Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 20 August 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Apex court issues notices to accused in Tsundur dalits’ massacre case (2)

Hyderabad: The country’s first-ever special court set up for trying a case under the SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, had delivered the judgement in August 2007 by sentencing 21 accused to life imprisonment and 35 others to one-year rigorous imprisonment and penalty of Rs 2000 each in the case. The special court had acquitted 123 out of the 179 accused and in the case of 41 accused, the court had not found any evidence, while 62 of them were released on benefit of doubt. The other 20 were let off due to omission of evidence or having only single witnesses. While acquitting the case, the HC Bench had pointed out that the prosecution had failed to prove the exact time and place of death and the identity of the attackers. Following a massive protest from Dalit organisations, the Andhra Pradesh Government has filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s verdict of acquitting the 56 accused in the Tsundur massacre case. A special team of legal counsels comprising senior designated counsel M.N. Rao, senior counsel A. Ramesh, assistant senior counsel V. Raghunath, advocate on record, Supreme Court, Uday Sagar and senior counsel Bojja Tarakam and HC advocate V. Raghunath has been appointed as special prosecutors to argue the case before the apex court. The government, in its appeal, had contended that the High Court had failed to appreciate the grounds, which the special court had relied upon to convict the accused. The government argued that certain simple lapses from the side of the prosecution in probing cases of high magnitude should be overlooked in the interest of justice. The apex court stayed all further proceedings in the cases related to the Tsundur massacre, including the appeals by the accused before the High Court and the cases by the family members of the victims challenging the judgement of the special court in acquitting certain accused from the cases and also challenging the non sufficient punishment issued by the special court. The Supreme Court stayed further proceedings in the case for four weeks and issued notices to the accused and others related in the case. (Deccan Chronicle 31/7/14)

2. TN: Man Ordering Dalit Boy to Carry Footwear on his Head Sentenced (2)

MADURAI:  A district court today sentenced a caste Hindu youth to one-year imprisonment for forcing a 13-year old Dalit boy to carry his footwear on his head while crossing a caste Hindu area at Vadugapatti in the district in June last year but acquitted two others. The Third Additional District Judge (Protection of Civil Rights) C Kumarappan also slapped a fine of Rs.1000 on the youth Nilamalai. The prosecution case was that Arunkumar, a school boy, and his friend Muthuvasanth were strolling through the caste Hindu area in Vadugappatti on June 3, 2013. While Muthuvasanth was barefooted, Arunkumar walked on the street forgetting to remove his chappal as he was engaged in a conversation. Nilamalai (27), his father Pathivuraja and brother Agni, accosted Arunkumar and asked him whether he was not aware that he should not walk with chappals on in that area. They then ordered him to carry the footwear on his head till the end of the street. The boy did so and even after crossing it carried the chappals under his arm-pit. Curious about her son carrying the chappals under his arm-pit, his mother questioned him and he narrated what happened, following which she lodged a police complaint against the three persons. Police filed cases against the trio. While Nilamalai was found guilty, the other two were acquitted. In another case, the Judge sentenced a woman to 15 days imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 1,500 on her after she and her husband allegedly poured “fecal mixed” water on a Dalit woman after a verbal duel on September 22, 2003. Police had registered a case on a complaint by the Dalit woman. The judge also slapped a fine of Rs 500 on the man. (New Indian Express 1/8/14)

3. BJP SC Morcha demands interest-free loans for Dalits (2)

BANGALORE: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national Scheduled Castes (SC) Morcha president Sanjay Paswan demanded the State government provide interest-free loans to Dalits to help them become entrepreneurs. Speaking to presspersons after the inaugural session of a two-day executive committee meeting of the State BJP SC Morcha here on Saturday, Mr. Paswan suggested that the State government should encourage Dalit entrepreneurs to flourish in Bangalore, a city which has huge business potential. Accusing the Congress government in the State of being “anti-Dalit”, he alleged that the conviction rate under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was very poor when compared with other States. He reiterated his demand for confining reservation benefits for Dalits to three generations. Similarly, MPs and MLAs who have been elected from the reserved constituencies for three terms should not be allowed to contest from those constituencies again, Mr. Paswan said, adding that he had already discussed the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP State SC Morcha president A. Narayanaswamy said the morcha would launch a State-level protest to press for the demand. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

4. Dalit farm labourer gang-raped in Gwalior district (2)

BHOPAL: Two farm owners barged into a house of a dalit woman and allegedly gang-raped her at Shekhpura village in Gwalior district. The survivor was alone in the house at the time of incident, which took place on Friday night as her husband had gone to his parent’s house after the two had argument over some issue. Taking advantage of situation, accused Ghamandi Baghel and Tulsi Gurjar, also residents of Shekhpura, gang-raped her, police said on basis of statement of the survivor. The survivor and her husband work as farm labourers, tending agriculture field of accused, police said. After the incident, the survivor went into shock and could not muster courage to report the matter. When her husband returned on Sunday evening, she told him about the incident and the two reached police station to file a complaint about it. Besides rape, accused, now on the run, have also been booked under SC & ST Prevention of Atrocities’ Act. (Times of India 5/8/14)

5. Police drop attempt to murder charge against 16 dalits (2)

SANGRUR: Taking a U-turn in a controversy involving cases registered against dalits of Balad Kalan, the Sangrur police on Tuesday dropped attempt to murder (Section 307) charge against 16 dalits of the village, saying the injuries inflicted on cops by the protesting dalits were not “life threatening in nature”.Apart from taking a U-turn from its month-long stand by giving technical logic of nature of injuries, the police also said that Section 307 was dropped as they wanted to amicably resolve the issue with a “sense of brotherhood”.The police had slapped Section 307 against 16 of 41 dalits who were arrested in June when they were protesting against alleged irregularities in auction of village common land in Balad Kalan village. Police changed the stand a day after the dalits, currently lodged in Sangrur jail, started a relay hunger strike. Cops had earlier claimed that at least 11 cops, including eight women, had received serious injuries in the clash. Meanwhile, deputy superintendent of police G S Dhindsa said in a meeting held in Bhawanigarh on August 3 that it was decided that the issue should be settled with “sense of brotherhood”. (Times of India 6/8/14)

6. Crimes against dalits rise 245% in last decade (2)

CHANDIGARH: Crimes and atrocities against dalits in Haryana have gone up by about two-and-a-half times during 2004-2013, compared to 1994-2003 period. Figures complied by National Confederation of Dalit Organizations (NACDOR) from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports suggest amanifold increase in the number of cases related to assault, murder and sexual assault of Dalit women, especially incidents of gang rapes, over the past four years. According to data released by NACDOR, a total of 3,198 cases related to atrocities on dalits have been registered between 2004 and 2013 as against 1,305 from 1994 to 2003. Haryana DGP S N Vashisht admitted to the increase in crime against dalits. “But this is not a reflection of increase in crime or atrocities against a particular community. Rather, it means that every incident is reported and cases are registered. Secondly, there had been amendments in Acts related to atrocities on dalits, which also result in registration of more cases. Timely challans against the accused in the court and strong prosecution are basic ingredients for speedy justice and conviction,” Vashisht said. On the contrary, Dalit leaders termed the increase as an outcome of accused-friendly policing, leading to lopsided investigations and poor prosecution and poor follow-up of cases. Some organizations working for Dalit welfare even termed atrocities as a ploy of upper caste sections to deprive the socially backward from getting good education. Ashok Bharti, national convener, NACDOR, said, “This has forced us to start an awareness drive. We have been raising this issue with Congress leaders and Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.” Kalyani Menon Sen, an activist attached with NGO Women against Sexual Violence and Repression (WSS), justified her allegations saying, “Dalit children going to government schools in villages are the first layer of victims. They stop going to school after any girl falls victim to such a crime. They are not rich enough to go to any other school. Hence, they will remain educationally backward. Once they are educationally backward, they will not be able to compete with upper caste or those socially superior to them. Hence, sexual offences against dalits are being used as a tool now.” Rajat Kalsan, an activist of National Human Rights Law Network, elaborated on the incidents where they had to fight for justice for dalits. Kalsan had pleaded the cases related to Dabra and Baghana rape victims. (Times of India 9/8/14)

TRIBALS

7. Odisha tribal village chief killed in Maoist explosion (6)

Malkangiri (Odisha): A tribal village head was killed and his wife critically injured in an explosion triggered by Maoists in Odisha’s Malkangiri district on Tuesday. The village head of Darbaguda in Kalimela area was returning home along with his wife from a nearby forest when the explosive device planted by Maoists on the road went off, Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Akhileswar Singh said. While Bira Padiami (50) died in the blast, his critically injured wife was taken to the nearby hospital by the villagers for treatment, Singh said. Police said the ultras were believed to have planted the explosive device, probably a pressure bomb, targeting the security personnel as a BSF camp is located near the site. Condemning the act of killing the innocent, the SP said combing operation has been stepped up in the area where security had already been tightened as the observation of martyrs’ week by the Maoists began on Monday. Maoists observe “martyrs” week from July 28 to August 3 every year to pay tribute to their leaders and cadres who lost their lives. Normal life was affected to some extent in rural pockets of Malkangiri district as passenger buses and other vehicles stopped plying since Monday at many places fearing trouble, police said adding shops and business establishments also remained closed in areas like Kalimela, Padia and Motu. In other Maoist affected South Odisha districts including Koraput, Rayagada, Ganjam, Kandhamal, Nabarangpur and Gajapati, the situation was normal amid tight security measures, police added. (The Hindu 29/7/14)

8. Toto language more endangered than tribe (6)

Kolkata: When scientists of the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) set out to conduct a study on language of the primitive Toto tribe, whose population has dwindled to 1,536, they did not realise that the language is more endangered than the tribe itself. During their study they recorded the vocabulary, folklore, and even some songs in Toto language, and realised that the language has no script. For centuries, the language that belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of Indian languages, has survived in the small community completely orally without much research, Asok Kumar Mukhopadhyay, research associate, Linguistics (AnSI), one of the prominent members of the research team, who visited the hamlet of Toto tribe, told The Hindu. “Being a small community, we found that the Totos communicate among themselves in their own language, but the moment they leave their hamlet of Totopara in Madarihaat block of Alipurduar district, they prefer to not communicate in the language even among themselves,” Mr. Mukhopadhyay said. Researchers and even the members of Toto community admit that the language is under threat and influence of others languages, particularly Nepali and Bengali, is increasing day by day. Interestingly, despite the language lacking a script, members of the community, whose literacy rate as per a sample survey carried out in 2003 was just 33.64 per cent, have penned books and poems in their language albeit in the Bengali script. Dhaniram Toto, one of the members of the community, has written two books in Toto language over the past two years. Mr. Toto claims his book, Lokeswar, is about the folk culture of Totos and his other book Uttar Banga Lokpath is about folk tales of the community. “Since our language does not have a script, I have to take help of the Bengali script,” he says, adding that there is an urgent need to develop a script for the language. Mr. Toto, who is employed in West Bengal’s Backward Class Welfare Department, says there are others in the community such as Satyajit Toto, who write in the language taking the help of scripts of other languages. Their aim is just to keep the language alive. “We carried out this study to keep record of the language. It may happen in a few decades that the language may get extinct. The study of the Toto language is essential to understand the overall cultural ambit of the primitive tribe,” said Kakali Chakraborty, head of office, Eastern Regional Centre of (AnSI). Totos, one of the primitive Himalayan tribes in the country, usually work as day labourers and porters carrying oranges from Bhutan to the local market in north Bengal. Despite the geographical isolation of Totopara, the members have started laying emphasis on education, resulting in about half a dozen of graduates, which includes girls. But the elders point out that despite a number of schools being present in the locality, there is no one to teach the children in their own language, and as a result, the children are losing touch with their culture. (The Hindu 1/8/14)

9. “Public hearing for expansion of Vedanta facility illegal” (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Terming the public hearing conducted for Sesa Sterlite’s (formerly Vedanta Alumina Limited) expansion of its Lanjigarh facility in Kalahandi district as ‘illegal’, activists and members of different political and social organisations staged protest here on Thursday. “When tribal people have given their verdict through Gram Sabha resolutions, the company has lost legal as well as ethical ground to stay-put in Lanjigarh,” said Mahendra Parida of CPI (M-L) here. Mr. Parida said Vedanta group currently do not have any dedicated bauxite reserve to feed Lanjigarh facility and under such circumstances, holding public hearing for expansion has obviously come under suspicion. “Tribals in Niyamgiri Hill range and those living in proximity of Lanjigarh feel threatened thinking of intent of the company,” he said. Activists demanded that the State government should immediately severe all its ties with Vedanta group. According to reports, the public hearing held for proposed expansion of refinery from one million tonne per annum to 6 mtpa witnessed riotous scenes when tribals under the banner of Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti barged into the venue near Lanjigarh on Wednesday. They alleged that Odisha State Pollution Control Board and Kalahandi District administration were rushing through the process denying participation to those who would be directly affected by the project. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

10. Sickle-Cell Anaemia spreading among tribals (6)

VIJAYAWADA: Tribal population is prone to SCA because of malnutrition. Genes N Life Health Care Private Limited tested over 12,000 tribals from hamlets in Jeelugumilli, Buttaigudem and Polavaram mandals in West Godavari district. There is no problem if two individuals with white cards marry. The colours of the other cards are yellow and red. White card holders can marry yellow and red cardholders, but a yellow card holder cannot marry another yellow card holder. The cards will be the future match-makers of tribals living in West Godavari district. A project sponsored by the Department of Bio-Technology, Government of India, in West Godavari district revealed that 10 per cent of tribals were affected by Sickle-cell Anaemia (SCA). SCA is a hereditary blood disorder, in which the red blood cells (RBC) of the afflicted are sickle-shaped instead of the normal round shape. The “sickling” decreases the flexibility of the RBC and results in a variety of life-threatening complications. The sickling occurs because of a mutation in the gene responsible for the formation of haemoglobin in the RBC. Individuals with one copy of the mutant gene produce a mixture of both normal and abnormal haemoglobin (carriers). Genes N Life Health Care Private Limited tested over 12,000 tribals from hamlets in Jeelugumilli, Buttaigudem and Polavaram mandals in West Godavari district. V. Durga Rao, chief scientific officer of the company, said that the survey had revealed 10 per cent incidence in Koya and Konda Reddi Tribes. “If this serious health problem is not tackled immediately, the tribal populations in these three mandals would suffer from severe complications associated with hemoglobinopathies (destruction of blood cells) and with marriages within the communities the incidence can grow at a rapid pace,” he said. Individuals who are normal are given white cards, those with SCA traits yellow cards and the affected are given red cards. “If two individuals having SCA traits get married half their children will be affected by SCA, a quarter of them will be carriers and only a quarter will be normal,” Dr Rao said. The cards are therefore essential to prevent carriers from getting married. Tribal population were prone to SCA because of malnutrition. A marked relationship had been established between genetic mutation and malnutrition, Dr Rao said. He said Gujarat which has a tribal population of 80 lakh had already screened 20 lakh people for SCA. (The Hindu 6/8/14)

11. Abused and Exploited Tribals Facing High HIV Risk (6)

KALPETTA: The tribal population in Wayanad is fast emerging as a HIV/AIDS high-risk group because of lack of awareness regarding unprotected sex and rampant sexual abuse of their womenfolk. According to volunteers working in tribal regions of the district, the rise in detection of HIV positive cases calls for a targeted intervention. As per the data provided by the Vihaan Care and Support Desk under the Council of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kerala (CPK+), out of the 123 registered HIV positive cases in Wayanad, 21 patients belong to the tribal community. They include 13 females, five males and three children. Of the 13 female patients, seven are widows, whose partners had succumbed to AIDS-related illness. The data reveals that there is a sharp increase in reported cases of HIV/AIDS since 2012. Taking into account the fact that the indigenous people make up only about 17 per cent of the total population in the district, these numbers are alarming, the volunteers said. Moreover, the actual numbers could be higher than what is being reported. The problem is compounded by the practice of polygamy among many of the tribal sects and the increase in the number of sex workers. Tribal women constitute about 40 per cent of the total female sex workers in the district who are registered with the Targeted Intervention (Suraksha) Programme, a project supported by Kerala State AIDS Control Society. “There could be more tribal persons living with HIV. Of the 21 patients, many came to us when the disease was at an advanced stage. They were being treated for diseases such as TB and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, before being diagnosed with HIV,” said an HIV positive volunteer with Vihaan, who did not wish to be identified. She said vertical transmission of HIV from mother to child and positive cases among pregnant women were also on the rise. “A large section of the tribal population is ignorant about HIV/AIDS. Recently, we advised an infected couple not to conceive, but they did not heed the warning. The woman is now six-months pregnant, placing another life at risk,” she said. District Medical officer O Neetha Vijayan said the situation requires a comprehensive investigation. “We have been conducting multi-specialty medical camps in tribal belts across the district. “Out of the 300 tribal TB patients, only two were found to be HIV-infected. Data to authenticate the exact number of cases are unavailable as forced HIV testing is a violation of human rights,” she said. In July alone, six cases of sexual abuse of tribal girls was reported from different parts of the district.“Tribal women are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse by tribals and outsiders. “Also, tribal men who migrate to agriculture fields in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu indulge in unsafe sex. Their spouses get infected when they return to their native places,” said Mary Signie, district programme coordinator of the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society. According to her, instead of reporting the incident, victims of rape are often ostracised by their families and villagers. “The government agencies should create more awareness among the tribal community about the dreaded disease and help the affected patients receive treatment immediately,” she said. “A large number of sexual abuse cases come under the category ‘breach of promise to marry’. Unfortunately, most of these cases go unreported, or the victim turns hostile during her deposition. Thirteen of the total 17 sexual abuse cases that had went to trial recently resulted in acquittals,” said DySP K B Jeevanand. Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Youth Affairs  P K Jayalakshmi said that she will ask concerned authorities to examine the issue. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

12. Steps Taken to Bring Tribals to Mainstream, Says Minister (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Minister for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Development Lalbihari Himirika on Saturday said the State Government has initiated several steps to bring Scheduled Tribes to the mainstream even as participants at a seminar observed that tribal language was not used in competitive examinations and technical studies. Addressing a convention here on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the Minister said language is an important part of one’s identity and culture and mother tongue is the foundation of all languages. Organised by the Odisha Adivasi Manch (OAM) and the Campaign on Mother Tongue based Early Childhood Education, people’s representatives and tribal leaders exchanged views on tribal culture, tradition, issues and the need for proper implementation of different schemes. Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs Sudam Marandi and Transport Minister Ramesh Chandra Majhi maintained that while some schemes meant for tribals have been successful, several others have failed. Both the Ministers called for concerted efforts by OAM, NGOs and other voluntary rganizations for effective implementation of the schemes. The participants alleged that tribal youths suffer while competing with others for jobs and underlined the need for inclusion of indigenous languages in competitive examinations. Several other issues including the poor infrastructure and amenities in the tribal-dominated districts in important areas such as water and irrigation, education, transport and communication were raised. The event was attended by around 200 tribal leaders from 15 districts of Odisha. (New Indian Express 10/8/14)

WOMEN

13. Marriage sites behind marital strife: NCW chief (8)

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Women chief has blamed online matrimonial websites and advertisements for troubled marriages advocating a return to “tradition”. NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said in recent years a growing number of complaints came from “internet marriages”. “I receive so many complaints of broken marriages and about 25% are those who have found their partners through internet matrimonial sites or advertisements,” Sharma said adding that such couples did not know each other and their families well enough and ended up tying the knot in haste. The commission received 39 complaints of divorce in 2012 which increased to 59 in 2013. The number of complaints has already reached 48 in six months of 2014. While the divorce complaints are not significant, Sharma said the increasing number of cases of dowry harassment and domestic violence were also because of this growing phenomenon. “We might be as modern or western as we want but I think we should respect some old customs and traditions. In earlier days the families got to know each other before the marriage…now the boy claims to be qualified but turns out to be a drug addict. This misrepresentation leads to a lot of problems,” she said. Slamming the “conservative” attitude of the commission, a women’s rights activist said, “How can matrimonial sites be the only reason for such cases? There needs to be systemic change in society to ensure that crimes like domestic violence and dowry harassment are curbed,” she said. According to complaints received by the commission, the number of dowry harassment cases has doubled from 814 in 2012 to 1542 in 2013. The commission has already received 844 cases in the six months of 2014. While domestic violence complaints had come down from 4568 in 2012 to 3971 in 2013, this year the number of cases reported with the commission has already reached 3187. (Times of India 29/7/14)

14. Bihar to connect 1.5 crore women through 10 lakh SHG (8)

Patna: To bring women working in the unorganised sector under one umbrella, Bihar government is aiming at establishing 10 lakh Self Helf Groups (SHG) and connect 1.5 crore women through them, former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said Friday. “Connecting 1.5 crore women to 10 lakh SHGs will affect over six crore persons in the state. We also aim to make the SHGs sustainable for making the women self-dependent. This is an ambitious project,” said Kumar. “Women empowerment is closely connected with awareness, self-dependence and self-confidence. We are paying attention to these three aspects for the welfare of women,” he added. Kumar was speaking at a workshop on ‘Women in Informal Economy in Bihar’ at Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) here. He also released a report prepared by SEWA Bharat, which is an All India Federation of Self Employed Women’s Associations. The report reveals that 1.3 crore women are working in the informal economy of the state, which involves animal husbandry, agriculture related works, bidi making, tailoring, household work and a wide variety of household industries. “The role and contribution of unorganised women workers in the growth of the state is not accounted for properly. Their work is taken for granted. The GDP also does not consider many things done by women. It they are considered, then GDP will go up naturally,” said Kumar. The former CM asked the secretary of Labour Resources Department Sanjay Kumar to ensure skill development of girls and women in the state as it is “a panacea to all ills”.Talking about the burgeoning population, Kumar said with rising education and the plans to open higher secondary schools in all panchayats in the state, the population would stabilize in 25 years. As the report on women in informal economy cites Census 2011 figures to point out that 77 per cent households in Bihar do not have access to toilets, the highest number in the country, the former chief minister said toilets and prohibition were the priority areas for the state government and grants were being given under various schemes for the purpose. (Zee News 1/8/14)

15. Crime against women higher in Delhi’s peripheral areas (8)

NEW DELHI: More than 24,000 cases pertaining to domestic violence and sexual violence have been registered based on the calls made by the city’s women to the 181 Women’s Helpline in the last year and a half. Incidentally, over 66,000 calls have been received by the helpline with regard to domestic violence and nearly 20,000 calls on sexual assault since its inception in late-December 2012. Preliminary analysis of data going as per FIRs registered in different police stations following complaints made to the helpline has shown a trend that domestic violence, sexual assault and cases relating to kidnapping and abduction follow a pattern, said Human Rights consultant Khadijah Faruqui, who also heads it. “We have received nearly 10 lakh calls since the helpline was set up and this is not a small number. If we club all the sexual crimes in one category and look at the cases registered per police stations, the maximum cases seem to be registered in areas in the peripheral parts of the city. For domestic violence, more or less the same police stations show up as places were maximum cases have been registered,” she says. “Peripheral parts of the city seem more crime prone.” Ms. Faruqui cautions, however, that this is just the preliminary analysis and she has requested information from the Delhi Police and the women’s cell to have a better understanding. “I also plan to meet SHOs and speak to women who phone in. For now, I find that the crime prone areas encircle the city.” Parts of West Delhi such as Uttam Nagar, Nangloi, Dabri and Tilak Nagar feature prominently as places were maximum number of cases have been registered in these two categories. Burari and Jahangirpuri in North Delhi and parts of Outer Delhi such as Sultanpuri, Narela and Vijay Vihar see a spike in cases. In all, the 181 Helpline that runs over three shifts, with at least six people working in each shift, has received up to 9,79,594 calls between December 31, 2012, and July 27 this year. Of these, 6,76,542 calls have been answered which range from calls pertaining to acid attacks, missing persons, dowry violence or just women calling in for some advice. (The Hindu 1/8/14)

16. NCW’s outgoing chief calls for more funds, strengthened role of the Commission (8)

New Delhi: National Commission of Women (NCW) chairperson Mamata Sharma on Friday called for a strengthening of the commission, welcoming the amendments proposed to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 and the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. “The JJ Act must be amended, because a child of 14 years is much more aware of his or her surrounds today; there is a lot to absorb from the internet or the TV. The age should be lowered to 16 years,” said Sharma, adding that the amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act is also welcome as it deals with domestic violence. “There are two aspects to the debate, legal and sociological, and there must be proper debates with experts,” she said. Sharma’s comments came on the sidelines of a press conference announcing the end of her three year old tenure at the Commission. There has been no official word on who might succeed her. Sharma said that even though she welcomed the changes to the NCW Act, she was not supportive of the idea of a retired judge heading the commission. “The commission must be headed by someone who has a background of work with women, and knows the problems women face. A retired judge is not recommended simply because of the atmosphere they have functioned in, which is not conducive for a position like this,” she said. On asked whether she thought if the tenure in the commission should be extended from the existing three years, she said that it was important to do so. “I think the tenure must be extended to five years, just so that projects can be implemented,” she said. Sharma also said that a lack of funds have also affected the functioning of the commission over the years. “If the government cares for women’s issues, there must be more funds for the commission to function,” said Sharma. “We are vested with the power of simply summoning. Unlike the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), we have no actual powers. The proposed changes are important.” (DNA 2/8/14)

17. Women Naxal cadres sexually exploited: Govt (8)

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday said instances of sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres by senior Naxal leadership have been reported in various Left Wing Extremism affected states. Many instances of exploitation of tribals by the Naxalites/Maoists have come to the notice of the government. Such atrocities primarily include sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres in the Maoist camps which have been disclosed in statements of several surrendered women CPI (Maoist) cadres of Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in a written reply to Lok Sabha. “This has been widely reported in the media also from time to time. Such instances of sexual exploitation include rape, forced marriage and molestation by senior male CPI(Maoist) cadres,” he added. Rijiju said that the government has information that some female cadres had to undergo abortions too. “In Chhattisgarh, some surrendered tribal CPI(Maoist) male cadres have disclosed that they were forced by the senior leadership to undergo vasectomy operations as a pre-condition for marriage with women cadres. There are allegations that women cadres of CPI(Maoist), who become pregnant, are forced to undergo abortion against their will,” the Minister said. The surrendered women cadres have also disclosed that even if they are married to male cadres, they are not allowed to have children since the senior leadership of the CPI (Maoist) feel that it impairs their fighting capability and mobility. “Further, forced recruitment of children from families of poor and marginalised segments of the society, including the tribals, by the Maoists has also come to notice. In order to instill a sense of fear in their areas of dominance, the Naxals also kill civilians after branding them as police informers,” Rijiju said. Out of 4,955 civilians have been killed by the Maoists since 2004 till July 15, 2014, the Minister said, the “overwhelming majority are tribals.” “The Maoists have in reality killed thousands of innocent Adivasis, whose cause they profess to espouse. This tragic reality is glossed over by the Maoist front organisations and their apologists in towns and cities who have launched a propaganda war against the Indian state and project Maoists as the champions of Advisasis,” he said. The Minister said the Naxals have recruited “minors” from the tribal belts of LWE affected areas in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha. “In Bihar and Jharkhand, these children are enrolled in ‘Bal Dasta’ and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha the children’s squad is known as ‘Bal Sangham’. The idea behind recruiting tribal children is to wean them away from their rich traditional cultural moorings and indoctrinate them into Maoists ideology. He said that it has been reported that children recruited in ‘dalams’ are not permitted to leave. “They face severe reprisals including killing of family members if they surrender to security forces.” Rijiju said a number of central and state government schemes were being run in these areas to “bring stability in the lives of children” and to ensure that all their entitlements to protection, health, nutrition, sanitation, education and safety were fulfilled through government action. (Zee news 5/8/14)

18. SC scan on abortion limit (8)

New Delhi, Aug. 5: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the law that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there’s an immediate threat to the would-be mother’s life. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, allows abortions only till the 20th week of pregnancy for reasons such as severe foetal abnormalities or a grave risk to the pregnant woman’s health. (See chart) Today, the bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and M.Y. Eqbal admitted a petition moved by an NGO, Human Rights Law Network, challenging the 20-week limit on the behalf of two women identified as Mrs X and Mrs Y. Medical experts and women’s activists have for years been recommending that abortions be allowed beyond 20 weeks in case of a risk to the pregnant woman’s mental or physical health — even if it is not life-threatening — or severe foetal abnormalities. This is in line with the law in most countries where abortions are legal. Doctors had told Mrs X at her first antenatal check-up that her foetus had severe abnormalities and would not survive more than a few hours after birth, the petition says. Mrs X was 26 weeks pregnant and could therefore not legally obtain an abortion. She was forced to continue the pregnancy, visit the hospital regularly and participate in social events to celebrate the impending childbirth — all the while carrying a foetus she knew would not survive. After three days of excruciating labour pains, Mrs X delivered a baby that died less than three hours later. In her affidavit, Mrs X states: “The whole process was extremely painful. In normal circumstances a mother goes through all the discomfort just for the joy of giving birth…. However, in my case, there was no joy as I was aware of the poor outcome (of the birth). All this could have been avoided if my pregnancy was terminated in time.” As for Mrs Y, doctors had told her in the 19th week of her pregnancy that her foetus may be missing some brain tissue and that additional test results would not be available until after the 20th week. Under the limits imposed by the abortion law, Mrs Y was forced to make the excruciating decision to terminate her pregnancy without full knowledge of her foetus’s medical condition and prognosis. Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves today argued on the NGO’s behalf that the National Commission for Women, Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of India, women’s groups and the international community agreed that the 20-week stipulation was irrational, outdated and a violation of women’s rights to equality, health and life. In April this year, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre and the Maharashtra government to respond to the petition, which challenges a Bombay High Court order upholding the current abortion restrictions. Today, the apex court admitted the petition. According to the NGO, 2-3 per cent of the 26 million babies born in India every year have severe congenital or chromosomal abnormalities. New technology allows many of these abnormalities to be detected — but only after 20 weeks. Time bars on abortion are usually based on the perceived link between the medical fact of a foetus’s viability — its ability to survive outside the uterus — and its legal right to be counted as an individual. However, there’s no sharply defined point in a foetus’s life when it attains viability, and the period may vary from case to case. (The Telegraph 6/8/14)

19. Women Activists March to Venue (8)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The inaugural ceremony of the shelter for the disabled women witnessed unusual scenes as members of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association district unit took out a march to the venue calling for the safety of the inmates of the ‘Nibhaya’ home against the backdrop of two inmates found missing recently. The women protesters led by district president S Pushpalatha reached the ‘Social Justice Complex’ (Samoohika Neethi Samuchayam) at Poojappura, where Mahila Mandiram Nirbhaya home, a shelter for women and girls who were subjected to sexual harassment, are located, by 11 am. It is on the same compound that the new shelter has also been built. They raised slogans against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy ‘’for failing to ensure the safety of women’’ and demanded an investigation into the alleged crimes taking place at the home. The agitators shouted slogans at Minister for Social Justice M K Muneer, who was sitting on a makeshift stage. They  reached within 100 metres of the stage, still shouting slogans. The police team present had no women police personnel and sub-inspector, Poojappura, R Rajesh and his colleagues had a tough time preventing the women from reaching the Minister. Later, Assistant Commissioner, Cantonment, Safudheen reached the spot with women police personnel and controlled the situation. The women protesters then moved to the main entrance of the complex and sat there for around an hour. Journalist R Parvathy Devi inaugurated the sit-in protest. (New Indian Express 8/8/14)

20. Women’s commission to press for reservation to victims of crimes (8)

MYSORE: Karnataka State Commission for Women is considering to ensure model reservation policy in all state universities for victims of sexual harassment, human trafficking and their children on the lines of University of Mysore (UoM). Commission chief Manjula Manasa told STOI that she has sought details from the authorities of all authorities before proceeding further in this regard. This follows an appeal by Odanadi Seva Samsthe, a city-based NGO working for the welfare of victims of trafficking and their children, to provide reservation to victims of various crimes and their children. Odanadi director Stanley said that the trauma faced by the victims of trafficking and acid attacks is inexplicable. “Most of them depend on their families, relatives or friends. But if the government comes forward to support them, either by providing education or jobs through a reservation policy, they too can overcome their agony, and shape their lives on their own,” he added. “Many victims suffer the stigma or fear of rejection by society,” he claims, adding that the provision to promote educational and economic interests of poor people is enshrined in the Constitution. UoM is perhaps the first institution in the country to reserve seats for survivors of sexual harassment and victims of human trafficking and also to their wards. Since 2012, it has been offering benefits to the inmates of Odanadi. Nearly four dozen survivors and their children have pursued UG and PG courses. Some of them are working in different sectors, including NGOs. According to Stanley, the university has made a provision under a special quota called ?Out of intake’, wherein it has reserved two seats for each UG course and one seat in each PG course for the inmates of Odanadi. It had also issued notification to its constituent colleges and PG centres. The students are also getting 50% concession in tuition fees. “This is a real boon for them,” Stanley explained. Manjula said that the commission will write to the government, seeking reservation to rape survivors and victims of acid attacks. (Times of India 10/8/14)

21. Suffering in Silence from Sexual Abuse (8)

CHENNAI: While Tamil Nadu can take pride in the induction of a large number of women into its police force, sexual abuse of the women personnel by senior male officials continues to be a major concern. The abuse faced by women police hardly gets reported. But it is still widely prevalent and victims are especially women serving at the constabulary level. “If you ask my opinion, I would say it is better for a woman to keep quiet and forget them,” says a women sub-inspector when queried about the prevalence of such abuse in the force. While senior police officers strive hard to maintain a squeaky clean image of the department by sweeping such incidents under the carpet, it is common knowledge inside the police force that such abuses are prevalent and there is little that a victim police woman can really do against the perpetrators. Recently in Chennai, a woman police constable offered to resign alleging that she was assigned unusually long hours of duty by an Assistant Commissioner of Police after she refused to entertain his advances. She was finally offered a transfer to another district. “She was reporting to that ACP and after she said a clear ‘no’ to his advances, she started getting duty assigned for more than 12 hours every day and was made to run from pillar to post. Not able to bear it, at one point she put in her resignation letter. That was when the abuse got the attention of senior officers,” a police source said. Every police district in the State has, on paper, a Vishaka committee to investigate sexual abuse at the work place. Yet, victims offer to resign, perhaps indicating that the committees hardly inspire confidence. Given that the hierarchical system is strongly entrenched in the police department, it is not uncommon that the victims are dependent on the perpetrators even to get a transfer or salary incentive. Erode constable S K Valli, who opened the can of worms in 2011 when she filed a Public Interest Litigation alleging widespread sexual abuse of women police by male officers, says she is still being “tortured” by the officers. Last December, she was suspended for accepting a bribe of `100 from a woman when she was posted in a government hospital. “I was not investigating any case and I was in no decision-making authority. Then who will give me bribe money? The officers were prompt in suspending me for taking `100 when corruption is entrenched at every level in this department,” says Valli about the incident. Immediately following the filing of the PIL, her son Neelakandan was allegedly threatened by a policeman and members of a political party. They allegedly warned him not to meet his mother and support her. They also reportedly tried to malign Valli’s image. Ever since she came out in the open about the abuse of women police, she alleges, a planned effort at “character assassination” is on. Activists say the present system in the police department gives plenty of opportunities for senior male officers to abuse their women colleagues. “There are plenty of cases of abuse in the department, but victims will not come out in the open and complain. This is due to the absolute lack of an independent and a professional mechanism to investigate such grievances. Until such a mechanism is evolved, the instances of abuse will never come out,” says activist Henry Tiphagne of People’s Watch. (New Indian Express 11/8/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

22.  ‘Delhi child labourers sweat out more than 8 hours with no rest day’ (14)

NEW DELHI: India continues to host the largest number of child labourers in the world with more than half of Delhi’s working children forced to work more than 8 hours a day without a single day’s rest. This was found in a survey done and released in New Delhi on Wednesday by child rights non government organisation Child Rights and You (CRY) (in partnership with Philips). The survey which is released on the closing of CRY’s Click Rights Campaign `Open Your Eyes and help make India Child Labour Free’, is an attempt to sensitise citizens- and duty-bearers- out of their inertia, to open their eyes to the grim reality of child labour. To substantiate the grim reality of child labour, a rapid assessment of the knowledge, attitude and practice of 300 employers of child labour in the unorganised sector was done. The findings point to apathy, absence of any form of regulation and illiteracy amongst employers themselves. Also through photos clicked by CRY volunteers, interns, eminent photographers, and most interestingly working children themselves, the survey has tried to take stock and find out where we stand, as a country, after having made a commitment to progressively eliminate child labour, a quarter of a century ago. Speaking about the survey, Soha Moitra, regional director (north) CRY said: “ This is a vicious cycle where employers themselves are illiterate and have at some point been child labourers; the lack of education forces them into the unorganised sector which is unregulated and exploitative.’’ “Children, the most vulnerable segment are the ones who are worst affected by this as they can work long hours, at a very low cost and have absolutely no safety nets,’’ she added. Meanwhile, the last leg of the campaign was marked by a photo exhibition in different parts of the city and launch of a photobook capturing the dreams and realities of children in labour, which consists of photographs clicked by child labourers and photographers. This was showcased here on Wednesday as part of the survey release. (The Hindu 30/7/14)

23. 76% of rescued child labourers went back to work: study (14)

Mumbai: Over 76 per cent of child labourers rescued in raids conducted six years ago in Mumbai went back to work, according to an NGO working for children’s rights. This highlighted in a study commissioned by CRY in Mumbai with research partner CARE. The study, ‘Developing a New Perspective on Child Labour – Exploring the aftermath of the Mumbai raids conducted from 2008 onwards’, was aimed at exploring what happened to children who were rescued during the raids conducted in 2008, after the rescue and rehabilitation process. Before the children were rescued, 83.53 per cent worked for more than 10 hours and nearly half of the children were treated badly by employers, a CRY release said. Almost 25 per cent of the children were released by the police to the parents or other persons related to them from the police station itself. No FIRs were filed for these children who never came into the system post the rescue and these children were never presented before the child welfare committee (CWC), it said. Altogether 76.47 per cent children were found to be working full time post rescue process, whereas 18.82 per cent combined work and education. Only 4 out of 85 children were found not working, it said. Top three sectors where children were found working before as well as post rescue are hotels, leather factories and zari workshops. In all, 77 FIRs were filed against 366 establishments, it said.PTI (The Hindu 2/8/14)

24. Govt urges effort to protect child rights (14)

NEW DELHI: Delhi government’s social welfare and women and child development department on Saturday called for a collective effort of all agencies and stakeholders to ensure protection of child rights. “Reaching out to every child in need of immediate intervention, care, respite and rehabilitation is the prime objective of the program which calls for the collective efforts of all agencies, stakeholders, civil society, service delivery structure and communities,” said Satbir Silas Bedi, principal secretary (social welfare and women and child development), Delhi government. The department suggested prevention of child sexual abuse through effective audio visual aids and stressed on the need for dissemination of message on a massive scale to address the issues. “Creating mass awareness on the subject, keeping in mind the preventive aspect is very important. The family, school teachers, and community, stakes holders need to be sensitized on the issue of child abuse and how it can be prevented,” said Bedi. She said State Child Protection Society has initiated a number of welfare programs related to creating awareness and dissemination of information on issues of child care schemes, legislations and services available for children in difficult circumstances. SCPS is working towards developing Information Education and Communication programmes. (Times of India 4/8/14)

25. New Bill lets minors be tried as adults for heinous crimes (14)

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 that gives powers to the Juvenile Justice Board to decide if a juvenile above 16 years, involved in heinous crimes like rape, would be tried in an adult court. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had told Parliament that the new Bill aimed to act as a deterrent for juvenile offenders committing heinous crimes and protect the victims’ rights. The new Bill comes in the backdrop of outrage after a minor convicted in the Nirbhaya gang-rape case was handed a three-year term in a reform home. Activists, however, have criticized the move saying that India moved from penal law to reformative law by repealing the 1989 JJ Act and enacting the JJ Act 2000. Lowering the age or having any provision to deviate children from the juvenile justice system to criminal justice system is not acceptable, said activists. However, the Bill lays down that in no case a juvenile involved in a heinous crime will be sentenced to death or life imprisonment either when tried under the provisions of JJ Act or under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. Some of the new provisions involve children in conflict zones. Recruiting child soldiers by militant groups is an offence in the new Bill, punishable with up to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment or Rs 5 lakh fine or both. Besides, the draft widens the definition of corporal punishment by including physical and verbal abuse. The draft Bill proposes stringent punishment for those who subject “a child to corporal punishment causing hurt and emotional distress for the child”.If the offender is an employee of an institution dealing with children, he can be dismissed from service for repeat offence. Even the management of such institution can be sentenced to up to three-year jail and Rs 1 lakh fine for non-compliance or non-cooperation in any probe. Ragging of students within or outside an institution is punishable by up to three years in jail and up to Rs 1 lakh fine. Anybody found to abet or propagate ragging can land up in jail, too. The proposed Bill also provides for facilitating faster adoption of children and setting up foster care homes. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) would be a statutory body with powers to regulate inter-country adoptions along with issuing guidelines on adoption and related matter. The Bill also makes it mandatory for all child care institutions to register or face stiff penalty for non-compliance. (Times of India 7/8/14)

26.  ‘Amendments against the basic philosophy of Juvenile Justice Act’ (14)

BANGALORE: Kushal Singh, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), has condemned the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act that were approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 that was approved by the Cabinet will allow the Juvenile Justice Board to decide if those in the 16 to 18 age group can be tried as adults in case of heinous crimes. On the sidelines of a workshop to discuss safety concerns in schools here, Ms. Singh said the amendments were against the fundamental philosophy of the Juvenile Justice Act. “These amendments need wider consultations and should be based on more research and discussions with stakeholders. It should not be amended in this manner,” she said. She also said that the commission had sent its recommendations to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. “Now, it [the amendments] has to be decided in Parliament,” she said. Ms Singh also said that the amendments could lead to increase in crimes rather than decreasing them. “If a child is treated like an adult and if the child comes out of prison as a 26 or 28 year old, the child with a criminal record is more likely to commit such crimes,” she said. The chairperson also said that she would write to the Chief Justice of India recommending faster trials, particularly in cases of sexual assault against children. “It has been over a year since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 came into force. Although it is so progressive, it is not implemented in the true spirit,” she said. (The Hindu 8/8/14)

27. Child protection panels in 125 village panchayats meet (8)

PERAMBALUR: The village level child protection committee meeting was held in all the 125 village panchayats in the district on Friday. Josia Rajan, District Child Protection Officer, who addressed the villagers in Perali village panchayat, said the objective of the meeting was to check the nuisance caused by child marriage, prevention of sexual harassment of children, elimination of child labour and bonded labour system. Rehabilitation of affected children and ensuring educational opportunities as part of protection of child’s rights also formed part of the agenda. He appealed to the village panchayat presidents to ensure that children accommodated in private homes were properly cared for. Anti-trafficking of children should also be ensured. He suggested that villagers coming across any violation of child’s rights could contact toll free 1098 service to register their complaints. He also underlined the importance of creating awareness among the rural masses in this regard. An official release issued here said that the meeting adopted a resolution to guarantee child’s rights. A large number of volunteers belonging to various service organisations, anganwadi workers, village health nurses and police officials participated. Duraikannu, Perali village panchayat president, assured of adequate cooperation. (The Hindu 9/8/14)

28. Tamil Nadu Tops in Enforcing Child Rights: NCPCR (14)

TIRUCHY: Tamil Nadu has been emerging as the first State in the country to implement child rights, said Kushal Singh,chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR),at the Raksha Bandhan celebration here on Sunday. Over 60 children and people affected with HIV, took part in the Raksha Bandhan celebration, organised by Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Network for Positive People in Tiruchy (NPT+).Addressing the participants, Singh said, children affected with HIV have equal rights like others and there should be no discrimination. The initiatives of the State government on the welfare of children is appreciable, Singh added. “Education alone would help the children with HIV to raise their social status,” Singh said. “The issue of child abuse is on rise all over the country and steps would be taken to control it. We would recommend other States to establish Child Rights Club in schools like that of in Tiruchy district to protect the kids from abuse,”  Singh said. Earlier, Singh tied rakhi on the wrists of children affected with HIV/AIDS. (New Indian Express 11/8/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

29. Why victims of custodial deaths in Maharashtra only from minorities, Bombay HC asks (7)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court observed on Thursday that the victims of custodial deaths in Maharashtra appear to be only from the minority community. A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode made the remark after they informed advocate Yug Chaudhry of their decision to appoint him as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in a case where a 23-year-old resident of Nalasopara (East) mysteriously died in Thane Central Jail. Observing that custodial deaths are occurring routinely, the high court added, “It seems to be happening only against certain persons from the minority community.” Chaudhry agreed: “I have done my research and it shows that the cases are mostly of Muslims and Dalits.” The court questioned why such deaths are happening in Maharashtra. Referring to the case at hand, it said, “It is not reported as a custodial death but as a natural death.” The number of such cases is unknown, the court noted… (Times of India 1/8/14)

30. 25% of city’s schools have minority status (7)

Chandigarh: With three more private schools in Chandigarh recently granted the minority status by National Commission for Minority Educational Institutes (NCMEI), the number of school with minority status has increased to 17 out of 69 recognised private schools. The spurt in schools with minority status in UT has been witnessed soon after the apex court directions in 2012 which ruled that schools having the minority status are not bound to reserve 25% of their seats in entry level classes under RTE Act. Since then, six local schools have managed to get the desired minority status including Kids-R-Kids School, Sector 42, Ajit Karam Singh International Public School, Sector-41 and Sector 45, which were recently granted Sikh minority status by NCMEI The number is set to swell further as case of Vivek High School, Sector 38 and St. Kabir, Sector 26 is already pending before the commission and will come up for hearing next month in September. Another school- Guru Nanak Public School, Sector 36 is also in the race of getting minority status after its name was recently recommended to the NCMEI by the education department. Major  implication of all those schools with minority status is that they are no more under compulsion to comply with the directions of the RTE act or the education department. Even they are at their will to decide their own admission criteria and further fee structure that might conflict with the larger public interest, who are already not satisfied with the level of transparency during the time of admission. City based RTE activist Pankaj chandgothia said that all schools, who sought or were granted minority status after Supreme Court judgement, only aimed at exemption from the applicability of RTE Act, rather than seeking minority status per se. “If they were minority, why did not they seek that status soon after they were established? It raises the moot question of their intention,” he said. Paramjeet Grewal, manager of Kids R Kids, which came up in 2002 and recently got the minority certification, opposed this argument and said that their school was minority from the day it established. However it was just recently that they were certified minority by the NCMEI. He rubbished the claimed that schools were applying for the minority status to be exempted from RTE act. Many however feel that education has also failed to oppose the grant of minority in Minority in NCMEI court, paving the easy way for them. The department filed the reply in case of Vivek High School, Sector 38 and St Kabir School, Sector 26 but other schools had easy run in securing the minority certificate from the NCMEI. When contacted, DPI (s) Kamlesh Kumar, he said that it was not healthy move seeing so many schools being granted the minority status. It will affect the future of under-privileged children, who will not get admission in these institutions by virtue of their minority status. “I would be happy if the management of such schools come forwards generously and help the poor students (Hindustan Times 5/8/14)

31. SC says no status quo on Haryana gurdwaras law (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to order status quo on a law passed by Haryana wresting control over gurdwaras in the state from the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC). A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice R M Lodha agreed to hear on Thursday the petition challenging legal validity of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 2014. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for petitioner Harbhajan Singh, a Haryana resident and SGPC member, sought urgent hearing of the matter, pointing out volatility of the situation. He urged the court to order status quo as the matter related to the state of affairs of about 10 to 12 gurdwaras. The bench, also comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph, expressed their readiness to examine the matter, saying nothing was going to happen in the meantime. “There is duly-elected government in the state to take care of law and order situation. Whatever state does, it would certainly never allow law and order to be disturbed. Every state is obligated under the Constitution to maintain the law and order,” the court said. The counsel said that Haryana passed the law without taking leave (permission) of the Centre as the matter had inter-state repercussions. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi agreed to clarify stand of the Union government after taking due instructions. (Deccan Herald  (7/8/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

32. Tamil Nadu 12th in recruiting Muslims as cops (7)

CHENNAI: Muslims constitute 5.56% of Tamil Nadu’s population, but the community accounts for only 1.82% of the state’s one lakh-odd strong police force, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau statistics. Tamil Nadu ranks 12th among states in providing employment to Muslims in police force. Top of the list is Jammu and Kashmir, where 54% of police personnel are Muslims. In the undivided Andhra Pradesh, second on the list, 9% of police personnel are Muslims. Tamil Nadu had passed a legislation to give 3.5% reservation to Muslims in its police force. But it is yet to implement it in letter and spirit, said a senior police officer. Of the 1.01 lakh police personnel in the state, only 1,846 are Muslims. Sikkim is last on the list with just nine Muslims in its 4,279-strong police force. Tamil Nadu has been fortunate not to have any major communal flare-up since violence broke out in Coimbatore in the wake of the serial blasts there in 1998. Nevertheless, there have been several communal murders in the state. In the last two years alone, 14 Sangh Parivar leaders were killed for communal reasons. Al-Umma, which gained notoriety with the Coimbatore serial blasts, is said to be involved in all these murders. “The special investigation division (SID), which is part of the Special Branch CID (SBCID) wing and the anti-fundamentalist wings attached to law and order police in various cities and districts have been busting terror networks,” a police officer said. Some experts are of the view that recruiting more Muslims into the state police would help counter the influence of extremists on Muslim youth. “Providing reservation in police force is a welcome move. It will help the force in fighting terrorism,” said R Ramrajan, retired inspector general. Following a DGPs’ conference in Delhi in 2012, a high-level committee comprising DGPs of Tamil Nadu, Maharastra, Uttar Pradesh and a senior IB officer from Mumbai was formed to study the role of minorities (Muslims) in police force. Maharashtra DGP Sanjeev Dayal, who led the committee, submitted the report at the DGPs’ conference in November 2013. It discussed ways to handle issues concerning minority communities. Among the issues that were raised was the inability of many Muslims to join police force as they do not study any regional language in school. They study only Urdu, and that does not help them join the force in many states. “The recommendations of the high-level committee have been forwarded to the Centre for its consideration,” said a senior police officer. (Times of India 31/7/14)

33. Activist files PIL over religion’s name in forms (7)

Mumbai: A Nashik-based social activist has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court, seeking that the registrar general and census commissioner should be restrained from carrying out the census survey and declaring the results of survey conducted for 2011-12 because, in several cases, the word “Muslim” and not “Islam” was filled in the “religion” column. The petitioner also prayed that corrections be made in the forms of census already conducted before declaring results. Petitioner Aziz Abbas Pathan’s lawyer Akhlaque Solkar, who is appearing along with advocate Afroz Siddiqui, told this newspaper that the contention of petitioner is that those who practice Islam are called Muslims, but the name of religion is Islam, not Muslim; so the “religion” column in census forms, birth certificates, leaving certificates and other forms should bear the word “Islam”. He further said that the petitioner has collected documents through the right to information (RTI) which shows that many census forms were bearing the name of the religion as Muslim, and many educational institutes were issuing leaving certificates with the religion “Muslim” and their petitioner is seeking rectification. The petitioner has attested copies of documents collected through the RTI to support his claim and through this PIL he has challenged the census survey carried out by government i.e. the Socio Economic and Caste/Religious Survey-2011. According to Mr Solkar, the census guideline manual, in illustrative examples for filling in the entries of religion, shows “Muslim” in the column of religion, and this is wrong and, so, the correction should be made to the public document. A division bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice A.S. Chandurkar has admitted the petition for hearing and expedited it for final hearing. However the judges said since the work of census survey of the year 2011-12 has been substantially completed therefore no interim relief could be granted, as sought in the petition. (Asian Age 4/8/14)

34. BJP to Oppose Any Move by Telangana Govt on Muslim Reservation (7)

SANGAREDDY: BJP will oppose any move by the Telangana government to provide 12 per cent reservation to Muslims as had been promised by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), led by K Chandrasekhar Rao, in its election manifesto, BJP state unit chief G Kishan Reddy said here today. “BJP is against providing reservation on religion basis and would not accept communal reservations. Moreover, this is a move of appeasing Muslims rather than a welfare activity,” Telangana state unit BJP president G Kishan Reddy said here while addressing a meeting.   He alleged that TRS government was not fulfilling its electoral promises and creating unnecessary hurdles in welfare schemes. “Last year’s pending reimbursement of fees to students is still not cleared. Now, the issue of nativity of students is being raked up. It is very difficult to prove the nativity and it would cause huge loss to Telangana students,” he said Reddy said Telangana government should work towards realisation of its electoral promises.  “BJP will not tolerate injustice to any eligible student in Telangana,” he added.    He was reacting to the decision of the Telangana government last month to fix 1956 as the cut-off year to determine the nativity of Telangana students. According to the decision, only students whose families were natives of Telangana prior to 1956 will be eligible to avail fee reimbursement and scholarships for professional courses from this year.On poor power supply in the newly-formed state, Reddy said, “Is this the Telangana state we had dreamt in which farmers are beaten up by police in lathi charge. The government should realise the situation and make necessary arrangements to ensure uninterrupted power supply to farm sector for at least six hours,” he added. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

35. Muslims forced to flee Gurgaon village (7)

GURGAON: Around two dozen Muslim families, operating small enterprises such as barbers shops, and tailoring and scrap units were thrashed and forced to flee Basai village in Gurgaon earlier this week. Confirming the incident, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Sangeeta Rani told The Hindu that five persons, including prime accused Amit, have been arrested and a case registered under Sections 148, 149, 323, 427 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. A senior police officer said the attackers suspected the involvement of the scrap dealers in petty theft. He however, said that only four to five families were targeted. Earlier this year, Mewat saw an escalation of communal tension over cattle smuggling which resulted in the death of a Hindu youth. Several Muslim youth have been arrested for their alleged involvement in cattle smuggling, but members of the community argued that most of the victims of last week’s attack were natives of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who have been running their shops for nearly a decade. They alleged that the attack was aimed at polarising the two communities to seek political mileage. Haryana is one of the two States which will go to polls later this year. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

36. NBCC condemns ‘witchcraft’ atrocity (7)

Kokrajhar: National Bodo Christian Coordination (NBCC) expressed deep shock over an incident at Sapkati in the Udalguri district in which a highly educated woman was branded a witch and forced to leave the district. The Christian-dominated village decided to exile the woman after an ailing youth alleged she was practising witchcraft. Dwimu Roje Goyary, NBCC general secretary, said the move goes against the teachings of Christianity. He added that nothing but blind faith in evil practices can result in the belief that witchcraft exists in rural areas. NBCC officially called upon the villagers to adhere to Christian principles and not believe in superstitions. Goyary encouraged local leaders, social workers and local organizations, particularly church leaders, to help solve the problem and bring back the victims to their native villages. He hoped that the problem would be solved through knowledge and understanding. Promod Boro, the president of All Bodo Students Union (Absu), also criticized the incident and explained how ABSU has been working to erase such superstitions from society by providing education to people in the rural areas. He said that witch hunting and victimization of innocent people has been on the decline in recent years. However, the incident at Sapkati has come as a shocking reminder that superstitions have not been fully eradicated from people’s minds. (Times of India 1/8/14)

37. Bishop calls for prohibition, decries rights panel order (7)

PATHANAMTHITTA: The order of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) that those bars meeting two-star criteria should be opened has kicked up a controversy with prohibitionists coming down heavily against it. Talking to The Hindu, Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Metropolitan of the Niranom diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Church, said the common man could not comprehend the SHRC order. Mar Coorilos, an active prohibitionist and moderator of the Mission and Evangelism Commission of the World Council of Churches, said no human rights issue was at stake in the closing down of 418 bars across the State. The government could easily rehabilitate those who were rendered jobless following the closure of the bars, he said. The bishop said the common people could never be blamed if they questioned the credibility of the SHRC which is supposed to ensure their right to live and protection from the social evils of alcoholism and drug abuse. The SHRC should have acted against the menace of alcoholism, he said. Kerala has been identified as one of the top liquor-consuming States in the country. A more alarming official revelation was that the average age of liquor consumption in the State has come down to 13 years, exposing the growing trend of alcoholism among children, he said. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had stated that Kerala could forgo the hefty revenue from liquor. He should show the political and moral will to stick to his words and introduce prohibition in a time-bound manner taking its heavy social cost into consideration, Mar Coorilos said. According to him, Left parties have failed in fighting social evils like alcoholism and drug abuse. He called upon the womenfolk to declare a war on liquor as they are at the receiving end of the social malady. The bishop said the churches should take a lead role in the crusade against liquor. Recently, Mar Coorilos had issued a pastoral letter urging the faithful to keep off alcoholics from key posts of church bodies. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

38. Benefits sought for SC converts to Christianity (7)

Hyderabad: The demand for extending non-statutory concessions to converts from Scheduled Castes to Christianity is rising among both clergy and layman in the Christian community. In spite of change of religion, the SC converts also suffer from the same social disabilities as the SC Hindus and therefore should be provided similar benefits, it is said. The A.P. State Christian Minority Finance Corporation (APSMFC) has sent a proposal to both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments in this regard. In fact, there is already a GO (341) in this connection issued way back in 1977. But it is gathering dust with the result the Christians, a majority of whom are SC converts, are deprived of the benefits which they would have otherwise enjoyed. This GO was issued when the noted civil servant S.R. Sankaran was the Secretary, Social Welfare Department. The main thrust of the GO is that mere change of religion should not become a bar to SCs from securing benefits which they would have been eligible to before conversion. The GO was issued in the light of the recommendations made by the State Harijan conference and the government resolved to extend the benefits to SC converts to Christianity and Buddhism. However, the SC converts will not be eligible to statutory concessions such as reservations in educational institutions and public services. Presently the Industries Department and the Social Welfare Residential Society are implementing the GO while other departments have chosen to ignore it. Recently, the government has announced the Kalyana Laxmi scheme which seeks to provide Rs. 50,000 at the time of marriage to SC and ST girls and three acre land to landless SC families. Christians too can benefit from these schemes if the GO is implemented, it is said. “The Telangana government is giving special focus on SCs and it is only appropriate that it implements this GO in letter and spirit,” says Navin Nicholas, managing director, APSCMFC. For availing of scholarships, the income ceiling limit for SCs and STs is Rs. 2 lakh per annum while for Christians and minorities it is just one lakh. Similarly there are schemes like Best Available School, Toefl and GRE training and overseas scholarships for SCs. “If the GO is implemented all these schemes will be applicable to Christians also,” Mr. Nicholas said. (The Hindu 7/8/14)

39. Pope Francis to send cardinal to Iraq (7)

Vatican City, Aug 8 (IANS/EFE) Pope Francis will send Cardinal Fernando Filoni to northern Iraq to express his proximity and solidarity with the people, especially Christians, who are enduring attacks from Sunni jihadis, the Vatican press office said Friday. The former nuncio to Iraq and current prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is set to arrive in Iraqi Kurdistan within the next few days, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. More than 120,000 Christians have fled to Kurdistan from their homes in the northern Iraqi towns of Qaraqosh and Telkif, which have fallen under the control of militants of the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist group. Lombardi said it was too early to know whether the pontiff’s envoy will visit those areas. The IS has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria to create an Islamic caliphate and has warned Christians they should convert to Islam or leave. The Vatican press office Thursday said the Pope had received with “concern” the “dramatic news coming from northern Iraq, where the most affected are Christian communities which must leave their villages because of the violence in the region”.In a statement, Francis urged the international community to put an end to this “humanitarian crisis and protect those threatened by violence”.”I ask all men and women of goodwill to join me in praying for Iraqi Christians and all vulnerable populations,” Pope Francis posted Friday on his official Twitter account. (Business Standard 8/8/14)

40. Baptist Church demands Schedule Caste status for Christians (7)

Aizawl: Baptist Church of Mizoram (BCM) on Sunday joined National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) in observing ‘Black Day’ demanding acceptance of Christians as Schedule Caste. Members of the Baptist Church pinned a piece of black cloth on their shirts and held mass prayers in all the local churches in the morning services. In a message distributed to the local churches, BCM General Secretary Rev H Lianngaia said that Indian Constitution in 1950 allowed only Hindus to become Scheduled Caste while the amendment in 1956 allowed Sikhs and Buddhists. “Christians and Muslims were not allowed to be given Scheduled Caste status,” he said. The Constitutional provision hindered missionaries in their missions to convert Scheduled Caste people like the Dalits as they ceased to enjoy the status once they converted to Christianity, he added. The BCM described the provision as biased and against the spirit of secularism. (Zee News 10/8/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

41. 28,131 illegal Bangla migrants deported from State (13)

GUWAHATI, July 29 – There were 28,131 illegal infiltrators deported to Bangladesh up to March 2014, said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in reply to an RTI petition filed on July 23 by RTI activist Rohit Choudhury. Choudhury in his petition sought all copies of the correspondences, communications, letters and Office Memorandums made and received among the MHA, MoEA and the PMO since April 1, 2004 on the issue of illegal migrants from Bangladesh identified in Assam and their deportation. The MHA said that the powers to identify and deport the foreign nationals, including the Bangla nationals, illegally staying in Indian territory have been delegated to the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations under Section 3(2) (c) of the Foreigners Act, 1946. Detection and deportation of such illegal immigrants is a continuous process. Thirty six Foreigners Tribunals are set up for detection of foreigners/illegal immigrants in Assam. Besides, additional 64 Foreigners Tribunals have been sanctioned by the MHA in June, 2013 for speedy disposal of cases pending with the Tribunals. Detected illegal migrants or illegal Bangla nationals are deported to Bangladesh. In order to ensure speedier disposal of cases pending in the Foreigners Tribunals, in April 2012, Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964 was amended, which envisages that the cases shall be disposed of by the Tribunals within 60 days from the reference received from the competent authority. The MHA reply stated that the matter of detection and deportation of illegal Bangla nationals/ foreigners staying in India are dealt by it. Highest priority has been attached to control illegal migration from Bangladesh and also detection and deportation of Bangla nationals staying illegally in the country. Such issues are discussed regularly among the Central Ministries concerned and there are no specific correspondences among the MHA, Ministry of External Affairs (MoEA) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) available, said the MHA in its reply. (The Assam Tribune 30/7/14)

42. Australia sends 157 Lankan refugees to Nauru detention centre (13)

CHENNAI: Australian government has transferred the 157 asylum seekers, a majority of whom are Sri Lankan Tamil refugees from India, to a detention centre in Nauru, a south pacific island country, overnight for offshore processing, after the immigrants refused to meet with Indian consular officials, minister for immigration and border protection Scott Morrison said. The asylum seekers set sail from Puducherry, 160km from Chennai in June, to reach Australian shores illegally. Taking a hardline on to prevent “people smuggling ventures” getting to Australia, all 157 were transferred to detention centre in Curtin. Morrison expressed disappointment that after having had access to their legal representatives on July 29, all 157 IMAs coincidentally chose not to talk to Indian consular officials. “The Australian government created a rare opportunity with the government of India for many of the 157 people who were on that voyage from India, including up to 50 children, to go back to where they had been living in safety in India, where they have family and friends, rather than go to Nauru,” Morrison said in a statement. Left with no option, the Australian government made arrangements to transfer all detainees at Curtin to Nauru at the first available opportunity for offshore processing, consistent with government policy under Operation Sovereign Borders. Morrison said these transfers were undertaken overnight on three separate flights and all 157 have now arrived in Nauru. All detainees, previously living in India would now be unable to take advantage of the humanitarian offer being made by the Indian government. “There will also now be around 50 more children on Nauru, many of whom, if not all, could have been going back to India,” Morrison said, processing and resettlement in Australia was never an option of the government. “The Tony Abbott government will always do all within our powers to prevent people smuggling ventures getting to Australia,” Morrison said. There has been just one such venture in more than seven months. That is in stark contrast to the more than two hundred that occurred over the same time period last year, he said. (Times of India 2/8/14)

43. 10 dead in Israeli airstrike near Gaza UN school (13)

RAFAH: A United Nations school sheltering displaced people in the southern Gaza Strip was hit on Sunday by what a U.N. official said appeared to be an Israeli airstrike, as the military struck the Hamas-ruled territory despite signalling a possible scaling back of its 27-day offensive. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded after the strike near a boys’ school in the town of Rafah. Robert Turner, the director of operations for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said preliminary findings indicated the blast was the result of an Israeli airstrike near the school, which had been providing shelter for some 3,000 people. He said at least one U.N. staffer appeared to be dead. “We don’t have confirmed details yet but the initial report says that there was some kind of airstrike in a street outside one of our shelters,” Mr. Turner said. Witnesses said the attack happened while people were waiting in line for food supplies. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. In a chaotic scene inside the compound of the U.N. school, several bodies, among them children, were strewn across the ground in puddles of blood. Bloody footprints stained the ground where people had rushed the wounded into ambulances. “Our trust and our fate is only in the hands of God!” one woman cried. Some of the wounded, among them children with bloody head bandages, were transported to the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah and others were treated in what seemed to be a makeshift clinic underneath a tent. Several dead bodies, wrapped in white cloth, were lined up on the floor. At least six U.N. facilities, including schools sheltering the displaced, have been struck by Israeli fire since the conflict began, drawing international condemnation. In each case Israel has said it was responding to militants launching rockets or other attacks from nearby. In nearly four weeks of fighting, more than 1,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed as well as nearly 70 Israelis, almost all soldiers. Israel launched an aerial campaign in Gaza on July 8, 2014 to try to halt Palestinian rocket fire that has reached major cities, and later sent in troops to dismantle a sophisticated system of cross-border tunnels built by the militants in order to carry out attacks. Israel struck several targets in Gaza on Sunday. Artillery shells slammed into two high-rise office buildings in downtown Gaza City and large explosions could be heard seconds apart, police and witnesses said. Mr. al-Kidra said 30 Palestinians were killed on Sunday, including nine in a single strike in the southern Gaza Strip. Israel said it carried out 180 strikes on Sunday. While fighting continued, several Israeli tanks and other vehicles were seen leaving Gaza. In a televised address late Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested troops would reassess operations after completing the demolition of Hamas military tunnels under the border. Security officials said the tunnel mission was winding down. At the same time, Mr. Netanyahu warned the territory’s Hamas rulers that they would pay an “intolerable price” if militants continued to fire rockets at Israel and that all options remain on the table. The Israeli military death toll rose to 64 after Israel announced that Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old infantry lieutenant feared captured in Gaza, was actually killed in battle. Three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side since hostilities began. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon revealed on his Facebook page on Sunday that he is a distant relative of Goldin. Israel had earlier said it feared Goldin had been captured by Hamas militants alongside two other soldiers who were killed Friday near Rafah in an ambush that shattered a cease-fire and was followed by heavy shelling that left dozens of Palestinians dead.Large swaths of Gaza have been destroyed and some 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the war began on July 8. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

44. Islamic State extends gains in north Iraq, Christians flee (13)

Iraq: Islamic State militants extended their gains in northern Iraq on Thursday, seizing more towns and strengthening a foothold near the Kurdish region in an offensive that has alarmed the Baghdad government and regional powers. The advance forced thousands of residents of Iraq’s biggest Christian town to flee, fearing they would be subjected to the demands the Sunni militants made in other captured areas – leave, convert to Islam or face death. The Islamic State, which is considered more extreme than al- Qaeda, sees Iraq’s majority Shi’ites and minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community, as infidels. The militant group said in a statement on its Twitter account that its fighters had seized 15 towns, the strategic Mosul dam on the Tigris River and a military base in an offensive that began at the weekend and would continue. Kurdish officials say their forces still control the dam, Iraq’s biggest. On Thursday, two witnesses told Reuters by telephone that Islamic State fighters had hoisted the group’s black flag over the dam, which could allow the militants to flood major cities or cut off significant water supplies and electricity. The Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces in the weekend sweep, prompting tens of thousands from the ancient Yazidi community to flee the town of Sinjar for surrounding mountains. Some of the many thousands trapped by Islamic State fighters on Sinjar mountain have been rescued in the past 24 hours, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, adding that 200,000 had fled the fighting. “This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” spokesman David Swanson said by telephone. Many of the displaced people urgently need water, food, shelter and medicine, he said. A spokesman for the U.N. agency for children said many of the children on the mountain were suffering from dehydration and at least 40 had died. Yazidis, seen by the Islamic State as “devil worshipers”, risk being executed by the Sunni militants seeking to establish an Islamic empire and redraw the map of the Middle East. Gains by the Islamic State have raised concerns that militants across the Arab world will follow their cue. The Sunni militants have fought in Lebanon. The Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in areas of Iraq and Syria it controls, clashed with Kurdish forces on Wednesday in the town of Makhmur near Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous zone. Witnesses said the militants had seized Makhmur, but Kurdish officials told local media their forces remained in control there and television channels broadcast footage of peshmerga fighters driving around the town. The mainly Christian town of Tilkaif, as well as Al Kwair, were overrun by militants, according to witnesses. The Islamic State poses the biggest threat to Iraq’s integrity since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Its fighters and their Sunni allies also control a big chunk of western Iraq. The group has deepened sectarian tensions, pushing the country back to the dark days of a civil war which peaked in 2006-2007 under U.S.-led occupation. Bombings, kidnappings and executions are routine once again in Iraq, an OPEC member. Religious and ethnic minorities that have lived in the plains of the northern province of Nineveh are particularly vulnerable. Sunni militants have been purging Shi’ite Muslims of the Shabak and ethnic Turkmen minorities from towns and villages in Nineveh, and last month set a deadline for Christians to leave the provincial capital Mosul or be killed. The death toll from car bombings in crowded markets in Shi’ite areas of Baghdad climbed overnight to 59, with 125 wounded, security and medical sources said. The Islamic State’s gains have prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite, to order his air force to help the Kurds, whose reputation as fearsome warriors was called into question by their defeat. There were several air force strikes on Wednesday, including one the government said killed 60 “terrorists” in Mosul, but they did not appear to have broken the Islamic State’s momentum. The militants’ capture of the town of Sinjar, ancestral home of the Yazidi ethnic minority, prompted tens of thousands of people to flee to surrounding mountains, where they are at risk of starvation. The Islamic State sees the Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, as “devil worshippers”. They are spread across a large area of northern Iraq and are part of the country’s Kurdish minority. Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein’s troops tried to crush the Kurds. Some were taken away by the executed former dictator’s intelligence agents.  (Zee News 7/8/14)

45. Mizoram CM discusses refugee issue with home secretary (13)

Aizawal: The Mizoram government has asked the union home ministry to take up with the Election Commission the issue of deleting from the electoral lists the names of those refugees who are unwilling to leave Tripura camps and return to Mizoram, an official said Friday. “Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla Wednesday held a meeting with Home Secretary Anil Goswami in New Delhi and requested him to take action over deleting the names of those refugees who are not willing to return to Mizoram,” an official told IANS here. He said, “The chief minister asked the home secretary to approach the Election Commission to take appropriate steps to remove the names of refugees from the Mizoram electoral rolls who are reluctant to return within a specific period.” “Lal Thanhawla apprised Goswami that while the state government has done its best to take back the refugees from Tripura camps, the state government’s efforts have often been opposed by a section of refugee leaders,” the official said. The home secretary told the chief minister that a committee would soon visit Tripura refugee camps to take note of the situation, the official said. About 35,000 Reang tribals are staying in seven camps in Tripura for the past 17 years after they fled their villages in Mizoram following clashes with the Mizos. The Election Commission in April made arrangements for the refugees in six of the seven relief camps to cast their votes for the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram through postal ballots. The poll panel decision angered some NGOs and students groups. They called for a three-day shutdown and an election boycott in Mizoram. The NGOs and the students groups demanded that the refugees must return to their villages and cast their votes in Mizoram. The Election Commission later deferred the April 9 Lok Sabha polls in Mizoram to April 11 due to the stir. The Tripura government has been repeatedly asking the central government to take steps to repatriate the 35,000 tribal refugees to Mizoram. Swapan Saha, Tripura’s relief and revenue department secretary said: “The home ministry has constituted a seven-member committee headed by Rajiv Gauba, the ministry’s additional secretary, to oversee the condition of the refugees in the Tripura camps.” The central committee, comprising officials of the human resource development ministry, social justice and empowerment ministry, Tripura government and representatives of three NGOs from New Delhi, West Bengal and Assam, will submit its report to the home ministry and the Tripura High Court by Sep 12. The central team was constituted following a directive from the Tripura High Court which passed an order June 24 after a lawyer filed a petition. “The central team will visit the refugee camps before Aug 31 and supervise the sanitation, health, educational and other facilities there,” Saha added. Only about 5,000 Reang tribal refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years. (Business Standard 8/8/14)

46. Government to draft 1500 officers to update citizens’ register (13)

GUWAHATI: The state government will engage 1,500 officers of gazetted rank as Local Registrars of Citizens Registration (LRCRs) in the state for updating the National Register for Citizens here. The government stated that it expects to complete the updating by December, 2016. The decision to update the NRC of 1951 was taken at a meeting among Aasu, the Centre and the state government in 2005. The notification for starting the work, based on the NRC of 1951 and electoral rolls up to 1971, was issued in December, 2013 in consultation with the ministry of law and justice. The Assam Accord of 1985 makes NRC upgrading mandatory for identification and deportation of illegal migrants to their places of origin, mostly Bangladesh. The process started after June 1, 2010, when the Registrar General, Citizens’ Registration, notified two pilot projects for updating the NRC of 1951 in Chaygaon revenue circle (Kamrup district) and Barpeta Sadar revenue circle (Barpeta district). A pilot project for updating the NRC was started on July 24 in the same year in Barpeta and Kamrup, which was called off after four persons protesting the modalities of updating were killed in police firing in Barpeta. “The process of NRC updating in Assam has made progress as per schedule and is expected to ensure final publication of the updated NRC within December, 2016,” a source of the state political department said. He said citizenship being a subject matter of the Union list of the Constitution of India, Centre’s approval is essential in all aspects of NRC updating process. “Powers to take decisions on operational issues, however, have been delegated by the Registrar General of India (RGI) to an empowered NRC committee of the state government on June 17, 2014. However, the decisions taken by this committee would be subjected to vetting by the RGI,” the source said. He said updating work would be carried out simultaneously across the state. “The state government has created 1,199 posts for project implementation at the state, district and circle level and also started the process of recruitment for these posts. A few crucial positions like additional project director, community project manager, and MIS (Management Information Expert) expert have already been filled up at the NRC state office, which is called the state project management unit (SPMU),” he said. This NRC office will be made operational by August, he said, adding, “All officers to be engaged for NRC updating have been identified for notification.” (Times of India 10/8/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

47. CBI to seek shield against RTI for its graft-tainted officials (1)

NEW DELHI: The CBI wants to stop disclosing details of allegations of corruption against its own officials under the RTI Act, something the agency currently provides under the transparency law. The agency will challenge before the Delhi high court an order of the Central Information Commission directing it to disclose information about its officials Vivek Dutt and Rajesh Karnatak who are facing allegations of corruption. RTI activist Subhash Agrawal had sought to know details of allegations against these officers who were part of CBI’s probe in the coal scam and were arrested by the agency while allegedly taking bribe to favour a businessman. “This is to inform you that CBI is going to file an appeal before the Delhi high court against the order of CIC,” DIG Arun Bothra said in a communication to Agrawal. CBI, a central investigating agency, was exempted from the transparency law by the UPA government which was facing serious allegations of corruption probed by the agency. The UPA government had brought it under Section 24 of the RTI Act which lists security and intelligence agencies exempted from provisions of the RTI Act. The section, however, makes it clear that such exemption from RTI Act shall not be applicable if any material sought by an information seeker and held by a public authority pertains to “allegations” of corruption. CBI had said the agency was exempt from making disclosures under the RTI Act. Rejecting the CBI’s arguments, chief information commissioner Rajiv Mathur held that Section 24 of the RTI Act had exempted certain organizations from the purview of the RTI Act including CBI. “However, information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations have been excluded,” Mathur said in his order. (Times of India 30/7/14)

48. Govt amends RTI Act to correct names of 2 exempted intel units (1)

New Delhi: Nearly nine years after the Right to Information Act came into force, the government has made changes in the Act to correct the names of two intelligence organisations exempted from providing information under the transparency law. The ‘Aviation Research Centre of the Cabinet Secretariat’ and ‘Special Frontier Force of the Cabinet Secretariat’ have been incorporated in the list of exempted organsations under the RTI Act, as per the amendments notified by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) late last month. Earlier, the names mentioned in the Act were Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and Special Frontier Force (SFF). Though the DoPT did not offer any clarification as to why the Act was amended, sources said the changes have been made to rightly show allegiance of the two organisations to the Cabinet Secretariat. Both the ARC and SFF are among over 20 intelligence and security agencies including IB, RAW and CBI exempted from providing information under the RTI Act to any citizen. “The ARC and the SFF do not have dedicated websites. Except for a mention about their inclusion in the list of notified organisations under Schedule 2 of the RTI Act in reply to a query in the Lok Sabha in 2005, no other question has been asked about these organisations in Parliament during the last 15 years,” said Venkatesh Nayak, who works with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO. According to the 2012-2013 annual report of the Central Information Commission, the Cabinet Secretariat is said to have rejected only 18 RTI applications under Section 24. “It is not clear whether ARC and SFF received any RTI applications at all last year,” he said, raising questions on the government move to amend the RTI Act about nine years after it came into force. The ARC is the air wing of external intelligence agency RAW. The SFF is said to have been raised at the end of the Indo-China war in 1962. (Zee News 3/8/14)

49. Mass RTI against builders in Greater Noida (1)

NOIDA: Around 100 flat buyers have decided to submit an RTI application against builders with the Greater Noida Authority to learn about the status of their ongoing projects, in the coming week. Indris Gupta, co-founder, Noida extension flat owners welfare association said individual buyers have not only been evaded by builders, but also the authorities have not always “satisfactorily” answered their queries. “We have been pursuing individuals for information. Most of them dodge queries from buyers directly, so now, we have made a list of builders from whom we request information about change of design, construction plans,” said Gupta. “We are getting together close to a 100 buyers who have decided to come forth and take the issue to a bigger level of protest in Noida and Greater Noida. We really hope that this application would be paid heed to. We are also seeking an appointment with the Greater Noida Authority Chairman so that gives our grievances a fair hearing” Gupta added. (Times of India 4/8/14)

50. Graft information can be sought from CBI under RTI: Govt (1)

New Delhi: Information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations can be sought from CBI under the Right to Information Act as exemption given to the organisation does not cover such records, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Minister of state for personnel and training Jitendra Singh said CBI has been included in the Second Schedule to the Right to Information Act, 2005, thereby exempting it from the purview of the Act except in respect of information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations. In a written reply, the minister said some representations have been received objecting to the inclusion of CBI in the second schedule of the RTI Act, 2005. “The government decided to include the Bureau in the Second Schedule after satisfying itself that it qualifies to be included in the schedule as a security and intelligence organisation and that it is necessary to do so in the interest of the security of the state,” the minister said. Organisations listed under Section 24 of the RTI are exempted from disclosure under the Act except when information held by them pertains to allegations of corruption or human rights violation. In such cases, disclosure would be judged by provisions of the RTI Act. Former chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra had clarified in one of his decisions that if any information held by an exempted organisation pertaining to allegations of corruption or human rights violation is sought by an applicant, its disclosure would be judged by the RTI Act and the exemption will not apply. (Hindustan Times 6/8/14)

51. Sports bodies receiving 10 lakh and above to come under RTI (1)

NEW DELHI: The government of India has declared today that all sports bodies receiving a grant of Rupees 10 lakh or more annually will come under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) act. “Government has declared all National Sports Federations (NSFs) receiving grant of Rs.10 lakh or more in a year as Public Authorities under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information (RTI), Act 2005,” said a Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry release. “Further, as per the provisions under Section 4(2) of the RTI Act, 2005 it has been made incumbent upon all the public authorities to suo-moto disclose information on the various activities carried out by them. This is the requirement of good governance and transparency in sports bodies,” the release added. The government has also directed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the NSFs to place a detailed information of all their ‘spendings’ and regulations on their respective websites by August 20. Complete details of officials, who were sent to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow by IOA/NSFs along with the amount paid such as air fare, boarding and lodging, local transportation, daily allowance etc. has to be shared on the website. List of players (along with support personnel) who actually participated in the CWG will also be needed. Further, the IOA and NSFs have been asked to post all the detailed information on their website with regard to all international events to be held in India and abroad. From the details of coaching camps organised to the list of participants, support staff and coaches, the selection criteria of such events and the performance criteria which formed the basis of selection will all be required to be listed on the website as per the new government guidelines. (Times of India 7/8/14)

52. Homebuyers file 100 RTI pleas on 34 projects in Gr Noida (1)

NOIDA: Homebuyers in Greater Noida and Noida Extension came together on Friday to file 100 right to information applications on projects of 34 builders. The common theme in most RTI applications was the date of completion and handover of apartments in the housing projects. The buyers also inquired about the quality of material being used by builders, safety measures undertaken, changes in layout plan, if any and the floor area ratio. The ‘mass RTI’, as the homebuyers chose to describe it, was filed at the office of the Greater Noida Authority. “We have expedited the RTI submission and have requested the Authority to give us a speedy response,” said Shweta Bhatri, general secretary of the Noida Extension Flat Owners’ Welfare Association. One of the buyers, Arvind Kumar Singh, told TOI, “I own a house in a 21-floor project in Greater Noida. Though people are now residing in the apartments, the project has till date not received a completion certificate from the Authority. There are no safety measures and all our lives are at stake, but because the buyers are scared of not getting their flats, they have moved in. I am one of them.” Aditya, another buyer who participated in the ‘mass-RTI’ exercise, said, “We are scared that in a rush, the builders are using sub-standard material. We need to know what material is being used. If layouts are being changed, we should be made aware.” Harish Verma, assistant CEO, Noida Authority, said, “We will respond to they buyers’ queries, but it is important that the buyers pose their questions to the builders directly at the time of buying their apartments. They should be fully aware of the fine-print before making an investment.” (Times of India 9/8/14)

53. Give department-wise details of whistleblowers complaints: CIC to CVC (1)

New Delhi: The department-wise details of whistleblowers’ complaints of corruption in government departments can be made public, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held. Exercising his Right to Information, Venkatesh Nayak had sought from Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) details of complaints against government servants received under the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers (PIDPI) Resolution, also known as whistleblowers resolution. The CVC in its reply had maintained that PIDPI data is maintained as per the names and designation of officials concerned or organisation-wise to which the officials belong. ive department-wise details of whistleblowers complaints: CIC to CVC According to an official data, CVC had received 698, 804 and 901 complaints under the PIDPI Resolution during 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. “The information sought by the appellant may be available in the individual files of the Commission and culling and compiling from all the files pertaining to PIDPI complaints would involve deployment of additional manpower and would disproportionately divert the limited resources,” the CVC had said while disposing of the application and appeal. Aggrieved over the rejection, Nayak had moved CIC. “The Commission directs the Central Public Information Officer to provide the information to the appellant,” CIC said in its order. According to an official data, CVC had received 698, 804 and 901 complaints under the PIDPI Resolution during 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. “CVC disposes of most of the PIDPI cases saying ‘requiring no action’ and gives no explanation. The public in general and most importantly, the whistleblowers themselves, have the right to know the reasons for this kind of disposal,” said Nayak, who works with NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, and demanded more transparency in disposal of these cases. The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011, which provides a mechanism for protecting the identity of whistleblowers — a term given to people who expose corruption — got the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee in May this year. The Act also provides for a system to encourage people to disclose information about corruption or willful misuse of power by public servants, including ministers. As per the law, a person can make a public interest disclosure on corruption before a competent authority, which is at present the CVC. (CNN IBN 10/8/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

54. Govt. to revisit proposal to bring all schools under education Act (11)

BANGALORE: The State government will revisit the proposal by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to bring all schools under the ambit of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983. Initially, the Act had stated that schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) would not be under its purview. However, in 2011, the High Court of Karnataka had said that CBSE and ICSE schools would come under the Karnataka Education Act and had quashed the relevant section. Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammad Mohsin said that an amendment would bring more clarity to the Act and bring in more accountability. Despite the High Court order, officials in the Education Department said that CBSE and ICSE schools were not obeying several circulars and guidelines issued by the department. “Several times, when we try to initiate action against schools for violating sections of the RTE Act, the schools, particularly CBSE and ICSE schools, say that the State government cannot regulate them. This even though we issue no objection certificates to the schools,” a source said. The Karnataka Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2012 also state that the State government could initiate action against schools if they violated RTE Act norms. (The Hindu 29/7/14)

55. Reply to RTE Act PIL, Bombay high court tell Maharashtra govt (11)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court has sought the presence of state advocate-general Darius Khambata to address the court over certain serious issues raised in a PIL, which has questioned the government’s failure in the Right to Education (RTE) Act’s implementation in Maharashtra. A bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice Amjad Sayed on August 1 said “considering the importance of primary education in the state, certain issues in the state’s July 31 affidavit require clarification.” The issues before the court now are the financial implication on parents and students from disadvantaged and weaker sections, who are admitted under the 25% quota and on the institutions that admitted these students. The other question that was raised by Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti and that the court is now hearing is “effective timely steps be taken by all concerned to achieve the 25% target in every school in the state”. “What is the purpose of keeping unfilled seats vacant”, the court also asked. The HC will now hear the matter on August 4. The PIL hearing has uncovered the state’s failure of the much touted “online admission process” for the 25% seats reserved under the RTE Act. The online allotment letters merely “entitle the student to approach the earmarked schools with necessary documents for verification.” This leaves the door open for the schools to reject the application or simply deny admission without specifying any reason, said activists. The third round of “online admissions” is expected to start from Monday. (Times of India 2/8/14)

56. RTE quota: out goes ‘free’ education (11)

BANGALORE: Unable to control private school managements from extorting fees from parents of children admitted under the RTE quota, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has removed the word ‘free’ education and retained only the word compulsory from the advertisements issued by the department to raise awareness about the Act. This comes months after the RTE task force submitted a complaint to the Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) stating that the ads issued by the department were misleading as private unaided schools were charging fees for parents whose children were admitted under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education reservation quota. This, even as the department issued a circular to private unaided schools stating that extorting fees from parents of students admitted under the RTE quota is not acceptable. The department had roped in Kannada actors — Puneet Rajkumar and Radhika Pandit — to raise awareness about the RTE Act. The new advertisements appearing in newspapers and on various television channels mentioned that compulsory education is mandatory for children between 6 and 14 years. However, it has left out the word ‘free’ that was used in earlier advertisements and the central legislation itself. Condemning the move, RTE task force convener Nagasimha G. Rao said it was extremely irresponsible on the part of the department to remove the word ‘free’ from advertisements. “In stead of making sure that private schools do not exploit parents of children admitted under the RTE quota, the department has washed away its responsibility and removed the word ‘free’.” The government reimbursement ceiling to private schools is fixed at Rs.11,848 a year for a child admitted to Class 1 and Rs. 5,924 for a child in pre-primary class. Private school managements had contended that the amount was not adequate. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

57. NGOs bat for revival of ‘dal-bhaat’ scheme (11)

RANCHI: Right to food campaign, conglomerate of NGOs working for implementation of Food Security Act (FSA), had demanded the state government to restart ‘dal-bhaat’ scheme under which special outlets were opened by the state government to provide ‘dal-bhaat’ at cheap rate. The campaign activists convened their state-level meeting here on Sunday to discuss various aspects of the FSA and draw a comprehensive plan to intensify their stir, aimed at implementation of the scheme in state on time. Presenting a report on the ‘anda-abhiyan’ (egg campaign) taken up all over the state on July 3, state convener for right to food, Gurjeet Singh, said that the state was not in a mood to include eggs in mid day meal being given to students in government schools. “During the ‘anda-abhiyan’ 10650 students of 17 government schools were served eggs and a pressure was mounted over the state machinery to include eggs in the menu of MDM,” he said. Keeping under consideration the success of the campaign, the activists have decided to launch ‘daal-bhat’ campaign on August 22 when ‘daal-bhaat’ would be distributed across state to create awareness among the beneficiaries and government agencies so that the scheme is reintroduced. The members of the campaign also decided to write post cards to chief minister Hemant Soren, requesting him to include eggs in MDM of school kids. State president, right to education forum, AK Singh emphasized that MDM is not just linked to right to food but serves bridge with right to education of children as well. “We are going to include egg-campaign in further activities of RTE as well,” he said. Chairing the meet, Supreme Court appointed advisor to commissioner on implementation of right to food, Balram, said that egg-campaign was nothing but a symbolism to make the government agencies responsible for children’s right to food and education. “Government is drawing a formula to decide inclusion and exclusion of beneficiaries of the FSA for which campaign members would extend their suggestions,” he said expressing disappointment over the fact that universal PDS was not accepted by the union government, as was demanded by the campaign from onset. (Times of India 4/8/14)

58. Court raps government for withholding students’ books (11)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday criticised the city government over its “failure” to provide free books and uniforms to economically weaker section (EWS) students studying in unaided private schools in the city. The court also was displeased with the status report filed by the city’s Directorate of Education and asked for a fresh report within two weeks. The status report filed by the Delhi government had revealed that only 303 schools in the city have provided free books and uniforms to EWS students. “We are not happy with the status report filed by the Directorate of Education, it is very vague and does not provide requisite information,” said the court, and asked the director of education to submit an affidavit detailing the total number of students in the EWS and disadvantaged group (DG) categories. The DoE has also been asked to file separate information on government schools, private unaided schools and the schools not in these categories. The court has also wants details of the total number of students, who have received free books and uniforms. The court was hearing a petition of filed by a NGO, Justice for All, which alleged that students of unaided private schools in the EWS and DG categories were deprived of free books, uniforms and other study material. “A division bench of this high court had directed the Directorate of Education (DoE) to come out with guidelines in February 2011 but the government failed to do so and schools have been violating the provisions of RTE Act,” the plea said. The petition has alleged that these schools are “grossly” violating provisions of RTE Act and the Delhi RTE Rules. It has also claimed that though these schools were receiving reimbursements from the government, they were not providing the same to the students. (Asian Age 6/8/14)

59. Teachers to hold protest to press for their demands (11)

Mumbai: As per State Principals Union, at least 60,000 teachers are on the verge of losing their jobs due to improper implementation of RTE. Should the Act be implemented properly, more than 1 lakh posts can be created. Around 14 different associations are coming together to speak out against some rules that are affecting not only the teachers, but also the students. The associations have also decided to shut down schools after August 15, if corrections aren’t made to some of RTE rules. After knowing that 60,000 teachers may lose their jobs – especially those from unaided schools – the associations have decided to protest on August 11. Around 14 organizations of trustees, principals, teachers, students and parents across the state are coming together to protest the improper implementation of the RTE Act in front of the Director of Education office in Pune. Prashant Redijj, head of the State Principals Union, said, “The most affected in this are Marathi-medium schools whose staff and students are joining the protest. The RTE says that standards 6, 7 and 8 should have 1 teacher for 35 students. If class 5 has 30 students, then that one teacher will become surplus and those 30 children will be merged with another class of 35. Even in the offline staff selection, many are going to lose their jobs. We are protesting to withdraw some of these rules.” (DNA 8/8/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

