislator from the Bondas, one of India`s most primitive tribes living in the remote hills of the Malkangiri district, has urged the government for effective implementation of forest rights in Khandadhar areas for tribals` betterment. “Sundargarh is enriched with the presence of Pauri Bhuyan, a PVTG, having their habitat in Khandadhar. Forest Rights Act has the scope to recognise their rights over their habitat and the process has not started yet,” the legislator said in a letter to the Sundargarh district collector. Sisa has been elected legislator from Chitrakonda assembly constituency in Malkangiri district. In his letter, Sisa said the process to convert forest habitations into revenue villages is yet to start in the district even though the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, clearly spells out that the tribals` habitation be recognised. The Pauri Bhuyan tribals are protesting the state government decision to allow Posco India to mine in Khandadhar hills for the company`s proposed $12 billion steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district. They demand that since Khandadhar is the habitat of the PVTG, both the central and state governments should follow the provisions of FRA and go by the Supreme Court`s judgment in the Niyamgiri case. Following the apex court order, the state government had held village meetings and the Dongaria Kondhs dependent on the Niyamgiri hills had unanimously trumped the bauxite mining plan of Vedanta in a referendum last year. (Zee News 7/12/14)

11. Recognise Rights of Pauri Bhuyan Tribe, Says Sisa (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator Dambaru Sisa has demanded that the State Government should recognise the forest rights of Pauri Bhuyan tribals, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG), residing in Sundargarh district. Sisa, a member of the State level monitoring committee for implementation of the Forest Rights Act, is the first MLA from the Bonda tribe, one of the most primitive tribes living in Malkangiri district. Sisa was elected from Chitrakonda Assembly segment in Malkangiri district in the 2014 Assembly elections. Sisa’s demand has gained importance as the State Government has recently recommended prospecting licence (PL) over Khandadhar iron ore deposits in favour of Posco-India. “Sundargarh is enriched with the presence of Pauri Bhuyan, a PVTG, having their habitat in Khandadhar. Forest Rights Act has given the scope to recognise their rights over their habitat and the process has not started yet,” the legislator said in a letter to Sundargarh Collector. Sisa alleged that the process to convert forest habitations into revenue villages is yet to start in the district even though the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, has a mandatory provision that the habitations of tribals should be recognised. The Pauri Bhuyan tribals are protesting the State Government’s decision to allow Posco-India to mine in Khandadhar hills for the company’s proposed steel plant project in Jagatsinghpur district.  They demand that since Khandadhar is the habitat of the PVTG, both the Centre and the State Government should follow the provisions of FRA and go by the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Niyamgiri case. (New Indian Express 8/12/14)

WOMEN

12. Father of five girls kills wife, cops say he wanted a son (8)

KOLHAPUR: A man allegedly killed his wife with a sickle in their house at Borale village in Mangalwedha taluka of Solapur district on Friday. The police said the man, Bajirao Waghmare (40), has confessed that he killed his wife, Rani (30), as they had five girl children while he wanted a son. Waghmare owns 11 acres of farmland in the village and the family lives in a two-storey building. The incident has sent shockwaves among the 5,500 inhabitants of the village as well as among activists fighting against female foeticide and for the rights of the girl child. In his complaint to the police, Rani’s brother has said that she was being tortured by Waghmare for the last few years as he wanted a son. The police have seized the sickle and clothes soaked in blood from the house. Rumours in the village that Rani was again pregnant were quashed after the post-mortem report confirmed otherwise, the police said. The report said Rani died due to several injuries inflicted on her body and excessive bleeding. Inspector Dilip Patil of the Mangalwedha police station told TOI that Waghmare and Rani were sleeping on the top floor of the house along with two of their daughters. “Around 3.30 am, one of the girls woke up and found her mother bleeding. She went down crying and woke up her grandfather, Damodar. When Damodar went upstairs, he was shocked to see his son sitting besides Rani’s body, which was soaked in blood. Damodar called the neighbours and also informed the police,” he said. Waghmare was still sitting near his wife’s body and did not resist arrest when the police reached the house, Patil said. A local court has remanded him in police custody till December 5. Waghmare and Rani married in 2004. Of their five girls, Manjula (7) and Sanjivani (6) are in the third standard in a local school, while Sonu (5) joined school only this year. The other two girls are Pinki (3) and Sarika (2). Villagers said Waghmare was not very social and spoke to people only if he had some work with them. “This is a peaceful village. Waghmare hardly used to meet or greet people and would always be busy with his farm work. The family, which reveres Lord Vitthal, belongs to the Malkari community (who are known to wear a rosary of tulsi beads). A devout man committing a murder for a boy child is shocking,” said a village requesting anonymity. Varsha Deshpande, a Satara-based activist fighting against female foeticide, has demanded a thorough investigation into the case and radical changes in the laws dealing with the rights of the girl child. “The Borale incident shows how deep-rooted the patriarchal system is in our society. I demand that the Union human resources development ministry and the Maharashtra women and child welfare department organize awareness programmes.” Deshpande said greater emphasis should be laid on awareness among men, rather than women, about gender equality. Sunita Jadhav, a member of a committee to implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act in Kolhapur, also said the incident highlights the need of a mass awareness campaign. “I am shocked that a father of five children could be so brutal to his wife. I have seen cases where women succumb to family pressures and allowed illegal sex determination tests. Laws are not enough to curb the practice. What we need is a mass movement to save the girl child,” she said. (Times of India 30/11/14)

13. NGO to include men in campaign on violence against women (8)

MADURAI: In a bid to create awareness on the rising incidents of crime against women, a local NGO along with the women’s federation in the city on Sunday decided to include men in its campaign. Ekta, an NGO that works for empowerment of women, came up with an idea of involving men to address the issue of violence against women. Ekta works closely with elected women’s federation. Bimla Chandrashekar, director of Ekta, said, “The dalit women who work in the agricultural fields are suffering more when it comes to violence against women. The women in the lower rungs of the economic strata are more vulnerable. It is prevalent in districts like Cuddalore, where women are subjected to a lot of problems. We have made men from villages talk about the issue of violence.” K Amravati, a women’s federation member from Vadapalanchi panchayat, said, “Men who are addicted to bottle are the main reason for rising cases of crime against women. Child sexual abuse is also on the rise in Cuddalore district.” (Timwes of India 1/12/14)

14. Rohtak case: it was dispute over a seat, claim villagers (8)

ROHTAK: Haryana Police, probing the November 28 incident of misbehaviour with the girls and a pregnant woman on a State transport bus, said they had a watertight case against the three accused Even as another video surfaced of sisters Puja and Arti taking on eve-teasers and thrashing them — this time in a park – the Haryana Police, probing the November 28 incident of misbehaviour with the girls and a pregnant woman on a State transport bus, said they had a watertight case against the three accused, who have since been released on bail. An investigating officer in Rohtak told The Hindu on Tuesday that a case was registered under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code for assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty on the basis of a complaint filed by the girls. While some village elders of Asan village — to which the three accused belong — claimed that a Haryana police constable was also travelling by the same bus and his statement would be highly credible in establishing the sequence of events, the police said they were not aware of any such person. After Deepak, Kuldeep and Mohit were arrested, a delegation of the Asan panchayat went to the office of the Superintendent of Police and demanded a ‘fair probe,’ threatening to go on a hunger strike if this was not done. Residents of Asan village fear that the police case would destroy the career of the boys. The accused had done ‘no wrong’ and as the video ‘showed’ it was the girls who were “aggressive.” The delegation also claimed that the fight took place over a seat that was allotted to an elderly woman. They demanded that her statement be also recorded. They said she got off at Humayunpur. Later the woman, identified as Nirmala, was traced, and her statement was recorded. When contacted about the new video, one of the sisters said the incident took place about a month ago. She and her sister were coming out of the Rohtak bus-stand when some youths teased them. When they went to the HUDA park nearby, some other youngsters teased them. They confronted the boys and one of the sisters beat them up and they ran away. (The Hindu 3/12/14)

15. Indian women in mental hospitals ‘treated worse than animals’ (8)

NEW DELHI: A report has shown increasing evidence of women and girls with disabilities being “involuntarily” admitted to mental hospitals and institutions where they face unsanitary conditions, risk physical and sexual violence and are subject to treatment including electric shock therapy without their consent. The report by Human Rights Watch researched over two years in 24 government institutions in six cities found that none of the 128 women or girls documented for the study admitted to institutional care were asked for their consent. About 31 cases (20 women and 11 girls) were subject to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) without their consent, says the report. In some facilities the HRW report “Treated Worse than Animals: abuses against women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disability in institutions in India” found overcrowding and lack of hygiene. For instance as of November 2014 close to 900 people live in Asha Kiran a government institution for people with intellectual disabilites in Delhi—nearly three times the hospital’s capacity. In Pune Mental Hospital there are only 25 working toilets for 1850 inmates. “Women and girls with disabilities are dumped in institutions by their family members or police in part because the government is failing to provide appropriate support and services,” Kirti Sharma, HRW researcher said. The only existing mechanism was to report to institution staff which does not constitute an independent mechanism as staff themselves may be perpetrators of abuse. HRW found 12 cases of verbal, 38 of physical and four cases of sexual violence against women. Those interviewed reported being beaten by police, welfare officers, and institutional staff. Cases of FIRs are few because testimonials of these victims are considered unreliable. A welfare officer at a residential care institution reported that a woman sent for treatment for three months, came back one month pregnant while in another case the caregiver forced the patient in to a bathroom and raped her on the pretext of giving her medicines. The HRW has recommended orderly inspections and regular monitoring of all such facilities to ensure that such people receive treatment on the basis of informed consent. Also, there should be a complaint mechanism to receive and investigate complaints about ill treatment of persons in such institutions, they say. The 106-page report documents involuntary admission and arbitrary detention in institutions as it also examines the multiple barriers that prevent such women and girls from reporting abuses and accessing justice. The Indian government should pursue urgent legal reforms, including amending two bills currently before Parliament, to address these abuses and protect the rights of women and girls with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities. HRW’s Meenakshi Ganguly said that the report had been submitted to the ministries of health and women and child development. Moreover, according to HRW, there are no clear official government records or estimates of the prevalence of psychosocial or intellectual disabilities in India.  The 2011 census estimates that only 2.21% of the Indian population has a disability – including 1.5 million people (0.1% of the population) with intellectual disabilities and a mere 7,22,826 people (0.05% of the population) with psychosocial disabilities (such as schizophrenia or bipolar condition).  The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare claims much higher percentage of the Indian population is affected by psychosocial disabilities with 6-7% (74.2 – 86.5 million) affected by “mental disorders” and 1-2% (12.4 – 24.7 million) by “serious mental disorders.” The central government in India should immediately order an evaluation and take steps to end abusive practices in institutions by organizing effective monitoring of such facilities, HRW said. (Times of India 5/12/14)

16. Delhi rape: Cab driver sent to three-day custody (8)

New Delhi: A court here Monday sent an Uber cab driver to three days’ police custody on charges of raping a 25-year-old working woman in the capital. Metropolitan Magistrate Ambika Singh allowed Delhi Police to quiz 32-year-old driver Shiv Kumar Yadav for three days. Police sought custodial interrogation of the accused, saying they needed to recover a mobile phone and other articles related to the case. Various organisations protested outside the Tis Hazari court here against such crimes and demanded safety and security of women in the city. Amid tight security, police presented the cab driver – with his face covered – in the court. The accused, however, refused to undergo a test identification parade. Yadav was arrested Sunday from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. During investigation, it was found that the driver had a criminal record and was accused in another rape case. Besides, the Uber taxi company had not given him any public service verification (badge) or any employer’s verification certificate. During investigation, it was also revealed that Yadav, who has three children, was arrested in 2011 in a rape case with the same modus operandi in south Delhi and spent seven months in Tihar jail. He was later acquitted, after the victim took back the allegations. Police said the driver was under the influence of alcohol while picking up the woman from south Delhi’s Vasant Vihar between 10 and 10.15 p.m. Friday. According to an investigator, the driver thought the woman could be a “soft target” and intentionally took a long route to drop her at her residence in north Delhi’s Inderlok. The investigator said the cab’s GPS system showed that it started from Vasant Vihar from where the driver took a left turn from R.K. Puram Sector 8. The driver then took the Ring Road going towards Dhaula Kuan. He passed Mayapuri, Rajouri Garden, Moti Nagar and reached Tri Nagar in west Delhi. “Near the Zakhira flyover in west Delhi, he parked the car while the woman was sleeping and came to the rear seat,” the officer said. While he was trying to molest the woman, she woke up and resisted his attempt. “He slapped me thrice and threatened to insert an iron rod in my private parts. He raped me and dropped me at home,” the woman said in her police complaint, a copy of which is with IANS. (Business Standard 8/12/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

17. Prevent child marriages, parents told (14)

TIRUCHI: Parents should not conduct child marriages, one of the major reasons for violence against women. Parents, especially those belonging to the economically weaker section, not only use their children for child labour but also resort to child marriage without considering health and welfare of their girls, said Indira Gandhi, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee. Speaking at a seminar on International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, organised by Rotary Club of Sakthi here on Saturday, she went down the memory lane and described the ordeal of a girl who had undergone severe hardship as a child labour and also under child marriage. She said that adequate awareness should be created among the poor people. S. Usha, District Social Welfare Officer, said that several Acts had been introduced to protect the rights of women. She appealed to students to create awareness among the masses about the evils of child marriage. D. Muthumala and S. Sankari, both members of the committee, said that boys and girls should join hands to fight against these social evils. They narrated the different circumstances which led to depression among girls and boys. Allirani Balaji, president of the club, said that the programme aimed at sensitising the masses to the need for preventing violence against women. Sensitisation for young boys and girls would go a long way in preventing crimes to a great extent. (The Hindu 30/11/14)

18. Children from Various Organisations Celebrate 25 yrs of Child Rights Commission (14)

CHENNAI: The silver jubilee of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was celebrated on Sunday, with children from various humanitarian organisations participating in a cultural programme. The ‘Child Rights Celebrations’ was intended to help children understand the importance of child rights and give them a space to express their thoughts. Everything from the hosting and organising was largely done by children from the organisations Jeevajyothi, Arunodhaya and MACT. “Every one of you is born with rights. Rights are equal to life,” said Revathi from Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights, urging them to speak out if they faced any problem. “Tamil Nadu is one of the better States when it comes to child rights, with a good literacy level and reduction in child labour. However, we still have a long way to go, and there are many places where rights are still being violated,” said Sugata Roy, communication specialist from Unicef. Children enthusiastically responded to the release of a special song, Colour Colouraa Enga Ulagum by music composer Vedanth Bharadwaj, who was present at the function. The inauguration was followed by music, dance and drama by the children. (New Indian Express 1/12/14)

19. Children with disabilities to get free education till 18 years (14)

BENGALURU: The State Government will strictly implement the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, that enable free and compulsory education to specially challenged children aged between six years and 18 years. Minister of State for Women and Child Welfare Umashree announced this on Wednesday at a programme organised by her Department to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities. “So far, all children in the age group of six to 14 years have been getting free and compulsory education under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Now, under RTE, children with disabilities aged between six years and 18 years will get free and compulsory education,” she said. Sources said although the Persons with Disabilities Act already has this provision not many were aware about it. Following the Minister’s announcement, the department will now strictly implement the existing provision. The Minister, who spoke about the various welfare programmes initiated by the Government for the specially challenged, called upon organisations who use the word “disabled” in their names to drop the word and instead use “specially challenged” or “differently abled”. “Persons with disabilities are differently abled physically. They are not mentally sick. There are some who are physically fine but mentally sick and it is this category of people who are a threat to our society,” she said in an indirect reference to the recent spate of sexual child molestation cases. Ms. Umashree also announced that the department will hold district level sports competition for physically-challenged children. “Those selected at the district level will participate in State-level competitions and the finalists will be awarded appropriately,” she said. Ms. Umashree along with R. Roshan Baig, Minister for Infrastructure, Information, Public Relations and Haj, presented awards to organisations and teachers involved in the welfare of the differently abled. Wheel chairs, tricycles, hearing aids and white canes were also distributed on the occasion. Differently abled achievers – Ashwin Karthik, an engineering graduate working with a noted software firm, and Ghanashyam, a film-maker who produced a Kannada documentary “Ingale marga” were honoured on the occasion. (The Hindu 3/12/14)

20. Govt Launches Special Deposit Scheme for Girl Child (14)

NEW DELHI: To help channelise small savings, government has launched a special deposit scheme for girl child — Sukanya Samriddhi Account– which can be opened in banks and post offices and half of the funds can be withdrawn for her higher education and marriage. While the scheme has been notified by the government, the special interest rate applicable to it would be determined later. Under the scheme, an account can be opened in the name of a girl child up to the age of 10 years. The scheme would mature on completion of 21 years from the date of opening of the account, and deposits can be made till completion of 14 years. The account can be transferred anywhere in India if the girl child shifts to a place other than the city or locality where the account stands. Further, 50 per cent of the deposit could be withdrawn for the purpose of higher education and marriage of the girl child after she attains 18 years of age, said the notification. “The account shall be opened and operated by the natural or legal guardian of a girl child till the girl child in whose name the account has been opened, attains the age of 10 years,” it added.    After attaining age of 10 years, the account holder can herself operate the account. In the event of death of the account holder, the account would be closed immediately, and the balance at the credit of the account would be paid along with interest till the month preceding the month of premature closure of the account. The scheme is aimed at garnering small savings and channelising them for development of infrastructure. Recently, the government has relaunched the Kisan Vikas Patra, in which the invested money doubles in 100 months, with the objective of increasing domestic savings. (New Indian Express 5/12/14)

