Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 2 March 2016

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

55-year-old Dalit murdered by mob in Noida, villagers block e-way (2)

Kambakshpur (Greater Noida): A 55-year-old man from dalit community was killed and his son was critically injured when half a dozen men attacked them at Kambakshpur village. Police said that the incident resulted out of a land dispute which is stated to be around 3.5 bigahs. The incident occurred when the deceased, identified as Jagdish Singh, and his younger son Dharmender, 20, were on their way to the district court to seek legal aid over some issue. “As they left the village at about 7.30 am, 6-7 men from the Gurjar community, who were having a decade old rivalry with Jagdish, attacked them. They had blocked the road using a tractor. The father-son duo tried to flee leaving their bike behind, but they were overpowered and attacked with sharp edged weapons,” said Prem Chand, a neighbour of the deceased. He added that some passersby spotted the duo lying in a pool of blood and informed police and family members. Later, Dharmender was found alive and was rushed to the Yatharth hospital where he is undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit (ICU). “Jagdish had demanded police protection as he was fighting a legal battle with the neighbours for a piece of land and he was often threatened and thrashed. But he never backed down and continued to fight the case for over 20 years,” said Bhola, a relative of the deceased. Police said that a case was registered at the Knowledge Park police station and teams were formed to lead the investigation. “Further, a company of provincial armed constabulary (PAC) has been deployed in the village to maintain law and order. Also, reserved riot control police has been deployed near the village on stand by,” said Abhishek Yadav, superintendent of police (rural), Gautam Budh Nagar. “The victim’s body was sent for postmortem, reports of which are awaited. It seems like he died after his throat was slit with some sharp object,” Yadav said. Following the incident, the relatives of the deceased accused police of inaction and demanded immediate arrest of the accused persons. The incident also triggered a violent protest and the police had to resort to firing in air and a mild force to disperse the mob which tried to block the Noida-Greater Noida expressway by placing the body over the road which also led to long traffic snarls. However, senior police officials rushed to the spot and tried to pacify the mob. However, when they did not agree to clear the road, the police used mild force and seized the body. The expressway was cleared after 45 minutes. When approach, senior superintendent of police Kiran S said, “The matter is under investigation. Whatever accusations the deceased’s family has made, will be thoroughly checked.” Police said that several of the attackers were identified with the help of locals who witnessed the entire murder. Police is waiting for statement of victim’s son to get name of the assailants. (Hindustan Times 11/2/16)

Dalit girl commits suicide after her family is shamed in public by UP cops over buffalo theft (2)

AGRA/FIROZABAD: Dishearten and depressed over her family being allegedly shamed and beaten in public by cops, a dalit girl committed suicide in Shikohabad area of Firozabad district. Identified as 18-year-old Julie, a second year student of BA was found hanging from her home roof ceiling, on Friday night. Third youngest among eight siblings, Julie was brightest among all and could not take the embarrassment of her family being insulted in public by police. The incident took place in Nagla Duli village which comes under Nagla Khangar police station. According to Kektaki Devi, mother of the deceased girl, “On Thursday a team led by Kamlesh Meena station in-charge of Rajakheda of Dholpur district Rajasthan along with local police raided our home to search accused men wanted in buffalo theft case.” “Unable to find anyone, they misbehaved with our family members including Julie and his blind father Ram Khiladi. Next day, when villagers along with my daughter went to complaint about the barbarism done by cops, station in-charge of Nagla Khangar, Lokendar Singh verbally abused my daughter. Dishearten and depressed of being insulted, my daughter committed suicide,” she claimed. Infuriated over Julie’s death, villagers staged protest against police and later along Ram Khiladi went to MLA Sirsaganj, Hariom Yadav to seek help in the matter.Speaking to TOI, MLA Hariom Yadav said, “Both cops are responsible for Julie’s death. It is a serious matter, as oppression of dalit is an offense. I have asked the SSP to set up an enquiry into the matter and punish the cops who insulted Julie and her family in public.” As per sources, after Julie’s neighbor (Abhishek) was arrested in the buffalo theft, it was allegedly found that her brother Sanju was also involved in the theft incident, for which police had raided her home.Speaking to TOI, senior superintendent of police for Firozabad Ashok Kumar said, “Prima facie our investigation has revealed that no cop misbehaved with Julie or her family. Though if found guilty, action will be taken against station in-charge of Nagla Khangar, Lokendar Singh.”According to Firozabad police, no FIR has been lodged in the matter and the post mortem report of Julie’s revealed death due to asphyxiation. (Times of India 14/2/16)

Dalit teenager thrashed, tonsured and paraded in UP village (2)

Unnao: A brick kiln owner and his two employees allegedly thrashed a Dalit teenager, tonsured his head and paraded him with a garland of slippers in Dabauli village. The incident took place on Monday following which the victim’s father lodged a complaint saying that that the accused have ancestral land adjacent to a brick kiln, which its owner allegedly wanted to grab. Circle Officer Safipur said a named FIR had been lodged against the brick kiln owner Virender Kumar Mishra and two of his employees. (Hindustan Times 16/2/16)

Dalit Attacked After Tiff Over Flex Board (2)

MADURAI: Police have arrested a caste Hindu and are on the lookout for one more for allegedly assaulting an 18-year-old Dalit in a dispute over setting up a flex board in Melur in the district. According to the police, the accused were identified as Ramasamy and his son Parthiban, both residents of Sivan Colony in Melur. They allegedly assaulted Pandyarajan, who was setting up a flex board for his relative’s marriage. In the flex board, he had printed the photos of Dalit leaders. Parthiban objected to it and sought the removal of the banner. As Pandyarajan refused to remove it, Parthiban allegedly assaulted him. Pandyarajan then informed his relatives about the incident and they decided to opt for legal action against Parthiban. However, he learned about it, went to the victim’s house along with Ramasamy and threatened the boy with dire consequences if he filed a police complaint. Later, they allegedly attacked him with a blade. He sustained injuries on his hand in the incident. Following this, Pandyarajan lodged a complaint based on which police registered a case against the father-son duo under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Later, police arrested Ramasamy and are on the lookout for Parthiban. In another incident, a case has been registered against four of a family for allegedly stabbing a Dalit driver. According to the police, the victim was  identified as Veerapandiyan (36), an auto driver from Oomatchikulam. He was an active member in the auto driver’s trade union. He asked Theevendra Pandiyan, who had joined as new auto driver in their stand, to pay the monthly subscription. However, he denied it. Hence, trade union functionaries told Theevendra that they could not allow him to park his auto in the stand. Following this, he went to Veerapandiyan’s house with his wife Palaniammal and two sons. The latter told Veerapandiyan that Theevendra was not interested in becoming a member of the trade union in which Dalit are there and allegedly stabbed him with a knife. (New Indian Express 18/2/16)

TRIBALS

‘Tribals living in pathetic condition’ (6)

Mysuru: Revenue and District In-charge Minister V Srinivas Prasad, on  Wednesday, expressed his disappointment over the pathetic living condition of tribals in the country. He attributed it to lack of adequate measures to bring them into mainstream. Speaking after inaugurating a ‘Tribal Cultural fest’ organised jointly by Kannada and Culture department, Kuvempu Institute for Kannada Studies, Folklore department of University of Mysore (UoM), the minister said tribal people were living in worst conditions with lack of health and education facilities. The country has provided very least facilities for their betterment, he said. Every country in the world has tribal communities and in Western countries, people treat tribals in a well and respectful manner. Tribals are provided with all the basic facilities like good health facilities and education, helping them lead a dignified life, he added. It is exactly opposite in India, where tribals are deprived of many facilities with very little benefits for their uplift. The culture, art and tradition still exist only because of tribals, he added.Tribals are basically forest dwellers and still play a key role in conserving forest resources and wildlife. But, owing to certain reasons, the authorities are shifting them to urban areas, the decision should be reconsidered, he opined. Mayor B L Bhyrappa said current scientific knowledge can be attributed to our ancestors. Forests exist still only because of tribals, who should be brought into mainstream, he said. Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) Chairman K R Mohan Kumar said, “Every individual has a responsibility to protect tribal culture. The State and Central governments have introduced several schemes for their development.” Earlier, in the day tribals from Mysuru, Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Kodagu districts took out a colourful procession from the main gate of Manasagangotri, PG campus of University of Mysore. Tribals performed traditional folk arts. Deputy Mayor Vanita Prasanna,  Zoo Authority of Karnataka Chairperson Rehana Banu, Kannada and Culture department Assistant Director Nirmala Matapathi and Tribal Welfare Officer Bharati were present. (Deccan Herald 12/2/16)

Rollapadu tribals fear displacement (6)

KHAMMAM: Citing their age-old bond with their natural habitat, a section of the tribals of Rollapadu village in Tekulapalli mandal raised apprehensions over their possible displacement and the resultant socio-economic and cultural consequences due to the proposed balancing reservoir as part of the Sitarama irrigation project in their village. They aired their concerns about the possible submergence of their farmlands, the sole source of their livelihood, during an interactive meeting held by Minister for Roads and Buildings T Nageswara Rao in their village on Sunday. The Minister, accompanied by Collector D S Lokesh Kumar, Superintendent of Police Shahnawaz Qasim and other officials, visited Rollapadu to review the arrangements for Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s scheduled visit to the village on February 16. The Chief Minister is slated to lay the foundation stone for the balancing reservoir in the village on Tuesday, sources said. The Minister highlighted the significance of Sitarama Project (the redesigned Dummugudem lift irrigation scheme envisaging integration of Rajivsagar and Indirasagar projects) in creating vast irrigation potential and boosting farm productivity in the district. He assured them that their interests would be fully protected and a comprehensive rehabilitation package will be implemented for the land losers of the village. Lakshminarayana and a few other villagers of Rollapadu expressed their willingness to extend cooperation for construction of the balancing reservoir provided the higher authorities and the elected representatives concerned give a concrete assurance on implementation of rehabilitation measures prior to commencement of the works. Ramanatham, a B.Tech student of the village, said their lives and cultural practices were intertwined with the natural habitat. Any move to relocate our tribal people away in plain areas will aggravate their plight, he pointed out, insisting that they should be allowed to live in proximity to their natural habitat and eke out a decent living. The Minister said the location and topography of Rollapadu tank is ideal for construction of a balancing reservoir to serve the irrigation needs of the mandal and its neighbouring mandals in a cost effective manner. Alternative lands and houses besides adequate compensation and jobs will be provided to the project affected persons, he asserted. He urged all the villagers to extend their cooperation to ensure the construction of the reservoir, an integral part of the Sitarama Project, and help expand the irrigation cover to all the cultivable lands in the district. (The Hindu 15/2/16)

Probe rapes of Chhattisgarh tribal women by security forces: Congress (6)

New Delhi: The Congress on Monday demanded an investigation into “horror stories of rapes and molestation” concerning tribal population in Chhattisgarh. Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, Chhattisgarh chief Bhupesh Baghel, leader of its legislative party T.S. Singhdeo and party spokesperson Ajoy Kumar alleged that the state government was indulging in “fake surrender” of Maoists and attempts were also being made to muzzle the voice of the media. “What is shocking and terribly dreadful is the fact that under active watch of the Raman Singh-led BJP government, horrific incidents of rape of tribal women, fake killings and fake surrender of Naxals are openly used as instruments of state terror. Intimidation is used as a potent weapon to muzzle the voice of members of media exposing these crimes,” Kumar said. He said a tribal woman was killed in a shootout in 2011, and police dubbed her a Maoist. But the inquiry report was not made public. Kumar said nearly 40 tribal women have complained of rapes and gang rapes by police between October 9-14 last year and January 11-14 this year. He said a team of Congress MLAs had gone into the allegations of rapes in October last year and found the allegations to be true. “The incidents bring out the alarming state of things on the ground. It establishes the anti-tribal and anti-poor mindset of the Chhattisgarh government. We demand a fair investigation into all these incidents,” Kumar said. Baghel demanded imposition of President’s Rule in the state. (Zee News 16/2/16)

Chhattisgarh govt cancels tribal rights over forest lands (6)

New Delhi: Forest rights of tribals over their traditional lands in Ghatbarra village of Surguja district have been taken away by the Chhattisgarh government to facilitate coal mining of Prasa East and Kete Besan coal block. The block has been allocated to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL) and Adani Minerals Private Limited. The latter is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Adani Enterprises and RVUNL is a Rajasthan government enterprise. In an order passed on January 8, the government had cancelled the community land rights of the tribals in the village, given under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The government, in the order, stated that the villagers had been using their legal rights over the forest land to stop work of mining in their village, which falls in the Parsa East and Kete Besan coal block. It is the first such order to come to light in India, where community rights of tribals have been cancelled after being granted through the process laid down in the FRA. Business Standard reviewed the January 8 orders cancelling the land rights of the tribals in the village. The Chhattisgarh government and the district authorities, however, did not respond to the queries. The FRA does not provide for revocation of either community or individual land rights once granted under the law. The law and the attendant regulations provide only for the government diverting the forest land for some other purpose after prior consent of the tribals through their gram sabha. Under the FRA, tribals are empowered to claim individual and community rights over forestlands they have traditionally hold on. The gram sabha of Bhatbarra did so and in September 3, 2013 they were handed over the lands by the state government. After that, the village became aware that the coal block could remain susceptible to mining despite the Supreme Court orders cancelling earlier allocations. In October 2014 the gram sabha (village council) of Ghatbarra, along with 19 other villages, took out a formal resolution opposing the mining in their lands. Under the FRA, the gram sabha is the only authority empowered to decide the future of traditional tribal lands.The FRA also requires that the claims and rights of all tribals and other forest-dwellers are settled before the government looks to remove them under section 4(5) of the law and other rules. But the central government gave the clearance to divert the land for mining in 2012 without settling the rights. Business Standard reviewed the orders of the environment ministry. One set of orders said the land would be diverted only once the rights of the tribals and others had been settled. But then later orders (called stage 2 forest clearance) handed over the land for mining without ascertaining that the rights had actually been settled. The state government in its order dated January 8 notes (translated from Hindi): “When the administration tries to get diversion of forests done for the Parsa East and Kete Besen open coal block, the villagers, using the context of the land rights given by the collector to them, create barriers and protest to stop work.” The order notes that this was investigated by the forest department. The conservator of forests of Surguja found that the land rights were given to tribals in 2013 while the forest clearance to RVUNL had been given in 2012. He concluded, therefore, the community forest rights given to the tribals could be cancelled. The district administration along with the tribal affairs and the forest department based on latter’s conclusions passed an order saying, because the land had been given in 2012 to the company for mining, it no longer classified as forestland in 2013 when it was given to tribals under the FRA. Consequently, the three set of authorities collectively decided that the government order handing over rights to tribals in 2013 is cancelled.The block has been caught up in a legal fracas over the forest clearance for other reasons as well. In 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had cancelled the forest clearance noting that the environment ministry had not looked at the impact of coal mining on biodiversity in the region, including presence of protected species such as the elephant. It asked the environment ministry to take a look again at the case. But the stay on operations was removed by the Supreme Court even as the NGT orders to relook at the clearance continued to operate. Since then the ministry has not taken a decision on the matter, records show. (Businessa Standard 18/2/16)

WOMEN

SC for uniform compensation scheme for differently abled rape victims (1)

New Delhi: Highlighting the plight of differently abled victims of rape and sexual exploitation, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered all States and Union Territories to formulate a uniform scheme for providing them compensation. It stressed that no amount of money can wipe away the tears of these women who have to battle both the social disadvantage of their disability and stigma of the crime committed against them. A Bench comprising Justice M.Y. Eqbal said the compensation given to rape victims was negligible compared to the trauma they had to undergo all their lives. Compensation and rehabilitation expenses range from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 1 lakh at the most, except in the State of Goa where victims were paid Rs. 10 lakh. In Jammu and Kashmir, a minor rape victim or a victim of custodial rape is paid a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh by the State. In Karnataka, a minor rape victim is paid Rs. 3 lakh while victims other than minors are eligible to a maximum of Rs. 1.5 lakh. In Kerala, minor rape victims are paid “50 per cent extra” of Rs. 3 lakh maximum compensation awarded to rape victims and Rs. 1 lakh for rehabilitation costs. In the Union Territory of Puducherry, a rape victim is eligible for a maximum compensation of Rs. 3 lakh and Rs. 20,000 for rehabilitation. The court noted that in Maharashtra, no amount is given as victim compensation for the offence of rape. “All the States and Union Territories shall make all endeavour to formulate a uniform scheme for providing victim compensation in respect of rape/sexual exploitation with differently abled women as required under the law taking into consideration the scheme framed by the State of Goa for rape victim compensation,” Justice Eqbal, who authored the judgment, observed. (The Hindu 12/2/16)

Sex ratio worsens in small families, improves with 3 or more children (8)

When minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi suggested registering the sex of every child in the womb to ensure the girl child is not killed, she probably did not understand the complex calculus that Indian would-be parents go through – when to have a child, how many, and boy or girl. A glimpse into this intriguing decision-making process undertaken by about 2.5 crore parents every year is provided by Census 2011 data. Among women who had only one child, the sex ratio was just 782 girls to every 1,000 boys born. This is much lower than the overall sex ratio of the population, (943 females for every 1,000 males), and even lower than the sex ratio for children aged up to six years (919). But it is not yet the rock bottom. For women who have two children, the sex ratio plummets to 720 girls for every 1,000 boys. However, with women who have three children, it improves to 814. For women with four children, it improves further to 944 and by five children, it reaches 1,005 girls for 1,000 boys.Census data indicates that the sex ratio is poor when women have one or two children, but gets better as they have more children. Two factors are at play here, explains population expert Purushottam M Kulkarni, till recently professor at JNU. One is sex-selective abortions and the other is sex-selective “stopping practices”, which is stopping having children based on sex of those born. “Those women who stop childbearing if the first one or two births are sons remain in the category of 1-2 children and those who go on for another child because the first two or three births are daughters get into the category of 3 or more children (that is, there is selectivity). As a result, the sex ratio of children of women with one or two children becomes highly masculine and, for the children of women with 3 or more children, less masculine,” he told TOI.For women with only one or two children, the sex ratios have fallen since 2001, substantially so in the case of mothers of two. This, says Kulkarni, indicates a strengthening of the mentality of son preference that is driving the whole calculus. Sex-selective abortions, with all the legal fencing, are still prevalent and may be used to determine the first and especially second births. The overall sex ratio is primarily affected by such illegal practices and not by sex selective stopping. The Census data also gives the number of surviving children for each type of family. This throws up an unexpected finding – the gap between survival rates of boys and girls is closing. (Times of India 15/2/16)

Harassed, Six More Girls Return Home from Hyd (8)

ROURKELA: Six more skilled tribal girls of Sundargarh district, who quit ‘home nursing jobs’ at Hyderabad after accusing a placement agency of engaging them as maid servants, returned on Sunday evening. Anila Lugun and Ujlanti Samad of Kuanrmunda block reached Rourkela station, while four other girls of Rajgangpur block arrived at Rajgangpur railway station in the evening. They were rescued by their parents. Four days back, Chandni Bara and Seema Purty of Kuanrmunda block and another girl of Rajgangpur block had returned. The girls claimed that apart from taking care of elderly persons at individual households in Hyderabad, they were forced to do menial jobs, not given proper food and held captive. They alleged that their employers had demanded that each of them should pay `25,000 for their release. As many as 628 girls of the district were trained in skill development under Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gramin Rozgar Yojana (DDU-GRY) and majority of them were engaged outside Odisha. The DDU-GRY is implemented by the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM) with the Odisha Rural Development And Marketing Society (ORMAS) being the nodal agency. Project implementation agency – Multicare Services – had placed the girls through a Hyderabad-based placement agency. ORMAS Chief Executive for Sundargarh, Souravmaya Das, said the BDOs of the respective blocks would be asked to obtain their written statements for appropriate action. He said allegations of the girls would be verified and intimated to the ORMAS top authorities. He added that under ‘home nursing’ discipline, trained girls cannot be asked to do household jobs.  On the other hand, State Project Head of Multicare Services, Khirod Maharana, reiterated that the girls returned home after feeling home sick. He added that Multicare Services is providing best training facilities at Bhubaneswar and before placement, the agency had counselled the girls about their job profiles. He refuted the allegation that they were engaged as domestic helps. BJP leader Koili Bhagat said the administration should also track the condition of remaining skilled girls who were given placement in Odisha and outside. (New Indian Express 15/2/16)

Woman ‘sold’ to porn makers (8)

A newlywed woman from Bihar’s Saran district has alleged that her in-laws in Haryana sold her off to porn filmmakers. Ruby Kumari, who is in her late twenties, said that when she realised what her in-laws had done, she fled and travelled alone by train to reach her family home in Phenhara village in Saran district’s Marhaura sub-division on Sunday. She narrated her ordeal to her parents, who lodged a complaint against her husband, Tiku Patikara, and three members of his family on Monday at Taraiya police station, around 70km northwest Patna. Ruby was married to Tiku alias Kishan Lal of Mahendragarh, Haryana, in Saran district on January 8. She alleged that she was sold off for Rs 7 lakh after her parents failed to fulfil her in-laws’ dowry demand of Rs 2 lakh in cash and a costly motorbike. “I escaped from the house with the help of some neighbours before they (her in-laws) could hand over me to porn filmmakers,” she added in the complaint. She alleged that her in-laws’ were pressing for more dowry, which her parents could not afford to provide. Her in-laws, she said, forced her to work as a farm labourer. “She was so frightened when she reached home,” Ruby’s father, Mohan Raut, told The Telegraph. “I was shocked to see her in such a condition.” Raut (42), a daily wage labourer, said that he had arranged Ruby’s marriage with the help of his neighbours. “At least three girls of my neighbourhood had been married to Haryana residents in the past. I approached Tiku’s family through some relatives of these girls,” he said. “It’s a bad omen. What can I do?” Taraiya police station SHO Ajay Kumar Paswan said that Ruby’s family fled from their house after some reporters started asking them questions. “I have been trying to record the victim’s statement since Tuesday but in vain,” Paswan said. The SHO said that initial investigations suggested that Ruby’s parents had arranged her marriage in haste because she had fallen in love with a man from her village. Paswan said local people had told the police that “the issue was raised at the local panchayat’s meeting before the girl’s wedding.” Ruby’s purported boyfriend is apparently missing after the police initiated investigation into the girl’s complaint. “A police team will soon go to Haryana after recording the girl’s statement,” the SHO said. An IG-rank officer posted at the state police headquarters said: “We have never come across any such incident in the past when a newlywed girl had been sold off to those involved in making porn films.” (The Teleraph 18/2/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

Child marriage: ‘it’s an easy way out for parents’ (14)

CHITTOOR: Government teachers and police working in remote villages observed that most of the parents in rural areas are finding the option of performing child marriages to their daughters as “safe” for the reason that providing security to girls is considered a big task in families depending on earning livelihood on daily basis, toiling from dawn to dusk. Speakers at the ‘Capacity building training modules for government officials in preventing child marriages,’ organised by the Rural Organization for Poverty Eradication Services at Palamaner, 40-km. from here, on Saturday, said that girl children in rural areas are forced to become either non-starters or school dropouts by their parents. In majority of the cases of child marriages, the parents would be suffering from ill-health, poverty and addicted to liquor. Mandal Educational Officer (Palamaner), R. Agnes observed that poverty-ridden parents living in remote areas such as dalitwadas and tribal hamlets, are generally carried away by the fallacy that it would not only a difficult task but also a costly affair to perform the marriage of girls if they are educated and cross the teenage. She said that government officials could play a vital role in promoting social awareness on child marriages by forging unity among the residents of each village. “The village elders could be entrusted with the responsibility of introducing the concept of social contributions for performing marriages of girls from poor families. This will bring in a feeling of social security to the parents, who would gradually shun child marriages,” she observed. In-charge Mandal Parishad Development Officer (Palamaner) R. Balaji said that the voluntary organisations should conduct more awareness camps against child marriages in rural areas. The official said that girls in such families should also be given training in vocational courses so that they could be economically empowered, which in turn would work as a deterrent against child marriages. (The Hindu 14/2/16)

Assam kids in Bengal shelters (14)

Siliguri, Feb. 14: At least 60 children from Assam are languishing in different children’s homes in Bengal while the state government sits tight. Many of them are confined to four walls of children’s homes far away from their families for more than two years, waiting for someone to bring them back. These children who belong to very poor families and given up for lost or dead by their families, were found by Nedan Foundation, a Kokrajhar-based NGO, working on anti-trafficking and repatriation of survivors with the help of TrackChild, a national portal to monitor lost-and-found children and curb trafficking. Speaking to The Telegraph on the sidelines of the Fifth Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave yesterday, Nedan Foundation chairman Digambar Narzary said data provided by the Bengal government to TrackChild revealed that 60 children from Assam aged between six and 17 years are lodged at children’s homes across the state. The conclave, jointly organised by the US consulate-general Calcutta and NGO Shakti Vahini, was held in Siliguri on February 12 and 13. Narzary, who attended the conclave, said they had taken up this issue with the State Child Protection Society, Assam and the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and requested them to take steps to bring these children back and reunite them with their families as early as possible. He said these children are mostly from Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Nalbari, Barpeta, Baksa, Goalpara, Dhubri, Sonitpur and Kamrup districts in lower and central Assam. “Some of them belong to families affected by floods/erosions and ethnic clashes in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) and its adjoining areas,” Narzary said. He said they were rescued from different places in Bengal by police and NGOs and sent to the children’s homes. A section of these children was engaged in exploitative child labour. “We are collecting donations from different people and if the state government can provide some funds, these children can be brought back and reunited with their families,” he said, adding that Kokrajhar SP Shyamal Prasad Saikia is helping in their effort. “Some of these kids were lured by employment promises and pushed into low-paying jobs while some had run away from home, landed in wrong company and were compelled to work as child labourers or beggars,” he said. A majority of them are traumatised and disclosed their home addresses after counselling and cajoling. A source said the State Child Protection Society, Assam, is pursuing the matter, but funds are not readily available with the state social welfare department for repatriation of these children. (The Telegraph 15/2/16)

CCB police arrest 5 men, rescue 12 child labourers (14)

Mysuru: City Crime Branch sleuths on Friday rescued 12 children from north India, who were working as labourers at various places in the city. After being rescued from two places in Mandi Mohalla, the children were produced before Child Welfare Committee, which in turn sent them to Bala Mandir. Those arrested in connection with the case are Kalamuddin, Mukesh, Sharafat and Santhosh, from a house near Mandi Mohalla, and Ratan Singh, from a lodge. They used to bring children from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and send them to work at various places in the city. Mandi Mohalla police, who have registered a cases, are investigating. Tnn (Times of India 16/2/16)

UN condemns use of child soldiers in Afghanistan (14)

KABUL: The United Nations on Wednesday condemned all sides in Afghanistan’s conflict for using child soldiers, noting that while government forces have curbed the practice, insurgent groups continue to train large numbers of fighters under the age of 18. The Afghan government has made progress on the issue, said Leila Zerrougui, the UN representative for children and armed conflict. But she said the Afghan Local Police – government-allied groups that often operate as independent militias and are widely seen as unprofessional and corrupt – are major perpetrators. The Taliban, who have been battling the government for over 15 years, mainly recruit children in provinces bordering Pakistan and other areas where the fighting is fiercest, she said. Noting that the majority of Afghanistan’s population is younger than 18, Zerrougui said child soldiers are “deprived of the minimum of their basic rights.” “They are not going to school, they are deprived of access to health. They are targeted by armed groups and they are prevented from having hope for the future.” Zerrougui spoke to reporters a day after the New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report accusing Taliban forces of boosting the number of children in their ranks since the middle of last year, in violation of international laws. The report said insurgents “have been training and deploying children for various military operations” in Afghanistan, including making and deploying bombs. It found that children between the ages of 13 and 17 were given military training in madrassas, or religious schools. Boys began indoctrination as young as six years old, and by the time they were 13 “have learned military skills including use of firearms, and the production and deployment of IEDs,” a term for roadside bombs, HRW said. It said the Taliban had recruited child fighters since the 1990s, but had expanded the practice with new madrassas and training centers in the country’s north.The Taliban condemned the HRW report in an emailed statement Wednesday, saying that it banned the recruitment of children as fighters. The use of child soldiers is illegal in Afghanistan, which ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, committing the country to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers.Despite the downward trend marked by the UN, the government is still struggling to curtail the practice. Earlier this month, officials confirmed that a 10-year-old boy had who had been declared a hero after fighting the Taliban was shot dead by insurgents while on his way to school.Child Soldiers International, a London-based charity, accused the government in a report released last June of slow progress in dealing with child soldier recruitment. The report, which was presented to the UN Security Council’s working group on children and armed conflict, said recruitment was mainly driven by poverty, but also filial duty, patriotism and honor. (Times of India 17/2/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

200 campuses in state get minority status (7)

Coimbatore: The number of minority educational institutions in Tamil Nadu have shot up from 261 to 461 in 2015, with the central government granting minority status to 200 more institutions in the state. Tamil Nadu is one of six states or union territories where the number of minority status grants rose in 2015 compared to the previous year. In 2005, as per the data available with the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), only one institution Dr Noble Memorial Christian College of Arts and Science, Kanyakumari was awarded the minority status. The number of grants remained between nine and 23 during 2006-12, and in 2013, the number surged to 66, which then shot up to 88 in 2014. However, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka witnessing a rise in the minority status grants in 2012-2014, saw a sharp decline. An institution with minority status enjoys certain privileges. It is given the autonomy to reserve 50% seats for admissions and introduce new courses and subjects. President of Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), M H Jawahirullah, said, “It is good to see that the number of minority nstitutions are rising in the state. It will open doors for students from these communities to pursue education.” Social scientist Bernard D’ Sami feels these institutions will provide opportunities to minorities within their own communities. “Scheduled caste and scheduled tribe Christians will now have better access to education. Also, Muslim girls, who have been deprived of education, will get educated ,” said Sami. According to academicians, this trend suggests better access to education for students from the minority communities, and statistics too indicate the same.The district information system for education report reveals that while the enrolment of children in Class 1 to 8 has marginally dropped in the last ten years, there is significant rise in the enrolment of Muslim children. Also, the number of youth from these communities attending college in Tamil Nadu increased by 10 lakh from 2010 to 2014, the All India Survey for Higher Education reveals. However, there is another view. Many institutions which enjoy minority status do not actually serve the society. “Most of these institutions do not reserve 50% seats for students from minority communities. The seats are given to children from other categories,” said general secretary of Tamil Nadu State Platform for Common Schools, P B Gajendra Babu. Another senior academician of a private university, said, “Minority institutes that impart generic education which is not unique are enjoying special rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They do not offer education wholly for the benefit of the concerned minorities and it’s difficult to say that minority institutions equates to benefits for minorities.” (Times of India 11/2/16)

Regional parties question BJP’s minorities approach (7)

New Delhi: The regional parties — which not only checked the Modi wave in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Orissa in the 2014 Lok Sabha election but remained key players in the Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls held later as well as in the Delhi and Bihar Assembly polls — have been the bane of the BJP. But neither the AIADMK and BJD, which are friendly with the BJP at the Centre, nor NDA constituents like Apna Dal, RPI (A), and Swabhimani Paksha have been accommodated in power positions. The Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, TDP, LJP and RLSP got ministries at the Centre but they feel it is inadequate. The BJP’s breaking away from its oldest allies, like the Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra Assembly polls and the JD(U) before the general election, has already alerted its current and prospective allies who foresee that the saffron party’s real agenda is to make a dent in their political constituencies in states where they are powerful. A leader of a BJP ally said the NDA partners have now become insignificant. “Our politics depends on regional issues, and pride and support of minorities, but the top BJP leadership has been ignoring us. If senior BJP leaders are openly talking of bifurcation of Maharashtra, others are suggesting that the SAD has become a liability for the BJP in Punjab. This strategy will ultimately work against regional parties,” he said. While the LJP and RPI(A) have been unhappy the way the BJP and its leaders are handling the issue of dalit atrocities, the PDP is in two minds on whether to continue with the alliance with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJD and AIADMK had quit the NDA after realising that the BJP would try to weaken them in Orissa and Tamil Nadu. The TDP is also cautious of the BJP’s real agenda in Andhra Pradesh. (Asian Age 12/2/16)

‘SC Status to Dalit Muslims, Christians Will Encourage Conversion’ (7)

KOCHI: Claiming that extending reservation in government jobs to Dalits of minority communities would encourage conversions, Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot today said the Centre has told the Supreme Court that it was “not agreeable to” granting them such rights. Strongly opposing recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission and the Sachar Committee for reservation to Dalits of Christian and Muslim minority communities, he told a gathering at a Hindu leadership conclave here that there is no provision in the Constitution to grant reservation to Dalits who convert to other religions. The Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment also said any such step would “weaken the Hindu religion”.”Our government has given in writing to the apex Court that it does not agree with the reports of the Ranganath Mishra Commission or the Sachar Committee. “We won’t accord Scheduled Caste status to those who have converted. We are following the Constitution in letter and spirit,” Gehlot said at the function, organised by the Hindu Aikya Vedi, a Sangh Parivar outfit in Kerala. He noted that reservation was provided to Dalits in Hindu community to uplift them socially and economically from the ill-practise of untouchability and said such a practise does not exist in Christian and Muslim communities. So those who converted to these religions should not be granted SC status. “Granting Scheduled Caste status to those belonging to minority communities will encourage conversion and weaken the Hindu religion. There is also no such provision in the Constitution,” Gehlot observed. He also accused Congress of plotting to reduce quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs to benefit minority communities. The Justice Sachar Committee was constituted by non-BJP government to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims in the country. The Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission was formed to identify the criteria for socially and economically backward classes among religious and linguistic minorities and suggest various welfare measures for minorities, including reservation. Both reports of the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Commission had revealed that Muslims in India are the most backward community, despite their rich cultural heritage and strong numerical presence. (new Indian Express 15/2/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Uniform Civil Code and Muslims (7)

The sticky issue of the uniform civil code (UCC) has sprung up again. It was last week that the Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind (JUH), a body of Islamic scholars with a pan-India presence, submitted before the Supreme Court that Muslim Personal Law is derived from the Quran. Based on this argument, the Jamiat said that Mohammedan laws cannot be treated as within the purview of what it described as “laws in force”.The submission comes after the apex court last year, suo moto, had ordered a separate public interest litigation be filed so as to look into the cases of Muslim women facing gender discrimination. And when discrimination of this kind in community is spoken about, the controversial but widely accepted system of oral triple talaq – in which a man divorces his wife by simply uttering “talaq” thrice, in once sitting – raises its head. The court had described this kind of divorce as “arbitrary” and the underlying concern was that of the woman’s “security”.After the Jamiat, it is the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) which is now considering impleading in the case. Both the Jamiat and the AIMPLB contend that Muslim Personal Laws are an integral part of religion. They also assert that following personal laws are a constitutional right – the freedom to follow and propagate religion as enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.The UCC is mentioned in Article 44, which is a directive principle and, therefore, its enforcing is not mandatory , they further contend. But while on the one hand, AIMPLB members do not wish to do away with oral tri ple talaq, on the other, they admit that it is a problem and hat scrapping the practice is next to impossible as there ex st two interpretations on di vorce based on two different schools of thought. While the Hanafi school of thought – na med after the 8th century ex pert on Islamic jurispruden ce, Imam Abu Hanifa – which a vast majority of Indian Muslims follow, accepts ora riple talaq, the Salafis, also known Ahl-e-Hadith don’t “Neither side is ready to ma ke amendments. Both have ta ken a tough stand,” a senior member of the AIMPLB said. ……. (Times of India 11/2/16)

Make in India: Number of registered Muslim-owned units fall (7)

Mumbai: Even as governments at both Centre and state stress on boosting entrepreneurship under the Make In India initiative, the number of Muslim-owned registered Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has come down in the country from 10.24 per cent in 2009-10 to 9.1 per cent in 2014-15, as per the Annual report of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise. The fall comes even as several states, including Maharashtra, plan a separate policy to facilitate the growth of SC/ST entrepreneurs. Muslims make up 14.2 per cent of the country’s population. Due to various socio-economic reasons, nearly50 per cent of urban Muslims are self employed vis-a-vis 33 per cent of urban Hindus. The traditional businesses operated by Muslims included industries such as silk and sericulture, hand and power looms, the leather industry, automobile repairing and garment-making. However, many of these have been hit by liberalisation. “Muslims businesses are now playing the role of scavengers in the Indian economy. You will find them in the business of scrap collection and automobile repair. Their presence as owners of growth sectors is limited. While some of it can be attributed to lethargy, the absence of government support in helping Muslims is also hurting the community,” Dr Abdul Shaban, member of the UPA-appointed Post Sachar Evaluation committee, said. Muslim entrepreneurs claim that many of them shy away from paperwork and do not get access to government schemes. “Many Muslims entrepreneurs feel it is exceptionally difficult for them to get access to credit for expanding businesses. Perceived, and sometimes real, discrimination by both public and private sector banks in providing bank credit is widespread. Businessmen feel that rather than going through the rigmarole of documentation and end up with no benefits, it is better if they do not register themselves,” Aamir Idrisi, President of the Association of Muslim Professionals, said. MSMEs, as per MSMED Act, 2006, are defined based on their investment in plant and machinery. For the manufacturing sector, it ranges from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 10 crore and for service sector from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 5 crore. Muslim representation in the unorganised MSMEs, which is around 2-crore strong, is 12 per cent. “There is a section of Muslim businessmen who feel that taking loans and paying interest is against their religion. However, there are cases where banks have turned down loans to Muslim business-owners. There is a serious disparity between government schemes and benefits percolating to Muslim businessowners,” chartered accountant Manzoor Hasan said. The ‘M’s 15 Point Programme mandates a certain share of priority sector lending for the minorities. The amount disbursed to them under priority sector lending was Rs.58,663 crore in 2007-08, which increased to Rs.1,64,748 crore in 2011-12. The achievement in targets has been above 85% in all the financial years at the all-India level. However, the share of credit lent to minorities has ranged between 7.5% in 2006-07 to 11.3% in 2012-13. “Clearly, Muslims are not the major beneficiaries of priority sector lending, since both the targets and achievements in Muslim-concentrated states have been very low. Surprisingly, the targeted amounts and their utilisation are very low in Uttar Pradesh — even less than those of Punjab,” Dr Amitabh Kundu, who headed the Post Sachar Evaluation Committee, said. (The Indian Express 14/2/16

Muslims are Indians by choice and not by chance: Maulana Mehmood Madani (7)

Meerut: “We are not Indians by chance but by choice” – This is what Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind general secretary Maulana Mehmood Madani said on Monday. He also said that Muslims stayed back in India even after Partition as they loved their motherland. He added that those who hurt a person’s religious values or disrespect a religious leader should be given stringent punishment, including death penalty, as per Aaj Tak. At the same time Madani appealed to all communities to come together in the interest of the nation. Madani made the remarks while addressing the ‘Huloos-e- Insaaf’ conference convened by his outfit at the Faiz-e-Aam college. Moreover, he demanded that the UP government should fulfill the promise of 18 percent reservation to Muslims made during the 2012 Assembly polls. Madani said that the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Milia Islamia be kept intact and innocent Muslims lodged in prisons should be released. Hindu and Christian leaders who were present at the event asked the people to rise above caste and religion to live in harmony. The leaders also took a pledge to rise above caste and religion and work for humanity. (Zee News 15/2/16)

‘Govt harassing Muslims’ (7)

Ranchi: JVM(P) chief Babulal Marandi on Tuesday said “a sense of fear runs throughout the Muslim community in the state” under the current BJP-led state government. “The fear is not without reason. The root of the fear psychosis is full of incidents reported in the last one year. The incidents seem to be designed to harass Muslims,” Marandi said at a dharna he held outside Raj Bhavan to seek a change in the prevailing situation. “The government sees Muslims as criminals. At the slightest opportunity Muslims are being tortured,” he said elaborating a series of communal clashes reported in the last one year. Communal clashes were reported in Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Hazaribag, Lohardaga, Giridih, Chatra and some other places in the last one year. “In all cases, 90% of the persons booked for violence were Muslims,” said Marandi. Marandi, did not elaborate on the profiles of the Muslims booked in communal cases, but claimed many people came to him and said that even the ailing and the bed-ridden people were accused for rioting. Senior IPS officers have investigated the communal incidents in Ranchi and Hazaribag and found “bias in police action”.”The communal violence was sponsored by the government,” he claimed and projected the case of Intezar Ali who was jailed without evidence for links with terrorist outfits.”The community members are afraid of rearing cows also,” Marandi said. In a memorandum submitted to governor Droupadi Murmu, Marandi demanded formation of a special investigation team to investigate the communal clashes reported in Jamshedpur, Ranchi, Hazaribag, Chatra, Giridih and the case of Intezar Ali. (Times of India 17/2/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

‘Violence more common’ in Bible than Quran, text analysis reveals (7)

An analysis into whether the Quran is more violent than the Bible found killing and destruction occur more frequently in the Christian texts than the Islamic. Investigating whether the Quran really is more violent than its Judeo-Christian counterparts, software engineer Tom Anderson processed the text of the Holy books to find which contained the most violence. In a blog post, Mr Anderson explains: “The project was inspired by the ongoing public debate around whether or not terrorism connected with Islamic fundamentalism reflects something inherently and distinctly violent about Islam compared to other major religions.” Using text analytics software he had developed, named Odin Text, he analysed both the New International Version of both the Old and New Testaments as well as an English-language version of the Quran from 1957. It took just two minutes for his software to read and analyse the three books. By categorising words into eight emotions – Joy, Anticipation, Anger, Disgust, Sadness, Surprise, Fear/Anxiety and Trust – the analysis found the Bible scored higher for anger and much lower for trust than the Quran. Further analysis found the Old Testament was more violent than the New Testament, and more than twice as violent as the Quran.Anderson summarises: “Of the three texts, the content in the Old Testament appears to be the most violent. “Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament (2.8%) than in the Quran (2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads—more than twice that of the Quran—in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).”However, he adds: “First, I want to make very clear that we have not set out to prove or disprove that Islam is more violent than other religions. “Moreover, we realize that the Old and New Testaments and the Quran are neither the only literature in Islam, Christianity and Judaism, nor do they constitute the sum of these religions’ teachings and protocols. “I must also reemphasize that this analysis is superficial and the findings are by no means intended to be conclusive. Ours is a 30,000-ft, cursory view of three texts: the Quran and the Old and New Testaments, respectively.” (Times of India 10/2/16)

Historic pope-patriarch declaration: Key points (7)

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Friday held the first meeting in nearly a millennium between heads of their two branches of the Christian church. Here are key points from their joint declaration: CHURCH UNITY”For nearly one thousand years… we have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors. We are pained by the loss of unity.” “It is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re-establishment of this unity willed by God.” “We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love.” CHRISTIANS SUFFERING “In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated… We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East.” “We wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.” TERRORISM “The international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action.” “Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God`s name.” UKRAINE “We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.” EUROPEAN VALUES “We give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe.” “At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which… political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.” “While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots.” POVERTY, REFUGEES”We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations… The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.” MARRIAGE “We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries… The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman… We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union.” ABORTION “We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God.” EUTHANASIA, EUGENICS”The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled to begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general. We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God.” (Zee News 13/2/16)

Congress, NGOs protest at Goa defence expo site (7)

Panaji, Feb 15 : Over 200 Congress workers and civil society activists on Monday protested at the proposed site for the relocated Defence Expo 2016 in Goa, blocking a team of revenue department officials from conducting site inspection. Protesters at Naqueri plateau in Betul village in South Goa led by state Congress president Luizinho Faleiro, Roman Catholic Church-backed Council for Social Justice and Peace executive secretary Fr. Maverick Fernandes, as well as Congress legislator Babu Kavlekar said they were opposed to handing over of land meant for setting up an industrial estate to the defence ministry for creating infrastructure for the expo. “This area is meant for an industrial estate so that jobs can be created. A defence expo will take place only for some days a year. How will that help in job creation? Why are these large chunks of land being given away to the armed forces, when Goa is facing a land crunch?” Faleiro said. The team of government officials, who had arrived to carry out a survey, were blocked by the protesters for a few minutes. The survey was later carried out under police escort. Traditionally held in the national capital, the Defence Expo is scheduled to be held in Goa this year because a new convention centre is being built at Pragati Maidan in Delhi. However, the Defence Expo 2016, which is the ninth in the series of biennial Land, Naval and Internal Homeland Security Systems Exhibitions organised by the defence ministry, has attracted opposition from the BJP-led coalition government’s political opponents as well as a section of the civil society over the allocation of six lakh square metres of land at the coastal village in Betul, 45 km from Panaji, to the ministry for the project. While Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar have insisted that the Defence Expo 2016 is only a temporary project, the Opposition has claimed otherwise. Parrikar has said the expo would help residents earn revenue by setting up tea and refreshment stalls at the event and local taxis as well as hotels would benefit because of the visitors. (New Kerala 15/2/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

’500 dead’ in Syria regime’s Aleppo assault (13)

Beirut: World powers urged Russia to end its air strikes, which a senior US official said were “directly enabling” the Islamic State group, and the UN Security Council met to discuss the conflict. The meeting behind closed doors came ahead of crucial international talks Thursday in Munich to push for Syrian peace negotiations. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 506 people had died since the regime launched a major offensive against rebels in Aleppo province on February 1, including 23 children killed in Russian air strikes. Tens of thousands of Syrians were still stranded Wednesday at the Oncupinar border crossing to Turkey, which remained closed. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday said it was building a new camp for the refugees inside Syria, and said it was unfair to ask Turkey to open its borders without pressuring Russia over its bombing. “I find it hypocritical that some circles are telling Turkey to ‘open your borders’ while at the same time failing to tell Russia ‘enough is enough’,” Davutoglu told reporters.Turkey is already hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees and has refused to let a new wave into the country, leaving many sleeping in tents or the open. Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Wednesday the healthcare system around the war-torn town of Azaz in Aleppo province was “close to collapse” due to the fighting. Since Saturday, an MSF hospital near Azaz has seen an increase of about 50 percent in its outpatient department. Many are suffering respiratory tract infections. Those who have fled the offensive tell of scenes of terror and suffering. “Children are dying under bombs and from hunger and cold. They are living on the roads. They don’t have any place to stay,” said Abdul Karim Bahloul. Human rights groups weighed in, urging Turkey to accept those stranded on its border. “Forcing people to remain in a war zone, where they risk death and injury, is no solution to the challenge of protecting Syrians fleeing their country,” said Human Rights Watch. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated around 50,000 people have been displaced by the violence, mainly in northern areas of Aleppo province. (Deccan Herald 11/2/16)

Over 4,000 refugees leave Finland (13)

Helsinki : Thousands of Iraqi refugees who arrived in Finland last year have decided to cancel their asylum applications and to return home voluntarily, citing family issues and disappointment with life in the frosty Nordic country. Almost two-thirds of the asylum seekers last year were young Iraqi men, but some are now having second thoughts, so Finland will begin chartering flights to Baghdad from next week to take them home. Officials said about 4,100 asylum seekers had so far cancelled their applications and that number was likely to reach 5,000 in the coming months. “My baby boy is sick, I need to get back home,” said Alsaedi Hussein, buying a flight back to Baghdad at a small travel agency in Helsinki. Somalia-born Muhiadin Hassan, who runs the travel agency, said he was now selling 15 to 20 flights to Baghdad every day. “It’s been busy here for the past few months,” he said. A majority of the home-bound migrants have told immigration services they want to return to their families, but some expressed disappointment with life in Finland. “Some say the conditions in Finland and the lengthy asylum process did not meet their expectations, or what they had been told by the people they paid for their travel,” said Tobias van Treeck, programme officer at the International Organisation for Migration. Echoing that comment, travel agent Hassan said: “Some say they don’t like the food here, it’s too cold or they don’t feel welcome in Finland. There are many reasons.” Nearly 80 per cent of the migrants returning home are Iraqis. Just 22 of the 877 Syrians — whose country is racked by civil war — and 35 of the 5,214 Afghans who sought asylum in Finland last year have asked to return to their home country. Along with other Nordic states, Finland has recently tightened its immigration policies, for example requiring working-age asylum seekers to do some unpaid work. Hostility to migrants has also increased in Finland, a country with little experience of mass immigration and which now has economic problems. Germany too, which took in 1.1 million people in 2015, has seen small numbers of Iraqi refugees choosing to go home. Finland had been preparing to reject up to 20,000 asylum seekers from 2015, but the number of voluntary returnees could significantly reduce that figure. “The number of returnees is increasing steadily … All asylum seekers are informed about the options for voluntary return and about the available financial assistance,” said Paivi Nerg, a senior official in the Finnish interior ministry. However, most Iraqi returnees pay for their own flight home or seek help from Iraq’s embassy in Helsinki, she added. Last year the Finnish government and the IOM provided financial help to 631 returnees and a similar number is expected this year. The charter flights will carry up to 100 passengers back to Baghdad from Helsinki every week for as long as demand lasts, officials said. (Asian Age 12/2/16)

Bangladesh begins census of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees (13)

Dhaka, Feb 13 : Bangladesh has started to conduct a census on Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees living in the country’s southeastern districts bordering Myanmar to determine their exact figure. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has began the listing of households as part of primary task in six southeastern districts – Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban and Patuakhali, Xinhua reported. The listing of Rohingya households will continue till February 17, according to Md Emdadul Huq, joint director of Chittagong Divisional Office of BBS. After completion of listing of households, the census will begin by the end of the next month. Officials said the census aimed at ending confusion about the exact number of Rohingya people living in Bangladesh. Currently there were various figures coming out from various ways on the number of Rohingya people in Bangladesh, which is considered a barrier to resolving the problem. Some 30,000 registered refugees are reportedly staying at two camps in Bangladesh, in addition to 300,000 to 500,000 more illegal Rohingya immigrants in the country. The government of Myanmar has pledged to take back these its undocumented nationals after verification of their origin, a Bangladeshi foreign ministry statement had earlier said. (New Kerala 13/2/16)

Pope decries global `human tragedy` of forced migration (13)

Chihuahua: Pope Francis on Wednesday decried the “human tragedy” of what he described as “forced migration” worldwide during a huge mass at Mexico`s border with the United States. Francis made a point of holding the service in Ciudad Juarez, which lies across from El Paso, Texas, to pray for migrants who risk their lives crossing the border between the two nations. While he bemoaned the fate of Central Americans and Mexicans who flee poverty and crime-infested regions to seek a better life in the United States, he also talked about a global tragedy. “We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant the migration of thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometers through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones,” Francis said. “The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today.” He did not mention other parts of the world by name but Europe is facing its gravest migration challenge since World War II, with many asylum-seekers fleeing war in Syria and drowning in the Mediterranean. Migrants, he said, are “excluded as a result of poverty and violence, drug trafficking and criminal organizations.” “Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are cannon fodder, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs. Then there are the many women unjustly robbed of their lives,” he said. “No more death. No more exploitation. There is still time to change, there is still a way out and a chance, time to implore the mercy of God.” The pontiff then asked for a moment of silence. (Zee News 18/2/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

CIC pulls up MU over compliance to RTI rules (1)

Mumbai: The University of Mumbai has been pulled up by the Chief Information Commissioner for not uploading data under 17 different heads that all universities have been asked to upload suo moto as per the RTI Act. The CIC has asked the university to comply by February 15 and ensure the data be updated regularly. While presiding over the hearing of a complaint filed by one J.R. Vora, CIC Ratnakar Gaikwad questioned why MU had failed to upload data as per clause 4 of the Act that stipulates proactive disclosure of details of the organisation. Mr Gaikwad also pointed out the university had failed to comply with the other clause of the Act that expected institutions and organisations to do proactive disclosure within 120 days of the Act coming into force. In its reply, the university that was being represented by the appellate authority and the registrar on behalf of the vice-chancellor informed Mr Gaikwad that the university had done proactive disclosure under seven heads and work on collating information under the remaining 10 heads was underway. “Due to the magnitude of the work and size of the university, work on proactively disclosing information under all the stipulated 17 heads has been delayed. Information under the seven heads has already been provided on the university website and details under the other heads will be uploaded soon too,” said Dr Khan, registrar, MU. After the hearing, as per clause 19 (8) (k) of the RTI Act Mr Gaikwad instructed MU through Dr Khan to upload details under all heads by February 15. According to MU sources, since the Act was enforced in 2005, various departments that were expected to provide suo moto information to be uploaded on the MU website had failed to do so. Repeated reminders also failed to elicit compliance during the tenure of the previous VCs that included Dr Vijay Khole, Dr Chandra Krishnamurthy and Dr Rajan Welukar. (Asian Age 12/2/16)

Probe NRHM funds embezzlement, Nainital admin told (1)

NAINITAL: After an RTI query revealed alleged embezzlement of National Rural Health Mission funds in Nainital district to the tune of around Rs 11 crore, a magisterial court asked the district administration to order an inquiry into the matter. Kunwar Singh Dev, a resident of Niglaat village in Bhowali, requested the copy of the inquiry through an RTI application last month. “I got a 44-page report which was submitted to the district magistrate with recommendation of special inquiry into the matter. It indicates the irregularities of funds of around Rs 11 crore over the last three years of NHRM scheme.” The report points at financial irregularities in various aspects of the scheme, including renting vehicles, purchase of computers, desktops and printers, and mis-reporting the numbers of patients treated under the scheme. The report pointedly explained the lapse of Rs 5 crore in the accounts of the health department for NHRM in 2013-14 in which Rs 12 crore were spent against the sanctioned Rs 17.32 crore. The statistics from the department and account details failed to explain where the money had vanished. The report also gave details of the misuse of the NRHM funds and non-utilization of funds as per the needs of the region and patients. When contacted, officials of the district administration told TOI that the matter was being considered with utmost importance and the culprits, if any, would be made answerable as per law. (Times of India 14/2/16)

Info on land deals tops RTI queries (1)

Kochi: The district collectorate received 1,608 RTI queries in 2015. Of these, more than 50% applications sought land-related information, with lawyers and organizations such as the Society For Protection of River filing a large number of them. “In 2015, maximum number of applications wanted details of land deals, followed by those on transfers and appointments, official inquiries, land acquisition processes and steps taken to ensure disaster management facilities, especially in high-rises,” said Sumesh P S, an official who handles RTI applications at the collectorate. In January 2016 alone, 171 RTI applications have been filed. Majority of them wanted information on encroachments on river banks, government land or mangroves. Apart from ordinary citizens and activists, political parties are also now relying on RTI to gather information. “Among several political parties, AAP made the best use of RTI. They used to file requests regularly regarding public information. While other parties often file RTI to know about the progress of certain files, AAP asks for several important public documents,” said Sumesh. Meanwhile, environmentalist S Seetharaman said, “Authorities purposefully delay responding to RTI queries citing several reasons, including having to forward requests to other departments for information. The appeal commission also delays providing information intentionally.” (Times of India 16/2/16)

RTI activist seeks guv sanction to prosecute Siddaramaiah (1)

Bengaluru: Chief minister Siddaramaiah’s Hublot watch could land him in some trouble as RTI activist S Bhaskaran on Tuesday approached governor Vajubhai R Vala, seeking sanction to prosecute Siddaramaiah under the Prevention of Corruption Act. In a letter to the governor, Bhaskaran sought permission for prosecution as the CM had accepted an expensive gift. He claimed there is prima facie evidence that the CM did receive an expensive gift as he has publicly acknowledged. But the fact that the CM has not declared it before the Lokayukta or law-enforcing agencies attracts various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Indian Penal Code and the Income-Tax Act 1961. This comes under Sec 13 (1)(D) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, he alleged in the letter. “I could have approached police but do not have faith in them since they work directly under the CM. So I want to file a private complaint against Siddaramaiah in court so that the entire issue can be investigated by an independent agency and make way for a free and fair trial,” Bhaskaran said. Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah told reporters in Chamarajanagar, “I can’t keep answering your questions about the watch. I’ve no objection; let it be investigated. I’ll give my answer to the governor.” He chose not to sport the costly watch during his campaigning on Tuesday but wore a different one. Activist’s questions* Can an elected representative accept gifts from anyone who is not a blood relative? * Who was the person/ company/ organisation which gifted him this watch? * What did the person/ company/ organisation get in return from the chief minister? * Was it given to him for a plum post in the government? * Was it given to him to cover up any scam or scandal? * Was it given to him to award contracts worth crores of rupees?* Why did he not declare the gift to law-enforcement agencies? * Where is the original purchase receipt of the expensive watch? (Times of India 17/2/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Another Smriti bid on saffronisation? (11)

New Delhi : Union Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday came under severe criticism from academics for pushing for a scheme of volunteer schoolteachers at a state education ministers’ conference here with an alibi to tackle the teachers’ shortage in government and aided schools. They said it is an admission of the government’s failure to provide enough trained teachers. Some said the shortage of teachers was a ploy to engage people with RSS sympathies to spread the Sangh ideology among children, while others accused the government of abdicating its responsibility and playing with the future of school-going children. HRD Ministry sources, however, said the scheme got an instant response from the education ministers in the state who are already facing the huge problem of nearly 12 lakh vacancies in 13 lakh government and aided schools. They said Irani laid stress on the states for recruiting regular teachers as fast as possible. They said the scheme for experimenting with the volunteers as teachers would be tried on a pilot basis in 18 states, including Gujarat, Goa, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Punjab, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. The government was accused of making a mockery of the Right to Education (RTE) Act enacted in 2005 for compulsory education to students only by qualified teachers. The schools were penalised by a stoppage of grants if they engaged unqualified teachers, but the government itself pushing for unqualified teachers is shocking, the critics said. Though Irani talked of enlisting the retired teachers and ex-servicemen as teachers purely on a voluntary basis, the critics said she has kept the door open for the states to engage anybody to teach in the schools. Professor Anil Sadgopal, a former member of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) involved in the formation of the RTE Bill, questioned the need to engage volunteer teachers when there is specific provision to hire only trained teachers. He feared that “this is to allow any person with an RSS background to go to school and teach what they think is correct”. Mukul Kanitkar, organising secretary of RSS-affiliated Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal, said this has come as a government proposal. “Where is the RSS coming in? Sadgopal’s comments are too stretched. He wants to politicise the scheme,” Kantikar said. Sadgopal said the the RTE Act binds the government to hire only those who had formal training and had cleared the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET). “They have coined the word ‘volunteer teacher’ to give space to unqualified people. The sufferers will be children of Dalits, tribals, poor and the backward classes,” he rued. (Free Press Journal 10/2/16)

Survey of out-of-school kids starts, activists call it farce (11)

Kolhapur: With the fourth survey to find out-of-school children in the region commencing from Friday, activists have blamed the education department for making it a “simple formality to save its skin”. They said the department faced embarrassments during the previous surveys in which only a few such students were traced. Sattappa Mohite, a city-based education activist who assists migrating parents working at brick kilns, sugarcane farms and stone quarries, said the migration period which started after monsoon season last year is nearing its end and the survey will not yield any results now. “The education department started the initiative on a wrong note. The officials are not serious about including out-of-school children back to mainstream education. It reflects from the meagre figures of earlier surveys. There are thousands of students who will now be relocating to their native places at the end of season, which will eventually hamper their education,” he said. Mohite said they had assisted many students with free mobile schools near such locations. Moreover, transportation facility was also provided to students studying at schools located at far off places. “In fact, we had conducted a health check-up camp in Shirol and Karveer talukas on Thursday in which some 200 students and 100 parents participated,” he said. Vaishali Koli, another education activist, said they will be protesting at the district primary education office next week against the education department’s inability to carry out education-related initiatives. S R Chougule, primary education officer in the Kolhapur Zilla Parishad, said the survey has started with the help of National Service Scheme (NSS) cadets across the district. Some NGOs too have been roped in for the initiative, he said. “The 10-day survey will go deep to search out-of-school children. Various NGOs will be assisting us in the activity. However, NSS cadets will have most of the survey work. For the remote areas, NGOs such as Avani have been approached,” he added. The Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009, mandates that all children aged between 6 and 14 years should be enrolled in schools, show regular attendance and get formal education. The state’s survey was prompted by this mandate and identify the actual number of out-of-school children.Survey facts (Times of India 13/2/16).