60. Hunger deaths stalk Bengal tea country (21)

JALPAIGURI/ALIPURDUAR: The picturesque tea estates of North Bengal hide a gruesome truth – malnutrition deaths. Nearly 100 people have reportedly died in five closed tea gardens since January, with 10 deaths reported this month. It’s a chilling reminder of the starvation deaths in Amlasole, West Midnapore, 10 years ago following which Supreme Court had ordered an inquiry. But just like the Left Front government then, the Mamata Banerjee administration refuses to categorise them as malnutrition deaths. The Godhulibazar North East Society for Empowerment of Public, an NGO working in tea belt, says the number of deaths has touched 100. “Seven people have died in Redbank and Raipur tea estates alone,” said society coordinator Md Azhar on Monday. Over the past decade and a half, more than 1,000 garden workers and their family members have died in the sprawling but decaying tea estates of Dooars, say NGO workers. Though many gardens that were closed a decade ago have since reopened, deaths continue to stalk this belt. This month, six persons have died at Redbank Tea Estate. Many more are emaciated and vulnerable to disease and death, say sources. The closure of once flourishing tea gardens has dealt a staggering blow to the Dooars economy. Tea workers were never a happy lot, with low wages, poor quality rations and inadequate medical facilities. But things have turned worse now with death and disease becoming a part of daily life in the ‘Coolie’ lines. “Tuberculosis is rampant. So are other ailments. We don’t have electricity and had planned to boycott the election this time but couldn’t coordinate the effort. There is hardly anything to eat. The rice we get through public distribution system is unfit for human consumption. Though doctors visit the garden thrice a week, we don’t have money for medicines or tests. I’ve been told I need a surgery but can’t afford it,” says Anup Oraon, a worker in Redbank. Two more gardens in Jalpaiguri are shut: Surendranagar and Dharanipur. And in the adjoining Alipurduar district, two gardens – Dheklapara TE and Bandapani – have been shut for years. These five gardens account for nearly 15,000 workers and 45,000 dependants. Though they get a few days work under NREGA, payment is irregular… (Times of India 29/7/14)

61. Students from Muslim families form major chunk of school dropouts (21)

MYSORE: The rate of school dropouts is high among children from Muslim community in Mysore city. Education officials attribute it to “poverty, illiteracy among parents and local environment”.S Chandrapatil, deputy project coordinator at Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), claimed that the north education block has the highest number of dropouts. Here, majority of the students are from Muslim families. As many as 1,338 students studying in Class VI, VII and VIII have quit learning to work as per a joint survey report made by the members of an NGO and the education department. The main cause is said to be “poverty and local environment”.The other findings of the report: children stop going to school once they step into teenage and jump to work. Reasons vary depending on individual cases. Some have quit studies to support their families, a few others follow their neighbhours who go to work, and others because of pressure from their parents to work. On turning 13-14 years, they think of working instead continuing education. “Once they start earning, it will be difficult for us to bring them back to school. We are trying our best by roping in the services of NGOs,” the official claimed. The dropout rate in SC/ST students is also high in the district. About 26% of 5,921 dropouts belong to SC/ST community. Majority students, belonging to scheduled tribe from HD Kote and Hunsur, don’t show interest in studies. Poverty, migration and illiteracy among parents are known causes for scheduled caste students to drop out of schools. Muslim students alone account for 21% of the dropout rate,” he claimed. Girl students stop learning because they are forced to work as caretakers of their siblings or to work as domestic help. As per the latest stats, 5,921 students have left schools in the district. Of them, 2,153, including 949 girls, have resumed studies, thanks to the efforts of education authorities and NGOs. “Government has set up Kasturba Gandhi Balika residential schools in five taluks to facilitate dropouts to continue education. At present, 377 have enrolled in those schools,” claimed Chandrapatil. Corporator K C Shoukath Pasha said that poverty could be a reason for Muslim boys to discontinue education. “But if the government improves facilities at government schools, the dropout rate will surely come down. Government schools in north education block lack benches and qualified teachers,” he added. (Times of India 2/8/14)

62. Poverty figures in Chhattisgarh, MP are highest (21)

New Delhi: The expert group headed by former PM’s Economic Advisory Committee chairman C. Rangarajan, which was assigned the task of determining fresh criteria to identify the poor in the country, has revealed that two BJP-ruled states, Madhya Pradesh (44 per cent) and Chhattisgarh (47.9 per cent), have among the highest incidences of poverty in percentage terms. Incidentally, even in Gujarat (27.4 per cent), which was showcased by the BJP as a model state in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the percentage of the poor is fairly close to the national average of 29.5 per cent. The expert group, which recently submitted its report to the government, a copy of which is with this newspaper, revealed that smaller states like Goa (6.3 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (10.9 per cent), Kerala (11.3 per cent) and Haryana (12.5 per cent), are among the better-off states, having the least poverty, and are far below the national average. In terms of absolute numbers of poor people, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are at the top of the list, as these two states have a high density of population. With 80.9 million people living below the poverty line in Uttar Pradesh, and 43.8 million in Bihar, the poor in the two states together account for over 10 per cent of India’s population. But in percentage terms, they (Bihar 41.3 and UP 39.8) are below the BJP-ruled states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The ruling BJP has always boasted about Gujarat’s development model, and used it to the hilt in the Lok Sabha polls. But a close look at the figures provided by the expert group reveals that of the total population of the state, the number of poor is as high as 16.8 million, that is 27.4 per cent, that is very close to the national average of 29.5 per cent, leaving a question mark on the “inclusiveness” of growth in the state. Incidentally, in West Bengal, that is currently reeling under a huge debt burden, with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress government pushing hard to get some relief from the Centre, the poverty figure is astonishingly quite close to the national average. At a time when the national average is 29.5, in West Bengal only 29.7 per cent of people are poor. Among Union territories, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have the least poverty, with only 6.0 per cent of its people poor, whereas the highest incidence of poverty is in Dadra and Nagar Haveli (35.6 per cent). (Asian Age 4/8/14)

63. Conference to Chalk Out Ways to Feed Eight Billion People in 2025 (21)

CHENNAI: Commemorating the UN International Year of Family Farming, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), in partnership with several international agencies, will hold a regional consultation to discuss ways to achieve “Zero Hunger.” The four-day meet will witness participation of ministerial delegates from 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific Region and more than 200 participants representing international and national organisations, farmers’ producer groups and academicians in the city from August 7 to 10. Announcing the details of the event at a press conference here on Monday, MSSRF founder and chief mentor M S Swaminathan said there was a need for a shift from ‘food security’ to ‘nutrition security’ in the current context. “Family farming offers an effective and economic solution to help meet the challenge of making sure that each person has access not just to calories but to nutritious food. With an estimated 500 million family farms across the world, we are looking at the role two billion people play, in achieving this nutrition security.” The agriculture expert said family farming included all family-based agricultural activities such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture. Managed and operated by a family, it was predominantly reliant on family labour including that of women. “Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector,” he pointed out. Swaminathan said the event would be held at the MSSRF campus in the city in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Development Research Centre, Canada, World Food Programme, International Fund for Agriculture Development, Department for International Development UK, UN Women, Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium and other national and international agencies. “With an estimated eight billion mouths to feed by 2025, we must think more precisely about a solutions for reaching zero hunger. This conference, which will culminate in a Chennai Declaration, hopes to do precisely that,” Swaminathan added. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

64. PM’s WTO remark against UPA false: Congress (21)

New Delhi: Refuting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion that the UPA government had compromised on the issue of food security at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Congress has said it will raise the matter in Parliament on Monday. “The statement of Mr. Modi, his claim of standing up for food security in the interest of farmers by taking up a stand in opposition to the one taken by the UPA government is misleading and given with the objective to confuse the people,” former Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said in a statement. Mr. Sharma said the Prime Minister’s remarks that India had disregarded the interests of farmers and the right to food security at the WTO’s Bali Ministerial were “astonishing, factually incorrect and false.” He said that on the issue of the WTO, Mr. Modi, in his address to the BJP’s National Council meeting on Saturday, had contradicted statements that Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman made in Parliament last week. Mr. Sharma is the Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha and had led the Indian delegation at the WTO’s Bali Ministerial meet. “When both the Houses are in session, it becomes a question of privilege of the members to know what the truth is. Which of the two is true?” Without naming the UPA government, Mr. Modi on Saturday said “those who sought votes in the name of food security, signed the agreement [sacrificing the interests of poor people].” He said the NDA government “chose” to take a tough stand in the recent WTO talks to protect the interests of the poor people of the country rather than to look for good publicity in the international media. Mr. Sharma said the “Prime Minister needed to be reminded that it was India’s strong and uncompromising stance that forced the issue of procurement of food grains for public stock holding and livelihood countries on the Bali WTO agenda despite stiff opposition from the U.S., European Union and other developed countries.” He said India had succeeded in forming a coalition of developing countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, forcing the developed countries to cede ground and agree to negotiate a permanent solution to change the dated WTO rules which India rejected at Bali as inherently flawed and unjust. “India also secured for itself and other developing countries protection from any challenge at the WTO for any breach until a negotiated permanent solution was put in place,” Mr. Sharma said. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

65. India accepts ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ (21)

CHENNAI: India has agreed to the “Zero Hunger Challenge” set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said Hiroyuki Konuma, assistant director general for Asia-Pacific for FAO. We got an official confirmation from the Union minister of agriculture. Now, the next step would be to formulate a country-specific action plan to eradicate hunger in our life time,” he told TOI on Sunday. He was in the city for a four-day conference by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. “Countries have promised to set aside at least 10% of their national revenue for this cause,” he added. The “Zero Hunger Challenge” comes at a time when the number of hungry people has not reduced substantially, despite progress in agriculture production. At the end of Second World War, about one in six people were hungry. Today, one in eight people go to bed hungry. For successful family farming, women should also be given equal access and rights to resources. (Times of India 11/8/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

66. Cabinet nod for labour law reforms (14)

NEW DELHI: The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to three archaic labour laws aimed at easing regulations which have acted as an obstacle to faster growth and hurt employee interests. Sources said the cabinet had approved amendments to the Factories 1948, the Apprenticeship Act 1961, Labour Laws (Exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining of registers by certain establishments 1988), a bold reform move expected to help attract investments and improve the ease of doing business in the country. The amendments to the Factories Act 1948 is expected allow women for night duty with adequate safety and provision for transport after work. This is expected to help several sectors such as textiles and garments. It also aimed to raise the overtime hours from the current ceiling of 50 hours per quarter to 100 hours per quarter. The amendment also proposes this limit to be increased to a maximum of 125 hours per quarter in public interest with the approval of state government. The amendments also seeks to ensure safer work environment for employees in hazardous environment as well as provision of canteen facilities in respect of factories employing 200 or more workers instead of the present stipulation of 250 workers. It also provides for shelters or restrooms and lunchrooms in factories employing 75 or more workers instead of the present stipulation of 150 workers. The amendments to the apprenticeship act 1961 is expected to help in skill development and training. The move is aimed at providing flexibility to firms on hiring apprentices and removing restrictive clauses for employers. The Narendra Modi administration has vowed to revive the economy and the manufacturing sector to create jobs and experts said the reforms in labour laws is expected to usher in investments and deepen industrial activity. “This sends a very positive signal about the government’s intention to attract investment. It is the first step and is perhaps the biggest reforms in nearly 44 years. It is a huge step,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, senior vice president and co-founder of staffing firm TeamLeas. But she cautioned that there should not be any complacency and the government should put in place mechanisms to oversee the implementation of the new reforms. (Times of India 31/7/14)

67. CITU to Protest Against Raj Govt’s Bills Amending Labour Laws (14)

JAIPUR: The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) today announced to hold massive protests from August 13 against three labour reform bills passed by Rajasthan Assembly on July 31. “Workers of various unions affiliated to CITU in Rajasthan will hold demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins at all district headquarters on August 13 and submit a copy of demands to the Governor through collectors,” Ravindra Shukla, CITU state president said at a press conference here. All trade unions reject the bills passed against labour and their unions in the House recently, he said. Contract labourers of various unions will also hold demonstrations outside Labour Commissioners and officers on August 25, demanding ‘majdoor card’, Shukla said. The legislative Assembly of Rajasthan passed Bills amending four important labour laws– on Factories Act, 1948, the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Apprenticeship Act, 1961. (New Indian Express 3/8/14)

68. NHRC to Take up MGNREGA Case in State in First Sitting (14)

BHUBANESWAR:  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will take up the issue of non-payment of wages to people who have availed work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the State as the first case during its sitting in Bhubaneswar to start from August 19. While the State Government will submit its response on the matter, affected labourers will also present their cases before the single member bench of SC Sinha. The Commission had earlier taken note of the failure of the Government to comply with its directions and submit a detailed report on complaints over non-payment of wages to workers in different districts. It had issued a final reminder to the Government calling for the report and warned of initiating coercive action under Section 13 of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 if the order is still not complied with. The Commission had acted on the basis of a complaint filed by activist Akhand drawing attention towards irregularities in implementation of MGNREGA in Odisha. The Government was not paying wages to lakhs of poor people who had toiled in different projects under the scheme, the petitioner alleged. As per rules, wages have to be paid within a fortnight but the workers are receiving payment after months. Further, it has been stipulated that overdue wages should be paid with compensation proportionate to the delay. The petitioner had alleged that more then 40 per cent of the dues to the tune of `216 crore had not been paid within the 15 day period. Over `19 crore in wages was paid after two months. This has posed immense problems for the rural poor, he alleged. He had appealed to the Commission to direct the Government to strictly adhere to the rules and make all payments within the stipulated time. Those not paid in time should be adequately compensated. The Commission had issued notice to the Chief Secretary and sought a report in the matter. The three-day camp of the Commission to be held at Odisha State Guest House would end on August 21. The Commission is scheduled to hear 82 cases. Sinha will also hold discussion with Chief Secretary along with other senior officials of the State Government, NGOs, activists and people on August 21. (New Indian Express 4/8/14)

69. 600 Women Join Stir at Kaniyambadi (14)

VELLORE: Nearly 700 villagers, including around 600 women, from 17 panchayats in Kaniyambadi union gathered in Kaniyambadi on Wednesday, to highlight the anomalies in implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme. District secretary of CPM, Vellore, A Narayanan and State president of All India Agriculture Workers’ Union (AIAWU) and MLA of Periyakulam A Laser, led the protest. The workers enrolled under the scheme are not paid properly. Job cards to workers have not been issued for the last 20 days,” said Narayanan. Collector R Nanthagopal had allegedly ordered not to issue job cards to beneficiaries until they built individual latrine, he said and criticised that it was not the right way to implement a scheme. He said,“We approached the proper channel for permission for the protest five days before. But the police informed us at 3 am on Wednesday that we can’t protest in front of the BDO office,” Narayanan added. (New Indian Express 7/8/14)

70. Govt introduces two labour reform Bills in Lok Sabha (14)

New Delhi: Moving full steam ahead with its reform agenda, the government on Thursday introduced two crucial labour reform Bills — Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and Apprentices (Amendment) Bill, 2014 — in the Lok Sabha. The two Bills that were approved by the Union Cabinet last week, were tabled by Vishnu Deo Sai, minister of state for labour and employment, according to an official release. Union labour minister Narendra Singh Tomar had earlier said that these changes would benefit workers and create jobs in a big way. “The Acts have to consider both the interests of workers as well as businesses. The proposals will benefit the workers,” he had said last week. The long pending Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 aims to improve safety and health of workers as well as allow women to be employed for night shifts in factories and also increase the limit for overtime hours by workers. The Bill also seeks to lower the criteria for annual leave with wages to 90 days from the current 240 days as well as provide canteen facilities to factories employing 200 workers. Meanwhile, the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill aims to attract more youth to join apprenticeship training by introducing new courses, opening up the field to non-engineering graduates and diploma holders and giving more flexibility to the industry. At present, there are just 2.82 lakh apprentices undergoing apprenticeship training against 4.90 lakh seats. While the government is hoping to get the Bills enacted in the ongoing session of Parliament, Opposition parties and trade unions are unhappy over its progress. Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the Factories Bill, which it will affect crores of workers in the country, was being done in haste and its introduction should be deferred as it had to be examined. Meanwhile, trade unions too have said that they were not consulted by the government on these Bills. “Even if we are not opposed to these proposals, but there should have been some consultations with us rather than rushing them through like this,” said the leader of a central trade union. The Centre of Indian Trade Unions had also written to Tomar raising concerns over the Cabinet approval to these draft legislations. (The Financial Express 8/8/14)

71. Ensure minimum wages to tea garden workers, govt. told (14)

Kolkata: Representatives of trade unions and activists under the Right to Food Campaign, who visited five abandoned and closed tea gardens in north Bengal last month, have urged the State government to ensure minimum living wages to the tea garden workers. “The State government needs to ensure payment of a minimum living wages in the tea sector to avoid starvation deaths and deaths due to poverty in the long run. This is possible if instead of the present wages of Rs. 95/90, the State government plays a positive role in the present wage negotiations or if it declares a living wages as the minimum wages in the tea sector,” a report submitted to the State’s Chief Secretary said. The representatives pointed out that immediate help is needed for the aged people in the tea gardens. “People in peril other than the elderly need to be identified by the State government and NGOs and aid should be given to them. Community kitchens under the SAHAI scheme need to be started,” Fr Irudaya Jothi, one of the members of the team, told The Hindu on Saturday. The representatives also suggested special supervision at the ICDS centres and immediate arrangements for drinking water. Other than extending work under the MGNREGA and ensuring its payment on weekly basis, if it is not possible on a daily basis, the representatives have said that measures need to be taken to sort out legal hurdles to reopen the gardens immediately. “The team recorded 65 deaths in four closed and abandoned tea estates in less than a year. While not all these deaths were due to starvation, not all deaths were in natural course or due to old age either,” Debjit Dutta, another member of the team and spokesperson of United Tea Workers Forum, said. He said that deaths were because of causes associated with malnutrition, hunger, and diseases associated with poverty such as tuberculosis. Though the 12-member team said that they were somewhat satisfied with the relief in the gardens they agreed that relief could not be a solution to the crisis. In the five tea gardens – Dheklapara, Bundapani, Red Bank, Surendranagar, and Raipur – the team visited they have compiled the number of workers to 3,780. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

RESERVATION

72. Community to protest at Azad Maidan on August 1 (25)

Mumbai: After a week-long agitation to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Dhangars turned violent, members of the community will hold a protest march on August 1. While a State Transport bus was burnt during the agitation, the protest at Azad Maidan will be peaceful. Dressed in the traditional attire of the community, its members will come to Mumbai with their goats and sheep for the event. The march will begin from Byculla and culminate at Azad Maidan, a release from the Dhanagar Arakshan Kruti Samiti said. “We have decided to vote for the party which ensures us the ST status,” Lalit Bandgar, the Samiti leader, said. Dhangars from various walks of life will participate in the protest.BJP core committee members state president Devendra Fadnavis, leader of Opposition in the Council Vinod Tawade, senior leader Madhav Bhandari and MLA Pankaja Munde have visited the protest site to extend their support. The government also has a sympathetic view of the backward community; however, the tribal leaders are opposing the demand. The Dhangar community claims a significant presence in 78 of 288 Assembly seats, including Baramati and Madha. The community’s demand for inclusion under STs was intensified after the government sanctioned 16 and five per cent reservation for Marathas and Muslims respectively in government jobs and educational institutions. Maharashtra’s Dhangars now get reservation benefits under VJNT (Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes), which they say, is not enough. The chief minister recently said that the state government would have to consider the views of all community leaders before taking a call. Tribal legislators under the leadership of NCP minister Madhukar Pichad have threatened to resign en masse if the Dhanagars are included in the ST category. (Asian Age 30/7/14)

73. Remove ‘Creamy Layer’ Concept, Suggests BJP MP (25)

NEW DELHI: A strong plea for removing the concept of ‘creamy layer’ while giving reservation to Other Backward Classes was made by a BJP member in the Lok Sabha Friday contending that such a course of action would help backwards. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Rajen Gohain wondered as to why “a division was created between ‘creamy layer’ and non-creamy layer”.He wanted to know on what basis this concept had come into existence and wanted to do away with this “injustice” at once. It was instantly supported by his party colleague Hansraj Ahir, who also wanted direction from the Centre to Maharashtra to give a fair deal to students belonging to OBC communities on the issue of fees and scholarships. He said “injustice” is being done in this regard to students in Yavatmal, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts. (New Indian Express 1/8/14)

74. SC notice to centre, states on extending SC/ST legislative quota (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday issued notice to the central and state governments on a petition challenging the constitution’s 95th amendment extending the period of reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years upto Jan 26, 2020. By the said amendment, the representation of Anglo-Indians too was extended by the same period. A constitution bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice S.A.Bobde issued notice after it was told that 79th amendment extending this period of reservation has been over-ridden by the 95th amendment that has increased the period till January 26th 2020. The constitution bench Tuesday took up for hearing petition filed in 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2007, challenging the earlier extension of period by 79th amendment. Senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan, who appeared for a number of petitioners, urged that notice may be issued to the political parties but it did not find favour with the court. He said that political parties may be permitted to implead themselves if they so intended. The 95th amendment of the constitution that was passed by the parliament in 2009 was given presidential assent on Jan 19, 2010. Originally the reservation for seats in scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Lok Sabha and State assemblies was upto 1960. But it was successively amended by 8th, 23rd, 45th, 62th and 79th amendment of the constitution’s article 334 to extend this period of reservation. Article 334 of the constitution provides for reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and Anglo-Indian community in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies. (Business Standard 5/8/14)

75. Muslims urged to take part in survey (25)

HYDERABAD: The AP State Minorities Commission (APSMC) on Wednesday sent letters to district collectors in Telangana urging them to spread awareness about the Integrated Household Survey to be taken up on August 19. “We have urged the collectors to hold awareness programmes from August 10 to August 18. This survey will be significant for all minorities as it will help them avail various benefits and reservations in education and other fields. We urge members of these communities to actively participate in the survey,” APSMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan said. The commission has written to chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, urging him to set the wheels in motion for setting up a Muslim university on the lines of Aligarh Muslim University in the state. It can be located on the land endowed to Dargah Hazrat Maqdoom Biyabani in Ranga Reddy district, it suggested. According to APSHC officials, around 1,264 acres are endowed to the dargah. “The Telangana government has said that it is serious about protecting wakf properties. By setting up the university, the issues of protection of wakf land as well as giving impetus to education of Muslims would be addressed,” Khan said. Meanwhile, after obtaining a joint survey report of revenue and wakf officials in the murky dealing of land endowed to Dargah Hazrat Shah Ali Abbas in Kukatpally, the APSMC has recommended that the Rs 1.84 crore handed over to one Syed Arifuddin Qadri be retrieved. It was in June last year that the then chairman of the AP State Wakf Board Syed Ghulam Afzal Biyabani initiated criminal proceedings against Qadri for embezzling the money. (Times of India 7/8/14)

76. Punjab wants Centre to relax MBBS admission criterion (25)

Chandigarh: The Punjab government has urged the union government to relax the admission criterion for MBBS course for the Scheduled Caste (SC) students. Punjab State Scheduled Castes Commission chairman Rajesh Bagha Thursday said 71 seats of SC quota in medical colleges in Punjab were still vacant. The Punjab government wants the central government to lower the admission cut off marks from 40 percent to 30 percent for SC students to secure admission in medical colleges of the state. “It has come to the notice of SC commission that 71 seats of SC quota are still vacant, which could not be filled due to the strict admission norms of the union government. Many SC organizations have also given representations in this regard,” Bagha said. He said the cut-off percentage was reduced to 26 percent in the 2013-14 admission session to fill up the medical seats. (Zee News 8/8/14)

77. ‘Form committee to identify genuine tribals’ (25)

The State government will work towards identifying genuine tribal communities in the State, so as to provide them with reservation and other facilities accordingly, said Revenue Minister V Sreenivas Prasad, here on Saturday. He was speaking during the World Tribal Day celebrations, jointly organised by Karnataka Adivasi Rakshana Parishat, Department of Kannada and Culture, and Karnataka Janapada Academy. He said that needy sections among tribal communities had not benefitted from the reservation meant for Scheduled Tribes. “The scope of reservation meant for tribals has been weakened, to reap electoral benefits. Communities who are not Adivasis are benefitting from the reservation meant for STs,” he said. The list of Scheduled Tribes has continued to grow since independence. The Central government should form a commission to identify genuine tribals and provide reservation and other facilities for them accordingly, he said. He said that the State would write to the Centre seeking the formation of such a Committee. “Day by day, the objectives of tribal welfare programmes is being weakened, and tribals continue to remain backward,” he said. Cooperative minister H S Mahadeva Prasad said that Project Tiger and other similar schemes had adversely affected tribal communities. Collection of forest produce and visiting places of religious importance of tribals inside the reserves had become difficult. Apart from this, tribals continue to be harassed in various forms, he added. An attractive rally, which saw the participation of several tribal art groups, was taken out in the city, as part of the celebrations. More than 10 tribal teams from various parts of the State, displayed their dance and other cultural forms during the rally. The rally, which commenced at Kote Anjaneya temple, concluded at Exhibition Grounds in the city. Teams of tribals from Jenu Kuruba, Soliga, Malekudiya, Betta Kuruba, Siddi, Yerava and others took part in the rally. MP R Dhruvanarayan said that Soliga tribe should be included under ‘Original Inhabitants’ list for getting more funds from both the Central and State governments. He was speaking after inaugurating the World Tribal Day celebrations, organised by Jilla Budakattu Girijana Abhivrudhi Sangha, at Pete Government Primary School, in Chamarajanagar, on Saturday. He urged the researchers to recommend to the government about bringing Soligas under ‘Original Inhabitants’ for their benefit. (Deccan Herald 10/8/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

78. NHRC notices to DM and SP, Mathura in a case of sexual assault (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that a teenage Dalit girl was allegedly gang raped by six youths in Pingri village of Mathura District, Uttar Pradesh, on July 19 this year. Reportedly, she had gone to a temple to attend an overnight religious event. When she went to relieve herself at a nearby field, she was abducted and sexually assaulted. The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim and issued notices to the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, calling for a report in the matter within two weeks. (Zee News 1/8/14)

79. Rights panel notice to DM on girl’s suicide bid (1)

CUTTACK: The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) taking cognisance of a petition pertaining to the alleged self-immolation bid of a Class X tribal girl has issued notice to the Nabarangpur district collector asking him to submit a report in this context within four weeks. Admitting the petition of human rights activist and advocate Prabir Kumar Das, the Commission on Friday issued the notice, informed Mr. Das on Saturday saying that he has urged the Commission to order for a high-level enquiry into the shocking incident. Kanakdei Bhatra (15) is currently undergoing treatment at SCB Medical College and Hospital here with over 95 percent burn injuries. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

80. Tamil Nadu Government Planning to Amend Human Rights Act (1)

CHENNAI: The State government is proposing to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act to make a retired judge of the Madras High Court eligible for appointment as the chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission, Advocate-General AL Somayaji told the First Bench of the High Court on Monday. When a contempt application seeking to punish the officials concerned for failure to appoint a retired Chief Justice of the High Court, as directed by it earlier, came up, Somayaji told the First Bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan that no retired Chief Justice was available to fill the post of SHRC chairman. Effective steps are being taken to amend the Act and make a retired judge of the High Court eligible for the post, the AG said and prayed for eight weeks more to do so. Originally, advocate T Sundaravadanam filed a PIL praying for a direction to the government to fill the post of SHRC chairman, which was lying vacant from August 2011. Disposing of the PIL, the First Bench headed by the then Chief Justice MY Eqbal in November 2012, directed the government to fill the post, as quickly as possible, preferably within three months. As this was not complied with even now, the petitioner filed the present contempt application. (New Indian Express 5/8/14)

81. ‘No Recognition for Any Rights Body’ (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala State Human Rights Commission chairman Justice J B Koshy has stated that no human rights organisation  in the state has the recognition of the commission.  Justice Koshy stated in an order that no organisation in the state should claim that it had the approval of and protection from the commission. ‘’In case of any organisation collecting money, misleading or cheating the people  in the name of rights bodies the affected parties can approach the police. In case of receiving complaints from such people,   the police should initiate an inquiry as per law,’’ the commission said in its order.  ‘’As per the Human Rights Protection Act, the commission conducts the enquiry using its investigation wing or employing an official not below the rank of a Gazetted officer. The commission has not engaged any agency to conduct any investigation’’  Justice Koshy’s order said. The commission’s ruling came on a complaint by K S Sudheeran, Sudhendran,  Noushad K Thekkazhikath against Kadakkavoor Vikaraman, secretary of an organisation called ‘’Kerala state  Human Rights protection council’’ which has been  claiming that it had the recognition of the commission.  The commission said such organisations should not use the names, boards on vehicles or use letterheads which could appear like that of the State government. The commission pointed out that it had noticed that some organisations had beenusing names similar to that of the commission. This is illegal. No organisation can function as part of the commission. And human rights organisations should not give membership in the style of money chain, the commission said.  Some organisations are collecting money  claiming that it had the approval of the SHRC. There is no right for the commission to give membership to the organisations as per the Human Rights Act. Lok Ayukta has also made it clear that such organisations had no recognition of the Lok Ayukta.  Some of the organisations are claiming that they had the powers of even the Chief Justice, Justice Koshy said. (New Indian Express 7/8/14)

82. Civil society calls for peace in Gaza (1)

New Delhi: Members of several civil society organisations Friday condemned the killing of innocent Palestinian children in the month-long Israeli offensive in Gaza. They also called for an extension of the ceasefire and halt to the attacks, restoration of essential services and reconstruction of Gaza under the initiative of the United Nations. They also called upon the Indian government to work with other countries to pursue recourse to all possible international mechanisms such as sanctions and criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold Israel accountable for its carnage in Gaza. The members include Ambarish Rai of Right to Education Forum, Alex George of ActionAid (a division of Child Rights Focus), Annie Namala of Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion, Sanjeev Rai of Save the Children. (Business Standard 8/8/14)

83. NHRC Notice to Govt on Maoist Killings (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Odisha Government over killing of two innocent tribals at the hands of Maoists in Malkangiri district in July. The Commission has asked the Chief Secretary GC Pati and Director General of Police Sanjeev Marik to submit reports within four weeks. The Commission issued the notice after rights activist Subash Mohapatra filed a petition alleging that police were aware that the two tribals were targets of Maoists but did not provide security to them. The victims – Deba Padiami (30) and Ganga Madkami (45) – were engaged in community development work in their village. However, they were being suspected as police informer and the Maoists had set their sights on the two. Police have, however, denied that the two deceased were police informers. In his petition, Mohapatra said, families of the deceased have not been provided any assistance from the administration. There is discrimination and delay in granting the compensation to the victims of Maoist menace, he added. The Commission took cognizance of the case and registered the complaint before hearing the matter. The killings had taken place in Badaliguda village under Kalimela police limits in the wee hours of July 25. Badaliguda is a Maoist-affected village and inhabitants have been requesting for security despite the fact that they are cooperating with government programmes. The Border Security Force has set up a camp three km from the village since 2013. (New Indian Express 11/8/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

84. Law panel chief opposes judicial bill (19)

NEW DELHI: Law Commission chairman Justice A P Shah has opposed the government’s proposal to bring the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, saying this would have a “debilitating effect on judicial independence”.Shah told TOI the bill was against constitutional safeguards to the higher judiciary which “doesn’t allow Parliament to create another forum that results in impeachment proceedings resulting from a complaint filed by one person”. The proposed bill allows complaints from the public alleging misbehaviour on the part of a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge which can ultimately result in impeachment. “Article 124(5) of the Constitution empowers Parliament to only make laws to regulate the procedure for presentation of address of impeachment and for the investigation and proof of misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge. It does not allow Parliament to create another forum that results in impeachment proceedings resulting from a complaint filed by one person,” Justice Shah said. Such complaints, if made incessantly, and their mandatory consideration by the oversight committee, could have a debilitating effect on judicial independence, the Law Commission chairman said. Justice Shah had raised this issue at Monday’s deliberations where the law ministry had invited top jurists and former CJIs A M Ahmadi and V N Khare among others for consultations on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. Justice Shah is not the first to raise concern at the executive’s attempt to gag the judiciary. Earlier, the higher judiciary had expressed concern when the government proposed to include a clause in the bill banning judges from making comments on constitutional authorities in open court. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was passed by the UPA government in Lok Sabha in 2012 but it has lapsed with the constitution of the 16th Parliament. Clause 3(f) of the bill provides that no judge shall “enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters”. This, the Law Commission chairman said, was a wide restriction and considerable litigation could be expected, including by losing litigants, on the connotation of “views expressed” and “political matters”.”In no other country in the common law world are such standards statutory, they are usually contained in an internal code of conduct and thereby not subject matter of complaints in court,” he said. Justice Shah said vendetta litigation was a very likely possibility given the vast number of dissatisfied litigants who already file complaints in high courts despite there being no established statutory procedure for doing so. “Questions surrounding the constitutionality of such a complaints mechanism and its effect on judicial independence will have to be studied more closely before such a bill is introduced,” he added. The law panel chairman also raised suitability issues of the oversight and the investigation committees proposed under the law. “It is widely recognized that impeachment cannot be seen as a one-size-fits-all punishment for all judicial misbehaviour – there is a need for minor disciplinary measures for misbehaviour that may not warrant impeachment,” he said. (Times of India 31/7/14)

85. Katju objects to Justice Dave’s statement on Gita (19)

New Delhi: Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju on Sunday objected to a Supreme Court judge’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be taught in schools, saying this is against India’s secular feature and Constitution and will do it “great harm.” Supreme Court judge Justice A R Dave had on Saturday said Indians should revert to their ancient traditions and texts such as Mahabharat and Bhagavad Gita and they should be introduced to children at an early age. “Somebody who is very secular… so called secular will not agree… Had I been the dictator of India, I would have introduced Gita and Mahabharata in class one. That is the way you learn how to live life. I am sorry if somebody says I am secular or I am not secular. But if there is something good, we have to get it from anywhere,” he had said in Ahmedabad. Mr. Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said, “I totally disagree with Justice Dave’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be made compulsory in schools. “In a country of such diversity as ours, nothing of this kind should be compelled or imposed, as that is against our nation’s secular feature and Constitution,” he said in a statement. He said Muslims and Christians may not want their children to be taught these books and questioned if their children yet be forced to read them. “Some people say that Gita only teaches morality and has nothing to do with religion. But Muslims may say that only the Quran teaches morality, Christians may say that only the Bible teaches morality, Sikhs may say that only the Guru Granth Saheb teaches morality, Parsis may say only the Zend Avesta teaches morality, etc,” he said. In his opinion, he said, such compulsion or imposition will do great harm to the unity of the country. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

86. Law panel head questions judicial Bill, advises a new one (19)

New Delhi: The Law Commission of India has come down heavily on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2012, asking the government to come up with a new Bill, one that “ensures judicial accountability in an effective manner while not adversely affecting judicial inde-pendence at the same time”. In a note sent to the Union Law Ministry, Law Commission Chairman Justice A P Shah covered all the important clauses of the Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha in March 2012, and raised issues of constitutionality of the proposed law. In the note, Justice Shah termed the definition of misbehavior in clause 2(j) of the Bill as “over-inclusive and under-inclusive at the same time”. Elaborating, he said that the definition was over-inclusive because even a “minor infraction” would constitute misconduct, an act for which impeachment has been given as available remedy. It was also under-inclusive, the note adds, since the definition was very expansive. “Though it has a residuary clause ‘conduct which brings dishonour or disrepute to the judiciary’, this definition is so vague so as to be redundant,” he said. The former Delhi High Court chief justice also takes exception to the Bill aiming to lay down statutory judicial standards. “The statutory laying  down of judicial standards, thereby making the non-observance of such standards justiciable, opens a Pandora’s box of litigation. For example, Clause 3(f) provides that no judge shall ‘enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters’. This is a widely worded restriction and considerable litigation can be expected to ensue, including several cases of vendetta by losing litigants, on the connotation of ‘views expressed’, ‘political matters’, etc,” his note says. The previous UPA Government had introduced the Bill which, among other things, provides that judges be required to declare their and their kin’s assets, lays down judicial standards, and establishes processes for removal of members of the higher judiciary. It also proposed establishing a National Judicial Oversight Committee, a Complaints Scrutiny Panel and an investigation committee to go into complaints against judges of the Supreme Court and high courts. The Law Commission Chairman is not enthused with this plan too, saying “very little discretion” is vested in the Oversight Committee. “Besides, the composition of both the Oversight Committee and the Scrutiny Panel is preponderantly judicial. It is unclear why two bodies are required, a set-up that has significant potential to delay the entire process of scrutiny and oversight. Besides provisions relating to tenure, re-appointment (Indian Express 4/8/14)

87. SC scan on abortion limit (19)

New Delhi, Aug. 5: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the law that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there’s an immediate threat to the would-be mother’s life. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, allows abortions only till the 20th week of pregnancy for reasons such as severe foetal abnormalities or a grave risk to the pregnant woman’s health. (See chart) Today, the bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and M.Y. Eqbal admitted a petition moved by an NGO, Human Rights Law Network, challenging the 20-week limit on the behalf of two women identified as Mrs X and Mrs Y. Medical experts and women’s activists have for years been recommending that abortions be allowed beyond 20 weeks in case of a risk to the pregnant woman’s mental or physical health — even if it is not life-threatening — or severe foetal abnormalities. This is in line with the law in most countries where abortions are legal. Doctors had told Mrs X at her first antenatal check-up that her foetus had severe abnormalities and would not survive more than a few hours after birth, the petition says. Mrs X was 26 weeks pregnant and could therefore not legally obtain an abortion. She was forced to continue the pregnancy, visit the hospital regularly and participate in social events to celebrate the impending childbirth — all the while carrying a foetus she knew would not survive. After three days of excruciating labour pains, Mrs X delivered a baby that died less than three hours later. In her affidavit, Mrs X states: “The whole process was extremely painful. In normal circumstances a mother goes through all the discomfort just for the joy of giving birth…. However, in my case, there was no joy as I was aware of the poor outcome (of the birth). All this could have been avoided if my pregnancy was terminated in time.” As for Mrs Y, doctors had told her in the 19th week of her pregnancy that her foetus may be missing some brain tissue and that additional test results would not be available until after the 20th week. Under the limits imposed by the abortion law, Mrs Y was forced to make the excruciating decision to terminate her pregnancy without full knowledge of her foetus’s medical condition and prognosis. Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves today argued on the NGO’s behalf that the National Commission for Women, Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of India, women’s groups and the international community agreed that the 20-week stipulation was irrational, outdated and a violation of women’s rights to equality, health and life. In April this year, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre and the Maharashtra government to respond to the petition, which challenges a Bombay High Court order upholding the current abortion restrictions. Today, the apex court admitted the petition. According to the NGO, 2-3 per cent of the 26 million babies born in India every year have severe congenital or chromosomal abnormalities. New technology allows many of these abnormalities to be detected — but only after 20 weeks. Time bars on abortion are usually based on the perceived link between the medical fact of a foetus’s viability — its ability to survive outside the uterus — and its legal right to be counted as an individual. However, there’s no sharply defined point in a foetus’s life when it attains viability, and the period may vary from case to case. (The Telegraph 6/8/14)

88. Cabinet clears amendments to Juvenile Justice Act paving way for harsher punishment (19)

NEW DELHI: A proposal which will empower the Juvenile Justice Board to decide whether a juvenile above 16 years involved in heinous crimes such as rape is to be sent to a observation home or tried in a regular court is learnt have been cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. With all central ministries giving their approval to the amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, the proposal was placed on the agenda for cabinet meeting today. The proposed changes in the law come against the backdrop of outrage over the lighter punishment of three years in a reform home given to a minor convicted in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. However, according to the bill, in no case will the juvenile involved in a heinous crime be sentenced to death or life imprisonment either when tried under the provisions of JJ Act or under the provisions of IPC. The proposed amendments also included facilitating faster adoption of children and setting up foster care homes. The women and child development ministry intends to make the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) the statutory body, which means it will have powers to regulate inter-country adoptions along with issuing guidelines on adoption and related matter. (Times of India 6/8/14)

89. SC to check validity of wife-harass law (19)

New Delhi, Aug. 6: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine whether the controversial Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, dealing with harassment of a wife, is valid or not following a claim that the law was repealed in 1988. “If that is so, are we convicting and prosecuting people under an invalid law?” a bench headed by Justice H.L. Dattu asked, directing solicitor general Ranjit Kumar to respond to the claim. Kumar sought two weeks’ time. The bench, which also included Justices P.C. Ghose and Arun Misra, listed the matter for August 14. Section 498A, which provides for punishment of a husband and/or his relatives for subjecting a woman to cruelty or harassing her, has been the subject of controversy following claims that it was being abused by some women to get back at estranged husbands and in-laws. The apex court, which recently ruled that no person accused of an offence punishable with imprisonment up to seven years should be arrested without proper investigation, had specifically mentioned that Section 498A was sometimes being used as a “weapon rather than a shield by disgruntled wives”. On Monday, senior counsel Pandit Parmanand Katara, appearing for the petitioner, Ravindra alias Ravi, told the court that Section 498A could not be invoked in the country because it was repealed in 1988. Ravi is challenging Uttar Pradesh police’s decision to invoke the section against him and his family members on the basis of a complaint by his estranged wife. The petitioner has alleged that the provision is being misused by his wife, whom he has accused of adultery and of extorting Rs 11 lakh from him with threats of false complaints of harassment. The couple were married on February 24, 2012, in Mathura district according to Hindu customs and rites. The wife filed the case under Section 498A on January 18, 2013, following which Ravi and his family members were arrested. They are now out on bail. According to the petitioner, Section 498A of IPC, inserted in Chapter XXA of the IPC after the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983, on December 25, 1983, vide Act No. 46 of 1983, was repealed “as the whole” by the Repealing and Amending Act, No. 19 of 1988, on March 31, 1988. As such, it cannot be treated as law, Katara told the bench. The lawyer said that since the provision had been repealed, its application by police and consequent judicial proceedings were arbitrary, unconstitutional, void in law and hence violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 20 (prohibition against conviction for violation of any non-existent law) and 21 (right to liberty) of the Constitution. It is mandatory for any law or amended provision to be notified in the official gazette after the presidential notification. Any subsequent repealing act is also notified in the gazette. Katara told The Telegraph he was in possession of the notification relating to the repealed act. “Yes, I have copies of the repealed notification. I had given three copies to the bench. It is now for the government to rebut my assertion,” he said. The counsel, however, admitted that the repealed act is not reflected in the official gazette. But he said it was for the government to explain. Sources close to the solicitor general said the government does not have any material to show the act was repealed. “We are examining the matter further. But, for the moment we do not have any material to say that the act was repealed. Just wait and see when the case comes up for hearing,” a top law officer said. (The Telegraph 7/8/14)

90. Judicial Appointments Bill may be junked by Supreme Court, fears govt (19)

NEW DELHI: Despite the Union cabinet discussing the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2014, fears in government linger it may not pass judicial muster. The celebrated Kesavananda Bharti case, where the Supreme Court laid down basic structure of doctrine for Constitution, is being studied minutely by the government as it feels that despite the bill being a constitutional amendment, it runs the risk of being struck down by the judiciary on the basis of principles enunciated in the landmark verdict that enshrines separation of powers and independence of judiciary. The Judicial Appointments Commission provided for under the proposed bill seeks to replace the collegium system of appointment to higher judiciary with a proposed body to be headed by the CJI. But apprehension in certain quarters in government remain on how the Bill will be received by the judiciary in case a challenge to the amendment lands up before the SC on the ground that it violates basic structure of the doctrine. The Kesavananda Bharti verdict firmly established the judiciary as the ultimate arbiter of which provision/law/act violates the Constitution and which will pass muster. On Thursday, sources in government hinted they are not keen to rush through the amendment in Parliament and wish to study each clause point by point to reduce chances of it landing in a legal soup later. This, even when the cabinet has given its “in-principle” approval to the “broad contours” of the proposed act. Speaking to TOI, former secretary general of Lok Sabha and noted constitutional expert Subhash C Kashyap explained, “Under Kesavananda Bharti case, SC has said even a constitutional bill is subject to judicial review from the point of view if it violates basic features of Constitution. One may agree or disagree if the apex court has the power and it is debatable but they have certainly assumed that power and exercise it.” Last year, the Bar Council of India was one of the first influential voices that attacked the proposed bill. “The bill is an attempt to change the basic structure of the Constitution, and hence it will adversely affect the independence of the judiciary. It is trying to usurp the judicial appointment powers and vest them with the executive,” the BCI had said in a statement. (Times of India 8/8/14)

91. In keeping with Modi’s poll promise, govt to repeal 36 archaic laws (19)

NEW DELHI: The government is likely to introduce the Repealing and Amending Act Bill, 2014 on Monday to scrap at least 36 antiquated and redundant laws. These include Foreign Jurisdiction Act, Indian Fisheries Act and Sugar Undertaking Act, sources said. At least 32 of them include the various amended laws that have no relevance anymore as they are already part of the principal bill. The Foreign Jurisdiction act was enacted in 1947 and provided for the government to acquire jurisdiction in relation to areas outside India, which has no relevance anymore. “This is part of an ongoing exercise being undertaken by the law ministry as part of the poll promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do away with archaic laws which are hindering efficient governance,” a law ministry source said. Soon after taking over, Modi had told a meeting of secretaries that “there may be rules and processes which have become outdated, and instead of serving the process of governance, they are leading to avoidable confusion”. He had called upon the departments to “identify and do away with such archaic rules and procedures”.Sources said law secretary PK Malhotra at the instance of the minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, has written to all ministries to identify and recommend repeal of all such antiquated laws. Meanwhile, a comprehensive list is also being drawn by the Law Commission for repeal of all such redundant laws. That exercise is likely to take a couple of months, sources said. The Sugar Undertaking (taking over of the management) act, 1978 provided for the temporary takeover, in public interest, of the management of certain sugar undertakings in certain circumstances. The Indian Fisheries Act was enacted in 1897 and has since lost relevance. (Times of India 10/8/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

92. Bihar human rights commission orders probe into prisoner suffering burns (1)

PATNA: The Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) on Monday directed the IG (prisons and correctional services), Bihar, to probe the incident of an undertrial prisoner suffering severe burn injuries in Nawada jail on Sunday and submit a report to the commission by August 14. The victim, Rupesh Paswan (40), died at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) on Monday morning. “Post-mortem has been done and the report sent to the investigating officer,” PMCH administration told TOI. On Sunday, when Paswan was rushed to Nawada sadar hospital, doctors said he had suffered 80% burns and referred him to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Taking suo motu cognizance of newspaper reports on Monday of the alleged custodial atrocities in Nawada jail, the commission also directed the Nawada DM and SP to submit a joint report to the commission by August 14, when the case is listed for next hearing. According to reports, Rupesh blamed the jailor and his accomplices for the incident, whereas the jail authorities informed the Nawada DM that the victim attempted suicide, BHRC member Neelmani said, adding the DIG, prisons (administration), had rushed to Nawada to investigate the incident. Neelmani added, “Paswan was lodged in Nawada jail for the last four years in connection with offences under the Arms Act. He had alleged that the jailor and two jail inmates first beat him up and then poured kerosene oil on him and burned him, though the jail authorities claim it to be a case of suicide attempt.” A copy of the BHRC order was sent to the IG (prisons and correctional services), Bihar, Nawada DM and Nawada SP for necessary action. (Times of India 29/7/14)

93. Maharashtra HC clubs cases of custodial deaths (1)

Mumbai: Observing that Maharashtra accounts for a large number of custodial deaths and that most of the victims belonged to the minority community, the Bombay High Court has said that it would take stern measures to curb such atrocities. As a first step, a bench of justices V M Kanade and P D Kode yesterday clubbed all the petitions alleging custodial death and appointed senior lawyer Yug Choudhary as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist in the matter. The bench observed that it had noticed that most of the victims of custodial death belonged to the minority community and added that the court would step in to prevent this. The bench was hearing a petition filed by mother of a 23-year-old resident of Sion here claiming that her son had died under mysterious circumstances two years ago. The matter was adjourned by a fortnight. Police said it was a natural death while the petitioner claimed her son had died under mysterious conditions. The petitioner said her son was arrested in a theft case on February 21, 2012. He was sent to Thane Central prison from police custody. On March 24, 2012, he died there. Choudhary, the amicus curiae, said it had come to his knowledge that in most cases of custodial deaths, the victims were either Dalits or Muslims. He said according to National Crime Record Bureau statistics, 34 persons died in police custody in Maharashtra last year. In 2012, custodial deaths numbered 20. (Zee News 1/8/14)

94. Retired judges powerless to render “real service” to human rights: SC (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said retired judges appointed to head human rights commissions are provided every comfort, but are powerless to render any “real service” to human rights. “Retired judges when appointed are given house, office, everything… but when it comes to real service to human rights, they are powerless,” Justice T.S. Thakur observed. The Bench criticised the efficacy of the commissions, even asking “what purpose they serve.” The three-judge Bench was hearing a three-decade-old petition filed by a former judge of the Calcutta High Court, Justice D.K. Basu, seeking directions against custodial deaths. In the court on Tuesday, amicus curiae Abhishek Manu Singhvi said custodial deaths still continue with impugnity. Minorities and Dalits are the “worst sufferers” of this crime committed by the guardians of law, he submitted. Mr. Singhvi suggested that a way to curb custodial deaths would be to set up human rights commissions in States which do not have one and fill up vacancies in existing ones. But the Bench received the suggestion with some scepticism. “These human rights commissions, are they doing some work? What power do they have?” Justice Thakur asked. To this, the amicus replied that the commissions remain toothless. Noting that it cannot go on hearing this case forever, the Bench directed the States to file their responses on steps taken to curb custodial deaths in four weeks. It asked Mr. Singhvi to collate the information from the States and submit a report by October 14. (The Hindu 5/8/14)

95. CISF Officials Sensitised to Human Rights (1)

CHENNAI: Get sensitised to human rights while discharging your duties. This was the message conveyed by the Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) Chennai Port Trust Unit Commandant Shaik Abdulla to the officials who participated in a two-day workshop of CISF here on Tuesday. During the workshop, the Commandant said the CISF was entrusted with the task of sensitising the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to human rights by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He said the force had also organised a debate on the topic- ‘Security forces become ineffective without respect for Human Rights’. Revathy, head, Human Rights, Dr Ambedkar Law University and resource person of the inaugural session, elaborated on the evolution of human rights on par with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Explaining the rights of the prisoners, V Rukmani Priyadharsini, Additional Superintendent, Puzhal prison, said “Prisons are the only place where human rights are practically implemented. Most of the prisoners are victims of and circumstances, only 20 per cent of them are regular offenders.” She added that the bakery at the prison makes a turnover of ` 50,000-`70,000 per day and that the Prisons Department would open a beauty parlour shortly with 15 inmates of Puzhal prison. The workshop was attended by 46 officers including Rekha Nambiar, Group Commandant, CISF, Headquarters, Chennai. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

96. 3 SHOs sent to lines over rape case (1)

New Delhi: Three station house officers (SHOs) were sent to police lines after a rape victim complained that three police stations in West Delhi had refused to register her case.According to sources in the Delhi police, the incident came to light when the victim approached the Punjabi Bagh police station on Monday morning, alleging that she had been raped. However, as the SHO was not present, she was asked to go to the Nangloi police station instead. When the victim reached there, the Nangloi SHO sent her to Aman Vihar police station. “The victim’s ordeal didn’t end at Aman Vihar as she was told to go to Kanjhawala police station,” said the sources, adding that “when the victim got absolutely hopeless and frustrated with the lax attitude of the police personnel at three police stations, she made a PCR call from outside Kanjhawala police station after which her case was registered.” The sources said that the victim mentioned her ordeal in the complaint she made at the Kanjhawala police station. When senior police officers came to know about the incident, they decided to take action and sent Punjabi Bagh, Aman Vihar and Nangloi SHOs to police lines. A departmental inquiry was also initiated. (Asian Age 7/8/14)

97. Rs 36 lakh for victims of police atrocities (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Police ‘atrocity and negligence’ have cost the state exchequer dear in the last couple of years, if statistics of Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) are any indication. The home department was asked by the commission to pay compensation/relief to the tune of nearly Rs 36 lakh to victims of alleged police atrocity in different districts in 2012-13, OHRC data revealed. In 2011-12, the home department had coughed up Rs 9.55 lakh compensation. Of the total 43 petitions, relating to negligence by different government departments, which ended in announcement of compensation, 35 were of harassment and atrocity by Odisha police. “In all cases, the state government complied with our recommendations of giving compensation to victims or their families. We thoroughly probed the complaints against police and found violation of human rights by them,” an OHRC officer told TOI. In most cases, behaviour of police came under OHRC scanner. In a case in Subarnapur, the commission on January 24, 2013, asked the home department to pay Rs 40,000 to Sushil Suna with whom a constable allegedly misbehaved on September 7, 2012. On May 18, 2012, the commission asked the department to pay Rs 1.5 lakh to widow of Katru Huika, who was allegedly shot dead by policemen during an anti-Maoist combing operation in Koraput in April 2009. The allegations of police harassment included 12 custodial deaths in which the commission awarded compensation between Rs 50,000 and Rs 2,00,000 in 2012-13. Police said the OHRC often awarded compensation on ‘humanitarian’ grounds. “Police were not at fault in some cases. In the case of Katru Huika, police retaliated after he opened fire on them during an anti-Maoist combing operation,” said a police officer. “Still, we do not disregard the OHRC. Steps are being taken to improve the attitude of our personnel. They are being trained to behave politely with complainants and visitors to police stations,” the officer said. In Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, the commissionerate of police recently started a training programme for cops to improve their social behaviour. They were taught yoga and meditation. (Times of India 8/8/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

98. NHRC Notice on Cop Assault on Journalist (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show cause notice to Odisha Government asking why monetary compensation should not be paid to journalist Subhakant Padhiary who was assaulted by police near Naveen Nivas last year. Examining the reports submitted by police, the rights panel observed that the scribe’s human rights have been violated. Padhiary was assaulted by the policemen while he was covering an agitation on March 25 last year. The Commission perused the medical examination report and found that Padhiary suffered injuries in the assault. An order of Bhubaneswar DCP, who was present at the spot, suspending two personnel of 6th India Reserve Battalion who had assaulted the public and Padhiary without any order from the competent authority was also taken note of. The panel observed that human rights of Padhiary have been violated by the public servants for which the State must bear the liability. The Commission issued a show cause notice to the State Government through Chief Secretary asking why a monetary relief of `25,000 should not be recommended to the victim. Response has been sought within four weeks. (New Indian Express 29/7/14)

99. Media barred from covering NALSAR convocation (1)

Hyderabad: In the end, it turned out to be a big faux pas. Media persons who were invited to cover the 12{+t}{+h}annual convocation of the NALSAR University of Law here on Saturday were left in the lurch. They had to return without attending the programme as the authorities refused to allow them. A communication slip up between the University authorities and the security of President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, who was the chief guest, caused the problem. A large number of scribes turned up for the convocation but they were barred from entering the campus. “You are not permitted,” was the terse reply of the gun-toting cops. Display of invitations issued by the University and the media accreditation cards given by the State government had no effect. There was no media coordinator from NALSAR either. Enquiries revealed that in the advanced security liaison done, the presence of media personnel at the programme was not taken into account. Obviously, NALSAR authorities failed to inform the Presidential security wing on the press coverage. The University also goofed up in arranging transportation for the media. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

100. Sena defends ‘Saamana’ edit on IPS officer accused of rape (1)

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena today defended the controversial editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ about rape accused IPS officer Sunil Paraskar, saying the party was being defamed without understanding its stance on the issue. “We agree that rape is heinous but it is also equally reprehensible to make (baseless) allegations of rape,” an editorial in ‘Saamana’ said. “What we have said is clear, the rape victim should lodge the complaint immediately. If complaint is lodged after six months or a year, the medical evidence in such cases is invalid and the case assumes a different colour,” the editorial said. Claiming that the controversial Marathi editorial was distorted in translation, ‘Saamana’ said, “now, it is just a one-sided attack by those who don’t want to understand what someone said or wrote.” “Some TV news channels and print journalists are now ‘raping’ journalism and neither the Press Council nor the courts can curb this,” the editorial said. “There is no reason for controversy on our view that there should be no media trial in rape case while the matter is in court and police investigation is in progress,” the editorial said. “Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and NCP president Sharad Pawar faced such media trials,” it said. The Sena mouthpiece also mentioned rape allegations against Bollywood director Madhur Bhandarkar, where he was acquitted of rape charge after a model filed a case against him. “He was saved as he had a letter from the complainant warning him that she will file rape charges if he does not give her a job in films,” it said. (Business Standard 4/8/14)

101. Modi govt’s use of social media illegal: Govindacharya (1)

NEW DELHI: Former BJP leader and ideologue K N Govindacharya has accused the Narendra Modi government of breaking the law by its official use of Twitter and Facebook accounts. Appearing before Delhi high court, which is hearing a PIL filed by him, Govindacharya alleged that the Modi government was violating the Public Records Act by relying on social media websites that have foreign servers. A bench of Justices B D Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul had last week directed the former Sangh ideologue to file an affidavit detailing his allegations and said it will hear the issue. Representing Govindacharya, advocate Virag Gupta said even the use of private email accounts for official communications violates the Public Records Act, as per which “no person shall take or cause to be taken out of India any public records without the prior approval of the central government”.Gupta contended that the servers of these social networking sites are outside India. So, the nation’s official data is transferred to other countries. “Nineteen ministries are officially on Twitter, five ministries opened their Facebook accounts from private email ids. The Prime Minister is on Twitter and Facebook. Most of the ministers have their Twitter account,” the petitioner said. Meanwhile, the central government informed the court that it was in the process of finalizing a national email policy for official communications. The committee of secretaries met on July 15 for this purpose. Additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain told HC that the email policy is ready to be placed before the Cabinet for final approval after which it will be implemented. Govindacharya’s PIL has sought a direction to the central government to formulate an email policy for government officials in consonance with the Public Records Act in order to avoid transfer of data to a server outside the country. The bench also asked the central government to file an affidavit stating that the revenue department was in the process of recovering taxes on the income of Facebook and Google from their operations in India. (Times of India 5/8/14)

102.  ‘Media should be more socially responsible’ (1)

Udupi: Delivering a special lecture, Dinesh Amin Mattu, senior journalist, said the late Kadengodlu Shankar Bhat had made immense contributions not only to the field of literature, but also to journalism. It was essential to bring out a volume on his editorial pieces to benefit the younger generation. Mr. Mattu said if any government help was required for this, he would approach either the Karnataka Madhyama Academy or the Department of Kannada and Culture for funds. “About three decades ago, journalists and journalism in the country exhibited social concern and responsibility. The commercialisation of the media in the last two decades is a cause for concern,” he said. As long as journalism was a profession, it had social responsibility. But, once it became a business, social responsibility became the first casualty. The advertising section now had prominence over the editorial section in the media. The line between news and advertising was getting blurred. The ‘paid news’ phenomenon reflected corruption not at the journalists’ level, but at the level of media owners. The trend of politicians entering the media and owning newspapers and television channels was a dangerous one. Even old newspapers, which stood for values, were now giving more importance to business aspects, he said. “The social media is gaining ground. This was best illustrated by the recent Lok Sabha elections. The social media was even breaking news, but faceless journalism could be dangerous. “There is a crisis of honesty, credibility and professionalism in the field of media now. Readers too should strive to have an independent and responsible media,” Mr. Mattu said. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Nadig said he was delighted to receive the award. Poetry should unite people and create more compassion among them. Poetry was getting lesser space in Kannada newspapers and journals because of the corporatisation of the media, he added. A. Lakshminarayana Alva, writer; Kusuma Kamath, principal of MGM College; K.S.Bhat and Eashwar Bhat, sons of Kadengodlu Shankar Bhat, were present. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

103. Saharanpur communal riots: 20 arrested, curfew ‘strictly implemented’ (7)

SAHARANPUR/LUCKNOW: An uneasy calm prevailed in violence-hit Saharanpur on Sunday where 20 people were arrested even as curfew and shoot-at-sight orders remained in force following clashes between two communities over a land dispute. Uttar Pradesh additional director general of police (law and order) Mukul Goel said, “No incident has been reported since on Saturday. Curfew is in force and is being enforced strictly.” He said steps were being taken to normalize the situation at the earliest. “It has been directed that action should be taken against whosoever is found guilty,” he said in Lucknow. Saharanpur district magistrate Sandhya Tiwari, who toured the violence-hit areas, said, “The situation is better than yesterday. I have to just impose law and order in the city and the situation is quite normal now.” She said 20 people have been arrested in connection with the violence. On the land dispute, Tiwari said, “I’m not going into it … The construction is on hold.” Three people were killed and 19 others, including policemen, injured in the clashes on Saturday as mobs indulged in arson after which curfew was clamped and shoot at sight ordered. Prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC have been invoked in the district and curfew was clamped in six areas, according to Tanveer Zafar Ali, commissioner, Saharanpur. Meanwhile, a political blame game has begun over the violence with Congress accusing the UP government of “administrative lapse” while BJP alleged that Samajwadi Party was indulging in “vote-bank politics”.Reacting to the charges, Samajwadi Party said there was an effort to “disrupt peace in the state” and that there was “no place for communalism, anti-social elements”.SP leader Rajendra Chaudhary said that if the opposition tried to do politics on the issue, then the law will take its own course. Blaming the local authorities for “administrative lapse”, Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi said that if it was a fact that there was a court judgment on the issue and police help was sought by one side, then it was the responsibility of the officials to find a solution by making both sides understand that the court order must be implemented. BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The UP government has completely failed to run the administration in the state. The people ruling the state themselves want that there is communal tension so that they do vote-bank politics. “BJP wants amity and peace. Every person has the right to worship and nobody has the right to interfere in that. But Akhilesh Yadav’s government is weak on every front. A message has gone that there is nothing called government in the state. Whenever there are such tense situations, the government proves to be incompetent.” ..(Times of India 28/7/14)

104. Curfew in Jharkhand after communal riots, one dead (7)

RANCHI: Violent clashes broke out in Ranchi district of Jharkhand over a land dispute between two communities on Tuesday coincidentally when the state celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr. DIG Ranchi range confirmed that one person succumbed to his injuries while around 20 of them sustained injuries during clashes in Chanho block, 40 km from here, in rural Ranchi. Including Ranchi SP (rural) S K Jha around 10 policemen sustained minor injuries when they tried to control the mob. Over 500 security personnel with all protection equipment were deployed in the area where tension continues to prevail. “One person has succumbed to his injuries while 20-odd have been injured. All injured have been taken to RIMS for treatment. Curfew has been imposed in affected parts of Chanho block and security personnel are conducting marches to ensure peace,” said DIG Praveen Kumar Singh. A group of people from a community had gathered at a disputed land in Chanho to offer prayers which was opposed by another group of people. One group claims that the land belongs to them. Another group claims that the other group has unlawfully encroached the land. Bitter arguments between them were followed by stone pelting between the two communities in which several people were injured. Commissioner for South Chhotanagpur division K K Khandelwal said: “We are keeping a close watch on the situation. Now it is under control. Senior officers are camping here to ensure that the situation does not flare up.” (Times of India 29/7/14)

105. Express investigation part-I: Over 600 ‘communal incidents’ in UP since LS results, (7)

Moradabad: A third of all “communal” incidents recorded by police in Uttar Pradesh in the 10 weeks following the Lok Sabha election results have occurred in — or on the fringes of — 12 assembly constituencies that are scheduled to go to polls over the next few months. If a larger circle is imagined — covering broadly the region around these constituencies — this proportion rises to two-thirds, police records scrutinised by The Indian Express show. The records show a running strand of attempts made by an aggressive BJP, a desperate SP, and a flagging BSP to turn every clash involving individuals from the two largest religious communities into a communal issue. There is also clear evidence of provocation in areas where Dalits and Muslims live together, leading to communal polarisation. Between May 16 — when UP delivered a spectacular tally to the BJP in the Lok Sabha — and July 25, 605 low-key clashes took place which police identified as “communal” in nature. Nearly 200 of these occurred in or around the 12 constituencies, and another 200 in the broader region. MLAs at these 12 assembly seats contested the Lok Sabha elections and have become MPs. Polls to the vacant seats are due within six months. Five of these seats — Saharanpur Nagar, Bijnor, Kairana, Thakurwada and Gautam Buddh Nagar — are in Western UP, where the largest number of 259 communal incidents were recorded. Fifty-three incidents took place in Awadh, where the Lucknow East assembly seat will go to polls. In the Terai, Eastern UP and Bundelkhand regions, each of which is home to two of the 12 seats, 29, 16, and 6 incidents respectively were recorded. Records of more than 400 communal incidents in and around the constituencies show that tensions arose out of broadly six issues. The most common were construction activities involving masjids, madrasas and kabristans (graveyards); and the use of loudspeakers for prayers (120 instances each). Issues of land led to communal tensions in about 70 cases; alleged incidents of cow slaughter in 61 cases; and alleged incidents of elopement and eve-teasing or harassment involving men and women of different communities in 50-odd cases. Minor accidents triggered communal incidents in some 30 cases. In mid-July, in Bijnor’s Keeratpur area, a delegation met the district administration to demand that the construction of a gate on the Bijnor-Haridwar highway be stopped because the top of the gate was beginning to resemble an Islamic “minar”. The administration has now stopped work on the gate, but at a local mandir barely 10 metres away, a practice has begun of weekly recitals of Hanuman Chalisa, at which the gathering is told of the construction. Septuagenarian Jakhir Ahmed, who has kept a small shop next to the gate for three decades, said, “Construction had been on for months. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, protesters showed up, demanding its demolition.” A senior official of the district administration, who didn’t want to be identified, said, “There is a constant pressure from one group to keep issues burning. We get daily complaints about issues, many of which are old. But they are being pursued on a day-to-day basis. And wherever possible, politics is being introduced.” On June 20, in Rampur village of Bijnor’s Nagina region, Muslims objected to a DJ playing music in the community hall of the village. The music was turned off, but the following day, a clash broke out between Hindus and Muslims. Police and local people are still not sure how the trouble began. Five days later, in Noorpur Chiperi village 50 km away in the Sherkot area of the same district, residents objected to music beign played at a birthday party for the nephew of pradhan Mahavir Singh. Here too, the music was turned off, but some local dailies reported that Hindus and Muslims had clashed. The following day, the police arrested a Muslim man for allegedly intruding into a temple and damaging the mandir’s property. When The Indian Express visited Noorpur Chiperi, a Dalit-dominated village, the pradhan brushed aside the incident. “It was a misunderstanding based on wrong information. We have no problems.” Not far away, in the Gulabbadi area of Moradabad town, where Dalits and Muslims live in almost equal numbers, police have begun to receive anonymous calls about the construction of a minar in a masjid. The masjid in question is deep inside a narrow street, lined by buildings standing cheek-by-jowl, and crisscrossed overhead by a thick jumble of hanging power cables. On July 1, four loudspeakers on the second-floor roof of the mosque were raised to a height of three feet for Ramzan. The calls to the local police and district administration have, however, been complaining of “attempts to raise a new minar, leading to the setting of a precedent”. Only a fortnight earlier, police and protesters had clashed in Kant, 35 km from the town, after the administration brought down a newly set up loudspeaker in a Dalit temple. According to a senior police official, the incidents “reveal how closely communities are keeping a watch on issues that have potential for communal clashes”. The loudspeakers of the Moradabad masjid have been returned to their original height. DIG, Moradabad Zone, Gulab Singh, said, “Even small issues like motorbike accidents involving Hindus and Muslims is leading to mobs gathering. No one seems willing to see reason.” (Indian Express 5/8/14)

106. Dalits, Muslims clash as tension builds in Azamgarh viilage (7)

Allahabad: Tension gripped a village in Azamgarh’s Deogaon police station area when a minor issue led to a violent fight between Dalits and Muslims Monday. Around a dozen persons were injured, three of whom had to be referred to Varanasi. The police have registered cross FIRs on the basis of complaints from both sides. No arrest has been made so far. PAC has been deployed in the village. This is at least the third incident in a week in the eastern region of the state in which arguments over minor issues have led to law and order situations threatening to take communal overtones. The police, however, said all these incidents were isolated and localised. According to the Azamgarh police, the incident occurred Monday morning at Katauli Kala village under Deogaon police station area. “The fight began over increasing the width of a chak road going through the fields of the two groups belonging to Dalit and Muslim communities. There is no history of previous fights over the issue. PAC has been deployed. The situation is calm now. The condition of three of the persons, who were referred to Varanasi, is also reported to be stable,” said Superintendent of Police (City) Vinod Kumar. (Indian Express 6/8/14)

107. Day after Rahul’s attack, Modi links UP riots to vote-bank politics (7)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the BJP’s political opponents have refused to learn appropriate lessons from their drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls and are persisting with ‘vote-bank politics’, a remark which appeared to be aimed at the Congress. Speaking a day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reportedly said that communal riots in UP have been “artificially and deliberately engineered”, Modi told members of the BJP national council: “There have been some small incidents in certain parts of the country. Even a single instance of violence is unacceptable to BJP because we believe that peace, unity and brotherhood are essential pre-conditions for growth and, so, there will be no compromise on this. However, those who have suffered massive defeat have not learnt any lesson and are persisting with their vote-bank politics posing great risk to social harmony .” The PM said the BJP workers had the responsibility to remain cautious and foil the threat, in keeping with the “sabka saath, sabka vikas” motto Modi’s charge came after the new BJP chief Amit Shah had blamed the spike in communal tension in UP on SP government’s “politics of vote bank and appeasement”. Coming a day after Rahul’s attack that the riots in UP were being organized as part of an agenda, the remarks of Modi and Shah have set the stage for the escalation of tension over the communal situation in UP. Rahul Gandhi who stormed the well of Lok Sabha last week to insist that Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allow a debate on “rising communal violence”, was quoted saying that the recent riots had been planned to divide the poor. “Communal conflict is being artificially and deliberately engineered in our country, especially in UP. This is a deliberate strategy to divide the poor of this country and pit brother against brother; to prevent people from uniting to fight the true enemy — inequality, poverty and lack of opportunity,” he said. Although Rahul did not name any party, he and his colleagues have blamed BJP and SP, in that order, for growing incidence of communal tension in UP. Delivering his acceptance speech at the meeting of the national council called to ratify his appointment as BJP chief, Shah blamed the communal violence in UP on SP government’s politics of “vote-bank and appeasement”. “It is the partisan conduct of the state government which is responsible for the situation. Law and order machinery works on the basis of religion”, the newly-appointed BJP chief said. Shah called upon BJP workers to exercise restraint, but exhorted them to launch a statewide awareness campaign on the issue. The strong riposte from Modi and Shah to the charge from Rahul and other political opponents was part of the aggression that was on display. After a short spell when it appeared to be holding its fire in the face of accusations from rivals, Modi, Shah, finance minister Jaitley and home minister Rajnath Singh came out all guns blazing in an effort to shift the battle to the opponents’ terrain. “We are being blamed for not doing within 60 days what they themselves could not accomplish in last 60 years,” said Modi. He and Jaitley accused Congress of compromising the interests of farmers and jeopardizing the food security scheme by succumbing to the pressure from developed countries to cap the expenditure on subsidies. The new-found confidence was also on vivid display when Shah called upon members of the national council to finish the job of ridding the country of the Congress by defeating it in the coming state elections, and to make BJP’s ideology the dominant viewpoint in the country. (Times of India 10/8/14)

COMMUNALISM

108. Saffronising education: Harsh Vardhan’s sex education ban to Batra’s books (26)

New Delhi: India appears to be witnessing a renewed battle to win the minds of the next generation of students. From Health Minister Harshvardhan’s reservations about sex education to Dinanath Batra’s books being introduced as supplementary texts in Gujarat; from efforts by Sangh Parivar to ‘correct’ the study of the past to intensifying polarization among academics, the politics of pedagogy is back. In the past, the BJP accused school books being driven by ‘Marxists’. When Murli Manohar Joshi became the HRD minister, a key critique of the left and liberal intelligentsia was that NDA was ‘saffronising education’. These groups subsequently lobbied with the UPA regime to revise the curriculum. Many considered this a fair and rigorous process but it came under attack by the right-wing. Subsequently, Dalit groups objected to a cartoon depicting B R Ambedkar in the new books, which led to the government apologizing. With the NDA back in power, the Sangh Parivar is reported to have already set up a body to push the saffron agenda. Aniket Alam, a left-leaning historian who is now executive editor of Economic and Political Weekly, told HT that this is not unique to India. “In US, there is a debate on whether to highlight creationism or evolution theories about the origins of life. In UK, there is a debate on how to look back at the colonial era.” He added that what may be distinct in India is that many cultural battles are still being fought. “In US, no serious scholar will say racism or slavery is good. But in India, you still have people claiming caste is good.” Rajiv Malhotra, a US-based author with strong sympathies for the Hindutva agenda, says it is only right that there is contestation because history-writing has always ‘been controlled by those in power’. “Even when the facts cited are valid, there is subjective choice in selecting what gets included, the priorities assigned, and the interpretive lens that is used.” This was rampant, he alleges, ‘in the secular era of power…as part of political manipulation of votebanks’. But Alam points to the remarkable diversity in curriculum in India – there are NCERT Books used in central and CBSE schools, a fraction of which is written by Marxists; there are ICSE schools; and then there are the majority of schools following curriculum of different state boards. “In the new NCERT books, in Class 6, my daughter was introduced to caste through a letter written by a man to Ambedkar narrating a personal experience of discrimination. What is Marxist about it? It is very creative.” The real issue is academic merit. Alam agrees that textbooks need to be periodically reviewed by experts and the issue is not about ‘left or right narratives’, but ‘battling irrationality’. Malhotra too accepts that any revisions must be ‘subject to due diligence in public forums and debates among experts, in order to filter out any chauvinistic claims’. He adds that a ‘larger diversity of perspectives can be included rather than just one absolute view’. Ultimately, the battle obscures the fact that the books need to be a product of collaboration between ‘experts in the subject and experts in children’s pedagogy’. It ought to open up children’s minds, make them inquisitive, show them ways to look at the world, and ask critical questions. Unfortunately, political parties see education merely as a tool to make people more amenable to their worldview. (Hindustan Times 30/7/14)

109. Katju objects to Justice Dave’s statement on Gita (26)

New Delhi: Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju today objected to a Supreme Court judge’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be taught in schools, saying this is against India’s secular feature and Constitution and will do it “great harm”.Supreme Court judge Justice A R Dave had yesterday said Indians should revert to their ancient traditions and texts such as Mahabharat and Bhagavad Gita and they should be introduced to children at an early age. “Somebody who is very secular… so called secular will not agree… Had I been the dictator of India, I would have introduced Gita and Mahabharata in class one. That is the way you learn how to live life. I am sorry if somebody says I am secular or I am not secular. But if there is something good, we have to get it from anywhere,” he had said in Ahmedabad. Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said, “I totally disagree with Justice Dave’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be made compulsory in schools. “In a country of such diversity as ours, nothing of this kind should be compelled or imposed, as that is against our nation’s secular feature and Constitution,” he said in a statement. He said Muslims and Christians may not want their children to be taught these books and questioned if their children yet be forced to read them. “Some people say that Gita only teaches morality and has nothing to do with religion. But Muslims may say that only the Quran teaches morality, Christians may say that only the Bible teaches morality, Sikhs may say that only the Guru Granth Saheb teaches morality, Parsis may say only the Zend Avesta teaches morality, etc,” he said. In his opinion, he said, such compulsion or imposition will do great harm to the unity of the country. (Deccan Herald 3/8/14)

110. RSS criticizes minority status to Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists (26)

BHOPAL: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has strongly criticized categorization of Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists as minority communities and termed it a conspiracy to divide Hindu society. On the third day of its think-tank meeting at Thengadi Bhavan here, RSS debated philosophy of Hindutva during which orators pointed out that Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists cannot be considered minority communities because they are part of the Hindu society. About 25 organisational ‘pracharaks’ made presentations on Saturday after which RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) international working president Praveen Togadia addressed the gathering of 190 saffron thinkers. Addressing the gathering Bhagwat said RSS does not consider Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists as different from Hindus. He argued Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life and concept of Hindu ‘rashtra’ (nation) and nationality comes from our ancient culture and tradition. He, however, pointed out that Hinduism has always bonded with other cultures and accepted different traditions. Hinduism teaches to bond with people. While Bhagwat’s address was stately and exalted, Togadia gave a fiery speech. His discourse stretched from Indo-Pakistan relations, terrorism, Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya to the promises made in BJP manifesto. Once a close friend and now bete noire of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Togadia reminded BJP manifesto promised construction of a Ram temple, revoking article 370 from Kashmir and uniform civil code. He said he trusted the new government and the party will fulfill these promises. Later, RSS national campaign chief Manmohan Vaidya called a press conference on Saturday afternoon stating that activists from not just RSS but allied saffron organisations like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), VHP, BJP were also participating in the six-day meet. He said the next meet of the RSS intellectuals is scheduled for Lucknow before Diwali. (Times of India 4/8/14)

111. RSS gets ready to tackle religious conversions (26)

Lucknow: The conversion and alleged rape of a woman inside a Meerut madarsa has angered the Sangh Parivar, which directed its cadres to ‘spot and report’ all such activities whether mutual or forced across Uttar Pradesh. The exercise to collect ‘data and details’ is underway and the saffron outfit is planning to strike back with ‘shuddhikaran’ — an exercise aimed at winning those converted into either Islam or Christianity back to Hinduism.  The RSS’s dharm jagran vibhag would soon launch mass awareness campaigns across UP, especially in western region where the Parivar has spotted an increase in religious conversions. The vibhag would also organize ‘homecoming’ ceremony of those youths it has rescued on December 25. A volunteer of Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) said, “In places where there are strong Hindu leaders like Yogi Adityanath in Gorakhpur, who is an MP and mayor Shakuntala Bharti in Aligarh, religious conversions are markedly less. But with a favourable government and police, one has to remain vigilant 24×7 as newer ways are being developed to convert Hindus.” Another saffron activist said, “In January 2013, we took out a Hindu Jago yatra after there were a series of incidents of love jihad. Back then, many madarsas in Meerut and Hapur had been reported for dubious activities but police remained indifferent.” (Hindustan Times 7/8/14)

112. Indian descendants of Hindu culture: RSS chief (26)

CUTTACK: If inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why all inhabitants of Hindustan are not known as Hindus, came a poser from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday. “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture,” Bhagwat said while speaking at the ‘Golden Jubilee’ function of an Odia weekly here. The RSS chief further went on to say that Hindutva is a way of life and Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God or not worshipping at all. Referring to Vivekananda, Bhagwat said not worshipping any God is not necessarily an atheist rather the one who doesn’t have faith in self is sure an atheist. He said the world has now realised that Hindutva has been the only basis to keep India united since ancient days despite having plenty of diversities. He, however, expressed concern saying that some in India are not realising it and whenever a discussion on it takes place, the protagonist are wrongly branded as communal. Speaking on the current world scenario, the RSS leader said there is darkness everywhere and the world at large is looking at India for solace because India still marches on the path of righteousness. “As long as dharma exists in India, the world will continue to respect this country. But once dharma is gone, no force on earth can stop the country from crumbling,” the RSS leader warned. (Times of India 10/8/14)

113. RSS groups to resolve Muslim-linked issues (26)

LUCKNOW: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is using its senior functionary Indresh Kumar to bridge the gap between the pariwar and Muslim community. Kumar, who is also the chief patron an organization called Muslim Rashtriya Manch, told TOI on Sunday that the manch will soon form five working groups to resolve the contentious issues related to minorities like uniform civil code, Article 370 and Ayodhya temple issue. He said that the working groups will consist largely of Muslim scholars, writers, intellectuals, officers apart from some Hindus as well. In Lucknow for the past two days, he attended a ‘Raksha Bandhan’ celebration with Muslim women and also addressed a gathering of Christian Community. Although his Muslim Rashtriya Manch is not directly linked to the RSS, in the past also Kumar has been working among the minorities to spruce up the anti-Muslim image of the Sangh Pariwar. The state’s intelligence sleuths keeping a close eye on his movements disclosed to the TOI that he was holdings talks and indoor meetings with Muslim leaders across the country. An engineering graduate, he camped in Varanasi for months before the Lok Sabha election to win over a large population of Muslim voters in favour of the BJP. Political observers say that his efforts resulted in a perceptible change in the opinion of a section of Muslim community about the saffron party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Elaborating on the new strategy of his manch, Kumar said that the first working group would be for holding talks with the Muslim community on solving the issues related to Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura shrines. He said that the some conservative and hardcore Muslim leaders and pseudo secularists had been holding the custody of the entire community which was full of moderate and liberal people and the working group would directly hold talks with the liberals so that a permanent solution could be achieved in the cases related to the three shrines . The second working group would be for thrashing out a uniform rule of law or code without disturbing the internal and inherited legal framework provided by their caste, creed or religion. “If some communities have their internal rules and guidelines which they have inherited since the beginning of their religion, the idea is that they would not be disturbed but an overall uniform law would be framed which is the need of the hour so that in case of a dispute between two communities or the sects the law could guide them for some solution,” he said. The third working group to be constituted is aimed at holding dialogues with all the stake holders on the relevance of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. He said that it was the time for the review of Article 370 and a consensus be developed for annulling it. The fourth working group would be to ensure and guarantee education and employment to Muslims so that poverty and backwardness of the community could be addressed. The fifth working group would be working on the ways to make the country free from communal riots and violence, he said. By focusing on the main socio-religious issues of the Muslims and committing to solve the problems of backwardness, illiteracy and the unemployment, the community would be free from the clutches of the pseudo secularists and the self -styled custodians from, Kumar . When asked about the Gujarat riots and alleged involvement of the then chief minister Narendra Modi ,he said those whoever talks in such manner is indulging in contempt of court as all investigating agencies and the courts have given him a clean chit. (Times of India 11/8/14)

TERRORISM

114. SIMI ban to continue for 5 more years (12)

New Delhi: A special tribunal on Wednesday upheld the ban imposed by the Centre on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for another five years. SIMI allegedly has links with Pakistan-based terrorist outfits including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its front, Indian Mujahideen. The Union home ministry had in February this year issued a notification renewing ban on SIMI in a effort to curb the outfit’s activities, which it said could threaten the integrity and security of India. SIMI was declared outlawed in 2001 when it came to light that the outfit was involved in terrorist activities. However, this is the first time that ban on SIMI has been extended by five years. The last extension, notified in February 2012, was for two years. Justice Suresh Kait of Delhi High Court, who heads the tribunal, validated the Centre’s February notification saying that there was valid reasons to ratify the ban imposed on the outfit under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Though SIMI had challenged the government’s move in various courts and also before the special unlawful activities (prevention) act tribunals on a number of occasions, it did not get any relief. (Hindustan Times 31/7/14)

115. Jihadis force govt to set up counterterrorism academy (12)

NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of global terrorism knocking on India’s doors, the government is working on a proposal to set up India’s first ‘Counter-Terrorism Academy’ with an aim to redirect security establishment’s focus on training, research and forensics. “The proposal is in the works. The academy would have a training wing, a centre for excellence in forensics and a think tank which would focus on research in internal security issues. We have no credible think tank in the country that focuses on internal security,” said a senior home ministry official. The move is part of government’s larger effort to recalibrate counterterrorism efforts in the face of challenges from outfits such as al-Qaida and ISIS apart from ever metamorphosing domestic outfits such as Indian Mujahideen and SIMI. Sources in the ministry of home affairs said the proposal is being seriously thought over by the incumbent government and a series of meetings have already taken place. A proposal encompassing this and several other measures that include massive investment in intelligence and data analytics infrastructure has also been sent to MHA by National Investigation Agency (NIA. Touted as a ‘vision document’ by the agency, the proposal has drawn up a future plan for counterterror apparatus in the country in general and NIA in particular. It has demanded a total of 10 NIA centres with new ones proposed at Delhi, Jammu, Patna and Bhopal. Most importantly, in an attempt to chart a new course in terror investigations on the lines of US agencies, it has demanded significant investment in tools for database analysis, mapping terror trends, CCTV analysis and use of UIDAI in tracking domestic terrorists. The agency has also demanded that transnational organized crime, such as fake currency and drugs smuggling, be brought under scheduled offences as they all are connected to terrorism. It has also asked for Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) to be enacted under a special law as is the case with many developed countries. (Times of India 1/8/14)

116. Almost 100 killed during attacks in China’s Xinjiang last week (12)

BEIJING: Almost 100 people were killed during attacks on a police station and government offices in China’s far western region of Xinjiang early last week, state media said Sunday, giving fresh details on one of the worst incidents of unrest in years. The official Xinhua news agency said 59 ” terrorists” were gunned down by security forces in Shache county in Xinjiang’s far south, while 37 civilians were killed in the attacks on July 28. State media had reported the incident a day later, saying dozens of people had been killed when knife-wielding attackers had staged assaults in two towns in the region. It is unclear why the government waited so long to announce detailed casualties, though bad news has sometimes been covered up or delayed in the past. “Police confiscated long knives, axes as well as the terrorists’ banners that exhorted ‘holy war’,” Xinhua said. Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, who speak a Turkic language, has been beset for years by violence which the government blames on Islamist militants or separatists who it says want an independent state called East Turkestan. Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest – a claim Beijing denies. The attack took place at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which officials had tried to get Muslims in Xinjiang to ignore, in an indication of what rights groups say is discrimination targeting the Uighurs. Hundreds have been killed in Xinjiang in the past year and a half, and the last week saw a series of deadly incidents, including the murder of a prominent pro-government imam at a major mosque in the old Silk Road city of Kashgar. (Times of India 3/8/14)

117. ATS awaits sanction from govt to prosecute IM terror suspects (12)

JAIPUR: Already having missed the deadline for filing chargesheet after busting Indian Mujahideen’s terror module, the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) is now awaiting prosecution sanction from the state government to complete the legal formalities and have the trial begun against the terror suspects. Under the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and Section 121A of IPC (waging war against nation), the state government provides the prosecution sanction, but even almost two weeks after the ATS sent the request, the government is yet to give sanction. Now the extended deadline for filing the chargesheet is August 19. A Jaipur court gave ATS two more months’ time after the agency failed to file chargesheet against Rajasthan-based alleged IM members within 90 days of their arrest. The police have to file chargesheet in this period after making an arrest, but ATS failed to conclude the investigation as two top IM operatives, Monu alias Tahseen and Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas could not be taken on production warrant from Delhi. Sources said that under the Explosives Act, the ATS had sent request for prosecution sanction to district collectors including Jodhpur and Jaipur from where alleged members of terror module were arrested. The agency has received the sanction from the collectors for terror suspects’ trail under the Explosives Act, but yet to receive the same for the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and 121A of IPC. The ATS has been instrumental in dismantling the IM network in the state and possibly averted a terror strike with the arrest of over a dozen suspects in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Sikar. The network was exposed on March 22 when three engineering students were rounded up from the city’s Jhotwara and Pratap Nagar localities. Monu was arrested from the Ajmer railway station on the same day. More arrests followed in Jodhpur and Sikar. The ATS was to file the chargesheet in 90 days, but it got delayed because the agency could not get custody of Monu and Waqas from Delhi. The duo’s interrogation was important for the state agency to gather intelligence inputs on terror activities specific to Rajasthan. Sources said firstly the ATS could not get custody of Monu and Waqas due to their being constantly quizzed by various national agencies and the police of other states. (Times of India 6/8/14)

118. 2 acquitted of terror charges (12)

Mumbai: A sessions court in Mumbai on Friday acquitted two persons from charges of terrorism, but convicted and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for three years under the Arms Act for possessing firearms in a notified area of Mumbai. However, the accused have already spent almost four years in jail, so they will be released as soon as they pay the fine and jail formalities are over. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on November 15, 2010 arrested the accused Mohammed Sharif and Mohammed Ishaq from Thane district. The investigating agency alleged that the duo were members of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and were planning to target important establishments including BARC, offshore installations of ONGC and other targets in the city. The police also alleged that they brainwashed two persons and sent them across the border to get training of terrorist activities and invoked relevant sections of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, IPC and Arms Act on them. (Asian Age 10/8/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

119. Anti-Naxal operatios: Government deploys 1,000 fresh BSF personnel in Chhattisgarh (12)

NEW DELHI: Government has deployed a fresh contingent of about 1,000 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel in Chhattisgarh to bolster anti-Naxal operations in the state. The specially trained contingent of the paramilitary will be inducted to operate in Kanker district of the state, situated in the southern part of the state just above Bastar. BSF already has seven similar units in the same district for these operations. “The troops will also undertake some special operations along the state borders once they are fully inducted,” a senior officer said. Recently, a similar strength of troops drawn from paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police was sent to the state’s Rajnandgaon district. Chhattisgarh already has over 32,000 personnel of various paramilitary forces like Central Reserve Police Force, BSF and ITBP to undertake these operations. The deployment of the squad was also discussed during the recent meeting of Left Wing Extremism states which was chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh at his office few weeks back. The BSF, country’s largest border guarding force with close to 2.5-lakh personnel in its ranks guards crucial Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. (Economic Times 30/7/14)

120. 493 civilians killed in Naxal-hit Maha districts in 3 decades (12)

Gadchiroli: Naxals, who set up a base in Maharashtra in the early 1980s, have killed as many as 493 civilians in the worst-hit Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Gondia districts of the state over the last three decades, police said. According to a release issued here by the anti-Naxal Cell of Maharashtra police, an overwhelming number of victims of Naxal violence were from Gadchiroli district alone (451). These civilians were killed between February 1985 and July 2014. The remaining victims were from Gondia (33) and Chandrapur (9), it said. The ultras usually target those suspected to be police informers, as well as private contractors, ‘sarpanchs’ and other office-bearers of various local bodies like Zilla Parishads, government officials, among others, the release said on Friday. The civilian victims in these three districts included 206 suspected naxal informers, 188 ordinary citizens, 24 police patils, ten sarpanchs, five former ‘police-patils’ and 14 surrendered rebels. Naxal activities first found ground in Maharashtra at Gadchiroli. The left-wing ultras entered Lankachen village of Sironcha tehsil by crossing the Godavari river from Andhra Pradesh and formed ‘Sironcha dalam’. According to police, 17 to 19 ‘dalams’ of Naxals, comprising 260 cadres are at present active in the Gadchiroli district. Ten civilians have been killed by Naxals in Gadchiroli since Janaury this year, officials said, adding the recent encounters with police had depleted the ultras’ strength to a considerable extent. The ultras, who crossed over to Maharashtra from Andhra Pradesh, are currently observing ‘martyrs’ week. (Indian Express 2/8/14)