21. Rajasthani women, kids abused by cop missing, says panel (14)

CHENNAI: Exactly two months after two Rajasthani women and two children selling plastic items at Hosur bus stand were allegedly sexually assaulted by a constable, the All India Democratic Women’s Association has moved the Madras high court saying the victims were “missing”. It sought a CB-CID probe of the case and compensation of 5 lakh each for the victims. Constable Vadivelu has been suspended and the officer in charge of the station transferred after the assault. The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, hearing the petition filed by AIDWA president U Vasuki on Monday asked the Krishnagiri police and the government to file replies by December 22. Vasuki said the migrant Rajasthani workers were sexually abused by Vadivelu at the Hosur police control room on October 8. AIDWA learned about the case and media reported the assault. She said an assistant superintendent of police questioned the victims but in violation of all established rules and norms. Alleging that the victims were intimidated and discouraged from speaking the truth, Vasuki said as per the amended CrPC, only a judicial magistrate could have questioned them. A revenue divisional officer also conducted an inquiry in a “secondary victimization”.Statements of the children were recorded at the police station, though the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act makes it clear that an officer questioning a child should not be in uniform. The petitioner said constable Vadivelu had been merely placed under suspension instead of being arrested and police had not yet registered a first information report (FIR). “There is no immunity given by any law to policemen who commit crimes,” she said, adding, “This shows the biased attitude of the higher echelons of the police department.” Noting that sexual abuse of migrant women and children is a serious issue the AIDWA president asked for the case to be handed over to the CB-CID for a probe. (Times of India 9/12/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

22. Cheques for minority victims (7)

BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday distributed cheques to the families of the four party activists from the Muslim community who were murdered by suspected Trinamul supporters in Birbhum over the past six months, a move apparently aimed at reaching out to minority voters that constitute 27 per cent of Bengal’s electorate. “Trinamul calls us communal. But our four party activists who fell victim to Trinamul’s heinous attacks in Birbhum villages belonged to Muslim families,” state BJP president Rahul Sinha said after the rally. “The token gesture (cheques) is a small attempt to stand by the victims’ families.” A steady stream of defections from Trinamul to the BJP in several Birbhum pockets since the Lok Sabha polls has triggered frequent clashes that claimed the four lives since June. Many from Trinamul who have switched to the BJP are Muslims. Among those who received the cheques were Hajera Biwi, 52, the widow of slain BJP worker Sheikh Rahim. She, like the others, got a cheque for Rs 50,000 from Shah. “Trinamul goons murdered my husband for joining the BJP. I have enrolled as a BJP member to avenge my husband’s murder,” Hajera said, while climbing down the stairs of the rally dais. Among the other victims was Taushik Ali, an 18-year-old who had been shot dead in Makhra on October 27 during a recapture bid by alleged Trinamul workers. “I have taken a vow to fight Trinamul goons till my death as a BJP activist,” Taushik’s father Shaukat Ali said. The other two recepients were the father of Sheikh Enamul, an Ilambazar resident killed by suspected TMC activists on October 9, and the father of Sheikh Jasimuddin, 17, who was killed by alleged Trinamul activists at Choumandalpur in Birbhum’s Parui on November 16. (The Telegraph 1/12/14)

23.  “Govt. must show it is concerned about minorities” (7)

NEW DELHI: Members of the Christian community and its leaders held a protest demonstration near the Police Headquarters at ITO here on Tuesday morning, blocking traffic during peak hours, to register their anguish at the alleged burning of St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden. Catholic nuns, principals and teachers of various educational institutions were among those who participated in the demonstration that blocked the arterial road linking New Delhi with East Delhi for at least two hours. Delhi Archbishop Anil. J. Couto noted that the church will maintain a “wait and watch policy” to see how the Central and State Governments pool in their efforts to find the culprit before deciding the next course of action. “The alleged burning of the church has created a sense of insecurity, and the government has to show by its action that it is concerned and will ensure security of all minorities in their motherland, especially the small Christian community which has been living peacefully for 2,000 years,” noted a release issued by the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese. Stating that the government has to end targeted violence and impunity so that the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of faith for all citizens were seen on the ground, the Archdiocese release noted: “We are hoping the Prime Minister and his government will reaffirm this commitment.” The protest rally at ITO was addressed by Archbishop Anil Couto and senior representatives and clergy of several denominations. St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden was constructed in 2001 and is among the biggest churches in the area. The fire was reported on early Monday morning and the entire interiors including the altar, and the Holy Bible and the Cross were reduced to ashes. Hours after the incident, senior officers of the Delhi Police, the Special Branch and the Forensic Crime unit came to the spot and samples were retrieved from the inside of the church, which still smelt of fuel oil. “We have been told that the police have not been able to crack the case yet. Also, apart from the judicial inquiry, the government must repair the building before Christmas, ensure that the policemen guilty of dereliction of duty are punished, and special police investigation teams are set up to trace the guilty,” added Archbishop Couto. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P. J. Kurien and CPM member K. N. Balagopal also visited the church on Tuesday. (The Hindu 3/12/14)

24. Minorities much safer in hands of PDP’ (7)

Jammu: Lauding the minority communities of Kashmir for voting in the first two phases of the assembly election, spokesperson of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Rangil Singh on Sunday said that a visible wind of change has started blowing across Jammu and Kashmir. Interacting with media persons on Sunday, Singh said that the party’s resolve to empower the minority communities in the state, especially the Sikhs, is an unprecedented step taken by the party in the history of the state. Singh said the Sikhs have made exemplary contribution in all the sectors of development. “They deserve multi-dimensional empowerment which has so far been denied to them by the previous governments,” he added. The fate of the people of the state in general and the minorities in particulars would be safer in the hands of PDP, Singh said. Referring to different plans for socio-economic and cultural emancipation stated by the party for Sikhs in the state, Singh said that establishing Punjabi chairs in both varsities and teaching of Punjabi as an optional  subject in schools were highly appreciable steps. “The minorities in particular have been subjected to gross injustice by the previous governments,” Singh added. Singh said that the anti-people designs of previous “power-hungry” political parties have resulted in their total extinction for which these are “repentant”. (Hindustan Times 7/12/14)

25. Not in favour to give SC reservation to Christian and Muslim Dalits: govt (7)

New Delhi: The Government today said it is not in favour of bringing Dalits of Christian and Muslim communities under the ambit of reservation for the Scheduled Castes. Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said this during a discussion on a Bill to include more castes under SC category in four states and exclude one from it in Sikkim which was passed by the Parliament today. “We are not agreeable to it,” Gehlot said referring to a demand by some members in the Upper House to include Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in reservation for SCs. Citing a case in the Supreme Court in this regard, the Minister said that discussions can happen based on its outcome. Responding to demands from several parties on extending reservation in the private sector, Gehlot said this demand has been there for the last 15 years and it would be looked into. Gehlot was replying to matters raised by members during the discussion on the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 which has been passed by the Lok Sabha earlier. Rajya Sabha also passed the Bill by a voice vote with most parties supporting it. The Bill was first tabled in 2012 but lapsed after the previous Lok Sabha was dissolved and the BJP government introduced it August in Lok Sabha. Gehlot sought to address members’ concerns, saying that diversion of funds from Scheduled Castes Special Component Plan is an important issue and such a practice is not desirable. Earlier, in the discussion over the Bill, P L Punia (Congress) supported the legislation and said that the population of those in the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) has increased and the percentage of reservation should also be increased in the same proportion. Punia advocated extending reservations for these sections in private sector as well as the judiciary. AIADMK member K Arjunan sought to highlight the demand to include Dalit Christians in the list of Scheduled Castes. Husain Dalwai (Congress) sought reservation benefits for Dalit-Muslims saying discrimination on the basis of caste is not confined to only one religion. Tarun Vijay (BJP) and D Bandyopadhyay (TMC) supported the Bill. Bandyopadhyay said that the Centre should bring out a comprehensive plan for the development of weaker sections adding that at present efforts only constitute disjointed schemes. Vishambhar Prasad Nishad (SP) and Anil Kumar Sahani (JD-U) also participated in the debate. BJP member Nanda Kumar Sai demanded strict regulations to eliminate fake community certificates and recording the names of communities in officials records in Hindi and regional languages as well to avoid spelling mistakes. Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD), D Raja (CPI), Ambeth Rajan (BSP), Chaudhary Munavvar Saleem (SP) were among those who shared their views. (Deccan Herald 8/12/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

26. More Muslims will get BJP tickets to contest in Bihar: ex-deputy CM (7)

Patna: Even as former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for going back on his promise of granting special category status to the state, the Bihar BJP has said it will give more tickets to Muslims in the upcoming assembly elections. BJP Legislature Party leader and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said, “Opposition parties have been getting nervous with Muslims warming up to BJP. The party has given tickets to over 20 Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir and quite a few Muslims have joined the party recently. We will ensure Muslims in coming  polls”. He was speaking at a function on Sunday. Sushil Modi said it was a myth that Muslims did not vote for the saffron party. “In fact, BJP shared equal credit with the JD(U) while starting schemes such as fencing of cemeteries. Ever since NDA split, JD(U) government has slowed down on this scheme and could not spend allotted Rs 40 crore in a year,” he said. (Indian Express 1/12/14)

27. Muslims, Christians sons of Ram, those who don’t believe it should leave India:

New Delhi: Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has sparked off a controversy by claiming that everyone including Muslims and Christians are sons of Ram. She used expletives against rival political parties as well. “Modiji ka mantra hai na hum khayenge na khane denge. Ab aapko tyah karna hai ki aap kise chunenge, aapko chunna hai ki ramzyaado ki sarkar banegi ya h*******o ki sarkar banegi, ye aapko tyah karna hai (Modi has given a mantra that we will neither take bribe nor let others take bribe. Now you have to decide whom to choose. Will you choose the sons of Ram or thopse who are illegitimate),” she said. However, the BJP leader clarified her point saying, “I was targeting the separatist and anti-national forces. Why are people taking offence to that? What would you say to the people who attacked Parliament? What would you say to the people who attack our borders. All that I have said is that when Indians go abroad they are referred to as ‘hindustani’,” she said. The opposition parties have demanded a clarification from the government over the statement and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s on it. Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, “We condemn the use of words by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti. The BJP is practicing politics of division. The Prime Minister should answer this as she belongs to his Cabinet.” Other political also upped the ante against Niranjan Jyoti and called her statement a highly deplorable one. Biju Janata Dal leader Jay Panda said, “I am saddened to hear the use of this kind of language by a Cabinet minister. It is highly deplorable.” Nationalist Congress Party Majid Memon said, “What the Sadhvi said is inappropriate. It does not matter what a person’s religion is.” (IBN Live 2/12/14)

28. Union min is wrong, Muslims are a minority: Jurist (7)

Aligarh: Eminent academician and jurist Faizan Mustafa on Thursday criticised Union minister Najma Heptullah over her views about Muslims not being minorities, saying that any community constituting less than 50% of the population falls under the minority category. The minority affairs minister, in May, had waded into the definitional issue of minorities when she opined that Parsis and not Muslims were the minorities of the country as their numbers have dwindled in the last few decades. “Muslims are not minorities. Parsis are. We have to see how we can help them so that their numbers don’t diminish,” the grand-niece of freedom fighter Abul Kalam Azad had then said. Finding holes in the minister’s theory, Mustafa said “any community with a population of less than 50% is in the minority”. He further said that just because Muslims are not on the verge of extinction does not mean that they are not accorded the minority status. “In her view, Parsis with a dwindling population are minorities. But threat of extinction is not a barometer to determine which community is in the minority,” said Mustafa, who recently came in the news for winning the SAARC Best Law Teacher Award. The Aligarh Muslim University professor delved further into the contentious ‘minority’ debate. He explained the two theories that determine minority community: statistical or numerical approach (one that has been adopted by the government in recent years) and power relationship. In the latter, a community is deemed to be in the minority if it wields less power compared to the size of its population. “In both sense, Muslims are in the minority. Numerically, we constitute 15% of the country’s population, while in the power test, I’d like to know how many Muslims representatives do we have in the country’s power structure,” he said. He also demanded the extension of SC/ST scholarship schemes for minorities, besides asking for the establishment of an equal opportunity commission. Speaking at a seminar organized organized by Aligarh Muslim University’s department of commerce, he spoke about how assimilation and integration of a community are two disparate matters. “Mainstreaming is a sophisticated term for assimilation, which would require a community to leave its distinctiveness. Since India is a ‘salad bowl’ and not a ‘melting pot’ like USA, we should talk of integration instead. The distinct identities should be kept intact as in a salad bowl.” Dr Arvind Mayaram, secretary of ministry of minority affairs, and Mohammad Adeeb, former MP, were the other speakers at the convention. (Times of India 4/12/14)

29. RSS holds ‘ghar vapsi’ event for 200 Muslims (26)

Agra: Members of at least 57 Muslim families were converted to Hinduism at a ceremony called ‘Purkhon ki ghar vapsi’, a mass conversion jointly organized by Dharma Jagran Samanvay Vibhag, an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Bajrang Dal in Agra on Monday. RSS regional head Rajeshwar Singh said more than 200 Muslims were “brought back to Hinduism” in the mass event held in Madhunagar area of the city. According to organizers, the converts will soon be given new names. Talking to TOI, Singh claimed that around 5,000 more Muslims and Christians will be “brought back into Hindu fold” in Aligarh on this Christmas. “The grand event will be held at Maheshwari College in Aligarh,” he said, daring anyone to stop it. With saffron flags hoisted on rooftops of makeshift houses in this slum cluster, and matras being recited by priests, members of as many as 57 Muslim families washed feet of Hindu idols to mark their return to the religion. Long vermillion marks were put on their foreheads and they were given Prasad to eat. Later, RSS and Bajrang Dal activists gave them a ‘mantra’ to chant the whole day and prepared a list of all the ‘converts’, to get their voter IDs and Aadhaar cards made, with their new names. Sharifa, 40, was seen debating the right way of performing an aarti with her daughter-in-law, Afsha, in a small temple that has been erected by RSS men in the slum in Madhunagar. An idol of goddess Kali has also been placed in the temple, as majority of people living in the area hail from West Bengal. Sufia Begum,76, who is the oldest woman among the converts, told TOI: “I read Quran and offered namaz five times a day. Now at this age, I will read Ganesh aarti. I don’t find any major difference in the teachings of the two religions.” “The RSS people assured us that they will provide us better place to live, better food and schooling for my grandsons. I don’t mind change of religion, as religion doesn’t give us food to eat.” Rajeshwar Singh told TOI that RSS spends Rs 50 lakh every month on conversion of an average 1,000 families. “It spends Rs 8-10 lakh per month on fuel costs alone in west UP,” he added. “We have re-converted 2.73 lakh Muslims and Christians in Braj region that includes Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Mathura, Firozabad, Etah, Meerut, Mainpuri and Uttarakhand since 2003. The upcoming mass re-conversion event in which some 5,000 Muslims and Christians will be brought back into Hindu fold will be headed by Yogi Adityanath on December 25 in Aligarh,” Singh said. Singh also claimed that RSS has taken possession of as many as 60 churches across the state, where no Christians worship now, “as they have all been re-converted to Hinduism”.”Ek din in girijagharo ki deewarein bhi gir jayengi aur hamara desh sirf hinduon ka hoga (one day these churches will crumble and our country will belong to the Hindus alone),” he added. Ajju Chauhan, the Bajrang Dal leader who zeroed in on the slum in Madhunagar and organized the mass re-conversion event, was overwhelmed after the puja. More than three dozen RSS and Bajrang Dal members were guarding the pandal to avoid any untoward incident. Talking to TOI, Aslam Qureishi, prominent Sunni leader of the city, said, “This is just a tactic of the RSS to misguide Muslims.” (Times of India 8/12/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

30. Church gutted, foul play not ruled out (7)

NEW DELHI: The interiors of St. Sebastian’s Church, Dilshad Garden, was burnt on Monday morning with the church authorities alleging that it “could be the work of some unidentified miscreants.” A senior Delhi Police official told The Hindu that they had picked up a can of kerosene from the second floor of the church. “We can’t confirm foul play yet but we are definitely looking into the angle,’’ he added. The police have registered an FIR against unknown persons for causing the fire with malicious intent. Anxious parishioners gathered near the church and later took out a procession to register their protest. The fire was detected at around 6 a.m. in the 10-year-old Catholic Church which has a membership of over 1,000 families residing in the area. Appealing to the Christian community to keep calm, Archbishop Anil. J. Couto, who reached the spot, said: “I have been informed about the incident and we suspect that there could be the involvement of some miscreants. The interiors of the church including the altar and the place of worship have been burnt down completely. The widows are shattered and the entire church unit on the ground and first floor has been destroyed in the incident.” (The Hindu 2/12/14)