Firozabad model of primary school education to be extended across UP (11)

Firozabad: The district’s model for education in schools under Sarv Siksha Abhiyan will now be implemented across the state. A mobile app has been developed under which the profile of teachers and students are to be uploaded. While teachers are rewarded for good results by students, negative marks are given to them for poor performances. Profiles of 1.5 lakh students in 1,525 primary schools and 627 junior schools have been entered in the system so far. The details of teachers are also available in the system. Officials said the project, ‘Shiksha Greeh’, was launched with an aim to improve basic education in the district, which the government has now decided to replicate in the state. “Under the project, the accountability of making education system a success has been fixed on teachers. They will rewarded or given negative markings for the performance of students,” they added. The project was initiated by former Firozabad district magistrate Vijay Kiran Anand, who had given the job to a Delhi-based company to prepare the software as well as the mobile app. Explaining the working of the project, an education department official said at first a baseline test of students is taken and fed into the system. After every two months unit tests are taken and grades are awarded based on performance. To maintain transparency of the system, test centres are allocated at gram panchayat level where senior administrative officials keep a tab. A comparative study of students’ performances is done and based on that grades are given to teachers as well as schools. Teachers are told to give more attention to those students who are found to lag behind in the tests. Moreover, education officers have been given the responsibility to keep a tab on attendance of students as well as teachers. The attendance record is fed into the software on a daily basis. A special focus has also been given on cleanliness and good standards of furniture in schools. Basic shiksha adhikari Bal Mukund said a presentation on Firozabad model was given in a high-level meeting of officials in Lucknow. “Principal secretary Ashish Goel appreciated the project and has formed a committee which will submit its report on it. There is a high probability that the project gets approval and will be implemented in the state from the next academic session,” he added. (Times of India 15/2/16)

Engaging teachers for NPR work not against RTE Act: HC (11)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has held that engaging school teachers to carry out a door-to-door survey for updating National Population Register (NPR)cannot be construed as an act in violation of the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Justices S. Manikumar and C.T. Selvam passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation petition filed by Tamil Nadu Primary School Teachers Federation which pointed out that Section 27 of the RTE Act prohibits deployment of teachers for non educational purposes except the decennial census and duties related to disaster relief and elections. Rejecting the petitioner federation’s contention, the judges agreed with Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) G.R. Swaminathan that updating of NPR database should be viewed as a continuous exercise of the census and hence there was nothing wrong in engaging school teachers for the work on holidays and after school hours on other days on payment of honorarium. The judges also recorded the submission of the ASG that the Tahsildar of Musiri Taluk in Tiruchi district had actually committed a mistake by issuing a letter, on January 25, which was relied upon by the petitioner federation to drive home their point that primary school teachers, at least in his jurisdiction, were being forced to carry out the survey even during school hours. “This writ petition is disposed of with the observation that the members of the petitioner federation shall not be required to carry out the work entrusted to them during school hours,” the judges concluded. (The Hindu 18/2/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

Food act to help 21 lakh residents (21)

Shillong, Feb. 9: The Meghalaya government is all set to implement the much-awaited National Food Security Act, 2013 from this month. It is expected to benefit more than 21 lakh citizens. The act provides subsidised rice and wheat at a cost of Rs 3 and Rs 2 per kg respectively. Around 21,48,095 citizens – of whom 50.87 per cent are in urban areas and 77.79 per cent in rural areas – will benefit from the act. The beneficiaries will be entitled to 5kg of subsidised foodgrains per month. For those under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), each family will receive 35kg of foodgrains per month. Making the announcement here today, food and civil supplies minister Clement Marak said the state had already received foodgrains allocation from the Centre under the act. He said as per the allocation, monthly quantity of rice for AAY category is 448.53 tonnes while that of wheat is 75.7 tonnes. For the priority category, the amount allotted is 8792.18 tonnes of rice and 1483.85 tonnes of wheat. Marak, however, said the allotment was short of the designated amount as fresh identification of beneficiaries under the AAY scheme is under process. He said this is done to identify genuine families who are the poorest of the poor. At present, only 14,977 AAY families have been identified out of the designated 70,200 families. Marak said that the identification process would be completed in a month. The minister said besides having a dedicated team to implement the act, an end-to-end public distribution scheme computerisation project would facilitate execution of the food security project. Through the computerisation project, foodgrains allocation would be online replacing the manual and strenuous process. Citizens can also avail of the grievance-redressal mechanism. (The Telegraph 10/2/16)

‘Migrants do not carry poverty to urban areas’ (21)

VISAKHAPATNAM: It is a misconception that migrants from rural areas carry poverty to urban areas. Poverty and slums are urban phenomena. Migration to urban areas is not bad as is made out by many. Across the globe half the population in urban areas whereas in India it is around 30 per cent and it has grown from around 11 per cent in the first census after Independence, Chairman Institute of Human Development and former member of Planning Commission Prof. S.R. Hashim, said delivering a talk on ‘Policy perspectives of Urbanisation in India’ at the Andhra University Department of Economics here on Wednesday. The urbanisation is not same across the country and in some states like Bihar it is just 11 per cent. Dismissing the popular myth that poverty is brought to cities by the migrants, Prof. Hashim said that urban poverty is a creation of the city itself. The slums in the city are a consequence of land prices and non-availability of affordable housing for the low income group and it is not a result of migrant work force. For the migrants there is no shortage of work in urban areas and more often the migrants do better than those who are established in the same agglomeration, he explained. Transportation is the biggest limitation to size of the city. Through the history civilisations have grown around urban centres. Urban agglomerates are centres of knowledge creation, fine arts and crafts have developed in urban centres. Knowledge develops in clusters and not in isolation. The area of interaction is larger in urban areas and this is beneficial to nurturing culture, civilisation and the people. Referring to the buzzword today – Smart Cities – Prof. Hashim said the concept emerged out of utilisation of information and communication technology to help monitor services and improve their delivery. It is a good tool that would help the citizens. The Centre should not have taken up smart city project in already performing cities and instead taken it up in other cities which are struggling so as to bring them on par with the performing cities, he felt. He along with other noted economists and members of Agricultural Prices Commission of the AP Government, Sheila Bhalla, R. Radhakrishna and D. Narasimha Reddy were felicitated by Principal AU College of Arts and Commerce M. Sundara Rao. (The Hindu 11/2/16)

Agariyas of Rann languish in poverty, suffer malnutrition (21)

AHMEDABAD: The Agariyas in the Little Rann of Kutch are not only poor moneywise, but also consume fewer calories which exposes them to illnesses. Apart from this the children of the Agariyas are frequent dropouts even from the temporary schools. The study states that the ‘Livelihoods of Agariyas and Biodiversity Conservation in the Little Rann of Kutch’ Agariyas for eight months are exposed to direct sunlight with temperature above 45 degrees in the daytime. There is a high chance of occupation and environment related illnesses breaking out during this period. The study stated that secondly, Agariyas’ children lack educational opportunities during the season since they miss regular classroom teaching in the desert. The life of an Agariya is characterized by low income, poverty, occupational illness, and fewer opportunities for education. The study reveals that the study point out that the Agariyas are exposed to unexpected rains, declining brine yields, fatal gases from wells and high velocity winds during the course of salt production. The study reveals that digging of wells is a risky task for male members due to the release of different fatal gases from wells sometimes leading even to death. Further the risk of a possible eviction from salt zones due to conservation of wild ass is also creating fear of losing livelihood sources permanently. Also the Agariyas do not get good price for their produce. The total operational and maintenance cost accounts is around 62 per cent of the total cost of production. The remaining cost is distributed among family and hired labour. (Times of India 17/2/16)

Protests in Valley over new food law (21)

Srinagar: With National Food Security Act (NFSA) coming into effect on February 15 in Jammu and Kashmir, people across the Valley have been protesting against the implementation of the controversial Act. The Act guarantees five kilogrammes of rice per person in a month. The protesters allege that store keepers at ration depos further deduct the quantity, providing only three kilos rice per person. Earlier every family used to get 35 kg of rations, irrespective of the number of family members. In old city areas of Srinagar and other districts of the Valley, protests against the Act erupted at several places with people demanding immediate revocation of the law. The protesters burned used tyres and raised pro-justice slogans,and said that the controversial Act has forced them to starvation. “We demand immediate revocation of this Act. Scientifically, an individual needs 13 kg rice per month for consumption. Under NFSA, the authorities have announced five kg per person. The situation went from bad to worse as store keepers are reducing the quantity from five to thee kg per persons,” said a protester. Director Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) Abdul Rashid War said they were exploring how to increase the scale of ration distributed per person under NFSA.‘People misinformed’ “We have made a proposal and will submit it soon to the government,” he told reporters here. The Director said people are being misinformed about the Act and the scale of rations. “We are rationalising the system of public distribution of foodgrains and people will get ration properly. Some miscreants and people with vested interests are spreading false information among people about the law,” Var claimed. NFSA was one of flagship programmes of the UPA-II introduced in 2013. However, the then J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, who was heading the National Conference-Congress coalition government in the state, refused to implement it on the ground that it was not beneficial to the people of the state. However, after the delay of more than two years, state government headed by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed last December decided to implement the Act. J&K’s population is estimated to be 1.36 crore. While the programme will cover 74 lakh population, Centre will reportedly provide tide-over quota at Above Poverty Line (APL) rates for feeding 45 lakh people. For the left-out 17 lakhs, sources said, state government will purchase foodgrain from open market. (Deccan Herald 18/2/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

SC Asks States to Respond Centre on MGNREGA (14)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked all states to inform the Centre about the money spent by them in the current financial year so far in implementing the national rural employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA. The bench also asked the states to apprise the Centre about their further financial needs to continue with the social welfare scheme to ensure that the benefits reached drought-affected people. It also asked them to elaborate the current status of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). A bench of Justices M B Lokur and R K Agrawal asked the states to inform the concerned ministry whether they were following the Centre’s direction to provide minimum 150 days of employment under MGNREGA. “We direct the states to respond to the Centre within three weeks,” the court said, adding that central government will collect data from all the concerned states. The bench further asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to see whether the state governments were also complying with the provisions of the National Food Security Act and the Drought Manual or not. The court’s direction came on a PIL which alleged that the scheme has not been implemented in majority of the states, specially in drought-affected areas. It said parts of states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh have been hit by drought and the concerned authorities were not providing adequate relief. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, sought court’s direction to appoint local commissioner in each of states, to keep a watch whether the welfares schemes are implemented. The Solicitor General, who read out part of the Centre’s affidavit, submitted that the government has approved the “provision of additional employment of 50 days in areas hit by drought and other natural calamities over and above 100 days per household provided under MGNREGA under normal circumstances”.   He further told the bench that the additional employment of 50 days under MGNREGA has been implemented in the notified drought-affected areas of nine states — Karnataka, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.  The court was also told that Bihar, Haryana and Gujarat have not made any request for additional employment under the MGNREGA. The Centre was responding to the PIL, filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan run by persons like psephologist Yogendra Yadav, seeking implementation of the National Food Security Act which guarantees 5 kg of food grain per person per month. It has also sought a direction to the authorities that affected families be also given pulses and edible oils. The plea has said that school-going children be also given milk and eggs under the mid-day meal scheme. It sought adequate and timely compensation for crop loss and input subsidy for the next crop to the farmers affected by drought and subsidised cattle fodder for animals. The plea alleged that the Centre and states “have been highly negligent in performing their obligations, causing enormous damage to the lives of the people due to their inaction, which is in contravention of the rights guaranteed under Articles 21 and 14 of the Constitution of India”.   …  (New Indian Express 12/2/16)

Ministry rejects smart card plan for unorganised workers (14)

NEW DELHI: The government’s plan to provide social security smart cards to workers in the unorganised sector has hit a roadblock for the second time with the Finance Ministry rejecting the latest Labour Ministry proposal to issue one card per family as an impractical idea. The Unorganised Workers’ Identification Number (U-WIN) scheme, first mooted in September 2014, proposed to provide a smart card to the unorganised workers for entitled to benefits under various schemes such as Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (AABY) as well as the Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana. There are around 40 crore unorganised workers in the country, which accounts for around 89 per cent of the total workforce, as per government estimates. The portable smart card would have details of bank account, mobile numbers and benefits of social security schemes that can be availed by the workers.The Labour Ministry had originally planned to give smart card directly to all the unorganised workers, but the Finance Ministry had raised objections on the huge costs that would entail. Keeping those budget constraints in mind, the labour ministry re-drafted the proposal to allocate one smart card to the head of each family instead of all workers in a household. But the Finance Ministry hasn’t approved of this idea either. “The expenditure finance committee (which vets projects costing above Rs.500 crore) have flagged some design related issues in the proposal. The idea to give one smart card per family was not found feasible. We will send a revised proposal,” said a senior labour ministry official on condition of anonymity. The Finance Ministry has asked for individual smart cards to the unorganised workers “irrespective of the cost implications,” the official added. Earlier, the Labour Ministry proposed to issue around 19 crore smart cards to families at an estimated cost of around Rs.2,000 crore. Officials said the new proposal will shoot up the cost of issuing around 40 crore smart cards to around Rs.5,000 crore. “The design, software and guidelines to issue individual smart cards are ready. We will send the revised proposal soon,” said the Labour Ministry official, adding the proposal will then be sent to the Union Cabinet for approval. Apart from the Finance Ministry’s reservations, the idea to issue smart cards to workers was also questioned by the Information Technology Ministry which had earlier written to the Labour Ministry on the issue. The IT ministry had said that issuing smart cards to unorganised workers may lead to duplication of work as the government is already in discussions to link welfare schemes with the Aadhar card. “Theoretically, it may look possible. However, it will not be possible to provide labour scheme benefits with Aadhar cards. We have already conveyed to the IT Ministry that there will be a lot of connectivity issues in doing that,” said another labour ministry official. Documents reviewed by The Hindu showed the original proposal of the Labour Ministry had projected a total cost of Rs.15,000-Rs.20,000 crore in the UWIN card project. While Rs.6,000 crore was estimated to be spent on the smart cards, between Rs.7,000 crore and Rs.14,000 crore alone was estimated to be spent on setting up ‘Workers’ Facilitation Centres. (The Hindu 15/2/16)

IT employees highest paid in India: Report (14)

BENGALURU: IT employees continue to be the highest paid in India, according to a report from online career and recruitment company Monster India. IT employees got median gross hourly salary of Rs 346, which is 24% higher than the national median. BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) came in next at Rs 300 per hour and the manufacturing sector came in last with Rs 254, as per the Monster Salary Index (MSI) sectorial reports for manufacturing, IT and BFSI sectors. But were the highly paid employees happy with their salaries? No. Sanjay Modi, managing director of Monster India, said that the IT and BFSI sectors have always been among the highly paid in India but noted that surprisingly, more of the employees in these sectors are dissatisfied with their salaries than those in manufacturing. Some 57% of the IT employees and 52% BFSI employees were satisfied with their pay, compared to 60% in manufacturing. IT employees below 30 years earn Rs 236 per hour on average compared to Rs 450 for employees between 30 and 40, who are essentially mid-level managers. For those above 40, normally senior level managers, the average per hour earnings shoots up to Rs 695. Overall, 95% of the respondents in the sector hold at least a three-year bachelor’s degree. While the earnings r hig the report also points out the stark gender pay gap in the IT sector. Men earn a gross hourly wage of Rs 365 compared to only Rs 231 received by women, a difference of about 37%. Foreign companies in the IT sector, which include Accenture, IBM and Cisco, pay salaries that are more than two times higher than domestic firms such as Infosys and Wipro, at the median. Workers with permanent contracts earn roughly 23% more than workers with non-temporary contracts. (Times of India 16/2/16)

MGNREGA frauds worth 22 cr unearthed (14)

Mahbubnagar: A huge amount of irregularities worth Rs. 22 crore were unearthed in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) programme, here on Wednesday. The scheme which is meant for providing 100 days of work to all the poor people below poverty line has become a source of large-scale corruption in the district.  As per the social audit conducted by the audit wing of the District Water Management Agency (DWMA), about 8383 people involved in various financial irregularities in the scheme in 2015-16. As per the report obtained by The Hans India, up to 28 November 2015, an amount of Rs. 22.01 crore has been deviated from the actual spending, of which Rs. 10.56 crore is so far determined to have been spent misappropriated. During the social audits conducted in the mandals in 8 rounds for about 390 times, there were about 31072 objections raised and the total worth of raised objections was Rs 22.01 crore. The authorities have so far resolved 12366 cases and notified the concerned authorities to recover Rs. 10.57 crore from the defaulters. The remaining 18700 financial objections pending account to about Rs. 11.44 crore and this amount also needed to be recovered. Among the defaulters, there are 28 Mandal Parishad Development Officers (MPDOs), 104 Additional Project Officers and 31 Assistant Executive Engineers being involved in the financial irregularities among the top officials. All these top level officials have swindled about Rs. 97.38 lakh by not properly implementing the MGNREGA works in their respective mandals. A major chunk of Rs. 5.65 crore has been found spent inappropriately among the Field Assistants (FAs) and about an amount of Rs. 2.86 is being misappropriated by Technical assistants (TAs). According to audit authorities, the investigation is a continuous process and many more financial irregularities are yet to be found. “We are still continuing our investigation and auditing each and every aspect pertaining to MGNREGA. Many TAs, FAs and the top officials involved the financial mismanagement were suspended and even removed from their jobs. About Rs 3.9 crore has been recovered from the defaulters, while another Rs. 6.588 crore is still to be recovered. As per the law, we have issued legal proceedings against the defaulters and action will be taken against them as per the law,” said an official in the audit department at DWMA.   (Hans India 18/2/16)

RESERVATION

Jats make fresh pitch for OBC reservation (25)

Chandigarh: Launching a fresh stir for quota under other backward classes (OBC), Jat leaders and their followers on Friday laid siege to the railway tracks near Mayyar railway station in Hisar. Headed by Hawa Singh Sangwan, president of All-India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, men and women from various villages around Mayyar started a dharna (sit-in) on tracks.To avoid confrontation, Hisar range IGP A K Rao deployed police reserves 5km from the railway station. Armed with gulel (slingshot) and pepper ball launchers, around 500 cops were deployed. Police also used drones to monitor the movement of protesters. Headed by Sangwan, Jats moved towards the tracks in a procession at around 3 pm on Friday and started their dharna. They also roped in cultural troupes to highlight their cause. Women have started community kitchen for protesters too. Besides seeking an assurance from four Jat BJP leaders — Union minister Birender Singh, party’s state unit chief Subhash Barala and Haryana cabinet ministers O P Dhankar and Captain Abhimanyu, the protesters have also sought an apology from Kurukshetra MP Raj Kumar Saini for his anti-Jat stand.”We have very simple demands. We need an assurance from Haryana ministers or the government to help us get the quota for the community on the lines of Uttar Pradesh. Secondly, either the Haryana government should take action against Saini for speaking against us or withdraw his protocols and security and leave the rest to us,” warned Sangwan. (Times of India 13/2/16)

Haryana Jats call off agitation after reservation assurance (25)

Chandigarh, Feb 14 : The Jat community in Haryana on Sunday ended its agitation to get Other Backward Classes (OBC) status following a conditional assurance by the Haryana government. “(Agriculture Minister) O.P. Dhankar has assured us that the Jat community will get the OBC benefit in Haryana if it is given to Jats in other states by the central government,” Hawa Singh Sangwan, president of All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, told reporters. He said the Samiti members met the minister at Hansi town in Hisar district on Saturday and got the assurance following which they decided to call off their agitation. Jats have been squatting on the railway track at Mayar village in Hisar district, 250 km from here, since Friday. There are nine other states where Jats live in substantial numbers, Sangwan said. (New Kerala 14/2/16)

BCs launch relay fast opposing Kapu quota (25)

KURNOOL: Leaders of the Backward Classes Samkshema Sangham and several BC organisations launched relay hunger strike in front of Jyothirao Phule statue here on Monday, warning of a backlash if the State Government includes Kapu and Balija communities in the BC list. BC Samkshema Sangham district secretary Kethuru Madhu, Nayee Brahmin Sangham honorary president V.V. Ramana Murthy, BC Samakhya leader Srinivasulu and BC Yuvajana Sangham Rayalaseema unit president Raju and district secretary K. Ramakrishna and others launched the relay fast. BC Yujana Sangham State secretary M. Rambabu said BCs across the State are opposed to the inclusion of Kapus and Balijas in the BC list. Kapus and Balijas are developed sections with representation in education, health, political and financial sectors and it is atrocious to treat them as BCs. Four Kapus are Ministers in Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s Cabinet and how can they be BCs, they asked. They demanded scrapping of Manjunathan Committee. They warned of Statewide agitation on the issue under the leadership of R. Krishnaiah. Uppara Sangham president Easwaraiah, Kuruva Sangham leaders Seshaiah, Rajaka Sangham Rayalaseema unit president V. Nagaraju also staged a relay fast. BC Federation State president Dhanunjaya Achari, Kuruva Sangham district secretary Rangaswami, Medara Sangham president Appanna, Salivahana Sangham leader Chinnaramaiah, and BC Employees’ Sangham leader Sriramulu, Carpenters’ association leader Jayakrishna, Gangaputra Sangham leader Srinivasulu, BC Students Federation State president Anand, Mahila Sangham leader Ulagamma and Yadava Sangham leader Somanna Yadav expressed solidarity with the agitators. (The Hindu 16/2/16)

Jat agitation spreads to more areas (25)

Chandigarh: The agitation by the Jats demanding reservation under OBC category continued to affect rail and road traffic in several parts of Haryana prompting Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to announce enhancement of the quota of reservation for Economically Backward Classes from 10 to 20 per cent. During the day, the protests by the Jats spread from Rohtak—Jhajjar region to Sonipat, Bhiwani, Hisar, Fatehabad and Jind districts, with large number of women also joining the stir. While lawyers joined in the protests at Sonipat, a large number of students held a protest in Rohtak. The protesters are demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions under OBC category. Jat and Khap leaders including Hawa Singh Sangwan, Sudeep Kalkal, Mahender Singh Mor and Santosh Dahiya held a four—hour long meeting with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, in which Finance Minister Abhimanyu, Agriculture Minister O P Dhankar and State BJP president Subhash Barala were also present. Later, the Chief Minister announced to enhance the quota of reservation in government jobs and admission in educational institutions for Economically Backward Classes in the State from 10 to 20 per cent. He also announced to enhance the annual income ceiling from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh so that more people can get benefit under this category. The Chief Minister announced this while addressing a meeting of Jat and Khap leaders, an official spokesman said. Mr Khattar said that in the meeting a “broad consensus” was reached between the government and the Jat leaders over the reservation issue. He also announced that the Committee, constituted under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary to study all aspects of reservation for Special Backward Classes and to suggest the best way forward, would submit its report before the forthcoming budget session of the Assembly next month. He said the committee would consider all suggestions including that of bringing in an appropriate Bill in this regard. Several Jat leaders had asked the Government to bring a Bill in the Assembly on the quota issue. The All India Jat Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti’s national president, Yashapal Malik, said the government has given its proposal, “but the people are not that happy. However, its result will be known in a day or two (whether the protests will continue or end)”. The agitators continued to block the roads from Rohtak to Delhi by placing truck/bus tyres and branches on the roads. The roads to Sonipat and Jhajjar also remained blocked while those leading to Hisar, Jind and Bhiwani saw disruption. The protesters also blocked the NH 10 passing through Sampla town in Rohtak district. The Khap leaders in Bhiwani sealed the Dadri—Jhajjar—Delhi road and burnt an effigy of the Chief Minister. The police have booked more than 1,000 people for causing inconvenience to the general public. Apprehending law and order problem during the agitation, additional police forces have been sent to sites where the protesters had blocked highways and were squatting on rail tracks. – PTI (The Hindu 18/2/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

NHRC notice over hospitals refusing to admit patient (1)

NEW DELHI: : Taking note of an incident where hospitals in the Capital refused to admit a serious patient, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked why a patient cannot be temporarily admitted in the general ward or the intensive care unit in case of shortage of beds in a particular wing of a hospital. The NHRC had taken suo motu cognisance of reports about how 65-year-old Satish Kaushik, suffering from a brain haemorrhage, had to be shunted from one government hospital to another either because of the shortage of beds or non-availability of a neurologist. NHRC Member Justice D. Murugesan has issued notice to the Delhi government’s Principal Secretary (Health) and asked him to respond within four weeks. Mr. Kaushik, a resident of Mayur Vihar Phase III, who suffered from brain haemorrhage on January 25, was taken to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, which referred him to G.B. Pant Hospital due to lack of neurology treatment facilities. G.B. Pant Hospital refused to admit him pleading non-availability of beds and late arrival of the patient. The patient was somehow admitted in LNJP Hospital, but was again referred back to G.B. Pant Hospital due to non-availability of a neurologist. G.B. Pant Hospital again refused him admission due to non-availability of beds. Finally, he got admission in Ram Mannohar Lohia Hospital, where he is under treatment. (The Hindu 14/2/16)

Do not disagree: JNU arrests over Afzal Guru event are ill-judged, threaten basic rights (1)

Police action at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi on Friday, including the arrest of the JNU students’ union president on charges of sedition, over a protest, was completely uncalled for. The protest in question was part of an event held on campus to commemorate the hanging of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat, convicted of terrorism. The arrest followed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s stern announcement that “anyone who raises anti-India slogans or tries to put a question mark on nation’s unity and integrity will not be spared”. HRD Minister Smriti Irani chimed in with the warning that “the nation can never tolerate any insult to Mother India”. The Union ministers’ response has been strikingly disproportionate to the alleged offence caused by the shrill tone of the protest of a small section of the students within university premises. This was a matter for the vice chancellor, if not the students themselves, to settle. It ill behoves the Union ministers of home and HRD, who surely have more important issues and controversies to attend to, to have plunged into it. The protesting students questioned the legitimacy of the Indian state over Kashmir. But the Indian state has endured far more powerful storms. Individuals have a right to protest as long as they do not threaten or resort to violence — in this case, many student groups in JNU, while criticising police highhandedness, have dissociated with the strident slogans raised at the protest. The university must provide a safe house for free thinking and debate, and a nurturing environment for the exercise of the democratic right to dissent. Attempts to criminalise the freedom of expression on campus, or to subdue it by labelling it “anti-national”, cast much more unflattering light on the working of the Indian state than on a motley group of students who got carried away. That a protest in JNU has touched off such agitation in the corridors of power reveals, at the very least, a lack of understanding, or a misunderstanding, of the role of the university. Recent incidents like Rohith Vemula’s suicide at the University of Hyderabad, the controversy over the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at IIT Madras, the furore over a film screening at IIT Delhi, and the unrest at FTTI, Pune, have all featured a heavy-handed and fumbling state. Things will only worsen if ministers, who must step in to advise administrators about the need for dialogue and negotiation, themselves foreclose the possibilities of a conversation. Given its big talk of the demographic dividend, the Modi government can ill afford the message sent out by the police action against students protesting Rohith’s death earlier, and in JNU now — that it feels threatened by young men and women democratically disagreeing with it. (Indian Express 14/2/16)

JNU row: NHRC notices to Centre, Delhi govt, police and JNU (1)

New Delhi: The NHRC has issued notices to the Centre, Delhi government, Delhi Police and authorities of the Jawaharlal Nehru University over police action on the varsity campus following a row over an event against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, sources in the panel said Wednesday. Notices were issued after the National Human Rights Commission, took cognizance of media reports about the event where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised, leading to the arrest of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges. “However, the President of the JNU Students Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, has denied the allegations stating that he went to the spot only to intervene in a clash between two groups. It is also alleged that police is mindlessly patrolling the campus and students are being witch-hunted and demonized for doing nothing. “It is widely alleged that the action of the police was illegal and high-handed and was an attempt to suppress freedom of speech and expression in academic institutions. It is also alleged that the charge of sedition was falsely added to intimidate those who dissent,” said the panel while issuing notices to Union Home Secretary, Chief Secretary, Delhi government, Delhi Police Commissioner and Registrar at JNU. The NHRC has sought their response within two weeks. (Zee News 17/2/16)

Disability rights activists resume protests (1)

CHENNAI: Four organisations working for disability rights re-started their protest on Wednesday, a member said. Hundreds of protestors were detained on Wednesday morning by the police. According to S. Nambu Rajan, state general secretary, Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers, protestors had come from across the State. “We held protests for two days earlier this month, and after a meeting with the chief secretary, decided to wait until the Assembly sessions began. But our demands have not been taken into consideration in the Interim Budget,” he said. “Around 3 p.m., we were all taken to a stadium in Egmore. They released us around 7 p.m. but we refused to leave and continued protesting,” he said, adding that around 500 members were still at the stadium. (The Hindu 18/2/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Second wife not entitled to dead man’s pension: HC (19)

Mumbai: A second wife, who the man has married while his first wife is living, is not entitled to his pension after his death, the Bombay high court has ruled. Justice Mridula Bhatkar dismissed the claim of Sangli resident Seema Patil, who said she was the second wife of Manoj Patil, a government servant, who died in 2003. The claim was contested by Manoj’s first wife Lata and their five children. Manoj had married Lata in 1979 and then subsequently married Seema in 1981. Referring to earlier judgments on the issue, the HC said in the case of Hindus and Christians, a man’s second marriage, during the subsistence of his first marriage and when his wife is living, is not valid. “The Indian legal system has adopted monogamy as a legal structure of the marriage institution and, therefore, occasional fractures of second marriage in subsistence of first marriage are held void in law. The second woman cannot be given the status of a legally wedded wife and she is not a widow in true and legal sense,” said Justice Bhatkar. Seema’s lawyers sought to invoke the “gender protection” view and urged for the pension saying that she was deceived by her deceased husband and had a daughter from the relationship. The HC, however, did not agree. “This argument is one-sided and may appear convincing superficially, but it does not stand to reason after close scrutiny. The courts have empathy for a woman who is deceived by a man. However, she may take recourse under the other enactments for redressal,” said the judge and pointed to earlier judgments on the issue that showing sympathy to the second wife would mean depriving a legitimate wife of her rights. “This is the gender-positive view towards the legally wedded wife. The case of second wife may be unfortunate but I am of the view that the court cannot pass a verdict in her favour. While doing justice, injustice should not be caused to a person having a rightful claim,” the judge said. (Names changed to protect identities) (Times of India 10/2/16)

‘Headley testimony unlikely to impact Ishrat encounter case’ (19)

Mumbai: Any euphoria, as displayed on Wednesday, connected with David Headley naming Ishrat Jahan as a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative may be short-lived for the accused in her fake encounter case as his testimony here can’t be used as evidence in that case. Home ministry sources and criminal law practitioners said Headley’s deposition regarding Ishrat won’t have much impact on the trial faced by the Gujarat police, including its former DIG (anti-terror squad) D G Vanzara, who had immediately held a press conference to highlight it as an important legal development. Headley, a Pakistan-born American terror operative, is an accused-turned-approver only in the 26/11 Mumbai case being heard by special judge G A Sanap. He was an accomplice and even in this case, his deposition, although admissible as evidence, requires corroboration on facts for it to be accepted as clinching proof. This will mean that he will be subject to cross-examination in this case. Testimony relating to Ishrat is irrelevant in the 26/11 case. Nevertheless, before any reliance can be placed on it, it has to be corroborated from other independent facts. And for the accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, his deposition as an approver in the 26/11 case will not be available as evidence. If they want to use it, they would have to depose him as a defence witness. Vanzara told TOI his lawyers would decide if Headley would be made a defence witness. His plea bargain agreement with the US authorities in connection with 12 terror and murder charges against him for the Mumbai attacks and Denmark plans, require him to cooperate “when directed by the US attorney’s office, fully and truthfully in any foreign judicial proceedings in the US by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory”. But would he be directed to depose in other cases too is the question. Headley’s statement as a pardon witness must be cross-examined by the advocate of relatives of Ishrat, who claim that she was not associated with any terrorist group and was killed in a fake encounter by the Gujarat police. The SC had in a 2000 judgement held that although the Indian Evidence Act that lays down what can be evidence states that “conviction is not illegal merely because it proceeds on uncorroborated testimony of the accomplice, yet the courts, will as a matter of practice not accept the evidence of such witness without corroboration in material particulars’. The court, while granting bail to Vanzara, also an accused in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case, had in November 2014 done so as he had already spent over seven years, which it said was a long time in jail, with a trial nowhere in sight, not on merits of his case. Advocate Susan Abraham said on Monday that Headley’s deposition regarding Ishrat would have no bearing on the encounter case trial. Activist Feroze Mithiborewala questioned the necessity of questioning Headley on Ishrat in the 26/11 case. He also questioned the timing of his arrest in the US when he said “India was hard on its heels behind him”. He added, “The fact that he has chosen to once again target Ishrat Jahan and thus help the accused in her encounter killing is part of the quid pro quo with the Indian ruling elite and intelligence establishment.” (Times of India 15/2/16)

Tougher laws enacted to give justice to women: Raman Singh (19)

Raipur: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Sunday said tougher laws have been enacted by the State government to give justice to women in cases of domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other cases.  relating to ‘Tonhi’ (witchcraft atrocities), domestic violence and sexual harassment. Tougher laws have been enacted to deal with these, he said in his sixth radio address ‘Raman Ke Goth’ “I assure mothers, sisters, and daughters the State (government) will protect their interests at any cost,” he added. He said the government launched ‘Sakhi-One-Stop Centre’ last year where counselling, medical aid, legal advice, police help and others assistance are being provided to them. Complaints related to domestic violence, molestation, dowry, acid attack, foeticide, sati, cheating, witchcraft, pension disputes, workplace harassment, property dispute, sexual exploitation and others can be filed there, he said. The CM called upon people’s representatives, social and women’s organisations, sarpanches and media to spread awareness about the ‘One-Stop Centre’He advised students to study hard and write the coming annual examination with confidence. “Board examinations will begin on 23 February, and internal exams also in most of the schools. The results of Board examinations decide the fate of students,” he added. He urged the youth to take advantage of the Skills Development programmes being run in the State.-PTI (The Hindu 15/2/16)

Modi wants to subjugate judiciary, media: AAP (19)

NEW DELHI: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday termed as “a direct attack on judiciary” the assault on journalists and JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar by a group of lawyers in Patiala House court complex here and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of subjugating the judiciary and media. The party also attacked Delhi Police and the Centre, alleging that the law enforcing agency cannot openly “defy” the orders of the Supreme Court unless it had a support from the government. Hitting out at Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi, senior AAP leader Ashutosh said, he was “only serving his master”.”Police cannot be inactive after the Supreme Court’s instructions unless there are orders from the top of the government. “Modi wants to subjugate the judiciary and the media. Whatever is happening in Patiala House court premises is direct attack on judiciary. This is not possible without support of Modi government. Do you still want B S Bassi to continue as police chief? But he is only serving his master,” Ashutosh said. The party said it is difficult to imagine that on what basis police ignored the directions of the top court to provide adequate security to journalists covering the court hearing. “Not only were the journalists beaten up for the second time in three days in full public view by BJP goons but they also targeted senior Supreme Court lawyers, who were asked by the apex court to assess the situation at the Patiala House Court Complex. “Delhi Police continued to remain a mute spectator when all this was going on. These goons again entered the court rooms and attacked innocent people again. Such scenes are unheard of in the national capital and the attitude of Delhi Police makes the citizens hang their heads in shame,” the party said. (Times of India 17/2/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

`Gujarat police can’t do justice in encounter cases’ (1)

AHMEDABAD: Senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing lyricist Javed Akhtar and journalist late BG Verghese, reacted sharply to the clean chit given by inquiry officers of the Special Task Force (STF) to police officers allegedly involved in 13 of the 16 police encounters and one custodial death that took place between 2002 and 2006. Though the legal monitoring committee of the STF and chairman retired Justice H S Bedi are yet to review the clean chit given to STF’s inquiry officers, Bhushan alleged that the inquiry team had actually not carried out any investigation. “The STF’s inquiry officers are from Gujarat police and hence cannot do justice to the kin of people killed in police encounters. They are not even ready to consider the points raised by members of the legal monitoring committee.What can one expect from them?”asked Bhushan. The Supreme Court lawyer was in Gandhinagar on Saturday and was present for the periodic meeting of the STF , along with former IPS officer Rahul Sharma who is now a lawyer, and advocates IH Syed and Somnath Vatsa. Lawyer Anand Yagnik, who is representing many of the victims, was also present.Bhushan represents Akhtar and Verghese who had filed two PILs in 2007 seeking an independent inquiry into 17 police encounters that had taken place in Gujarat between 2002 and 2006. The Supreme Court had then directed the Gujarat government to set up an STF to inquire into these encounters. Sources in the STF said that on Saturday, four investigation reports came up for scrutiny during the meeting, including the cases of Qasam Jafar’s custodial death and the encounter killings of Ganesh Khunte and Mahendra Jadav in Ahmedabad; the death in police encounters of Bhima Manda Mer in Junagadh and Joginder Singh Labana in Valsad.”We are not entitled to probe Ganesh Khunte and Mahendra Jadav encounters as the court verdict in these cases has already come. In the other three cases, the inquiry officers have already given a clean chit to the police officers involved. The cases have now been referred for legal scrutiny ,” said a senior police official who is part of the STF .Sources in the STF said that in the earlier meetings, inquiry reports of nine cases were submitted and were being scrutinized by the legal committee. The inquiry officers had submitted that the encounters were genuine. “In the next meeting that is scheduled for April 2, the investigation reports of the remaining four cases will be submitted by the IOs. These are the cases of Samir Khan of Ahmedabad; Haji Haji Ismail of Valsad; Sanjay Prasad of Umargam; and Subash Nair of Vyara,” said an STF official. (Times of India 14/2/16)

RJD suspends MLA accused of rape (1)

Patna: Bihar’s ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal on Sunday suspended party legislator Rajballabh Yadav who has been accused of raping a minor girl. The MLA has been absconding after an arrest warrant was issued against him on Saturday. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, addressing leaders of his party’s State executive, said “action would be taken against whoever takes the law into his own hands.”Ram Chandra Purve, RJD State president, told The Hindu that the party had taken the rape charge against its MLA Rajballabh Yadav very seriously. “In my capacity as the State party chief, I have suspended him from the party.” Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav said the guilty would not be spared. On Sunday, a joint team of the Nalanda and Nawada police conducted raids at several places to arrest the absconding MLA. The team faced opposition from the MLA’s supporters at his residence in Nawada. A tenth standard student belonging to Nalanda district had charged that the 54-year-old MLA from Nawada raped her on February 6 at his residence and warned her against revealing this to anyone. The girl was taken to the MLA’s residence by a woman Sulekha Devi, who lived in her neighbourhood, on the pretext of attending a birthday party. The police arrested the woman, who the police said ran a sex racket. Names of several “important people” were found in her diary. An FIR was lodged against the MLA on February 9 and the central range Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Shalin issued an arrest warrant after he found the allegations to be true. “Intensive raids are being carried out to nab the MLA and he will be arrested soon,” said the police official. The MLA was accused of raping a student in a Nawada hotel earlier in 1994 too, but he was not convicted in the case. The three-time MLA was a Minister in the previous Rabri Devi government. A few days back, the RJD’s coalition partner JD(U) too had suspended its party MLA from Jokihat Sarfaraz Alam for allegedly misbehaving with a women passenger on the Rajdhani Express. Besides, two BJP leaders and one of the LJP were gunned down in different parts of the State in the last ten days. (The Hindu 15/2/16)

Madhya Pradesh HC notices to State, cops in custodial death case (1)

Indore: Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court on Monday issued notices to state’s home department, director general of police, inspector general of police, Indore and others in a custodial death of a youth in city’s MIG police station.After hearing arguments, Justice S R Wagmare issued notices to authorities and asked them to produce their replies within two weeks. On December 19 last year, Pankaj Vaishnav, 24, was found hanging in the toilet of the police station. A judicial enquiry was set-up to look into the matter. In the enquiry conducted by additional chief judicial magistrate Jitendra Singh Kushwaha, it was observed that the police had tampered with the daily register in the police station with an attempt to create an impression that it was a suicide. ACJM also found discrepancies in the statements of police and the video recording done by the police. After the report came to light, Vaishanv’s mother, Phool Kumari, moved high court with a plea for investigation. Advocate Ajay Kumar Mimrot, the counsel for the petitioner said, “It has been observed in the judicial enquiry report that Vaishnav’s death was termed as suicide by MIG police by tampering with police station diaries.” Mimrot also claimed that Vaishanv was thrashed by the police, who had also hit him on his private parts, which led to his death. (Times of India 16/2/16)

BJP to lift AFSPA to end J&K stalemate? (1)

SRINAGAR: BJP general secretary Ram Madhav met PDP president Mehbooba Mufti at her residence here on Wednesday and, according to sources, conveyed to her the Centre’s willingness to lift the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on a trial basis from Jammu & Kashmir. Madhav also spoke of handing over two power projects to the state to end the 40-day deadlock over government formation. Following former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death last month, his daughter Mehbooba has delayed government formation with BJP, seeking specific concessions from the Centre “to rebuild confidence in her party cadre”.The phased revocation of AFSPA and the handing over of the power projects -Dulhasti in Kishtwar and Uri in Baramulla – were part of the agenda for alliance or the common minimum programme agreed on by PDP and BJP last February. However, Madhav and Mehbooba declined to share the details of the meeting with the media. Mehbooba, sources said, had asked the Centre for the revoca tion of AFSPA from areas where militancy had declined over the past decade. Sources said that the Centre might agree to lift AFSPA from Srinagar and Kathua district in the first phase on a trial basis. This was conveyed to Mehbooba by Madhav during their meeting, BJP sources said. Since BJP has agreed to fulfil the conditions put forth by the PDP chief, a formal announcement of government formation will be made soon, BJP sources added. “The stage is set for a new PDP-BJP government in the state,” a BJP official said.J&K has been under governor’s rule ever since the Mufti Sayeed died on January 7 this year. Sources said the BJP leadership has met thrice in recent weeks to try and resolve issues bedevilling the rebuilding of their coaltion with PDP. At the same time, it has said it won’t edit or redraft the agenda of alliance. Mehbooba had earlier pitched for the J&K specific measures like state control over the power corporations and asked BJP to come clear over the implementation of the agenda of alliance. (Times of India 18/2/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Government can block net for law and order: Supreme Court (1)

NEW DELHI: Accepting that internet, being the fastest medium to transmit information, can be misused by miscreant elements to spread false rumours across the country creating law and order problem, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that mobile internet services can be blocked by government in an emergency situation. A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and R Banumathi said said that internet services could be blocked by government authorities to maintain law and order situation and dismissed a plea challenging Gujarat government decision to block mobile internet services during Patidar reservation agitation last year. Invoking section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (Power to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance of apprehended danger), the state government had banned mobile internet and SMS services in major cities, including Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot and Mehsana from August 25 night last year for a week when Patel quota led by Hardik Patel turned violent.Challenging government’s decision, a Ahmedabad resident contended that the state should have taken action under Information Technology Act and Telegraph Act to deal with the situation but invoking Section 144 to block mobile internet services was wrong. The petitioner, a law student, contended that blocking of mobile internet services violated fundamental rights. He contended that government decision put people to great difficulty because essential banking services were not available due to ban on mobile internet The bench, however, was not convinced and dismissed his plea. It said that sometime banning internet services became necessary for government authority for maintaining law and order situation.Vyas moves the apex court challenging order of Gujarat High Court which had upheld state government decision to ban mobile internet services saying that it was “just and proper.” The state government had contended in the HC the decision to impose the ban on mobile internet was taken to curb rumours that started circulating after detention of Patel agitation leader Hardik Patel. It had said that agitation turned violent on August 25 and nine apps were created by some persons to circulate provocative messages to encourage the Patel community to join the agitation.Various state governments have been invoking Section 144 to ban mobile internet and SMS services since 2013. In December 2015 Rajasthan police had banned internet services in certain districts after cases of caste and communal clashes were reported in Nagaur, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara and other parts of the state. In September 2015, Jammu and Kashmir government had ordered termination of data services for 12-hours apprehending its misuse by anti-social elements to create communal tension. Internet services in Kashmir Valley were blocked in November as a precautionary measure in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally there. The state had partially blocked internet services in 2014 on the first death anniversary of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Nagaland government had also imposed a 48-hour Internet blackout in the state in March last year after videos related to the lynching of a rape accused in Dimapur surfaced on the net. Between 2013 and 2015, Internet services were shut down in certain parts of country around seven times. (Times of India 12/2/16)

India tolerant even of intolerance: Amartya Sen (1)

NEW DELHI: “The problem is not that India is intolerant. It is far too tolerant even of intolerance,” said Amartya Sen, delivering the Rajendra Mathur annual lecture organised by the Editors Guild. Speaking on the subject of “the centrality of the right to dissent”, he began with a story about his uncle, imprisoned in Burdwan jail 81 years ago, who fought to “remove the unfreedoms imposed on us by our rulers”. Have those unfreedoms really ended, when a colonial penal code governs important parts of our life, Sen asked. Apart from Section 377, he singled out Section 295A as the uniquely Indian law that threatens a jail sentence for anyone who hurts someone else’s religious sentiments, “however bizarrely delicate that sentiment may be”.Most Indians, including those like himself classified as Hindus, have no difficulty accepting those with different beliefs, he said. He quoted a verse from the Rig Veda, for its “radical scepticism”, and said it was a “serious insult to India, and to Hindus, to attribute to us the strange claims of a small but politically organised group”.The realm of delicate sentiments extends amazingly far, into other people’s private eating habits, into children being denied eggs in mid-day meals, into scholarly work being pulped because publishers are intimidated. This government is not solely responsible for the phenomenon, Sen said, but it has added substantially to the problem. The problem, in Sen’s view, is that we buckle when confronted by those “armed with beliefs and sentiments that have to be protected from sunlight”. When minorities of any kind “are attacked by organised detractors, they need our support. This is not happening adequately,” he said. This is not just a violation of personal liberty, but it also makes it difficult to have a dialogue-based democracy. We should stop blaming the Constitution for what it did not say, he said. Rather, the courts should examine whether “India is being led seriously astray by the rules of the Raj”, said Sen. (Times of India 13/2/16)

JNU row: City journalists condemn attack on media (1)

Chennai: Protests over the manhandling of reporters at Patiala House courts in Delhi on Monday reverberated in Chennai when journalists cutting across organisations got together at Press Club on Wednesday . On Monday , a group of lawyers assaulted journalists and students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on the court premises ahead of the hearing of the sedition case against JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar. The case was registered in connection with an event at JNU to protest against the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Representing various journalist bodies, more than 50 journalists from newspapers and television channels gat hered in front of Chennai Press Club in Chepauk to express outrage against the Delhi attack. Holding banners and placards, the protesters raised slogans against attacks on freedom of expression. They demanded action against those responsible for the attack at Patiala House courts.Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) chairman Sashi Kumar said there is rising intolerance in the country , and several attempts to suppress freedom of expression. “What happened in Delhi is highly condemnable. It is against the spirit of democracy and freedom of press,” he said.Writer and former legislator D Ravikumar said, “Those who are behind the attack on journalists in Delhi should be booked. The Union government should not try to suppress media freedom. It will be harmful to the effective functioning of a democracy ,” he said. Several senior journalists from various media organizations spoke. (Times of India 18/2/16)

Thousands march in Guwahati condemning Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest (1)

GUWAHATI: Artistes, teachers, students and farmers on Thursday took out a protest march in the state capital to condemn the arrest of JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and denounced the Centre’s handling of the situation. People taking part in the protest, which was organized under the aegis of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and joined by many other student bodies, said the police action in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and repeated violence inside a court complex in Delhi were part of a “planned design” by RSS-BJP to create an “atmosphere of terror”.”Today RSS-BJP is dictating us on everything – what to wear, what to eat, what to see and what to say. It is a fully fascist attitude … Kanhaiya is a symbol of protest and right to freedom of speech,” KMSS president Akhil Gogoi said.”Different tribal communities, including Bodos with whom BJP has formed an alliance for the Assam assembly polls, were seeking either separate states or Independence, but will the Modi government dare to label them anti-nationals,” he asked. “This protest march is not to support Pakistan or anti-nationals, but to oppose the new definition of nationalism by RSS and BJP,” he said.Addressing the protesters, former principal of Cotton College, Sitanath Lahkar said the actions were “part of a well-planned design” to silence the dissenting voice of the student community as youths can become the strongest force to overthrow the Modi government.”After yesterday’s attack on Kanhaiya inside the court, the Supreme Court even said it is a situation of terror and that is the intention of RSS-BJP, so that nobody raises any voice. “It was the same design of Hitler and he too did everything in the name of nationalism,” he said. (Times of India 18/2/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

UP had five communal riots in three years since ’12 (7)

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh witnessed five communal riots in three years between 2012 and 2015, state parliamentary affairs minister Azam Khan told the Assembly on Tuesday. Replying on behalf of the chief minister, Azam Khan informed the House that there were three riots in 2012 – in Bareilly, Faizabad and Mathura – one in 2013 in Muzaffarnagar and another in 2014 in Saharanpur. The question was raised by BJP MLA Suresh Rana. The state government has not only taken strict action against the accused in all incidents of communal violence, but also adopted measures to prevent recurrence in the state, the House was told. In another question asked by Jai Prakash Nishad of BSP on criminal assault on women belonging to OBC and SC/STs, the government informed him that 805 women of these castes were raped in 2014 and 2015. (Times of India 10/2/16)

Situation remains tensed but peaceful at Bhojshala in MP.. (7) 

New Delhi: Amid tension over performing worship at the disputed site Bhojshala in Dhar town of Madhya Pradesh, the Bhoj Utsav Samiti on Friday shunned the site for conducting the special Basant Panchami puja on a day when the Muslims also have been allowed a two-hour slot for their `juma namaz` at the same place. “We find people inside Bhojshala who have nothing to do with Sarawati puja . So, we will conduct our puja outside,” Ashok Jain of the Bhoj Utsav Samiti said as he led the Hindu devotees outside the site. A group Muslim people also offered prayers inside the disputed site. While the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had scheduled Friday in a way that allowed both Hindus and Muslims to use Bhojshala for their respective modes of worship, the Samiti had demanded that the Hindus be allowed to use the site for the whole day in view of Basant Panchami. The administration made tight and elaborate security arrangements around Bhojshala to prevent any communal flareup. Bhojshala is a site in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh of what was believed to be a Saraswati shrine built by Raja Bhoj, who ruled between circa 1000 and 1055, and the Kamal Maula mosque. (Zee News 12/2/16)

Three more Muzaffarnagar riots cases end in acquittal (7)

Lucknow: AT LEAST three more cases related to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, including a double murder, have ended in acquittal. In all three cases, the witnesses turned hostile. The Indian Express had earlier reported two cases, of a double murder and a gangrape, that had ended in acquittal on February 5 and January 21, respectively, after witnesses retracted from their testimonies. Trial in 175 cases related to Muzaffarnagar riots is on, while eight cases are still under investigation. In four of the five cases that have ended in acquittal, the government counsel was Sajid Rana. He was recently removed by the state government following uproar over the February 5 acquittal in a 2013 riot cases.On January 12, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Bagpat district court, Lal Chandra acquitted five people accused of killing Shoaib, a 14-year-old, and Iqbal, 55, inside a mosque at Bajidpur village in the district. Three persons, Zubair, Zahid and Yameen alias Yaseen, had been injured in the attack. Seven people were named as accused following an investigation by the Special Investigation Cell last year, including Amit, Subodh, Om Prakash, Sushil, Pramod, Mantu, and a juvenile. Mantu died last year. All the 10 witnesses refused to support the prosecution theory in court, including Shoaib’s grandfather Yameen and Iqbal’s eldest son Ilyas. The complainant in the case, Kamruddin, a relative of Shoaib and neighbour of Iqbal, also turned hostile. “I have come to know Kamruddin took Rs 10 lakh from the family of the accused to change his statement. He also gave some money to my father Yameen to change his statement. Other witnesses also took money to give statement in favour of the accused,” says Shoaib’s father Nazim. Nazim’s younger son, Zubair (9), had also been injured in the attack. Nazim was away in Delhi at the time of the riots. The other witnesses included another grandson of Kamruddin, five of his neighbours, and Zubair. Nazim, who was given a government job at the tehsil office in Bagpat by the state government as compensation, and his family have not returned to Bajidpur since the incident. They live at Deshraj, around 25 km away, while Yameen stays with Nazim’s elder sister Ruksana in Baghpat. Kamruddin continues to live in Bajidpur. Nazim says he is willing to continue the court fight. “Those who have got acquitted are strong people, but if the state government promises to provide security to my family, I will file an appeal against the judgment. I lost my son.” …..  (Indian Express 18/2/16)

Muzaffarnagar riots case: VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi surrenders in court (7)

Muzaffarnagar:VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi on Thursday surrendered in a court in Muzaffarnagar after successive warrants were issued against her for failure to appear in connection with a 2013 riots case. The court recalled the bailable warrant issued against her after she furnished a bond of Rs 20,000 and gave an undertaking that she will appear on the next date of hearing in the case. The court had issued a fresh warrant against her after she failed to appear before it on January 23 despite an earlier warrant that directed her to appear before it in connection with the same case on December 18. In December last year, Union minister Sanjeev Baliyan, BJP MLA Suresh Rana, BJP MP Bhartendu Singh and four others had surrendered in a court here in connection with the case while BJP MLA Sangeet Som had surrendered on January 19 this year. The court will hear the case on February 23. The accused are facing charges under various sections of IPC for violating prohibitory orders, deterring public servants from discharging their duties and wrongful restraint. The accused allegedly participated in Nadala Mador mahapanchayat meeting and incited violence through their speeches in the last week of August 2013. The communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in August and September 2013 had claimed 60 lives and displaced over 40,000 people. (Indian Express 19/2/16)

COMMUNALISM

RSS defends govt, calls for condemning anti-India activities at JNU (26)

New Delhi: Expressing grave concern over the anti-India protests against 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus, Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue MG Vaidya on Sunday said it was extremely unfortunate that some politicians were `condoning` the incident instead of demanding strict action. “The Left-led demonstration at JNU campus in support of a convicted terrorist with anti-India slogans on placards is a matter of grave concern. With the exchequer`s money, the students are getting involved in anti-India activity and even some teachers are supporting it,” Vaidya told ANI. The RSS ideologue`s remark came hours after the Congress alleged that the government was hell-bent on branding anyone against them as `anti-national` and said that the entire JNU was being attacked instead of initiating action over a handful of students over the Afzal Guru event in the campus.”The JNU incident once again demonstrates the intrinsic fascism of the RSS, BJP and the ABVP. These people feel that the only voice in the public discourse should be their voice. The fundamentalists, who occupy the highest seats in this government, want to use every opportunity available to shut JNU and convert it into a `shishu mandir`,” Congress leader Manish Tewari told ANI. Meanwhile, Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi today dispelled rumour that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been asked to take over the JNU row probe. Bassi said that his men are competent enough to investigate each and every case which they register.Reports earlier suggested that the Delhi Police top brass was keen on transferring the case to the Special Cell or the National Investigation Agency since “links between the JNU students and terrorist Afzal Guru” need to be probed. A status report on the JNU case has already been submitted to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. (ANI) (Zee News 14/2/16)

VHP to launch agaitation against Jharkhand govt policies (26)

Jamshedpur: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) will launch a phase-wise agitation throughout Jharkhand against the state government s alleged appeasement policy and anti-Hindu approach from Monday. As part of the agitation, VHP will take out a procession and burn the effigy of state government across the state on February 15, Arun Singh, President of East Singhbhum committee of VHP, said. Addressing a press conference here, Singh accused Jharkhand Government of adopting an anti-Hindu approach by “failing to protect” the interest of the Hindu community and their religious places, Hindu women continued to fall prey to love-jehad while cow-slaughtering taking place in the state. Over ten VHP activists and leaders were jailed after they were booked under false cases during the last one year while several activists of Hindu organizations were subjected to oppressive measures by the government, he alleged. Referring to the communal violence that had occurred at Mango in July last, the VHP leader said altogether eight cases were registered in connection with the violence. Of the eight cases, seven were registered against VHP and other Hindu organizations while only one case against those, who were responsible for the riots, he claimed. He alleged that even the president of VHP, Chakradharpur (West Singhbhum district), Sardar Jagjit Singh alias Jaggi and three others were falsely booked and sent to jail following communal tension in the first week of January last, he claimed. Singh expressed surprise over the arrest of Jaggi, who was not present when the brick-batting occurred between two community in Chakradharpur on January 4 last but was arrested and forwarded to jail, Singh lamented. When his attention was drawwn that Jharkhand government had already enacted a law against cow slaughtering in the state, VHP leader said the government has framed the law but did not implement it as yet, which was resulting in cow slaughtering and smuggling from the state to other places. “We have been protesting against the state government since January 1 and had even staged dharna in front of the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi on February 8 demanding immediate release of VHP leaders implicated in false cases and sent to jail as well as unconditional withdrawal of cases against them”, he said. (Times of India 15/2/16)

VHP, Bajrang Dal protest outside JNU campus (26)

New Delhi: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal activists on Tuesday staged a protest outside JNU against an event on the campus in support of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. They shouted slogans and burnt effigies of JNU Vice-Chancellor demanding action against the alleged anti-nationals. However, the protesters were not allowed to march inside the campus by university security and police force deployed outside the University.The Bajrang Dal protesters also demanded that the vice chancellor take action against the teachers who are supporting the agitation of left-leaning students. Meanwhile, protests inside the campus by students and teachers against the varsity administration continued with teachers joining them in boycotting the classes. JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested last week in connection with a case of sedition and criminal conspiracy registered over holding of the event at the varsity during which anti-India slogans were alleged to have been raised. His arrest has triggered widespread outrage among students and teachers and drew severe criticism from non-BJP political parties. Earlier in the day, JNU teachers joined the students in boycotting classes in protest against arrest of its student union leader in a sedition case and said they would take classes on “nationalism” in the varsity lawns. The students had yesterday gone on an indefinite strike till JNUSU president Kanhaiya is released and the sedition case against him dropped. Teachers’ bodies of 40 central universities and Pune-based FTII had also come out in support of the agitating students, saying it is an issue of “indiscipline” and not “sedition”. (Indian Express 16/2/16)

RSS uses films to instil patriotism (26)

New Delhi: The media has always been interested in covering the film industry. But it is very surprising to note that Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh mouthpiece Panchjanya, which is known for its right-leaning articles, has also elicited its keenness in the Indian film industry. The saffron outfit weekly has been seeking the help of Indian movies for the promotion of unity and nationalism in the country. Films like last year’s biggest Indian blockbuster Baahubali and recently released Akshay Kumar-starrer Airlift have been covered by special movie reviews to bring out the cultural and nationalistic pride portrayed in them. Through this coverage, the saffron magazine also aims to promote sportsmanship, integrity and nationalism through reviews of biopics like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The magazine has been regularly publishing special reviews of such films, while at the same time going after films and actors that it considers have been working against the national cause. The periodical had published articles and pieces on recent controversies like the intolerance debate where Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan were reportedly criticised for their stance on the issue. The periodical had earlier also done a cover story on Muslim superstars (Khans) versus Hrithik Roshan. Panchjanya editor Hitesh Shankar stated that the aim of publishing such reviews is to bring out the positive aspects being portrayed in the media. “As a magazine, it is our aim to document anything that is positive and can be utilised for the promotion of nationalism in the country. There are also attempts to unveil any negativity that is being attempted against the society,” Shankar said. He pointed out that as a magazine, the aim is to generate debate on important issues that the society faces. Panchjanya magazine is considered to be a mouthpiece of BJP’s ideological parent, the RSS. The periodical was established in 1948 and had been edited by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. (Asian Age 17/2/16)

TERRORISM

Pakistan Army Chief approves execution of 12 terrorists (12)

Islamabad : Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif on Thur-sday confirmed death sentences given to 12 hardcore terrorists. The convicts were invo-lved in committing hei-nous offences relating to terrorism, including breaking of a jail in the north-western district of Bannu, attacks on armed forces, law enforcement agencies and civilians, said a military statement. Terrorists including Mohammed Arbi, Rafiu-llah, Qari Asif Mehmood, Shawaleh, Mohammed Zeeshan, Nasir Khan, Shoukat Ali, Imdadullah, Mohammed Umar, Sabir Shah, Khandan and Anwar Ali were tried by military courts. The statement said that many of these terrorists were active members of the banned militant outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. They were involved in abetting attack on Bannu Jail, owing to which large number of terrorists managed to escape from the jail and also caused injuries to police constables and soldiers. The banned outfits’ operatives were tried by military courts which were established unanimously by the Parliament after attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. Earlier on January 1, Gen. Sharif had signed death warrants of nine terrorists involved in attacks on ISI headquarters in Multan, Parade Lane and offices of the law enforcers. Terrorists Rafiullah and Qari Asif Mehmood were active members of Sipah-e-Sahaba. They were involved in abetting the murder of Syed Waqar Haider and causing injury to Abdul Sattar Tahir in Lahore. Rafiullah was tried on 2 charges while Qari Asif was tried on 4 charges and awarded death sentence. Shawaleh was an active member of TTP. He was involved in attacking Law Enforcement Agency which caused death and injuries to soldiers. He admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 3 charges and awarded death sentence. Mohammed Zeeshan was an active member of Al-Qaeda. He was involved in attacking Armed Forces which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. He admitted his offence before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried and awarded death sentence. Another terrorist Shoukat Ali was an active member of the TTP. He was involved in attacking Law Enforcement Agency and Armed Forces which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. … Asian Age 12/2/16)

‘Police and political establishment misusing sedition law’ (12)

JALANDHAR: Criticizing Delhi police for invoking sedition charges against JNU students for organizing events against the hanging of Afzal Guru, Sikh group Dal Khalsa has blamed political as well as police establishment for hardly showing any respect for high court and Supreme Court verdicts. Party spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh and Sikhs For Human Rights leader Harpal Singh Cheema said that the Delhi police “following unconstitutional and unjust orders from Union Home Ministry” unleashed crackdown on JNU students and booked professor S A R Geelani of Delhi University, and the students, under sedition laws for raising their voices against Indian states faulty decision to hang Afzal Guru three years ago. “There have been flagrant violations of laws from Public Security Act to Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967), from AFSPA to sedition provisions be it in Kashmir, Delhi, Punjab, Nagaland or elsewhere,” they said while citing recent example of how Punjab police overlooked judicial verdicts and invoked sedition laws against organizers of peaceful congregation of Sikhs on November 10 2015. “Even as there are clear cut verdicts by Apex Court and high courts of different states as to what makes the offence under sedition, yet police and investigating agencies hardly took into consideration such judicial verdicts while invoking sedition provisions against political dissidence,” they argued. They said the act of JNU students and the seminar organized in memory of Afzal Guru was in no way seditious nor did it provoke violence thereafter. “However, the police went overboard and connived with ABVP while charging organizers of both the events under provisions of sedition. Urging the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice, they demanded intervention of Chief Justice of India to order the cancellation of two separate FIR’s against JNU students and professor Geelani. (Times of India 14/2/16)

The Afzal Guru link in recent terror attacks (12)

New Delhi: As investigations into the Pathankot airbase attack gathers pace, investigators say that the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru has emerged as the common link in at least three attacks on police and Army camps along the Jammu-Pathankot highway in the past one year. Afzal Guru was hanged in Tihar jail in 2013. Investigators have found at least one more letter, written in Urdu, on the body of one of the four terrorists killed in Pathankot. It said the attacks were to avenge Afzal Guru. As reported earlier, an Urdu statement, written in English, was found in the vehicle belonging to SP Salwinder Singh the terrorists had used to reach the airbase on the night of December 31. Similar letters were found on the bodies of the intruders gunned down during an attack on a police post at Rajbagh in Kathua, Jammu, on March 20, 2015 and those who attacked an Army camp in nearby Samba on March 21, 2015. All these places are located within 15-20 km of the Pakistan border and along National Highway 1A. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found that Chawinda in Pakistan is directly connected to Bamiyal in Punjab, from where the terrorists are believed to have infiltrated into India. India has said that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistan-based terrorist outfit, was behind the Pathankot attack. In the case of the other two incidents, no conclusions have been reached so far. “Both the pieces of paper seized during the Pathankot operation had the same content,” said a senior NIA official. “The Urdu letter in English had Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) written on top of the page and it was signed by A.G.S (Afzal Guru Squad). This letter dated December 25, 2015, said the group had planned the attacks to avenge Afzal Guru. The other paper found tucked inside the jacket of one of the four terrorists said much the same thing. Only, this was written in Urdu.” The NIA has been closely studying the similarities between the Pathankot and the Samba-Kathua attacks since it took over the investigations. An official said even the rifles used by the terrorists were similar in nature. An identical AK-47 rifle with an Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL) attached was seized by the J&K police during the Samba and Kathua attacks. (The Hindu 18/2/16)

Terror suspect says Goa cops framed him (12)

PANAJI: Terror suspect Sameer Sardana, 44, accused the Goa Police and Central security agencies of taunting him over his interest in Islam. Ahead of leaving Goa on Thursday, the Dehradun-based chartered accountant, who was released on bail last week, said he had stored information about bomb blasts on his laptop because he fancied himself as a spoof-artist. In a chat with presspersons, Sardana also blamed the police for trying to allegedly frame him in a terror case and torturing him. Sardana, son of a retired Major General, who was arrested on February 2 by the anti-terror squad of the Goa Police, spent more than a week in police custody, where he was quizzed by officials of the State police, National Investigation Agency and other security agencies. “There was physical torture, and racial taunts. I believe I have been framed and racially profiled,” Sardana said. Sardana was arrested under Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code by the ATS from a dormitory at the Vasco railway station in south Goa after the Railway Police reported him for suspicious movement. Following his arrest, the police seized five passports and several SIM cards. A scan of his laptop by cyber experts had revealed data about previous bomb blasts. Sardana also accused the police of trying to turn public opinion against him. Director General of Police TN Mohan, however, said there was incriminating evidence against Sardana. He denied that he had been taunted and tortured. (The Hindu 19/2/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

9 senior Naxal leaders surrender (12)

Nagpur: NINE Naxalites, including a divisional committee member, surrendered in the last one week, the Gadchiroli police said. Among those who surrendered are two section commanders and six dalam members. Together, all of them had a reward of Rs 46 lakh on their heads, said the statement issued by the police. The top catch was Sunil alias Ramji Mattami, 32, recently promoted as member of Kasansur divisional committee. He was involved in 17 encounters, 14 incidents of arson and nine murders, according to the press note. He carried a reward of Rs 16 lakh on his head. Sources told The Indian Express that Mattami, active for over 15 years, was removed from the committee for alleged sexual misconduct with a woman cadre and had been staying at his native village. When the police nabbed him, Mattami was found to be working for the Naxals from home, said the sources. “It was due to his promise to help the police in sharing vital information about Naxal activities that the police got him surrendered,” said a source. Among others, Shiva alias Sattu Narote, 26, and wife Rakhi alias Rekha Timma, 27, were section commanders of company 4 and each of them carried a reward of Rs 8 lakh. The other six — company 10 member Mira Narote (24), Tipagad dalam member Kamla Hidko (35), Gatta dalam member Somji Atlami (28), Kasansur dalam member Lakshman Narote (28), Gatta dalam member Dogde Atram (34), and Gatta dalam member Mangu Mattami (30) — had been active Naxals for years ranging between five and 14 years. While Mira had Rs 4 lakh reward on account of being a member of company dalam, others carried a reward of Rs 2 lakh each on their heads. Kamla Hidko, an active Naxal for over 14 years, is the wife of top Naxal leader Saoji Tulami, who spearheaded the Jantana Sarkar (people’s government) activity in the Tipagad area of Gadchiroli district. “The surrenders are a result of good work done by the police under Navjeevan scheme, in which the police have reached out to villagers in remote areas, talking to relatives of the Naxalites and solving their various problems and providing the villagers with things like government certificates and essential daily use material. This has instilled trust among the people about the police, leading to a large number of surrenders over the last few years,” said the press note. A senior police official said, “Of late, we are getting surrenders largely through the initiative taken by villagers themselves. Mediation by villagers ensures trust on both sides, leading to smooth surrenders. Sometimes, we nab some Naxals during our operations and decide not to arrest them if they promise to help us by providing vital information about Naxal activities. We then offer them surrender option in exchange for the help.” (Indian Express 15/2/16)

In Chhattisgarh, children face Maoist threat for speaking up (12)

Raipur: Schoolchildren are caught in the firing line between the government and the Maoists in extremism-hit Chhattisgarh. Students are often seen marching under police security through streets of small towns and hamlets in Bastar region holding banners and placards, demanding peace and asking extremists to end killing of innocents, allegedly at the behest of state authorities. This despite the SC in 2011 termed as illegal the Chhattisgarh government’s anti-insurgent militia of young tribals called Sulwa Judum. However, the passive aggressive campaign did not gone down well with the Maoists. The insurgents sent out an advisory to parents and teachers this week and also distributed pamphlets in the area asking them to desist from allowing children to participate in such “anti-people” rallies. “We appeal to the parents of students to ensure their children are not used in anti-people (against the Maoist) events or rallies. We ask the school management and teachers too to not allow the students to be part of anti-people activities that are based on lies,” said the statement issued by Vikalp, the spokesperson of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, the most powerful unit of the Maoists in central India — covering the entire Bastar region along with Malkangiri, Koraput areas of Odisha and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. The Chhattisgarh police promptly dismissed the appeal as “ridiculous”. “Are the Maoists not using children in their movement and destroying their lives? By issuing such statement, the rebels are trying to create a threat perception among the masses and gain the media hype,” an ADGP told HT. Nonetheless, this propaganda war has left parents anxious. “There is a lot of fear and uncertainty here,” said Idpa Ramvilas, a businessman in Geedam. Another parent said their children were the most vulnerable as the school could act against them if they refused to participate in the marches and the Maoists could strike if they did. Maoists are known to forcibly pick up children to induct as combatants, and also urge villagers to willing offer their children to be trained as “rebel warriors”. “Madkami Hunga, 14, and Puja Markam, 16, from Aranpur in Dantewada were forced to join the Maoist organisation some three years ago…Puja was traced by Malkangiri police in Odisha on January 26 this year after she fled,” additional superintendent of police, Sukma, Santosh Singh told HT, adding that Puja was sent to a residential ashram in Dantewada for studies. Though the administration claims the student marches were voluntary and an attempt to counter the growing support for left-wing extremism among the youth, teachers admitted that the marches were conducted on the “directive” of the police and the district administration. “We comply with the orders given and ensure the participation of students as directed,” said a senior teacher of Bijapur government high school requesting anonymity. Another teacher in Sukma, who did not wish to be named, said, “It is believed that when you rope in students to hold meetings or rallies, it might garner support from people but this will not win the hearts and minds of Maoists.” But, not everyone is against the involvement of students in the anti-insurgency operation and say the children’s participation to create a terror-free environment was largely restricted to safer areas. “Such initiatives might help build confidence in remote areas where the people’s trust in authorities remains abysmally low,” said Alok Shukla, a human rights activist. Anti-terrorism experts are not worried and see the “advisory” as a reflection of the Maoists’ frustration. “With the local tribal population understanding the futility of the ideology of left-wing extremism, they are now increasingly going against the rebels — whose statements clearly show their desperation. The people in the affected areas yearn for peace,” said Brigadier (retd) BK Ponwar, director of Kanker-based counter terrorism and jungle warfare college. (Hindustan Times 15/2/16)

Naxal-affected Maharashtra to get 100 All India Radio stations (12)

Mumbai: The Centre will come up with 100 All India Radio (AIR) stations in Naxal-affected states in the country and the first radio station will be constructed at Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. The aim behind the move is to win the confidence of the people who are residing in the insurgency-hit areas. “Private radio channels still fear setting up radio stations in Naxal-affected areas and that is one of the reasons we have decided that AIR itself will set up 100 radio stations by 2017 to tackle the menace of Naxalism in the country,” said minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore. A week ago, the Centre had also mooted the plan to install 2,200 mobile towers in states that are Naxal affected. “The government has also planned to expand the FM network in the country after which a city or town with a population of more than 1,00,000 should have at least three private FM channels and licences for the same will be granted,” said Mr Rathore. On the same lines, Chhattisgarh police in 2015, had also had also planned to set up radio towers in their police stations itself so that the people staying in the villages could be made aware of what are they were being deprived of. Furthermore, figures of the state government reveal that 48 Naxals surrendered in 2013, 40 in 2014 and 51 in 2015. Under the state government’s policy on Naxals, the surrender makes them eligible for compensation of Rs 5 lakh for rehabilitation. On the backdrop of the Make in India event, Mr Rathore further said that the government has initiated schemes to promote indigenous production in the media and entertainment sector. We are also aiming to change the rules of film certification where government’s role would be limited to only certification and no censorship would be required. A single-window clearance for the film shooting will be set up for which an agency office named the Film Facilitation Office (FFO) will be set up in the city. The panel of expertise from the film industry will be set up to get clearances. (Asian Age 16/2/16)

Naxal violence in Andhra Pradesh has decreased, claims MHA (12)

New Delhi: Naxal violence has dipped in AP even as the spread of the Maoist influence and activities across the Red zone in Left-wing extremism-affected states was restricted to 141 districts in 2015 from 162 districts in 2014. Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday reviewed the Naxal threat in AP and other states at a meeting with senior officials in Visakhapatnam where he credited security agencies, developmental programmes and policies of the government for the improved scenario. Mr Singh said that the LWE situation in the country has shown massive improvement in the recent months, with the number of incidences of violence coming down to 1,088 in 2015. Praising the role of the state police in leading the fight against Naxals, he stressed the need for cooperation between AP and its neighbouring states. The state has already completed construction of 11 fortified police stations, Mr Sing was informed. The MHA has also approved one extra battalion of BSF to AP with Mr Singh assuring the state of the fast implementation of the decision. Assuring the state government of speedy clearance of projects, he said under the Road Requirement Plan (RRP)-2, the Centre has approved laying of 1,200-km of roads in AP out of total 5,400-km to be laid across the country. Construction of 53 mobile towers has been allotted under the first phase to boost the communication network in LWE-affected areas of AP. Of these, 33 towers have already been activated. They will aid security forces and bridge the disconnect between the far flung areas under Maoist influence. The remaining 20 are under construction, the meeting was informed. Mr Singh observed that Maoists-hit states witnessed lowest violence in six years, with casualties and incidents coming down substantially in 2015. While nearly one lakh paramilitary personnel continued to be deployed in LWE-affected areas, 10 Naxal-hit states — AP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, TS, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh — saw 226 deaths in 1,088 incidents of violence perpetrated by Maoists last year. According to Home Ministry statistics, in 2010, there were 2,213 incidents of violence in which 1,005 people lost their lives and in 2011, a total of 611 people were killed in 1,760 incidents. In 2014, there were 1,091 incidents of Maoist violence in the 10 states in which 310 people lost their lives. In 2015, of the 226 deaths, 168 were civilians and 58 were security forces personnel. As many as 89 Maoists were also killed and 1,668 were arrested and 570 cadres surrendered before authorities during the year. (Deccan Chronicle 19/2/16)

TRAFFICKING

India drafts new anti-trafficking bill, raises penalty for offenders (1)

Chennai: A new bill being drafted in India aims to curb the steep rise in human trafficking by unifying several existing laws, raising the penalties for offenders and providing for victims’ rehabilitation, government officials said on Wednesday. The bill calls for the creation of an organized crime investigation agency, a special court to deal with trafficking cases and severe penalties for repeat offenders and the trafficking of minors, they said. “Human trafficking in India has taken on many forms, with people being trafficked for forced labour, domestic work and even begging,” a senior Women and Child Development Ministry official working on the draft bill told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “All these cases are dealt with by various agencies and under numerous different laws,” she said. “The Supreme Court of India felt that all cases, national or international, should come under the purview of one single law. The new legislation will have a more holistic approach and plug the lacunae in the implementation of anti-trafficking drives.” As well as creating an all-embracing law against trafficking, the bill will propose increasing the penalty for offenders to up to 15 years’ jail from the present four to five years, and will provide protection for both victims and witnesses, the official said. In addition, a separate court will be established to handle serious crimes committed across more than one Indian state, she said. At present, human trafficking cases are dealt with largely under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, though some also come under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, or sections of the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, labour laws and overseas affairs, the official said. “This is a big step forward,” Dr P M Nair, a member of the expert committee set up to draft the bill, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview. “Since 2000, many of us working to prevent human trafficking have been pushing for comprehensive legislation. The highlight of the draft bill is that it gives victims a legal right to rehabilitation, making the state more accountable in doing so.” According to National Crime Record Bureau data, 5,466 cases of trafficking were reported in 2014, an increase of 60 percent since 2010. “The new legislation hopes to fix these numbers,” Nair said. “At present investigators, judicial officers and public prosecutors lack training in handling these sensitive cases. Under the new legislation, there will be an emphasis on ensuring better justice for victims.” An inter-ministerial committee will examine the draft bill when it is completed and send it to parliament, which is expected to pass it into law later this year, officials said. (Deccan Chronicle 11/2/16)

Indian children trafficked to United States is a reality, says US diplomat (1)

Siliguri: Cases of Indian children being smuggled to the United States are a reality, a US diplomat said on Friday, reacting to a media report that police had busted an international child trafficking racket operating in Bengaluru. Police on Tuesday said they had arrested 16 members of a gang suspected of sending at least 25 children from the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat illegally to the United States using fake documents in order to acquire visas. Craig L Hall, US Consul General in Kolkata, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation he was not aware of this case as the visas had reportedly been acquired from the US consulate in Chennai but said there had been similar cases in the past. “We have seen examples of this,” Hall said on the sidelines of an international conference on human trafficking in eastern town of Siliguri. “Last year, the United States issued more a million visas to Indians who were travelling to the United States and among those million, there were very likely cases of children being smuggled and trafficked into the US” According to a report by the NDTV, the children were matched with adult couples and made to pose as a family, presenting false documents at the US consulate to get the required visas for their journey. The adult couples then flew to the United States with the children, left them there and returned to India. The suspected traffickers told police they were reuniting the children with their parents in the United States, all illegal immigrants, NDTV reported. But it quoted police officials as saying they believed the children were being sold. Hall said the US consulate in Kolkata was thorough in the way it granted visas and that dozens of applications were rejected annually based on suspicions that human trafficking was involved. “I know in our consulate in Kolkata, we have good relations with the law enforcement agencies and we have a team in the embassy dedicated and watching out for cases like this and when we suspect them, we investigate together with the Indian authorities,” said Hall. “Dozens of applications have been blocked as we have thought them to be very suspicious. We feel confident that we have good systems in place and this is something we are vigilant about.” According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 5,466 cases of human trafficking registered in 2014, an increase of 90 percent over the past five years. Activists say this is a gross under-estimation of the scale of the problem. Thousands of Indians – largely poor, rural women and children – are lured to big cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into domestic or sex work or to industries such as textile workshops. In many cases, they are not paid or are held in debt bondage. Some go missing, and their families cannot trace them. Hall said New Delhi and Washington were working together to combat human trafficking and welcomed plans by India to draft a new anti-trafficking law and the creation a central agency to better coordinate between various states and institutions. (Hindustan Times 13/2/16)

Central nodal agency to curb human trafficking planned (1)

KOLKATA: To strengthen the fight against human trafficking, the Union government has decided to set up a central nodal agency, a senior government official said. Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the fifth annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) conclave in Siliguri, Rajnish Kwatra, Under Secretary (Prison Reforms & Anti Trafficking Cell), Ministry of Home Affairs, said the government was also mooting a law for the same. “The legislation will be complementary to the nodal agency,” Mr. Kwatra said. Officials and experts who took part in the conclave said “the message” would be implemented by the end of this year. According to them sustained initiatives such as Operation Smile, a month-long campaign to rescue and rehabilitate those trafficked, had also been bearing fruit. One official said the figures for just four States of Operation Smile II carried out in January this year pointed out that over 10,000 missing children had been rescued. Last year, 9,146 children under Operation Smile and 19,742 children under Operation Muskaan were rescued or rehabilitated. At the conclave held on Friday and Saturday, jointly organised by the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata and the NGO Shakti Vahini, various stakeholders raised the question of putting in place a uniform rehabilitation package for survivors of trafficking among other issues. While experts and activists focussed on the vulnerability of Siliguri and north-east India to trafficking, mainly due to “distress in tea gardens”, the U.S. Consul General in Kolkata, Craig Hall, said poverty was just “one of the factors” for the human rights abuse. “Even in highly developed economies, there is [human] trafficking. Material poverty does not mean poverty of values,” Mr. Hall said. “Poverty cannot be an excuse for pushing somebody into trafficking.” West Bengal Women and Child Development Minister Sashi Panja announced that the State would soon implement MoUs inked with other States such as Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Bihar for rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked women and children. “We welcome the announcement by the West Bengal government. Since Bengal is a source State, an inter-State co-ordination will go a long way in curbing trafficking,” Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini said. (The Hindu 15/2/16)