121. Maoists warn timber mafia in Koraput (12)

Koraput: Maoists have put up posters and banners in Odisha’s tribal district Koraput warning timber mafia against felling of trees in the district. The rebels have put up posters and banners at several places under Lamataput block alleging indiscriminate felling of trees by the timber mafia in connivance with officials in Lamtaput forest range, Superintendent of Police (Koraput) Awinash Kumar said. “We have asked them to stop their illegal activities, failing which they will be punished. Forest officials who are hand in gloves with the timber mafia will also be taken to task,” read a Maoist banner put up at Gunaipada on Saturday, the sixth day of the Martyrs’ Week being observed by the Maoists since July 28. The Maoists have asked villagers too not to cut trees and alleged that tribals were being harassed by security men and warned of retaliation. The depleting forest cover has turned to be a major concern for them as without the thick forests they find it difficult to hide and organise camps. Kumar said the Maoist banners and posters have been seized and no untoward incident was reported. “Putting up of posters and banners is the handiwork of some local Maoist supporters. At present the situation is under control. Our men are on high alert and all required security arrangements have been made to avoid any untoward incident during their Martyrs’ Week,” he said. Maoists observe the week from July 28 to August 3 every year to pay tribute to their dead leaders and cadres. (Zee News 3/8/14)

122. Women Naxal cadres sexually exploited: Govt (8)

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday said instances of sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres by senior Naxal leadership have been reported in various Left Wing Extremism affected states. Many instances of exploitation of tribals by the Naxalites/Maoists have come to the notice of the government. Such atrocities primarily include sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres in the Maoist camps which have been disclosed in statements of several surrendered women CPI (Maoist) cadres of Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in a written reply to Lok Sabha. “This has been widely reported in the media also from time to time. Such instances of sexual exploitation include rape, forced marriage and molestation by senior male CPI(Maoist) cadres,” he added. Rijiju said that the government has information that some female cadres had to undergo abortions too. “In Chhattisgarh, some surrendered tribal CPI(Maoist) male cadres have disclosed that they were forced by the senior leadership to undergo vasectomy operations as a pre-condition for marriage with women cadres. There are allegations that women cadres of CPI(Maoist), who become pregnant, are forced to undergo abortion against their will,” the Minister said. The surrendered women cadres have also disclosed that even if they are married to male cadres, they are not allowed to have children since the senior leadership of the CPI (Maoist) feel that it impairs their fighting capability and mobility. “Further, forced recruitment of children from families of poor and marginalised segments of the society, including the tribals, by the Maoists has also come to notice. In order to instill a sense of fear in their areas of dominance, the Naxals also kill civilians after branding them as police informers,” Rijiju said. Out of 4,955 civilians have been killed by the Maoists since 2004 till July 15, 2014, the Minister said, the “overwhelming majority are tribals.” “The Maoists have in reality killed thousands of innocent Adivasis, whose cause they profess to espouse. This tragic reality is glossed over by the Maoist front organisations and their apologists in towns and cities who have launched a propaganda war against the Indian state and project Maoists as the champions of Advisasis,” he said. The Minister said the Naxals have recruited “minors” from the tribal belts of LWE affected areas in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha. “In Bihar and Jharkhand, these children are enrolled in ‘Bal Dasta’ and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha the children’s squad is known as ‘Bal Sangham’. The idea behind recruiting tribal children is to wean them away from their rich traditional cultural moorings and indoctrinate them into Maoists ideology. He said that it has been reported that children recruited in ‘dalams’ are not permitted to leave. “They face severe reprisals including killing of family members if they surrender to security forces.” Rijiju said a number of central and state government schemes were being run in these areas to “bring stability in the lives of children” and to ensure that all their entitlements to protection, health, nutrition, sanitation, education and safety were fulfilled through government action. (Zee news 5/8/14)

123. CRPF jawan killed in encounter with naxals in Chattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: A CRPF jawan was killed today in an exchange of fire with naxals in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The incident took place at Murdanda village under the Avapalli police limits when a CRPF patrol team from 168th battalion were proceeding for a road-opening, and naxals opened indiscriminate fire leaving one jawan dead, DIG, SIB of Chhattisgarh police Dipanshu Kabra told . The security personnel also fired in retaliation. The face-off continued for a while following which jawan Jignesh Patel was killed on the spot. Meanwhile, additional forces have been rushed to the spot and anti-naxal operations have been intensified in the Maoist-infested area following the incident. (The Economic Times 9/8/14)

124. New Surrender Scheme for Naxals Under Consideration: Patil (12)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra government is considering a new surrender scheme for naxals and a proposal in this regard would come up for the state cabinet approval, Home Minister R R Patil said here today.             The revised scheme envisages increased compensation amount for surrendered naxals, the minister said, adding that a provision of Rs 2.41 crore will be made for the purpose. The new scheme would help in ensuring that more naxals will surrender and would also be useful in speeding up development work in the naxal-affected region, he said. (New Indian Express 10/8/14)

TRAFFICKING

125. Central Pat for Steps on Human Trafficking (1)

CUTTACK: Odisha’s efforts to crack down on human trafficking and the consequent reduction in such crimes has been taken note of by the Centre. The Union Home Ministry has extended its appreciation of the work done in the field by the State police, particularly the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit headed by IG Crime Branch YB Khurania recently. The State has, in fact, recorded significant improvement in tracking human trafficking cases in the last couple of years. The rate of tracing and rescuing missing children has gone up from 18.6 per cent in 2011 to 75.35 per cent in 2013. According to CB/CID sources, the success has been achieved by formation of a dedicated specialised unit to deal with the crime in the State. As many as 12 Integrated Anti-human Trafficking Units (IAHTUs) have been formed to tackle the menace. The units have been engaged in surveillance at vulnerable places like bus stands and railway stations and are taking action on all suspected persons. The police have also started treating all missing child cases as kidnapping or trafficking. Police stations have been directed to treat every report of missing with high importance and register cases of kidnapping and trafficking. Investigations should be taken up immediately on receiving a report. While human trafficking has taken the shape of a serious problem across the globe, Odisha is also affected by it. While July 31 is observed as International Anti-Human Trafficking Day, the Crime Branch is hosting a two-day State-level training of trainers programme on the issue here starting on Friday. Along with experts, all range IGs and DIGs, officers of IAHTUs, NGOs, social welfare officers and labour welfare officers from districts and public prosecutors will take part in the programme that would be inaugurated by DGP Sanjeev Marik. (New Indian Express 1/8/14)

126. Human trafficking: Australian High Commissioner sends firm message (1)

PUDUCHERRY: The Australian High Commissioner to India Patrick Suckling on Friday sought to send out a firm message to discourage human trafficking attempts from the regional coastlines, by unequivocally stating that “we will never allow people who come here illegally by boat to settle in Australia”. “People should not trust the words of human trafficking agents and seek to come to Australia by boat,” said Mr. Suckling, who is in Puducherry for discussions with Chief Minister N. Rangasamy and other key Government officials, after it emerged that 157 asylum-seekers, including Sri Lankan Tamils, had left by boat for Australia from the coast of the Union Territory in mid June. “We want to curb this menace and we are taking steps in this direction,” he told The Hindu. If unchecked, the influx of illegal immigrants could potentially led to criminal activities, he added. According to Mr. Suckling, the Indian Government has been extending cooperation in curbing the “menace” of illegal asylum-seekers, India had stopped over 20 boats carrying asylum-seekers to Australia in 2012 and 2013, he noted. Mr. Suckling sought to blame the previous Government led by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for relaxing immigration rules and triggering a “dramatic increase in the number of boats carrying illegal asylum-seekers to Australia over the last few years.” “We are currently engaged in discussions with the Government here on returning the group of 157 asylum-seekers to India,” the High Commissioner said. Mr. Suckling is slated to meet the Chief Minister in the afternoon. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

127. ‘Skill development’ to prevent human trafficking! (1)

Raipur: The Chhattisgarh Government has implemented a unique ‘skill development’ scheme which prevents local women in Surguja district from becoming victims of the murky human trafficking trade of unscrupulous agents who lure them by promising jobs in big cities. A scheme of providing tailoring business training to more than 800 women of Surguja district and deploying them to operate small garment units has now become an important tool for women to become financially self reliant in the district.The scheme was launched under the guidance of Collector Himshikhar Gupta with the efforts of District Programme Officer Chandraves Singh Sisodia, with the objective of making women financially self reliant  and thus preventing them from becoming victims of human trafficking. Several women have availed benefits of this scheme to become financially self-reliant, officials informed.The Women and Child Development department has already provided training to 35 women at the Tailoring Centre in its District Office and after the 3-day training session, these women were provided employment in the same organization. District Programme Officer Chandraves Singh Sisodia said hat it is important to create better employment opportunities to stop human trafficking.Keeping in view the need, a hi-tech Tailoring Centre has been established and needy women were provided training in the skill of tailoring. They were also provided employment after completion of the training session, he said. Presently, the group of 35 that has been deployed at Jashpur Tailoring Centre, have manufactured dresses worth Rs1.70 lakh in only 45 days. This includes 5,000 shirts, 1,970 pants and 3,434 tunics. This group of 35 has earned around Rs82,000 as net profit, and hence each of the women gets 2,333 as her share in the profit, Sisodia informed. This women group has achieved 80 per cent of the target of manufacturing school uniforms to be distributed at government schools. As on 1 August, 71.50 per cent of the stitched uniforms have been already distributed in the schools.Sisodia informed that human trafficking victim women and girls of villages  Potenga and Lokhandi are being provided training in tailoring skill by Women Garments Industry. This scheme is significantly contributing in prevention of women and girls of the district from falling into the trap of human trafficking. Efforts are being made to implement the scheme in the entire district so that the women may work from home and financially support their families, he added. (Pioneer 6/8/14)

128. Distress migration major concern in Sundargarh (1)

Bhubaneswar; Distress migration of a large number of tribal youths is a regular affair and has been a cause of concern in the tribals-dominated Sundargarh district. The vulnerability of the tribal youths to the promise of various brokers, who have formed a trafficking racket, has given rise to human trafficking in the district. Recently, a racket was busted by the Sundargarh police who rescued as many as 93 youths while being taken to Goa and arrested 12 brokers. Considering human trafficking as major concern in Sundargarh district,  recently the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) has kicked off a pilot project to ascertain the reason of trafficking from the district and find out its remedies. Although exploitation of migrant labourers is going unabated, but there has been no halt in the exodus as the tribal youths as they continue to get lured by the false promises of the brokers and look for greener pasture in far-off places. Activists blame lack of adequate work due to closure of mines and related private sector units as the reason behind the large-scale migration. They argue that since the avenues for the persons looking to be engaged as unskilled labour have been squeezed due to sudden closure of about a dozen of mines and many private units, these persons have no other option than to move to far off places to work as migrant labourers, even though they are aware of the hardships. “Most importantly, the traditional tribal livelihood opportunities like income from forest produce and agriculture are on the wane in the district, which have been a major reason of migration from the district,” said NGO activist Subhashree Ray. At times the youths are considering migration as an opportunity for their career growth. “During interrogation of the rescued youths, we came to know that maximum of them were quite keen to move to Goa, as they consider this as good opportunity,” said Sundargarh SP Dayanidhi Gochayat. “They confessed that they get better respect in their villages and even better marriage proposals, when they return from places like Goa,” Gochayat said, adding, “Although they have heard of exploitation of the persons, who have gone earlier, they ignore those, expecting a better deal with them.” The DRDA’s pilot project will go a long way to ascertain the reason of trafficking from the district and find out its remedies. The process has started. As a part of the project, a team of experts will conduct a detail survey in trafficking prone Balisankara block of the district and accordingly recommend remedial measures to address the issue,” informed DRAD Project director UN Das. (Pioneer 7/8/14)

CORRUPTION

129. VVIP chopper deal: Prosecutors shelve proceedings against Finmeccanica (5)

Rome: In a new twist in the scam-tainted VVIP chopper deal, prosecutors Tuesday shelved proceedings against Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, in the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore deal, Italian news agency Ansa reported. “The prosecution found the company had nothing to do with the alleged corruption. AgustaWestland has agreed to pay a fine, while reiterating it knew nothing about the alleged bribery,” the agency quoted Finmeccanica as saying in a statement. Prosecutors earlier this month had sought that former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi be sentenced to six years and former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini get five years in prison for allegedly paying the bribes. AgustaWestland’s Rs 3,600 crore contract for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the IAF has been scrapped by the Indian Government over the charges of paying kickbacks to Indian agents. The government had cancelled AgustaWestland’s contract on January 1 and began the process of encashing bank guarantees of the Anglo-Italian firm worth around Rs 2,200 crore deposited in banks of Italy and India. Orsi has denied any wrongdoing, telling a preliminary investigations judge that all his actions were “motivated by the exclusive interest of Finmeccanica and all its subsidiaries”.He also denied knowing the family of former IAF chief S P Tyagi. Prosecutors alleged that members of Tyagi’s family received bribes paid by Finmeccanica to secure the contract for 12 VVIP choppers for the IAF. (Deccan Herald 30/7/14)

130. RTI application reveals graft cases against 157 IAS officers in past 10 years (5)

New Delhi: As many as 157 IAS officers have alleged corruption cases registered against them in the past ten years while sanction of prosecution has been issued only against 15 of them, according to an RTI reply. In reply to a query under the Right to Information Act, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said a total of 157 officers have been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The charges against these officers range from corruption, taking bribe, causing financial loss to the government, possessing disproportionate assets, irregularities to involvement in various scams. Sanction for prosecution is still awaited against 142 officers for their alleged involvement in graft cases, the RTI reply said, adding, cases against 71 of these bureaucrats are being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Among theses officers, two were allegedly involved in the cases related to irregularities in Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, two others were booked in Adarsh Housing Society scam, 12 have been charged of having disproportionate assets. A few others have also been booked in high-profile cases. Hisar-based RTI activist Ramesh Verma had sought details of bureaucrats against whom there were serious charges. (DNA 3/8/14)

131. Cheat and teach: Meet Bihar teachers who got their B.Ed before they were born (5)

Patna: L B Singh, a teacher at a Bihar government school in Saharsa, was born in January 1986. But he got his Bachelor of Education degree in 1979 — seven years before he was born. Indu Kumari of Saran got her B.Ed degree seven years before her birth, while Shivnarayan Yadav of Madhepura and Priti Kumari, Tarkeshwar Prasad Singh of East Champaran achieved this distinction three years and five years before they were born, respectively. There are at least 95 other such teachers among the 32,127 appointed by Bihar in March-April 2012, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s 2010 order to appoint 34,540 teachers, who got their B.Ed degrees either before their birth or before the likely age of 21. The vacancies were advertised by the Staff Selection Commission in 2003 but not honoured by the previous RJD government. The number of those among the 32,127 who could have got jobs on fake or forged degrees is above 3,000, sources in the Bihar Human Resource Development Ministry told The Indian Express. Since an inquiry began in June 2012 following numerous complaints by candidates who were not selected, 306 of them have been sacked. The minimum qualification to get the job of a regular teacher at a Bihar government school (Classes I to VIII) is graduation followed by a B.Ed degree. Between two similarly qualified applicants, whoever has got a B.Ed degree earlier is preferred for the job. A regular teacher gets Rs 32,000 a month. Bihar Primary Education Joint Director R S Singh said: “Of the 306 regular teachers terminated so far, 39 each are from Vaishali and Gopalganj, followed by 36 from Kaimur. We have already intensified the degree verification process for both regular and contract teachers.” The Indian Express had reported in June that 20,000 of the 1.42 lakh contractual teachers appointed during a mass recruitment drive between 2006 and 2011 had been selected on the basis of forged educational or professional degrees. Chief Minister Jeetan Ram Manjhi had ordered an inquiry into the appointments after The Indian Express reports. The state government that put in place a Teachers’ Eligibility Test in 2012 for contract teachers has also decided to make the appointment process more transparent through amendments in existing norms. These new findings are concerning regular teachers. A senior HRD official admitted that they were yet to take action against most of these teachers due to the “lackadaisical pace” of inquiry. (The Financial Express 7/8/14)

132. Anti-corruption agency to keep an eye on Corp’s wards (5)

KOCHI: The Anti-Corruption People’s Movement (Kerala), will open branches in all the 74 divisions of the Kochi Corporation, with the aim of assessing the ward-level performance of the Corporation authorities, and to make the administration corruption-free. “The ward-level activities of the agency will be launched with a survey of various issues faced by the people. A committee will be formed for the purpose. The information gathered through the survey will be compiled, and future activities designed accordingly. The primary aim is to set a background for creating a corruption-free environment and to pave the way for a loyal society,” said  Anti-Corruption People’s Movement general secretary-in-charge P S Sivankutty. The fund required for the working of the committee will be collected from people. The youth, women and senior citizens, who are willing to cooperate with the Movement, will be selected on the basis of the answers given to a questionnaire. After an interview,  membership will be given. “Training will be given with respect to functioning of the various departments of the Corporation; the Civil Rights Act; the Municipality Act; the Right to Information Act; the anti-corruption rules; and the working of the anti-corruption and vigilance wing and the Vigilance Court.  Trained volunteers will lead the ward-level activities,” he said. (New Indian Express 9/8/14)

133. SIT on black money to study Syndicate Bank case (5)

NEW DELHI: The alleged bribery case involving Syndicate Bank chief SK Jain may come up for discussion in the meeting of the special investigation team on black money, as it is a “classic” case of how proceeds of corruption were transferred through hawala channels, sources said. The CBI has found that a layered approach was adopted through which alleged bribe of Rs 50 lakh, for not declaring bad loans of Bhushan Steel as non-performing assets, was handed over to two businessmen who were also Jain’s relatives, thus covering the money trail. Senior officials handling the case claimed that the alleged bribe was handed over to a middleman, who is a businessman, to give it the colour of legitimate business transaction. They said this amount was allegedly further handed over to Puneet and Vineet Godha, both relatives of Jain. Sources said by such a chain, no actual delivery of bribe money to Jain was made. Sources said they had recovered documents related to five valuable properties from Jain’s residence and the agency suspects they could have been bought through similar transactions in the past. Justice MB Shah heads the special investigating team formed by the Modi government to probe cases involving black money and money laundering. “This is a classic case as to how people are now hiding money trail of ill-gotten money. We may provide input of this and such cases during the next meeting of SIT to show how tracks are being covered by culprits,” a senior official said. The special investigation team, under chairmanship of former Supreme Court judge Justice MB Shah, also comprises CBI director, revenue secretary, deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India, directors of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)… (Times of India 11/8/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

134. Panel on Western Ghats had warned against landslips (9)

MUMBAI: The landslide that buried an entire village near Bhimashankar should come as little surprise. A 2011 central government report on the Western Ghats by internationally-acclaimed ecologist Dr Madhav Gadgil predicted landslides in the area which could be triggered by large-scale deforestation for a windmill project along the hillside. Gadgil’s 2011 report was as good as buried by the government, which later came out with another set of findings diluting Gadgil’s recommendations for the protection of Western Ghats. The award for the construction of windmills went to an Indo-German company. While official data said around 28,000 trees were cut for the project, unofficial figures put the count around 3lakh. “By calling wind-energy green energy, those constructing wind-mills are given a free hand to do what they please without any regulation or monitoring. Near Bhimashankar, they have built roads from the base of the hill to the top of the hill where the windmills are installed. Roads were constructed in the shoddiest fashion without any care given to landslides in the region. The rubble from the roads entered farmers’ fields,” Gadgil told TOI in a telephonic interview from Pune. “The government first tried to suppress our report. When it was finally out, the Maharashtra government put up a Marathi summary on its website which twisted our report. In a bid to put the local people against us, the summary said we were imposing all sorts of restrictions on rural folk. In reality we said the environmental damage taking place along the Western Ghats can only be controlled if local people are fully involved in planning for and monitoring the development in the region. We cannot rely on government machinery to protect the environment,” said Gadgil. “Apart from substantial forest destruction, the windmill project has triggered large-scale erosion and landslides through poor construction of roads with steep gradients, all this rubble ends up on fertile farmland and in reservoirs of tributaries of the Krishna,” the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Gadgil says. “It’s clear from field inspection and Google Earth images that the hills where windmills have come up are tracts of high rainfall and biodiversity-rich evergreen forest, contiguous with that in the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, and home to Maharashtra’s state animal, the Malabar Giant Squirrel…The local range forest officer had recorded these facts and recommended that the windmill project should not be sanctioned. He was overruled by his superiors who cleared the project by patently misrepresenting facts,” the report adds. Environmentalist Sumaira Abdulali has written to PM Narendra Modi, environment minister Prakash Javadekar and CM Prithviraj Chavan, pointing out that the report had mentioned the danger of landslides, after noting the deliberate destruction being caused to the area. (Times of India 1/8/14)

135. Wetlands are being destroyed: TERI report (9)

NAVI MUMBAI: A report released recently by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board ( MPCB) states that there is phenomenal increase in pollution levels of the water bodies in Navi Mumbai. The report also points to high levels of pollution in mangroves at Kamothe, marshes near Khandeshwar station, Wadale lake and Owe dam in Kharghar. The report also mentions the changed pH levels of the water bodies in Navi Mumbai. The observations were made as part of the annual wetland trail project, Jaltarang trail, wherein samples of several water bodies were taken and tested. According to the report, construction activity occurring around the wetlands is leading to the accumulation of a lot of industrial waste, including harmful chemicals. The report states that the discharge of chemical and industrial waste by factories and mills is responsible for the excessive pollution of the water bodies. Even the release of domestic and organic waste by villages around the wetlands has drastically changed the pH levels of the water bodies. According to the report, the highest level of coliform (a commonly used bacterial indicator of sanitary quality of food and water) was reported in the mangroves at Kamothe, where debris is dumped frequently. The marshes near Khandeshwar station were found to be full of domestic waste and Wadale lake saw an accelerated rate of eutrophication (increasing aging process) due to temple offerings being dumped into it. Even Owe Dam in Kharghar, which can be used for irrigation, now has quarrying occurring all around it. The only saving grace for Navi Mumbai is the Central Park in Kharghar, which has an artificial pond created for the purpose of irrigation, which has reported no increase in pollution levels. “We aim to create awareness in every community and educate people about the importance of the wetlands and how they are deteriorating,” said Swati Tomar, a research associate from TERI. Environmentalists said that wetlands are a storehouse of biological diversity and they provide water and productivity for species. However, they feel that some of the existing wetlands are being destroyed for a purpose. “In Navi Mumbai, we are very much aware that land mafia is grabbing wetlands and destroying mangroves and the town planning body is an integral part of this land mafia. To say truthfully, nothing can be done,” said Avijit Nag, member, Jaltarang trail. Environmentalists also fear that if the wetlands do not get the appropriate care and treatment in the next few months, the levels of pollution will continue to increase, leading to poisoning of the waters. (Times of India 2/8/14)

136. NGOs protest wildlife board reconstitution (9)

NEW DELHI: Several non-governmental organisations and individuals have protested against the reconstitution of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), which has only two non-official members in place of 10 and one quasi-government organisation in place of five independent NGOs. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and officials, organisations such as Kalpavriksh and South Asia Network for Dams Rivers and People, expressed concern over the new NBWL notified on July 22. The term of the previous NBWL and its standing committee ended in September 2013. There was no NBWL and a standing committee for more than 10 months and the country expected that the government would constitute a proper Board honouring the letter and spirit of the Wildlife Protection Act and the need to protect wildlife and biodiversity in protected areas, the letter said. The notification is not even available on the Ministry of Environment website and is in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act in letter and spirit and is not in the interest of the wildlife, biodiversity or protected areas in the country, the activists have said. The Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 2002 states that there should be five persons to represent NGOs but the new Board has only one member, from the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation at Gandhinagar, which is a Gujarat government organisation and not an NGO. Its website says it has been “set up in 1982 by the Forests and Environment Department, government of Gujarat” and the Chairperson of its board is the Chief Minister of Gujarat while a majority of the board members too are from the State government. (The Hindu 6/8/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

137. RSS outfits oppose GM crop trials, Government says no decision yet (20)

NEW DELHI: Two RSS-linked outfits today met Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and claimed the clearance given by biotech regulator for field trials of genetically-modified crops has been put on hold but the government said no decision has been taken. Representatives of Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bhartiya Kissan Sangh met Javadekar and sought a ban on field trials of GM crops of certain varieties of rice, brinjal and cotton among others. They apprised him about their concerns over the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) clearing earlier this month 15 proposals for confined field trials for rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton. They claimed the minister has assured them that the decision about field trials of GM crops has been “put on hold”.”The Minister assured the delegation that the decision about the field trials of GM Crops has been put on hold by the government,” All-India Co-convener of the Manch Ashwani Mahajan said. When contacted, Javadekar confirmed the meeting but asserted that the government has not taken any decision on the contentious issue. “Government has not taken any decision on the issue. Government will not take any decision in haste,” he said. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had earlier this month cleared 15 proposals for confined field trials for rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton. The delegation reminded the Minister that Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report on GM food crops – prospects and impacts, tabled in Parliament on August 9, 2013 has clearly recommended the ‘stopping of all field trials under any garb’. The Manch and Sangh members told the Minister that it is “not advisable” to allow GM crops without proper scientific evaluation about their probable long-term impact on human health and soil. They said, “the technology, which involves introducing a ‘foreign’ gene, is dangerous because once introduced, it is irreversible…. Once you have a GM crop, you cannot reverse the process if you find that it is causing harm.” They contended there is no scientific study to prove that GM technology does increase productivity, as is claimed by the promoters of the technology. They also pointed out that environmental costs might outweigh any benefit that introduction of such a technology brings. The delegation told the Minister that there is a major issue of food security of the nation attached to this issue. The Manch urged the Minister that government should not rely on the biased and manipulated reports of vested interests among the industry and institute enquiries about the likely impact of GM food crops on soil, human and other species’ health to ensure that no harm is done to traditional gene pool and biodiversity of the nation, soil, food security and health of the people of India. The two organisations are closely associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). (Economic Times 30/7/14)

138. Tenant farmer suicides on rise (20)

KOLLIPARA (GUNTUR DT): The narrow cement lane in the Dalit colony in Kollipara leads to the house of Nakka Sudha. The yet-to-be-plastered ‘Indiramma’ house has grills but no windows to protect Sudha and her children. Her husband and a tenant farmer Nakka Sudhakar committed suicide in December 2010 unable to bear the sight of submerged paddy in his two-acre farm. The family has already been reeling under a debt of Rs. 2 lakh then. “My husband never told us about the debt. He was optimistic that one good yield would give him enough to pay his debt. But, as years rolled by, the yield was becoming less and the debt kept on piling,” says Sudha holding back her tears, clutching her two school-going children. Sudhakar is one among 27 farmers whose names have been entered in revenue records in Tenali division under farmer suicide category during 2004-2014. Out of them, 11 farmers died before the age of 50 years. Most of the farmers are tenant farmers, whose name has changed to licensed cultivators, after the A.P. government brought in an ordinance in 2011 to provide bank credit to tenant farmers grouped in Joint Liability Groups (JLG). Tenant farmers were also given loan eligibility cards so that they avail institutional credit. But all these measures have not been able to stop suicides in the fertile Krishna western delta where alluvial rich soil and ever flowing canals help farmers raise three crops a year. Tenant farmers continue to be at the mercy of private money lender as institutional credit is still out of reach for many of them. The Agriculture department claims that during 2013-2014, 2,223 JLGs were given Rs.16.15 crore bank loan, a pittance considering the fact that tenant farmers cultivate about 85-90 per cent of land. The revenue department has issued 23,512 Loan Eligibility Cards during 2013-2014, sanctioning an amount of Rs.26.54 crore. The plight of tenant farmers has been taken up by various organisations. Communist Party of India plans to organise a series of demonstrations demanding an affirmative action to bail out debt ridden tenant farmers. “Every tenant farmer should be given Rs.10,000 immediately to allow them buy seed. We also demand that all loans availed by tenant farmers should be waived off unconditionally and banks should be asked to step up finance,” CPI state joint secretary Muppala Nageswara Rao said. (The Hindu 1/8/14)

139. Sustainable farming need of the hour for parched Jharkhand (20)

RANCHI: Agriculture experts in the state have swung into action with rains having been far below average this monsoon. They are working overtime to devise sustainable agriculture practices for Jharkhand, which been long been suffering owing to erratic rainfall . Though the state meteorological department has predicted more showers in the next two to three days, agriculture experts are concerned about the plight of farmers, who are a worried lot. If it doesn’t rain soon enough, they may have to seriously rethink the future course of action. Ten districts of the state – Garhwa, Gumla, Palamu, Khunti, Latehar, Lohardaga, Ramgarh, Ranchi, Simdega and Dhanbad-have received scanty rainfall and are heading towards a drought-like situation. Such is the state that chief minister Hemant Soren has asked the state agriculture department officials to monitor sowing of seeds. He has also directed officials to draw up a plan for augmenting cultivation of kharif crops. Accordingly, Birsa Agriculture University (BAU) has chalked out a number of contingency plans to help farmers survive and sail through this situation. A Wadood, agriculture scientist and agro-met advisor at the Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), said: “Jharkhand received 50% deficient rainfall in June. They are issuing periodic advisories every two to three days. Details of these are disseminated through the community radios.” The only way to achieve sustainable agro activities is to promote rainwater harvesting, said Wadood. “BAU has time and again advised the state government to build dams, check-dams and borewells to preserve water when there is heavy rainfall,” he added. The farmers should start preserving rainwater on field surface, adding that this is a form of rainwater harvesting. Unfortunately, the state has only 12 to 15% land which can be irrigated. Eighty-eight to 85% of the land harvest crops, which are rain dependant, said Wadood and added that the state is handicapped in terms of irrigation. “For upland and medium land, we advise farmers to sow seeds of crops that grow fast like hot gram, niger till July end,” he said. For low lands, paddy transplantation is the only option, but for that too good amount of rainfall is required. The problem with the state is that the rainfall is not evenly distributed. “We have advised the farmers to wait till July 31. According to the Met department predictions, rain is expected to recover from August 1,” Wadood added. July is considered as the appropriate time to sow seeds of mainly kharif crops like paddy, maize, oil seeds pulses. “The land lying fallow should be utilized to harvest medium and short-duration crops like maize, pulses and oil seeds,” Wadood added. This apart, direct seeded crops come in handy for upland and medium land areas on a vast scale. “For that stagnant water is required and these seeds can be planted in areas with irrigation facilities,” he said. The state will review the rainfall trend till the first week of August after which it will draw up a series of action plans for bailing out the farmers. BAU will bank on the contingency plans to improve the farming scenario. “We are hopeful of torrential rainfall in the first week of August will boost the farming activities,” he added. “I recommend organic farming to improve the soil fertility. Organic fertilizers will help produce crops that require less water. Hence, even during drought, the farm yield will be sustainable. Short duration crops should be harvested,” said director, state horticulture department. (Times of India 3/8/14)

140. Govt not against science but sensitive issues to be handled carefully: Javadekar (20)

New Delhi: Dropping hints that free trials of genetically modified (GM) crops can be given a go-ahead, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar has said the government is not against science, but it is only treading carefully on sensitive issues. “We are not saying no to science. We have to take proper caution and proper action,” said Javadekar during the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report here on Wednesday. However, when asked if the decision on GM trials has been put on hold, he refused to comment any further. This comes a week after the Centre had reportedly put the field trials of GM crops on hold following pressure from two pro-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) outfits — Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), which had opposed the move. Javadekar said a country that does not believe in science lags behind and the government “will not leave the path of science”. The National Democratic Alliance government (NDA) had come under immense pressure from the RSS after it had given nod to field trials of 13 GM crops, including mustard, cotton, brinjal, rice and chick pea. This led to the RSS bodies’ intervention and representatives from SJM and BKS met Javadekar last Tuesday and they were given the assurance that the decision would be put on hold. (Business Standard 7/8/14)

141. Effective steps needed to stop farmers’ suicides,say activists (20)

AURANGABAD: Expressing concern over the recent case of a farmer’s suicide in Karmad in the district, social activist and president of Shetkari Karjamukti Andolan (Maharashtra) Vishnu Dhoble on Saturday urged the government to take effective steps to support farmers. Baliram Jijarao Shejul (37) had committed suicide on August 6 in his farm in Naigavhan village in Aurangabad district after he lost cotton crops in the current season. Shejul had sown twice in the season, but scanty rainfall had foiled his attempts. Shejul had availed a loan from a society. After visiting the family members of the deceased farmer on Sunday, Dhoble said that the condition of many farmers in the region remains worrisome. “Farmers have lost their crops and are now struggling for survival. The suicide cases may have already touched 400 in Marathwada in the current season and the figure may go up further. Farmers are in deep trouble due to poor rainfall, but the preventive measures and relief measures initiated by the district administration are inadequate. We need elaborate measures to support the affected farmers,” Dhoble said. “The drought situation of 2013 in Marathwada had already put a heavy financial burden on many farmers. Apart from this, crops were severely damaged in the unseasonal rain and hailstorms in February-March 2014. Now, the scanty rainfall is making things more difficult for them. The government had announced relief measures for farmers, but it is not enough,” he said. Dhoble and other members of the organization said the state government should immediately declare Marathwada a drought-affected region and announce a special financial package for it. “The situation of farmers in Marathwada and their counterparts in other rain-deficient regions is quite different. Farmers here are persistently facing water scarcity and thus they need special schemes. It is not only financial support that would stop the suicides here; the government should initiate steps for improving agriculture production,” Dhoble said. (Times of India 10/8/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

142. Anti-globalization Action Committee opposes changes in land acquisition Act (4)

PUNE: The Anti-globalization Action Committee (AAC) will launch a mass agitation on August 7 in protest against the central government’s move to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The members of the committee, which was formed to protect farmers’ rights, met here on Wednesday to decide on the future course of action. Ulka Mahajan, one of the conveners of the committee, said the AAC will launch the agitation on August 7 at Gorai, near Mumbai, and will also stage a dharna in Mumbai on August 13. The AAC is mainly against the proposed amendments to two key provisions: ?Consent’ and ?Social Impact Assessment’ of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. “The Act came into force after a long struggle by farmers. It may not be the best, but it is definitely better than the one drafted during the British rule. Huge tracts of fertile land have been acquired in the past at throw away prices and given to private and public corporations in the name of public purpose and industrialization. The existing Act helps farmers to protect their land. However, the first step the Modi government has taken is to amend it to facilitate industrialists and capitalists,” Mahajan said. She asked the government to come out with a policy precisely stating how much land should be kept ?under agriculture’ to feed the nation. “The government is eager to acquire land and devastate farmers. We are going to oppose any move that aims to grab farmers’ land,” she said. Questioning government’s plan to build 100 smart cities, she said: “The government should make it clear as to who will benefit from these cities.” AAC members said it will be a retrograde step if we were to go back to the colonial process of land acquisition with no regard to the impact on people, environment and democratic institutions. Another member, Suniti Su Ra, said the AAC will approach other organizations in the country to launch a comprehensive agitation in future. (Times of India 31/7/14)

143. ‘Land acquisition challenge is against public interest’ (4)

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha High Court has commenced hearing of challenge of acquisition of land by the State Government for the Idco for Sahara Power. The challenge has been made by a group of villagers involving around 38 acres of land. In the process, the entire acquired land, despite grant of sublease, has not been handed over by the Idco to the power infrastructure company. Appearing for Sahara Power, Senior Advocate Jayant Das, assisted by advocate Aditya Das, contended that the challenge is not maintainable and is motivated because none of the petitioners had raised any objection in accordance with law under Section 5A of the LA Act. Secondly, the acquisition of the entire area has been completed; the land has vested in the State; the State has granted the lease in the Idco’s favour, and the Idco, in turn, has granted sublease in favour of the company. Thirdly, all other points raised by the petitioners regarding colourable exercise of power have been repelled by the High Court in a recent judgment relating to another power infrastructure project, Das argued. Das also relied upon the judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of Swaika Corporation, Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure Corporation and Diamond Bar in Prativa Nema. He wanted to proceed to argue on merits. The Bench of Acting Chief Justice Pradeep Kumar Mohanty and Justice Biswajit Mohanty expressed the opinion that it would be appropriate to deal with the preliminary objections regarding the maintainability of the writ petitions. The counsel for the petitioners wanted to examine the judgments relied upon by Das, including the recent one of the High Court. The matter has been adjourned to be called after a week for further hearing and final disposal. (Pioneer 3/8/14)

144. Rights Panel Directs Govt to Pay Compensation to Land Losers (4)

BALASORE: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the State Government to rectify the mistakes and illegalities committed during the execution of Reba and Kapali river renovation project following a report submitted by the Special Rapporteur. The apex human rights panel in its recent order has recommended to the Chief Secretary to ensure that all the land losers are paid compensation with interest and land revenue is not collected from them. Besides, socio-economic survey should be held to determine their entitlement for rehabilitation and alternative livelihood support. The Commission has also directed the Government to appoint a technical committee to examine the quality of renovation work with regard to river bank erosion, accumulation of rain water, flooding of villages due to gap in embankments, provision for sluice gates, construction of check dams, approach roads and bridges. Earlier, NHRC had issued a notice seeking a detailed report from the Chief Secretary while acting on a petition filed by rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy. In the petition, Tripathy had stated that the executing authorities of the Government flouted the laws relating to land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement and environment without conducting socio-economic survey. On gram sabhas of the affected villagers, Tripathy had mentioned that the villagers, who had lost their land, standing crop and trees, were not heard by any Government official. Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, NHRC deputed Special Rapporteur Damodar Sarangi to investigate the matter. Sarangi visited the affected areas in December last year and interacted with the victims besides seeking clarification from the Government over the large-scale human rights violation. In his comprehensive report, he stated that the quality of renovation work is of poor standard and sluice gates, approach roads are not being constructed for which flood water enters to the villages. Though a committee constituted by the State Government for inquiring into the complaints found that the executing agencies had damaged private land without due process of law, no compensation has been provided to the victims so far. The NHRC took a serious view after considering the report submitted by Sarangi. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

145. Scrapping key UPA measures: Rajasthan drafts biz-friendly land acquisition Act (4)

JAIPUR: After radical changes in labour laws, the Vasundhara Raje-led Rajasthan government is firming up plans for a new land acquisition Act that seeks to facilitate speedier acquisition of land for industry and government by scrapping some key measures, notably those requiring consent of landowners, that form part of legislation passed by UPA last year. While relaxing the consent provisions, the desert state’s version of the law will hike the quantum of compensation to incentivise purchase of land from owners. According to senior officials involved in the drafting process, the new law will get rid of a provision requiring consent of 70% to 80% (in case of private projects) of land owners and a requirement to carry out a Social Impact Assessment Study ( SIA). These relaxations will apply to “Core Infrastructure Projects” such as roads, power lines, bridges and pipelines regardless of whether these are being implemented by the public or the private sector. However, to incentivise owners to part with their lands, the quantum of compensation will be increased from two to two-and-a-half of the prevailing rates for urban areas and from four to four-and-a-half for rural areas. “We are not against farmers or land-owners at all. We are against processes which increase delay in acquiring land. By enhancing compensation, we will ensure land owners get a better deal as well as the project proponents who, under the current law, will otherwise have to wait for 4 years and 10 months, which is a huge delay and adds to costs. The burden of these high costs is eventually borne by the consumers, so why let that happen?” a senior official argued. Rural Development Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who headed a three-member ministerial group which vetted the proposed legislation, said the draft was sent to the CMO late last week and it is now for Raje to take a call on which measures to approve. “We have proposed to clarify the urban and rural boundaries more clearly to help identify lands better. The minimum expectation is that owners should get more rates than what is mentioned in the DLC. We have also proposed a ceiling on the quantum of land which can be acquired by one project proponent in both rural and urban areas — for the former it is 1000 hectares and for the latter it is 200 hectares,” Kataria said. Industry has been critical of the consent and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) clauses of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which is currently in force. While the industry has sought reducing the percentage of landowners whose consent is required from 70% to 60% or 50% and limiting the SIAs to only large projects (more than 500 acres in area), a higher quantum of compensation may not be to their liking. The complete doing away of these contentious measures is also certain to invite criticism from farmers groups and other organisations fighting against forcible land acquisition. The senior official cited earlier said that a draft of the proposed legislation will be uploaded on the government’s website soon after the Chief Minister’s Office clears it, which could be on Monday or Tuesday. (The Economic Times 11/7/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

146. Chicken alert: Antibiotics found in city’s poultry samples (3)

New Delhi: Seventy chicken samples from Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), tested by the Centre for Science and Environment, were found to be carrying traces of five antibiotics. Largescale misuse and overuse of antibiotics in chicken has lead to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chicken itself. The CSE report claimed that these bacteria were then transmitted to humans through food or environment. The CSE also warned that eating small doses of these antibiotics through chicken could also lead to development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. The report, which was released on Wednesday, is based on the chicken samples picked up from Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. “Three tissues muscles, liver and kidney were tested for the presence of six antibiotics widely used in poultry oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline and doxycycline (class tetracyclines), enrofl-oxacin and ciprofloxacin (class fluoroquinolones) and neomycin, an aminoglycoside,” the CSE said. CSE director-general Sunita Narain said the poultry industry was using antibiotics as a growth promoter. “Chickens are fed antibiotics so that they gain weight and grow faster. The study found residues of antibiotics in 40 per cent of the samples of chicken that were tested.”The tests done by the CSE showed the presence of antibiotic residues in the range of 3.37-131.75 ug/kg. “Of the 40 per cent samples found tainted with antibiotic residues, 22.9 per cent had residue of only one antibiotic and the remaining 17.1 per cent samples had residues of more than one medicine. In one sample purchased from Gurgaon, a cocktail of three antibiotics oxytetracycline, doxycycline and enrofloxacin was found. This indicates rampant use of multiple antibiotics in the poultry industry, the CSE said in its report. To ascertain the linkage between overuse of antibiotics in poultry farms and antibiotic resistance in humans, the CSE researchers are said to have reviewed 13 studies conducted by various government and private hospitals between 2012 and 2013 across the country. The researchers found that the resistance was very high against ciprofloxacin, doxycycline and tetracyclines. These were the same antibiotics that have reportedly been detected in the chicken samples.The report said there was a growing evidence that resistance to fluoroquinolones, such as ciprofloxacin, was rapidly increasing in the country. “Treating fatal diseases like sepsis, pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB) with fluoroquinolones is becoming tough because microbes that cause these diseases are increasingly becoming resistant to fluoroquinolones.” Replying to a question in Parliament recently, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had said that the number of multi-drug resistant (MDR)-TB cases in the country had increased five times between 2011 and 2013. Studies show that one-third of MDR-TB cases are resistant to fluoroquinolones, which are critical for MDR-TB treatmen (Asian Age 1/8/14)

147. Japanese Encephalitis vaccination not effective during transmission: Experts (3)

GUWAHATI: The ministry of health and family welfare and health experts have advised the state government against application of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccines during the transmission phase of the disease as the exercise will not be effective. More than 100 people in the state have died of JE and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) so far. According to state health officials, over 24 districts have been affected by JE. The disease has severely affected Barpeta, Nagaon, Baksa, Darrang, Sonitpur, Nalbari and Bongaigaon where such cases were not many in the previous years. With the vaccination process now put on hold, chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday instructed the health department to step up the preventive measures to check the spread of JE and AES especially in some districts of lower and upper Assam. To make the conditions worse, there is shortage of vaccines in the state and at least three to four months would be needed to procure more vaccines. The chief minister’s office said Gogoi, who held a review meeting here on Friday, was told by the health officials that vaccination drive would be conducted from November and a proposal would be submitted shortly. The CM’s office stated, “Principal secretary, health and family welfare department, Sanjeeva Kumar met the Union secretary of health and family welfare department, Lov Verma and apprised him of the situation. The health ministry officials including the experts are of the view that during the transmission phase of the disease vaccination will not yield the desired results. Moreover, the minimum time required for procurement and supply of the vaccine is three to four months, which means that the JE vaccination is expected to start only by November, subject to availability of vaccines.” Gogoi gas also instructed the health authorities to procure medicines so that there be no shortage. “The CM has instructed the health authorities to spread bleaching powders, conduct fogging at the piggeries and hold awareness campaigns. He also enquired about the quantity of medicine available in the hospitals and health centres and instructed the health officials to procure medicines in advance to meet shortages, if there are any,” the CM’s office said. (Times of India 2/8/14)

148. Encephalitis toll in North Bengal touches 121 (3)

Kolkata: With two more deaths due to “different types of Encephalitis” reported in north Bengal in the last 24 hours, the toll from the disease in north Bengal rose to 121 on Sunday. “Two deaths have been reported in north Bengal and four new cases have also been reported in the state,” West Bengal Health Services Director Biswaranjan Satpathy said. Taking into account the death of 20 persons from other states in north Bengal due to Encephalitis, the toll was 141 since January this year. Claiming that the situation in the seven districts of north Bengal was under control, the medical officer said there has been no trace of the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus here in the city. (Zee News 4/8/14)

149. Right to food crusade takes poll vault (3)

Ranchi: To mount pressure on the state government to implement the National Food Security Act (2013) in a full-fledged manner, a few civil society organisations, crusaders of the state chapter of Right to Food Campaign and NGOs have decided to make this their top demand during the upcoming Assembly elections. More than 60 representatives — who assembled from across the state at HRDC Hall in Ranchi on Sunday to attend a daylong state-level meeting of Right to Food Campaign — said they would soon start signature and postcard drives to demand proper implementation of the Act. The crusaders also demanded that the daal-bhaat scheme be revived. Under the scheme, which has remained unofficially suspended since 2011, meal was available at Rs 5. Balram, the state adviser to Supreme Court appointed commissioners on Right to Food cases, along with Gurjeet Singh and Jawahar Mehta — both members of Right to Food Campaign — conducted the meeting. Divulging details of their plans, an official said that schoolchildren would be encouraged to write postcards to the chief minister, asking him to ensure eggs on their mid-day menu at least thrice a week while panchayat samiti members would be requested to sign petitions, demanding implementation of the Act. The National Food Security Act 2013 was enacted by the Centre on July 5 last year and was supposed to be implemented in all states on the same day this year. The Union government granted laggard states three months’ extra time. “Under the Act, a nutritious meal is the right of every child (aged between six and 14 years) at school or anganwadi centre daily. It also has provisions of Rs 6,000 for every pregnant woman. Further, 86 per cent households in rural Jharkhand are to be covered under the public distribution system,” said Balram. As a part of a number of agitations to press for full-fledged implementation of the Act in Jharkhand, the crusaders of Right to Food Campaign had launched an Anda Abhiyan in all government schools on July 4. They had further organised a rally of villagers at Manika in Latehar district and even opened a dialogue with MLAs on the issue in Ranchi on July 31. (Telegraph 4/8/14)

HIV/AIDS

150. 41 students have left Rivona school (3)

MARGAO: The situation at Fatima High School, Rivona, has returned to normal even as 41 students have left the school due to differences with the school management on how they handled the entire HIV related episode. Sources confirmed that the number of students that had applied for leaving certificates and left the school rose to 41. The strength of the school has been reduced by 1/4th its original strength and this could lead to problems such as surplus teaching staff. Parents of students who have left the school have admitted their children in schools within 8km of the Rivona institute. The parents were upset with the school over admissions to 37 students, including 13 HIV positive, from a community care centre. (Times of India 1/8/14)

151. AIDS scare grips village after murder (3)

LUDHIANA: Four days after an AIDs patient of Rakba village in Mullanpur Dhaka allegedly killed her mother-in-law after she objected to her illicit relationships, it is being feared that she may have transferred the HIV virus to many persons. The AIDS patient was arrested on Monday for the murder of her mother-in-law, 75-year-old Tej Kaur. Police sources said during the course of interrogation, she reportedly named some villagers with whom she had illicit relations. They said there are chances of her having transferred the virus to them. Sources said police officials and village residents are worried that her partners may have infected their families as well. The police rounded up around 10 to 12 persons named by the accused. SSP, Rural Ravcharan Singh Brar said the accused murdered her mother-in-law as she had come to know about her illicit relations. He said investigations are on. Police also said the names of people she had affairs with could be shared with the health department to check the spread of disease. The accused herself was infected by her husband. (Times of India 2/8/14)

152. Orphaned & homeless, HIV girls find healer in businessman (3)

SURAT: Over a year ago, 36 girls from across Gujarat, mostly aged between two and 16, had nowhere to go in the Diamond City. As if the trauma of losing their parents to HIV/AIDS at a tender age was not enough, neighbours had closed their doors on these HIV-positive orphans. Facing protest and discrimination from neighbours, the girls had to vacate their special home — an apartment in Puna area of the city. This is when a city-based businessman extended a helping hand — Mahesh Savani of PP Savani Group offered his plush farmhouse to accommodate these girls. Today, these girls, whose number has grown to 49, not only enjoy their accommodation at the farmhouse but also pursue their education in a school near by. Since last one year the girls have not suffered from any infection, which was otherwise routine for them. “HIV/AIDS medicines of six girls have been discontinued as their CD4 counts have improved and they are in a better condition. These girls now believe that they are not just patients but also human beings,” says Savani. He has even named his farmhouse ‘Janani Dham’. CD4 cells, also known as T-helper cells, are a type of white blood cells that fight infection. At their previous shelter, these girls were banned from playing in the residential campus. Following objections, Gujarat State Network for Positive People (GSNP+), the NGO taking care of the girls, was forced to relocate the girls. But with limited budget they had no other option than to ask government for accommodation facility. After Savani offered his farmhouse, these girls have a sprawling garden and a play area equipped with a couple of rides for their recreation. “Living in a lush green area has helped create positivity among them and it has improved their health. No major infections as well as improvements in CD4 count reflect their healthy condition. They can now access good education and meet other citizens regularly,” says Daksha Patel, vice-president of GSNP+.Savani is now planning to accommodate HIV+ widows at the same farmhouse. “If things move ahead as planned, we will soon support HIV+ women by offering them home at ‘Janani Dham’. I believe it will improve life for both the women and the girls,” says Savani, who owns a chain of schools in the city. (Times of India 4/8/14)

153. Abused and Exploited Tribals Facing High HIV Risk (3)

KALPETTA: The tribal population in Wayanad is fast emerging as a HIV/AIDS high-risk group because of lack of awareness regarding unprotected sex and rampant sexual abuse of their womenfolk. According to volunteers working in tribal regions of the district, the rise in detection of HIV positive cases calls for a targeted intervention. As per the data provided by the Vihaan Care and Support Desk under the Council of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kerala (CPK+), out of the 123 registered HIV positive cases in Wayanad, 21 patients belong to the tribal community. They include 13 females, five males and three children. Of the 13 female patients, seven are widows, whose partners had succumbed to AIDS-related illness. The data reveals that there is a sharp increase in reported cases of HIV/AIDS since 2012. Taking into account the fact that the indigenous people make up only about 17 per cent of the total population in the district, these numbers are alarming, the volunteers said. Moreover, the actual numbers could be higher than what is being reported. The problem is compounded by the practice of polygamy among many of the tribal sects and the increase in the number of sex workers. Tribal women constitute about 40 per cent of the total female sex workers in the district who are registered with the Targeted Intervention (Suraksha) Programme, a project supported by Kerala State AIDS Control Society. “There could be more tribal persons living with HIV. Of the 21 patients, many came to us when the disease was at an advanced stage. They were being treated for diseases such as TB and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, before being diagnosed with HIV,” said an HIV positive volunteer with Vihaan, who did not wish to be identified. She said vertical transmission of HIV from mother to child and positive cases among pregnant women were also on the rise. “A large section of the tribal population is ignorant about HIV/AIDS. Recently, we advised an infected couple not to conceive, but they did not heed the warning. The woman is now six-months pregnant, placing another life at risk,” she said. District Medical officer O Neetha Vijayan said the situation requires a comprehensive investigation. “We have been conducting multi-specialty medical camps in tribal belts across the district. “Out of the 300 tribal TB patients, only two were found to be HIV-infected. Data to authenticate the exact number of cases are unavailable as forced HIV testing is a violation of human rights,” she said. In July alone, six cases of sexual abuse of tribal girls was reported from different parts of the district.“Tribal women are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse by tribals and outsiders. “Also, tribal men who migrate to agriculture fields in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu indulge in unsafe sex. Their spouses get infected when they return to their native places,” said Mary Signie, district programme coordinator of the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society. According to her, instead of reporting the incident, victims of rape are often ostracised by their families and villagers. “The government agencies should create more awareness among the tribal community about the dreaded disease and help the affected patients receive treatment immediately,” she said. “A large number of sexual abuse cases come under the category ‘breach of promise to marry’. Unfortunately, most of these cases go unreported, or the victim turns hostile during her deposition. Thirteen of the total 17 sexual abuse cases that had went to trial recently resulted in acquittals,” said DySP K B Jeevanand. Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Youth Affairs  P K Jayalakshmi said that she will ask concerned authorities to examine the issue. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

154. HIV positive patients made to run in circles (3)

PATNA: A National Aids Control Organistion (NACO) ad has caught attention of many: A five-year-old’s HIV positive mom is lying unattended at a hospital. The boy rushes to the doctor’s chamber, takes his coat and runs back. The doctor and nurse rush behind him. Back with mom, the child says he resorted to the ?theft’ just to bring his mother’s case to the doctor’s notice. Has the message percolated down to the doctors? Apparently not. A 45-year old HIV+ woman died at the PMCH after being denied surgery to remove intestinal obstruction in September last year. Amid much hue and cry, the state health department promised a slew of reforms to ensure people with HIV were not denied healthcare for their other ailments, but they seem to have remained on paper. Even the Patna high court’s prods in this regard have gone in vain. Had it not been so, 45-yr-old Ram Kumar would not have been made to run from pillar to post ? from IGIMS to NMCH to PMCH, to be precise ? to get his urethra dilated. More than ten visits to these government healthcare facilities notwithstanding, Kumar remains untreated. It was on August 4, 2009 that Kumar visited the IGIMS’ urology department for the first time. Investigations were conducted on him. “However, when it was discovered that I am HIV positive, I was told to go away. As my condition deteriorated, I visited the hospital again after four days. They again said it was not possible to operate me at the IGIMS,” he said. As the complications increased, Kumar visited a private doctor. He prescribed treatment for a year but the surgery became a must. Kumar went to the NMCH in December 2013. He was refused surgery there too and was instead “referred to PMCH/IGIMS.” To try his luck for the third time, the patient went to the IGIMS again and found history repeating itself. “The machine through which the operation is done is not functional,” Kumar quoted the same doctor as telling him this time. In July this year, Kumar went to the PMCH which referred him to the IGIMS. “I have lost all hopes. The private doctor says it is high time I got operated upon. If I die, who will be responsible for my death?” Kumar asked TOI on Friday. The doctors Kumar visited have written “HIV+” in bold letters on the top on his prescriptions despite the fact that the treatment protocol prohibits such ?announcements’. All that the doctors can write on such prescriptions is ?PLWHA’ which stands for people living with HIV/AIDS….  (Times of India 9/8/14)

155. 26 migrants test HIV positive in Kolhapur (3)

KOLHAPUR: A total of 26 seasonal migrants involved in sugarcane harvesting work have been found to be HIV positive during the country’s first HIV prevention pilot project launched in Kolhapur six months ago. Out these, only one male was a known case, while the remaining were found positive during the project. As many as 22,650 migrants travelling from various parts of the state, mainly Beed, Osmanabad and Latur districts, to Kolhapur were screened between October 2013 and May 2014. Around one lakh workers arrive in Kolhapur during this period. The National Health Mission, along with the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), has implemented the project in Kolhapur, where 20 sugar factories have been identified. (Times of India 10/8/14)

 

Posted by admin at 11 August 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit Men Flee Houses Fearing Action by Police (2)

VILLUPURAM: Two days after the clash between Dalits and caste Hindus in Aasur village near Tindivanam, all the men in the Dalit colony fled from the village fearing police action. Following this, the Dalit women on Thursday morning, picketed the Villupuram Collectorate demanding justice. The men fled from their homes on Wednesday night after police officials, who were deployed in the Dalit area, threatened that they had received special orders from a higher official to arrest all the Dalit men in the hamlet. However, local sources said no such threats were made by the police officials, but panchayat chairman Ealumalai, who is a Vanniyar, was forcing local police to threaten the Dalit residents. After facing harassment at the hands of the caste Hindus and police, Dalits demanded that  the district administration settle them in a separate village. On Thursday morning, a group of Dalit women from Aasur village picketed the Collector’s office and demanded justice. They threatened to return their ration cards if the district administration failed to take action on their demands. Speaking to Express, Gowri (32) a Dalit, said, police officials are showing partiality in the matter. The clash was well planned by PMK members and executed by the local caste Hindus, she said. She pointed out that even the parents of the couple that eloped were not involved in the clash. She said, although  Dalits were the victims in the attack, police officials had filed false cases against them in order to conceal the truth. Sources insisted that some PMK members were the ones that sparked off the clash. Local sources said, so far no action had been taken against the caste Hindus who were involved in the attack. Four people were arrested just for a eye-wash, the woman said. The attack that took place on Monday saw at least 50 Dalits, including children, seriously injured. They were undergoing treatment in several hospitals. Gowri (12) a class VII Dalit student of Aasur Government High school, who was also attacked by the caste Hindus said, the people entered the houses of Dalits and attacked them. They also used abusive words and damaged the houses as well as household articles. As the school was located near the caste Hindu area, about 60 Dalit students have been skipping classes in fear of being attacked again by the caste Hindus. The Dalit residents demanded protection for themselves and their property from the caste Hindus. Collector V Sampath directed police to take immediate action. A special team was formed to deal the problem, police officials said. (New Indian Express 19/7/14)

2. Tamil Nadu dalit woman beaten to death by non-dalit husband, in-laws (2)

CUDDALORE: A 28-year-old dalit woman was beaten to death and buried by her non-dalit husband and in-laws at a village near Bhuvanagiri in Cuddalore district. The murder took place on June 3 but it came to light recently. Police on Saturday exhumed the body and sent it for postmortem. Police said P Seetha from Aathivarahantham village and Saravanan got married on May 5 this year after a brief love affair despite strong objections from Saravanan’s family. The couple started living in Keerapalayam. But the relationship turned sour after the marriage and Seetha had been complaining of abuse by her husband and in-laws. Seetha went missing on June 3. Her parents, after failing to get details on her whereabouts from Saravanan and his family members, lodged a complaint with Bhuvanagiri police on July 8. Saravanan surrendered before Panruti judicial magistrate on July 16 and confessed to murdering his wife with the help of his mother Selvi, sister Sakunthala and brother-in-law Venkatesan. Police arrested Selvi, Sakunthala and Venkatesan on July 17 and produced them before a local court which remanded them in judicial custody. Preliminary inquiries revealed Seetha, who was invited by Saravanan to his parents’ house in Kadavacheri, was beaten to death by him, his mother, sister and brother-in-law. They later set her body on fire and buried it near their house, police said. Various dalit rights organizations, while condemning the brutal murder, have asked the district police to book all the accused under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and ensure stringent punishment to them. The activists also demanded that the postmortem examination be videographed and be performed in the presence of two members from dalit community. (Times of India 20/7/14)

3. Officials Ignorant of SC/ST Sub-Plan Act: Ravella (2)

VIJAYAWADA: Minister for social welfare Ravella Kishore Babu has alleged that there is no awareness among the officers concerned on the SC/ST Sub Plan Act – 2013 and observed that there is an urgency to spread awareness on the law as nothing significant has been done in the past 15 months. Speaking to the reporters here Sunday, Kishore Babu said that the reschedule of loans was a part of farm loan waiver scheme. In view of the current kharif season, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu was making plans to waive the farm loans at the earliest.  “The CM has asked the agriculture minister to find all possible ways to waive farm loans if the RBI refuses to reschedule the loans,” he said and urged the farmers not to worry about the loans as they had asked the bankers at the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) meet not to cause inconvenience to farmers. Kishore Babu clarified that the state government was ready to take up the process of admissions for students and expressed disappointment over the Telangana government for the delay in admissions for students who were eligible for fee reimbursement. He also came hard on Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao for not responding to the letters from the AP chief minister regarding the fee reimbursement. “Due to the delay in admissions, the students will only be deprived of further education,” he said and added that they were planning to visit Delhi to exert pressure on the Centre to find a solution on the admissions issue. He also said that they would approach the Apex Court on the denial of fee-reimbursement scheme to students studying in Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. “Basing on the verdict of the Supreme Court, plans will be made accordingly,” he added. Speaking about the SC-ST Sub Plan Act, Kishore Babu criticised the Congress government for not framing rules in the Act. “However, this government will implement the law in letter and spirit,” he said and stressed the need to reduce the gap in development and literacy rate between the rich and the poor. Kishore Babu praised the efforts of Chandrababu and said that AP would turn into a logistical hub as the CM had already designed plans as part of his desire to develop AP. (New Indian Express 21/7/14)

4. 2 cops suspended after Dalits beaten to death (2)

ALIGARH: Three Dalits of a family were killed allegedly by some upper caste men in Veerpur village of Lodha, Aligarh over a land dispute, following which two police officials were suspended on Thursday for alleged negligence of duty. On Wednesday, a clash broke out in the village over a piece of land claimed by the Dalits and members of the upper caste family reportedly used lathis and other sharp weapons to kill the Jatavs. They also dragged the victims to a field and even tried to bury them alive, police sources said. The assailants beat up Babulal (55), Basanti Devi (60) and Kailash (30), all of whom succumbed to injuries. “Two weeks ago, there was an argument between two families over SDM Khair’s order to probe the case of dispute over the ownership of four bigha land property. The issue has been simmering since 2002. The land of Jatavs was claimed by the upper caste family and has ever since been the reason of the clash,” said Udaiveer Malik, police spokesperson. An FIR has been registered against seven persons by the kin of the victims, he added. DIG Satyender Veer Singh said, “This was a civil matter. The case went out of hand because the Dalit family had called some relatives home and the upper caste family thought this is being done to build an army to attack them. They reacted without any apparent provocation.” The area is under police surveillance after the clash and the situation is now under control, police said (Times of India 24/7/14)

5. Migration Changed Khariar Dalits’ Lives (2)

KHARIAR: Labour migration from this poverty stricken undivided Kalahandi district has become a part of life for many years now. Unlike other seasonal migration, Bankapur village’s tale is different. About 110 dalit families of Bankapur have left the village in Khasbahal panchayat of Khariar block of Nuapada district in search of greener pastures across the country for good. The village wears a deserted look and 30-odd members of 10 families left behind said the dalit families periodically migrated in the last 40 years. In the absence of repair and maintenance, the houses of migrated villagers are crumbling down. With no land holdings, the dalit families had little option but to leave their village to eke out a living. The families are now settled in Assam working in tea gardens in Bailadila famed for iron ore deposit, Durg, Bhilai and Raipur in Chattisgarh besides Punjab where they work as agricultural labourers, said the local sarpanch,  Dulamani Mahanand. With the new destinations offering ample livelihood opportunities, they are now leading a decent life far from their village where they had to struggle amidst poverty and hunger for several years. One dalit Gopal Mahanad managed to bag a government job in Assam, informed Mahanand. He said the State Government should make efforts to bring the migrated families back to their village and rehabilitate them by providing sources of livelihood. (New Indian Express 25/7/14)

6. Govt urged to free tribals, Dalits jailed on false charges (2)

Bhubaneswar: Hundreds of tribals, Dalits and innocent people, who faced police atrocities while raising voice against anti-people activities in the State, staged a rally at the Lower PMG here on Sunday, protesting the State Government’s undemocratic attitude leading to arrest of hundreds of poor tribals and Dalits on false charges. Following the rally and a street protest, the protesters attended a convention organised by the Campaign Against Fabricated Cases (CAFC). Debating on ‘Repression on Dissent Voices’, CAFC convener Narendra Mohanty said that charges have been framed against rights activists, leaders of mass movements and workers of different political parties on fictitious grounds. “The State Government has been targeting its own citizens while facilitating appropriation of the natural resources by the corporate sector. Repression, deception, threat and fabricating false cases are some of the sadistic tricks being used by the Government to crush stir by the public,” alleged Mohanty. Referring to the deceit by the Government, Mohanty said that the people’s movement in Narayanpatna had been suppressed by declaring Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) leader Nachika Linga as the ‘most wanted’. Similarly, while Viswa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmanananda Saraswati was killed by some Maoists in Kandhamal, seven innocent tribals and Dalits were sent to jail, he added. On the occasion, the convention put forth a seven-point charter of demands, including withdrawing several false cases registered against democratic leaders and organisations for their battle against displacement and immediate provision of justice to the imprisoned tribals, Dalits and other innocent people by taking trials of their cases in a special court. Besides, it also demanded that all the prisoners and convicted persons, who have been charged in political cases for staging various people’s movements, conferred with status of political prisoners and the Government initiate discussions with the protesters of displacement instead of suppressing their voice. Several victims of displacement, including Shiney Shoy of Bisthapita Birodhi Mancha Kalinganagar, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti president Abhay Sahu, Niyamagiri Suraksha Samiti member Raj Kishore Sunani, Lower Suktel Movement leader Satya Banchor and Nissan magazine editor Lenin Kumar shared their anguish. (Pioneer 28/7/14)

TRIBALS

7. SC/ST amendment bill referred to Parliamentary panel (6)

NEW DELHI: The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014, which seeks to replace an ordinance was referred to the standing committee by Lok Sabha amid protests by Congress MPs. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan referred the bill to the committee amid disruptions from opposition members from Congress, RJD and RSP demanding immediate statement from external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with the 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed. When the House returned to order following a statement from Swaraj, leader of the Congress in the House Mallikarjun Kharge objected to the bill being referred to the standing committee. Another Congress MP KH Muniappa insisted that the issue involved 23% of the population in the country and they wanted to have their say in the matter. Supporting their contention, MP Shashi Tharoor raised a point of order saying it was not proper to take a decision when the House was not in order. But Mahajan overruled all the objections. The bill states that if a public servant, who is not a member of SC or ST, willfully neglects his duties required to be performed by him under this Act, he or she shall be punished with imprisonment for a term from six months to one year. (Times of India 18/7/14)

8. Landless ‘Yanadi’ tribes need a helping hand (6)

NELLORE: Landlessness, poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and illiteracy are among the many concerns that continue to trouble thousands of ‘Challa Yanadi’ tribal population living in various parts of the coastal mandals in the district. Since there is no change in their living standards, the government has been urged to confer the particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG) status on the tribe, and it is expected to help the authorities put in place several special mechanisms to support their livelihoods. Tribal communities such as Chenchus, Koyas, Kondas, Yerukalas and Challa Yanadis are present in considerable numbers in A.P. According to 2001 Census, 89 per cent of these tribes were living below the poverty line. “It is against this backdrop that more concrete support needs to be extended to these communities. The PVTG status is one of the important steps in this direction,” said Sk. Bhasha, director of the Association for the Rural Development (ARD). He has been working with tribal groups for their uplift with the help of various governmental initiatives. The Challa Yanadi tribe, which is predominantly present in coastal mandals like Kovur, Gudur and Sullurupeta, are found to be vulnerable to various factors in the modern context. Lack of awareness on health issues is causing danger to their lives. More than 8 lakh Yanadis are living in A.P. (The Hindu 19/7/14)

9. Fearing evacuation due to project, tribals occupy forest land (6)

WARANGAL: Even before the government is to take a decision on the proposed Kanthapanapally project across river Godavari, hundreds of tribals are attempting to occupy the virgin forest, fearing evacuation. In the process, they began felling trees to relocate their villages. A forest official, V.Lingam, who tried to prevent them from felling trees was beaten up so severely that he fell unconscious on June 12. Officials say about 100 tribals from Buttaigudem and Munepally reached Kondai hamlet and began felling the trees near Puredipalli cheruvu. Forest beat officer V Lingam who rushed to prevent them was attacked. Authorities say trees in at least a hectare of forest land were cut by the tribals, who wish to relocate their villages in the belief that their displacement because of the Kanthanapally project is imminent. The forest clearance took place near Kondai hamlet. The tribals of Sarvai, Tupakulagudem, Chityala, Gangaram, Bhupatipur, Buttaigudem, Eturu, Mupanapalli and Kanthapalli have identified rich and beautiful forest areas all along the Devadula pipeline bordering Karimangar and Warangal districts for relocating their villages. There are approximately 500 tribal families in these hamlets abutting river Godavari in dense jungles of Eturu Nagaram mandal. A case was registered against the tribals and the issue was brought to the notice of the district Collector G. Kishan. “We have scaled up the security and vigilance all over the mandal. Serious threat to forest is all along the Devadula pipeline where the entire stretch of forest is marked for felling and raising settlements by the tribals,” explains DFO (Wildlife) Ch Ganga Reddy. (The Hindu 20/7/14)

10. NGO petitions against Jarawa tourism in the Andamans (6)

NEW DELHI: Snaking queues of vehicles on the Andaman Grand Trunk Road has prompted a furious petition by Survival International, which has managed to get over 7,000 signatures so far against Jarawa tourism. In 2002, the Supreme Court had ordered that the road be closed. Survival International, a global movement which works for tribal rights, said hordes of tourists continue to travel through the road, a part of the Jarawa Reserve, to spot the fast dwindling tribe. A recent statement by the Bharatiya Janata Party MP from the Andaman Islands Bishnu Pada Ray has added to fears that the road could be widened for tourism. Sophie Grig, senior campaigner at Survival International said, “Over 7,000 people have already joined Survival’s petition and pledged not to visit the Andaman Islands over their outrage at the degrading ‘human safaris’ to the Jarawa tribe. Yet, MP Bishnu Pada Ray has now announced a major investment in the road through the tribe’s reserve. Why is the Indian government investing in this road when the alternative sea route would provide a faster, cheaper and more comfortable means of transport? It’s time to let the Jarawa live in peace in their forest without the daily intrusion of hundreds of vehicles through their land.” Ms. Grig explained that the alternative sea route would enable people to travel north or south in the islands without invading the Jarawa’s reserve. “But the plans for its implementation are moving forward at a snail’s pace and are being stalled at every stage. It appears there is no political will to push it through. Instead of protecting the rights of his most vulnerable constituents, the local MP is pushing crowd-pleasing policies such as widening the road and mainstreaming, which would be disastrous for the Jarawa,” she said. (The Hindu 20/7/14)

11. NHRC to Probe Jharkhand Surrender Scam (6)

NEW DELHI: The NHRC will probe the alleged surrender scam in Jharkhand in which adivasi youths were asked to pose as Maoists and surrender for jobs, a commission official said Wednesday. “The commission has directed its director general (investigation) to depute a team to conduct a thorough inquiry in the matter and submit a report within four weeks,” said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) official. “The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report that a surrender scam was allegedly perpetrated by a former Military Intelligence officer with the knowledge of CRPF officers to lure tribal youths in search of jobs in Jharkhand to pose as Naxalites desiring to surrender,” said a statement. It added: “In exchange, some of them had to sell their personal belongings like motorcycle, land to arrange for money which could secure them a job in army, paramilitary or state police through illegal means. But not everyone allegedly conned was rewarded. The media report cited examples of 18 victims of such a scam.” (New Indian Express 23/7/14)

12. 75% malnourished children in Adilabad affected by Pica (6)

UTNOOR (ADILABAD DIST.): About 75 per cent of malnourished kids in Adilabad owe their condition to Pica, an eating disorder characterised by a craving for dirt or chalk, or to short pregnancy spacing followed by their mothers. Though efforts are being made to address the issue of malnourishment, not much has been done in terms of creating awareness on controlling Pica or encouraging parents to follow the ideal pregnancy spacing. “Creating awareness on these aspects is the most important step towards curbing malnutrition among children,” says Raj Pratheepa, Medical Officer at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), Utnoor. The NRC handles 130 to 160 cases of child malnutrition as outpatients every month while 30 to 40 cases are admitted for treatment, with over 20 being in the category of Severe Acute Malnourishment (SAM), considered to be on the higher side. Since January this year, as many as 161 SAM cases out of a total of 218 inpatient malnourished children were treated at the NRC. “Children of poor tribal people need special care as they easily take to eating dirt when their parents are away in the fields especially during the agriculture season. Awareness on superstitious beliefs on raising a male child should be created so that women do not go on delivering babies until a boy is born,” Dr. Pratheepa observes. Meanwhile, the NRC has come to benefit poor tribal people having cured difficult cases through curing eating disorders in addition to providing nutritious food to malnourished children. “The treatment is decided based upon the result of an appetite test,” says NRC dietician Kumbam Aruna. “Seven-month-old Bhudevi was brought here 28 days back when her weight only 2.1 kg. She now weighs 3.1 kg and looks more healthy,” the dietician continues, citing an example of a difficult case. “We also treated three severely anaemic kids brought to the NRC a few weeks back with their haemoglobin percentage being just 2 gm. They have now made a complete recovery,” the Medical Officer adds. (The Hindu 25/7/14)

13. Campaigns planned on rights of tribals (6)

Bangalore” The Karnataka Aranya Bhoomi Hakku Horatagarara Vedike has decided to hold public campaigns in 19 districts across the State to mobilise public opinion on the rights of tribals and traditional forest-dwellers. The campaign will begin in Shimoga on August 7. The vedike said that the problems of tribals could be redressed under the existing laws. Addressing presspersons here on Saturday, vedike chief convener A. Ravindra Naik said that over 14 lakh tribal families of forest-dwellers, under 260 different categories, in the State feared that they would be evicted following court orders. Mr. Naik said these dwellers were cultivating over two lakh hectares of forest land without title deeds for their livelihood. (The Hindu 27/7/14)

WOMEN

14. Woman branded witch, beaten to death in Bihar (8)

Motohari: A woman in a village of East Champaran district in Bihar was beaten to death on charges of allegedly practicing witchcraft, police said. Saraswati Devi, 45, succumbed to her injuries at Motihari sadar hospital after she was badly beaten by her co-villagers, on Saturday. “The villagers also forced her to consume human excreta,” police said. In a statement to the police, the deceased’s husband Kailash Prasad accused 14 villagers of dragging and thrashing the woman to death. The two sons of Saraswati —Himanshu and Ramsurat —  also sustained injuries when they tried to save their mother. “After recording the statement, the case was sent to Madhuban police station,” said Priya Ranjan, police inspector. In separate incidents in June, more than eight women were assaulted and subjected to humiliation, in which 27 persons had been made accused. But not a single arrest has been made so far in these cases. However, ASP PK Mandal claimed, “Police have been told to adopt zero tolerance against such incidents and take prompt action whenever reported to the police stations”. (Hindustan Times 20/7/14)

15. Protests against rising rape cases (8)

Dharwad: The BJP Mahila Morcha on Friday staged protests in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office in various districts, condemning the State government’s alleged failure to provide proper security for women. In Dharwad, the protesters alleged that the government’s claims of efforts to provide security to women had remained only on paper. Home Minister K. J. George was incapable of handling the Home Ministry and should resign, they said. During the protest in Belgaum, BJP Belgaum district (Mahanagar) president Ujwala Badavanache said the as many as eight cases of rape had been reported from different parts of the State during the last 24 hours, which showed that persons with criminal tendencies did not fear the police. She said increasing incidents of sexual assaults had created a sense of insecurity among women. The absence of male members of the BJP in the protest drew flak from the onlookers. In Raichur, students protesting under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad alleged that the State government was trying to protect the perpetrators in the Bangalore rape case. They demanded capital punishment for Nasir Hyder who allegedly abducted and raped the student in Frazer Town on Wednesday night. They also demanded the government to dismiss the Inspector for his “deliberate” delay in registering an FIR. Activists of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike burnt an effigy at Super Market circle to condemn the laxity in dealing with sexual assault cases. Ashok Kumar Jain, district president of the organisation, demanded death sentence for the rapists. (The Hindu 20/7/14)

16. India’s child sex ratio drops: UN report (8)

New Delhi: India needs to take urgent action following a sharp fall in its child sex ratio, a United Nations report said Tuesday. The study named “Sex Ratios and Gender-Biased Sex Selection: History, Debate and Future Directions”, says the child sex ratio in India has deteriorated from 976 girls to 1,000 boys in 1961, to 927 girls in 2001 and to 918 girls in 2011. The report has been constituted by the United Nations Women with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UN Women is the United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. It also says India is among the few countries where the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for girls is worse than boys. The other countries are Nepal and Bangladesh. Speaking at the report launch, Lakshmi Puri, deputy director of UN Women, said: “Gender-biased sex selection is first and foremost a reflection of how our society values girls and women.” “The deteriorating child sex ratio demonstrates the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society,” she added. The report offers practical suggestions to advance research and understanding on the subject by focusing on different areas such as family and household, education, labour and employment and institutions that directly or indirectly aid or fight the practice of sex selection. “India has witnessed many critical initiatives made by the government, academia and civil society to understand and resolve the issue of gender-biased sex selection. The report bears testimony to the research work thus far, and points to the wisdom that we can build on for evolving a definitive response to skewed sex ratios in India,” said Frederika Meijer, representative of UNFPA to India. The report also provides a brief overview of the sociological and ethnographical areas of study, including the role of civil society and the state, and changing familial patterns. (Zee News 22/7/14)

17. ‘Agnipariksha To Prove Chastity’: Woman Asked To Hold Hot Iron Rods in Front Of Village (8)

Indore:  A court in Indore ordered cases to be registered against four people, including a woman’s husband and mother-in-law, for allegedly forcing her to “prove” her “chastity” in front of a community panchayat by holding red-hot iron rods, if she wanted to live with her husband. The complainant was allegedly asked to “prove her “chastity” by holding red-hot iron rods with her palms (“agnipariksha”) over which leaves of plants coated with oil were kept, her lawyer Santosh Khoware told PTI in Indore on Wednesday. The court ordered registration of the case under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the woman’s husband, mother-in-law and their two close relatives, the complainant’s lawyer said. The complainant, who belongs to the Kanjar community, got married in 2007. After some time, her husband and her in-laws allegedly demanded Rs. 2 lakh in the name of dowry and started harassing her physically and mentally, her lawyer said. Later, they “suspected” her “character” and demanded that she “prove” her “chastity” in front of the local community panchayat. When she and her parents refused to appear before the community panchayat which her in-laws called, panchayat heads asked their community to socially boycott them from all functions, the complainant said. Her complaint stated that she and her family were socially boycotted since February and nobody invited them for any function nor came to her parent’s house. Meanwhile, Kanjar community’s Madhya Pradesh head, Shashi Khatabia termed the allegations levelled against the panchayat as “hollow” and added that it had “nothing” to do with it. She claimed that practices like “agnipariksha” were already “a thing of the past” and such traditions had “no relevance” in “modern” society. (NDTV 24/7/14)

18. Govt mulls amendments to anti-dowry law (8)

New Delhi: Keeping in view the rising number of complaints regarding the misuse of anti-dowry law, Centre is mulling to introduce penal provisions in the act that will ensure punishment or penalty to those who make false charges. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development is also contemplating giving more teeth to the Dowry Prohibition Act by strengthening the existing provisions and widening the definition of ‘dowry’. “Recently, a rise in the incidents of misuse of the anti-dowry law has come to the notice of the ministry. In some cases, women falsely implicate their husbands and in-laws for various other reasons. “If the allegations turn out to be false, the case gets closed. So there are discussions going on about changing some provisions under which the misuse of the act may invite punishment or penalty,” an official in the ministry said. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had directed the state governments to instruct police “not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498A of IPC (dowry harassment) is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41 of Criminal Procedure Code”.While giving the direction, the apex court had expressed concern over the misuse of the anti-dowry law by “disgruntled” wives against her husband and in-laws and noted that the act was being increasingly used to harass in-laws. According to ministry officials, the amendments may include widening the definition of ‘dowry’ by changing the words ‘in connection with marriage’ to ‘given before the marriage, at the time of marriage and at any time after the marriage’. The officials said that there was also “a proposal to link certain provisions of the Domestic Violence Act to the Dowry Prohibition Act to provide quick relief”. Notifying the list of gifts exchanged during the wedding may also be made a mandatory and failure to do so could invite heavy penalties including a three-year jail term not only to the bride and the groom but also to their parents. “Notification of the gifts during the wedding will help in checking any claim from being made later that they were part of dowry,” the officials said. In addition to this, a new clause may be incorporated which will provide an aggrieved woman the opportunity to file her case either at the place where the offence was committed or where she permanently or temporarily resides, they said. The National Commission for Women (NCW) had also proposed recommendations to amend the Dowry Prohibition Act in 2009. (Zee Newa 27/7/14)

19. Khaps support Dhankar’s ‘Bihari wives’ remarks (8)

Jind: Having faced flak for his “Bihari wives” remarks, Haryana BJP Kisan Morcha president Om Prakash Dhankar today received support from unexpected quarters with Bihar Jat Sabha coming in his defence, saying there’s nothing wrong in inter-state marriage alliances. Blaming the media for misrepresenting Dhankar’s statement, Bihar Jat Sabha president Shiv Pratap Singh today said that Dhankar never suggested paying money for Bihari brides. On the contrary, Dhankar merely suggested formalising and registering such inter-state marriage alliances, Singh said, adding that he will extend full support to Dhankar in this endeavour. Singh’s statements were supported by various Khap Panchayats of Haryana and also by famous Hindi writer and former chairperson of Social Welfare Board Mridula Sinha. “Whole of India is a village and there’s nothing wrong in such marriage alliances,” Sinha said, while speaking at a function organised by Samajik Jagriti Manch, wherein various social issues such as unmarried youths, female foeticide, inter-state marriages, human trafficking and rising crime were discussed here. Speaking on the occasion, Dhankar expressed concern over the falling sex ratio in Haryana and suggested connecting all ultrasound centres in the state to a common server to check their misuse. Earlier this month, Dhankar had suggested that if BJP comes to power in Haryana then all the bachelors in the state will get Bihari girls for marriage. (Zee News 28/7/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

20. About 70 kids rescued from Taloja factory (14)

NAVI MUMBAI: As many as 70 children were rescued from a Taloja factory on Friday. The kids were employed by a fisheries company, Ulka Seafoods. The cops, tipped off by an NGO, raided the factory at 8pm. “Around 300 workers, comprising men and women from Assam and Orissa, were employed. The workers included 70 children — 60 girls and 10 boys. These labourers had been brought here by a recruiting agent. Both, the adult and child labourers, were given the job of cleaning and packing,” said Sanjay Singh Yenpure, DCP (zone 2) He added that factory inspectors should have regularly inspected the factory to ascertain if there were any children employed. Indian Rescue Mission, an NGO, had told the police about the factory. “We had received a call from the parents of one of the girls, alleging that her daughter was being forced to work there without pay or proper accommodation.We complained to the police and the crime branch team raided the factory,” James Verghese, president. (Times of India 19/7/14)

21. Over 4,300 child labourers rescued in Delhi since 2009 (14)

NEW DELHI: Labour Department sends Rs.25,000 to District Magistrates annually for the welfare of each rescued child, but do not get utilisation certificates. Of the 4,310 child labourers rescued from different areas of the Capital since 2009, only 19 were from Delhi and 99 per cent belonged to other places across the country. The Delhi Government’s Labour Department has taken steps to repatriate these children to their native places and rehabilitate them. Stating this in an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court earlier this week, the Department sought directions for streamlining the rehabilitation of rescued child labourers. For children belonging to Delhi, the Social Welfare Department must be directed to ensure that they are admitted to the MCD schools, it stated. The matter related to a writ petition moved by non-government organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan, on which the Court has been issuing directions to the authorities since 2009 to take steps to rescue and rehabilitate child workers. The matter came up on Wednesday before a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R. S. Endlaw. The Labour Department sends Rs.25,000 to District Magistrates annually for the welfare of each rescued child, but do not get utilisation certificates regularly from them, stated the affidavit. It also pointed out that there was no effective tracing and tracking mechanism. The affidavit pointed out that instances of sexual abuse of girls trafficked for child labour were regularly reported in Delhi and sought the High Court’s directions to the Resident Commissioners of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh to cooperate with the Department for rehabilitating them. The Court asked the Delhi Government to consider suggestions made by the NGO to ensure the rescue of child labourers from factories, industrial units, hotels and other places. Posting the matter for hearing on September 1, the Bench asked the respondents to consider the proposals to be submitted by the petitioner within a week. Bachpan Bachao Andolan counsel H. S. Phoolka regretted that only 4,310 children had been rescued so far. He pointed out that it will take the next 36 years in getting all child workers released from the places where they were being exploited. “Labour Inspectors know the places where children are illegally employed, but they are slow in taking action,” Mr. Phoolka added. The Court also asked the Department authorities to randomly visit places where they detect the possibility of children being forced to work. (The Hindu 21/7/14)

22. Child rights panel seeks report over blind students’ caning (14)

New Delhi: The national child rights panel Monday sought a report from the Andhra Pradesh government on the brutal beating up of blind students by their teachers. “It is definitely brutal. It is something which all of us need to be ashamed about,” National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Kushal Singh told IANS. “NCPCR has asked for a report from the state government in the matter,” she said. Kushal Singh said the commission has issued guidelines for corporal punishment which were circulated by the human resources development ministry to all states. The director and principal of a school for blind in Andhra Pradesh were Monday arrested for beating up their students. The arrests were made after parents of the children protested and attacked the Greenfield residential school for blind at Thimmapuram near Kakinada in East Godavari district. The district collector has ordered a probe into the incident, which came to light after four days. Video clips of school director K.V. Rao and principal Srinivasulu caning the blind children were released to the media Monday, leading to an outrage. The director himself is blind and was seen mercilessly caning the children with the help of Srinivasulu, who was holding the students. The clips showed the children pleading to spare them but the duo showed no mercy. (Business Standard 22/7/14)

23. Over 10,000 kids working in Goa (14)

PANAJI: Goa may pride itself for its high human development indicators, but the latest statistics of Census 2011 released on Wednesday do not bear good news on this front. A total of 10,009 children in Goa, aged between 5 and 14 are employed and shockingly 6,920 of these children are working as ‘main workers’ or have been employed constantly over a prolonged period of time. Despite implementation of the Right of Child to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which makes schooling mandatory for children up to the age of 14, there are 5,351 male children and 4,658 female children who have seemingly become victims of child labour in Goa. Other than the 6,920 children employed for over six months, 2,902 have worked as marginal workers for a period ranging from three to six months. Of these, around 1,300 have worked as manual workers. Additionally, 187 children from the state have worked for a period of less than three months. As per the statistics, of the 10,009 child workers in Goa, 4,738 children are available in the job market ‘seeking work’. “The figure of 6,920 children employed as main workers may be a small percentage of the total main workers in Goa of around 4.40 lakh and Goa’s figure may not be too large when compared to the numbers in other states, but it is shocking that nearly 7,000 children in Goa are working at an age when they should be studying in schools. This figure should be more worrisome for authorities as so many children are out working despite the RTE Act coming into being,” assistant professor at the department of economics of Chowgule College of Margao, Rupali Tamuly, said, presenting the statistics on Wednesday for the directorate of census operations. Experts in the field of economics, urban development and statistics present at the session analyzing the latest Census data, said that though statistics are unable to reveal the nature of employment, generally a majority of these children appear to be employed as domestic help in households, as waiters in small eateries and as help along with parents in manual labour jobs. What also comes as a surprise is that 119 of the children working in Goa are disabled, suffering from mental retardation, hearing and speech impairment, blindness, physical disabilities and multiple disabilities. Officials said they are unable to state if disabled students whose products crafted in vocational training schools are also accounted for in these statistics. (Times of India (24/7/14)

24. Over 8 lakh malnourished children in Gujarat; Vadodara records highest numbers (14)

Ahmedabad: There are over 8 lakh malnourished children in Gujarat, the state legislative assembly was informed. According to figures tabled in the state legislature on Friday, there are over 8.44 lakh children who are underweight as per ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services), as on December 31, 2013. Of these, 62,500 children are severely underweight, informed the state government in a written reply to an unstarred question by Congress MLA Tejashree Patel. Strangely, Vadodara had the highest number of children — over 65,800 — who are underweight as per the ICDS norms for malnourishment. The district also has an additional 5900 children who are severely underweight. The tribal district of Dahod along with the state’s most urbanised district of Ahmedabad have the second and third highest number of underweight children, respectively. While Dahod has 56600 under-weight and 3500 severely underweight children, Ahmedabad has 55,500 underweight and 5700 severely underweight children, the state government figures reveal. There are similar high number of malnourished children in some of the districts like Banaskantha (55,400), Sabarkantha (53,300) and Panchmahal (55,000). The reply also talks about the various state government schemes like Mission Bal Sukham that is being run to address the grave issue of malnutrition in the state. The government has also been providing “Nutri-candy”, fruits (twice a week), to children between the age groups of 3-6 years in anganwadis. Children in tribal areas are also given milk twice a week, the reply added. (Indian Express 26/7/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

25. Minority schemes list no beneficiary in many states (7)

New Delhi: Eight years after the Centre launched the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for welfare of minorities, some of the key schemes are yet to see the desired results, with many states/ union territories listing zero beneficiaries. Citing data on the allocation of funds by the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC), the ministry has told parliament that as many as nine states/ union territories did not provide assistance to any minority entrepreneurs in 2013-14 under the term loan scheme. This is a part of the 15-point programme. Under the term loan scheme, NMDFC disburses loans through designated state channelling agencies to support self employment and for income generation projects of up to Rs 10 lakh. Loans covering up to 90 per cent of the project cost are given at an interest rate of 6 per cent per annum. The nine states/UTs that did not give any term loans are Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Orissa and Tripura. Data for the last three years also shows that many states are irregular in doling out money for self-help groups, especially to minority women, also funded by the NMFDC. In 2013-14, no loans were granted under the microfinance scheme in Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Orissa. Over the last three years, Gujarat granted loans under this scheme only in 2012-13, to 89 people. In contrast, Tamil Nadu gave loans to 14,666 people and West Bengal to 44,889 people under the scheme in the same year. In 2013-14, 15 states/ union territories listed zero beneficiaries under the free coaching and allied scheme for minority students. Under this scheme, assistance is provided to candidates belonging to minority communities who are appearing for competitive examinations — for government service, private sector or admissions to reputed institutes. The 15 states/ union territories are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Sikkim, Tripura, Lakshadweep and Pondicherry. The data for urban employment of minorities is equally dismal. In 2013-14, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan did not give employment to anybody under the Swarn Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana, which is also a part of the 15-point programme, though they had to meet a target of 1,004 and 915 beneficiaries respectively. In yet another scheme under the programme, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, 13 states/ union territories did not sanction any projects last year for towns/ cities having a substantial minority population. These are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Pondicherry, Sikkim, Tripura and Mizoram. (Indian Express 20/7/14)