31. SIT formed to probe church fire (7)

New Delhi: A day after St. Sebastian’ Church in east Delhi was allegedly set on fire by “anti-social elements,” the Delhi police on Tuesday set up a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate the matter. In a major step, intelligence agencies have issued an advisory to beef up security at all Christian institutions, including churches, in the city. Meanwhile, suspecting foul play, the Delhi police is looking for “anti-social” elements, who could possibly be behind the alleged crime. The police and intelligence agencies are also probing on whether any political or fundamentalist outfits are involved in the alleged attack on the church. Senior police officials also felt that “provocative statements” by political leaders ahead of the Delhi Assembly polls could “upset social harmony.” One company of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and scores of local policemen have been posted at the Church on Tuesday to thwart any untoward incident. Most of the church, including the entire interior, the altar, the Holy Bible and the cross, was gutted in fire on Monday morning. The church authorities have been maintaining that some “anti-social” elements were behind the act and have demanded a judicial inquiry. So far, police sources said that their own probe points to arson as well. They are, however, investigating the matter from all possible angles. “We interrogated three security guards — Peter, William and Robert — in connection with the incident,” said a source, adding, “About 50 people living in the vicinity have also been questioned to know whether any tension was brewing in the locality.” “The police team that visited the church today (on Tuesday) have found an empty kerosene bottle from the second floor stairs which clearly suggest foul play,” adding, “On Monday, the fire officials had told us that oil was coming out from the church when they were flooding the property with water canons to douse the flames.” On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters from the Christian community gathered at ITO and demanded swift action against the perpetrators. Commuters had a harrowing time due to the agitation that caused heavy traffic jams in the area. It was only after Delhi police commissioner B.S. Bassi assured the protesters that a special investigating team, led by a joint commissioner-level officer, has been constituted, that the crowd dispersed. Earlier, the protesters forcibly tried to enter the police headquarters to meet Mr Bassi, but were prevented from doing so leading to a face-off. A delegation was later allowed to meet the police chief. The protesters also alleged lapses in police action and said that a lot of time was lost and possible evidence destroyed before the law and order personnel reached the spot. Father Stanley Kozhichira, media director of the Delhi archdiocese, said: “The local SHO should be transferred as he had failed to prevent the incident.” Mr Bassi is learnt to have assured action against the policemen, if found at fault. A delegation led by Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto met lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung in connection with the fire as well. (Asian Age 3/12/14)

32. Catholic organisation complains to Obama about being terrorised by saffron forces (7)

MUMBAI: A Christian organisation from Mumbai has complained to US president Barack Obama about Catholic missionaries being “terrorised” by saffron forces in India. The outfit claimed to have received a “positive response” from Obama’s office when all they received was an automated reply directing them to another email address. The Watchdog Foundation led by former corporator Nicholas Almeida wrote to Obama to say, “We are grossly disturb (sic) by the recent events happening in Raipur district, Madhya Pradesh, India, where Catholic missionaries are being terrorised by the members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Christian missionaries’ schools in India are subjugated to humiliation (sic) and the freedom of religion guaranteed under the Indian Constitution breached with impunity.” The letter claimed the VHP is a “staunch supporter of the BJP government which is in power at federal as well as state level”. “This is nothing but a violation of human rights and both federal and state governments are doing very little to protect the interest of the minorities in India. There is absolutely free run given to the members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, and if this trend is not stopped, the existence of the Christian minority in India would be in jeopardy. As such we kindly request you to take up the matter with the Indian prime minister during your forthcoming visit to India in the month of January 2015,” Almeida wrote. He received an automated email reply which said, “On behalf of President Obama, we appreciate hearing from you. The President has promised the most transparent administration in history, and we are committed to listening to and responding to you. In order to better handle the millions of electronic messages we are receiving and respond more quickly, we have implemented a new contact form on our website. This web form has replaced this email address. This email address is no longer monitored so we encourage you to resubmit your message through the link above.” When TOI asked Almeida why he chose to complain to a foreign country about domestic issues, he said, “Obama is a Christian president and he will come to India as chief guest for our Republic Day ceremony in January, so he may put in a word to PM Narendra Modi to look out for Christian interests.” Asked if an automated message comforted him he agreed it was something. (Times of India 3/12/14)

33. 500 Christians Join Saffron Party in Delhi (7)

NEW DELHI: For the first time, the Delhi BJP has held a special drive membership drive for Christian community on Sunday. The drive was carried out by the party minority morcha at four churches across the city and over 500 members from the Christian community had joined the party. President of the Delhi BJP minority wing Atif Rasheed said that the special membership drive had been held at four churches at Sacred Heart Cathedral Church, Gol Dak Khana, Mandir Marg, Turkaman Gate and Kingsway Camp for two hours from 10 am to 12 noon.  “At the special drive at four places, over 500 people took membership of the party and a similar drive will be carried out for next few Sundays in similar fashion,” said Rasheed. Reportedly the minority cell of the BJP, which always focuses on the Muslim community has decided to reach out to other minority communities in the city. Christians with around five lakh voting population spread across the 70 assembly constituencies are in the center of the BJP strategy for the upcoming Delhi elections. The BJP is also trying to enroll over 10,000 members from the community in next one month. (New Indian Express 8/12/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

34. Pregnant refugees in Australia protest over detention (13)

SYDNEY: A pair of heavily pregnant refugees were refusing to disembark from a bus in Darwin for the third day on Monday in protest against attempts to force them into detention for the remainder of their pregnancies. The women were brought to Australia from the Pacific island nation of Nauru, where Canberra detains asylum seekers to deter them attempting the dangerous boat journey to its territory, often from Indonesia. Nauru lacks proper medical facilities and the women, who were living freely on Nauru after receiving refugee status, were told that they would be housed in the community, Refugee Action Committee spokesman Ian Rintoul said. On arriving in Darwin on Saturday, however, they were placed on a bus to be taken to the Wickham Point detention centre, at which point they refused to disembark and enter detention. “This is an extreme abuse of the Immigration Minister’s power to detain people. Detention is only allowed to prepare for the purpose of a person’s removal from Australia or to hold someone while processing their claim for a visa,” opposition Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said. “The fact that the government is holding pregnant women on a bus in temperatures above 30 degrees is extremely concerning.” The Department of Immigration and Border Protection declined to comment. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison could not be reached for comment. Australia’s tough policies aimed at stopping asylum seekers include sending them to camps in impoverished Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where they face long periods of detention while they are processed. The policies have been heavily criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups. (The Hindu 1/12/14)

35. Centre’s Proposed Land Swap Deal with Bangladesh Sparks Protests in Assam (13)

GUWAHATI:  The Centre’s move to go ahead with the land swap deal with Bangladesh has sparked off protests in Assam,with the Opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and some student organisations going hammer and tongs at Narendra Modi-led BJP-NDA Government. The influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the All Tai Ahom Students’ Union (ATASU), which staged protests on Tuesday, lambasted the BJP for its alleged double standards. They wondered as to how something, which the BJP felt was not feasible ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, could turn out to be beneficial now. “In the run-up-to the polls, the BJP had expressed its reservations against the deal. Several national and state leaders of the party had openly criticised it. If that was the BJP’s position, why this volte-face now?” asked AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya. He insisted that the Centre must instead sign an agreement with Bangladesh that would make the deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants easy. The student bodies demanded that the Centre should check infiltration by choking all the roads used by the illegal Bangladeshi migrants. They also urged the Centre to talk to Bangladesh and sign an agreement to hand over the migrants saying it was more important than the land swap deal. Describing the Prime Minister as a good “actor”, the AGP said the BJP had cheated the people of Assam by changing its stand on the issue. “We demand that the seven BJP MPs from the state talk to the Prime Minister and convince him not to go ahead with the agreement,” AGP leader Kamala Kalita said. The PM had during his recent visit to the state asserted that the land pact would benefit Assam in the long run. (New Indian Express 2/12/14)

36. Australia toughens up immigration but lets in more refugees (13)

Australia’s conservative government today further tightened immigration laws to stop arrivals by sea but pledged to increase the overall refugee intake by 7,500 and free hundreds of children detained offshore. The amendments to the Migration Act which see a return to controversial ‘temporary protection visas’ passed through the lower house today morning after a late-night cliff-hanger debate in the upper house Senate. “This is a win for Australia,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. He confirmed several hundred children will be among 1,500 people released from detention centres and placed in the mainland community. “We always said that three things were necessary to stop the boats — offshore processing, turning boats around and temporary protection visas and last night the final piece of policy was put in place.” The temporary protection visas grant refugees protection in Australia for three years but do not allow them to settle for good. “This will enable the government to deal with the backlog of 30,000 people who came to Australia illegally by boat under Labour,” Abbott told a press conference, referring to the previous government. “These people, if they’re found to be refugees, will receive temporary protection visas which means that no one coming to Australia illegally by boat can expect to get permanent residency.” Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the official quota of refugees allowed into Australia would now go up to 18,750 a year. “We have got stronger borders at sea because of the powers we’ve given our maritime agency,” he told reporters. The legislation reflects the hardening attitudes Australian governments have taken against asylum-seekers attempting to enter the country on unauthorised boats. Only one boat has reached the Australian mainland since December, compared to almost daily arrivals previously under the Labour administration, when hundreds of people died en routeThe conservative government’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policies include turning back asylum-seeker vessels approaching Australian waters, which Morrison said would “ensure that the deaths at sea and the cost and the chaos and tragedy that prevailed under the previous policies of the previous government will always be a thing of the past.” The most recent case involved a people-smuggling boat carrying 38 Sri Lankans that was halted northwest of the Cocos Islands two weeks ago as it made its way to Australia. (Business Standard 5/12/14)

37. Nightshelters for Migrants in 5 Cities (13)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Night shelters for migrant labourers will soon come up in all five corporations in the state under ‘Thanal Veedu’. Administrative sanction has been accorded to the `50-lakh project, a budgetary announcement of the state government for the 2014-15 fiscal. The five corporations were chosen on the basis of high concentration of migrant labourers. The project was mooted by the Department of Urban Affairs. “At the lodging facility, both migrant labourers and people looking for a short-stay during night can get accommodation. Implementation will be the responsibility of corporations once the funds are sanctioned. They will be told to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) and an estimate,” said Urban Affairs director E Devadasan.  A night shelter has been mooted at Perumbavoor municipality, where a large number of migrant labourers from states such as Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam are present.   Finding the right space and location for shelter would be the responsibility of corporations. The shelters will have facilities like dormitory, toilet and cloakrooms.   As per the Kerala Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulations of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules 1983, it is mandatory that employer/contractor provide rest rooms or other suitable alternative accommodation for night stay. Providing separate rooms for female migrant workers is also mandatory. (New Indian Express 8/12/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

38. U-turn: BJP govt won’t make Netaji files public (1)

NEW DELHI: The BJP-led government has declined to make public nearly 39 classified files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in sharp contrast to the demands of disclosure raised by its senior leaders when in opposition. In January, when the Lok Sabha election campaign was at its peak, the then BJP president Rajnath Singh, during a visit to Cuttack — the birthplace of Netaji — on the occasion of his 117th birth anniversary, had demanded that the UPA government make public the records related to the freedom fighter. Singh is now the home minister. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in a recent RTI reply accepted that there were 41 files related to Bose, of which two had been declassified, but refused to disclose them, taking a position similar to that of the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government. “Disclosure of documents contained in these files would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries. As such, these files are exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) read with Section 8(2) of the Right to Information Act,” the PMO said in its reply to RTI activist Subhash Agrawal. Singh had claimed during the election campaign that there was larger public interest in the disclosure of the documents, but the PMO under Modi seems not to be in agreement as is evident from the reply which considered the larger public interest disclosure clause — Section 8(2) — of the RTI Act — but chose to withhold the documents. (Times of India 1/12/14)

39. How to File An RTI Application Online (1)

With more and more Indians connecting to the Internet, it’s no surprise that many of our government agencies are also going online. Because of this it’s easier than ever to do things like apply for a passport or get a copy of your Aadhaar card. Since these digital services are new, people don’t always know how to make use of them, but we’re here to help. This week, we’re going to show you how to file a Right to Information (RTI) application online. The Right to Information Act 2005 makes it mandatory for the Indian government to issue a timely response to citizens’ requests for information in the public domain. Filing an RTI application is a very simple process unlike most other requests to the government. You can easily file an RTI application online, but you need to know a few details to do so. For one thing, you can’t file an RTI application for certain kinds of information such as matters concerning national security or if the data you seek could compromise someone’s safety or privacy. You can find the full list of information you can’t request here. The Right to Information is powerful, and these restrictions are in place to ensure that it isn’t misused. The other important thing about filing an RTI plea online is that you need to submit it to the correct authorities. There are different RTI authorities for Central and state governments, and you will have to send your query to the correct department as well. RTI applications for State Authorities will be rejected, but according to the website, if your application is sent to the wrong Public authority in the Central government, it can be transferred to the correct authority by the nodal officer. The full government guide to RTI is available here. The following steps will tell you how to file an RTI plea online in just few minutes This guide focuses on sending an RTI application to Central government bodies. Not all state government bodies let you file an RTI application online yet – on most of the state’s sites, you can just download the forms. Here’s how to file the application with the Central Government. 1. Go to the RTI website and click on Submit Request. Alternatively, click to go to the RTI application page, here. 2. Check I have read and understood the above guidelines and click Submit. You can now begin filling in the form for submitting an RTI application. Pick the correct Ministry and department and fill in your contact details. You have to enter your email id to complete the application, but if you want SMS alerts about the status of your application, then you can also enter your mobile phone number. If you don’t know the public authority to file your application with, use the search bar on top – it will help choose the ministry/ department and public authority. 3. You have to fill the entire form – so for example, even if you are not below the poverty line, you need to choose the correct option from the drop down menu. Click the menu, and select No (or Yes, if applicable – this waives the fee for submitting the plea). 4. Next to Text for RTI Request application, you can write your RTI request. This form limits you to 3,000 characters. 5. If your request exceeds 3,000 characters, or if you need to submit documents to support the application, click Choose File next to Supporting document. You can upload a pdf file up to 1MB in size with your plea. 6. Enter the characters in the image next to Enter security code. 7. Click Submit. 8. The fee for submitting an RTI application is Rs. 10. You can pay that via credit/debit card or net banking on the next page. 9. Once you’ve paid, you will be shown an acknowledgement with a unique registration number for your RTI plea. This will be sent to you via SMS and email as well. 10. You can check the status of your RTI application on this page.  (NDTV 3/12/14)

40. RTS topmost on Fadnavis’ priority list (1)

Mumbai: After the Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act, Maharashtra will set up the new Right to Service (RTS) Act. The Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government has prioritised RTS legislation which if implemented will ensure that work is done at government offices within a stipulated period. Across the country, 19 states already have the Guarantee to Services Act, Madhya Pradesh being the first to implement it, followed by Bihar. Mr Fadnavis tabled the non-governmental bill of RTS in November 2011 when he was in the Opposition. If the bill is passed in both Houses of the state legislature, the beneficiary or applicant will get the documents concerned and certificates within a certain period.If the officer concerned fails to provide a certain certificate within a stipulated period, the applicant can appeal at first or second appellate authority within 30 days. If the appellate authority is of the opinion that the lower level officer failed to provide the service, he could be charged a penalty from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000, the bill has suggested. “If the RTS Act is implemented in the state, disciplinary action can be initiated against the officer responsible for any delay in services,” said a senior official from the law and judiciary department on condition of anonymity. Mr Fadnavis along with Eknath Khadse has suggested in the non-official RTS Bill that the state should institute a public service providing committee which will supervise services provided at government offices. The bill has suggested tabling the annual report before the legislature every year to ensure the Act is binding on all. The department, which provides the best service in the year should be awarded, the bill has suggested. RTS Bill will be tabled in the upcoming winter session of the state legislature, which starts December 8 at Nagpur. The RTS Act was mooted at a meeting of all chief ministers in the country in 1997 held by the then prime minister at New Delhi. The policy was drafted in that meeting to provide better services to the people. (Asian Age 4/12/14)

41. ‘Corrupt’ officials let mills function illegally, reveals RTI (1)

PILIBHIT: An RTI filed by a local activist revealed that the district food and marketing department has been indulging in corrupt practices for the last three years by allowing five blacklisted rice mills to operate despite orders from the district administration as well as the regional food controller. Activist Ankit Mishra, on Wednesday, produced details of the department’s records, that he had obtained under an RTI, before additional district magistrate (finance and revenue), Alok Singh, at the district headquarters in Pilibhit. Mishra told TOI that five rice mills of Puranpur tehsil area in Pilibhit, which earlier also had trading licenses for the purchase of grains, had been allowed to purchase wheat in the procurement year 2012-13. These mills were Bharat Rice Mill, Dayal Rice Mill, NK Sons, Nav Bharat Rice Mill and Guru Nanak Rice Mill. Providing copies of official records to TOI, Mishra said that these five mills had purchased wheat from farmers on behalf of government agencies. However, instead of supplying the purchased wheat to the government, they illegally sold a major portion of the stock in the open market. As the market price that time was higher than the minimum support price, they earned heavy profits on the sale. Finding them guilty of illegal practice and in breach of the government contract, the district administration blacklisted these mills and registered FIRs against them. The administration had also initiated proceedings of recovery against these defaulters but they are still pending. The regional food controller at Bareilly had issued guidelines to the district food and marketing officer, Pilibhit, in a letter dated November 20, 2012, that the blacklisted rice mills as well as those having FIRs in their names would not be provided with the paddy supply for hulling under any circumstances. However, ignoring the food controller’s orders, the food and marketing department attached these five mills to government paddy purchase centres in the same year. This reveals a nexus between the rice mills and the food and marketing department as the attachment process of the mills with purchase centres is still continuing, explained Mishra on the basis of the official records he got. When asked by TOI about the irregularities, the ADM said that he would promptly set up an enquiry on the matter and see that strict action is taken against defaulters. He said that the concerned employees as well the official of food and marketing department would also be enquired upon and necessary action would be taken. (Times of India 5/12/14)