Delhi’s trafficked sex slaves face ‘sad’ and ‘horrible’ life: Official (1)

Siliguri:Girls and women trafficked from the poorest states in India and sold for sexual exploitation to brothels in the Indian capital face a sad and horrible life with little hope of escaping, a senior Delhi government official said on Friday. Swati Maliwal, head of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), said she had recently visited the city’s red light district of Garstin Bastion Road, popularly known as G.B. Road, where she was shocked by the lack of support given to sex workers. “Every day, girls and women are being brought there. They are bought and sold there for between 5,000 rupees and 100,000 rupees ($75 to $1,500) depending on whether they are virgins or not,” Maliwal told an anti-trafficking event in the eastern town of Siliguri. “They are forced to sleep with up to 30 men daily. Most of the time, they are not given any money as most of it goes to the pimp. It is extremely sad and cannot be justified in independent India. It’s just horrible.” Almost 36 million people are enslaved worldwide — trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude, says the 2014 Global Slavery Index. Almost half – 16 million – are in India. Many are from poor rural regions and are lured with the promise good jobs or marriage, but end up sold into domestic work, prostitution, or industries such as brick kilns or textile units. Maliwal, who was appointed in July as chairperson of the DCW – a government body which focuses on implementing the safeguards provided for women under the constitution – said little had been done in the past to protect trafficked sex workers. Despite a committee being set up in 2012 to look into anti-trafficking measures and rehabilitation in Delhi, she said, the committee had not met once until October last year when she had pushed for it. “I really don’t understand how the highest levels of the government could do something like that. We had a meeting in October and some good decisions have now come out of it,” Maliwal told the gathering of civil society organisations, lawyers, judges and government officials. “Delhi doesn’t have a rehabilitation policy, there is no restoration policy for victims and now after this committee met, we are trying to work on it,” she added. The DCW is also starting a pilot project where it will partner with the private sector and select up to 50 rescued women and girls to provide them with training and jobs as well as set up residential schools for the children of sex workers. Maliwal said she also found many other problems faced by the 5,000 sex workers residing in G.B. Road which she said could be easily resolved. Despite an estimated 600,000 condoms being used monthly, none had been distributed by the government for five months due a “technical glitch,” she said. “This is very strange and very sorry. You can imagine that if 600,000 condoms are normally being used there, and then there are none, the kind of infection that might spread. It is almost like an epidemic that we are creating,” said Maliwal. “We have now issued a notice and ensured that condoms are being distributed.” (Indian Today 17/2/16)

CORRUPTION

70 percent Delhiites say corruption not reduced: Survey (5)

New Delhi: Seventy percent of the people surveyed by a “citizen engagement platform” associated with the BJP, believe that corruption has not reduced in Delhi under the Arvind Kejriwal government, but nearly 50 percent said they would vote for the AAP again. However, 48 percent hold the odd-even plan was a successfully executed experiment, said a survey report on first year of the Aam Aadmi Party government released on Saturday. “Seventy percent believe corruption has not reduced in Delhi in the last one year,” said the survey conducted by LocalCircles, a citizen engagement platform that connects citizens at local, city and national level and has a partnership with the Bharatiya Janata Party`s information cell. “Forty-eight percent believe that the odd-even rule was a successfully executed experiment,” it said, adding that a similar segment say that they will vote for the AAP if elections were held again now. In a press statement, the organisation said that the survey showed 32 percent citizens find that the current legislators are more engaged with people than former lawmakers, but only 16 percent believe that the current government has kept pace with the infrastructure development work done by the previous government and also believed that starting of a new business and registration of licences in city has gotten easier. “Only 17 percent citizens believe that the life of financially poor has gotten better,” says the survey. It said 39 percent of the survey respondents believe that the AAP government has been able to improve water supply, and 37 percent say it has been able to reduce power bills. (Zee News 13/2/16)

Chhattisgarh: Illegal Assets Worth Rs 282 Cr Unearthed in Last 5 Years (5)

RAIPUR: Cracking down on corrupt activities of officials, Chhattisgarh Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Economic Offences Wing (EOW) have unearthed illegal assets to the tune of Rs 282 crore belonging to babus and government employees in the past five years. “To implement zero tolerance policy on corruption, the ACB had been strengthened and given more autonomy in the state. On the direction of the state government, the agency is carrying out an effective fight against corruption,” Additional Director General of Police (ACB & EOW) Mukesh Gupta told PTIAccording to the ACB, 63 corrupt officials and employees have been booked in the past five years for having assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.      During raids at the premises of these officials, illegal assets worth over Rs 282 crore were unearthed, it said.  Besides, during the period ACB caught at least 185 officials, including an IAS officer and employees, red-handed accepting bribeBribe money to the tune of Rs 22 lakh were also recovered, the data said. The agency has also strengthened its information network to gather inputs on corrupt activities, Gupta said. Last month, the ACB had conducted simultaneous raids on the premises of nine officials, including three IFS (Indian Forest Service) officials, during which they found illegal assets worth Rs 22 crore. “It was not for the first time that the agency had conducted such a major raid. In 2011, raids were conducted on the premises of 17 officials, followed by 10 in 2012, three in 2013, seven in 2014, and 17 in 2015,” another senior department official said. In the past one year, IAS and IFS officials have also come under the scanner of ACB and EOW. The alleged Civil Supplies scam was unearthed by ACB in February last year, he said. ACB had conducted simultaneous raids on the premises of Civil Supplies department and its officials across 12 districts, during which unaccounted for cash worth about Rs 6 crore was recovered, while evidences pointing to irregularities to the tune of several crores also surfaced.     “The corruption was at peak in the Chhattisgarh State Civil Supplies Corporation. Continuous raids at the premises of its officials and employees had helped put a tab on the corrupt practices within the Corporation,” the official claimed. However, the ACB officials also came under criticism in the wake of consistent action by them, as some senior administrative officials accused the agency of dragging bureaucrats into false cases. Some IAS and IFS officials had termed the ACB raids as “mala fide” and “baseless”. Meanwhile, the main Opposition Congress has questioned the raids saying it was just a show-off by the ACB. “The officials from whom disproportionate assets were recovered are being promoted to crucial posts. It is nothing (but) just a show off to the people that ACB is doing something, but the fact is it is doing nothing,” party’s state general secretary Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said.  (New Indian Express 14/2/16)

2,200 officials probed for graft in 2015: CBI (5)

NEW DELHI: Central Bureau of Investigation Director Anil Sinha on Wednesday said the agency, in an unprecedented action, probed 2,200 government officials facing corruption allegations and registered 101 cases in the past one year. There has been a 94 per cent jump in the number of cases registered by the CBI compared with 2014. “In the past one year, we have filed 1,044 charge-sheets, which is the highest in the past five years,” he said. Disproportionate asset cases against government officials registered by the agency also went up by 56 per cent to 67. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and suspended Uttar Pradesh chief engineer Yadav Singh are among those against him such cases were filed. The CBI chief said despite constraints, the agency had been doing its best to carry out expeditious and impartial investigations. “The mood of the public is against corruption. If CBI will not side with them, who will?” he asked. The CBI’s efforts led to issuance of Interpol alerts in 114 cases, whereas in 80 cases, letters of request were sent to foreign jurisdictions seeking information on various cases. In the past one year, the CBI also focussed on cases of bank fraud. Companies such as now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines and Siddhi Vinayak Logistics Ltd came under the scanner. (The Hindu 18/2/16)

 

ACB files case in recruitment ‘scam’ (5)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) has registered a criminal case in relation to a complaint alleging a ‘scam’ in the recruitment procedure of the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB). According to senior officials, the complaint was converted into a case just days after the Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha Vijender Gupta led a delegation and called on Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung to apprise him of the matter. Alleging ‘heavy rigging’ in the Grade-2 (Das cadre) Exam conducted by the board for selection of inspectors, assistants, head clerks and other posts, the delegation demanded an enquiry into it by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB). “Money was taken from unsuitable candidates who were selected while good candidates were intentionally failed by the corrupt officials of the board,” Mr. Gupta had further alleged. The delegation also submitted documents and other evidence in support of their charges to Mr. Jung which have been made the basis of the complaint. (The Hindu 19/2/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Pollution is eating into India’s fish stocks, finds National Marine Fisheries Policy (9)

Visakhapatnam: The state of marine environment in India is under stress due to pollution and is one of the reasons for decline in fish stocks. Factors, such as effluent treatment on land, plastics in the sea and ghost fishing (use of abandoned fishing gear to catch fish) are equally affecting the fish stocks besides climate change, points out the first draft of the National Marine Fisheries Policy (NPMF 2016) that was released by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) on Thursday. Commercial port development is one of the causes for erosion and accretion along the Indian coasts, affecting fisherman’s livelihood. Hence a regulator is required to control such pollutants along with focused studies on climate change impacts on fish stocks, the draft said. The draft was released at the CMFRI stakeholder meet for three states – Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal that was held in Vizag on Thursday. The NPMF has been formulated to ensure health and ecological integrity of oceanic wealth of India based on sustainable development, principle of subsidiarity, inter-generational equity and precautionary approach. While the primary concern of the policy will be the sustainability of marine resources, its specific goals will focus on employment and livelihoods, equity and equality, provision of food safety and national nutrition and creation of wealth and prosperity.As per the NPMF draft, coastal and inshore marine resources are highly dependent on many inland water-bodies (estuaries, lakes and backwaters) for completing their life cycles. These water bodies are subject to anthropogenic pressures and their environmental quality has been compromised, affecting stocks of several important marine fishery resources, particularly the high-value shrimps. Emphasis must be accorded to maintain ecological integrity of marine environment, so as to ensure that there’s no adverse effect on the endangered, threatened or protected marine species. Since marine fish resources are exhaustible, measures should be implemented to limit fishing through input and output controls, fleet size, fishing days and area of operation, engine horsepower, gear size, minimum mesh size, fishing in less exploited areas, creating fisheries management areas to ensure that resource depletion is contained. Effective monitoring, control and surveillance regime for the marine fisheries sector need further strengthening. The general condition and hygiene of fishing harbours and fish markets in the country needs improvement to raise it to international standards. The spread of fish meal plants, use of low-value fish in fish-feed industry and their overwhelming demand for small pelagics has already driven the valuable oil sardine stock to very low levels in some parts. The government also needs to control proliferation of fish meal plants, as per NPMF. (Times of India 12/2/16)

Increasing water on land slowing down rising seas (9)

WASHINGTON: While ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, climate change over the past decade has caused Earth’s continents to soak up and store an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers — temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent, scientists have revealed. New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California and University of California-Irvine, to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise. “We always assumed that people’s increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean,” said lead author JT Reager of JPL. “What we didn’t realise until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping, causing the land to act like a sponge — at least temporarily,” he explained. These new data are vital for understanding decadal variations in sea level change. The information will be a critical complement to future long-term projections of sea level rise, which depend on melting ice and warming oceans. The water gains over land were spread globally but taken together, they equal the volume of Lake Huron, the world’s seventh largest lake.The 2002 launch of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites provided the first tool capable of quantifying land liquid water storage trends. By measuring the distance between the two GRACE satellites to within the width of a strand of human hair as they orbit Earth, researchers can detect changes in Earth’s gravitational pull that result from regional changes in the amount of water across Earth’s surface. With careful analysis of these data, JPL scientists were able to measure the change in liquid water storage on the continents, as well as the changes in ice sheets and glaciers. “These results will lead to a refinement of global sea level budgets such as those presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports,” noted JPL senior water scientist Jay Famiglietti. The study, published in the journal Science, is the first to observe global patterns of changes in land water storage, with wet regions getting more wet and dry areas getting drier. (Times of India 14/2/16)

Pesticides suspected to be carcinogenic escape govt ban list (9)

New Delhi: A clutch of pesticides that could be carcinogenic and banned in many countries will continue their run in India, though a government panel has recently decided to ban 18 insect killers hazardous to human health and prohibited abroad. This is the first time a decision to ban such a big number of pesticides was taken. There are 261 pesticides registered in India but only 28 had been banned so far. It followed an agriculture ministry expert committee’s findings that 19 of 66 pesticides, most of which are used in India for the past four decades but banned in foreign nations, are “likely/probable carcinogenic in nature”. The results were based on studies conducted worldwide. The panel constituted in 2015 said in its report to the government last December that chemicals used in these pesticides are highly toxic. Environmental activists called the measure too little, late too. “For 40 years we had been eating these chemicals. It’s a failure of the regulatory mechanism. We first allow such chemicals to enter our food chain and then conduct tests on them,” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, the programme director of Thanal, a non-profit working on pesticide-affected communities in Kerala. Hazardous pesticides include Butachlor, Mancozeb, Carbaryl, Benomyl, Alachlor, Diuron, and Trichlorfon — popularly used in controlling pests in wheat, paddy, maize, groundnut, grapes, banana, tomato and brinjal and insecticides like DDT and Fenthion, used for household-pest control and public health programmes. Several other pesticides on the list cause depression, birth defects and damage to kidneys, liver and the nervous system. These are toxic to honey bees, fish and birds too, says the report. “There are no instances to directly link health hazards to the use of these pesticides in the field but they might be causing long-term health impacts,” said Anupam Verma, adjunct professor at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute, who headed the committee. “We recommended continuing pesticides which are extremely crucial for good production of crops. Where enough data is not available, we recommended further studies and review.” The committee recommended immediate ban on production and import of 13 pesticides, prohibit their use by 2018 and phase out additional six pesticides by 2020. It recommended continuation of the remaining 47 pesticides, asking for a review of 28 in 2018. Most of the recommendations have been accepted by the registration committee of the agriculture ministry, which decides on the use of the pesticides in the country. But the suggestion to completely ban DDT was deferred. It asked the health ministry for its comments as DDT’s use is restricted to public health programmes. A senior agriculture ministry official said a final call on implementing the decision was pending. The recommendations were not based entirely on health and environment impacts. Consider this. While the committee recommended a ban on eight “likely/probable carcinogenic” pesticides, it has left 11 such chemicals to be continued for now. These include Chlorothalonil, Iprodione, Propineb, Thiodicarb, Thiophanate Methyle, Oxyfluorfen, Mancozeb, Malathion, Diuron, 2, 4-D and Butachlor, used in various cereal, vegetable and fruit crops. Agriculture ministry data say the 18 banned pesticides constitute 11% of the total pesticide consumption in the country in the past five years. But the ones allowed to continue make for 34%….  (Hindustan Times 14/2/16)

Don’t turn wetlands into wastelands, warn greens (9)

Kochi: Environmentalists have warned of reclaiming wetlands and destroying mangroves at the expense of development. “Urbanization, pollution, unscientific construction works, etc. are the main threats to the wetlands in the state,” said Dr C N Mohanan, scientist, Institute for Climate Change Studies, Kottayam. He was speaking at a seminar on conservation of wetlands in Kerala, organized by Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) with the financial support of Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment in Kochi on Wednesday. Mohanan said that most of the development projects in Kochi have caused the destruction of wetlands and mangroves. “The projects include LNG Terminal, Kochi Metro, N H Bypass, Goshree Islands Development, Amballur Park and Smart City. The local self-government bodies should take steps to protect wetlands and other ecosystem,” he added. Other speakers mentioned that the developmental activities carried out by destroying lakes, ponds, mangroves, marshes, estuaries etc., would lead to environmental damage. The seminar also highlighted that construction works on the banks of the backwaters and mangroves have badly affected its ecosystem. Kufos vice-chancellor Prof B Madhusoodana Kurup said, “Vembanad Lake is shrinking with every passing day resulting in disappearance of commercially important aquatic species. He also said that rules and regulations should have human face, adding that Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification should be in such a way that it protects the interests of fisherfolk. Pro vice-chancellor Dr K Padmakumar said, “Wetlands are playing a vital role in mitigating climate change and preventing natural calamities.”"The primary responsibility for the management of the ecologically sensitive ecosystems is in the hands of the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF),”said Dr K K Ramachandran, scientist at National Centre for Earth Science Studies. (Times of India 18/2/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

Farmer commits suicide (20)

Tumakuru: A 27-year-old farmer allegedly committed suicide by consuming sleeping tablets due to loan burden in Somalapura in Gubbi taluk of Tumakuru district on Thursday night. The police said Shivakumara had two-and-a-half acres of land and had sunk three borewells in his land but all the three had failed. He had taken a loan of Rs.3.65 lakh, including Rs.1.65 lakh from banks and Rs.2 lakh from private money lenders. Unable to repay the loans, he had taken the extreme step. He is survived by his wife. (The Hindu 12/2/16)

Rs 69,355 crores of debt that’s killing Punjab farmers (20)

PATIALA: The figure of Rs 70,000 crore cropped up frequently in 2015. This was the total amount that mutual fund firms invested in equity markets. This was also the amount that India offered to pay Russia to acquire anti-ballistic missile systems in what is considered the biggest defence deal between the two countries. Also, the Union finance minister proposed an increase in investment in infrastructure by Rs 70,000 crore in 2015-16. Now, consider the fact that the overall burden of debt on farmers of Punjab today is almost as big as what the entire country invested in mutual funds last year or the size of India’s biggest defence deal with Russia!  A survey by Punjabi University, Patiala, has put the outstanding debt on farmers of the state at a staggering Rs 69,355 crore. Of this, Rs 56,481 crore is owed to the institutional sector and Rs 12,874 crore is to be payable to private lenders. This may also explain why there has been a string of suicides by farmers in the state in the past couple of years.The survey covered 1,007 farm households in Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana and Mansa districts in the financial year 2014-15. It was sponsored by the Indian Council for Social Sciences and Research (ICSSR), Chandigarh. Project director Professor Gian Singh, along with four researchers Anupma, Gurinder Kaur, Rupinder Kaur and Sukhvir Kaur, visited the respondent farmers in their villages. “The survey revealed that large farmers had a debt of Rs 2.30 lakh per household. Marginal farmers have a debt burden of 1.35 lakh. The increased loans indicate that the farm sector was surviving on bigger loans,” said Prof Singh. The survey has found that an average farmer in what is the country’s food bowl has a debt of Rs 50,211 per acre. Combine this with natural calamities like unseasonal rains and pest attacks like that of the whitefly last year, and you have a perfect recipe for disaster. The researchers visited 301 households of farm labourers and discovered that 241 or 80.07% were under debt. They did not have the capacity to repay the amount or the interest. “In the first place, poor farmers with small landholdings and farm labourers did not get loans easily. But, once they received it, they were unable to payback,” said Singh on why such a large number of farmers may have committed suicide in the state. “Crops were damaged in natural calamities and the compensation was too less and too late which played heavy on the minds of the beneficiaries leading to suicides.” … (Times of India 12/2/16)

Furnish Details of Farmers’ Suicides to Govt Pleader: HC (20)

HYDERABAD: A division bench of the Hyderabad High Court on Monday directed the petitioners who filed PIL cases against  farmers’ suicides, to furnish the details of suicides that took place in the last two months i.e. Dec 2015 and Jan 2016 to the special government pleader for Telangana state to facilitate the latter to verify and order proper enquiry into it. The bench also directed the Telangana government to submit a comprehensive status report in this regard. The bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Dilip B Bhosale and Justice P Naveen Rao was dealing with the PILs filed separately by Vyavasaya Jana Chaitanya Samithi, Pakala Srihari Rao and others challenging the inaction of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments in preventing suicides  by farmers in their respective states. Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika, represented by its honorary president Prof M Kodandaram and Telangana Rythu Joint Action Committee, represented by Prof L Jalapathi Rao, were also made as a party to the case. When the bench sought to know whether there was any decline in the number of farmers’ suicides in both the states, special counsel of Telangana S Sharat Kumar claimed that there was a considerable decrease in the number of incidents in Telangana and that he would place necessary proofs in this regard. Disputing with the government’s claim, the counsels appearing for the petitioners pointed out that several farmers had committed suicides due to pressure from private moneylenders. In fact, the farmers took loans from private lenders as the nationalised banks have refused to re-schedule their crop loans, they added. The bench sought to know the steps taken by the Telangana government to create awareness among farmers in taking loans from private lenders. In reply, Sharat submitted that the government has appointed special officers to inform the farmers not to take loan from private lenders. The bench wanted to know whether the farmers were committing suicides for the loans raised for agriculture activities only. In reply, advocate B Rachna, appearing for Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika and Telangana Rythu JAC, said though they are obtaining loans for education and marriages of their children, the repayment has to be made through the revenue generated from agriculture activity. The bench asked the counsel to file an affidavit with regard to cases of farmers who have committed suicides due to harassment by private lenders. Meanwhile, the counsel for AP state submitted that the government has appointed a committee in 2014 to study the cases of farmers’ suicides in the state and to suggest measures to curb the suicides. He sought time to file details of the steps taken for constituting farmers commission at the state level. The bench posted the matter after three weeks for further hearing. (New Indian Express 16/2/16)

Farmer suicide comment distorted: Gopal Shetty (20)

Mumbai: Following the outrage over his alleged comments that it had become a fashionable for farmers to commit suicide, BJP MP Gopal Shetty expressed his regret for the incorrect use of the word “fashionable”. He said that his comments were distorted by a Hindi newspaper. Condemning the alleged comments, Congress said the remarks by Shetty reflected the BJP’s “insensitivity” towards farmers’ plight. “Mr Shetty’s remarks show how insensitive he and his party is towards thousands of farmers who have committed suicide due to debt and crop failure. Private institutes and persons have to take the initiative to help farmers because the government has failed to do so. If the BJP cannot provide relief to distressed farmers, they should at least not rub salt in the farmers’ wounds,” Congress leader and leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said. However, Mr Shetty said that his statement was “distorted”. “My statement was completely distorted and I never intended to say that farmers are committing suicide to get money from the government. I was asked by a reporter whether the fact that 124 farmers had committed suicide was a failure of the BJP government. To this I said that the Fadnavis government was doing a great job through schemes like the Jalyukta Shivar Yojana, but it would take time for it to reach the farmers. I also said that suicides wouldn’t stop overnight because the last government had done nothing to stop suicides in the last fifteen years,” he said. Mr Shetty further said, “I went on to say that nowadays it has become fashionable for state governments to give money to families of deceased farmers. One state government gives Rs 5 lakh, another gives Rs 8 lakh, while a third gives Rs 9 lakh. So I intended to say that it’s almost become a competition among state governments to offer monetary help to farmers — almost like a fashion statement. My statement was distorted to me saying that it has become fashionable for farmers to commit suicide.” (Asian Age 19/2/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

1,230 acres to be acquired for Mysuru highway widening (4)

MYSURU: The State government has issued the preliminary notification for acquiring 1,230 acres of land for six-laning Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, which is currently choc-a-bloc with traffic especially on weekends and extended holidays. The Union Surface Transport Ministry has approved the project envisaging the widening of the highway from the existing four-lane to a six-lane highway, besides construction of bypasses and flyovers at key towns lying between the two cities. A senior official of National Highways division of Public Works Department (PWD), who revealed that the State government had issued the preliminary notification for land acquisition, said the Detailed Project Report (DPR) had been submitted. The land proposed to be acquired has taken into account a service road along the stretch of 123 km of the six-lane highway. (The Hindu 14/2/16)

Rollapadu tribals fear displacement (4)

KHAMMAM: Citing their age-old bond with their natural habitat, a section of the tribals of Rollapadu village in Tekulapalli mandal raised apprehensions over their possible displacement and the resultant socio-economic and cultural consequences due to the proposed balancing reservoir as part of the Sitarama irrigation project in their village. They aired their concerns about the possible submergence of their farmlands, the sole source of their livelihood, during an interactive meeting held by Minister for Roads and Buildings T Nageswara Rao in their village on Sunday. The Minister, accompanied by Collector D S Lokesh Kumar, Superintendent of Police Shahnawaz Qasim and other officials, visited Rollapadu to review the arrangements for Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s scheduled visit to the village on February 16. The Chief Minister is slated to lay the foundation stone for the balancing reservoir in the village on Tuesday, sources said. The Minister highlighted the significance of Sitarama Project (the redesigned Dummugudem lift irrigation scheme envisaging integration of Rajivsagar and Indirasagar projects) in creating vast irrigation potential and boosting farm productivity in the district. He assured them that their interests would be fully protected and a comprehensive rehabilitation package will be implemented for the land losers of the village. Lakshminarayana and a few other villagers of Rollapadu expressed their willingness to extend cooperation for construction of the balancing reservoir provided the higher authorities and the elected representatives concerned give a concrete assurance on implementation of rehabilitation measures prior to commencement of the works. Ramanatham, a B.Tech student of the village, said their lives and cultural practices were intertwined with the natural habitat. Any move to relocate our tribal people away in plain areas will aggravate their plight, he pointed out, insisting that they should be allowed to live in proximity to their natural habitat and eke out a decent living. The Minister said the location and topography of Rollapadu tank is ideal for construction of a balancing reservoir to serve the irrigation needs of the mandal and its neighbouring mandals in a cost effective manner. Alternative lands and houses besides adequate compensation and jobs will be provided to the project affected persons, he asserted. He urged all the villagers to extend their cooperation to ensure the construction of the reservoir, an integral part of the Sitarama Project, and help expand the irrigation cover to all the cultivable lands in the district. (The Hindu 15/2/16)

NGOs unite to secure pattas for tribals (4)

Visakhapatnam: With the progress of implementation of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act (ROFR), 2006, moving at a snail’s pace, civil societies and NGOs working for the tribal people in Agency areas have taken it upon themselves to sensitise the communities for demand generation and quick issuance of land pattas. The issue of land rights and permanent land pattas to the tribal community has been an important rights issue in Visakha Agency areas that is sought to be sorted out with the enactment of the ROFR Act, according to which the native tribals would be entitled for land pattas. Accordingly, efforts have been under the process to implement the act but there was not much progress since the last one decade.In this direction, NGO Nature, which is implementing the Girinestham CADET (Community Action for Development and Empowerment of Tribals) project with the support of DKA, Austria, has unveiled a phase wherein the Civil Society Organisation Networks have liasoned and are networking with line departments and given 100 pattas to tribal households recently. (Times of India 18/2/16)

Court tells Transstroy to give up land for metro rail work (4)

HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad High Court has directed Transstroy India Ltd company to hand over the possession of the building and land by April 15, 2016, to land acquisition authorities.The government has sought the one lakh square feet building in Jubilee Hills for constructing the metro rail passage. The bench of Acting Chief Justice Dilip B Bhosale and Justice P Naveen Rao said this while dismissing the writ appeal filed by Transstroy, which challenged the order of the single judge, who declared that the company cannot stall the metro rail project any more. According to the company, it has a 2000 square yard plot and a building in it in Jubilee Hills which is being used as its office. The authorities are acquiring only a 1000 square yard area of the total area and this would render useless the remaining portion of the building and land. It also raised questions about the decision of the authorities to pay them compensation under old land acquisition Act even after the inception of the new land acquisition Act.The bench in its order said that the company should hand over peaceful possession of the land and building sought by the state by April 15. If it wants the state to acquire remaining part also it should make an application seeking the same, it added. Responding to the allegation raised by K Vivek Reddy, the counsel representing the land acquisition officer that the company is not furnishing them the bank account number for depositing the compensation amount. If it wants an enhanced compensation it should approach a competent court for that, the bench said. (Times of India 19/2/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

‘Fluorosis spreading alarmingly in TS’  (3)

HYDERABAD: Even as the Telangana State is yet to tackle the dreaded disease of fluorosis in Nalgonda district caused due to presence of alarming levels of fluoride in its ground water, there is more bad news for the State. The tentacles of fluorosis that leaves people crippled is threatening to spread across the State as nine out of 10 districts barring Hyderabad has high levels of fluoride content in the potable water. The data on the basis of water sample study commissioned by Centre across the country and uploaded in the net revealed startling facts. The fluoride levels in nine districts of Telangana except Hyderabad account for high content of fluoride while it should be below 0.5 ppm or 0.5 mg/lIn fact water samples in Adilabad turned out to be worse than that of Nalgonda followed by Ranga Reddy, Khammam and Medak districts respectively, says Dr. D.Raja Reddy, who had been working for containing the adverse impact of fluorosis on people through better nutrition with optimum intake of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin C. Hyderabad was not included in the study as it got good water from Manjira, Krishna, Godavari rivers and tanks receiving rain waters. Fluorosis is a disease caused by excessive intake of fluorides through water, beverages like tea and food and the disease is further aggravated by malnutrition. About 66 million people in 21 States across the country are at risk of contracting fluorosis and six million are already crippled because of it. It is a major health concern in the country and more so in Telangana where people mainly depend on ground water, he says. Rural Telangana was more at risk for fluorosis as widely prevalent malnutrition aggravates fluorosis incidence, points out Dr.Raja Reddy, former Director of Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences and Consultant Neurosurgeon of Apollo Hospitals. Dr. Reddy who as advisor to Madhya Pradesh government has been working on tackling fluorosis incidence through better nutrition says they have seen significant improvement in the tribal children affected by the disease. Adding to the burden of fluorosis, bacterial contamination in rural areas of Telangana without protected water supply was another public health concern in the State, he explains. Even if surface water from tanks in some areas is good with permissible limits of fluoride, they are bad due to bacterial contamination of E.Coli. Until alternate safe drinking water is made available, Dr. Raja Reddy suggested that the Government should take up an exercise to identify the water source/ borewell in each village which has lowest fluoride level among all water sources and direct villagers only to use that source for drinking and cooking. The fluoride content of every drinking water source should be displayed so that people avoid such waters. Other urgent measures include emphasis on nutrition rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin C for containing fluorosis. To brace one self from bacterial contamination of water and diarrhoea, which is the third leading cause of death of Indians, drinking water should be mandatorily consumed only after boiling and cooling in all rural areas without protected water supplies. Till such time Government could supply surface water from perennial rivers for drinking and cooking needs of people in areas with excessive amount of fluorides in ground water and take measures to store rain water, the above measures become imperative for public health, he says. (The Hindu 12/2/16)

High rate of maternal mortality, C-section cause for concern (3)

KOCHI: Even after achieving an enviable position in primary health care, the State continues to have a high maternal mortality rate (MMR). With 250 mothers dying in child birth against over four lakh deliveries in 2013-14, the MMR is in the range of about 50 to 60 deaths per one lakh births. Though the State provides a better picture of maternal health against the all India MMR hovering around 200 deaths, the State forum of gynaecologists is coming up with a study on why mothers in Kerala die. A case study of mothers dying during child birth has been taken up to find out causes and address them with skill and technical support. “The problem is data collection and comprehensive action,” senior gynaecologist V.P. Paily, who was president of the All Kerala Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, told The Hindu . The State achieved MMR of 87 in 1992, but made no major progress till 2009 when MMR was 81. The Tamil Nadu government had achieved better results by providing companions to expectant mothers. The companion would monitor the mother’s health during the time of labour too. The companion had to be a woman who had attended classes along with the expectant mothers. While the State is battling to raise the bar in providing basic health care to expectant mothers with a target of achieving an MMR of 10 to 15, it is also faced with a high rate of Caesarean section deliveries. “With less than 30 per cent deliveries happening in government hospitals, the compilation of data is a major problem,” said Dr. Paily. Though the Federation had provided guidelines for C-section deliveries, an analysis of the problems leading to C-section could be made only when the full data was available. The Federation is looking at reducing the primary C-section rate. If the first child is delivered through a C-section, the probability of the second child being delivered through C-section becomes rather high. (The Hindu 15/2/16)

Maternal mortality down with Asha assistance (3)

Nashik: Over 3,000 Asha workers are motivating rural women across the district to opt for institutional deliveries to promote child survival and reduce maternal mortality. And the result is evident. Of the 60,893 maternal deliveries in the rural parts of the district in 2014-15, as many as 57,061, or 93%, were institutional deliveries, district Health Officer Sushil Wackchaure said. “Over the past eight to nine years, institutional deliveries in Nashik rural have increased from 51% to 95%,” he said. Last year saw 16,669 cases, in which the Asha workers were directly involved in motivating the women for institutional deliveries. Health officials said the rate of maternal mortality came under control when the women were encouraged to approach healthcare services for delivery. An official said hospitals are properly equipped with tackling complications during deliveries and monitoring the health of the newborns.Wackchaure said the Asha workers have also started keeping a check on the health of the newborns till they turn a year old. The aim of the follow-up of the newborns by the Asha workers is to bring down the Infant Mortality Rate in the tribal blocks such as Peth, Surgana,Trimbak, Nashik, Satana, Deola, Igatpuri, Kalwan and Dindori. The Asha workers have also been instructed to immediately call up 108 ambulance on call, which is a free-of-cost government service, to take the pregnant women to state-run hospitals for deliveries. Once a woman delivers a baby, the ambulance drops her and the newborn home. The officials said among other incentives, the Asha workers are provided with Rs 300 for motivating a woman for institutional delivery and another Rs 300 to provide services to a pregnant woman such as health check-up and providing the the required medicine during pregnancy. The district has as many as 3,293 Asha workers. One Asha worker caters to a population of 1,000 in the tribal areas and one to 1,500 in the non-tribal areas. (Times of India 17/2/16)

Rabies deaths double in state, 41 died in 2015 (3)

CHENNAI: Rabies is hounding Tamil Nadu, claiming almost twice as many lives in 2015 as two years earlier. Official records show that 41 people infected by the virus died in Tamil Nadu in 2015, up from 24 in 2013. But the government has an action plan to counter the fatal disease, spread mostly by free-ranging stray dogs. The state health department, animal husbandry and various civic bodies hope to bring rabies deaths to zero in five years through the `One Health Programme’. “The draft plan is proof that we have the knowledge, tools and, more importantly, the will [to end deaths due to rabies],” health secretary J Radhakrishnan said. That will came from a success story that the Nilgiris district silently scripted. Three years ago, officials at Pasteur Institute of India, Coonor, a central government institute that manufactures anti-rabies vaccines, began investigations on why the district had no cases of rabies. After a year-long detailed study the institute announced that there we re n o h u m a n cases since 2009 because no animal domestic, stray or wild -had the virus. The study showed that two non-government organisations, India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN) and Worldwide Veterinary Services, have been sterilising strays and periodically vaccinating them. “We had remarkable results,” says Pasteur Institute director Dr B Sekar. “Now we know that no dog in the district has the virus.” Veterinarians with the state animal husbandry department conducted postmortems on ownerless dogs to confirm this. Forest department officials, meanwhile, have also been conducting postmortems on wild animals to ensure the virus does not infect any wild animal. Officials have decided to urge the World Health Organisation to declare the district “dog rabies free”. The state directorate of public said this is likely to take time as they have to submit adequate documents to the agency . Officials have nevertheless now adopted an action plan that can slash the incidence of rabies across the state, particularly in large cities like Chennai and Madurai.Rabies spreads when the saliva of infected mammals, mostly dogs, enters the body through a bite or broken skin.The virus travels through peripheral nerves from the wound to the brain where it causes inflammation. Symptoms that include violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, an inability to move parts of the body, confusion and loss of consciousness then show and death almost always follows. ‘One Health Programme’ is a worldwide strategy to expand interdisciplinary collaborations and communications for humans, animals and the environment.”It is team work on a massive scale and we will be attempting it for the first time in the country,” animal husbandry secretary S Vijayakumar said. “If this works well we will be able prevent the spread of several zoonotic diseases.” The health department will intensify its rabies awareness campaigns and vaccination drive for people exposed to rabies through its medical colleges and public health facilities and the animal husbandry department will simultaneously step up its stray dog birth control and vaccination project and ensure that other mammals are not infected. The forest department will also test wild animals. “The aim is to safeguard the health of both animals and humans,” he said. (Times of India 18/2/16)

HIV/AIDS

Patient challenges patent on two key HIV drugs (3)

MUMBAI: A patient suffering with HIV has opposed patent applications for two important HIV medicines, dolutegravir and cabotegravir, thwarting an attempt by ViiV Healthcare (a joint venture by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline) to obtain monopoly rights on the drugs, in India. International medical humanitarian organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supports these patent oppositions, it said in a statement, adding the company has so far failed to make dolutegravir available in India for patients who have run out of other treatment options. Cabotegravir is still in clinical trials. ViiV Healthcare acquired exclusive global rights to several integrase inhibitor compounds, including dolutegravir from a Japanese company, Shionogi. The patent application filed jointly by GSK and Shionogi, is at a critical stage of examination before the Kolkata Patent Office. Shionogi receives ongoing royalties and has 10% equity in ViiV Healthcare. “Patents for these drugs would mean complete monopoly status for a company which has already restricted the availability of an important HIV drug in India,” Leena Menghaney, head MSF’s Access Campaign in South Asia, said.”Many of us have now developed resistance to existing medicines and are in dire need of new drugs to stay alive,” said Anand Singh (name changed to maintain anonymity), living with HIV who filed the patent opposition. “Affordable generic medicines from India have been one of the cornerstones for being able to put nearly 16 million people on HIV treatment in developing countries.” Dolutegravir has been available for use in the US and Europe for more than two years, and is now part of first-line HIV treatment in the US as it reduces virus levels faster, is very well tolerated and has a high barrier to resistance. In developing countries, it is urgently needed for some patients who have developed resistance to available first- and second-line medicines. However, the drug is not available from ViiV in India as the company has neither applied for registration in the country, nor makes the drug available under ‘compassionate use’ programmes for dying patients here, MSF said in a statement. ViiV licensed dolutegravir to several domestic generic companies in 2014 under a voluntary licence signed between ViiV and Medicines Patent Pool, as well as at least one bilateral licence outside of the Medicines Patent Pool. Yet, ViiV has effectively blocked access to the drug through licence conditions that limit its supply to public sector entities and NGOs in India with prior permission from the company – and not through private sales. If ViiV now gets a patent for dolutegravir in India, open generic competition among Indian producers would be blocked, keeping the drug out of reach of patients who desperately need immediate access, it adds. “People with HIV in India have had to deal with long delays and it has taken years for new HIV drugs and monitoring tools to be introduced in the treatment programme by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO),” said Loon Gangte, of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), adding the irony is that the drug will be produced in India and exported to Africa, but won’t be available to Indian patients who need it.” The second drug, cabotegravir is still under development. Clinical trials are on to evaluate this compound, which is being developed as an oral tablet but also as a long-acting injectable formulation, which could make new treatment options available for people living with HIV. (Times of India 11/2/16)

Seventy HIV positive couples celebrate V-Day (3)

AHMEDABAD: On the eve of Valentine’s Day on Saturday, nearly seventy HIV positive couples celebrated life. Sharing their journeys, they described how, despite the deadly disease, they stayed together and planned to live their lives to the fullest! BD Arts College (GLS), in collaboration with Lion’s Club, Leo Club and Bhartiya Education Trust, organized the event to encourage families affected by the disease to sport a positive outlook and celebrate love. Dr Amrish Tripathi, who has been working long for health and societal problems of HIV positive people, said, “This is what true love is. On one hand some people abandon each other on being diagnosed, on the other hand there are couples who have stuck together for more than 30 years.” The interaction among HIV positive couples would help empowering and preventing other such couples from taking adverse steps, said the doctor. Vishal and his wife Sunita shared their love story which started when they were in school. “She is three years older to me, but we got married in 2001. We had our first child, Shruti, in 2005. It was during Sunita’s second pregnancy , in 2008, that we discovered she was HIV positive,” said Vishal. (Names of all patients have been (Names of all patients have been changed to protect their identities) (Times of India 14/2/16)

Blood banks run out of kits (3)

Mumbai: All blood banks supported by National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) are buying HIV ELISA (human immunodeficiency virus enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) kits, which are used to identify HIV-antibodies in the blood, from other sources as the organisation has run out of them. NACO has informed the Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS) that the supply of the kits would resume only after March 31. According to documents that are in the possession of The Asian Age, the Sion Hospital blood bank, in an email to the Mumbai Districts AIDS Control Society (MDACS), has stated, “We don’t have HIV kits, so kindly try to as early as possible to mobilise the kits.” In reply to this, Dr Seema P. Todur, quality manager (blood safety), MDACS, provided contacts of NACO-approved suppliers to provide National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) validated kits to all the blood banks. “Currently, we buy the test kits from NACO-authorised supplier SD Bioline. As per the NACO guideline, we pay `6, as per the rates of the kits per test,” said a doctor from the Sion blood bank. Confirming the news, Dr Todur said, “Due to delay in supply from NACO, all NACO-supported blood banks are facing a shortage. But according to an email reply from NACO, the kits will be supplied by the end of March.” “We have mailed all blood banks the contacts of the authorised supplier that follow the guidelines of NARI,” she added. Every year, MSACS collects more than 1.5 lakh units of blood that need immediate testing of HIV ELISA. Through this test, the blood banks identify HIV-infected blood to curb HIV infection through blood transfusion. In fact, delay in the test deters the chances of identifying HIV-positive blood, said medical experts. “All donated blood has to undergo the test to identify infected blood. Delay in testing can affect the early identification of such infected blood. Also, the delays reduce the chances of classifying positive blood and if such blood is transfused, more people can get infected by it,” said a doctor from the Red Cross Society under the condition of anonymity. The first email about the crisis was sent by MSACS to NACO on October 12, 2015. But no response was received in spite of another email being sent on November 3, 2015. Finally, replying to an email sent on December 15, 2015, Dr Harprit Singh, NPO, Blood Transfusion Services, NACO, said, “As mentioned in the previous communication it may not be possible to supply the kits before end of the fourth quarter of the financial year. As mentioned in the communication, you are requested to procure kits at your level for the time being. Minimum technical standards of kits should be followed.” To identify HIV antibodies in blood, firstly a person needs to undergo rapid antigen tests (RDTs). Once it is done, a confirmatory test enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is done. However, some researchers consider ELISA tests to be more accurate than RDTs. (Asian Age 18/2/16)

 

Posted by admin at 22 February 2016

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

60 dalit students from Bihar threaten suicide (2)

Motihari: Sixty dalit students from Bihar studying at Rajdhani Engineering College (REC), Bhubaneswar, were forced to leave the college and their respective hostels on January 8 after the Bihar government allegedly failed to pay their stipend despite repeated requests by the college administration. These second year students have threatened to commit suicide if the government failed to come to their rescue. The 60 dalit students — 18 from East Champaran and 42 from West Champaran — secured admission in the college in 2014 under the state government’s Dalit Stipend Scheme. They alleged that the Bihar government had last paid the stipend to the college one-and-a-half-year ago. “We have decided to commit suicide because our future is at stake due to negligence of SC/ST welfare department of the Bihar government,” said one of the students, adding that the college principal has asked them to return only when all their dues are cleared. According to a joint press release signed by four students of REC — Loknath Kumar, Gajendra Kumar, Mukesh Kumar and Ujjawal Kumar — the college that falls under under Biju Patnaik Technical University provided them free education, boarding and lodging for more than a year. “In 2015, Bihar government did not send stipend to the college,” said the joint press release.”We even met Ashok Kumar Nagbansi, the district welfare officer of East Champaran, and urged him to send the stipend to the college, but to no avail,” they said. Nagbansi, on his part, said he had sent the list of 18 dalit students of East Champaran who are studying at REC, Bhubaneswar, to the SC/ST welfare department on June 6, 2015, urging it to transfer the stipend to the college. He said the SC/ST welfare department is authorized to send the stipend of dalit students to their respective colleges. “The district welfare department only examines the college records and documents of the students,” Nagbansi added.Principal secretary of SC/ST welfare department SM Raju said the government usually makes no delay in sending the stipend of dalit students to their respective colleges in other states. “If REC, Bhubaneswar, has forced the students to leave college, we will look into the matter,” he added. Basudeo Ram, father of Loknath Kumar, met Raju in Patna on January 11 with the help of Manju Devi, chairperson of East Champaran Zila Parishad, and requested him to send the stipend. “The principal secretary has assured us that the money would be sent soon,” a visibly concerned Ram said. (Times of India 2/2/16)

Dalit family can’t build toilet due to upper-caste ‘opposition’ in Mehsana (2)

Mehsana: For over two years, a Dalit family at Lakshmipura-Bhandu village in Mehsana district has been struggling to build a toilet for itself but can’t do so, owing to the alleged opposition to it by some local upper-caste people. With no toilet, the family is forced to defecate in the open, sometimes as far as half-a- kilometre away from where they live. Lakshmipura-Bhandu is a small village of Visnagar taluka in Mehsana, home district of CM Anandiben Patel. With total population of around 500 people, the village is dominated by financially and politically influential Chaudhary community. The village has only one Dalit family — of Bhikhabhai Senma, 65, a landless farmer. Senma’s house is at the entrance of the village and his family has 13 members. “We want to construct a toilet outside our house. However, some locals have not been allowing us to do it by raising an issue of encroachment on village gauchar (pasture land),” Senma said. According to Senma, the alleged encroachment of gauchar land is only a pretext under which some locals, led by a school teacher named Vijay Chaudhary whose house is behind Senma’s, are trying to prevent him. Senma said, “The reason behind the opposition is that there is an open piece of government wasteland next to our home. Vijay wants to open the road from the backyard of his home passing through the government wasteland. Though there is already pucca road that leads to the entrance of his house. “The issue of alleged encroachment on village gauchar land was raised after I objected to Chaudhary’s plan,” he added. According to Senma, the Chaudharys always try to intimidate his family by using their “influence”. He said, “They even pick a fight if we try to begin the construction work for toilet. So, now we have dropped the idea since we cannot fight with them. We have approached a number of authorities, including the State Human Rights Commission, but nothing has happened.” Vijay Chaudhary, however, denied Senma’s allegation. He said, “One of us moved a PIL before Gujarat HC in 2015 for vacating encroachment on around 42 bigha village gauchar land and the court has prohibited any fresh work on the land while also ordering a survey of the village land. We will abide by the court’s order and are not opposed to them constructing a toilet. If the court allows them, we will honour it.” Chaudhary denied having clashed with the Senmas. Senma, on the other hand, said, “They claim that our entire house is an encroachment on village gauchar land. We have been living here and have been paying Gram Panchayat’s tax since 1966. Our houses were built with help from government’s Dr Ambedkar Awas Yojana.” When The Indian Express visited the village on January 31, one local Chaudhary community member who requested anonymity conceded that the group, led by Vijay Chaudhary, was creating hurdles for Senmas in getting the toilet constructed. “They are being harassed, but since Vijay is from our community, we cannot come out in the open against him.” Lakshmipura, a hamlet, falls under Bhandu Gram Panchayat. Ami Patel is the village sarpanch. Her husband, Jayantibhai Patel, is also a member of the gram panchayat. Jayantibhai said, “They (Senmas) are facing problem in constructing toilet. The Chaudharys have moved a PIL before HC for alleged encroachment of village gauchar land by Senmas and many other families of the village.” “Lakshmipura is away from our village and we can’t intervene every time some issue occurs there,” he added. Mehsana DDO, S K Langa, said he was aware of the issue. “It has been going on for the past 3-4 years. We have been trying to get it resolved. We have offered the family to build toilet on gamtal land and give keys of the same to them, but there’s an ego clash. The recently elected president of Mehsana District Panchayat is from Bhandu constituency itself. I’ve requested him to resolve the issue as early as possible.” (Indian Express 5/2/16)

Chair used by Dalit pradhan ‘purified’ in Kanpur Dehat (2)

Kanpur: The headmaster of a primary school in Kanpur Dehat district on Wednesday allegedly ‘purified’ with water a chair used by a woman Dalit pradhan. A probe was ordered into the incident after the woman lodged a complaint with the district administration. Pappi Devi, pradhan of Veersinghpur, had gone to the school in her village to register a protest following complaints about poor quality of midday meals. In her complaint to the administration, she said headmaster Santosh Sharma not only humiliated her, but also asked students and staff to clean and ‘purify’ the chair she had used. The administration asked the tehsildar to probe the allegations. “Sharma humiliated me for daring to sit on a chair in the school,” Devi told TOI over the phone. “When I asked him why I should not sit, he again threatened me with dire consequences and demanded to know why I sat on the chair. He misbehaved and attacked me. Later, he asked students and class IV employees to wash the chair.” Devi said she believed the ‘cleansing’ was performed since she belonged to an SC community and the act amounted to a violation of her human rights. According to the complaint, Sharma also threatened Devi’s husband, Shailendra Singh, who went to the school after hearing of the episode. (Times of India 5/2/16)

 Dalit girl dragged by group of youths in UP; incident sparks tensions (7)

Pilibhit: A Dalit girl was allegedly dragged from a rickshaw by a group of four youths and took her to a secluded spot before the locals rescued the girl as the incident sparked communal tension in the area. The girl was returning home Friday evening when four youths belonging to another community dragged her from a rickshaw and tried to take her to a secluded spot, which was opposed by the locals, police said. One of the accused was overpowered by the locals and handed over to the police but he was let off after being charged under minor sections. The locals then resorted to brick batting a religious place in the area. Senior officials, including the DIG rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control, police said, adding that cross FIRs have been registered in the case. A person was arrested in this connection on Saturday, police said. The Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) has been deployed in the area where the situation was tense but under control, they added. (Hindustan Times 6/2/16)

TRIBALS

13 years on, tribal land stir continues (6)

Nelliyampathy (Palakkad): Despite Supreme Court order and Centre’s consent, State governments continue to ignore tribespeople’s demandTribal chieftain Ravi Mooppan, who led 156 landless aborigine families of this famous hill station in occupying a vacant portion of the State government’s more-than-a-century-old orange and vegetable farm at Pullumedu here about 13 years ago, has reasons to believe that his gods have stopped smiling. It was in January 2003, much ahead of the historic tribal land struggle at Muthanaga in Wayanad district which culminated in police action that killed a tribal agitator; the land struggle in Nelliyampathy started. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has already made it clear that it has no objection in handing over the earlier vested forest area handed over to Agricultural Department for farming practices long back. The tribal people are also equipped of a Supreme Court order validating their right over the farm land. However, successive State governments have ignored the struggle which completed 13 years. In the absence of any favourable action, the landless tribal people are continuing as a discriminated lot. ‘‘At least 300 landless tribal people who took part in the Muthanga agitation got their share of land. However, nobody seems keen on addressing our concerns,’’ said Ravi Mooppan, who demanded 340 acres of the 1,200-acre orange farm for distribution among the 156 families. Nelliyampathy has a total of 190 landless tribal families and the remaining families also can have their due share from the estate, where only about 30 per cent of the total area is presently used for cultivation. The agitating tribal people are living in tents for the last 13 years without electricity, sanitation, housing and other basic requirement. Lack of house numbers prevent them from enjoying any government benefits. Most families have no ration cards. ‘‘We are also under constant fear of wild animals which raid the estate during night. An agitating tribes man was trampled to death last year by a wild elephant,’’ said Mooppan. Before the agitation, the tribal people were scattered in areas such as Vazhakkund, Kottayangad, Karappara, and Thoothampara, where their traditionally-owned lands were usurped by mighty plantation companies. When contacted, Forest Department officials said the estate was under the control of the Agriculture Department and they have no objection in distributing a portion of it among tribal people. ‘‘It is a genuine struggle. They are agitating peacefully for the just cause of getting land to ensure housing, livelihood and better income,’’ said environmentalist S. Guruvayurappan. (The Hindu 1/2/16)

20 tribal children rescued from a home in city, restored to parents (6)

VIJAYAWADA: As many as 20 Schedule Tribe children from Bihar were rescued from a home on the city outskirts on Tuesday. They were later handed over to their parents. “The children, who were brought to the State a few months ago, had been admitted to a private home without obtaining permission from the government. The inmates were all natives of Bihar and Odisha,” Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman B. Nagesh Rao said. On receiving information, District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) Ch. Vijay Kumar and District Probation Officer (DPO) of the Juvenile Welfare Department K. Bhaskar, along with CWC members, raided the home at Nidamarru village in Krishna district. “More than 70 children were found in the home, and 35 of them are tribals,” said Mr. Rao. The inmates, complaining of poor facilities at the home, urged the team to send them back to their homes. Subsequently, the Krishna District CWC summoned the parents of the children, all daily wage labourers in Jarkhand, Odisha and Bihar, said CWC member S. Bala Showry.“During inquiry it was revealed that mediators had played a vital role in identifying and shifting the children to Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, middlemen, who frequented shelter homes, brought the children to the State,” Mr. Showry said. “The home managements had admitted the children without obtaining permission from the CWC, which is a must. Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, detaining children is a crime. We appeal to home managements not to admit children, until they were referred by the CWC,” the Chairman said. “When we visited the home, my son, who is studying in Class II, hugged me and pleaded with me to take him home. The facilities at the home are not good, and we requested the Juvenile Welfare Department, CWC and the Integrated Child Protection Scheme officials to allow us to take our children,” said Supal Marandi, father of an inmate and a native of Kishangunj district in Bihar. “The CWC counselled the parents as well as home managements not to let the children suffer and explained to them the consequences of violating child rights,” said another CWC member J. Jayaraj. (The Hindu 3/2/16)

Safe drinking water eludes tribals (6)

KORAPUT: A few months back, people of Hatibari Nuaguda under Jeypore block in Koraput district had hoped of getting regular water supply as work on a Rs 5-lakh solar energy-based rural piped water supply project was completed in September 2015. Six months down the line, the tribals continue to wait for safe drinking water as the project became defunct a few days after it was inaugurated forcing villagers to look for other water sources. While junior engineer of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (Jeypore) Niranjan Mandal expressed his ignorance over the matter, executive engineer of RWSS (Koraput) Manoranjan Mali assured to look into the project and make it operational. (Times of India 7/2/16)

Tribals Leaders Welcome Community Decision to Ostracise Odisha Minister (6)

BALASORE: Tribal leaders in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district on Sunday welcomed the decision taken by the community heads against Tribal Welfare Minister Sudam Marndi for reportedly allowing his daughter to marry a Brahmin going against the tradition of the Santhal Community. As per the decision taken by the Santhal leaders in a community meeting at Bangriposi, Marndi and residents of three villages – Kandalia (native of the minister), Dahisahi and Balikhani were socially boycotted lifelong. The villagers had to face the music for supporting Marndi and not attending the meeting on Friday.  The meeting was attended by the members of Adibasi Socio Educational and Cultural Association (ASECA), heads (Majhi Hadam) of nearly 150 tribal dominated villages, heads of ghat parganas (where tribals immerse the mortal remains of dead relatives) and heads of desh parganas. Though the minister was also invited, he did not turn up. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) district President and tribal leader Fagu Hansdah welcomed the fatwa issued against the minister’s family and other villagers. He said, unlike others, the Santhal community is conservative and they do not spare anybody who goes against its tradition.  “It was Marndi who had opposed many inter-caste marriages including the ones of former minister Saraswati Hembram’s children and former minister Chaitanya Prasad Majhi’s daughters. Now how can he escape? The community leaders have taken the right decision to preserve the Santhal tradition and they have sent the message that be a minister or common man, the rule is same for all,” he said. When Marndi was in JMM, he was known for his anti diku (non-tribals) behaviour. In those days, he would mobilize tribal votes through his fiery speeches against the non-tribals and instigate community chiefs to ostracise tribesmen marrying outside the caste. Now, he is being hauled over the coals for allowing his own daughter to do so.  Rajya Sabha MP from BJD Sarojini Hembram however tried to strike a balance. It was obvious as Marndi is now in BJD and a minister in the State. She said both the daughter of the minister and the community leaders are right in their own way. “She is an educated girl and has the right to choose her life partner. On the other hand, there is a tradition in Santhal community which does not allow inter-caste marriages. So whatever the community heads have decided is also right,” she clarified.  Incidentally, Marndi had then allegedly opposed the marriages of Sarojini and her sister Lipi as they tied the knot with non-tribals. The family was also excommunicated by the community heads. “That time he was in another political party,” she said trying to parry the query why won’t she now oppose him directly.  Even as on Thursday, the minister had gone to his village Kandalia where chiefs of three villages and tribal priests organised a purification puja and blessed the newly-wed couple, the chiefs of other villages and parganas did not accept it. They said acceptance of such marriages would distort the age-old tradition and custom which is sacrosanct. Meanwhile, the community heads have called another meeting on Wednesday and are reportedly preparing to perform certain rituals. As per the Santhal tradition, a neem twig, broken earthen pot, used broomsticks and burnt wood is buried in front of the house of a violator this tradition if he is found guilty by the community leaders. Minister of State for ST and SC Development (Tribal Welfare), Sports and Youth Services Sudam Marndi, who belongs to Santhal tribe, had married off his daughter Sanjivani, a doctor, to BJD students’ wing general secretary Sunil Sarangi, a Brahmin, at a plush hotel in Bhubaneswar on January 31. The marriage was attended by many VIPs and VVIPs including Governor SC Jamir and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. (New Indian Express 8/2/16)

WOMEN

CM orders judicial probe into nari niketan deaths (8)

DEHRADUN: Chief minister Harish Rawat on Monday ordered a judicial probe into the circumstances leading to the death of several nari niketan inmates apparently due to malnutrition. Sources said that the mysterious disappearance of women from the shelter home was one of the primary reasons behind the CM’s move. Rawat said he has also written a letter to Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice, requesting him to depute either a serving or a retired judge to independently look into different angles of the nari niketan case. “Once the judge is finalized, the process of judicial probe will begin,” the CM said. Earlier in the day, over 500 members of BJP’s women wing held a protest outside the secretariat to demand a CBI probe into the cases of alleged sexual assault on inmates residing in nari niketan. The police arrested over 200 protesters who were later let off. The agitators had planned a march to the CM’s residence but their efforts were thwarted by the police. “Members of BJP youth wing from all over the state had come to participate in the protest because they are angry at the government for mishandling the entire case,” BJP leader Neelam Sehgal said. Meanwhile, the Congress termed BJP protest unwarranted by saying that it was an effort to remain in the limelight. Surendra Kumar, Congress leader and media advisor to the CM, said, “The step-brotherly treatment being meted out to the state by Narendra Modi-led NDA government is no longer a secret. Despite no help from the Centre, the Congress prepared for the Ardh Kumbh. With just a year left for the assembly polls, the BJP finds itself without any major issue to target the Harish Rawat-led government. Therefore they have resorted to the tactics of making baseless allegations.” Kumar also pointed out that nine people had already been arrested in the nari niketan case and that the chief minister has also ordered a judicial probe into the matter. (Times of India 1/2/16)

33% rise in women harassment cases lodged by helpline 1090 (8)

AGRA: UP police women powerline ’1090′ reported nearly 33% surge in number of women harassment cases last month in comparison to January, 2015. As per data shared by head of UP helpline number, Inspector General Navneet Sakera, “Total 15,802 harassment cases were lodged by women helpline last month, which is 3,929 more than last year January month which reported 11,873.” Speaking to TOI, IG Sakera, said, “In every 3 minutes, one complaint was registered by UP women powerline, which is an unparalleled service in the entire country.” He said, “Maximum number of complaints were received between 4pm to 8pm, sometimes extending up to 9pm. There were hardly any call after 11pm.” Adding further he claimed, “If we take effective hours of complaints, than it comes around one complaint in every 90 seconds.” It is worth mentioning over here, that last month officer in-charge of the women powerline 1090, was removed by the state government on after being accused of harassment a LLB student. While in another case, a second year BDS student who was been harassed by a youth, committed suicide after she failed to reach women powerline for help, due to heavy call traffic rush on country’s most advance helpline for women. Since the introduction of helpline 1090, UP police has lodged 4,77,589 cases of harassment in last three years and have resolved 4,67,326 cases. Total 10,263 cases are pending. Most number of complaints were reported from Lucknow, followed by Kanpur Nagar, Allahabad, Varanasi, Agra, Sitapur and Meerut. (Times of India 2/2/16)

‘Reservation can empower women’ (8)

NEW DELHI: Supporting women’s reservation in Parliament, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said on Monday that reservation can be of a way of “empowering women”. Speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Empowering Women through Skills and Economic Independence’ at Delhi University’s Kamla Nehru College, she said: “I think reservation for women, who do not tow the line men demarcate for them, is my way of empowering women. There is need for 33 per cent reservation…” Also present were Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, Sri Lankan Minister Chandrani Bandara Jayasinghe and Canada High Commissioner to India Nadir Patel. Ms. Wayne said: “Since we have more women in politics in Canada, women issues are discussed more. Issues that are traditionally called women issues, but are actually human issues, are discussed like sexual assault and violence at work place. We are currently working on a policy to deal with the wage gap.” (The Hindu 2/2/16)

Civil societies react over Maneka Gandhi’s proposal to record sex of foetus (8)

RAIPUR: Strongly reacting over Union Minister for women and child Maneka Gandhi’s proposal to record sex of foetus and monitor pregnancies, several civil society groups opposed the idea and expressing astonishment towards the move and issued a statement of its consequences which may lead from terrible implications on girl child, women’s productive rights to unsafe abortions. It is extremely distressing that in contravention of the PC-PNDT Act (1994, rev 2003) where the disclosure of the sex of the foetus is itself the prime offence, is being given a thought. Moreover civil societies are astonished to know that even though Act talks of strict penalties against the diagnostic facilities and practitioners who do not comply with the legal requirements, the Minister expresses reluctance to ‘keep arresting’ ultrasound owners and involved medical personnel who make profits from sex determination tests, said the statement released by nearly 40 organizations. Sulakshana Nandi of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in Raipur said that Chhattisgarh might be having better sex ratio than other states but according to the census state has witnessed rapid decline in sex ratio. The decline is more in children that clearly indicate that discrimination is being done and sex selective abortion is taking place. Civil society groups expressed concern saying that the move will severely curtail women’s rights to bodily autonomy and ability to access essential maternal healthcare, such as safe and legal abortion services or post-abortion care. Many women who need an ultrasound or a safe abortion apart from sex selection, would find themselves being denied these services. It should be noted that unsafe abortions significantly contribute to the very high maternal deaths in India, and such rules will contribute to further maternal deaths. We need to move towards greater empowerment and autonomy for all our citizens and a fulfilment of their human rights, and not move back into an era where vigilante behaviour was encouraged and our bodies and lives were not in our control, the organizations added. The groups recommend going deeper for reasons that compel families to opt for only male children, and consider daughters a burden. Among those endorsed the statement are All India Peoples Science Network, Vasudha Mahila Manch, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, CommonHealth, Health watch Forum UP, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights, Adivasi Adhikar Samiti, Chhattisgarh, CREA, New Delhi, CEHAT Mumbai and others. (Times of India 4/2/16)

Over 40% living with HIV in India are women (8)

New Delhi: In what could pose a significant challenge for India to meet its ambitious target of ending AIDS by 2030, women continue to account for more than 40% of people living with HIV infection in the country. The share of women is crucial because of risk of transmission from pregnant women, uneducated and unaware women as well as among vulnerable groups including sex workers.The latest HIV estimates by the government show a 66% decline in new HIV cases in the last five years with an average of 86,000 new infections in 2015. The total number of those living with HIV is estimated at 21.17 lakh in 2015 compared with 22.26 lakh in 2007. While two-fifth of total HIV infections are among women, children under 15 accounted for 6.54% of the total cases. According to Nochiketa Mohanty, country programme manager, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, while there are programmes to prevent parent-to-child transmission of the virus, there is greater need to focus on women.”There is a huge need to ramp up education and awarnessness about HIV infection among women besides upgrading the social status of women in order to empower her to make choices related to her sexual partner,” he said. Experts also say HIV testing is not prevalent among women, especially in rural areas and even among the migrating population in both urban and rural settings. “Women do not really go out and get tested for HIV because there is social stigma and taboo attached to it. They fear getting identified socially,” Mohanty said.Over 40% living with HIV in India are women. (Times of India 8/2/16)

Government to Redraft 2001 Policy for Women’s Empowerment (8)

NEW DELHI: Women’s mental health, geriatric care of single women, and sexual abuse, especially in new media will be the focus of the reframed National Policy for Empowerment of Women, which is expected to be out by the end of next month. The policy, which was proposed in 2001, is being reformulated, taking into account the changes that have happened in gender discourse over the last one-and-a-half decades, a senior official in the Ministry of Women and Child Development said. The mandate of the policy is to evolve appropriate policy interventions based on a contemporary assessment of women’s needs. According to a draft of the policy being formulated, the gender perspective will be included in all environment policies and national disaster management strategies. The draft policy also calls for ushering in changes in the societal attitude towards women and behavioural changes in men and boys and institutions of family and women’s organisations. The gender perspective will also be used to specifically address the discrimination faced by marginalised and vulnerable sections such as migrant, SC/ST and disabled women. It also aims to ensure that their development and empowerment requirements are met through inclusive strategies.The draft policy also calls for encouraging gender-sensitivity in the media portrayals of women and recruitment. It also called for new media applications to be harnessed for the benefit of women. The goal of this policy is to adopt a rights-based framework for the advancement, development and empowerment of women and create a conducive social, cultural and economic environment to enable women to enjoy fundamental rights and realise their full potential, an official involved in drafting the new policy said. The draft policy also called for particular attention to be given to the emerging forms of sexual abuse in public and private spaces, including those arising from the growth of technology, social media and growing urban spaces. It also calls for steps to increase female work participation in the organised and manufacturing sectors and upgrading the skills of women in traditional and unorganised sectors. Apart from this, the draft also calls for increasing “feminisation” of agriculture, to recognise the critical role played by female farmers and ensure their land entitlements, land rights and provide gender-friendly inputs in terms of credit, training and equipment. (New Indian Express 9/2/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

 ‘NGOs targeting tribal children to attract sponsors’ (14)

VIJAYAWADA: As many as 70 Santhal tribe children, hailing from different hamlets in Jharkhand, were brought to Andhra Pradesh illegally. They were admitted in different homes of NGOs in Krishna district. According to sources, some mediators, who used to visit villages and perform prayers, brought the children, aged between 8 and 15 years, and admitted them in homes. A few children, who were trafficked, were also kept in the homes. Though the children were slogging in homes for the last two years and above, the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW), Revenue, Police, Education, Social Welfare, Labour Welfare and other Departments were unaware of the illegal stay of the children. As part of ‘Operation Smile’, police teams from Jharkhand and Odisha States visited the homes and identified the Santhal tribe children. They met the district officials and appealed to send the children with them. The Juvenile Welfare Department and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) should monitor the welfare of the children in voluntary organisations. Interestingly, CWC gave orders of providing shelter to many children in the homes, which were not maintaining standards. “Emotional scenes were witnessed when the police teams visited the shelter homes on Saturday. When parents, police and the officials visited homes, many children hugged their parents and urged to take away from the homes. They allege that the NGOs are not providing quality food, proper shelter and the sanitation was very poor,” said an officer who was in the team. “The CWC which should monitor the welfare of children had referred some Odisha, Jharkhand and other states children to homes, without checking the facilities. Many inmates were anaemic without proper medical care and were deprived of parental care. Taking advantage of the poverty in tribal villages, some NGOs are targeting tribes to attract sponsors,” the officer said preferring anonymity. When contacted, CWC member Fr. Bala Showry feigned ignorance over admitting tribal children of other states into the homes and also on the poor amenities in NGO homes. Officials allege that some NGOs are admitting tribal children on the pretext of providing education and shelter violating norms. The admissions were made just for showing strength in the shelter homes and get funds, said an Education Department officer. Juvenile Welfare Department District Probation Officer (DPO) K. Bhaskar, who visited the homes, said it was a fact that many Santhal tribes from Godda, Khunti districts of Jharkhana and Khorda and Berhampur of Odisha States children were staying in NGOs, and steps were being taken to reunite them with their “We identified many boys and girls, below 15 years and were staying in homes for the last few years. Parents of the inmates urged us to send their children along with them. Some children came through mediators, a few were missing and run away and some were trafficked,” the DPO told The Hindu. (The Hindu 1/2/16)

1,818 children rescued (14)

KARIMNAGAR, February 2, 2016

The Karimnagar district police rescued a total of 1,818 orphans and child labourers during the Operation Smile-2 programme in the month of January this year. In a press note here on Monday, Superintendent of Police D. Joel Davis said that among the 1,818 children rescued, 665 are girls. Of the 1,818, 18 were orphans, 77 were street children, 779 were child labourers, two were reported missing, and 943 were school dropouts. Mr. Davis said that they had enrolled the school dropouts in the national child labour project schools, while the remaining were sent to orphanages. He called upon the people to cooperate with the police in rescuing child labourers, orphans and others in the district. (The Hindu 2/2/16)

More Children Are Being Sexually Assaulted In India Despite A New Law (14)

New Delhi:  Sanjeev Ojha thought his 4-year-old daughter would be safe at the neighborhood preschool. But police say a toy salesman entered the school on at least four occasions, taking the child into a nearby room and raping her. He was finally caught two years ago when the girl’s older sister saw him assaulting the child and told Ojha. More than 36,900 rapes were reported in India in 2014. Nearly 14,000 of the victims were children, a 151 percent increase since 2009. The crime was long shrouded in silence, but more families are reporting the sexual assault of children, another societal shift after the fatal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi in 2012. But three years after India passed an enhanced law to combat child sexual abuse, activists say that it has been poorly implemented, often leaving families without support after they report sexual assaults. The police “spoke so rudely that they made us feel as if we were the culprits,” said Ojha, 35. “They made us repeat what happened again and again. They asked, ‘Why did your child wander off?’ “After the grueling questioning and medical examination, the family walked three miles at 2 a.m. to get home, shivering on a December night. “We were afraid, confused and felt humiliated,” Ojha recalled. In the two years since that night, other angry parents have protested online and on the streets, demanding greater safety for their children in schools and public places. In October, lawmaker Rajeev Chandrasekhar formed a coalition of activists and began an online petition asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make child safety a priority. But many say that despite the increased activism, the system is still broken. Last week, a study of child-rape cases in New Delhi courts by the National Law School of India University said that the behavior of the police, doctors and lawyers has not changed much since the law was passed. There were no courtrooms exclusively for child-abuse cases, only a few courts had separate rooms for taking witness statements, and there were no waiting rooms or toilets nearby, despite the law’s provisions. The report’s analysis of verdicts between April and September last year showed that only 1 in 6 cases resulted in conviction. Until October 2014, the national conviction rate under the new law on child sexual abuse was just 2.4 percent. …  (NDTV 5/2/16)