26. Alwar police action rocks R’than House (7)

Jaipur: The opposition on Monday boycotted Assembly proceedings amidst uproar over alleged police atrocities on the minority community in Alwar district. The state government rejected the allegations and supported police action, saying it was taken against hardcore criminals and the opposition was misleading the House with false information. Independent legislator Hanuman Beniwal raised the issue in Zero Hour. He alleged that the special Cobra Team constituted by Alwar SP barged into the houses of the Meo community on July 14 and bashed up people, including children and women. He alleged that the team members were drunk and misbehaved with women and hit children. The drunk policemen later entered mosque in Ismailpur area and picked up people offering prayers, he said. The allegations evoked strong response with ruling ruling BJP legislators alleging that the opposition leaders were backing criminals. Supporting Alwar SP Vikas Kumar’s action, the legislators said Ismailpur was a crimine-prone area and the SP has shown courage to pick up goons from there. The Speaker tried to restore order but independent MLA Kirori Lal Meena, along with the opposition leaders, came into the well of the House, alleging that the opposition was not being allowed by him to speak. They raised anti-government slogans. Later, cabinet minister Gulab Chand Kataria gave a factual report on the case and tabled documents related to the police action. He said all people who were lifted from there by police were hardcore criminals with several cases registered against them in the past. He alleged that a few MLAs coming from eastern Rajasthan were giving protection to criminals in their areas. MLA Om Prakash Hudla accused Kirori Lal Meena for his involvement in an abduction case in his constituency. He alleged that a criminal Hansraj Meena abducted a girl and stayed in the house of Kirori Lal Meena. He alleged that girl was kept at Meena’s house for a week. BJP MLAs accused Meena of disturbing peace in eastern Rajasthan and giving protection to criminals. Irked over the allegation, the entire opposition boycotted the proceedings. Outside the House, while addressing the media, Kirori Lal Meena and Om Prakash Hudla entered into a spat and used abusive words for each other. (Deccan Herald 21/7/14)

27. Minority Commission Turns Heat on Wakf Property Encroachers (7)

HYDERABAD: Alleged encroachment and land grabbing of Wakf properties in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has come under the scanner of the Minorities Commission which has found 35-40 alleged cases of irregularities involving property worth Rs 30,000 crore. Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Commission (APSMC) said it has come across alleged irregularities in management of Wakf properties in the two states to the tune of estimated thousands of crores of rupees at current market value. APSMC Chairman Abid Rasool Khan said the Commission has over a period of last one year received more than 100 complaints alleging large scale encroachment of Wakf lands with the tacit support of Wakf Board officials or the ‘Muthawalis’, who are custodian of the property, that they have sold these properties or leased them away flouting rules. “Prima facie in about 35-40 cases, Wakf officials joined hands with land grabbers and not protected the properties. As per the market value, Rs 30,000 to 40,000 crore worth properties of the Wakf have been eaten away by the encroachers,” Khan told PTI here. “People have been occupying (some of these properties) for more than 20 years, but the Wakf Board has not taken any steps to evict them. We took up inquiries into the complaints. In 35-40 cases, we have found fault with the Muthawalis and the Wakf Board officials in transferring the properties. Even legal advisers have not done their duties properly. We are preparing a report on these complaints,” he said. “Now we are in the process of compiling a detailed report on the irregularities. We are in process of obtaining valuation certificates from registrar offices. Once the report is ready within the next one week, we will be writing to the Centre, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments seeking a CBI probe. Separate reports will be handed over to AP and Telangana respectively,” Khan said. According to rules, Wakf property cannot be sold under any circumstances. There can be lease for a maximum period of three years which was also recently amended, making it mandatory for renewal every year. Wakf lands and properties are given to Wakf Board to generate income and spending for the benefit of the poorest of the poor section by way of giving pension to the needy and development and betterment of the community. Khan said there were two reports – one by Parliamentary Committee and the other by the State Legislative Committee – that delved on irregularities in Wakf Board. “The finding of these committees will form part of our report,” he said. As per a survey conducted by Wakf Survey Commissioner, Andhra Pradesh region has 15,400 properties and Telangana region 64,500 properties which are notified and registered by the Wakf Board, ranging from 100 yards to 1,000 acres, according to Khan. “However, 70 to 80 per cent among these properties are in possession of land grabbers…including government agencies. Along with documentary evidence, we are putting up these details in the report seeking CBI inquiry,” he said. “We will seek that all the resolutions, transfers of Wakf properties over a period of last 15 years should be put under the scanner of CBI which will expose illegal sale, transfer and lease and also misappropriation of funds and grabbing of Wakf properties for the past 15 years in AP and Telangana,” Khan said. (New Indian Express 23/7/14)

28. Minorities Commission gets step-motherly treatment (7)

Hyderabad: The A.P. State Minorities Commission is a classic case of government’s indifference. It has not even a shoe-string budget to boast off, leave alone salaries for the staff. If the Commission is discharging its duties as mandated under the Act, it is all because of its chairman, Abid Rasool Khan, who keeps pumping in money from his own pocket. The last time he received his salary was four months ago. Same is the case with the six member staff allotted to him as a Cabinet rank Minister. If the OSD, office assistants and others are working regularly it is because their salaries are being paid by the chairman himself. Every month he is shelling out Rs. 69,000 towards their salary. This is apart from Rs. 1.70 lakh incurred on office maintenance, stationery, telephone bills and other day to day expenses. This pathetic situation persists even after bringing it to the notice of the Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries and Finance Secretaries of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. A statutory body, the Commission has 5 other government staff on deputation. However, their salaries pose no problem as their respective departments pay them. When the Commission was shifted from Secretariat to its new premises beside the Lake View guest house recently, a sum of Rs. 3 lakh was incurred. This again remains to be paid by the government. “It’s a clear case of step-motherly treatment. What the Congress government did in the past, the new government is also doing the same”, rues Mr. Khan who has completed one year in office. For the year 2013-14, the Commission was allocated a budget of Rs. 69.31 lakh on March 24, at the fag end of the financial year. The Commission hurriedly prepared the bills and submitted in time. Yet bills amounting to Rs. 15.60 lakh were not cleared as the process of checking the same took time. “These are the expenses I personally incurred for running the Commission,” says Mr. Khan. After its reconstitution, the Commission is busy addressing the grievances and intervening in cases of discrimination against the minorities. But surprisingly it is not able to address the discrimination against itself. (The Hindu 28/7/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

29. Confidence of Muslims in BJP increasing: Najma Heptulla (7)

HYDERABAD: Union minister Najma Heptulla claims that confidence of Muslims in BJP is increasing because of its “development-for-all” agenda, as she expressed optimism that “vote-bank politics” syndrome will now be a thing of the past. “Muslims have voted for the BJP (in recent Lok Sabha elections) and they are slowly getting their confidence in voting for the BJP because it’s for the first time in the history of India that any leader has focused on development in a national election and talked about inclusive development, both for majority and minority in the entire nation and Muslims are included in it,” she said. “He (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) talked about everybody. And when he talked about development, minorities, specifically Muslims, have voted for him. (Muslims) may not have voted 100 per cent but they have voted and slowly the growth (in voting for BJP) will increase as the confidence increases,” the minister of minority affairs told PTI here in an interview last evening. Irrespective of caste, religion, region and language considerations, people have voted for Modi, the former deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha said, adding that she is “very confident” that the concept of “vote-bank politics is not going to be there” in future. Without naming the Congress, she attacked it, saying the previous governments only paid “lip-service” to the issue of minority welfare and they have not actually cared for them. Sachar Committee and other reports on minority development and welfare have “exposed” them (the Congress that not much had been done for minorities).” Asked if she thought Narendra Modi should visit Pakistan to improve bilateral relations, Heptulla said it’s for him to decide, but pointed out the Prime Minister has already gone a “step further” by inviting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony. “I feel that now it’s time for Pakistan to show some consideration and extend a hand of friendship towards India and stop supporting the terrorists because it’s not good for either country (India and Pakistan). No body, No body, I emphasise, should support any terrorist activities,” the Minister said. “We cannot tolerate terrorism,” she stressed. “Actually, the Prime Minister has shown large heartedness by inviting all the Saarx leaders for his swearing-in ceremony. That include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives…four countries represented by Muslim leaders. So, that sends a very good message to them that he wants to be friendly with everybody… all the neighbouring countries,” she said. (Times of India 20/7/14)

30. Pravin Togadia reminds Muslims of Muzaffarnagar riots (7)

Trust Pravin Togadia to create controversies at regular intervals. Days after another Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal’s remarks against Muslims, Singhal issued a veiled warning to the community against the backdrop of violence at a base camp of the Amarnath Yatra. The VHP leader on Saturday said Muslims may have forgotten the 2002 Gujarat riots but would remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of last year. According to reports, he invoked the Ramayana to drive home the point, “If you set Hanuman’s tail on fire, Lanka will burn.” About 40 people were injured in clashes between security forces and protesters in Baltal base camp of the Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir. “Aap Gujarat bhul gaye honge, par aapko Muzaffarnagar yaad hoga,” a daily has quoted Togadia as saying. Togadia said this Indore, at a press conference on the World Hindu Congress Summit scheduled to be held in New Delhi in November this year. Togadia has reportedly said that while Gujarat riots followed the Godhra incident, the alleged rape of a Hindu girl led to the Muzaffarnagar riots. Togadia has a central team to probe the matter, while holding the Jammu and Kashmir government responsible for the violence. Todagia’s statement come on the heels of VHP patron Ashok Singhal’s remarks about Muslims. A few days earlier, he had termed result of Lok Sabha elections 2014 a “setback to Muslim politics”. The 88-year-old RSS leader said said that polls in India could be won without the support of Muslims, asked the minority community to learn a lesson and respect Hindu sentiments. (India Today 20/7/14)

31. Shiv Sena MP force-feeding Muslim: Activists protest in Jaipur (7)

Jaipur: Muslim activists on Thursday staged protests here against Shiv Sena for force-feeding a fasting Muslim employee at Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi last week. Strongly condemning the incident where a Sena MP forcefully fed a Muslim catering supervisor at Maharashtra Sadan making him break his Ramzan fast, the activists demanded immediate arrest and disqualification of the accused MP. “We strongly condemn Shiv Sena MP for force feeding a Muslim employee in Delhi. The accused should be arrested and their membership from Parliament be cancelled,” Mohammad Iqbal, secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, said. Members of various organisations like Welfare Party of India, PUCL, Students Islamic Organisation of India and Rajasthan Samagra Seva Sangh participated in the protest at statue circle here. The activists also raised voices against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia for his controversial remaks regarding Muzaffarnagar riots, and demanded his arrest. (DNA 24/7/14)

32. Government delays aid to society for destitute Muslim women (7)

CHENNAI: A couple of years ago, B M Khadeeja approached the Muslim Women Aid Society (MWAS) in Tuticorin for a grant to buy a sewing machine. Her husband didn’t have an income and she had to work to take care of the family. More than two years later, Khadeeja has still not received help. Formed in 2008 to help destitute Muslim women and girls in the state, many MWAS units are not functioning due to lack of government support. As per the order, the government would sanction a matching grant of a maximum of 10 lakh a year to each unit, equivalent to the donations collected by the unit. During Ramzan, there has been an attempt to activate many MWAS units by seeking donations from Muslims across the state. “Lack of support from the government is the main problem. In some places, collectors are not even aware of the MWASs in their districts,” says S Syed Ahmed, general secretary of the Federation of District Muslim Women Aid Societies (FeMWAS) in Tamil Nadu. The aim of MWAS is to provide financial assistance and self-help training to the destitute Muslim women and girls to improve their livelihood. The government had issued seed money of 1 lakh each to every district to establish office for MWAS, which comes under the minorities welfare department of the state. There have been instances where women have been awaiting grants for more than five years. Jameela’s husband died in 2009. Since he was the sole breadwinner of the family, Jameela had a tough time taking care of her two children after his death. Even though she approached the Dharmapuri MWAS, she didn’t get any help, as the MWAS there was waiting to get the matching grant from the government. Delay in releasing the grant from the government is another reason behind the mal functioning of many MWASs. “The government is yet to release the matching grant for the amount we mobilized during 2012-2013. A few MWASs have been waiting for the matching grant for more than three years,” says Ahmed. According to Ahmed, the delay from the government in a way discourages the donors who donated to the MWASs to donate again. “Many who donated will not donate it again because of the delay. This makes generation of new donations difficult. So it’s a long wait for the applicants, particularly those who applied for educational scholarships,” he says. (Times of India 28/7/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

33. Police complaint against Subramanian Swamy for anti-Church comments (7)

Panaji: A police complaint was filed Friday accusing BJP leader Subramanian Swamy of “attempting to create and promote enmity against the Catholic Church” by posting on his Facebook page that the Church in Goa does not love HIV positive children. The complaint was filed by Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat. “The said person has put up a post on his page June 17, 2014, and tried to give a communal and political twist to a very sensitive issue by trying to portray the Church in Goa as not sensitive towards HIV+ve orphans,” Kamat said in his complaint. The conflict between the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) and the management of the Fatima High School in Rivona village, located 55 km south of Panaji, over admissions to 13 HIV+ve children and 23 suspected HIV+ve children has grabbed the attention of the state. While the Church-run school under pressure from the PTA had transferred 13 HIV+ve students to another school last month, the school authorities have now stood behind 23 other students, whom the parents want dropped from school claiming they too are HIV infected. The Church has claimed that the 23 students are not HIV+ve. Both the 13 HIV+ve students and the 23 non-HIV students live in a Church-run orphanage also located in Rivona village. A poster allegedly uploaded on Swamy’s page, which was submitted as evidence by the Congress to the police, says: “In Goa, the Church loves everyone except HIV+ve kids.” It also says: “Church-run school in Goa expels 13 HIV+ve orphans.” While accusing Swamy of allegedly giving the issue a communal twist, the Congress has defended the Church. “We would like to bring to your notice that the orphanages where these kids are being taken care of are also run by the Church,” the complaint says. A police spokesperson confirmed receipt of the complaint and said that preliminary investigation has started. “An FIR has not been registered yet. We will commence a preliminary investigation into the complaint soon,” the official said. (Zee News 18/7/14)

34. Devil worshipers invade Church, place Jesus Christ statue upside down (7)

SHILLONG, July 18: In another evidence of devil worshippers growing presence and activities in Khasi Hills, suspected satanic worshipers on Friday broke into a Church located at the Catholic Church Cemetery, Bellefonte at Lumshyiap, and took the statue of Jesus Christ and placed it in front of the gate with the cross upside down. According to police, during one of the inspection led by East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner in some of the cemeteries it was found that several graves were desecrated with obscene graffiti and liquor bottles strewn all over. Despite Section 144 CrPC already in place prohibiting assembly of people in and around the graveyards, in certain cases it was found that miscreants had even lit bonfires using wooden crosses extracted from the graves. The East Khasi Hills district administration had sent letters to elders of localities and church groups within the state capital soliciting their co-operation to maintain vigil, and to share inputs on the alleged practice of devil worshiping. The locality elders and church groups were also assured of support from the district administration in case help was required to tackle the alleged practice. The localities were particularly urged to keep a close vigil on graveyards, as the alleged devil worshippers are believed to be using the cemeteries for their rendezvous. In the month of May, five alleged “devil worshippers” were arrested and later released from Tura, West Garo Hills. (Meghalaya Times 19/7/14)

35. UN condemns Christian persecution in Iraq (7)

United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned Sunday the persecution of minorities in Iraq by the Islamic State (IS) and related armed groups. The UN chief is “particularly disturbed” by reports of threats against Christians in Mosul and other IS-controlled parts of Iraq, including an ultimatum to either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face imminent execution, Xinhua quoted spokesperson of Ban as saying in a statement. Ban stressed that any systematic attack on the civilian population, due to their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, adding that those responsible must be held accountable. All armed groups must abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians living in areas they control, Ban said. He added that the UN will continue to help meet the urgent humanitarian needs of those displaced by the conflict and the terrorist threat in Iraq. Hundreds of Christian families and individuals fled their homes in the militant-seized city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, by Saturday afternoon, a deadline declared earlier by the IS militant group for the minority to convert to Islam, leave the city, pay tax or die. IS, formerly ISIS, is not formally recognised as a state and viewed as a rebel group. It is composed of Sunni insurgent groups and was thought to have significant ties to Al Qaeda. But the latter formally dissociated itself from IS in February. (Zee News 21/7/14)

 

36. Government taking all efforts to bring back priest, Sushma tells family (7)

MADURAI: Family members of abducted Jesuit priest from Sivaganga Fr Alexis Prem Kumar who met Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Thursday evening said that they were assured that the Centre was keen on rescuing him soon and it was taking all efforts to bring him back. Kumar’s 77-year-old father A S M Antonysamy, brothers Albert Manoharan, John Joseph, sisters A Elizbeth Rani and Sahaya Selvi who met Sushma Swaraj submitted a petition to the minister seeking to intensify efforts to find him. “The minister assured that the Centre was keen on rescuing Alexis Prem Kumar and was taking all diplomatic efforts to bring him back,” said Fr Francis Jayapathy, who had accompanied the family members. The 47-year-old priest from Sivaganga district who went to Afghanistan as country director of Jesuit Refugee service, a catholic charity organization in 2012 was abducted by suspected Taliban militants on June 2 this year from Herat province in Afghanistan. It has been nearly two months since his abduction but there was little information about his whereabouts. “We don’t know where he is being kept or what efforts were being taken by Afghanistan authorities to rescue him. But the only factor that keeps our hopes high is the assurance from the Indian embassy officials that he is safe,” said a family member. Within days after the abduction of Kumar when he was on the way to a village school, there were reports that three men suspected to be behind the kidnap were arrested and that the priest was traced to a village. But there were no further developments and no militant group claimed responsibility for the abduction. “The minister assured that she was personally pursuing the case. She gave a patient hearing to us and assured of all efforts by the Indian government to rescue Prem Kumar,” said Jayapathy. The family was knocking all possible doors from the state government to external affairs ministry to save Kumar. A spokesperson from the external affairs ministry had called the family on July 16 and informed about the minister granting appointment to them. Subsequently, they left for Delhi on Wednesday. Antonysamy has been battling depression ever since his son was abducted, though he displayed grit and determination. The meeting with Sushma Swaraj has raised the spirits of the family and gave fresh hope on rescue of Kumar. (Times of India 25/7/14)

 

37. “Christian-Hindu” comment is heresy: NCP (7)

Panaji: The NCP Saturday charged Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza with “heresy” and demanded that the Goa church seek an explanation from him about his claim of being a “Christian Hindu”.”D’Souza has committed heresy by claiming he is a Christian-Hindu. You can either be a Christian or a Hindu. The Church should demand an explanation from him and if he fails to explain this term, then he should be ex-communicated from the religion,” Nationalist Congress Party leader Trajano D’Mello told a press conference at the party’s state headquarters Saturday. D’Souza had sparked off a national controversy on Friday when he said, “India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I – I am a Christian Hindu.” D’Souza is one of the seniormost minority members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)in Goa. D’Mello claimed that the deputy chief minister had been brainwashed by the BJP. “What he has said is nothing less than sacrilege and an insult to all Christians. We are all proud Indians, but you cannot mix two religions for political purposes,” said D’Mello, a Christian himself. (Zee News 26/7/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

38. Jihadist ultimatum sparks Christian exodus from Iraq’s Mosul (13)

KIRKUK, Iraq: Thousands of Christians abandoned their homes and belongings to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul on Friday following an ultimatum by jihadists who overran the region last month and proclaimed a caliphate. As militants attempted to break government defences in strategic areas and edge closer to Baghdad, Christians joined hundreds of thousands of Shiite and other refugees into Kurdistan. Their flight to the safety of the neighbouring autonomous region coincided with the expected homecoming of Iraq’s Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, after 18 months of treatment in Germany. The Islamic State group running Mosul had already demanded that those Christians still in the city convert, pay a special tax or leave but messages blaring on mosques’ loudspeakers appeared to spark an exodus. An earlier statement by Mosul’s new rulers had said there would be “nothing for them but the sword” if Christians did not abide by those conditions before noon (0900 GMT) on Saturday. “Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Arbil” in Kurdistan, Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako, who heads Iraq’s largest Christian community, told AFP. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.” Most Christians in the northwestern Nineveh province fled in terror after jihadist-led militants enforcing an extreme version of sharia — or Islamic law — launched an offensive on June 9. But many of the poorest families returned when the fighting stopped and IS started administering the city. Sako put the number of Christians who were still in Mosul on Thursday at 25,000. The mass displacement was the latest in six weeks of turmoil which the have forced more than 600,000 people from their homes, left thousands dead and brought Iraq to the brink of collapse. Talabani’s return to his native Kurdistan on Saturday was likely to spark celebrations among supporters from his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. He is widely celebrated as a skilled negotiator, who enjoys good relations with both the United States and Iran and has repeatedly mediated between Iraq’s fractious politicians in recent years. But some observers warned that there was little the avuncular 80-year-old head of state could do to ease spiralling ethno-sectarian violence and rhetoric and roll back the Islamic State’s expansion. “I really do think this is a post-Talabani era. I’ve stuck my neck out there, but I haven’t heard any Iraqis talking about him in any way being president,” said Toby Dodge, director of the London School of Economics’ Middle East centre. Federal forces collapsed, in some cases abandoning uniforms and weapons in their retreat, when fighters under the command of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi launched their assault. The army has since regrouped, received intelligence, hardware and manpower from Washington, Moscow and Shiite militias, but nonetheless struggled to regain lost territory. Security analysts have said Baghdad remains too big a target but the militants have in recent days repeatedly attacked targets that would expose the capital if captured. On Thursday night, a jihadist commando stormed the Speicher air base north of ex-president Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, sparking a fierce battle. “Last night, gunmen infiltrated the base. There were snipers and suicide bombers among them, they managed to reach the runway,” an intelligence officer who survived the attack told AFP. He said the pilots managed to fly all but one of the base’s aircraft to safety but a statement posted on jihadist Internet sites said many were destroyed. Many, including within his own Shia alliance that comfortably won April elections, now see Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s departure as essential to national reconciliation efforts. In a Friday sermon delivered by one of his spokesmen in Karbala, the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric — appeared to lean in the same direction. “The new government should have broad national acceptance and be capable of solving the crisis in the country and correcting the mistakes of the past,” he said. Parliamentary blocs have until Sunday to submit nominees for the post of president, whose election is the next step in what has been a protracted and acrimonious process to renew Iraq’s leadership. Despite his unexpected return, there is little expectation that Talabani, who has been president since 2005, will seek another term. (Times of India 19/7/14)

39. More than 100,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza: UN (13)

Gaza City: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza to escape a two-week-old Israeli offensive on the enclave has soared to more than 100,000. “This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict,” climbing to above 100,000, the agency’s spokesman Christopher Gunness said in a statement. UNRWA says it has opened 69 shelters in the war-torn Gaza Strip to cope with the rising numbers of displaced people, as Israel rains down air strikes, tank and artillery shells on homes, offices and other targets in its campaign to stamp out militant rocket fire. The conflict, the bloodiest since December 2009-January 2010, has killed more than 570 Palestinians and 27 Israelis, including two civilians. The death toll and number of displaced has risen rapidly since Israel began a ground offensive late Thursday, after 10 days of aerial and naval bombardment. (Zee News 22/7/14)

40. India accepts Australia’s request to probe 157 boat refugees (13)

NEW DELHI: India gave Australia a bit of a breather by agreeing to investigate whether some of the 157 boat refugees confined to their boat on Christmas Island are Sri Lankan Tamil refugees from a camp in Puducherry. Australia has asked the Indian government to provide consular services to the refugees to see if India can take them back. The refugees are held as prisoners in a boat and only let out during meal time. Scott Morrison, Australia’s embattled immigration minister on his first visit here, told foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and home minister Rajnath Singh that according to Australian investigations, the controversial boat with 157 asylum seekers set out from India. The government had earlier approached Sri Lanka, but Colombo blew them away. This is the first high level visit from Australia after the Modi government took office. The case of the 157 Tamil refugees has created a major storm in Australia. The Australian government does not want them in their country. It has argued that since the Tamils were intercepted outside Australian territorial waters, Canberra had the right to return them to the country they came from. According to international law, Australia is obliged not to send back refugees to the country they left. Faced with a growing number of refugees from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and even Indonesia who float their way to Australia, the Australian navy now regularly scouts for boat people outside Australia territorial waters. Australian media reports said they had recently sent back 41 boat refugees to Sri Lanka. The present case involves Lankan Tamils who, Australia says, came from south India in June. Morrison told a radio programme, “The report is that the vessel did come from India, we’ve got a very good understanding of where this vessel has come from and we’ve been having some dialogue with the Indian government to work through these issues.” The case is now pending in the high court, which will decide whether the Australian government has the right to send the boats back. This is part of the Australian government’s policy, called ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, by which they send back boatloads of refugees. This was touted as a big success by the Tony Abbott government earlier this year. Indian government sources said it was only very recently that Australia had reached out to India on this issue. India wrestles with its own illegal immigration problem with Bangladesh. It is unclear how this case will play out. (Times of India 23/7/14)

 

41. India seeks access to Tamils from Australia (13)

Chennai: Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison revealed that the 157 Tamil asylum seekers on board a customs vessel have been brought to Australia and he reiterated that none will settle in the island continent. Mr Morrison said in Sydney that the decision was to send back the Sri Lankan refugees who came out of India, back. He made the announcement after negotiations with the Indian government, which has now sought consular access to the Tamils with a view to facilitate their return to India. Mr Morrison, who is handling border protection issues, met Union home minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi last week and discussed issues relating to illegal migration. During the meet he told the minister that a boat with 157 persons on board was seized by the Australian authorities during the last week of June. The announcement from Sydney comes in the wake of assurance of the Indian home ministry that India, as a matter of policy, does not support any kind of illegal migration either into its own territory or illegal migration of its citizens to foreign territories. The Indian side also sought consular access and emphasised the importance of handling such cases in a legal and humanitarian manner ensuring that no harm befalls upon anyone, especially minor children. Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s external affairs minister G.L. Peiris had also pleaded with Tamil refugees in Australia who fled the Island nation during war to return home. Lankan external affairs minister G.L. Peiris had told media that Sri Lanka is now perfectly stable, with an economic boom in the once devastated northern Tamil regions. “Sri Lanka is today a land at peace, it is a perfectly stable society. The northern province is developing at about 22 per cent, when the average population of the country is between 6 or 7 per cent,” Professor Peiris said. It may be noted that Mr Peiris called on his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in Delhi mid July and discussed issues related to asylum seekers. It is believed that the controversial vessel left Puducherry on June 11 and was intercepted by Australian border patrol on June 29. (Asian Age 28/7/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

42. CIC upholds PMO’s refusal to declassify three Netaji files (1)

Kolkata: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has upheld the Prime Minister’s Office’s contention of keeping, as classified, three files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, on grounds their declassification would adversely affect foreign relations. Researcher Chandrachur Ghose in April last year filed a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking copies of documents contained in three PMO files relating to the widow and daughter of the nationalist leader. But the PMO turned down the request contending the disclosure of the documents would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries and as such they were exempt under the RTI Act. When Ghose’s appeal was too turned by the PMO director, he took the matter before the CIC which Thursday upheld the PMO’s stand of refusing the declassification of the files. “It is not for us to substitute our judgment on the applicability of exemptions to that agency duly authorized to determine such issues. “In view of the above, and Central Public Information Officer’s submission that due diligence has been exercised, we uphold the decision of denying the information,” CIC Rajiv Mathur said in his decision. Ghose was represented by author and researcher Anuj Dhar at the hearing before Mathur. Ghose and Dhar are part of a group called “Mission Netaji”, which since 2006 has filed several RTI applications concerning Netaji. (Business Standard 19/7/14)

43. Rs 17.60 lakh spent on Modi’s oath-taking ceremony (1)

An expenditure of at least Rs 17.60 lakh was incurred on the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, an RTI reply has found. The reply provided by the President’s Secretariat said approximate cost incurred on the arrangements of the oath-taking ceremony, attended by 4017 guests, related to tentage, stage, furniture and other allied items is Rs 17.6 lakhs. In its response to activist Ramesh Verma, the Secretariat said that it does not maintain the records of expenditure function-wise. “Hence the information sought for cannot be provided. It is informed that the expenditure on functions in incurred by the spending units from the annual budget allotted to respective head of accounts,” a reply from CPIO Saurabh Vijay said. The activist had sought to know from the President’s Secretariat “head-wise” details on the expenditure incurred on the oath-taking ceremony of Modi and total number of persons who attended the ceremony. Modi took oath of office on May 26 at a function in Rashtrapati Bhavan which was attended by Presidents, Prime Ministers and senior leaders of the SAARC countries among other dignitaries. (DNA 20/7/14)

44. No plans to bring co-operative societies under RTI: Govt (1)

New Delhi: Government is not planning to bring any amendment in the Right to Information Act to include co-operative societies under it, Lok Sabha was informed Wednesday. “No” was the response of Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh to a question from a member seeking to know whether the Government is planning to amend the RTI Act and bring the co-operative societies within the ambit of the transparency law. (Zee News 23/7/14)

45. RTI activists demand dismissal of info panel (1)

CHENNAI: Continuing their protest against the indifference of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission, RTI activists from across the state staged a day-long hunger strike at Valluvar Kottam here on Wednesday. The protesters planned to take out a rally to the TNSIC headquarters at Teynampet and lock the gates of the office at 5pm but police arrested 52 activists at the venue of the fast. They were later released. During the protest, more than 200 activists, including senior citizens, demanded the dismissal of the TNSIC and urged the Tamil Nadu government to table the pending RTI annual reports before the assembly. They also wanted an online facility to check the status of appeals filed before the commission.

“The governor should dismiss this inactive commission functioning against the RTI Act. This sleeping commission is a waste of tax payers’ money,” said Siva Elango, president of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, which organised the protest. Satta Panchayat Iyakkam general secretary Senthil Arumugam said the decision to strike received an overwhelming response. “Not even one RTI applicant is satisfied with the commission. There are complaints that commissioners are misbehaving with applicants.” V Gopalakrishnan, who had filed more than 1,000 RTI applications, said he had stopped filing second appeals. “Replies are either vague or incomplete. But commission disposes appeals without providing any information. It never imposes fines on PIOs.” C Duraisamy, a 70-year-old who travelled here from Coimbatore to take part in the strike, said it was no surprise that all government departments were rejecting RTI applications without any basis. “PIOs know the commission will not take any action even if they don’t provide information to applicants.” RTI activists have been conducting a series of protests since 2010 when K S Sripathi was appointed state chief information commissioner. (Times of India 24/7/14)

46. Patients have a right to their medical records, says CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Patients have a right to get their medical records from hospitals, both public and private, Central Information Commission has directed, ordering disclosure of information to a former RAW official. Nisha Priya Bhatia, a former official of Research and Analysis Wing, sought her medical records from Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences where she was admitted on the orders of Delhi High Court. These records were refused to her as the institute cited Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act which allows an authority to withhold information which would impede an investigation. Rejecting the contention, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said patients have a right to their medical records which is rooted in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution and respondent hospitals have a duty to provide it. He said information commissions can enforce this right to information of patients against both government and private hospitals, whether they are public authorities or not, as per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005. The commissioner said hospitals have a duty to provide the same under Right to Information Act, 2005, Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the Medical Council Act, 1956 and world medical ethics read with constitutional rights. Bhatia had alleged before the commission that her superiors got antagonized against her for no reason, started withdrawing her privileges as an officer, gradually and ultimately her chair was also removed leaving her with no place to sit and work. She alleged a “deliberate conspiracy” and attempt to depict her as a mentally sick person just because she had filed complaints against her superiors. (Times of India 25/7/14)

47. Air Force sports complex comes under RTI Act, says CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Air Force Sports Complex is a public authority under the Right to Information Act, a full bench of the Central Information Commission has held rejecting its contention that it was a private body. AFSC had argued that it was a private body which was not substantially financed by the government and hence it was not liable to provide any response to RTI applicants. A full bench comprising chief information commissioner Rajiv Mathur and information commissioners Sharat Sabharwal and M Sridhar Acharyulu rejected the arguments as it found that the government had given the complex substantial land which was a kind of indirect funding. Documents supplied by the Defence Estate Officer showed that according to their records, IAF authorities were in occupation of 126.948 acres of ministry of urban development land at Air Force Station, Race Course. According to DEO, out of 100 acres allotted to defence ministry for construction of race course area, 52.80 acres was formally transferred to defence ministry on which the complex is located. It also came to the notice of the commission that top defence officers were in control of the AFSC management. (Times of India 28/7/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

48. Rs.2,482 crore allocated to education sector (11)

NEW DELHI: With nearly one lakh students enrolling in Delhi Government schools each year, the city requires around 500 new schools to meet the demand as per norms under the Right to Education Act, noted Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while presenting the Delhi Budget on Friday. The Centre, however, earmarked Rs.350 crore for construction of just 20 new schools in the coming financial year. Last year, the Sheila Dikshit government, while presenting the Budget, had stated that construction of five new government schools will begin in 2013-14 and 34 new school buildings will also be completed. In all, Rs.2,482 crore has been allocated to educational sector in the Delhi Budget, which is approximately 14.8 per cent of the plan outlay. The allotment was Rs.1,901 crore in the previous financial year. Mr. Jaitley said currently there are 380 senior secondary schools in the Capital exclusively for girls across 68 Assembly constituencies and schools will be opened in the remaining two Assembly constituencies as well. “Special emphasis will be laid on improving sanitary conditions in government schools and necessary measures will be taken to construct, repair and set up fully functional and clean toilets in all schools in the current financial year,” he said. As many as 20,318 teachers will undergo training at the State Council of Educational Research and Training in a bid to improve the quality of education in schools, the Minister said. The focus will also be on course content, teaching skills and creating a better teaching environment in government schools, he added. “Delhi inhabits a lot of linguistic communities and has four academies of Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi and Hindi. It is proposed to take up project-based financial support to these academies in the current financial year.” More teachers will be enlisted to promote languages like Urdu, Punjabi and Sanskrit in government schools. Interestingly, the Minister announced that a Skill Development Centre is proposed to be setup under a PPP model, for which 37 acre was announced by Ms. Dikshit in her Budget speech last year. This centre is expected to train nearly 15,000 students each year in various trades. Mr. Jaitley also announced the setting up of a new School of Planning, Architecture and Design at a cost of Rs.285 crore in East Delhi by Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.(The Hindu 19/7/14)

49. Language Barrier for Primary Education (11)

DHENKANAL: Primary education in Dhenkanal  faces  challenges, be it lack of language teachers, books,  infrastructure and even lack of communication facilities for students to reach the schools. Of the 44 schools in rural parts of the district, students of 19 suffer from learning disability in the absence of multilingual teachers. Most of the children in these schools speak ‘Juang’, ‘Munda’ and ‘Santali’ dialects and do not understand Odia. Owing to the communication barrier, teachers have expressed their inability to impart lessons. The tribal children find it difficult to understand the subjects as most teachers posted here are not fluent in the former’s mother tongue. Learning Odia, in fact, has become a daunting task for them. In Kashipur Project UP School at Sadangi in Gondia block, nearly 80 per cent of the students belong to ‘Munda’ community. With Odia being the only mode of teaching, students fail to understand the lessons taught. Students are neither able to follow the lessons taught nor are they able to read from the Odia books provided to them. “They would have taken interest if the subjects were explained in their language for better understanding. As a result, they grapple with Odia terms unable to comprehend some expressions,” said members of school managing committee of Kashipur Project UP School. Other schools in Jambi and Gamara too face similar challenges. Apparently, some schools are located within forests. Both students and teachers have to cross nullahs, forests and even elephant paths to reach the schools. A case in point is Manidevi High School in Odapada under Hindol. Students from Sorat village have to cross five km of road through dense forest and three nullahs to reach this school. Similar is the plight of students of Rathiapal Primary School in Odapada block and Kharmul Primary School in Hindol. The situation worsens during monsoon. District Project Coordinator of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, S Sahoo, said as there is a shortage of multilingual teachers, a proposal has been sent to the State Government for posting of 19 more multilingual teachers, particularly in ‘Munda’ and ‘Juang’ languages. (New Indian Express 20/7/14)

50. Madurai registers record 70% admission under RTE Act (11)

MADURAI: The number of admissions under Right to Education (RTE) in Tamil Nadu has gone up from 49,864 in 2013-14 to 74,127 this year, announced school education minister K C Veeramani in the current Assembly session. This is nearly a 50% jump over the last year. Officials in charge of RTE admissions said Chennai and Coimbatore were the big contributors. Madurai district has also seen a drastic improvement with nearly 70% enrolment under RTE this year. Officials and child rights activists said the increase in numbers was encouraging and attributed it to increased awareness campaigns in target areas and regular threats issued to schools warning them against turning away children from underprivileged backgrounds seeking admission under the 25% reservation clause of the Right To Free and Compulsory Education Act. Meanwhile, the district educational department has performed well this academic year to improve the number of students under RTE quota. While only 50% of the total seats were filled last year, efforts taken by the department have borne fruit and the number has improved to about 70 per cent. The last-minute intensity shown by officials has yielded fruition as they considerably increased the enrolment. In the last one month alone a total of 560 seats from private schools were filled under the RTE quota. RTE Act says that all private schools have to allocate 25% of the seats to poor students free of cost. The priority should be provided to students hailing from three km radius. However, schools run by minorities do not come under the Act. At the end of May there were only 1,153 students admitted under the quota. It was half the target of filling 100% seats. The officials who wanted to utilize the quota the most, extended the last day for RTE admission, which was supposed to be over by May 30, to one more month. The extension ended on a positive note as they were able to push 560 more poor children into private schools. According to officials, there are 192 private schools in Madurai district. Among the schools seven have been closed in the last one year. The 21 minority institutions and one residential school were also among the 192 schools which do not falling under purview of the Act. The Act would be applicable in the rest of 161 schools. Almost all the schools have provided seats under RTE this year. Compared to last year this year has been good. Last year, 11 schools did not provide seats. They were given special attention to extract seats, officials from the inspector of matriculation schools’ office said. Govinda Rajan, inspector of matriculation schools, Madurai said the district administration has been very keen on improving the number of students admitted under RTE quota. They were very stern in implementing the Act. They kept in touch with private schools and ensured that they fill the seats. Officials said that awareness on RTE is yet to reach the people in rural areas. They could have admitted more children had they received applications. They would improve the admission percentage more in the time to come. (Times of India 23/7/14)

51. Schools blame parents, RTE for std IX failure mess (11)

NAGPUR: After TOI reported on the side effects of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act’s no-fail policy, many state board schools called up to confirm that the failure rate in std IX was increasing. They said apart from the fault with RTE policy, the problem also lied with parents who had become completely oblivious to their kids’ actual capabilities. A school principal said, “Parents refuse to accept their child can fail. When we show them the answer sheets they turn the argument around blaming us for the poor academic performance.” Another senior principal said, “We try to reason with them that their kids were passing earlier only because of RTE policy but they refuse to accept that.” A popular school in the heart of the city had around 30 failures this summer in std IX and the affected parents created a ruckus. The principal recalled, “They gheraoed my office in first week of May and forced me to conduct a re-exam. We then conducted an exam in June and even in that only four passed.” Owner of a school who has both state board and CBSE school said parents had entered into a make-belief world. “RTE has lured them into a false understanding that their child is exceptional. For last couple of years they have not heard the word failure even if their child hardly studies. They feel their child is so brilliant that even without studying he can pass. It is shocking to see how they cannot realize what the reality is,” said the school’s owner. An old co-ed state board school which sees major admission demand too was not spared. The principal told TOI that after a student was failed the parents straightaway filed a complaint with the education department. “The child can barely recite basic tables, so it is no wonder he failed. What can the school do in such cases? Parents are just not ready to listen and want their child to be promoted,” the principal said. Another principal from an east Nagpur school added that handling parents was a tougher job than handling teenagers in school. “The rudeness which some parents show while talking to us is shocking. I have had mothers coming in and shouting at teachers and blaming them for not teaching their kids. When the kid sees this they are reinforced with the illusion that their failure is indeed the teacher’s fault. It is a disastrous situation we are heading towards in the next few years. Parents are getting empowered and misusing their assertiveness. Their kids too follow the same and disparage teachers,” the principal said. (Times of India 24/7/14)

52. Delhi Government school denies admission to two Muslim girls (11)

New Delhi: Not just college, getting admission in a government school in the city too seems to have become an impossible task. Take the case of the two sisters — Kulsum and Yasmin – whose father has been trying to secure them a berth in one of the government schools in Raghubir Nagar since April without any success. Having failed to get his daughters admitted to any school in Delhi, their father Irshad, who is a tailor, then approached advocate Ashok Agarwal (working in the field of Right to Education). The advocate now claims to have “sent a legal notice to the Directorate of Education in the matter”. Elaborating on the case, he said: “Kulsum and Yasmin have been denied admission in the Government Girls Secondary School No. 3, M Block, Raghubir Nagar for Class IX and XI respectively.” Irshad, a resident of R-535, Raghubir Nagar, has been trying to get his daughters admitted in a proper school. “The school authorities are giving excuses such as being over-crowded. But they cannot take away from any child the right to education,” said Mr. Agarwal. “We feel that the girls are being harassed. The delay in giving them admission in these crucial classes is also taking away education time from them making it difficult for them to catch up and complete their syllabus,” said Irshad. Stating that the schools should take a humanitarian view in this case, Mr. Agarwal said: “These girls come from a very poor background and are keen to finish their education. To harass them is not fair on these children.” The family has been trying to get these girls admitted in any of the government schools since April but has been unsuccessful so far. “We will file a case in the Delhi High Court,” said the lawyer. Meanwhile, the two sisters who were earlier residing in Delhi were forced to move to Uttar Pradesh with their father who had to go there for work. “After my work got complete we returned to Delhi and sought admission in the nearby government schools. However, each of the three schools that we approached denied admission to both the girls. We have written several letters requesting admission; all of them went unanswered,” said Irshad. “I have the valid transfer certificates of my daughters, which have been counter-signed, as well as their mark sheets. There are no grounds for denying the admission and I feel that the school’s actions are arbitrary and unjust. This act of the school will most severely damage their career and lives,” added Irshad. The advocate added that the girls have been forced to stay out of school despite directive by senior officials in the Education Department of the Delhi Government asking the schools to accommodate them. “Despite the Delhi Education Department repeatedly asking head of schools to admit the girls there has been no positive outcome,” he said. (The Hindu 26/7/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

53. Panda Anti-poverty Crusader: Opposition Leader (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Leader of the Opposition Narsingh Mishra on Friday created ripples of sorts by observing that dreaded Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda fought for eradication of poverty even as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced in the Assembly the rebel’s arrest by the police last night from Berhampur.  People should not be elated by arresting the symptom instead of  the disease, Mishra said.  The State Government should not be overjoyed over Panda’s arrest. The Chief Minister should have instead given more time to bring down poverty, starvation deaths and migration from the State, he said and added that the Government has completely failed in tackling such social evils. Mishra, however, said the Congress never supports the means adopted by Panda to achieve his goals which were illegal. “Who ever violates law has to be punished and I have no objection to law taking its own course,” Mishra said and alleged that the Government has also violated law by not tabling commission reports along with action taken reports (ATRs) in the House. The Mohanty Commission report on regional imbalances and Naidu Commission report on hooch tragedy are yet to be tabled in the House despite demand from the Opposition members, he said. Responding to several BJD members, who were trying to interrupt his speech in the House, the Leader of the Opposition said even former chief minister Biju Patnaik had announced that he was a Naxalite. Besides, the Chief Minister had also said in the House that increasing Maoist activities relate to socio-economic problems, besides law and order. Cautioning the Government, Mishra said those who think that a movement can be stopped by arresting its leader have not learnt anything from history. Leaders come and go, but the movement continues till its goal is achieved, he said. Announcing Panda’s arrest in the House, the Chief Minister congratulated  the police personnel, particularly the Intelligence wing and Berhampur police, involved in the operation. He announced that the State Government will reward police personnel for the spectacular achievement. “I also take the opportunity to appeal to the Maoists to shun violence and join the mainstream,” he said. (New Indian Express 19/7/14)

54. Rights panel member visits Attappady (21)

Palakkad: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member Cyriac Joseph on Monday began a four-day visit to Attappady to take stock of the welfare measures initiated by the Central and State governments to counter poverty and malnutrition. Mr. Joseph visited a model residential school and its hostel at Mukkali and interacted with staff and students. He visited primary health centres at Padavayal and Puthur and collected details on the medical care available in the region. Mr. Joseph also interacted with Deputy District Medical Officer Prabhu Das and police nodal officer V. Krishnankutty. They stressed the need for reviving the traditional agricultural practices of the tribal people in Attappady. apart from steps to protect the area from deforestation. Mr. Joseph said he would submit his findings to the commission chairman for affirmative action. (The Hindu 22/7/14)

55. Bogus cards used to avail PDS benefits (21)

New Delhi: As many as seven lakh bogus ration card holders in the city, who fall under the Above Poverty Line (APL) category, are suspected to be availing of benefits under the city government’s Public Distribution System (PDS). These card holders are either claiming their entitlements illegally or these cards were being fraudulently used by the Fair Price Shop owners to increase their quota of foodgrains. It is learnt that the city administration has stopped providing subsidised rations to about one-third of these card holders from July. These startling revelations came to light within months after the food and supplies department deactivated about 1.65 lakh bogus ration cards issued under the Below Poverty Line (BPL), Antyodaya Anna Yojna, Resettlement Colony Ration Cards and Jhuggi Ration Cards in April. A senior city administration official said that by plugging leakages to the suspected bogus card holders, the government could easily save crores of rupees every month. Under the APL stamped category, card holders get rice at the rate of `9 per kg and wheat for Rs 7 per kg. Sources said about 11 lakh households in the city were being covered under the APL category. “But only four lakh card holders have applied for the Food Security Card so far. As the applications had been invited long back, there are clear indications that the rest of the seven lakh card holders are bogus. That’s why we have stopped providing ration to about 2.3 lakh card holders,” a senior city administration official told this newspaper. As far as 5.7 lakh stamped card holders are concerned, entitlements for only half of them have been released in July. “We may further reduce it by another 25 per cent in the coming months. If they do not apply for the Food Security Cover and fail to establish their authenticity, we will definitely deactivate these cards from September,” a senior official said. (Asian Age 23/7/14)

56. World Bank to provide $18 bn aid to India in three years (21)

New Delhi: The World Bank Wednesday said it will provide financial support of $15-18 billion to India over the next three years to help accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty. Talking to media persons after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim said the Indian government has outlined a comprehensive plan to reduce poverty and return to over nine percent economic growth trajectory. “The new government would like India to return to growth rate of nine percent a year. The World Bank group fully supports this goal,” he said. “It is vital that India achieve these levels of growth to reduce poverty more quickly and to boost shared prosperity among its people.” Kim said the World Bank was impressed by the Modi government’s commitment to accelerate growth. Kim, who is on a visit to India July 21-25, also met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and several other ministers and senior government officials. “From my discussions with Prime Minister Modi and minister Jaitley, it is clear that they are committed to increasing India’s economic growth,” he said. “I assured them that the World Bank Group will bring to bear all possible knowledge and financing to help them in this task. A large proportion of the world’s poor live in India and we will give all our support to the government as it strives to create jobs and build prosperity for its people.” “The World Bank Group will be ready to provide financial support worth $15-18 billion over the next three years,” Kim added. India is the largest recipient of the World Bank’s aid with a current portfolio of 85 projects having a commitment of $24.12 billion. This includes $12.86 billion aid from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), $11.16 billion in active projects from the International Development Association (IDA). India also constitutes the largest single portfolio exposure of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, with commitments over $4.5 billion. Between July 2013 and June 2014, the World Bank Group offered financial assistance worth $6.4 billion to India. On his talks with Modi and other ministers and officials, Kim said discussions focused on the government’s plans to re-ignite growth by investing in infrastructure to create jobs, providing quality education and skills training to eight million young people who enter the labour force each year, and better equipping the 10 million people who leave rural areas for towns and cities each year for jobs. “The government is committed to introducing key reforms, which are critical to India achieving its full economic potential,” he said. “They have identified infrastructure development and job-oriented skill development as the deep drivers of growth. The World Bank Group is ready to support these development initiatives with financing, as well as knowledge and capacity building,” he added. Kim also apprised the government of recent collaborative efforts between the Government of India and the World Bank Group to ensure that India continues to receive high levels of financial assistance from its various units. (Business Standard 24/7/14)

57. 3,600 EWS flats off list, Delhi government seeks to scrap 9,000 more (21)

NEWE DELHI: Realizing that it could not meet the deadline set by the Centre for building houses for the poor, the Delhi government wants to drop the construction of 9,000 flats. These EWS flats are part of some 68,000 low-cost flats sanctioned by the previous UPA government under its flagship Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) scheme. The estimated cost of these projects was Rs 3,244 crore. Fifty per cent of the amount had to be borne by the central government. While the construction of 3,600 such flats has already been dropped, the Delhi government has written to the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry to whittle down another 9,060 such units of the total 67,784. If the Narendra Modi government accepts the Delhi government’s proposal, after 3,600 flats already junked, the number of dwelling units will come down to 55,124 from 67,784. “While the construction of 3,600 flats at Kanjhawala was dropped, a proposal %has been sent to the ministry to reduce more numbers,” a Delhi government official said. Under the basic service to the urban poor, the Congress-led UPA government had approved the construction of some 68,000 flats as part of 17 projects for the economically weaker sections of society. Most of these projects are on the outskirts of Delhi. After reviewing the progress of 17 low-cost housing projects in June, which it found “sluggish” , the ministry had asked the Delhi government to either speed up the ongoing projects or curtail those which have not started yet. (Times of India 28/7/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

58. Over 3,500 Indians back from Iraq in last 30 days (14)

New Delhi: Over 3,500 Indians have been evacuated from conflict-hit Iraq in the last one month even as nearly 50 Indian nationals still remain in the conflict zones of the war-torn country including 39 construction workers who are in captivity in Mosul. While 2,500 tickets have already been utilised to bring back the Indians, an additional 1,000 tickets by the employers for the Indian workers have been facilitated by the mission, the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said. He said the ministry was making all efforts to secure release of 39 Indians who are in captivity of Sunni militants ISIS in conflict-hit Iraq. The government has been in touch with all the neighbouring Gulf countries for the release of the workers. Meanwhile, official sources said there were “hold-ups” and despite best efforts some of the Indians were not ready to leave. There were about 10,000 Indians before the start of the serious strife between government troops and Sunni militants backed by al Qaeda in Iraq. With MEA facilitating the departures, it is estimated that there are about 6500 Indians in the non-conflict zones left. Most of these Indians are in Kurdistan and Basra which are non-conflict zones. (Zee News 20/7/14)

59. ‘MGNREGS works to focus on firming up rural infra’ (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Allaying fears that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) would be downsized, minister for panchayati raj Ch Ayyanna Patrudu said that while no such plans were under consideration by the Centre or state government, the scheme would be re-jigged to firm up rural infrastructure and ensure that those employed under the scheme were gainfully employed and empowered. “The government will take a target and asset linked approach to the scheme, which will now focus on productivity and asset creation. A committee has been formed at the Centre and information is being collated. We too are taking feedback from those involved with the implementation of the scheme,” said Patrudu. “People can no longer complain that NREGA workers simply dig holes and cover them up. They will be involved in building infrastructure like irrigation tanks, roads and buildings. We have also realised that the number of units (hours spent) on the job will translate into an asset. In such a case there can be little room for playing truant.” Sources in the rural development department said that the social audit scheme, which had been quite successfully implemented, would have to be re-hauled. “Re-hauling and re-evaluating the social audit scheme is a must as no auditing system remains relatively foolproof for long. More importantly, there has to be greater coordination between state officials and auditors at the grassroots level,” said a senior official of the department on condition of anonymity. (Times of India 22/7/14)

60. Forum to approach Kerala high court on women’s right to sit (14)

KOZHIKODE: Asangatitha Meghala Thozhilali Union (AMTU), a collective forum of workers in the unorganised sector, have decided to approach the Kerala high court over woman’s right to sit down occasionally during their work hours. The forum has decided to begin the second phase of statewide protests till the authorities take steps to grant their right. They had staged protest on May 1. The decision was taken after the labour department expressed reluctance to act against shop owners citing that the labour law doesn’t have provision to do so. The agitation demanding the right to sit was started by Penkoottu, an organisation for women in Kozhikode after observing that women working in the textile shops were forced to stand during the working hours, which stretches from 9am to 8pm without any rest. The forum, which approached the Kerala Sate Human Rights Commission and labour minister, started uniting the sales women under the banner of AMTU by giving membership to launch second phase of their agitation statewide. It is planning to file a public interest litigation in the HC for the right of women workers in the unorganised sector to sit down. A discussion in this regard has already been started with the legal experts and necessary action will be taken in the coming days. The women working in textile shops across the state have also started approaching pledging support for their agitation. P Viji, secretary of the Penkoottu said the increasing prices of essential commodities and living standards have been forcing the women to go for work. “It is not possible to lead a family life with husband’s income only, which is forcing many women to opt for work. But when they arrive for work, they are subjected to exploitation for being a woman, forced to work in long stretches for less payment and without providing adequate facilities comprising drinking water and toilets. The labour officer told me that the labour law don’t have provisions to provide right to sit. The shop owners are discouraging the sales women who participated in the stir threatening to transfer them to textile shops in other districts,” she said. “Many women working in the textile shops have been facing health issues due to standing long hours without break,” said Viji. (Times of India 23/7/14)

61. Govt actively considering amendment to labour laws (14)

New Delhi: Government today said it is “actively” considering amendments to various labour laws for which tripartite consultations are in progress. “The government is actively considering amendments in Child Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1986, Factories Act 1948, Minimum Wages Act 1948, Apprenticeship Act 1961 and Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act 1988. The inter-ministerial/public/tripartite consultations are in progress,” said Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Vishnu Deo Sai in a written reply in Rajya Sabha. He said amendments in labour laws are considered keeping in view the socio-economic changes in the country as well as other parts of the world with an intention to improving economic wellbeing of the workers and the need to provide a safe, decent working environment harmonised with the need of the economy to be productive and competitive. Replying to another question on whether the Centre has taken note of the recent reforms enacted by Rajasthan government in labour laws by offering more flexibility to companies, Mr. Sai said his Ministry has not received any “formal” proposal from Rajasthan government for amending various labour laws. On a question whether trade unions are of the view that more than 40 central labour laws, which are inconsistent with each other, need to clubbed, Mr. Sai said no such proposal has been received by his ministry from Central Trade Unions. Replying to yet another question, he said to promote participation of women in craftsmen training, state governments have been advised to implement recommendations of National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) to reserve 30 per cent seats for women in general Industrial Training Institutes. He said under state sector, vocational training facilities for Craftsmen Training Scheme (CTS) are provided through a network of 11,001 ITIs spread across the country with a seating capacity of 15,52,452. “According to information available, 1013 ITIs (both government and private) have women wings to offer training solely to women. Further 418 are exclusively for women (Women ITIs) including both government and private. The total seating capacity of both the women wings and women ITIs is about 82,390 training seats,” Mr. Sai said. (The Hindu 24/7/14)

62. Construction workers in Gujarat deprived of welfare, says CAG (14)

Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Government failed to conduct any survey to identify or register construction workers which led to a situation where they were deprived of welfare schemes, a recent report by the CAG said. The CAG report was tabled before the Gujarat Assembly on Friday. “The Gujarat state government did not take adequate measures to secure registration of all eligible workers. As against 12 lakh (March 2012) construction workers in Gujarat state, only 69,971 workers (six per cent) were registered during the year 2008-13,” the CAG report said. The state government had constituted the ‘Gujarat Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board’ in 2004, ten years after the Supreme Court’s direction to all states to form a board to ensure security to construction workers. However, the board failed in its duty to construction workers, the CAG report said. “The Board had no information about the number of workers who renewed their registration after completion of one year of registration. Non-identification or non-registration of construction workers resulted in denial of intended benefits to workers,” the CAG report said. The CAG report observed that out of the total cess of Rs 540.88 crore collected during 2006-2013, the Board incurred an expenditure of Rs 9.92 crore, including Rs 4.12 crore spent on welfare schemes. “Actual benefit received by workers was only 0.76 per cent of the total cess collected. Only 12,193 (17.43 per cent) out of 69,971 eligible workers were extended assistance under various welfare schemes,” the CAG report said. The report criticised the Gujarat government for not providing financial assistance to families of workers who died at their work places. (DNA 27/7/14)

RESERVATION

63. Six-month Deadline to Fill up SC/ST Vacancies (25)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court directed the TN government to fill up the vacancies in SCs/STs categories in the State, within six months. The first bench of Acting Chief Justice SK Agnihotri and Justice MM Sundresh gave the direction on Friday while disposing of a PIL from S Karuppiah, founder of Central & State Government SC/ST Employees Federation in Perungalathur. Earlier, the government submitted that to make sure that 18 per cent reservation for SC and 1 per cent for ST candidates in employment, a high-level committee had been constituted to review and ensure shortfall vacancies. The committee will finalise the programme and have discussions with secretaries of each departments. Thereafter, the report will be sent to the government for issuing orders, it added. In view of the specific stand taken by the government, the bench said it was directing the high-level committee to finalise the programme and arrive at the shortfall vacancies for SCs and STs. Thereafter, the committee will have to send the report to government. (New Indian Express 19/7/14)

64. Apex court upholds validity of reservation for SC/ST in promotions (25)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has upheld the Constitutional validity of the provision allowing the government to make reservation in promotion for SC/ST candidates by quashing a 1997 notification omitting such a relief. A five-judge Constitution bench presided by Chief Justice R M Lodha held the 1996 apex court verdict in S Vinod Kumar vs Union of India case as per incuriam (not good law), which had prompted the government to issue such an memorandum. “In S Vinod Kumar, this court relying upon Indra Sawhney (judgment) held that provision for lower qualifying marks/standard of evaluation was not permissible under Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India in view of Article 335. Though Article 16(4A) had been brought into Constitution by the Constitution (Seventy-seventh Amendment) Act, 1995, with effect from 17.6.1995, S Vinod Kumar did not take into consideration this constitutional provision. In our view, S Vinod Kumar is per incuriam,” the apex court bench said. Article 16 (4A) stated that nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision for the reservation (in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority, to any class) or classes of posts in the services under the state in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the state, are not adequately represented in the services under the state. (Deccan Herald 20/7/14)

65. Hike in Quota Demanded (25)

BHUBANESWAR: The members of Samajika Nyaya Abhijan Mancha (SNAM), a platform for dalits and tribals, presented a memorandum to Governor SC Jamir seeking increase in reservation for SC/ST, OBC and minority communities in Government jobs and education sector. They urged the Governor to direct the State Government to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations and increase reservation for OBC up to 27 per cent in the above mentioned sectors. Similarly, reservation for SC/ST communities in these sectors has been limited to 20 per cent which should be extended to 38 per cent, stated the charter of demands. The minority community does not have an apt representation in Government jobs. An appropriate reservation policy should be formulated so that members of these communities are represented adequately, said president of SNAM Akshay Kumar Mallick. (New Indian Express 22/7/14)

66. Minister says state govt never discriminated on basis of caste (25)

CHENNAI: Refuting charges of Puthiya Thamizhagam legislator Krishnasamy, TN ministers on Tuesday said the AIADMK government had never discriminated in respect of any caste. Minister for Adi dravidar and tribal welfare N Subramanian and higher education minister P Palanisamy said CM J Jayalalithaa had been taking many initiatives for dalit welfare. Speaking on the demands for Adi dravidar and tribal welfare department, Krishnasamy alleged that the government had not appointed a single dalit as vice-chancellor of any university or as member of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission. In reply, higher education minister P Palaniappan said the selection of VCs was done by a search committee and the reservation policy would not apply to VC postings. “For the posts like vice-chancellor, only the search committee will select eminent and experienced candidates. If there is a qualified candidate in the community he or she will be elected,” Palaniappan said. Finance minister O Panneerselvam pointed out that Jayalalithaa has allotted a medical seat for Krishnasamy’s daughter. When Krishnasamy alleged that the pass percentage in Adi Dravidar Welfare Board schools was lesser than other government schools, minister Subramanian said the pass percentage in Adi dravidar schools has increased in the past three years of AIADMK government. The minister also refuted Krishnasamy’s allegation that the government has not appointed any dalit as Assistant Public Relations Officer(APRO). (Times of India 23/7/14)

67. SC notice to Centre on Muslim quota (25)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the Union government on a plea for transfer from Delhi High Court to itself a PIL which challenged the Rajinder Sachar committee report advocating reservation for Muslims. A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha issued notice after the petitioner said this was an important constitutional issue which needed an authoritative pronouncement from the Supreme Court. It said the Sachar committee had shut out the views that were politically inconvenient. The petitioner ‘Patriots Forum’ traced the history of India from the period of Muslim rule to British rule and presented a stand that was quite apart from the general view. “The committee has deliberately downplayed the huge advantage accruing to the Muslim community by virtue of their degree of urbanization, the community has a whopping advantage of 10% over the Hindus, the respective averages of the two communities being 36% for Muslims and 26% for Hindus.” The forum said it had done extensive research on the subject but its repeated representations were ignored by the Sachar committee. It requested the court to declare the report submitted by Sachar committee to the prime minister on November 17, 2006 as “illegal, arbitrary and violative of Constitution”.It sought a direction from the court to the government not to act on the Sachar committee recommendations saying it was impermissible under the Constitution to single out a religious community for reservation. (Times of India 26/7/14)

68. Gujjars remind BJP of their promise to 5% reservation (25)

JAIPUR: Demanding to implement the poll promise of granting 5% reservation to Gujjars in the state, Rajasthan Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti (RGASS) has presented its 13-point demand to chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Reiterating its position on the reservation issue, RGASS urged the state government to expedite the process of giving promised reservation to Gujjars. Until the reservation is not granted, the samiti has asked for proper compliance with the existing 1% reservation to the community. “We will strongly protest if our demands that BJP government promised to fulfill are not met. We want that budget of Dev Narayan Board package to be increased from Rs 500 crore to Rs 2,000 crore. The government must monitor its expenditure and should spend on time,” said Himat Singh Gujjar, spokesperson of RGASS. Among other demands, the samiti has also asked for quick disposal of the cases against those who participated in the Gujjar agitation. A demand of compensation of Rs 5 lakh and government job for a family member of 70 Gujjars, who died in the agitation has also been put forth. Meanwhile the samiti accused both Congress and BJP of playing politics over the reservation issue. “No positive step has been taken so far for our demands. Both parties have made false promises to garner votes,” said the spokesperson. He added that both BJP and Congress have made the matter so complex that it is stuck in court. Pointing at the Gujjar’s support to the BJP in the assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections, Singh mentioned that 8 months have passed after Rajasthan elections but no concrete steps have been taken by the present government. (Times of India 28/7/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

69. Steep rise in breach of women’s human rights (1)

GANDHINAGAR: The report of Gujarat State Human Rights Commission (GSHRC) for the year 2010-11 says that there was a four-fold increase in the number of complaints alleging violation of women’s human rights between 2006-07 and 2010-11. The commission received a total of 55 complaints in 2006-07; this had increased to 200 in 2010-11. In 2010-11 alone, a whopping 11,478 cases of crimes again women were registered in Gujarat. Of these, 297 were cases of murder, 428 of rape, 1,394 of abduction, 97 of attempt to murder, 910 were of molestation, 534 of abetment of suicide, 270 of causing grievous hurt, 496 of normal injury and 6,999 were cases of harassment for dowry. (Times of India 19/7/14)

70. NHRC seeks report on Thane tribal teen’s custodial death (1)

Thane: Taking suo moto cognizance of media reports that a 16-year-old tribal teenager was tortured in police custody in Thane during interrogation and died June 21, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday sought a report from the Maharashtra government. The NHRC has served notice to the state’s principal secretary (home) to submit a detailed report on the shocking incident within a month. According to reports, the tribal victim, Babu Thakre was detained and tortured in police custody by the police in Bhiwandi town of Thane district last month. His detention followed a tip-off to police that a man named Babu had stolen two kg gold. However, instead of nabbing the criminal Babu living in the same neighbourhood, police swooped on the tribal boy Babu and subjected him to torture during interrogation. Later, he was summoned by police for further questioning and June 21 tried to hang himself, and later died in hospital. “The contents of the newspaper report, if true, raise a serious issue of human rights of the teenager and next of his kin,” NHRC said in its communication to the state government. (Business Standard 22/7/14)

71. India votes in favour of UNHRC resolution on Gaza (1)

New Delhi: India on Wednesday voted in favour of a resolution condemning violence in Gaza at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Urging for an “immediate ceasefire”, India called on Israel and Palestine to start a process of “peaceful dialogue”. New Delhi’s position on Wednesday marked the continuity of the policy adopted by the Narendra Modi government, in tune with the previous governments. The resolution which came down heavily on Israel — and was co-sponsored by Pakistan among other countries — was adopted by 29 votes in favour, 17 abstained and the US was the only country which voted against. Along with India, countries that voted in favour were Pakistan, China, Maldives, Russia, South Africa and Brazil among others. UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea were among the 17 countries which abstained. In its statement at the 21st special session of the Human Rights Council on the “Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, the Modi government said, “We are deeply concerned at the human rights situation… as also at the violence by non-state actors in the region which have the effect of serving as avoidable obstacles to the peace process, as well as to the  realisation of the legitimate aspirations of both the peoples to co-exist in peace and security.” The Indian statement also called upon all sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid taking actions that may further exacerbate the situation, and threaten peace and security of the region.” “India is deeply concerned at the steep escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, particularly heavy airstrikes in Gaza and disproportionate use of force on ground, resulting in tragic loss of civilian lives, especially women and children and heavy damage to property. The Government of India is closely monitoring the situation unfolding and supports all efforts for an immediate ceasefire between the parties involved,” the statement by the Permanent Mission to the US in Geneva said. (Indian Express 24/7/14)

72. NHRC issues notices on bonded labour (14)

HYDERABAD: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi on Friday issued notices to various state, including Telangana on the issue of rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labour. Notices were issued to collectors/district magistrates of Nalgonda, Khammam and Mahbubnagar in Telangana, Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, districts Bengaluru (Rural), Bengaluru (South), Bengaluru (North) and Gulbarga in Karnataka, and district Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu. They have been asked to submit a report within four weeks. “We did rescue two bonded labour in Bhuvanagiri area who were working in brick kiln units,” Nalgonda collector T Chiranjeevulu told The Times of India. Explaining the process of He said release certificates are issue to the bonded labour. If the rescued bonded labour belongs to the state, he or she is given Rs 25,000 and also provided loans to set up something on their own for their livelihood. If the rescued bonded labour is from another state, they are paid Rs 1,000 among other procedures that are followed. The collector, however, said he was not aware of the NHRC notice. The NHRC took cognizance of a complaint from two NGOs that 239 labourers, released from bondage, having release certificates, had not been rehabilitated by the Government of Odisha. Allegedly, the rescued bonded labourers had not been even provided primary assistance for their survival which might lead them to go back to the bondage. According to the NGOs, Janjagarn Dadan Sangha and Solidarity Group on Abolition of Bondage and Migration in Odisha, most of the labourers who were rescued from different parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh belong to the tribal belt of Odisha. They demanded criminal proceedings, among other actions, in Special Fast Track Courts against the perpetrators of violence against bonded labourers and migrants. The complainants said villagers had migrated to the cities to work in bondage condition in brick kilns and construction sites. The complainants suggested various preventive measures to check exploitation of migrant labourers by ensuring action and procedures as per the law. The NHRC also issued notices to the chief secretary and principal secretary, labour and employment, Government of Odisha to submit reports within four weeks about the action taken to monitor the conditions of inter-State bonded migrant labourers from Odisha to other States and issues of their wages and children’s education and future. (Times of India 26/7/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

73. Uproar in Parliament over Justice Markandey Katju’s charge of corruption in judiciary (19)

NEW DELHI: AIADMK on Monday forced adjournment of the Rajya Sabha twice during Question Hour over former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju’s reported allegation that political pressure during the previous UPA regime had led to elevation of a judge despite charges of corruption against him. Ruckus created by AIADMK members seeking suspension of Question Hour to discuss the issue of “political interference in judicial appointments” led to the house first being adjourned for 10 minutes and then till 1200 hours. No sooner had Ronald Sapa Tlau, the newly-elected member from Mizoram, taken oath, AIADMK members were up on their feet displaying copies of The Times of India that carried an article by Press Council of India chairman Katju on the appointment. “You will not show newspaper here, Dr Maitreyan,” chairman Hamid Ansari said referring to AIADMK leader who wanted the Question Hour to be suspended to discuss the issue. V Maitreyan said this was an important issue. “You can’t do this… nobody is listening to you,” Ansari said as AIADMK members moved into aisle raising solgans. He then adjourned the house for 10 minutes. When the house reassembled, similar scenes were witnessed with AIADMK members insisting on suspension of Question Hour. “If you have an issue to raise, raise it through appropriate procedure. This is not the way. You are disrupting listed business,” Ansari said warning members that he would name them if they continued to display newspaper. “I will have to name you for display of newspaper,” he said as unheeding AIADMK members continued to shout slogans. Maitreyan wanted to know if former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was seated in the House, was aware of the allegation against the judge and if his ally DMK had put pressure on his government to elevate him. (Times of India 21/7/14)

74. Ways to mend India’s misfiring judiciary (19)

In a signed piece, published in The Times of India, retired Justice Markandey Katju has alleged that a former additional judge of the Madras High Court was not only retained in his position after being found guilty of graft by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), but later elevated to a full judge of another court. Three chief justices of India as well as the Congress party, then leading the UPA coalition, stand implicated in this sorry episode. A powerful Tamil party, presumably the DMK, an ally of the Congress in government, is also tarred, because this party patronised the allegedly crooked judge, and apparently threatened to bring down the Manmohan Singh government if he were to be sacked or punished. Several things emerge from this. The first is the cravenness of the Congress, which chose to favour power over probity in public life. Keeping a few crooked judges in hock was apparently a small price to pay to serve a full term in office. Second, Katju’s allegations, if true, cast the three successive chief justices — Lahoti, Sabharwal and Balakrishnan — in very poor light. At least two of them knew what the IB’s findings said about the crooked judge, but chose to overlook it, presumably to curry favour with the ruling government. So much for the independence of the judiciary from the executive. After this episode, it is clear that this independence exists mostly in the breach, and serving judges facing retirement are prone to lean the way of the government to ensure plum post-retirement posts for themselves. Third, why did Katju wait so long to make his accusations? If he had known about this episode 10 years earlier, why keep mum for so long? Finally, we have to reform the system by which judges of the high courts and Supreme Court are appointed. The former are selected by a panel of the top three Supreme Court judges; the latter by the top five. To bring transparency, the names recommended by the collegium along with the executive must be ratified by a multiparty parliamentary panel, which should debate the credentials of each candidate openly. (The Economic Times 22/7/14)

75. Law intern wants trial outside Delhi (19)

NEW DELHI: A law intern, who had leveled sexual harassment charges against a former Supreme Court judge now heading an important tribunal, on Monday sought transfer of his defamation suit from Delhi high court to either Bangalore or any other HC saying she might not get justice in Delhi. Appearing for the intern, senior advocate Indira Jaising told a bench of Chief Justice RM Lodha and justices Kurian Joseph and RF Nariman that the law graduate now worked with an NGO in Bangalore and was hard pressed for resources. She had approached many senior advocates here, but all declined to take up her case. “And look at the appearance of a string of senior advocates, most of whom are law officers now including Mukul Rohatgi, who is now the attorney general and Maninder Singh, now an additional solicitor general. Look at the inequality of fight. She has just lost her father. Her mother is in Kolkata. The NGO is giving her support. But still she needed someone to lead her by holding her finger. But no senior advocate is ready to appear for her,” Jaising said. The bench said there was no unequal fight once Jaising appears for a litigant. It issued notice to the former judge on the intern’s petition seeking transfer of his defamation suit and asked him to file his response in four weeks. The court suggested that it could be an in camera trial of the defamation suit filed by the ex-judge in Delhi HC, which has already restrained the media from publishing the name of the judge. The court said, “For a judge, it does not matter who stands before him. But when a litigant apprehends that she would not get justice, then we have to see whether her apprehensions are well founded. We adopt the principle – justice should not only be done but also seem to be done. A transfer could be done if it helps dispensation of justice. But a transfer cannot be done to satisfy the litigant’s ego.” (Times of India 22/7/14)

76. PIL seeks Leader of Opposition status for Congress in Lok Sabha (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court was moved Saturday seeking that Congress leader in Lok Sabha be conferred the status of the leader of opposition as it is the largest party in the opposition as provided under the 1977 law on salary and allowances of leaders of opposition in parliament. Contesting the opinion of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the petitioner, advocate M.L.Sharma, contended that the question of the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha could not be mixed up with the statutory provision which says that party securing 10 percent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha could only be accorded the status of the recognized opposition party in lower house. Rohatgi in his opinion to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had said that Congress leader in Lok Sabha could not be treated as leader of opposition as the party does not have minimum of 55 seats that it should have to get the status of recognized opposition party. To back up his position, Rohatgi has referred to the first Lok Sabha Speaker G.V.Mavlankar who had said that to hold the proceedings of the house, minimum of 10 percent members of the total strength should be present and that should also be the strength of the main opposition party to be recognized as principal opposition party and its leader as leader of opposition. “The criteria of the leader of opposition has to be read in conformity with the Section 2 of the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 and cannot be substituted with the concept of the recognized of the parties as advised by the Attorney General,” said Sharma in his PIL. The PIL said that the leader of the opposition could not be read to mean the leader of the recognized main opposition party. Sharma said that in the committee for the selection of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, and some other posts, there is a provision for the leader of opposition and not that of leader of the recognized opposition party. The PIL said that since leader of opposition plays an important role in the functioning of the parliament, thus it incumbent upon the speaker to appoint the same in the public interest. (Zee News 27/7/14)

77. Government to seeks jurists’ views on judicial bill (19)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government will seek the views of eminent jurists and former judges on the proposed Judicial Appointments Commi-ssion Bill it plans to bring in Parliament soon to replace the present collegium system. Union law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will consult top jurists and former judges on Monday to elicit their views on the bill, sources stated. The minister had last week written to leaders of major political parties seeking their support for the bill. The leaders have also been asked to give their views on the issue. The bill, prepared during the UPA-2 regime, is set to be revived after the allegations of Justice Markandey Katju (Retd.) stating that the Central government and three Chief Justices of India had colluded in appointing a tainted judge to the Madras high court. Under the current collegium system in higher judiciary, appointments and transfers of judges are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. The practice of judges appointing judges started after 1993, replacing the system of government picking judges for higher judiciary comprising the Supreme Court and high courts. The move to set aside the 1993 Supreme Court judgement, which led to the collegium system, requires a constitutional amendment. It is learnt that the NDA government is not averse to the previous UPA government’s plan to put the composition and functions of the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission Bill in the Constitution. It is also understood that the NDA government is planning to rejig the composition of the proposed panel, sources said. Sources stated the NDA government has found “certain infirmities” in the UPA version. The UPA bill had proposed that the commission be headed by the Chief Justice of India with two senior judges of the Supreme Court, two eminent persons and the law minister as its members. And the secretary (justice) was to be the convenor. The UPA had proposed that the two eminent persons on the commission be selected by a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, the CJI and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. (Asian Age 28/7/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

78. Custodial torture can’t be tolerated: Court (1)

NEW DELHI: Cases of custodial torture in the capital have been increasing over the years due to the insensitivity of jail officials and ineffective implementation of court directives. This was observed by a trial court while hearing two cases of custodial violence. The court rapped the authorities and said the judiciary must show zero tolerance in such cases. In the first case, the jail authorities did not even report the matter to court. Additional sessions judge Kamini Lau found out about the incident when one Sanjay, an inmate of jail number three of Tihar Jail and facing trial in a dacoity case, was produced before her and she noticed his physical condition: his left hand was fractured; there were stitches on his left leg and swelling in both legs; and bruises and scratches on his entire back. Following this, the court asked Sanjay about his condition and he alleged that he was assaulted by prison staff and that there was an attempt by jail authorities to cover it up. The court ordered an inquiry into the incident and forwarded the complaint to the chief metropolitan magistrate. An FIR was registered against constable Praveen and Durga (head wardens) and undertrials Vinod, Sunny and Veeru on Sanjay’s complaint. The court directed the jail superintendent to preserve all the CCTV footages of September 14 and 15 and also the relevant records relating to duty rosters of the jail staff. “I may observe that custodial violence in any form is a serious issue and the courts are required to exhibit zero tolerance for the same being violative of human rights as well as the statutory rights of a person in custody. The manner in which the incident has been concealed raises a doubt in the mind of the court,” the judge said. The court also took serious note of another case of custodial violence reported by an undertrial named Anil, also lodged in jail number 3. The court forwarded the complaint to chief metropolitan magistrate. Anil claimed that he was beaten up in jail by two inmates, who did so on deputy superintendent Jitender Bhargav’s instructions. Anil alleged that Bhargav wanted to extort Rs 30,000 from him and when he refused, he was beaten up. On being produced before the court, it was noticed that there were injuries on his head and neck. Around 12,000 people have died?either in jail or in police stations?in the last five years, and 3,532 cases of custodial violence have been reported between 2007 and 2012. Last year, Supreme Court had come down heavily on the authorities for ineffective implementation of its directions to curb such incidents. As of now, Delhi has no special court to try such cases. for allegedly subjecting Sanjay to custodial violence and causing injuries to him. FIR was lodged under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 308 (attempt to culpable homicide), 34 (common intention) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. (Times of India 18/7/14)

79. Police not responsible for most custodial deaths: CM (1)

CHENNAI: Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday told the Assembly that judicial probes into most of the custodial deaths had come to the conclusion that policemen were not responsible for those untoward incidents. Replying to a special calling attention motion on the death of gangster Gopal Duraisamy at the Kodungaiyur police station, she said Inspector Baskaran and Sub-Inspector Pandiaraja had been suspended for not taking precautionary measures while dealing with a person in custody. Further action would be taken after the magistrate concluded the inquiry into the death of Gopal, who was picked up by the police on a complaint of attacking a person. Gopal was secured on Tuesday night and he died on Friday at a private hospital before being produced in the court. The Chief Minister said that between 2013 and 2014, as many as 20 persons died in police custody and all the deaths were properly inquired into by magistrates.“In most of the cases, the deaths have been caused by heath conditions and officials have been suspended for being careless.” These incidents could not be called as custodial deaths as some died while being taken to police stations, others committed suicide and some others died due to health reasons after being let off by the police. “If judicial inquiry finds fault with police personnel, action is taken against them,” she said. (The Hindu 19/7/14)

80. Manipuri man’s killing: another attacker sent to police custody (1)

New Delhi: A Delhi court Wednesday sent another youth, arrested in connection with the killing of a 29-year-old Manipuri BPO employee, to one day’s police custody. Metropolitan Magistrate Ashok Kumar allowed police to interrogate Azad Choudhary alias Bhola, 24, till July 24. Justice Kumar Tuesday sent three youths – Sanjay Basoya, 24, Shakti Basoya, 21, and Rajiv, 25 – to police custody till July 24. Akha Salouni was beaten to death Monday following a spat with the youths while he was going to a friend’s house in south Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur area. Police told the court that the fifth accused Lokesh, who is on the run, could be traced with Choudhary’s help and sought his custodial interrogation. Choudhary, a driver by profession, was arrested Tuesday. According to police, all four belong to Garhi area in south Delhi but were picked up from various other places in the capital. (New Kerala 23/7/14)

81. ‘65 p.c. of prisoners in India are undertrials’ (1)

Bangalore: No less than 65 per cent of prisoners in India are undertrials, making the country one of the world’s 10 “worst” in terms of the proportion of undertrials languishing in its jails, said former Right to Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi at a press conference on Tuesday. India’s prisons have 2.5 lakh undertrials, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), and many of them are detained indefinitely because the prison system fails to comply with laws that mandate their release after a specified period, based on their offence, G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India, said at the press conference, organised by the NGO. The prison system often violates the Code of Criminal Procedure (Section 436A), which states that undertrials must be released if they have served half the maximum period of imprisonment that their offence warrants [unless their crimes attract a death sentence], he said. The burgeoning number of undertrials is also overcrowding prisons, said Mr. Gandhi. Several lapses contribute to the extended detention of undertrials, said Mr. Ananthapadmanabhan. The NGO found that in Karnataka, for instance, several prisons were not aware of undertrials’ rights prescribed in section 436A. Karnataka’s prisons had 8,940 undertrials in December 2012, constituting 68 per cent of its prisoners, according to NCRB. Of these, 51 have been detained in prison for over five years. Undertrials were also trapped by a lack of legal aid. For instance, out of 11 lawyers nominated to provide legal aid in Bangalore Central Prison in January 2012, five had not visited the jail once in these two-and-a-half-years, Amnesty International found. There were also delays in producing undertrials in court owing to the lack of police escorts and ineffective videoconferencing facilities. The Undertrial Review Committee in districts is “non-functional,” despite a November 2013 notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs. (The Hindu 24/7/14)

82. Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah kicks up AFSPA revocation row again (1)

Srinagar: “The talks on AFSPA revocation with New Delhi is still on,” Abdullah said while talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function in Srinagar. “Certain people [in New Delhi] were so much in love with the AFSPA,” Abdullah said, adding “that even if the state government makes all the guns fall silent, they will suggest the AFSPA withdrawal is not appropriate”.”I don’t know what parameters they [the central government] want for that appropriate time. If they tell us what those parameters are, we will try to fulfil those,” Abdullah said. “Whenever we tell them it is the appropriate time, they say ‘not this year, next year’ and next year they widen the goal post again.” Abdullah hoped that the mindset of those in New Delhi would change and the process to revoke the AFSPA would start soon. This is not the first time Abdullah has talked about the revocation of the AFSPA. Earlier, he had taken up the issue with the Army top brass, former defence minister A.K. Antony and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Last year, Abdullah had said that graph of militancy-related violence in the state has come down to 70 per cent during the past five years. “I had earlier said the gradual revocation of AFSPA will begin from my government’s tenure and the same will happen,” Abdullah told the Assembly on Thursday evening. AFSPA was enforced in Kashmir after the outbreak of militancy in 1990. The law was extended to Jammu in 2000. The Act gives the armed forces immunity from prosecution while operating in the militancy-hit areas. During the election campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, Abdullah and his father Dr Farooq Abdullah had accused Opposition PDP’s patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed of enforcing AFSPA in the state in 1990 when latter was the Union home minister in the V.P. Singh-led government. “Mufti brought AFSPA to Jammu and Kashmir and after that he never talked about its revocation, not even when he was the chief minister. But once he is out of power, he plays politics over it,” Abdullah had said. The PDP has been accusing Abdullahs of not taking any steps to get AFSPA revoked. (India Today 25/7/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

83. Myanmar jailing of reporters sends ‘wrong message’: US (1)

Washington: The United States has condemned tough jail terms handed down on five Myanmar journalists for publishing a story about an alleged chemical weapons factory. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was concerned about the jail terms of 10 years with hard labour given to reporters from the Unity Weekly News under the former junta-run country’s official secrets act. “The sentence sends the wrong message about Burma’s commitment to freedom of expression, including for the press,” Psaki said, using Myanmar’s former name. “The Burmese government has made tremendous progress in the last three years, working to develop an environment conducive to free, fair, independent media,” she told reporters. “This is a critical element of a vibrant and well-functioning democracy and we urge the government of Burma to continue that trend and respect the right of all journalists.” The jailed men, who include the paper’s chief executive, were arrested in February just days after the article alleging that the country’s military was operating a chemical weapons factory in the town of Pauk in the central Magway region, under the instructions of former junta chief Than Shwe. Unity Weekly quoted testimony from local people and workers, and included pictures of the alleged military facility. In January 2013, Myanmar denied accusations it had used chemical weapons against ethnic minority rebels in the northern state of Kachin, with government spokesman Ye Htut saying the military “never” deployed them. (Zee News 19/7/14)

84. Media space shrinking under Narendra Modi govt., says civil society (1)

MUMBAI: The space for independent journalism and debates is fast shrinking under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government at the Centre, several eminent social activists, academicians and artists noted here on Tuesday. “We are witnessing market censorship and it is difficult to get objective television coverage,” said documentary film maker Anand Patwardhan while accusing the BJP of trying to implement its idea of cultural dominance through power. Mr. Patwardhan’s reference was to the overtaking of media firms by various corporate giants. “The media is not telling us what is happening in the world. Media is completely silent. The government knows that it can stay in power through censorship,” he said in the background of the government denying Parliament a discussion on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. The autonomy of the media was high on the list of concerns of many eminent personalities who spoke at the “round table on the “Idea of India” held in Mumbai. Father Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, said that the space for “democratic dialogue” was decreasing under the new regime. Social activist Teesta Setalvad said after the coming of the new government the right-wing ideology was infiltrating into the institutional frameworks of the country. Senior journalists Harsh Mander, Dilip D’souza, Daryll D’Monte, actors Nandita Das and Dolly Thakore, directors Mahesh Bhatt and Saeed Mirza also expressed their concerns at the gathering. (The Hindu 22/7/14)

85. Journalist falls to death from 8th floor flat in Vaishali (1)

VAISHALI: A 32-year-old journalist working with Rajya Sabha TV mysteriously fell to death from the balcony of her eighth floor flat at a housing society in Vaishali late on Monday. Police have not ruled out murder. The death was discovered around 11.45pm by her husband, the police said. She was rushed to Max Hospital at Patparganj in Delhi, where doctors declared her brought dead. The journalist, Milita Dutta Mandal, lived with husband Surya Jyoti, a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and mother-in-law in the flat at Mahagun Mosaic. The family was at home at the time of her death, the police said. Milita’s body was found in the basement of the building. The police said she crashed through the fibre-glass roof built over a part of the basement to allow natural light into it. “Her upper right leg and right palm had fractures from the impact,” said Urvi Singh Rathore, the Vaishali police beat in-charge. She said Ghaziabad Police was informed about the incident by Madhu Vihar police station in Delhi around 2.30am. “We are investigating the case from all possible angles. Let the post-mortem report reach us then only we would be able to comment. Prima facie, it seems she was pushed in a fit of anger by her husband. The balcony has been found broken which might have happened by a strong push. But it is still a mystery… nothing can be said authoritatively till the investigation is complete,” SP (city) Shiv Hari Meena told agencies. No complaint has been filed with the police. Senior police officers in Ghaziabad said a panel of three doctors is being constituted at Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital in Delhi to conduct the autopsy. This procedure, the police said, is adopted in sensitive cases where reasons of death are not easily ascertained. The police also said they have been unable to formally record the statements of Milita’s relatives, or even begin an investigation, as no complaint has been registered by her family. A general diary entry was, however, made at Indirapuram police station. A forensic team of Ghaziabad Police collected evidence from the spot where her body was found, including samples of blood stains. “When the last call was made to the deceased’s home, the police were told they are sleeping. They have, however, informed that they would come over to the police station for registering the complaint on Tuesday,” said Dharmendra Yadav, SSP Ghaziabad. Milita’s relatives and friends remained tightlipped but her uncle Bappi Dutta, who lives in Chittaranjan Park, said “her death was not normal”. Vishal, Milita’s neighbour, said he got to know about her death around 7am. “They seemed a happy couple, I used to often meet them in the lift,” he said. Milita married Surya five years ago. She worked with a national English news channel before joining Rajya Sabha TV. Surya is a senior manager with British Council Division in its office in Noida’s Sector 62. (Times of India 23/7/14)

86. Govt committed to press freedom, says Javadekar (1)

PUNE: Union minister for information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said the Modi government is committed to ensuring press freedom because the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party has experienced what censorship of the press was like during the Emergency, Javadekar said he had been imprisoned for 16 months during the Emergency and could vividly recall the manner in which newspapers faced censorship from the government. “I can assure you that the Modi government will never do that,” he said. He was speaking at a function after inaugurating TOI’s Response office at Elbee House near Boat Club Road on Sunday. He said The Times Of India, over the years, has become “the voice of India.” Recalling a personal anecdote, he said when he was a schoolboy there was only one house in his village that subscribed to the paper. “Even though it was two km away, I used to go there to read the paper and that is how I learned to love newspapers.” The minister remarked that technological changes had brought many changes in the newspaper business adding that he is able to access news on his tablet even when he is in Parliament. “Nowadays with the security cameras in the House, there is constant scrutiny over what you are seeing on it,” he joked, adding that he has to keep abreast of the day’s developments even during the six hours he spends at the House. He also commented on other changes in the media. “The hot debate now is who controls the newspapers, whether it is the editors or the marketing,” Javadekar said adding that while editorial policy should be supreme, the considerations of the market cannot be ignored. (Times of India 28/7/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

87. Communal divide in west UP threatens to put peace at risk (7)

LUCKNOW: Communal incidents in the last one month have threatened to disrupt communal peace in the western part of the state. The state intelligence department has cited reports to alert the state government even as Bharatiya Janata Party is leading demonstrations against the ruling Samajwadi Party. The intriguing feature of the series of communal incidents is that temples and places of worship of dalits are being targeted, pushing Muslims and dalits into bloody battles against each other. Bahujan Samaj Party’s traditional support base is shrinking while BJP gains from the situation. In Moradabad’s Kaanth, a loudspeaker from a dalit temple was removed by the administration on the demand of agitating Muslims. In Hathras, a dalit woman immolated herself after she was gang-raped and police failed to book the accused, who were all Muslims. In Badaun, a Ravidas mandir was vandalized; in Meerut a Valmiki temple was desecrated. In the last one month, dalits have been at the receiving end of trouble mongers supported by BJP. Communal incidents ranging from minor to major intensity have been reported recently from Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Moradabad, Sambhal, Saharanpur, Bareilly and Badaun districts, leaving behind a communal divide and a trail of violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims. “The interesting thing is the recurrence of communal clashes almost every third or fourth day and violence between the two communities remaining unabated despite repeated warnings by the chief minister and monitoring by chief secretary Alok Ranjan,” observed a senior officer in the intelligence department of the state police. He said the state government is being regularly apprised of the prevailing situation. Principal secretary Rakesh Bahadur too had visited western UP. Muzaffarnagar district which drew national attention following communal carnage in November 2013 remains under attack. The first major communal violence in the Akhilesh Yadav government was reported from Kosikalan in Mathura in May 2012 in which five people were killed and several others injured. SSP Dharamvir Yadav faced flak for not handling the situation properly. He was removed but managed to get posted in Moradabad and now Kaanth is burning. The ruling Samajwadi Party refuses to learn from its past mistakes. When dalits protest against desecration of their temples, BJP comes to their rescue and supports them against Muslims. In Kaanth, when the administration removed the loudspeaker from Ravidas temple, BJP MP Sarvesh Kumar Singh led the agitation and supported dalits. Whether in Meerut, Badaun, Saharanpur, or Sambhal, similar intervention by BJP has been noticed. “There is no denying that Muzaffarnagar riots pushed jatavs and other dalit members into the BJP camp in the 2014 elections. At a time when BSP is staying away from the bypolls to be held sooner or later, BJP is projecting itself as their saviour,” observes Ashutosh Mishra, professor in the political science department of Lucknow University. BSP founder Kanshi Ram, in late the 80s, brought Muslims and dalits under his party’s umbrella. In the first election in 1989 when BSP had contested and won 13 seats, the leader of the legislature party was Sheikh Suleman. Such was the integration of Muslims and dalits in the BSP, but now, either by design or by default, the two communities are disintegrating, at least in the western UP, politically as well as socially. (Times of India 21/7/14)