42. Files on Netaji: MDMK to Hold Protest on December 23 (1)

MADURAI: Continuing his attack on the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, MDMK chief Vaiko today said the party would organise a ‘peaceful protest’ at Chennai on December 23 demanding the facts related to the mysterious disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to be made public. In a release, NDA ally Vaiko said the BJP had earlier wanted all the facts on the matter to be made public but now was claiming that it would affect diplomatic ties. He said the MDMK would hold a ‘peaceful demonstration’ on December 23 demanding release of all files regarding Netaji’s disappearance and to condemn the Centre for not disclosing the facts. Vaiko had last week condemned the BJP-led NDA government for declining to make public the classified files on Netaji’s disappearance and said his party would hold a protest pressing for the truth. Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office in a RTI reply accepted that there were 41 files related to Bose, of which two had been declassified, but refused to disclose them taking a position similar to that of the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government. The state BJP has recently slammed Vaiko for his criticism of the NDA government on various issues including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s greetings to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and ‘imposition’ of Hindi. (New Indian Express 7/12/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

43. Ratio of girls in govt schools much less than national average (11)

JAIPUR: The percentage of girls enrolling in government schools in urban centers of Rajasthan has touched rock bottom. The data released for academic session 2013-14 by District Information System for Education (DISE), a body of HRD ministry, says that sex ratio in classes I to VIII in state is 84.5 girls for 100 boys. Needless to say that these figures are less than the national average of 92.5 girls for 100 boys. This dismal figure puts Rajasthan only ahead of Haryana which has ratio of 83.5 girls. Haryana also has lowest sex ratio in the country. Further, the ratio in primary schools in urban centers of Rajasthan (I-V) was 80 girls and in upper primary classes (VI-VIII), the ratio of girls to boys was 76. This explains that dropouts among girls become sharper in upper primary in urban centers which is very alarming. On the contrary, the sex ratio in rural centers of state is slightly better than the urban centers. The overall percentage of girls is 87 for 100 boys in classes I to VIII which was also lower than the national average of 95 girls to 100 boys. Even some BIMARU states fare better in girls’ enrollment. The low enrollments among the girls in urban centers raises question on the rapid pace of urbanization with dwindling status of girls. In 2013-14, the total number of students enrolled in classes 1 to VIII was 1.22 crore including 57 lakh girls. The overall sex ratio in enrollments have come down in the past few years. In 2011-12, it was 88% girls which further reduced by one percent with 87% in 2012-13. The latest findings by the DISE highlights a negative trend in the sex ratio. The sex ratio in Rajasthan in 2011 census in the age group of 0-6 age group was 888 girls for 1000 boys. The grim picture raises questions on the special schemes and polices launched to ensure rise in enrollment of girl students. Even the progress in Right to Education (RTE) parameters, which includes infrastructure development, has failed to improve the situation of girl students. Analyzing the figures, KB Kothari, former advisor of UNICEF in New York, said, “Ensuring general and social equity in elementary education is a huge challenge for the state. The non-availability of teachers and separate toilets for boys and girls in many schools are also reasons for the decline in numbers.” (Times of India 1/12/14)

44. NGO files plea against court order on nursery admission (11)

New Delhi: A civil rights group has moved court against the  single-judge order quashing last year’s guidelines on nursery admissions for the academic session 2015-16. The court on Friday had quashed the Lieutenant Governor’s guidelines and gave private schools autonomy to formulate their own criteria for admitting students to nursery classes. Social Jurist in its plea said there is no question of schools’ autonomy in admissions to nursery classes. “It is pertinent to say that section 13 of the RTE Act, 2009 which prohibits screening procedure has been upheld by the Supreme Court. So there is no question of an autonomy of the schools in the admission of tiny-tots,” said the plea. The High Court on Friday had said the admissions for the 2015-16 session will be carried out on the basis of the Ganguly Committee report instead of the Lieutenant Governor’s guidelines last year. But the NGO said in its plea that the Ganguly Committee’s report became irrelevant after the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act). “The LG’s guidelines were in larger public interest to prevent commercialisation of education and to render justice to small children,” the plea said. Experts said that if private schools are allowed to formulate their own criteria, they would start taking exorbitant amount to give admission to children. “The private unaided schools may misuse their power by introducing their own categories like children of national awardees, vegetarian students and parents opting school transport. They will give points for such categories,” said Sumit Vohra founder of www.admissionsnursery.com. (Deccan Herald 2/12/14)

45. 33 schools in district defy closure notices (11)

KOLHAPUR: At least 33 illegal schools in the district of the 58 that were sent notices to shut down six months ago continue to function unabashedly, Smita Gaud, primary education officer of Kolhapur Zilla Parishad, said on Thursday. These schools function without any government sanction or mandatory permissions. Gaud said the first notice was sent on April 9. “Kolhapur district had 34 primary and 24 secondary illegal schools till June. Of these 22 primary and 11 secondary schools still have not shut their operations despite an official notice from the Kolhapur Zilla Parishad (ZP) in June,” she added. The ZP’s education department had imposed a fine of Rs one lakh on 18 illegal high schools operating in the district as a warning to the others. The schools were told to wind up and deposit the fine amount or face a criminal case. Gaud said written orders to file cases against the erring institutions were yet to arrive. Under such circumstances, the department was toothless to take any action at present, she added. “Even though we have been told to lodge criminal complaints against such institutes, we have not received any written orders. It is holding us back from initiating any action,” she said. Many schools avert closure by applying as a self-financed institutes. There have been several instances of illegal schools getting approved by the school education department through this process, said Gaud. Last year, the state government had allowed over 2,000 self-financed schools across the state to function. Of these Kolhapur division had more than 250 schools. “We have conveyed the illegal status of many educational institutes to the state education department. But lack of timely action against them creates confusion,” Gaud added. The illegal schools, according to officials, are privately run unaided institutions. The non-recognition or disapproval for failing to produce documents or failing to follow required norms set by the state government make them illegal. Gaud added block education officers of the 12 talukas of the district have been asked to submit the latest status of illegal schools at a meeting later next week. According to earlier details published by the education department, most of the illegal schools belonged to the Shirol taluka. There were as many as 10 schools in the Shirol taluka which had been dismissed as illegal, followed by seven each in Hatkangale and Karveer and four in Chandgad. There were three schools each from the Kolhapur city and the Aajra taluka, followed by two schools from Panhala and Shahuwadi taluka and one school each from Kagal and Gadhinglaj taluka. The list, according to the officials, is yet need to be updated and will be done once the meeting with the block education officers is conducted. The education department earlier at the beginning of the academic year had appealed parents to be aware of the illegal schools in the district and to avoid admitting their wards in these schools. (Times of India 5/12/14)

46. Notice issued to parents of school dropouts (11)

Mysuru: The Education Department has served notices to 699 parents in Mysuru district asking them to send their children to school, failing which cases will be booked against them under the Right to Education Act. Similarly, the department is planning to send out more such notices in the next few days in a bid to reduce the number of school dropouts in the district. Over 5,921 children have been identified as school dropouts in Mysuru district in 2014-15, 3,220 boys and 2,701 girls. Mysuru North stands ranks first in the list of dropouts, followed by Nanjangud (898), Hunsur (771), and H.D. Kote (741). Mysuru Rural accounts for 673 dropouts, Periyapatna (453), T. Narsipur (452), and K.R. Nagar (297). Repeated appeals by the Education Department to parents to send back their children to school had failed to yield any result. The government has made compulsory education for children in aged 6 to 14 and has decided not to fail any student till the ninth grade in a bid to encourage them to pursue education.The department wonders why there dropouts when the government was providing facilities such as midday meals, milk, textbooks, and learning materials to students. An informal survey by the department points out that many parents particularly where Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities were residing, were yet to realise the importance of educating their children. Chandra Patil, deputy project coordinator, Sarva Shikshana Abhiyana, Mysuru district, said the government had appointed attendance authority at the hobli-level.Mr. Patil said that of the 5,921 dropouts, the Education Department had brought back 2,855 children, including 1,606 boys and 1,249 girls, this year. (The Hindu 7/12/14)

47. Education department to revive 391 ‘Mahatma ke schools’ (11)

PATNA: State education department is to revive all the 391 Buniyadi Vidyalaya (basic schools) which were opened before Independence as per Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of providing necessary livelihood skill to every child at primary level. Education minister Brishen Patel has asked the officials to take necessary steps to fill the vacant posts of teachers and also build up infrastructure in these schools to ensure quality education. “Besides deputing teachers as a temporary measure, we have also been asked to prepare a separate recruitment rule for appointment of teachers and employees against the vacant posts in these schools,” an education official told TOI on Sunday. He said the minister, during a review meeting on Saturday, also asked the officials to explore the possibilities of upgrading the basic schools up to higher secondary level (class 12th). The basic schools currently impart education up to class VIII. The first Buniyadi Vidyalaya was set up by Mahatma Gandhi himself in 1939 at Brindavan village in West Champaran district. After decades of neglect due to lack of teachers and necessary resources, the ‘Mahatma ke schools’, as they are popularly known in the state, have been struggling for survival. Vocational training in majority of the buniyadi schools has stopped as they lack trained instructors, an official said. These schools used to impart training in spinning, carpentry, weaving, handicraft and farming till 1960s. Neither successive state governments took care of these institutions nor did the Centre allocate any fund to revive them. Former CM Nitish Kumar had formed a three-member committee of senior officials comprising the then education department principal secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, then principal secretary (health) Amarjeet Sinha and disaster management department’s principal secretary Vyasji to work out a revival plan for the basic schools. “The department is working to revive the schools as per the committee’s suggestions. Earlier, we had decided to appoint five teachers in each school, but now the number of teachers will be increased as the minister has ordered for upgrading these schools up to class XII,” the officer said. (Times of India 9/12/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

48. Only poorest of poor will figure in BPL list: CM (21)

SHIMLA: Chief minister Virbhadra Singh, on Saturday, said the state government would ensure that the names of persons living in poorest of poor conditions are incorporated in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) list. He also said there would be no pick and choose on political whims. Addressing the gathering at the annual felicitation ceremony organized by the Block Development Officers Association, Shimla, the CM said, “It has been observed that there were well-off families enjoying facilities meant for BPL people and were incorporated in the BPL list. This should be checked”.He said the BPL list should be made on the basis of the actual status of persons concerned and no undue advantage should be given to cronies of political functionaries at the grassroot level. He asked BDOs and other revenue officers to look into such malpractices and bring cases to the notice of the government. According to Singh, funds are often distributed at the will of elected representatives and do not reach the needy. He said it is up to revenue officials to ensure justice by taking initiative at the block level. The CM went on to underline the need for awareness on sanitation. He said officials need to concentrate on remote areas besides towns and cities. (Times of India 30/11/14)

49. Foodgrain supply under National Food Security Act to Eleven states (21)

Based on the preparedness and identification of beneficiaries for coverage under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), reported by them, allocation of foodgrains to 11 States/Union Territories (UTs) namely, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan has started under the Act. This information was given by the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Shri Raosaheb Patil Danve in a written reply in Lok Sabha today. The Minister said that based on requests received from some States/UTs, it is provided in the Act that if annual allocation of foodgrains to any State under the Act is less than the average annual offtake for last three years under normal TPDS, the same shall be protected. Taking this into consideration, State-wise allocation of foodgrains is indicated in Schedule IV of the Act. (Business Standard 2/12/14)

50. Notice to HUDA over treatment of poor at hospitals (21)

GURGAON: The state information commission has issued show-cause notice to Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) for failing to provide complete information on below poverty line (BPL) patients treated at the private hospitals that were allotted land at concessional rates. The HUDA has been asked to respond to the notice by December 12 and appear before the commission on December 19 via video conferencing. In her order dated December 1, state information commissioner Urvashi Gulati wrote, “The commission is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to hold an enquiry under Section 18(2) of the act. The respondents (HUDA) and complainant shall appear before the bench through video conferencing.” On September 15, RTI activist Aseem Takyar filed a plea questioning “inadequate information” provided on BPL patients treated at the private hospitals by the HUDA in response to his application. “Private hospitals get cheap government land so that they provide treatment to those who can’t afford it. But most hospitals are not doing so. When I filed an RTI plea, HUDA gave me random name of patients, making it impossible to cross check if they were poor or not,” said Takyar. It took Takyar one full year to get what he calls inadequate information. He filed his first RTI application in September 2013 which the HUDA failed to answer within stipulated time because the hospitals refused share the information. After waiting for more than two months, he filed an appeal in November last year. He got a relief in June this year when the SIC directed the HUDA to get complete information from the private hospitals. After this, HUDA took more than two months to release a list of BPL patients but couldn’t provide details like their address or contact number. Takyar protested this and filed his second complaint before the SIC on September 15. Former HUDA administrator PC Meena had also admitted that the policy to treat poor patients was not being followed by most private hospitals. He had directed the hospitals to maintain proper records of BPL patients along with their contact details and documents proving their identity. The hospitals were also asked to submit patients’ register to a district-level committee every month. It was said that HUDA administrator would send a quarterly report in this regard to the state government. But the committee has still not been formed. “Why has the committee promised by the former HUDA administrator formed yet?” said Takyar. On the delay in formation of the committee, HUDA administrator Anita Yadav said, “It is to be constituted by the district administration wherein the estate officer of HUDA will be a member.” Deputy commissioner T L Satyparakash said the committee will meet within a week. “We have a plan to create an online platform so that all the information about the BPL patients treated by these hospitals can be accessed easily.” (Times of India 5/12/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

51. Labour law bill passed (14)

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Friday passed the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendment Bill, 2014. The bill seeks to bring in more transparency, accountability and better enforcement of the provisions of the law. Union minister of state for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya said that the bill is a social security measure. “It simplifies procedures regarding engaging labours. The EPF Universal Account Number will be a major benefit as it affords portability, transparency and efficiency,” said the minister during reply on a discussion on the Bill on Friday. Mr Dattatreya refuted the claims of the Opposition members that the government is compromising on the interest of workers. The bill proposes to change some of the provisions of the original Act of 1988 to increase the number of laws under which small establishments is exempt from furnishing returns. It amends the definition of “small” establishments to cover units employing between 10 to 40 workers as against the limit of 19 workers at present. The Rajya Sabha has already passed the Bill. (Asian Age 29/11/14)

52. Farmers, workers hold rally to assert their rights (14)

New Delhi: More than 10,000 agricultural workers, tribal and Dalit farmers, anganwadi workers, daily-wage workers arrived here to hold a people’s assembly. They said they have gathered in the Capital to draw Parliament’s attention to the National Democratic Alliance Government’s proposed changes to legal entitlements and social security, labour rights and access to natural resources. The workers and farmers gave testimonies on their access to public information, land, water, food security and social security entitlements as well as freedom of speech with the slogan ‘Abki Baar Humara Adhikar’. “If we hold a protest rally, only then the government will open MNREGA work as per demand in the village. Our children are allowed to reach Class VIII and after that they are unable to progress further, they are unable to get good education,” said Mayaram Jamre, a tribal farmer from Barwani district in Madhya Pradesh. The participating organisations included the All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, All India Democratic Women’s Association, All India Progressive Women Association, Chhattisgarh Kisan Majdoor Andolan, Ekta Parishad, Green Peace, Pension Parishad, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Campaign, Jan Swasth Abhiyan, Pension Parishad and Right To Food Campaign. (The Hindu 3/12/14)

53. Labour law violations in Govt sector: number of inspection declines (14)

New Delhi: Among key initiatives of the Narendra Modi government has been the fast-tracking of labour law reforms to put an end to ‘inspector raj’ and improving the country’s rank in the World Bank’s ease of ‘doing business’ index. However, when it comes to checking labour law violations, the number of inspections in the Central sphere, which includes banks, railways, defence, insurance, mines among others, has anyway been on the decline. For instance, with the number of contract labourers engaged in the Central sphere estimated at about 21,12,715 persons, the number of inspections under the Contract Labour Regulation Act fell to 6,990 with 4,084 prosecutions launched in 2013-14, against 8,146 inspections and 4,671 prosecutions launched in 2012-13, according to Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha last week. Under the Minimum Wages Act, the number of inspections in 2013-14 dropped to 13,099 with only 5,167 prosecutions launched against 15,460 inspections and 5,267 prosecutions launched in 2012-13. Under the Equal Remuneration Act, only 2,881 inspections were conducted in 2013-14 against 4,167 in 2012-13, with the number of prosecutions launched at 831 against 773, respectively. Even in the area of child labour, the number of inspections in 2013-14 fell to 1,380 from 2,421 in 2013-13, with no prosecution launched in 2013-14 against only 74 in the previous year. Only 609 inspections were conducted and 11 prosecutions launched in 2013-14 under the payment of Bonus Act, against 905 inspections and 39 prosecutions launched in 2012-13. (Busines Line 7/12/14)