Rural police third in state in tracing missing kids (14)

Nashik: The month-long drive ‘Operation Smile-II’, started by the rural police in January, helped find 49 out of 57 children registered missing in the year 2015. This achievement earned the district’s rural police the third position in the state, when it comes to finding missing children. Superintendent of police (rural), Sanjay Mohite, said, “The objective of the drive was in tandem with the directions of Supreme Court under Bachpan Bachao. The aim of the drive was to identify children near railway stations, market areas, bus stands, slums and minors found to be begging on streets and to find whether these children have wandered off from parents, ran away or been reported missing.” Mohite said teams trained for the drive were deployed across all possible areas like red light zones, hotels, lodges, railway stations, bus stands, orphanages and other possible places where the missing children can be found. “A list of all the details of missing children registered in the year 2015 was shared across all police stations. The month long drive has ensured that all missing children that we traced were handed over to respective parents after confirming their identity and documents. The drive is specially aimed to find missing or kidnapped minors to reunite them with their families,” he added. (Times of India 8/2/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

There is no intolerance, says Najma Heptullah (7)

Jaipur: Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah Monday said there was “no intolerance” in the country and that the decisions taken by the Narendra Modi government had proved wrong all allegations levelled against the PM about funds to the ministry handling minority affairs drying up under him. “The corpus of National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) used to be Rs 1,500 crore in the previous government. The ministry had been demanding an increase from the UPA government, but the UPA government did not increase it. I took it up before the Cabinet and within a minute, the Cabinet increased it to Rs 3,000 crore. Now where is intolerance? There is only tolerance,” the minister said on day one of the All India Regional Editors Conference in Jaipur. “There is no intolerance. The government has increased the budget, the programmes are going on. What intolerance (are you talking about)? Sometimes Narendra Modi was made ‘intolerant’, sometimes I was made ‘intolerant’,” she said, adding that the budget of her ministry is now Rs 3,712 crore, which will be increased to Rs 5,000 crore in the next financial year. (Indian Express 2.2.16)

State’s minority population figures (7)

GUWAHATI, Feb 4 – As per the 2011 Census, Assam’s minority population comprises 1,06,79,345 Muslims, 11,65,857 Christians, 20,672 Sikhs, 54,993 Buddhists and 25,949 Jains. The literacy rates as per the 2001 Census (the 2011 Census does not have any break-up of literacy percentages of the communities in Assam) for these communities are – Muslims 48.83 per cent, Christians 56.41 per cent, Sikh 90.36 per cent, Buddhists 69.88 per cent and Jains 95.26 per cent. Minorities Welfare Minister Sukur Ali revealed this in the Assembly today while replying to a question by Aminul Islam of the AIUDF. Ali said that the State Government did not have the break-up of below poverty line (BPL) figures of the different minority communities. However, the overall BPL percentage in the State is 31.89 per cent, the rural and urban break-up being 33.89 per cent and 20.49 per cent respectively. (The Assam Tribune 4/2/16)

 India not intolerant; secularists targeting only Hindu fundamentalists: Taslima Nasreen (7)

Kozhikode: Controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen waded into the debate over ‘intolerance’ on Saturday and said India is not an ‘intolerant’ nation. She, however, added many intolerant people were living in India. “I think most people are quite tolerant of each others’ faith. The laws in India do not support intolerance. But there are so many intolerant people in this country,” Taslima said at the Kerala Literature Festival in Kozhikode, as per The Hindu. Speaking at the festival, Taslima said she always wondered why only Hindu fundamentalists were the target of secularists in India.Why are Muslim fundamentalists not targeted, she asked. The renowned writer said pseudo-secularism is not a feature of a true democracy. She added that currently in India, a tussle has been going on between secularism and fundamentalism, between innovation and tradition, between humanity and barbarianism, and between people who value freedom and who do not, The Hindu reported. Taslima also said that all religions are anti-woman and fundamentalists are only distorting it further. The Bangladeshi writer in exile has been living in New Delhi since 2005. (Zee News 6/2/16)

‘Branded’ by intolerance, no deal for Aamir (7)

NEW DELHI: With e-commerce giant Snapdeal refusing to extend his contract following the intolerance row, this may be the only time in his career that actor Aamir Khan has been left without a brand endorsement deal. But companies and brand experts said, Khan remains one of the most bankable faces in the advertising industry.”He is a responsible actor and does more than just movies. His remark on intolerance was just a concern more than anything else. I don’t think advertisers dropping him after that is cool,” said V Sunil, executive creative director of global advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy and the man behind PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. “One hit and the same advertisers will be running behind him again.” His troubles started last November when his comments about rising intolerance in the country galvanised a slew of protesters to run campaigns against him on social media. Along with Khan, all the brands that he endorsed, past and present, including Snapdeal, faced their ire. The outcry snowballed into a media crisis and Snapdeal had to issue a statement to disassociate itself from the actor’s personal remarks. Last month, Khan was dropped as brand ambassador of the tourism ministry’s ‘Incredible India’ campaign. And last week, senior executives at Snapdeal hinted that the Gurgaon-based online marketplace may not renew its contract with the actor for which he was paid around Rs 15 crore.”Celebrities are paid huge sums of money by companies for their services. Some of them charge Rs 2 lakh for just a tweet. If you are a brand ambassador of a company, your responsibility does not end after the shoot. You need to be extremely careful of what you say or do in public because the reputation of the brand hinges on that,” said the CEO and chairman of one the country’s largest FMCG firms. “Having said that, consumers have short-term memory. Give it some time, and Aamir will be back in reckoning again.” Interestingly, Khan, who charges around Rs 4 crore for a campaign, is one of the highest paid brand endorsers in the country. His popularity stems from the fact that he is extremely selective about his movies and the brands he endorses, unlike other popular B-town actors who sell everything from cement to chyawanprash. (Times of India 7/2/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Rajnath Singh apprises Muslim leaders of threat from ISIS (7)

NEW DELHI: The government, keen to co-opt the Muslim clergy and community heads in its efforts to counter radicalization by the Islamic State, on Tuesday reached out to a section of Muslim leaders with home minister Rajnath Singh apprising them of the threat from ISIS and requesting them to issue appeals to vulnerable youth not be misled by violent extremism propagated by the global terror outfit. Some key leaders of the Muslim delegation that met Singh here are prominent Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad; Ajmer Sharief dargah chief Maulana Abdul Wahid Hussain Chisti, Jamiat Ulema Hind general secretary Niaz Faruqui, Dargah Dewa Sharief head Maulana Wamiq Rafiq Warsi Sahab, Haryana Imams Organisation’s Maulana Mohammad Alim Nadvi and Muslim Economic Forum national convener Dr MJ Khan. The delegation also comprised member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board and former Samajwadi Party leader Kamal Faruqui and journalist Kamar Agha. “The initiative was to give the community leaders a forum to raise their grievances and issues of concern, while alerting them to the problem of growing radicalisation of Indian youth by ISIS. The home minister requested the top Muslim leaders from north India to use their traction with young members with the community to issue appeals asking them not to be misled by ISIS online propaganda and get drawn to violent extremism,” a home ministry officer told TOI. The Muslim leaders offered their cooperation in counter-radicalisation efforts of the government and security agencies. Condemning all kinds of violence in the name of religion, the delegation explained that Islam stands for peace and well-being of all and no one should be misguided or have an understanding contrary to this fact. The community leaders said they were against any sort of terrorist or violent activities including cross-border terrorism. A home ministry release claimed the leaders, while underlining that Muslims were safe and enjoyed freedom in India, said such freedom and security is not available to the community even in Muslim-majority countries.The community leaders used the meeting, which was attended by national security adviser Ajit Doval and the intelligence and home ministry brass, to raise the issue of educational and economic backwardness among Muslims and requested the government to take positive steps for upliftment of the community. On his part, the home minister assured them that their grievances would be heard and regular meetings taken with community leaders from across the country to offer them a forum to raise issues of concern and discuss ways to resolve them. …  (Times of India 2/2/16)

India will be betraying Muslims if it abandons Kashmir: Akbar (7)

Jaipur: The Indo-Pak conflict wasn’t rooted in Geography but in ideology, BJP leader MJ Akbar said here Wednesday. “India cannot abandon Kashmir precisely because it has Muslims… the Muslim is an equal citizen of India… the day you abandon Kashmir, you betray me. We are not a two nation theory… We are a one nation theory, “ he said during a session at the Counter Terrorism Conference here. The BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member also stoked the intolerance debate again, saying India was the only country that allowed “audible” equality of all faiths in practice and those who talked about leaving the country should go and see if they could hear the Azaan in Washington. “Secularism is a French word that (as it is) doesn’t apply to India. It either means separation of Church and State or the Marxist definition of elimination of religion. “In India, all religions are equal not just in law but in society and in practice. My country is the only one where you hear the Azaan before dawn, followed by Hanuman temple bells, the Guru Granth Sahib and church bells. Nowhere else…will you get all this…audible,” he said. “Those who talk about leaving the country… I challenge them to go hear the Azaan in Washington and then do a definitive report on the subject, “ Akbar added. Talking about the Islamic State’s perceived geographic dominance designs, Akbar said Islam in itself had never been a sufficient factor for political unity of Islamic nations or there wouldn’t have been 22 Arabic countries.“Since 1918, the sense of loss is deepest where there’s been a memory of power. And so the major theatre of conflict has been concentrated in the remnants of the Mughal empire and the Ottoman empire. At the heart of it is the romance of regression (and) the inability of many Muslim societies to come to terms with the modern world. “Interestingly, the two principal countries of the Mughal and the Ottoman empires — India and Turkey — opted for modernity,” he said. (Indian Express 4/2/16)

After saying Muslims ‘can live in India if they give up beef’, Haryana CM says govt may allow foreigners to eat it! (7)

The Haryana government is considering allowing foreigners to eat beef in the state, CM Manohar Lal Khattar said.In March 2015, the Haryana passed a law that made cow slaughter punishable with a fine of Rs 1 lakh and 10 years of rigorous punishment. This comes after Khattar was roundly criticised for saying Muslims can live in India if they abstain from beef. Khattar was quoted by The Hindu as saying that eating beef wasn’t something they opposed but reflected the feelings of the people in state who didn’t want to eat it. However, a special licence for beef for foreigners working in the state could be considered. He said: “If we have to work out some facility for them [foreigners] to be able to [consume beef]… we will do it. It could be a special licence… [as] whatever is licensed, no one can oppose [under] the law. Everyone has a personal lifestyle for eating and drinking, especially those who come from abroad … we don’t have any opposition to that. In fact, we are not opposing this for anyone” Similar permits and licences are granted to foreign nationals in Gujarat where alcohol is banned. A former RSS man who spent 14 years with the organisation, Khattar has made controversial statements in the past, where he’s blamed women’s clothing for rape and described pre-marital sex as something that’s wrong and happens when boys and girls aren’t on the right track. In October 2015, Khattar had told The Indian Express that Muslims who wanted to live in India would need to give up eating beef.  (DNA 7/2/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

RSS Playing Good Shepherd Worries ‘Elitist’ Christians (7)

NEW DELHI: The creation of a proposed Christian wing of the RSS is splitting the Indian church wide open. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has refused to participate in a meeting being organised by the John Dayal-led United Christian Forum (UCF) here on February 13 to discuss the move. The RSS has been holding a series of meetings with Christian leaders to reach out to the community by setting up the Rashtriya Isai Manch on the lines of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, established a decade ago. CBCI spokesperson Father Gyanprakah Topno said,  “We are yet to get any official invite from the RSS. Then why should we discuss it prematurely?’’ However, many independent Christian bodies, priests and Bishops, mostly from the Northern church, have said yes. “It is up to the CBCI to decide on attending our function, which will have representation of over 150 representatives from all denominations, ’’ said A C Michael, one of the organisers. Sources said the elitist Catholics are not keen on the initiative. “But many priests and bishops from the northern belt in the country have agreed to attend. The church in North India may be poor in resources but are high in Christian spirit,’’ he said. Justifying this claim, Father Savari Muthu of Delhi Arch Diocese told Express  that he would be attending though he is aware of the CBCI position. According to a radical insider in the CBCI, the difference over approach to RSS is nothing but a “class war’’ within the church. “The majority of Christians in India are poor and insecure. The northern church, which represents them is more concerned about this political development. The CBCI is under the control of the Brahminical Christians from Kerala. They do not want to be seen with Dalits who will discuss political issues,’’ he said. (New Indian Express 1/2/16)

India’s Church voices support for Kandhamal Christians ‎ (7)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has pledged the commitment and closeness of the Catholic Church of India to the Christians of the eastern state of Odisha who continue to suffer after facing untold violence over 7 years ago.    Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Archbishop Trivandrum, the president of the CBCI, the apex body of the Catholic Church in India, expressed this in a message to Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar whose jurisdiction covers Kandhamal district, which in 2008  witnessed perhaps the worst anti-Christian violence in the history of India.  “I join in praying and thanking God for the blessings showered upon the Kandhamal Christian community. I want to assure my commitment and the unwavering support of the CBCI to the suffering brethren in Kandhamal,” Cardinal Cleemis wrote in his letter. Meanwhile, CBCI has accepted a suggestion from Archbishop Barwa to discuss the anti-Christian persecution of 2007 and 2008 in Kandhamal at its plenary assembly scheduled, March 2-9 at St. John’s Medical College Campus, Bangalore.  Archbishop Barwa, chairman of regional Odisha Catholic Bishops’ Council (OCBC), is scheduled to speak for 20 minutes giving a panoramic view of Kandhamal violence from 2007 to 2016, on March 4, 2016, and 10 minutes will be spent for question and answer.  Archbishop Barwa, expressed satisfaction that the CBCI is keen to know about the status of Kandhamal violence for the first time after almost eight years.  Odisha’s bishops wanted the CBCI to discuss the possibilities of observing Kandhamal Martyrs’ Day at national level, initiating the canonization process for Kandhamal martyrs and putting up an exhibition on Kandhamal violence at the venue of the CBCI plenary assembly.  However, requests for an exhibition on Kandhamal violence and testimonies by the survivors of the violence at the plenary assembly were turned down. Meanwhile a group of priests and lay people is preparing a detailed list of Kandhamal martyrs, according to the dates of their death, denomination or religion. The Kandhamal violence of August 2008 that lasted for nearly four months claimed more than 90 lives and wounded hundreds of people. More than 50,000 people were rendered homeless. During the plenary the bishops are expected to seek ways to help the Church respond meaningfully to modern challenges.  Heads of India’s 171 dioceses, auxiliary and retired bishops are expected to attend the assembly that has chosen the theme, “The Response of the Church in India to the present day Challenges.”  Justice Cyriac Joseph, a retired Supreme Court judge and acting chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, will be the main speaker at the next plenary, said CBCI secretary general Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra in a report.  The bishops have invited US Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, to address the plenary.  Eminent persons from other Christian denominations and religions have been invited to express their views on the issues the bishops will discuss.  CBCI’s last plenary was held at Palai, Kerala, in February 2014 on the theme, “Renewed Church for a Renewed Society – Responding to the Call of Vatican II.”  (Source: Santosh Digal) (Vatican Radio 5/2/16)

Silent procession taken out condemning attack on minorities (7)

COIMBATORE: Around 7,000 persons took part in a silent procession from Alvernia School to Ramanathapuram Junction organised by those attached to the Diocese of Ramanathapuram and a few other churches on Sunday to condemn the attack on two priests and two others by members of a few Hindu outfits on January 29. On January 29, tensed moments prevailed at ASSISI Snehalaya home for children affected by HIV/AIDS that is run by the diocese, as allegations made rounds that the home did not provide any amenities for the inmates and ill-treated the children. The incident led to registering a case against three persons attached to the diocese and their arrest. Later that day, two priests from the diocese and two others, who accompanied them to the Kuniyamuthur police to inquire about the arrest of the persons running the home, were attacked by members of a few Hindu outfits and their vehicle was also damaged. The protestors claimed that a case was registered against seven attackers and two of them were arrested. But, they were also released on bail. They also denied allegations that the inmates of ASSISI Snehalaya were ill treated. On Sunday, the protest procession was led by Bishop of Diocese of Ramanathapuram, Paul Alappatt and it concluded at Holy Trinity Church with a meeting.They also signed a petition seeking arrest of the assaulters and to protect minorities from such attacks. The organisers said that the representation would be handed over to the District Collector on Monday for forwarding it to the Chief Minister and Prime Minister’s offices. (The Hindu 8/2/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Syrian refugees struggle to buy food as aid dwindles (13)

KAWERGOSK CAMP (Iraq): Perwin Shamsaddeen Ali, a Syrian refugee living in a tent camp in northern Iraq, has been reduced to cooking one meal a day for her family of four. “I cook at 11 o’clock and we eat the leftovers in the evening. Why? Because we have no more food, that’s why,” the 28-year-old mother of two said as her sons tossed a balloon outside their tent. “Today I gave the kids some noodles, that’s all. That’s all we had today.” As aid agencies struggle to keep pace with the worst refugee crisis since World War II they have been forced to cut back on assistance, including food rations. With no end in sight to the Syrian war, and regional host countries increasingly overwhelmed, many refugees see the perilous crossing to Europe as their only option. Donors will be asked to provide nearly $9 billion to aid agencies and host countries in 2016 at an annual conference held on Thursday in London — a record request. But donors have come up short in previous years. A funding shortfall last year forced the World Food Program, the UN agency responsible for feeding the refugees, to cut back. Some refugees no longer receive any food aid, while others get half what they did before. Monthly cash assistance has been reduced to $10 per person. Ali’s husband has been jobless for months. The local economy in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq has been hard-hit by the war against the Islamic State group and the plunge in global oil prices. “We are selling our stuff, our household items, to get along. Most of the time we sell the kerosene,” she said, referring to the fuel they receive from aid groups to heat their tent and cook. Some refugees say the voucher system the WFP uses to hand out aid is exacerbating the problem, since it can only be used in the camp’s supermarket, where goods are more expensive than outside. “A kilogram (2 pounds) of sugar costs 750 Iraqi dinars ($0.60) outside the camp. Here, it’s 1,500. The same with rice. A chicken costs 3,500 dinars outside, while here it’s 5,000,” said Khaled Fattah, 42, also from Syria, who lives in the camp with his wife and five children. … (Times of India 4/2/16)

Refugees From Pakistan Get a New Lease of Life (13)

NEW DELHI:  In huge relief to Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who escaped persecution and took refuge in India, the Modi Government has decided to give them a passport-like ID with a five-year long-term visa (LTV) stamped on it. A senior government official said the Ministry of Home Affairs will soon organise special camps in several cities simultaneously to register and extend the five-year LTV to minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Currently, the vital document is in the form of a normal paper sheet which is often misplaced by them, said a Home Ministry official adding that the newly-designed format will help in many ways. “The five-year LTV with Government of India stamp will help them get rid of harassment from police and other agencies who often consider them a threat because of the language barrier. The Government, during the process of extending the new LTV, will also assist them to fill up forms etc,” said the official. Although religion-wise break up of foreign nationals, including those from Pakistan and Bangladesh, is not centrally maintained by the government, officials said the number of such refugees seeking shelter could be over a lakh who are now staying in 400 camps located in different cities. “The states have been asked to coordinate with the local authorities for the camps in coordination with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) and FRO accordingly. A timeline of 21 days has been given to these authorities to process all LTV applications,” the official said. Once issued, the LTV will enable children of minority nationals from neighbouring countries to get admission in schools, colleges, universities, and technical institutions without any specific permission from the States or UT administration. They will also be allowed to take up jobs in the private sector. In 2015, over 2,000 minority Pakistani nationals were granted Long Term Visa by the Centre. (New Indian Express 5/2/16)

Thousands More Refugees Join Scramble to Reach Europe as Syria’s Agony Deepens (13)

SYRIA: Up to 70,000 Syrians were heading for Turkey last night (Saturday) threatening to send a new wave of migrants into Europe as Syria’s civil war intensified. The latest exodus came as Syrian regime forces advanced on the strategically vital opposition stronghold of Aleppo, closing in on a major victory with the help of sustained Russian air strikes on rebel positions. With an estimated 35,000 new refugees already gathering at Syria’s Bab al-Salam crossing with Turkey, European foreign ministers and officials held emergency talks in Amsterdam with their Turkish counterparts to draw up a plan to deal with the crisis. Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, warned of the “very real prospect that there will be another huge influx of refugees”, precipitated by what he called “indiscriminate” Russian bombing around Aleppo. However last night Turkey had resisted EU pressure to open the border-crossing for the refugees. The Bab al-Salam crossing has remained open until now and has proved to be a key entry point for foreign fighters flocking to join the war. Suleyman Tapsiz, the governor of the Kilis border province, said a wave of at least 70,000 refugee was “a possibility” as the noose tightened around Aleppo, where an estimated 350,000 rebels and civilians are trapped. New arrivals are currently being accommodated “in eight camps on the Syrian side of the border,” Mr Tapsiz said, adding that in Turkey’s view there was “no need for now” to transfer them to Turkey which has already absorbed more than two million. “Our doors are not closed, but at the moment there is no need to host such people inside our borders,” he said. Johannes Hahn, a European commissioner, yesterday warned Turkey that it needed to cut dramatically the number of migrants reaching Greece within weeks or the pressure for more border closures and fences will grow. Frustrated that refugees continue to stream into Greece despite a pounds 2.3?billion deal between Ankara and Brussels to slow down the flows, Mr Hahn said Turkey must show results by the time EU leaders meet later this month. (New Indian Express 7/2/16)

43 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu, India are arriving Sri Lanka Tomorrow (13)

Colombo, 08 February, (Asiantribune.com): 43 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu, India are arriving Sri Lanka on 9th February 2016 Under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary repatriation programme. D.M.Swaminathan – Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious AffairsThey are scheduled to arrive through Sri Lankan Airlines (UL 132) at 10.20 a.m from Trichy and Mihin Lanka Airlines (MJ130) at 12.20 p.m. from Chennai and (MJ308) at 10.20 a.m. from Madurai. D. M. Swaminathan, Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs had a discussion with the UNHCR and facilitated the process and increased the baggage allowance per person with assistance of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development, Sri Lankan Air Lines and Mihin Lanka Airlines. Mr.V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs confirmed that of the 43 refugee returnees 24 are males and 19 are females. These refugee returnees will get back to Trincomalee, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mullaithivu, Kilinochchci and Mannar. V.Sivagnansothy – Secretary, Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Further, the UNHCR provides free air tickets, reintegration allowance of US$ 75 per person, transport allowance US$ 19 per person and monitory non-food grant of US$ 75 per family. Since 2011, already 4589 refugees (16511 Families) have returned to Sri Lanka said the Ministry Secretary Mr.V.Sivagnanasothy. Over 64,000 are stationed in 109 welfare camps in India. Totally, over 100,000 refugees are currently in India. D.M.Swaminathan, Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs put up a Cabinet paper seeking financial support to provide livelihood assistance to the refugee returnees which is now being referred to the national planning authorities to consider with the comprehensive project proposal. Further, the provision of dry ration has been already approved for 6 months. The REPPIA has been instructed by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs to provide compensation for those who have lost their houses and suffered loss of lives of kiths and kins and for injuries. Ministry Secretary Mr.V.Sivagnansothy informed that, the refugees who lost their houses will be provided with houses under the 65,000 housing programme of the Ministry. The Government of Sri Lanka has initiated action to encourage the voluntary refugee returnee programme on a phased out basis and the current trend of increased refugee returnees is a sign of reconciliation and moving towards permanent peace said the Ministry secretary. (Asian Tribune 8/2/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

RTI activist attacked for seeking information on illegal mining in Gujarat (1)

Ahmedabad: A Right to Information (RTI) activist was allegedly attacked by a group of unidentified persons outside the Collector office in Tapi district of Gujarat for allegedly seeking information and opposing “illegal mining” there, police said on Wednesday. The incident took place yesterday and a complaint was filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) late last night against the unknown attackers, though no arrests have been made so far, they said. The activist, identified as Romel Sutharia, was assaulted by over a dozen persons, who also snatched his file bearing documents he had obtained through the RTI when he was on his way to the Collector office for a hearing on his complaint to the Governor. Sutharia alleged that majority of 62 sand and stone quarries that were given license by the District Mines and Mineral Department were in contravention of environmental guidelines laid down by the government for stone crushing, and were therefore illegal. “On November 23 last year, I had written to the Governor on large-scale illegal mining of sand and stone over Tapi river and across the district. Collector called me for hearing yesterday when I was attacked,” Sutharia said. Police said they were trying to obtain the CCTV footage to ascertain the identity of the accused. “We have registered an FIR against unidentified persons and are investigating the matter. We will obtain footage of CCTV cameras installed in the District Collector building,” said Vyara Police sub inspector Kantibhai Motavar. The activist had sought detailed information on mining of sand and stone from the office of the Mines and Mineral Department of Tapi district administration. (Asian Age 3/2/15)

Notices to officials for violating RTI norms (1)

KURNOOL: The State Information Commissioner Lam Tantiya Kumari directed officials on Thursday to serve show cause notices to the Administrative Officer of Kurnool RDO office, Kurnool Vocational Education Officer and Public Information Officer of Adoni mandal revenue office, for not giving information within the set time limit to applicants under the provisions of Right To Information Act. Officials should furnish comprehensive information sought by applicants under Right To Information Act within the stipulated time frame and obtain receipt from the applicants and inform her office on payments made by them, she said. The Information Commissioner reviewed the implementation of RTI Act with Public Information Officers of various departments and District RTI Petitioners Coordination Committee member and District Allopathic Hospitals (Private) Establishment Committee member Puli Damodaram in the State guest house here. She received applications and complaints from people. Of the 37 complaints pertaining to the Revenue, District Registrar, Stamps and Registration, Social Welfare and Vocational Education Office, applicants were provided information sought in 23 cases, Ms. Tantiya Kumari directed officials to fix a time within which information would be furnished and submit a final report to her for initiating action in case of 10 pending applications. One case was put off after hearing it. The departments should get information from offices in their purview and give to applicants, Ms. Tantiya Kumari said. (The Hindu 5/2/16)

SC: don’t disclose examiner’s name (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday held that candidates in recruitment examinations can seek scanned copies of answer sheets and tabulation of interview marks under the Right to Information Act, but the right to information does not extend to disclosure of the names of their examiners. In a judgment, a Bench of Justices M.Y. Eqbal and Arun Mishra said disclosure of those who evaluated their mark sheets would not be in public interest. “If we allow disclosing name of the examiners in every exam, the unsuccessful candidates may try to take revenge on the examiners for doing their job properly,” Justice Eqbal observed in the verdict for the Bench. Such information may lead to confusions and public unrest, the court said. The case saw extensive arguments by senior advocate V. Giri, Supreme Court advocates Vipin Nair, P.B. Suresh and Viod Nair for the Kerala Public Service Commission. The apex court was modifying a Kerala High Court judgment allowing the disclosure of examiners’ names under the RTI Act to candidates of the Public Services Commission examinations.The apex court, however, said release of the answer papers and interview marks would prove helpful to the candidates. “This practice will ensure a fair play in this competitive environment, where candidate puts his time in preparing for the competitive exams, but, the request of the information seeker about the details of the person who had examined/checked the paper cannot and shall not be provided to the information seeker as the relationship between the public authority, i.e. Service Commission, and the examiners is totally within fiduciary relationship,” the apex court observed. (The Hindu 6/2/16)

‘Students should use RTI to check corruption’ (1)

WARANGAL: Senior Civil Judge G Neelima exhorted the students to play active role in ensuring good governance utilizing the Right to Information (RTI) positively. She was addressing the students at an awareness programme on the RTI at Sumati Reddy Institute of Technology for Women here on Saturday. The programme was organized jointly by the Telangana RTI forum and the Telangana Department of Culture and Language for engineering students. Ms. Neelima stressed on the need for RTI Act and its importance. She asked the students to use RTI to curb corruption and bring in transparency and good governance in the State. (The Hindu 7/2/16)

Where’s corruption? ACB registered only 10 cases in 6 months (1)

New Delhi: If numbers are to be believed, corruption seems to be wiped out from the capital. From June to mid-December last year, the anti-corruption branch of the Delhi government registered only 10 cases. An RTI reply showed that in these six months, not a single case was registered through the anti-corruption helpline-1031. Direct complaints to ACB haven’t fared much better either. Such cases range from three in the month of July to nil in August and November. According to the RTI dated December 16, the helpline received 34,652 calls in June, but not a single case was registered. Similarly, it got 67,169 calls in September, but only 44,758 were answered, and 22,411 were abandoned. Again, not a single case was registered from the calls received. In July, the number was 30,445 calls of which 203 were abandoned, while in October, the number of calls was 20,164 with 2,618 abandoned. The figure was 19,789 in August-91 abandoned-and 10,429 in November. The number of calls abandoned in November was 221. The figure for December is partial, till December 9, when the data was compiled by the Delhi government.Ved Pal, who filed the RTI, said, “I wanted to know how the ACB was functioning, as it was advertised so extensively. But the answers were shocking.” The ACB seems to have fared only slightly better through cases that were referred to it directly, and not through the helpline. The number of cases registered in June and October is two. the department seems to have been most proactive in July, when three cases got registered. September had only a sole case. Around a year ago, the Delhi government with much fanfare had relaunched the anti-corruption branch and a revamped helpline. The idea was to make it a potent force that could tackle corruption head-on. It was mooted after the positive response the ACB got in the brief tenure of AAP in 2014, when it was in office for 49 days. However, it took a beating after a fight over the ACB’s control and its jurisdiction. (Times of India 9/2/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Delhi sets up education advisory council (11)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi Government has constituted a State Advisory Council on education as mandated by the Right to Education Act, 2009. In addition to six ex-officio members, the council also includes eight nominated members. The council’s function is to advise the government on the implementation of the RTE Act. As per the order issued on February 2, 2016, “the terms and conditions would be notified later.” The list of nominated members includes Venita Kaul from Ambedkar University, Delhi, principal of St Mary’s School Annie Koshi, Akha Kaihrii Mao, also from AUD, D Parimal from the Central Institute for Education, Delhi University, Shailendra Kumar Sharma, Pratham Education Foundation, Dhir Jhingran who was with the the ministry of HRD, Ravi Gulati from Manzil Welfare Society and Atishi Marlena, advisor to the education minister. The members will hold their posts for two years. (Times of India 2/2/16)

Government aims 50% digital literacy in three years (11)

NEW DELHI: As the government plans to offer most of its services in digital form, it is aiming to achieve a digital literacy of 50% in three years. Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said 100% digital literacy is required to make the country a truly digitalized society and the government aims to take digital literacy to 50% in three years from the current 15%.Digital literacy can be defined as the knowledge to handle digital devices like computers, tablet PCs and smartphones, and internet usage. The minister, who awarded the winners of ‘Digital India Week Online Quiz Competition on Cyber Safety and Cyber Awareness said, “The world is keenly watching developments in India and it is the responsibility of the youth to come up to expectations.”As part of the initiative, the government in collaboration with Intel organized an Online Quiz Competition on cybersafety and cyberawareness during the Digital India Week from July 1-July 7. Around 10 lakh students participated in the competition from all 36 states/UTs. The maximum participation came from Punjab in the competition, which was conducted for school children of class 6 to 8 and for class 9 to 12. The whole contest was online and the automated system recognzsed the correct answers and selected the winners. Around 32,000 students, who completed Level 2 of the competition, received their merit certificates online. Four top performances from each State/UT were chosen winners. (Times of India 4/2/16)

Private schools are violating RTE norms, allege academics (11)

CHENNAI: Academics representing various non-governmental organisations on Thursday charged that the government is circumventing the rules and Act governing private matriculation schools. Representatives of the NGOs said the School Education Department had issued two orders to recognise the institutions though they had flouted the Rules of Right to Education Act. Section 18 and 19 of the Act is clear that for a school to be recognised it should fulfil the norms and standards specified in the schedule, including the size of the building. The managements of all matriculation schools were given time to comply with the norms regarding minimum land area and norms laid down by the National Building Code. When the Act came into force, the violating schools were given five years to comply with the norms in the interest of the existing students. The moratorium ended in 2015. But in August last, the schools received another reprieve till May 2016 through an order issued by the government. (The Hindu 5/2/16)

Empowering underprivileged kids with education (11)

Ludhiana: Nine-year-old Ram Preet, who had to discontinue his education because of muscular dystrophy, was delighted to see Amardeep Lall aka Mona and her colleague Arvind Gupta, who brought him a wheelchair. Mona, chairperson, National Institute of Fashion Design (NIFD), Ludhiana, said they have adopted more than 20 children from 12 underprivileged families near Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar. Ram Preet, who was a bright child, was forced to leave school as his lower body stopped functioning due to the disease.Ranjit Singh — a class V student who had left school once and was re-admitted by Mona and Arvind — came rushing, seeing both of them, touched their feet, and loudly informed everyone that he had stood third in his class, and that next time he would top his class. Another child Shivam — who has a problem with his eyesight — also came rushing, and after greeting the duo, informed that he had got 15 marks in his class test and was appreciated by his teachers. His eye treatment is being done by the duo, and he promises that he would be in the merit list. Sunita, a resident of the area, also shared her problems with Mona, and assured her that she would not stop sending her children to school, and requested Mona to get a sewing machine for her eldest daughter, so that she can earn her livelihood, as there are some others in the group who were given sewing machines by them. Arvind informed that they teach children about hygiene, and are taking care of the expenditure on their studies. “The biggest challenge was to ensure they reached school safely, and thus we bought an autorickshaw for a young man in the locality. We asked him to drop and pick children to and from their school, and use the auto in his free time to earn his livelihood. He later bought his own auto, and now this auto is being used by another young man,” he said. He further added that now, they are getting bicycles for children in senior classes, so that they become self-dependent. (Times of India 7/2/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

SC raps govt for not implementing food security law: Is Gujarat not a part of India? (21)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday reproached some states, including Gujarat, for laxity in implementing the National Food Security Act, and questioned their adherence to the federal scheme. “What is Parliament doing? Is Gujarat not a part of India? The Act says it extends to whole of India and Gujarat is not implementing it. You want to break away from India. This law was passed by Parliament but the states are not implementing the central law. How can a state say that it won’t implement the law? Tomorrow other state would say that it won’t follow IPC, CrPC,” observed a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur. Nine states and two Union territories have so far not implemented this social welfare legislation, but Gujarat earned the apex court’s wrath as its name topped the list of the defaulting states. Advocate Hemantika Wahai, appearing for Gujarat, told the bench that the state is at the final stage of implementing the law and that consultation was going on. At this, the bench asked the Centre to submit a report after collating complete information from drought-hit states on the status of welfare schemes such as MGNREGA, National Food Security Act and mid-day meal. The Centre was asked to file an affidavit by February 10. The bench made the observations while hearing a PIL which alleges that parts of states such as Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chhattisgarh have been hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief. The PIL, filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, run among others by psephologist-turned-politician Yogendra Yadav, had sought implementation of the National Food Security Act, which guarantees 5 kg of foodgrain per person per month. It also sought a direction to the authorities that affected families be also given pulses and edible oils. (Indian Express 2/2/16)

Club all petitions of Food Security Act: HC (21)

Nagpur: The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed its registry to approach the chief justice to seek his permission to club all petitions related to National Food Security (NFS) Act, 2013. The move came after it was pointed out that three other cases related to the act were also filed in the principal bench at Mumbai. After clubbing, all pleas could be simultaneously heard either in Mumbai or Nagpur, said petitioner’s counsel Firdos Mirza. The directives came while hearing a PIL filed by Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishore Tiwari, contending that the government’s failure in implementing the NFS Act had led to starvation of Gondia widow, Lalita Rangari, who was survived by two children, one of whom is visually disabled. The petitioner prayed for an investigation into the incident that shocked society and adequate compensation to the deceased’s family. (Times of India 4/2/16)

UNICEF releases alarming report (21)

Geneva: Children now make up over a third of the migrants making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, the UN said on Tuesday, as two more babies drowned off Europe’s shores. For the first time since the start of the migrant crisis in Europe, there are also now more women and children crossing the border from Greece to Macedonia than adult males, according to UN children’s agency UNICEF. The figures emerged as Europe struggles with its biggest movement of people crisis since World War II, with more than a million people fleeing war, violence and poverty risking life and limb to reach its shores last year. “Children currently account for 36 percent of those risking the treacherous sea crossing between Greece and Turkey,” the UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe said. “Children and women on the move now make up nearly 60 percent” of those entering from Macedonia, she added. The figures mark a significant shift since June, when 73 percent of migrants were adult males and only one in 10 were under the age of 18. Marie Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s special coordinator for the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, said women and children were even more vulnerable to the dangers of trying to travel to Europe. “The implication of this surge in the proportion of children and women on the move are enormous,” she said in a statement. “It means more are at risk at sea, especially now in the winter, and more need protection on land.” Underlining her point, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday that one in every five who drowned last month while trying to sail from Turkey to Greece was a child, with minors accounting for 60 of the 272 deaths. Including during January, a total of 330 children have died in those waters over the past five months, many of them just metres from shore, the organisation said. The drownings continue a grim trend that accelerated last year when nearly 4,000 people died trying to reach Europe by sea. The plight of children was brought home last year when the body of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi was found washed up on the shore of the Greek island of Lesbos, horrifying the international community. The bodies of two more babies were recovered by the Turkish coastguard in the Izmir province on Tuesday along with seven dead adults, just days after another 37 people drowned off another part of the coast. Children were among the dead, an AFP photographer said, although the exact number was unclear. The EU on Tuesday urged Greece to check the flow of asylum seekers to its shores, including better registration and security checks, or risk having border controls imposed with other members of the passport-free Schengen zone. Greece responded by saying the army will do more to help police and port authorities deal with the new arrivals. In January, almost 62,200 migrants and refugees entered Europe through Greece, most of them from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the IOM said, close to a third of them unaccompanied minors. The Europol police agency warned that youngsters arriving alone were particularly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and trafficking. More than 10,000 unaccompanied children registered after arriving in Europe over the past 18 months to two years had disappeared, the EU’s law enforcement agency said.AFP (The Hindu 4/2/16)

40,000 S. Sudanese on brink of catastrophe: UN (21)

At least 40,000 South Sudanese citizens are threatened to starve to death due to escalating food insecurity in the new-born state, UN agencies said Monday. “South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 2.8 million people — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population — remain in urgent need of food assistance, and at least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe,” said a joint statement by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), Xinhua reported. The three UN agencies said the dry season, which is now beginning, could bring additional hardship to people facing the most severe levels of hunger. The agencies urged for a speedy implementation of the peace agreement signed last year, and for unrestricted access to conflict areas to deliver much needed supplies to the most affected areas. “It is not only areas directly affected by conflict that are food insecure — some 200,000 people in Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap states have also seen their access to food deteriorate, owing to factors such as price inflation and market disruptions that are tied to the conflict,” said Serge Tissot, Acting FAO Representative in South Sudan. “Prompt implementation of the peace agreement is absolutely critical to improving the food situation.” Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF representative in South Sudan, meanwhile, warned in the statement against continuation of deteriorated security conditions and lack of access to humanitarian assistance to the needy. “Families have been doing everything they can to survive but they are now running out of options,” he said. Aid agencies in South Sudan are facing difficulties in their work, particularly after the parliament has recently passed a bill restricting the work of the NGOs and reducing the number of foreign aid workers. South Sudan has been facing tough humanitarian conditions because of the civil war which erupted in 2013, where many international humanitarian organisations have earlier suspended their activities because of the violence and government restrictions on aid groups. (Business Standard 9/2/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Ten years of MGNREGA: Cong-BJP vie for ownership of rural job scheme (14)

BHOPAL: The Congress on Tuesday admitted it failed to reap political mileage of it’s flagship scheme MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) only because of poor publicity management. BJP has dubbed Congress claim over MGNREGA as baseless saying, ‘make in India’ and ‘skill India’ are far better schemes generating employment. Commemorating ten years of MGNREGA, Congress organized a special programme for party workers asking them to step up vigil on the implementation of the?? rural jobs??. It also claimed that MGNREGA is world’s highest employment generating scheme. BJP who termed MGNREGA as ?the ‘living monument of Congress’s failures’, is now claiming its ownership over it, calling as national pride”, senior Congress leader Sandeep Dixit told reporters here. He said Congress had successfully done nuclear deal and passed food security bill without any fuss. This came on the downside during parliamentary elections and party could not convince the public”, he clarified. Dixit, who was member of central employment guarantee council for planning MGNREGA, recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in the Parliament that ‘he would keep MGNREGA alive as reminder to people’. He said, PM Modi did keep his words but changed his stance in the favour of the scheme. But it’s good for the people that NDA government adopted NAREGA as a government priority”, added Dixit. State Congress president Arun Yadav, however, alleged the ?budgetary allocation for the rural job scheme is not sufficient for effective implementation. As both Congress and BJP are competing to own the scheme, BJP has rejected Congress claims. Congress it taking credit of ‘digging pits’ while BJP has successfully implemented it in rural sector. Besides, BJP launched ‘make in India’ and ‘skill India’ as better job options”, said BJP state spokesperson Rameshwar Sharma. While both the parties have their own claims, none of them came to the safety of MGNREGA employees who were staging dharna at Chhola ground demanding regularization of their jobs and were beaten blue and black by police on Monday. (Times of India 2/1/16)

BJP now promoting MGNREGA with new names: Congress (14)

Bhopal: The BJP-led NDA government initially criticised the flagship rural job scheme MGNREGA but now they are promoting it, and other UPA government’s programme, by increasing the funds allocated to them and with new names, a senior Congress leader said here on Tuesday. “After coming to power, the Centre cut down budgets on schemes like MNREGA but now they realise their importance and (are) enhancing funding to such flagship programmes launched during the UPA government,” Congress Spokesman, Sandeep Dixit told reporters. He was speaking at the party office here on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the launch of MGNREGA. To a query, he admitted that the Congress-led UPA government was unable to implement MNREGA properly in the last four years of its second term. Besides, it also failed to publicise properly the food security scheme. However, the Narendra Modi-led government is popularising these schemes with new names and by branding them afresh in order to save its ‘declining image’, he said. Earlier, addressing a function here, Congress general secretary and in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Mohan Prakash criticised the Modi-led government saying it talks of Smart India, Digital India, Make In India, Start Up India but never speaks of ‘Village India’. State Congress president Arun Yadav also said that earlier Prime Minister Narendra Modi had termed MGNREGA a ‘living monument of INC failure’, but he is now promoting it in a major way. (Times of India 3/2/16)

Rahul Gandhi hits back at Modi (14)

 “They have now decided to take revenge on people, on the poor workers for voting the Congress out of power,” he claimed. “The country is not going to benefit from this politics of negativism and obstructionism. There is only one family with such a thinking, which has brought this kind of destruction. Leaders in the other Opposition parties are not like this.” Mr. Gandhi, who was in Delhi addressing Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) while the Prime Minister was speaking in Assam, reacted sharply to these words. “All that the Prime Minister has been doing for the last 18 months is to make excuses for why the economy is not running, why the farmer is not getting his due, why the labourers are not getting what they should get,” he said. “India did not choose Modiji to make excuses, they chose a leader, and he should not make excuses.” Mr. Gandhi also said that he found it “surprising” that “big industrialists” were complaining to him [Rahul Gandhi]. “Big industrialists are coming to us and telling us that Modiji may be running the government for us, but he is not able to do our work. Therefore Modiji will certainly make excuses. This government acts only in the interest of three or four of its crony capitalist friends,” he said. The sharp exchange of words between the Prime Minister and the Congress vice-president has put a huge question mark on the functioning of the budget session. Just a day earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu had held a meeting with Opposition leaders to consult them on the dates for the session, and had hoped that contentious legislation, like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill could be cleared. (The Hindu 6/2/16)

Govt to outlay 60% of expenditure under MGNREGA for agriculture, allied activities (14)

New Delhi: More than 64% of the works taken up under the programme are linked to agriculture and allied activities, the government had noted. Reaching out to farmers, the government on Monday said it has decided to mark 60% of expenditure under MGNREGA for agriculture and allied activities. “To make NREGA useful for agriculture, we have decided that 60% of expenditure under the scheme should be for agriculture and allied activities,” Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said on Twitter. The government has been maintaining from some time that employment under the scheme would be provided only through works that are more productive, asset creating and substantially linked to agriculture and allied activities. As MGNREGA completed ten years last week, Narendra Modi government, which was earlier critical of the UPA’s flagship rural job scheme, hailed the measure saying the achievements of a decade are a “cause of “national pride and celebration”.More than 64% of the works taken up under the programme are linked to agriculture and allied activities, the government had noted. A senior official in the government said the decision to fix a minimum bar of 60% expenditure on agriculture and allied activities under the scheme was taken after the NDA government came to power. “Earlier it used to be around 54 to 55%. After constant monitoring, it has now gone up to 64%,” the official said. Celebrating the completion of 10 years of the scheme, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the government was committed to strengthening MGNREGA and it has allocated Rs 37,000 crore this fiscal, the highest ever budgetary support to the scheme. A Master circular was also issued on February 2, which consolidated all key instructions from the central government on the implementation of the Act. The 10th anniversary celebrations of MGNREGA on February 2 had set off a political slugfest with the NDA government saying it has “transformed” UPA’s flagship rural jobs scheme by giving it record funds to boost economic growth, while Rahul Gandhi mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue. (DNA 9/2/16)

RESERVATION

‘Reservation can empower women’ (25)

NEW DELHI: Supporting women’s reservation in Parliament, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said on Monday that reservation can be of a way of “empowering women”. Speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Empowering Women through Skills and Economic Independence’ at Delhi University’s Kamla Nehru College, she said: “I think reservation for women, who do not tow the line men demarcate for them, is my way of empowering women. There is need for 33 per cent reservation…” Also present were Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, Sri Lankan Minister Chandrani Bandara Jayasinghe and Canada High Commissioner to India Nadir Patel. Ms. Wayne said: “Since we have more women in politics in Canada, women issues are discussed more. Issues that are traditionally called women issues, but are actually human issues, are discussed like sexual assault and violence at work place. We are currently working on a policy to deal with the wage gap.” (The Hindu 2/2/16)

Dalit quotas won’t end, lies being spread: Narendra Modi (25)

Coimbatore: Ruling out scrapping of reservations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a veiled attack on the Congress on Tuesday, saying a “campaign of lies” was unleashed as part of a “deliberate conspiracy” to disintegrate the country. “Earlier they tried to instigate farmers. That didn’t succeed… Now in the name of dalits, lies are being spread. Wherever they go, whenever theygo, they utter lies. A campaign of lies has been let loose… It is a deliberate conspiracy to mislead people, make them fight each other. They are feeling frustrated as power has been taken away from them. They always believed (dalits) are their voters and now Modi is working for them,” he said. Mr Modi also attacked the Congress for stalling the Rajya Sabha, saying ever since “a tea seller” came to power at the Centre, it has not been able to reconcile itself to the loss of power. “In the last 19 months, there has been no corruption charge against anyone. No scam. They are worried… So they decided not to allow the Rajya Sabha (function). We will stall Modi. Several bills are pending. What is this politics? Don’t damage the country,” he said, apparently referring to the GST Bill being stalled. The PM’s attack appeared to be directed against Congress and its vice-president Rahul Gandhi. (Asian Age 3/2/16)

Rajasthan HC dismisses PILs against Rajasthan quota (25)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan high court on Thursday dismissed two public interest litigations (PILs) challenging the Rajasthan (SC, ST, OBC, SBC and EBC) Reservation Act, 2008. A division bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and J K Ranka dismissed the petitions as they had become infructuous after the state government repealed the Act last year. Earlier, the high court had stayed the Act in 2009 and 2013 on the basis of these PILs, which argued the reservation in the state had overshot the Supreme Court’s 50% cap. Petitioners Mukesh Solanki and Gurvinder Singh had argued there was no constitutional provision to grant reservation on the basis of economic criteria as well. The Act had created a separate category from non-reserved communities. In 2015, the government repealed the controversial 2008 legislation and brought the Rajasthan Special Backward Classes (SBC) Reservation Act, 2015, and the Rajasthan Economically Backward Classes (EBC) Act, 2015. The first provided five percent reservation to the SBC (five castes including Gujjars) and the second allowed 14% reservation for the EBC from the non-reserved communities. Overall reservation in the state again reached 68% with this. The petitioners have filed fresh petitions against the reservation Acts of 2015. But these are yet to come up before the high court. Rajasthan Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti spokesman Himmat Singh Gurjar said the state government should take up their case with the Centre and get the SBC reservation Act of 2015 shielded against judicial review by placing it under Constitution’s Schedule IX. (Times of India 5/2/16)

No reservation for creamy layer, says Justice Sacha (25)

ALLAHABAD: Former Justice Rajinder Sachar said “creamy layer” should not get advantage of reservation system in the present context and caste system should be abolished. He was speaking at a seminar organised in remembrance of Lala Lajpat Rai on “Role of youth in building equality in society”, here on Saturday.Justice Sachar said, “The `creamy layer’ of the society should not be getting the advantage of reservation system. Rising poverty and income disparity has widened the gap between the rich and the poor in the country. For example, 40% people in Delhi earn only Rs 50 to Rs 60 per day.” He advocated abolition of caste system in the society and said it has become a curse and is responsible for creating differences in the society.He also highlighted Lala Lajpat Rai’s contribution in nation-building and said it cannot be understated in any way. “India is a democra tic and secular country and all religions enjoy equal patronage. Everyone has equal rights and everyone should be given the opportunity for education. The future of the country is in the hands of youths and it is for them to decide in which direction they want to take the count ry,” he said. Calling upon the youth to be brave and truthful, he said, “Government of the country is responsible for uneven opportunity for educa tion. When the government cannot provide basic facilities like water and electricity, what is the use of making smart cities.” The Rajinder Sachar Committee, appointed in 2005 by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was commissioned to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational conditions of the Muslim community of India. The committee prepared a report of 403 pages, and presented in the Lok Sabha on November 30, 2006. (Times of India 7/2/16)

Jat Mahasabha begins hunger strike for quota (25)

Chandigarh: All India Modern Jat Mahasabha on Monday started chain hunger strike outside the SDM office in Narwana to press for their demand for OBC quota. The group’s national president Pawanjit Singh Banwala said their strike will be peaceful and will continue till their demands are met. Reiterating that reservation under OBC quota was the community’s right, he added, “We have asked the government to ensure that our community gets its due. Else, things may turn from bad to worse.” Banwala was among the first batch of 11 persons who went on hunger strike. Others who joined him were representatives of various khaps and included Suresh Sheokand, Mahavir Singh Mor, Shamsher Nain, Jagdeep Singh Mewa Singh and Surender Singh among others. Various khap panchayats and Jat organizations have announced to launch an agitation to press for their demand for OBC quota, which was abolished last year by the Supreme Court.”The number (of those sitting on strike) will increase everyday. We have convened another panchayat on Tuesday to take decision on a call given by our brothers for Haryana Bandh on February 15,” said Banwala. . (Times of India 9/2/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

Govt to submit reporton jails to NHRC soon (1)

Patna: The state government is currently busy preparing its report on the conditions prevailing in its 58 prisons for sending it to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in response to the commission’s January 6, 2016 notice to the state chief secretary and IG (prisons) to send a report within four weeks. NHRC had suo motu sought a response on the basis of a media report on a detailed report titled “Prisons of Bihar – Status Report-2015″ prepared by Smita Chakraburtty, an activist and researcher. She had been assigned a project by Justice (now read) V N Sinha of the Patna high court and executive chairman, Bihar State Legal Services Authority (BSLSA), to visit all the prisons of Bihar to study the living conditions and submit a report. Her report highlights gross violation of the human rights of prisoners. Talking to TOI, chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh claimed that the condition of jails in Bihar has improved substantially, though it needs further improvement. “We have initiated several measures for the overall improvement of condition of jails and its inmates in Bihar”, he told TO over phone from New Delhi.Chakraburtty told TOI she had interviewed as many as 30,070 jail inmates during her study. “The report throws light on the denial of basic human rights of prisoners in Bihar and points to the urgent need for prison reforms across the country,” she said. NHRC has sought an explanation from the state government about things like complete absence of medical facilities in prisons, particularly for women; bias against terror accused and undertrials by denying them even the copy of chargesheet, and forced labour by undertrials, which is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. Besides describing several cases of custodial torture and denial of justice, Chakraburtty’s report focuses on the physical condition of jail inmates, the condition of juveniles and aged prisoners, remission and prison punishments. “In most cases, inmates do not have access to lawyers. There is no mechanism for prisoners to meet lawyers. The prisoners are at the centre of the criminal justice system but they are denied access to justice,” said Chakraburtty. (Times of India 2/2/16)

SC has provided hope to LGBT community: Human Rights Watch (1)

New York: The Supreme Court of India has provided some hope to members of the LGBT community by referring petitions filed against a 2013 decision that upheld a discriminatory law criminalizing same-sex relations, to a five-judge bench for review, said Human Rights Watch today. “The Supreme Court has provided real hope to LGBT people in India by agreeing to review its 2013 ruling that favoured discrimination over equal rights for all. The Indian government should seize the opportunity and weigh in to make clear that discrimination, harassment, and other abuses of LGBT people have no place in contemporary society,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. The law, section 377 of the Indian penal code, punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with up to life in prison. The law had been struck down in 2009 by the Delhi High Court, which said the law was a violation of fundamental rights to equality, nondiscrimination, life, and personal liberty guaranteed by the Indian constitution. The court had noted how criminalization of same-sex relations had a negative impact on the lives of LGBT people. The 2009 ruling said: “Even when the penal provisions are not enforced, they reduce gay men or women to what one author has referred to as ‘unapprehended felons,’ thus entrenching stigma and encouraging discrimination in different spheres of life. Apart from misery and fear, a few of the more obvious consequences are harassment, blackmail, extortion and discrimination.” The Indian government chose not to challenge the High Court judgment. But following appeals against the verdict by some individuals and religious groups, a two-judge panel of the Supreme Court overturned that decision in 2013, ruling that amending the law was the responsibility of the legislature. Human rights activists, lawyers, and medical professionals filed curative petitions to revise the previous ruling, saying that section 377 denies privacy and dignity, and that upholding it results in a miscarriage of justice. On February 2, 2016, the Supreme Court admitted the curative petitions that challenge its 2013 decision, reviving the legal battle for the repeal of the law. Chief Justice T.S. Thakur said that the petitions pose questions with “constitutional dimensions of importance,” and referred the petitions to a five-judge Constitution Bench for detailed hearing. Since the 2013 ruling, the legislature has not acted on the law and LGBT people in India continue to suffer widespread discrimination. On December 18, 2015, the lower house of parliament refused to allow a member to even introduce a bill proposing to review section 377. In January, a 15-year-old boy set himself on fire after neighbours teased and harassed him for being seen with a male partner. Section 377 contributes to a social environment in which such tragic incidents occur, Human Rights Watch said. “So long as it’s on the books, section 377 will reinforce the idea that discrimination and other mistreatment of LGBT people is acceptable in Indian society,” Ganguly said. “Human rights and the dignity of LGBT people need to prevail over this terrible colonial legacy.” (Deccan Chronicle 3/2/16)

NHRC says it is racism, seeks report from Karnataka (1)

BENGALURU: Terming the alleged assault and molestation of a Tanzanian student late on Sunday as a ‘serious violation of human rights, including racism’, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) wants the State government to submit an action taken report in two weeks. Following media reports, the Commission listed the sequence of events and how the mob targeted the student. In a notice issued to the Chief Secretary and the Director General and Inspector General of Police, the NHRC, in a release, said, “The Commission has considered the above [media] reports and is of the opinion that if the contents of the report are true, it would amount to a serious violation of human rights including racism.” (The Hindu 6/2/16)

Odisha govt negligence responsible for student’s suicide: NHRC (1)

Bhubaneswar: Holding the Odisha government liable for the death of a Class X student in 2014, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a show-cause notice to the state asking why it should not recommend Rs 3 lakh relief to the next of kin. The student committed suicide due to “negligence” that led to publication of a faulty exam result. The girl, Rasmita Sahu, was erroneously declared “fail” in the results of the High School Certificate Examination. In a show-cause notice issued to the Odisha chief secretary, NHRC member Justice D Murugesan set aside the state’s contention that the student committed suicide apprehending her poor performance. He ruled that the girl took the extreme step on account of negligence of the officials of the Board of Secondary Education, Odisha, which issued a wrong result only to be corrected subsequently. The state is vicariously liable, the Commission said, asking it to respond within six weeks. Rasmita, daughter of Bimsen Sahu of Khurda district’s Bhaliabadi Village, had committed suicide on May 1, 2014 after her Class X result was declared. However, in the revised result, released on May 2, she was shown as “pass”.The NHRC order came on a petition filed by Subash Mohapatra, executive director of Global Human Rights Communications. Apart from Sahu, two other girls in the state had also committed suicide after finding their name in the failed list, but the Board later revised the result following complaints of large scale bungling in the evaluation of answer-sheets. The two other girls who committed suicide were Rinky Dehury, a student of Jarasingha Girls High School in Dhenkanal district, and Sagarika Pati from Athamallick in Angul district. (Indian Express 9/2/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Woman can be ‘karta’of a family: Delhi high court (19)

NEW DELHI: The eldest female member of a family can be its “Karta”, the Delhi high court has ruled in a landmark verdict. A unique position carved out by Hindu customs and ancient texts, “Karta” denotes managership of a joint family and is traditionally inherited by men. “If a male member of a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), by virtue of his being the first born eldest, can be a Karta, so can a female member. The court finds no restriction in law preventing the eldest female co-parcenor of an HUF, from being its Karta,” Justice Najmi Waziri said in a judgment made public earlier this week. The Karta occupies a position superior to that of other members and has full authority to manage property, rituals or other crucial affairs of the family. These include taking decisions on sale and purchase of family assets, mutation of property etc. The ruling came on a suit filed by the eldest daughter of a business family in north Delhi staking claim to be its Karta on the passing of her father and three uncles. She was challenging her cousin brother. The family consisted of four brothers, with the surviving eldest shouldering the responsibility of Karta. Trouble began when the brothers passed away. The eldest son of a younger brother declared himself to be the next Karta, but was challenged by the daughter of the eldest brother who is also the seniormost member of the family. The term co-parcenor refers to rights derived in Hindu law to be the joint legal heir of assets in a family. Traditional Hindu view, based on treatises such as Dharmshastra and Mitakshara school of law, recognises only male inheritors to ancestral property. Amendments to the Hindu Succession Act in 2005 introduced section 6 that levelled the playing field for women. The court termed it “rather odd” that following the amendments, “while females would have equal rights of inheritance in an HUF property, this right could nonetheless be curtailed when it comes to the management of the same”. Section 6 of Hindu Succession Act, it pointed out, did not place any restriction on women becoming the Karta. The HC ruling is important because it takes the 2005 reform in the Act to its logical conclusion. While the amendment restricted itself to providing women equal inheritance rights, the verdict now allows them to manage property and rituals of a joint family. .. (Times of India 1/2/16)

‘Woman having child through surrogacy entitled to maternity leave’ (19)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Central Railway (CR) to grant three months’ maternity leave to its employee who became a mother by using a surrogate. A Division Bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni gave this verdict while hearing a petition filed by a nurse working at the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Railway Hospital in Byculla East. She moved court after the CR refused to grant her leave on the ground that the Railways had no rule that allowed leave. The court ruled that a mother enjoys the same benefits of maternity leave as any other working woman under the Child Adoption Leave and Rules. “There is nothing in the rules that disentitles maternity leave to a woman who has attained motherhood through surrogacy procedure,” the court added. While challenging the CR for disallowing her leave, the woman’s lawyers argued that if the maternity leave was refused, it would certainly violate the right of a child to develop a bond with the mother. The petitioner got married in 2004 and underwent IVF in 2007 on two occasions but lost her baby. In 2012, she was advised to have a child through surrogacy. When the surrogate mother completed 33 weeks, the petitioner applied for maternity leave in January 2014 as the baby was expected to be delivered in the first week of February. In its reply, the CR asked her if she had sought permission before opting for surrogacy. She wrote back saying that she can claim maternity leave for surrogacy under the Indian Railway Establishment Board that provides for a Child Adoptive Leave. However, she was not granted the leave. On January 29, 2014, the surrogate mother delivered twins and again the petitioner wrote a letter to the medical officer seeking leave under Child Care Leave. The officer forwarded it to the CR. The High Court Bench on Monday directed the Central Railway to grant her maternity leave of 180 days. The petitioner’s lawyers referred to an earlier judgment of a Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court which, in a similar case, said: “a woman cannot be discriminated as far as the maternity benefits are concerned, only on the ground that she has obtained the baby through surrogacy. “Though the petitioner did not give birth to the child, the child was placed in the secure hands of the petitioner as soon as it (child) was born. A newly-born child cannot be left at the mercy of others,” the judgment said. (The Hindu 2/2/16)

Supreme Court seeks A-G’s help on Muslim women’s equality (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought the assistance of Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi to examine the rights of Muslim women to claim equality in issues concerning marriage, divorce and maintenance under the Muslim Personal law. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices A.K. Sikri and R. Banumathi asked the Attorney-General to render assistance in the matter and posted the matter for further hearing after six seeks. The apex court in October 2015, in a suo motu writ petition, decided to examine various issues on the ground that Muslim Personal law is discriminatory to Muslim women and whether current practices under Muslim Personal Law regarding marriage, divorce and maintenance are violative of fundamental rights of the Constitution. A two-judge bench had referred the issue to the CJI for posting before a larger bench. Accordingly, the matter came before a three-judge bench on Friday. Meanwhile Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, an organisation working for the welfare of Muslims, in an impleadment application stating that since the present matter involves a question of Muslim Personal Laws, the view of the Muslim community must also be considered. It pointed out that the apex court on earlier occasions had considered the issues — whether Muslim Personal Law, which allows Polygamy, is void as offending Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution; whether Muslim Personal Law, which enables a Muslim male to give unilateral talaq to his wife without her consent and without resort to judicial process of courts, is void as it offends Articles 13, 14 and 15 of the Constitution and whether the mere fact that a Muslim husband takes more than one wife is an act of cruelty — and declined to entertain these issues stating that these were matters wholly involving issues of state policies with which the court will not ordinarily have any concern. The apex court had also held that these issues are matters which are to be dealt with by the legislature. The applicant said Mohammedan law is founded essentially on the Quran and thus cannot fall within the purview of the expression “laws in force” as mentioned in Article 13 of the Constitution, and hence its validity cannot be tested on a challenge based on Part III of the Constitution. In view of such clear provisions, if this Court frames fresh provisions, it will amount to judicial legislation and will be violative of the doctrine of separation of powers, it said. (Asian Age 6/2/16)

SC no to PIL on suicides by farmers (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today declined to entertain a PIL raising the issue of farmers’ suicide in the country and seeking direction for the Centre to implement the recommendation of an expert body to fix minimum support price (MSP) for all agricultural products. “We are not suppose to go into the policy matters. It is for the government to see and take decision,” a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi said. The bench said the PIL petitioner has to go before an appropriate authority and make representation. “These are matters which are between people and the government,” the bench observed while wondering at the outset as to “what are we suppose to do for farmers’ suicide. …What is government suppose to do?” Realising that the bench was not inclined to issue any direction, advocate P V Yogeshwaram, appearing for scientist S Sunderesan, preferred to withdraw the PIL in which directions were sought for implementation of recommendations of National Commission of Farmers (NCF). The Commission headed by noted agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan had in 2006 come out with a report dealing with several issues including that of farmers’ suicide and had proposed slew of measures to check it. The Commission had suggested that there was a need to improve implementation of Minimum Support Price(MSP) and arrangements to be put in place for crops, other than paddy and wheat. (The Tribune 9/2/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

At last, justice for custodial death victim’s family (1)

Mumbai: On October 26, 2013, 20-year-old Aniket Khicchi went for a movie with his friends. He never returned home, and died the next day in police custody. On Saturday, the four constables responsible for his death were sentenced to seven years imprisonment, the first convictionin the State for a custodial deathJudge Shridhar Bhosale at the City Civil Court and Sessions Court on Saturday convicted four police constables charged with the murder of 20-year-old Aniket Khicchi, the son of vegetable vendor parents, to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000 each.On October 26, 2013, Aniket Khicchi, was out with his friends to watch a movie when the Vanrai police picked him up and charged him with robbery for allegedly stealing a laptop from Goregaon Sports Complex. A day later, Aniket died, allegedly after being assaulted by police constables. His post mortem report showed head injuries and congestion in the lungs. The Bombay High Court had recently observed that as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Maharashtra recorded 354 custodial deaths from 1999 to 2014, the highest in the country. Of these, 106 were police custody deaths, while the rest (248) happened in judicial custody (jail). Shockingly, in 15 years, only 13 First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed. Only five policemen were charge-sheeted, and there were zero convictions. Chetan Mali, who appeared for Aniket’s father Sudhir, said, “The trial went on for less than 18 months and it’s the first time there has been a conviction in a custodial death case in Maharashtra.” Judge Bhosale convicted police constables Chandrakant Rajaram Kamble, Umesh Gulabrao Gosavi, Sandeep Shankarrao Salunkhe and Kiran Dattatray Pingale. They were charged with murder and criminal conspiracy, but have now been convicted for Section 304 part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), Section 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession, or to compel restoration of property) of the Indian Penal Code. The accused will undergo seven years of rigorous imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs 10,000 each, confirmed Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Rati Ambolia and her assistant Yasin Katpatia. The court has also directed the accused to pay Rs 50,000 to Aniket’s parents as compensation for their son’s death, under Section 357 of Criminal Procedure Code….  (The Hindu 1/2/16)

Delhi L-G summons JCP investigating police ‘atrocities’ on students, Bassi defends his men

New Delhi: A day after the Delhi Police thrashing protesting students went viral, Delhi L-G Najib Jung on Tuesday summoned the Joint Commissioner of Police (Central) SK Gautam, who is heading the probe into the alleged assault on protesting students.  Earlier on Tuesday, a video showing Delhi Policemen brutally thrashing students of Jawaharlal Nehru University went viral on social media. The students were protesting outside the RSS headquarter against the Hyderabad University scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide outside.  On Tuesday, Delhi Police had to impose Section 144 around its headquarter after the protest by Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union and some other groups turned violent. Meanwhile, Delhi Police chief BS Bassi has assured that strict action should be taken against the guilty officers and appealed the protesting students to maintain law and order.”One has the right to hold peaceful protest, but it has to take care that the law and order is not disturbed. There is a ruling by SC that anyone wanting to hold a protest in Delhi must get necessary permission from concerned DCP,” said Bassi. The recent incident about police atrocities on students has once again brought the AAP-led state government and Delhi Police face to face. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal attacked RSS and BJP for using Delhi Police as their private Army. “Delhi Police being used by BJP/RSS as their private army to terrorise and teach lesson to anyone opposing BJP/RSS. I strongly condemn attack on students,” tweeted Kejriwal. (Zee News 2/2/16)

Rights panel for probe into ‘torture’ of youth (1)

Patna: Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) on Wednesday directed the crime investigation department (CID), Vaishali DM Rachna Patil and SP Rakesh Kumar to inquire into the case of a Hajipur youth, Manish Singh (23), whose mother alleged that her son was physically tortured in police custody leading to fracture in his right leg. Manish is lodged in the district jail. The BHRC has also directed the CID to form a special team and investigate into the complaint lodged by Manish’s mother Chinta Devi (55) who also alleged that her son was illegally kept in custody by Vaishali police from November 27 to December 1 last year. “In view of the serious nature of allegations against several police officers, including Vaishali SP office reader (confidential) Ravi Kumar, the commission has asked ADG (CID) to form a special team and investigate into the matter,” BHRC member Neelmani said on Wednesday. He also said the CID has been directed to submit its report within a month. Manish’s mother had alleged that her son, along with his friend Sooraj Singh (23), was picked up by the then Town police station SHO Shankar Kumar Jha on November 27 and was illegally kept in custody for several days during which both were brutally tortured. She said that both were sent to jail on December 2 by falsely implicating them under the Narcotics and Arms Act soon after their family members moved the CJM court in Vaishali on November 30. She also alleged that the then Industrial police station SHO, Gaya Ram Mandal, was also involved in the case as the duo was shifted to Industrial police station after being picked up by the police on November 27. “District jail administration referred Manish to Hajipur sadar hospital for treatment,” said jail medical officer Dr Rajkamal on Tuesday and added that the prisoner has inflammation on his right leg since he arrived in jail. (Times of India 3/2/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

IIMC students lodge complaint against abusive posts targeting Dalits, tribals on social media

New Delhi: The controversial suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula has found an echo at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in Delhi with posts by some students on social media using abusive language against Dalit and tribal students prompting about 17 IIMC students to complain to the information and broadcasting ministry.The students have also moved the National Commission for Scheduled Castes over what they said is an attempt to spread “ill-will” on campus. I&B secretary Sunil Arora ordered that a report be submitted on the matter within a week. Two students who wrote the offending blogs have since apologised, sources said. The institute has also issued instructions for a SC/ST cell to be set up to address such issues in the future. I&B joint secretary Mihir Kumar Singh visited the campus on Wednesday to take stock of the situation.A suicide at the U of Hyderabad is slowly escalating into a caste war which is a staple diet for most of the politicians… Read MoreSankara Narayanan In their complaint, students have attached blog posts of several students who used derogatory remarks against Dalits and Adivasis. The first was posted on Facebook on January 18, a day after Vemula’s suicide. “We had an informal student-faculty debate on the issue of caste reservation. We then saw that one of the students had posted this message that was abusive and anti-reservation,” a student said, adding that many of their peers had “liked” the post and another had even written a blog supporting this. Several others defended the blog as “freedom of speech”.Dalit and tribal students said they were also subject to taunts as they went about their classes. “There were hashtags on social media … comments passed against students when they walked in the corridors,” another student said. When contacted, one of the accused students, said he was being subjected to “personal revenge” by the “misuse” of constitutional protection granted to SC and ST community people. (Times of India 4/2/16)