88. Religious spot stoned, communal tension in Bareilly village (7)

BAREILLY: Communal tension rocked Kamalpur village under the Cantonment police station in Bareilly on Sunday, after miscreants flung stones at a religious spot. Members of the two communities gathered at the spot, creating tension. However, police arrived just in time and eased the situation. The stone-pelting occurred on Sunday night, around 11:30 pm. The stones damaged a tin shade of the religious spot. Some local people rushed to the spot, and the mischief-mongers jumped over a wall and fled under the cover the darkness. Members of both communities gathered at the spot on hearing the commotion, and the local administration began to apprehend trouble. A large number of police personnel reached the spot, and managed to pacify the crowd. SP City Rajeev Malhotra said, “Some anti-social elements threw stones on a religious spot. Police reached in the nick of time and managed to control the situation. A police picket has been deployed in the communally sensitive village, which has seen communal riots in the past.” Inspector Devendra Rathi of the Cantonment police station said, “The matter is under investigation. Police is attempting to trace the accused. Strict action will be taken against those found guilty.” (Times of India 21/7/14)

89. Police arrests members of a gang involved in Juni Ghadi riot (7)

VADODARA: Did notorious members of criminal gangs in the city play a role in the communal riots that rocked the walled city some days ago? Police arrested two members of a gang for their involvement in riots and also took two other gangsters into preventive custody. Though the police have been cracking down on criminal gangs after the riots in Juni Ghadi and Nani Chhipwad area on July 18, it has denied any direct involvement of the gangs in instigating the riots. The police arrested Azzharuddin alias Azzu Abdul Majid Sheikh and Tausif Sheikh, members of the Bichhu gang led by notorious criminal, Aslam Bodiyo. The cops said both Azzu and Taufik were present in the mob when the rioting occurred in Juni Ghadi. “Investigations showed that both of them were in the mob that began rioting in the walled city. So we have arrested the duo and are inquiring about involvement of others in the riots. Prima facie it seems that the duo hadn’t instigated the mob,” said a police official. City police commissioner, Satish Sharma too said the criminal gangs didn’t seem to have a direct role in the riots. “We have taken Aslam Bodiyo and his accomplice Munna alias Tadbuch in preventive custody. Such arrests are done to prevent further trouble and maintain peace,” Sharma told TOI. Their accomplice Rafiq Fafda too has been taken into custody. Many more history-sheeters are expected to be arrested to prevent untoward incidents in the communally sensitive areas. The police had earlier arrested four persons after their names surfaced in the communal riots that occurred in Juni Ghadi and Nani Chhipwad. Mobs of two communities had clashed with each other during the riots that occurred after a shop-owner had heated arguments with an autorickshaw driver in Juni Ghadi. While the police managed to quell the riots immediately, another round of riots began in the same area after an hour. The cops had lobbed 16 teargas shells to disperse the rioting mob that damaged dozens of vehicles. Five separate FIRs were registered at the city police station and it was suspected that the riots were instigated deliberately by some persons. (Times of India 23/7/14)

90. Seer murder: Crime branch seeks Panda’s remand (7)

BHUBANESWAR: The crime branch (CB) has sought remand of Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda in connection with the murder of Swami LaxmananandaSaraswati in August 2008 and attack on district headquarter town of Nayagarh in February 2008. “We have moved courts in Phulbani and Nayagarh seeking remand of Sabyasachi as he is the prime accused in at least nine sensitive cases being probed by us,” additional director general (CB) Bijay Sharma told TOI. “We have prayed the courts to allow us to bring him to Cuttack for interrogation,” he added. The cases in question include landmine explosion in which five people, including a pregnant woman and her three-year-old daughter and a woman health worker, going in an ambulance died at Brahmanigaon in Kandhamal district in November 2010, attack on a police party in Gosma forests in February 2008, loot of Nayagarh armoury in February 2008, police said. The CB’s petition follow the Justice A S Naidu Commission’s move to soon quiz Sabyasachi, who is currently on police remand, through video conferencing. The commission is inquiring into Saraswati’s killing and the ethno-communal riots in its aftermath in Kandhamal. The Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati Smruti Samiti, a body working to promote the saffron leader’s cause, has demanded that CBI probe into the senior VHP leader’s assassination. “A CBI inquiry can expose the conspiracy behind the killing,” the samiti’s leader Laxmikanta Dash said, demanding strong action against Maoists Sabyasachi and Azad for their alleged role in the slaying. This coincided with the state government’s revision petition, challenging the Berhampur sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s order allowing presence of a family member or counsel during police interrogation of Sabyasachi, failing to come up for hearing at the district and sessions court in Berhampur due to ceasework agitation by lawyers. Members of Ganjam Bar Association paralyzed court works in protest against alleged police assault on a lawyer in Bhubaneswar on July 16. They want a judicial inquiry into the incident. On Tuesday, the court deferred hearing on the petition, which was filed the previous day, and issued a fresh notice to Sabyasachi, allowing his lawyer to appear on his behalf. Police had refused to take him to court citing security reasons. The Maoist leader is in police custody after SDJM court granted 10-day remand on July 19. Hearing is likely to be held on Thursday, said public prosecutor Jameswar Mishra. Sabyasachi’s lawyer Deepak Patnaik said his client has given him a six-page petition and he will place it before the court once it resumes functioning. He did not disclose the petition’s content. Sabyasachi was arrested from Mangalvarempeta Street under Bada Bazaar police limits here late on July 17. (Times of India 24/7/14)

COMMUNALISM

91. VHP bandh call fizzles out (26)

Jammu: Bandh (shutdown) call given by right-wing Hindu organisation on Saturday to protest against violence at Amarnath yatra base camp at Baltal on Friday did not evoke much response. The state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party had not extended support to the bandh call. The local police picked up and detained few activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal early on Saturday morning even they burned some tyres outside the VHP office. These organisations had also not made public announcement about the bandh on Friday evening. It was another routine business day in the city, where BJP had much support, which had in the past reacted strongly to such incident. Atlesat 50 people were injured and 10 tents of langars were torched after clashes between locals and langar operators at Baltal on Friday, forcing the authorities to stop yatra. With the situation under control the tight security, 23rd batch of 1,389 pilgrims moved from Jammu on Saturday morning for the Yatra. VHP state unit president Leela Karan Sharma has demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the incident. He said people operating langars, who offer free food and logistics to the yatris, were scared and could stop their sevices and if it happens it would give wrong signal to the whole country. “They’ve already started winding up their operations and it’s the duty of the state government to give them protection,” said VHP state president. He alleged the separatists and their sympathisers, even in the state administration, were planning  conspiracy to curtail the yatra. (Hindustan Times 19/7/14)

92. Won’t help in state assembly polls: RSS to Amit Shah (26)

NAGPUR: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is learned to have told BJP president Amit Shah not to expect the organisation’s help in the forthcoming assembly elections in some states, including Maharashtra, while Shah was on his first visit to the city after becoming party chief to seek the blessings of the sarsanghachalak. BJP sources said Bhagwat also conveyed its objection to the party’s move to form the government in Delhi without having the majority. He is learnt to have advised Shah to go for fresh elections and also complete all promises made to the people during campaigning. Bhagwat is learnt to have explained to the BJP’s “master strategist” that the RSS supported the party during the Lok Sabha polls, in which it recorded a historic victory, because the country was going through a difficult period and needed a stable government with strong leadership at the Centre. The Sangh had formed a parallel mechanism which included making strategies to booth level management. He advised Shah to strengthen the party and prepare its workers for the polls, instead of depending on the Sangh’s help. The discussion varied from assembly polls to increasing strain in BJP-Sena relations over seat sharing. Earlier, Shah arrived to a rousing welcome at the RSS headquarters. The arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close aid was considered significant in the wake of forthcoming elections and disputes in the saffron alliance over seat distribution. Sources, however, claimed Shah was not in favour of severing their two decade old ties with the Shiv Sena. Though the maiden visit of Shah is seen more as mere ritual after being elevated to the top post of the ruling party, it would also be seen in context of tightening control over the party affairs by Sangh Parivar. His predecessors Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari too had visited the Mahal headquarters after their appointments as party chief. Shah flatly refused to speak to the media. BJP leader Vinod Tawde told TOI that they were in city to attend two-day annual coordination meet of RSS, even BJP chief’s visit was for same purpose. Sources said it was pre-decided as BJP office received a fax on Thursday only where it was made clear that the BJP chief would not interact with the media or even the office bearers. (Times of India 20/7/14)

93. Togadia rakes up temple, says it’s on VHP agenda (26)

Jaipur: The construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya is still on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) agenda, said the Parishad’s international working president Pravin Togadia, while assuring supporters that the same would be constructed soon. Togadia’s address came while he was in Jaipur to launch a socio-medical project, India Health Line. In his speech, he also said that the safety and security of Hindus worldwide, food for the needy and providing gainful employment for the youth are all on the Parishad’s agenda. “Swabhimaan means a Ram temple in Ayodhya, no slaughtering of cows, no religious conversion of Hindus and the safety of all Hindus,” he said. Togadia said a World Hindu Congress would be held in New Delhi in November in which Hindu representatives from across the world would converge. Speaking about incidents of attacks on pilgrims in the Amarnath yatra, Togadia asked why Muslim pilgrims in Ajmer are never attacked. “Are Hindus not allowed to breathe? Innocent Hindus’ should not be attacked,” he added. (Hindustan Times 22/7/14)

94. Uttar Pradesh steps up security in view of marches by BJP, VHP & Congress on July 26 (26)

Lucknow: Security has been tightened in the districts adjoining Moradabad in view of Vishwa Hindutva Parishad (VHP)’s proposed “Jalabhishek march”, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s protest and Congress’ “peace march” in Kanth area of Moradabad on July 26. “The security has been tightened in and adjoining districts of Moradabad in view of the proposed Jalabhishek and peace march by the political parties,” IG Law and Order Amrendra Sengar told reporters. About possibility of banning the programmes that could trigger tension in the area, Sengar said, no decision has yet been taken by the administration in this regard. BJP has announced its plan to hold state-wide protests on July 26 seeking registration of FIR against Moradabad SSP for allegedly assaulting BJP workers in Kanth on July 4. Joining the fray, Congress has also announced its plan to hold a ‘peace march’ in Kanth on the very same day. Clashes had erupted between BJP workers and the police in Kanth on July 4 over holding of a mahapanchayat called by the party to protest removal of a loudspeaker from a temple in Akbarpur village, which led to communal tension in the area. (DNA 24/7/14)

95. Police foil BJP, VHP protest plan in Moradabad (26)

MORADABAD: An attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to mobilise public on Saturday over the issue of alleged removal of a loudspeaker from a temple in Nayagaon Akbarpur, a village in Kanth town of Moradabad, failed due to prohibitory measures of the local administration. Senior BJP leaders in western Uttar Pradesh told The Hindu that for now the party may turn its focus on the “more urgent issue” of communal tension in Saharanpur. Meanwhile, communities in the Akbarpur village continue to live under the shadow of heavy police deployment and simmering tension. Members of the Dalit community, who take care of the Shiva temple in Akbarpur village, expressed their disappointment with the BJP for the party’s “failure to keep up its promise of getting a loudspeaker sanctioned for the temple.” There was a feeling in the Dalit community that the issue was being “unnecessarily politicised,” a fact which they argued, has led to simmering tension among Muslims and Dalits who have been living together for several decades in the village. “We could have got the permission for the loudspeaker normally too, but when Kunwar Sarvesh Singh told us that he will help us get the permission for it, we thought that the thing will get done quite easily. We never expected that the situation will come to such a stage when this will get national attention for all the wrong reasons,” said Vijay, a member of the Dalit community. Refusing to explicitly criticise the local MP, he said “the situation could have been handled in a much more harmonious way had the inter-communal harmony and not the party politics been the priority of people in this region”. “All we are seeing is polarisation of people outside this village. Look at what happened in Saharanpur today. Instead of protesting for our own political reasons, we need to ensure that incidents like this don’t happen again,” he added. In view of the VHP’s announcement to organise a ‘Jalabhishek march’ in the temple in Akbarpur village and the BJP’s plan to hold a protest march in Kanth town, the Moradabad administration had clamped Section 144 and deployed the police in large numbers. The attempt of Congress to organise ‘peace march’ in the Kanth village was also foiled. Several BJP MPs and MLAs were detained during the day but were released later in the evening. (The Hindu 27/7/14)

TERRORISM

96. 28 militants killed in Pakistan’s North Waziristan (12)

Islamabad: Pakistani jets have killed at least 28 militants in air strikes in North Waziristan tribal region, the military said Sunday. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, said the terrorists killed in Shawal region include foreigners. Six terrorist hideouts were also destroyed in the operation, Dawn online reported. Most of the militants from Miranshah and Mirali have escaped to the Shawal valley which stretches across both North and South Waziristan Agency, the army said. Ehsanullah Ehsan, former spokesman of the Tehreek-i-Taliban, told the Dawn Sunday that the security forces have exaggerated the figure of Taliban casualties. Ehsan claimed the jets were bombing civilians who were being cited as “terrorists killed”.The media has no access to the region, making it difficult to verify the claims of either the military or militant sources, the report said. The military had earlier said security forces have cleared most of Miranshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, and are now carrying out house-to-house search in Mirali, a main town and a stronghold of the Pakistani and foreign militants. The military operation was launched by the army June 15 following a brazen Taliban terror attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport June 8. About 900,000 people from North Waziristan have been displaced so far in the operation, according to figures released by the FATA Disaster Management Authority. (Business Standard 20/7/14)

97. Militant’s body found in Jammu and Kashmir (12)

Jammu: The militant was killed in firing by the BSF near Karol Mathura border outpost in Hiranagar sector when they foiled an infiltration bid by intruders from Pakistan The Border Security Force (BSF) on Tuesday recovered the body of a militant killed after an infiltration bid was foiled in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said. “The body of the intruder, who was killed in firing by the BSF near Karol Mathura border outpost in Hiranagar sector, has been recovered,” a senior police officer told IANS in Jammu. “Nothing was recovered from the body,” he said. On Monday, the BSF foiled an infiltration bid after a group of intruders were forced to withdraw into Pakistan. While the Indian Army guards the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, the international border in the State is guarded by the BSF. (The Hindu 22/7/14)

98. Prisoner ends hunger strike after a week in Kolkata (12)

KOLKATA: After fasting for more than a week to get a writ petition filed in Calcutta High Court, alleged Maoist leader Anup Roy ended his hunger strike at Presidency Correctional Centre here on Tuesday, confirmed prison superintendent Nabin Kumar Saha. Mr. Roy was detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in January this year. According to civil rights activist Ranjit Sur, Mr. Roy started a fast on July 10 to demand a political prisoner status and to get a writ petition challenging an amendment to the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992, passed in Calcutta High Court. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government introduced an amendment in November 2013, which curbed the rights of prospective political prisoners. The amendment stated that a person found having links with any terrorist organisation would be denied the rights of a political prisoner. “The amendment was aimed at Maoists and Islamic outfits. The amendment is unconstitutional. Political prisoners, who were lodged in jails before the amendment was passed, were also denied their status. This was an illegal move. Mr. Roy sought to change this,” said Mr. Sur. Mr. Roy’s demand to file the writ petition was being denied by jail authorities, Mr. Sur said. “Mr. Roy has still not been proven accused. Therefore he is not guilty in the eyes of law and is free to file a petition like any other citizen, ” Mr. Sur said. When contacted, Mr. Saha denied that Mr. Roy had started his fast to demand the rights of a political prisoner. Refusing to divulge the details of the writ petition that Mr. Roy sought to file, Mr. Saha said it was a highly confidential matter. “Mr. Roy started his hunger strike to demand that the writ petition be filed in the court. He ended his fast on Tuesday,” he said. (The Hindu 23/7/14)

99. Death toll in Meghalaya blast rises to three (12)

Shillong: The death toll in the IED blast triggered by insurgents in Meghalaya has risen to three with one more policeman succumbing to his injuries Saturday, while another IED was recovered and defused by a bomb disposal squad, police said. Constable Rahul Marak died in Assam’s Guwahati Neurological Research Centre, a police officer said. “On searching in and around the (Friday) blast site, the bomb disposal squad recovered and defused an IED planted by the militants on the hillock,” Mukesh Kumar Singh, the district police chief of West Garo Hills said. Though no militant group has claimed responsibility for the blast, Director General of Police Peter Hanaman blamed the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) militants for it. The militants had planted a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) by the roadside in Tebrongre area to target security forces. “They (militants) have been under tremendous pressure after we captured the GNLA’s general headquarters and arrested some of their important cadres,” Hanaman told IANS. Hanaman, who reviewed the overall law and order situation in Garo Hills after the incident, said, “We have got vital leads and the hunt is on to arrest the culprits.” Condemning the bomb blast, Home Minister Roshan Warjri said, “Such acts of cowardice to derail the concerted efforts for building lasting peace and vitiating a hopeful atmosphere will not be accepted and tolerated.” Warjri also extended her condolences to the victims’ families. The GNLA, one of the five Garo tribal rebel groups, is fighting for a separate Garoland to be carved out of Meghalaya. It has forged an operational alliance with the ULFA and the NDFB, which provided it access to sophisticated arms and ammunition, and enabled it to unleash a reign of terror in the three impoverished districts of Garo Hills. GNLA rebels, who number around 100, have unleashed terror in five impoverished districts of Garo Hills in the last five years and killed over 100 people, including security personnel. (Zee News 26/7/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

100. Odisha Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda arrested (12)

Bhubaneshwar: Odisha Police arrested the state’s top Maoist leader, Sabyasachi Panda, on Friday, in what authorities said was a major achievement in the anti-Maoist campaign. Panda was wanted in over 60 criminal cases, including the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal in 2008 and the abduction of two Italian tourists in 2012. “This is a big achievement for Odisha Police,” said director general of police Sanjiv Marik. The Maoists, also known as Naxals, have been fighting for decades across vast swathes of eastern and central India. They say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers, but authorities see them as the country’s biggest internal security threat. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced the arrest in the assembly and congratulated the police personnel who participated in the operation. “I also take the opportunity to appeal to Maoists to shed violence and join the mainstream,” he said. Police recovered a revolver, some ammunition, Rs. 2 lakh, 500gm of gold, 10 mobile phones, a laptop, two hard discs and five pen drives from Panda, who was arrested in Ganjam district. But experts said Panda’s arrest would make little difference to the Maoist movement in the state as he had become powerless in the past two years after falling out with the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). “His arrest will not impact the Maoist movement in the state, which is being controlled by cadres from Andhra Pradesh,” said former Odisha DGP SN Tiwari. (Hindutan Times 18/7/14)

101. Naxals destroyed tendu worth Rs 55 lakh in 32 years (12)

NAGPUR: Naxalites have destroyed tendu leaves to the tune of more than Rs 55 lakhs within a span of 32 years since 1982 in Maharashtra. A press release, issued by state Anti-Naxal Operations cell, underlined the fact that Naxals have repeatedly tried to sabotage the tendu industry which had been source of livelihood for a substantial population in the remote Gadchiroli district. The tendu business, which brings much needed alternative source of income in the poorly developed Gadchiroli, is also connected to India’s one of the largest rural-based bidi industry. Left-wing extremists have been targeting tendu industry and are engaged in extorting exorbitant amount from contractors. There had been so far around 120 incidents of tendu leaves being destroyed in Naxal violence in three decades till this year. The maximum loss which has been inflicted by the Naxals against the tendu business has taken place in Gadchiroli. Leaves, worth around Rs 40.39 lakh, have been destroyed in 106 incidents alone in Gadchiroli. In Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli, there had been 62 incidents in which tendu leaves worth around Rs 11.42 lakhs were destroyed. There were 29 such incidents in Aheri too. Naxals set afire tendu leaves, worth Rs 10.29 lakh, on fire in Chamorshi tehsil on May 18 in 2003 which is being considered as the single biggest loss in such business caused by the rebels. In Gondia district, tendu leaves worth Rs 13.40 lakh have been gutted by the Naxals in 11 incidents. In western Maharashtra, Naxals have destroyed tendu leaves worth Rs 68,600 in three incidents in Nanded district. (Times of India 22/7/14)

102. Mass support for Naxals behind Bihar stir? (12)

Patna: Substantial public support for Maoists is suspected to be the root cause behind the sudden unrest in Bihar’s Aurangabad that led to police firing on a large crowd of violent agitators on July 19 in which a woman and a child died and five others were injured. This being the second police firing in Bihar a fortnight, the first being in Rohtas on July 8 in which two people died and nine others were injured, Bihar’s JD(U) government and the Opposition BJP are locked in a war of words over the government’s alleged loss of control on the police force’s activities. But, even as a probe is currently on, the suspected Maoist connection in the Aurangabad incident has caused massive disagreements between the government and the Opposition. Top police sources pointed out that villagers in Maoist-affected Aurangabad turned against the police and the district administration so violently, indulging in arson and rioting, because they were angry about the intense, weeklong joint combing operation carried out in the area by the state police and the CRPF in search of some leftwing rebels reportedly hiding there. The Aurangabad SP and DM’s preliminary report on the incident, tabled in the state Assembly on Monday, also said that villagers were suspected of sheltering armed Maoists in their homes. “The entire area was experiencing tension ever since the security forces began conducting raids in Deo and Madanpur to flush out Maoists camping in the area for a fortnight. The security forces also had an encounter with the Maoists at Devagaha village in Deo on July 11,” said water resources minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary in the Assembly during a three-hour debate on the issue on Monday. But senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi contested the minister’s claims. “The government is misguided in saying that the Maoists were behind the tension in Aurangabad. A 45-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy were killed in police firing while protesting. Two boys of class seven were sent to jail for the protests,” he said. (The Asian Age 23/7/14)

103. Maoist Menace: Police Baffled as Tribals do a Backflip (12)

MALAPPURAM : The Maoist issue is posing a grave and ongoing threat in this forest region of the state and the police are lost in a dark abyss as tribes are showing reluctance in passing information to the police regarding the movement of armed persons. The police force engaged in tracking down the Maoists mainly depends on the information they receive from the tribal colonies.  But recently the tribes have become quiet to the point of extreme reticence in informing the police about the the deadly Maoist presence. The tribes were very willing and cooperative with the police in the beginning to give information and it was immensely helpful to the police to gauge the strength and nature of the armed gang.  The tribes also helped them to identify the key members of the Maoist gang that has found refuge in the dense forest. The police officials are clueless about the current disenchantment of the tribes with the police and their sudden dedication and devotion to the Maoists.  They fear the gang members have succeeded in brainwashing the tribals and planted vicious ideas in their minds using the Maiost propoganda. “It is learned that there was a class in Vaniyambalam colony near Nilambur on July 18 by an armed group. But strangely, the police got the information only a day later.  The gang had also distributed notices to all the houses in the colony. We fear that frequent meetings of the Maoists with the tribes would definitely impact them in a negative way which would have serious repercussions.  The delay in providing tip-offs and reluctance to cooperate with police are examples of it”, said sources in the anti-Maoist force wishing to seek anonymity. The tribes are also open in admitting the fact that the government has betrayed them by giving empty promises. “The Maoists are giving classes about the indifference of the government towards the tribal community.  They have to some extent succeeded in creating an image that they are their saviour who would redeem them from their present misery and that the government is their enemy.  It is relatively a simple task to convince the tribes, who are already depressed with the attitude of government, with such kind of fiery speeches. The situation in the colonies will prove that there are some truths in what the Maoists are saying.  There are no proper houses, roads, drinking water and electricity facilities in the colonies.  The development initiatives to be implemented in the colonies sadly depend upon the will, wish and interest of the officials.  They do not even ask the tribes if their needs are met”, Chitra, a Mahila Samakhya Savini belongs to Kattunayakan tribe in Appankappu colony near Nilambur told ‘Express’. The tribes have are also started bargaining with the police to repay them for the favours they receive at their hands.  They demand  proper roads, electricity, food, garments, etc from the police.  It is suspected that influence of persons outside the colony have brought about this change in them. The tribes have no loyalty whatsoever, to outsiders including the police.  They will support anyone offering money and lend a helping hand to them as long as help arrives from any quarter.  They will listen to the police and also to extremist groups without any hesitation.  But we do not expect that the tribes would join hands with them in the near future due to their inherent laziness”, Perinthalmanna DySP K P Vijayakumaran, who is in charge of the forest areas in Nilambur, said. The police are leaving no stone unturned to maintain a rapport with the tribes. (New Indian Express 28/7/14)

TRAFFICKING

104. Rescued Jharkhand maids continue to be stalked by human traders (1)

KHUNTI (Jharkhand): It is just two in the afternoon, but it is pitch dark inside the bare mud hut where 17-year-old Nisha (name changed) lives with her poor parents. Outside, a hard rain falls, bending the trees of the thick forest that threatens to close in on the cluster of huts in this tribal village in Khunti district.Electricity is yet to touch lives here and few dare to come to Nisha’s village even during daytime. There’s the fear of Maoists in the villages along the forested border of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. There’s an even bigger fear for girls like Nisha: the threat of ruthless human traffickers. You might have read about Nisha but won’t remember her. She appeared in one of those newspaper stories about maids’ abuse. This was in May this year — a story about a girl who was lucky to escape from the vicious grip of a placement agency servicing upscale New Friends colony and Maharani Bagh in south Delhi. Two other girls trafficked in April 2013 from Khunti villages failed to survive. One died in Delhi and the other on the way back. There are numerous such cases. Human trafficking from this poverty-stricken, extremely backward part of the world is endemic. The girls here are very vulnerable — extreme poverty being its biggest cause. Since 2009, Jharkhand has not been reporting figures of missing children and persons to NCRB. Experts admit the available data don’t reflect, therefore, the enormity of the problem. For instance, Jharkhand CID statistics show a mere 282 registered cases on human trafficking between 2001 and September 2013, while a 2010 report by NGO Bharatiya Kisan Sangh put the number of girls trafficked to metro cities at 42,000. Most victims are below 20 years and the main destination is Delhi. In Khunti alone, a dozen traffickers have been identified — those taking girls regularly out of villages for work to Delhi or Mumbai with promises rarely kept. Search is on for the small-time traffickers operating as intermediaries. The danger of human trade is amplified by warnings painted in red and black cautioning against “manav vyapaar” (human trafficking). Detailed advisories are stuck on tree trunks and mud walls. Villagers know about the danger, but can they heed it always? TOI did a reality check on the status of victim families to see why they can’t. Any promise of money is very tempting for those in dire poverty. Like Nisha’s parents, most villagers here work as farm or manual labour earning a meagre daily wage of Rs 50. Some lucky ones on lucky days can get Rs 250. But never more. And there are several days when there’s no work. Government anti-poverty schemes might have helped but schemes like MNREGA are yet to reach intended beneficiaries who have no awareness and little access to information. In the circumstances, the poor don’t have either the resource or mental strength to ward off the lurking traffickers. Take Nisha’s case. Her family does not want her to pursue the case against her trafficker and the village community has already made its discomfort known to the police. They don’t want trouble. To keep her afloat, a school in Ranchi earlier this month agreed to take her on as a caretaker. The opportunity came her way only after the intervention of Khunti’s anti-human trafficking unit. Nisha now dreams of resuming her education… (Times of India 18/7/14)

105. Bringing kids to orphanages not child trafficking: Govt (1)

KOCHI: The state government on Friday claimed in the high court that the act of bringing children from other states to orphanages in Kerala does not fall under the scope of child trafficking. The government’s submission came in the form of a counter affidavit filed by social justice department through special government pleader T T Muhamood in response to two petitions filed alleging child trafficking, of which one seeks a CBI probe. “Providing education and food to children cannot be treated as trafficking. So far, no exploitation on the part of institutions (orphanages) is reported and out of 578 children, 271 were former inmates and students of the orphanage(s) at Mukkam and Malappuram and realising the facts, the children were handed over to the orphanages by the child welfare committees. As such at present it cannot be considered as trafficking. However, the facts whether there is any exploitation in this issue is being promptly investigated by the special wing of the state police,” the affidavit read. The government also points out that the admission of children from poor families in other states to educational institutions in Kerala utilizing the services of child care institutions registered under the Orphanage Control Board by parents is a long-standing practice. It also contended that children who have the support of parents or family do not come under the scope of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. As opposed to the amicus curiae’s report that there was systemic failure in preventing the alleged trafficking, the government claims that it is an effective mechanism for supervision and monitoring of orphanages. In addition to direct monitoring by social justice department, district level monitoring committees headed by the district collectors and a state level monitoring committee headed by the chief minister are also functioning, the affidavit said. The government also submitted that it has taken a policy decision to allow the admission of children from other states on the basis of recommendation from the state government concerned. Revamping of minimum standards for care and protection of children in orphanages is also underway, the court was told. During Friday’s hearing, the court has asked CBI to inform its stance on taking up the investigation in writing. The CBI’s counsel had earlier told the court that it is willing to conduct a probe. The CBI was also directed to submit details of investigation being carried out in other states with regard to the alleged trafficking incidents. On Friday, advocate general K P Dandapani handed over a report on the progress of the ongoing crime branch investigation to the court in a sealed cover. Further hearing on the case is scheduled for July 30. (Times of India 19/7/14)

106. Indore: Girl trafficked, forced into flesh trade (1)

Indore: Three persons, including a couple, have been charged with offences for allegedly selling a young girl and pushing her into flesh trade, police said on Tuesday. According to Women Police Station’s in-charge, Jyoti Sharma, a case was registered against the trio, identified as Roshni, Jitendra Sharma and his wife Rani under IPC section 376 (rape), section 370 (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) and other relevant sections of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. The 20-year-old victim belonged to Shahdol district and was known to Roshni, who brought her to Indore under the pretext of giving a job to her but allegedly sold her to Jitendra and Rani for Rs. 1.5 lakh, Sharma said, adding, the couple later forced her into flesh trade. The victim, with the help of a friend managed to escape from the clutches of the couple on Monday, and filed a complaint with the police. All three persons are absconding and search was on to trace them, police added. (Hindustan Times 22/7/14)

107. Jharkhand police: it’s a case of child trafficking (1)

Palakkad: A special investigation team of special branch police in Jharkhand, which is probing two incidents of alleged child trafficking in which 589 children from Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal were brought to Palakkad in May, has said that it will register a case soon against Mukkom Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode based on its findings. The team, which returned to Jharkhand on Wednesday afternoon after two weeks of investigation in the State, confirmed that it was a case of child trafficking. Inspector B.P. Sharma, of the investigation team, told presspersons here on Wednesday that the team got evidence showing direct involvement of the orphanage. “We have detected several anomalies in taking these children to Kerala by Mukkom orphanage and another one in Malappuram,” he said. The team also found seven persons, arrested by the Kerala Police in connection with the case, responsible for the incidents. Among the 589 children, 167 were from Jrakhand. The team would return to Kerala in another two weeks to conduct further investigation, Mr. Sharma said. (The Hindu 24/7/14)

108. Cops: Delhi placement agencies trafficking girls with Maoists’ help (1)

Ranchi: Jharkhand police suspect banned left wing extremist outfits that are active in several disricts of the state of trafficking girls to metro cities with the help of placement agencies in Delhi. The police force in the east Indian state has also zeroed down on two such outfits — the CPI (Maosists) and the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) — after receiving vital information from intelligence agenices. They have initiated an inquiry and identified at least 20 placement agencies involved in the racket. Police said young girls freuquently went missing from Maoist-hit districts of Khunti and Gumla. While some of them are believed to have migrated voultarily, others — especially the vulnerable ones from very poor tribal families — are lured with baits or forcibly taken. Khunti police superintendent Anis Gupta said his department inititated an individual probe into the matter after receiving alerts from intelligence agenices.”We found the information to be true,” Gupta said. Leaders of the extremist outfits denied the involvement. Deenbandhu, the committee secretary of the CPI (Maoist) in the Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh area said: “It is propaganda cooked by the police to defame us. We oppose migration and all kinds of displacement. It’s the work of capitalist forces, not us.” Sampat Mina, inspector general of the Jharkhand CID, said: “We are yet to receive any official information on this; however, we will look into the matter.” Delhi-based NGOs working against human trafficking confirm that agencies supplying Jharkhand girls to work as maids are aplenty in Punjabi Bagh area of the national capital. “We have also found out that they have contacts with the banned outfits in Jharkhand and seek their help in supplying children to households and factories in the NCR,” Rishi Kant, founder member of Shakti Vahini, an NGO that has to date rescued over 100 Jharkhand girls in Delhi. A three-member team of the NGO had recently visited Jharkhand and found links between some placement agencies in Punjabi Bagh area and PLFI groups. People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) admits that Maoists had been involved in picking up children from villages in Jharkhand. However, the PUCL has no confirmation or complaint regarding the involvement of banned rebel outfits in trafficking children to Delhi.  “We are yet to receive any complaints regarding their involvement in human trafficking,” said Nishant Akhilesh, president, PUCL Jharkhand. Earlier this month, 11 minors, all in their early teens, were rescued as they were allegedly being herded to a Maoist training camp in Saranda forests. A Maoist, Motra Chaki alias Samuel, who was taking the children to the camp, was arrested. (Hindustan Times 28/7/14)

CORRUPTION

109. CWG-like scam in Lusofonia Games: Congress seeks CBI probe (5)

Panaji: The Congress Sunday alleged a Delhi Commonwealth Games-style scam and demanded a CBI probe into corruption in the organisation of the Portuguese Commonwealth Games, also known as the Lusofonia Games, in Goa. The state hosted the Games in 2014. Addressing a press conference here, Congress spokesman Durgadas Kamat said the pricing of the Games’ medals, grand opening and closing ceremonies, hiring of taxis, as well as laying out infrastructure for the third Lusfonia Games was excessive, and suggested that the scam was worth Rs.100 crore approximately. “Three quotations from companies in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore for Games’ medals for Rs.500, Rs.400 and Rs.600 (respectively) were turned down and instead the government paid Rs.6,500 for each medal,” Kamat said. The firm which won the medal tender was the India Government Mint in Alipore, West Bengal, run by the central government. Sports Minister Ramesh Tawadkar has called the allegations “baseless” and made by a party which is frustrated being in Opposition. “All procedures and protocols were followed by us during the tendering processes. The Congress is frustrated. They are not used to being in the Opposition and are making baseless charges,” he said. Incidentally, defective medals had triggered controversy during the Games, with several winning athletes having to return their medals which had lost their lustre immediately after they were presented. The 12-day Lusofonia Games featured countries and places like Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea- Bissau, Goa (India), Macau (China), Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe and Sri Lanka. Athletes competed in nine sporting disciplines — Athletics, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Football, Judo, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Volleyball and Wushu. Goa was one of the earliest Portuguese colonies in Asia and was colonised in the early 1500s. The Lusofonia Games 2014 were the third edition of the Portuguese Commonwealth Games. The first two were held in Macau (China) 2006 and in Lisbon in 2009. Kamat also said that the government overspent on the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Lusofonia Games alleging that the Rs.22 crore spent on the two event nights was highly inflated and money had changed hands in the organization of the event. “We estimate that about Rs.7 crore was the maximum one could spend on the event and have the best of celebration,” Kamat said. The allegations come a couple of days before the monsoon session of the Goa legislative assembly starts July 22. Kamat also said information sourced via the Right To Information Act had revealed irregularities in the raising of infrastructure worth several hundred crore for the event like indoor and outdoor stadia and track and field gear. “We are going to the Central Bureau of Investigation with our complaint, because we have no faith in the state police,” Kamat said. (Business Standard 20/7/14)

110. Opposition alleges foul play in Kudumbashree projects (5)

KOZHIKODE: Opposition councillors in the Kozhikode corporation met minister for social justice and panchayats, M K Muneer, demanding vigilance inquiry into various schemes implemented by the Kudumbashree office under the corporation. A delegation led by opposition leader in the corporation council, M T Padma, met the minister the other day and urged him to recommend a vigilance inquiry into the implementation of e-shops set up at various locations in the city. UDF members in the corporation council had leveled allegations about irregularities in executing various projects of the Kudumbashree, comprising e-shops, dress bank and Food on Wheels project. They alleged corruption in setting up the specially-designed vehicles for e-shops saying for that the civic body had claimed to have spent Rs 3, 63,914 for it, but it actually costs only Rs 50,000. The opposition also alleged that e-shops were set up in the corporation limit to sell products of multi-national brands and not those made by Kudumbashree members. Though the LDF denied the charges as baseless, UDF councillors in the corporation have stuck to their version and decided to approach the minister to pressurize the government to initiate an inquiry into the matter. Opposition leader M T Padma said a delegation had met minister M K Muneer on Saturday to urge the government institute a vigilance inquiry into the works of the Kudumbashree office including political involvement in the appointment of 100 sanitation workers. The opposition opined that the ruling party had only selected candidates belonging to their party. “We have met the minister and urged him to take steps to conduct a detailed vigilance inquiry. The minister has promised to look into the matter and take necessary action,” said the opposition leader. “The opposition will take a decision about the future course of action on the basis of the minister’s reply,” said Padma. K P Vijayakumar, convener of the Campaign Committee against Corruption said irregularities in the execution of schemes are not new to the civic body. “The state government should direct the concerned authorities to conduct a detailed vigilance inquiry into all projects of the civic body including Kudumbashree schemes,” he said. Meanwhile, mayor A K Premajam said the civic body has executed the project in a transparent manner and with the knowledge of the opposition. “The opposition’s allegation is merely a poll gimmick ahead of elections to the local self-government bodies in 2015. We have nothing to hide and have done everything in a transparent manner,” she said. (Times of India 21/7/14)

111. Uproar in Parliament over Justice Markandey Katju’s charge of corruption in judiciary (5)

NEW DELHI: AIADMK on Monday forced adjournment of the Rajya Sabha twice during Question Hour over former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju’s reported allegation that political pressure during the previous UPA regime had led to elevation of a judge despite charges of corruption against him. Ruckus created by AIADMK members seeking suspension of Question Hour to discuss the issue of “political interference in judicial appointments” led to the house first being adjourned for 10 minutes and then till 1200 hours. No sooner had Ronald Sapa Tlau, the newly-elected member from Mizoram, taken oath, AIADMK members were up on their feet displaying copies of The Times of India that carried an article by Press Council of India chairman Katju on the appointment. “You will not show newspaper here, Dr Maitreyan,” chairman Hamid Ansari said referring to AIADMK leader who wanted the Question Hour to be suspended to discuss the issue. V Maitreyan said this was an important issue. “You can’t do this… nobody is listening to you,” Ansari said as AIADMK members moved into aisle raising solgans. He then adjourned the house for 10 minutes. When the house reassembled, similar scenes were witnessed with AIADMK members insisting on suspension of Question Hour. “If you have an issue to raise, raise it through appropriate procedure. This is not the way. You are disrupting listed business,” Ansari said warning members that he would name them if they continued to display newspaper. “I will have to name you for display of newspaper,” he said as unheeding AIADMK members continued to shout slogans. Maitreyan wanted to know if former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was seated in the House, was aware of the allegation against the judge and if his ally DMK had put pressure on his government to elevate him. (Times of India 21/7/14)

112. Housing society scam: Six retd public servants get jail (5)

NEW DELHI: Six retired public servants have been sentenced to one year imprisonment by a Delhi court in one of the corruption cases pertaining to a Rs 4000 crore cooperative group housing society (CGHS) scam which dates back to the 1970s. The seventh convict, who was a private person, has been sentenced to three years in jail for the offences of forgery, cheating and using a forged document as genuine under IPC. Special CBI Judge Manoj Jain sentenced former Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS) Narayan Diwakar, dealing assistant Faiz Mohammad, senior auditor P K Thirwani, assistant registrar Yogi Raj, upper division clerk U S Bhatnagar and RCS inspecting officer Ram Nath to one year simple imprisonment and also slapped a fine of Rs 30,000 on each of them. The court held Diwakar and five ex-public servants guilty of various offences under IPC relating to attempting to cheat, forgery and using forged documents as genuine and under the Prevention of Corruption Act for attempting to commit criminal misconduct. Complicity of public servants accused is very evident. RCS officials were supposed to apply horse sense and they rather completely ignored the basic things and the application in question was entertained without raising any eyebrow,” the judge said in his order last week. The court while sentencing Delhi resident Gokul Chand Aggarwal, a private person, also directed him to pay a fine of Rs 70,000. The judge observed that “fortunately it remained a case of attempted cheating only as the conspiracy got unearthed before the land could be actually allotted at reserve price.” The seven convicts had fraudulently tried to revive the already liquidated Anand CGHS by forging documents and showing non-existent members. According to CBI, Anand CGHS was allotted a land in Pitampura by DDA in 1975 for a token money but due to the failure of the society to pay the remaining amount, it was liquidated by RCS. (New Indian Express 24/7/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

113. In 50 days, Modi govt gives environment clearance to 5 projects (9)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government has given environment clearance to five projects since it took charge on May 26. A total of 394 projects are still awaiting approvals from the ministry of environment, forests and climate change, latest data showed. The projects given clearance include Adani Ports’ Mundra special economic zone (SEZ) in Gujarat, two coal mining projects – Coal India Limited (CIL)’s Tikak block in Assam and Reliance Power’s Chhatrasal block in Madhya Pradesh (MP), GAIL’s gas-based power plant in MP and a state highway renovation project in Assam. These projects are worth around Rs 2,570 crore (excluding Adani Ports, as the environment clearance documents do not mention the cost details of that project). Environment minister Prakash Javadekar has said his priority would be to give clearance to public-purpose projects. “We have started on national highways, railways, power transmission lines – these are the linear projects which are public-purpose projects and not private. So, thatmust be given priority,” Javadekar had told Business Standard in an interview earlier this month. The ministry has given nod to projects of two public sector undertakings – CIL and GAIL. However, no industrial projects have yet been cleared. Out of the 394 pending cases, about one-third (144) are industrial projects. Adani and Reliance Power’s Sasan projects became controversial during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) tenure. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had pulled up the UPA government alleging Rs 29,033-crore financial gains to R-Power for coal allotment to Sasan ultra mega power project. The Chhatrasal block was among the three captive coal blocks allotted to Sasan Power. The CAG report had called for a review of allocatio of the Chhatrasal coal block for the Sasan power plant. The project was given a go-ahead by the environment ministry on July 11. The coal block, having reserves of over 160 million tonnes, will fuel Reliance Power’s 4,000 MW Sasan and 4,000 MW Chitrangi power projects. The Gujarat high court had in January this year ordered the closure of the 12 out of 21 operational units in the Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone due to lack of environment clearances. After the Supreme Court directed the government to decide on its clearance, the Union environment ministry gave the final nod on July 15. GAIL had proposed to build a 380-Mw gas-based power plant at Guna in Madhya Pradesh. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 1,029 crore and it took three years to clear the project after approving its terms of reference in June 2011. In Sikkim, an Asian Development Bank-assisted project for “improvement and upgradation” of 19.7-km stretch of a state highway has been given green nod by the ministry on May 29. The total project costs Rs 42.37 crore. (Business Standard 18/7/14)

114. Agricultural varsity to strengthen research on climate change (9)

THRISSUR: The general council of the Kerala Agricultural University, which met here on Saturday, decided to strengthen research on climate change adaptation. A motion without notice to this effect by Jose Joseph was unanimously adopted by the Council. An action plan to keep farmers informed about the technologies developed in this area will also be launched. The Council proposed an increase in seats for Agriculture courses. The Council referred to a resolution moved in this regard by R. Krishnakumar to the University Academic Council. P.V. Balachandran sought the attention of the Council to vacancies of scientists in Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) under the University and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s directive on filling the posts. He said the ICAR had issued a warning that some KVKs may be wound up if adequate staff strength was not ensured. The Vice Chancellor assured the house that the vacancies in KVK would be filled soon. The council decided to annul all re-appointments of retired university staff. The council lamented the financial condition of the university and requested the State government to solve pay revision anomalies. The council expressed concern over a move to shift M.Sc. Agriculture courses from the College of Agriculture, Padannakkad, to other centres. Complaints related to conduct of examinations and evaluation were referred to the Academic Council. Vice Chancellor P. Rajendran chaired the meeting. V. S. Sathyaseelan, Jiju P. Alex, T. N. Jagdeesh Kumar, A. Prema C. H. Muthu, Soumya Krishnan, Varghese J. Ollukkaran, Aji Francis, Sony Sebastian, K. A. Sheeba, Rajeev Nellikunnel and Vishnu Narayanan participated in the discussions. Ollur MLA M. P. Vincent, E. K. Prakash, Special Secretary, Finance, Registrar E. K. Mathew, Comptroller Joy Mathew and other officers of the University were present. (The Hindu 20/7/14)

115. River Linking Project will Harm Kuttanad Ecology (9)

KOCHI: The state government has stated its intent to vehemently oppose the move to inter-link Pampa and Achankovil rivers with the Vaipar river in Tamil Nadu. But the environmentalists are not ready to rest on government’s assurance alone, citing lack of commitment shown in the past when it comes to protecting the valuable water resources of the state. According to them, if not prevented, the project will prove to be a death knell for Central Kerala’s ecology. It has the potential to permanently damage the ecosystem of Kuttanad, the granary of the state, and destroy more than 30 sq km of the Western Ghats, endangering the state’s biodiversity, they warned. The interlinking can be achieved only by diverting the rivers from its original course. The rivers flows westwards. But to inter-link the rivers, they should be diverted to east. “It will reduce the discharge rate enormously. Hence during high tides salinity may intrude,” said S Seetharaman, secretary, All Kerala River Protection council. Salt water intrusion will ruin the productivity of the Kuttanad paddy fields. The decrease in downstream water flow will kill the fish wealth. As per the proposal three dams are to be built for the project – one at Punnamedu and two at Achankovil and Chittarmuzhi. The water from them will brought to the Adavi Nainar dam built by Tamil Nadu at the foot of Western Ghats. The water would be collected in a reservoir through an eight km tunnel. The water from the reservoir would be then linked  to Aligarh river in Tamil Nadu, the tributary of Vaipar, through a nine km tunnel. “This will inundate 15 square km of forest land,” said Seethraman. To divert a river to east, a major portion of the Western ghats has to be destroyed.  The loss in green cover would expose the state to the heat wave coming from Tamil Nadu, said C M Joy, another environmentalist.     He also alleged that the project is being implemented on the basis of  a scientifically invalid study conducted by the Central Water Commission. “The study was based on the flow of the river during torrential rains. During summer, the discharge rate is considerably less. How could you call such a study, scientific,” Joy asked. According to him the State Government should convince the Central Governmnet and neigbouring states about its depleting water resources. A major for Kerala is that the legal aspects of the project supports Tamil Nadu, said N K Sukumaran Nair, general secretary of  the Pampa Parirakshana Samithi.   “The Supreme Court has asked to complete the inter-linking project within a stipulated time. “The Centreal Government has already earmarked `100 crore for the project to inter-link Pampa and Achankovil with Vaipar river. “Even the policy statement by the President of India has given top priority to it. If we did not act now, the state will be digging its own grave,” Sukumaran Nair said (New Indian Express 22/7/14)

116. Right to freedom from noise pollution is fundamental: Allahabad High Court (9)

ALLAHABAD: The Allahabad High Court has held that the “right to freedom from noise pollution is a fundamental right”.A division bench, comprising Justice Dilip Gupta and Justice M C Tripathi, made the observation on July 22 while disposing of a PIL filed by one Chunnu Singh and ten other residents of Naya Gaon village in Kanth. Removal of a loudspeaker from a temple in the village earlier this month had triggered tension which was followed by political turmoil. The petitioners had moved the court with the plea that they be allowed to play devotional songs on loudspeaker for at least one hour every morning and in the evening at the Lord Shiva temple. They had pleaded that the temple was the only place of worship situated in their village and that they have been offering prayers there for more than 40 years. However, the court was of the view that there was no justification for allowing use of loudspeaker without due permission from the district administration and the regional pollution control board. The court, however, added the people might approach the concerned authorities with their demand and a decision should be taken “in strict accordance with provision of Noise Pollution Regulation and Control Rules, 2000″.The court also said police stations need to ensure that no loudspeakers or other noise-producing activities take place within their areas of jurisdiction and any such activities, if detected, must be followed by immediate action. “Right to freedom from noise pollution is a fundamental right of which no violation can be allowed,” the court said while disposing off the PIL. (The Economic Times 26/7/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

117. RSS wing opposes approval for GM crop field trial (20)

New Delhi: The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has strongly criticised the Environment Ministry’s green signal for field trials of certain varieties of Genetically Modified (GM) crops. In its first show of opposition to the Modi government’s decision, the SJM asked the government to put on the hold the approval, reminding it that the party’s election manifesto had promised action in this regard. SJM co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan said in a statement that the clearance for field trials for 15 Genetically Modified (GM) crops, which include major food crops such as rice, sugarcane, chickpea, brinjal and mustard among others, went against the BJP’s poll manifesto. Mahajan said: “The people of India who have elected the BJP to power are feeling deceived. They voted for the BJP based on the promises the party made to the people of India in its manifesto and speeches by leaders during election campaign.” He said the party was emphatic in stating in its manifesto that “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long term effects on soil, production, and biological impact on consumers.” The SJM functionary said neither the government nor the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has disclosed the contents of promised scientific evaluation, and “if any or what changed between April 7, 2014–when BJP released its manifesto–and July 18, 2014, when the field trials of GM food crops were approved.” Mahajan said the SJM wanted to remind the government that a moratorium on open field trials of GM food crops was the result of a long and difficult struggle by the people of India, including the SJM, farmers, scientific experts, consumer activists and other stakeholders. “The Supreme Court has also been of the clear view that no hasty decision in this regard shall be taken that puts the health of the people and soil at risk. The apex court-appointed technical expert committee had recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of GM crops till the government came out with a proper regulatory and safety mechanism. That has not been done till date,” he said. Mahajan recalled that the Parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture, which included BJP members, had also asked for a ban on GM food crops in the country. He said the government should not rely on the biased and manipulated reports of vested interests among the industry. In a meeting of the GEAC on Friday, the committee took up the proposals pending for over the last year. The committee had not met between March 2013 and March 2014, while it met thrice after March this year. (Deccan Herald 19/7/14)

118. 7,000 farmers killed themselves in Gujarat due to govt’s apathy, says Congress (20)

GANDHINAGAR: Opposition Congress and BJP sparred over farmer suicides in the state during a discussion on budgetary demands of the agriculture and co-operation department on Friday. Congress MLA from Jamnagar Raghavji Patel alleged that as many as 614 farmers had committed suicide during the last decade in Gujarat due to the government’s apathy. “According to an RTI application, a total of 614 farmers in Gujarat committed suicide between 2003-2013 due to crop failure, mounting debt and inability to repay their loans,” said Patel in his speech in the assembly during the discussion on budgetary allocations made to state agriculture and co-operation department. State agriculture and co-operation minister Babu Bokhiria and other BJP members objected to the charge and hence speaker Vajubhai Vala intervened asking the Congress member to produce authentic documents to support his claim. Senior Congress MLA and party chief whip Balwantsinh Rajput claimed that 7,000 farmers ended their lives in the last five years in Gujarat. However, agriculture minister Bokhiria defended the state government on the issue of farmer suicides. “Congress MLAs should ask the Congress-led Maharashtra government about the large number of farmers committing suicides in Vidarbha region. This is not the case here, as we protect them with agriculture insurance scheme for crop failure,” claimed Bokhiria. The minister claimed that only two farmers have ended their lives due to debt or corp failure, while others were due to several other social reasons only. (Times of India 20/7/14)

119. Farmers, consumer forums write to Jayalalithaa on clearance to GM field trials (20)

CHENNAI: Several farmers, consumer forums and activists have slammed the hurried granting of permission for genetically modified (GM) food trials for rice, mustard, chick pea and other crops. In a letter to the chief minister J Jayalalithaa, they said the approval of an unsafe technology such as GM by a centralized body like Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) would compromise the interest and priorities of the state. Agriculture was a state subject, they pointed out. “The chief minister had made it clear that she would not allow GM in Tamil Nadu and we hope she will reiterate that stand by opposing such forcible thrust of field trials on the states,” said Vettavalam Manigandan, president of the Tamil Nadu Vivasaayigal Sangam. Raising concerns over the speed shown by the GEAC in clearing 60 of the pending 70 applications for field trials of different genetically modified crops, S Selvam, president of the TN organic farmers association, asked “What is the need for such a hasty release just before the cropping seasons starts, particularly when so many states had earlier clearly indicated that they were not for conducting field trials?.” “It is unfortunate that in a state with such a large diverse pool of traditional paddy reserve, the Madurai Kamaraj University has decided to pursue a GM rice research and that too on popular white ponni, indicating a bankruptcy of intelligence,” said Ram of the Tharcharbu Uzhavar Iyakkam, terming the field trial permission as unwanted and unwarranted. He also added that many of the farmer unions and groups across Tamil Nadu were planning a protest across the state and also are writing directly to the chief minister and the union minister of environment and forests. (Times of India 21/7/14)

120. Farmers, activists protest sale of genetically modified seeds (20)

ERODE: Members of Uzavar Uzhaipalar Katchi (UUK) protested in front of the head post office in Erode district on Wednesday against the sale of genetically modified seeds by the central and state governments. . The protesters said that though farmers across the state condemned the use of these seeds, the governments at the centre and the state were directly involved with their sale. A group of activists and farmers staged the protest against genetically engineered seeds and genetically manufactured organism (GMO). The protest included a discussion session by scholars and scientists with the intension of sensitising the public about the ill effects of genetically engineered seeds. K Sellamuthu, president of UUK said that globally farmers protested against genetically engineered seeds. “In Tamil Nadu, the protest was held in several cities including Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy and Madurai. “Few months ago, a goat died after consuming BT Cotton plant leaves in a farm in Southern Tamil Nadu. In another incident, a farmer who cultivated BT brinjal in the same region, did not get any yield from his crop. The time has come for the farming community to protect its conventional farming methods and seedlings or else we will have to beg for seeds every season,” he said. He strongly condemned the central government’s recent order to all the states not to fix procurement price for paddy and wheat. “This mean the central government alone gets to fix prices periodically which is ridiculous and condemnable,” he said.  (Times of India 24/7/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

121. Fear of fresh bid for bauxite mining haunts tribal people (4)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Attention maybe turned to exploration of bauxite ore after opening floodgates to greater private participation in coal mining by the National Democratic Alliance Government. The mining lobby, which was lying low for quite sometime after the UPA-II put in abeyance all clearances accorded to bauxite mining in the Scheduled Areas of Visakhapatnam and East Godavari, has stepped up its effort to revive their projects by sourcing the raw material through the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC). Anti-mining activists fear that the government might allow mining bauxite ore for the projects planned by Anrak Aluminium Limited, Jindal South West Aluminium Limited and NALCO. These projects are in the pipeline with a total investment of around Rs.25,000 crore. “Post-bifurcation, the clearances obtained earlier won’t hold good. A new Tribal Advisory Committee should be set up. Gram sabha mandate is also a pre-requisite going by Supreme Court’s landmark order against Vedanta’s mining plan in Niyamgiri hills in Odisha,” Samata executive director Rebbapragda Ravi said. Several applications by the tribal people for allotment of pattas in the mining areas are pending under Forest Rights Act. “Only after approval from gram sabhas and clearance of applications under FRA, one should take up any plan for reviving mining,” said tribal activist B. David. The Ministry of Mining suspended all the clearances in August 2010 after a strong representation submitted by then Araku MP V. Kishore Chandra Deo that mining in Scheduled Areas would cause an ecological disaster. Now there is fear among tribal people that mining may start anytime. AAL, a joint venture of Ras-al-Khaimah Investment Authority and Penna Cements and JSW Aluminium Ltd belonging to Jindal Group, have already signed Memoranda of Understanding for getting the raw material through APMDC several years ago. A senior official told The Hindu that mining by APMDC would not violate 1/70 of Land Transfer Regulation Act. (The Hindu 21/7/14)

122. 1839 ha forest land diverted for 15 industries (4)

Bhubaneswar: Forest land measuring 1838.79 hectares (ha) has been diverted for 15 industrial projects in the state between 2004 and 2013. A written reply by Bikram Arukh, minister for forest & environment in the assembly reveals that the forest land has been diverted for project proponents like Posco India, Essar Steel, Aditya Aluminium, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL), Bhushan Steel & Power Ltd (BSPL) and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) to name a few. To facilitate establishment of an integrated steel plant by Posco India, 1253.22 ha forest land has been diverted under Rajnagar wildlife division in Jagatsinghpur district. For setting up of an integrated steel complex with a captive power plant (CPP) by JSPL at Angul, 168.23 ha forest land has been diverted. The quantum of forest land given to other industries include BSPL (59.16 ha), Aditya Aluminium (119.26 ha), Shyam DRI Power (38.39 ha) and Bhushan Steel & Strips (61.47 ha). In lieu of the forest land allotted to industries, funds worth Rs 161.33 crore have been deposited in the Ad-hoc CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management & Planning Authority) account. The funds have been deposited under various heads, such as net present value (NPV), compensatory afforestation and wildlife management. (Business Standard 22/7/14)

123. Government can review Land Acquisition Act: Nitin Gadkari (4)

NEW DELHI: In a significant development, the government today expressed its willingness to review certain provisions of the Land Acquisition Act which was projected as one of the landmark laws brought out by the UPA. The Act has faced criticism from various quarters including some states. “We can review the Land Acquisition Act… if there is co-operation from your side,” Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari told the Lok Sabha, adding that certain provisions could be re-considered. However, he emphasised that the whole effort should not result in delaying road projects. He was replying to the discussion on Demands for Grants for Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Gadkari also holds the portfolio of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping. According to the Minister, there would be no compromise on the compensation amount to be given to people displaced by land acquisition, the Minister noted. Recently, the Rural Development Ministry suggested a number of amendments to the Land Acquisition Act which would water down pro-farmer provisions like mandatory consent of at least 70 per cent locals for acquiring land for PPP projects and 80 per cent for acquiring land for private projects. The Act enacted during the UPA government is likely to go undergo drastic changes if Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives nod for the Ministry’s proposals which also include dilution of a key clause of Social Impact Assessment study criticised by states as time consuming for industrialisation process. “The Consent Clause (Section 2(2)) should be re-examined as ownership of land vests with the Government in PPP projects. The consent clause should be removed from PPP projects. Alternatively, consent requirement may be brought down to 50 per cent,” the Ministry had said in its note sent to the PMO. The Ministry’s suggestions for drastic changes in the Act came after most of the states recently came out openly against the new Act, complaining that it had hurt the process of acquiring land for infrastructure projects. At a recent meeting of State Revenue Ministers chaired by Gadkari, the states including Congress-ruled Haryana objected to provisions for mandatory consent and Social Impact Assessment study. (The Economic Times 23/7/14)

124. Govt to Reclaim Land Not Utilised for 7 Years (4)

BANGALORE: The Assembly on Friday passed a land reforms amendment Bill which enables the government to take back the land allotted if it is not utilised for its intended purpose within seven years.

The House debated at length the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which inserted a sub-section to Section 109 in the parent Act to empower the government to reclaim the land. Under this law, if industries, educational institutions, places of worship or housing projects do not use the allotted land within the prescribed time, it has to be surrendered to the land bank of the government. Failure to do so would result in the cancellation of the exemption and also loss of compensation. The Bill also inserted another sub-section to Section 95, stating that permission for conversion of agricultural land for industrial development, educational or any other purpose will be granted subject to payment of fees as prescribed. Tabling the Bill, Revenue Minister V Srinivasa Prasad said the procedures under the current Act are time-consuming, and it is necessary to simplify them in the interest of investors and entrepreneurs. Opposition leader and former chief minister Jagadish Shettar urged the government to delegate powers to regional commissioners to reduce the burden on deputy commissioners. BJP member Basavaraj Bommai said the government should incorporate riders in the Act to bifurcate areas zone-wise, and impose restrictions on allotment of land. He said instead of giving absolute powers to politicians and bureaucrats, the Act should be made powerful to ensure that the government has control over land allotment. He said there should be restrictive clauses to stop the real estate lobby from taking advantage of the provisions. Citing cases, he said there are instances where companies have acquired over 3,000 acres in the guise of setting up cement factories and are yet to execute the work.The Congress government, which introduced land reforms for the welfare of the poor and the farmers, should not carry the blame for burying the historic Act, he said. Jagadish Kumar (BJP) said there is a need for a mechanism to check the land requirements of companies. Congress MLA Thukaram said former minister Janaradhan Reddy acquired 5,000 acres to set up a steel plant paying just `5 lakh compensation. The revenue minister replied that the implementation of the UPA government’s Land Acquisition Act will keep a check on land acquisition from farmers. (New Indian Express 26/7/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

125. India misses key health targets, but shows improvement (3)

NEW DELHI: India is lagging considerably behind its key human development index targets, including population control, infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality rate (MFR), according to figures given by health minister Harsh Vardhan in Lok Sabha on Friday. The goals set by the government for IMR and MMR for 2010 were 30 per 1000 live births and 100 per 1 lakh live births repectively but it could achieve numbers of 42 and 178 only by 2012, falling way behind. The total fertility rate (TFR) in 2012 was 2.4 while the target was 2.1 for 2010, Vardhan said. A TFR of 2.1 per woman is expected to make the population growth zero. Though 23 states and UTs, including all four southern states, have already achieved replacement level fertility of 2.1 or less, the most populous state of UP and Bihar have TFR of 3.3 and 3.5 respectively, he said. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have TFR between 2.2 and 3. TFR is, however, showing a decline nationally as it was 2.6 in 2008 and 2.5 in 2010. India has also shown improvement on IMR and MMR indicators as they were 53 and 212 in 2008 and 2007-09 respectively, according to official figures. Vardhan said the country may reach its Millennium Development Goals, set up by the United Nations, of reaching under-five mortality rate of 42 in 2015 if the current trend of annual decline persists. The rate was 126 in 1990. The MDG target for maternal mortality rate is 140 in 2015 and India is likely to reach 141 with its current rate. (Times of India 18/7/14)

126. ‘Odisha’s infant mortality rate higher than national average’ (3)

Voicing concern over Odisha’s health services, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today promised adequate Central funds to make it a “model state” in terms of medical infrastructure. “Odisha’s infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than the national average. The number of primary health centres is still below target,” Vardhan said at a press meet at the end of his two-day visit to the state. Most stark is the shortfall of doctors and key specialists like gynaecologists and paediatricians, nurses, health workers, technicians and other vital human resource, the Union Minister noted. Affirming the Central government’s commitment in making Odisha a model state in terms of health infrastructure, he said the Centre expects the state’s competent medical professionals to hold up an example for the rest of India. AIIMS-Bhubaneswar and its upcoming satellite campus in Balasore with all their state-of-the-art equipment and specialised departments, would entail an eventual investment of about Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 crore, the Union minister said. The remaining work of AIIMS-Bhubaneswar will be taken up with accelerated pace to make it an ultra-modern medical institute, he said. He said in order to fulfil the dreams of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had mooted the project, efforts would be made to strengthen the infrastructure of AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, and make it fully functional by the former Prime Minister’s birthday in December so that it can be dedicated to the nation then. Steps are being taken to open new departments like mental health and neurosciences, cancer, cardiology and cardiac surgery, nephrology and occupational medicine at AIIMS-Bhubaneswar, Vardhan said, informing that the new campus would be better and more advanced than the original AIIMS at Delhi. The Union Minister said preliminary work for the satellite campus of AIIMS at Balasore with a 300-bed hospital would begin soon. “More investment is being considered for Odisha as the state has the potential to be the leading health services destination in eastern India. Private sector is also setting up hospitals,” Vardhan said. He said the state also has a vibrant voluntary sector in the form of NGOs and grassroot health activists and modernisation of existing state government hospitals is continuing simultaneously. (DNA 20/7/14)

127. Japanese Encephalitis claims 165 lives in Assam (3)

Guwahati: A total of 165 persons have lost their lives in Assam due to Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, prompting Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to call an emergency meeting with health officials on Wednesday. According to an official release, Gogoi held an emergency meeting to review the health scenario with senior officials in the backdrop of outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). “Reviewing the health scenario in the backdrop of growing incidence of JE and AES in the state which has claimed 165 lives so far, Chief Minister Gogoi directed the health authorities to gear up on war-footing to control the diseases from spreading to newer areas,” the release said. While AES accounted for 60 per cent of the cases covering 24 districts this year, JE was responsible for 40 per cent of the cases in mainly lower Assam districts, it said. Gogoi asked the officials to make a comprehensive action plan to control JE and AES, including setting up of an ICU in each district hospital for treatment of emergency cases along with and laboratory testing units, the release said. He directed the health officials to procure laboratory testing kits for quick diagnosis of cases and also to carry out intensive fogging in the affected and nearby areas and also conduct awareness campaigns by involving the panchayats. The Chief Minister directed the officials to ensure adequate supply of vaccine and medicine to big hospitals, district hospitals and other health centres. “Ensure that there is no shortage of medicine. Procure the required medicine, specially life saving drugs and make them available at all health centres immediately. Speedy treatment must be ensured to save precious lives. Funds would be no constraints in tackling the situation,” he added. Gogoi directed senior officials of the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) to speed up the conversion work of shallow tube wells into deep tube wells, specially in affected areas to bring down the cases of AES disease. “Proper mapping of areas where water-borne diseases are acute, must be carried out by the PHED and necessary measures be taken up to provide clean drinking water to arrest the incidence of AES cases,” he said and further directed the health officials to expedite the process for setting up the Assam State Health Corporation. “The health officials apprised the Chief Minister that the process is on and the proposal will be placed in the Cabinet soon,” the statement said. The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla, Principal Secretary to CM MGVK Bhanu, Principal Secretary for Health and Family Welfare Sanjeeva Kumar, NRHM Managing Director Manish Thakur and other senior officials of the PHED. (New Indian Express 23/7/14)

128. Malnutrition brewing in closed tea gardens (3)

Kolkata: Twenty-five children suffering from severe malnutrition and low weight from the five closed tea gardens of north Bengal have been admitted to State-run hospitals in Jalpaiguri district. All the children are below five years of age and from the tea gardens which have been rocked by deaths due to malnutrition over the past few weeks. “The children have been identified on the basis of survey conducted by the State Health Department. We are providing them extra food and their mothers are allowed to stay with them,” Jagannath Sarkar, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Jalpaiguri told The Hindu over telephone. Dr Sarkar said that after the children become healthy and put on weight they will be released from the State’s health centre. After the reports of deaths due to malnutrition came to the fore, a survey was conducted in the closed tea gardens of the region. As many as 34 children were identified and 25 of them have been admitted in the hospitals. “The parents of the remaining nine children refused to get their children admitted,” said Debdas Biswas, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Officer in Jalpaiguri. He added that the children who have not been admitted are being provided nutritional support at their homes While 10 children have been admitted to Jalpaiguri district hospital 10 are admitted to Saptibadi Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre. The remaining five are in Birpara State General Hospital. The State government has conducted survey of six closed tea gardens — Dheklapara Tea Garden, Bandapani Tea Garden, Red Bank Tea Garden, Raipur Tea Estate, Surendranagar Tea Estate and Daranipur Tea Estate. Deaths of workers at Raipur Tea Estate and Bandapani Tea Garden were reported by The Hindu. When the first round of survey was carried out by the State government in Raipur Tea Estate, 11 children were identified with malnutrition. They have been transferred to the hospital as a safety measure. Mr Biswas said that though the 34 children did not have any disease, yet it has been found that adults in the closed tea gardens suffer from tuberculosis. One of the reasons was that workers in the closed tea gardens are addicted to country liquor. (The Hindu 25/7/14)

HIV/AIDS

129. Re-admit HIV positive children: Goa rights body (3)

Panaji: Goa’s child rights commission said here Friday that the 13 HIV positive should be re-admitted to the school they were transferred from after facing protests from the parents of other children. The Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights said this in its report to the government. The 13 HIV positive orphaned students from a South Goa school were transferred last month to another school by the Church authorities. According to the commission’s chairperson Samira Kazi, who submitted the report to the Goa government Friday, her report also sought pro-activeness in the HIV/AIDS awareness programme, targeting especially the student community. “We have said that the 13 HIV positive students should be re-admitted to the Fatima High School. Why should they have to step back, when it is their right to study in the place they want,” Kazi said. The controversy surrounds Fatima High School in Rivona, a village located 55 km south of Goa, over a long-drawn stand-off between a Parents Teachers Association (PTA) and the school management over the admission of children from a nearby orphanage. The HIV positive students, from the Nitya Seva Niketan, were transferred by the Church-run school last month following pressure from the school’s PTA. But the school management decided to stand by 23 other non-HIV afflicted orphans from the same orphanage, whom the parents also want out of the institution. While the school management and Church authorities maintain that the 23 students are not HIV positive, the parents insist they do and claim that their children would be at risk of contracting the disease. The protesting parents have threatened to remove their wards from the school and shift them elsewhere. Some parents have already applied for a school leaving certificate for the wards, which is necessary to shift a school. Kazi now claims that following the submission of her report, the ball was now in the court of the state government. “We will wait for the action taken report now. No child should be stigmatised. We have also suggested that the education department should be proactive in carrying out its HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns,” she said. (Business Standard 18/7/14)

130. Bhutan reports 34 new HIV-positive cases (3)

With about five new HIV-positive cases detected every month in Bhutan, the country recorded 34 more HIV-positive cases between December last and June this year, taking the total number of detected cases to 380. Of the 34 new cases, 18 are male and the remaining females. Two are minors, aged two and three years, according to Bhutan’s health ministry. A majority of them were adults within the productive age group of 20 to 39 years, while seven were aged between 40 and 49 years, the Himalayan nation’s national newspaper Kuensel reported. Records show that since 2006 about 25 new cases were detected every year, while in the last three years the average yearly detection stood at about 42 cases. Unlike countries where female are disproportionately affected, health officials said the situation was different in Bhutan. Of the total 380 cases detected, 191 were males and 189 females. (Business Standard 20/7/14)

131. Big jump in HIV cases in Manipur (3)

Imphal The overall detection of HIV positive cases in Manipur rose from 25,919 in March 2007 to 40,855 in March 2012, indicating the serious magnitude in the State, according to a CAG report. This was in spite of incurring an expenditure of Rs 43.39 crore for implementation of Targeted Intervention (TI) programme, thereby reflecting poor performance and unsatisfactory results in halting new infections in high-risk groups, said the report which was placed in Manipur Assembly on Friday. The report said a doubt had arisen as to whether scaled up interventions were effectively undertaken in respect of the general population as required under National AIDS Control Programme-III (NACP-III). Due to failure in tracking the number of patients who had expired due to infection of HIV and Tuberculosis, the overall goal in reducing the TB related morbidity in people living with HIV and AIDS remained unascertainable, the report for the year ending March 31, 2013 mentioned, adding the expenditure of Rs 3.25 crore for this could not be said to be fruitful. The report said the performance of Manipur in sports was commendable but against the total drawal of Rs 122.33 crore, only Rs 103.87 crore was reflected in the cash book of Directorate of Youth Affairs and Sports, leading to the short-account of Rs 18.46 crore. In nine sampled field offices, Rs 14.98 crore was not accounted in their cash books with possibility of misappropriation of the funds, the report said. The report gave details of all government departments showing poor performances and financial mismanagement and misappropriation. – PTI (The Hindu 20/7/14)

132. India scores by battling HIV/AIDS but falls short fighting TB and malaria (3)

The global burden and mortality from HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria across the world, and in the developing countries in particular, have dropped significantly since 2000, a report published today (July 24) in The Lancet points out. According to the report, the HIV epidemic appears “smaller than previously estimated,” while in the case of malaria, the global burden is far higher than the WHO estimates. On a finer scale, the reductions have been significant in the case of the global incidence of HIV, and child mortality from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa during the period 2000-2013. While globally HIV incidence dropped by one-third from its peak, child mortality from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa declined by 31.5 per cent. The main reason for these reductions is the increased focus on the three diseases across the world brought about by the Millennium Declaration in 2000 through the formulation of Millennium Development Goal 6 (MDG 6). If MDG 4 aimed at reducing child mortality and MDG 5 targeted maternal mortality reduction, the formulation of MDG 6 focussed on stopping the spread of the three diseases by 2015. In 2013, HIV incidence stood at 1.8 million compared with 2.8 million in 1997 when the incidence had peaked. Similarly, mortality from HIV/AIDS in 2013 was 1.3 million compared with 1.7 million in 2005, which was the year when the epidemic was at its peak. Of the three diseases, India has had the most success battling HIV/AIDS. Since 2000, the annual rate of reduction in new cases was more than four times that of the worldwide rate — a decrease of 16.3 per cent per year compared with the global drop of 3.9 per cent. In 2013, nearly 79,000 Indian died of HIV/AIDS and the number of new HIV infections was about 31,000…(The Hindu 22/7/14)

133. HIV treatment pills show more promise to prevent infection (3)

There is more good news about HIV treatment pills used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus: Follow-up from a landmark study that proved the drug works now shows that it does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses. The research was discussed Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, and was published by the British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. It involves 1,600 gay men and transgender women who took part in the original study showing that daily use of the drug Truvada (true-VAH’-duh) lowered the risk of getting HIV. After the study ended, they were offered the chance to keep getting the pills for free, and three-quarters of them agreed. All were studied for another 17 months. None who took the pills at least four days a week became infected. Even use two or three days a week lowered the risk of infection compared to taking the pills less often or not at all. Researchers could tell how often the drug was taken because they measured it in blood samples. “We’re encouraged,” said study leader Dr. Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the Gladstone Institutes, a foundation affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco. “There’s a demand, there’s some forgiveness for missed doses. And it’s safe.” Mitchell Warren, who heads a nonprofit group that works on HIV prevention research, said in an email from Melbourne that “the story is now clear” that this approach “is real, it works, and it should be made available to people at risk now as part of high-impact combination prevention.” Condoms remain the best way to prevent HIV infection but not everyone uses them all the time, so health officials recommend other options for certain groups, such as gay men. Some health officials had worried that taking Truvada might give a false sense of security and make men less likely to use condoms or to limit their partners. However, study participants reported no increase in these behaviors, and there was no rise in syphilis or herpes, other sexually spread diseases that might suggest risk-taking. The study was done in the United States, South America, Africa and Thailand, and paid for by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Truvada already is sold for treating HIV. It’s a combination of two drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, or FTC, made by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. Its wholesale price is $800 a month in (The Financial Express 24/7/14)

 

Posted by admin at 28 July 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. When barriers to disallow dalits into temple were broken 75 years ago (2)

MADURAI: When a group of dalit students from Sevalayam, a children’s home in Madurai run by Harijan Seva Sangh (HSS) founded by Mahatma Gandhi visited the Meenakshi Amman temple and offered prayers, there was more significance to it. Though a simple event, the visit of the dalit students had a great historic significance marking the 75th anniversary of the temple entry movement in Madurai. It was on July 8, 1939 that dalits led by Gandhians A Vaidhyanatha Iyer entered the Meenakshi Amman temple. While the temple entry demolished the unwritten barrier of dalits and oppressed classes in Meenakshi Amman temple, the event also paved way for similar temple entries in other famous temples of south Tamil Nadu like Tiruchendur Subramanya Swamy temple. “But not many of youth in present day are aware of the history. They should learn history and continue the fight against such social inequalities,” said M Chidambara Bharathi, president, Amman Sannithi Gandhi Statue Committee who had made the arrangements for the commemoration event. The students of Sevalayam along with a host of social activists and freedom fighter Mayandi Bharathi and Gandhians entered the temple through the East tower and visited all the shrines to offer prayers. Explaining the significance of the event, Chidambara Bharathi said that dalits and nadars, a backward class, have been denied entry into temples for centuries. Their struggle to gain the right of entering and worshipping in temples including Meenakshi Amman temple were stiffly resisted more often leading to violent attacks on dalits. In Madurai, Vaidhyanatha Iyer and Gandhians like N M Subburaman held a temple entry conference and formed a committee to take forward their objective in June 1939. Finally, on July 8 the same year they managed to take into the temple dalits and a nadar amidst stiff oppression. Since then, the temple entry day is commemorated by dalits and freedom fighters. In a bid to honour Vaidhayanatha Iyer, a life-size statue was also erected in the city. After offering prayers in the temple, the tudents from Sevalayam and Gandhians also visited the statue and garlanded it. (Times of India 9/7/14)

2. Tension Rises as One More Dalit Attacked (2)

CHIDAMBARAM: A Dalit student was attacked at Vadakku Mangudi village near here on Wednesday, further intensifying the  prevailing tension. As people belonging to the intermediate caste and Dalit communities started gathering at the village, a heavy posse of police was deployed. According to sources, Santhosh (15), class X student of a government school, was attacked by four persons with a knife and other weapons on Wednesday. He was admitted to the Chidambaram GH. On hearing this, Human Right Party president L R Vishwanathan went to the village in his car, which was stoned. After this,  the Dalits and people of intermediate-caste started to gather at the village. As tension was running high, a heavy posse of police was deployed. Chidambaram DSP R Rajaram, Sethiathope DSP Suresh Babu were engaged in providing security. Cuddalore SP A Radhika went to the spot and coordinated the security arrangements. The problem between the two communities began on the evening of Parliamentary election day in the State (April 24) when some people from the intermediate-caste entered a Dalit colony and attacked the Dalits. Their properties were also damaged. In the attack, six persons were injured and two of them died later. Registering a case, Annamalai Nagar police arrested 50 persons of Vadakku Mangudi village belonging to the intermediate-caste for their hand in the attack. Following this, enmity between the communities has grown. On Monday night, two Dalit youths, who were travelling on a motorbike, were stopped and attacked by unknown persons. The injured are being treated at the government hospital, Chidambaram. Condemning the attack, VCK, CPM and some Dalits staged a road-blockade in front of the hospital on Tuesday. Police pacified them and the protest was withdrawn. Later, the Collector S Suresh Kumar rushed to the village and spoke to the residents. Meanwhile, L R Vishwanathan demanded an alternative place for the Dalits of this village. He said, “Dalits here are being continuously attacked. They are living an insecure life. So, the government should allocate a separate place for the Dalits of Vadakku Mangudi village. Otherwise, Dalits will surrender their ration cards and hold a protest.” (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

3. Caste Hindu beats up Dalit Boy With Brick (2)

THOOTHUKUDI: A caste Hindu man was booked for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old Dalit boy with brick over a parking row, at Kayathar near here on Friday. Sources said Ashokaraja, a Dalit resident of Kayathar, had parked his bicycle in front of the house of Ayyannar, a caste Hindu, in South Colony, Indira Nagar, before entering his relative’s house. Ayyannar allegedly picked a quarrel with Ashokaraja and abused him using his caste name. He beat up Ashokaraja with brick. Ashokaraja sustained grievous injuries in the attack and was rushed to the Tirunelveli government hospital. Based on a compliant from Ashokaraja, the Kayathar Police booked a case under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, 2014, against Ayyannar and launched an investigation. Sources said Ashokaraja used to regularly park his bicycle at a spot before entering his relative’s house to deliver food. There had been no fight over the issue between the two, sources claimed. Meanwhile, preliminary inquiries revealed that Ayyannar had earlier been booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 2011 as well. (New Indian Express 3/7/14)

4. Dalit wedding fetes face feudal rage in Rajasthan (2)

Jaipur: It was Jaipal’s wedding at Gugal Kota in Alwar on June 21. His father, Roshan Lal, made him ride a decorated horse, at the head of the wedding party, to the bride’s home. But the Rajputs in the village disliked such a celebration by a Dalit family and they would not allow it to go on. Mr. Jaipal was pulled down from the horse on the road and the guests were attacked. Flying stones hit some of the revellers and some others were beaten up. Mr. Lal had to pay the price because he decided to celebrate his son’s wedding with fanfare that only the Rajputs used to have in the past. In the village, not a long way from the National Capital Region, three bridegrooms had earlier ridden horses under police protection. Only on June 18, another bridegroom, Kamlesh Regar, was pulled down from his horse at Tarnavon ka Kheda in Chittorgarh district. During the wedding season between March and June, nearly a dozen such Ghodi Utaro (pull down from a horse) incidents take place in the State. The upper caste people dislike such celebrations by the Dalits, more so if the bridegroom mounts a horse and goes to the bride’s house with band and music. “This is a typical feudal mentality at work, particularly in the regions with a higher population of Rajputs who believe that Dalits are not entitled to the same privileges as them,” P.L. Mimrothi of the Centre for Dalit Rights here says. While Ghodi Chadhna (riding a horse) is a major function for upper caste bridegrooms, a similar celebration often means trouble for the Dalit families, which have to face the ignominy of Ghodi Utaro. Earlier, when landlords and upper castes ruled these regions, they would celebrate weddings with customs such as sending the groom on an elephant or horse and a band troop would accompany the bride when she came to her husband’s house. While many things changed after Independence, the feudal thinking continues. “The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is meant precisely for protecting the dignity of Dalits, but even then such incidents are happening,” Mr. Mimrothi says. Though some arrests are made off and on, conviction is almost nil. The Act emphasises the intention of the government to deliver justice to these communities through proactive efforts to enable them to live in society with dignity and self-esteem and without fear or violence or suppression from the dominant class. Earlier, only Rajput communities were known to oppose such celebrations by Dalits, but now Jats and Gujjars are also not behind, Mr. Mimrothi says. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

5. Unrestricted temple entry: agitation planned (2)

Tirupur: Dalit Liberation Movement- Tamil Nadu is planning agitations to get the issue of unrestricted temple entry demanded by Dalit community in the case of Uthamapalayam New Mariamman temple settled expeditiously. The Movement also would pursue the demand for speedy disbursal of the financial compensation to 150 Dalit people who were allegedly attacked by upper caste people when they tried to enter the temple in October 2010. S. Karuppaiah, state joint general secretary of the Movement, said almost a year had gone since the National Commission for Scheduled Castes directed the departments concerned to provide compensation to the victims. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

TRIBALS

6. ‘Economic liberalisation threatening tribal life’ (6)

CHENNAI: Forced land acquisition and unparalleled looting of natural resources on the pretext of development by corporate and big scale industries are threatening the existence of tribals in rural Chhattisgarh, according to Pravin Patel of Tribal Welfare Society, a Chhattisgarh-based NGO. At a conference organised by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Patel claimed that the Chhattisgarh  Government had been involved in such activities and added that economic liberalisation had only worsened the livelihood of tribals in States like Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. “It is a swim against tide for the tribals to reclaim their livelihood rights against the big mining and industrial interests,” he said. “Since liberalisation of our economic policies in 1991, the nation’s invaluable natural wealth has been looted indiscriminately by the corporate sector, without the right price for it,” he added. Elaborating on his statement, he said that as recently as 2012, the State government of Chhattisgarh allowed the coal and mining industry to operate whilst charging ‘insensible’ royalty rates. Recounting the episode of selling a 22-km stretch of Shivnath River, when the undivided Madhya Pradesh government sold it to a private party, Patel said that nowhere else the parties responsible for the ‘crime’ would have been allowed to walk free. “Absolute lawlessness prevails in these States. If you question the government, you will end up dead or silenced,” he said. Central jails in Chhattisgarh, the activist claimed, also hold the record for housing the largest number of undertrial inmates arrested on false charges of having Maoist links. “Tribals would be targeted and arrested on false charges that they have links with Maoist and Naxalite groups. They would then spend the next eight to 10 years in prison while under trial or in some cases that will never be tried,” said Dr V Suresh, national general secretary of PUCL. “The harsh truth is that 10 years later nearly all of them will be declared innocent and released without conviction. Such things help corporates in the land grabbing,” he added. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

7. Tribal groups protest in Delhi (6)

Kokrajhar, July 11: The tribal organisations of Assam today staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in support of their various demands. More than 100 tribal organisations staged a sit-in with placards, festoons and banners from 11am to 2pm to demand revision of tribal land policy and preparation of a new land policy of Assam and implementation of the Assam SCs and STs (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act, 2012. “The loopholes in the Chapter X of the Assam Land and Revenue (Regulation) Act, 1886, has given a chance to exploit it. Therefore, a major chunk of land from the tribal belt and block have already been grabbed by non-bona fide persons or sometimes by the government itself,” the general secretary of All Assam Tribal Sangha, Aditya Kaklary, said. The organisations are vehemently opposed to the inclusion of some more advanced communities into the list of ST (plains) category. The group members said the Assam government has recently forwarded a proposal to the Centre despite the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for STs turning down such a proposal on the ground that these communities namely the Morans, Muttocks, Koch Rajbongshis, Sooteas, Tai Ahoms and tea tribes, do not fulfil the criteria required to declare them Scheduled Tribes. “There are apprehensions among the tribal people that these six communities might be considered for ST status, which will adversely effected the interest of the existing ST communities,” Kaklary said. “We have no objection to giving any special status, protection and/or privilege to any ethnic group of Assam in any other manner which will in no way hamper the rights and interests of the plains tribal people of Assam,” he said. A memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister, home minister and tribal welfare minister. In another development, United Tribal Organisation, Assam (UTOA), today sought immunity to their existing constitutional safeguards if the six communities are accorded ST status. (The Telegraph 12/7/14)

8. Tribal sub-plan area to be reduced with transfer of villages (6)

KHAMMAM: The transfer of 324 revenue villages of Khammam, including 545 habitations comprising an estimated 1.89 lakh population to Andhra Pradesh for the purpose of Polavaram project is poised to reduce the tribal sub-plan (TSP) area of the district drastically. Bhadrachalam Agency, with a population of over 5.61 lakh spread across 12,175 sq km in 29 TSP mandals, will undergo extensive changes in geographical area, demographic profile and composition of three ST reserved Assembly constituencies after merger. The merger of seven TSP mandals — VR Puram, Kunavaram, Chintur, Velerupadu, Kukunoor, Bhadrachalam (excluding the revenue village of Bhadrachalam) and Burgumpadu (barring 12 revenue villages) with the AP is set to alter the demographic composition of the Agency. As many as 1,89,654 dwellers predominantly Adivasis, who constitute a major chunk of the total population of 5.61 lakh in the TSP area of Bhadrachalam Agency, will become the residents of AP. The move is likely to affect the composition of Bhadrachalam, Pinapaka and Aswraopet ST reserved Assembly constituencies. The major tourism destinations including Papikondalu wildlife sanctuary, Sriramagiri and Perantalapalli, the Mothugudem-based 460 MW lower Sileru hydro-electric power plant, several historical temples and structures besides 1.40 lakh hectares of forest area are set to become part of AP. Although the famous temple town Bhadrachalam, the abode of Sri Sitaramachandra Swamy, will continue in the district, the vast stretches of the temple lands spread in over 1,000 acres in the division will be transferred to AP. The jurisdiction of the ITDA, Bhadrachalam, will be condensed owing to the merger of four mandals with Rampachodavaram Agency of East Godavari district and the remaining three mandals with Jangareddygudem division of West Godavari district. The total number of TSP mandals will come down from 29 to 22. The unilateral move by the Centre will spell doom for lakhs of Adivasis, the diverse tribal cultural heritage and rich eco-system, warns Sode Murali, secretary, Adivasi Sankshema Parishad. “It amounted to not only breach of the established democratic norms but blatant violation of the constitutional provisions pertaining to Fifth Schedule areas,” he charges. Tribal people of the areas allotted to AP will face a peculiar problem. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

9. ‘BJP will launch stir for entire Bhadrachalam division’ (6)

RAJAHMUNDRY: BJP National Committee member Somu Veerraju on Monday warned Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to withdraw his statements on Polavaram Bill, which paved the way for merger of seven mandals with Andhra Pradesh. “If KCR and his party leaders did not withdraw their statements and claims on Polavaram submerging villages, the AP BJP unit will launch an agitation, demanding the restoration of status before 1959 where the entire Bhadrachalam Revenue division is part and parcel of the East Godavari district,” Mr. Veerraju said. Addressing media conference on Monday, he said that a team of BJP MPs, Ministers, MLAs from Andhra Pradesh would visit New Delhi and make a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Central Ministers on merging of Venkatapuram, Charla, Vajedu and Dummugudem mandals with East Godavari and also meet Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on the issue. He said that BJP was demanding the formation of a new tribal district with Rampachodavaram or Rajahmundry as headquarters with seven merged villages —VR Puram, Kunavaram, Chintur, Velerupadu, Kukunoor, Bhadrachalam (excluding the revenue village of Bhadrachalam) and Burgumpadu (barring 12 revenue villages) — with A.P. According to Mr. Veerraju, 1,89,654 dwellers predominantly Adivasis, who constitute a major chunk of the total population of 5.61 lakh in the Tribal Sub-Plan area of Bhadrachalam Agency, will become the residents of A.P. The BJP leader demanded that Mr. Naidu decentralise the development and immediately announce a development road map for the State. He reminded that the BJP government at the Centre had kept its promise by announcing Petroleum University, Tribal University, Horticulture Research Institute Sub-Centre, Hardware Park, Fertilizers production with coconut pith and also land for Agriculture University — all in East Godavari district. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

10. Polavaram Project: Injustice to Tribals Alleged (6)

KHAMMAM: All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) vice president Sunith Chopra has alleged that the Central Government has done injustice to the tribals in the Khammam district with regard to the Polavaram project. Speaking to newsmen here on Tuesday, he said that the Polavaram project issue would be specially discussed at the AIAWU’s national convention to be held in Warangal from July 30. He alleged that the central government had violated tribal laws in the Polavaram issue and added that, as a consequence, lakhs of innocent tribals were going to suffer. He called up the tribals to stiffly resist any move(s) to evict them from their places and assured them of his outfit’s support in all aspects. Speaking about other burning issues, he alleged that due to the governments’ anti-people policies, over three lakh farmers across the country had committed suicides in the last three years. He also said that the sexual harassment of women had increased and no government had taken stringent action against culprits nor measures to curb the menace. He accused the BJP-led NDA government also of taking anti-people decisions, one of which was to impose Rs 7,000 cr taxes on the people as envisaged in the recent Budget. Chopra said that representatives from 14 states would participate in his outfit’s national convention in Warangal. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar would also participate in the convention, he added. AIAWU state secretary B Venkat demanded that chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao should convene an all-party meeting to discuss the Polavaram issue. He faulted the state BJP for its demand that the Bhadrachalam town should also be merged in the Residuary Andhra Pradesh state. District AIAWU president V Srinivasa Rao and secretary M Venkateswarlu were also present at the news conference. Blamed the successive govts for forcing over three lakh farmers across the country to commit suicide in last three years Flayed the NDA government for demanding merger of Bhadrachalam town with AP (New Indian Express 16/7/14)