54. Limiting MGNREGS to poorest districts will not help, finds survey (14)

NEW DELHI: Would confining India’s flagship rural jobs scheme to the 200 poorest districts direct the benefits to those who need it most? New data indicates that this is unlikely to be the case — little separates India’s poorest districts from others, and both sets rely on the scheme. In early October, reports surfaced that the Union government was considering restricting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to India’s 200 poorest districts to reduce its financial burden. Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh told the Rajya Sabha in November that no such decision had been taken yet. Now, new yet-to-be-published data from the 2011-12 India Human Development Survey (IHDS) conducted by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland shows that when it comes to key indicators of marginalisation, there is not a lot to separate these districts from India’s other 476. India’s largest non-governmental household study, the IHDS, is a nationally representative dataset. In all, nearly 70 per cent of India’s poor live in better-off districts, the IHDS found. The average household in the 200 poorest districts is not poorer by much. Splitting India’s income distribution into five classes, the IHDS found that 22 per cent of people in the poorest districts were in the bottom fifth, as against 19 per cent in the other districts. Also, both the 200 poorest and the other districts have a similar share of marginalised populations. Both sets of districts currently use the MGNREGS; 28 per cent of rural households in the poorest districts and 23 per cent of the other districts have participated in the scheme. Among the households which participated, a slightly larger proportion of their income comes from MGNREGS in India’s better-off districts than in the poorest. “In the poorest districts, people are trying harder to piece together a livelihood with many different jobs. So, when they work in MGNREGA, they also have other work. In better-off districts, some people find better jobs. Those who are left out find work under MGNREGA programmes and are consequently more reliant on them,” Sonalde Desai, senior fellow at NCAER and professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, explained.  “Results from the IHDS suggest that targeting districts is likely to be ineffective and that it may be better to target households,” Ms. Desai wrote in a policy brief that will be published on Monday. Reducing the number of districts would “run against a fundamental premise of the Act: gainful employment that affords basic economic security is a human right.” 28 economists wrote recently to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (The Hindu 8/12/14)

RESERVATION

55. Dalit activists to hold rally to raise reservation demands (25)

New Delhi: Dalit activists will participate in a rally on December 8 to raise their demands before the government for reservations in promotions and passing of certain pending bills aimed at their betterment. “The main demands raised by us are reservation in promotions, redressal of SC/ST grievances, passing of Bill to strengthen the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989, allocation of budget under Special Component Plan and Tribal Sub Plan as per population ratio,” Lok Sabha MP Udit Raj told reporters today. Raj, who is the national chairman of All India Confederation of SC/ST organisations, which is hosting the rally, also said that he is hopeful of the new government and they should be given more time. “Dalits and tribals are very hopeful from the new government that they will get opportunity to participate in all walks of life. But since no developments can happen in miraculously overnight, they need to be given time but at the same time its important to let them know of the issues and demands,” the Dalit leader said. The confederation, which came into existence in 1997 has been raising demands for the dignity and rights of Dalits. This would be the organisation’s 17 rally, which is scheduled to be held at Ramlila Maidan in the capital. The other demands raised by them include recognition of caste certificate of one state in other state, ban on contract system in ‘safai’ work, regularising them and ensuring their time-bound promotion, equal education for all and recognition to SC/ST organisations by government departments. Raj also clarified that the motive of the rally is not a dharna aimed at gaining ‘political mileage’. “If we break the sequence of our rallies, our rank and file will get disillusioned and divided. We are gathering so that the government may feel our pulse and power,” he said. (Zee News 29/11/14)

56. 17 caste groups in Samajwadi Party, BSP crossfire plan stir (25)

Lucknow: Seventeen caste groups belonging to the most backward category (MBC) have been caught in crossfire between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and, as a result, have been deprived of the entitlements in both, OBC and SC categories. The Samajwadi Party is keen to include the 17 MBCs in the SC category in the hope of earning their support and making a dent in the BSP’s dalit vote base but the BSP wants the SC quota to be increased before these groups are included in the SC category. The 17 MBC caste groups are now in the process of forming an umbrella organisation and then plan to stage a demonstration and dharna in Delhi to seek the Centre’s intervention in the matter. A BSP functionary said, “We cannot make dalits suffer without any reason. If these 17 MBCs are included in the SC list, the share of pie will get smaller and this will be unfair for the SCs. We have asked the centre to increase the SC quota by about 8 per cent and then include these 17 caste groups in the SC list.” The controversy over these 17 caste groups, that include Nishad, Kewat, Kashyap, Kahar, Bind, Rajbhar, Prajapati, Bhar, Mallah, Majhi, Tura, Gaur, Batham, Machua, Dheemar and Kumhar, began unfolding in 2005 when the then Mulayam Singh government issued a government order saying that these 17 MBCs would receive the same entitlements as SCs. This move was stayed by the Allahabad high court following a writ filed by the BSP. Later, when Ms Mayawati came to power in 2007, she quashed the GO and also asked the Centre to increase the Scheduled Caste reservation quota by another eight per cent before these 17 castes could be included. “Our purpose has been served. We have proved to dalits that we want them to get the facilities and even include those that have remained deprived for decades. It is the BSP that has set up hurdles because its interests are limited to particular sub-castes among dalits,” said a Samajwadi minister. UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has also renewed his interest in the issue and has promised to take the issue to its logical conclusion. He has also raised the issue in a meeting with the Prime Minister earlier this year. (Asian Age 2/12/14)

57. Parliament passes bill for amending SC list (25)

New Delhi: Parliament Monday passed a constitutional amendment bill to add more communities to the existing list of Scheduled Castes in many states. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which was earlier approved by the Lok Sabha, was passed by the Rajya Sabha Monday. The bill adds more communities in the list of Scheduled Castes in the states of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Tripura. It removes the Majhi community from the list in Sikkim. Urging the members to pass the bill, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said the amendment was necessary for betterment of lives of many people belonging to Scheduled Castes. The minister also said the government was not in favour of reservation for Dalit Christians and Muslims. (Business Standard 8/12/14)

58. Not in Favour to Give SC Reservation to Christian and Muslim Dalits: Centre (25)

NEW DELHI: The Government today said it is not in favour of bringing Dalits of Christian and Muslim  communities under the ambit of reservation for the Scheduled Castes. Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar  Chand Gehlot said this during a discussion on a Bill to include more castes under SC category in four states and exclude one from it in Sikkim which was passed by the Parliament today. “We are not agreeable to it,” Gehlot said referring to a demand by some members in the Upper House to include Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in reservation for SCs. Citing a case in the Supreme Court in this regard, the Minister said that discussions can happen based on its outcome. Responding to demands from several parties on extending reservation in the private sector, Gehlot said this demand has been there for the last 15 years and it would be looked into. Gehlot was replying to matters raised by members during  the discussion on the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 which has been passed by the Lok Sabha earlier. Rajya Sabha also passed the Bill by a voice vote with most parties supporting it. The Bill was first tabled in 2012 but lapsed after the previous Lok Sabha was dissolved and the BJP government introduced it August in Lok Sabha. (New Indian Express 9/12/1

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

59. Women in Indian mental homes ‘treated worse than animals’, says report (1)

New Delhi: Intellectually disabled women in India are routinely locked up in institutions where they suffer sexual or other abuse and are “treated worse than animals”, a report by a human rights group said on Wednesday. Women are often dumped in overcrowded, state-run institutions lacking basic facilities in India, where mentally ill and disabled people are “ridiculed, feared, and stigmatised”, the Human Rights Watch report said. “Once they’re locked up, their lives are often rife with isolation, fear and abuse, with no hope of escape,” said Kriti Sharma, the report’s author. “Women and girls with disabilities face unique challenges — including sexual violence and denial of access to reproductive health — that men do not.” Called “Treated Worse than Animals”, the report is based on interviews with 52 women and girls who were in or had been in institutions, along with those of 150 doctors and family members. “The house aunty (staff member) who drops me to school hits me. She hits me here (in the institution) too. She slaps me hard with her hand,” an 11-year-old said in the report. “When she hits me, I feel like crying and I feel sad. I feel like crying in school too. I want to leave this place.” Some 1.5 million people suffer intellectual disabilities such as genetic Down’s syndrome in India, while another 722,826 suffer from mental illnesses such as bipolar, government census figures show. But experts say those figures are strikingly low for the world’s second most populous country where many health issues go undiagnosed. Vilas Bhailume, superintendent of a mental hospital in western Pune, said overcrowding was a major problem. “We only have 100 toilets for more than 1,850 patients out of which only 25 are functional. The others keep getting blocked. Open defecation is the norm,” he said in the report. Women with a range of disabilities and illnesses such as schizophrenia are often admitted against their will by their families or legal guardians, despite the fact that forced institutionalisation is illegal in India. “Relatives just dump patients at the hospital and think that’s it. They put fake addresses and phone numbers on the registration forms so we cannot contact them again,” a nurse at the Pune hospital said. India’s government launched a national mental health programme in 1982 to provide community-based services, but HRW says it is largely ineffective and lacks oversight. Sharma said many of the women she interviewed were desperate to leave, describing their treatment as unbearable. “Long-term warehousing of women and girls with disabilities is simply not the answer,” she told AFP. (Hindustan Times 3/12/14)

60. Women with no illness dumped in mental asylums: HRW report (1)

NEW DELHI: There are scores of women like Deepali who are being forced into institutions and coerced into taking medication for mental disorders when they need none, shows a new report by the Human Rights Watch — Treated Worse than Animals: Abuses against Women and Girls with Psychosocial or Intellectual Disabilities in Institutions in India . Documenting the stories of women and girls forced into mental hospitals and institutions, the report also talks of the life inside the institutions where they live in unsanitary conditions, face the risk of physical and sexual violence and experience involuntary treatment, including electroshock therapy. Illustrating how easy it is to institutionalise women without their consent, the report has testimonies from those who were tricked into institutions and even abandoned there. It also lists abuses and discrimination that women undergo there. “In one such institute in Delhi that had a capacity for 350, there were 900 women,” said HRW researcher Kriti Sharma. Based on interactions with such women, caregivers and medical practitioners, the report urges the government to take prompt steps to shift from forced institutional care to voluntary community-based services and support for people with disabilities. Forced institutionalisation is prohibited in India, but laws allow courts to appoint guardians to take decisions on behalf of people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities, without their free and informed consent. “Women and girls with disabilities are dumped in institutions by their family members or police in part because the government is failing to provide appropriate support and services. And once they’re locked up, their lives are often rife with isolation, fear, and abuse, with no hope of escape,” said Ms. Sharma. The report is based on research conducted from December 2012 through November 2014 in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, and Mysore. More than 200 interviews were done with women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities, their families, caretakers, mental health professionals, service providers, government officials and the police. While there are no clear official government records or estimates of the prevalence of psychosocial or intellectual disabilities in India, the 2011 census estimates that only 2.21 per cent of the Indian population has a disability – including 1.5 million people (0.1 per cent of the population) with intellectual disabilities and a mere 7,22,826 people (0.05 per cent of the population) with psychosocial disabilities (such as schizophrenia or bipolar condition). (The Hindu 4/12/14)

61. NHRC Notice To Tamil Nadu Over Fake Doctors (1)

NEW DELHI:  The National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government over media reports that 30,000 fake doctors have been practicing in the state. Taking suo motu cognizance of the issue, the National Human Rights Commission or NHRC issued notice to the chief secretary of Tamil Nadu, secretaries of the Medical Council of India and the Tamil Nadu State Medical Council, asking for a report on the action taken within two weeks. “According to a media report, there are 30,000 fake doctors practicing in Tamil Nadu, especially in the districts of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri. This is affecting the health of people,” the NHRC said. The commission has observed that the contents of the report, if true, raise a serious issue of human rights violation. (NDTV 5/12/14)

62. NHRC seeks action-taken report on quacks in T.N.(1)

CHENNAI: The National Human Rights Council has issued a notice to the State government, the Medical Council of India and the Tamil Nadu Medical Council seeking a report on quacks practising as medical professionals. The notice follows an allegation levelled at a meeting of the Indian Medical Association that 30,000 quacks are practising in the State and they are concentrated in the backward districts such as Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri. While the NHRC has sought an action taken report within two weeks, the doctors’ associations and health officials say they have not received the communiqué which was sent on Thursday. According to Tamil Nadu Medical Council vice-president K. Senthil, who is also a member of the IMA and president of the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors’ Association, the Medical Council of India or of the respective States have no hold on quacks or practitioners of the Indian systems of medicine. “We can take action only on doctors and medical professionals who practice without a valid licence,” he said. The TNMC Act has powers to take action against doctors who appear on electronic media and promote themselves, violating the norms of medical practice. Dr. Senthil said the IMA has a district-level committee through which complaints against quacks are registered. “But, such complaints are registered as cheating cases and action is taken for causing injury. But, the fine is meagre. Often such persons will shut clinics for a few days and then resume business. The State government must strengthen the Act and increase the fine and stringent punishment must be awarded,” he said. Also, the councils for each of the Indian Systems of Medicine have control over their professionals and can take action similarly. Dr. Senthil said the TNMC would send an appropriate reply to the Council after consulting their lawyers. Health officials, however, said that the number of quacks projected appears to be too large. “It is possible that the complainant has given an exaggerated figure. However, it is for the medical council to act on such complaints,” an official said. (The Hindu 7/12/14)

63. Land acquisition: intervention of NHRC, tribunal sought (1)

GUNTUR: Social activists have sought the intervention of National Green Tribunal and National Human Rights Commission in protecting fertile lands in Tullur mandal from forcible land acquisition. K. Mary Joy, social activist and chairperson of AP Mahila Mandali Association submitted a petition to National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, seeking an interim direction to the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) not to take any action through acquisition of farm lands belonging to pattadars without following the Environment Protection Act and to prohibit high rise constructions on river bank. Ms. Joy said that the State Government had intended to pool 33,000 acres of land in 27 villages in Tullur and Mangalgiri areas without following the Land Acquisition Act proceedings of 2014 and environmental laws. She further stated that government intended to complete the process without taking the mandatory environmental clearances and the social impact. The ambitious project to build a river front city would cause displacement of thousands of persons along with destruction of important cultural, historical and religious sites and symbols. The proposed land pooling should obtain clearances from Ministry of Environment and Forestry which appoints Expert Appraisal Committees to study the impact on the environment. While exercising its powers under Section 3(1) and 3(2)(v) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (for short ‘Act of 1986’) and Rule 5(3)(a) of the Environment (Protection) Rules,1986 (for short ‘Rules of 1986’), the ministry had in the past issued several notifications with regard to prohibition and restrictions on the locations of industries and the carrying on of processes and operations.K. Vijayamma, a woman activist, also filed a petition before National Human Rights Commission seeking an interim direction. She alleged that the State government was violating human rights by taking over the livelihood of people forcefully. Stating that the proposed land pooling was illegal and arbitrary and in violation of human rights under Section 17, she sought a direction from NHRC. (The Hindu 9/12/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

64. ‘Judiciary has infused life in environmental laws’ (19)

SHIMLA: Expressing concern over the environmental effects of rapid industrialization and burgeoning population, Himachal Pradesh Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir said the judiciary has infused life in several environmental laws through its judgments, which existed merely on paper before. Inaugurating the conference, “Pollution-a Growing Menace,” organized by the HP State Legal Services Authority, the Chief Justice cited the example of the Supreme Court expanding the scope of right to life provided under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. He also cited the judgements of Supreme Court holding that the right to live includes the right to enjoyment of pollution free water and air. Chief Justice assured he would do everything in his power to protect the pristine beauty of Himachal Pradesh. Justice Sanjay Karol said he considered himself privileged to be a member of the green bench, which was earlier set up in the high court to hear environmental cases. He said the high court has passed many landmark judgments and orders against violators of environmental laws, be it a person or a group of persons, government authorities or statutory bodies. (Times of India 30/11/14)

65. Amendment in MTP Act, 1971 (19)

The Government of India has formulated a Draft Bill on Amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971. The Draft Bill has been prepared following extensive deliberations within an Expert Committee of representatives from Central & State Government Ministries/Departments, academic institutions including Medical Colleges, professional bodies & associations, development partners, technical agencies, NGOs and civil society. Opinion from general public has also been invited. However, the Draft Bill on Amendments has no reference to “abortion cases of utmost urgency”. The National Commission for Women (NCW) had proposed an extension of gestation limit for conducting MTP in case of certain vulnerable categories of women e.g. rape survivors, victims of incest, single (unmarried/ divorced/ widowed) and women with disabilities and also for cases of severe foetal abnormalities where these were detected after the existing gestation limit of 20 weeks. The recommendations of NCW were taken into consideration while preparing the Draft Bill. The Health Minister, Shri J P Nadda stated this in a written reply in the RajyaSabha here today. (Govt. of India PIB 2/12/14)

66. Justice VR Krishna Iyer, eminent jurist, dies in Kochi (19)

KOCHI: Former Supreme Court judge and Kerala minister VR Krishna Iyer passed away in a hospital in Kochi on Thursday, doctors said. Iyer celebrated his 100th birthday November 15 this year. “He (Iyer) is no more. He passed away at 3.30pm,” cardiologist Manu R Varma told reporters here. Iyer was in the hospital since last on Friday for treatment of pneumonia and his condition deteriorated in the past few days. Iyer became a judge of the Kerala high court in 1968 and remained there till 1971. He was also the member of the Law Commission for two years. In 1973, he was appointed the judge of the Supreme Court and retired in 1980. (Times of India 5/12/14)

67. Reply to PIL seeking waiver of loans to emu farmers: Bombay HC to Union (19)

MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Monday directed the Union ministries of finance and agriculture to file their affidavits in reply to a public interest litigation seeking waiver of loans along with interest for emu farmers who have suffered huge losses in Maharashtra. A division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice AS Gadkari heard a public interest litigation filed by Jayashree Khadilkar-Pande and others seeking direction restraining respondents including National Bank for Agriculture and Rurul Development and other banks from taking coercive steps to recover the loans. According to the petition, the emu farming scheme was introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture without detailed research about the saleable value of the bird and creating markets for the same. It was NABARD’s report which said emu farming was a bankable project and hence banks may grant loans to farmers for the business. The petitioners’ advocate Mihir Desai told the court that the State government had recommended to the Centre to waive the loans and said a reply from the Centre has said the matter is pending with the Ministry of Finance. ” Union will have to take a decision and come out with a scheme. State has no role to pay,”said justice Oka. The judges then directed the ministries of finance and agriculture to file their affidavits. Advocates for Union Anurag Gokhale and Ashok Verma, sought time of six weeks to submit the affidavits. The matter is adjourned to January 19, 2015. (Times of India 8/12/14)