Aamir, Shah Rukh Khan will be afraid to speak on issues due to negative reactions, says Sonam Kapoor (1)

Mumbai: Actress Sonam Kapoor feels that superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan will be afraid to talk on issues due to the negative reactions coming along with it. “Just imagine the way we are reacting to someone like Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan (their comments). They will be afraid to say or talk about things because of the negative reactions. We should be supportive of people who have opinions — good, bad or ugly. Everybody should have a right to speak,” said Sonam at the launch of her song, “Ankhian Milaayenge Darr Se” from the film “Neerja”.Shah Rukh’s comments on intolerance in the country saw some sections slamming him, while some also vandalised theatres screening his film ‘Dilwale’, protesting the same. Aamir highlighting his wife’s fear due to certain incidents in the country also sparked a widely-discussed controversy. Sonam termed the reactions to the issues as ‘scary’. She is always known to have an opinion, and quips that’s the reason she gets called to speak at conclaves, since the organisers ‘know she will make good copy’. She often lands up in controversy for the same like her comments on Ranbir Kapoor along with Deepika Padukone on Karan Johar’s show or getting trolled for her “misogynist” tweet on the meat ban in Mumbai. A fear she would like to overcome is, “I don’t ever want to not have an opinion on something.” She added, “I went through this. I said something and I was trolled on another level. But at the end of the day, if I have this platform, I have this voice, people actually listen to what I have to say. I’m going to keep doing it no matter what. Eventually somebody will hear what I have to say.” Sonam’s brief appearance in Coldplay’s music video recently has also been subject to trolls. (IBN Live 4/2/16)

Can’t take freedom of speech for granted in democracy: Haasan (1)

Recalling that the rise of Hitler in Germany and imposition of emergency in India came through normal democratic process, actor Kamal Haasan said “constant vigil” is required to safeguard freedom of speech in a democracy. “Democracy is often touted as the only bastion of freedom of speech. It is a work in progress. Constant vigil is necessary to safeguard it,” Haasan said at the annual India Conference of Harvard University last evening. “It is only through the offices of democracy that Adolf Hitler rose to the power. In the Indian political history, emergency was promulgated and voices were silenced,” he reminded. In his keynote address, the “Vishwaroopam” star, who is a part of the reform committee that is going to recommend changes in the functioning of Central Board of Film Certification in India, said freedom of speech should not be taken for granted. “I have taken the opportunity to put on record here and in India we can’t take freedom of speech for granted and complacently think that democracy automatically means freedom of speech,” Haasan said.He, however, pointed out that he is not criticising the democracy of India and, in fact, is proud of it and wants the country to set an example for the whole world. “Not only India, but the world is in transition. The world is going to face new challenges, find new opportunities. We want India not to be complacent, but set world standards,” he added.”What Nehruji spoke of once of unity in diversity, now we are trying to lose it very fast. In a world of open source, protectionism cannot work like medieval times. “Those evangelising democracy nowadays want us to believe that it is the only hope for freedom of speech. I, as an artist, believe that freedom of speech is separate from the ruling political state.” (Times of India 8/2/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Mob violence in Bharat Nagar leaves 10 injured as charges fly thick and fast (7)

Delhi: violence, bharat nagar Senior officers including JCP Sanjay Singh (above) and DCP Vijay Singh have been patrolling the area. Prem Nath PandeyAt least 10 people have been injured in clashes over two days that broke out between Valmikis and Muslims in northwest Delhi’s Bharat Nagar, following allegations of a girl being molested by a Muslim boy. Despite police presence, a mob attempted to set afire a house and hurled stones at the local mosque. Though extra security personnel were deployed after a skirmish Saturday night, fresh clashes erupted Sunday night as residents hurled stones, bricks and resorted to physical violence. While no violence was reported till Monday evening, Section 144 (prevention of unlawful assembly) has been imposed in Bharat Nagar’s Sangam Park locality. Senior police officers, including JCP Sanjay Singh and DCP Vijay Singh have been patrolling the area. According to police, the clashes erupted Saturday night after a Muslim youth was beaten up. Police sources said locals alleged he had molested a Hindu girl inside her house. The clashes, which occurred despite police presence, left at least 10 injured from both communities. Ten companies of security forces have been deployed to ensure peace. DCP Vijay Singh said a case of molestation was registered and the youth, Abid (18), arrested. Following the clashes, eight persons were arrested for rioting. “Section 144 has been imposed and the situation is under control,” said Singh. Police have arrested nine persons in all and lodged three FIRs at Bharat Nagar Police station in the past two days. Sangam Park residents, however, alleged it was a fight between two families which was given a communal angle by outsiders. It began Saturday evening when Abid, a Delhi University student, was allegedly caught inside the house of a girl who lived in his neighbourhood. The boy’s family said he had gone to deliver momos to the girl and her relative, who are known to them. Mushtaq, Abid’s brother-in-law, said, “He had gone to deliver the momos to her and her bhabhi. But the girl’s brothers beat him up and took him to the local police chowki (Sangam Park located in Block B).” “We rushed to the chowki but they kept beating him in front of the police. We requested police to stop them but nothing was done. He was then taken into custody,” said Mushtaq. “A few minutes later at about 8 pm, a group of Hindu youth carrying sticks gathered outside the chowki… They suddenly ran towards us and stared to pelt stones,” said Mohammad Riyaz, who works in a shop nearby. Shops were shut immediately as clashes intensified between the groups for at least two hours till police personnel reached the area. “Both sides threw stones and glass bottles at each other. It only stopped when police reached,” added Riyaz. The area remained tense on Sunday as well when over 500 people from both communities gathered at a park near the chowki at 4 pm. “It was complete negligence on the part of police as they had asked people to gather at the park for a peace meeting,” said 65-year-old Abdul Khalid, who runs a general store in Block B. (Indian Express 2/2/16)

Revive communal violence bill, urge Muslim leaders (7)

New Delhi: Following a series of arrests of Muslim youth for affiliation with the ISIS in the country, the Modi government swung into action on Tuesday with home minister Rajnath Singh calling a meeting of prominent Muslim leaders, seeking their help to wean away the youth from the dreaded terror outfit and formulate counter tactics to ward off the ‘’radicalisation’’ attempts. At the first-of-its-kind meeting, where the home minister, NSA Ajit Doval, IB chief and senior officers were present, the attempt was also to bridge the ‘’trust deficit’’ between the Modi government and the minority community. Notably, the Muslim leaders minced no words and demanded the revival of the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, reminding the NDA government that the Bill was piloted first by none other than senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj during the UPA-I tenure as the chairman of parliamentary standing committee on home affairs. The Muslim leaders also minced no words in demanding appropriate action on Hindu sena and other ring-winged outfits, a concern which was dismissed by the Intelligence brass as a ‘’social media’’ creation but shot down by the Muslim leaders who apprised the home minister of the media footage exposing them, top sources said. The Muslim leaders demanded the setting up of an interfaith dialogue commission, on the lines in some other countries, where social and religious leaders of all faiths can come together and discuss significant concerns and a review Committee to review cases of 70,000 Muslims languishing in jails, where in many cases chargesheets have also not been filed. They pointed out that the Communal Violence Bill is urgently required to reign in officers who arrest ‘’innocent minority youth.’’ To tackle ISIS threat, in a major step, it was decided that the Imams will appeal to the youth through Friday prayers in mosques across states not to fall prey to the evil designs of the ISIS which is not working in the interests of the Muslim community but is mis-using the faith to attract the gullible youth to perpetrate violence. Offering suggestions to the government to bring down communal incidents, Mr M.J. Khan, president of Indian Muslims Research and Coordination Centre, said that the state government’s Central assistance must be linked to bring down communal violence and states which do so should be rewarded. Sources said while the focus of Tuesday’s meeting was largely Muslim youth in the northern states, another meet of prominent Muslim leaders of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala will be held soon to formulate strategy to counter the influence of the terrorist group. (Asian Age 2/2/16)

Hashimpura records destroyed: UP cops (7)

Lucknow: The UP police, for the first time, has admitted having destroyed documents related to deployment of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) during Hashimpura riots in 1987. The documents could have helped establish the role of the PAC personnel in the riots. In the latest twist to the case, SSP Meerut, in a letter to the CB CID, has stated that the documents related to the deployment of PAC and their duty roster for Hashimpura for the month of May 1987, when the riots took place, have been destroyed. The letter states that the records were destroyed in April 2006 as per the provisions in place. The letter, dated January 30, 2016, has been sent in response to CB CID’s requisition of the said documents. The Delhi high court, on a petition of the NHRC, had directed the UP government to provide certified copies of the duty roster of the PAC personnel and police officials who were deputed at Hashimpura in May 1987 when the said the killings took place. The Hashimpura massacre took place on May 22, 1987 during the communal riots in Meerut. Nineteen PAC personnel allegedly rounded up 42 Muslim youths from the Hashimpura locality bundled them into a truck and took them to the outskirts near Murad Nagar, where they were shot dead. The bodies of the victims were dumped in water canals where they were found floating a few days later. In May 2000, 16 of the 19 accused PAC personnel surrendered and were later released on bail while three were already dead. The trial of the case was transferred by the Supreme Court in 2002 from Ghaziabad to a sessions court in Delhi. It may be recalled that a Delhi court, last year, had acquitted 16 of the 19 PAC men who were accused of kidnapping and murder of 42 Muslims during riots in Hashimpura. Three of the 19 PAC jawans had died in the course of the trial and the matter is still pending before the Delhi Court where the Uttar Pradesh government and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have appealed against the acquittal. None of the senior police officials in Lucknow were ready to comment on the destruction of records when the trial in the case is still on. (Asian Age 4/2/16)

Dalit girl dragged by group of youths in UP; incident sparks tensions (7)

Pilibhit: A Dalit girl was allegedly dragged from a rickshaw by a group of four youths and took her to a secluded spot before the locals rescued the girl as the incident sparked communal tension in the area. The girl was returning home Friday evening when four youths belonging to another community dragged her from a rickshaw and tried to take her to a secluded spot, which was opposed by the locals, police said. One of the accused was overpowered by the locals and handed over to the police but he was let off after being charged under minor sections. The locals then resorted to brick batting a religious place in the area. Senior officials, including the DIG rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control, police said, adding that cross FIRs have been registered in the case. A person was arrested in this connection on Saturday, police said. The Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) has been deployed in the area where the situation was tense but under control, they added. (Hindustan Times 6/2/16)

Communal tension in Nagaland after couple shot dead (7)

Kiphire (Nagaland): Communal tension broke out in Kiphire district of Nagaland on Sunday after a couple travelling in a car was shot dead by two motorbike-riding assailants. Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that prohibits unlawful assembly has been imposed in the district. According to police, the husband, a government school teacher belonging to the Sangtam tribe was travelling in a car to a village with his wife, a nurse belonging to the Tikhir tribe. Both tribes have an age-old rivalry over land issues. “Both the deceased were posted in Kiphire. They went to meet relatives in Shamator village when they were shot dead by two unknown people on a motorbike,” a police official told IANS. As per a preliminary report, the two attackers belonged to the Yimchunger tribe, which is also involved in land disputes with various other Naga tribes including Sangtam, Tikhir and Chang, police said. (The Statesman 8/2/16)

COMMUNALISM

NDA govt thrusting Hindutva on country, will oppose it: Muslim body (26)

Thane : All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Maulana Sajjad Nomani on Monday accused the BJP-led NDA government of “thrusting” the “Hindutva” on citizens. “Compulsion of doing Yoga and Suryanamskar, making singing of Vande Mataram compulsory etc. are directed towards thrusting Hindu culture on the country,” Nomani told reporters at a press conference in Mumbra. He said a two-day meet on “Save faith save Constitution” will be held in Mumbra on February 24 and 25 as a part of the AIMPLB’s nationwide mass awareness programme. Nomani also demanded that ‘namaz’ should be taught to students of schools and government employees if the BJP government is bent on making “Hindu practices” like yoga and suryanamaskar compulsory for them. “Yoga is part of Hindu religion. We are not against doing Yogasanas (postures). But if you make school students and government employees to practice yoga, then teach them ‘namaz’ as well,” he said in response to a query. Nomani alleged that the Centre was doing everything against Constitution. “The BJP-led government is playing with Constitution and is disturbing the secular democratic fabric of country. There is a well-planned conspiracy to disturb different castes and religions by thrusting Hindutva on citizens,” he claimed. He said like-minded groups including Muslims, BAMCEF (The All India Backward (SC, ST, OBC) And Minority Communities Employees Federation), and people from Lingayat community have come together and drafted a Common Minimum Programme that will be undertaken as part of the awareness campaign. (Hindustan Times 2/2/16)

Ram temple to top VHP meet agenda (26)

Lucknow: To set the tone for Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s meeting proposed at Ujjain’s Kumbh Mela in April, the outfit’s central marg darshak mandal will meet at Allahabad on Thursday to discuss Ram Temple construction along with state government’s bid to take over administration of temples. Thursday’s meeting comes shortly after Tulsi Peeth, Chitrakoot founder and head Jagadguru Rambhadracharya’s statement during a Ramkatha (discourse on lord Ram) at Mahawa village in Faizabad that construction of Ram temple would begin this year and complete by December 2018. He said this in the presece of Ram Janmabhumi Nyas president Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. VHP spokesman Sharad Sharma said not only VHP, all Hindus support Jagadguru’s statement. Talks around construction of Ram temple have intensified following demise of VHP patron Ashok Singhal. Sangh pariwar led by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat also stated that Ram temple will be built in his lifetime and gave a call to prepare grounds to build it . Later, BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy’s said Ram temple construction will begin this year. Otherwise also, VHP marked the re-starting of consignment of stone for carving the temple structure at Ayodhya with unexpected fanfare leading to speculation that Sangh Pariwar once again wants to play around the temple agenda with UP going to polls in 2017. VHP general secretary Champat Rai will also be present and resolution finalised will be presented at the Sant sammelan on February 5. (Times of India 4/2/16)

VHP activists held for obstructing Shah Rukh Khan film shoot (26)

The Gujarat Police on Friday detained 34 activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Kutch district for trying to obstruct shooting of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s film ‘Raees’.Police said the VHP activists were detained under Section 68 of the Gujarat Police Act. The VHP has been targeting Shahrukh Khan for his comments on “intolerance” in the country. After they were released, the VHP activists still managed to block the Gadhsheesha-Dedia road which connects Kutch district headquarters Bhuj with Polaria where the film shooting was scheduled for the day. The shooting continued peacefully throughout the day in Polaria, which is located some 60 km from Bhuj city. The actor, who has been on a week-long visit to Kutch for the shooting of the film, has faced sporadic protests by the VHP activists since he arrived there. Earlier, the outfit had held a demonstration in front of the District Collector’s office in Bhuj. A motorcycle rally was also held demanding the cancellation of the film’s shooting and ban on Shah Rukh Khan’s entry in Kutch. Based on the life of Ahmedabad-based underworld don late Abdul Latif Shaikh, ‘Raees’ has been made by Rahul Dholakia who earlier made controversial film ‘Perzania’ based on communal riots. Pakistani actress Mahira Khan is the female lead in the film. (Times of India 6/2/16)

TERRORISM

 Rajnath Singh apprises Muslim leaders of threat from ISIS (12)

NEW DELHI: The government, keen to co-opt the Muslim clergy and community heads in its efforts to counter radicalization by the Islamic State, on Tuesday reached out to a section of Muslim leaders with home minister Rajnath Singh apprising them of the threat from ISIS and requesting them to issue appeals to vulnerable youth not be misled by violent extremism propagated by the global terror outfit. Some key leaders of the Muslim delegation that met Singh here are prominent Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad; Ajmer Sharief dargah chief Maulana Abdul Wahid Hussain Chisti, Jamiat Ulema Hind general secretary Niaz Faruqui, Dargah Dewa Sharief head Maulana Wamiq Rafiq Warsi Sahab, Haryana Imams Organisation’s Maulana Mohammad Alim Nadvi and Muslim Economic Forum national convener Dr MJ Khan. The delegation also comprised member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board and former Samajwadi Party leader Kamal Faruqui and journalist Kamar Agha. “The initiative was to give the community leaders a forum to raise their grievances and issues of concern, while alerting them to the problem of growing radicalisation of Indian youth by ISIS. The home minister requested the top Muslim leaders from north India to use their traction with young members with the community to issue appeals asking them not to be misled by ISIS online propaganda and get drawn to violent extremism,” a home ministry officer told TOI. The Muslim leaders offered their cooperation in counter-radicalisation efforts of the government and security agencies. Condemning all kinds of violence in the name of religion, the delegation explained that Islam stands for peace and well-being of all and no one should be misguided or have an understanding contrary to this fact. The community leaders said they were against any sort of terrorist or violent activities including cross-border terrorism. A home ministry release claimed the leaders, while underlining that Muslims were safe and enjoyed freedom in India, said such freedom and security is not available to the community even in Muslim-majority countries.The community leaders used the meeting, which was attended by national security adviser Ajit Doval and the intelligence and home ministry brass, to raise the issue of educational and economic backwardness among Muslims and requested the government to take positive steps for upliftment of the community. On his part, the home minister assured them that their grievances would be heard and regular meetings taken with community leaders from across the country to offer them a forum to raise issues of concern and discuss ways to resolve them….  (Times of India 2/2/16)

 Delhi Police Special Cell arrests Mumbai resident for alleged links with Islamic State (12)

New Delhi: In a big breakthrough for the security agencies, Delhi Police’ Special Cell on Friday arrested a suspected Islamic State sympathiser Mohsin from the Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in national capital.The arrested ISIS sympathiser was trying to reach Syria – the stronghold of the dreaded terrorist organisation. Suspected ISIS sympathiser was detained for allegedly helping four ISIS terror suspects who were arrested in Uttarakhand last month. Giving details about the arrest, Arvind Deep, Special CP Special Cell, Delhi Police said, ”His age is around 26 years and he is a resident of Malad West, Mumbai.”He will be produced before court today, he added. The arrest comes after days after the National Investigation Agency arrested a 24-year-old ISIS suspect from Bhopal as part of the anti-terror agency’s crackdown on sympathisers of the terrorist outfit. The youth, identified as Azhar Iqbal, was the 16th person to be arrested in connection with a case registered in Delhi under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act by the agency on December 9 last year, a senior police officer said. According to intelligence agencies, a total of 23 Indians have so far joined the ISIS of which six were reportedly killed in different incidents. Around 150 Indians are under surveillance for their alleged online links with ISIS, the officials had said. (Zee News 5/2/16)

34 militant groups pledged allegiance to IS: UN (12)

United Nations: Thirty-four militant groups worldwide had reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group as of mid-December, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. Militant groups from countries like the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Libya and Nigeria had pledged their allegiance, so IS poses “an unprecedented threat”, Xinhua quoted Ban as saying in a report on the challenges IS poses to international peace and security. The emergence of IS has been facilitated by the protracted conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the resulting political and security instability, he said. “In less than two years, IS has captured large swathes of territory in both Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, which it administers through a sophisticated, quasi-bureaucratic revenue-generating structure that is sufficiently flexible and diversified to compensate for declines in income from single revenue streams,” he said. The recent expansion of IS influence across west and north Africa, the Middle East and south and southeast Asia demonstrates the speed and scale at which the gravity of the threat has evolved in just 18 months, he added. In 2016 and beyond, UN member states should prepare for a further increase in the number of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to other countries on the instructions of IS, said Ban. Despite efforts by the international community to counter IS through military, financial and border-security measures, the group continues to maintain its presence in Iraq and Syria. It is also expanding its operations to other regions. (Business Standard 6/2/16)

26/11 attacks: Headley deposes before Mumbai court (12)

Mumbai:  Mumbai court allows police to seek documents on Headley 26/11 Mumbai attacks: Headley to turn approver, pardoned Headley bargains for pardon in 26/11 terror case Pak court lifts ban on JuD to collect animal hides in Pakistan Mumbai court allows police to seek documents on HeadleyLashkar-e-Taiba terrorist David Coleman Headley, who is now an approver in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case, started his deposition before a Special TADA Court via videoconferencing from a US jail, here at daybreak on Monday. Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam is leading the prosecution case while well-known criminal lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani is representing Headley before Special TADA Court Judge G.A. Sanap at the five-hour proceedings. Flanked by three persons — his attorney John, a US attorney Sarah and an unidenfied person Bob — Headley was administered the oath at 7.30 a.m. and Nikam started firing the questions at him. Right at the start, he revealed that he was born on June 30, 1960 in the US and shifted to Pakistan later where his name was Daood Sayeed Gilani. Headley, 54, provided details of his passport and his seven-eight trips to Mumbai and one to New Delhi between 2006-2008 before the 26/11 attacks, including seven via Pakistan, one via UAE, and another trip to Mumbai in July 2009, after the terror attacks were executed. Within a couple of hours, Nikam had posed around five dozen questions where Headley also revealed that most of the information on his visa application was false so that he would not blow his cover. Admitting he was a LeT operative, Headley name one Sajid Mir as his main contact in the terror group. “This is the first time that a terrorist is deposing and tendering evidence live in a foreign country. He will divulge the largers aspects of the 26/11 terror conspiracy, the people behind it and related aspects,” SPP Nikam said on the eve of the trial. Headley’s ongoing evidence could help the prosecution nail the alleged co-conspirators in the attacks Zakiur Rehman Lakshi, the terrorists’ handlers, the role and involvement of other state and non-state actors, the role of another arrested LeT activist Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, currently in a Mumbai jail. At the previous hearing on December 10 last year, a special judge had pardoned Headley and made him an approver in the case subject to certain conditions. Headley, a man with American-Pakistani origins, was asked by Judge Sanap to disclose all information pertaining to the 26/11 case which he had earlier shared with the US courts. This could shed light on the 26/11 conspiracy and the role of various terror groups, and other crucial details of the terror strike at multiple locations which left 166 dead on November 26-28, 2008. Headley had already confessed to his role in the offences in the US for which he is seving a 35-year sentence. (Business Standard 8/2/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

MGNREGS becomes change agent for tribals in Maoist hotbed in Bastar (12)

RAIPUR: Breaking the decade old Maoist imposed tradition of not engaging in any development works, locals of Naxalite hotbed of Chintagufa in Sukma district in South Bastar of Chhattisgarh have for the first time picked up spade to work on daily wages under Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Setting up of 15 CRPF camps coupled with persistent persuasion by administration have helped locals muster courage to accept government schemes, which, till few months ago, was a forbidden crime in the area dominated by rebels. This region falls in the so-called liberated zone of Dandakaranya of CPI (Maoist) but in government parlance its an area dominated by Maoists. Earlier, locals were totally dependent on farming and collecting forest produce to further sell them in weekly markets. They were instructed by rebels not to accept jobs for construction of roads, of digging of lakes or any other government scheme related to ration or health benefits. As the security forces and the civil administration made inroads into the territory, locals were counselled about its benefits but the fear of Maoists lingered on. Sukma collector Niraj Bansod told TOI, “In past one year, Sukma SP D Shrawan Kumar and I made frequent visits to villages on motorbike to meet and encourage villagers. It wasn’t possible for local tribals to sustain on forest produce and they were cut off from the real world without any exposure to development.” Later, with expansion of security camps, residential schools, slow but continuous construction of roads on the rebels-dominated stretch of Chintagufa, Jagargunda, Kistaram, and Chintalnar, we started gathering confidence of people with movement of security forces and neighbouring villagers visiting these places, Bansod added. A local villager of Chintagufa said that there have been instances where locals did not appear even after completion of paper work for construction works because of fear of Maoists. Block level officers were pressed into service to visit interior villages and monitor. He added that nearly 70 families of Bhejji area, who had taken refuge in camps during anti-Naxalite movement Salwa Judum of 2005-2008 , have also returned since the development started in the region.Bansod said job cards allocated to locals have increased four times in entire Sukma district ranging up to nearly 25,000 while Konta block -which was a 100% banned region for such employment- has witnessed participation of hundreds of families into MGNREGS jobs. We provide security while the work is on, irrespective of road construction, digging of lakes or deepening of ponds. Not that all villagers have come forward to enjoy benefits of scheme, there are still many more in interiors which are yet to be approached,” he added. Eventually, registration for Aadhar cards and rashan cards has also begun in the region which will be facilitated all across the district. “Bastar is a lot more than Maoists, we are adamant to break the shackle of fear ingrained since decades. This is just the beginning to arrange a tryst for local tribals to taste development, which we are sure, would be rooted for further generations,” Bansod said. (Times of India 1/2/16)

Naxal killed in encounter with security forces in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: A Naxal was on Tuesday gunned down in a fierce encounter with security forces in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Kanker district, police said. The skirmish took place in the forests of Kesekodi under Koyalibeda police station limits between a joint team of security personnel and ultras, Kanker Superintendent of Police Jitendra Singh Meena told PTI. A composite team of Border Security Force (BSF), Special Task Force (STF) and district force was carrying out an anti-Naxal operation in the south of Koyalibeda, located around 250 kms away from here, the SP said. When they were cordoning off a forested patch in Kesekodi, a group of armed cadres opened indiscriminate fire on them following which a gun-battle broke out between the two sides, Meena added.    Buy medicines from India’s online pharmacy However, after around an hour of the ensuing gunfight, Naxals fled to the dense forests, he said. During a search, body of a Maoist, one SLR rifle and its magazines were recovered, the official said. According to the officer, the identity of the killed Maoist will be ascertained once the party will reach back to its camp as the operation was still underway in the region. With this encounter, 24 ultras have so far been killed in separate gun-battles in the Bastar region this year, police said. (Times of India 3/2/16)

Chhattisgarh HM asks SDGP to crush naxal menace (12)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh Home Minister Ramsewak Paikra has sought to step up counter-insurgency operations in the Maoist-affected pockets of the state. The newly-posted Special Director General of Police (SDGP), anti-naxal operations and SIB (special intelligence branch), D M Awasthi (IPS) on Friday paid a courtesy visit to the Home Minister during which they discussed the status of anti-Maoist operations, a public relations officer here said. During the meeting, Paikra asked Awasthi to devise affective strategies to flush out left wing extremism from the state and carry out intense operations in the naxal-hit zone, particularly Bastar, the official said. “Our brave jawans are ready to take up any challenge. Centre and state forces are making joint efforts to set Chhattisgarh free from the clutches of naxalism,” the Home Minister was quoted as saying during the meeting by the official. The SDGP had on Thursday paid courtesy visit to Governor Balramji Das Tandon. (Times of India 6/2/16)

CRPF killed 40 Naxals, lost 5 in 2015 (12)

New Delhi: Better intelligence and emphasis on small team actions are paying dividends to the CRPF which had improved violence parameters last year. CRPF, the lead Central agency for anti-Naxal operations, recorded just five deaths in 2015 while its personnel eliminated 40 ultras. In contrast, the casualty figure of CRPF personnel in 2014 was 50 and it could kill just 24 Naxals. The number of paramilitary personnel injured in the Naxal theatre in 2015 also registered a downward spiral with 91 jawans sustaining injuries during the year as compared to 126 men getting injured in 2014. Out of the five CRPF personnel killed in 2015, three were martyred in Chhattisgarh and two in Bihar and Jharkhand recorded a zero casualty figure. The apprehension of the ultras also improved marginally in 2015 in contrast to 2014. While 998 ultras were apprehended in 2015, the figure for 2014 stood at 987. With improved attrition rate and lesser casualties in 2015 in contrast to the previous years, the loss of weapons by the paramilitary personnel at the hands of the ultras also registered a significant decline. The CRPF lost just one weapon in 2015 in comparison to 31 arms making way to the Naxal armoury in 2014. Violence parameters in Jharkhand were particularly notable with the CRPF not suffering a single casualty 228 operations and 25 encounters with the Naxals. Just five personnel suffered injuries and the CRPF killed 22 Naxals and apprehended 225 ultras in 2015. In 2014, two CRPF personnel were killed and 27 persons were injured during operations. The CRPF that had suffered 42 casualties and sustained injuries to 80 personnel in 2014 in Chhattisgarh and managed to kill just 13 Naxals in 288 operations and 111 encounters also improved the tally in 2015 with loss of lives of just three men and injuries to 57 personnel and attrition of 11 ultras in 335 operations and 93 encounters. Senior officials said the operational strategy in the Naxal theatre was revisited after a spurt in violence in 2014 with the paramilitary suffering 50 casualties and dwindling attrition of the ultras. Apart from improving upon the gathering of own intelligence, the paramilitary also decided to launch short duration operations with small team and minimising unnecessary exposure. (Pioneer 8/2/16)

TRAFFICKING

Village girls to help check trafficking (1)

Kolkata: Young women in the villages will play a crucial role in checking trafficking of young girls in a soon to be rolled out project by the state government. The Child Protection Committee that will operate at the grassroots level will have girls from the village as mandatory members who will keep an eye out on other girls in the area and report any abnormal activity involving them. West Bengal has one of the highest rates of women trafficking in the country. “There are several programmes to rehabilitate victims of trafficking, but they should not be trafficked in the first place. We need to put in place a mechanism where we check trafficking and factors facilitating it at the grassroots level, which is our villages,” said minister Shashi Panja whose women and child development and social welfare department is rolling out the project. She was speaking at the 42 nd foundation day of CINI Asha, that works on focussed projects on children and women, on Monday. “The constitution of the committees is complete in the 314 blocks out of the 341 blocks in the state. Besides representatives from the police, administration and partner NGOs, the local girls will be in these committees who will play a crucial role in preventing trafficking,” said Panja. The girls will be “empowered” in the sense that if they report any abnormal activity in the village and detect any girl missing, the police and local administration would be forced to react.A survey commissioned by the department in 2014 had revealed that most girls were trafficked in their adolescents, which is between the age of 10 years and 19 years. Though there is not a unanimously accepted definition of adolescent in the country, the United Nations defines adolescents as being between the ages of 10 and 19. Experts in social sector have found that several factors are responsible for the girls in this age bracket to fall out of the ‘safety net of education and family” and become vulnerable to trafficking. “Factors like malnutrition, lack of health and educational facilities, rural to urban migration and sexual harassment make these girls vulnerable to trafficking. There is a need to develop a focussed social sector programme on this group,” said Rashmi Saxena Sahni, joint secretary of the department of women and child development, government of India who attended the programme on Monday. (Times of India 2/2/16)

Two arrested for trafficking five minor girls to Goa (1)

Berhampur: The Government railway police (GRP) on Wednesday arrested two persons from Gajapati district for allegedly trafficking five minor girls to Goa here on Tuesday. The girls, aged between 15 and 17 years, from Gajapati and Kandhamal districts were rescued by Childline activists and police from Berhampur railway station. The traffickers were identified as Babula Nayak, 33 of Bitipanka and Yasawanta Bardhana, 36 of Paniganda village. The duo was picked up from the railway station here, while they were waiting for a train to take the minor girls to Goa, said OIC of GRP (Berhampur) P C Rout. The rescued children are with Childline following a directive from child welfare committee (CWC) Ganjam, said director, Childline, Berhampur, Sudhir Sabat. They would be produced before the CWC (Gajapati) before being handed over to their parents, he said. Police said the traffickers promised to engage the girls as maid servants in Goa with a handsome salary and free accommodation. In most cases, the teenagers were exploited and engaged in the hazardous occupations, which violates the Child labour (prohibition and regulation) Act, said Sabat. (Times of India 4/2/16)

Many Gujaratis fall prey to human trafficking’ (1)

VADODARA: Lot of Gujaratis become victims of human trafficking in their urge to live the great American dream. This is what Harold D’Souza, Indian American activist and member of US President Barack Obama’s advisory council on human trafficking said here on Saturday . “I have come across many such individuals from Gujarat who face lot of difficulties, struggle and have to make sacrifices. But these things don’t come out as there is a stigma attached to it,”said Harold, who is in Vadodara where he was felicitated by his alma mater – MS University’s Faculty of Commerce, during the distinguished alumni meet that was orga nized for the first time by the faculty. “Human trafficking busi ness was estimated at US $ 9.8 billion in United States and globally US $ 32 billion in 2005. Profits of human slave ry were estimated to be US $ 96 billion in 2014,” said Vado dara-born Harold, who as survivor of human traffick ing is now spreading aware ness on this issues. “For any common man there are four things required to survive in United States -ID, social security card, work permit and freedom,”he said. (Tmes of India 7/2/16)

Role of surrogacy agents being probed in child trafficking racket (1)

New Delhi: 11 arrested; so far after police stumbled upon the major racket Police’s suspicion stems from the fact that Delhi is a hub for childless couples seeking surrogacyInvestigating a major child trafficking racket, the North-West district police are probing the possibility of some surrogacy agents acting as the middlemen between the abductors and childless couples. The busting of the racket on Thursday night has already led to the safe rescue of two toddlers so far. A nine-month-old boy rescued from Outer Delhi’s Kanjhawala was the second of the two successful rescue operations so far. “Some persons working at some surrogacy agencies in North-West and Outer parts of Delhi are being questioned by us. But it is too early to confirm their role in the racket,” a senior investigator told The Hindu . Apart from some claims made by the suspects during interrogation, police’s suspicion stems from the fact that Delhi is a hub for childless couples seeking surrogacy for realising their dreams of parenthood. “Instead of scouting for childless couples, it would be easier for the kidnappers to approach the surrogacy agents and ask them to refer those people who cannot afford the high costs of parenthood through surrogacy,” said the officer. In comparison to surrogacy costs, the kidnapped children were being sold for much lesser. The gang sold these children for anywhere between Rs.1 lakh and 3 lakh, with a girl child generally costing lesser than a boy. Investigators revealed that so far they have specific knowledge about seven children being kidnapped by these racketeers. Two of them are learnt to be girls. Hurried efforts are being made to safely rescue the other kidnapped children. Police have the custody of the nine arrested suspects, including two women, until Monday. Since the gang is suspected of many more kidnappings, their interrogators are trying hard to extract details of as many other children as possible. The kidnappers or the other links in the long chain in the racket would apparently pose as parents of the children while selling them off. “Some stamp papers would be signed between the two parties to make the childless parents believe they were adopting the children as per the legal process,” said an officer. A total of 11 persons have been arrested so far after police stumbled upon the major racket while investigating the kidnapping of a one-and-a-half-year-old boy who was picked up outside his home last Tuesday in a daring attempt by two abductors even as the child’s parents chased them on foot. (The Hindu 7/2/16)

CORRUPTION

ED action on Bhujbal: BJP, AAP jostle for credit (5)

MUMBAI: The searches carried out by the Enforcement Directorate on premises linked to former Public Works Minister Chhagan Bhujbal sparked off a race between the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party to claim credit for the action. In a bid to pre-empt the ED action, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, who has addressed several press conferences alleging money laundering by Bhujbal and his family in the past, had announced the ED’s searches at nine premises to reporters on Monday afternoon. The AAP, which has petitioned the High Court, and done expose on corruption by NCP leaders in Public Works and Irrigation departments, claimed the ED raids were result of the party’s direct intervention in the Bombay High Court three days ago. “AAP had filed a petition on the alleged kickbacks received by Bhujbal and his family. As a result, in December 2014, a Special Investigating Team comprising ED and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was constituted, and the probe in monitored by the Bombay HC,” AAP’s national spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon said. She said despite filing FIRs against Bhujbal and his family in June 2015, the ACB had failed to file charge sheets though Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had granted permission to file the charge sheet in early December 2015. “In fact, it has filed FIRs in only three out of the nine charges made against Mr Bhujbal,” Ms Menon said. “The ED probe too has been slack. They attached some of his properties, but haven’t summoned him for questioning nor pressed for arrests.” She slammed Mr Somaiya for claiming a role in this investigation. “Kirit Somaiya’s claims are ridiculous. He had filed a non-specific case on the Maharashtra Sadan scam and had later withdrawn it. AAP had filed a PIL which articulates every instance where kickbacks were received by the Bhujbal family after contracts were awarded by the PWD ministry,” she said. Expressing happiness that the ED probe was on track, Ms Menon, however, questioned the timing of the ED searches. “We feel that until Bhujbals are not arrested, the entire scam will never unfold. However, it is a strange coincident that the raids are being conducted at a time when Mr Bhujbal is conveniently not in the country,” she said. Mr Bhujbal is away in Washington DC at the invitation of the US Congress, his office claimed. (The Hindu 2/2/16)

SC seeks BCCI’s reply on implementation of Lodha panel recommendations (5)

New Delhi, Feb.4 : The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a reply from the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) on implementation of the Lodha Committee recommendations. “We will give a very simple and straight solution. We will simply accept all recommendations of Justice Lodha. We will hear the BCCI only if there is some inherent anomaly in report,” Chief Justice of India, Justice T.S. Thakur, said. The apex court has given four weeks time to the BCCI to file its reply. The next hearing has been slated for March 3. The Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee had earlier in their report recommended the legalisation of betting in Indian cricket. The Lodha committee also suggested the appointment of three authorities with distinct roles. Justice (Retd.) Lodha proposed that the second authority would be the ethics officer, who will administer the issues relating to conflict of interest, behavior or corruption issues. He added that the ethics officer would be a former High Court Judge. “The third authority, which we proposed to be created, is an electoral officer, who will oversee the entire election process relating to the office bearers, namely preparation of voters’ list, publications, disputes about eligibility of the office bearers, all these matters relating to election shall be overseen by the electoral officer,” he said. The other recommendations include a steering committee headed by former home secretary G.K. Pillai with Mohinder Amarnath, Diana Eduljee and Anil Kumble as members. The Lodha committee was appointed by the apex court last year to make recommendations to the BCCI in order to prevent frauds and conflict of interest in cricket administration. (New Kerala 4/2/16)

FIR against 50 sarpanchs in Rs 3 crore corruption case (5)

BHOPAL: In a first of its kind action against corrupt panchayat functionaries, administration in Guna has ordered to register FIR against 50 sarpanchs and issued orders of termination for 50 panchayat secretaries in a Rs 3 crore corruption case which dates back to 2009-2010. Action is being initiated against half of the sarpanchs and secretaries of the district. Additional district magistrate Mohammad Niyaz Khan told TOI, ” After inquiry, notices were served to 225 sarpanchs and 210 panchayat secretaries in the corruption case. They belong to all the 5 janpads of the district.”In all there are 425 sarpanchs and equal number of panchayat secretaries in Guna. Inquiry into the corruption case revealed that embezzlement of government funds took place in three programmes. The central government aided backward region grant fund, mid-day meals and construction of schools. “Major amount of funds to the tune of Rs 2 crore were misappropriated in the amount earmarked for construction of schools while corruption to the tune of Rs 80 lakh took place in mid-day meal schemes in 108 schools,” he said. As the inquiry progressed, Rs 20 lakh have been recovered from the sarpanchs and secretaries. As many as 80 of them have filed affidavits and have committed that they would also return government funds. Notices have also been served to as many as half a dozen engineers who failed to issue valuation certificate for the construction works in panchayats. (Times of India 6/2/16)

GO on govt. nod to prosecute corrupt officials opposed (5)

COIMBATORE: A Government Order making it mandatory for the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) to obtain prior approval from the government for initiating prosecution proceedings against government officials has drawn flak. The GO issued on February 2 makes it mandatory for DVAC to refer all corruption related complaints against any government staff to the respective Department, through the Vigilance Department, for appropriate order. Based on the remarks, the Vigilance Commission would take a decision and communicate it to DVAC. Earlier, to shield the top officials from the inquiry by DVAC, the government had issued an order to get prior approval from it. The Supreme Court ordered that the “status or position of a public servant” does not qualify for any exemption and all corrupt officials should be treated equally. Unfortunately, the government, instead of bringing All India Service officials also equal to other government servants, had made all other government servants above All India Service officials, says secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause (CCC) K. Kathirmathiyon. According to him, the order only shields senior officials by extending it to all categories of the government servants of the State. It is totally unacceptable and unhealthy, and also harmful to the interest of the public and hence CCC strongly opposed the GO. Already only very few people are approaching DVAC due to some unacceptable procedures/long drawn process. If the present order is implemented, CCC doubts whether any one would even come forward to complain, he adds. (The Hindu 8/2/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

 Wetlands in Indore being neglected (9)

Indore: For yet another anniversary of World Wetland Day (February 2), environmentalists are worried about the disturbed wetlands around the country, stressing on the urgent need to save them as they are affecting the biodiversity. In Indore and Malwa, the wetlands are fast shrinking and are facing a slow death. Madhya Pradesh is home to around 407 wetlands. Human encroachment and pollution due to overflowing sewage has emerged a major reason for degradation of wetlands in and around major cities of state. In absence of clear policy guidelines for conservation, the problem is aggravated. City-based ornithologists Ajay Gadikar said, “Wetlands around Indore such as Yeshwant Sagar, Bilawali, Kishanpura, Jhalaria and many others are facing a tough task to protect themselves from a number of factors such as commercial development in their area, submersion of plaster-of-paris or clay idols, over-fishing, tourism, pesticide discharge from agriculture fields, toxic pollutants from industrial waste, sewage waste drainage from nearby localities.” He added that most of the wetlands are under Indore Municipal Corporation or irrigation department.He added due to this birds like Flamingo and Sarus Crane, which were once commonly sighted in wetlands, have declined. Population of other birds has reduced owing to unfavorable alterations in their habitat. “Lakes near Indore, like Kishanpura, Burhanakhedi, Bilawali, Pipiliyapala are falling prey to unplanned urbanization,” he said. Another environmentalist Bhalu Mondhe said, “With increasing human interference, birds are forced to migrate to smaller ponds and reservoirs in rural areas, resulting in decline in their number. The catchment areas of wetland are shrinking day by day.” He said that wetlands are very important at the time of flood. (Times of India 2/2/16)

Centre for discussion with Western Ghats States (9)

KOCHI: The Centre will initiate discussion soon with Western Ghats States, especially Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which would go for elections shortly on the K. Kasturirangan report, Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, has said. Talking to mediapersons here on Wednesday, Mr. Javadekar said a few Ghats States including Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra had not submitted their responses regarding the recommendations on the Kasturirangan-led High Level Working Group. Once the responses are obtained, detailed discussions would be held with all stakeholders. The Ministry is for the conservation and protection of ecology of the Ghats and development, he said. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) and the Kasturirangan committees were appointed by the UPA government. Since the Kasturirangan committee report is the latest one, the government is working on its recommendations, said Mr. Javadekar on a question whether the government has shelved the WGEEP report.An expert committee has submitted its report on the modifications to be introduced in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) regime in the country. The government is also in the process of understanding the global trends regarding the CRZ system. The expert committee report is one input towards the proposed changes. The finer details will be finalised after discussions, he said. On the proposed hydel project in Athirappilly, he said the Centre will look into it after the regional offices of the Ministry taking a call on the proposal. (The Hindu 4/2/16)

City limping back to normalcy as pollution levels fall steadily (9)

MUMBAI: Citizens are heaving a sigh of relief after the city’s air quality further improved on Sunday. The real-time data recorded by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) pegged Mumbai’s Air Quality Index (AQI) at 254. On Saturday, the city’s overall AQI improved to the “poor” category to 282 from “very poor” at 309 on Friday.AQI levels between 201 and 300 are considered poor. The AQI had been above 300 (very poor category) since January 29, a day after the fire started at the Deonar dumping ground. AQI uses the 24-hour averages of pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate matter. On Sunday, SAFAR data showed that the air quality also improved at Chembur, the suburb closest to the dumping ground. While the AQI at Chembur on Saturday was 339, it was 200 on Sunday. Other suburbs too registered better air quality. Out of the nine locations in the city where SAFAR monitors the air quality, four—Bhandup, Borivli, Colaba and Chembur—had an AQI in the moderate category (102-200) and Worli and Malad showed an AQI in the good category (0-100). “The winds seem to have picked up speed due to which the pollutants seemed to have dispersed. The air quality is improving each day,” said Neha Parkhi, senior programme officer, SAFAR. The city temperatures on Sunday were close to normal. Santacruz recorded a minimum temperature of 16.8 degrees Celsius, which is 0.4 degree below normal. The minimum in Colaba was 20.3 degree Celsius, 0.8 degree above normal. (Times of India 8/2/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

How many farmer suicides in Gujarat? (2)

AHMEDABAD: When it comes of farmers suicides in Gujarat, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Union agriculture ministry and state government do not seem to be on the same page. To an RTI query, the PMO stated that only one farmer ended his life due to crop failure in the state in one decade — between 2003 and 2012. In contrast to this, the state home department said the figure was 413, between 2005 and 2014. And to in complete contradiction of these figures, the minister of state (MoS) for agriculture, in the Rajya Sabha, said that more than 600 farmers committed suicide in Gujarat in 2013-14. Mohan Kundaria, the MoS for agriculture, stated in the upper house of Parliament that 582 farmers committed suicide in 2013. While, 45 farmers and 555 farm labourers ended their lives in 2014. Kundaria, the parliamentarian from Rajkot, gave figures of farmers’ suicides in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state in response to a question by Rajya Sabha Congress MP Pravin Rashtrapal.Last year, RTI activist Bharatsinh Jhala demanded details on farmer suicides in Gujarat from the PMO. The PMO had replied that only one farmer committed suicide due to crop failure in a decade. Zala believes the figure is wrong as he has himself compiled data on farmer suicides, which suggested the number is around one thousand. He asked for data on small and marginal farmers along with farm labourersAnother city-based rights activist Sagar Rabari filed an RTI with the state police on the same issue. The police was considerably more generous than the PMO, as it stated that 413 farmers ended their lives from 2005 to 2014. Rabari said the authorities do provide proper replies to RTI applications. “With each RTI application, one can get a new figure. So there is a question over which number is correct,” Rabari said. (Times of India 4/2/16)

Free education to kin of deceased farmers (20)

MYSURU: The Academic Council of the University of Mysore has resolved to offer free education to children of farmers who allegedly committed suicide during last year. Children can avail themselves of undergraduate and postgraduate education for free during the 2016–17 academic year on the university campus or in colleges coming under its jurisdiction. Besides, the council also resolved to provide hostel accommodation to the needy children. The meeting, presided over by Vice-Chancellor K.S. Rangappa, took a unanimous stand in backing the State government’s move on free education to the children of the deceased farmers and resolved to support the farmers’ families. Prof. Rangappa said children of the deceased farmers would get admissions to courses in government, private and autonomous colleges. They can opt for either undergraduate or postgraduate courses, or other courses. The fee will be borne by the university. (The Hindu 5/2/16)

Modi govt to set up National Institute for Organic Farming (20)

Varanasi: Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh announced that that a National Institute for Organic Farming will be started in the country very soon.He asked people to wait for three years to see results of corrective measures initiated by Modi government. Terming Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi as `Nautanki karne waley’ (drama artist) he questioned relevance of Krishi Bima Yojana during Congress led UPA government. He also attacked Akhilesh Yadav government in UP on the issues of distributing compensations among farmers. While addressing the inaugural session of the Swadeshi Mela of Swadeshi Jagran Manch at cultural complex here on Saturday the minister said that the country has over 100 agriculture universities and institutes working in specialized fields. He said, keeping the deteriorated quality of soil due to imbalanced used of chemical fertilizers the Modi government is focusing on reviving the fertility of soil since its formation. The decision of starting a new national institute for organic farming is the part of same action plan, he said adding, all other agriculture universities and institutes would also be roped in to encourage organic farming. Singh called upon the farmers to increase pressure on the state governments concerned to get their soil tested and get the soil health card. He said, “As per the announcement of Modi government to test the soil of 14 crore farmers and provide their soil health cards about five crore farmers will get their cards by March end. As this programme is being run through state governments the farmers of UP should ask Akhilesh government in case they are not getting their soil health cards.” Targeting Congress led UPA government he claimed, “Between 2011 and 2014 during UPA regime the states got only Rs 1200 crores to meet the challenges occurred due to natural disaster while only in 2014-15 financial year Modi government released Rs 900 crores to the states in this head. During 2009-10 drought in UP the UPA government had given Rs 575 crores to the state while this state got Rs 2800 crores in 2014-15. And to distribute compensation among farmers against agricultural losses due to natural calamity in the beginning of 2015-16 center gave Rs 1600 crores to UP.” He asked farmers of UP to seek reply from Akhilesh government why such money had not been distributed among them so far. He also taunted Congress vice president to see how the works for the benefits of farmers are being done by Modi government. Highlighting features of Krishi Bima Yojana announced by Modi government Singh said that the agriculture insurance scheme of UPA government was not more than a cruel joke for the farmers. To check the menace of brokers and food grain stockiest in order to ensure that farmers are getting proper value of their produce he said, the process of linking 585 food grain depots of country with e-connectivity will complete by March 2018. (Times of India 6/2/16)

Cane farmers seek payment of arrears (20)

Mysuru: The Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers’ Association has urged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to prevail upon sugar factories to pay arrears of over Rs. 6,020 crore to cane growers in the State. It asked Mr. Siddaramaiah to initiate action on the lines of the Maharashtra government, which seized the sugar stock and withdrew licences of factories which failed to settle arrears. Association president Kurubur Shanthkumar said that of the 1,026 farmers, who committed suicide in the State last year, 196 were sugarcane growers. He alleged that sugar factories were directly responsible for cane growers ending their lives across the State and that the association was seriously contemplating filing cases against the factories. He urged the factories to pay farmers within 14 days of receipt of cane, or else pay 15 per cent interest on the amount. The association warned the government that it would not allow the zilla and taluk panchayat polls arrears were not released. (The Hindu 6/2/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

State reserves 20% industrial land for Dalits, Tribals (4)

Industrialists and entrepreneurs from the Dalit and tribal communities will now get preferential treatment in Maharashtra as the BJP-led state government has reserved 20 per cent of its industrial plots for scheduled castes and tribes. The government will also offer them land at cheaper rates. A policy in this regard was approved on Tuesday by the state cabinet. The new policy, which is named as “Dr Babasaheb Amebdkar Special Group Entrepreneurship Scheme”, seeks to grant incentives to businessmen from these weaker sections of society to set-up small and medium industries to help their social and economic mobility. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka already have such policies for backward classes. The policy not only sets aside 20% land for them, but also offers 30% subsidy (with a cap of Rs10 lakh) on the land cost. In non-MIDC areas also, 20% cheaper land (with a cap of Rs5 Lakh) will be given to them. SC/ST entrepreneurs will also get rebate in power tariff for five years. Over 15-20% subsidy will be extended to them on capital investment. “The scheme is being launched on the occasion of 125th birth anniversary year of Dr BR Ambedkar,” said an industry department official. The approval of the policy ahead of the ‘Make in India’ week in Mumbai from February 13 to 18 assumes greater significance as the government seeks to showcase Maharashtra as an attractive investment destination for the manufacturing sector. The government would also set up a venture capital fund (VCF) with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) only for Dalit and tribal businessmen. The move aims to transform Dalits and tribals from being job-seekers to job-givers. A delegation of industrialists from the SCs and STs had been requesting the government for the past couple of months to give preferential treatment to people from socially backward classes. (DNA 3/2/16)

Centre warns AP against Polavaram norms (4)

Bhubaneswar/Sambalpur: The Union minister of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, Uma Bharati on Wednesday said the Centre will stop funding if the Andhra Pradesh government violates the agreement of the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) award on Polavaram project (now Indira Sagar dam). The Centre had constituted the GWDT in 1969 to resolve inter-state disputes on river water utilization, official sources said. “Polavaram is a national project and the Centre is bearing the entire expenditure. If the Andhra Pradesh government violates the GWDT agreement, the Centre would immediately stop funding,” she told the media here after a meeting with chief minister Naveen Patnaik.The statement came at a time when the BJD-led state government has renewed its protest against the NDA government for going ahead with the project. Sticking to the Centre’s commitment for the project, the minister said on the basis of the recommendations of an expert committee, the Supreme Court has asked the state government either to opt for a better rehabilitation and resettlement package and or to give suggestions for construction of more embankments to reduce submergence. “The state government is yet to reply. I have requested the chief minister today to reply on it soon,” she added. (Times of India 4/2/16)

New land acquisition law a blessing in disguise: Gadkari (4)

New land acquisition law has proved to be a blessing in disguise paving the way for faster acquisition of land for highway projects, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday. Contrary to the belief, the new law will prove a success story for projects, highways and shipping minister Gadkari said while addressing the India Investment Summit in New Delhi. “… Now in rural areas, farmers are getting four times the compensation of their actual cost of land and in urban areas it is two times,” the minister said. This has encouraged farmers and they are readily making available their land for highway projects, he said. Even farmers who had parted with their land for highway projects are to get enhanced compensation under the new land acquisition law in case they are yet to be compensated under the old legislation. The move will lead to rolling out projects worth crore of rupees embroiled in about 2,000 cases. “The Ministry has directed NHAI, NHIDCL and others to enhance compensation to farmers as per provisions of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, (RFCTLARR Act) 2013 in cases were award was fixed as per old law but compensation has not been paid to land owners,” an official had told PTI. Gadkari said that the hybrid annuity mode of highways building was also set to enhance road building in the country as the government was not only providing 40 per cent grants in aid but was offering projects after at least 80 per cent land acquisition and all necessary regulatory clearances. He said government will award 28 projects on hybrid mode before March of which 4 have already been awarded. Gadkari said his target was to take the road building capacity to 100 km a day and his Ministry was addressing all issues including lack of availability of sand. He said highways sector will contribute at least 50 per cent to the GDP and together with shipping will generate at least 50 lakh employment. (Business Standard 5/2/16)

262 acres of land to be acquired for LRTS (4)

Bengalouru: As many as 262 acres of land, including 60 acres of private land, will be acquired for implementing the proposed 42-km of Light Rail Transit System (LRTS) in Bengaluru at a cost of Rs 10,875 crore. The LRTS, which is proposed to be implemented under public-private partnership, will have two corridors: JP Nagar-Hebbal corridor of 32 km (passing through Bannerghatta Road, Kanakapura Road, Mysuru Road, eastern boundary of Jnanabharati campus, Magadi Road, Peenya Industrial Area, BEL Circle, Lottegollahalli, Hebbal); Vijayanagar Tollgate-Tavarekere corridor of 10 km. Both the corridors will be elevated. “We have already identified the lands that have to be acquired. The major portion of it is government land. A detailed project report has been prepared. The project is now awaiting approval from the government. If approved, the bidding process will be taken up in two to three months. The proposed LRTS requires four years for completion, Bangalore Airport Rail Link Ltd Director (Projects) C Jayaram said.Planned to be a supplement to Namma Metro network, two companies, France-based Alstom and Larsen and Toubro, have evinced interest in implementing the project at Invest Karnataka-2016 held on February 3 and 4 at the Bangalore Palace. But the government will be selecting the private partner or the concessioner for implementing the project through a bidding process. The project was showcased at the investors’ meet, he added.Under the proposed LRTS, the government will bear 60 per cent of the total cost, including the cost of land acquisition. The government will also bear the cost of alignment and formation and utility shifting under the project.The private partner will bear the remaining 40 per cent of the cost, which includes station building, construction of depots, traction and power supply, rolling stock, design charges and other works. In terms of money, the government will be spending Rs 6,373 crore, including land acquisition, and the private partner will be investing Rs 4,117 crore. The LRTS was first proposed in 2007. But the subsequent governments failed to take steps to implement it. In 2010, the project was estimated to cost Rs 5,600 crore.The LRTS will have a capacity of 15,000 to 40,000 peak-hour direction passenger trips, which is almost similar to the Metro. But the LRTS will have lighter axle load compared to Metro. Besides, it will be of standard gauge and will have the capacity to operate at a speed of 80 km per hour. (Deccan Herald 6/2/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Doctors hail, NGOs flay Maneka proposal on mandatory sex test (3)

CHENNAI: Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi’s proposal to make prenatal sex determination tests mandatory could significantly improve the health of mother and child and eventually slash the maternal and infant mortality rate -issues that have bedevilled the public health system, doctors say. Revealing a baby’s sex to curb female foeticide is an idea that doctors say Maneka deserves credit for. They say such “out-of-the box thinking” is probably the only way to solve a problem that the ban on sex determination tests has for decades grappled with. The minister’s suggestion will allow the authorities to keep track of a pregnant woman and her fetus till delivery. Public and private health officials will have to carry out regular checks for anaemia, malnutrition, diabetes and hypertension, the cause of most maternal deaths, and institutionalise all deliveries. “If we are able to keep track of women as suggested by the minister it may work,” obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Kamala Selvaraj said. “What we need is a foolproof tracking system.” Creating such a system may be tough but it’s not impossible, say doctors. In Perambalur district, administrators and doctors set up a system that helped bring down mortality to near zero in four years. The Union health ministry in 2015 declared that India had missed its millenium development Goal target of reducing maternal mortality rate (MMR) to 109 per 1,00,000 live births by 31points. Doctors say early screening will also help doctors identify abnormalities and de velopmental disorders such as Down Syndrome. “We cannot deny women advantages of medical technology to prevent feticide,” fetal health expert Dr S Suresh said. Most NGOs, however, have dismissed the minister’s idea as outlandish. Members of Human Rights Research and Advocacy Foundation, which also runs campaigns against sex selective abortion, fear it could lead to an increase in domestic violence against women. “Why should we give men a chance to torture their wives early in pregnancy? We have not been able to keep track of women’s health because we don’t have a good system. How will sex determination change this,” asked Indra, a coordinator with the foundation. Most doctors don’t agree.”We have been sitting with this law for more than two decades and we have achieved nothing. We haven’t been able to reverse sex ratio,” Dr S Suresh said. (Times of India 3/2/16)

Maternal deaths increasing at Government Medical College and Hospital (3)

Aurangabad: Maternal deaths due to pregnancy and delivery complications have increased at Aurangabad Government Medical College and Hospital to 108 MMR last year. Maternal mortality rate (MMR) is the the number of deaths of pregnant women per one lakh live births in a given year, caused by complications during pregnancy or delivery. It is an important indicator of healthcare services in a particular area. The state had fared second best in the country after Kerala on MMR during 2010 -12, with Maharashtra recording 68 maternal deaths per lakh. “To bring down maternal mortality, Association of Maharashtra Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies (AMOGS) has chalked out a two-year exercise of creating awareness and providing treatment facilities to women at all levels. This might help bring a real change in association with the public health sector from villages to the cities,” said Kanan Yelikar, GMCH Obstetrics and Gynaecology department head and newly elected AMOGS president. “The maternal mortality ratio in Maharashtra has declined from 105 to 68 per one lakh live births since 2012, which was 200 per one lakh live births 10 years ago. Despite this, the pace of decline is insufficient to achieve the major development goals for maternal mortality. Hypertensive disorders, anaemia and post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) of pregnancy are a major cause,” said Yelikar. Among the various reasons for the deaths, post-partum haemorrhage contributes 25%, high blood pressure 18%, anaemia 8%, and sepsis 12%. Meanwhile, lack of transport facility resulting in delayed treatment also is one of the factors, she said. “Maternal deaths get automatically checked when pregnant women are encouraged to approach health care establishments for deliveries. Delivery complications are taken care of and effectively managed when a woman delivers a baby in a hospital. The rate of institutional deliveries – deliveries taking place at hospitals – has been consistently on the rise in the state due to various government sponsored schemes,” said Srinivas Gadappa, a gynaecologist at GMCH.”However, the rate of maternal death is recorded at alarming 108 per one lakh live births at GMCH since women here are generally brought in urgent conditions, such that most of the mortalities are reported within 12 hours of admissions. Meanwhile, since this is the biggest referral hospital in the region patients not only from across Marathwada are brought here but critical patients from nearby regions like Khandesh, Vidarbha and Andhra Pradesh borders too are referred here,” she said…. (Times of India 4/2/16)

51k Cancer Cases Reported Every Year (3)

BENGALURU: Karnataka sees 51,000 new cases of cancer every year and about three lakh people come for follow-on treatment. This trend can be brought down by collective efforts and by creating awareness, said Dr K B Linge Gowda, director of KIDWAI Institute of Oncology. He was speaking at a seminar for nursing students — ‘We care, You care and I care’ — organised by the Institute on the occasion of World Cancer Day here on Thursday. “About 19,000 patients are from West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Most of them come at the advanced stage. The success rate of treatment depends on early diagnosis. The treatment involves chemo and radio therapy, along with drugs and diet,” Dr Gowda added. Dr Prathima Murthy said that alcohol and drug abuse, tobacco use and unhealthy lifestyle are contributory factors to this deadly disease. Environmentalist Suresh Heblikar said the government should focus on keeping tabs on pollution. “Giving importance to industries in the city will add to pollution. This will lead to other health hazards. The investment should be done in coastal belts and other places to improve those areas and decongest Bengaluru,” he said. Dr Mahadevappa, former V-C of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, who is a cancer survivor, felt that educating farmers to grow crops with organic manure rather than the chemical ones will have good impact of health. K C Lakshmaiah, Head, Medical Oncology, KIDWAI Institute, said, “In rural areas, the situation is very scary as most of them are battling cancer in the last stage.” Institutes across the city had organised events to raise awareness about cancer.According to health ministry data, out of 300 cancer centers in India, 40 per cent are not adequately equipped with advanced cancer care facilities. India needs at least 600 additional cancer care centers by 2020 to meet the requirement. Annually, nearly 5,00,000 people die of cancer in India alone. (New Indian Express 5/2/16)

Health research lacks peer support, mentors: ICMR chief (3)

CHENNAI: Health research in India needs a lot of advocacy and great examples to go forward, said director general of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Soumya Swaminthan. “Many researchers struggle with no peer group or mentors, and we need to see how we can create virtual networks, to share ideas, get inputs and discuss. Research needs intellectual inputs all the time, it cannot be done in isolation,” she said. Dr. Swaminathan was speaking at the inauguration of a seminar on ‘Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases,’ conducted by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) in collaboration with the University of Alabama, Birmingham, United States. Capacity building is high in the priorities of the ICMR, Dr. Swaminathan said, adding that multi-disciplinary research units had been set up at 48 medical colleges in the country, including at Madras Medical College. Model rural health research units had also been set up at 12 places, she said. “We are also thinking about how to establish centres of advanced research with public and private partners,” she said. On the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, Dr. Swaminathan said there was need to see whether schoolchildren were receiving the right kind of diet and exercise, adding that a study had shown that the amount of salt Indians consumed on an average was higher than what it should be. Dr. Swaminathan was also conferred the eleventh MDRF-UAB-FIU Gold Medal Oration Award for her contribution to the field of medicine. MDRF, along with Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialties Centre, had also taken up a programme on ‘Strengthening Indian NCDs clinical research and training capacity,’ supported by the University of Alabama and the Florida International University and University of Minnesota, said V. Mohan, president, MDRF. The seminar will end on February 7. (The Hindu 7/2/16)

HIV/AIDS

Terminally ill patients have nowhere to go (3)

MADURAI: A pathetic story of a middle-aged HIV positive woman abandoned by her family and fighting last stage of cancer has highlighted the need for government intervention in providing hospice and palliative care to terminally ill patients. M. Lakshmi (name changed), who hails from a village in Sivaganga district, was diagnosed with cervical cancer about 10 months back. The tests she underwent revealed that she was HIV positive. The ill-treatment Lakshmi faced at her home after the diagnosis was a phase that she did not want any other person to go through. According to Lakshmi, she was married to her relative as a second wife when she was still in her teens. She brought up her girl child and two sons of her husband’s first wife. “It was through my husband that I became HIV positive. But I didn’t know that he had AIDS until I was tested positive,” she said. Though her husband was taking medicines discreetly for long, when Lakshmi was tested positive, he allegedly vilified her character. “He hid his illness and projected me as an immoral person in front of my relatives and even my children,” she said. “I couldn’t fight back as the unbearable pain due to cancer made me mentally unstable,” she added. It was one of her daughter-in-laws who brought her to Government Rajaji Hospital in the middle of December 2015 under the pretext of treatment and abandoned her. While she was treated as an inpatient for around a month, the hospital authorities later pressurised her to vacate. With the help of some volunteers, she is now admitted at a privately-run home. “There are no government-run homes for taking care of terminally ill patients. Without financial assistance, it is difficult for private homes as hospice care is expensive and requires skilled staff. There is rarely any help from authorities in accommodating such destitute persons,” said one of the volunteers preferring anonymity. An official from the District AIDS Control and Prevention Unit said that though Community Care Centres (CCC) were run earlier where HIV positive persons could be accommodated, the scheme had been stopped now. “However, such persons can be accommodated with the help of Social Welfare Department,” he said. (The Hindu 1/2/16)

AIDS control society begins two-month campaign (3)

PUDUCHERRY: People can avail the free voluntary testing for STI/HIV in Puducherry. Beginning from February first week, the Pondicherry AIDS Control Society has started a two-month communication campaign inviting the general public to voluntarily test for STI/HIV. The campaign was flagged off by Director of Health and Family Welfare Services K.V. Raman at the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare Services on Wednesday. In order to reach out to people in the village, at least 100 cultural programmes will be organised in Puducherry, 25 in Karaikal and Mahe and pamphlets would be distributed.“This is the first time in Puducherry that the intensive campaign for voluntary testing for STI/HIV is being held for the general public. Previously, only the high-risk groups would be targeted. People should come forward voluntarily to test for HIV status and the results would be kept confidential.If found positive, they can avail free medical services at the major government hospitals for a healthy and long life.” She added that without any hesitation, people could get free testing done at Indira Gandhi Government General Hospital and Postgraduate Institute, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), CHCs at Mannadipet and Karikalampakkam, Rajiv Gandhi Women and Children Hospital and can also avail the service at the 12 Primary Health Centers (PHCs). People who would want to test for Sexually Transmittable Infections (STIs) can go to the hospital at Odiansalai, JIPMER, IGMC, Rajiv Gandhi Women and Children Hospital, government hospital in Karaikal. This is a curable disease and patients can avail treatment at the hospitals. (The Hindu 4/2/16)

Project to treat HIV+ drug addicts in northeast to start soon (3)

New Delhi: To tackle the rising HIV prevalence in north-eastern states, especially among people injecting drugs, the government is set to launch a new initiative called ‘Project Sunrise’. The project is aimed to diagnose 90% of such drug addicts with HIV and put them under treatment by 2020. The project is expected to kick-start from this month itself, an official source said. North-eastern states like Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland account for highest adult (15-49 years) HIV prevalence in the country, latest government data showed. Estimates of 2015 show Manipur tops the list with adult HIV prevalence of 1.15%, followed by Mizoram (0.80%), Nagaland (0.78%), Andhra Pradesh & Telangana (0.66%), Karnataka (0.45%), Gujarat (0.42%) and Goa (0.40%). The national average for adult HIV prevalence is estimated at 0.26% in 2015. Besides these states, Maharashtra, Chandigarh, Tripura and Tamil Nadu have also shown estimated adult HIV prevalence greater than the national prevalence.However, the government is particularly concerned about the north-eastern states because it feels the adult HIV prevalence rate in these states is driven by drug injecting people. “The HIV epidemic in the North Eastern (NE) region is primarily driven by injecting drug use and this is compounded by unsafe sexual behaviours. The porous international borders, hilly terrain, poor road and transport communications, disturbed law and order situations pose many challenges for NE states in scaling up HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts among key populations and the general population. This has adversely affected the scale and quality of services,” an official note on Project Sunrise said. According to the note, the national average for prevalence of HIV among drug addicts is 7.14%, whereas in Manipur it is 12.9% and in Mizoram it is 12%.The Project Sunrise, steered by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) under the health ministry, will also aim to create more awareness about the disease in these N-E states. The project will be funded under the Centre for Disease Control and will be implemented in coordination with state AIDS control organisations and non-government organisations (NGOs) working in this area. The government also plans to employ consultants privy to local settings in these states who can help improve the outreach of various initiatives planned under the project. “The Sunrise Project will be implementing a data-driven approach that will strategically focus on geographic areas and populations to ensure that we are doing the right things, in the right places, at the right time to achieve epidemic control among people who inject drugs,” an official said.Other initiatives planned under the Project include enhancing capacity of state-level institutions in high burden areas, community mobilization, intervention among females injecting drugs and spouses of such people. The government also plans to establish a real-time data capturing and program monitoring software solution side by side. This would automate flow of information in near real time at site, district, state and national level, enabling the Centre to timely review the developments and take required action to fill in the gaps. Latest estimates by NACO estimates around 21.17 lakhs people living with HIV in India in 2015. Of this 6.54% were children below 15 years of age. (Times of India 5/2/16)

Over 40% living with HIV in India are women (3)

New Delhi: In what could pose a significant challenge for India to meet its ambitious target of ending AIDS by 2030, women continue to account for more than 40% of people living with HIV infection in the country. The share of women is crucial because of risk of transmission from pregnant women, uneducated and unaware women as well as among vulnerable groups including sex workers.The latest HIV estimates by the government show a 66% decline in new HIV cases in the last five years with an average of 86,000 new infections in 2015. The total number of those living with HIV is estimated at 21.17 lakh in 2015 compared with 22.26 lakh in 2007. While two-fifth of total HIV infections are among women, children under 15 accounted for 6.54% of the total cases. According to Nochiketa Mohanty, country programme manager, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, while there are programmes to prevent parent-to-child transmission of the virus, there is greater need to focus on women.”There is a huge need to ramp up education and awarnessness about HIV infection among women besides upgrading the social status of women in order to empower her to make choices related to her sexual partner,” he said. Experts also say HIV testing is not prevalent among women, especially in rural areas and even among the migrating population in both urban and rural settings. “Women do not really go out and get tested for HIV because there is social stigma and taboo attached to it. They fear getting identified socially,” Mohanty said.Over 40% living with HIV in India are women (Times of India 8/2/16)

 

Posted by admin at 11 February 2016

Category: Uncategorized

From 1st January to 31st January, 2016

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit temple pujari suicide case adjourned (2)