WOMEN

11. Urban women registered max complaints at crisis centre (8)

BHOPAL: A large number of women from various parts of Madhya Pradesh have approached One Stop Crisis Centre (Gaurvi) in state capital seeking help. What is alarming is 83.5% of complaints were received from urban areas as compared to 16.95% from rural areas. In three weeks, the centre has witnessed more than 500 calls and 41 walk-ins. The women have complained against their husbands, brothers, parents, and in-laws among others. Their usual complaints include rape, dowry harassment, molestation, trafficking and domestic violence. “Many of these women have faced violence for as long as 37 years and it seems to have become an integral part of their lives. Most women are not economically independent,” said a representative of Action Aid, which is running OSCC in collaboration with health department. “For women with complaints of domestic violence, their families do not co-operate and it takes a lot of time to get both parties to sit across the table to reach a resolution. The women, in the meantime, are left destitute, ” representative said. Some women, because of brutality, develop suicidal tendencies. They need immediate intervention and are being referred to psychiatrists, Action Aid spokesperson added. The focus of the centre is on medication and relief to women rather than just establishing the crime. For younger age groups, it was noticed that sexual harassment, molestation, rape and cybercrime have been reported. (Times of India 9/7/14)

12. Yechury for Parliament to set up gender sensitivity panel (8)

NEW DELHI: A day after the Lok Sabha witnessed ugly scenes with some derogatory remarks, reportedly made against women MPs of TMC, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury on Wednesday pointed out that Parliament, which enacted a law providing for establishment of gender sensitivity committees at all workplaces, itself does not have any such panel. His remark prompted Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien to ask the government to “act” on the suggestion as early as possible. Yechury raised the issue in the Upper House during Zero Hour when a mention was made about the persisting crimes against women. “In Parliament we are not implementing laws we passed,” Yechury said while asking why the ‘Gender Sensitive Committee’ provided under the law to protect women at workplaces did not exist in Parliament. He was speaking after the Congress member Rajni Patil voiced concern over incidents of rape and other crimes against women. (Times of India 10/7/14)

13. Budget 2014: Rs. 150 Crore for Women’s Safety Leaves Many Skeptical (8)

New Delhi:  The government today allocated Rs. 150 crore for the safety of women in cities and Rs. 50 crore for their safety on public transport, as well as Rs. 100 crore for the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” scheme for the girl child. The finance minister’s Rs. 200 crore plan to ensure women’s safety may have been cheered inside the Parliament, but out on the streets women seem to be skeptical. A woman using public transport told NDTV, “Every time announcements are made but nothing changes on the ground for us. Have things changed post December 16? (referring to the Delhi gang-rape that left victim dead).” “There are times when drunk boys board the bus and we have no way to protect ourselves, hope they actually apply this time,” said another commuter. Perhaps the skepticism is not misfounded. In last year’s Union Budget, the then UPA government had allocated Rs. 1000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund, named after the Delhi gang-rape victim. According to then Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the inspiration was the gang-rape of the 23-year-old paramedic student inside a moving bus. However, a year later, the response to an RTI revealed that not a single rupee was spent from that fund. In his reponse to the RTI query Amit Bansal, under secretary at the Economic Affairs Department of the Finance Ministry said, “Parliament approved the setting up of a Rs. 1,000-crore fund titled the Nirbhaya Fund, but the funds have not been used so far as the relevant schemes are yet to be finalised.” The skepticism only increases when the finance minister ends up allocating the same amount for the construction of a statue. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today set aside Rs. 200 crore for a giant statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat. Critics have questioned the Modi government’s priorities at a time India is struggling with an alarming spurt in crimes against women. The Statue of Unity may have ambitions of being the tallest statue in the world, but when it comes to women’s safety and security, are our politicians only interested in making the tallest claims? (NDTV 11/7/14)

14. SIFF hails SC order on automatic arrest of men (8)

HYDERABAD: Members of Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court order to end automatic arrests of men, their parents and relatives under section 498-A of IPC and anti-dowry law. The SIFF also demanded that the police should follow the Supreme Court directives and bring an end to the automatic arrests. The SIFF said that Courts must not use threat of arrests under Section 498-A of IPC as a tool for negotiating high alimony for wife. “Alimony has to be decided by competent family courts. Some provisions must be made to protect men from domestic violence,” said P. Rukma Chary of SIFF, talking to presspersons. According to SIFF, reports from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2013 have revealed that 64,098 married men have committed suicide as against 29,491 married women who ended their lives. “Family disputes are the main reason of suicide of people in India. In 2013, more than 24 per cent of all suicides were due to family reasons,” Mr. Rukma Chary said. (The Hindu 11/7/14)

15. People urged to fight against female foeticide (8)

Mandya: M.A. Ponnappa, president of the Karnataka Media Academy, has stressed on collective efforts to prevent the horrible practice of female foeticide in the State. Speaking at a seminar on the “Role of media in preventing female foeticide” here on Saturday, Mr. Ponnappa urged the media, doctors, non-governmental organisations, self-help groups and members of all sections of society to join hands to fight against the menace. C.S. Puttaraju, MP, called upon the women to combat female foeticide and growing disparity in sex ratio. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Puttaraju said that both the State and the Union governments had initiated many programmes for the welfare of women and children. Women should take full advantage of such programmes and enhance their quality of life. While P.M. Narendra Swamy, Malavalli MLA, appealed to the society to support government- sponsored programmes on prevention of female foeticide, D.C. Thammanna, Maddur MLA, said that women should raise their voice against female foeticide and for social change. The Karnataka Media Academy and Information Department, in association with the District Union of Working Journalists, had organised the programme to highlight the ill-effects of female foeticide. Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and anganwadi assistants participated. District Information Officer R. Raju, Mandya Zilla Panchayat president Manjula Paramesh, Academy secretary Shankarappa, DUWJ president Krishna and others were present. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

16. More women come forward to report crime since December 16 case: Bassi (8)

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi on Saturday attributed the five-fold rise in the number of crimes against women since the December 16 gang-rape incident to a renewed emphasis on truthful recording of incidents. He said this at an interactive session — “Face-To-Face with the Government — This time with Delhi Police to Discuss the Burning Issue of Women Safety”, organised by the FICCI Ladies Organisation. During his presentation, Mr. Bassi also provided statistics on the rise in the number of cases of rape, molestation and dowry harassment. The 1,636 rape cases registered in 2013 were more than twice the corresponding number — 706 — in 2012. In the first six months of 2014, 984 cases of rape were reported against 869 in the same period last year, he added. The Police Commissioner said that prior to the December 16, 2012, incident, there was reluctance on the part of the police personnel to register cases as they feared it would indicate a failure to check crimes of such nature. He added that such response from the police, coupled with the a sense of social ostracism faced by the women victims, also deterred them from coming forward and lodging a complaint. Mr. Bassi was of the view that an improvement on both counts was also a factor behind an increased number in registered case. The police chief, however, acknowledged that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, was also a contributing factor in making the staff more responsive. “Now when a woman comes to a police station and a cognisable offence is made out of her complaint, she is not denied the registration of an FIR,” he added. A similar trend was also witnessed in the overall crime figures. The total number of all cases reported in Delhi till June 30 stands at 71,523, which is more than double of 33,797 cases reported in the same period in 2013. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

17. Women panel backs harsher punishment for juvenile criminals (8)

NEW DELHI: The government found support from the National Commission for Women (NCW) which favoured treating juveniles guilty of heinous crimes on par with adults. Women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi is working on amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act and has proposed harsher punishment for juveniles found guilty of gang rape, rape, murder or acid attack. “There are almost 45% cases of rapes in which juveniles above 16 years of age are involved, so just saying that they should not be punished as they are juveniles and sending them to reform homes further strengthens their morale,” NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said. But then, she said, it should vary from case to case. “There should be a proper investigation, the psychological aspects and even the circumstantial aspects should be looked into while deciding on such cases,” she said. However, supporting the government’s move, Sharma said there was a need to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. Sharma also stressed upon juvenile reforms and said juvenile delinquents, especially those involved in heinous crimes, should be roped in to carry out social activities like tending to rape victims and the elderly. “They should know what a rape victim goes through after she is raped. That is why they should be made to attend interactions with such women violence victims, not the ones they have assaulted, but other victims, so that even they can know about their ordeal,” Sharma said. (Times of India 17/7/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

18. Number of child labour has reduced by 65 percent: Govt (14)

New Delhi: The total number of child labour in the country has reduced by 65 per cent as per the Census 2011, Rajya Sabha was informed today. The government also said that elimination of child labour was its “priority”. On the other hand, it also said as per the last Census of 2011, more than 26,000 children were working in Delhi in the age group of 5-14 years. Replying to separate questions in Rajya Sabha on Child Labour, Labour and Employment minister Vishnu Deo Sai said around 808 child labourers were rescued from Delhi in 2013 while 709 were rescued in 2012. “The total number of working children in the country has declined from 1.26 crore as per the Census 2001 to 43.53 lakh as per Census 2011 which shows 65 per cent reduction,” Sai said. “Efforts to eliminate child labour especially in hazardous occupations and processes continues to be a priority of the government,” he added. He said that as per the 2001 Census, the child labourers were mostly working in paan (betel), bidi, construction, domestic work, spinning and weaving sector. However sectoral dis-aggregated data on child labour from 2011 Census was not available. “As per Census 2011, there were 26,473 working children in the age group of 5-14 years in Delhi,” Sai said. He said that the government is implementing the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) scheme since 1988 in areas of high concentration of child labour. Under the scheme, children in age group of 9-14 years are rescued from hazardous occupations and enrolled in NCLP special training centres which has provisions for bridge education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend, health care and others before being mainstreamed into formal educational system. The minister said that the scheme is approved for 24 districts in Odisha at present. (Zee news 9/7/14)

19. 18 children go missing in Delhi every day: report (14)

NEW DELHI: It has been a year and four months since her 13-year-old daughter Rosie went missing from their home in North-West Delhi and even today when Nasima Khatun recounts the tale her eyes well up. The girl was alone at home while her three siblings were at work and school that day, said Ms. Khatun, who was in her hometown in Bihar at that time. “We are quite certain that a neighbour, who has been missing since that day, is the one who took our daughter,” said Ms. Khatun. What happened to Rosie and thousands of other minors has become a depressing statistic, one which was reinforced by a new report on missing children released on Wednesday. On an average, 18 children go missing in the Capital every day and four of them are never traced, the report by the Alliance for People’s Rights found. A total of 6,494 children, 53 per cent of them girls, disappeared in Delhi from January 1 to December 31, 2013, the report said, citing Right to Information replies from the Delhi Police. The report also found that the number of missing children has increased in the past year from 14 cases a day in 2012. In some districts the number has shot up, with a 54.82 per cent jump in cases reported in West and a 47.24 per cent increase in North-West districts. Only two districts, North-East and New Delhi, saw a decline in the number of missing children in 2013 compared to 2012. The report stated “more than 50 per cent of them [rescued victims] are from the socially deprived sections of society”. The convenor of the alliance, Reena Banerjee, said: “This is just the data we could get from the police through RTI, but there are many cases that never get registered. So the actual number of missing children may be higher.” The parents of missing children allege that the authorities are not doing enough to bring them back and to prevent similar cases happening again. Ms. Khatun said: “We gave the police a photo of the accused and his number. But they didn’t do much. Now, we have filed a habeas corpus plea in the High Court, which has asked the police about what action they have taken so far.” A “blame game” would not work and a holistic approach was the need of the hour, said Ms. Banerjee. The report and its recommendations will be shared with the Lieutenant-Governor, the High Court and the Centre so the problem of missing children can be addressed at different levels. Soha Moitra, the regional director of Child Rights and You, said a single and transparent database should be kept. “Children’s commissions should be proactive,” she added. Ms. Banerjee said: “If we can have bullet trains in the country, we can surely keep our children safe.” (The Hindu 10/7/14)

20. CRY opines poorly on budget for children (14)

BANGALORE: Komal Ganotra, director, policy, research and advocacy, CRY – Child Rights and You said, “The Union Budget 2014-15, has on the overall, not laid much emphasis on social sectors, especially children. Overall, the total allocation earmarked for children as proportion of Union Budget has declined marginally. In 2014-15, child budget stands at 4.52 percent compared to the figure of 4.56 percent in the previous year, with absolute amount increasing slightly from Rs 72496.21 crore in 2013-14 (Revised Estimate) to Rs 81075.26 crore in 2014-15 (Budget Estimate). Total child budget in 2014-15 stands at meagre 0.63 percent of GDP. However, given the child population of 42 percent (up to the age of 18) the allocation is far from encouraging. A few schemes only have referred to children, especially girls, including “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana” with an allocation of Rs 100 crores, the modernization of madarsas, and the announcement on ensuring toilets and drinking water in girls’ schools. The proposed National Programme on Malnutrition is an encouraging sign and acknowledges the need for urgent action to improve the nutritional status of almost 50 percent of our child population.” (Times of India 11/7/14)

21. Child rights takes centre stage in Council (14)

Bangalore: Members of the Legislative Council initiated a discussion on protection of child rights to draw the government’s attention on the status of children, the role of government and community in the implementation of the rights. Chairman D.H. Shankaramurthy, who initiated the discussion on Thursday, termed it a historic initiative. It was also to mark the 25th year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). India is a signatory to the UNCRC, he said. Although there are a wide range of laws that guarantee children their rights and entitlements as provided in the Constitution and in the UN Convention, cases of child abuse are increasing, he said. Around 30 MLCs, cutting across party lines, including a few Ministers, participated in the discussion. Congress member V.S. Ugrappa said the State and Union governments, non-governmental organisations and the public should collaborate to ensure protection of child rights. Another Congress member R.V. Venkatesh demanded that the State Plan of Action for Children, a draft of which is ready, should be put in place. Veeranna Mathikatti (Congress) wanted the Department of Women and Child Development to organise a children’s parliament to understand their problems and resolve them. Bharatiya Janata Party member Tara said although Karnataka had achieved targets in several areas, a lot of issues in the field of child health, protection and education needed to be addressed. Capt. Ganesh Karnik (BJP) said the Council should take up discussions on juvenile justice, disability rehabilitation, providing quality education to rural children and on hostels run by the Social Welfare Department. Issues pertaining to child health, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths, malnutrition and adolescent health were dealt with statistical information and case studies during the discussion. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

22. Missing kids: SC directs states to file compliance reports (14)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed all states and Union Territories to file their compliance reports of its verdict for registration of FIR and conduct of probe in every case of missing child. A bench headed by Justice H L Dattu asked the states to file the report and supply a copy of them to NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan on whose petition it had passed a slew of directions on January 17 last year. The apex court had directed that a special officer be appointed in every police station across the country to deal with juveniles in view of growing number of minors getting involved in various offences. The court had passed the order on a PIL filed by the NGO alleging that for over 1.7 lakh children have gone missing in the country between January 2008-2010, many of whom were kidnapped for trafficking in flesh trade and child labour. (Zee News 14/7/14)

23. Child Rights Groups Oppose Maneka’s Stand, Activists Seek Debate (14)

NEW DELHI: Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s stand that juveniles who commit rape should be tried as adults has evoked mixed reaction, with women’s and political leaders stressing widespread consultations but child rights organisations completely opposed to the suggestion. Speaking in Chennai, Gandhi said: “We are changing the law and I am personally working on it to bring 16-year-olds into the purview. According to police, 50 percent of the crimes are committed by 16-year-olds who know the Juvenile Justice Act.” The parents of the Dec 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim, who died days after her brutal gang rape in a moving bus, welcomed the statement as one of the six rapists was a juvenile. “No criminal should be given special treatment only on the ground of being a juvenile. Every body who rapes, gang-rapes or murders should be given equal punishment. There should be no difference between juvenile and adult criminals,” the father of the 23-year-old victim told IANS. He said if such a law comes in existence, it will be helpful in controlling crime. Agreeing with Gandhi’s statement to a point, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma said: “The minister’s statement is fine to some extent, because according to police data, juveniles commit crime and they are let free. This is a debatable issue so experts, psychologists, etc. should hold debates and consultation on the matter.” National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Kushal Singh, however, said that changing the law and punishment was not a solution. “Right from the beginning we have held that lowering the age of the juvenile regardless of the crime committed goes against the basic philosophy of Juvenile Justice Act. “A separate act has been made for the children because there is scientific proof that children are not developed enough mentally and physically so to hold them responsible for the actions taken by them,” he said. Echoing similar feelings, a lawyer with the Juvenile Justice Board told IANS that the age of 18 has been fixed on account of the understanding of experts in child psychology and behavioural patterns that “till such an age the children in conflict with law could still be redeemed and restored to mainstream society, instead of becoming hardened criminals in future”.Officials of Chetna, an NGO working for children, told IANS that they disagree with the minister’s statement. “We do not agree with what the minister has said. We request her to consult children and NGOs in this matter,” said Sanjay Gupta from the NGO. Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury said the issue needs detailed discussion and consideration. “To bring change… I support a nationwide discussion, it is something we need to discuss threadbare, we need to revisit and relook everything and keep it in the matrix of today’s time,” she said. (Neqw Indian Express 15/7/14)

24. Runaway kids fleeing abuse at home on the rise (14)

Ludhiana: Six-year-old Subhash, a resident of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, ran away from home after accusing his parents of mistreating him. Railway Police Force personnel later found the boy crying in a train at the city’s railway station and handed him over to Childline India, an NGO engaged in helping children in distress, on July 11. A 12-year-old-girl who had been reported missing by her parents in Uttarakhand was found by the police near Payal. At first she tried to mislead the cops by making up fake stories but when Childline volunteers who were called in investigated the matter they learnt she run away from her home because of an abusive stepmother. These are just two of the thousands of cases of runaway children who left their homes, often for seemingly trivial reasons. And the number of such kids is rising by the day. “Railway Protection Force (RPF) cops have caught at least 18 minor children at the city train station so far this year; the figure was 38 last year. Most of these kids fled home because they felt their family members did not treat them well or were too authoritarian”, said RPF inspector Yashwant Singh. “The number of runaway kids has been steadily rising during the past few years. Initially they leave their homes just for pleasure but after a few days find it difficult to survive on the streets. I’ve also come across a few who were ready to work as rag pickers to avoid going back home. Most of these children found at the city’s train station”, Yashwant added. “Childline is engaged in assisting an average of 16 minor children every month in Ludhiana and half of them are those who have run away ran from their homes”, said Arvind Kumar, the NGO’s centre coordinator for the city. “Some of the excuses that they give us for leaving home are insignificant like parents putting pressure on them to study or not giving them mobiles or other things they have demanded. However, with proper counseling we are able to send back 80 percent of the runaways to their homes.” (Hindustan Times 16/7/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

25. Government monitoring PM’s 15-point programme for minorities… (7)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities is being monitored at different levels to ensure its effective implementation, the Rajya Sabha was told today. Replying to a question, Minority Affairs Minister Najma A Heptulla said it is an overarching programme, covering schemes and initiatives of different ministries and departments by either earmarking 15 per cent of outlays for the minorities or specific monitoring of flow of funds to minorities or areas with a substantial minority population. The schemes and initiatives under the programme are being implemented by concerned ministers and departments. The state-wise details of the targets and achievements for the last three years were made available by the ministries and departments concerned, Heptulla said. Some shortfalls have been noticed in achieving the target by the states and Union Territories in some schemes, she added. (The Economic Times 9/7/14)

26. Jaitley allots Rs 100 cr for modernising madrassas (7)

New Delhi: Lacking big ticket announcements, the NDA’s maiden budget though offered to minority communities an additional amount of Rs 100 crore for modernisation of madarsas and a programme for the upgradation of skills and training in ancestral arts. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Lower House that a programme for the upgradation of skills and training in ancestral arts for development of the minorities called “Upgradation of Traditional Skills in Arts, Resources and Goods” would be launched to preserve the traditional arts and crafts which have a rich heritage. Besides, he also provided funds for modernisation of madarsas. The BJP, which accuses Congress of indulging in “appeasement politics”, in its 2014 election manifesto had promised providing “equal opportunities” to all while acknowledging that minorities, especially the Muslim community, continued to be caught in poverty. The party had promised upgradation of educational systems and madarsas and augmenting artisanship and entrepreneurial skills, which it did in the budget, besides other programmes such as ensuring that the young and the girl child get education and jobs without discrimination. Earlier, P Chidamabaram, while presenting the Interim Budget in February had given details of the funds spent on projects for minorities. (Deccan Herald 11/7/14)

27. Rs 1 Lakh Interest-free Loans for Minorities: Babu (7)

VIJAYAWADA:  Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu promised interest-free loans up to one lakh rupees for minorities through the Minority Finance Corporation. The chief minister hosted an Iftaar party for Muslims in Vijayawada Saturday. Speaking on the occasion, Chandrababu Naidu assured that the government will increase the honorarium to Imams to Rs 5,000. As no MLA from the community was elected from the TDP, the party had ensured a ZP chairperson post and a mayor post for Muslims, he said. Minority Welfare minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy said that the TDP is committed to minorities’ welfare and reminded that it was Chandrababu Naidu who had built the Haj House in Hyderabad for the benefit of Muslims going on the annual pilgrimage. Naidu had repaired 7,500 mosques and built 600 shadhikhanas during his tenure as chief minister. The Iftaar party was organised by the AP government in Vijayawada for the first time. Prior to Iftaar, the chief minister participated in  prayers. Assembly speaker Kodela Sivaparasada Rao, ministers Devineni Umamaheswara Rao, Kollu Ravindra, Kamineni Srinivas, Vijayawada MP Kesineni Srinivas, TDP Vijayawada convenor Nagul Meera and the Wynchpet masjid Imam were among those who attended the programme. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

28. Akali MLAs seek Centre’s intervention (7)

CHANDIGARH: The Shiromani Akali Dal legislative party, through a unanimous resolution on Tuesday, sought immediate intervention of the Union government to check the “unconstitutional and anti-Sikh move” of the Haryana government which had legislated constitution of a separate committee to manage the gurdwaras in the State. The meeting of Punjab’s ruling party MLAs, chaired by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was convened immediately after the Speaker adjourned the first day’s proceedings of the Budget session of the Assembly following obituary references. The resolution said that the step of the Congress was aimed at creating fissures in the Sikh Panth by weakening its religious and political power. An official release on the occasion said the unwarranted action of the Haryana government had led to a constitutional crisis which necessitated immediate intervention by the Union Government. By passing the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Bill 2014, the Haryana government had breached the Constitution as the matter was under the ambit of Punjab Re-organization Act 1966 and only Parliament was authorised to take any action, it said. The Akali MLAs cautioned that the action of the Haryana government posed a serious challenge to the communal harmony, peace and amity in the region. The release also said the party was also of the opinion that by constituting a separate committee, the Haryana government had disrespected the mandate by the Sikhs during the last elections of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC). (The Hindu 16/7/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

29. Arcot Nawab Hails SC Ruling on Fatwas (7)

CHENNAI: Prince of Arcot Mohammed Abdul Ali welcomed the Supreme Court judgment which stated that fatwas do not have legal sanctity and cannot be enforced if they infringe on an individual’s fundamental rights. Pointing out that while the Shariat was most certainly supreme in Islam, what was happening right now was that things not justified in the Noble Quran and the authentic Haddith were being propagated and justified in the name of Shariat. The Prince went on to give the example of the triple ‘talaq’ in one sitting and child marriage. Both practices, he said, had been justified by many fatwas but neither was allowed by Islam. “This has to stop because the truth is that neither the triple talaq at one time nor child marriage is allowed in Islam. How then, can these be brought under Shariat?” he asked in his statement. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

30. Ordinance promulgated for Maratha, Muslim quotas in Maharashtra (7)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan on Friday promulgated an ordinance providing for 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and 5 per cent for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions. Promulgation of the ordinance paves the way for implementation of the state cabinet’s June 26 decision to provide reservation for the influential Maratha community and Muslims in jobs and education. The move by the Congress-NCP government came months ahead of the tough assembly elections due in October after the severe drubbing the alliance, in power in Maharashtra since 1999, received in the Lok Sabha polls. The two parties could together clinch just six of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats, in their worst performance ever. With additional 21 per cent quotas for the politically powerful Marathas and the minority community, reservation in government jobs and educational institutions in the state has gone up to 73 per cent, way beyond the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court.  (Times of India 11/7/14)

31. “Quota helped Muslims’ political empowerment” (7)

HYDERABAD: The Congress has observed that the four per cent reservation for minorities introduced by it when in power has ensured political empowerment of Muslims both in AP and Telangana. Muslim candidates got elected to 306 posts in Telangana and 605 in AP in the BC (E) category in the rural and urban local bodies’ elections, Telangana Congress leader K. Jana Reddy and Mohd. Ali Shabbir said. Speaking to newspersons here on Monday, the leaders said “revolutionary policy decision” had benefited thousands of Muslim youth in education and employment apart from political field. But for the implementation of reservation for Muslims, their chances of securing admissions in medical, engineering and other professional courses would have been drastically low, Mr. Shabbir said adding that the quota had also improved their representation in local bodies considerably. In a letter addressed to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma A. Heptullah, Mr. Shabbir requested her to take a serious view of the subject instead of trying to please the sections opposing reservation to Muslims. He made it clear that the Congress was not seeking reservation on communal basis, but on the economic backwardness of the community. Understanding the positive aspects of reservation to Muslims, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra had also announced 5 per cent quota to Muslims. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

32. Goan priest appointed auxiliary bishop of Ranchi (7)

PANAJI: Pope Francis has appointed Goan priest Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, belonging to the Missionary Society of St Francis Xavier (Society of Pilar), as the Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Titular Bishop of Lisinia (Turkey). The announcement was made public on Wednesday at the Vatican (Rome) and Ranchi simultaneously, Society of Pilar said in a statement. Hailing from Camurlim in Salcete, the 54-year-old was ordained priest on April 24, 1988. The date of his consecration as auxiliary bishop is to be finalized shortly. Currently based in Rome, Mascarenhas works at the pontifical council for culture as the head of the departments for Asia, Africa and Oceania. He is also chairman of the Vatican cricket team called the Saint Peter’s cricket club and is the procurator-general of the Society of Pilar in Rome. Academically, he is visiting professor for Old Testament studies at Pilar Theological College, Goa; Gregorian University, Rome, and St Thomas D’Aquino University (Angelicum), Rome. His doctoral dissertation is from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, with the theme: ?The Missionary Function of Israel in Psalms 67, 96 and 117′. He was also the principal of English Medium School in Bathinda, Punjab, with 2,100 students on its rolls from 1989 to 1993. In March 2010, Mascarenhas was appointed by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI as member of the pontifical committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. He has served three popes?John Paul, Benedict XVI and now Francis. Known for his flair with languages, Mascarenhas can speak fluent English, Italian, German, French, Hindi, Punjabi and Konkani. He has also mastered Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin and Aramaic as part of Biblical language studies. The Archdiocese of Ranchi, with 1,35,744 Catholics, has embraced St Francis Xavier as its patron and there are presently seven Pilar priests working at the Archdiocese. Mascarenhas becomes only the second bishop the Society of Pilar has offered to the Church in India. The first is Bishop Alex Dias from Calangute who was appointed bishop of Andaman and Nicobar islands in 1984. Mascarenhas has two brothers and a sister. One of his brothers, Sebastiao Mascarenhas, is a priest in the Society of Pilar and presently works as the mission superior of the mission of Daman of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Felipe Neri Ferrao, has offered his “heartfelt congratulations” to Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, his family and the Society of Pilar. “The Church in Goa and Daman is deeply grateful to Bishop-Elect Theodore for all the help and solicitude received from him in various ways, particularly during his stay in the Vatican, serving the Holy See in the Pontifical Council for Culture, and offers him prayerful support in his new pastoral ministry,” said a statement from Ferrao. (Times of India 10/7/14)

33. Village councils row: Christian bodies threaten to move court (7)

RAIPUR: Christian organizations have threatened to move court against gram sabhas-village councils-adopting resolution banning entry of all non-Hindu missionaries in tribal Bastar region in Chhattisgarh. Addressing a joint press conference here, representatives of Christian organizations said vested groups were instigating village councils to adopt a controversial resolution under provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act, which, they said, was against the spirit of Constitution. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal, Archbishop’s press secretary Fr Sabastian Poomattom and Evangelic Fellowship of India director Vijesh Lall wanted to know what action the state government was contemplating to nullify resolutions adopted by village councils. “The ban will have disturbing repercussions in the region’s social fabric as non-Hindus were being denied rations from fair price shops and this is against the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion,” he said. Asked about allegation that some missionaries had made derogatory remarks about idol worship by members of majority community, Christian leaders said, “Such instances, if any, should have been dealt legally, instead of bullying and denying them their basic rights.” “We feel that it’s an act at the behest of petty criminals, who perhaps, have vested interest to chase out people and grab their land in village Belar, to extract compensation for the land being acquired by a corporate sector for their proposed steel plant in the mineral rich region,” they added. Christian leaders said they would call on state chief secretary Vivek Dhand to submit a memorandum, demanding appropriate action in the wake of village councils adopting resolutions banning non-Hindus from their respective villages. (Times of India 12/7/14)

34. Christian weekly wants prayer for Modi (7)

Thiruvananthapuram: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday found support from unexpected quarters as a weekly Christian publication in Kerala urged believers to pray for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. In its editorial titled ‘Narendra Modi, disciple of Jesus Christ’, Sunday Shalom – a weekly publication in Malayalam for Catholic communities — tries to trace the impact of BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections on Christian faith and believers in the country.  “Narendra Modi has won on God’s design and with God’s consent. Anything that has God’s consent also comes with God’s plan,” Chief Editor Bro Benny Punnathara wrote. Meanwhile, some of those who commented on the editorial’s online page have slammed the publication for its stance on Modi and alleged ‘political designs’ of the Church. (Deccan Herald 14/7/14)

35. Priest’s family trying to meet Sushma (7)

DEVAKOTTAI (SIVAGANGA),: With no trace of Rev. Alexis Prem Kumar, the Catholic priest from Sivaganga district, more than a month after he was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, his family is trying to meet Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to seek her intervention. The family has approached the Tamil Nadu government to get an appointment with Ms. Swaraj, his brother A. Albert Manoharan has said. The priest’s father, A.S.M. Anthony, 77, and other family members, living at Ram Nagar near here, are waiting for the appointment, spending anxious moments with prayer, hoping for some good news during the holy month of Ramalan. “We expect the Taliban to show mercy on my brother and free him unharmed during Ramalan,” Mr. Manoharan told The Hindu . The family was anxious to meet Ms. Swaraj to make a personal plea and know the steps being taken by the BJP-led government to secure his release, he said. Mr. Manoharan said Amarjith Singh, Indian Consul-General in Heart, phoned him once in a while, asking the family not to lose hope. On July 8, he called him up and said the priest was safe and asked the family to remain patient. Four days after the abduction, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention to secure the safe and early release of the priest. The Sivaganga Diocese is also taking steps to secure the safe release of the Jesuit at the earliest, Fr S. Michael Raj, spokesman of the Diocese, has said. In response to the pleas made by the Diocese, Tamil Nadu Principal Secretary and Commissioner for Rehabilitation B. Anand informed Rev J. Soosai Manickam, Bishop of the Diocese, that the State was in touch with the officials concerned. In an email to the Bishop on Friday, Mr. Anand said the mail sent by the Diocese was forwarded to the Consul-General of India in Afghanistan, the First Secretary/PPS, Embassy of India in Kabul, and the Consul-General of India in Herat, he said. Mr. Anand quoted the Consul-General of India in Herat as having said in the mail that “all steps are being taken to secure the safe release of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar at the earliest,” the Spokesman told The Hindu  (The Hindu 16/7/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

36. J-K benefits with Rs 500-cr package for Kashmiri migrants, IIT (13)

A Rs 500-crore package for rebuilding the lives of Kashmiri migrants was among the slew of measures announced in this year’s Union budget for Jammu and Kashmir. Presenting the Budget for 2014-15, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that a fund of Rs 500 crore will be earmarked for providing support to Kashmiri migrants for “rebuilding their lives”.The Narendra Modi government has flagged rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants, who left the Valley after the onset of militancy in 1990, as its priority and, ahead of the budget, a series of meetings was held between officials of the state and the Centre. At present, a total of 60,452 families of Kashmiri migrants are registered in the country, of which 38,119 are in Jammu, 19,338 in Delhi and 1,995 in other states. The Finance Minister also announced the setting up of an Indian Institute of Technology in Jammu. The NDA government allocated Rs 500 crore for the creation of five more IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM). While the new IITs are to come up in Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgrah, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the five new IIMs will be built in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. Making an observation that J-K had a lot of sporting talent which was not finding expression due to inadequate facilities, the Finance Minister said that a sum of Rs 200 crore is being provided for upgrading indoor and outdoor stadiums to international standards in Jammu and in Kashmir Valley. Jaitley also proposed to launch a Pashmina Promotion Programme and a programme for the development of other crafts of J-K with a sum of Rs 50 crore earmarked for the same in this year’s budget. Also, Ladakh of J-K was included by the Finance Minister in a proposal — which also covers Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu — for taking up Ultra Mega Solar Power projects with Rs 500 crore allocated for the purpose. (Business Standard 10/7/14)

37. Conversion of refugee colonies gets Centre’s nod (13)

New Delhi: Union urban development ministry has started the process to convert the refugee colonies from leasehold to freehold, after a gap of 60 years, civic officials said on Thursday. A delegation, comprising officials from all three municipal corporations led by Leader of the House in South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) Subhash Arya met the Union Urban development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu to press for people’s demands from such colonies to sanction building plans in those flats. Land and Development Office (L&DO) under the urban development ministry had allotted flats on lease in these refugees colonies after Independence, from year 1955 to 1965. The flats are built in 107 to 120 yards area and single-storeyed. L&DO has started the procedure to freehold these flats, Mr Arya said. Under this policy property owners can construct five floors (including parking) in these colonies, he said. Representatives from all three corporations had taken up this demand to the minister and with his (Naidu’s) approval we are implementing this policy, Mr Arya said in a statement. The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi, established in 1958 and it was trifurcated into North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) in 2012. While the North and East corporations so far have not made any announcements in this regard for areas under their jurisdiction, but officials said, the policy change would just have to be notified in the respective municipal houses to implement it for them. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board on Thursday said that it will organise a two-day camp for conversion of plots on lease to freehold in Kalyanpuri JJ colony. “The camp will be organised on July 12 and 13, 2014 to facilitate the allottees of plots in Kalyanpuri Resettlement JJ Colony for conversion of leasehold plots to freehold in its Zonal Office at Community Hall, Block 11-12, Kalyanpuri,” CEO DUSIB, Amar Nath said. He added that the Board has tied up with Deputy Commissioner (East) to ease the process of registration of those documents and to minimize the time requirement for registration. “One representative of the Collector of Stamps will also be available to issue challans for depositing stamp duties to the beneficiaries. The process will ease the hardship faced by the people in sale/purchase and will give them ownership rights within the shortest possible time with least delay in a single window,” he said. (Asian Age 11/7/14)

38. HC orders release of Lankan refugees held under NSA (13)

CHENNAI: The preventive detention of two Sri Lankan refugees, held under the National Security Act ( NSA) after botched attempts to take 18 Tamil refugees to Australia by boat, has been quashed by the Madras high court. Setting aside the detention of T Sathishkumar alias Mandapam Sathish, detained in September 2013, and B Sivashankar alias Shankar, held in October 2013, a division bench of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice G Chockalingam recently said: “The detaining authority (commissioner of police, Coimbatore city) has merely stated that there is a real possibility of the detenu coming out on bail and as such the detention order is vitiated and the same is liable to be set aside on the ground of absence of cogent materials for arriving at the subjective satisfaction.” The human trafficking allegedly done by the duo was brought to the knowledge of police by another Sri Lankan refugee, G Vivekanandan. In his complaint to Coimbatore police, he said Sathish and Shankar had promised to take him and 17 others to Australia in May 2013. They collected sums ranging from 1 lakh to 2 lakh from each aspirant, besides taking away their jewellery. In mid-May, they even asked the potential illegal immigrants to assemble in Ooty ‘for proceeding to Australia’. After making them stay in Ooty for three days, they said the programme did not materialise and that the immigrants should go home. After his repeated attempts to get refund of his money failed, Vivekanandan filed the complaint. State public prosecutor Shanmugavelayutham, justifying the detention, told the bench that the offences committed by them were not the regular offences involving body or property. They have indulged in clandestine human trafficking to a foreign country without any valid visa, he said. The judges, however, ordered their release saying there was an unexplained delay in considering and disposing of the representation of the duo. “However, considering the gravity of the offences, it is open to the prosecution to effectively contest the matter before the regular court, uninfluenced by the above order,” the judges said, adding: “It is also made clear that this order shall not confer any right or advantage whatsoever to the detenu to claim anything before the regular court”. (Times of India 13/7/14)

39. Thousands flee from Gaza after Israel issues warning (13)

Gaza City: Israel briefly deployed troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as some 4,000 people fled southward from the northern part of the territory in the face of Israeli threats to step up attacks there.  Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a cease-fire to end their weeklong conflict, despite calls by the United Nations Security Council and others that they lay down their arms. With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza’s borders, some fear the latest Israeli threats could signal a wider ground offensive that would bring even heavier casualties than the 166 Palestinian deaths already registered. “All our ground forces are ready,” a senior Israeli military official said Sunday. “We have been training for this. We will exploit our ability the moment a decision is made to do so.” Early Sunday, Israeli naval commandos launched a brief raid into northern Gaza to destroy what the military described as a rocket-launching site, an operation it said left four of its soldiers slightly wounded. The Israeli air force later dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of what Israel’s military spokesman described as a “short and temporary” campaign against northern Gaza to begin sometime after 12 p.m. (0900 GMT). The area is home to at least 100,000 people. It was not clear whether the possible attack would be confined to stepped-up airstrikes or whether it might include a sizeable ground offensive _ something that Israel has so far been reluctant to undertake. As the ultimatum drew near, hundreds fled Beit Lahiya, one of the communities the Israeli announcement affected. Some raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags. “They are sending warning messages,” resident Mohammad Abu Halemah said. “Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave.” Adnan Abu Hassna, a spokesman for the U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinian refugees, said eight schools were opened as temporary shelters, and about 4,000 people had moved in. He said more schools would be opened if needed. Essam Al Sultan, 46, a farmer from Beit Lahiya said he had taken the decision to flee the area because the youngest of his eight children had been terrorized by the constant sound of explosions in and around their community. `For me I don’t fear death because we are dying every single moment of this war but I left because I want to protect my family,” he said… (Indian Express 14/7/14)

40. Assam for citizenship of refugees (13)

Guwahati: In a major political move, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi here on Wednesday forwarded a Cabinet resolution to the central government to grant citizenship to such foreigners who fled their respective countries because of religious persecution and harassment and now taking shelter in Assam. Informing that Assam government had sent a similar proposal to the central government on April 20,2012, Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain, who is also the spokesperson of the state government said, “We have forwarded the Cabinet resolution to the central government today asking to grant citizenship to foreigners who were driven out of their respective countries because of harassment and religious persecution. We have referred the precedence followed in Gujarat and Rajasthan.” Referring the quotes from proposal he said, “Those who were Indian citizens at the time of partisan and chose to be settled in different country but subsequently compelled to leave their respective countries because of harassments and religious persecution deserve humanitarian consideration. Under the existing law and system, such persons in India and particularly in Assam are liable to face trial in the court, expulsion and deportation.” Mr Hussain said, “The Cabinet resolution has pleaded to the central government that such persons taking shelter in India should not be treated as foreigners. They should be accorded basic human rights.” (Asian Age 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

41. Aruna Roy Advocates Safety of Whistle-blowers (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Eight million citizens have used the Right to Information (RTI) Act so far. But accessing information through this Act has also taken a heavy toll with 40 rights activist losing their lives and more than 200 being brutally attacked ever since RTI was enacted in 2005. The Whistle-blower’s Protection Act is therefore an essential tool to safeguard the life and property of rights activists and their families, said social activist Aruna Roy. The use of RTI Act should not be limited for retrieving information only, it must also act as a tool for grievance redressal, expression of dissent and accountability, she added. Roy was addressing a workshop on the Whistle Blower’s Protection (WBP) Act, here on Tuesday. She stressed on forming pre-legislative discussion forums which would enable the common man to participate and voice their views on a bill, before it is enacted as law. “The SEZ Act of 2005, was not even sent to a Select Committee and passed within two days. Such a law which acquires land from the poor and uses it for industrialisation, required an intensive debate?, remarked Roy. Speaking at the workshop, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) Convener, Nikhil Dey said though the WBP Act has certain important safeguards for whistle-blowers, many provisions which the NCPRI had suggested were omitted from it. “Setting a time limit for investigation and allowing anonymous complaints should be allowed under ambit of the bill,” suggested Dey. Introduction of multiple exemptions into RTI Act was an attempt by the Government to weaken it, opined both of them. They added that the WBP Act was passed hurriedly through an ordinance by the previous government and was not equipped enough to protect the whistle-blowers. Representatives of more than a dozen social rights organisations and RTI activists from across the State participated. Among others, Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi, BJP Legislative Party Leader Basanta Panda, BJD MLA Amar Satpathy, senior journalist Rabi Das and State Convenor of NCPRI  Pradeep Pradhan were present. (New Indian Express 9/7/14)

42. RTI activist, family take refuge in Chennai (1)

CHENNAI: D Selvendran’s fight against corruption in his native Chittilabakkam near Kalpakkam has proved costly. His children have been unable to go to school and the family of four, facing a threat from local politicians, has taken refuge at a relative’s house at Siruthavoor near Thiruporur. At an event organised by Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, an NGO, in the city on Wednesday, the 34-year-old RTI activist said everything in his village, from ration cards to widow pensions, had to be bought. While he fought against this and some politicians drove his family away, police took no action on his complaints, he said. “I erected a banner with a message against corruption in front of my house. I also spread word on the RTI Act and asked villagers not to pay bribe for any government services” said Selvendran, a driver. In his complaint to police, he said AIADMK’s Thirukazhukundram taluk joint secretary Selvaraj, advocate Dinesh Kumar, village assistant Swami Das and Arumugam, who works at Kalpakkam atomic power station, came to his house at night on June 19 and asked the family to leave. “They were upset about my anti-corruption messages as they were collecting 2,000-3,000 as bribe for government services,” he said. He said water supply to his house was cut. “We didn’t have any other alternative other than leaving the place,” he said. His wife Reeta, a dalit, said: “My husband is unable to go to work. Our children have not gone to school for more than ten days. We returned home on Tuesday after we lodged complaints with the CM’s cell, DGP office and collector’s office hoping they will protect us.” However, the local AIADMK leader and a few others threatened them with dire consequences. “They hurled stones and tried to set our house afire. The villagers are also helpless. But where will we go with these children?” she wept. She said they would have to commit suicide if threats continued. “They will be responsible if something happens to our lives.” When contacted, Selvaraj said, “I didn’t threaten anyone or ask them to vacate the place.” Dinesh Kumar, too, denied the allegations. Sub-inspector of Sadras police station S Vijakumar was unavailable to commentSatta Panchayat Iyakkam president Siva Elango said some politicians were running a ?khap panchayat’ (kangaroo court) in the village. “It’s unfortunate that a family is being excommunicated for creating awareness against corruptionThe government is responsible for protecting the family.” (Times of India 10/7/14)

43. RTI pleas seeking similar information will be rejected: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Repeated RTI applications seeking similar information could be grounds for rejecting it, the Central Information Commission has said. “The citizens have no right to repeat the same or similar or slightly altered information request under the RTI Act, 2005, for which he already got a response,” the Commission said. Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu said once an RTI application is answered the appellants shall refrain themselves from filing another RTI application against the public authority “…as once information is received and held by them or posted in public domain, because such information is deemed to have ceased to be ‘held’ by the public authority,” he said basing his arguments on the observations given by previous information commissioners and objectives of the RTI Act. Dismissing the appeals of an RTI applicant Nitesh Tripathi who was repeatedly seeking “information which are highly voluminous,” Acharyulu said the first appellate authority (within the department) and Commission may be right and reasonable to consider this as a ground for rejecting the first or second appeal, respectively among other reasons. “An applicant or appellant repeating the RTI application or appeal either once or multiple times, suppressing the fact of earlier application and receipt of the answer, the CPIO of the public authority may reject it forthwith after intimating it along with reasons,” he said. Tripathi had filed a number of RTI applications to various authorities in the health department and hospitals seeking details on several issues. The data submitted by these authorities showed Tripathi had filed at least 12 applications every year at directorate of health services, 17 at department of health and family welfare, 62 to Hedgyan Arogya Sansthan, 200 applications at the rate of 30-31 applications per day at Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, 100 at Acharya Bhikshu Hospital of which CIC decided in 16 cases on the same issue among others. The information commissioner said applications filed by Tripathi are “wide-ranging requiring lot of effort by authorities to collect the voluminous information which is difficult to be answered in one go”. “The Commission considers this case as the case of repetitive use of RTI assuming the proportion of harassment to the public authority and reckless abuse of RTI,” Acharyulu said in his order. (Times of India 12/7/14)

44. Most Information commissions fail transparency test (1)

NEW DELHI: Information commissions — watchdogs for the transparency regime under the RTI Act — are some of the most opaque organizations according to an independent report. Of the 29 commissions in the country, only 17% have the facility of online filing of appeals and complaints, 42% do not display information on the cases that will be heard that day or that week, 58% do not display the updated status of pending appeals and complaints while 35% do not have a system of making their orders public within a reasonable timeframe. The report prepared by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) also revealed that there was a steady increase in the number of RTI queries in 2012 as compared to the previous year. While Gujarat and Odisha saw a 46% increase in applications, Karnataka witnessed 29% increase. There was a 19% increase in RTI appeals with the Central Information Commission (CIC). More than three-fourths of the commissions do not have a website in the local language. The CIC and state information commissions of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have local language websites. Only 17% of information commissions provide online facilities for submitting appeals or complaints or both. While the CIC, Gujarat and Tripura commissions accept online filing of both appeals and complaints, their counterpart in Bihar provides this facility for filing second appeals only. About 42% of information commissions do not display cause lists on their websites that will help the public know what cases are likely to be heard by the commission. These include commissions in Assam, Bihar, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim that continue to resist the idea of displaying cause lists on their websites, the report said. About 58% of commissions including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal do not provide data on disposal of cases and pendency of appeals and complaints. Nineteen of the 29 commissions have made their orders public but the commissions of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh do not have updated information for the last 2-4 years. Incidentally, this comes at a time when there has been a sharp increase in RTI applications. Gujarat and Odisha have seen a 46% increase in applications while Karnataka has recorded 29% increase. At 26%, Chhattisgarh witnessed the third highest increase in the number of RTI applications received in 2012 followed by Mizoram at 20%. (Times of India 14/7/14)

45. Corporation Official Gets it for Failing to Send RTI Reply on Dump Yard (1)

COIMBATORE: The State Information Commission has ordered the Coimbatore Corporation Commissioner to take disciplinary action against the Deputy Commissioner for failing to provide information regarding Vellalore dump yard under the Right to information (RTI) Act to an applicant. According to the order copy available with Express, City Corporation commissioner G Latha can take disciplinary action against Deputy Commissioner S Sivarasu, who has failed to provide few details regarding the Vellalore dump yard. RTI applicant K S Mohan who is the secretary of the Kurichi Vellalore Pollution Prevention Action Committee has sought answers to 14 questions related to the dump yard from the city Corporation. Mohan and his committee members are fighting for about a decade to shift the dump yard from the present locality.  The DC had failed to provide details about the total amount spent for the Vellalore dump yard so far, besides the total amount handed over to the private company which is maintaining the dump yard. However, Sivarasu provided answers to the other queries sought by Mohan such as inspection report carried out at the scientific closure site. The State Information Commission Christopher Nelson has also ordered the Public Information Officer Natarajan to pay `25,000 as fine for failing to provide details to few questions sought in the RTI. (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

46. Disclose info sought by ‘murdered’ RTI activists: Aruna Roy (1)

BANGALORE: A group of campaigners has urged the government to make public all information sought by ‘murdered’ RTI activists. Claiming that more than 40 such activists have been killed in India, political and social activist Aruna Roy told TOI on Wednesday: “We are pushing the government to reveal the information wanted by such applicants so that citizens don’t have to risk seeking the same again.” Stating that it won’t be possible to amend the law and allow people to seek information anonymously, she said: “We must show that we can act collectively. Let 100 people demand the same information, we’ll see if all of us can be murdered”.Roy was conducting a workshop on public policy at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), along with her colleagues Nikhil Dey and Shankar. Even with all its advantages, RTI is still not a magic wand, remarked Nikhil. “…It’s time for us to further our campaigns and put in place legislation that enhances our rights. We need literate India to understand and participate in the campaign for the need for pre-legislative consultation policy (PLCP)”, he said. Roy said: “…the rulers we send to Parliament for five years are sent on a social contract. They cannot make laws arbitrarily on our behalf.” NLSIU professor and Aam Aadmi Party member Babu Mathew said it is essential that certain elements of the proposed law must stand the scrutiny of people before being introduced in the house. “This has been mandated by the constitution in South Africa, why is Indian bureaucracy scared?” he asked. The activists also urged people to join the campaign for introducing and passing the Grievances Redressal Bill, which, Nikhil said: “…has somehow not been passed despite all parties having arrived at some consensus.” As part of the workshop, students participated in debates on the Lokpal Bill, Grievances Redressal Bill and pre-legislative consultation policy (PLCP). They offered suggestions on how to take them forward. and what these bills should include to the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), which will take it up with the government, eventually. At the end of the three-day session, students presented their views on RTI in innovative ways. While one group performed a skit, others conveyed the message through song and poetry. “I am thoroughly impressed. I’m taking the material with me and will use it in our future campaigns,” Aruna said. (Times of India 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

47. Goa school shuts down over HIV-positive students (11)

Panaji: A deadlock between the parent teachers association (PTA) and management over granting of admission to 13 HIV-positive students has forced the school authorities to temporarily close down the educational institution. The closure has now been followed by Green Goa Foundation, a local NGO, issuing notice to state education director Anil Powar, asking him to ensure that the HIV-positive students are not denied their right to education. An official of the Fatima High School in Rivona, a mining town located 50 km from here, told IANS that the school had been closed temporarily in view of the deadlock between the institution management and the PTA. “The parents have been demanding that the students be removed from the school, which is clearly not only unreasonable but also not legal… the school has been shut until the matter is resolved,” the official said wishing anonymity. The parents-teachers association of the Fatima High School has threatened a boycott if the institution’s management admits 13 HIV-positive students. The stand-off even forced the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to Monday direct both Goa Police and the South Goa district administration to ensure that the HIV-positive students are not denied their right to education. The 13 students belong to a children’s home called Nitya Seva Niketan located in the mining belt of Rivona in Quepem sub-district (45 km from here) and had been enrolled in an open school, before the nuns – who run the home – decided to admit them to a regular school this year. Attempts made in June to admit the students to the Don Bosco-run school in Sulcorna village, located 50 km from here, also failed due to opposition from parents of students already studying there.Raison Almeida of the Green Goa Foundation claimed that non-admission of the students was a clear violation of their right to education. “I have issued a notice to the education director to uphold the right of the students to education,” Almeida told IANS. In his notice, Almeida said he would be forced to petition the Bombay High Court bench in Goa if the education department doesn’t ensure admissions to the HIV-positive students. (Zee News 9/7/14)

48. Budget 2014: No major changes in education sector in Budget (11)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government’s maiden Budget doesn’t stray too far from past practice when it comes to the education sector. The allocation for school education is up by nearly 10% from the interim 2014-15 Budget, while that for higher education is 13% up. The total budget of the human resources development ministry has seen an increase of 12.3% from last year to Rs 83,771 crore. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which is the programme for the implementation of the Right to Education Act, got an allocation of Rs 28,635 crore, an increase of Rs 1,000 crore, while the Mid-Day Meal Programme has been allocated Rs 13,215 crore. Another Rs 4,966 crore has been budgeted for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. Quality interventions appear to be the top priority of the government when it comes to school education. The efforts announced in the Budget, if designed and implemented properly, could lead to improved learning in schools. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has increased the allocation for teacher training and education. A new effort, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teacher Training Programme, has been launched with an initial allocation of Rs 500 crore. This programme will focus on training students, who aspire to become teachers, in professional colleges. Details of the programme are not available, but the indication is that the government is going to focus on teachers, reiterating its recognition that they remain the weakest link in the government’s school education efforts. The programme is envisaged to benefit nearly 20,000 teacher trainees studying in Teacher Education Institutions. Another new initiative is a school assessment programme — this is another attempt to address the issue of quality. The assessment will take into account parameters such as levels of student learning outcomes. “The public display of such school performance would enable parents to make a more informed choice about schools. This will ultimately benefit all children, parents and stakeholders,” said Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani. “I am sure the education fraternity will also welcome the newly launched Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya Teacher’s Training Programme. This move shall go a long way in improving the quality of teaching and thus improving learning outcomes,” said Ranjan Kaul, managing director of OxfordBSE -1.82 % University Press India. Though the finance minister has not made any monetary allocations for addressing gaps in school infrastructure, the government has made it clear that provisions of toilets and drinking water will be a priority. (The Economic Times 10/7/14)

49. Drastic rise in school dropouts in Udupi (11)

Udupi: According to the information provided by the Department of Public Instruction here, the number of school dropouts in the district was 86 in 2011-12, 123 in 2012-13 and 372 in 2013-14. As per the Right to Education (RTE) Act, children between the ages of 6 to 14 have to be compulsorily admitted to schools. The drive to admit out-of-school children in schools is taken up under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). But a survey of schools conducted in November 2013 showed that 997 students had dropped out. As many as 435 students had left their schools mid-way without even taking their Transfer Certificates, while 190 children had crossed 14 years and were deleted from the dropouts list. Finally, as many as 101 children remained in the list of dropouts for 2013-14 and were yet to be traced and re-enrolled. Hence the target of the SSA for re-enrolment for 2014-15 is 372. The Range Education Coordinators have managed to re-enrol 271 dropouts for the present academic year 2014-15. Under the RTE norms, if a child is absent for seven days continuously except for medical conditions, he/she was treated as a dropout. P. Nagaraj, Deputy Project Coordinator of SSA, said the change in the method of survey was one of the reasons for a rise in the number of dropouts. “Earlier, we used to do household survey of dropouts. But now we do a school-wise survey, which gives us more details of the dropouts,” he said. Usually the children of migrant workers from districts of North Karnataka dropped out as their parents returned to their home districts. The department was using a software which helped in checking if the students who had dropped out here had joined schools in other places in the State. The names of students who had dropped out of schools and those joining schools were entered in the software. The software had five parameters such as name of student, father’s name, date of birth, class and religion/caste, which helped in tracing the students. Mr. Nagaraj said very few students dropped out till they were 10 years old. The dropouts normally increased once the children were 12 to 14 years old. The reasons were lack of awareness on the importance of education among parents and their desire to get additional hands to financially support the family. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

50. Implementation of Right To Education Not Tardy: Govt to RS (1)

NEW DELHI: The Right To Education (RTE), initiated during the UPA regime, today got a thumbs-up from the NDA government which said its implementation had not been tardy as 19.88 crore children have been enrolled at the elementary level.  “No, the progress under RTE Act 2009 indicates that 19.88 crore children have been enrolled in elementary school, with a gross enrolment ratio of 96.5 per cent as per district information system for education 2013-14,” HRD Minister Smriti Irani said in Rajya Sabha today.            She said this in a written reply to a question by D Raja and M P Achuthan as to whether it was a fact that the implementation of RTE has been tardy. The minister said that the average drop out rate has come down from 6.8 per cent in 2009-10 to 4.7 per cent in 2013-14 at the primary level. The RTE Act 2009 provided for free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14. To a related question, the Minister said availability of teacher in elementary education has improved with additional recruitment of 15.06 lakh teachers funded under the Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan programme, an important the RTE programme. Talking about the Rashtriya Uchchattar Sikshya Abhiyan Programme, which seeks to universalise secondary education, she said while 23 states are participating in the programme, state higher education plans have been received from 13 states and Rs 310.40 crore has been released to different states till June this year. (New Indian Express 14/7/14)

51. Telangana to Have Higher Education Institutes: Irani (11)

NEW DELHI: The government shall take steps to establish various institutes of higher education both in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said Wednesday. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Irani said that as per the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, the government shall take steps to establish one institute each of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), National Institute of Technology (NIT), a central university and a tribal university, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in the successor state of Andhra Pradesh. The other institutes proposed in the state include a petroleum university, an agriculture university, one National Institute of Disaster Management and an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-like institute. “In Telangana, one horticulture university and one tribal university are proposed to be established as per the Act. Details of locations and budgetary provisions for these institutions are yet to be finalised,” she added. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

52. India has a strong urge to grow and free itself from poverty: Arun Jaitley (21)

New Delhi: While delivering his maiden budget speech in Parliament today, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that India has a strong urge to grow and free itself from the curse of poverty. “The people are in no mood to suffer unemployment, inadequate basic amenities, lack of infrastructure and apathetic governance. The Indian economy will have to maneuver its way through a sluggish global recovery,” said Jaitley. Jaitley said that the government intends to usher in a policy regime that would bring the desired growth, lower inflation, sustained level of external sector balance and prudent policy stance. The Finance Minister pointed out that the present economic situation presents a challenge of slow growth in manufacturing, in infrastructure and also the need to introduce fiscal prudence. The tax to GDP ratio must be improved and non-tax revenues increased. He has set a target of fiscal deficit of 3.6% for 2015-16 and 3% for 2016-17. Jaitley said that the government will constitute an Expenditure Management Commission to look into every aspect of expenditure reform. The government also intends to overhaul the subsidy regime while providing full protection to the marginalized. The Finance Minister also said that the government would like to introduce Goods and Services Tax (GST) to streamline the tax administration, avoid harassment of business and ensure higher revenue collection. Jaitley further said that the Indian Government will promote FDI selectively in sectors. FDI in Defence and Insurance sector is being raised to 49% with full Indian management and control. FDI is also being encouraged in the development of `Smart Cities’. To infuse Rs. 2,40,000 crore in the Indian Banking system, citizens of India will be allowed direct share holding in these banks. The government will also provide tax incentives for real estate investment trusts. A similar incentive will also be announced for Infrastructure Investment Trusts. A national multi-skill programme called Skill India is proposed to be launched. This will provide training in traditional professions like welding and carpentry etc. A sum of Rupees 1,000 crore will be provided to Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana to provide assured irrigation in rain fed areas. Earlier today, Jaitley presented his maiden General Budget for the year 2014-15 with the permission of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan at 11 am. (DNA 10/7/14)

53. Food security act from September (21)

Guwahati, July 14: The Assam government will implement National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, from September 1 this year. This was announced in a meeting convened by chief minister Tarun Gogoi at his office here today. During the meeting, senior officials of the state food and civil supplies and consumer affairs department, the nodal department for implementing the act, apprised Gogoi of the slew of measures that have been taken for implementation of a particular scheme. Minister for food and civil supplies and consumer affairs, Nazrul Islam, chief secretary Jitesh Khosla, additional chief secretary of finance, H.S. Das, principal secretary of food and civil supplies and consumer affairs, S.L. Mewara, principal secretary to chief minister, Jishnu Barua and other senior officials were present at the meeting. Gogoi urged the officials to ensure that the scheme is implemented efficiently in the state and actually benefits those for whom it is meant. He also directed them to ensure that sufficient quantity of commodities are available in Amar Dukan, the state’s fair price shops, take concrete and effective steps to prevent hoarding and black-marketing of necessary commodities and maintain a steady supply line to create a balance between their demand and supply. “Adequate arrangements have to be made to check the prescribed stock limit of essential commodities from time to time so that no criminal element can indulge in artificial shortage by way of hoarding of necessary articles, leading to black-marketing,” Gogoi said. The government also plans to bring onions and potatoes in the list of essential commodities to curb hoarding. “The step will help undertake de-hoarding operations and control the prices of onions and potatoes. All officials concerned should send a list of regular stocks and prices of essential items, including onions and potatoes, to the media on a daily basis so that the consumers are made aware of it,” Gogoi said. Officials of the legal meteorology department were also asked to carry out inspections of weighing scales and weight equipment in the grocery and in vegetable, fuel and other retail outlets so that they cannot dupe unsuspecting consumers. Gogoi also suggested opening up of a farmers’ market to ensure that farmers are able to sell their produce to the consumers directly so that they earn the right price without the middlemen milking the profits. (The Telegraph 14/7/14)

54. People protest against Bihar Govt. for its reluctance to pay pension to widows (21)

Patna: People in Bihar on Monday launched a protest against the state government for not providing widows their due under a social security scheme. The Laxmibai Social Security Widow Pension Scheme, introduced in 2007, is aimed at the welfare of widows in Bihar. Under the scheme, widows living under the poverty line are provided with an amount of Rs.300 per month. However, the widows are not getting the amount from the state government. The protesters said that the state government had promised an amount of rupees 11 lakh in September last year but the amount is yet to be distributed among the aggrieved parties. “The priorities of the Bihar government have changed. They used to say that they would help the poor, the helpless and the widows. Today the pension to widows which is given 75 percent by the central government and 25 percent by the state is not being distributed, and this reflects the negligence on government’s part,” said a legislator of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nitin Navin. The protesters blamed the corrupt system that is responsible for the distribution under the scheme, saying the money goes through long channels and is often eaten up by the very people who are accountable for distribution. In addition, the remuneration is lent after a period of three to four months at the local council instead at the woman’s own village. This is a cumbersome process especially for old women, who have to traverse faraway places. “We demand that the money that comes in from the state government should be given to the widows. Each month, there should be camps set up in the concerned woman’s village instead of her coming to the local council for which she has to bear additional expenses. Money should then be distributed to the widows after a verification process,” said another legislator of BJP, Usha Vidyarthi. (New Kerala 14/7/14)

55. One-third of World’s Extreme Poor Live in India, Says UN Report Card (21)

NEW DELHI: One-third of the global extreme poor lived in India as of 2010, the largest share for a country, the latest UN Millennium Development Goals report has said. In South Asia, poverty rates fell by an average of one percentage point annually — from 51 per cent in 1990 to 30 per cent two decades later. In South Asia, the proportion of the extreme poor increased from 23 per cent to 42 per cent. The trend, if it continues, will be insufficient to meet the target of halving the proportion of population without access to basic sanitation by 2015. Close to 60 per cent of the 1 billion who defecate in the open live in India, the report added. As per the data, India also had the highest child mortality rate in 2012 with 1.4 million children dying before the age of five. In terms of child nutrition, despite steady progress, 30 per cent of children below age five were underweight in South Asia. The report was released here by Union Minister of Minority Affairs Dr Najma Heptullah on Wednesday. She said several problem areas had been identified by the government before the report’s release. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

56. Tamil Nadu tops in NREGS with 59 person days, Kerala follows (14)

CHENNAI: The previous UPA regime’s flagship scheme, NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), set to undergo changes under the new NDA government, no doubt, has many takers in Tamil Nadu. The Economic Survey presented in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday confirms this, certifying that the state ranks number one with 59 person days (the average number of days that workers in the state have been employed) during 2013-14, followed by Kerala with 57 person days. The two states also have the highest percentage of women being employed under the scheme. While this is a point to boast, the moot question remains whether Tamil Nadu really benefitted in terms of creation of assets or improvement in living standards of the poor. Experts involved in the scheme have expressed reservations about the efficacy of the scheme in the state. “Though Tamil Nadu may lead in terms of providing employment to rural people, not many assets have been created,” said director of Centre for Environment Concerns, KS Gopal, who is an expert in rural development. Also the scheme is most needed in states where infrastructure and other basic amenities are lacking. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are better in these areas,” said Gopal. “If the NDA government revamps the scheme, it should be linked to productivity like creation of assets to improve infrastructure in villages and providing drinking water, which is scarce,” said Gopal. The scheme being implemented in the state is beset with many bottlenecks with regard to payment of wages and choice of project, said Tamil Nadu Farmers Association chief K Balakrishnan. “At present many people in villages prefer to work as construction labourerers rather than enroll themselves as NREGS workers,” said Balakrishnan. He claimed there was delay in disbursement of wages under the scheme due to issues with banks and other procedures of the rural development department. Tamil Nadu’s wage rate of Rs 148 per worker is the lowest in south India after Andhra Pradesh which pays Rs 137. While Kerala pays Rs 164 and Karnataka Rs 155. The share of women employed under the scheme is the highest in Kerala (93.4%) followed by Tamil Nadu (84.1%), said the survey. (Times of India 10/7/14)

57. Modi govt’s rural push: MGNREGA to be revamped, fund for start-ups (14)

NEW DELHI: Committing itself to create more jobs in rural India, the Modi government has decided to continue with MGNREGA- the previous UPA’s government’s flagship rural employment programme- but the scheme will be revamped to make it ‘development-oriented’. The programme, assuring 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household, has been subject to allegations of misuse and corruption. “The government is committed to providing wage and self-employment opportunities in rural areas. However, wage employment would be provided under MGNREGA through works that are more productive, asset creating and substantially linked to agriculture and allied activities,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is his budget speech. The BJP government has allocated Rs 34,000 crore for the rural job scheme, allaying the fear that new dispensation may scuttle the programme. The outlay for 2013-14 was Rs 33,000 crore. Calling for an urgent revamp of the programme, the Economic Survey had found MNREGA responsible for labour shortages in SMEs and price hike in the food sector among other things. The government has also promised safe drinking water in around 20,000 habitations, affected with arsenic, fluoride, heavy/ toxic elements and pesticides, through community water purification plants over the next three years. The budget allocated Rs 3,600 crore under ‘National Rural Drinking Water Programme’ for the purpose. For encouraging rural youth, the government announced a “Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme” with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore. The corpus of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), operated by NABARD, has been raised to Rs 25000 crore to create infrastructure in agriculture and rural sectors. The road connectivity in rural areas too gets enhanced attention with the government allocating Rs 14,389 crore under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana, initiated during the NDA-I regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Centre would also restructure Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), currently implemented in 272 backward districts in 27 States, to fill up critical gaps in development of basic infrastructure facilities and for capacity-building of panchayats and gram sabhas. The restructuring would focus on addressing intra-district inequalities. The provision of bank loan for women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) at 4% under Ajeevika scheme will be extended to another 100 districts. (Times of India 11/7/14)

58. Minimum wage for unskilled workers increased by Rs 42 in tier III cities (14)

New Delhi: The minimum wage for central government works for unskilled farm workers was revised upward to Rs 193 per day on April 1, 2014 from Rs 151 three years ago for tier III cities, Parliament was informed today. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Minister for State for Labour Vishnu Deo Sai said that for tier II cities, the per day minimum wage was increased to Rs 195 from Rs 153 in 2011 in unskilled category for farm sector. Similarly, for metros or tier I cities, it was raised to Rs 215 from Rs 169 in 2011. In construction sector, the minimum wage was revised from Rs 165 to Rs 220 in 2014 for the tier III or C-category areas across the country. In construction sector, for tier II cities, the minimum wage is Rs 273, up from Rs 205 in 2011. In metros or Class-A areas, it is now Rs 329 compared to Rs 247 in 2011, Sai said. The minister said that in order to protect minimum wages against inflation, the government mooted the idea of Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) as one of the recommendations of Labour Ministers conference held in 1988. As per practice, the central government revises the minimum wage for works coming under its purview periodically as per the provisions of the Minimum Wage Act 1948, taking into account the rise in Consumer Price Indices (Retail Inflation). The minister was replying to a question whether the government has made any mechanism to link minimum wages with price rise. Price rise has been an issue for quite sometime and rocked Parliament also. The price situation has not been good in the past years and the previous government had discussed the issue in Parliament and also passed the resolutions to contain inflation. (Indian Express 14/7/14)

59. Govt mulls amending host of labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: The government is considering amending a host of labour laws. Though it has not got any formal proposal, the move is aimed at simplifying archaic laws so that they don’t create problems in expanding facilities. Minister of state for labour and employment Vishnu Deo Sai told Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the amendments to a host of labour laws, including Minimum Wages Act,1 948, Labour Laws,1988, Factories Act, 1948 and Child Labour Act, 1986, are under active consideration. Industry representatives have been long demanding changes in labour laws which they have often termed “archaic” and a hindrance in raising and expanding their facilities. In his written response to a question, the minister, insisted that “at present there is no proposal to formulate new labour laws”. Sai informed the Upper House that India has a total workforce of 47.41 crore as per the last survey of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) conducted in 2011-12. “The total workforce is estimated at 47.41 crore, out of which 33.69 crore were rural workers and 13.72 crore urban workers,” Sai said, adding 35.3% of the workers are employed as casual labourers in rural areas. Sai said as per the NSSO survey of 2009-10, the total employment in the unorganised sector is 43.7 crore. He also said there were 11.25 lakh permanent workmen and 2.63 lakh contract labourers in 234 Central public sector enterprises (PSEs) during 2011-12. (Times of India 17/7/14)

RESERVATION

60. Govt revises format of OBC caste certificate (25)

New Delhi: The format of caste certificate for Other Backward Class (OBC) has been revised to make it easier for them to get the benefit of the reservation, the Government said on Wednesday. Representations were being received from candidates belonging to OBC citing difficulty in getting the benefit of reservation, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh told Lok Sabha in a written reply. Difficulties were being faced as in the caste certificate there was space for mentioning the name of the caste or community but no space was provided for indicating the specific resolution by which the said caste or community has been included in the central list of OBC, he said. “The issue was examined in consultation with National Commission for Backward Classes and the format of OBC certificate has since been revised,” the Minister said. (Zee News 9/7/14)

61. Governor approves ordinance for Maratha, Muslim reservation (25)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayan on Wednesday approved the ordinance granting reservation to Maratha and Muslim communities in Maharashtra. Marathas will get a 16 per cent quota and Muslims five per cent in government jobs and educational institutions. Sources in Mr. Sankaranarayanan’s office said the file had been approved and returned to the government. Once promulgated, the ordinance will raise quota in the State to 73 per cent. The Supreme Court had earlier capped quota at 50 per cent. The reservation was cleared by the government a fortnight ago. The decision has already been challenged in the Bombay High Court, with petitioners arguing that it is unconstitutional and has crossed the quota limit. Reservation for the Maratha community had triggered opposition from Other Backward Class (OBC) groups which pointed out that the Marathas were dominant and politically influential and could not been classified as backward. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

62. Women’s Reservation can be Potential Game Changer: UN Official (25)

NEW DELHI: Thirty-three per cent reservation to women in Parliament has the potential to be a “game changer” as not only will such a step change patriarchal mindsets but also boost pro-women legislation, feels senior UN official Lakshmi Puri. “The perception of the girl child will change. When you have empowered women out there in Parliament, and in such great numbers, you are representative of the people more and more. You change that whole mindset about women being a burden… the way Union minister Smriti Irani said that such comments were made when she was born,” the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women said . More women in Parliament will help change that “patriarchal mindset”, she said, adding that the experience in several other countries which have reservation for women has been very positive. Speaking to PTI here, Puri, who is also Assistant Secretary General with the UN, said that if there are 33 per cent women in Parliament, they will move aggressively across party lines to advance the interests and needs of women. “It’s not only symbolic but effectively it has the potential to really change the game. It can be a game changer for gender responsive legislation and a change in prioritisation of women and girls issues, in the planning and budgeting process,” she said. Puri, who is a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, however, added 33 per cent is just the critical mass and the real objective should be parity. Speaking further, she emphasised that there is a need to push towards making the whole system more gender responsive and gender sensitive and all public institutions and not just the Parliament. She hoped that the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed. The BJP, which is the leading party in the ruling NDA, had in its pre-election manifesto said that it is committed to 33 per cent reservation in parliamentary and state assemblies. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

63. Transgenders voice fears (25)

Transgenders on Tuesday voiced concern over the Supreme Court verdict labelling them as “third gender” and the proposal to club them with OBCs. About 30 representatives of the transgender community expressed their opinion on the issues at an interactive session hosted by the state government to find ways to implement the apex court’s recommendations on transgenders. Social welfare minister Shashi Panja and officials of her department interacted with the transgenders at the session held at a Salt Lake hotel. The Supreme Court, in a landmark verdict in April, recognised “the third gender” and ruled that they were entitled to all fundamental rights, reservation in jobs and education, and separate public toilets. The state government is mulling options to form a transgender welfare board to implement the court’s order. “Even after the verdict we have faced rude behaviour from police. A transgender couple went to a city police station on May 15 after they were harassed by local youths. What they faced at the police station amounted to a second round of torture,” said Anindita Dutta, a transgender. The couple approached the Association for Transgender/Hijra, an NGO working for transgenders, that persuaded the officers to lodge a complaint. “When we approach the protector of law, this is the behaviour we get. The Supreme Court order is three months old but nothing has changed,” said another transgender. Panja as well as police officers present admitted to the problem. Members of the transgender community urged the minister to ensure the government did not use the term “third gender” as it was “humiliating”. “We are proud to be transgender and the government should use that term,” said Aparna Banerjee, after Panja said she was unsure of the correct word to use. The community members also expressed apprehension about being clubbed with OBCs for reservations. “If the government is serious, they must create a separate quota for us,” said Dutta. Creating public toilets, separate wards in hospitals and facilities were also discussed but government officials said it would take time to tackle the sensitive issues. The transgenders said they should be represented in all committees formed to implement the Supreme Court order. (The Telegraph 16/7/14)

64. Quota norm must for pvt units getting govt aid (25)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday clarified that it won’t be mandatory for the private sector as a whole to reserve 16 per cent seats for Maratha and five per cent for Muslim communities in education and employment. However, the new quota plan will be applicable in those private sector units and educational institutes receiving the state government’s aid in the form of concessions on land prices or grants. The state government’s quota plan will be applicable to all government undertakings and semi-government organisations. The government has already promulgated an ordinance and issued directives in this regard. With the additional 21 per cent quota for Marathas and Muslims, reservation in government jobs and educational institutions in the state has gone up to 73 per cent — way beyond the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court. At present, the Bombay High Court is currently hearing a public interest litigation, challenging the government’s decision. Minister for Minority Welfare Naseem Khan told Business Standard: “The government decision will not be applicable for all private sector units. However, government-aided private educational institutes will have to provide quota for members of the Maratha and Muslim communities. Besides, it will also be applicable to those private sector units which have received government aid.” Khan reiterated that all government and semi-government organisations will have to strictly implement the quota decision. An NCP minister, who did not want to be named, said there has been a demand from various organisations representing Maratha and Muslim communities for quota in all private sector undertakings. The Indian Merchants’ Chamber said it is concerned about the manner in which the reservation issue is being handled and promoted. IMC President Prabodh Thakker said the new mechanism seems more political rather than having socio, economic content. ”IMC is not appreciative of the current announcement of reservation in Maharashtra, we support the stance that weaker section should be given a helping hand in skill development. IMC will lead from the front as an enabler,” he added. (Business Standard 17/7/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

65. Pass Women’s Reservation Bill: NHRC (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) Tuesday called for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill to give them one-third seats in parliament and state legislatures. It also called for the successful implementation of women related policies. Addressing the 58th Session of the National Human Rights Institution’s (NHRI) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva, Switzerland, NHRC chairperson Justice K.G Balakrishnan said: “For the successful implementation of women related policies, it is of critical importance that the 16th Lok Sabha urgently passes the Women’s Reservation Bill to give them one-third seats in parliament and legislative assemblies”.He said that conviction in crimes against women is low and the criminal justice system needs to be overhauled as it has not been able to respond to the needs of widespread gender-based violence. “The twelfth Plan document, on the basis of NCRB data, indicates total number of crimes against women have increased by 29.6 percent between 2006 and 2010. These included dowry deaths, early marriages, domestic violence, abductions, acid attacks, sexual assault as well as female foeticide”, Balakrishnan said, referring to the National Crime Record Bureau data. In all India Gross Enrolment Ratio, there is a gender gap both in the general and the reserved categories of boys and girls and the same is the case with the overall literacy rate, even though it has increased for women from 53.67 percent in 2001 to 65.4 percent in 2011 Census. Balakrishnan said the police should be more accountable as the they seem to be insensitive to the women related cases due to traditional and patriarchal mind-sets. They should be made more accountable. The Armed Forces Special Power Act in Jammu & Kashmir and northeastern states confers an impunity on the armed forces personnel which often leads to the violation of human rights. “Most often, in cases of sexual assault, many a time, the victims are discouraged by the community and even by the police for resorting to legal remedy. Despite long drawn out legal process, the low conviction rate is also resulting in the harassment of the victims,” he said. He said that during 2013, the NHRC registered a total of 288 cases of sexual harassment of women at various places and 59 cases of sexual harassment in government offices though the Supreme Court had laid the guidelines ensuring women’s safety at workplace in the famous case of Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan in 1997. “Trafficking of women and girls still continues both for sexual exploitation as well as for illegal labour in spite of the government initiatives like Ujjwala Scheme. They face different kinds of harassment, including false implication and unlawful detention,” Balakrishnan said. “Open defecation, especially in rural areas, also increases vulnerability of girls to rape as seen in the recent case of rape of girls in Badayun in Uttar Pradesh,” he said. (Business Standard 9/7/14)

66. Civil society condemns attack on student leader (1)

Itanagar: The Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society has appealed to the state government to ensure safety of all in the state capital. This comes in the wake of attack on Unti Umbrey, a student leader from the community. At a meeting at Roing on Sunday, the society condemned the attack and described the incident as ‘unfortunate and shocking’. “We understand that differences within a students’ union might have led to the attack. But attack on any individual is never justifiable,” said a leader of the society demanding arrest of the culprits and necessary action. It further appealed to people not to post inflammatory comments on the social media over the incident that might affect the peace and harmony in the state. The Cultural and Literary Society of Mishmi also termed the attack barbaric and cowardly. “We are deeply hurt by the unfortunate incident and pledge support through democratic means for justice to Unti Umbrey,” said a member of the society. The All Tai Khampti Singpho Students’ Union of Arunachal Pradesh also joined the chorus. (Times of India 15/7/14)

67. Pay Palghar girls Rs. 50,000 each: NHRC (1)

MUMBAI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday asked the Maharashtra government to pay Rs. 50,000 each to the two Palghar girls who were detained by the police in November 2012 for making comments on Facebook after the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. Their arrest, the Commission observed, was a serious violation of human rights. “The Commission has also observed that every citizen can interpret these comments as per his/her thoughts. However, these did not have any contents to attract provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per Article 19 of the Constitution of India, every individual has a right to freedom of expression, which is a Fundamental Right and therefore, their arrest was a serious violation of human rights.” The Commission also expressed displeasure at the Maharashtra government’s lacklustre attitude. Having received no response to its notice and reminders to show cause why monetary relief should not be paid to the victims of human rights violation, the Commission, in its latest direction, asked the Chief Secretary of the State to submit the compliance report along with the proof of payment within four weeks failing which, it may be constrained to take recourse to coercive process under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Shaheen Dhada, 23, and 22-year-old Renu Srinivasan from Palghar in the neighbouring Thane district, were detained by the police after Shiv Sena activists in Palghar objected to their posts on the social media site criticising bandhs called after Mr Thackeray’s demise. After being illegally detained for nearly 10 days, they were formally arrested and immediately released on bail of Rs. 15,000. “The Commission has held that their detention was in violation of freedom of speech and expression of views guaranteed in the Constitution of India,” the press release stated. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

68. NHRC Takes Note of Minor’s Pregnancy (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra to institute a mechanism for comprehensive monitoring of health, including reproductive health, of girls residing in Government-run hostels while ensuring their overall security. The Commission has taken a serious note of a complaint regarding a 14-year-old girl giving birth inside the Bhogpara Primary Sevashram hostel in Kutra block of Sundargarh district on August 5 last year with authorities and Superintendent of the hostel having no knowledge of her pregnancy. Directing the Chief Secretary to submit his response within four weeks, the Commission also instructed the Secretary of ST and SC Department to submit the outcome of proceedings against Kutra Welfare Extension Officer within six weeks. While Sundargarh Collector has been asked to submit details on the proceedings against the ashram authorities, the SP has been asked to apprise whether any official of the hostel was involved in the incident. The complaint would be taken up for hearing during the Bhubaneswar sitting of the Commission next month. A complaint in this regard was filed by executive director of Global Human Rights Communications Subash Mohapatra. (New Indian Express 16/7/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

69. Abide by educational loan policy, court tells banks (19)

CHENNAI: Rejecting a nationalised bank’s contention that only candidates with 60 per cent marks in the qualifying examination are eligible for educational loans, the Madras High Court has directed it to extend financial assistance to an engineering student. Nationalised banks and other financial institutions should abide by the Union government’s policy for lending educational loans to the weaker sections, a Division Bench of Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and M. Sathyanarayanan has said. While sanctioning loans, the banks should cover the genuine, reasonable and justified educational expenses of applicants and help students and their parents out of the pressing financial crisis, the Bench said. In 2012, the Indian Overseas Bank branch at Sandaikadaithottam in Tirupur rejected the application by A. Ravi, a parent, for financial assistance. Challenging it, he prayed for a directive to the bank to lend his son Rs.1.88 lakh in educational loan. The bank argued that only those who scored 60 per cent marks and above were eligible. A single judge allowed the petition because the appellant’s son secured 59 per cent marks and got admission to B.E. Hence, the bank branch manager’s appeal. The Bench said the Union Finance Minister had announced that students admitted under the management quota were eligible for loans, and all banks were directed to adopt the policy. After a review meeting held by the Finance Minister with the chief executives of the public sector banks on September 27, 2012, new guidelines were framed. “Nowhere has it been stated in the guidelines that educational loans could be sanctioned only to those who secured 60 per cent and more,” it said. In light of the revised policy, the Bench dismissed the appeal. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

70. Kerala Mulling Law to Provide Welfare Scheme for Migrant Workers (19)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Government is considering a legislation to provide welfare schemes for migrant workers, who have become a major work force in the state. Announcing this in the Assembly today, Labour Minister Shibu Baby John, however, said a consensus needed to be reached on the issue, as there were differences of opinion about extending such facilities to migrant workers. “A section in the society is skeptical whether it is good to provide welfare measures and keep them in the state always,” he said, adding government was even planning to call an all-party meeting to arrive at a consensus on the matter.  John ruled out a suggestion to issue identity cards for all migrant labourers “Every Indian citizen has the right to work anywhere in the country, so providing them with identity cards to work in the state was violative of fundamental rights”, he said. John, while narrating the difficulties in dealing with them, said language was the main blockade. Now itself government has provided certain welfare schemes to these workers, but they were ignorant about it, he said.As a first step to communicate with them, government plans to set up kiosks at four major railway stations-Ernakulam, Aluva, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode- with help desk managed by people who speak Hindi language, he said. He said so far about 42,000 workers from other states have registered with the Labour Board. Moving the calling attention, K Suresh Kurup said as per a study of Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, the number of migrant labourer stood at 25 lakh and their number would become 50 lakh in another ten years. He wanted government to ensure protection and wages as per law to them. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

71. SC rejects PIL to quash Article 370 which gives special status to J&K (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking quashing of Article 370 which gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The petition had said that the Constitution does not allow the benefits of Article 370 for a long term but it has been imposed in the state since a long time. There had been a raging debate over Article 370 soon after the Narendra Modi government had taken charge. Union Minister Jitendra Singh had sparked off a controversy by saying that the Central government had started speaking to stakeholders to repeal the Act. SC rejects PIL to quash Article 370 which gives special status to J&K The plea had said that the Constitution does not allow benefit of Article 370 for a long term but it has been imposed in the state since a long time. “The process of repealing Article 370 has started. We are speaking to the stakeholders,” Jitendra Singh had said. Clarifying the statement, the government said that it will come up with a “structured” response to the issue of Article 370. “At the appropriate time, the Government of India, led by Narendra Modi, will come with a response on the issue of Article 370,” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. (IBN Live 13/7/14)

72. Nirbhaya gang-rape case: Supreme Court stays hanging of 2 convicts (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed till further orders the execution of death penalty of two of the four convicts in the December 16 gang rape-and-murder case. A bench of justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and NV Ramana said since the death sentence of other convicts have already been suspended by this court, the same order has to be passed. It stayed the execution of Vinay Sharma (21) and Akshay Thakur (29), who were convicted along with other two — Mukesh (27) and Pawan Gupta (20) — whose death sentence has already been stayed. Vinay and Akshay had moved the apex court seeking a stay on their execution and reversal of the Delhi high court verdict upholding their conviction and the punishment. The court proceedings also witnessed some confusion as the bench queried whether it could hear the plea in the light of observation made by Chief Justice RM Lodha that the cases of death convicts be heard by not less than a three-judge bench. The bench called for Supreme Court registrar who said no such notification has been issued so far in this regard. The bench then went ahead with the hearing and passed the stay order. The Delhi high court had on March 13 this year upheld their conviction and award of death penalty by terming the offence as “extremely fiendish” and “unparallelled in the history of criminal jurisprudence” and said the “exemplary punishment” was the need of the hour. The two convicts — ​Akshay Thakur (left) and Vinay Sharma. It had also said if this case was not “the rarest of rare cases” then “there is likely to be none”. Besides seeking setting aside of the high court verdict, Vinay and Akshay, in their appeal, have sought a stay on their execution as an interim relief. The petition has said the judgment be set aside as there was no “substance or material piece of evidence” and there were contradictions in the depositions of the victim and her friend, who had accompanied her in the bus, about the offence and the offenders. The petition has said the testimony of the SDM cannot be relied on as she had deposed that the victim was “comfortable, happy and willing to record her statement.” The juvenile involved in the Nirbhaya case (face covered) was sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board. “Whether a patient who is on ventillator … can be happy and comfortable?,” it has said. Disputing the veracity of the dying declaration of the victim, it has said she was not fit enough to record her statement and hence, the statement made through gestures cannot be relied upon. “The high court failed to appreciate before awarding death sentence to appellant Vinay Sharma that he was juvenile at the time of the incident …” it has said. The 23-year-old paramedic, on the night of December 16, 2012, was brutally assaulted and gangraped by six persons in a moving bus in south Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend. She later died in a Singapore hospital on December 29. Prime accused in the case Ram Singh was found dead in Tihar Jail in March last year and the trial against him was abated. The sixth accused, the juvenile, was on August 31, 2013 convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board. (Times of India 14/7/14)

73. NGOs seek proper deliberations on new Juvenile Justice Bill (19)

New Delhi: A group of 58 NGOs and individuals working for children’s rights in the country on Wednesday urged the Centre to carry out proper deliberations before deciding to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The coalition – ProChild Network – has offered to help the government find a solution to the problems of crimes like sexual violence by juveniles, by giving professional suggestions based on evidence and research. The group comprises 58 NGOs including the Aangan Trust, Centre for Child and the Law, NLSIU-Bangalore, CRY, HAQ:Centre for Child Rights, Leher and Save the Children. “We strongly condemn all sexual violence, be it by adults or juveniles… But we also condemn pitching human rights of women against human rights of children since that will not provide an answer to creating a healthy society. All we want is a dialogue with the government before a final decision in this regard is taken,” said Bharti Ali, Co-Director of HAQ:Centre for Child Rights. On June 18, the Ministry of Women and Child Development stated their intent to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice Act and invited feedback from stakeholders and civil society groups on the draft Juvenile Justice Bill, 2014. According to the ministry’s proposal, while trying the juvenile, in the age group of 16-18 years, involved in heinous crimes such as rape and murder, the Juvenile Justice Board will decide whether the juvenile should be sent to observation home or required a trial under a regular court. “We firmly believe all human beings, especially growing children, need to be taught that there are consequences of their action and that they need to be accountable for their behaviour,” a statement issued by the group said. “However, we assert that the means for ensuring such accountability should be grounded in child and adolescent psychology, the rights of children and a deeper understanding of the circumstances that lead to such behaviour or action, be it indiscipline, anti-social or criminal behaviour,” it adds. The government move comes over a year after the role of a juvenile in the December 16 gang rape case sparked off a debate over lowering the age limit for juveniles involved in heinous crimes. As per the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, in 2013, as many as 33,707 rape cases were registered in the country as against 24,923 cases in 2012. As many as 1,884 juveniles were involved in rape cases in 2013.  (DNA 16/7/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

74. Jail inmate’s body found in water tank (1)

NASHIK: The dead body of an inmate at Central Jail here was found in the water tank inside the jail on Wednesday morning. This is the second such incident in the last three months. According to police sources, Nana Namdeo Patil (49), a resident of Surat, was being tried in several cases of cheating registered against him in Panchavati (Nashik), Surat and other towns. He had been brought by the Panchavati police to Nashik in connection with one such case and had been remanded to magisterial custody for the past one month. On Tuesday evening, the prison staff realized Patil was missing when he failed to answer his roll call. Around 9 am on Wednesday, Patil was found in the water tank in barrack 1 in yard number 5. The medical officers declared him dead and the case was reported to the Nashik Road Police Station. The cause of death is yet to be ascertained. The police are awaiting the post mortem results. A case of accidental death has been registered. On April 30 another convict, 32-year-old Meva Zavre, was found dead hanging by a nylon rope in a prison bathroom. The incident brings to the fore the rising unrest among the jail inmates – be they convicts or undertrails. (Times of India 10/7/14)

75. Iraq forces executed 250 Sunni prisoners (1)

Baghdad. Iraq’s security forces and allied Shiite militias executed at least 255 Sunni prisoners as they fled a lightning jihadist-led advance last month, Human Rights Watch said today. “Iraqi security forces and militias affiliated with the government appear to have unlawfully executed at least 255 prisoners… since June 9,” the watchdog said in a statement. “The mass extrajudicial killings may be evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the New York-based HRW said. It said the killings appeared to have been carried out in revenge for the onslaught led by what was still known last month as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The group, which has since rebranded itself as the Islamic State (IS), is a Sunni extremist organisation which last month overran large swathes of Iraq, including second city Mosul, and has since declared a “caliphate” straddling the border with Syria. “Gunning down prisoners is an outrageous violation of international law,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork. “While the world rightly denounces the atrocious acts of (ISIL), it should not turn a blind eye to sectarian killing sprees by government and pro-government forces.” The rights group said it had documented massacres of prisoners last month in Mosul, as well as in the towns and villages of Tal Afar, Baquba, Jumarkhe and Rawa. “In one case the killers also set dozens of prisoners on fire, and in two cases they threw grenades into cells,” HRW said. It demanded an international investigation into the killings. (Deccan Herald 11/7/14)