68. Panel nod for insurance bill (19)

New Delhi, Dec. 8: The Centre today moved closer to passing the amended insurance bill after a majority in the 13-member Rajya Sabha select committee cleared it. Panel head Chandan Mitra will table the report in the upper House on Tuesday. The bill is to be introduced by the end of this week, discussed next week and then passed unless the Congress changes its mind. The four main dissenters – Trinamul, the CPM, Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal United – will append to the report their objections in separate notes. “We have so many issues, like the inability of FDI to penetrate the insurance sector and LIC’s spectacular growth in the last 10 years of Rs 15,000 crore, compared to the Rs 7,500 crore that FDI notched up,” Trinamul MP and committee member Derek O’Brien said. Although Trinamul still hopes the Congress will eventually take “a political call” and oppose the bill, K.C. Tyagi of the Dal United was not so optimistic. “The bill has been passed by the select committee,” he said. “The Congress and the BJP are together on the economic front.” Introduced by the UPA, the bill seeks to increase the cap on FDI in insurance from 26 to 49 per cent. The other key feature is that the definition of ownership and control will be embedded in the act, so it cannot be changed through an executive order. Among the bill’s supporters in the select committee were members from the BJP, Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, AIADMK, Akali Dal and the Biju Janata Dal and Independent MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar. (The Telegraph 9/12/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

69. Custodial torture of students in Bihar provokes protest (1)

Patna: Hundreds of students Monday protested and ransacked the office of Veer Kunwar Singh University in Bihar’s Bhojpur district against the torture of two student leaders in police custody, an official said. Angry over their torture in police custody, students, mostly activists of Chhatra Samagam, the student wing of the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U), took to streets, blocked roads, burnt tyres, and ransacked the university office, a district police official said. “Students, belonging to the JD-U, protested and observed a black day today (Monday) against the assault,” a district official said. According to students, Chhatra Samagam leaders Prince Singh Bajrangi and Kumud Patel were detained and assaulted by police after being stripped. “The two student leaders were released Sunday following an intervention of Bihar Education Minister Brishen Patel. Both of them had multiple cuts and bruises caused by police assault in the custody,” said Ritesh Kumar, a student. The two student leaders were later admitted to the Patna Medical College and Hospital. JD-U activists also staged protests here against the incident and threatened to intensify protests across the state if an appropriate action is not taken against those involved. The district administration has suspended three police officials and ordered a probe into it. JD-U state president Vashisht Narayan Singh has condemned the incident. “Police have exposed their brutal face because the two student leaders were not criminal,” he said. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party targeted the state government over the custodial torture against the two leaders. (New Kerala 1/12/14)

70. Three cops indicted for Kolhapur custodial death (1)

KOLHAPUR: The criminal investigation department (CID), Kolhapur unit, has held three police officials responsible for the alleged custodial death of a 26-year-old man at the Peth Wadgaon police station, 15 km from here, in August this year. In a 1,200-page chargesheet, filed in the court of the Judicial Magistrate First Class at Pethvadgaon on Monday, the CID held the policemen responsible for the death of Jagdish alias Sunny PrakashPowar. Assistant police inspector Sanjiv Ramchandra Patil, assistant sub-inspector Baban Dadu Shinde and police naik Dhanaji Shivajirao Patil have been named in the chargesheet. The three cops have been under suspension since Powar’s death. CID officials have stated that the post-mortem report and statements of witnesses suggest that Powar was allegedly tortured in custody by the policemen. Deputy superintendent of police (CID) M S Patil said, “Following the investigation, we found the three police officials responsible for Powar’s death. The evidence includes statements of witnesses and the post-mortem report that said there were 23 injuries on Powar’s body.” (Times of India 3/12/14)

71. Min to visit police torture victim (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Home minister Ramesh Chennithala has promised to visit Ajeesh B of Puthuval colony in Kadinamkulam, who was allegedly beaten up by the Kadinamkulam police while in custody. Ramesh was responding to a request by opposition MLAs V Sasi and V Sivankutty who visited Ajeesh in the general hospital. The 22-year-old was taken into custody by Kadinamkulam police on Monday and was kept in the station for over 24 hours. He collapsed after reaching home and sought treatment at the general hospital, later complaining of brutal custodial torture. “There are no previous cases against Ajeesh. His neighbours have high regard for him. It is unfortunate that the police unleashed brutalities on a dalit youth without any legitimate reason,” said V Sasi who raised the complaint. He alleged that the police beat up Ajeesh using a coconut and a bunch of keys. “Officers who are responsible should be immediately placed under suspension,” he demanded. Ramesh Chennithala said the incident was being probed by Nedumangad DSP and there will be definite action based on his report. “Ajeesh was taken into custody as another youth Vinod who was arrested in a bike theft case named him as co-accused. The medical report says that Ajish complained about pain in shoulder and neck,”he said. When opposition members insisted that accused officials should be suspended immediately, Ramesh Chennithala said it would create a bad precedent. “Action will be initiated once the inquiry is completed,” he said. (Times of India 5/12/14)

72. Irom Sharmila’s fast enters 15th year (1)

IMPHAL: Sit-in-protests, hunger strike and demonstrations joined by students, civil society organisations and human rights activists were held in Manipur to express solidarity with social activist Irom Chanu Sharmila whose fast demanding repeal of the AFSPA, 1958 from the state entered its 15th year. Irom Sharmila has been on fast demanding the repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSA) 1958 from Manipur since November 5, 2000, after ten civilians were killed in an ‘encounter’ by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom area near Imphal airport on November 2, 2000. Human rights activists from several parts of the country and abroad took part in Wednesday’s programmes across Manipur, spokespersons of Just Peace Foundation (JPF), Human Rights Alert (HRA) and Apunba Manipur Matam Eshel Kanglup, a major social organisation in the state, said.The protestors also demanded repeal of the AFSPA from the other north eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. JPF, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Bangkok), May 18 Memorial Foundation (Korea) and HRA also oganised a hunger strike from 8 AM to 4pm on Wednesday. Activists including Binayak Sen from People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Public Health Physician (India), Lenin Raghuvanshi, secretary general and executive director of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), Sushil Raj Pyakurel of Informal Sector Service Centre founder and chairperson (Nepal) and Wardah Hafidz, coordinator of Urban Poor Consortium (Indonesia) joined the hunger strike and held a press conference. Expressing solidarity to her protest, Binayak Sen said they would continue to support her cause for the repeal of the AFSPA. The Act, he said, destroys the very essence of democracy and obstructs the progress of justice and more than two generations of Manipuris have grown up without knowing the meaning of freedom. Sen also urged the Supreme Court to expedite the adjudication of the Santosh Hegde Commission, appointed by the apex court in 2013, to investigate encounter killings in Manipur. Sushil Raj Pyakurel said credit should be given to the Human Rights defenders for supporting and promoting the movement of Sharmila. Lien from Gwangju (Korea) said people of the state should support Sharmila’s movement. (Times of India 7/12/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

73. Centre, Haryana get notice on attack on journalists (1)

The Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and the Haryana government on Monday on a petition by a group of journalists seeking a judicial investigation into the alleged assault on presspersons during the recent police operation to arrest the self-styled godman Rampal at Barwala in Hisar district. A Bench headed by Justice T.S. Thakur sought their replies on the petition, which also sought punishment for “erring police officers” for resorting to a “lathi charge without caution and care.” The petition alleged that there was an increasing tendency among government authorities to “muzzle the press,” and sought “appropriate compensation” for the affected journalists and framing of guidelines to ensure the “free and fair functioning of the media.” The petition said the journalists were seeking justice for “violation of their fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution and freedom of the press, which means absence of interference by the State with the media, except in so far as it is authorised by the constitution and by enactments which are constitutionally valid.” (The Hindu 2/12/14)

74. “Media should be self-regulatory, govt should not control media” (1)

TUMAKURU: Chairman of Prasar Bharati, Government of India, Dr. A. Surya Prakash said that there should not be any regulation of the media by the government or any other external agencies. Delivering a special lecture on “Media in India” at Tumakuru University here on Wednesday, Mr. Surya Prakash said that “if there are any shortcomings in the media we should be self regulatory, we should not allow the government or any other external agencies to control the media.” He said that according to the Parliament’s order, Prasar Bharati is an autonomous corporation but it takes some time to achieve autonomy. He said 90 per cent of the staff working in Prasar Bharati are from the Central government. He said they should have their own recruitment board and have their own men to achieve autonomy. He said media has always focused on corruption but the strike rate has not been spectacular. He said a media person can become powerful if he follows the values and lives within the ethical framework. He said it is being contemplated to have Media Council of India in the place of Press Council of India in order to cover electronic and other media besides print media. Meanwhile, Author and Consumer Rights Activist Journalist, Pushpa Girimaji said that every year one crore people in India die due to diarrhoea as they drink poor quality water. She said in 2012-13, 1,847 people died in India while cleaning the manholes and soak pits. Vice-Chancellor of Tumakuru University, Prof. A.H. Rajasab, Registrar, Prof. D. Shivalingaiah and others were present. (The Hindu 3/12/14)

75. ‘No question of Sadhvi Niranjan resigning, says Venkaiah Naidu (1)

New Delhi: Despite proceedings in parliament being brought to a standstill today over Sadhvi Niranjan’s derogatory remarks, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said there was no question of the former resigning. “There is no question of Minister (Niranjan Jyoti) resigning at all. Let the Congress Party remember what they did with regard to Beni Prasad Verma,” Naidu told media persons here. Naidu also reminded the Congress Party about hate speeches made by its leaders. “Congress’s Beni Prasad Verma had made irresponsible, indecent remarks against several people, never took back his words nor apologized. Dr. Manmohan Singhji, who was then PM, expressed regret and we closed the matter,” he said. Members of the opposition staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha today over the Minister of State (MoS) for Food Processing Industries’ objectionable remarks. The Rajya Sabha was also adjourned till 2:37 pm over the issue. The Sadhvi had on Monday used abusive words to urge voters to choose between candidates, while addressing voters in west Delhi’s Shyam Nagar. Her choice of words had garnered strong criticism from various political parties. Jyoti later tendered an apology in the both the Houses of Parliament for her controversial remarks and said that she did not intend to hurt anybody by her statement. (New Kerala 3/12/14)

76. Arrest for being out of Bengal secretariat press corner, media told (1)

Kolkata: A policeman Friday threatened journalists they would face “serious consequences” including arrests if they move beyond the press corner at the West Bengal government’s temporary secretariat “Nabanna”.The verbal warning came in the afternoon from a policeman at the secretariat located in neighbouring Howrah. The policeman, who claimed he was acting under instructions from Deputy Commissioner of Police (Reserve Force) Ashes Biswas, reminded the journalists of a circular that spelled out the “Standard Operating Procedure” of movement within the secretariat earlier this year and said the violation of the instructions would lead to strong action. The circular issued Jan 15 had restricted the reporters to the press corner. “Movement of media persons from the press corner to any other part of Nabanna without Visitors’ Photo Entry Slip or approval of the competent authority for the purpose of media coverage is literally a breach of the SOP,” said the circular. It said only a reporter having a prior appointment with a minister or any officer would be allowed to move in areas beyond the press corner. However, the circular led to a storm of protests, and the government had then backed out from enforcing it. According to police Friday, some reporters “were habitually violating the circular, and going from one floor to another, and even barging into the rooms of officials without any prior appointment or permission”.The policeman, who gave the warning to the mediapersons, said they were liable to arrested if they breached the rules. But as opposition parties and the civil society lashed out against the government move to “restrict” movement of journalists, the home secretary tried to control the situation by blaming the “overzealous policeman. “He did not say the right thing by speaking about arrests. This is not the policy of the government,” said Home Secretary Basudeb BandopadhyayFaced with media criticism, the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress government has often crossed swords with the fourth estate. The government had earlier banned some newspapers from state-run libraries, while Chief Minister Banerjee herself time and again has asked people not to watch some television channels critical of her regime. (New Kerala 6/12/14)

77. Journalists may soon become judges of top courts (1)

Impressed with the speed at which journalists pronounce someone guilty, top jurists of the country are demanding that scribes be made judges at the apex and high courts. With the glaring examples of Badaun and Rohtak, the jurists believe this move will turn every court into a fast-track court. “Both TV and print journalists have been doing an amazing job by pronouncing verdicts within hours of a case being reported. This hasn’t happened before in the history of India,” quipped senior lawyer Nam Rasmalani. “They were faster than lightning in pronouncing the three youths as molesters in the recent Rohtak incident. I support the move to name reputed journalists to the highest court of the country so that justice can be doled out impromptu,” Rasmalani noted. If the move succeeds, there will be no ‘tahreek-pe-tahreek’ said a member of the judiciary, quoting the immortal lines of Bollywood star Sunny Deol delivered as an on-screen lawyer. “Instant justice hoga aab. Very similar to what is delivered by our encounter specialists,” she added. “This is indeed the silver bullet to tackle the issue of piling up of cases,” she added. Members of the media have welcomed the suggestion with open arms, which will soon become longer as they become law unto themselves. “Judicial processes are so slow and boring. We will bring a revolution to the whole process with our specialisation of making anything sensational,” said senior news anchor Barca That. “Whatever it is, I can assure you we won’t lie law,” said That. Journalists, however, claimed they are prepared for the new role. “With experience of passing verdicts at prime time every night the country couldn’t have found a better judge than me,” asserted Orny Gosueme, adding “The nation wants to know why we weren’t considered for the role earlier?” “With Gosueme in the judge’s high chair, lawyers would hardly get the chance to argue their case and it would save time. The verdict would be pre-decided and the pronouncement would take no time at all,” said renowned public prosecutor Sonu Nikam. “Gosueme judgmental about everything,” he quipped Nikam said journalists are used to media trials and should be appointed judges. He pointed out the speed with which the media reached the conclusion that the Yadav brothers raped and murdered the two sisters in Badaun. When Mocktale asked That what amicus curiae was, she said with her trademark I-know-it-all expression, “Amicus Curiae is the famous brother of Madam Curie.” (Times of India 6/12/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

78. Govt data shows big drop in communal violence across the country (7)

NEW DELHI: Uttar Pradesh led a nationwide decline in communal violence until October this year, with incidents in the state down by nearly half and deaths at one-third of the number recorded in 2013. The sharp drop in numbers though can partly be explained by the Muzaffarnagar riots last year which caused more than usual deaths and injuries. UP, which as per data presented in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday recorded the highest incidence of communal violence since 2012, witnessed 129 incidents (down from 247 in entire 2013) and 25 deaths (from 77) until October this year. However, the number of those injured due to rioting in the state was 364, still higher than the 360 injured reported in 2013. Ranking behind UP in terms of communal occurrences until October were states like Maharashtra (82 incidents), Karnataka (68), Rajasthan (61), Gujarat (59), Bihar (51) and Madhya Pradesh (42). Delhi, which had registered insignificant levels of communal violence since 2011, witnessed a spike this year with seven incidents, which caused one death and left 101 injured. This is big when compared to the figures of four, three and two incidents that were reported in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. Fatalities in Delhi were nil over the last three years and injuries at 8, 28 and 1 in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. While there was no major difference in incidents of communal violence reported from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat as compared to the recent past, Madhya Pradesh, which has traditionally been a close third after Maharashtra in number of flare-ups, showed significant improvement with incidents and non-fatal casualties down by a half as compared to 2013. Kerala too witnessed somewhat of a turnaround, with communal incidents in the southern state down at just three and the injured at 13 from 41 and 65, respectively, in the whole of 2013. Though communal incidents and deaths were around the same levels in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan, the number of injured fell significantly to 165, 151 and 116 till October 2014 from 352, 235 and 194 respectively last year. Nationally, incidents were down from 823 in 2013 to 561 until October this year, while the number of those killed and injured in rioting fell to 90 and 1,688 from 133 and 2,269 last year. Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, while placing this data as part of his reply to a Lok Sabha question, attributed communal outbreaks to “religious factors, gender-related disputes, alleged blasphemous portrayal of religion/religious symbols on social media/mobile applications, disputes over land belonging to religious sites and other issues”. (Times of India 3/12/14)

79. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti uproar paralyses Houses despite apology (7)