Dindigul: Principal District Judge R. Poornima on Wednesday adjourned the temple pujari suicide case till January 19 on Wednesday as the petitioner’s lawyer informed the court that the petitioner had filed an affidavit in the High Court seeking an advocate instead of public prosecutor to argue the case. The court was expected to examine witnesses in the morning. Ten out of the 19 witnesses appeared before the court. O. Raja, brother of Finance Minister O. Paneerselvam, and other accused too appeared before the court. But the petitioner, Subburaj, father of the deceased, did not appear. The petitioner’s advocate told the court that the petitioner feared that the public prosecutor appointed by the government would support only All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionaries. The petitioner had already submitted a petition to Collector T.N. Hariharan demanding change of the public prosecutor. Since his request was turned down, he filed an affidavit in the High Court in this connection, the advocate added. Defence counsel Kannappan said that the petitioner neither appeared before the court nor produced any court order to stay the proceedings. The petitioner, who demanded speedy trial, was now dragging the case. He could have applied for change of prosecutor while seeking High Court direction for change of the court for impartial hearing, Mr. Kannappan said, and sought issue of a warrant against the petitioner to make him appear before the court. The judge advised the petitioner’s advocate to produce the High Court order in this connection during the next hearing, and adjourned the case. She also ordered the defence counsel to give a reply to the petitioner’s plea. The petitioner was advised to appear before the court during the next hearing. Charges in the case were framed against Mr. Raja and the others on December 15. Theni District Court had transferred the case to Dindigul District Court on November 25 on the direction of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. The case pertains to the suicide of S. Nagamuthu (22) of T. Kallupatti village, a Dalit, who worked as pujari in Sri Kailasanathar Hill Temple in Periyakulam, by hanging on December 8, 2012, after he was allegedly subjected to harassment. (The Hindu 7/1/16)

 

2. Pejawar seer proposes ‘bhakti deeksha’ for Dalits (2)

MANGALURU: Vishwesha Tirtha Swami of Pejwar Mutt, who will ascend the Paryaya Peetha this month, said on Thursday that he was keen on administering ‘bhakti deeksha’ to Dalits during his two-year term. The seer claimed that such a practice was also followed by social reformer Basavanna and it would instil religious discipline. Interacting with presspersons here on Thursday, he said that as part of ‘bhakti deeksha’, Dalits would be given ‘naama deeksha’ and ‘mantra deeksha’. “‘Naama deeksha’ will be administered after a person takes a vow not to consume alcohol and eat non-vegetarian food. Those who have quit drinking alcohol and non-vegetarian food for months will be administered ‘mantra deeksha’,” the seer said. He said that this had been the way Basavanna gave ‘linga deeksha’. Under ‘naama deeksha’, Dalits would learn songs on Vishnu and Shiva. As part of ‘mantra deeksha’, they would learn some simple mantras. “These are necessary to infuse religious values and religious discipline. This will prevent religious conversion.” The seer said that social reformer Narayana Guru did the same for Billavas and prevented their conversion. The practice of ‘saha pankti bhojana’ would continue in Udupi where Dalits would consume food along with other Hindus and people from other communities. “I believe in tolerance. There is no scope for intolerance. I believe in taking both minority and majority communities together. There will be no cause for hurting sentiments of any community,” he said. The seer said that he would introduce ‘ede snana’ at the Subramanya temple on the Udupi Krishna Mutt premises. “We cannot take the argument [of a section of activists] that allowing it will be akin to disrespect to the prasadam.” (The Hindu 8/1/16)

 

3. Dalits seek justice for rape survivor (2)

RAJKOT: More than 100 dalits came out on the road in Amreli and blocked roads at Rajkamal Chowk in Amreli town seeking justice for the girl from their community who was allegedly raped. A husband-wife duo from Savarkundla town, Kanti Vala and Kavita Vala, attempted self-immolation but were prevented by the local police due to timely intervention. The couple was detained and later released on bail. Last month, 22 members of the 18-year-old rape survivor’s family had fled their homes in Vadli village of Rajula taluka in Amreli after the girl lodged an FIR of kidnapping and rape against two upper caste youths of the same village. The offence was allegedly committed on December 25, 2015 night. The victim’s family had also lodged complaint against relatives of the accused who had allegedly threatened the family of dire consequence after they lodged the FIR. The girl’s family had fled on January 1 and was now staying outside Amreli collector’s office demanding justice. The family is also demanding compensation from government. “On Monday, Kanti Vala and wife Kavita declared that they would immolate themselves on Tuesday. So, we took preventive measures and detained the couple before they could,” said R B Gojiya, investigating officer at Amreli town police station. He said that traffic was cleared soon after the detention of the couple. Vadli village has a population of 4,000 and is dominated by upper caste kathi darbars. There are nearly 100 dalit families living in the village. (Times of India 13/1/16)

 

4. This temple in Uttarakhand allows entry of Dalits, women after 400 years (2)

Dehradun: With the legal battle seeking entry of women into the Sabarimala temple of Kerala still on, the Parsuram temple in Garhwal’s Jaunsar Bawar region has decided to get rid of its 400-year-old tradition and allow the entry of women and Dalits inside the famous temple. The temple management has now announced that everyone will be allowed inside the temple in future. Quoting the chairman of the temple management committee, a news report in the Times of India said, the decision has been taken “in a bid to move with the times”. “This region is on the path of progress. Our literacy rate has gone up and people want scenarios to change,” said Jawahar Singh Chauhan,  Chairman of the committee. In the past few months, Dalits of the region had held several protests condemning these strictures. The temple management’s this move has been hailed by the Dalit community. We have been fighting for the cause since last 13 years. We welcome the move and we appeal that other temples in the area should also follow the step taken by Parsuram temple management,” said Dalit leader Daulat Kunwar. The Parsuram temple management has also decided to stop the practice of animal scrifice here. (Zee News 16/1/16)

 

5. Unfortunate that Dalit was denied decent funeral: Punia (2)

MAYILADUTHURAI:  “It is unfortunate that an elderly Dalit was denied a decent funeral; the divisive mindset of some sections of society needs to change for holistic development of the people,” Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, P.L. Punia, said here on Saturday. Speaking to The Hindu after getting a first-hand information of the recent incident in which a Dalit’s body was held five days without burial following sustained rivalry between two communities at Thirunal Kondachery near Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinam district, Mr. Punia observed that it was not proper on the part of the officials to have forcibly arranged for a funeral. Instead, the officials must have enlightened those who obstructed the use of common road that it was illegal to deny the Dalits right of passage and that too for funeral. “A section of the administration was not able to ensure a decent burial for an elderly Dalit and that was unfortunate,” Mr. Punia, also a Rajya Sabha MP, said. It seemed right from the beginning some sections of officials and other communities were bent on bending the law, instead of forcing those who tried to flout that, to deny proper funeral to the Dalit. Comparing the conditions prevalent in the Dalit colony and the localities of other developed communities in the village, Mr. Punia remarked that the difference was marked and it was easy for anyone with an open mid to analyse and conclude on the disparity. “We have directed the district administration to remove the encroachments that prevented a proper and early funeral,” he added. Mr. Punia said that he had asked the administration to file an action taken report immediately. After receiving that, he would add his field study report to be forwarded for action to the State and district officials concerned. He also expressed concern over the reported denial of entry to Dalits in a local Shiva temple and said the district administration must address the issue . Mr. Punia consoled the bereaved family members of Sellamuthu (85) who was hurriedly and forcibly buried by the police and Revenue officials after prolonged parleys between two warring communities failed to break the deadlock over access to the graveyard. Mr. Punia also met those who opposed the body being taken through their street and told them to live in harmony with others. Collector S. Palanisamy, DIG of Police, Thanjavur Range, Senthil Kumar, Superintendent of Police Abhinav Kumar, Assistant Director and Head of Regional Office, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Chennai, P. Ramasamy, accompanied him. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

6. Hyderabad University takes back four suspended Dalit students (2)

Hyderabad: Hyderabad Central University on Thursday terminated the punishment of four student who were suspended on August 5 for allegedly assaulting ABVP leader N Susheel Kumar. Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had written a letter to the HRD Minister in August urging action and claiming that the “Hyderabad University… has in the recent past, become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”. He cited the attack on the ABVP leader and stated that the university administration had turned into “a mute spectator to such events.” Students of the university alleged that Dattatreya’s letter sought action against research scholars including Vemula. They demanded that the police register a case under SC/ST Atrocity Act against Dattatreya. The suspension being revoked comes after ten professors belonging to SC/ST community resigned from administrative posts in the University of Hyderabad (UoH), in response to the ‘fabricated statements’ by Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani over Rohith Vemula’s suicide. “In response to the Honourable Minister’s (Smriti Irani) fabricated statements, we the Dalit (SC/ST) faculty and officers lay down our administrative positions” said a press statement by UoH SC/ST Teachers and Officers Forum. “We express our solidarity with students who are protesting against the death of Rohith Vemula and demand the immediate revocation of suspension and removal of police cases filed against our students,” it added. The press release further stated, “It (sub-committee of executive council) was headed by an upper caste professor Vipin Srivastava and there are no Dalit faculty member in the sub-committee.” “It was headed by an upper caste professor and there are no Dalit faculties in this subcommittee. Incidentally, the dean of student welfare who happens to be a Dalit was notionally co-opted an ex-officio member of the committee. It is unfortunate that since its inception, no Dalit representation has been given in this council,” it said. On Wednesday, Irani termed the ongoing protest on Vemula’s suicide as ‘malicious’ the attempt to ‘project it as a caste battle’. “This is not a Dalit versus non- Dalit issue as being projected by some to ignite passion,” Irani told a press conference, while rejecting allegations that her Ministry had put pressure on the University to suspend Vemula. (Asian Age 21/1/16)

 

7. 15 Dalit Christians ‘re-converted’ in ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony (2)

Vellore: Fifteen Dalit Christians belonging to five families were ‘re-converted’ to Hinduism at a ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming) ceremony near Latheri, Katpadi on Tuesday evening. The ceremony, organised by Hindu Munnani, Vellore, was conducted at an Amman temple in Chengimottur. The five families were residents of the Adi Dravidar Colony, Chengimottur, Latheri. The families were primarily involved in agriculture. “This is the first ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony to be organised in Vellore district. These persons had converted to Christianity nearly eight to 10 years ago. They were re-converted to Hinduism during the ceremony,” said K. Magesh, zonal president, Hindu Munnani, Vellore. He disclosed that Hindu Munnani’s branch committee in the area had got in touch with the family members and spoke to them about returning to their “mother” religion. “They also expressed the desire to return to Hinduism. So, we arranged a ritual that was attended by several villagers,” he said. Hindu Munnani’s State organiser K. Bhaktavachalam was present on the occasion. The organisation plans to organise more such events across the district. “We will be going back to the same village as hundreds of them had been converted several years ago. We will organise the rituals in various parts of the district to bring back people to Hinduism,” he added. Mr. Magesh said,“Many are volunteering for re-conversion, while we are also approaching persons who had converted from Hinduism. We had not conducted ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremonies earlier as it caused too much of political controversy,” he said. (The Hindu 21/1/16)

 

8. mHyderabad Scholar Suicide: Dalit Professors Resignation Continue (2)

HYDERABAD: The number of professor resigning from their administrative posts in University of Hyderabad reached 14 on Friday. The professors are members of the University of Hyderabad SC/ST Teachers and Officers Forum, including professors and lecturers, resigned from their administrative positions in a bid to show solidarity with the protesting students over the suicide of a Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula. The executive council of the University had yesterday revoked the suspension of four Dalit scholars who had been expelled, along with Rohith Vemula, in December last year. However the protesting students refused to talk to faculty members. Earlier on Thursday, at least, 13 faculty members – including Professor V. Krishna, controller of exams, Chief Medical Officer Dr Ravendra Kumar, 10 hostel wardens and chief warden Nagaraju – put in their papers from their respective posts. “We are deeply hurt by Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s press conference, yesterday (on Wednesday), where we got labelled as Dalits,” said Dr. Ravindra Kumar, adding that it’s like adding salt to our wounds. “We are about 40 people in Hyderabad University’s SC/ST faculty forum, of which 12-13 hold administrative posts,” Kumar said. “We thought that the Government doesn’t require our administrative acumen, so decided to lay down admin posts,” said Kumar said. Vemula and four others were suspended in December, and a month later Vemula hanged himself to death on the university campus. (New Indian Express 22/1/16)

 

9. Dalit student who protested against Modi evicted from guesthouse (2)

LUCKNOW: Ram Karan Nirmal and Amrendra Kumar Arya found themselves surrounded by security personnel soon after raising slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. Their mouths were forcibly shut as they were dragged away to preventive detention. Shortly after he stepped out of custody, Mr. Nirmal, 31, was dissapointed and shocked to hear that the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University officials cancelled his stay at the University hostel as a punitive measure. Mr. Nirmal finds a glaring similarity between his eviction and the harassment faced by Hyderabad scholar Rohith Vemula. “I voiced my dissent. For that I was evicted from the Siddhartha Boys’ Hostel of the university and my boarding for the night cancelled even though my room was booked for two days. We had deposited Rs. 200 for the boarding,” said Mr. Nirmal, who was left to bear the nippy North Indian winter night without any roof. A copy of the hostel bill is with The Hindu. However, for the young Dalit men who shouted “Modi, go back,” “Modi Murdabad,” “Inquilab zindabad, Phule Ambedkar zindabad,” during the convocation ceremony on Friday, there is no sense of regret. In fact, they are “proud” of their act. “We feel like responsible citizens who have the right to dissent. If given a chance we will do it again,” said Mr. Arya, 24, an LLM graduate.Mr. Nirmal and Mr. Arya were booked under Section 151 (disturbance of public peace) of the Indian Penal Code and sent to preventive custody. After a few hours, the police released them on a personal bond. Dismissing any accusations of a publicity stunt, the two said they decided to stage a protest against Mr. Modi when they could not longer bear his silence around the death of Rohith Vemula. The two claim no political affiliation and say the protest was staged solely on their own will. “PM Modi tweets every minor and random thing — be it a Mayor election or wishing somebody on their birthday. But he has not said anything on issues of grave injustice, like the murders of Akhlaq, Dabolkar and Kalburgi,” said Mr. Arya. The students belong to the Dalit community and hail from humble backgrounds. Mr. Nirmal, a Dhobi, is the son of a farmer from Kaushambi, while Mr. Arya’s father (a Jatav) is a retired gram panchayat secretary hailing from Sant Kabir Nagar. Another student who participated in the sloganeering but was not held by the police was Surendra Nigam, a Pasi, who teaches at a private college in Mirzapur. Mr. Arya and Mr. Nirmal live as roommates in New Delhi where they are both preparing for judicial entrance exams.During his speech, Mr. Modi broke his silence on the death of Rohith Vemula, saying that he could feel the agony of the scholar’s parents. “What delayed him for so many days? Just because we protested he was forced to shed crocodile tears. He was forced to speak up merely for fear of losing Dalit votes in the 2017 elections,” Mr. Nigam said. While the suicide of Vemula was the trigger to their outrageous protest, the Dalit youth say it was borne out of their growing frustration with the ‘saffronisation’ of educational institutes under the NDA government and its indifference towards Dalit students…..  (The Hindu 23/1/16)

 

10. Two held for assaulting three dalit youths outside Coimbatore temple (2)

COIMBATORE: Police have arrested two men for allegedly attacking three dalit youths outside a temple at Karamadai in Coimbatore. Three dalit youths, identified as Ganeshan, C Ranjith Kumar and S Ramasamy of Therampalayam, were leaving Kumaran Kundru Murugan temple after attending a function on Monday night. Ganeshan, who went to the parking area to take his two-wheeler, got into an argument with K Murali and D Jayaraj who belong to the non-dalit okkiliya gowder community. What started as a minor argument soon turned into an ugly fight. Four others from okkiliya gowder community — Boopalan, Surendran, Prabhu and Ranjith — joined Murali and Jayaraj and attacked Ganeshan.Ranjith Kumar and Ramasamy came to the rescue of Ganeshan. However, they were beaten up by Murali and others. Murali and Jayaraj bit Ramasamy, said police officials. Ramasamy and Ranjith Kumar, who suffered injuries, were admitted to Mettupalayam government hospital.The Karamadai police officials booked a case against the six accused men under various sections of the IPC and also under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Act. Murali and Jayaraj were arrested on Tuesday and remanded in judicial custody. A police officer said they were on the lookout for the four other accused. (Times of India 27/1/16)

 

11. Jawaharlal Nehru University: Fellowship of dalit scholar is renewed (2)

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University has released the grants to a dalit scholar who had sent letters to its former vice-chancellor threatening to commit suicide if his fellowship was not renewed for another year. Alleging that he has been “discriminated and harassed” by his department which was trying to “block his Ph.D”, the dalit researcher with international organisation division, CIPOD, had written two letters to former V-C S.K. Sopory and demanded resumption of his fellowship in a week’s time threatening he would commit suicide otherwise. In a separate letter, he had said he was absent from the university for a certain period due to death of four members of his family, including his father and brother. He, however, added as he has resumed his studies, he wants his fellowship to continue. “JNU administration has spoken to the students and resolved the issue in view of the financial difficulties faced by the student and the unfortunate deaths in his family. His fellowship has been released after adjusting the amount that he had taken as advance for a field trip to Brussels but spent on his grandmother’s medical treatment,” the varsity said in a press statement. (Asian Age 30/1/16)

 

TRIBALS

12. Minister announces Rs 52-crore package for Siddi tribe (6)

Haliyal (Uttara Kannada dist): Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya on Friday announced a Rs 52.53-crore package for the development of the Siddi tribe in the district. He was addressing a press conference at Majire Wada in Haliyal taluk, where he celebrated the New Year with residents of the hamlet. A tribal ashram school would be opened here so as to provide education to children in the hamlet. Children in class I to V here would be adopted. They would be given quality education along with affectionate care.  Navodaya model residential schools would be started from the academic year 2017-18 at Haliyal and Yellapur, the minister said. Admissions would be in the ratio of 75 per cent for Siddi children and 25 per cent for children of other communities. A grant of Rs 24 crore had been sanctioned for this purpose, the minister said. The minister announced various other sops for the Siddi community. He went on a walk in the hamlet visiting houses, listening to the grievances of the residents. The minister directed officials to redress them on the spot. The minister had visited the Soliga tribal hamlet in Chamarajanagar district to celebrate the New Year 2015 with them. (Deccan Herald 2/1/16)

 

13. State moving at a snail’s pace to improve lot of tribals (6)

BENGALURU: The end of 2015 should have brought some cheer to forest-dwelling tribals of Karnataka, as December 31 was the deadline to distribute title deeds to eligible tribal people and communities for ownership of land. But, Karnataka has been classified one of the worst performers in achieving this. Seven years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, 2006, came into force (which was notified in 2008), the State government is still moving at a snail’s pace in extending benefits to tribal families in 27 districts. Consider this: of the 2,88,579 applications received from Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) and community right seekers, a meagre 8,705 have got title deeds by the end of November 2015. While 1,12,072 applications have been rejected, the rest are “pending”. The Tribal Joint Action Forum (TJAF) is demanding a “review of the applications” that have been rejected. The deadline for distribution of title deeds to the tribal community has been extended twice. The Union government had earlier set the deadline of December 31, 2014, for State governments to distribute title deeds to eligible applicants. Considering the slow pace of work, the Centre extended the deadline to December 31, 2015. According to statistics available, the government is yet to dispose, 1,67,802 applications. When contacted, Vasanth Kumar, Director, Directorate of Scheduled Tribe Welfare, attributed the delay in implementation of the Forest Rights Act to elections to the Legislative Council from local bodies. “Though deputy commissioners have expedited the process of disposing of applications by December 31, and they have sought another two months in view of the Council polls. We have appealed to the Centre to extend the deadline,” he said. Jual Oram, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, in his letter written to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in October 2015, had asked the government to “proactively pursue progress in vesting and recognition of forest rights in a time-bound manner”, and asked to lay stress on training and motivation of all field-level functionaries involved in implementation of the Act. The letter also states that Karnataka is one among nine States where “implementation of the Act has been slow”. The TJAF is hoping to present a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Mysuru on Sunday on the issue. In the memorandum, it is stated that tribal population in most parts of State has been waiting “endlessly” after submitting applications. Some tribals have rejected title deeds as they were allocated land in terms of guntas, while they are eligible for land up to four hectares. (The Hindu 3/1/16)

 

14. 3 minor Adivasi girls rescued (6)

GUWAHATI, Jan 4 – Three minor Adivasi girls were rescued from Dumni area in Baksa district when they were being reportedly trafficked by a group of traffickers this afternoon. The girls aged between 11 to 13 years were being brought to Guwahati when a team of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) intercepted them. Although the traffickers manage to escape from the spot, police said that it was following the movement of the kingpin, who is believed to somewhere in Kokrajhar district. The girls belong to Dumni tea garden in Baksa district. The rescue operation was launched after family members of one of the girls intimated the team of BBA and the police about the developments. “The girls were rescue from Dumni outpost after which a case was also registered,” sources stated. Meanwhile, two more victims of trafficking and sexual abuse from Assam have decided to formally lodge complaint with the Delhi Police. The minor girls complained that before the BBA that they were sexually abused from time to time, said Rakesh Senger, director, BBA while talking to this newspaper. Senger said that BBA is providing all kind of assistance and support to the victims who were brought from Assam to New Delhi recently. He also informed that the BBA, in its effort to raise awareness level in various trafficking affected districts, will launch a mass awareness programme in the State from this month itself. (The Assam Tribune 4/1/16)

 

15. HC seeks govt. views on panel for tribes (6)

KOCHI: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has directed the Centre and the State governments to inform the court of their views on its suggestion for constitution of a broad-based committee for effective implementation of various welfare schemes meant for tribespeople in Attappady. The Bench comprising Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Anu Sivaraman suggested that the Social Justice Department, Health and Family Welfare Department and departments relating to child welfare and tribespeople could be brought in to the committee. The court observed that the effective implementation of the poverty alleviation scheme was absolute necessary in tribal areas. The protection of the rights of tribespeople was essential. The Centre and the State governments should work out a modality for identifying the bottlenecks in the implementation of various schemes for the welfare of tribespeople. Meanwhile, in a report, P.B. Nooh, Sub-Collector of Ottapalm, who was the Nodal Officer in Attappady, said that no complaint had been received so far from any of the tribal patients or organisation regarding the indiscriminate use of any drug on patients, pregnant mothers or adolescent girls in Attappady. (The Hindu 8/1/16)

 

16. Nine months into financial year, just 40 pc of SC/ST funds utilised (6)

Bengaluru: Nine months into the current financial year, the State government has utilised only 40 per cent of the allocated Rs 16,352 crore for the welfare of SC/STs under Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP). The government is now left with the mammoth task of utilising Rs 7,100 crore by March this year as provisions of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes sub-plan and Tribal Sub-plan (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Financial Resources) Act, 2013, makes it mandatory that the allocation is utilised fully. The social welfare department, which got the highest allocation among departments (Rs 2,470 crore) for SC welfare is below average when it comes to utilisation (38.87 per cent). Revenue department tops the list with 71.12 per cent and Youth Empowerment is in the bottom of the list with 0.12 per cent utilisation. The SC/ST Development Council headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah reviewed the utilisation of funds by various departments at a meeting in Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday. For the records, the government has so far released 76 per cent of funds earmarked, but utilisation stands at 40 per cent. Speaking to reporters, Siddaramaiah said he had directed officials that the total allocation be utilised by the end of the current financial year. “There is provision as per the SCSP-TSP Act to penalise officials if they are found to have been negligent in utilisation of funds. We will not hesitate to invoke these provisions,” the chief minister said. Sources said some departments like the youth empowerment had fared poorly as they got their programme of action late. Siddaramaiah also chaired a meeting of the State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee. He said the conviction rate in atrocities cases in the State was low. He had directed officials to look into the poor conviction rate and set right lapses, if any. Investigating officers should take more interest in such cases and while collecting evidence. The State was also contemplating on appointing an additional advocate general to monitor atrocity cases, he said. (Deccan Herald 14/1/16)

 

17. Tribals will be produced in court today, official tells ST panel VC (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Tribals, who have been identified as being involved in the killing of former sarpanch of Jerrala Panchayat Sagina Venkata Ramana by CPI (Maoist) cadres, would be produced before the court on Friday morning, Joint Collector J. Nivas told Vice-Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Ravi Thakur. Replying to a pointed query by the VC of NCST on when they would be produced before court the Joint Collector assured that the police would present them before the court on Friday morning after the issue of police holding tribals since Saturday last on their suspected involvement in the killing was raised by members of the kin of the tribals. MPTC from Jerrala and wife of one of the persons in illegal custody Adapa Vishnumurthy along with members of the families of others represented to the VC of NCST at an interactive session on issues of tribals organised by the Forum for Social Justice here on Thursday. Paderu MLA G. Eswari, who accompanied the families, raised the issue at the session following which the NCST VC instructed Regional Director of NCST Dwarka Karol called up the Superintendent of Police and the Collector. The SP sent a DSP and the Joint Collector reached the venue to respond to the Commission. The JC said according to the information he had 11 persons had been identified as being involved and they would be produced before the court and all others would be left off. Ms. Eswari told the Commission that neither the SP nor the senior police officers were responding to her phone calls and the local police officials in GK Veedhi feigned ignorance about the whereabouts of the tribals. “I along with YSRC mandal coordinator Adapa Vishnumurthy and Prasad went to the GK Veedhi police station and Vishnmurthy and Prasad were detained by the police and since then have not returned home,” Ms Eswari told the Commission. The Commission received representations from different ST employee associations and the Commission Vice Chairman assured them that they would be followed up with concerned authorities from New Delhi. (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

18. Tribals put up huts in forest, demand 5 acres (6)

PALAKKAD : Nemmara divisional forest officer (DFO) Vimal Kumar submitted a report to the Palakkad collector on Monday after tribespeople living in the Kadappara Malamarasar colony encroached a couple of acres of forest land last week at Mangalam dam. Nearly, 19 families live in the colony. Forest land had been given to them under the Forest Rights Act, to set up homes. “They do not having proper housing, road or other facilities. They encroached on forest land, cleared small trees and put up huts demanding five acres for each family. They are also demanding the right to collect minor forest produce and sell it through an exclusive cooperative society,” the report said. The officer said their demand for a two-km road to the nearby Thalikkal colony will soon be a reality as the work will start shortly. “Their demand to collect minor forest produce will be considered, but the department won’t allow encroachments. I have requested the collector to provide revenue land to these families. The forest department has already given them 40 cents for their colony under the Forest Rights Act,” he said. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

19. Inclusion of tribe in ST(H) category opposed (6)

HAFLONG, Jan 19 – Various tribal organisations of Dima Hasao district have strongly opposed the move of the Central government to include Bodos of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong in the ST(H) category, stating that the move would harm the unity and integrity among the people of the two districts. This was stated in a joint press meet held at the office of the Dimasa Students’ Union (DSU), Haflong on Tuesday by Kailen Daulagupu, president, Jadikhe Naisho Hoshom; Agnes Gorlosa, president, Dimasa Mothers’ Association; Pramith Sengyung, vice-president, Dimasa Students’ Union (DSU), Central Committee, HQ Haflong; Sanjeen Langthasa, reception committee, All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU); Neijaylal Khelma, president, Khelma Students’ Association (KSA). They stated that a meagre 5% quota is reserved for ST(H) in Assam which is enjoyed by more than 16 tribes. The Bodo Kacharis, who are the second largest population in Assam, are already categorised as ST(P) and enjoyed a quota of 10% reservation in all spheres. If Bodos, who are economically, politically and educationally advanced are included into the ST(H), they would be enjoying 15% of reservation. As a result, the weak indigenous groups living in these two hill districts would be outnumbered and overshadowed. Therefore, the inclusion of Bodo tribe in the ST(H) category shall be accepted only if the Government of India accepts the long-pending demand of the people of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong for a separate State. They also mentioned that a memorandum on non-inclusion of Bodo tribe in the ST(H) category was submitted on August 25, 2015 jointly by Dimasa Students’ Union (DSU), All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU), Hmar Students’ Association (HQA), Hrangkhol Students’ Association (HkSA), Khelma Students’ Union (KSU) to Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs. (The Assam Tribune 20/1/16)

 

20. Eight tribal women allege gang-rape by security forces (6)

RAIPUR: Eight tribal women from Bijapur district of south Chhattisgarh have accused the security forces of “repeated gang rape and physical torture” between January 11 and 14. Four others have alleged that they were “molested” and their property was “plundered” by the security personnel. The women belong to Nedra village and surrounding Para (surrounding small village localities) under the Basaguda police station limits of Bijapur. According to Isha Khandelwal, the lawyer of the victims, eight women had testified to the police that they were gang-raped by security men. “There are many women in the village who have been raped by the security forces, of whom 12 gave a statement to the police. Eight have said that they have been gang-raped. Some of them have even named the policemen who raped them. The incident took place between January 11 and 14,” Ms. Khandelwal told The Hindu . “The women came to the Bijapur district headquarters on January 18 but the police did not register their complaint. The FIR was lodged only last night [on Thursday night] after avoiding it for four days,” the lawyer said. According to some local sources, the police were forced to file an FIR after tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori addressed a press conference with all the victims on Thursday. “All the victims told a press conference that they were gang-raped by the security men. Most of these women are married and have kids. Each of them has claimed that they were raped by more than three-four security men,” Ms. Sori told this reporter. When asked about the allegations, Bijapur Superintendent of Police K.L. Dhruw admitted that the police force was present in the Nedra area between January 11 and 14. “Some NGOs have raised this issue. But I have not seen the entire matter as I was away from the district headquarters and returned a day ago,” said the SP. (The Hindu 23/1/16)

 

21. Domicile policy: Tribal bodies plan protests in phases (6)

JAMSHEDPUR: Six tribal and communist outfits on Sunday announced a phase-wise agitation programme to build pressure on the government for the implementation of domicile policy in the state. To begin with, Jharkhand Disom Party (JDP) and Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (ASA) will sit on a two-day fast at Shaeed ground in Chaibasa on February 1 and 2. The CPI (ML), CPI ML (PCC), Janmukti Sangarsh Vahini and Yuva Chatra Sangarsh Vahini have vowed to support the stir. “The agenda of the two-day fast will be to expose JMM (the main opposition party in the state assembly) on the issue of domicile policy,” said JDP president and former MP, Salkhan Murmu. He accused the JMM of cheating the tribal community on two issues. The first being the party led by Shibu Soren formed the short-lived government in 2013 on the pretext of implementing the domicile policy., but failed to implement the same.Secondly, JMM had announced in the 2014 assembly polls that it would ensure the cancellation of the ongoing construction of the Ichha- Kharkhai dam in West Singhbhum, but there’s wasno sincere move on the part of the JMM even after 15 months of the last assembly polls.”Our objective is to put the picture in black and white and tell the people, particularly the tribal community, that JMM is no different from the other parties such as Ajsu, BJP and Congress when it comes to making false promises to the innocent tribals,” said Murmu here on Sunday. He added that the representatives of the aforesaid six organizations will hold a joint convention in the city on February 20 wherein the roadmap for the domicile agitation will be drawn up. “Prominent tribal intellectuals who have been voicing the need for the early implementation of the domicile policy have been invited to the convention,” said Murmu, releasing the joint programmme of the six outfits. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

22. Tribal panel moots changes in land law (6)

Ranchi, Jan. 28: The Tribal Advisory Council today recommended scrapping of a provision under tenancy acts that provides for compensation against illegal transfer of tribal land, in a move to tighten the noose around land mafia who have been abusing the law to usurp plots of gullible indigenous people. The council, headed by chief minister Raghubar Das, also proposed setting up of two new scheduled area regulation (SAR) courts for speedy disposal of pending cases pertaining to tribal land grab. During the meeting at the main secretariat in Project Building, the council observed that under the Clause 71A of Chotanagpur Tenancy (Amended) Act if concrete structures were built on an illegally transferred tribal plot, the original land owner was to be given Rs 10,000 compensation. The payment of compensation in turn validated the plot transfer and land mafia often took undue advantage of this clause. “The council has recommended that this provision be abolished to ensure return of the illegally transferred tribal plots to their original owners or their legal claimants. The government may, however, acquire tribal land for industries, mining, schools, hospitals, roads, irrigation projects etc under the Section 49 of CNT Act,” said TAC member Ratan Tirkey. The council also proposed that a tribal land donor be given four times the current market price of the plot taken by the state as compensation. The Centre, in its land acquisition bill, has proposed twice the current market value of land as compensation. It has been observed that around 4,120 cases of illegal transfer of tribal land are pending at SAR courts across the state, out of which 3,685 are in Ranchi district. And, most of the SAR courts are virtually defunct in the absence of basic infrastructure and manpower. According to sources, the chief minister has agreed to create two new posts of SAR officers in Ranchi district for one year and if need be, their term will be extended further. Ranchi currently has only one SAR officer, who runs a SAR court. The SAR courts across the state will be given necessary amenities. “The advocate general will be consulted for quick disposal of cases pending in the high court and Supreme Court,” said another council member. The council also advocated use of agriculture land for other purposes without affecting the land ownership rights. It has also been decided that no tax would be charged on agriculture land. However, for plots, being used for other purposes such as building a house, one will have to pay taxes at commercial rates. “The proposals will be sent to the governor for approval soon. The chief minister is committed to work for the welfare of tribals,” said Das’s press adviser Yogesh Kislay. (The Telegraph 29/1/16)

 

23.  ‘NGOs targeting tribal children to attract sponsors’ (6)

VIJAYAWADA: As many as 70 Santhal tribe children, hailing from different hamlets in Jharkhand, were brought to Andhra Pradesh illegally. They were admitted in different homes of NGOs in Krishna district. According to sources, some mediators, who used to visit villages and perform prayers, brought the children, aged between 8 and 15 years, and admitted them in homes. A few children, who were trafficked, were also kept in the homes. Though the children were slogging in homes for the last two years and above, the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW), Revenue, Police, Education, Social Welfare, Labour Welfare and other Departments were unaware of the illegal stay of the children. As part of ‘Operation Smile’, police teams from Jharkhand and Odisha States visited the homes and identified the Santhal tribe children. They met the district officials and appealed to send the children with them. The Juvenile Welfare Department and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) should monitor the welfare of the children in voluntary organisations. Interestingly, CWC gave orders of providing shelter to many children in the homes, which were not maintaining standards. “Emotional scenes were witnessed when the police teams visited the shelter homes on Saturday. When parents, police and the officials visited homes, many children hugged their parents and urged to take away from the homes. They allege that the NGOs are not providing quality food, proper shelter and the sanitation was very poor,” said an officer who was in the team. “The CWC which should monitor the welfare of children had referred some Odisha, Jharkhand and other states children to homes, without checking the facilities. Many inmates were anaemic without proper medical care and were deprived of parental care. Taking advantage of the poverty in tribal villages, some NGOs are targeting tribes to attract sponsors,” the officer said preferring anonymity. When contacted, CWC member Fr. Bala Showry feigned ignorance over admitting tribal children of other states into the homes and also on the poor amenities in NGO homes. Officials allege that some NGOs are admitting tribal children on the pretext of providing education and shelter violating norms. The admissions were made just for showing strength in the shelter homes and get funds, said an Education Department officer. Juvenile Welfare Department District Probation Officer (DPO) K. Bhaskar, who visited the homes, said it was a fact that many Santhal tribes from Godda, Khunti districts of Jharkhana and Khorda and Berhampur of Odisha States children were staying in NGOs, and steps were being taken to reunite them with their families. (The Hindu 31/1/16)

 

WOMEN

24. Crime rate down by 4.23% in 2015, says DGP (8)

VIJAYAWADA: The crime rate dipped 4.23 per cent and there was a 7.53 per cent reduction in the number of crimes against women across Andhra Pradesh (up to November) when compared to last year, said director general of police JV Ramudu. Addressing a review meeting here on Thursday, he cited the 95,000 FIRs pertaining to cognizable crimes which were committed in the last 11 months. Pointing out that that at least 4000 more cases were filed in 2014, the DGP hailed the state police for limiting crimes against the weaker sex to just 11,667 this year compared to 12,671 cases in the corresponding period last year. As far as 2016 is concerned, he said that the department has four priorities: greater focus on the capital city area, spread awareness about the need to avoid road accidents, curb atrocities against SCs/STs and prevent economic offences. “As many as 96 Maoists were nabbed from East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts. Another 100 radicals surrendered and two leaders of the banned outfit died in encounters,” the DGP told newspersons. He observed that there has been a decline in dowry harassment by 13.80 per cent dowry deaths by 18.65 per cent, murders by 8.67 per cent, kidnapping and abduction by 15.79 per cent respectively. Though the overall crime rate against women went down, the number of rapes, abetment of suicide and bigamy cases increased. About red sanders smuggling, he said that 2,710 persons have been arrested in this connection. “Of these, 1,367 hail from neighbouring states and 13 are foreigners. As many as 11,475 logs were seized from the smugglers and they were booked under preventive detention (PD) act while 480 vehicles were impounded in all. Notorious red sanders smuggler Kollam Gangi Reddy who fled to Dubai and Madagascar was deported from Mauritius within just eight months,” the DGP stated. AP police successfully investigated number of economic offences such as Agri Gold, Akshaya Gold, Abhaya Gold and cheating cases relating to Keshav Reddy educational institutions. The year witnessed excellent coordination between the police and transport departments with the objective to reduce fatalities on the roads. Guntur, Chittoor and East Godavari districts unfortunately top the list in this regard. However, more road accidents were reported from Krishna, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts. (Times of India 1.1.16)

 

25. Chandigarh sees rise in crime against womenm(8)

Chandigarh: If the data of Chandigarh Police is anything to go by, the city is witnessing a rise in crime against women. The annual data reveals that on an average, six women in the city are being raped every month, 10 women are being molested every month, and 10 women are facing harassment on the pretext of dowry every month. As per the data, 77 cases of rape had been lodged last year (2015), as compared to 64 in the previous year (2014). Besides, there were 99 cases of molestation, 126 of harassment by husband, five dowry deaths, 10 cases of sexual harassment, and 156 kidnapping cases.Criminal lawyer Gagan Aggarwal said: “This data available is just the tip of an iceberg, as there are a number of cases of unreported crime against women, and they are also never highlighted in the media due to some reasons. Some women do not want to get involved with police investigations, as they feel ashamed of going to the police station, but they should bear in mind that they are fighting for their own rights, and there is nothing wrong in reporting crime.” Five cases of death due to dowry harassment were registered in 2015, while there were only two in 2014. Not only crime against women, but in other cases in the city like riots, which were only 33 in 2014 had shot up to 48 in 2015, and cases of attempt to murder had also risen from 33 in 2014 to 40 in 2015. Cheating and forgery cases witnessed a six-fold increase – from 248 in 2014 to 325 in 2015. Cruelty by husbands and relatives, cases of gambling, NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act, and accident cases had also seen a sharp rise. SSP Sukhchain Singh Gill said: “We are trying to put a halt on crime, but some of them are inevitable, which can only come to light if the victim comes and reports, otherwise they remain hidden e.g. dowry cases. But here in Chandigarh, women are more aware than in other cities. The city police too is much more resident-friendly. We are trying our best to make the city crime-free.” (Times of India 3/1/16)

 

26. ‘Haryana’s child sex ratio improves to 889 girls per 1,000 boys’ (8)

Panchkula: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday said that with efforts made by the state government and effective implementation of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) programme, the child sex ratio in the state has improved to 889 girls per 1,000 boys. “Efforts are being made to further take it (child sex ratio) to above 900,” he said, while flagging off the ‘Sashakt Beti Sashakt Bharat’ awareness march organised by the India Media Centre, Haryana. About 150 girl students from 18 districts of Haryana are participating in the awareness march being organised to generate knowledge among the people regarding women’s empowerment. The awareness march would pass through 23 places in twelve districts before culminating at Raj Ghat in New Delhi, on January 14. According to the 2014 census, the child sex ratio of Haryana was 846 girls per 1,000 boys. The Chief Minister said that since 2005, the sex ratio in Haryana had been on the decline, creating a lot of imbalance in the society. Though everybody, including politicians and educationists were aware about the ill-effects of this problem but it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took upon himself the task of eradicating the menace of female foeticide and setting right the skewed sex ratio in the country, Khattar said. Modi had launched the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) Programme from Panipat on January 22 last year. Giving a push to this programme, the state government took it as a mission and reviewed the sex ratio every month. “This, together with the other steps taken by the Haryana government, has helped in increasing the sex ratio to 889 girls per 1,000 boys in November last year, which is a matter of pride,” he said. Besides the government, participation by all sections of the society, including educationists, social and non-government organisations, is necessary to achieve the goal, he added. He said that the state government was committed to eradicating crime from the society. An atmosphere has been created in the state against the heinous act of female foeticide, he said. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act is being strictly implemented and those found involved in female foeticide have been put behind bars after registering cases against them, he said. With a view to empowering women, separate women’s police stations have been set up in all districts to enable women victims to lodge complaints without any fear, he said. However, much more needs to be done in this direction, he added. (Zee News 7/1/16)

 

27. HC seeks government response on marital rape (8)

New Delhi, Jan 11 : The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the central government to file a response on a PIL seeking to declare a provision in the penal law unconstitutional as it discriminates against married women sexually assaulted by their own husbands. A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to the government, seeking a response by March 23. The PIL filed by NGO RIT Foundation challenged Indian Penal Code’s section 375, saying it does not consider sexual intercourse of a man with his wife as rape. The court had last July disposed of a plea on the ground that Supreme Court was already seized with the issue, but on Monday the bench agreed to examine the issue after it was told that the ground raised in this case was different from the plea pending before the apex court. “The law as it stands today amounts to a state-sanctioned license granted to the husband to violate the sexual autonomy of his own lawfully wedded wife and is therefore, a violation of the Right to Privacy guaranteed to the wife under article 21 of the constitution of India,” said the plea. “The exception to section 375 arbitrarily discriminates between women as it keeps the age of consent at 15 years for women who are in a wedlock whereas the same is 18 years in case of any other woman,” it noted. (New Kerala 11/1/16)

 

28. Enlightening girls about ‘bad touch,’ ‘good touch’ (8)

TIRUCHI: A stall to create awareness of child sexual abuse (CSA) and other forms of violence against children is among the more unusual features of the ongoing government exhibition in the city. Set up by the District Children Protection Unit (DCPU) for the very first time, the stall has been attracting a significant number of visitors daily since the 45-day exhibition was inaugurated on the grounds of the St. John’s Vestry Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School on December 18. “Until the promulgation of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, child sexual abuse was not really discussed in the legal framework,” Ms. Karthika, Child Protection Officer, DCPU, told The Hindu . “Earlier this usually referred to rape and molestation, but POSCO made it possible to examine the deep-seated psychological effects of sexual abuse on young victims,” she added. At the expo stall, staff volunteers could be seen addressing groups of families and children about the issue with the help of large-print charts indicating the limits of physical contact with the aim of preventing inappropriate behaviour. ‘No’ – with the child speaking up against the potential abuser, ‘Go’ – asking the child to leave the spot immediately, and ‘Tell’ – advising the youngster to inform a parent or trusted adult about the attempt on their modesty, is the slogan being promoted by DCPU. “Most of our studies show that the perpetrator is usually someone known to the child,” said Ms. Karthika. “Parents and teachers visiting our stall have said that they are glad to see this issue discussed in public. They feel it will help us to overcome the culture of silence related to child sexual abuse.” Pencils and balloons printed with the anti-abuse message are being given to children who do well in the show-and-tell contest being held at the stall. A 40-metre cloth bale has been getting filled up with the signatures of visitors who have taken the oath to protect children against abuse and violence. Posters highlighting the challenges facing children in the State such as child marriage, child labour, infanticide and gender-based foeticide and abandoning of infants, are on display at the stall. The exhibition is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (The Hindu 11/1/16)

 

29. Delhi Mahila Congress launches ‘Ek Koshish’ (8)

New Delhi: Delhi Mahila Congress on Thursday launched ‘Ek Koshish’, an initiative aimed at providing counselling and legal advise to women suffering from domestic violence, sexual harassment and other forms of crime. Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken inaugurated the programme which will be run three days in a week from the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) office at Rajiv Bhawan here. Maken said that ‘Ek Koshish’ is not a parallel organization but purely a social initiative of Delhi Congress to fulfil its social responsibility by providing free counselling and legal advise to vulnerable women in the city. Experts in various fields, including lawyers, will sit at the Mahila Congress office at Rajiv Bhawan three days a week to help the victims, he said. Delhi Mahila Congress president Barkha Shukla Singh expressed hope that the initiative will extend a helping hand to women victims of various crimes and harassment in the city. (Zee News 14/1/16)

 

30. Female sex ratio down by 24% in U’khand as per latest family health survey (8)

DEHRADUN: In somewhat of a disappointment for Uttarakhand health department, in spite of investing funds and manpower to stem female infanticide, the female sex ratio at birth for children born in last five years has gone down by 24% as per the latest NFHS-4 (National Family Health Survey) data. As per the survey, for every 1000 males, 888 girls were born during the last five years as compared to 912 during the earlier survey which was conducted in 2005-06. This, sources say, puts into question the efficacy of the state’s Hamarai Kanya, Hamara Abhiman and several other schemes. NFHS-4 was conducted from January 30 to July 19, 2015 and the survey report was unveiled by the health ministry recently. Interestingly, the ratio of girl births is 817 in urban areas while rural areas have recorded a higher percentage of female births of about 924 per 1000 males. As per the survey, Uttarakhand is in the list of five states which includes Andaman and Nicobar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnatka, where the sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years has fallen drastically. Of all the five states, Andaman has registered the highest fall from 1, 083 to 859 followed by Madhya Pradesh which registered a 33% decrease in female birth from 960 to 927 and then Uttarakhand. A senior health official when queried about the findings accepted that there was “huge scope of improvement in the health sector of Uttarakhand.” “In spite of modernisation and technical intervention, it has come as an eyeopener for us that the state has failed in improving its female infanticide status,” the official said. Reacting to the survey results, gynecologist Dr Sujata Sanjay, who was recently chosen by ministry of women and child welfare department as one of the 100 successful women of India for actively working towards the beti bachao, beti padhao initiative, told TOI that “the biggest bottleneck remained the mindset of people.” “The birth of a daughter is still a stigma in some parts of our society whether it is among the rich or the poor. This is the biggest stumbling block in curbing female infanticide.” Meanwhile, in some positive news, Uttarakhand has shown an improvement in overall sex ratio of the total population from 996 to 1, 015 in the last one decade. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

31. South Asian women vulnerable to violence since birth: WB (8)

DEHRADUN: Right from birth to old age, South Asian women are vulnerable to violence as per the latest report published by the World Bank titled ‘Violence against Women and Girls, Lesson from South Asia.’The report has divided female life-cycle into seven stages — infancy, childhood (1-5yr), unmarried and adolescent girls, married girls and women, unmarried women, divorced and widowed women and elderly women – and identified 12 kinds of violence against them. As per the study, unmarried and adolescent girls are vulnerable to the maximum eight kinds of violence. Even elderly women, the report says, are vulnerable to five types of violence of which two are sexual in nature. The report indicated that a woman of South-Asia is maximum vulnerable to trafficking throughout seven stages of her life. The 12 kinds of violence comprised female infanticide, excess female child mortality, child abuse, child marriage, trafficking, honor crimes, non-partner sexual violence, sexual harassment, custodial violence, intimate partner violence, mistreatment of widowed and divorced women and elder abuse. To combat violence against women and girls South Asian Governments have been asked to follow the footprints of Bangladesh which has implemented Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence against Women (MSPVAW), in which successful collaboration across ministries has played significant role in combating violence. The report heavily objected working in silo, it read, “Efforts to address violence against women and girl has been “pigeonholed” into ministries that focus on “women affairs” or reproductive health. However, Violence pervades all realms of women’s lives.” In the legal recommendations made to India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. India has been suggested to: Enact protections against custodial violence, Criminalize marital Rape and correction in imbalances in system of personal law. Meanwhile, the efforts of Tamil Nadu in preventing female infanticide through its Cradle Baby Scheme, Girl Child Protection Scheme, etc. have got special mention in the report for involving all the government department and society for sensitizing against violence. While giving out recommendations to all Governments, the report, read, “Government can more effectively use conditional cash transfers to combat son preference and delay marriage of adolescent girls, as in the case of the Apni Beti, Apna Dhan (Out Daughter, Our Wealth) scheme in India, if known conceptual and implementation problems are corrected.” Of all the ten recommendations for all governments, three recommendations — Improve data collection on all forms of violence in surveys measuring prevalence and crime records systems and increase monitoring and oversight of case registration for police, Integrate violence screening and support in antenatal care, family planning programs, and STI and HIV prevention programs and dedicate funding to programs preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, and establish clear parameters for disbursement of such funds — have been identified to work upon under all three short, medium and long term goals. The report laid focus upon emphasizing human rights above any other factor as a major way to combat the issue of violence against females in South Asia which account for highest 43% physical/sexual abuse in the world. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

32. Rape and dowry cases on rise in city: Report (8)

Bhubaneswar: The capital city earned the notoriety of having witnessed a rise in rape and dowry torture cases last year, according to the annual crime report, released by the outgoing commissioner of police, R P Sharma, here on Monday. The overall crime rate also soared with the registration of 6,991 cases here in 2015 as against 5,548 in the previous year. Sharma said the overall cases went up as the police laid stress on registration of incidents. Rape cases shot up to 87 in 2015 from 72 in 2014. What is more disturbing is that the rape survivors were mostly minors. Statistics showed 59 minor girls were allegedly raped last year as against 43 in 2014, pointing to the vulnerability of girls of this age. The police said Bhubaneswar did not witness any sensational rape cases last year. In most cases, the crime occurred following breach of trust between couples and false marital claims by accused men. In case of minor girls, the victims either eloped with the accused before their (victims) family members lodged complaints of rape and kidnapping, Sharma said.Last year, two gang rape cases were registered. On June 4, 2015, a 15-year-old girl alleged she was gang-raped by two youths in Badagada here. The complainant alleged the accused, who were known to her, spiked her cold drink and raped her. On February 6, 2015, a woman from Puri district lodged a complaint at the Mahila police station here accusing her husband and his two friends of kidnapping and gang-raping her. She alleged that her husband held her hostage in an unidentified location in Bhubaneswar and raped her along with his friends for several days. Rape incidents, however, plummeted in Cuttack last year. While 66 rape cases were registered in Cuttack in 2014, it came down to 42 last year. (Times of India 26/1/16)

 

33. Number of female births rising in worst-affected Haryana: PM (8)

New Delhi: The number of female births in Haryana is rising fast as the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ campaign has brought about a “real” societal change there, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today hailing the state which is notorious for female foeticide. Modi, while talking about the Republic Day celebrations, said a unique experiment was carried out in Haryana and Gujarat this time. “Haryana and Gujarat gave importance to the ‘daughter’. This year, the most educated girl of a village was invited to unfurl the national tricolor in a government school… Well educated ‘daughter’ was given special importance,” he said in his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’. The Prime Minister said the two states had tried to send out a great message with regard to the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ (Save the girl, educate the girl) campaign.”I appreciate the imagination of both these states. I congratulate all the girls who got the opportunity to unfurl the national tricolor,” he said. “The families, where girls were born in the past year, were given special invitations at Republic Day functions and seated in the first row as VIPs. This, in itself, is a big moment of pride and I feel happy that I had launched the campaign of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ from Haryana because in that state the sex-ratio had become very bad,” he said. The Prime Minister said when he proposed to launch the scheme from Haryana over a year back, officers had advised him against it, saying it would be a difficult task in that state because of “negative atmosphere” there. “But I did the work and today I appreciate from the bottom of my heart that they owned up this appeal. Today, the number of births of females is rising fast. I really appreciate the societial change there,” he said. Modi had launched the scheme on January 23, last year from Panipat in Haryana, a state which has one of the worst sex ratios in the country. Mahendragarh in the state was the worst with only 775 girls born per 1000 boys. Modi had denounced the practice of female foeticide, saying such discrimination reflects “mental illness” and displays a mindset “worse than people in the 18th century”.He had slammed the social beliefs girls are “someone else’s property” and it is the boys who look after the parents. Turning to this year’s Republic Day, the Prime Minister said the countrymen showed a lot of courage in celebrating it amidst the concerns as to what terrorists would do. (Business Standard 31/1/16)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

34. Child Labour: Shop Owners Denied Bail (14)

BENGALURU:  A Sessions Court in the city declined bail to the owners of a bakery and chicken centre in two separate cases registered against them for engaging child labourers and exploiting them by forcing them to toil for more than 12 hours. “Day-by-day such cases are increasing. These crimes need to be checked. If bail is granted, the accused will tamper with prosecution evidence and flee from justice. Therefore, these are not fit cases to grant bail,” said Shubha Gowdar, Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge, while dismissing the bail petitions of the accused. In the first case, Parappana Agrahara police registered a case against S M Mahesh, owner of Sannith Bakery near the Central Jail Road. Mahesh was booked under the Child Labour (Prohibition Regulation) Act 1986, for engaging a 12-year-old boy in his bakery for the last three months. In his petition, Mahesh claimed that he was the sole bread-earner of his family and supports two aged parents, his wife and two children.  In a similar case, Judge Shubha Gowdar dismissed the bail plea of Mohammed Haneef, owner of Firdos Chicken Centre on Doddanagamangala Road in Parappana Agrahara police station limits.  “Haneef, being the owner of chicken centre was extracting work from the 13-year-old boy from 8 am to 9 pm against his will. Though he was paid `6,000 per month, there is violation of provisions of Section 370 of IPC and also provisions of Child Labour Act,” the judge noted. (Indian Express 3/1/16)

 

35. Child labourers from Bihar, UP rescued from Rajasthan factory (14)

Kota: 27 child labourers, mostly from Bihar, have been rescued from a bread factory in Anantpura here. Police claimed the children, aged between 14 and 17 years, were made to work for over 12 hours a day in hazardous conditions. The raid was carried out yesterday by anti-human trafficking unit following a tip-off. Inspector Kaniz Fatema said 25 of the rescued children were from Bihar and two from Uttar Pradesh. They were brought to work here by a private contractor about two months ago. “The children were found working as bonded labourers in hazardous conditions. They wore old, torn clothes even in the cold conditions. They were being given little food,” Fatema said. A case in this connection has been lodged against the owner of the bread factory and the private contractor in Anantpura police station, she said. The children were later produced before the Child Welfare Committee that sent them to shelters homes. The rescued children’s statement would be recorded before the Sub Division Magistrate tomorrow following which further action as per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act would be taken, Fatema said. The minors were rescued under Operation Smile campaign launched against child labour from January 1 in Kota. “Awareness generation activities for child labour free nation have been conducted in the first three days of the campaign,” she said, adding the campaign would continue till January 31. (Business Standard 5/1/16)

 

36. 227 children reunited with parents by cops (14)

Thane: As many as 227 children were reunited with their parents in the last six months under a family restoration programme “Muskan” by the Thane Police. Under the programme, parents and family members of children who were found loitering, begging or doing odd jobs, engaged in child labour or lodged at remand homes were traced, a release said. The Child Protection Unit of Thane Police Commissionerate ran the programme. Eight missing children and 35 kidnapped children were traced and reunited with their family. A team of officials located the parents of 58 children lodged in remand homes and about 41 children who were found at public places such as railway stations and bus stands. As many as 35 child labourers and 44 children who were found begging were counselled before being united with their families. Four children have been lodged at a remand home here as the team failed to locate their parents, the release said. The police efforts also brought two special children to their parents, it said. —PTI (The Hindu 8/1/16)

 

37. 79 children rescued from bangle-making units (14)

HYDERABAD: Continuing its drive against child labour in bangle making units of the old city, the police on Saturday arrested seven persons and rescued 79 children, including 56 aged below 12 years. While conducting a cordon and search operation in Amannagar area of old city, the south zone police found children housed in tiny dwellings and made to work for long hours. The employers were bringing children from different districts of Bihar by paying an advance of between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 15,000. A sum of Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 were paid to the children weekly. “The unit owners were selling products to traders in Begum Bazaar and making huge profits, while the children were starved and made to work for 15 hours a day. Their families back home were paid a pittance every month,” DCP (south) V. Satyanarayana said. To a question, he said that the problem is very severe in slum areas of Tallabkatta. “These are very thickly populated, and it is difficult to get information. But our officials are keeping a watch and rescuing the children,” Mr. Satyanarayana said, adding that till date the police rescued around 400 minors and registered cases against 70 persons. The children were handed over to the Women and Child Welfare Department officials, who shifted them to a children’s home. All the children will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee and sent back to their native places. (The Hindu 10/1/16)

 

38. 4 Odisha children saved from cake-making unit (14)

MANGALURU: The District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) and Childline on Wednesday rescued three girls and a boy from an unit in Arya Samaj Road that prepares cakes. The personnel raided the unit following a tip-off about children working in the unit. Shivanand from the DCPU said they found two 17-year-old girls and a 16-year-old boy working in the unit. These children accused the owner of the unit of harassment as he made them work for long hours. The children also accused the unit’s owner of not paying salary. Mr. Shivanand said the personnel then visited the house of the unit’s owner where they found a 12-year-old girl working. All the four children were from Odisha and were here in the city for the last five months. Mr. Shivanand said Labour department officials were looking whether the unit owner had violated provisions of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. The Child Welfare Committee said that there will be an inquiry about alleged violation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act. All four children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee. The committee has rehabilitated these children in fit institutions. (The Hindu 14/1/16)

 

39. 122 kids rescued in leg one of Operation Smile II (14)

Cuttack: As many as 122 missing children have been rescued under the Operation Smile II programme so far. It was launched by state police on January 1 to trace missing children. The search and rescue operations were carried out jointly by police and women and child development department. In the past fortnight, police in all the districts carried out rigorous search operations to rescue and rehabilitate the missing children. “Besides rescuing missing children from Odisha, two missing kids of other states were also traced out during the operation. A missing girl from Jammu and Kashmir was rescued by our team at Delang in Puri district while a boy from Madhya Pradesh was rescued from Sundargarh district,” said Crime Branch ADG B K Sharma, who monitored the entire operation. They were handed over to their respective states, he said. “The rescued children have been handed over either to their legal guardians or sent to childcare homes,” added Sharma. The rescued children include over 40 child labourers, who were employed in hazardous units in Gajapati, Kandhamal and other districts. With this the first phase of the operation has come to an end on Saturday. In the second phase, police will focus on rescuing missing Odia kids from other states. At least 10 teams on Saturday left for states like Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to bring back Odisha’s missing kids. The second phase will continue till January 31. “We have information that majority of the kids from Odisha are either trafficked to these states or are forcibly employed as child labourers. Some factories have been identified and our teams will conduct raids on them,” said a senior official.”Besides, massive search operations will be carried out at railway stations, bus stops and childcare homes to trace the missing children from our state,” the official added. This is the second edition of Operation Smile. Last year, police had managed to rescue over 950 missing children. Officials claimed they have information about 2,500 kids missing. (Times of India 17/1/16)

 

40. 10 child labourers rescued in 3-hour operation (14)

Thane: The Thane Child Protection Unit (CPU) recently rescued 10 children who were forced to work at various tea stalls, food stalls and garment workshops in Ulhasnagar. The teenagers, who hail from lower middle class families were forced into child labour by their parents to fight the financial condition of their families. The CPU had received a tip-off about children doing odd jobs at various stalls in Ulhasnagar. Accordingly two teams were set up who kept a close watch to check if kids were forced to work. Following a confirmation, the area was raided and around 10 children were rescued in a three-hour operation. “Surprisingly, none of the children were orphans, in fact they belonged to lower middle class families. The officers were shocked when they got to know that their parents had asked them to take up such jobs and earn some money to fight poverty,” informed sub-inspector Rajiv More of the Thane, CPU. A complaint has been filed with the Vithalwadi and Hill Line police stations against six people who had employed these children. The children were sent to a children’s rescue home in Ulhasnagar and will later be reunited with their parents. Officials said they would now counsel the parents and ensure that the kids are going to school. The CPU had launched this operation in the first week of January, following the success of its first initiative called Muskaan last year. Till now, the unit has rescued 47 children who were missing, orphans, kidnapped, etc amongst who were 34 boys and 13 girls. This is also the first time in the past few months that so many children have been rescued in a single operation. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

41. 38 child labourers rescued in Indore (14)

INDORE: As many as 38 child workers, aged 6 to 13 years and employed in a bag manufacturing company, were rescued from five buildings in Pandhrinath area of the city on Wednesday. A team of NGO Childline, along with the officers of district administration, women and child development department, labour department and police carried out the rescue operation. Childline’s local director Wasim Iqbal said, “We received information from our Mumbai-based call centre number 1098 that 38 children were working in a bag company and were forced to sew bags from 8 am till midnight.” He said that on the basis of information, a recce was done in the buildings. “In each of these buildings, there were around 10-12 children who were paid a measly amount for their work. Most of the kids were brought via agents from Bihar and West Bengal while one child was from Nepal,” said Iqbal. He added that the labour department has registered a complaint against the owner of the company. District collector P Narahari said, “The children are being counselled at the district child welfare committee (CWC) where they have been provided with facilities. We are trying to contact the administration of their respective states and cities and putting in efforts to speak to their parents. It’s a shame that parents do not let children study but force them to work.” Iqbal said that at the CWC, special individual care plan like their future studies and career opportunities is being chalked out. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

42. Muskan 2.0: 200 children rescued in city (14)

Gurgaon: About 200 children have been rescued in Gurgaon in Operation Muskan’s second edition. Statistics show about 66% of the rescued children were from UP and Bihar.In the 45-day drive, which started on January 1, about 200 children, including 17 girls were rescued from Gurgaon. Among them, 67 are from UP while, 65 are from Bihar. Most of them were engaged as child labourers or street beggars. Among the rest, 23 are from Haryana, 11 from West Bengal and 27 from Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam. Seven other children are from Nepal. Amit Kumar, welfare inspector, Gurgaon, said going by the figures, it is clear that the migrant population from UP and Bihar were on the rise. “Some parents sent these children to stay with their relatives. While others work in some other parts of NCR and their children work here,” he said. Police have reunited around 160 children with their families while around 40 children have been sent to child care centres in Gurgaon. A dozen children from Delhi and NCR who are below five years, including a two-year-old toddler, were reunited with their families. They got separated as they ventured out on their own. Fortunately, police noticed them and helped them return to their parents with the help of local police. “We informed the local police stations and as soon as somebody complained about their missing child, we verified whether they were actually the parents or not, and then only handed over the parents,” said Kumar. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

43. 301 children rescued in Op Smile Phase II (14)

NOIDA: Police rescued 301 child labourers in different parts of the district in the second phase of ‘Operation Smile’. The children who were rescued between January 1 and 27 comprised 16 girls and 285 boys, of which nine girls and 233 boys were reunited with their families. Vishwajit Shrivastava, SP (Crime), Noida, said some of the children had fled their homes while the others were made to work by their parents. “We rescued 25 children who were missing from their homes,” police said, adding that 18 of the rescued children were from Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal, while most of the others were from Uttar Pradesh.Shrivastava said an 11-year-old rescued boy had fled his home in Bijnor when his parents asked him to study. “His parents used to scold him over his studies. The boy came to Noida after leaving his home and was employed in a tea stall in Sector 50. We received information about him and rescued him from the stall,” Shrivastava said. Cops have created seven teams for the rescue operation. Three teams concentrate on rescuing children in rural areas while three others focus on urban areas. A special team of women cops is dedicated to rescue girls and women. Police have rescued children from Sector 56, Sector 74, Surajpur, Bhangel, Kasna and other locations. Police officers said they would try to reunite the children with their families. In cases where the families could not be located, the children will be shifted to shelter homes. The operation will come to an end on January 31. (Times of India 28/1/16)

 

44. 123 missing kids reunited with kin this month (14)

MUMBAI: The city police rescued 123 children who had gone missing, under Operation Muskan in January. Deputy commissioner of police (crime) Dhananjay Kulkarni said that out of these 123 children, 66 were girls. “Most of these children had ran away from their homes due to various reasons, including love affairs and study pressure. Some of them had also gone missing after losing their way,” said Kulkarni. The police initiated Operation Muskan to rescue juveniles from child labour, begging or those abandoned on the streets, following a directive from the central government. The children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee and reunited with their parents.  (Times of India 31/1/16)

 

45. 40 child labourers rescued from cotton mills (14)

NALGONDA/MAHABUBNAGAR: Ms. Anjali, native of Seshaiklunta village of Dindi mandal in Nalgonda district, migrated to Amangal three years ago along with her mother, Ramachandramma, who engaged Anjali in Suryalakshmi Cotton mill, Amangal, as contract labourer for a period of three years in 2012. As Ms. Ramachandramma had been searching for a suitable groom for Anjali, she fled from her home and reached Dindi mandal in the district. She also lodged a complaint with the police with the help of her grandfather charging that Suryalatha Cotton Mill employs over 100 children aged below 16 years. Following the information, Mahabubnagar police raided the mill and rescued 17 children who hail from Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and parts of Andhra Pradesh. Police also raided Suryalatha Cotton Mill located at Kalwakurthy on the same day, following information given by some children working at Amangal Cotton Mill. Speaking to The Hindu , head of Operation Smile Team, Mahabubnagar, Pochaiah, said that they have rehabilitated the children at Balasadan, Mahabubnagar. Anjali, however, alleged that the Suryalatha Cotton Mill engages over 200 child labourer, who were brought to Amnagal from various part of the country with the help of some agents. “They were all given yearly contract paying Rs 6,000 per month, she said. However, Amangal, Sub-Inspector of Police D. Rambabu said that they have verified the documents of all the workers working at Suryalakshmi Cotton Mill, but only 17 of them were aged below 16. Meanwhile, the police are on the look out for the accused who mobilised child labour. (The Hindu 31/1/16)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

46. Muslims in state ahead in child sex ratio: Census (7)

Ahmedabad: Census 2011 data suggests that Muslims in the state have the highest child sex ratio of 927 girls per 1,000 boys, as compared to 917 in Christians, 885 in Hindus and 848 in Sikhs. Not only the sex ratio, but literacy rate among Muslim women in Gujarat is higher than among their Hindu counterparts. The child sex ratio among Gujaratis overall is 890 girls per 1,000 boys. Census officials said that barring Muslims and Christians, no other community has crossed the 900 girl child mark. The census data also revealed that Muslims had higher literacy rates than Hindus in general. However, Jains, Sikhs and Christians had better lite racy rates than Muslims in Gujarat. The data reveals that Muslims, Christians and Jains had higher overall literacy and women’s literacy rates compared to other communities. Officials said that literacy rates of Jain men and women were almost at par to each other. The literacy rate among Jain men was 89.85 while the same among Jain women was 88.86 percent. However, in other communities, the gap in literacy between men and women was over 10 percent. Similarly , Christians in Gujarat have the highest percentage of working women 35%, Hindus 25%, Muslims 10.5% and Jains 9.6%. According to the data, more women were non-workers than men.While the number of women non-workers in Muslims was 89.40%, it was over 90.84% among the Jain women. Even the Sikh community has over 88.71% women non-workers. Officials said the data reflects that the Jain community , which is mainly business-oriented, does not allow its women to go out and work. Sociologist Gaurang Jani said that among Muslims the acceptance of traditional madrassa education is very high, even among the girls, and this influences literacy counts. (Times of India 1/1/16)

 

47. World Bank-funded scheme to help minorities find `Nai Manzil’ (7)

For the first time, India has secured World Bank credit for a scheme me ant exclusively for the minorities.Last week, the Government of India and the World Bank signed a financing agreement for 50 million US dollars credit for “Nai Manzil” education and skills training for minorities project to help young people from minority communities complete their education and gain from marketdriven training programmes with the aim of improving their employment outcomes. The project size is 100 million dollars (Rs 650 crore) out of which 50 million dollars (Rs 325 crore) will be available as IDA credit and the balance funding (Rs 325 crore) will come from the union budget. The project takes an integrated and holistic approach towards education and skill development of the minority youth, to address the high drop-out and unemployment rate among them. Minority BPL youth in the age-group of 17-35 years will be the main beneficiaries of the project. The project will reach out to these disadvantaged youth and support their enrolment in open schooling, as well as provide hands-on vocational training. It will also provide postplacement support to assist them in finding sustainable employment. Nai Manzil scheme is an integrated education and livelihood initiative for minority youth. It was launched on 8th August 2015 by the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA). The MoMA conceived this scheme for madrasa students or school drop-outs by providing them a non-residential basic bridge (formal education) programme (up till Class VIII or X) and trade-based skills training alongwith certification. This will enable them to seek better employment in the organized sector and equipping them with better lives. The scheme will cover 1,228 community development blocks where the minority population is at least 25 percent. Nai Manzil scheme will be complemented by Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority Students scheme and Maulana Azad National Scholarships for meritorious girl students programme of MoMA that helps in demand-side financing for educational attainment of minority youth. The scheme will also have linkages with the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation which provides loans to minority youth. The World Bank-assisted project will follow result-based financing modality and project funds will be disbursed on achievement of specific results such as number of students enrolled, number of students successfully completing education and skill components etc. The project will be implemented over a period of five years. The closing date of the project is 31st October 2021.The credit will flow from International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm on concessional terms with a maturity of 25 years, including a 5-year grace period. …  (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

48. 7.5 Lakh Muslims, Christians Re-converted in Last 10 Years: Togadia (7)

SURAT: Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia today claimed that his organisation had re-converted more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims to Hinduism in the last ten years. Speaking at a function here today, Togadia also called for a mass drive to continue this “Ghar Wapsi” to save the Hinduism in India. “Within last ten years, we did Ghar Wapsi of more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims. Our rate of Ghar Wapsi used to be around 15,000 each year. But last year, we have crossed the mark of 40,000, which is excluding the figures of RSS,” said Togadia, the international working president of VHP. “If Hindus need to be in majority in India and to save our religion, we have to engage in many more Ghar Wapsi drives to bring crores of others into our religion,” said Togadia, who was here to take part in VHP’s fund raising event. During his brief interaction with media afterwards, the right-wing leader also demanded that all the Hindus of Pakistan should be given Indian citizenship. He also reiterated that Ram temple will definitely be constructed in Ayodhya. “Ram temple will be built in Ayodhya, and there is no doubt about it. To build it, the Parliament must bring a law,” he said. (New Indian Express 8/1/16)