76. Respect Human Rights: Army Chief (1)

SRI NAGAR: Army Chief General Bikram Singh, who arrived here on Saturday, asked soldiers and officers to respect human rights and avoid collateral damage during anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir. The Army Chief arrived here for a farewell visit to the strategically important 15 Corps, named Chinar Corps.  “For the Army Chief, this is like homecoming to the Valley as he has commanded the 15 Corps for a year from November 25, 2008, to November 30, 2009,” a defence spokesman said. Singh will be retiring on July 31 and Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag will take over reigns of the Army. During his day-long visit to the state, the Army Chief paid homage at the War Memorial at Badamibagh Cantonment in Srinagar, headquarters of the 15 Corps. He interacted with top army officials and discussed the prevailing security situation in the state with them.  He was briefed about the measures being taken to stop infiltration and ensure peace in the Valley. Later, while addressing the men and officers, the Army Chief complimented 15 Corps for ensuring a secure environment in Jammu and Kashmir, which is battling militancy. The soldiers should uphold the law of land and respect human rights of the people, he said. “The men and officers should ensure that no collateral damage takes place during anti-militancy operations,” Singh said and stressed on the need for people-friendly operations. He also highlighted the initiatives being undertaken for capability augmentation of the armed forces and welfare measures. The Army Chief along with Northern Command chief Lt Gen D S Hooda and GoC 15 Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha called on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here and discussed the matters relating to the prevailing security situation in the state. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

77. Government told to pay Rs 5 lkh to kin of biker shot by cops (1)

NEW DELHI: Police firing at bikers on Ashoka Road last July that led to the death of teenager Karan Pandey was disproportionate to the threat, and showed negligence and error of judgment, National Human Rights Commission has observed relying on a magisterial inquiry report. It has recommended that the Delhi government pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to Karan’s next-of-kin. Karan, 19, was riding pillion on a bike at Windsor Place when inspector Rajneesh Parmar fired at its rear tyre. NHRC has asked the chief secretary, Delhi to submit the proof of payment along with the report on departmental proceedings initiated against the delinquent cops within six weeks. Karan’s mother, a widow, told TOI that she does not want any compensation but strict action against the erring cop. “Now, even the magistrate’s report has indicted the cops who took away my only son. I have also requested the police commissioner to book the inspector for murder but nobody has paid heed to my pleas. What will I do with the money? My only son is gone now. I want the killer to be punished,” she said. National Human Rights Commission had taken cognizance of the incident on the basis of complaints and intimation received from the deputy commissioner of police, New Delhi. It observed that the inquiry magistrate found negligence and error of judgment on the part of Parmar. The magistrate also observed that the force used was disproportionate to the threat perceived by the PCR officials, and police’s version of heavy stone pelting was “highly doubtful” in the light of CCTV footage and statements of witnesses. The report found serious inconsistencies in the evidence, versions and sequence of events narrated by cops. The magistrate has written to the lieutenant governor and the home department recommending action against Parmar. Two other policemen accompanying Parmar have been indicted. “The number of bikers, claimed by Parmar and the two other policemen ranges from 30-40 to 150-200,” it said. (Times of India 15/7/14)

78. Govt Rules Out Changes in AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir (1)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is understood to have ruled out changes in the controversial AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir and favoured its continuation in the present form in the state. The decision in this regard is understood to have been taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister recently, sources said here. The CCS discussed changes suggested by the Administrative Reforms Commission, they said. The Army had also given its opinion in the matter and had opposed the repealing or dilution of the law in any form and stated that it was required for it to operate in the state, sources said. Even though Jammu and Kashmir has been relatively peaceful in the recent past except for the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC), the Army feels that it is more of “absence of violence” rather than establishment of peace there. Several groups and political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and north eastern region have been demanding either repeal or amendment to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)which has been in force in some of the disturbed regions in the country. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had also visited Jammu and Kashmir to analyse the situation in the state and had visited the forward locations there. He had stated that any decision on revoking AFSPA will depend on the progress in the situation in the state over a period of time. On the need for AFSPA, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh had stated that it was “an enabling” act as it “gives Army additional powers to operate in an environment which is marked by very high degree of uncertainty and complexity and an asymmetric environment where you cannot differentiate between a friend and a foe as the terrorist merges with the backdrop and hides amongst the locals.” (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

79. Sri Lanka orders NGOs not to talk to media (1)

Washington: Expressing concern over Sri Lankan government’s recent order on non-governmental organisations, the US has said the move undermines freedom of speech and assembly. “The United States is concerned by reports that the Sri Lankan ministry of defence has ordered registered NGOs and civil society groups to cease their media engagements and activities,” state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “This order undermines Sri Lanka’s long-standing and proud democratic traditions, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” she said. The national NGO secretariat of Sri Lanka, under the ministry of defence and urban development had on July 1 issued a new regulation which stated, it has been found that certain non-governmental organisations conduct press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and dissemination of press releases which is beyond their mandate. (Asian Age 10/7/14)

80. EC notice raises question on media responsibility (1)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission notice, asking former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to show cause as to why he should not be disqualified in the “paid news” case is aimed as much at the senior Congress leader as a section of the media. The crux of the case relates to a series of articles and news items in sections of the media in Maharashtra in praise of Mr. Chavan as well as publication of 25 advertisements on his election campaign. The issue of paid news has been a serious concern for the Commission as well as several institutions related to the media. The Press Council of India (PCI) had come out with a detailed report on the “paid news” in the latter half of 2009 and the Election Commission initiated its first considered steps against it in 2010. The Commission accepted the PCI definition of “paid news” as any news or analysis appearing in any media (print and electronic) for a price in cash or kind and went on to appoint Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) at district and State-levels for certification of advertisements and keeping a check on violations. In Mr. Chavan’s case, after several hearings, including appeals in the High Court as well as Supreme Court, the Commission was convinced that during the Maharashtra Assembly election in 2009, a large number of news items, articles, analysis and items marked “advertisements” and “advertorials” appeared in various newspapers, newspaper supplements, pamphlets and magazines eulogising Mr. Chavan, which were in fact paid news published for consideration in kind or cash. This spending, however, did not reflect in Mr. Chavan’s poll campaign expenses. The Commission had sought comments of four newspapers – Lokmat, Pudhari, Maharashtra Times and Deshonnati – in which this material appeared. The newspapers denied the allegation of any payment contending that the impugned “paid news” were, in fact, news or editorials or supplements published by them gratuitously as they had either links with, or leanings towards, the Congress and Mr. Chavan. On the contention of the Lokmat newspaper that it strongly believed that the Congress was the only party which offered a secular option to the electorate, the Commission said it was no excuse to pass off paid news as news. “While every newspaper/media house is entitled to its own philosophy (which could be akin to a political party’s philosophy), what is sought to be published as news should be untinged by such philosophy as different from editorial. The minimum that is expected of ethical journalism is that the reader is cautioned by suitable disclaimers while such articles are published so that the unwary reader can make suitable allowance in his mind while forming his judgement. This matter assumes greater significance in the election period when the media needs to show greater responsibility,” it said. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

81. Women in media facing problems: Kalpana Sharma (1)

Thiruvnanthapuram: Well-known columnist Kalpana Sharma today said many women journalists were scared to reveal the harassments faced by them within their organisations due to the fear of losing their jobs. Speaking at a two-day national workshop on ‘Women in Media’ organised by Kerala Press Academy and Network of Women in Media, she said many media houses were yet to set up committees to deal with sexual harassment complaints. “Many women journalists are still not coming up and speaking out. Because, they want to save their jobs. Many media groups are not setting up anti-sexual harassment cells,” Sharma said. “Earlier we had a belief that we were safe as we were journalists and women. But, many women journalists do not feel so today,” she said. Sharma also noted that the number of women journalists giving up their jobs were on the rise these days. Film editor Bina Paul Venugopal, journalist BRP Bhaskar and activist Ajitha also spoke during the interaction. “Samghaditha”, a Kozhikode-base publication, received this year’s media award instituted by Network of Women in Media. The award comprised a cash prize of Rs 25,000 and citation. (Business standard 14/7/14)

82. Compensate Two Women Over Facebook Post: NHRC to Maharashtra (1)

MUMBAI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday sent a reminder to the Maharashtra government to pay Rs.50,000 each as compensation to two women who were illegally detained for 10 days by police following a Facebook post after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray two years ago. In a communication to the Maharashtra chief secretary, the NHRC reiterated that “their detention was in violation of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the Constitution”. It ordered compliance of its order within four weeks along with proof of payment, failing which the NHRC would resort to a coercive process. The reminder came in the Nov 19, 2012 case in which the NHRC took suo motu cognizance after the two 21-year-old women from Palghar town in Thane were arrested. The women – Shaheen Dhada and Renu Shrinivasan – had lamented in a Facebook post the virtual paralysis in the state Nov 18 when Thackeray’s funeral was held in Mumbai. While Shaheen had posted the comment, her friend Renu had ‘liked’ it, angering Shiv Sena leaders who vandalized a hospital run by Shaheen’s uncle. Police arrested both the women Nov 19 though they had already removed the post and even apologized for it the same day. After an inquiry, the NHRC observed that it found no malicious intention in the comments to hurt the feelings of any class or religion. “The comment only indicated that the bandh was not necessary as a mark of respect to the departed leader and that the city was shut down due to fear and not due to respect,” the NHRC said. From the facts in the case, the NHRC said police had no reasonable ground to invoke Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code that charges people with issuing statements amounting to public mischief, with intent to cause fear or alarm. “Because of the over-reaction of the police, these two young women had to be in jail for more than 10 days for which the state is prima facie responsible,” it said. The NHRC said every citizen can interpret these comments as per his/her thoughts. However, these did not have any content to attract provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per Article 19 of the Constitution, every individual has the right to freedom of expression, which is a Fundamental Right and therefore, their arrest was a serious violation of human rights, it concluded. (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

83. Gulberg society massacre: Court asks SIT to submit papers  (7)

Ahmedabad: A special designated court on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team to submit all the documents related to the 2002 Gulberg society massacre case within 15 days. Special judge K K Bhatt passed the order in response to an application by the witnesses of the massacre, their lawyer SM Vora said. The SIT investigation into the charges of conspiracy against former Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others gave a clean chit to the current Prime Minister in its closure report on February 8, 2012. “Since documents related to their investigation are also related to the Gulbarg case, the special court had ruled two years ago that they be produced before it. The SIT sought a revision of this order, but withdrew its revision petition last month. Therefore I approached the court and said the agency must now comply with the order of the special court and submit the documents. The court has given 15 days time,” Mr. Vora told The Hindu. A total of 69 people were killed in the Gulberg massacre, including former Congress Ehsan Jafri. When the SIT gave a clean chit to Mr. Modi in 2012, Mr. Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri filed a protest petition against their report before the metropolitan magistrate B J Ganatra in 2013. However, her petition was turned down. She then approached the Gujarat High Court this March challenging the lower court’s order upholding SIT’s clean chit to Mr. Modi. The Gulbarg society case is among the nine riots cases probed by the SIT. (The Hindu 9/7/14)

84. Bihar: 2 killed after row over WhatsApp message (7)

Sasaram: Two youth were killed and seven injured at Akbarpur village in Rohtas on Tuesday in an incident sparked off by a message exchanged between friends from two different communities on WhatsApp. The message allegedly had communal undertones and the offended community went on a rampage, attacking several shops, which set off panic in the area. Soon after the offensive message’s sender was identified, Rohtas police station in-charge Mithilesh Kumar Jaiswal detained and relocated him away from the mob. However, rumours spread that the boy had been killed in police custody and the body been disposed of secretly. His family, not finding him at the local police station, started accusing the police. Soon, a large crowd gathered and attacked a police party and torched its vehicle. Immediately thereafter, the police station came under heavy brick batting and isolated gunfire from country-made weapons. Several officials, policemen and CRPF jawans sustained injuries.  An SLR rifle of a SAP jawan was also snatched. The police opened fire in which two persons are said to have died, while the condition of CRPF jawans Chetan Desai and KK Yadav, who sustained injuries, is said to be critical. Sasaram BJP MP Chhedi Paswan told the HT on phone from Delhi that the SHO of Rohtas police station was responsible for the entire episode and demanded strict action against him. The situation is under control and top police officials are camping at the site. Main towns of Sasaram, Dehri, Dinara, Bikramganj and other sensitive places in Rohtas district have been put on high alert. (Hindustan Times 10/7/14)

85. Marad riots case: SC grants bail to 22 accused (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to 22 accused, sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court and confirmed by the Kerala High Court, in the second Marad riots case despite objections raised by the Kerala government that the riot area was still “communally sensitive.” A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and P.K. Ghose refused to impose any restrictive conditions on the accused before enlarging them on bail, asking the Kerala government to approach the trial court if they want to. The Bench said the accused had already spent 11 years in jail since their arrest in 2003 and there was no point in them continuing behind bars as their criminal appeals against the High Court verdict were pending before the apex court and would take time to be decided on. Nine persons were killed and many others injured in violence between two communities on the Marad beach at Beypore constituency in Kozhikode district of Kerala on May 2, 2003. The Court had earlier allowed bail to 23 other accused, including P.P. Moideen Koya, former president of the IUML Beypore constituency, in the same case. Even then, the reason for bail was the extended period of incarceration of the accused. In the earlier order, the court drew attention to the social circumstances of the accused. It had pointed to the long period that the accused – “daily wage labourers eking out a living as coolies and fishermen” – had spent in jail without bail and the “irrevocable financial difficulties” that their families had to suffer. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

86. Now 5 attacks in 9 days on BJP leaders in UP; 1 more dead (7)

Lucknow: Rakesh Kumar Rastogi, who was found strangulated to death Saturday morning in Baheri area of Bareilly district, was the latest BJP leader to come under attack in Uttar Pradesh over less than 10 days. In that time, two other BJP leaders have been killed, a BJP MP has been attacked and the mother of another senior BJP leader has been shot at. In all the incidents, the BJP has accused leaders of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP). On June 12, a BJP delegation met Governor B L Joshi seeking action against the state government, accusing that party workers were being attacked at the behest of SP leaders. The BJP has formed a panel of state leaders to look into such attacks and to hold protests. Party spokesperson Chandra Mohan said the attacks were “an attempt to discourage BJP workers in UP”, given the party’s unprecedented performance in the state in the recent polls. Denying the BJP charge, SP spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Rajendra Chaudhary said, “These allegations are baseless and politically motivated.” (Indian Express 16/7/14)

COMMUNALISM

87. VHP to celebrate 50 years of its inception, says Togadia (26)

Vadodara: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is planning to organise programmes at the taluka and village level to celebrate 50 years of its inception in August, its international working president Pravin Togadia said here today. Addressing VHP workers at Godhra about 60 km from here, Togadia said, “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad will launch a new movement called ‘Hindu Ahead, for Hindu Security and Prosperity’, which aims to reach out to Hindus in villages, towns, cities and tribal areas”.The event will be organised by invoking the issue of the “insecure Hindu,” Togadia said. “To protect and prosper, Hindus themselves have to gear up, by becoming true practicing Hindus, aware Hindus and active Hindus, while state governments and central governments must protect Hindu interests,” he said. (Business Standard 10/7/14)

88. VHP Leader Giriraj Kishore Passes Away (26)

NEW DELHI: Senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Giriraj Kishore, who actively participated in the Ram Janambhoomi agitation, died here on Sunday evening following prolonged illness. He was 96. Giriraj had joined the RSS at an early age and was one of its seniormost ‘pracharaks’. The Sangh had sent him to the VHP, where he actively campaigned for the Hindutva issues. “He was ailing for some time now. He died peacefully at the VHP headquarters in R K Puram at 9.15 pm,” VHP Delhi unit spokesperson Vinod Bansal said. A bachelor, Giriraj, was wheelchair-bound for several years. He had recently pledged to donate his body for a social cause. (New Indian Express 14/7/14)

89. RSS’ social engineering is caste-based division: CPI(M) (26)

KOLKATA: Accusing the Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh (RSS) of creating communal as well as social discrimination in society, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra said here on Sunday that the “social engineering” of RSS is nothing but the caste-based division of society. Addressing a gathering at the Pramod Dasgupta Memorial Lecture, Dr. Mishra accused the RSS of “double standards” by alleging that its tactics were based on caste division, derived from the writings of Manu, a mythical sage of ancient India. “The RSS never mentions Manuvaad (the religious doctrine of Manu) in public, but its actions are based on it,” said Dr. Mishra, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. With regard to the importance of protecting secularism for the Left parties, Dr. Mishra said the “attack on democracy” in the State was going on ever since the Trinamool Congress came to power, adding that “such attacks cannot suppress the Communist movement in Bengal.” Sounding a note of caution about the BJP coming to power at the Centre, he said that if secularism came under attack in the State, the “the unity among the working class [members] that is the primary support base of the Left parties will be in jeopardy.” Dr. Mishra said, “The BJP wants to bifurcate the States that were formed on the basis of linguistic unity, as then controlling them will be easier.” Taking a veiled dig at the saffron party’s support for the creation of smaller States, he said, “If State’s can be divided like this then their linguistic unity will be weakened and it would be easier for the Centre to act as per its whims.” Dr. Mishra also said that by bifurcating States, the BJP wanted to establish “cooperative federalism where without cooperation (with the Centre) there will be no federalism.” With regard to the BJP getting single party majority in the Lok Sabha, Dr. Mishra said the “politics in the country has definitely taken a right turn.” Questioning the unity of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Dr. Mishra said such “coalitions are based on power and not on common minimum programme.” With regard to the recovery of the Left Parties that received a severe drubbing in the general elections, Dr.. Mishra said “responsibility has to be given to the younger generation. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

90. ‘Hindutva-corporate Combine Helped Modi’ (26)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: CPI state assistant secretary K Prakash Babu has opined that the crumbling of the much-touted ‘Bengal Model’ and the mindless actions of certain people which they had implemented under the influence of the neo-liberal policies during the Left Front Government paved the way for Narendra Modi-led Hindutva forces to make their triumphant run across the country. Delivering a lecture on ‘Modi Government and Corporates’ at the N E Balaram remembrance meet held on his 20th death anniversary, under the aegis of the N E Balaram Institute of Social Sciences (NEBISS), he, however, pointed out that the shifting of the Nano car factory to Gujarat had become a major boost to Modi at a time when he was facing a tough time politically in Gujarat and isolation not only in India but outside as well by being denied visa by countries such as the US and the European nations. Prakash Babu said the BJP and the Sangh Parivar could effectively contain caste politics and replace it with the Hindutva aided by the corporates such as Ambanis and Adani. “Modi and Sangh Parivar mesmerized the people with their ‘Hindutva mantra’ and inflated stories of development. Corporates such as Ambanis and Adani were calling for making Modi the CEO of India,” he said. He said that there was no difference between Manmohan and Modi Governments’ approach towards the corporates. “Modi is extending the red carpet rolled out by Manmohan Singh since 2005.  Since then the Indian corporates had been given Rs 36.5 lakh crore subsidies while the agri, fuel and fertilizer sectors together got Rs 2 lakh crore,” he said. Delivering the remembrance lecture, veteran socialist leader and Ex-MP P Viswambharan said   Balaram had always been a model to the politicians. “Since the days of ‘Haripura Congress’ Balaram had been active in politics. He was there in the first meeting of the Communist party held at Parappuram in  Pinarayi village. Till the end of his life, he did not leave it and its ideology,” he said. A scholar in Sanskrit and Indian culture and author of many books, Balaram could touch upon subjects like Marxian aesthetics and  spirituality with the ease of a master mind,’’ he said. K Ashokan presided over the function. CPI district secretary Venjarammoodu Sasi also spoke. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

91. BJP win blow to Muslim politics: Singhal (26)

New Delhi: The recent Lok Sabha polls had shown that an election could be won “without Muslim support” and it was time the minority community learnt to respect Hindu sentiments, VHP chief patron and senior RSS leader Ashok Singhal has said. Narendra Modi — an “ideal swayamsevak” — would deliver on the Hindutva agenda unlike the first NDA government, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad supremo and one of the longest serving senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders told HT in an exclusive interview. The right-wing Hindu leader, who had a front-row seat at Modi’s swearing-in, said “tables had turned”. The polls were a “setback to Muslim politics” used by “foreign and divisive forces to destroy our identity,” he said. It was time for them to learn their lessons. “Muslims will be treated as common citizens — nothing more, nothing less. And, they must learn to respect Hindu sentiments. If they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” said the 88-year-old who has been a lifelong pracharak of the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP. Asked to elaborate, Singhal said Muslims should give up claims over Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura and also accept a uniform civil code. The VHP is understood to have asked interlocutors to convey this message to Muslim organisations. “We’ll then give them love, and not claim any other mosque sites even though there are thousands built on the ruins of temples. But if they don’t accept it, they should be prepared for further Hindu consolidation. It has happened at the Centre, it will happen in other states,” said Singhal, who set up the VHP and spearheaded the stir for the Ram Temple. The temple issue, civil code and abrogation of Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, had strained the VHP’s ties with the Vajpayee government. The Hindu outfit felt that the NDA did not come good on “core issues”. But no such apprehensions this time, Singhal said in clearest indication, so far, of the RSS’ assessment of what the Modi government can deliver. “The government will not and does not need to backtrack because it has the numbers in the House, and whatever we want to do, we want to do it through constitutional means,” the VHP leader said. The Ram Temple and Godhra had made the BJP win possible. “These were the undercurrents and then issues of development and governance appealed to the young.” For the RSS veteran, elections and religion are never too far. “Religion is the rock on which this country rests.” In Modi, he sees an “ideal swayamsevak. “During the campaign, he conducted himself like a swayamsevak. He also showed to the world the discipline and hard work that a Sangh pracharak puts in.” The PM started his political journey as an RSS pracharak. Singhal admitted that there was “an unprecedented mobilisation” by the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella term for various Hindu outfits, during the elections. Did Sangh expect rewards? “The governors being appointed — be it Ram Naik or Kesari Nath Tripathi — are all from the Sangh but this is not necessary. We worked because it was our duty,” he said. “The important thing is the agenda must be fulfilled.” Despite the Sangh’s tough anti-Pakistan stance, he sees Modi’s invitation to PM Nawaz Sharif as diplomacy. “You also have to resort to deceit at times, and there are segments in Pakistan who want good ties. The problem lies with the jihadi elements, and till they are there, relations can’t be good.” There were some more suggestions on foreign policy. India should take the lead in building a “cultural commonwealth” of South and Southeast Asia, with Hindu and Buddhist population. “China cannot lead such a grouping, it has no cultural backbone and, like the USSR, China will collapse one day.” (Hindustan Times 17/7/14)

TERRORISM

92. Minor gets three-year jail term in Delhi High Court blast case (12)

NEW DELHI: The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) here on Wednesday awarded the maximum punishment of three years under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, to the sole minor accused in the 2011 Delhi High Court bomb blast case. As many as 15 people were killed and 79 injured in the blast outside Gate No. 5 of the Court. The minor convict would serve the sentence in a reformatory centre. The Board also gave him the set-off benefit for the period he had already spent at the centre before the award of punishment to him. The Board had on July 7 held him guilty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Explosive Substances Act and waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the Government of India, collecting arms with the intention of waging war, criminal conspiracy, mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt, murder, attempt to murder, causing hurt and voluntarily causing grievous hurt under the Indian Penal Code. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which probed the case, had charged the minor convict with sending an e-mail claiming responsibility for the blast and also threatening to cause more blasts at other courts, including at the Supreme Court of India, if Afzal Guru, the prime accused of the Parliament attack case, was hanged. Guru was later hanged. According to the NIA, the convict had sent the email from Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir. An adult accused in the case is facing trial in a court here. Initially, the Delhi Police had registered the case. The investigation was later transferred to the NIA. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

93. Pune blasts: ATS to question Indian Mujahideen terrorists in custody (12)

Pune: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) will be questioning the Indian Mujahiddin terrorists in connection with Thursday’s Pune blast, as per reports on Sunday. The list of IM terrorists, whom the ATS team will question, includes Yasin Bhatkal, Haider Ali and Asadullah Akhtar. Bhatkal and Asadullah are presently in the custody after they were arrested from India-Nepal border for carrying out Pune German Bakery and Hyderabad Dilkushnagar blasts. Yesterday, ATS had reportedly spotted a suspect in a CCTV footage recovered from the Pune blast site. The footage showed the suspect parking a bike near Faraskhana police station’s parking lot before the blast occurred. The ATS also monitored some emails which revealed that online messages were exchanged among Indian Mujahideen’s terrorists in Karachi before carrying out blasts, as per reports. The blast caused by an IED planted in a motorcycle at Faraskhana police station’s parking lot had left five injured, including a police constable. The motorbike was stolen from a policeman posted in Satara some time back. A case has been registered under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), besides various sections of the Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. (Zee News 13/7/14)

94. Terror export to Iraq matter of concern: Shiv Sena (12)

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena Tuesday expressed concern over what it described as “home-grown terror being exported” to Iraq, which could pose serious ramifications for India. In an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the party said that the incident of four missing youths from Kalyan town in Thane, who have reportedly joined the ISIS jihad in Iraq, is a warning bell which India must heed. The Shiv Sena feels that “until now terror was being imported into India by organisations like Al-Qaeda, Indian Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and HuJI. But, this is a new trend in which home-grown terror is being exported,” said the editorial. “Does India have any action plan to deal with such jihadi forces? Unless we control Islamic extremism, this jihadi explosive could soon prove to be suicidal,” the editorial warned. Noting how highly educated youths from middle-class families are being attracted to organisations like Indian Mujahiddeen or ISIS, the Shiv Sena said this trend itself needs to be studied carefully. “Until now, terror was being imported into India from different countries, but now we are witnessing this new development — The Indian intelligence agencies believe that internet medium could have been used to indoctrinate these youth,” the editorial noted. The editorial comes in the wake of the Maharashtra government taking help from the central government to trace out four youths from Kalyan, who were reported ‘missing’ by their families late May and are believed to have joined a jihadi group in Iraq. Additional Commissioner of Police Sharad Shelar, Kalyan, said Monday that the complaints were registered May 25, 26 and 27, and the probe is on. However, despite all efforts, there has been no breakthrough so far, and it is also not clear whether the four were known to one another, police said. The missing youths are Arif Fayyaz Majeed, Aman Naik Tandel, Shaheed Farooqui Tanki and Fahad Tanvir Sheikh. The police and intelligence agencies suspect that the youths may have been indoctrinated online, through some chatrooms where lot of propaganda material has been uploaded on the recent developments in Iraq. (Business Standard 15/7/14)

95. Missing Kalyan youths probe: 43 suspects, eight former SIMI men questioned (12)

KALYAN: Investigation agencies probing the disappearance of four Kalyan youths in Iraq, have grilled more than 51 persons, including eight former SIMI activists, to find out if they had indoctrinated the youths to become jihadis. Aarif Majid, Aman Tandel, Fahad Shaikh and Saleem Tanki, all in the 20s, had travelled to Iraq in late May, and reportedly joined the insurgents of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The investigators are also keeping tabs on four local organizations after learning that the four youths were in regular touch with them. In a related development, Aadil Dolare, a volunteer with the Islamic Guidance Centre in Kalyan, has rubbished media allegations that he had brainwashed the four youths and funded their trip to Iraq. Dolare told TOI that the four youths would come to the centre, which helps poor people, to work as volunteers and they “do not have any further relation”.At least three of the youths are from affluent families. Two were studying engineering and one is a mechanical engineering graduate. Aarif, son of a doctor, was in the midst of his third-year civil engineering diploma examinations, when he left for Iraq. When Aarif did not return home, his father, a doctor, filed a missing person’s complaint with the Bazarpeth police and produced a note saying he would meet his parents in heaven. Later, the families of the other three youths also filed missing complaints. The local police shared the information with the higher authorities, who then alerted the security agencies and a probe was initiated into the disappearances. The agencies suspected that the four youths had joined the jihadis after the Intelligence Bureau found that their last location was in Mosul in Iraq, which is under the control of ISIS. However, Aman’s father refuses to believe media reports that his son has joined the ISIS. He told TOI that his son might have “got stuck” in Iraq and could be in trouble. He said he has faith that the investigation agencies and the government will bring his son back. (Times of India 16/7/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

96. Home Ministry to state governments: Submit proof of funds used for tackling Maoism or Naxalism

NEW DELHI: State governments will have to send photographs to the home ministry by the end of this month as proof that they have executed projects aimed at countering Left-wing extremism. Only then will the states be able to claim further funds under the Centre’s Rs 500-crore Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS), a senior official told ET. As part of its efforts to step up the offensive against Maoism or Naxalism, the home ministry has also asked the telecom department to stop inter-ministerial consultations on a mobile tower project for the affected areas and bring it directly before the Cabinet, the official added on condition of anonymity. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asked all state governments to submit photographs of projects executed by them with central funds under the SIS within 30 days along with physical and financial project reports, the official said. Funds under the SIS are meant to be spent by states on projects that increase mobility of security forces in Maoist-affected areas by way of upgrading roads, providing secure camps and helipads, strengthening police stations and upgrading weaponry. “The utilisation of funds in this regard will now be closely monitored-…future release of such funds will depend on the success of implementation of projects,” the official said. Under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), which caters to development schemes, states have to upload photographs of the completed projects on a portal managed by Planning Commission. A similar monitoring mechanism has been replicated for the home ministry’s security schemes. Bihar is struggling to complete projects under both schemes. The home minister has also directed the telecom department to “not waste further time” in inter-ministerial consultations on the proposal of installation of mobile towers in Maoist-affected states, the official said. “The minister has asked the telecom department to bring the proposal of installing towers with an increased cost directly before the Cabinet for consideration and approval. The minister feels that the project has already been delayed badly and the installation of towers at least around security force establishments should be done immediately,” the official said. (The Economic Times 9/7/14)

97. 6 suspected Maoist trainees detained under NSA in Dharmapuri (12)

DHARMAPURI: Six persons of Natham Colony in Naikankottai village here, who were arrested by the Dharmapuri police on June 28 for their alleged participation in arms training given by the associates of elusive Maoist leader Kalidass, were detained under the National Security Act (NSA) on Friday, police sources said. Based on the recommendations of Superintendent of Police Asra Garg, Collector K. Vivekanandan issued the order. The persons detained are S. Sakthi, 38, M. Durai, 46, C. Santhosh, 22, S. Adhiyaman, 22, G. Ashokan, 27, and G. Shankar, 36. The order was served on the accused at the Salem Central Prison on Friday afternoon, the sources said. The police said two country-made guns and some explosives were recovered from the accused, and they were arrested to foil an armed assault on leaders of a particular community. The prohibitory orders promulgated across the Dharmapuri district late last month have been extended for two weeks from July 10. The orders were in force in view of the July 4 death anniversary of Dalit youth I. Ilavarasan of Natham Colony, who committed suicide after his caste-Hindu wife left him to live with her mother. The arrests were made in the run-up to the anniversary. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

98. Naxalites demand Rs 50 lakh from construction officials (12)

BHOPAL: Naxalites have allegedly demanded Rs 50 lakh extortion money from officials of Dilip Buildcon – a construction company owned by Dilip Suryavanshi, who is considered close to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Dilip Buildcon is constructing a 65km road from Balaghat to Baihar where construction is nearing completion. Balaghat SP Gaurav Tiwari said, “Manager of Dilip Buildcon filed a complaint against Naxalites on July 11. He said four people came to their makeshift office at Parastola, 12 km from Baihar, and demanded money. All four claimed to be Naxalites and threatened to blow up the project, if they failed to pay up. They also said wage of labourers employed by the company should be raised.” But police are not convinced the extortionists are Naxalites. “In pamphlets dropped by the miscreants, the extortion amount mentioned was Rs 5 lakh and not Rs 50 lakh as claimed by company officials. Also, there was no mention of their ‘dalam’ or group as is their usual practice,” said Tiwari. “We have registered a case and have begun investigation. Security has been tightened in the area,” Tiwari said. (Times of India 14/7/14)

99. Four wanted Naxals held in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Security forces on Wednesday apprehended four suspected Naxalites, carrying rewards on their heads, from Maoist-affected Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh. The suspected Naxals were held by a patrol squad led by paramilitary CRPF from the Korenda-Benur axis of the district. The apprehended Naxals have been identified as Rajman (35), Somnath (35), Rejju alias Rai Singh and Kachru Salam. All were wanted by the police and while the former two carried a reward of Rs 5,000, the other two had a bounty of Rs 10,000 on them, a senior official said. All the suspects are residents of Korenda and have been handed over to local police, the official said. (Zee News 16/7/14)

100. Naxal camp destroyed; arms, explosives seized (12)

Raipur: A joint team of District Police and Special Task Force (STF) destroyed a temporary Naxal camp in a forested patch under Mardapal police station, Superintendent of Police (SP) Kondagaon, Abhishek Meena informed here on Wednesday. “We had specific intelligence inputs that a group of left wing insurgents were camping in a jungle near Kelam village under Mardapal police station. Based on the information, a joint police party consisting of District Police and STF jawans was mobilised to move from Mardapal towards the spot,” SP said. Around 10 am on July 15, the police party had face-off with armed insurgents in jungle near Kelam village who were about 30 to 40 in numbers and both the sides engaged in gun battle. The gunfire lasted more than an hour and Naxals finding themselves surrounded by police personnel ran away in the deep forest while taking advantage of dense vegetation and continuous rain, the SP maintained adding that the Naxals were members of Maoist military platoon number-6 active in the region. Later on, during the searching of area police recovered Walkie-talkies, tiffin bombs, live bullets hand grenades detonator wire, flash, watches, tent, radio, ration in huge quantity and other items of daily use from the spot Meena said that Naxals had gathered for organising ‘Jan Adalat’. Notably, Naxals had killed a villager in Usri on July 13 in a ‘Jan Adalat’ branding him as a police informer. However, police had later on denied of having any link with the deceased person. (Pioneer 17/7/14)

TRAFFICKING

101. Bihar police order survey of girls from Bihar married in Haryana (1)

Patna: Following widespread protests by the JD-U, RJD and Congress leaders over the alleged derogatory remark of Haryana BJP leader OP Dhankar concerning Bihar girls, the state government has ordered a survey in 14 districts to trace how many girls were actually married off to Haryana boys. Inspector general of police, weaker section, Arvind Pandey, on Tuesday wrote a letter to SPs of Begusarai, Purnea, Saharsa, Sitamarhi, Munger, Bettiah, Motihari, Kishaganj, Araria, Madhubani and Katihar to compile a list of girls sent for marriage and their present condition. He has ordered to make district anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) fully functional to track such cases. Pandey said the SPs have been asked to submit a report to the district magistrates concerned detailing their names, village etc, for further verification of their present status in Haryana. Pandey said in the letter that a few such instances had been reported in the past from Katihar and some other districts. “The girls had been taken to Haryana on the pretext of marriage,” he said, adding one such instance had been reported from Darbhanga also when he was posted there as IG. “The girls were being taken to Haryana on the pretext of marriage in a suspicious manner. Some people suspected something wrong in the entire process and lodged a case,” he recalled. The state government had launched the human trafficking prevention programme in 2007-08 to check illegal trafficking of women and child labourers and ensured a comprehensive rehabilitation package. District-level anti-trafficking cells have been constituted in 26 districts under the supervision of the district magistrates. (Hindustan Times 9/7/14)

102. ‘Children trafficked to Kerala being furnished with fake IDs’ (1)

Kochi: Children from other States who are being trafficked to Kerala are being given fake Aadhaar cards that show them as residents of Kerala, DIG S. Sreejith, chief investigation officer of the State Human Rights Commission, has said. He said children were taken from their homes and brought here to be exploited in various ways. Fake documents made the children vulnerable to further exploitation, he added. He was speaking on ‘Human trafficking and child rights’ at a workshop on human trafficking organised by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association and National Human Rights Commission in Kochi on Saturday. P.M. Nair, chair professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences and former Director General of the National Disaster Response Force, said that as of 2011, over one lakh children had been reported missing in the country. About 33,000 of missing children remained untraced, he said, highlighting the scale of human trafficking operations in the country. Mr. Nair said video conferencing facility should be made available for victims who have been trafficked over long distances to give statements in court. Focus should be on rehabilitating the victims and taking them back home if they wanted to as soon as possible. It would be easier for them to give their statements through videoconferencing rather than come back to the place where they were taken forcibly. The inaugural day of the two-day workshop also featured a discussion on ‘human trafficking and women’s rights’ by Meena Kuruvilla, member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.  Justice Ashok Bhushan, judge of the High Court of Kerala, inaugurated the workshop. He called upon all citizens to work together to combat human trafficking. Minister for Law and Finance K.M. Mani delivered the presidential address. He said the government would study the recommendations that would come out of the workshop and take necessary action. Justice Cyriac Joseph, member of the National Human Rights Commission, said people held many misconceptions regarding trafficking. “Trafficking can be curbed only with the combined work of law enforcement agencies, lawyers, and judges,” he said. Advocates, law students, and professors of law attended the workshop on the first day. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

103. National Federation for Indian Women delegation meets Rajnath Singh, raises women trafficking issue (1)

A delegation of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), the women’s wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI), on Sunday met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and raised the issue of women trafficking in the country. “There was a news report in the newspaper which says that a large number of children, especially girls, were trafficked from Jharkhand to different states,” said women activist and NFIW general secretary Annie Raja. Annie further said that the NFIW had sent a fact finding team to Gumla district of Jharkhand and interacted with families of the missing children. “We understood that from each family at least one girl is missing. Even the parents are clueless about their kids’ whereabouts. So we met the Home Minister today and raised this issue,” she added. The delegation has appealed for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in this issue. “We have also requested for formulation and passage of legislation to prevent trafficking. We need a standalone act on this issue,” Annie said. (DNA 14/7/14)

104. Anti-trafficking clubs in colleges (1)

Kochi: Four law colleges in the district have resolved to start anti-human trafficking clubs in their institutions to combat trafficking in all its forms. The colleges made the decision at the end of a two-day workshop on human trafficking organised by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association (KHCAA) and the National Human Rights Commission. The clubs will be opened at S.N. Law College, Poothotta; Government Law College, Ernakulam; National University of Advanced Legal Studies; and the School of Legal Studies at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) with the support of the KHCAA. “We will try to synergise the functioning of the various agencies, including the corporate sector, to provide appropriate and timely rehabilitation of victims of trafficking,” a resolution drafted by the students and others read. The workshop was attended by advocates, rights activists, law students and teachers. Legal professionals who attended the workshop also resolved to provide free legal services to trafficked persons and those vulnerable to trafficking. The participants also plan to hold campaigns to increase awareness about human trafficking. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission and former Chief Justice of India, was the chief guest at the concluding session of the workshop on Sunday. He explained the laws concerning human trafficking to the participants of the workshop and examined the theme of the workshop, ‘Human trafficking – myth or reality’. Justice Cyriac Joseph, member of the National Human Rights Commission was also present at the workshop and interacted with the students and other participants. The morning session focused on the role of different agencies in combating human trafficking. Experts from various agencies that deal with traffickers and victims of trafficking shared their experiences and suggested ways to improve the system. Home Department Additional Chief Secretary Nivedita P. Haran, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala Justice K.K. Usha, Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan of the High Court of Kerala, Deputy Commissioner of Police R. Nishanthini, former MP Sebastian Paul, Additional Director General of Prosecution Tom Jose Padinjarekkara, and advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and V.P. Seemandini were among those who spoke. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

105. Girl missing for five years rescued from Howrah (1)

NEW DELHI: A girl trafficked from a West Bengal village five years ago has been rescued by a joint team of the Delhi police, the Kolkata police and the members of NGO Shakti Vahini. The girl was a minor when she was brought to Delhi in the name of employment and had been missing for the past five years. She was rescued from Howrah, West Bengal, late on Sunday night. The officers who rescued the girl said that she was not physically or sexually assaulted in Delhi. However, she was not allowed to keep in touch with her family. “She has so far not complained against her employers in Delhi. But it could be because she has been brainwashed by her trafficker who promised to marry her after bringing her to Delhi. She is not even naming the man who brought her to Delhi,” said an officer close to the investigation. The rescue came after the girl’s father filed a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court last year saying that his daughter who went out of West Bengal for job has been missing for five years. Responding to the petition, the Court had instructed the CID Kolkata to trace the girl. The CID team came to know that the girl had been brought to Delhi and they got in touch with the Delhi police and Shakti Vahini members. “In Delhi, we conducted raids for three days along with a team of the Delhi Police and the NGO and finally zeroed down upon a suspect identified as Tapan Sardar in Tughlakabad Extension. After taking him in custody we came to know that he had received prior information about the raid and had communicated the same to another accused named Akash alias Raj who managed to escape with the victim,” said Inspector Sarbari Bhattacharjee from the CID Kolkata. “Another team that traced the victim’s employer’s address at Krishna Garden in West Delhi reached there and found that the victim had already left the place with Akash. The AHTU team then shared her photograph with the AHTU staff in Kolkata through WhatsApp. The team there kept a close vigil on the railway stations in Howrah and nearby. When the train reached Burdwan, a CID team boarded the train and managed to trace the girl. However, the alleged trafficker Akash managed to ran away by jumping from the train,” she added. The accused Tapan was produced in a local Delhi court that granted his transit custody to the CID, West Bengal for four days. The investigation has revealed that the girl was brought to Delhi from her village Sandeshkhali in West Bengal about five years ago by a family friend. According to the girl’s father the man who brought her to Delhi had promised a good job to his daughter but once she came to Delhi she became untraceable. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

CORRUPTION

106. Governor can’t be tried in criminal case: Sheila to HC (5)

NEW DELHI: Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday sought quashing of the trial court order to lodge FIR against her in a graft case, contending in the Delhi high court that such proceedings cannot be continued against a governor. Advocate M Pracha, appearing for Dikshit, said as per Article 361(2) of the Constitution there is a bar on criminal proceedings against a governor. Dikshit is currently the governor of Kerala and as per Article 361 (2) of the Constitution “no criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President, or the governor of a state, in any court during his term of office”.A bench of Justice Sunil Gaur, however, adjourned the matter to July 23 as the advocate for the complainant, BJP leader Vijender Gupta, was not present owing to some illness. Gupta had filed a complaint alleging that Dikshit’s administration misused public funds to the tune of Rs 22.56 crore in an advertisement campaign ahead of the 2008 assembly polls and the trial court had ordered lodging of an FIR against her. Thereafter, the then Delhi government had moved the high court against the trial court order which was stayed. AAP government had said Dikshit will have to defend herself as she is no more the CM and the government lacked the “locus standi” to fight for her.  Then in February 2014, the Arvind Kejriwal government had moved the high court seeking to take back the appeal filed by then Congress government headed by Dikshit. Dikshit had then moved the high court opposing the plea of the Kejriwal government and had also sought her impleadment in the matter. Thereafter, on February 26, the high court had said that Dikshit will have to defend herself in the graft case. A special judge had on August 31, last year, ordered registration of FIR against Dikshit and others for offences including criminal breach of trust (section 409 IPC), criminal misappropriation of public funds and criminal misconduct under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The order had come on separate complaints filed by Gupta and RTI activist Vivek Garg against her. Both of them had in their complaints alleged that Dikshit misused government funds in an advertisement campaign ahead of the 2008 assembly polls. (Times of India 9/7/14)

107. NREGA scam in Kalahandi: Wages paid for planting of trees that do not exist (5)

Mumbai: The NDA government has leased a new life into the flagship programme of the last UPA government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) which provides 100 days of work to rural workers who wish to claim it. It is difficult to oppose the Act in principle. In a country where right to life is an inviolable fundamental right for the people, many would argue that right to food and work would also be inviolable. But there has been much protests against the Act as well. While some including Rajastha chief minister Vasundhara Raje want it to be made into a scheme and not a law, there are few who complain the wages have been spiraling due to the Act. However, the biggest issue in the implementation of the Act has been the corruption charges, the latest added to that list being Kalahandi district in Orissa. Zee News reported that recently the funds to plant trees under the NREGA scheme in Kalahandi were siphoned by few officials as the the trees were never planted. Though on papers, money has been paid to workers under the scheme for planting trees, in reality, physically no trees exist. This is also not the first instance of such scam in Orissa. In 2007, a group of researchers led by well known economists Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera found muster rolls that had fake finger prints of fake labourers. The survey was being carried out in the districts of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Boudh. The panchayat executive officer was suspended and enquiry ordered. The Supreme Court while hearing a civil writ petition had even asked why it should not call for SBI probe in a scam that was pegged at Rs 500 crore. A second survey in 2011 showed that in Orissa and UP, 67 percent of the poorest Dalit and tribal households did not get even a day’s work in the past one year. SImilarly, more than a third of them did not even have access to the public distribution system.  The latest Economic Survey by the finance ministry also called for an overhaul of the system. It says, “Though the act is panchayat-centric and demand based, on the ground there is lack of principal role in planning, execution and monitoring by the panchayati raj institutions (PRI’s) especially the gram sabha”. Also the wages are in some places lower than market wages, which means mainly women come to take up jobs. The corruption in implementing a social sector scheme is its biggest evil. On the one hand, if people who need it the most are not getting access to the government schemes, the argument of the rise in rural wages because of the scheme can be challenged. On the other hand, any modification of the scheme to make it more targeted and remove pilferage will be difficult. Those who need to implement the change are the ones who benefit the most from the current system. NREGA is not just a subsidy scheme from the government unlike say, the mid-day meal scheme, because the state does not assume just a patronising role here. People are actually working to earn their wages. The government must work towards making the scheme efficient because both the state and the rural poor need it. The state sets a minimum wage and gets workers to work towards asset creating, while the poor have access to jobs with humane wages during the lean season or otherwise. The new government has followed the UPA path in terms of allocation of funds. But it must take a completely different route to make this work. (DNA 11/7/14)

108. Lokayukta police get govt nod to prosecute BDA secretary (5)

Bangalore: Days after the Chief Minister assured swift sanction for prosecution and suspension of officials facing charges of corruption, Lokayukta police received permission to prosecute Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) secretary A Rajamma Chowdareddy. Rajamma was arrested while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs seven lakh at her office on April 25. The official had allegedly demanded bribe to process the files pertaining to allotment of four sites as compensation to Parvathamma and Nagendra, both residents of Vadagerahalli near Sahakaranagar. Rajamma allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 10 lakh and later scaled it down to Rs seven lakh. The Lokayukta police had completed the investigation pertaining to the trap and sent the request for Prosecution Sanction Order (PSO) in last week of June. During the search after the trap, the Lokayukta police had seized Rs 2.3 lakh in cash from Rajamma’s office cupboard. The next day, Rs 44 lakh in cash and jewellery worth Rs 35 lakh were seized from her house in Koramangala. The police had registered a case of disproportionate assets against Rajamma. “The sanction to prosecute Rajamma was given on Friday and the charge sheet will be filed by Monday or Tuesday. The investigation pertaining to the disproportionate assets case is on,” an official said. Prompted by the chief minister’s statement in the Assembly, the Lokayukta police have decided to forward a fresh list of cases seeking sanction for prosecution. “In eight cases respective department heads have not suspended officials raided for disproportionate assets. This apart, PSOs are also pending with various departments in connection with 90 officials. The communication will be sent to the government soon,” the official said. Meanwhile, the government also placed BDA Additional Land Acquisition Officer G R Harishilpa under suspension. During a surprise check on June 20, Lokayukta officials had found Rs 1.69 lakh cash in possession of Harishilpa. The surprise check was conducted after Lokayukta police had received several complaints about touts demanding money on behalf of the officials. Lokayukta police had arrested seven persons, including agents. Surveyor M M Gangadhar, JE Hirannaiah and record room in-charge Srinivas were among those arrested during the raid. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

109. CBI files charge sheet against Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh in Tatra case (5)

New Delhi: The CBI on Tuesday filed its charge sheet against Lt. Gen. (retd.) Tejinder Singh for allegedly offering a bribe of Rs. 14 crore to the then Army Chief V.K. Singh, who is now a Union Minister, in connection with the Tatra truck deal. The charge sheet filed under section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act named the retired Lieutenant General for having allegedly offered the bribe on behalf of Tatra trucks suppliers who provided the all terrain vehicles to the Indian Army. The section 12 of the Act deals with the offence of offering bribe to a public servant. CBI sources said the charge sheet was based purely on circumstantial evidence which includes Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh’s meeting with the then Army Chief and putting on hold the order for supply of trucks from Tatra. Expressing surprise over the move, Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh said in 2013 there were dozens of media reports which stated that no evidence was found in the case and that it was heading for a closure. These media reports were obviously based from information from the CBI, he claimed. “My interaction with the agency clearly indicated that there was no credible evidence found. “Now with the change of government, there seems to be a change of heart in the probe agency and therefore the filing of charge sheet is abuse of power by the people concerned and politically motivated,” Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh told PTI in his reaction to the CBI charge sheet. A case was registered against Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh on October 19, 2012 following a complaint by Gen. V.K. Singh, who is at present Minister of State of External Affairs and Minister of State in charge of the Department of Northeast Region. The then Army Chief had alleged that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh had offered him a bribe of Rs. 14 crore on September 22, 2010 on behalf of Tatra truck supplier for clearing file for procurement of 1,676 Tatra HMVs (High Mobility Vehicles) for the Indian Army. The CBI during its probe also recorded the statement of the then Defence Minister A.K. Antony who corroborated that the Army Chief had come to his office and informed him that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh had made a bribe offer. As a corroborative evidence in its charge sheet, the CBI has mentioned the orders of the then Army Chief to his staff that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh should not be given any appointment in future, the sources said. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

110. Declare drought, opposition tells government (9)

New Delhi: The opposition Wednesday urged the government to declare drought and take steps to contain a looming crisis caused by deficient rainfall. Initiating a short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav described the situation in northern India as “bad”.”The situation is bad in northern India due to drought, specially in regions where paddy is grown. This will affect not just the present but the next crop as well,” Yadav said. Janata Dal-United’s KC Tyagi said sowing was already less than average. “Why is drought not being declared?” Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Brajesh Pathak urged the government to announce a financial package for farmers. Congress member and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh urged the government to make a contingency plan to mitigate the effects of a possible drought. He underlined the importance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in this context. “In all drought-notified (areas), guaranteed employment in public work for 150, not 100, days should be given,” he said. “The cost of the additional 50 days should be borne by the central government.” Jairam Ramesh also urged the government to study the climate change vis-a-vis agriculture. “Indian monsoon is changing. Today the monsoon is not what it was 10-20 years back. Overall rainfall has not changed but the pattern and distribution have changed,” he said. “We must realise the reality of climate change and we need to embrace new techniques to fight (this).” Rainfall deficit is maximum in central India at 63 percent, with severe shortfall in Gujarat region (91 percent) followed by Marathwada (80 percent), Saurashtra and Kutch (78 percent) and western Madhya Pradesh (76 percent), according to the India Meteorological Department. Sowing area of kharif crops across the country this year is down by 43 percent at 182.4 lakh hectares, the agriculture ministry has said. (Zee News 9/7/14)

111. Assam leads in urban green cover (9)

Guwahati, July 9: Assam has 128 square km of urban tree cover, way ahead of other states of the Northeast, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has revealed in the state of forest report released yesterday. This is the first time that the FSI has done a study on urban tree cover in the country as greening of urban landscape is one of the important measures to mitigate some of the problems of urbanisation. Trees grown in urban areas have contributed significantly in cleaning the environment but also in fulfilling the timber and fuel wood requirement of poor people living in cities. “Urban trees and forests can contribute immensely to the quality of life in towns and cities. Urban forest is one of the resources of an urban area, it is part of its infrastructure and is integral to the quality of life of its residents,” the report stated. Environmental services of urban forests are climate and air quality improvement, energy saving, reduction of global warming and carbon dioxide, noise abatement, soil conservation and others. In this survey, all trees recorded in urban area and outside the forest area have been considered. Trees with more than 10cm diameter have been included in the survey. Among states, Tamil Nadu has the maximum green cover of 1,509 square km followed by Maharashtra (1,373 square km), Karnataka (1,276 square km) and Kerala (1,241 square km). A senior forest official said the issue needs a detailed study as it would be difficult to tell how Assam has done in planting trees in its urban surroundings as compared to other cities. “Enough importance has been given to planting trees in urban areas of the state to protect the environment,” another official said. Encroachment of reserve forests and hills in Guwahati has forced the department to go for massive planting of trees, using younger children as agents of change. During Environment Day celebrations in the Northeast, many initiatives are taken to encourage people to plant fruit-bearing trees. Welcoming the emphasis on urban tree cover by the FSI, Simanta Kalita, programme co-ordinator of the Centre for Environment Education, Guwahati, said as urban forestry is important there has to be a planned programme on planting trees in urban areas. “We can identify some old trees in Guwahati and conserve them,” he said, adding that certain areas can be earmarked so that these can be made into “green lungs” of the city. Meghalaya principal chief conservator of forests Sunil Kumar said the department has been trying to increase the green cover in urban centres, particularly in the state capital. However, he lamented that in view of the increased built-up area in the state capital, space for planting more trees has become scarce. In contrast, a semblance of greenery is conspicuous in places like Tura and Jowai, although these urban centres are also expanding both in terms of human population and infrastructure. Kumar said the department would soon carry out a survey to identify pockets, which could be converted into “green lungs” in the urban areas. “We will first start with Shillong, and then move on to other places,” he added. (The Telegraph 10/7/14)

112. Environmentalists unimpressed by ‘pro-corporate’ Budget (9)

New Delhi: The Budget shows no real commitment towards the environment and is not transformational because it does not allocate enough funds towards promoting renewable energy or public transport and appears to favour corporates over people, environmentalists said on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which swept to power in May, said on Thursday that it would invest in very large solar power projects and establish a fund to help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns as a result of climate change. But some environmental groups said that while they welcomed plans to boost clean energy such as solar and wind, the budget proposals left much to be desired. “The steps on renewable energy and energy efficiency are not transformational and the attempt to force fit coal production to clear the irrational power proposals, is a signal that the reality of climate change has far from been recognised by this government,” said Vinuta Gopal, head of climate and energy at Greenpeace India. “It’s good that the government is talking of investments in renewable but it is largely focused on large scale renewables and not on decentralised renewable energy for meeting the electrification needs of rural India,” Gopal added. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament that renewable energy was “a very high priority” and announced around $100 million to build four “ultra mega solar power projects” in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu and Kashmir. Jaitley said his coalition government, which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, also planned to launch scheme for solar power-driven agricultural water pumping stations, develop solar parks on canal banks and give tax breaks on imported solar components. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a leading Delhi-based environmental think-tank, agreed with Greenpeace saying the biggest potential for solar energy will come from decentralised and off-grid solutions. CSE’s director Sunita Narain said it was important to invest in smaller power plants that provide clean energy to millions across India’s grid and remote villages that have electricity lines but no power. Instead, she said, budget 2014/15 falls back on the “big” solar plants. (Buiness Standard 12/7/14)

113. Lokayukta for amending law to stem illegal mining (9)

BANGALORE: Lokayukta Y. Bhaskar Rao showed concern over large-scale illegal mining which continues in Karnataka despite the State government’s claim of containing the menace. The government has issued statements on the Floor of both Houses that all steps have been taken to curb illegal mining. In his recent letter to heads of departments of Home, Commerce and Industries, Forests, Ecology and Environment, Mr. Rao observed that the Lokayukta had found a number of violations by mining lessees.“Actions taken by concerned departments are not in parity with the gravity of the violations,” he noted. Explosives were being used illegally by most of the granite mining lessees. Mining activities were being carried out without paying royalty, resulting in heavy monetary loss to the department, he observed. Taking a dig at the authorities, he said in none of the instances had provisions of the Explosive Substances Act been invoked for initiating criminal prosecution against erring lessees. “Only their licences have been cancelled,” he said. To tackle this, Mr. Rao favoured amendment to existing laws to accord more powers to authorities concerned for confiscation, forfeiture of properties and imprisonment with hefty fines. The Lokayukta had met heads of various departments — that have powers to regulate mining of ore, sand and granite — recently and discussed the ongoing illegal mining activity. According to Mr. Rao, the meeting was the result of complaints from people across the State as also reports in the media. Mr. Rao observed continued illegal mining was denuding natural resources, upsetting the ecological balance, and causing a huge loss to the exchequer. The violations were on the rise as the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act), 1957 (MMDR), did not prescribe minimum punishment. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

114. Govt has identified over 3,200 polluting industries: Javadekar (9)

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday informed Parliament that it had identified 3,266 highly polluting industries and 150 polluted stretches along various rivers across the country in the past couple of years and had taken measures to deal with it. “The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has identified 3,266 highly polluting industries including power plants, of which 2,328 industries are complying with prescribed standards, 571 are non-complying and 367 have been closed,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar said in response to a Parliament question in Lok Sabha. Javadekar said the government has notified 102 industry-specific (effluent 45, emissions 57) environmental standards. All the industries are required to comply with these standards and take pollution control measures under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. During the last five years (2010 to June 2014), CPCB issued 601 directions under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which included 497 directions for compliance of standards and 104 directions for closure of defaulting industries. In response to another question relating to river pollution, the minister said, “CPCB has identified 150 polluting stretches along various rivers in the country based on bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels, a key indicator of organic pollution.” The polluting river stretches are located in 27 states.He also said the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) covered 42 rivers in 199 towns spread over 21 states at a sanctioned cost of Rs 10,716.45 crore. The government has released Rs 5,097.50 crore to state governments for implementation of various pollution abatement schemes till March, he added. (Times of India 17/7/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

115. Farmers’ forum expresses concern over continuing suicides (20)

HYDERABAD: A group of agricultural and social scientists under the banner of a farmers’ forum ‘Rythu Swarajya Vedika’ expressed concern over the rising number of suicides, with as many as 2,014 ryots ending their lives in 2013 alone in united Andhra Pradesh. Of the 2,014 farmers from erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, 1,800 were from Telangana State unable to bear the burden of debt. “In the past 19 years from 1995, NCRB says a total of 2,96,466 farmers took their lives across the country, of which the figure is 37,912 in erstwhile AP alone and this indicates a deepening crisis in the agriculture sector. Sadly, successive governments have not come up with solutions that were permanent in any way,” Mr. Ramanjaneyulu, from Sustainable Agriculture, a care initiative for farmers said. He regretted that while there were about 1,800 deaths of farmers in Telangana alone, according to police records, revenue officials placed it at a mere 22. “This is an indicator of the callous nature of Revenue officials who are apparently not keen on identifying the problem. It is a classic case of denial syndrome,” he regretted. Others present were Usha Seethalakshmi, an independent researcher working on gender, land and rural livelihood issues; S. Ashalatha, representing the Forum; K. Sajaya of Caring Citizens Collective; P. Shankar from the Dalit Bahujan Front and Ravi Kannegandi, a journalist and activist. Ms. Usha underscored the need for the government to have an efficient system of identifying who were farmers living off the land and who were not. She pointed out that in Hyderabad district alone people had taken loans by pledging their land and gold to the tune of a whopping Rs. 4,000 crore. “While all these have been categorised as farm loans by banks one wonders how they can be called so. When almost all of the loanees have addresses in the city and have jobs, they have shown as security land that is all over the 23 districts of erstwhile AP,” she said. (The Hindu 9/7/14)

116. ‘Budget silent on crucial farmer suicide issue’ (20)

AMRITSAR: The first budget presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has deflated the expectations of farmers who were looking for ‘achhe din’ ahead. With a major chunk of farmers reeling under debt, famers and their leaders were disappointed on finding that the finance minister’s speech was silent on measures to address the crucial issue of farmer suicides. “In Punjab, the state government’s official figures put the farmers’ suicides between 2000 and 2011 at 6,926. But our sample survey found the number to be between 40,000 and 45,000. I wonder what the central government is waiting for? The budget indicates no succor for farmers to enable them to pay off their debts and make farming a profitable profession, ” said Bharatiya Kissan Union (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan while talking to TOI on Thursday. ‘We were expecting implementation of Land Reforms Act, recommendations of Swaminathan Commission on remunerative prices, debt waiver, but there was nothing in the Jaitely’s budget to bring a smile on our faces,” he said. State president of Jamhauri Kissan Sabha Dr. Satnam Singh Ajnala said that 12 Punjab farmers had committed suicide between April 10 and May 11 this year. And the only thing that the state government has done is to form a committee to come up with a comprehensive policy on the issue. “This is not a logical solution to the problem. If the state government couldn’t do anything , then Chief Minister PS Badal could have prevailed upon Modi to announce some facilities for farmers in his budget,” he said. He said no doubt the budget had provisions for developing farmers markets, post harvest lending to farmers, upliftment of marginal farmers , but it has skipped the crucial issue of farmer suicides completely. A farmer Kundan Singh said the budget should have made spelled out provisions to help farmers come out of the vicious debt cycle by providing interest-free crop loans. (Times of India 11/7/14)

117. 1000 aid-starved, drought-hit farmers protest in Vidarbha (20)

Nagpur: Nearly 1,000 farmers, including many women, staged a day’s hunger strike and sit-in protest demanding minimum support price for cotton and waiver of farm loans in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, an NGO leader said here Saturday. The protest at Yavatmal came in the wake of rains eluding the Vidarbha region where farmers had sowed cotton and soyabean twice and many were now resorting to a third sowing, incurring heavy debts. According to NGO Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari, over 800,000 farmers in the region have become victims of little or no rain as the cotton sowing season is in full swing. “They sowed seeds bought from loans early June. But after the crop rotted without rains, many again availed loans for a second sowing late June, which met the same fate. Some are now going for a third sowing, hoping rains will revive in July, but so far the sky is clear,” Tiwari told IANS. Lack of rainfall has destroyed the cotton and soyabean seeds sown in over two million hectares in farmlands across Vidarbha, even as the spectre of drought looms large, he said. Seeking fresh credit facilities, food, health and education security, and a halt to the ongoing import of cheap cotton into the country, the farmers’ meeting Saturday warned of a sustained agitation and indefinite hunger strike outside the collectorate from Aug 1 if their demands were not met. A drought-like situation, lack of credit facilities, failure of the monsoon and other factors are forcing farmers in the state, especially Vidarbha, to commit suicide, Tiwari said. Last year, Maharashtra topped the list of farmland suicides with a whopping 3,146 deaths. There have been 60,768 farmers’ suicides in the state since 1995, as per the latest National Crime Records Bureau report. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

118. Low interest rate can check farmers’ suicides: Expert panel (20)

PATIALA: To arrest the menace of farmer suicide, Punjab government’s expert committee has suggested slashing of interest rates on loans to half at 2% per annum as a key solution. Over 6,000 farmers and farm labourers ended their lives in the state between 2001 and 2010. Admitting that Punjab agriculture is facing “crisis both in terms of economic and environmental viability”, it is for the first time that any government constituted expert panel has sought loan facility to farmers at such a low rate of interest. TOI is in possession of the committee’s draft report. However, rate of interest charged by private moneylenders is as high as 12-18% per annum. Due to easy availability and various economical compulsions, most farmers prefer to take loan from private moneylenders. As per existing norms, total rate of interest on farm loan is 7% per annum, of which farmers pay 4% and rest is paid by the government of India in the form of subsidy. The condition is that maximum cap of loan amount should be Rs 3 lakh and should be paid within specified time. The committee is demanding that the Centre should increase its subsidy from existing 3% to 5%.Not only agriculture loan, the committee has also recommended reduction of interest rate on investment loan for farmers up to 6%. The investment loan is otherwise available at around 12%.Apart from chairman of Punjab Farmers’ Commission GS Kalkat, financial commissioner (Development) Suresh Kumar; financial commissioner (Revenue) NS Kang; head of the department of economics, PAU, Ludhiana, Sukhpal Singh and professor of sociology, PAU, Sukhdev Singh were on board of the committee. Commissioner, agriculture, Punjab, BS Sidhu is convenor of the committee. The committee was constituted by Punjab government to propose framework to state government for is agriculture policy, which state government has to submit to Punjab and Haryana High Court next month. A survey conducted by the three state universities — Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar – on behalf of Punjab government revealed that 6,128 suicides were committed by farmers and farm labourers during 2000-2010 in the state, out of which, 4,686 suicides (2,943 farmers and 1,743 agricultural labourers) were committed due to debt. The committee observed that the debt burden of Punjab peasantry was estimated as Rs 35,000 crore in 2010-11 out of which Rs 13,300 crore was non-institutional debt. The methods of recovery of non-institutional sources are considered coercive in nature causing severe psychological and social distress. (Times of India 14/7/14)

119. Farmers ask for increase in FRP for sugarcane (20)

BELGAUM: Sugarcane farmers want the Centre to increase the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of Rs. 220 per quintal for 2014-15. They said that the government should consider factors like cost of cultivation and reasonable margin for the farmers. The FRP was recommended by the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices appointed by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation under the Union Ministry of Agriculture. National Farmers Association president and advocate B.P. Sheri said that the commission did not take the price input costs, such as prices of seeds, fertilizers, labour wages and maintenance, into consideration while recommending Rs.220. This amount is just Rs. 10 more than the FRP fixed for the year 2013-14. He added that the timing of the announcement of FRP was itself unscientific and untimely. These prices should be announced before December for the next ensuing season and not in February and March as is currently done. An early notice will give farmers a fair idea and help him decide on feasibility of cultivating sugarcane. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

120. Raigad farmers to protest forceful land acquisition (4)

NAVI MUMBAI: Farmers from 78 villages of Mangaon, Roha and Tala tehsil in Raigad district will be protesting on Wednesday against the alleged forceful land acquisition for Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project. The farmers, who are organized under the banner of Anti-Corridor Struggle Action Committee, will protest the acquisition of 67,500 acres for the Dighi Port Industrial area in Raigad district. They claim that the agitation is to save their agricultural land and livelihoods. They will march to the Sub Divisional Office of the land acquisition authority located at Mangoan in the morning. A member of the committee, Ulka Mahajan said, “The project will render farmers from 78 villages landless and also snatch away their allied livelihood. All the panchayats have unanimously resolved not to give away their land. They have been agitating for 18 months.” She added that the Central government and the then-CEO of the DMIC asked the state government to drop Dighi Port from DMIC project. Despite this move, the state government is acquiring the land, ‘without the consent of the land owners’. Mahajan added, “The authorities are threatening to amend the clause under the new Land Acquisition Act (Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013). It states that unless 70% of the farmers from the area give consent for the land acquisition, no land can be acquired. The farmers have no choice but to agitate. Local MLAs and activists will also be joining the protest.” Another farmer, S Bhoir from Vichumbe village said that the compensation package should include job opportunities for the Project Affected Persons or family members. (Times of India 9/7/14)

121. Goverment to focus on SEZ revival (4)

Finance minister Arun Jaitley expressed the government’s commitment to revive special economic zones (SEZs) as he said it would take “effective steps” to make them instruments of industrial production, economic growth, export promotion and employment generation. At the same time, he also informed that he was assured the public sector units (PSUs) would invest through capital investment “a total sum of Rs 2,47,941 crore”. “For achieving this, effective steps would be undertaken to operationalise the SEZs to revive the investors’ interest to develop better infrastructure and to effectively and efficiently use the available unutilised land,” the finance minister said. Of the total 47,803 hectares of SEZ land notified, only 17,689 have been put to use so far, according to ministry of commerce and industry data. Once major export and manufacturing hubs, SEZs started losing sheen after the imposition of minimum alternate tax (MAT) and dividend distribution tax (DDT) in 2011 on them. Meanwhile, insisting to give a thrust to investment in the economy, Mr Jaitley said, “PSUs will also play their part constructively. I am assured that PSUs will invest through capital investment a total sum of Rs 2,47,941 crores in current financial year to create a virtuous investment cycle.” Proposing to provide greater autonomy to public sector banks, the minister said these lenders would require Rs 2.40 lakh crore capital by 2018 to meet global Basel III norms. “To be in line with the Basel III norms, there is requirement to infuse Rs 2.40 lakh crore as equity by 2018 in our banks (public sector banks). To meet this huge capital requirement, we need to raise additional resources to fill this obligation,” he said. A large part of this fund would be raised through public offers made to retail customers, Mr Jaitley said. (Asian Age 11/7/14)

122. Neglected, Patana Families Await Govt Help (4)

PARADIP: It has not been a smooth sailing for the 34 families who returned to their village, Patana, last month after staying in exile for almost seven years. Banished from their village by anti-Posco activists for supporting the South Korean Steel major’s proposed steel plant, they had been staying in the company’s transit colony from 2007. As the situation normalised, they decided to return to Patana a month back. The villagers were excited ahead of their return as they had been assured by the anti-Posco members that no harm would be done to them. But with no roof over their head and devoid of basic facilities, their homecoming has not been a happy affair. With their houses damaged by activists of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) during the peak of anti-Posco stir, their only shelter now are polythene tents. Housing assistance by the State Government either under Indira Awas Yojana or Mo Kudia scheme continues to elude them. A month back, all they had got from the local administration was a sustenance allowance of `2,400 and a polythene sheet for each family to take care of emergency operations during the transition. “We had supported Posco in 2007 for which we were thrown out of our village. And now when we returned, the administration has rewarded us with a meagre cash amount and a polythene sheet,” said former village chief, Suresh Muduli. Another villager, Pradip Mohanty, said they committed a mistake by supporting the decision for a steel plant. “Those who had opposed the project are living peacefully now, but we have been left to fend for ourselves both by the Government and Posco company,” he said. Mohanty’s betel vines and house were set afire by anti-Posco activists in 2007. “We have to begin from scratch to earn a living because all our properties have been destroyed by PPSS members. Now, we neither have roof over our head nor money to rebuild our houses,” said Manguli Rout, another villager. Surprisingly, even the PPSS members have now come out in support of these families. Woman leader of PPSS, Manorama Khatua, said it is a matter of regret that neither the district administration nor Posco has come forward to help these families in rebuilding their lives. Erasama Block Development Officer, Subodh Acharya, said administration had taken steps to provide housing assistance to the 34 families under Indira Awas Yojana. “The financial aid has already been sanctioned by the Government and it will be disbursed to them very soon,” he informed. (New Indian Express 12/7/14)

123. Rural Ministry suggests industry-friendly changes in Land Act (4)

New Delhi: The Rural Development Ministry has suggested a number of amendments to the Land Acquisition Act which would water down pro-farmer provisions like mandatory consent of at least 70% locals for acquiring land for PPP projects and 80% for acquiring land for private projects. The Land Acquisition Act enacted during the UPA government is likely to go undergo drastic changes if Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives nod for Rural Development Ministry’s proposals which also include dilution of a key clause of Social Impact Assessment study criticised by states as time consuming for industrialisation process. “The Consent Clause (Section 2(2)) should be re-examined as ownership of land vests with the Government in PPP projects. The consent clause should be removed from PPP projects. Alternatively, consent requirement may be brought down to 50%,” says the Ministry in its note sent to the PMO. It says that “mandatory Social Impact Assessment study should be done away with. SIA should be confined to large projects/PPP Projects as it may delay acquisition process.” It has also suggested amendment to another key provision on acquisition of “multi-cropped irrigated land”.”The provision to safeguard food security (Section 10) by development of culturable wastelands in lieu of acquisition of multi-cropped irrigated land needs to be amended as States like Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand do not have any wasteland for the purpose,” it says. The Ministry’s suggestions for drastic changes in the Act came after most of the states recently came out openly against the new Act, complaining that it had hurt the process of acquiring land for infrastructure projects. They have demanded “drastic changes” in certain provisions of the law. At a meeting of State Revenue Ministers here chaired by Union Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari, the states including Congress-ruled Haryana objected to provisions for mandatory consent and Social Impact Assessment study, which are made mandatory in all land acquisitions. (Business Standard 15/7/14)

124. Opposition demands white paper on Polavaram project (4)

BHUBANESWAR: The Biju Janata Dal Government was blamed by opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party in the State Assembly on Tuesday with both parties alleging that it lacked adequate data on the controversial Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project. Senior legislators of Congress and BJP demanded that the government should place a white paper on the possible impact the irrigation project will have on the State. The BJD had on Monday observed a hartal in four districts in south Odisha apprehending that a large number of tribal people will be displaced and vast tracts of land will be submerged in Malkangiri district when the project comes up in Andhra Pradesh. The BJD legislators had also disrupted the Assembly proceedings on Monday and submitted a memorandum to the Governor over the Polavaram issue. Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra told the House during zero hour that the government should place facts stating how the project would affect the State and how many tribal villages would be affected. The senior Congress legislator also demanded that the issue should be discussed threadbare in the Assembly after the government placed a white paper. Senior BJP legislator and party’s State unit president K. V. Singh Deo also made a similar demand and said that his party will stand by the State government if Polavaram project would actually have any adverse impact on the tribal peole in Malkangiri district. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

125. Jaitley Announces New Schemes for Disabled (3)

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday announced some new schemes for disabled people. Tabling the union budget 2014-15 in parliament, Jaitley said: “Fifteen new Braille presses will be established and 10 existing ones will be revived.” Jaitley said the scheme to assist the disabled to purchase aids and appliances will be extended. “I propose to extend the scheme for assistance to disabled persons for purchase of aids and appliances (ADIP) to include contemporary aids and assistive devices,” he said. “A national level institute for Universal Inclusive Design and Mental Health Rehabilitation and a Centre for Disability Sport has also been proposed for the welfare of the disabled people in the country,” Jaitley said. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

126. State lags in reducing infant, maternal mortality rates (3)

Bangalore: Among the South Indian states, Karnataka fares poorer in reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, while, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have performed much better, said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Addressing Asha workers on the occasion of ‘World Population Day’ here on Friday, Siddaramaiah said that when compared to the national average, the State had reduced both the mortality rates substantially. The chief minister, on the occasion, called upon the Asha workers to strive to bring down the infant and maternal mortality rates in the State. Promising additional funds to achieve the target, Siddaramaiah said Karnataka was the only State which provided matching grants sanctioned by the Centre to the states, under the National Rural Health Mission. As a result, Asha workers in Karnataka were paid well under the scheme compared to their counterparts in other states. He said: “We are paying between Rs 2,150 and Rs 6,155 to Asha workers, whereas states like West Bengal, etc, pay around Rs 900.” Citing insecurity among parents on their children’s longevity as the reason behind population explosion, the chief minister said: “People should have one or two children. It was the duty of the government to ensure that the younger generation was healthy. In order to achieve this, there was a need to strengthen the public health system.” Warning a bleak future if citizens failed to realise the dangers of population explosion, he said: “This was the day to warn people on the dangers of population explosion. India’s population was just 36 crore in 1951, which had presently increased to 125 crore. The pace at which our population is increasing, we will turn 240 crore in the next 40 years. Do not forget that the geographical position, natural resources and our crop production may not increase any more. Population growth leads to over-exploitation of natural resources and takes away all the vitals of the nation,” he added. He reminded the impending dangers of acute shortage of water, food, housing and clothing, if people do not realise perils of overpopulation. Minister for Health and Family Welfare U T Khader said that the State would formulate a policy to provide health insurance to Asha workers. A few Asha workers were honoured with incentives for their services. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

127. Tamil Nadu a trendsetter in health schemes in country, says Health Minister (3)

COIMBATORE: Tamil Nadu has the distinction of being a trendsetter in health schemes in the country as it had among the best health indicators. The State had an Infant Mortality Rate of 21 per 1,000 live births, which was half the national rate of 42 per 1,000 live births, said Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar here on Saturday. He was addressing the inaugural function of ‘Nalam 2014,’ a medical exhibition being held here from Saturday to Tuesday by the PSG Hospitals as part of its silver jubilee celebrations. Maternal mortality rate of Tamil Nadu stood at 73 per 1,00,000 births, which was less than half the national figure of 150 per 1,00,000 births. This was achieved through the round-the-clock service provided by neonatal intensive care units and Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) centres set up across the State. Tamil Nadu also accounted for the highest number of cadaver transplants in the country with 450 performed so far and as many as 2,800 organs having been transplanted. Further, the Minister said that present All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime headed by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had allotted more than Rs. 7,000 crore for health, which was among the highest budgetary allocations for health sector, and next only to education. Private hospitals also play a vital role in achieving such figures through schemes such as the Chief Minister’s Health Insurance Scheme (CMHIS). Around 96,000 persons had benefited from this scheme over the past two years in Coimbatore alone with Rs. 265 crore disbursed under CMHIS, Dr. Vijaya Baskar said. Earlier, L. Gopalakrishnan, managing trustee of PSG Institutions, said that the 900-bed multi-speciality hospital had made rapid strides in recent years. It was among the first institutions in the city to obtain National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) certification. It also had a simulator to train medical students at a cost of Rs. 7 crore. The trust managed around 30 educational institutions that provided from primary education to higher education besides specialised institutions for children with special needs, he added. Vimal Kumar Govindan, hospital medical director, said that the exhibition focussed on health promotion and creation of awareness on disease prevention among the public. S.P. Velumani, Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development, R. Chinnasamy, Singanallur MLA and O.K. Chinnaraj, Mettupalayam MLA, among others took part in the function. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

128. RTI reveals TB accounted for 8.1% of 87,027 deaths in city in 2013-14 (3)

Mumbai: In 2013-14, tuberculosis (TB) accounted for 8.1 per cent of the 87,027 deaths reported in the city — a glaring health concern highlighted by a report released by NGO Praja on Tuesday. While TB deaths stood at 7,075, there were 255 diarrhoea deaths, followed by 195 malaria and 108 dengue deaths in 2013-2014. The report is based on death certificates collected from the civic body through the Right to Information applications, said Praja officials. There are, however, significant discrepancies in the data accumulated by Praja and figures provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The BMC reported only 1,393 deaths due to TB and 30 deaths due to malaria in 2013. Dr Minnie Khetarpal, TB control officer at BMC, said, “The death figures in our records are based on Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP). On several occasions, even para-medics issue death certificates without filling the form properly. This leads to inaccurate data. I feel the difference in Praja and BMC figures is due to that.” Nitai Mehta, managing trustee of Praja, said under-reported cases of TB can affect the planning and control mechanism of the disease. “Cases of malaria have been reducing every year, but Mumbai might now become the metropolitan city with the highest TB deaths in the world,” Mehta said. As per the data released by Praja, there were 10 deaths due to typhoid and seven due to cholera in 2013-14. HIV-AIDS accounted for 439 deaths and hypertension was responsible for 4,525 deaths in the city. According to Praja’s data, for the past six years, K-East ward, comprising Andheri (east) and parts of Jogeshwari and Vile Parle, had the highest cumulative count of diseases among all 24 wards in the city. In 2013-14, 10,167 cases of malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, diabetes and diarrhoea were reported from the ward. “Since 2008, K East ward has constantly reported a high number of malaria, tuberculosis, diabetes and diarrheoa cases, with the ward also slowly becoming a den for dengue (16 cases reported in 2012-2013 and 29 cases in 2013-2014),” Praja report stated. A BMC official said the biggest challenge in the ward were the enormous slums where health and hygiene conditions were poor. There are over eight slum pockets in the ward with Mograpada and Bandrekar Wadi being two major slums. “The slum dwellers do not co-operate with fogging exercises and on several occasions they have turned a deaf ear towards the instructions given by health workers,” a former medical officer from the ward said. Rajan Naringrekar, insecticide officer at BMC, said, “K-East ward is huge. So, the cases reported from there will be higher than A, B and C wards, which are much smaller.” The ward covers 23.5 sq kms. Four wards in the city – K East (Andheri East), L (Kurla), G South (Elphinstone) and E (Byculla and Chinchpokli) – have been notified as high risk areas since 2010, where presence of slums, massive construction activities and demographic conditions have led to high ailments count. (Indian Express 16/7/14)

129. Encephalitis claims 29 lives in State (3)

GUWAHATI: The Japanese encephalitis (JE)-related death toll in the State has shot up to 29. The number of persons affected by this mosquito-borne disease, which is yet to have a curative treatment, has also shot up to 224 in the State. Sources in the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) unit of the State Health Directorate told this newspaper that this time the lower Assam districts of Barpeta, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Nalbari and Darrang are mainly affected by the disease unlike in the previous years, when the upper Assam districts of Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat were mainly affected by it. Though the number of confirmed cases of JE is growing at present, it is expected that the number of such cases will decline by mid-August. Last year, there were 193 confirmed JE cases till July 15. Of them, 41 died. But this year, 29 persons were killed by the disease till July 15, sources said, adding, the percentage of death this time is 40 per cent less compared to that last year. Preventive vaccination has resulted in significant reduction in the cases of JE in the upper Assam districts. The Health Department will undertake vaccination programmes in nine lower Assam districts by September next and in a phased manner the entire State would be covered under the vaccination programme within the current year, sources said. Meanwhile, fogging operations are undertaken regularly in the affected areas, besides public awareness programmes, sources said. (Assam Tribune 17//7/14)

HIV/AIDS

130. Goa govt., NGOs rally around HIV+ students (3)

PANAJI: As a row over admission of HIV-positive children to a school in Rivona in south Goa escalates, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has warned that stringent provisions of the Goa Children’s Act will be invoked to tackle any discrimination against the children. The Goa government, he said, will step in to provide justice to the 13 students from a community-run centre who are facing opposition from parents of other students at St. Fatima High School at Rivona. The parents have threatened to boycott the school ignoring the intervention of the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The controversy began last week when some 50 parents opposed the decision of the management to admit the students, and demanded the cancellation of the admissions. The parents extended their agitation till Friday. The school management is in no way responsible for the situation, the Chief Minister said on Tuesday and promised to intervene personally to solve the controversy. Efforts are on to defuse the pressure built up by the parents. The Naz Foundation (India) Trust, an organisation which runs a care home for orphaned and vulnerable children, says children living with HIV face multiple forms of discrimination in schools. Consequently, on March 3, the Supreme Court issued notices to all States based on a public interest litigation petition to declare HIV-positive children as a disadvantaged group under the Right to Education Act to ensure their education without discrimination. Deputy Director of Education Anil Powar admitted on Wednesday that the department was conscious that it would have to face contempt charges from the court, and as such in no way it would allow the cancellation of admissions. Moreover, the government is all set to invoke the stringent provisions of the Goa Children’s Act and Rules. No child can be denied admission to any school on any ground, whether living with HIV/AIDS or differently-abled. Contravention of the provisions is punishable with a fine, which may extend to Rs. 50,000. Mr. Powar said on Wednesday that the government was in the process of convincing the parents, and hoped for an amicable settlement within two or three days. Groups working with HIV-positive children such as Positive People have reacted with shock and anger at the way the children have been identified, stigmatised and victimised. Children’s Rights in Goa (CRG), a children’s rights group, lauded the steps taken by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to ensure that the HIV-positive students were not denied their right to education, and appreciated the statement by the government that their right to admission to a regular school would be upheld. Expressing anguish with the response of the parent-teacher association, CRG director Nishtha Desai recalled that prior to this, the same children were denied admission in another school at Sulcorna because of opposition from parents of children studying in the school. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

131. HIV evidence found in child said to be cured (3)

July 11: A child in Mississippi who was thought to have been cured of HIV with aggressive drug treatment immediately after birth is now showing signs of infection with the virus, federal health officials announced yesterday — a serious setback to hopes for a cure for AIDS. The report in March 2013 that the child had apparently been cured raised the possibility that aggressive early treatment might be able to reverse infections in newborns — and perhaps even in newly infected adults. About 2.3 million people around the world were newly infected with HIV in 2012, the last year for which figures were available; 260,000 were infants infected at birth or immediately afterward. So yesterday’s announcement was especially deflating. During a telephone news conference held by the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Hannah B. Gay, the pediatrician at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in Jackson who first put the child on large doses of antiretroviral drugs, said it was “like a punch in the gut”. With hopes raised by the Mississippi case, doctors had made plans for a worldwide clinical trial in which about 450 babies — chosen because their infected mothers had no testing or treatment before the births — would be put on the three-drug regimen called triple therapy. If those who were infected with HIV showed no virus after 48 weeks of treatment, the plan was to stop their drugs and see if they had been cured before the virus had a chance to establish a reservoir of infected cells. But not a single baby has yet been enrolled in the trial, and in light of the failure to cure the Mississippi baby, “We’ve got to go back and look at the trial’s design,” said Dr Anthony S. Fauci, a leading AIDS expert who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Asked how he felt about yesterday’s announcement, he said: “It’s obviously disappointing, but I was not surprised. I’ve been chasing these reservoirs for the last 25 years, and I know this virus has a really uncanny way of hiding itself.” Before the Mississippi baby, only one other person had been considered cured of HIV. That was an adult, Timothy Brown, previously known as the anonymous “Berlin patient”, who had a transplant of blood stem cells to treat his leukemia after his bone marrow was wiped out with drugs and radiation. (The Telegraph 11/7/14)

132. Parents now target 23 non-HIV students in Goa (3)

Panaji: The 13 HIV-positive students whose admission to a Goa school has triggered protests from a parents teachers association (PTA) last week, have been accommodated in another school. AP photo for representation purpose The 13 HIV-positive students whose admission to a Goa school has triggered protests from a parents teachers association (PTA) last week, have been accommodated in another school. The PTA now wants 23 non-HIV students, who live in the same Church-run children’s home along with the 13 HIV-positive students, to be dropped from the school. Several members of the PTA were demanding that the Fatima High School in Rivona, 50 km south of Panaji, should not allow 23 non HIV students to continue in school, Father Maverick Fernandes, a Church official who was involved in negotiations with the parents in a meeting held Friday told IANS. “We tried to allay the fears of the parents about HIV. Some seemed to be convinced. We also informed them about the Supreme Court judgement which says that there cannot be discrimination against these students,” Fernandes said. Fernandes said the 13 HIV students had been admitted to another school. The identity of the school has been kept secret, perhaps fearing another set of protests at the school where the 13 children have found admission. The Friday meeting was attended by the state education department officials, chairperson of state commission for protection of child rights, school management and the PTA, but failed to resolve the deadlock, with as many as 40 parents resolving to withdraw their children from the school. By evening 25 parents have already applied for a school leaving certificate, so that they could transfer them to other schools nearby. “We tried our best to convince the parents. But we insisted that the students cannot be removed from school,” said Ramkrisnhna Samant, deputy director (education) South Goa. BJP MLA Subhash Phaldesai, who also tried to convince the parents to let the 23 non HIV students to continue in school, said the 150 odd parents at the meeting seemed to be convinced until the last minute, when they consolidated and stuck to their demand.”They wanted us to give in writing that the non HIV students will not be affected by HIV in the future. It is an unreasonable demand. It is extremely unfair. I feel for the children,” Phaldesai said. The school management was forced to shutdown for a couple of days after the stand-off between the PTA and the school authorities. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

133. More demands over HIV ‘threat’ in Goa school (3)

Panaji: Even the transfer of the 13-HIV positive students to another school proved to be insufficient to quell protests from the parents and teachers association (PTA) in Goa / DH Photo only for representationEven the transfer of the 13-HIV positive students to another school proved to be insufficient to quell protests from the parents and teachers association (PTA) in Goa. The PTA has now demanded that 23 other students, who lived in the same church-run children’s home as the HIV-positive students, be dropped from the school. The Fatima High School in Rivona had last week been forced to transfer the 13 HIV-positive students after protests from the association. Father Maverick Fernandes, a church official, was on Friday negotiating with the PTA over its demands for the removal of wards who came in contact with the HIV-positive students. “We tried to allay the fears of parents about HIV. Some seemed to be convinced. We also informed them about the Supreme Court judgement which says that there cannot be discrimination against these students,” Fernandes said. However, the meeting failed to break the deadlock with as many as 40 parents vowing to transfer their children from the school. By Friday evening, parents of 25 children applied for transfer certificates. (Deccan Herald 13/7/14)

134. Four of every 10 Asians living with HIV are Indian: Report (3)

India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday. The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it began in the 1980s, the UN AIDS programme said, adding that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising around 35 million. Here are some facts and figures on India from the report: India accounted for 51% of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8% of deaths worldwide. At the end of 2013, more than 700,000 people in India were on antiretroviral therapy, the second-largest number of people on the treatment in any country. However, 64% of those affected do not have access to antiretroviral treatment. In India, the number of new HIV infections declined by 19% between 2005 and 2013, yet it accounted for 38% of all new HIV infections in Asia. The country recorded a 38% decline in AIDS-related deaths in the same period. HIV prevalence among gay men and other men who have sex with men is between 4-9% in India. In Chhattisgarh, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is 15%, three times the national figure. Data indicates that more than 75% of women in India who tested positive for HIV have husbands who travel far for work, such as truck drivers migrant labourers. In certain states, nearly 90% of newly diagnosed HIV infections were among wives with a migrant husband. In Mumbai, almost a quarter (22.9%) of female prostitutes who were victims of trafficking are HIV-positive. Data collected from interviews in India indicates that women forced into prostitution are nearly three times as likely to be HIV-positive. Around 2.8% of sex workers in the country are estimated to be HIV-positive. (Times of India 17/7/14)

 

Posted by admin at 17 July 2014

Category: Uncategorized

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Cong to raise dalit issue in Punjab assembly (2)

BATHINDA: Bathinda district unit of Congress accused SAD-BJP government of not providing a fair chance to dalits in getting common village agricultural land meant for them. Party workers decided to hold a protest at Bathinda deputy commissioner’s office on July 5 on the issue. Bhucho MLA Ajaib Singh Bhatti has also decided to raise the issue in the next session of Punjab assembly and before legislative assembly committee for welfare of SCs and BCs. He demanded impartial inquiry into lathicharge on dalit families for demanding cultivable land. On June 27, police resorted to use of force over Dalits of Balad Kalan village of Sangrur, and booked them under attempt to murder charges. On Monday, MLA Bhatti held a meeting in Bathinda in which former legislator Makhan Singh, district (rural) chief Gura Singh Tungwali and leaders of the party’s dalit wing participated. He said, “The state government is discriminating against the dalit sections across Punjab in providing one-third of panchayat/shamlat lands to them through open auctions. At most of the places, these are being usurped by influential farmers through proxy.” Bhatti said providing land meant for dalits to influential landlords by proxy was against spirit of giving fair chance of livelihood to the downtrodden. He said that cane-charging of dalits at Balad Kalan and not allowing them to getting land at Baupar were the latest examples of discrimination faced by the socially weaker sections. (Time of India 1/7/14)