New Delhi: Strongly disapproving of controversial remarks made by its leaders, including Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asked BJP leaders to refrain from statements that gave a bad name to the government and the party. The government had to face flak over Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s remarks at a public rally in New Delhi Monday, with the Opposition seeking an apology from the Prime Minister and sacking of his minister for making communal remarks and using an expletive. Though the minister apologised for her remarks, a united Opposition insisted that she be dismissed and disrupted the Parliament proceedings. The Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned for the day. Some MPs also demanded that a criminal case be filed against her for asking voters at a public meeting to elect the “sons of Ram” and not “illegitimate sons”. Sources said that at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, the PM told MPs to be cautious while making public comments, and asked them not to give any “address to the nation”, While Mr Modi did not name anyone while disapproving of controversial remarks by BJP leaders, sources said Ms Jyoti was later told that she should express regret over her remarks. Under attack from the Opposition, the minister said in the Rajya Sabha: “If certain words spoken by me outside the House have hurt someone, I take back my words and offer regret. However, if the House feels so, I am also ready to seek an apology.” In the Lok Sabha, she said: “My intention was not to hurt anyone. If my speech outside the House has hurt anyone, I express my deep regrets and accept…” The Opposition members, however, stormed into the well and demanded her sacking. “A mere apology will not suffice. She will have to resign,” they said. As soon as both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha met for the day, the Opposition members created an uproar over Ms Jyoti’s alleged communal remarks and using an expletive at a poll rally. Members from the Congress, SP, Trinamul and other parties rushed into the well, leading to repeated adjournments of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha in the pre-lunch sitting. The Congress had given adjournment notices in both Houses on the issue, but they were rejected. Congress Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge reminded Speaker Sumitra Mahajan of his party’s adjournment notices given over the reported statement of the minister and certain remarks by another minister, Giriraj Singh, in the past. Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who led the attack, was later praised by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was seen patting him after the minister was forced to express regret. When the Rajya Sabha reassembled at 2 pm after four adjournments, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury cited a Supreme Court as well as a Calcutta high court order to drive home the point that a mere apology was not enough and an FIR should be filed against her and she should be dismissed. He was supported by , Congress, Trinamul, SP and JD(U) members. Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi sought to calm the Opposition by contending that the minister had already apologised and the matter should be put to rest. But the Opposition remained adamant as deputy chairman P.J. Kurien expressed his inability to take action as the remarks were made outside the House. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Rajya Sabha, said Ms Jyoti’s remarks were “improper and unacceptable”. He, however, said the House cannot decide whether her action was criminal in nature, and it should be left to the agencies outside the House. JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said the issue was not just about one minister, recalling that another minister, Giriraj Singh, had some time back made controversial comments. Congress member Anand Sharma demanded Ms Jyoti’s arrest. Mr Yechury said that by apologising, the minister had accepted her “offence”, which is cognisable, and thus an FIR should be lodged against her. In the Lok Sabha, parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said it was a “serious” matter and the minister wanted to express her regret in the House. Later, addressing the media, Mr Naidu rejected the Opposition’s demand, saying the matter had ended after the minister realised her mistake and apologised. “She has realised her mistake and acknowledged it, so the matter ends there… She told me she never intended it, so I counselled her. What is wrong with it. As parliamentary affairs minister, it’s my duty to coordinate with ministers, the Opposition… She is a woman from an economically weaker background who has risen without all sorts of support.” He added that many Congress leaders had used objectionable words in the past too, and had never even apologised for those. (Asian Age 4/12/14)

80. Communal tension worries government (7)

New Delhi: Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have witnessed communal tension in the last few days. This has become a cause for concern for the Union home ministry, which has got reports of communal incidents being reported from some parts of the four states. The areas where communal incidents have been reported are Allahabad and Meerut in UP, Nandurbar and Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra, Dharwad in Karnataka and Panchmahals in Gujarat where the police has registered a case and arrested two youth belonging to the majority community after they assaulted and injured youth of the minority community. On Wednesday, the MHA informed Parliament that 694 communal incidents were reported during January-October 2013 while 561 communal incidents were reported during January-October 2014. The ministry claimed the figures show there was a decline of 19 per cent in communal incidents during the period January-October 2014 in comparison to the corresponding period of 2013. It further said the activities of all organisations having a bearing on communal harmony in the country are under constant watch of law enforcement agencies and requisite legal action is taken, wherever necessary. (Asian Age 5/12/14)

81. DYFI blames Sangh Parivar for communal tension (7)

MANGALURU: The Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) accused activists related to the Sangh Parivar of blowing the Ulaibettu group clash out of proportion and instigating communal tension in the area. In a press note, DYFI State president Muneer Katipalla said the clash in Ulaibettu on Friday night was following provocative actions by a group of people bound to Bababudangiri in Chikkamagaluru. Bajarang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organisations had no right to call for a bandh and indulge in stone throwing on Monday. He also alleged the police arrested innocent persons from a particular community. Mr. Katipalla asked the State government to intervene in this issue and take stringent action and restore peace in the area. (The Hindu 9/12/14)

COMMUNALISM

82. New J&K govt to decide on Article 370, says Togadia (26)

Bharuch: VHP leader Praveen Togadia on Sunday said that it will be up to the BJP to decide on whether to abrogate controversial Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir if it comes to power after the election. Speaking on the sidelines of an event, the VHP’s international working president said, “It will be up to the BJP to decide what to do with Article 370 ( in the event it forms government in J&K).” The VHP has maintained a strong stance on the Article 370 stating that the country needs uniform civil code. RSS general secretary Bhaiji Joshi, who was accompanying Togadia, also took similar line on the issue of Article 370 saying that the ball will now in the court of the new Jammu and Kashmir Assembly after the results of the ongoing election are declared and the new government is formed. “We will accept the decision taken in the J&K Assembly,” he said. Joshi further emphasised that the BJP government in the Centre should take all steps to bring back black money from abroad. “Black money should be brought back to the country,” he said. The leaders of the VHP and RSS were in Bharuch to participate in a cultural programme organised to mark golden jubilee of the formation of the VHP which completes 50 years of its existence. The celebration included performance by students from the schools run by educational trusts supported by the VHP. Students from schools in tribal region performed highlighting educational activities being undertaken by these trusts. (Indian Express 1/12/14)

83. Muslims, Christians sons of Ram, those who don’t believe it should leave India:

New Delhi: Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has sparked off a controversy by claiming that everyone including Muslims and Christians are sons of Ram. She used expletives against rival political parties as well. “Modiji ka mantra hai na hum khayenge na khane denge. Ab aapko tyah karna hai ki aap kise chunenge, aapko chunna hai ki ramzyaado ki sarkar banegi ya h*******o ki sarkar banegi, ye aapko tyah karna hai (Modi has given a mantra that we will neither take bribe nor let others take bribe. Now you have to decide whom to choose. Will you choose the sons of Ram or thopse who are illegitimate),” she said. However, the BJP leader clarified her point saying, “I was targeting the separatist and anti-national forces. Why are people taking offence to that? What would you say to the people who attacked Parliament? What would you say to the people who attack our borders. All that I have said is that when Indians go abroad they are referred to as ‘hindustani’,” she said. The opposition parties have demanded a clarification from the government over the statement and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s on it. Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, “We condemn the use of words by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti. The BJP is practicing politics of division. The Prime Minister should answer this as she belongs to his Cabinet.” Other political also upped the ante against Niranjan Jyoti and called her statement a highly deplorable one. Biju Janata Dal leader Jay Panda said, “I am saddened to hear the use of this kind of language by a Cabinet minister. It is highly deplorable.” Nationalist Congress Party Majid Memon said, “What the Sadhvi said is inappropriate. It does not matter what a person’s religion is.” (IBN Live 2/12/14)

84. Opposition stalls Parliament, insists on minister Niranjan Jyoti’s sack over hate speech (26)

NEW DELHI: “Ramzada vs Haramzada” row continued to rock Parliament, with the opposition paralyzing Rajya Sabha for the second consecutive day while Congress and Trinamool Congress members protested in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha to demand that the errant minister, Niranjan Jyoti, be dismissed. The loud protests belied the government’s hope that Jyoti’s apology on Tuesday would have calmed the tempers, triggered by her remarks at a Delhi rally in which she said the choice before the voters was between ‘children of Lord Ram and illegitimate children’. No sooner did the Lok Sabha assemble with Modi on his seat that Congress and Trinamool Congress started demanding resignation of the minister. Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge said the minister’s apology amounted to admission of guilt and she should resign. The MPs then stormed into the Well with slogans “PM should respond who is the descendant of Ram and who is illegitimate”. Kharge insinuated that the PM had told his partymen that the minister had to be strengthened “in view of Uttar Pradesh”, suggesting political motives. The incessant sloganeering during the Question Hour forced an adjournment of ten minutes but the protests did not abate when the House resumed. Congress and TMC members then walked out. An exasperated Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said the minister was a first-timer and had realized her mistake, even referring to her “rural roots” to urge that the issue be allowed to rest. At the same time, he said Congress minister Beni Prasad Verma had called Atal Bihari Vajpayee as “neech” (lowly) and refused to apologise while TMC’s sitting MP Tapas Pal had threatened women with rape, no action was taken against him. He underlined that the PM had also expressed his disapproval with the remarks. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan urged the protesting members to restore order because the minister had expressed regret. The opposition members didn’t allow the Upper House to transact any business so much so that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj couldn’t make a statement on PM’s foreign trips. Congress leader Anand Sharma said his party would settle for nothing short of the minister’s dismissal. He said the remarks made by the minister are “not only cognisable but also compoundable offence” under section 153(A) of the IPC and demanded that the PM should come to the House to announce her sacking. Renewing his demand for passing a condemnation resolution by the House, Naresh Agrawal (SP) said, “This House does not have faith in the minister and demands that she be sacked.” CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, “A mere apology will not absolve her of the crime.” (Times of India 4/12/14)

85. Police detains VHP workers for burning effigy of Hafiz Saeed in Vadodara (26)

VADODARA: Police on Sunday detained four Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) workers for burning an effigy of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jamat-Ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed in Nizampura area of the city. “Four Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) workers were detained on Sunday for burning the effigy of Hafiz Saeed in Nizampura area of the city,” a police station officer (PSO) in Fatehgunj area, Akshay Kumar Govind said. The VHP workers were detained for burning the effigy in public without taking any prior permission from the city police as well as disrupting law and order situation here, Govind said. The saffron outfit’s workers protested against Saeed for allegedly saying that Pakistanis and Kashmiris are “blood brothers” who cannot be separated. Bhagwan Bharwad, who led the protest against Saeed, said, “We want war with Pakistan. India should not hold any dialogue with Pakistan. Hafiz Saeed is the mastermind of the 26/11 attack and so he must be punished.” Bharwad also criticized the city police for detaining “patriots” like him and his co-protestors. “We are true ‘desh-bhakts’ (patriots). It is not fair to detain patriots. The police detained us for protesting against a terrorist,” Bharwad told reporters. Saeed, who is also the founder of the banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), had said, at a public rally in Pakistan on December 4, that elections in Kashmir cannot be a substitute for plebiscite. (Times of India 7/12/14)

86. RSS holds ‘ghar vapsi’ event for 200 Muslims (26)

Agra: Members of at least 57 Muslim families were converted to Hinduism at a ceremony called ‘Purkhon ki ghar vapsi’, a mass conversion jointly organized by Dharma Jagran Samanvay Vibhag, an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Bajrang Dal in Agra on Monday. RSS regional head Rajeshwar Singh said more than 200 Muslims were “brought back to Hinduism” in the mass event held in Madhunagar area of the city. According to organizers, the converts will soon be given new names. Talking to TOI, Singh claimed that around 5,000 more Muslims and Christians will be “brought back into Hindu fold” in Aligarh on this Christmas. “The grand event will be held at Maheshwari College in Aligarh,” he said, daring anyone to stop it. With saffron flags hoisted on rooftops of makeshift houses in this slum cluster, and matras being recited by priests, members of as many as 57 Muslim families washed feet of Hindu idols to mark their return to the religion. Long vermillion marks were put on their foreheads and they were given Prasad to eat. Later, RSS and Bajrang Dal activists gave them a ‘mantra’ to chant the whole day and prepared a list of all the ‘converts’, to get their voter IDs and Aadhaar cards made, with their new names. Sharifa, 40, was seen debating the right way of performing an aarti with her daughter-in-law, Afsha, in a small temple that has been erected by RSS men in the slum in Madhunagar. An idol of goddess Kali has also been placed in the temple, as majority of people living in the area hail from West Bengal. Sufia Begum,76, who is the oldest woman among the converts, told TOI: “I read Quran and offered namaz five times a day. Now at this age, I will read Ganesh aarti. I don’t find any major difference in the teachings of the two religions.” “The RSS people assured us that they will provide us better place to live, better food and schooling for my grandsons. I don’t mind change of religion, as religion doesn’t give us food to eat.” Rajeshwar Singh told TOI that RSS spends Rs 50 lakh every month on conversion of an average 1,000 families. “It spends Rs 8-10 lakh per month on fuel costs alone in west UP,” he added. “We have re-converted 2.73 lakh Muslims and Christians in Braj region that includes Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Mathura, Firozabad, Etah, Meerut, Mainpuri and Uttarakhand since 2003. The upcoming mass re-conversion event in which some 5,000 Muslims and Christians will be brought back into Hindu fold will be headed by Yogi Adityanath on December 25 in Aligarh,” Singh said. Singh also claimed that RSS has taken possession of as many as 60 churches across the state, where no Christians worship now, “as they have all been re-converted to Hinduism”.”Ek din in girijagharo ki deewarein bhi gir jayengi aur hamara desh sirf hinduon ka hoga (one day these churches will crumble and our country will belong to the Hindus alone),” he added. Ajju Chauhan, the Bajrang Dal leader who zeroed in on the slum in Madhunagar and organized the mass re-conversion event, was overwhelmed after the puja. More than three dozen RSS and Bajrang Dal members were guarding the pandal to avoid any untoward incident. Talking to TOI, Aslam Qureishi, prominent Sunni leader of the city, said, “This is just a tactic of the RSS to misguide Muslims.” (Times of India 8/12/14)

TERRORISM

87. Burdwan blast case: Bangladesh arrests 3 more suspects (12)

“The three are members of JMB. We are suspecting that they have links with bomb-making (materials) discovered after the explosions in Burdwan,” a senior official of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) told reporters today. Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman briefly said three JMB activists have been arrested from the capital last night and the details would be disclosed later at a press briefing here. Another official familiar with the arrest said the three suspected militants were arrested along with some explosives. The arrest came shortly after a Bangladeshi security team returned home after sharing info on the issue with officials in India. Earlier, an National Investigation Agency (NIA) from India delegation visited Dhaka. A member of the Bangladesh delegation that returned home yesterday told reporters that law enforcement agencies of the two countries already launched simultaneous drives in their territories to capture over a hundred JMB operatives in line with a decision taken during the NIA team’s Bangladesh visit. “The drives are being carried out following the exchange of concrete information between investigators of the two neighbours regarding operatives of the banned outfit in India and Bangladesh,” the official told the Daily Star newspaper. He said JMB militants who crossed the border are already on the run as Indian investigators are desperately looking for them after the Burdwan blast. On October 2, two suspected JMB operatives were killed and another injured in an explosion at a house in Burdwan area, bordering Bangladesh. Earlier, Bangladesh police said they had arrested five operatives of JMB including its women front chief and wife of alleged key mastermind of the Burdwan blast Sajid under an intensified campaign against Islamists. (Business Standard 1/12/14)

88. 14 CRPF men killed in Chhattisgarh Naxal ambush, toll may rise (12)

RAIPUR: Within a day of Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh asserting that the state will become “Naxal-free”, Maoists struck in Sukma district on Monday, killing 14 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, including two officers. The Maoists allegedly adopted a cowardly tactic by using villagers as human shields for the ambush that took place about 6 km from Taarmetla, where 76 CRPFjawans were mowed down in April 2010 in the deadliest single-day insurgent attack yet on Indian security forces.”The Naxals used villagers as shields, so our troops couldn’t retaliate with full force as that would have cost villagers’ lives,” a senior CRPF officer said. “The slain officers included deputy commandant D S Verma and assistant commandant Rajesh Kapuriya. At least 13 to 14 jawans were injured,” a senior CRPF officer supervising the rescue operations said over phone from Jagdalpur, the divisional headquarters of Bastar. The toll could rise further as the wounded jawans would have to survive the night on first-aid at CRPF medical camps. The nearest hospital is 100km away. Helicopters have left for Jagdalpur to carry the injured to the state capital, but the evacuation could be done only on Tuesday morning. A CRPF officer said there could be casualties on the Maoist side as well. The daring attack took place on a day when a team of National Security Advisory Board was in Chhattisgarh to meet the CM and top officials on the security situation in Maoist hotbeds. CM Singh is learnt to have drawn the team’s attention towards Maoist cadres surrendering in Bastar and expressing hope that the region was on track to normalcy. CRPF personnel, drawn from paramilitary’s 223 and 206 battalions, were on an area domination exercise in the forests between Elmaguda and Errabore, where the rebels attacked. The precise location of the ambush is Kasalnar village, near Chintagufa and Chintalnar, close to Dornapal-Jagargunda road in Sukma district. “Our forces retaliated and engaged the rebels in a fierce encounter,” a CRPF officer said. The security forces in Bastar have been on a propaganda drive in the recent weeks following surrender of a number of Maoists, with many rebels saying they want to join the political mainstream. But there has also been criticism that those surrendering were small-time cadres facing court cases for giving support to the Maoists. Union home minister Rajnath Singh condemned the attack as an act of cowardice. He will visit Raipur on Tuesday to assess the situation. “My condolences to the families of our brave CRPF men who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It was an act of cowardice. I strongly condemn this dastardly act of violence,” Singh said. He spoke to the CM, asking him to closely monitor the situation. Reinforcements were being sent to the area and the offensive was being led by CRPF inspector general (Chhattisgarh), H S Sidhu. Few days ago, Sidhu had announced the killing of 15 Maoists during an encounter with CRPF forces in Sukma near the same place where the Maoists struck on Monday. The Maoists had then fired at an MI-17 helicopter, flown in to evacuate the CRPF men wounded in the operation. (Times of India 2/12/14)