 

49. India has given spiritualism, not communalism to world: PM Narendra Modi (7)

MUMBAI: Against the backdrop of ‘intolerance’ debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India’s contribution to the world is not communalism but spiritualism which can resolve all problems and invoked former President APJ Abdul Kalam to underline his point. He regretted that the world has failed to understand the people of India properly as he praised the saints and religious leaders for their contribution to the country’s legacy. “India is a country, which has not tried to bind the world in a particular sect … We are the people whom the world has probably not understood in the manner in which we should have been understood,” Modi said while addressing via video conferencing a book release event here. “India has given the world neither community nor communalism. Our saints and sages (Rishis and Munis) and traditions have given the world spiritualism and not communalism,” he said, adding sometimes, sect leads to problems while spiritualism resolves the same. The Prime Minister’s comments assume significance as these come against the backdrop of debate on ‘intolerance’ and allegations of growing communalism in the country. “Saints, hermits and religious leaders have blessed the world with spirituality, a legacy in which our former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam believed and said that the problems of human beings can be neutralised by the spiritualization of mankind,” he said. Tolerance and spiritualism is born with Indian citizens. Only a small section of society is splitting it for personnel gain.rajaram manyam Modi, while addressing the event to mark the release of a book titled ‘Maru Bharat Saru Bharat’ written by Jain Acharya Ratnasundersuriswarji Maharaj, described the monk as a “great social reformer and spiritual leader” who has expressed his views about all concepts and objects of the universe through his various books. “National religion is above all religions and Guruji has lit the candle of national religion through his writings, as it has been the glorious tradition of our country,” he said. The book, ‘My India, Nobel India’, in four languages – English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi – was released at the Somaiya Grounds in Sion-Chunabhatti area here during the ‘Sahitya Satkar Samaroh’ programme on the concluding day of the 10-day-long religious and spiritual conclave. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

50. Muslims in India Have Highest Young Population: Census (7)

NEW DELHI: Forty-seven per cent of Muslims in India are aged below 20 years, the highest among all religious communities, while children and teenagers make up 40 per cent of the Hindu population. As per the Census data of 2011, just 29 per cent population among the Jains are in the age group of 0-19 years while among the Christians, it is 37 per cent, Sikhs 35 per cent and Buddhist 37 per cent. Among India’s total population, around 41 per cent is below 20 years old and nine per cent above 60 years, leaving 50 per cent in the intervening 20-59 age group. The share of the young population has declined in the country since the previous census in 2001 when it was 45 per cent for the whole country. Among the Hindus, 44 per cent were below the age group of 20 years, among Muslims 52 per cent and Jains 35 per cent. Overall, life cycles of different religious communities in the country have shown common trends of declining proportion of children and teenagers and increasing shares of elderly citizens. The proportion of elderly people in the country has risen across all communities as life spans have generally increased. According to the Census data, people of the age of 60 years and above make up about nine per cent of the country’s total population. Interestingly, among the Muslims, just 6.4 per cent of the population is over 60 years, almost 50 per cent lower than the national average. Among Jains and Sikhs, the share of elderly is around 12 per cent each. Age-wise population shares reveal another important aspect of the lives of people – dependency. Both children and the elderly are dependent on the able and adult population. Overall, the young dependency ratio — the number of children aged up to 15 years dependent on every 1,000 members of the working age population — has declined from 621 in 2001 to 510 in 2011. This is a direct consequence of declining number of children. At the other end of life, the old dependency ratio has increased from 131 in 2001 to 142 in 2011, in accord with the growing elderly population. Across religious communities, Muslims have the highest total dependency ratio of 748 compared to the lowest ratio for Jains which is just 498. For Hindus, the ratio is 640. (Indian Express 13/1/16)

 

51. RSS to rejuvenate its minority bodies ahead of Assembly polls (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) State leadership is learnt to have prepared an action plan to step up the activities of the Rashtriya Isai Manch and the Muslim Rashtriya Manch in the State to reach out to the Christian and Muslim communities respectively before the Assembly elections. Sources say the Sangh leadership, which will be spearheading the BJP election campaign, is trying to rope in opinion leaders including historians, legal luminaries, academicians and bureaucrats from both the communities to head the movement. The leadership is understood to have already identified some of them and has held preliminary discussions, in some cases. The idea is to project the manch as a socio-cultural forum of the Sangh to efface the popular notion that the State BJP unit is being headed by hardcore Hindutva proponents, sources say.Though the change of guard in the BJP State leadership was expected to give a fillip to the party’s plans to win over the Nair Service Society (NSS) and different denominations of the Christian community, a dominant section in the party still holds that it did not yield the desired results, maintaining that only estranged sections show an affinity to move closer to the party, the sources said. Launching the activities of the manch for the two communities is being seen as a confidence-building move to open parleys before the elections. Though a dialogue with the Muslim community is not expected to yield any immediate palpable gain, it would at least help to bring down a general perception of hostility and develop camaraderie that could yield benefits in the future, the sources added. The Isai Manch leaders would be given the responsibility to regularly engage community leaders and also work out an understanding in Central and south Kerala – including in Thiruvananthapuram, where the party hopes to put up an impressive performance in the Assembly elections. (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

52. Panjab University plans study on minorities in state (7)

Chandigarh: To highlight the problems of religious minorities in the country, the Panjab University would conduct a comprehensive comparative study of Christians and Muslims in Punjab. The research project is being done by the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy under the guidance of Emanual Nahar. The study is being funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and a grant-in-aid of Rs 18 lakh has been approved for the study. “The objective of the study is to examine the extent of prejudice and discrimination faced by these two communities and to compare their socio-economic profiles. Violation of human rights and denial of constitutional rights of these minority groups need a re-look and protection,” Nahar said. The study will concentrate on the districts of Gurdaspur, Sangrur and Ludhiana, where the numerical strength of Christians and Muslims is relatively higher. Muslims consist of 1.57 per cent of the population mainly in Malerkotla, Sangrur, Chandigarh and Qadian. Christians make up about 1.1 percent of the population, mainly in Gurdaspur. According to studies done about the occupational patterns of Christians in Punjab, it has been observed that 72.41 per cent of the working population is engaged in the agricultural sector. However, only 3.75 per cent possess agricultural land. Nahar said: “Christians do not enjoy state patronage that is given to other Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes. After conversion to Christianity, they have lost the right to reservation in government jobs. They stand at the lowest rung of the society among the Dalit classes, especially in the border areas of Punjab.” Even the Muslims in Punjab have been observed to lag in educational progress owing to economic hardships and discrimination in the field of education. In the proposed study, effects of recent controversies arising out of religious conversions and ghar wapsi will also be analysed. Jagdish Masih, the founding member of the National Christian League based in Chandigarh, said: “In Punjab particularly, neither Christians nor Muslims have been actively involved in the political scenarios. Over the years, the Congress or Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have done nothing to allow any participation from these groups in the politics of the state. We have been struggling with this and no action has been taken by the Centre either.” He also added that despite the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court regarding allotment of land for graveyards in various towns and villages of Punjab, not much had been done to facilitate the same. Through the research project, the level of political participation of Muslims and Christians will also be observed and their share in the political systems will be analysed. The existing policies of the government for the benefits of these minority groups in urban and rural areas will also be examined. (Indian Express 16/1/16)

 

53. VHP asks political parties to refrain from appeasing minorities (7)

Bengaluru: After uniform code, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Sunday pitched for a uniform population policy in the country for all communities and wanted all political parties to refrain from appeasing the minorities. “The total fertility rate (TFR) and child ratio are uneven across religions and unless uniform measures are adopted it will be difficult to achieve the ideal figure of 2.1 as national fertility rate,” VHP joint general secretary Surendra Kumar Jain told reporters after the two-day Bajrang Dal Akhila Bharata Baitak here. Quoting the Census Report of 2011, he said the Hindu population percentage, which was 84.10 per cent in 1951, came down from to 79.80 per cent. But at the same time, he added that the percentage of Muslim, Sikh and Buddhists has all gone up. “The demon of minorities appeasement policy adopted by certain political parties is badly hurting the country’s growth,” he added. Rajesh Pandey, national convener of Bajrang Dal, said the growing demographic imbalance will become a dangerous threat to India’s very existence. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

54. Are Sikhs minority in Punjab? Supreme Court to adjudicate (7)

NEW DELHI: It may sound ridiculous at first blush, but the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine whether Sikhs were a “minority group in homeland Punjab” — saying it had far reaching importance and consequences. A constitution bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and justices FMI Kalifulla, AK Sikri, S A Bobde and R Banumathi initially countered the plea by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi for treating Sikhs as a minority in Punjab by asking, “Can Muslims be treated as minority in Jammu and Kashmir? “For that matter, can Christians, who are the majority in the states of Nagaland and Meghalaya, be also treated as a minority community in these two northeastern states? Sikhs may be a minority in other states but can they be treated as a minority group in Punjab?” But Dwivedi pointed out that another constitution bench judgment had erroneously fixed twin criteria — whether the group was numerically minority and whether they were dominated by other groups — for declaring a community as minority while taking the state as the geographical entity for such determination. He said numerical strength of a community within a state should be the criteria and not whether they were dominated by other communities. “A minority community may be affluent and not dominated in a state. This does not mean they can be denied the right to protect and further their cultural and educational rights as a minority group guaranteed under the Constitution,” he said. Dwivedi said Sikhs were those who owed allegiance to Guru Granth Sahib and were enlisted as voters with Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committe. “The sub-sects and followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, Radha Soami and similarly placed persons are not considered Sikhs even though they were born to Sikh parents,” he said. When the bench was deliberating whom to appoint as amicus curiae for assistance in adjudication of this tricky and complex constitutional issue, senior advocate KK Venugopal said it surely presented an issue that had far reaching consequences for many states. “In Kerala, Christians are in minority but own majority of the educational institutions. If Christian-owned educational institutions turn into minority educational institutions, then it will have a telling effect,” he said and agreed with the bench that former solicitor general T R Andhyarujina would be best suited to discharge duties as amicus curiae in this issue. The bench issued notice to the ministry of minority affairs and sought its response within four weeks. It also requested attorney general Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate Andhyarujina to assist the court in deciding this question. A three-judge bench of the SC on August 8, 2005 had said in Bal Patil case, “It was not in contemplation of the framers of the Constitution to add to the list of religious minorities. The Constitution, through all its organs, is committed to protect religious, cultural and educational rights of all. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

55. Minorities department on social media soon (7)

HYDERABAD: In its bid to increase its outreach and ensure more transparency in its functioning, the Telangana State Minorities Welfare Department (MWD) will be taking to social media soon. The MWD would increase its presence on the social networking site, Facebook and Twitter. It also plans to create a few WhatsApp groups and add in academicians, politicians, NGO activists and religious leaders. “We aim to reach people at their homes, workplaces, educational institutions and help them know more about our schemes and functioning. At the same time, we expect suggestions and grievances. It will save time and money that we usually spend on publicity,” a senior official of the MWD said. Several agencies like Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation, Telangana State Christian (Minorities) Finance Corporation, Director – Minorities Welfare, Telangana State Urdu Academy, Centre for Educational Development of Minorities, and Telangana State Haj Committee are a few that come under the purview of the MWD.  (The Hindu 25/1/16)

 

56. India Failed To Address Attacks On Minorities: Human Rights Groups (7)

London:  The Indian government “failed” to address increasing attacks on religious minorities and imposed restrictions on civil society groups critical of it, two leading global human rights groups said on Wednesday. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also slammed the government for blocking foreign funding and targeting non-governmental organisations as well as activists. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government “failed to address increasing attacks on free expression and against religious minorities,” HRW said in its World Report 2016. In the 659-page report, it said authorities blocked foreign funding and increased restrictions on civil society groups critical of the government or large development projects. “The Indian government’s clampdown on dissent this year undermines the country’s long and rich tradition of free expression,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia director. “Instead of denial and retaliation, the authorities should encourage tolerance and peaceful debate and prosecute those committing or inciting violence,” she said in a statement. It said authorities used sedition, criminal defamation, and hate speech laws to harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views. The government often allowed a “heckler’s veto” to interest groups claiming to be offended by books, movies, or artwork and pushed for censorship or otherwise harassed authors, the statement added. “In a worrying trend, anti-Muslim rhetoric by some leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stoked insecurities among religious minorities,” it said, citing the killing of four Muslims by mobs over suspicion that they had killed or stolen cows for beef. The HRW said that the government blocked foreign funding for organisations such as Greenpeace India and targeted several others, including the Ford Foundation. It said authorities labeled activists such as Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand “anti-national” when they sought justice for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. “Such tactics had a chilling effect on the work of other groups,” the statement said. Amnesty International accused the Modi government of “targeting” activists and protest groups for “political ends”.The People’s Watch’s “bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012 with the result that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes abandoned,” Amnesty said. “The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment,” it said in a release. “This same Act is being used for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Amnesty added. (NDTV 28/1/16)

 

57. Minorities urged to take benefits of Start-Up India Action Plan, other govt schemes (7)

Mumbai: A business meeting called to discuss the problems faced by the minorities coming under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector on Friday endorsed ‘Start-Up India Action Plan’, and simultaneously issued a strong appeal to the minorities to take benefits from the recently launched initiative for economic growth and empowerment. “Minorities in India must take the advantages of the Start-Up India Action Plan’ recently released by Prime Minister Modi for economic empowerment”, Tauseef Malik, Indian American founder of Muslim Spelling Bee said at the summit organized by maeeshat.in. M Afzal Baig, the in-charge of Jamat-e-Islami’s Business Development Cell also made similar appeal and expressed concern over lack of awareness among the Muslims vis-à-vis government schemes. Participating in the debate, Aleem Faizee, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Awaz Multimedia & Publications, shared the key highlights of the ‘Start-up India Action Plan’ with the entrepreneurs present in the summit. Aleem Faizee also briefed the audience about Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) and various initiatives included under the scheme for training, skill development and placement. Earlier, the summit began with the inaugural address by Danish Riyaz, Managing Director maeeshat.in, who while welcoming the entrepreneurs urged them to use the summit as a platform to share ideas and opportunities which can result in economic empowerment of the weaker sections of the society, especially the minorities. The inaugural address was followed by key-note presentations by Sharique Nisar, Founder of Shariah Compliance Advisory Board TASIS, Ashraf Muhammadi of Rehbar Financial Consultancy and Nasir Mehdi, a training provider for entrepreneurship development. While Sharique Nisar shared the important statistics of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector and highlighted the challenges faced by the entrepreneurs, Ashraf Muhammadi and Nasir Mehdi in their respective presentations highlighted the available opportunities with the help of success stories and case studies. The summit also saw a useful and inspiring speech by Haroon Mozawala, a Mumbai based businessman and member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) who also runs a charitable trust. Mozawala showcased the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who is also known for his entrepreneur skills, and highlighted the importance of transparency, hard work, commitment, honesty, trust as key factors for the success of any business or trade. Dr. Mohammad Ali Patankar, Mohammad Salim Kazi of Bait-un-Nas’r and MQ Syed of Exhicon while participating in panel discussion shared valuable experiences of their respective fields with the audience. On the occasion, maeeshat.in also awarded Syed Zafar Mehmood of Zakat Foundation, businessman VR Sharif and IT professional Syed Manzar to recognize their services. While Syed Zafar Mehmood was conferred with CSR Award for community service, VR Sharif and Syed Manzar were given Best Industrialist Award and Innovation Award respectively. (Ummid.com 30/1/16)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

58. Drive to fight for ‘unfulfilled promises’ to Muslims (7)

LUCKNOW: Jamait Ulema-e-Hind general secretary Maulana Mehmood Madani said on Thursday the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh had failed to fulfill promises it made to Muslims during the state polls. Madani also announced a “massive campaign” in Uttar Pradesh to remind the ruling party of its unfulfilled promises.”Akhilesh Yadav government has completed four years but failed to deliver on electoral promises made to Muslims. This government is useless and incompetent. If they fail in fulfilling them in time left with them, people will teach them a lesson in the Assembly polls,” Madani said. He also said the Samajwadi Party had promised to put pressure on the Centre to implement the Sachchar and Rangnath Misra committee recommendations after it came to power. Nothing, however, was done. The cleric also raised the issue of Muslim reservation. “They promised Muslims would be given separate reservation like Dalits on the basis of their economic, social and educational backwardness and release innocent Muslims arrested on terror charges. But nothing has been done on any of them,” he said. The Jamait Ulema-i-Hind leader, who earlier in the day took part in the state executive committee, said a decision has been taken to start a massive campaign against the “failure”, under which meetings will be held in different parts of the state to remind the Samajwadi Party of its “unfulfilled promises”.”Its beginning will be made on January 17 from Lucknow after which another meeting will be held on February 13 in Meerut,” he said stressing that this drive of the Jamait should not be linked with elections as the SP government still had time to rectify its mistakes. (Times of India 1/1/16)

 

59. Only 33% of Muslims work, lowest among all religions (7)

NEW DELHI: Muslims have the lowest share of working people – about 33% – among all religious communities in India. This is lower than the nationwide average work participation rate of 40%.The figure for Jains and Sikhs stands at 36% each. Buddhists, comprising mostly Dalits who embraced Buddhism in the 20th century, have a high working population share at 43%. For Hindus, the figure is 41%. Drawn from the Census 2011 data, the statistics show a faith-based profile of India’s 482 million strong workforce. The figures haven’t changed much from the 2001 Census, indicating a stasis in the economic status of communities. The key reason behind low work participation rates in some communities seems to be the low work participation of women. Women’s participation is just 15% for Muslims and Sikhs, and even lower at 12% among Jains. Among Hindus, there are 27% working women, while it is 31% for Christians and 33% for Buddhists. Several smaller faiths fall under ‘Other Religions’. These are mostly tribal communities from peninsular India and the northeastern states. Their work participation rates are markedly different from other communities. Nearly 48% of members of this section work, more than any of the country’s six major religious communities. Women’s work participation is also highest in tribal communities, at nearly 44%.Census data also provides a picture of how many are engaged in what kind of work. For the country, 55% of workforce is in agriculture, as cultivators or as agricultural workers. The Census classifies all occupations in industry and services as ‘Other’, a convention since British times. This makes up 41% of all workers.Only 13% of Jains are involved in agriculture, the lowest for any community. While 41% of Muslims and Christians work in agriculture, this goes up to 47% among Sikhs and to 54% for Buddhists. The highest share of workers involved in agriculture is among Hindus, at 57%. The Jain community is predominantly working in industry and services. Muslims too are largely concen trated in these sectors as are Christians. Muslims are also notably more involved in the `Household Industry’ category which is mainly artisanal work like carpentry, black-smithing etc.Among tribal communities classified under ‘Other Religions’, over 80% of their members are working in agriculture, indicating their poor economic status. (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

60. India ‘far better’ place for Muslims, says man once wrongly branded terrorist (7)

Ahmedabad: Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri, sentenced to death in the 2002 Akshardham temple attack case, but later acquitted the Supreme Court in May 2014, on Sunday said India was “far better” for Muslims and any Islamic country, including Pakistan. “No Muslim is feeling ashamed of living in India,” Mansuri said at a function, organised to by a private trust to dedicate a diary to him. Recalling his days in jail, Mansuri said, “When a prisoner is freed from jail, his past always haunt him.” “It was more of Hindu friends and lawyers who defended and supported me more than the Muslims,” he said.

Lauding the work of Sarvoday Youth Welfare Society, which honoured him, he said he would be always ready to offer service to people across religious and community lines. Natubhai Parmar, president of the society, said every year, for 27 years, the group dedicates its diary to a prominent personality. (Indian Express 5/1/15)

 

61. Beware of fake Muslims like Kejriwal, Sakshi Maharaj says (7)

MEERUT: Muslims are not bad, but it’s the fake Muslims like Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar who are real threat to the nation,” said Sakshi Maharaj, Lok Sabha MP from Unnao, who was speaking at the 3rd ‘Sant Samagam’ organized by Mahant Mahender Das ji Maharaj of Shani Dham temple in Meerut. During his address to the congregation, Sakshi Maharaj touched upon almost every controversy that raised political tempers in the recent past. He said, “Uttar Pradesh government is the most communal government so far. Otherwise how can you explain that when Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu, leader when speaks against Prophet Muhammad is put behind bars but when a few Muslim leaders at Bijnor announce a reward of Rs 51 lakh to anyone who brings the head of Tiwari, they are not touched at all by the administration?” He further stated, “Kamlesh Tiwari made the statement 45 days ago. If reaction had to happen it would have happened close to that date. Now after 45 days, 2.5 lakh Muslims ransack a police station and destroy public property in Malda. This is clear reflection of the fact that West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is behind the incident to consolidate her vote bank in the forthcoming assembly elections.” On intolerance, he said, “We who wear saffron are religious leaders but we are labelled as saffron terrorists. We talk about world peace but a few dogs say we are intolerant. Let me ask where have those dogs disappeared soon after the Bihar elections got over?” A large number of sants from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, participated in the event. Continuing his tirade, Sakshi Maharaj also said, “In every state we are in power, cow slaughter has been effectively banned. In Haryana, a culprit can get life sentence if charges are proved against him. We are determined to get it banned in the entire country sooner or later.” (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

62. Ram naam draws Muslim followers to Magh Mela (7)

ALLAHABAD: A group of city-based Muslims have been following the ritual of writing the name of Lord Ram to deposit during the Magh Mela. As per the ritual, devotees write Ram’s name several times and deposit it in the Ram Naam Bank. “About 10 years ago, I read an article saying that writing Ram naam gives immense satisfaction and so I have been writing it for the past several years and receiving inner strength, energy, concentration and devotion” said Faisal Khan, who has also resolved to observe month-long Kalpwas (seclusion) on the banks of Ganga from Pauash Poornima on January 24 to Maghi Purnima on February 22. It gives him energy for the entire year, he said. His group, Abdul Rab, Mohammad Amin Khan and Mukhtar, all observe every roza during Ramzan and offer namaz five times a day all year. They also know shlokas and mantras of the Bhagvad Gita by heart. Faisal has been writing the name of Lord Ram in Hindi, English and Urdu, even in short-hand for the last eight years. Writing Ram naam with both hands, he said, “I have already written it over a million times.” “We should all think in harmony and hold the Gita in one hand and the Quran in the other,” Faisal said, adding, “every individual should be known not by his religion but as a human. Good karma and salvation can be attained only by good deeds.” He said, there were many Muslims who have been attending Ram Navmi celebrations for the past several years. President, Ram Naam Bank, Ashutosh Varshney, said, “Writing Ram naam links everyone with their inner self and with the divine. Thousands of devotees including Muslims have been writing it for the past 10 years and depositing it in the bank for peace and positivity, clarity of mind, tolerance and power to withstand obstacles in life.” (Times of India 11/1/16)

 

63. Muslims have largest share of young, but also die early (7)

Muslims in India have the highest share of children and teenagers (0-19 age group) among all religions, at 47%, compared to 40% for Hindus and just 29% among Jains, according to new Census 2011 data released on Tuesday. If all communities are taken together, around 41% of the country’s population is below 20 years old and nine percent above 60 years, leaving 50% in the intervening 20-59 age group. Overall, life cycles of different religious communities in India have shown common trends of declining proportion of children and increasing shares of elderly while also showing marked differences in average life span. The share of the young population has declined since the previous census in 2001 when it was 45% for the whole country, 44% for Hindus, 52% for Muslims and 35% for Jains. This is a reflection of across-the-board declines in fertility rates – number of children born – leading to a slowing down of the respective population growth rates. The decline is the least for Hindus and highest for Buddhists and Christians, at seven percentage points, followed by Sikhs and Jains at six percentage points. At the other end of the life cycle, the proportion of elderly has risen across all communities as life spans have generally increased. The elderly, 60 years and above, make up about nine percent of the country’s population. Across religious communities, there is considerable variation in the share of the elderly population, which can be directly linked to economic status and access to healthcare. In the Muslim community, just 6.4% of the population is over 60 years, almost 50% lower than the national average. In 2001, this share was 5.8%, indicating only a marginal increase. Among Jains, and Sikhs, the share of elderly is 12%, over 30% more than the national average. These shares are more also because the younger generation’s numbers are less. The Hindu community is close to all national averages because they make up nearly 80% of the country’s population. Age-wise population shares reveal another important aspect of the lives of people – dependency. Both children and the elderly are dependent on the able and adult population. Overall, the young dependency ratio – number of children aged up to 15 dependent on every 1,000 members of the working age population – has declined from 621 in 2001 to 510 in 2011. This is a direct consequence of declining number of children.Every Hindu should take as a mission it to advise the youngsters to marry at correct time and have the at least two chil… Read MorePrabhu SingarajuAt the other end of life, the old dependency ratio has increased from 131 in 2001 to 142 in 2011, in accord with the growing elderly population. If we add up both young and old, in 2001, 752 people were dependent on every 1,000 persons in the working age population of 15 to 59 years. Compared to that, in 2011, this ratio has come down to 652. Across religious communities, Muslims have the highest total dependency ratio of 748 compared to the lowest ratio for Jains which is just 498. For Hindus, the ratio is 640. All these ratios have declined since 2001. (Times of India 13/1/16)

 

64. Madrassas should be barred from teaching in Urdu, Arabic: Shiv Sena (7)

Mumbai: Asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take a cue from UK government’s warning that migrants on spousal visas who fail to speak English may face deportation, Shiv Sena on Wednesday said madrassas in India should be barred from using Urdu and Arabic as medium of instruction and they should be replaced with English and Hindi. The ruling ally also took a swipe at PM and his ministerial colleagues, saying while they might succeed in getting investments into the country by touring other nations, from where would the courage come to fight enemies within the country. The party also said that the government should show courage and bring in the Uniform Civil Code and start the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. “The British government is not wrong in thinking that Islamic State militants use uneducated Muslim women to propagate their ideas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take cues from the British government…,” the Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’. “India will benefit if the government can show courage like British Prime Minister David Cameron and bar madrassas from teaching in Urdu and Arabic and instead impart education in English and Hindi languages,” it opined. Notably, the UK government had recently warned that migrants on spousal visas who fail to speak English may face deportation, as it announced a new 20 million pound fund to improve the language skills among migrant Muslim women. “Not only our PM, but other ministers and politicians keep visiting foreign nations and talk of bringing industries, trade, talent, culture to India. We will eventually succeed in it, but from where we will get the courage to fight the enemies within the country,” the Sena asked. Cameron on Tuesday unveiled plans for tougher new English language requirements to prevent segregation of members of the Muslim community. New rules will mean that from October this year migrants coming to the UK on a five-year spousal visa with poor or no English skills will have to take a test after two and a half years to show they are making efforts to improve their English. (Indian Express 20/1/16)

 

65. Indignant Muslims of Mumbai suburb protest against IS (7)

MUMBAI: A day after a Mumbra techie was arrested for his alleged involvement with ISIS, residents on Saturday expressed concern at the inroads terror has made into this bustling suburb on the fringes of Thane. Several organizations and schools protested against IS and its web of terror, upset that their suburb is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Sameena Khan (12), a student, shouted anti-IS slogans as she held placards outside Mumbra station on Saturday evening, along with over a dozen of her schoolmates who were protesting against the terror outfit. Khan was upset, saying it was unfair to tag Mumbra as a breeding ground for terror activities just because one person living there was linked with a terror organization.”They (ISIS) are not saviors of the world and their actions seem to be an attempt to divide society and glorify inhuman acts in the name of religion. My parents, teachers and elders have clearly instructed us to not fall prey to any false propaganda of ‘bad people’ like IS, which are defaming the entire community,” said Rukhsana Sayed, another protestor. Clerics and members of the Muslim community in Mumbra also chose to distance themselves from the arrest on Friday and condemned the terror outfit. A few religious heads from the suburb held a meeting and decided to collectively counter any possible IS influence on youngsters from the community.”Sermons will soon be held at various mosques following Friday prayers, where religious heads will counsel youngsters to refrain from supporting any terror activities or outfits. We will also counsel parents who shall be told to keep close vigil on their wards and check any sudden change in behavior,” said Sharif Hashmi, a cleric. Meanwhile, the family of suspected IS operative Mudabbir Shaikh has moved out of its residence in Reshma Park, Amrut Nagar, and temporarily sought refuge with a close relative to avoid the intense media glare. When contacted, Ahmed Miyan, father-in-law of Shaikh, said he had no clue about Shaikh’s link to any terror activities. “He was an IT programmer and quit his job 18 months back and was since freelancing from home,” he said. A neighbor told TOI that Shaikh appeared disturbed in the last few months. “In the few short conversations I had with him recently, Shaikh seemed disturbed about something but was reluctant to speak,” said the neigbour requesting anonymity. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

66. Indian-American Muslims flay Government move against AMU, Jamia (7)

Washington: Indian-American Muslims have appealed to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to maintain the minority character of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Milia Islamia, saying the move to question the status of the institutions is “discriminatory”. “In the post-independence India where the educational backwardness of Muslims has increased substantially as documented by the Sachar Committee report, AMU and Jamia have made huge contribution in shoring up higher education in the Muslim community,” said Kaleem Kawaja, executive director of the Washington DC based Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM). He said that the recent actions of the government’s Law ministry and Human Resources ministry “to oppose AMU’s appeal in the Supreme Court by reversing the same central government’s 2006 support to the AMU appeal is a very discriminatory and prejudiced anti-Muslim action.” “Indian-American Muslims object strongly to this action of the BJP-led government,” the statement said, adding that it will end up pushing back the minority Muslims into severe educational backwardness at a time when they are already backward. “We appeal to the President and Prime Minister of India to take quick steps to stop these discriminatory actions of the Law and HRD ministries against AMU and Jamia, reverse the said actions, and provide support to both Muslim community universities in their quest for justice,” the association said in the statement. The issue of restoration of minority character of AMU is at present pending with the Supreme Court. On January 11, Attorney General Mukul Rohatagi, during the hearing of this case, had told the court that the NDA government did not support the idea of a state-funded minority institution in a secular state, sparking off a controversy. The Attorney General has told the government that Jamia Milia Islamia is not a minority institution as it was created by an Act of Parliament, days after he told the Supreme Court that the legislature never intended the Aligarh Muslim University to be a minority institution. (Indian Express 28/1/16)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

67. Christians record the highest sex ratio in State (7)

KALABURAGIL: Christians continued to record the highest sex ratio with the figure increasing from 1,030 in the 2001 Census to 1,049 in the 2011 Census. Although the child sex ratio was also high among Christians in the State, the growth was very marginal and it rose from 961 in 2001 census to 962 in 2011. Economist Sangeeta Kattimani, who compiled these data from the two Census reports and the Religion Data of the Census 2011 released now, told The Hindu here that the lowest sex ratio of 739 was reported among Buddhists. In fact, the sex ratio among Buddhists had seen a steep fall from 907 in the 2001 Census to 739 in the 2011 Census. The child sex ratio among Buddhists decreased from 953 in 2001 to 949 in 2011. Prof. Kattimani said that the sex ratio of other major religious groups, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains, showed a marginal improvement when compared to the 2001 and 2011 census and same was the case under the child sex ratio head. While the sex ratio of Hindus rose from 966 in 2001 to 972 in 2011, the sex ratio of Muslims rose from 957 in 2001 to 969 in 2011. There was a marked improvement in the sex ratio of Sikhs — from 739 in 2001 to 803 in 2011 census. The sex ratio of Jains rose from 926 in 2001 to 951 in 2011. The child sex ratio of Hindus saw a marginal increase from 945 in 2001 to 947 in 2011. Among Muslims, it was 945 in 2001 and 947 in 2011. The child sex ratio of Sikhs saw an increase from 882 in 2001 to 913 in 2011. Similarly, the child sex ratio of Jains rose from 882 in 2001 to 913 in 2011. Prof. Kattimani said that the latest figures released by the Registrar General of Census provided some interesting data of literacy levels of different religious groups. While the literacy rate of Christians and Jains, who always placed education as a priority in their life, was high, the literacy level of Muslims was higher than Hindus in the State. As much as 90.80 per cent of Christians were literate and it was 88.32 per cent among Jains in the State. Surprisingly, a higher number of Muslims were literate when compared to Hindus in the State. The literacy percentage of Hindus was 74.36 per cent as per the 2011 census figures while it was 78.89 per cent among Muslims in the State. Prof. Kattimani said that the literacy rate of Buddhists saw a record increase from 53.16 per cent in 2001 census to 76.11 per cent. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

68. 7.5 Lakh Muslims, Christians Re-converted in Last 10 Years: Togadia (7)

SURAT: Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia today claimed that his organisation had re-converted more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims to Hinduism in the last ten years. Speaking at a function here today, Togadia also called for a mass drive to continue this “Ghar Wapsi” to save the Hinduism in India. “Within last ten years, we did Ghar Wapsi of more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims. Our rate of Ghar Wapsi used to be around 15,000 each year. But last year, we have crossed the mark of 40,000, which is excluding the figures of RSS,” said Togadia, the international working president of VHP. “If Hindus need to be in majority in India and to save our religion, we have to engage in many more Ghar Wapsi drives to bring crores of others into our religion,” said Togadia, who was here to take part in VHP’s fund raising event. During his brief interaction with media afterwards, the right-wing leader also demanded that all the Hindus of Pakistan should be given Indian citizenship. He also reiterated that Ram temple will definitely be constructed in Ayodhya. “Ram temple will be built in Ayodhya, and there is no doubt about it. To build it, the Parliament must bring a law,” he said. (New Indian Expres 8/1/16)

 

69. ‘RSS coming up with Christian wing’ (7)

Thiruvananthapuram: “We will wait and see what they have to offer,” the head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church said on Thursday on the RSS decision to start a Christian wing. “Its acceptance will depend on what it proposes and what it has to offer. So we will wait and see what they have to offer,” Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos told the media. “I am still not clear, so the best what we can do is we will wait, till they express what they wish to do,” he added. In an apparent reference to rightwing Hindu groups, the Cardinal said from what one has seen so far, “one thing is said and something different happens and so let them be clear what they have in their mind”. (Zee News 14/1/16)

 

70. Kerala RSS Unaware of Move to Float Christian Outfit (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Amidst reports of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) planning to float a  new Christian outfit, ‘Rashtriya Isai Manch (RIM), on the lines of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch it constituted over a decade ago, the state RSS leadership is giving hints that it is not aware of any such move. There were media reports that the RSS leadership in New Delhi had convened a meeting of the Church leaders on December 17, which was attended by four archbishops and over 40 bishops to explore the possibility of   constituting a new Christian outfit, working in tandem with the RSS. It had also been reported that Home Minister Rajnath Singh had attended a get-together organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the supreme body of the Catholic Church in the country, in connection with the Christmas celebrations and the minister had promised to solve all the issues concerning conversion and attack on churches. But the local RSS leadership in Kerala is giving hints that it has no idea about such a move. An important RSS functionary, on condition of anonymity, told ‘Express’ that there had been no discussions on the formation of such an outfit in the state. “It is a fact that the Sangh had formed the Muslim Rashtriya Manch more than a decade ago. It is actively functioning in North India. In the Muslim community, they straightaway express their opinion about where they stand. We know who are extremists and who want to identify with the national forces. But the Christian Churches follow a strategy of  hidden agenda even when they engage themselves in discussions,” the RSS functionary said.  However, he said that Churches were giving top priory to maintaining good relations with the BJP and RSS and had made overtures in that direction. The other day, when Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, who is also the president of the CBCI, was asked about the move, his response was not that enthusiastic. “I don’t believe that the RSS has changed. However, I am not of the opinion that any organisation cannot change positively in future. The change has to be evident in their acts, not just in statements,” Cardinal Cleemis said on the sidelines of a press conference. When contacted, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan, who has been busy bridging the gap between the Christian Churches and the BJP, said that he also had no information about the RSS floating a Christian outfit called RIM. “We don’t view the church leaders as custodians of a vote bank. We believe in maintaining good relations with all religious leaders. So far no bishop has said that the BJP is against Churches. The other day, Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church, Joseph Marthoma, while attending a reception accorded to me at Aranmula, had described me as a harbinger of harmony. But a certain political leader, who had even described a bishop as a despicable person, says that the BJP is against Christians,” Kummanam said. (New Indian Express 17/1/16)

 

71. Christian women outnumber men: study (7)

HYDERABAD: Ducking the trend for religion, the female Christian population in the city outnumbers the male population across nearly all age groups. Though small compared to the total Christian population of 87,552 in Hyderabad, the gender gap of nearly 1,000 is representative of a difference seen across the State and the country. According to 2011 census data recently released, the difference is relatively larger in the working age-group of people with the most prominent gap visible in the population aged 20 years to 29 years. The census states the male Christian population is 43,291 and the female population is 44,231 in the city. Lawyer Bhasker Benny opines that some of the difference can be partly explained by disparity in self-identification. “The scheduled castes and tribes among the Christians do not identify themselves as Christians fearing loss of reservation benefits. Due to low literacy levels among women and low awareness about reservation, they are more likely to reveal their religious identity,” he said. The demand for SC status for Dalit Christians and Muslims has been long-pending. However, the data shows that the male Muslim population is higher than the female population. The census data shows there are 20.46 lakh Hindus and 17.13 lakh Muslims in Hyderabad. While the number of Hindus is higher than the Muslim population in most age groups, between birth and 19 years the Muslim population is higher; the difference in this age group is nearly 67,000. However the gender gap among the religions is the highest among Hindus. The situation is not different in urban Ranga Reddy, which largely comprises greater Hyderabad. There are 30.3 lakh Hindus, 4.9 lakh Muslims and 1.3 lakh Christians with the female population exceeding the male population. (The Hindu 18/1/16)

 

72. 85 major anti-Christian incidents in 2015, claims NGO (7)

NEW DELHI: Citing 85 major incidents of alleged persecution of Christians across 20 states last year, a report by a minority and human rights NGO says 2015 saw an unprecedented spike in “intolerance” against the community. The report says on an average India saw one such incident of hate crime against Christians a day last year. While the report terms Madhya Pradesh as the worst state, followed by Telengana and Uttar Pradesh for such attacks, it calls Maharashtra the ‘Hindutva capital’. Delhi too, the report says, is among the top 10 states that saw such incidents, with five Catholic churches vandalised and assaults on priests and community members. The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) in its report claims that at least seven pastors were killed and 8,000 Christians (including 6,000 women and children) targeted in 2015. The report cites incidents from across the country — from Arunachal Pradesh, where suspected Hindutva fundamentalists attempted to attack Christians and whip up mass hysteria by quoting the Census 2011 data, and Chhatisgarh, where there is an alleged ban on religious activities other than of Hinduism, to Himachal Pradesh where the CPWD wrote off the Shimla CNI Church as a government property, and Tamil Nadu, where Bibles were thrown on the road to incite community members and create tension.Hundreds of protesters Nuns, priests and archbishops chanted Hail Mary on the streets of Bengaluru in Feb 2015 as Christians took out a procession in the city against the recent attacks on churches in Delhi. “There is at least a 20% increase in the incidents in terms of the number of people victimized as against 2014. The real numbers are much higher as many don’t want to report such incidents as the police force is communal. Then we have incidents from areas where RSS is very dominant and victims are threatened to not report the attacks. In some cases the media is also biased. Being less in number, Christians can’t fight back,” says CSF general secretary Joseph Dias. Claiming a significant rise in Hindutva ideology in 2015, the report claims that RSS and its 38 ideological affiliates have consolidated in almost every sphere of activity, and are “preparing to strengthen their hold on the country’s polity”. “With the BJP government in the Centre, there is huge increase in RSS shakhas. Even though there is no BJP government in Kerala, the state has the highest number of shakhas. West Bengal, whic has long been under communist rule and is now governed by liberal forces, BJP has a strong hold over five districts where reconversions are picking up. There is saffronisation of secular institution and in every sphere secular activities have been saffronised — be it in the northeast, Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Goa,” claims Dias”Earlier Gujarat was the Hindutva capital but now it is Maharashtra. The biggest ever rally of RSS was held in Pune where 1.50 lakh people participated. Rationalist like Narendra Dabholkar and others are being threatened. And the anti-conversion bill has been admitted in the Maharashtra Assembly. There is one Narendra Maharaj who claimed to have reconveretd 2,000 Christians to Hinduism in 2015 and his headquarter is also in Maharashtra. Saffron terror attacks somehow have their roots in Maharashtra,” says Dias. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

73. MP Freedom of Religion Act being misused, says Archbishop (7)

BHOPAL: Bhopal Archbishop Dr Leo Cornelio on Saturday said the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam (Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act) was being misused. The statement comes two days after a report of Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) said that Madhya Pradesh was the worst state when it comes to attacks on Christians. Dr Cornelio said the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan wanted harmony and peace and he was very particular about it, but some fringe groups were responsible for the attacks. Asked if these incidents increased after BJP came to power in the state in 2003, and particularly after Chouhan took over the reins ten years ago, the Archbishop said fringe groups were responsible for the attacks and Chouhan could not be present everywhere (to prevent such incidents). It was the duty of the law enforcing agencies to prevent the violence against Christians. These agencies should not buckle under pressure while probing such incidents, he said.All these Arch Bihops are propagating conversions all over the country in the name of education and equality. Unlike Mus… Read MoreRavishankar Bhujanga Saying that fundamentalists are present in every religion, Dr Cornelio said violence is unleashed in many parts of the world in the name of Islam, though that religion believes in brotherhood, peace and love. The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act prohibits religious conversion through force, allurement and fraudulent means. It also makes it punishable to change the religion without informing the authorities. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

74.  ‘M.P. govt. yet to hand over schools to church’ (7)

BHOPAL: Archbishop of Bhopal, Leo Cornelio, on Saturday said the Madhya Pradesh government was yet to respond to its request regarding handing over some of the state-run schools in backward districts to the Catholic church to improve their educational standards. “A year ago, I personally asked Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to hand over a couple of government schools in backward districts to us, so that we improve the educational standards in such institutes,” Cornelio told reporters here. He said this while providing details of the concluding ceremony of ‘Year of Consecrated life’ scheduled to be held here on Sunday. “After my meeting, one of our principals wrote to the government for adoption of government schools. But we have not received any response from it. We are not worried at all over the issue,” he said. According to the Archbishop, the education system in government schools needs to be improved urgently. “Students get free mid-day meal and books and other facilities, except education in government schools,” he claimed. “I visit villages and I am of strong view that education system needs to be improved in government schools in Madhya Pradesh,” he added. The Church is observing Year of Consecrated Life as Pope Francis dedicated the period November 30, 2014 to February 2, 2016 for it. The objectives of this year is to look to the past with gratitude; live the present with passion and embrace the future with hope, he said. “We have been asked to work for spiritual upliftment and to set new trends in education, health care, social work, rehabilitation and work for the uplift and welfare of poor and oppressed classes with more strength and devotion,” the Archbishop added. (The Hindu 24/1/16)

 

75. After National Commission for Minorities’ intervention, Christian graveyard freed of encroachment after 12 years (7)

MEERUT: A Christian graveyard at Ganga Nagar area was freed from encroachment that had over the past 12 years become a bone of contention between the locals and the community members. Out of 1,000 sq meters, almost half had been encroached upon and all the graves, some of which belonged to British soldiers, had been razed. The issue had been dragging for over a decade but eventually after the intervention of National Commission of Minorities, the graveyard was cleared. The civic authorities, on Friday, began demolition amid protests and presence of heavy police force. According to state president of Isai Mahasabha, Robin Nath, “We are running out of space in our existing burial grounds and at the same time, we cannot have more lands as the locals around the proposed areas object, it has become imperative for us to stake the claim over the ones which have been encroached upon. It had been a long fight to get back this one, though, many old graves were destroyed by the encroachers over a period of time.” While the demolition was going on, a few residents of the area tried to stop the act but the presence of heavy police force thwarted the attempt. According to one of the residents who did not wish to be named, “The land is unnecessarily being labelled as a graveyard despite the fact that there is no grave here. And even it is a burial ground then why no one has been buried here for so many years. This is just a way of grabbing the land by mafia.”The incident first came to light in 2004 when few influential residents of Kaseru Buxar area of Ganganagar, where the graveyard is located, allegedly encroached the site. According to a local Christian, Lalit Stephen, “Few graves that included some of British soldiers were destroyed. When Christians protested at that time, they were threatened with dire consequences, if they ever returned to the place.” As per the official records at DM office, the 1,000 square meters of land is registered as a graveyard. On July 26, 2013, district Minority Welfare Officer, SN Panday, had sent his report in the matter to the municipal commissioner that confirmed that the land was a graveyard and local residents had encroached upon the land. He had directed the municipal commissioner to launch an anti-encroachment drive to clear the land and maintain the sanctity of the area. However, the commissioner had declined stating that the area did not fall under his jurisdiction. When TOI contacted SN Pandey, district minority welfare officer, he said, “It is true that the graveyard had been encroached. We had erected a boundary wall around the land in 2014 but encroachment could not be removed at that point of time.” While speaking to TOI, Nath said, “In the first week of January, 2016, we visited National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as things were moving at a snail’s pace. Eventually, NCM took a strong step and directed the DM of Meerut to take immediate action in the matter.” On January 6, 2016, NCM issued a letter reprimanded DM Pankaj Yadav in the matter and stated ‘Despite a court order and intervention of district minority welfare officer, the illegal encroachments have not been removed.’ The district administration was asked to examine the case and submit the report within 21 days. (Times of India 29/1/16)

 

76. Church Divided Over RSS’s Move to Launch Christian Body (7)

NEW DELHI: The creation of a proposed Christian wing of the RSS is splitting the Indian church wide open. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has refused to participate in a meeting being organised by the John Dayal-led United Christian Forum (UCF) here on February 13 to discuss the move. The RSS has been holding a series of meetings with Christian leaders to reach out to the community by setting up the Rashtriya Isai Manch on the lines of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, established over a decade ago. CBCI spokesperson Father Gyanprakah Topno said,  “We are yet to get any official invite from the RSS. Then why should we discuss it prematurely?’’ However, many independent Christian bodies, priests and Bishops, mostly from the Northern church, have said yes. “It is up to the CBCI to decide on attending our function, which will have representation of over 150 representatives from all denominations, ’’ said A C Michael, one of the organisers. Sources said the elitist Catholics are not keen on the initiative. “But many priests and bishops from the northern belt in the country have agreed to attend. The church in North India may be poor in resources but are high in Christian spirit,’’ he said. Justifying this claim, Father Savari Muthu of Delhi Arch Diocese told The Sunday Standard that he would be attending though he is aware of the CBCI position. According to a radical insider within the CBCI, the difference over approach to RSS is nothing but a “class war’’ within the church. “The majority of Christians in India are poor and insecure. The northern church, which represents them is more concerned about this political development. The CBCI is under the control of the Brahminical Christians from Kerala. They do not want to be seen with Dalits and adivasis who will discuss political issues,’’ he said. Organisers confided that the CBCI is abstaining as the cardinals will have to face some unconfortable questions about their recent bonhomie with the RSS. The topics of discussion for the meeting include ‘Should there be a dialogue with non-state actors like RSS’ and ‘Who is the margdarshak for Church and Indian Christians?’ Christian activists name the current divide as a tussle between the elitist Kerala church versus the rest of the Indian churches. “The Kandhamal incident may not mean anything to upper caste Kerala Christians but is very much fresh in the memory of every northern Christian. We can’t think of joining hands with RSS,’’ an activist said. This criticism against Kerala church comes amidst news of a meeting lined up between BJP president Amit Shah and Kerala Congress leader K M Mani next week. Mani, whose Keralka Congress is a  Catholic party will not make any moves without the approval of the Catholic Church. Sources speculate that Mani’s son, Jose K Mani MP is likely to be inducted into the Union ministry. (The Sunday Standard 31/1/16)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

77. Pak refugees dream of Adnan’s luck (13)

AHMEDABAD: January 1 was a major day for Pakistani singer and music director Adnan Sami as his application got accepted and he became an Indian citizen. This development has found resonance in Pakistani nationals in the city who have been living in India on longterm visa for several decades and hope that it will set precedence of sorts.    Mahadev Lohana, 42, a doctor by education, had come a month later than Adnan -in April 2001-fleeing extremists in Sindh of Pakistan. As he does not have permission for practising medicine here, he is associated with a city hospital as administrator. “We have a stigma attached to us even as we fled the country with a hope of better life in India. We find it difficult to get jobs or even places to stay even as many of us have our spouses from India and children,” he says. While the efforts by Lohana to get the Indian citizenship are still on, for Sanjay Thakkar, 37, it’s a lesson in patience as he has lost his father with his last wish to die as an Indian citizen. “It is a painful experience for any human being to get uprooted from motherland. However, living in Pakistan for Hindu and Sindhi communities is becoming increasingly difficult and thus, most of us come with a hope to get accepted in the fold. My wife is an Indian and it is her documents that ensure future for my children,” he says. (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

78. Over 1 lakh Tamil refugees in India (13)

CHENNAI: More than six-and-a-half years after the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended, over 1.22 lakh people from the neighbouring island continue to live as refugees in other countries, while another 50,000 people are internally-displaced, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A total of 1,22,533 persons from Sri Lanka are living as refugees in other countries and 15,504 persons (pending cases) have sought asylum there. A total of 50,268 have been internally displaced within the country, the Mid-Year Trends 2015 released by UNHCR recently stated. While 231 refugees returned to the island in the first half of last year, none of those who had been internally-displaced went back to their original home during that period. Though there are conflicting versions about the number of persons killed in the war, according to an estimate of the United Nations about 40,000 persons have been killed. S.C. Chandrahasan, Treasurer of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) said, “The government of India should come with a generous package to supplement the efforts of the Sri Lankan government in facilitating the return of the refugees.” Referring to the recent developments in the island, including the release of over 700 acres of civil land so far under the control of the Army to the civilian authorities, Mr. Chandrahasan said this was the right time to encourage more refugees to return as most of the land owners are living in camps in India. OfERR has organised Skype meetings between refugees living in India and the returnees who went back to the island on how the situation has improved. “To make things easy for their return, ferry services must be recommenced, as that would also ease the financial burden on the aiding agencies in helping the return of refugees.” The government of Tamil Nadu, where over a lakh Lankan refugees are living in camps, has been sceptical of their return to Sri Lanka. In January last year, the then Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said that the conditions in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka were “still not conducive” for the refugees to return. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

79. 12,000 Syrian refugees amass at Jordan border (13)

AMMAN: Jordan has acknowledged that more than 12,000 Syrian refugees have amassed at its border, awaiting entry. The confirmation by government spokesman Mohammed Momani comes after Jordan initially dismissed a similar estimate provided by the UN refugee agency as exaggerated.The refugees are stranded in a remote desert area on the Syrian-Jordanian border, often spending weeks or months there in what aid agencies say are deteriorating humanitarian conditions. In December, the UN refugee agency urged Jordan to allow the refugees to enter. Momani says about 50 to 100 refugees are permitted entry each day, with priority given to women, children, the elderly and sick people. He says mass entry is unlikely because of security concerns. (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

80. UN chief names adviser for UN summit on refugees, migrants (13)

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the appointment of Karen AbuZayd as special adviser on the summit on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, which will be held at the UN General Assembly in September. The special adviser will work with UN entities and undertake consultations with Member States and other relevant stakeholders in the lead up to the summit, Xinhua cited Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general, as saying on Tuesday. “This will include overseeing the secretary-general`s report on large movements of refugees and migrants, to be submitted to the General Assembly in May 2016,” said Dujarric. AbuZayd has extensive UN experience in humanitarian and human rights work in numerous countries. She was appointed commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2005 and served in that position till 2010. Since 2011, she has served as a commissioner on the Independent Inquiry Commission on Syria. (Zee News 6/1/16)

 

81. Thousands at far-right rally against Merkel migrant policy (13)

Leipzig (Germany): Thousands of far-right protesters have rallied in the eastern German city of Leipzig against the record refugee influx they blamed for sexual violence against women at New Year’s Eve festivities. The crowd loudly vented its anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, whom they accuse of destroying their homeland by allowing in 1.1 million asylum seekers last year. “We are the people”, “Resistance!” and “Deport them!”, chanted the followers of LEGIDA, the local chapter of xenophobic group PEGIDA, the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident”.A heavy police presence, with water canon at the ready, kept watch over the crowd of several thousand, and separated them from thousands of counter-demonstrators, as rain poured down. While the rally stayed peaceful, police said some 250 far-right hooligans had thrown rocks and smashed shop windows in a traditionally left-wing student district of the city, before police dispersed them. The key theme of the LEGIDA protest was the New Year’s Eve attacks in the western city of Cologne, where hundreds of women reported being groped and robbed by men described as Arabs and North Africans, in scenes that have shocked the country. Justice Minister Heiko Maas earlier warned yesterday that “those who now hound refugees — on the Internet or on the streets — have obviously just been waiting for the events of Cologne” and were now “shamelessly exploiting” the attacks. “Refugees not welcome!” read one sign, showing a silhouette of three men armed with knives pursuing a woman, while another declared “Islam = terror”. “Since New Year’s Eve, nothing is like it was,” said one speaker, PEGIDA activist Tatjana Festerling, who decried the night’s “sex jihad against women”.”Asylum-Mummy Merkel had barely delivered her New Year’s address to the people when in Cologne the first fireworks hit the cathedral and police,” she said. “Then these Muslim refugees started their wholesale terror attack against German women, against blonde, white women,” she said to loud boos from the crowd. Waving a sign declaring “State of injustice”, 44-year-old demonstrator Lukas Richter said “Merkel is breaching the constitution and must go,” and that “the government must close the borders and return all illegal migrants”.He charged that the New Year’s Eve attacks highlighted “the violence of foreigners in Germany that has existed for years”. One sign mocked Merkel’s “We can do it” motto on the refugee influx, saying “You can’t even secure a train station”. (Zee News 12/1/16)

 

82. India has largest diaspora population in world: UN report (13)

United Nations: India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world with 16 million people from India living outside their country in 2015, according to a latest UN survey on international migrant trends. The survey conducted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said the number of international migrants – persons living in a country other than where they were born – reached 244 million in 2015 for the world as a whole, a 41 per cent increase compared to 2000. The 2015 Revision, nearly two thirds of international migrants live in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million), according to the Trends in International Migrant Stock. “The rise in the number of international migrants reflects the increasing importance of international migration, which has become an integral part of our economies and societies,” said Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “Well-managed migration brings important benefits to countries of origin and destination, as well as to migrants and their families,” Hongbo added. India has the largest diaspora in the world, followed by Mexico and Russia. In 2015, 16 million people from India were living outside of their country, a growth from 6.7 million in 1990, the survey stated. Mexico’s diaspora population stood at 12 million.Other countries with large diasporas included Russia, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ukraine. Of the twenty countries with the largest number of international migrants living abroad, 11 were in Asia, 6 in Europe, and one each in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Northern America, the survey said. This figure includes almost 20 million refugees. The survey further said that in 2015, two thirds of all international migrants were living in only 20 countries, starting with the US, which hosted 19 per cent of all migrants at 46.6 million, followed by Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. India ranked 12th out of these 20 countries, hosting 5.2 million migrants in 2015, a drop from 7.5 million in 1990. The UN data shows that the number of international migrants has grown faster than the world’s population. As a result, the share of migrants in the global population reached 3.3 per cent in 2015, up from 2.8 per cent in 2000. Two out of three international migrants in 2015 lived in Europe or Asia, the survey said, adding that nearly half of all international migrants worldwide were born in Asia. Among major regions of the world, Northern America hosts the third largest number of international migrants, followed by Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Oceania. Between 2000 and 2015, Asia added more international migrants than any other major region, or a total of 26 million additional migrants. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders last September at the United Nations, stresses the multidimensional reality of migration. .. (Deccan Herald 14/1/16)

 

83. ‘Migration a natural phenomenon, cannot be stopped’ (13)

New Delhi: Migration is a ‘natural phenomenon’ and the restrictions that came in place at the beginning of the 20th century will not last in the 21st century, political expert Sanjaya Baru said on Monday. Baru, who is currently the director for geo-economics and strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, was speaking at the launch of a book “Politics of Migration: Indian Emigration in a Globalized World” written by A. Didar Singh, Secretary General of Ficci and S. Irudaya Rajan. The book was launched on Monday by Minister of State for External Affairs General V.K. Singh (retd). “Migration is a natural phenomenon since the beginning of humans. The curtailing started only in the inter-war period. Till the beginning of World War I, majority of countries did not have control on the movement of people,” Baru said. “It cannot last in the 21st century, because of demographic transition,” he said. Baru explained that the ageing population in developed countries will face the problem of a work force while the young population in the developing countries need work. This, he said, will lead to inevitable migration. “We need to reduce the fear of migration, it is an unnatural human reaction,” he said. The book, meanwhile, dispelled several “myths” about migration, the first being that migrations take place due to economic compulsions. “People generally do not leave their countries of origin because of lack of economic development. Rather, they often emigrate owing to the onset of development itself,” it said. The book also argued against the misnomer that migration hurts the economy of the country of origin, or that migrants take away jobs from locals. “Migrants generally travel to where there are jobs available, often filling vacancies where there are skill shortages,” it said. (Business Standard 18/1/16)

 

84. Another 41 Sri Lankan refugees return home  (13)

CHENNAI: Forty-one Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Chennai and Madurai returned home on Tuesday under a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugeesfacilitated repatriation programme. Of the 41 refugees, 15 are male and 26 female, said diplomatic sources. They are to be resettled in Trincomalee, Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu. According to diplomats of the Lankan deputy high commission in the city , there are nearly 1,00,000 Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu. Last November, 42 refugees had returned. This was in addition to the 429 that re turned during the course of last year. Of more than 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in the state, 5,600 have returned home since 2011. There are 64,000 Lankan Tamils in refugee camps now. Most Lankan Tamil families live in KK Nagar, Neelankarai and Valasaravakkam in Chennai, Thuvakudi in Tri chy , Nagercoil in Kanyaku mari, and RS Puram and Val parai in Coimbatore. Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation fo under S C Chandrahasan sa id the two governments sho uld sign a pact on the return of refugees. (Times of India 20/1/16)

 

85. 21 dead as boats sink off Greek islands (13)

ATHENS: At least 21 people, including eight children, died in two separate incidents of boats smuggling migrants or refugees sinking off two Greek islands overnight into Friday. Dozens survived, and a search and rescue operation was underway for more potential survivors. In the first incident, a wooden boat carrying 48 people sank in the early hours off the small islet of Farmakonissi in the eastern Aegean. Forty of the passengers managed to make it to shore, while authorities rescued one girl and recovered seven bodies from the sea those of six children and one woman, the coast guard said. A few hours later, a wooden sailboat carrying an undetermined number of people sank off the islet of Kalolimnos, to the south of Farmakonissi. The coast guard rescued 26 people and recovered 14 bodies nine women, three men and two children while coast guard vessels, a helicopter and private boats were searching for survivors. Authorities said the survivors’ estimates of how many people had originally been on board varied from about 40 to 70, so it was unclear how many people were missing. Greece has become the main gateway for people fleeing war and poverty trying to reach the European Union. More than 800,000 entered Greece last year, mostly using unseaworthy boats to reach Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast. Hundreds have died in the attempt. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

86. At 15.6m, India tops list in migrants living in other countries (13)

CHENNAI: In the five-year period from 2010 to 2015, India displaced Russia as the country with the largest diaspora in the world, as per UN data on migrants for 2015. While the UAE, with its job opportunities for all sections of people, tops as the preferred destination for India-born migrants, the US that lets in only highly qualified professional Indians, is today home to nearly 20 lakh people born in India. Australia, which is on the other corner of the globe, comes high up on the list with 4 lakh Indians. Even tiny Bermuda hasn’t escaped the attention of emigrating Indians. Some 500 Indians live there. Between 1990 and 2010, Russia was topping the list of migrants but its diaspora was concentrated in a few countries like Israel. Paradoxically enough, the spike in Indian migration happened after the country’s economy moved into a high-growth path. In 2000, India equalled Russia in migrant outflow with 10.8 million each. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of migrants from India dipped by 0.3% but after 2005, the number has been increasing steadily. Today, a total of 15.6 million people born in India are living across all continents. The rate of migration to foreign countries has increased by half compared to 10 years ago. Observers see Indian migration as helping world economies. “Indian migrants to the US have been a great asset for the world. Their contribution to development of information technology has been useful to various sections. Similarly in Gulf countries, many Indians are in the managerial cadre and their contribution has been immensely appreciated,” former diplomat G Parthasarathi told TOI. Indians working as construction labourers are also most sought after by companies in the Gulf. “Indian labourers are highly disciplined and they are ready to jobs which Europeans or people from developed countries may find it tough to do,” said Parthasarathi. In 2005, 10.5 million migrated from India and the number went up to 13.3 million at the end of 2010, an increase of 26%.Between 2010 and 2015, the numbers increased by 17.5%, says the UN report. The number of Indians who migrated rose 18% in 2015 from 8.5 million in 2010. The number of women rose 15% from 4.8 million in 2010 to 5.5 million in 2015. Congress has corroded the fabric of our nation due to corruption, reservation, nepotism and crime. “Migrants from South Asia totalled 37.1 million, of whom 20.6% were living in Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and nearly 43% were in high-income non-OECD countries (such as the GCC). The largest source countries of migrants were India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. The region hosted 12.4 million migrants, the majority of whom were from within the region,” says Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016 of the World Bank. The factbook says south-south migration is larger than south-north migration. Over 38% of the international migrants in 2013 migrated from developing countries to other developing countries, compared to 34% that moved from developing countries to advanced countries. The top 10 migrant destination countries were the US, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Russia, UAE, UK, France, Canada, Spain and Australia. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

87. Refugee camps to Adarsh Gram: Tales from an East Bengal trail (13)

The years following August 1947 were difficult times for Hindus in East Pakistan, present day Bangladesh. It was under circumstances on increasing attacks and life threats that the protagonists of the Bengali tales in Raichur left their homes. The journey was a long one with a lot of formalities at every stopover. They had to mandatorily get Relief Eligibility Certificates (see image), reasons for migration in which also tell the tales of discrimination and fear of life. These were among the last set of families that left East Pakistan, some crossed the border between 1969-71, while a few others a couple of years after Bangladesh was formed in 1971. They still don’t call it Bangladesh with their hearts, the idea of East Pakistan is also something they believe mainland India forced upon them, almost without any consent. “Indian independence was purchased at the cost of our land and we are called refugees in our own country,” say Prasen Raptan, 39, whose father migrated here as a refugee. “…What if we had said no to division, it would have meant no Pakistan, or India. We would still be in East Bengal,” Prasen, a Ph.D holder, adds. The mood is similar across the four Rehabilitation (RH) Camps that the Bengalis occupy, located nearly 100-km away from Raichur Town, and 380-km from Bengaluru. From just 4,000 people from 932 families in 1971, there are nearly 15,000 people and the number of families have gone up to 3,768. While the fight for citizenship had began instantaneously, the government began considering only post 1980s (see image). With increasing numbers their voice became stronger, but not strong enough. “It was difficult to digest that we, whose ancestors were the sons of the same soil had to fight for citizenship,’ says Swapan Baidya, 39, a headmaster of a high school in RH Camp 4. Their existence continued as refugees: Apathy here, no place in Bangladesh. And being divided in four RH Camps, although there are no physical barriers put in place, meant there was a lack of one, united formidable voice. (Timews of India 30/1/16)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

88. Access to files eludes RTI activist (1)

CHENNAI: The Revenue Department and the Tamil Nadu Archives have been passing the buck for over 14 months now over granting access to certain files and documents dealing with transfer of about 122-acre government land to a private hospital at Porur in 1995. V. Gopalakrishnan, a Chennai-based activist, approached the Revenue Department and sought copies of files under the Right To Information (RTI) Act in October 2014. The department, however, directed him to approach the Archives Department saying files that were more than five years old would be maintained there. However, officials at the Archives informed Mr. Gopalakrishnan that two of the files were sent to the Revenue Department for reference in 2005 and they were never returned. “The Revenue Department, on its part, claimed that the ‘RDC’ Section under it which was supposed to have received the files never existed and hence it would not be able to provide copies of the files,” says the activist. Not satisfied with the answers, the applicant had filed two appeals in the Tamil Nadu Information Commission. The Commission said the PIO, the Assistant Commissioner of the Tamil Nadu Archives and the PIO of the Revenue Department should together look for the files and hand over a copy of them to the RTI applicant. “I had sought the GOs and note files dealing with the issue. Any transfer of government land to private parties has to be kept carefully by the government. The 122-acre land spread across five villages are said to have been transferred to a private trust and when I seek the documents, the officials are not able to locate the documents except for one letter from Commissioner of Land Administration to Revenue Department,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan. Incidentally, in this letter sent in December 2014 the Commissioner had recommended that the purchase of a piece of land by a private trust in 1985 (in Porur) has to be considered “bogus” and “improper transactions in poromboke (tank bed) lands.” “Naturally, therefore, the Trust will have to pay the costs of this poromboke land to the government. I recommend that the government may take a decision to fix this amount in relation to the local competitive market value of the land in question and also to determine the number of times of this value (two or four) to be levied and collected from the trust,” the Commissioner had added. In this backdrop it is crucial for the Revenue Department to furnish the other related files, feels Mr. Gopalakrishnan adding that “any GO is a public document that should made accessible to the people.” (The Hindu 2/1/16)

 

89. 160 mn Currency Notes of Re 1 Issued in Last Two Years: RTI (1)

MUMBAI: The Finance Ministry issued as many as 160 million currency notes of one rupee denomination in the last two years, nearly two decades after they were taken off print, according to queries made under the RTI Act. Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal and Mumbai-based RTI activist Manoranjay Roy had, in separate RTI queries, sought the number of one rupee currency notes issued by the government in the last 20 years. “In 1994-95, total 40 million currency notes of one rupee denomination were issued. Thereafter, there was no issuance of one rupee notes from fiscal year 1995-96 till fiscal year 2013-14,” the reply furnished by Deputy Manager (HR) and Public Information Officer of Currency Note Press, G Krishna Mohan, said. However, in the fiscal year 2014-15, a total five million notes and in the current fiscal year, a total of 155 million notes of one rupee denomination, were again introduced in the market, the reply said. It further said that in fiscal year 1994-95, the production cost of 40 million currency notes of one rupee denomination was Rs 59,40,059, implying that the production cost stood at Rs 1.48 per note. Agrawal claimed, “I possess the file notings and the correspondence which indicate that the process of reissuing new one rupee notes at a high printing cost was a bureaucratic exercise carried out by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government, and it was done despite stiff resistance from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).” “Besides, one rupee note is being sold openly through websites at a premium price of Rs 50, which the apex bank needs to put a check on,” he said. Questioning the move to reissue the notes, Roy said, “Considering the high printing cost of a one rupee note, and its very short life, this decision was absolutely avoidable.” Abhay Pethe, a professor in the Economics department of Mumbai University, said there was no need for the RBI to print more one rupee notes unless it was mandated by the government. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the numismatic value also. The issuance of one rupee notes is not going to increase their circulation either,” he said. Explaining the nuances, RBI spokesperson Alpana Killawala said, “One rupee note is actually a coin. And unlike the notes, which are a liability of the RBI, coins are a liability of the Government of India. Hence, the decision to reissue one rupee notes was taken by the finance ministry.” She added, “Selling of one rupee notes at high premium is a mutual bartering act between two or more individuals and it does not amount to criminality.” “The present stock of one rupee notes should be sold only as souvenir in attractive plastic packing at a premium price, just as the silver-alloy commemorative coins are sold in plastic packing, rather than putting them (one rupee notes) into circulation in the market,” Agrawal demanded. The limited number of one rupee notes would not stay in circulation anyway, as anyone getting them is likely to keep it as a collector’s item, he said. (New Indian Express 3/1/16)

 

90. Haryana spends Rs 11.80 cr on ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’: RTI (1)

JIND: The state government has spent almost Rs 12 crore on the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme since it was launched at Panipat in January last year, according to official reply to an RTI query. Replying to an RTI query filed by INLD MLA Naina Chautala the state government said a sum of Rs 11,79,09,288 has been spent by the Centre and the state on government and private events related to ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme till now in Haryana. The government report said that Centre had released a sum of Rs 2 crore for the two-day inaugural workshop on ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme in Panipat on Janury 21 and 22 last year. The inaugural function and the two-ay workshop was attended by representatives of 27 states. Later in the year the Centre released Rs 2.23 crore to the state for the implementation of the scheme, the report said. The government has chosen the Ministry of Women and Child Development as the nodal ministry for the implementation of the scheme with the Health and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry assisting it. According to the report the Ministry of Women and Child Development spent Rs 3.55 Crore in the first phase of the inaugural programme. In the same programme the department of education spent Rs 44.25 lakh whereas Rs 2.74 crore were spent on the publicity of the scheme by the department concerned. The department of health spent nearly Rs 15 lakh, the report said. Also in ‘call for action’ programme held on July 21, 2015 to popularise the scheme, by Population Services International with the help of the government, different government departments spent nearly Rs 66.5 lakh, the report said. Bollywood actor Parineeti Chopra was also invited for the ‘call for action’ programme at Gurgaon. (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

91. RTI reveals delay doubled cost of court complex (1)

Kolhapur: An RTI application has revealed that the cost of the court complex on Kasba Bawada road doubled from Rs 28 crore to Rs 55.08 crore due to the delay in completing the project. Civic activist Dilip Desai, who filed the application, said that as per the work order, the construction was supposed to be completed by August 2011. The project was approved in 2007 and the public works department issued the work order to the private contractor in August 2009. The PWD had granted the construction tender to a private company based on the terms that it (the company) will finish the work in 24 months. The complex has been awaiting inauguration for the last four months. PWD officials confirmed on at least two occasions that the budget was extended from the original provision of Rs 28 crore. “The PWD failed to clarify why the project was delayed which resulted in cost escalations. In the end, the taxpayers’ money is wasted and PWD has taken no action against the contractor,” he said. The activist wrote a letter this week to the principal accountant general of Maharashtra to conduct a thorough inquiry into the cost escalation and sought the attention of the auditor to the multiple extensions granted to the contractor. “Even though a three-year extension expired on August 2014, the project was declared complete in September 2015. There was no report of action taken against the contractor,” Desai wrote to the auditor. Desai had also written a memorandum on January 5 to the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation and other government agencies attracting their attention to the case. He asked the officers whether the inquiry into building permission has been completed. He had earlier alleged that the PWD had constructed the building without taking permission from town planning department and had not obtained environmental clearance. The PWD officials have declined to comment on the issue. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