2. Bajwa joins stir by Dalits in Balad Kalan village (2)

Sangrur: Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa on Wednesday joined the protest organised by Dalits in Balad Kalan village of Sangrur district. The Dalits have been fighting for their rights over panchayat land. Accompanied by Dalit leader Chaudhary Santokh Singh, Jalandhar MP and Sangrur leaders, including former MP Vijay Inder Singla, Bajwa joined the protest and heavily lashed out at the ruling SAD-BJP government. He also visited Sangrur jail to meet agitating 41 Dalits, who had been detained by the police. Bajwa said the Dalits had been agitating for the past several days over the fraudulent auction of panchayat land reserved for them. They had been demanding that the auction should be organised by lowering the reserve price and arguing that the one fixed by the panchayat was too high. He said in the process, three Dalit members of panchayat had resigned. He strongly condemned the police lathicharge on the agitating Dalits. Demanding immediate withdrawal of cases against Dalits and acceptance of their demand for lowering the reserve price for the auction of 478 bighas of land reserved for them in the village, Bajwa termed the lathicharge as unprovoked. He said the Congress had always articulated the concerns of the Dalits historically and the party in Punjab would continue to plead their cause at every level. He said the Akali Dal had always betrayed the weaker sections and had only been concerned with getting their votes. He asserted it was the Congress which was fully committed to their uplift. He said the Dalits had been agitating at several places against the policies of the ruling government and the Congress would take up their issues at state level. He said the SAD-BJP government had been ignoring Dalits as evident from the lackadaisical implementation of the schemes meant for their welfare, which also included scholarships for the Dalit students. He said grants under the Shagun Scheme for Dalit girls had not been paid for months. (Hindustan Times 2/7/14)

3. Dalits want case withdrawn, threaten stir (2)

FARIDKOT: Dalits of Nathalwala village threatened to start a protest if cases registered against them for stopping landlords from taking possession of the village common land earmarked for them were not quashed. Cases were registered against four dalits last week. The dalits accused Faridkot police of implicating them in false cases and sent a complaint to the SSP, seeking immediate withdrawal of the cases. Faridkot DSP HPS Parmar said a case under sections 323 and 324 of IPC has been registered against Harjinder Singh, Resham Singh, Jaswant Singh and Sukhpreet Kaur on the complaint of a few Nathalwala residents. Harjinder Singh and Resham Singh said a piece of land was allotted to dalits by scheduled caste society a few months ago but the landlords wanted to usurp it. “We had a running feud with the landlords and they tried to take possession of the land last week but we stopped them and an altercation had taken place. The police wrongly registered a case against us. We want the case to be withdrawn,” said Harjinder Singh. (Times of India 4/7/14)

4. Crime against dalits biggest challenge for Bihar CM (2)

Patna: New data released by the national crime record bureau (NCRB) shows checking crime against dalits presents itself as one of the biggest challenges facing Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who comes from this disadvantaged category. As per the NCRB data, 6,721 incidents of crime against persons belonging to the scheduled castes (SCs) were recorded in Bihar during calendar year 2013, the second highest for any Indian state after Uttar Pradesh with 7,078 cases. As such, Bihar contributed 17.05% of all incidents of crime against SCs, spread across 28 states and seven union territories, which are covered by the NCRB in its new report, released last week. The report shows the total number of cases in Bihar involving crime against SCs which were up for trial in 2013 (including cases pending from the previous year) stood at 16,515, again, only second behind UP (25,538). But what was an even more telling figure behind the court trial data, released by the NCRB, was the very low percentage of such cases that were disposed of by courts in Bihar during the year. Out of 16,515 cases under trial, 67 cases were out compounded or withdrawn. Of the remaining 16,448 cases, just 1,560 cases could be disposed of during calendar year 2013. This worked out to disposal rate just 9.48% of the cases involving crime against SCs that were under trial in Bihar during the year previous year. Again, the conviction rate in 1,560 concluded cases was just 13.1%. This figure stood in stark contrast to the overall very high rate of conviction achieved by the state government in recent years. The government had claimed last year it was the highest in the country. However, PK Thakur, who assumed charge as Bihar’s director general of police (DGP) last month, insisted the position pertaining to crime against SCs in Bihar was far less aggravated than the figure of 6,721 suggested. “What needs to be clarified at the outset is that unlike some other states, the bulk of the cases in Bihar are minor in nature – involving arson or abuses in the name of caste”, said Bihar director general of police (DGP) P K Thakur. Heinous offences against SCs, he said were fewer than most other states. This appeared to be supported by NCRB data which showed 50 cases of murder, 68 cases of rape and nine cases of kidnapping of SCs. The rest were less serious cases. The DGP said greater awareness among SCs about their rights was also contributing to a larger number of cases being instituted. “We are trying to empower SC police stations by posting more able officers and providing them more manpower and resources for more effective investigation of cases involving SCs”, he explained. About the slow progress of trials in cases involving SCs, DGP Mishra said a part of the problem was that courts were overburdened with cases. “We may put forward a request to the government to facilitate – through the high court, more special courts dedicated to the trial of cases involving SCs”, the DGP added. Bihar state human rights commission member Neelmani said the commission has organized six divisional level workshops in Bihar last year to sensitize public servants regarding the violation of human rights of those belonging to the weaker sections. “We plan to cover the remaining three divisions of Bihar (in all there are nine) later this year”, Neelmani added. (Hindustan Times 6/7/14)

5. Dalit family seeks fresh probe into mysterious death of woman (2)

JODHPUR: The mysterious death of a young Dalit woman in a far-off village of Jodhpur has forced her in-laws’ family to sit on a dharna outside the Collectorate since May 28 seeking a re-investigation into the case. The woman’s father-in-law Tejaram runs between police stations and court, while his wife and two children — both of whom are mentally unstable — wait endlessly. Life, probably, was never easy for Tejaram’s 21-year-old daughter-in-law whose burnt body was found in a jungle near Dediya village on February 10. But it became even worse for the family after her death under suspicious circumstances. The police arrested Tejaram and his son, Omaram, on charges of dowry death based on a complaint lodged by the victim’s parents. Police registered a case because Omaram and his wife had been married for only three years. While Tejaram was kept in a lock-up illegally and released on judicial intervention, Omaram is still in jail facing trial. Tejaram and his family have a different story to tell. In a petition before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), filed on their behalf by Dalit Adhikar Network, they alleged that the victim was being sexually exploited by three upper caste men living near Tejaram’s house — the only other family in the vicinity. The three — Tej Singh, Kavraj Singh and Manohar Singh — used to visit Tejaram’s house when he and Omaram were away at work in the nearby mines, threaten the three family members and sexually exploit the victim. They eventually killed her, the petition alleged. “Dalit women have been exploited by upper caste men for ages. No one listens to Dalits,” Tulsidas Raj, State convenor of Dalit Adhikar Manch told The Hindu. He has been helping the family fight the case. “Our only hope is the NHRC, which has taken cognisance of the case, and we have demanded a CBI enquiry, protection to Tejaram and his family and action against the policemen who kept Tejaram in illegal custody. Importantly, it makes a case under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,’’ he said. On May 13, Tejaram, after a directive from the court, lodged a second FIR in which the three men had been accused of sexually assaulting and killing his daughter-in-law. It was after the police refused to take action against those named in the second FIR that the family left their house fearing victimisation and sat on a dharna outside the Collectorate. The police, on the other hand, claim that it was a clear case of dowry death. “The victim and Omaram did not get along. She was staying there against her will. Who wants to live with mentally unstable people? The only two sane men were out during the day, and there was no other family nearby. So the victim made friends with these three young boys which the family disapproved of,’’ said Govind Singh Devada, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Jodhpur. The case was registered at Phalodi police station on a complaint from the victim’s parents, he said. (The Hindu 7/7/14)

 

TRIBALS

6. Centre to draw up strategy to empower tribals’ (6)

MARGAO: Union minister for tribal affairs Joel Oram on Friday stated that the government of India is committed to drawing up a strategy to empower tribals to ensure their welfare and well being and provide sustainable development while preserving their unique identity and culture. Oram made this statement while inaugurating a two-day regional consultation with state governments and union territories (UTs) of Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Daman and Diu on tribal affairs. The programme held in a private hotel at Varca was jointly organized by Union ministry of tribal affairs and department for international development (DFID). Union minister of state for tribal affairs Mansukhbhai Vasava expressed concern that even though focused efforts have been made for the development of tribals over the years, the desired outcomes have not been achieved. Ramesh Tawadkar, minister of sports, youth and tribal affairs, explained in detail efforts made by the state government in improving the overall scenario of tribal population in the state. Tawadkar added that he would strive to make Goa a role model state in the country in implementing ST development schemes and added that in the last two years Goa government had implemented 17 such schemes. He thanked the central goverment for organizing the consultation in Goa which he said, indicates the importance given to the tribal development in the region. He also expressed the need to have political reservation for the ST community in the state and country. (Times of India 28/6/14)

7. Attappady tribes’ home dream vanishes into thin air (6)

Palakkad: A special police team under the Home Department to oversee tribal affairs in Attappady has detected irregularities in expending funds under the Tribal Special Plan (TSP). It has sought a Vigilance probe into the alleged irregularities. The team found that about 100 homeless tribal families in Pudur grama panchayat of Attappady had not benefited from a housing project launched under the plan. Alleging a lobby of politicians, contractors, and officials, the Assistant Director of the Panchayat Department in Palakkad had also raised a similar demand. In a report, he stated that even related documents were missing from the panchayat office. Police nodal officer for tribal affairs V. Krishnankutty told The Hindu that the report from the Panchayat Department would strengthen his demand for a vigilance probe. He said 29 beneficiaries were reportedly allotted five cents under a housing scheme in 2011 at Padavayal village. The panchayat had purchased 1.62 acres for the project paying Rs.30,000 for each five-cent plot. As per panchayat documents, the land was owned by one Rugmini Balan, a relative of a local contractor and a panchayat member. On scrutiny, it was found that the land was alienated tribal land and none of the beneficiaries was aware of the scheme. Mr. Krishnankutty said, in a difficult terrain, the land was unfit for construction. Two of the beneficiaries, Palani and Kamala, could not be traced. Another scam was unearthed at Mulli on the Kerala- Tamil Nadu border. The panchayat had purchased 3.21 acres paying Rs.21,07,500 to construct houses for 79 homeless tribal people. He said the beneficiaries were unaware of the housing project in this case too. The police were investigating whether any funds other than the TSP funds were spent on purchasing the plots. The police had also found evidence against a contractor who built 107 houses for the tribal people in the Anaikatty- Gottiyankandi belt four years ago. The houses had been reduced to rubble as they were constructed flouting norms. “There is no dearth of schemes for the tribal people in Attappady. But monitoring agencies should have power for periodic audit and asset verification,” says social activist M. Sukumaran, who approached the Panachayat Department seeking investigation. (The Hindu 2/7/14)

8. Transport scheme for tribal students sputters (6)

KATTAPPANA: The Gothrasarathy project, introduced through the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) office for tribal children in remote areas, is in limbo in Idukki district. Under the project, tribal students from remote areas were transported to and from school. Schools used to arrange taxis or other vehicles to ferry students. The project was introduced throughout the State on July 2 last year. Idukki benefited a lot as the district has the most number of tribal communities in remote areas. Many such areas have only single-teacher schools. But, the project seems to be headed for uncertain times. S. Sudarsanan, ITDP Officer, told The Hindu on Thursday that so far he had not received an order on implementing the project this year. Last year, Rs.47.5 lakh was sanctioned for the project for 32 schools in Idukki district. Some schools discontinued the project by December itself due to lack of funds. The government still owed the schools Rs.7.5 lakh, he said. In many schools, teachers had to pool money to clear fare arrears of taxis that transported students. Fifty-seven schools applied for the project in Idukki this year and Rs.1.5 crore was required for its implementation, he said. “If the project is not executed properly, children will drop out and discontinue studies,” he said. In the remote tribal settlements of Memarikudy and Poomala, tribal students walk nearly 10 km a day to school. The project had benefited them immensely. There were allegations that some schools had arranged taxis even for a single student and that schools which did not come under the relevant category had taken advantage of the project. (The Hindu 4/7/14)

9. Rs.100 crore for developing tribal colonies, says Minister (6)

KALPETTA: Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P.K. Jayalakshmi has said that the government will spent Rs.100 crore for the infrastructure development of tribal colonies in the district in two years. Speaking after inaugurating a self-employment scheme for unemployed tribeswomen in the State at Panamaram in the district on Thursday, Ms. Jayalakshmi said the project was part of a group of development projects being implemented by the government in the State to tackle unemployment among tribal youths. As many as 700 youths would be appointed as tribal watchers through special recruitments soon and jobs would be ensured to the tribal youths who had completed Plus Two courses after providing special training to them, Ms. Jayalakshmi said adding that the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nettur Technical Foundation in Bangalore for the purpose. A project to provide land to all landless tribesmen in the State was underway, the Minister said adding that the government was planning to execute a comprehensive project to give houses to all tribesmen. Apart from this, a special development scheme would be executed for tribesmen under six grama panchayats in the district such as Panamaram, Thirunelly, Mupainad, Poothadi, and Noolpuzha grama panchayats at an estimated cost of Rs.10 crore, Ms. Jayalakshmi said. The Minister disbursed autorickshaws to 160 unemployed tribeswomen under the scheme. (The Hindu 5/7/14)

10. Tribal Children Deprived of Education (6)

CHAMARAJANAGAR: Children of three tribal hamlets of Bailur range are deprived of education because the authorities have failed to issue orders to start bridge course for them at Kere Dimba school. Kere Dimba, a tribal hamlet with 40 families, 15 schoolchildren and 20 anganwadi children, is situated in a deep forest, 40 km from Kollegal town. The tribals have to trek 15 km to reach P G Palya or BRT where they can get vehicles to reach urban areas. The hamlet falls in Hanur assembly constituency. A residential bridge course was conducted last year at the school run by VGKK, an NGO. Children of Nallikathri and Gombegallu, another tribal hamlet, also depend on Kere Dimba school for education. Chandregowda, Deputy Director of Public Instruction, said the department will issue work order to VGKK to start a bridge course this year, the duration of which has been extended to 10 months from three. He said stringent forest laws do not allow them to construct a building to run a school. “Hence NGOs are appointed to conduct bridge courses and mainstream tribal kids,” he said. District Child Protection Officer said they cannot open anganwadis as the population in the hamlet is not more than 150. “Hence, we are providing them food,” he added. N Krishnamurthy, president of Standing Committee on Infrastructure, PG Palya gram panchayat, said, “We were happy when ZP officials visited tribal hamlets in the beginning of this academic year and drilled a borewell at Keredimba. But what is worrying the people is that the borewell became defunct within three days after its inauguration. Tribals neither get education nor water as promised by authorities.” (New Indian Express 7/6/14)

 

WOMEN

11. If wedlock turns deadlock, grant divorce, HC says (8)

CHENNAI: It is inhuman to compel two people to live together when their “wedlock has become a deadlock,” the Madras high court has held. Allowing a divorce based on a man’s complaint that he was being tortured by his wife who kept filing police complaints, the court recently said the sanctity of marriage cannot be left at the whims of one of the annoying spouses. Setting aside the order of a family court, the court granted divorce on grounds of mental cruelty and desertion by the wife. Arun Kumar Jain alias Bunty and Geeta got married in March 2001 and the couple had a male child. Disputes arose in the marriage after he found that his wife was elder to him. He moved the family court in 2004 seeking divorce. In his petition, he said Geeta insulted him often citing the educational qualification of his family members and threatened to book them under false charges of demanding dowry and attempt to murder. In November 2002, she lodged a police complaint saying her brother-in-law had tried to outrage her modesty and her in-laws had tried to kill her, Bunty said, seeking divorce on grounds of cruelty and desertion. Denying the allegations, Geeta said Bunty was jealous of her educational qualifications and he along with his family abused her in filthy language. In its verdict in December 2010, the family court denied divorce saying the charges of cruelty and desertion were not proved. The next year, Bunty moved the Madras high court. In its order, the bench of Justice S Rajeswaran and Justice S Vaidyanathan pointed to the events after the family court quashed the divorce petition. It said Bunty had subsequently sent a letter and a telegram asking Geeta to come back. Also, after Bunty’s family was acquitted in the dowry harassment case, Geeta filed a case under the Domestic Violence Act following which Bunty and his family were arrested, the bench said. Instead of solving the disputes amicably, Geeta had continuously initiated criminal proceedings against Bunty which meant she made all attempts to ensure he could not live in peace, the bench said. The fact that she was living apart from her husband for more than nine years showed that Geeta had subjected her husband to mental cruelty and deserted him, the bench said, granting divorce. (Times of India 29/6/14)

12. National shame: Madhya Pradesh tops in female foeticide (8)

BHOPAL: On October 6, 2011, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had sought the blessings at Peetambara Peeth at Ratangarh in Datia and launched the much-hyped ‘Beti Bachao Abhiyan’ all over the state with a pledge to protect girl child. Three years later, after spending crores of rupees in posters, banners and advertisements, Madhya Pradesh has topped the country in incidents of foeticide in year 2013 as per the national crime records bureau (NCRB). Even a Beti Bachao Rath was launched to propagate the scheme. Instead of the number of cases going down, the incidents of female foeticide have doubled between 2011 — when the Beti Bachao Abiyaan was launched — and 2013. NCRB figures show that from 38 cases in 2011 and 64 cases in 2012, the number of cases has increased to 79 in 2013. A total of 217 cases of female foeticide were reported in the country. The state is lagging far behind even from the states like Haryana and Rajasthan which were infamous for foeticide. The states have reported 21 and 34 cases, respectively. In a reply made to a question raised in assembly in 2012, state government had informed that around Rs15 crore was spent in just 10 months after the scheme was launched. “A lot of money has been wasted in publicity and it has failed to provide any outcome,” former Congress MLA from Dharmpuri constituency Pachilal Meda, who had raised the question in assembly, said. (Times of India 2/7/14)

13. 16 crore jobless women form India’s ‘Great Invisible Force’ (8)

NEW DELHI: Nearly 160 million women in India, 88% of which are of working age — that is between 15 to 59 years — just remain at home doing “household duties”, according to Census data that has just been released. Note that these are women who reported themselves as ‘not working’. All the other women who work, whether full time or part time, also do domestic work. But these 16 crore are the Great Invisible Workforce, primarily involved in care work and rearing families. The total number of women in the age group 15-59, according to Census data released earlier, is just under 355 million. What the latest data shows is that about 45% of them, or nearly half, are confined solely to domestic duties. The women confined to doing household duties has an interesting complement — men exclusively doing household duties. The ratio is, unsurprisingly, 28 to 1. That is, compared to 16 crore women doing only domestic duties, just 58 lakh men are exclusively involved in household duties. The large proportion of working age group women who are confined to their home and hearth is partly because of social pressures, and partly the result of economic policies that have offered no opportunities to women. Either way, it is a shocking loss to the country, and to the women themselves. (Times of India 3/7/14)

14. Gender equality? Nine laws in India that make women less equal than men (8)

Mumbai: Do current laws in India aim at equality of men and women? Though equality is one of the fundamental rights as stated in our Constitution, it is far from practice. There are laws in our country, which clearly favour men over women, according to Quartz India. In a recent UN report on India’s legal code lists, it just got official. Here are some of them: Hindu laws of inheritance: Different religions have different inheritance laws. According to the Hindu inheritance law, the property of a woman who dies without a will is handled differently from that of a man. In the absence of spouse and children, the husband’s heirs inherit the woman’s estate. Parsi laws of inheritance: Despite decreasing numbers in the Parsi community, those who marry outside the community are penalised. A non-parsi woman who is either a wife or a widow of a Parsi man cannot inherit. However, their children can. But again, a Parsi woman marrying a non-Parsi man cannot be considered a part of the Parsi community. Prohibition of Child Marriage Act: The law only prohibits the marriages of children; it does not render them illegal once they actually happen. The married children, however, have the right to declare it void. A woman can call off a marriage until she turns 20, whereas a man has till age 23. Age of consent: Sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 18 is considered rape. But since child marriages are not illegal, a man can legally have sex with his wife even if she is a minor, as long as she is above the age of 15. Further, marital rape is still not criminalised in India. Rape of a separated wife: The rape of a separated wife carries lesser punishment than the rape of any other woman. Forced sexual intercourse with the former is punishable with two to seven years of imprisonment. The prison sentence for the rape of any other woman ranges from seven years to life. Marriageable age: The minimum age for marriage for a boy is 21, but 18 for a girl. This is a legal extension of the patriarchal mindset that believes that a wife should always be younger than the man. Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act: Women are still not equal guardians of their children. A father is considered the “natural guardian” of a child, although the custody of offspring under the age of 5 will ordinarily be awarded to the mother. The Goa Law on polygamy: A law recognises the second marriage of a “Gentile Hindu” man of Goa if his previous wife does not have any children before the age of 25 or if she does not have a male child by 30. No right to marital property: Upon separation or divorce, an Indian woman is entitled only to maintenance from her husband. She has no right to the assets, such as house or commercial property, bought in her husband’s name during the marriage. (Asian Age 4/7/14)

15. How conflict affects women’s reproductive health (8)

Gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity all flourish in times of conflict, says a review, suggesting clinicians need to be sensitive and aware of the unique challenges of women’s reproductive health needs in such times. “In an increasingly globalised world, a working knowledge of reproductive health during conflict allows clinicians to approach subjects sensitively with women, building a relationship of trust and understanding, allowing women to gain access to services they need,” said Benjamin Black from Medecins Sans Frontieres in Sierra Leone. Approximately 1.5 billion people are currently living in countries affected by conflict, fragility or large-scale violence. Women and children account for approximately 75 per cent of those displaced by conflict and roughly 20 percent of those displaced are women of reproductive age. Conflict can negatively impact all aspects of reproductive health, directly through damage to services, gender-based violence and forced displacement of populations and indirectly through reductions in the availability of basic healthcare, the researchers noted. Further, the loss of access to adequate family planning and basic health services also increases reliance on traditional or harmful methods, including unsafe termination of pregnancy. Looking at maternal mortality specifically, high rates are frequently encountered in conflict-affected populations — eight of the 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios have experienced current or recent conflict. Approximately 15 percent of displaced pregnant women will encounter a potentially life-threatening complication, such as haemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour or eclampsia, the review noted. In the context of conflict and displacement, services are often scarce, resulting in delays in reaching the care required. Furthermore, the poor security conditions, exodus of healthcare providers, lack of transport and loss of facilities result in heightened vulnerability and reduced access to life-saving interventions. Awareness and recognition by medical staff to these issues may be beneficial to the women’s care and aid them in accessing the appropriate services, the authors concluded. The review appeared in the journal The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. (Times of India 6/7/14)

16. 10,821 crime on women cases pending (8)

Mumbai: Over 10,000 triable cases of atrocities against women were pending in the 32 district sessions courts in the state by the end of March this year. The figure obtained through RTI says that Thane district tops the list with 1,569 pendency cases out of 10,821 such cases. The Pune district comes in second with 1,215 cases. These figures were procured by Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Durve who has been following the issue for the last few years. He has demanded the state government give utmost priority to setting up and starting fast track courts to dispose the cases. “The Bombay high court has informed me that court has written a letter to the government to make its scheme for 100 fast-track courts a permanent feature beyond its 2016 deadline, but it seems that government is not serious,” he said. Kalpana Chavan, chief public prosecutor and in-charge of City Civil Court, Bombay, said, “As far as Mumbai is concerned, two special courts for looking into cases against the minors and two courts for atrocities against women are operational and hence the number of pending cases have gone down considerably.” She added, “Earlier courts had cases pending for more than five to six years, but now cases are being disposed at faster pace.” At present, apart from Mumbai other women special courts are in Thane, Yeotmal, Pune, Ahmadnagar, Akola, Amravati, Aurangabad, Buldhana, Beed, Jalgaon, Nagpur, and Kolhapur. The state government has also issued a government resolution (GR) to set up an additional 14 special courts exclusively to hear cases of crimes against women. These new special courts are to come up at Bhandara, Chandrapur, Dhule, Jalna, Latur, Nanded, Nashik, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Sangli, Satara, Solapur, Wardha and another one at Mumbai. However, Mr Durve said, “Unfortunately nothing has been done on this front. I have written many letters to the chief minister and chief secretary of the state, but it seems that my voice is going unheard at the governmental level.” (Asian Age 7/7/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

17. 80% of kids rescued are from Bihar (14)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra labour department has found that 80 per cent of the children rescued from child labour are from Bihar. The department is also of the view that criminal gangs related to human trafficking are behind the migration of children in large numbers. It is now approaching the Bihar government to cooperate in breaking down the nexus and in resolving the issues faced by the poor families in Bihar. Employment of children up to the age of 14 years in both hazardous and non-hazardous work is banned under the Anti-Child Labour Act. Many NGOs are helping the government in rescuing such children and sending them back to their respective states. “We will be writing to the Bihar government to help us in resolving the issue permanently as 80 per cent of the children rescued in Maharashtra so far are from districts like Sitamarhi, Purnia and Darbhanga of Bihar,” said Arvind Kumar, principal secretary, labour department. “Though with the help of NGOs and social activists, we have succeeded in rescuing thousands of such labourers and sending them back to their districts, we still need a permanent solution,” he added. The decision was taken in a joint meeting headed by chief secretary J.S. Saharia along with some NGOs like Pratham, who have been working in rescuing such children. Following the trend, the department is also of the view of that some criminal gangs related to human trafficking are involved in delivering children from Bihar to the state. “They give some money to the parents as an advance for taking their child to another city and earn money by making the child work in any condition,” said Mr Kumar. Farida Lambay, Pratham co-founder, who also attended the meet, said, “Unless we have any proof, it is hard to make any comment on such a serious issue, but there are some agents or middlemen that deliver the children in different states,” Ms Lambay said. She also said the number of child labourers in Mumbai has been decreased drastically as there is strict vigilance with cooperation from the state government. “We are conducting a house-to-house follow-up of the families after sending the children back to their districts, with the help of the local administration,” she said. (Asian Age 29/6/14)

18. 65% fall in child labourers, but we still have 44 lakh (14)

CHENNAI: India has 43.5 lakh labourers in the age group of 5 to 14 years, according to the 2011 census. Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of child workers with nearly 9 lakh and a majority of them are in the rural areas. This is followed by Maharashtra with close to 5 lakh. Compared to the 2001 census, there is a drop of 65% in the number of workers in this age group. In the last census, there were 1.3 crore children aged 5 to 14 working fulltime in various factories, shops and establishments. A combination of efforts by governments through various legislations, judicial intervention and also by various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seems to have brought down the number of child labourers in the country. The 2009-10 NSSO survey estimated that there were 49.8 lakh child labourers. Most of the child labour in UP, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is in rural areas. Of the 9 lakh children employed in UP, about 7 lakh work in rural areas. Similarly, in Rajasthan, of the 2.5 lakh child labourers, 2.1 lakh are in rural areas. Across the country, there are 32.7 lakh children working in rural areas compared to 10.8 lakh in urban areas. “Though the number of children employed has come down since the last census, states like UP, Bihar should announce incentives to woo children to schools. Tamil Nadu is a classic example, where the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan has improved the enrolment due to provision of mid-day meals. Other states should also implement similar schemes to increase enrolment in schools,” Unicef child protection specialist R Vidyasagar told TOI. The focus should be not just weaning away children from employment, the government schemes should provide incentives to parents to compensate the loss of revenue after the child is enrolled in schools, said Vidyasagar. Children in UP are employed in the carpet and textile industries as well as domestic help in cities. “Many children are employed in carpet and textile industries in the state. We have adopted 200 villages in the state and have successfully weaned away children from these industries,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, executive director, Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) involved in Varanasi and nearby districts. Campaign and boycott of goods made by Indian children across the world has also lent a sense of urgency to tackling the social evil. “States which have more children in employment should set up taskforces as done in Delhi. In many northern states, there is lack of will to implement various laws to prevent employment of children in harzardous industries,” said Varun Pathak of Justice Ventures International. “In Delhi, many bureaucrats and affluent people employ children from Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal as domestic help. Only stringent laws can prevent this,” said Pathak. (Times of India 2/7/14)

19. Child Labour: Rescue Act at Central Rly Station (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Childline activists on Wednesday rescued two children at Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station here who were on the run from child labour and physical abuse at a sweet factory in Aluva. The cousins aged 11 and 14, who are reportedly school dropouts hailing from Tiruchendur near Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, were rescued around 11 am on Wednesday by the activists of the 24-hour Childline desk at the railway station. “The two children were picked up during a routine check at the railway station. They were dressed in shabby clothes and looked tired and were taken into Childline’s custody immediately,” said Joby A P, Childline’s district coordinator. The duo were offered food and clothes by the activists of the organisation and were given counselling on Wednesday, following which the children revealed that they were subjected to beatings on legs and faces and other physical abuse at the Aluva-based JMS Sweet Company. “They complained that they were tortured by caning on the legs and slapping on their faces. They said that they were confined to unhealthy and compact spaces,” members of Childline said. The children also revealed that there were around 40 children who were employed at the factory who tried to escape in groups of fours and fives in the late hours of Tuesday, the Childline said. Search is on to track down the rest of the group. The mothers of the children who were summoned to the city by the organisation claimed that a neighbour had offered last week to take the children to Kerala to attend a housewarming function. It is learnt that the children were at the factory for  five days before finally escaping. “The children will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee on Friday,” Joby said. The Childline activists hope that the children,  whose fathers had abandoned the families, will be rehabilitated and provided education at a hostel facility, ideally at Tuticorin. (New Indian Express 4/7/14)

20. 66 more child labourers rescued from Chandpole (14)

JAIPUR: The city is fast emerging as a hub of child labour. The city police’s anti-human trafficking unit (AHTU) rescued 66 children aged between 8 and 16 years from five bangle-manufacturing units in Chandpole’sNeendadRaoKaRasta on Saturday. The police arrested 14 traffickers and said that the accused were making these children work under inhuman condition. Some children even had marks of burn injures which they sustained while working near the fire. AHTU’s in-charge for the north police district and ACP, Kotwali, Shankar Lal Ojha said that these children were confined indoors 24 hours a day as they were not allowed to go outside. “Four teams consisting of nearly 50 personal raided these units and found children working under inhuman conditions. These children, mostly belonging to Bihar and West Bengal, were paid Rs 1,500 a month and made to work more than 12-14 hours a day,” said the officer. The officer added that some children are just eight-years-old. “They were made to work near fire. We have charged the 14 arrested men with human trafficking and other charges. Further investigation is going on,” said the officer. (Times of India 6/7/14)

21. Courts sympathetic to children’s plight (14)

BANGALORE: Parents need not despair. The courts understand the plight of children carrying heavy loads, advocate G R Mohan told City Express, responding to our campaign for lighter school bags. The High Court has already spoken against heavy school bags, Mohan said. “The order came in 1998, referencing an existing circular. The petitioner P S Ranganathachar was 88 then, and soon passed away. So there was no one to follow it up,” said Mohan, who argued for the petitioner. It is an important precedent,  since it applies, in addition to the state board, to CBSE and ICSE schools as well. “The bags of students from CBSE and ICSE are often heavier than those of children studying under the state board,” he explained. Another PIL against weighty backpacks for school kids might soon be on its way, thanks to a Mysore-based NGO called People’s Legal Forum (PLF). Started in 2003 by a group of public-spirited lawyers, it has looked at the 2006 Children’s School Bags Bill that has remained in cold                    storage. Collaborating with experts in medicine, PLF plans to file a PIL in August about the bag problem, using the adverse health effects as the basis. “Even now, Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act can be invoked to implicate schools. The only problem is, parents won’t file cases because the child has to continue in the same school, and they are afraid of harassment,” said PLF Director Baburaj P P, who is also a member of the Juvenile Justice Court. He said the police should also be educated about the problem. But real reforms can come from the judiciary, he believes. “We cannot expect the elected representatives to act. After all, children aren’t voters,” he remarked, bitingly. PLF is also thinking of approaching two MPs—Pratap Simha and R Dhruvanarayana—to see if the issue can be raised in Parliament. A parent had filed a petition against heavy bags invoking the Act, but the school used a jursidiction question to get away. “The girl would often complain of weakness, and was even hospitalised a few times. Though the father carried her bag to the bus stop, she would have to lug it up a flight of stairs, so he approached me,” Baburaj said. And although the DDPI issued a notice to the Block Education Officers, who in turn issued notices to schools, most schools, which were CBSE-affiliated, responded that they weren’t answerable to the DDPI, he recalled. He feels for ‘general issues’, regardless of the board the school is affiliated to, the DDPI should be the overseeing authority. “And we’re talking about physical strain here, so it’s not necessarily syllabus-related,” he added. Long before this, the famous novelist R K Narayan had raised the issue in his only Rajya Sabha speech. Then the Yashpal Committee report made  recommendations that schools could follow the ‘Learning without burden’ model in 1993. More recently, in 2006, The Children’s School Bags Bill attempted to find a solution but it hasn’t been passed in the Rajya Sabha. M G Kumar of M G Kumar Law Firm talks of a PIL against heavy school bags was filed before the High Court in 2001 “but it was summarily dismissed”. A PIL before the Supreme Court might work, he suggested. “It can be filed by an association of aggrieved parents or a group or an individual parent under Article 32 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court can uphold the children’s fundamental right to life and safety, under Article 21. Parents can also write to the Chief Justice of India, seeking suo moto action. Even a letter can be treated as a PIL,” he explained… (New Indian Express 8/7/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

22. Minorities panel to conduct socio-economic survey (7)

HYDERABAD: Announcing its plans to conduct a socio-economic survey of minorities, the AP State Minorities Commission (APSMC) has entered into talks with various universities to chalk out survey plans. Chairman Abid Rasool Khan said that the survey would include an exhaustive data-gathering exercise in both states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which would include demographics, income, standard of living, education, health and other components of human development index of persons belonging to minority communities. “We are in talks with Maulana Azad National Urdu University (Manuu) and Osmania University. We have spoken to them about various aspects including finances. We estimate an expenditure running into Rs 15 or Rs 20 crore. The survey, once taken up, would require three months for completion. While the Sachar Committee report saw a more generalised approach, this will be specific to states,” Khan said. With Ramzan beginning within three days, the commission visited Chanchalguda Central Jail, Chanchalguda Women’s Prison and Cherlapally Jail with a view to observe the conditions of inmates belonging to minority communities. Commission members said that while they found no instances of officers’ bias against inmates, there were many under-trials whose cases had not come up for hearing in various courts of law. “There are around 197 under-trials in Cherlapally Jail. Many of them have complained that their trials have not begun. In this regard, we will seek an appointment with the chief justice to explore if fast track courts can be set up for them on humanitarian grounds. Also, we will request him to grant bail to inmates after conducting background checks and after doing case to case studies. It was in 2004, 2009 and 2013 that GOs were issued for release of inmates, the government can do the same this time too,” Khan said. The commission observed that the inmates were concerned about the ostracisation of the family members by society as they were reportedly being denied admission in educational institutions. Further, the commission will hold a meeting with Kishan Bagh riot victims on July 1. (Time of India 29/6/14)

23. UN experts call on Sri Lanka to stop religious hatred (7)

Colombo: Three UN experts today asked Sri Lankan government to take urgent steps to stop frequent racial and faith-based hatred and violence against Muslim and Christian communities by hardline Buddhist groups. In a statement, they said Muslims and Christians are subjected to hate speech, discrimination, attacks and acts of violence throughout the country frequently. More than 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians have been reported in the last two years, they said. This violence is fuelled by the atmosphere of impunity, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt said. Impunity and inadequate response from the police and judicial authorities aimed at protecting the lives, physical security, the property and places of worship of these communities may encourage further attacks and a risk of spiralling violence, he warned. The Government must end the violence and put in place urgent protective measures to ensure the personal security of all individuals belonging to religious minority communities living in the country, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsk said. The Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, called on authorities to take urgent and firm measures to bring the perpetrators of killings to justice, and ensure the immediate adoption of robust protective measures. They say that hate statements by Buddhist extremist groups have contributed to spread a climate of fear among Sinhala Buddhists, who constitute the majority population in Sri Lanka, and resentment towards minorities. Four persons were killed and over 100 injured in last month’s anti-Muslim violence in the southwestern coastal areas of Beruwala, Aluthgama and Dharga Town. Nationalist Buddhist group BBS or the Forces of Buddhist Power led by Galagodaatte Gnanasara was accused of being behind the anti-Muslim riots that began on June 15. (Zee News 2/7/14)

24. Report by minority rights group paints BJP black (7)

MUMBAI: The BJP has made it to the ‘State of The World’s Minorities and Indigenous People 2014′ report for all the wrong reasons. The report, released by Minority Rights Group (MRG) International on Thursday, delves into BJP’s role in the Muzaffarnagar riots in UP in the run-up to the polls. According to a case study on the Muzaffarnagar riots that was part of the report, both Muslim and Jat respondents held BJP responsible for the communal violence. Minorities across South Asia were also affected by political transitions over the last year, said the report. While Pakistan witnessed its first-ever democratic transfer of power between two elected governments in 2013, Shias were killed in targeted attacks in Pakistan that year, while there were violent attacks on Christians in Lahore and Peshawar. Nepal witnessed hate crimes against Muslims and Dalits, while Christians, Shias and the Hazaras in Afghanistan faced threats. Bangladesh saw continued attacks against Hindus. “India has progressive and significant legislation and policies that protect the rights of its minorities, including national- and state-level minority commissions, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Act, and reservations for minorities in education and politics. India’s neighbours have not quite managed to secure such broad rights protection at the national level. Still, India has problems implementing its own legislation. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Acts has provisions for special courts…but few states have established such courts…India has provisions in the penal code which can be used to prosecute hate speech crimes. But widespread entrenched discrimination against minorities and gender discrimination result in the lack of will on behalf of authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and hate speech against minorities,” Nicole Girard, Asia programme coordinator, MRG and co-author of the South Asia chapter of the report, told TOI, adding that India must pay special attention to the role of politicians in inciting and manipulating violence against minorities. “Two kinds of discourse took place during India’s elections, one aimed at a certain notion of development focused on the private sector, and another aimed at creating fear and polarization,” says Harsh Mander, who heads the Centre for Equity Studies, which contributed to the India chapter. (Times of India 3/7/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

25. Muslims need to come out of fear politics, says Modi (7)

New Delhi: In his first meeting with a prominent Muslim leader after he became the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi assured to look into the issue of false implication of Muslim youths in terror cases. In his meeting with the president of India Islamic Cultural Centre, Sirajuddin Qureshi on Wednesday, Modi also emphasised that he doesn’t believe in discrimination and asked the minority community to “come out of fear politics”. “When I pointed out that many Muslims have associated with his government’s agenda he said more people should come forward. He pointed out how he is taking steps to provide modern education to Muslims,” Qureshi told HT. On the issue of false implication of Muslim youth in terror cases Modi reportedly told Qureshi that he is aware of the sensitivity of the issue and will look into the matter. While Modi avoided any frequent mention of Muslims in his entire poll campaign, his first speech in Lok Sabha during the debate on President’s speech saw him talking about modernising education for Muslims. Qureshi also told HT, “The PM also accepted my invitation to visit India Islamic Cultural Centre after the holy month of Ramadan.” The PM’s office, however, did not come out with any press statement on the meeting. (Hindustan Times 28/6/14)

26. ISIS caliphate decision ‘heresy’, say Islamists (7)

Beirut: The surprise declaration of a “caliphate” by jihadists accused of committing atrocities in Syria and Iraq has provoked an outcry even among Islamists who dream of a state under Shariat. The caliphate, an Islamic system of rule, was abolished nearly 100 years ago, although many Arabs and Muslims still associate it with a golden age. But this week’s announcement of a caliphate by the radical Islamic State group — formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) — appears to only appeal to fanatics. “All Islamist groups want the caliphate,” said Mathieu Guidere, who teaches Islamic studies at France’s University of Toulouse. But the ISIS “is equated with terrorism and massacres; it has a bad track record”, Mr Guidere said. ISIS’s widely publicised brutality, including public beheadings and crucifixions, “give a very bad image of Islam… Tainting the (caliphate) project, which Islamists view as an ideal”. ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s designation as “caliph” — or leader of all Muslims, and successor to the Prophet Mohammed — has shocked most Muslims. Al-Azhar, a leading authority of Sunni Islam, “believes that all those who are today speaking of an Islamic state are terrorists”, its senior representative Sheikh Abbas Shuman said. Lebanon’s Jamaa Islamiyeh, which is the local branch of the widely influential Muslim Brotherhood, lashed out at the announcement and called it heresy. In Saudi Arabia, bastion of Sunni Islam and home to the religion’s holiest places, Al-Riyadh daily ripped the caliphate as being “no more than one person heading a terrorist organisation”. Syrian rebels have branded the caliphate announcement as “null and void”. The paper, which expresses views close to the Saudi monarchy, said “it would be a mistake to exaggerate the importance of this initiative, by imagining it might eradicate borders… And give way to a great Islamic caliphate”. Sunday’s announcement by ISIS comes amid a major offensive it is spearheading in Iraq, capturing large swathes of territory from government hands. The group has also secured fresh gains in Syria, where it is firmly in control of areas in the north and east of the war-torn country. (Asian Age 3/7/14)

27. Scholarship for Muslim girls hiked (7)

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat government has decided to increase the scholarship for minority community girl students in class 6 to 10 from Rs 250 per annum to Rs 750 per annum. Currently, the students of class 6 to 8 get Rs 250 and of class 9 and 10 Rs 400 per annum. The government has set aside Rs 57 lakh for the purpose in its budget for 2014-15. Over one lakh minority girls in government and grant-in-aid schools will be benefited by the scheme. Sources in the state social justice & empowerment department said, “The state government has decided to increase the scholarship amount for the girl students from minority communities along with those from SC/ST and the socially & economically backward class from the current Rs 250 to Rs 750 per annum.” Over 2.62 lakh students benefited from the pre-matriculation minority scholarship in 2013-14 while in 2012-13, over 2.87 lakh students got the scholarship. In another welfare scheme, over 3.94 lakh students got free school uniform in 2013-14 of which around 40% were girls. According to sources, the state government has decided to give top priority to schemes meant for minority girl students. According to Sachar Committee report, Muslims in Gujarat have a literacy percentage of 73.5% compared to the national average of 59.1%. In rural areas of Gujarat, Muslim women’s literacy is 57% compared to the national average of 43%. (Times of India 4/7/14)

28. Over 150 Hindu inmates keep Roza with 2,300 Muslims at Tihar (7)

New Delhi: Setting an example of rare communal harmony, more than 150 Hindu inmates of Tihar Jail here are keeping roza, the dawn-to-dusk fast during Ramzan, along with over 2,300 Muslim inmates. The holy month of Ramazan commenced on June 29 this year. Tihar Jail authorities said the Hindu inmates started keeping Rozas along with the Muslim inmates from the very first day and have said they will continue the month-long fasting to its completion. “The inmates have symbolised the strong bond of unity among them which is appreciable. Jail authorities have made all the arrangements so that those observing Ramzan do not face any difficulty,” Tihar jail PRO Sunil Gupta said. Special arrangements have been made for the inmates to perform prayers and enjoy their pre-dawn ‘sehri’ meal and evening meals known as ‘iftars’. “Food items like seasonal fruits, sweets like ‘Jalebi’, dry fruits, and various other snacks are being made available to them for both ‘Sehari’ and ‘Iftar’,” he said. Gupta said that the day-long ‘roza’ ends with ‘iftar’ in their respective wards of the jail following which they offer Namaz outside their cells. Over 70 women inmates are also a part of the religious practice, he added. Ramzan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is observed as a fasting period by Muslims, who abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset. Muslims wake up early morning for the pre-dawn ‘sehri’ meal renouncing food and water during the day before breaking their fasts in the evening. The evening meals are known as ‘iftars’. The month-long fasting will culminate in the Id-ul-Fitr celebrations next month. As Islam follows a lunar calendar, the holy month begins every year about 11 days earlier and its commencement is traditionally determined by the appearance of the new moon. (Indian Express 7/7/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

29. Law to Check Attacks on Christians Demanded (7)

VIJAYAWADA: Expressing fears over the increasing attacks on Christians, the Association of Integrated Christian Council (AICC) has demanded that the Union and state governments make a special legislation to ensure that Christians feel secure in this country. Speaking at the meeting held in the city on Thursday, the AICC representatives alleged that attacks on Christians had increased within a month of BJP forming its government at the Centre. They also demanded that the government set up separate community halls for Christians in urban and rural areas. They also wanted the government to fill all Christian nominated posts and appoint Christians officials as heads of the departments meant for the welfare of the community.  AICC national director Gera Hanock, national secretary Ch David John Abraham, state secretary M Kamalakar Rao and other members attended the meeting. (New Indian Express 28/6/14)

30. In Bastar, 50 villages ban non-Hindu missionaries (7)

SIRISGUDA (BASTAR): An aggressive campaign by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had led to a ban on the entry of and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries, especially Christians, in more than 50 villages of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region in the last six months. According to Suresh Yadav, Bastar district president of the VHP, over 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages.” The Sirisguda gram panchayat in the Tokapal block of Bastar passed the order at a special Gram Sabha organised on May 10. The order, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, says, “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.” In Sirisguda, the dispute started when Christian families refused donations for an annual Hindu religious festival. “They refused donations and used derogatory language against Hindu gods so the Gram Sabha banned them,” claimed Sirisguda sarpanch Jamuna Baghel. In the recent past, some Christians were allegedly attacked in the village and have been denied ration on the orders of the village panchayat. “It’s been over two months now that we have been denied ration in the village and 10 Christians were attacked when they went to collect ration,” claimed Sonuru Mandavi, whose family converted to Christianity in 2002. “The villagers came to us with their problems. The VHP only told them about the law. Now that the gram panchayats have passed the orders, it is the responsibility of the district administration to implement it otherwise we will protest. We will also approach the CM and the Governor to get the ban imposed,” asserted Mr. Yadav. The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), however, has alleged that the ban is “illegal and unconstitutional”. “It is similar to what khap panchayats do. How can you ask us to block our religious activities on the basis of a panchayat Act?” asked Arun Pannalal, CCF president. He said the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion to all. To a question, Bastar Collector Ankit Anand said, “In Bastar, religious conversion is not such a big issue. We will ensure that distribution of ration to the villagers is not interrupted.” (The Hindu 5/7/14)

31. PIL demands quota for Christians (7)

Close on the heels of the state government providing 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and five per cent for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions, a PIL in the Bombay high court has sought similar benefit for the Christian community. The PIL, filed by city-based Alpha Omega Christian Community in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court, said it was demanding five per cent reservation for Christians on the basis of recommendations made by Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, constituted by National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities. According to the PIL, the Maharashtra government had, on the basis of the Ranganath Commission report, appointed a seven-member committee headed by Dr Mehmoodur Rehman to study the socio-economic and educational status of the Muslim community in the state. Thereafter, on the basis of the Mehmoodur Rehman Committee report, the Maharashtra cabinet approved five per cent reservation to Muslims on June 25. On the same lines, five per cent reservation should also be provided to the Christian community, which the PIL said had not been considered on the basis of recommendation of the Ranganath Commission report. (Asian Age 6/7/14)

32. Church continues opposition (7)

Aizawl, July 6: As the Lal Thanhawla government in Mizoram is all set to lift the 17-year-old controversial dry law, the Presbyterian Church, the largest denomination in the Christian-majority state, has stepped up its opposition. For the second time, the synod of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church asked all its member churches across the state to organise mass prayer seeking for divine intervention to keep the dry law. The churches had organised mass prayer on the same issue on March 9. The decision to hold mass prayers comes after the synod failed to garner support for a protest rally by three of the largest NGOs in Mizoram, Young Mizo Association, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (women’s organisation) and Mizoram Upa Pawl (senior citizens’ association). The NGOs in separate meetings last week decided to remain aloof from the church-sponsored protest. As part of the protest, the synod displayed posters in the city streets, demanding the government to keep the liquor prohibition in place. It has also sent letters to the chief minister, excise and narcotics minister and all the legislators urging them not to pass the bill in the state Assembly. The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Bill 2014, to replace the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act 1995, will be introduced in the upcoming state Assembly session to start from July 8. The church leaders, who had pressurised the then Congress government to impose the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act in 1997, are still adamant that the dry law is a success. “Since the implementation of total prohibition, our public areas have become safer and more peaceful, there have been less vehicular accidents caused by drink driving and alcohol-related violence has decreased visibly,” said a statement of the synod read out in all the member churches today. “Given that alcohol harms human health, disturbs social relations and even spiritual well-being, we believe allowing alcohol to be more free is not likely to benefit us,” the note added. The Presbyterian Church believes that “violent crimes such as murder, rape and accidents are mostly committed under the influence of alcohol”. According to the church’s own assessment, in 1994, two years before Mizoram’s dry law was passed, 65 per cent of the women lost their husbands to alcohol abuse. The synod is also of the opinion that revenues to be received from liquor taxes are not worth the lives to be destroyed by liquor. The Baptist Church of Mizoram, the second largest denomination, also issued a strongly worded statement last week demanding the government to continue with the prohibition. The Congress government, however, appears to be unfazed by the mounting pressure of the churches. Indicating that the bill would be passed in the next state Assembly session, Congress minister Lal Thanzara on Friday said as a government, they could not ignore the sufferings of those who cannot do without drinks. “(Under the dry law) foreigners are manufacturing liquor to make easy money. There are many church members who can’t do without liquor. The government is planning to give them good quality liquor at cheaper prices,” Lal Thanzara said, while addressing a public meeting here on Friday. “Because of the scarcity of liquor, drinkers have no choice but to drink whatever liquor they can find. The life span of drinkers has become shorter because of spurious liquor,” he added. Illicit liquor was responsible for 90 deaths in the past 17 years, according to the state excise and narcotics department records. Home minister R. Lalzirliana, who also holds the excise and narcotics portfolio, has also made it very clear the churches would not be consulted on the liquor issue. (The Telegraph 7/6/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

33. Coast Guard rules out Illegal Transport of refugees from Pondy (13)

PUDUCHERRY: Puducherry Coast Guard, Marine Police and other agencies have no information on the reported illegal transportation of 152 Sri Lankan refugees by boat from the Puducherry coast on June 13. Though there has been an unsuccessful attempt from Veerampattinam Village in 2010, the security agencies have been taken by surprise. The Indian Coast Guard at Chennai had issued an alert about three months ago on the possibility of human trafficking from the Puducherry coast, superintendent of police,  Coastal Police, A Nandhagopal told Express. Based on the alert, coastal police was informed and they kept strict vigil, he said. No such activity was detected, he said, adding that the boat might not have sailed from Puducherry coast. Puducherry Coast Guard Commandant N Somasundaram, said, “There is no such information, and with the Coast Guard network being strong, any such attempt would have been  detected,” said Somasundaram. However, there are reason to suspect that the boat could have left from Puducherry without being noticed. In 2010, around 37 to 40 Sri Lankan refugees had boarded a boat off the coast of Veerampattinam to set sail for Australia. However, they could not start the voyage as the boat developed a snag. The refugees returned to shore and went back to their respective camps. Interestingly, it got detected during the visit of Sonia Gandhi when intelligence agencies detected the use of two satellite phones to communicate from Indira Gandhi square to Moopanar Statue. They apprehended two persons who were using the phones. On interrogation, the two revealed the plans to illegally transport Sri Lankan refugees from Puducherry after the first attempt failed. They said the satellite phones were given to them by the then Karaikal district secretary of PMK, K Devamani. An abandoned boat found off the Karaikal coast earlier was linked to the plan. The case was subsequently handed over to the police and 11 people were booked. Former DMK councillor A Sakthivel from Veerampattinam fishing village (who took the boat on lease), Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam chief Logu Ayappan and Devamani were booked under NSA but were subsequently released following Ministry of Home Affairs revoking the order. The other eight accused including a Sri Lankan national Kannan, who was living in Veerampattinam village without any documents were released by the court on bail. Since then  Kannan has been residing in Veerampattinam. While preparing the chargesheet, the investigating agency was in a fix on whether to treat Kannan as a refugee or an illegal immigrant. (New Indian Express 29/6/14)

34. Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to reach 1.5 mn (13)

Ankara: The number of Syrian refugees taking shelter in Turkey is expected to reach 1.5 million by the end of 2014, according to a report released Wednesday. A total of 1.05 million Syrian refugees are currently housed in 22 refugee camps and cities in neighbouring Turkey, Xinhua reported quoting the Anadolu News Agency which cited a report released by the International Strategic Research Organisation and the Brookings Institute on Wednesday. At the current rate, the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey will rise to 1.5 million by the end of 2014, said the report, adding that Turkey has become sixth among the countries in the world hosting the largest number of refugees. The report urged the Turkish government to develop long-term policies to ease the integration of Syrian refugees into Turkish society as they are likely to stay in Turkey for quite sometime. (New kerala 2/7/14)

35. More than 75,000 Pakistanis flee to Afghanistan: UN (13)

United Nations: The current Pakistani military offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region has forced thousands of people to flee their homes in the past two weeks, seeking shelter in neighbouring Afghanistan, the United Nations refugee agency said. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said more than 75,000 people have fled their homes over the past two weeks, many with very few possessions, as the military offensive continues in troubled North Waziristan region. In addition to those who have fled across the border, the Pakistani government estimates that the latest fighting has left some 470,000 people internally displaced. While UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners are working to coordinate relief efforts and deliver assistance, “sanitation, clean drinking water and medical care are in short supply.” Local communities are helping the displaced but the already scarce resources are now reaching capacity, UNHCR said in a statement on Wednesday. The agency stressed that humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to support the host communities in Khost and Paktika provinces in sustaining the level of assistance they have been providing to displaced families. UNHCR’s Country Representative in Afghanistan Bo Schack and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Mark Bowden visited the eastern province of Khost along with Afghan government officials to see first-hand the situation of thousands of Pakistanis who have arrived after fleeing the fighting in their homeland. Since the cross-border movement began in mid-June, a number of UN agencies and their humanitarian partners have provided food and non-food items, vaccinated thousands of children against polio and measles and provided life-saving medicines for 10,000 patients. The agencies operating on the ground have appealed for about USD 20 million of assistance for six months to deliver emergency and life-saving assistance to 10,000 families in Khost and 3,000 families in Paktika. (Indian Express 3/7/14)

36. Kukis demand trial for killings of 905 people of their tribe (13)

IMPHAL: Thousands of Kukis took out demonstrations in Imphal and other districts in Manipur on Friday to demand trial for the killings of 905 men, women, invalids and children allegedly by armed National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) rebels during the ethnic cleansing from 1992. The NSCN(IM) had served quit notices to the Kukis who were staying in the “areas of the Nagas” with September 13,1993 as the deadline. Kuki Impi Manipur (KIM) says that 905 persons were killed, 360 villages uprooted and 100,000 persons internally displaced. The demonstration in Imphal was started from Thau grounds in Imphal. They walked along Chingmeirong road, North AOC and then returned to the Thau grounds again. A spokesman told The Hindu that in the past they had submitted several dozen of memorandas to the government demanding action. However, there has been no response. After Friday’s demonstration they submitted a memoranda to Governor Vinod Kumar Duggal, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei. The Kukis are demanding prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime against mankind and rehabilitation of the displaced persons before inking an agreement between the Union Government and the NSCN(IM). Reports of such demonstrations were received from other districts. Police had ramped up security measures ahead of the demonstration. (The Hindu 5/7/14)

37. Australia court bars return of Sri Lanka refugees (13)

SYDNEY: A high court has barred Australia from handing back a boat carrying 153 asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka, a day after Canberra returned another vessel to Colombo following a week of secrecy. The interim injunction from a late-night sitting applies at least until a hearing resumes this afternoon, and was granted after lawyers argued the transfer was illegal. Refugee advocates claim the asylum-seekers have been deprived of the ability to have their claims for refugee status properly assessed, with their screening reportedly being carried out at sea via video link. Lawyer George Newhouse said yesterday they were “entitled to have their claims for protection processed in accordance with Australian law.” “The asylum-seekers claim that they are fleeing persecution and that they’re at risk of death, torture or significant harm by Sri Lankan authorities,” he told Australian Associated Press. There were claims that Australia could be breaking international law in the way it screened the passengers and by returning them involuntarily to a country in which they had a fear of persecution. After a week of stonewalling, Canberra confirmed yesterday that one boatload of 41 Sri Lankans who attempted to reach Australia were handed back to Colombo on Sunday. Under its policy of not commenting on “operational matters”, Canberra has yet to confirm whether the second vessel, carrying 153 people, even exists. Sri Lankan police confirmed that the adults among the group of 41 – 28 men and four women – would be charged with attempting to leave the country illegally, a crime punishable by up to two years in jail. They were being held in the notorious high-security Boossa prison yesterday and would appear before a magistrate today. The nine children with them will also be brought before a magistrate, police spokesman Ajith Rohana told AFP, “but we won’t press charges and we won’t object to their being released,” he added. In a statement, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it was “deeply concerned” by the decision to return the 41. UNHCR said it did not have enough information about how they were screened to determine whether the process was in accordance with international law – but added that “such an environment would rarely afford an appropriate venue for a fair procedure”. (Times of India 8/7/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

38. Activists want provisions for handling RTI cases at dist-level (1)

Mangalore: RTI activists in the city have largely felt the need for the State Information Commission to make provisions to handle Right to Information cases at the district-level. Majority of the activists, specially senior citizens found it inconvenient to travel all the way to Bangalore to approach the appellate authority for the hearing of cases. In a programme to discuss the loopholes in the Right to Information Act and suggestions to improve the Act, organised by DK Anti Corruption Forum at Roshni Nilaya School of Social Works on Saturday, RTI activists said that there were instances of the appellate authorities defering the hearing even 10 to 11 times. It is practically not viable for the applicant to travel to Bangalore everytime only to return futile when the hearing is deferred. Apart from setting up a mechanism in the district level, a law should be enforced to limit the defering of the case hearing not more than twice, RTI activists demanded. A senior citizen C A Shenoy said that several times, when the public information officer realises that the applicant has approached the appellate authority, it is then that he acts on the application and furnishes information to avoid the penalty. The appellate authorities too entertain this act by closing the case and leaving the officers without imposing the penalty which is not justifiable, he said. RTI activist Adoor Krishna Rao pointed at the loophole in the State Information Commission, which has restricted the applicants to limit their questions and number of words in an application to 150. The Central Information Commission has nowhere put such a restriction, rather the Commission allows an applicant to ask any number of questions and use any number of words in the application. Another participant accused the public information officer (PIO) of not maintaining confidentiality of the RTI applicants. At times, the applicants get threat calls from the opponent party, which is due to the PIO leaking information about the application to the opponent party. Some of the suggestions mooted at the discussion programme include, appoint more number of commissioners for the speedy disposal of cases, bring the CRPC provisions under RTI so that criminal action could be initiated against erring officials, make arrangements to pay TA, DA and cost of appeal to the applicant soon after the judgement is in his favour. DK Anti Corruption Forum office-bearer Vidya Dinker said that the suggestions would be forwarded to the law ministry, Central and State Information Commission. (Deccan Herald 28/6/14)

39. Haryana cooperative sugar mills under RTI ambit: State information commission (1)

CHANDIGARH: In a major relief to Haryana farmers, who want to seek information regarding their pending payment from the cooperative sugar mills, the state information commission on Tuesday held that the mills were liable to furnish information under the RTI Act. A three-member bench of the state commission, comprising chief information commissioner Naresh Gulati and commissioners Hemant Atri and Sajjan Singh, asked the officials of sugar mills situated in Jind, Panipat and Rohtak to designate state public information officers without any delay. The Punjab and Haryana high court had forwarded the matter to the commission to take a call on the matter. Four residents of different villages and towns had alleged that these sugar mills were not providing information to them under RTI. According to a villager of Jind district, Amit Kumar, his RTI application was returned by the Jind sugar mill that told him that in the wake of law laid down by the apex court, the cooperative societies don’t fall under the ambit of the Act. Another applicant Mahabir Singh claimed that Panipat sugar mill denied the information to him despite the fact that the sugar mills of Karnal, Meham, Sonipat and Gohana were furnishing details to the information seekers. The commission bench noted that although the mills don’t receive any direct financial support in the form of grants, but they do receive indirect support in the form of share capital to the extent of over 90% of the total share capital from the government to conduct its business. Withdrawal of financial assistance by the government would put the cooperative sugar mills in a situation where they would struggle to exist, the bench stated. According to the commission order, the sugar mills of Rohtak, Panipat and Jind have received loans ranging from Rs 45 crore to Rs 128 crore from the government, but there were no evidence which suggested that the loans have been returned. (Times of India 2/7/14)

40. Fill all posts of information commissioners by August 14: HC (1)

JODHPUR: The Rajasthan high court on Friday ordered the state government to fill up all the vacant positions of the information commissioners by August 14 in order to ensure speed up disposal of the pending appeals in the state information commission. The court has also asked the government to make functioning of the commission effective in tune with the fundamental principles of the RTI Act so that the common man need not face any hurdle in obtaining information. A division bench of the court comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Banwari Lal Sharma gave passed the order while disposing of the petition filed by Dinesh Bothra. The petitioner said the state government has appointed only one Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) in state, whereas the Act demanded appointment a minimum of one and a maximum 10 information commissioner with the CIC. Bothra’s counsel B S Sandhu argued in the court that in absence of information commissioners, the commission was not authorized for second appeals and hearing the petitions as per the provisions of the Act. “But the despite need of the commission as a multi-personnel structure, the state government has not appointed the information commissioners as provided by the Act,” Sandhu argued. In reply to Sandhu’s arguments, the Additional Advocate General informed the court that the process for appointment of information commissioners has already been initiated. “The government has received 119 applications, which are being screened by a committee comprising the chief minister, the leader of opposition and a cabinet minister. This committee would submit the list of short-listed candidates to the governor after completing the screening by July 24, after the approval of which, the appointments would be made,” the AAG informed. Hearing both the sides, the court ordered that the government must complete the process and ensure appointment of information commissioners by August 14. Besides, the court also direct the government to make the functioning of the commission effective for the common man. (Times of India 5/7/14)

41.  ‘Govt. should amend RTI Act’ (1)

Bidar: L. Bhairappa , president of the Karnataka State government employees association State unit, has complained that the RTI Act was being misused to harass government employees. RTI has become a tool for torturing hard working, honest government employees. It had also become fashionable for some so called RTI activists to pose questions about the personal life of employees or some irrelevant issues only to insult employees, he said. The association has therefore, asked the government to recommend to the Centre to amend the Act to limit the questions only to development issues and ban personal questions and to take action against those who misuse the Act, Mr. Bhairappa said. He was speaking at the district conference of the association. He demanded the government take steps to initiate the seventh pay commission and address long pending problems of employees like differences in the pay scales of employees of Union and State government. Rajendra Kumr Gandage, district unit president and others were present. (The Hindu 6/7/14)

42. 66,000 RTI complaints pending in six info panels, Maharashtra tops list (1)

MUMBAI: The aam aadmi’s favourite law, the Right to Information Act, turns nine this year. Information commissions were set up to decide on complaints and appeals filed by people against government authorities for blocking access to information. How have they performed? At present, over 66,000 complaints and appeals are pending at six information commissions. Maharashtra tops the list with 34,158, followed by the Central Information Commission (CIC; Delhi). Kerala, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir are next. The states are the only ones to provide pendency figures besides Sikkim and Tripura, which showed no pendency. The findings are by the non-profit Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). The data raises questions about the composition of the commissions. While much has been said about the need for more women in parliament, their representation in the commissions is abysmal. Goa is the only state whose commission is headed by a woman. A woman information commissioner in Tripura is serving as the acting chief information commissioner. Only 11 of 93 information commissioners in India were women as of May 2014. A former director of the Intelligence Bureau now heads the CIC, the country’s apex decision making body on RTI appeals. IB is one of the few organizations exempt from providing information under RTI, except in cases of corruption and human rights violation. “The problem with a former IB director heading the CIC is that such an individual has no experience of embedding transparency in administration. The RTI is path-breaking because it aims to replace a regime of secrecy with one of transparency. But IB has deliberately been kept out of RTI purview. Will a person with a background in IB be adequately able to champion transparency?” asks RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, who headed the CHRI research on information commissions. That the vast majority of information commissioners are retired civil servants raises fears of the information commissions turning into a geriatric bureaucratic ward; 69% of CICs are retired IAS officers. In 2013, the Supreme Court directed governments to identify candidates other than retired civil servants as information commissioners. The Supreme Court has also asked governments to identify candidates for the post of information commissioner, with expertise in the fields mentioned in the RTI Act, which includes law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, and administration and governance. (Times of India 7/7/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

43. Education instrument for transforming society: Pranab Mukherjee (11)

Indore: President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said education was the most efficacious instrument for transforming a society as it broadens perceptions and gives individuals better insights into the diverse aspects of their life. Addressing the participants of “School Chale Hum Abhiyan’ here, Mukherjee said: “Education not only brings about personal evolution and growth but also brings progress and positive development of the people.” Describing the Right to Education a historic step that made education a fundamental right, he said: “Having enacted such a constitutional provision, we would fail in our duty if we did not do our utmost to implement it in letter and spirit.” Urging that the country must reap the dividends of India’s youthful demographic structure, he said: “History will not forgive us if we neglect this precious asset. We should aim to achieve better quality, research and innovation in our educational institutions.” Along with all of this, Mukherjee said: “We will need to continuously remind our younger generations of their unique heritage in the form of the Indian value systems which, combined with the knowledge imparted through formal education, will give them the priceless gift of wisdom.” He said education can be used to pursue the goal of inclusive growth of our society, and paying special attention to those that are marginalised due to socio-economic or cultural reasons. (Zee News 29/6/14)

44. Up to 20,000 teachers in Bihar hired on forged degrees (11)

Patna: In one of his first acts after taking charge as chief minister of Bihar in November 2005, Nitish Kumar announced mass recruitment of school teachers on contract. Between 2006 and 2011, Bihar recruited over 1.42 lakh teachers for classes I to XII. This one move, which won Kumar plaudits then for boosting school enrolment and providing jobs to the educated unemployed, now appears to be blowing up in his face — a verification exercise, ordered after a flood of complaints, suggests that forged degrees may have been submitted by over 20,000 who landed these jobs. Stumped by the sheer numbers involved, the government has until now checked 7,000 of the 1.42 lakh degrees which were cleared for jobs. So far, 779 teachers have been sacked, a state official said. Another 2,734 teachers have been removed after failing twice to clear a competency test. The government suspects that here again, the majority used forged degrees to get jobs. The mass recruitment of contract teachers was done in two phases under Shikshak Niyojan 2006 and Shikshak Niyojan 2008. The only criteria were high percentage of marks in class XII, graduation, post-graduation, bachelor of education degrees or equivalent. This practice was stopped in 2012 with the state deciding to hold the TET or teacher eligibility test to draw up a shortlist for final selection. But it is the appointments prior to 2012 that are under scrutiny. R S Singh, joint director for primary education, told The Indian Express that over 12,000 complaints regarding appointments made under Shikshak Niyojan 2006 had been received. During this drive, 1.10 lakh teachers were recruited. Under Shikshak Niyojan 2008, another 32,000 contract teachers were appointed. Singh said appellate authorities of 38 Bihar districts received 40,000 complaints of appointment made on the basis of forged degrees, of candidates with lower marks being preferred over the complainants. Tribunals disposed over 30,000 cases but never ordered any probe into complaints of appointments made on forged degrees. Admitting to lapses in the past, HRD sources said it is standard procedure to verify the degree or education qualification papers of a new teacher before disbursal of his/her first salary. Of the 779 sackings, the maximum took place in West Champaran (238). Other notables included Vaishali (128), Jamui (106), East Champaran (55), Bhojpur (44), Katihar (34) and Madhubani (27). As the verification drive plods on, the picture that emerges is grim. Documents accessed by The Indian Express – these are 20 reports of universities and institutes outside Bihar – show that in Kaimur district alone, 354 of the 5,400 appointments made under Shikshak Niyojan 2008 were on the basis of forged degrees. In Bhojpur, 88 teachers have been found with forged degrees. These numbers, one official said, are likely to rise since many of the applicants are suspected to have handed in forged degrees – not yet verified – from universities in Bihar. But even the verification exercise is under a cloud. It is alleged that in many cases, (Indian Express 3/7/14)

45. New HRD rule to make pvt school admissions transparent (11)

RANCHI: The human resource development department will soon make it mandatory for city-based private schools to upload all information, including admission procedure, for proper implementation of Right to Education Act. All private schools in the city will get separate login IDs and passwords for uploading information like number of students from economically weak background, details of affiliation, number of teachers and their qualification, among others. “Implementation of the RTE Act in private schools is our priority and this step will definitely help us in doing so. Once the system starts then private schools will be directly able to update all the information online,” district superintendent of education Jayant Mishra said. “Most of the schools do not submit the reports to us because they have to come to our office and submit it every time. Once online update of the details is made compulsory then action will be taken against those schools who do not update information,” he added. However, while some details updated on the website will be visible to all, some details will be visible only to the HRD department. “Basic details of the schools like their affiliation, fees, number of students and teachers, qualification of teachers and procedure of admission and reservation will be visible to all who visit the HRD website so that transparency is maintained while some information like the audit report will be visible only to the HRD department officials,” said Mishra. Parents have welcomed the decision as they will now know why and how their children are getting admission. Achint Sinha, father of a five-year-old boy, said, “If details of schools are available on the website we do not have to run to the school every time to know why the fees are being increased.” The decision to introduce this system was taken at a meeting convened by HRD minister Geetashree Oraon in May. this year regarding the implementation of RTE guidelines in the private schools. The decision of online update of the details was taken in the meeting after which the work of creating Ids and passwords of schools started which is now almost completed. In the meeting the schools were also directed to stop overcrowding the buses, stop taking extra money on the name of readmission, taking admission of BPL category students in 25% of the seats and much more. (Times of India 4/7/14)

46. 12,000 kids enrolled in schools under South Corporation plan (11)

New Delhi: South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s recently launched ‘Neev’ project has enabled over 12,000 children to enter formal school. The campaign was launched over the summer vacation and approximately 4,500 teachers went door-to-door in South Delhi to enroll children into schools, officials said. According to Ashish Sood, chairman of the education committee, there are approximately 45,000 children living in the city’s slums and resettlement colonies (across the four zones) who do not go to school as many contribute to the family income, or help at home. The civic body is also considering using mobile technology to educate children who cannot attend classes due to familial obligations. “We had launched the scheme with a focus on educating girls…In the next three years, we hope to enroll every child in the area in a formal school,” Sood said. The chairman also said that among the students who enrolled, at least 60 per cent had already joined schools. However, the bigger challenge for the corporation is to retain these students in schools. For this, the corporation is roping in NGOs and corporates, to help reduce drop out rates. “We are also considering asking companies to utilise their funds on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and help improve infrastructure in schools. Currently, there are at least 11 NGOs aiding us in retaining children in schools,” the chairman said. He added that the funds from corporates will be utilised to provide students a clean environment along with drinking water facilities and smart classrooms. “Until now, the NGOs who we work with gave us their own projects. Now we will ask them to develop projects for us, based on our needs.” Along with these measures, at least 50 councillors will be employed in schools within the month to help students. “Neev” has been the first project of its kind, as the civic body has collaborated with the Directorate of Education in the project’s implementation. School inspectors have also been asked to keep a check on schools, to make sure that those enrolled are attending classes regularly. (Indian Express 8/7/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD

47. Government wakes up to tea garden deaths (21)

Kolkata: A day after workers at the closed Raipur Tea Estate in the State’s Jalpaiguri district alleged starvation deaths, the administration has taken note of the plight of workers and swung into action by ordering the preparation of a list of closed and sick tea gardens in the district. Even as Food Minister Jyotipriya Mullick said that the workers of the closed tea garden refuse to come out and seek help provided by the government, Minister for North Bengal Development Gautam Deb announced that he would visit the tea garden and meet the workers on Sunday. A medical team was sent to the tea garden on Saturday and found many of the workers and their family members malnourished. Six deaths in the past 10 days at Raipur Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri district have brought back the spectre of starvation deaths in the closed tea gardens of the State once again. Though the workers have claimed that the deaths were because of starvation and lack of medical care, the district administration has denied it. Raipur Tea Estate with about 640 workers has been closed since September 2013, and the only source of livelihood for the tea garden workers has been selling green tea leaves and working under the MGNREGA scheme. The last death in the tea garden was reported on Friday when Jeet Bahan Munda, a worker, died. Before him, three women – Sapina Tirkey (65), Basu Oraon (50), and Tetri Bara (25) – and two newborn babies died over 10 days. “The deaths are occurring because of starvation and illness. Since the tea garden has been closed for nearly nine months, the people have no money left. We had written to the Block Development Officer (BDO) a month ago highlighting our problems to seek relief,” Pradhan Hembram, a tea garden worker, told The Hindu over phone from the district. Mr. Hembram, who is a Trinamool Congress member of the local panchayat, said the wages for the MNREGA are delivered after two months and the demand of the workers is that the garden be reopened. The tea garden is spread over about 826 acres and has a history of lock-out. According to Mr. Hembram, it was closed for six whole years from 2003 to 2009, and after reopening, it was once again closed in 2013. After the death of Mr. Munda, a medical team arrived in the tea garden on Saturday, and, according to the doctor, many workers of the garden are suffering from malnourishment. Before his death, the 42-year-old tea garden worker resembled a bag of bones. Though the authorities have refused to admit that these are starvation deaths, they have accepted the fact that there is a crisis in the tea garden. “Raipur is a closed tea garden. Obviously, the people there are facing problems in earning a livelihood. From our side we are doing whatever we can. We have sent a team comprising senior district officials there,” District Magistrate of Jalpaiguri Pritha Sarkar told the Hindu. Activist and advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioner on Right to Food Anuradha Talwar said even in the past, such incidents of starvation have occurred in the tea gardens of north Bengal and none of the governments – neither the present Trinamool Congress government nor the erstwhile CPI (M)-led Left Front have accepted this. Ms. Talwar said various non-governmental organisations pointed out that 13 starvation deaths were reported between May, 2011 and September, 2012 in closed tea gardens and certain other backward regions of the State. The State government had ruled out that the deaths had anything to do with starvation. Referring to Raipur Tea Estate, she said such incidents point out that two orders of the Supreme Court were being violated. While one order states that food under Antoday Anna Yojana, jobs under the MGNREGA and medical facilities along with financial assistance are provided to the workers of locked-out industries, another order directs that all outstanding payments be handed over to workers of certain tea gardens, including Raipur garden. (The Hindu 29/6/14)

48. Dark days for hunger-ridden tea garden (21)

JALPAIGURI: Big need not be better. This is applicable for the Raipur Tea Estate near Jalpaiguri – the largest in the area – where at least six people, including infants, have allegedly died of starvation and malnutrition in the last few days. While the administration promised to look into workers’ complaints of poor quality and inadequate rations, there is no indication that the tea garden will open soon. It has been a roller coaster ride for the workers of Raipur TE for over a decade. “Work was suspended between 2002 and 2004 and again in 2005. Work restarted in 2010 only to be suspended again in October 2013. The workers won’t benefit till production resumes in the garden but this looks difficult at the moment. A co-operative had made attempts to run the show but things didn’t work out. People here didn’t earn enough to make a living,” Pradhan Munda, a local panchayat member said. Raipur is the only tea estate in the area that is suffering so badly. One reason is size. The garden is spread across 750 acres but it’s not been put to best use. Most of the tea bushes are nearly 70 years old and the yield is poor. Owners haven’t paid much attention to manure or pesticides. Even the factory that still stands on the premises has become defunct. Much of the equipment inside has been pilfered and the remaining has been taken away by the owners for ‘replacement’. It is difficult for a garden of this size to survive without a processing unit, workers say. It is primarily Trinamool Congress now that is running the show in tea gardens and there are few who dare speak out against local leaders. There are some who say that not enough is being done for the workers. Nothing would have happened had the media not got wind of the starvation deaths. “District leaders are too busy with their own politics to bother about tea garden workers. They are simply waiting for the issue to die down. This has happened elsewhere in North Bengal. The government has to realize that it is not feasible for an owner to run a tea garden of this size. The land will simply have to be taken over and divided into four portions to be handed to separate owners. The work force can also be divided in this way. Things will become more manageable for owners and the workers won’t suffer,” a Trinamool leader in the tea garden said. Workers’ unions are likely to put up the proposal before the government. Without sufficient investment and a working capital, Raipur Tea Estate cannot survive. Liabilities are quite high and loans from financial institutions may not be forthcoming, say insiders. “Unless steps are taken immediately, Raipur TE may end up like the gardens near Birpara in Alipurduar that have been closed for over a decade. The owners will not take any initiative as there is nothing in it for them. The government will have to take steps,” the leader said. (Times of India 1/7/14)

49. Govt admits failure to execute Food Security Act (21)

PATNA: Food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak on Thursday admitted in the assembly that the Food Security Act could not be implemented in the state as the Union government did not supply the state’s quota of foodgrains since March. The state government had earlier announced implementation of the law from February 1. Replying to a short-notice question of Manjit Kumar Singh (JD-U), Rajak also admitted that 18.29 lakh poor families found eligible to get foodgrains under the Act had not yet received their ration cards. He was challenged by both the ruling and opposition members. Congress’s Sadanand Singh alleged large-scale irregularities in distribution of ration cards and RJD’s Abdul Bari Siddiqui complained about failure of the state to distribute foodgrains since February. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh, in his brief intervention, also described the issue as ?sensitive’. Leader of opposition in the state assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav said the state government implemented the Act in a haste for vote-bank politics. Neither ration cards were distributed nor foodgrains were arranged, while the government scrapped the cards of BPL families. Rajak claimed the government employees were busy in election work, hence cards could not be distributed among the beneficiaries. He alleged BJP workers were creating disturbance in distribution of new cards, which would be done by July 31. Manjit Kumar Singh claimed due to non-distribution of foodgrains, people all over the state were agitated. The minister said Food Corporation of India (FCI) arranged only 60 rail rakes against the demand of 101 to deliver foodgrains through FCI. Due to problems caused by workers in FCI, foodgrains were not being loaded on trucks. He said FCI did not have depots at Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Gopalganj, Sheikhpura, Banka, Sheohar, Khagaria, Arwal, Lakhisarai and Nalanda. He said the chief secretary has asked district magistrates to arrange distribution of ration cards to the beneficiaries, with announcement of the dates and places of distribution through public address system at panchayats and villages. Rural development minister Nitish Mishra, while replying to a call attention notice of Manjit Kumar Singh and others said his department has supplied the list of 1.43 crore families to the food and consumer protection department to identify the beneficiaries of the Food Security Act. (Times of India 4/7/14)

50. Controversy over new poverty line estimates (21)

New Delhi: The Rangarajan Committee has said that a person spending more than Rs 32 per day in rural and Rs 47 per day in urban cannot be described as poor person. Reuters file photo. For representation purpose  The new poverty line recommended by the C Rangarajan Committee on Monday triggered a fresh wave of criticism as the issue echoed inside and outside Parliament, with Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti dubbing it “misleading”. The Rangarajan Committee has said that a person spending more than Rs 32 per day in rural and Rs 47 per day in urban cannot be described as poor person.  Bharti said the fresh poverty figures and assessments were “misleading”. “I will be raising this issue at the appropriate level,” she said. Minister of State for Rural Development Upendra Kushwaha said, “I don’t agree with this. This is not the reality.” The new recommendations evoked criticism similar to the  Suresh Tendulkar committee which recommended Rs 32 in urban areas and Rs 27 in rural areas as the poverty line. The Rangarajan Committee was formed to re-look into the recommendations of Tendulkar committee. On the first day of Budget Session of Parliament, the issue figured during speeches of members during a discussion on price rise.  CPM’s Sitaram Yechury took a dig at the government, saying the PM himself had tweeted when Tendulkar Committee had fixed poverty line as Rs 32 a day, saying it was ridiculous that Rangarajan Committee has fixed it at Rs 47 a day. During his speech, NCP MP Praful Patel also demanded a clarification from the government on the issue and reminded the BJP that they had opposed the Tendulkar Committee earlier fixing poverty line at Rs 32 a day. The sharpest criticism came from BSP chief Mayawati. “This is nothing but making a joke of poor people. Whatever figure that has been given and the way it has been calculated, our party does not support it,” Mayawati told reporters. Sharad Yadav of JD(U) also echoed Mayawati’s view, saying it was “totally wrong and a cruel joke”.   Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Aggarwal said they would give Rangarajan Rs 100  everyday. “Let him show us how to live on this in a village,” he said. (Deccan Herald 7/7/14)

51. Bihar records highest dip in poverty ratio (21)

New Delhi: In what could be a  relief to Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, the C Rangarajan panel on poverty estimation report has said that in Bihar the poverty ratios dipped by over one-third in just two years between 2009-10 and 2011-12  —  much greater than any other state in India. Kumar had resigned as Bihar chief minister after receiving drubbing at the hands of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls. The JD(U) had won only 2 whereas the NDA bagged 28 out of the total 40 seats in Bihar. According to the Rangarajan panel on state-wise poverty ratios Bihar witnessed the maximum dip in poverty ratios with the fall from 63.9% in 2009-10 to 41.3% in 2011-12 — a dip of about 22 percentage points. In absolute terms, it translates into 21 million people lesser poor people in the state. The feat resulted in Bihar losing the dubious tag of having the  highest poverty ratio in India. Bihar has been replaced by BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, where the panel has categorised 47.9% of the people as being poor. In 2009-10, 53.8% of Chhattisgarh’s population was categorised as poor as per Rangarajan’s definition of poverty based on “basic standard of well being” including spending on food, education, transport and house rent. The panel’s estimation shows that poverty is still a huge concern in Maoist effected states even though the UPA government had spent over `4,600 crore in 83 districts over four years starting 2010-11 under its ambitious Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for bridging development deficiency in Left Wing Extremism hit areas. Apart from Maoist hit Chhattisgarh, two other affected states Odisha and Jharkhand find themselves high on the poverty ratio scale. Around 45.9% of people in Odisha were poor in 2011-12 as compared to 48.3% in 2009-10. In Jharkhand, 42.4% were poor in 2011-12 as compared to 52.1% in 2009-10. A member of the panel, who was not willing to be quoted said, the estimation clearly showed that effective implementation of poverty alleviation programmes can result in dip in numbers. “Bihar is a case for study on how government programmes can reduce poverty. But in contrast the same programmes have not helped in substantially reducing poverty in other Maoist-affected states where impact of these programmes are not much,” he added. Eight districts of Bihar were also covered under IAP. (Hindustan Times 8/7/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

52. Government criticised for ‘poor’ implementation of MNREGA (14)

BANGALORE: Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised the government in the Legislative Assembly for not implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) “properly” in the State. Leader of the Opposition Jagadish Shettar and Janata Dal (Secular) floor leader H.D. Kumaraswamy took the government to task for not exploiting MNREGA. During the discussion on budgetary demands for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR), Mr. Shettar criticised the government for not continuing “pro-people programmes” launched by the previous BJP government and accused the Congress government of remaining “apathetic to rural development.” Listing out the welfare schemes launched by the BJP government, including Suvarna Bhoomi, Suvarna Grama and Bhagyalakshmi, he appealed to the government to continue them in public interest. Mr. Shettar also alleged that the government was not effectively implementing its won programmes, including Anna Bhagya. “The government has failed to distribute below the poverty line (BPL) cards to eligible families,” he said. Mr. Shettar sought to know how the government would rejuvenate 12,000 tanks and lakes in the State under the MNREGA. On the target fixed by the government to construct 6 lakh toilets in 2013–14, Mr. Kumaraswamy sought to know the number of toilets constructed with government funding. He recalled the statement of RDPR Minister H.K. Patil on 19 lakh “missing” toilets in the State. Regretting the non-disbursal of wages to workers under the MNREGA, Mr. Kumaraswamy said some such workers had launched an agitation in Koppal. He accused the government of not utilising Central funds for MNREGA works. “While Andhra Pradesh issued 144.31 lakh job cards and Tamil Nadu 91.29 lakh, Karnataka issued only 54.64 lakh job cards in 2013–14. Similarly, while Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu governments utilised Rs. 4,750 crore and Rs. 4,690 crore Central funds respectively, Karnataka could spend only Rs. 1,590 crore,” he said. (The Hindu 2/7/14)

53. Migrant worker welfare only on paper (14)

CHENNAI:  “We had nothing but the clothes of the affected workers to identify them at the building collapse site,” said Rekha Ravi, joint collector for Nellore. Supervising rescue operations at the site, she said migrant workers had no identification documents nor were they registered by their home State or the host State as per existing rules. A large number of dead workers at the site were migrants. K. Ramana, a migrant worker from Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, who was injured in the accident, said he had no idea he was eligible for identity cards from the Tamil Nadu government. He said he had pinned all his hopes on the promise of the Srikakulam collector to pay compensation to all affected workers.  What the Moulivakam accident glaringly exposed was the lack of implementation of the action plan for migrant workers and their children, drawn up by the Tamil Nadu labour department two years ago, in consultation with civil society organisations. Geetha Ramakrishnan of the Unorganised Workers Federation said the most basic need for registering workers had not been undertaken (see infographic). P. Karuppusamy, additional labour commissioner, said while schemes such as Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the Right to Education Act, 2009, adequately addressed the needs of migrant children, and schools were set up for them, the workers themselves had little or no protection. As R. Vidya Sagar of UNICEF pointed out, though the action plan was meant to rehabilitate migrant children, addressing the problems faced by migrant worker families was equally pertinent. In Moulivakkam, for instance, most migrant workers on the site had left their children at home. Though an inter-State coordination committee existed to register migrant workers coming into Tamil Nadu, its functioning was affected due to lack of adequate coordination from source States. The revenue department was supposed to enumerate these workers to make them eligible for State benefits such as the public distribution system and healthcare, as per recommendations but these remained on paper. Mr. Karuppusamy said an elaborate migrant worker mapping exercise across the State was under way, in order to assess the gaps in implementation of welfare measures for the community. (The Hindu 2/7/14)

54. Census data: 1.10 lakh unemployed in Goa (14)

PANAJI: Around 1.10 lakh persons, around 8% of the state’s population, between the ages of 15 and 59 are unemployed and on the lookout for work in Goa, according to data released by the directorate of census operations. Of the close to 9.75 lakh persons in this age group , 71,193 females and 38,896 males are still in the search of employment of every kind from daily wage basis to long term work. The highest number of unemployed-27,709-were found between the ages of 20 and 24, as per the census 2011 data. Other than the unemployed, the census data shows that around another 90,000 persons in Goa are marginal workers or are only able to find work occasionally. While the census found that 71,936 persons to have worked for three months to six months, about 18,070 persons had worked for less than three months. Among the scheduled castes in the state, 2,250 were unemployed and seeking work during the 2011 census. Over 13,000 scheduled tribe members were found to be looking out for work, according to the data. The census survey seems to reflect similar figures as those registered as unemployed with the state employment exchange office. According to sources, in 2011, around 50,000 unemployed youth in north Goa and another 30,000 in south Goa were registered with the employment exchange. Of these unemployed youth, around 20,000 possess a graduate degree or a higher qualification, while a similar number of unemployed youth are Class XII pass and another 40,000 comprise matriculates or have a similar qualification, sources said. The high number of unemployed in the state is not lost on the Goa government, which recently set up a state human resources development corporation to offer skill training to unemployed youngsters, though the outcome has not been quantified thus far. (Times of India 3/7/14)

55. Union minister seeks report on rural employment (14)

LUCKNOW: Union ministry of rural development has sought findings of first social audit of the National Rural Employment Scheme in UP. The ministry has also sought action taken on reports from the districts but they don’t have much to share. The first social audit of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in UP could not come up with the result it was to meant to come up with. The government agencies which executed the work sanctioned under NREGS have given the first social audit of the scheme in UP short shrift. None of the 10 government executing agencies submitted the records of work executed by them to the social audit directorate which audited 11,412 gram panchayats for work done in 2012-13. “The audit either stopped or was left complete because of this,” said a circular issued by the state rural development department to forest, panchayati raj, sericulture, land development and water resources, agriculture, minor irrigation, fisheries and public works department. Social audit is meant to gauge the social impact of the scheme but the audit was limited to finding out how many beneficiaries were issued the card and what was the quality of work done. The audit which started in September had the target to cover 13,192 gram panchayats which were sanctioned Rs 10 lakh and more under NREGS in 2012-13. Only 11, 412 gram panchayats, however, could be assessed. Union ministry has asked districts about number of grievances registered based on findings of the social audit, number of grievances redressed and closed, number of FIRs registered as per findings of the social audit, amount of misappropriated money that has been recovered and number of functionaries against whom action has been taken based on the findings of the social audit. “We have written to the district magistrates to furnish details,” said director, social audit directorate UP, Shankar Singh. Social audit directorate will now take up the audit of gram panchayats for the year 2013-14. (Times of India 6/7/14)

56. 84 construction workers return from Iraq (14)

NEW DELHI: A batch of 84 construction workers, hailing from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, returned here on Monday from Iraq, saying it was an escape from death in the strife-torn country. “It was dangerous. War has started in areas that are just 30 kilometres away from our working site. So, we thought that it was high time for us to leave the country to save our lives,” Surya, a mason from West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, said. He was among the 84 labourers, who were employed in a construction project to develop villas in Najaf, which is around 180 kilometers away from the capital Baghdad. They reached Delhi this morning by a Iraqi Airways flight and have been accommodated at Andhra Pradesh Bhavan here. Of the returnees, 38 belong to Andhra Pradesh while the rest are from Telangana. Gangarajam, who is from Telangana, claimed that their employer had not paid them wages for the last three months. “Our company did not pay wages for the last three months. We had the contact number of Indian embassy officials in Iraq and they came for our rescue,” Gangarajam, who hails from Karimnagar district, said. Several of the returnees alleged that their employer refused to extend any help for their safe return to India. They also made allegations against a recruitment agency based in Mumbai, saying it also failed to give any assistance. “We have returned to India only because of the efforts by our embassy. Neither the company nor the agency did anything for our safe return,” Srinivas from Telangana rued. The workers were on a contract ranging between six months and two years for monthly wages from 350 US dollars to 500 US dollars. Though the labourers expressed relief on having returned safely to India, they were worried about their future as most of them have availed loans for paying to the agency to work overseas. Meanwhile, the central government has taken steps for sending the returnees back to their native towns. “All the 84 labourers would be sent by an evening flight to Hyderabad today. Two officers have been deputed by the Andhra Pradesh government for coordinating with the returnees,” a state government official here said. (Times of India 7/7/14)

RESERVATION

57. Maharashtra quota not taken up seriously (25)

New Delhi: The issue of granting reservation for the Maratha and Muslim communities in education and government jobs in Maharashtra was not discussed “seriously” at the AICC level before the Prithviraj Chavan government took a formal decision in this regard recently. Well-placed sources in the AICC said “Ab jaane dijiye (Let it be). Reservation has always been a sensitive issue for the Congress for different r