89. Five militants killed in Jammu and Kashmir gunfight (12)

Srinagar:  Five militants have been killed in an ongoing gunfight between a group of militants and the army in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district, authorities said Wednesday. “Two more terrorists have been killed in Nowgam infiltration bid that has been foiled by alert troops of the army,” a senior army officer told IANS. “Yesterday, three terrorists had been killed. The total number of terrorists killed in this incident so far is five. Two of our soldiers have also been injured. Till last reports came in, the operation was on,” he added. As people were voting in the state assembly elections in Kupwara Tuesday, alert troops foiled an infiltration bid from across the Line of Control in Nowgam sector by a group of heavily armed militants. (Deccan Herald 3/12/14)

90. Govt contradicts Amit Shah’s claim that Saradha money was used for terror (12)

NEW DELHI: BJP chief Amit Shah’s recent allegation that Saradha scam money was used to fund Burdwan blast has been contradicted by his own party’s government at the Centre. PMO on Wednesday told Lok Sabha that investigations so far has not found any link between the two and money from Saradha scam has not crossed the border to fund terrorism. The revelation was made on a question asked by BJP MPs Hari Manjhi and Prahlad Joshi. They had asked whether the government had sought details of the probe into Saradha chit fund scam after reports indicated that part of the money was routed to Bangladesh to fund terror activities. They also asked whether CBI has come across such a transaction. In reply, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said, “The investigation has so far not revealed any such transaction where money was routed to Bangladesh to fund terror activities.” As reported by this paper earlier, even NIA investigations into the Burdwan blast have not found any evidence to suggest what Shah alleged. Amit Shah had on Sunday attacked Mamata government in a Kolkata rally and accused them of trying to shield the terrorists involved in the Burdwan blast. “TMC leaders are involved in this blast” (Times of India 3/12/14)

91. Four JeM militants held guilty by HC of waging war against India (12)

New Delhi: Four Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants were on Monday convicted by the Delhi High Court for conspiring to wage a war against the country. Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Mukta Gupta held that Bashir Ahmed Ponnu, Fayaz Ahmed Lone, Abdul Majeed Baba and Shahid Gafoor “conspired knowingly to facilitate the commission of a terrorist act and have carried out an act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act”.The court said Bashir, Fayaz and Abdul collected and brought the explosive substance and handed over the same to Shahid and held them guilty of various offences punishable under ant-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). “In the present case, the acts of Bashir, Fayaz, Abdul and Shahid were preparatory to the commission of the offence of waging war and abetting the same by entering into criminal conspiracy and concealing with the intent to facilitate waging of war. They were in possession of three kilograms of PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate), 6 hand grenades, 4 electronic detonators and 1 timer. “From the fact that arms, ammunitions and explosive substance which were capable of mass destruction were handed to Shahid, who was a Pakistani national and had unauthorisedly entered the Indian territory, it will be prudent and reasonable to draw an inference of criminal conspiracy to wage war against India,” the bench said setting aside their acquittal by the trial court. The judgement came on the state’s appeal against the trial court’s 2013 decision. As per the prosecution, the special cell of Delhi police had received a tip-off in January 2007 that JeM intended to carry out ‘fidayeen’ attack at some prominent places in the national capital and would be sending its operatives through Indo-Bangladesh border. Based on the tip-off, a trap was laid on February 4, 2007 and after a fierce encounter with police near Connaught Place all the four were arrested and a large quantity of explosives, grenades and cash were recovered from them. Allowing the prosecution plea, the court said it hasproved beyond reasonable doubt that Bashir, Fayaz, Abdul and Shahid entered into a criminal conspiracy to wage war against the country and collected arms, ammunitions and explosives with intention to wage war and concealed the design thereof. The court fixed December 12 to hear arguments on quantum of sentence. It said the convicts will appear before it on December 12, 2014. It further said in its 49-page judgement that “though in the present case there is no material evidence before this court to show that the respondents are members of a terrorist organisation, however from the acts of the respondents, which have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, it is evidently proved that they can be termed as members of a terrorist group/gang”. The court also held them guilty of conspiring to “raise funds as a terrorist gang to facilitate the commission of a terrorist activity”.  (Zee News 9/12/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

92. “Maoists who surrendered are facing villagers’ ire” (12)

RAIPUR: The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has said that some of their cadres are getting attracted towards the “corrupt surrender policy” of the government. “The revolutionary public terms those who surrender before police enemies of people. The revolutionary public hates such people. When such people are coming back to their villages, they have to face people’s ire,” claimed Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson of the Danda Karanya Special Zonal Committee of the CPI(Maoist). “Under this surrender policy, hundreds of crores of rupees of un-auditable funds are being given to the police and paramilitary officials, which is leading to criminalisation of security forces in conflict areas. The government has also declared internal rewards and promotions for security forces. To get the benefits of rewards and promotion, security forces are increasingly attacking villages and arresting tribal people, non-tribal activists and youths and declaring them Maoists,” contended the Maoist leader. (The Hindu 30/11/14)

93. 14 CRPF men killed in Chhattisgarh Naxal ambush, toll may rise (12)

RAIPUR: Within a day of Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh asserting that the state will become “Naxal-free”, Maoists struck in Sukma district on Monday, killing 14 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, including two officers. The Maoists allegedly adopted a cowardly tactic by using villagers as human shields for the ambush that took place about 6 km from Taarmetla, where 76 CRPFjawans were mowed down in April 2010 in the deadliest single-day insurgent attack yet on Indian security forces.”The Naxals used villagers as shields, so our troops couldn’t retaliate with full force as that would have cost villagers’ lives,” a senior CRPF officer said. “The slain officers included deputy commandant D S Verma and assistant commandant Rajesh Kapuriya. At least 13 to 14 jawans were injured,” a senior CRPF officer supervising the rescue operations said over phone from Jagdalpur, the divisional headquarters of Bastar. The toll could rise further as the wounded jawans would have to survive the night on first-aid at CRPF medical camps. The nearest hospital is 100km away. Helicopters have left for Jagdalpur to carry the injured to the state capital, but the evacuation could be done only on Tuesday morning. A CRPF officer said there could be casualties on the Maoist side as well. The daring attack took place on a day when a team of National Security Advisory Board was in Chhattisgarh to meet the CM and top officials on the security situation in Maoist hotbeds. CM Singh is learnt to have drawn the team’s attention towards Maoist cadres surrendering in Bastar and expressing hope that the region was on track to normalcy. CRPF personnel, drawn from paramilitary’s 223 and 206 battalions, were on an area domination exercise in the forests between Elmaguda and Errabore, where the rebels attacked. The precise location of the ambush is Kasalnar village, near Chintagufa and Chintalnar, close to Dornapal-Jagargunda road in Sukma district. “Our forces retaliated and engaged the rebels in a fierce encounter,” a CRPF officer said. The security forces in Bastar have been on a propaganda drive in the recent weeks following surrender of a number of Maoists, with many rebels saying they want to join the political mainstream. But there has also been criticism that those surrendering were small-time cadres facing court cases for giving support to the Maoists. Union home minister Rajnath Singh condemned the attack as an act of cowardice. He will visit Raipur on Tuesday to assess the situation. “My condolences to the families of our brave CRPF men who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It was an act of cowardice. I strongly condemn this dastardly act of violence,” Singh said. He spoke to the CM, asking him to closely monitor the situation. Reinforcements were being sent to the area and the offensive was being led by CRPF inspector general (Chhattisgarh), H S Sidhu. Few days ago, Sidhu had announced the killing of 15 Maoists during an encounter with CRPF forces in Sukma near the same place where the Maoists struck on Monday. The Maoists had then fired at an MI-17 helicopter, flown in to evacuate the CRPF men wounded in the operation. (Times of India 2/12/14)

94. Rising number of surrenders may have prompted Maoist attack (12)

NEW DELHI: Senior home ministry officials on Tuesday said a record 327 surrenders by Maoist cadres in the Naxal pocket borough of Bastar over the past few months may have led a “desperate” CPI (Maoist) to hit back with a high-casualty attack against CRPF. As per data placed in Lok Sabha in reply to a question, Sukma, where a Maoist ambush claimed the lives of 14 CRPF personnel on Monday, witnessed 40 surrenders until November 24, though this was lower than the 92 surrenders reported in Kondagaon, 60 in Kanker and 54 in Dantewada over the same period. As for other districts in the Naxal-infested Bastar division, Bijapur saw 40 surrenders, followed by Narayanpur with 28 surrenders and Jagdalpur with four. Earlier statistics placed in Lok Sabha (until October 2014) put the total number of surrenders across the Naxal-hit states at 472, with Chhattisgarh alone accounting for 247. Obviously, the 24 days of November have seen a further increase in surrenders across Chhattisgarh to 327, which may have added to the anxiety of CPI (Maoist). “The tribals who joined Maoist ranks are increasingly getting disenchanted with the Naxal movement, which has now degenerated into more of an extortion racket than a class struggle based on ideology. The sharp rise in surrenders across Bastar division, a stronghold of the Maoists, has exposed the weakening hold of CPI (Maoist) over local tribals, who now want to shift to the mainstream,” said a senior home ministry officer. “Though Monday’s attack is a setback, one cannot wish away such casualties in the long-drawn war against Left-wing extremism. We have to sustain the momentum of the fight come what may,” a senior home ministry official told TOI. (Times of India 3/12/14)

95. Naxal’s central military commission lauds increased agitation in jails across India (12)

NAGPUR: The efforts of jailed cadres (political prisoners) of Naxal movement to shape up a steady movement in different jails across India have now found praise in the higher echelons of the Reds’ central military commission (CMC). It prepares the strategies to take on establishment. The commission has expressed its satisfaction in a document issued on the occasion of the ongoing 14th Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) week (December 2-8). The Naxals campaign vigorously during this week, observed to commemorate the formation of the PLG army, to highlight the ‘heroic’ exploits by their guerilla cadres and also work done by the other comrades to attract masses towards the movement. The CMC has urged its cadres to step up offensive against government security forces and vibrantly kick up campaigns for the party. It has also lambasted Prime minister Narendra Modi and his government for misleading masses with various projects. The commission has extolled the ongoing Naxal movements in central and other prisons. The Naxal cadres’ observing various significant days and weeks in support of their outfit’s agenda has been highlighted by the commission. The central body has also underlined the tenacious fights of the jailed cadres against various authorities for their rights despite languishing behind bars. A senior officer stated that one of the key focus of the Naxals are to ensure that they keep the jail authorities under pressure through different tactics so that they are not able to frustrate the reds’ campaigns inside the prisons. “The Naxals undertake hunger strikes, signature campaigns against authorities and also undertake symbolic movements to protest or support social issues inside the jails which form the basis of their agitations behind bars. The reds also try keeping the prosecution under pressure by involving in different agitations regarding the cases on them inside the prisons,” said the official. The commission has also claimed that the masses have sacrificed maximum in Dandakaranya, comprising Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, in the fight against government forces which included martyrdom of 13 women commandos. The military body also hailed the strong tactical counter offensives by their guerilla forces in the last one year despite central government’s increasing pressure on them through huge armed manpower deployment and penetrative operations. The commission has underlined the fact that Naxal guerillas have killed 70 personnel from different security forces and injuring another 132 in the battle zones. (Times of India 6/12/14)

TRAFFICKING

96. Trafficking gang busted, kingpin nabbed from Delhi (1)

RAIPUR: Calling it the biggest breakthrough, Chhattisgarh police camping in Delhi for two weeks, claim to have arrested the mastermind of the gang involved in trafficking of 10,000 minors, mostly tribals, from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam. By rescuing 20 minors, including boys, after a series of raids, state police said it is the first time that 15 traffickers and sub-agents have been arrested. Arrested accused Guddu was wanted in connection with 12 cases registered against him for abducting and trafficking minors from tribal Jashpur district. Chhattisgarh police had launched a hunt to apprehend the accused after the arrest of four traffickers during November 19 raids on his placement agency. Talking to TOI, state police officer Mallika Banerjee, who lead the raids, said, she was threatened with dire consequences over phone by the trafficker. Banerjee said Guddu used to run placement agencies with several other names to play safe, and would mention the age of minors, appointed for domestic slaver, as 18 years. Explaining as to how challenging it was to get hold of the accused, Banerjee said, “Guddu claimed to enjoy considerable clout in the region. He also offered me a bribe of Rs 10 lakh to keep mum and return.” But, Banerjee put up a brave front and continued to attend his calls to get clue about his location. “Pretending to strike a deal with him, I asked him to meet on Monday evening. He had brought along a briefcase carrying cash, but our alert cops apprehended him on the spot,” the police officer said. At least 700 placement forms have been seized from his possession, which indicate that there were several other children forced into slavery in Delhi, Jammu, Panipat and parts of Punjab. “Guddu has admitted to the crime and claims to be operating the gang since 2002. We reached him through his sub-agents, who were earlier arrested from Jashpur and Delhi,” Banerjee added. Guddu will be on police remand and will be taken to Chhattisgarh. More arrests are likely in next few days, said Banerjee. Rishikant from Delhi-based NGO, Shaktivahini, said, “Separate cases should be registered against Guddu and he should be awarded strictest of punishments.” (Times of India 3/12/14)

97. 25 women rescued during raid on Koramangala bar (1)

Bengaluru: The police raided ‘Club 99’, a bar in Koramangala 6th Block late on Saturday night and rescued 25 women who were allegedly forced to dance at the bar. The raid was conducted acting on tip-off that the bar owners lured women from other States promising them jobs and forced them into dancing at the bar. The police arrested the bar manager Parveen, along with seven other employees and 21 customers at the bar during the raid. A senior police official said the owners of the bar, Y.R. Shyamaraju and Rajesh Lingenahalli, were at large. A case has been registered against them for trafficking women and forcing them to dance at the bar. (The Hindu 8/12/14)

CORRUPTION

98. Anna censures PM on black money (5)

NAGPUR: Freedom fighter Kisan Baburao alias Anna Hazare on Monday flayed Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his pre-poll assurances of bringing back black money that is stashed abroad, tersely stating that “he didn’t act on what he speaks”. The Gandhian also warned of an agitation if the ill-gotten wealth isn’t brought back. He, however, praised Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, albeit indirectly, saying that “If he was not remote-controlled, he could take the state to numero uno position in all respects”. “Our PM delivers impressive speeches and I’ve also become fan of him. His public addresses in Nepal, Bhutan and other countries were widely appreciated. However, I realized that there is a big difference between what he speaks and what he does. His words don’t get converted into actions,” the anti-corruption crusader said. Tearing apart Modi’s claims on black money, Anna said that Modi had assured to bring it back within 100 days before the Lok Sabha polls, but even after six months there was no trace of it, as his government took a U-turn. The veteran social activist questioned the Modi-led government on why they made such false assurances when they knew the reality that names of those who had accounts in foreign banks can’t be disclosed due to various international treaties. “I had written a letter to the PM in this regard asking all these queries, but he sent only acknowledgement,” Anna said. Terming the contentious issue of farmers suicides as ‘unfortunate’, Anna said in the country where majority of population survives on agriculture, such incidents reflect very poor condition of the farming community. “All agriculture universities in state are regularly sending figures of crops production to the government, still no help arrived from them. Whichever party takes charge of the government, none of them are serious about the farmers,” he said. The Padma Bhushan recipient however refused to speak on his former ally in Jan Lokpal Andolan, Arvind Kejriwal. Even when he was quizzed by a student on why he favoured West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee, when her party was facing accusations regarding Saradha Scam, and not Kejriwal, Anna replied that he supported only her, and not her party due to her simplicity and sacrifice she had made. “She still lives in her old house and wears slipper. However, if Kejriwal leaves the party and comes back, I will welcome him. I have taken a pledge that I will never join any political party.” The 77-year-old activist, who fought for implementation of six laws, including the revolutionary Right to Information (RTI) Act, has now set sights on ‘Right to Reject’ and ‘Right to Recall’ Acts along with ‘Rights to Gram Sabha’. “I took up this fight since my youth days, and would continue to fight for the social and legal rights of the citizens till my last breath,” he said. (Times of India 2/12/14)

99. Perception of corruption in India improves marginally (5)

NEW DELHI: India has marginally improved its ranking on the global Corruption Perception Index this year, on the back of prosecutions of high-level officials and hope that the new leadership will reduce corruption, Transparency International said on Wednesday morning. India’s two-point improvement (on a total possible score of 100) did not count as a “significant change” unlike that in countries like Egypt, Jordan and Afghanistan. With a score of 36, India now ranks 85 among 178 countries, with countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burkina Faso for company. Denmark ranks first, as it did in 2013, while Somalia and North Korea share the bottom spot. India is ranked better than all its South Asian neighbours except Bhutan. The composite index is made up of a combination of surveys and assessments of public sector corruption by international agencies including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum. Of the nine surveys and assessments used for India, most relied on expert opinion on the extent of corruption and the rule of law and only one polled the general public. “The two point increase reflects the prosecution of high level politicians and civil servants associated with the 2G and coal block allocations, a sign that institutions are robust in establishing rule of law and sanctioning the corrupt,” Santhosh Srinivasan, Research Coordinator at Transparency International, explained in an email to The Hindu. “In addition, the new leadership appears to have a strong anti-corruption drive, thereby creating further hope for a reduction in the levels of corruption as faced by ordinary people and businesses alike in the country,” Mr. Srinivasan said. For this to go beyond rhetoric, further concrete steps and actions were needed including the enactment of all key pending anti-corruption bills, the setting up of a Lokpal mechanism, curbing illicit financial flows and deepening people’s access to information, Mr. Srinivasan said. Economic growth did not necessarily reduce corruption, Transparency International said, pointing to countries like China whose corruption perception had worsened during a high growth period. (The Hindu 3/12/14)

100. HC to govt: Decide on Lokayukta in 4 weeks (5)

CHENNAI: The Madras high court on T