92. Govt unlikely to suggest bringing judges appointment under RTI (1)

New Delhi: The government is unlikely to suggest bringing under the ambit of RTI the process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the high courts amid feeling that it would not be a practical idea. There is feeling within the government, sources said, that bringing the process of appointment and elevation of judges to the Supreme Court and the 24 High Courts under the transparency law would not be practical as the collegium will be flooded by RTI applications from candidates and other “interested parties” seeking details of files notings and other details. But at the same time, amid calls to make the system of appointment of members to the higher judiciary more transparent, government is likely to include a clause that any dissent note to a recommendation of the collegium to appoint or elevate a judge should be mandatorily shared with the Executive. When the Supreme Court was hearing ways to improve the collegium system, government had pressed for bringing the system of appointment under the ambit of RTI to usher in greater transparency. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) and members of the collegium will take a final call on the draft memorandum of procedure which the government will hand over to the CJI in the coming days. The MoP is a roadmap on how a judge will be appointed. As of now, there are two MoPs — one dealing with appointment of Chief Justice of India and other judges of the Supreme Court and the other dealing with appointment of chief justices and other judges of high courts. The draft MoP for appointment of members to the higher judiciary is being prepared after the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act on appointment of judges to the apex court and high courts. While deciding on ways to improve the collegium system, the Supreme Court had recently left it to the law ministry to draft the MoP in consultation with CMs and chief justices of the 24 high courts. The four issues highlighted by the draft MoP are transparency in the appointment process, eligibility criteria, a permanent secretariat for the collegium and a process to evaluate and deal with complaints against candidates. Government and judiciary are learnt to be on the same page on the issue of creating a permanent secretariat. (Business Standard 11//16)

 

93. Toor dal: RTI reveals only 50 FIRs in 5,592 raids (1)

MUMBAI: Only 50 first information reports (FIRs) were registered against alleged hoarders in the 5,592 raids carried out State-wide on godowns by the government after the price of pulses, especially toor dal, skyrocketed in November last year. The raids led to seizure of over 1.36 lakh metric tonnes of illegally stocked pulses, oil and oil seeds. This was revealed in the reply by the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department to an RTI application by activist Anil Galgali seeking information on cases registered in these raids. According to the reply, the seized commodities are worth Rs 539.5 crore. Of the seized commodities, around 1.33 lakh metric tonne is pulses while 491.185 metric tonne of oil and 2451.433 metric tonne of oil seeds were seized. As per data, maximum seizures were made in Mumbai and Thane divisions – 67,065 metric tonnes worth Rs 458.54 crore. “It is really interesting that despite over 5,500 raids, the department has filed FIRs in 50 cases only. I have written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis requesting him to make public the names of those named in the cases,” said Mr. Galgali. According to officials, the FIRs have been filed under the Essential Commodities Act, and it will be very difficult for the accused to go free. Even though cases have not been registered, an official said, hoarders who were raided will not be spared. “The hoarder has to present himself before a quasi-judicial body comprising the district’s Collector and food price controller. A detailed process will follow,” the officer added. Following a sudden rise in the prices of tur dal, the government began raiding godowns to seize pulses and other essential commodities. As per data with the State department, fall in production of toor dal had led to the rise in prices. While Maharashtra produces an average 9-10 lakh metric tonnes of toor dal every year, 2014-15 witnessed drop of over 55 per cent in production volume. The situation is unlikely to improve in the coming year as the estimated volume of toor dal production is around 5.10 lakh metric tonne for 2015-16. (The Hindu 12/1/16)

 

94. Law needs more bite to protect corporate whistleblowers (1)

The Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011, must be amended to include protection to private enterprises, say lawyers in the light of the recent murder of V Venkateswarlu in the city. The police department is working on a theory that Venkateswarlu had been killed because he was threatening to expose corruption within the publicly-listed `3,911-crore Kalpataru Power Transmission.But given the current legal situation in India, lawyers theorise that Venkateswarlu could not have sought official help or intervention in this regard as the Whistleblower Act provides protection only to public servants or those working for NGOs who have a “public interest disclosure” to make. “Private entities or corruption in private entities would not fall under the perview of the Whistleblowers’ Act,” said lawyer K Krishnaswamy . In recent years, there have been a few murders that caught the limelight like that of Indian Oil Corp officer Shanmugham Manjunath, who was murdered for sealing a petrol pump that was selling adulterated fuel. His life was turned into the 2014 movie Manjunath.Another famous case is that of engineer Satyendra Dubey , who exposed graft in NHAI’s Golden Quadrilateral project. “Unless there is an element of public interest say someone is willfully misusing their power orand causing a loss to the government or there is a wrongful gain to a public servant it will not fall under the Act,” lawyer V Rangachari said. RTI activists, who file peti tions that are legitimately in the interests of the larger public, also don’t qualify for protection under the Act. Many of the murders of activists seeking to expose corruption in the National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) scam, for example, happened because both the Whistleblowers Act and the Right to Information Act, 2005 provide inadequate protection to those outside the bureaucracy , said lawyers. As a publicly-listed company on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange, Kalpataru falls under the SEBI scanner (Securities and Exchange Board of India) and must disclose all its activities to the Registrar of Companies. “He could have asked for protection outside of the Act. He is perfectly entitled to legal help and protection from the government and police irrespective of whether he is a public servant or not,” said former additional solicitor general of India P Wilson. (Times of India 15/1/16)

 

95. CIC to varsities: Provide answer sheets at Rs 2 per page (1)

New Delhi: Universities and examining bodies cannot charge more than `2 per page for providing copies of evaluated ans-wer scripts to students, the Central Information Commission has ruled as it struck down the Rs750 per answer sheet fee imposed by the Delhi University. In a stern order, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said the Delhi University, by imposing a high fee of Rs 750 for providing acc-ess to answer sheets under the RTI Act, has created two classes of students — those who can afford to have a copy by paying `750 and those who cannot, which is a clear breach of right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution. Citing the RTI rules of the Delhi University, information commissioner said it has not applied these for copies of answer sheets sought under the transparency law and that it cannot discriminate by asking higher cost for copies of answer sheets from a student and Rs 2 per page for other documents. “Even if we accept co-ntention that the respondent authority (DU) was autonomous and competent enough to make its own rules and regulations, that authority has no power to re-strict the access to information which was guaranteed by the RTI Act,” he said. He was hearing the complaint of DU student Abne Ingty who approached the transparency panel challenging the cost of `750 per question paper imposed for accessing answer sheets under the RTI Act. Ingty was asked to deposit `3,750 for getting copies of answer sheets for five papers. Mr Acharyulu said he found merit in Ingty’s contention that prescribing unreasonable cost and time constraint will amount to complete denial of information to the students on grounds of their economic status. He said a university or any other authority cannot use its authority to make subordinate legislation to infringe the legal and constitutional rights of the students or citizens. The CIC held that DU or any other university or public authority cannot ignore or bypass the mandate of Parliament given in RTI Act. Acc-ording to the information commissioner, charging of Rs 750 amounts to breach of Sections 3, 6 and 7 of the RTI Act. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

96. Over Rs 28 lakh unrecovered from repatriates: RTI (1)

Mumbai: A total of Rs 28.86 lakh is lying unrecovered from Indians who were repatriated, an RTI reply has revealed. Pune-based activist Vihar Durve had filed an RTI query with the Mumbai Regional Passport Office in September last, seeking status of repatriation charges recovered from cases filed from 1980 to 2011. The reply that from 1979-80 to 2010-11, Rs 74.45 lakh was given to repatriates who did not have enough means to return. Their homecoming was facilitated with a promise that they would return the money after their arrived. However, only Rs 45.59 lakh was recovered and Rs 28.86 lakh is still lying unrecovered. The audit scrutiny into repatriation registrations made with the Mumbai RPO was conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. The reply revealed that out of 414 repatriation cases, charges were recovered only in 126 cases. A senior Mumbai RPO officer said, “The money was spent to help countrymen who lost everything. It was a small gesture to serve our people by our embassies and missions abroad. But as and when, we trace the defaulter while he/she applies for fresh issuance of passport, we recover the money,” he added. He said to deal with such cases, a new system, Prior Approval Category, was introduced in 1993, which feeds the name of a repatriated person in the database. — PTI (The Hindu 21/1/16)

 

97. CIC pulls up NCERT for chopping out content on Vivekananda, Bose (1)

New Delhi: The CIC has pulled up NCERT for chopping out content on national leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose and revolutionaries from its text books and directed it to suo-moto disclose the reasons behind such decisions. In a terse order, the Commission asked NCERT to disclose why content on Swami Vivekananda was reduced from 1250 to 37 words in Class XII history books and completely removed from Class VIII books. The case reached Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu through a plea of Jaipur-based Suryapratap Singh Rajawat, who criticised non-inclusion of history of eminent personalities and revolutionaries in the NCERT books. Through a series of RTI applications and public grievance application, Rajawat claimed content on 36 national leaders and revolutionaries like Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaqullah Khan, Batukeshwar Dutt, Ram Prasad Bismil among others was completely missing from history text books of NCERT. Not getting satisfactory reply, he approached the transparency panel. During the hearing before the CIC, Rajawat asserted that it was not appropriate to give 37 pages to cricket and history of cloth but nothing on the lives of freedom fighters. Rajawat submitted a table in which the photos of these great persons was inserted with a tag ‘not found’ in NCERT text books. The official representing the NCERT said all the suggestions made by the appellant will be placed before the Syllabus Revision Committee and would implement the committee’s recommendations as given by them. Professor Neeraj Rashmi, representing NCERT, said they could not interfere with the independent committee which decides the content of lessons and textbooks…..  (Business Standard 24/1/16)

 

98. Do not disclose details of minors without parents’ consent: CIC (1)

New Delhi: In a stern order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has said schools and Education Department should not disclose information about children under the RTI Act without consulting their parents. The commission admonished the principal of RD Public School and the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Directorate of Education (DoE) of the Delhi government for disclosing information about a student to his relatives who had a dispute with the student’s family. Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said the principal of the school himself had told the DoE that his school did not come under the RTI Act and the applicant was involved in a dispute with the student’s family. “There are several incidents reported that rivals of the parents or quarrelling spouses take the child from the school. Revealing the details of the child might lead to kidnap or murder etc. During the stay of the child in school, the principal and teachers have a duty of guardian and any negligence on their part might harm the student,” Mr. Acharyulu said. The principal feared disclosure would cause damage to the boy but still gave documents related to the student, he noted. “The school should not have furnished the copies of the CBSE certificate of the child. Another letter from the CBSE given to the school granting direct admission to 10 students including the boy was also furnished to the appellant,” Mr. Achayulu said. The Information Commissioner said the Central Public Information Officer of the DoE gave all this information to the RTI applicant Lalit Kapur without applying his mind, and not thinking about the security issues that might arise for the boy. “The commission directs the CPIO and the principal not to disclose personal information of the students to any person, much less to his so-called relatives, without following the procedures under Section 11 of the RTI Act,” he said. He said it was revealed that the CPIO did not follow the mandatory process in Section 11 of the RTI Act to seek the opinion of the parents of the child, the third party. “The request for information is certainly personal in nature and third party information of a minor student and its disclosure may not enhance the welfare of the child. “It is interrogative in nature and he is fishing to find a basis to embarrass the child or his family not with a good motive and for some unspecified purpose, which is certainly not ‘public purpose’,” Mr.Acharyulu said. The commissioner said that irrespective of the opinion given by a third party, the CPIO would have to decide based on his discretion to fulfil the objectives of the RTI Act.Issuing a show cause notice to the principal and the CPIO, Mr.Acharyulu asked why maximum penalty should not be imposed on both of them and disciplinary action initiated for not complying with the provisions of Section 11 of the RTI Act and causing breach of the privacy of the child and his parents. In a warning to the RTI applicant, Mr.Acharyulu said, “The Commission records its admonition against the appellant for misuse of the RTI against the school child and warns him against such misuse in future. His second appeal is an extension of abuse and hence rejected. The commission records its contempt against him and imposes a penalty of Rs10 to be paid to the principal of the school.” — PTI (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

99. No rules flouted for Hema Malini, says State (1)

MUMBAI: The BJP-led State government on Friday claimed that the land allotted to party MP and actor Hema Malini for her dance school was as per prescribed norms and that no rules had been flouted. However, the government failed to explain the reasons behind allocating the land even before Ms Malini surrendered the plot that was earlier allotted to her in Versova to the Mumbai suburban collector. It has also not explained as to why the condition of securing 25% amount of total project cost with the government was not followed in this case, as mandated while allotting land. On Thursday, activist Anil Galgali had released information obtained under Right to Information (RTI) Act from the Mumbai suburban collector, which stated that a plot admeasuring 2,000 sq m at Ambivli in Andheri was given to the actor’s dance school at Rs 70,000. The market value of the same plot is estimated to be around Rs 50 crore. The government clarified that the plot had been allotted to the actor according to the decisions and existing norms and that no decision had been taken outside the purview of this policy. Neither Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse nor senior officials could explain the reason for the delay in Ms Malini surrendering the Versova plot. Ms Malini’s trust had initially demanded 1,741.89 sq m plot at Versova. The Revenue Department, through its letter dated January 3, 1997, had issued orders to Mumbai Suburban Collector to hand over the plot with a written undertaking from the trust that it will pay the total cost of the land. The possession was given to the trust in April 4, 1997. The trust even paid Rs 10 lakh on January 2, 2002. However, the trust sought another plot as the Versova land fell in Coastal Zone Regulation area and no construction was possible. Following that, the trust sought 5,000 sq m plot at Ambivli in Andheri. State Congress President Ashok Chavan accused the BJP on Friday of violating rules. “The government is indulging in double standards in the plot’s allocation. It had earlier said they will formulate a fresh policy on granting government land, which directly affects the State exchequer but in the case of the BJP MP, no such procedure was followed,” said Mr Chavan. (The Hindu 30/1/16)

 

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

100. 18 States agree to revoke ‘no detention policy’ in RTE (11)

With the consent of 18 States for “required amendments” in the ‘no detention policy’ under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, a committee headed by Rajasthan Education Minister Vasudev Devnani on Wednesday sent recommendations to the Central government, stating that the policy should be revoked. Under the policy, no student can be failed or expelled till Class VIII. However, States, including Rajasthan, have already done away with the policy. The committee, formed by the Central government, in its recommendations decided upon in New Delhi, stated that a ‘learning level’ must be fixed for each class to check whether a student is eligible for the class that he or she is in. “Students must not be detained in Classes VI and VII. However, they must meet the required ‘learning levels’. A month’s time would be given to students to retake tests and attain the required learning levels, failing which the students would have to be detained,” the recommendations stated. (The Hindu 1/1/16)

 

101. Central Panel to Assess Right to Education of Preschoolers (11)

NEW DELHI: The government has reconstituted a panel headed by the Gujarat Education Minister B M Chudasama to examine the feasibility of bringing pre-school education and secondary education under the Right to Education (RTE). The move assumes significance as it comes in the midst of the drafting of the new education policy. Various sections of the society have also demanded extending the scope of Right to Education to ensure continuity of children’s educational development and to ensure that every child has the right to 10 years of formal schooling. The six-member committee under the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) will also propose a draft legislation incorporating pre-school and secondary education component in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. It is also mandated to prepare a detailed financial estimates for implementing for extension of the Right to Education. The committee will comprise members such as Minister of School Education of Tamil Nadu K C Veeramani; Maharashtra, Vinod Tiwde; Tripura,  Tapan Chakraborty; Uttarakhand, Indira Hradyesh and a joint secretary from the Human Resource Development Ministry. The RTE Act currently applies to children between ages six to 14 years studying in classes from I to VIII. A Central Advisory Board of Education sub-committee, which had examined the issue during the United Progressive Alliance regime, had broadly agreed to the proposal and had identified issues such as entry-age at the pre-school, qualification and capacity building of teachers at the pre-primary level and the duration of secondary education for further deliberation. Then Human Resource Minister M M Pallam Raju had suggested further deliberations on the matter. The reconstituted committee under the present dispensation has been asked to submit its report within one year, during which period it will hold consultations with the state governments, parents, teachers associations, school management, local bodies and several other stakeholders. (New Indian Express 2/1/16)

 

102. Supreme Court moved for uniform curriculum (11)

New Delhi: Stating that a uniform school curriculum for children in the age group of six to 14 will remove educational inequality, a petition has been filed in the SC. Petitioner advocate Ashwini Upadhyaya said the prevailing education system is discriminatory in nature and depends upon a child’s social, economic, religious and cultural background. It is against our fundamental right and inconsistent with our declaration: “To constitute India into socialist, secular, democratic, republic as the present system does not promote Socialism and Secularism in its true form and spirit. He said Article 21A of the Constitution — Right to Education — one of the important fundamental rights, cannot be made available on the basis of a child’s social, economic and cultural background. The PIL said that the Right to Education envisages not only free and compulsory but also uniform education, having common syllabus and curriculum for all children from the age of six to 14 years. It said a uniform education system is necessary to secure social, economic and political justice, which would develop equality in all forms. Further value-based uniform education having common syllabus and curriculum is essential for eradication of corruption, crime, terrorism, casteism, communalism and radicalism and would be a major step in achieving gender justice. The petitioner pointed out that the top 10 honest countries of the world — Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Britain and Japan — and other countries implemented value-based uniform education for all children. He sought a direction to the Centre and all states to bring about a change in the national school curriculum in the interest of children. (Asian Age 3/1/16)

 

103. Delhi HC takes up plea against upper age for nursery admissions (11)

New Delhi, Jan 6 : The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the city government, directorate of education and the Lt. Governor to respond to a petition that has challenged the cap on upper age for admission to schools for entry level education. A bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued a notice on the plea that has sought quashing of the notification dated December 18, 2015, by which the Delhi government fixed the upper age limit for Pre-School (Nursery), Pre-Primary (KG) and First Class. The court has slated the next hearing for February 1. The plea was filed by Uday Pratap Singh Kapoor, a child two years and ten months old, through his mother Simran Brar against the Delhi government circular. According to the circular, the government fixed the upper age limit for admission to pre-School at “less than four years as on March 31, 2015″.Advocate Akhil Sachar, counsel of the petitioner, said his client cannot seek admission to a pre-School class in 2017 as he will be four years and one month old. In his petition, he requested the court to allow the child to take admission in pre-School for the academic year 2017-2018. Justice Shakdher has directed the state government to file the counter affidavit within 10 days. There can be no age for education and capping the upper age for admission is highly discriminatory and seeks to prejudice the rights of children and society. It violates the fundamental Right to Education, the plea said. “The petitioner who has not even turned three years of age is being constrained to seek admission in the current academic year 2016-17 due to the circulars issued by the government on December 18, 2015,” the plea said. “For that by making a provision for an upper age limit for admission to school, the impugned Order violates the Right to Education which is a fundamental right enshrined under the Constitution of India.” The notification neither has any legislative sanction nor prima facie the approval of the administrator, that is Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung in the present case, the plea noted. Stating that the circular was arbitrary and issued without any application of mind, the petition said fixing an upper age limit for pre-school, pre-primary and Class-1 was a sheer breach of the constitution. The new circular was even an absolute contradiction of the guidelines issued by the central government, the plea said. (New Kerala 6/1/16)

 

104. Govt. to decide on nursery admissions under EWS category (11)

New Delhi: In a bid to make the nursery admission process more transparent this year, especially for applicants from economically weaker sections (EWS), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said his government will henceforth decide on all school admissions made under the category. As per the Right to Education Act, 25 per cent of the total number of seats at private schools must be reserved for EWS applicants. Referring to the online mode of application under the EWS quota, where parents can list schools in descending order of preference, Mr. Kejriwal said: “All online applications for admissions under the EWS quota will henceforth be reviewed by the government’s Education Department and private schools will no longer have a say in such matters.” The Chief Minister and his deputy Manish Sisodia were addressing parents at the NDMC convention centre over the issue of his government’s decision to scrap management quota across private schools and making the admission process more streamlined from this year onwards. Mr. Kejriwal lamented the fact that people often come to his office with “school admission” related-requests. “It’s really unfortunate that a natural right like school admission has to be taken up with a Chief Minister,” he noted. He said the scrapping of management quota for nursery admissions in private schools has thrown open 50 per cent extra seats for the common man, and added that his government had no intention of “interfering” with the daily affairs of the school. The Chief Minister also said the Delhi government will “think” about online admissions for the 75 per cent open seats next year. “The Delhi government has made school admissions totally transparent. Scrapping management quota, which were used to oblige recommendations of politicians, government functionaries and powerful people, has opened nearly 50 per cent extra seats for the common man,” Mr. Kejriwal said, while interacting with parents seeking admissions for their wards. Mr. Sisodia said his government will no longer allow schools to run like “teaching shops”. In a stern message against commercialisation of education, the Deputy Chief Minister asked private schools to strictly follow the guidelines for admissions under the standalone EWS quota. However, Mr. Kejriwal sounded rather mindful of the ground reality in Delhi’s government-run schools. Although hopeful that his government will add activities that were previously the exclusive domain of private schools, he said it will take nearly two years for his government to improve the existing system. “Major changes in government schools may take some time. But I’m sure that two years down the line, most parents will prefer to admit their wards in government schools,” he added. Further, Mr. Kejriwal touched upon an array of healthcare-related works that his government intends to deliver by 2016. “This year, we have planned to improve health services across all State hospitals, where certain medicines and other consumables will be provided free of cost to patients.” (The Hindu 11/1/16)

 

105. RTE Act still a far cry in Telangana (11)

Hyderabad: Even as the Telangana Rasthra Samithi (TRS) government’s KG to PG scheme will need an estimate of over Rs 40,000 crore to take off, educationalists raise questions on its reluctance on spending Rs 150 crore every year towards implementation of the Right to Education Act. The Telangana government has ignored 25% reservation for economically poor students in private unaided schools under the RTE Act since past six years. For years now, the erstwhile governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana said that the reservation will put an additional burden of Rs 10 crore on the exchequer. The government also feared that it may lead to collapse of public school system as most of the government school students would migrate to private unaided schools. However, activists opine that while the government is spending enormously on the KG to PG scheme, its ignorance towards the quota for economically poor students under the RTE Act contradicts its own outlook towards the issue. “When government can spend over Rs 40,000 crore towards implementation of the KG to PG scheme, Rs 1,500 for next 10 years towards 25% quota shouldn’t be a big deal,” said Mazzhar Hussain, executive director of Confederation of Voluntary Associations. As per RTE Act, the state government has to reimburse the fee to the private schools for all children admitted under the 25% reservation quota. Incidentally, the government is already reeling under Rs 212 crore of pending dues under the fee reimbursement scheme for higher education. For implementation of the RTE Act, the COVA had filed a PIL in the High Court a few months back. On January 6, the HC directed the government to issue notices to all private unaided schools to implement the Act. “The government has to submit the circular along with other documents related to implementation of the Act in the HC by January 20. If it fails to do so, it will be clear contempt of court,” said Hussain. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

106. Edu system in state needs complete overhaul: Report (11)

DEHRADUN: The standard of education in the Himalayan state needs an urgent boost, a report by the Uttarakhand RTE Forum 2015-16 suggests. The report, which was released earlier this week after surveying 400 schools in 11 districts, highlights that not even 10% of the total institutes fulfilled the norms laid down under RTE.”Like in past years, even this time education and health were the primary reasons behind migration in the state. The report indicates at important points such as 6,000 vacant teachers’ posts, which need to be addressed on priority basis so that degrading education standards can be overhauled,” Raghu Tiwari, state convenor of the forum, told TOI. As per the report, a copy of which is with TOI, only 2.17% of institutes have toilets in working condition for differently abled kids and a majority of such children are not enrolled in schools. Although, the necessary equipment for aiding differently abled students has been distributed, an NCERT report suggests that there is a huge lack of special educators. In their absence, differently abled children have not been able to use the equipment provided to them. Also, braille books have not been properly distributed in the state despite fund allocation for the same under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). The report also suggest that 35.86% of the schools don’t have a separate section for preparing mid-day meals. “There are many other issues and all we want is complete implementation of RTE provisions. This will only happen if the findings of the report are taken seriously. In fact, the need of the hour is quality teacher training to raise the level of teaching in the state,” added Tiwari. The other members of the forum also highlighted the need for Uttarakhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) to become proactive to effectively monitor that RTE norms are being properly implemented in the schools across the state. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

107. State govt deprived middle class kids of education: Ahmed Patel (11)

Gandhinagar: Ahmed Patel, Rajya Sabha MP and political secretary to All-India Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi, while inaugurating a new school building in Sarkhej, Ahmedabad, on Sunday alleged that the state BJP government has deprived the poor and middle-class children from education. Patel said that, “Poor and middle class families are struggling to provide education to their children. Government schools are in pathetic condition, plagued by insufficient number of teachers. In colleges where there are teachers, there is lack of enough rooms. The Gujarat government has failed to effectively implement Right to Education (RTE) in the state. RTE was initialed by the Congress all over India. In this situation it’s heartening to see that social institutions are coming forward for education.” (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

108. Probe ordered into ‘fake’ admissions in pvt schools (11)

JAIPUR: The education department has ordered a high-level inquiry into the alleged irregularities by over 3,000 private schools in Rajasthan in admitting Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Under the Act, it is mandatory for all private schools to fill 25% of their seats with students from the EWS. The education department’s order dated January 19 has directed all district education officers to scrutinise the admission papers of these schools. It is suspected that these schools inflated the number of students admitted under the RTE quota in order to claim greater reimbursements from the government. As per the RTE provisions, the state government pays the fees of EWS students studying in private schools. Taking advantage of the rules that say that the RTE quota should be 25% of the school’s total capacity of seats, many of these private institutions showed higher number of seats on paper than they actually had on ground. It was done to admit more number of RTE quota students and, thereby, claim more reimbursement from the state. In 2015-16, the state was paying a reimbursement of Rs 17,500 per student. The schools under scanner include those also that raised their fees by more than 20% to push the state government into paying more reimbursements. The RTE rule said that the per student reimbursement to the private school should be equal to the fees charged by that school, but should be less/equal to the expenditure incurred per child by the state. Many of these schools raised their annual fees from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 in a year to take advantage of our reimbursement limit of Rs 17,500. So far, our probe has found many schools guilty of malpractices. Role of our employees in helping the errant schools cannot be ruled out. The probe committee has been asked to submit a final report by February 5. It will be followed by FIRs against the errant schools,” said Kunjilal Meena, principal secretary, education department. The state has already released this year’s first installment of reimbursements to these schools. Following the investigations, the state has stopped the second installment of reimbursements to all schools. The matter came to light after Meena was tipped of a school in Dholpur that had less number of schools admitted under RTE quota attending classes than it showed in the government documents. “I sent my team to probe the allegations, which were found true. I suspect it to be a state wide phenomenon, so have ordered crosscheck of 130 schools in each district. To my surprise, nearly 100 schools were found to be involved in one or other form of irregularity,” said Meena. The probe has come as an embarrassment for the state government that was boasting of having highest number of admissions done under the RTE in the country. As per records, since 201, Rajasthan has admitted 6.20 lakh students under the RTE. (Times of India 28/1/16)

 

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

109. Food Wasted is Food Denied to Millions (21)

Autumn months are among the busiest ones in restaurants. Irrespective of any other social or economic changes, the Christmas crowd has never changed. A last table talk of the year started at table 10 with a unique lady with no bags or fatigue of Oxford Street shopping crowd. Vidya looked rather chilled in her appearance and mannerism as we talked about the food waste catastrophe. When it comes to a Christmas spree, food is as important as clothes and other things. People have the habit of buying extra food during holidays, especially in the past when shops were shut during the break while homes were full of family. Holding a book called Global Food Waste Scandal by Tristram Stuart, Vidya talked about the practice of wasting food in the West while millions live in hunger around the world. “Why do you need new clothes every season and more food than you could eat?” she asked. Indeed, that was food for thought, and we walked around some supermarket bins early next morning. We saw fresh food being thrown away, sometimes just on its expiry date while it was still edible. It was only the tip of the iceberg. Industrial farmers discard chunks of their harvest when they don’t match the strict cosmetic standards imposed by supermarkets. This fascinating study helped us to understand the gravity of food wastage and urged us not to buy more than we needed. It’s so common to see people fill up their fridge with too much food. Our system has got so used to excess produce and nobody cares about wasted stuff. With tempting deals like ‘buy two packets and get the third one free’, super markets tempt you to buy more. Supermarket culture has expanded across the world. So we could well imagine the importance of this task of controlling food waste so that it could be better distributed to the poor and needy. There are some food chains that donate their leftover meals to shelter homes and to the homeless. But that’s still only a small percentage of the food world. Awareness has to reach everyone as we get closer to the demand to produce 50 per cent extra food by 2050 to feed the global population of around 9 billion. Thousands of bread slices are rejected from bakeries around our cities. In the US, almost 60 per cent of fish is thrown away as waste in the sea. Tristram Stuart revealed an alarming statistics—approximately 40 million tonnes of food is wasted by US households, retailers and food services, that could easily feed one billion malnourished people of the world. The US and Europe have nearly twice as much as they require by the nutritional standards of their population. As the West is learning faster to control waste (17.5 per cent reduction from 20 per cent in the UK), this phenomenon gets infected to developing countries with thriving economies and faster lifestyle to match western culture. Though technology has new answers to turn waste into renewable energy, it has becomes a new business model in many European countries. But controlling waste could save a third of the entire food supply in the world. It was a sublime conversation with Vidya around a simple meal, there’s so much we could do to make this world a better place and facilitate everyone to eat healthy and fresh food. “Please don’t waste food,” Tristram Stuart appeals to the world. The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants (New Indian Express 2/1/16)

 

110. Survey shocker: Half of rural India touched by poverty (21)

NEW DELHI: India has a problem at hand and its magnitude is much higher than what was imagined or reported. That is the short and succinct message of the socio-economic caste census (SECC) released on Friday. According to the census, 49% of rural households show signs of poverty. And 51% of households have ‘manual casual labour’ as the source of income. Whichever way the figures are sliced and diced, the poverty data leaves no scope for assurance or optimism. Till now, every survey had been showing poverty as receding. The survey has used seven indicators of deprivation: All definite pointers to subsistence-level existence and serious handicaps like ‘kuccha houses’, landless households engaged in manual labour, female-headed households with no adult working male member, households without a working adult, and all SC/ ST households. While there can be room for correction, experts are unanimous that this would not change the bleak picture significantly. For instance, they are unanimous that all those dependent on ‘manual casual labour’ for livelihood — 51.14% of households — are bound to be poor. The dismal scenario is illustrated by another set of dire figures: 2.37 crore households live in one-room kuccha houses, constituting 13.25% of the 17.91 crore rural households. At the same time, 30% of rural households own no land and are engaged in manual labour. The overall poverty figures for the country will also take into account the urban household survey that is yet to be released. But they, whenever they are out, are unlikely to change the overall picture. The degree of deprivation as evidenced by the rural survey poses an intractable challenge for the Modi government if it wants to draw up a consolidated list of the poor, known as ‘Below Poverty Line’. If the government goes by the new evidence, the BPL category would balloon beyond its fiscal capacity. Conversely, if it seeks to put a ceiling and depress the figures, it would attract the kind of controversy that had hit the UPA. (Times of India 4//1/16)

 

111. Abu Dhabi forum to discuss initiatives to fight global hunger (21)

Dubai: A global forum on innovations in agriculture sector will be held in Abu Dhabi next month to harness global efforts and sharing new ideas and developing initiatives aimed at feeding the world. The third edition of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) will be held from February 16-18. The exhibition and conference at GFIA forum is aimed at harnessing global efforts to provide enough safe, nutritious food to an expanding population, and will feature more than 300 next-generation agricultural solutions that could shape the future of sustainable farming around the world. For the second year running, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) has set out to assemble some of the world’s best scientific minds for a unique Hosted Scientist Programme at GFIA, at a time when official statistics put the number of hungry people in the world at around 795 million, two thirds of them living in Asia. The program supported by ADFCA is designed as a scientific platform for discussion, sharing of new ideas and development of initiatives aimed at feeding the world as population growth continues against a backdrop of dwindling resources and climate change. “We’re seeking applications from scientists from around the world and from across the entire spectrum of agricultural research. Our priority is to attract those currently involved in ground-breaking research, as the principle aim here is to drive efforts to counter global hunger through pioneering developments in sustainable agriculture,” said Ali Yousef Al Saad, Acting Director of Communication and Community Service at ADFCA. Scientists can apply online via the official GFIA website before January 15. In its third year, GFIA will run alongside VIV MEA, a new version of livestock production events held in Europe and Asia helping to bring about a rethinking on global food security. Together, GFIA and the accompanying VIV MEA are expected to host more than 500 exhibitors of innovative technology, making Abu Dhabi home to the largest agricultural event in the region. (Business Standard 7/1/16)

 

112. Poverty forces Malda teen to plead for mercy death (21)

Malda: An 18-year-old porter from Malda has pleaded for euthanasia as he is apparently unable to bear the expense of his treatment for a surgery in his legs that have been paralyzed following a fracture in his spinal cord. His mother has also asked for her own mercy death as she believes that there is no reason for her to live if her son dies. The pleas triggered much debate within the district administration but nothing has reportedly been done for the family so far. Suman Das (18), from Kanchantar under the English Bazar police station, took up the responsibility of his mother and younger brother a year ago, after his father’s death. In order to support his family, Das took up the job of a porter. While unloading a truck at Harishchandrapur on October 10, a heavy bag fell on his back breaking his spinal cord. Das was taken to Malda Medical College and Hospital where he was advised a complex and expensive operation, which could not be carried out there. The doctors suggested that he should visit Bangalore. For the poor family, it was a bolt from the blue as the expense for the surgery was beyond their capacity. To fund the surgery, his neighbours collected some money and a huge sum was also borrowed. Finally, the operation was carried out for which Rs 1.5 lakh was spent. Though the operation fixed Das’s spinal cord, he lost his ability to walk. He became completely bed-ridden, unable to walk. Doctors have suggested another operation to bring back the functions of his legs, which will cost the family further more. Unable to bear the economic pressure, Saraswati Das, Suman’s mother, was forced to send her 14-year old minor son to Jharkhand to work as a labourer. On January 4, Das wrote a letter to the district magistrate, Sharad Dwibedi, asking him to allow him to end his life. His mother also followed suit. Saraswati wrote, “What will he do? We have no means to treat him. He is only 19 now. If I die, who will look after him? I, too, support his wish to die and will end my life as well.”…. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

113. Poor prefer to stay on in flood areas: study (21)

MUMBAI: Strong social networks formed over 40 years of residence at a particular place, lack of comfort level with new locations and financial resources are some of the key reasons why larges swathes of below-poverty line (BPL) and poor families continue to stay in flood-prone areas, a study recent study shows. According to a paper by researcher and World Bank consultant Archana Patankar titled ‘The Exposure, Vulnerability and Ability to respond of poor households to recurrent floods in Mumbai’, a large percentage of populations in chronic flood zones of the city are among the poorest with low levels of adaptive capacity. Yet, a majority of them do not want to relocate from their current residence. The November 2015 paper was part of a World Bank Group’s report ‘Shock Waves – Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty’ released ahead of the Paris Climate Summit 2015. “In a background paper prepared for this report, households in flooded areas in Mumbai, India, report that they are aware of the flood risks but accept them because of the opportunities offered by the area (such as access to jobs, schools, health care facilities, and social networks),” the WB report notes. Ms Patankar’s study examines flood exposure and demographics of nine flood-prone wards. Surveys of 1,168 households focusing on the losses due to the extreme weather event of July 2005 and 200 more households focusing on the impacts of recurrent floods and ability to respond were conducted respectively in 2012 and 2014. As per the survey of 200 households, half of the BPL families (monthly income less than Rs 5,000) said they had considered moving out of their flood-prone area, whereas the other half did not consider relocation as an option. However, 75 per cent of poor households (monthly income Rs. 5,001-10,000) said they had not considered moving out and a near equal majority of non-poor households (monthly income above Rs. 10,000) has the same view. Among the nine wards – F South, F North, K East, K West, H East, H West, L, M West and P North – the low lying M West ward comprising areas of Chembur, has the highest percentage of population exposed to floods. About 47 per cent of M West is exposed to floods and about 35 per cent of this vulnerable population are in slums. Nearly 60 per cent of the population in the low lying areas of F North, comprising King Circle and Wadala, lives in slums. “Across the flood-prone wards, more than 20 per cent residents are exposed to recurrent floods as they reside in chronic or localized flooding spots,” the survey states. The survey of households in wards affected by the 2005 floods found that expenditure on repairs and rebuilding of houses exceeded average monthly incomes of the households. BPL houses suffered losses of Rs. 37,000 on average, which is more than six times their monthly income. But for low income group (Rs 5,000-15,000/month) families, losses were four to five times their monthly income and reduced gradually with higher income groups. (The Hindu 12/1/16)

 

114. Centre to give shelter, healthcare to beggars (21)

New Delhi: Govt is aiming at providing a whole range of basic services like food, shelter, health care, counselling and rehabilitation to destitutes. New Delhi: The Centre is considering a scheme to provide shelter, health care and skill development training to the homeless and destitutes to address the problem of beggary. Through the scheme prepared by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, the government is aiming at providing a whole range of basic services like food, shelter, health care, counselling and rehabilitation to destitutes. “Under the scheme, skill development training will be provided to the able-bodied destitutes so as to facilitate their reintegration into the mainstream society so that they may live a life with dignity. “It will also encourage innovative interventions to strengthen the community-based approach towards rehabilitation of destitutes with sensitisation programmes etc,” said a senior government official. The problem of destitution and beggary is becoming a major concern warranting urgent attention and intervention in view of the increasing numbers, especially of children and women, the official said. In order to enhance transparency and accountability in the implementation of the scheme, the details of every beneficiary would be maintained in a computerised database and linked with their Aadhaar number in due course of time. According to a poverty estimation study by Oxford University, UK, India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after strife-torn Afghanistan. According to the 2011 Census, population of beggars is about 4.13 lakh which includes 3.72 lakh persons under non-workers category and about 41,400 under marginal workers category. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

115. Richest 62 people own same as half world’s population: Oxfam (21)

London: The wealthiest 62 people now own as much as half the world’s population, some 3.5 billion people, as the super-rich have grown richer and the poor poorer, an international charity said on Monday. The wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44 percent since 2010, while the wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion fell 41 percent, Oxfam said in a report released ahead of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Almost half the super-rich individuals are from the United States, 17 from Europe, and the rest from countries including China, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Saudi Arabia. “World leaders’ concern about the escalating inequality crisis has so far not translated into concrete action – the world has become a much more unequal place and the trend is accelerating,” Oxfam International’s executive director, Winnie Byanima, said in a statement accompanying the report. “We cannot continue to allow hundreds of millions of people to go hungry while resources that could be used to help them are sucked up by those at the top,” Byanima added. About $7.6 trillion of individuals’ wealth sits in offshore tax havens, and if tax were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190 billion would be available to governments every year, Gabriel Zucman, assistant professor at University of California, Berkeley, has estimated. As much as 30 percent of all African financial wealth is held offshore, costing about $14 billion in lost tax revenues every year, Oxfam said, referring to Zucman’s work. This is enough money to pay for healthcare that could save 4 million children’s lives a year, and employ enough teachers to get every African child into school, Oxfam said in its report. “Multinational companies and wealthy elites are playing by different rules to everyone else, refusing to pay the taxes that society needs to function. The fact that 188 of 201 leading companies have a presence in at least one tax haven shows it is time to act,” Byanima said. Ensuring governments collect the taxes they are owed by companies and rich individuals will be vital if world leaders are to meet their goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals set in September, Oxfam said.The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 650 million since 1981, even though the global population grew by 2 billion in that time, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Much of this change has been because of the rise of China, which alone accounted for half a billion people moving out of extreme poverty. Most of the world’s poorest no longer live in the poorest countries, but in middle-income countries like India, the OECD said in a recent report. The inequalities are partly to do with differences in income, especially between urban and rural areas, but also differences in access to healthcare, education and jobs, the OECD said. “The figures suggest that the biggest causes of poverty are … political, economic and social marginalisation of particular groups in countries that are otherwise doing quite well,” development economist Owen Barder is quoted as saying in the OECD report. … (Asian Age 19/1/16)

 

116. Half the population of Central African Republic faces hunger, UN warns (21)

New York, Jan 21 : An emergency food security assessment by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners has revealed that half the population of the Central African Republic (CAR) – nearly 2.5 million people – faces hunger. This marks a doubling in the number of hungry people in a one-year period, as conflict and insecurity have led to limited access to and availability of food. Three years of crisis have taken a huge toll on the people of CAR, said Guy Adoua, WFP Deputy Country Director in the country, in a press release. Families have been forced so often to sell what they own, pull their kids out of school, even resort to begging, that they have reached the end of their rope. This is not the usual run-of-the-mill emergency. People are left with nothing, he added. According to the assessment, one in six women, men and children struggles with severe or extreme food insecurity, while more than one in three is moderately food insecure, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. WFP is extremely concerned by this alarming level of hunger. People not only lack enough food but are also forced to consume low-cost, low-nutrient food that does not meet their nutritional needs, added Mr. Adoua. The report shows that the 2014-2015 harvest was poor and that food prices remain high as farmers have not tended their fields due to insecurity, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and abandon their land and livelihoods. Further clashes erupted in late September as much of the food security data for the assessment was being collected. That violence fuelled more displacement as people were slowly returning home. Nearly 1 million people are still displaced inside CAR or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The report recommends continued emergency food assistance to displaced families and returnees; food and technical assistance to farmers to recover; creating safety nets through programmes such as the school meals programme; and providing support to rehabilitate the infrastructure through food-for-assets activities. Meanwhile, WFP is providing emergency food and nutritional support to those most vulnerable and plays a crucial role in supporting recovery efforts. The agencys programmes focused on cash-based transfers and local food purchases going into school meals for thousands of children boost the local economy and peoples livelihoods. We must help the most vulnerable, who need emergency food assistance to survive, yet we also need to focus on people across CAR so they can recover and rebuild, stressed Adoua. In December 2015, WFP provided food for nearly 400,000 people through general food distributions, cash-based transfers, nutrition support and school meals, as well as food-for-assets activities, but $41 million is required so that it can respond to urgent needs through to the end of June. To date, WFPs operation is only 45 per cent funded. (New Kerala 21/1/16)

 

117. 3.75 crore bogus ration card holders in India (21)

NEW DELHI: Nearly 3.75 crore bogus ration cards have been taken out of the public distribution system (PDS) because of digitization of ration cards.This will reduce leakage and diversion of highly subsidized food grains. Highlighting how such IT-based system can be helpful in improving the food grain management and bring transparency, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday said that about 97% of the ration cards have already been digitized and the rest would be done soon. Paswan also said that the food security scheme will cover the entire country except Tamil Nadu by April. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

118. Poverty forced Dalit IIT-BHU student to sell kidney, his caste kept the buyers away (21)

AGRA: At the time Rohith Vemula was perhaps plotting his suicide, unable to deal with the pressures that come from being a Dalit in a premier institute, Mahesh Balmiki, an IIT- BHU (Banaras Hindu University) student may just have escaped a similar fate. Mahesh, doing his BTech in mining, unable to repay Rs 2.70 lakh he had taken for his studies, compounded by the fact that he often fell ill, was even looking for someone to buy one of his kidneys. But that didn’t happen. In the black market for the organ, he told some of his friends, people first ask the caste of the donor. The boy, who some teachers said was “very bright”, had to the leave his studies in the middle and opt for a sweeper’s job back in his village, for just Rs 4,000 a month. Tired and frustrated, he often spoke with his friends about ending his life. Sensing trouble, a few of his friends told Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and Magsaysay award winner, about it. Pandey collected money from BHU alumni and just a few days ago paid off Mahesh’s loan. But Mahesh still works as a cleaner to survive. Talking to TOI, Mahesh said, “I visited around five hospitals in Varanasi and Alwar. The doctors there informed me that no one would take my kidney as I am a Dalit.”The 19-year-old boy is second among three brothers and comes from Gootasapura village in Alwar. His father, Sadhu Ram Balmiki, is paralyzed and the family is run by the elder son. Mahesh’s mother, too, works at various houses as a maid. The brightest in the family, Mahesh got 85% marks in his class X, managing 70% in class XII as he fell ill after working as a cleaner at a tent house during his exams. But he still secured top ranks in the IIT entrance test and got a seat in IIT-BHU.”I am second-year student of BTech (mining). But have no option other than that to clean and sweep,” he said. “There is a lot of pressure. Due to my prolonged illness, I had to incur expenses for my treatment and never could give back the loan I took for my studies. As I was unable to repay it, I worked as a sweeper in my village but got just Rs 4,000 per month.” For the boy, Pandey, a former contractual teacher at BHU, literally came as godsend. “Sandeep sir helped me get rid of the loan which he collected from former IIT-BHU students. I have paid everything back. I believe there are hundreds of Rohit Vemulas studying in prestigious institutions in our country. Some are forced to end their lives. A few lucky ones get people like Sandeep sir,” he said. (Times of Inia 23/1/16)

 

119. Entire country to be covered under Food Security Act by April: (21)

Allahabad: Almost the entire country is likely to be covered under the National Food Security Act by April this year, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today said and asserted that rapid strides for its implementation have been made under the Narendra Modi government. Paswan also said a move is afoot to amend the Consumer Protection Act so the district and state forums are strengthenedfurther, while a number of provisions that caused inconvenience to consumers, too, are being done away with. “The NFSA came into force in 2013. The Congress-led UPA, which was then in power, had stated that by 2014, most states in the country will be covered under the Act. “However, when the BJP-led NDA came to power in May, 2014, only 11 states had been covered. Now, after less than two years, we have 25 states covered. We are confident that all states, except Tamil Nadu, will be covered by April this year,” the Food and Civil Supplies minister told reporters. The minister said in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, the Act is likely to benefit “64 per cent of the urban population and 80 per cent of the rural population”.He added while at present only 28 districts in the state are covered under NFSA, the remaining 47 are likely to be brought under it by April. Paswan, who also holds the Consumer Affairs portfolio, said the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection Act would empower district consumer forums to arbitrate in disputes involving a sum of up to Rs one crore as against the existing ceiling of Rs 20 lakh. Similarly, state forums, which can at present adjudicate in matters involving not more than Rs one crore, would be authorised to arbitrate in disputes involving a sum of up to Rs 10 crore. Moreover, in order to reduce inconvenience to aggrieved consumers, they will be “allowed to fight their cases without hiring a lawyer, if they choose to do so”, the minister said. Further, he said, “It will no longer be necessary to file a claim in the very city where a defective item has been purchased. A person from Allahabad will be allowed to file his claim in the city here even if he happens to make a purchase in Delhi. “We are also going to introduce facilities like filing of claims through mobile phones and internet so that there is no need to be physically present at every stage,” Paswan said. The minister said the government is going to crack down on “misleading advertisements, splashed across newspapers day in and day out, wherein unbelievable cures for baldness, obesity and similar afflictions are claimed”.He also hoped the Indian Standards Bill will be passed soon by Parliament to pave the way for “a uniform country-wide standardisation, devoid of any loopholes”. (Business Standard 25/1/16)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

120. MGNREGA workers start year by wearing black badges (14)

Bathinda: Employees recruited under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) began their new year by wearing black badges and raising slogans against the SAD-BJP state government during their stir held at the Children’s Park here today. The MGNREGA workers have been protesting in favour of their long-pending demand pertaining to regularisation of their jobs. Addressing the protesters, union leaders said around 1,200 MGNREGA workers had been working on different posts in various departments in the state for the past seven years. They said every year their contract was extended till March 31 only despite the fact that they were recruited through a proper procedure of advertisement and then interviews for the posts. The leaders said while they had been working in the Rural Development and Panchayat Department for the past several years, the department was now, advertising for recruitment to fill posts lying vacant in the department instead of regularising their jobs. They demanded that the department first regularise jobs of the employees who were recruited under the MGNREGA and then advertise for fresh recruitment to fill the posts that fall vacant after that. The union members alleged that the state government was not keen on regularising their jobs since it was exploiting the employees by paying them meagre salaries but making them shoulder many responsibilities. They threatened that in case the state government and the Rural Development and Panchayat Department continued to ignore their demands, they would intensify their stir, adding that other employee unions had also extended their support to the stir. Sukhdeep Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Gursewak Singh and Buta Singh were among those others present. (The Tribune 1/1/16)

 

121. Retrenched contract workers stage protest seeking reinstatement (14)

KALABURAGI: Workers serving on contract basis with the District Science Centre in Kalaburagi, and were removed from service by the authority, staged a protest in front of the science centre here on Friday demanding their reinstatement. The deprived workers along with district president of the All India Trade Union Congress Prabhudev Yelsangi and district secretary of the Communist Party of India Bheemashankar Madyal, in a complaint filed with the Brahmpur police station, said that 22 workers, including security guards and a gardener, were working on contract basis for more than six years at the District Science Centre. Siddram M. Magi, a contract worker in the District Science Centre, said that a petition has been filed in the Kalaburagi Bench of the High Court of Karnataka demanding regularisation of contract workers. (The Hindu 2/1/16)

 

122. UPA flagship scheme MGNREGA back on track, job numbers hit five-year-high (14)

New Delhi: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the flagship welfare programme of the previous UPA government, appears to be staging a revival of sorts. And this turnaround is being attributed mainly to better monitoring by the Centre and timely release of funds. The July-September quarter witnessed 45.82 crore person-days of employment generated under MGNREGA. This was the highest for the quarter in the last five years. “It was more than even the 42.40 crore person-days during July-September 2012, which also happened to be a not-so-good monsoon year,” Rural Development Ministry officials told The Indian Express. According to officials, the last quarter (October-December), too, posted a similar trend. “In October alone, we provided 14.09 crore person-days employment, a record for the month. The data for the entire quarter is still being uploaded in our MIS (management information system) portal, but our expectation of the total person-days of work during October-December is 47 crore. That will again be a five-year-high for the quarter,” they said. The seeming revival over the last two quarters reverses the trend of declining employment under MGNREGA seen during the first year of the Modi government. In 2014-15, the programme — which provides 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work — generated only 166.32 crore person-days employment, compared to 221.15 crore and 230.33 crore in the preceding two fiscals and the peak 283.59 crore achieved in 2009-10 (a drought year). ngAlso, the average days of employment provided per household dropped to 40.17 in 2014-15, from 45.98 in 2013-14, 46.19 in 2012-13 and 53.19 days in the best performance year of 2009-10. “This year, we have already done 37.5 days, which should cross 50 by March-end,” the officials claimed. They attributed the better numbers this year mainly to better monitoring by the Centre and timely release of funds. “In 2014-15, most states, including those implementing the programme well, ran out of funds by October. When supply of funds dried up, leading to delayed payment of wages, there was less demand from the gram panchayats as well to take up works even in a drought year,” the officials admitted. That has changed this year, with the proportion of delayed payments — i.e. beyond 15 days after the closure of muster rolls — falling to 53 per cent from 72 per cent in 2014-15. Development economists pointed out that MGNREGA’s apparent turnaround in the last two quarters was a result of political and civil society pressure, forcing the government to release funds. “The increased person-days employment numbers dispels the myth of low demand for work. The truth is that MGNREGA had increasingly become supply-driven, though it is in spirit and letter demand-driven. This was even more so after this government took over, with everybody from Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to Nitin Gadkari (the then Rural Development Minister) and Modi himself sending out signals of downsizing MGNREGA”, said Reetika Khera, associate professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Incidentally, of the 137 crore person-days MGNREGA employment generated so far in 2015-16 (based on latest uploaded data), more than half has been accounted for by five states: Tamil Nadu (24.9 crore), Andhra Pradesh (14.6 crore), Rajasthan (14.3 crore), West Bengal (13.6 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (10.9 crore). On the other hand, the states worst affected by drought — Maharashtra (4.5 crore), Karnataka (2.5 crore) or even Madhya Pradesh (6.6 crore) and Chhattisgarh (3.7 crore) — haven’t registered any significant uptake in MGNREGA works. “We have now moved to linking fund releases to performance, measured in terms of both person-days generation and quality of asset creation. The states doing well on these counts will get MGNREGA money, which will otherwise simply be parked for earning interest,” officials said. (Indian Express 5/1/16)

 

123. Centre to issue U-WIN cards for unorganised sector workers (14)

Jamshedpur: The union government is working on issuing a unique identification number for the workforce engaged in unorganised sector to facilitate them to access social schemes and benefits. “We are working to issue a smart card ‘Unorganised Workers Identification Number’ (U-WIN card) for the workforce engaged in unorganised sector soon in the country,” P P Mitra, Principal Labour and Employment Adviser, Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, told reporters here today. Mitra, who was in the steel city to take part in a function, said 93 per cent of the workforce (approx 40 crore) were engaged in the unorganised sector in the country. The software in this regard had been developed and it would be sent to the state governments for its implementation soon, Mitra said. The benefits of the Union government schemes such as pension scheme, old age scheme would be linked with the U-WIN cards, he said. (Times of India 9/1/16)

 

124. Employment guarantee scheme (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph said here on Tuesday that wages under the employment guarantee scheme would be issued only through the National Electronic Fund Management System. The Centre has allocated Rs.365 crore to Kerala for the purpose, a press note quoting him said. The amount will be utilised to clear the arrears, and efforts were made to ensure prompt payment to the beneficiaries. Under the new system, the wages will be electronically credited to the account of beneficiaries. (The Hindu 13/1/16)

 

125. No Policy to Control 450,000 Street Vendors (14)

NEW DELHI:  If one takes a look at the city streets and roads, especially during peak hours, chaos reigns supreme. While vendors do their best to sell their products, pedestrians scurry past them with a straight face. The Delhi High Court recently summoned the Chief Secretary of Delhi Government K K Sharma to warn the government over its lax attitude towards formalising a clear policy for street vendors in the national capital. The reason behind congestion in the streets of Old Delhi and footpaths of the national capital is that there is no government policy to control hawkers. “The footpaths are for pedestrians,” said Sanjay Bhargav, General Secretary of the Chandni Chowk Sarv Vypar Mandal. As per the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Delhi has 450,000 street vendors. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which is the government body to manage the number of hawkers, has only 12,000 registered vendors with them. The rest are illegal and have encroached the footpath of Delhi much to the discomfort of the commuters. Guided by the terms of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act passed by the parliament in May 2014, the authorities have decided to constitute Town Vending Committees (TVC). “We are committed to make TVC, which are going to be autonomous bodies, a reality,” said MA Rehman, Additional Deputy Commissioner, North MCD. (New Indian Express 17/1/16)

 

126. Over 100 migrant workers sent back to Odisha (14)

KARIMNAGAR: Migrant Odisha labourers along with their family members working in a brick kiln in Rangapur village of Peddapalli mandal created a mild commotion in Karimnagar district by organising a protest walk from the kiln to the Karimnagar district headquarters on the early hours of Friday. A small tussle which erupted between Odisha tractor driver Sahadev and the brick kiln owner Venkateshwara Rao over driving the vehicle in an inebriated condition created commotion in the kiln. The migrant labourers alleged that Mr. Rao thrashed the driver, Sahadev, black and blue causing serious injuries and that they too were scared of facing the same wrath. Expressing concern over the alleged harassment of the brick owner, the migrant labourers along with their family members launched the protest walk from the kiln site to Karimnagar town, traversing a distance of 42 kilometres. They started their protest walk on Thursday night and reached Karimnagar on Friday morning. All along the route, the brick kiln owners and the police tried to pacify the agitators, but in vain. Braving chilly weather, they came to the town and met Collector Neetu Prasad and poured out their woes and urged her to send them back to their villages in Odisha. Promising them to send them back, the Collector told them not to collect advance before coming to the kiln to work. Later, the Labour Department, Revenue and Police officials provided them food and purchased train tickets and shifted all the 146 migrant labourers, including their family members and children, to Odisha, from the Ramagundam railway station. Deputy Labour Commissioner A. Gandhi said that they had recently inspected the brick kiln and found all basic amenities for the labourers at the site – including toilets, drinking water, proper accommodation etc. The official quoted the brick kiln owner as saying that the labourers, who had collected advance, were making false allegations to avoid work. Mr. Gandhi said that the labourers usually come to work after collecting advance through ‘sardars’ (middlemen) and later try to avoid work. He said that the administration was planning to take measures to ensure that the labourers come to work site armed with proper documents without collecting advance from the owners. “We will ensure that they get minimum wages and their salaries are credited in the bank accounts regularly by helping them open bank accounts,” he said. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

127.  “Ensure minimum wages of Rs. 15,000” (14)

NAGERCOIL: The Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam and All India Farm Workers’ Association affiliated to Communist Party of India (Marxist) staged a demonstration here on Monday, demanding the government to ensure minimum wages of Rs. 15,000 to all workers. Representatives of the forums said that the government must eradicate contract system of employment in production and services sectors, increase working days to 250 days from 100 days and raise wages to Rs. 300 per day for beneficiaries of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The government must fix remunerative prices for agricultural produce in accordance with recommendations of Swaminathan Commission, stop land acquisition for industrialisation and give free house site pattas to workers in the unorganised sector and farm labourers, they said. The demonstration was staged in remembrance of those who lost their lives in police firing during a nationwide general strike in 1982. K. Chellappan, State vice-president, CITU, R. Chellaswamy, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, and Malaivilai Pasi, district secretary, All India Farm Workers Association, took part in the demonstration. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

128. Dalit student suicide overshadows crucial labour reform bills (14)

New Delhi: The NDA government’s plan to push through crucial labour reforms legislations in the budget session of Parliament is likely to hit a roadblock with daggers drawn between the ruling alliance and opposition parties over the suicide of a Dalit scholar. With the ambitious land reforms and GST bills also struck in Parliament due to continued stonewalling by the Congress-led opposition, the fresh crisis could seriously dent the NDA government’s efforts to cut red tape and introduce more industry-friendly rules for ease of doing business. Union labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya is at the centre of the storm with opposition parties demanding his sacking for his alleged interference in the University of Hyderabad affairs, which they say drove Rohith Vemalu to suicide. Some of the proposed legislations the BJP is hopeful of passing in the budget session include the small factories bill, code on industrial relations and child labour (prohibition and regulation) amendment bill, 2012. While the small factories bill proposes to keep units employing less than 40 workers out of the purview of 14 labour laws, including the Employees Provident Fund Act, the Employees State Insurance Act and the Industrial Dispute Act, the code on industrial relations will make it easier for companies to sack up to 300 employees without the government’s permission. The child labour bill, on the other hand, proposes that children below fourteen years may only be allowed to work in enterprises owned by their own families. These initiatives are, however, unlikely to see light of the day in the budget session in the face of opposition fire. Congress leaders have already said that the party will not let up the pressure until Dattatreya is sacked over the suicide by the 26-year-old research scholar. With the government mounting a fierce defence of Dattatreya, it was unlikely that the axe will fall on Dattatreya on this issue. And this stalemate could prove fatal for the government’s ambitious Make in India programme, the foundations of which is expected to be built on the successful passage of the labour reforms bills. The small factories bill aims to free the small scale manufacturing sector from the cumbersome provisions of different labour laws, seen as major step towards easing the way of doing business. It will also obviate the need for small units to keep cumbersome records and submit to the regulators by allowing for online registration. Similarly, the code on industrial relations, which seeks to combine three laws into a single code, will enable companies to fire its staff without any official sanction if their staff strength is up to 300 and will also make it slightly tougher to form workers’ unions. (Hindustan Times 21/1/16)

 

129. Wage seekers swell under MGNREGS this month (14)

HYDERABAD: An average of 9.5 lakh wage seekers worked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) during the current month in Telangana. According to an official press release, the average number of daily wage seekers has not crossed even 1.5 lakh during the last nine years. A total of 967 crore person days were created during the current financial year so far. Besides, a total of 1.77 lakh families had already availed over 100 days wage work under the scheme. A total of Rs. 1,300 crore was paid to 40.7 lakh wage seekers from 23.25 lakh families who had availed the wage work so far. (The Hindu 24/1`/16)

 

130. Labour Min asks EPFO, ESIC not to inspect startups for 3 yrs (14)

New Delhi: The Labour Ministry has directed retirement fund body EPFO and health insurance provider ESIC to exempt startups from inspection and filing returns for 3 years. In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to nurture startups, the ministry said in a set of directions last week that the new age ventures should be allowed to self-certify their compliance with 9 labour laws. Labour Secretary Shankar Aggarwal in a letter said startups should not be inspected or asked to file returns for 3 years under 9 laws including Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act and the Employees State Insurance Act. “Promoting startups would need special hand holding and nurturing. Thus, such ventures may be allowed to self-certify compliance with the Labour Laws,” he added. They will be exempted from inspection under the Building and other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, Payment of Gratuity Act and Contract Labour Act. Startups will also be exempted from filing returns under the Industrial Disputes Act, Building and other Construction Workers Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, Contract Labour Act, EPF Act and ESI Act. There will be a blanket exemption from inspection and filing returns for the first year and would be asked to file an online self declaration form. They will also not be asked to file return or inspected for the next two years, but will be inspected in case a “very credible and verifiable” complaint of violation is filed in writing and the approval has been obtained from the Central Analysis and Intelligence Unit (CAIU), Aggarwal said. Except the EPF and Miscellaneous Provisions Act and the ESI Act, the implementation of other seven laws lies in both central and state government’s sphere. Labour Ministry had directed its officials as well as the EPFO and ESIC to regulate inspection of startups, under laws which lie in the centre’s sphere. (Deccan Herald 25/1/16)

 

131. Soon, annual and quarterly reports to replace once-in-5-year job surveys (14)

New Delhi: The government could soon launch a first of its kind annual employment survey, with the ability to generate quarterly reports on job market trends in certain segments like urban India. The plan is to release such employment data soon after the surveys, unlike other official data, by using modern technology so as to enable policymakers to react faster to labour market movements and track job creation goals. An estimated million people are joining India’s workforce every month, thanks to its demographic dividend of a high number of youth in the population. As of now, the only employment data in India is available through quinquennial (once every five years) surveys by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), a limited ad-hoc survey of employment in a few sectors that was initiated by the Labour Bureau after the global financial crisis in 2008 and the Annual Survey of Industries (which only captures the employees of the registered factories). By contrast, developed markets have quarterly official data on employment, if not monthly reports, that help them assess the state of the economy better. The NSSO has readied the design, modalities and mechanisms for conducting the survey and could start as soon as the nod comes for the formal proposal of the Statistics Ministry. “We are planning to move to a more regular survey, conducted annually, with some reports coming out on a quarterly basis,” said TCA Anant, Secretary, Ministry of Statistics. “A survey requires resources – both finance and people. We have worked out many things… there are procedures to be followed before we can commit when we can start and in what form, as they interact with each other. A proposal has been finalised for competent approval,” Mr. Anant told The Hindu, stressing that though the Ministry is hopeful of starting the survey, it is still under ‘administrative examination.’ While NSSO surveys are usually spread over a whole financial year, the design plan for the employment survey includes a regular annual survey with certain systems for urban areas that will enable generation of quarterly estimates, he explained. “For the employment survey, we want to shift to a modern technology platform so that we can speed up the process of capture of data from the field,” he said, pointing to similar, recent deployments of technology to improve data collection for the consumer price index (CPI) and the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI). “The ASI work is now done through a web portal. Our CPI collection is much more robust as all the data is gathered through an IT network developed by the Department of Posts, which we are piggybacking on to get data transmitted,” Mr. Anant said, adding a similar approach will be used for capturing employment numbers. The National Statistics Commission had first called for a periodic labour force survey in 2009 and a pilot survey was undertaken in 2012-13. The design of the new annual employment survey has been finalised on the basis of a peer and stakeholder review of the pilot survey’s outcomes. Asked about the segregation of employment between the formal and informal sectors, Mr. Anant said, “Formal, informal or organised and disorganised sector definitions have a certain measure of confusion in their understanding. You can, in principle, be in formal employment in an unorganised sector, and in informal employment in the organised sector.” (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

RESERVATION

132. Jats threaten to block roads in Haryana from Feb 15

Jind, Jan 3: Haryana’s Sarva Khap Jat Panchayat, which has been at the forefront of demanding reservations for Jats in government jobs, on Jan 2 threatened that they would intensify their movement by blocking roads at about 40 places in the state on February 15. “The Jat community is united and ready to make the agitation successful. The protesters will block roads at about 40 points in the state to press our demands,” Sube Singh Samain, spokesperson of the Sarva Khap Jat Panchayat, told reporters. Haryana Samain said the Jat body will also later deliberate on blocking rail traffic and make efforts to intensify the movement after Panchayat elections on January 10. Jats are demanding reservation in central services and in states of Punjab, Haryana and Jammu under the Other Backward Class category. They have held various protests in past three years.(One India 3/1/16)

 

133. No quota for SC/STs in public bank promotions (25)

New Delhi: In a huge setback to SC/ST employees in public sector banks, the Supreme Court has held that they are not entitled to reservation in promotion to officer posts from Scale-1 to Scale-6. A bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and A.K. Sikri, which had allowed reservation for SC/STs last year, reversed its order while entertaining review petitions from the Union of India and public sector banks. On a batch of writ petitions from the SC/ST Employees’ Associations, a single judge of the Madras high court held that these employees were not entitled for reservation in promotion. However, on appeal, a division bench held that they were entitled to reservation in promotion and directed the banks to make such a provision. The apex court set aside the Madras HC judgment which provided for SC/ST quota in promotions. Though the Centre did not file an appeal against the HC judgment, it preferred a review petition when the apex court endorsed the HC ruling. Allowing the review, the bench held that in the matter of promotions in officer grades, there shall be no reservation for the officers belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories working in these banks. The bench rejected the argument of public policy pressed by SC/ST employees associations holding that such an argument is of no avail. “We are conscious of the fervent plea raised by the respondent employees that employees belonging to the SC/ST category should be made eligible for promotion by providing the reservation in the promotional posts as well, as their representation is abysmally minimal. However, once we find an error apparent on the face of the record and to correct the said error, we have to necessarily allow these review petitions.” Though the bench rejected quota for SC/STs, it said: “It is for the state to take stock of the ground realities and take a decision as to whether it is necessary to make a provision for reservation in promotions from Scale I to Scale II and upward, and if so, up to which post. The grievance of the employees belonging to SC/ST category is that there is negligible representation of employees belonging to their community in the officers’ category at all levels. Keeping in view the statistical figures which have been placed on record showing their representation in officers’ scales, it would be open to the concerned authority, namely the state and the banks, to consider whether their demand is justified and it is feasible to provide reservation to the SC/ST category. (Asian Age 9/1/16)

 

134. Patel leader seeks meeting between community and Gujarat govt on quota issue (25)

Ahmedabad: Hardik Patel and his close aides are in jail at present under sedition charges. Patel community has been demanding their inclusion in the OBC category to make them eligible for quotas in education and jobs. A prominent leader of Patel community, which has been demanding OBC reservation, on Friday sought a meeting between the community members and Gujarat government to sort out the issue through talks. The leader, Jayrambhai Patel, of Sidsar Temple Trust said he and other members of the community met Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel in jail on the reservation issue and also conveyed their demands to the government. “I and other members of Patel community met Hardik in jail two-three times and also met BJP leaders. We have conveyed all the demands of the PAAS and Patel community to the government,” Patel told reporters. “It is desirable that a meeting is held between state government representatives and PAAS leaders along with prominent members of Patel community to bring a solution to the problem,” Patel said. Hardik Patel and his close aides are in jail at present under sedition charges. Patel community has been demanding their inclusion in the OBC category to make them eligible for quotas in education and jobs. The state government has recently withdrawn non-serious cases against Patel youths, who were involved in violence during the agitation. However, cases against Hardik Patel and his aides have not been taken back yet. BJP also suffered a defeat in rural areas of the state in the recently-held local bodies polls, which took place close on the heels of the Patel quota agitation. (DNA 15/1/16)

 

135. Promotions of SCs, STs be done cadre-wise: Gauhati HC (25)

GUWAHATI: In a landmark judgment, the Gauhati high court has ruled that people representing SCs and STs would no longer be promoted in the Assam government services just because they belong to the backward classes as promotions should be done cadre-wise maintaining overall efficiency in the administration. Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, giving the verdict in a writ petition filed by Equality Forum challenging reservation in promotion for STs and SCs in government services in the state, held that “What the one-man commission has done is that it has made a general statement about backwardness of SCs and STs and has not provided quantifiable data either on backwardness or on inadequacy of representation having regard to the promotional posts.” The one-man commission was appointed by the state government to study the whole process of promotion in the state government services. The court, however, made it clear that “the factum of SCs and STs being appointed/promoted against open/unreserved post in the state services is also a relevant factor to be considered while ascertaining both backwardness and inadequacy of representation”.Justice Bhuyan further observed that “whether there is adequate representation or not has to be decided cadre-wise having regard to the service where the cadre is placed. Once it is found that in a particular cadre there is adequate representation of SCs and STs providing for representation to such communities in promotion too such cadre would not be justified.” The court also held that “the concept of creamy layer is not acceptable to SCs and STs. However, having said that the court is of the considered opinion that the above factor would be relevant only at the time of initial recruitment”.According to the court, “at the time of promotion, in the event, reservation is sought to be introduced, then an assessment of backwardness of the said communities having regard to their representation in the promotional cadre(s) would have to be carried out”.The court observed that “the adverse impact on administrative efficiency due to the presence of reserve category candidate in the cadre because of accelerated promotion on account of reservation in promotion due to reservation is required to be assessed by applying objective measurable standard”.”No doubt, it is a difficult task but nonetheless it has to be carried out if the State desires to provide for reservation in promotion,” the judge said. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

136. Cabinet OKs 35% women quota in state govt jobs (25)

Patna: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday fulfilled his pre-poll promise of 35% reservation to women of all categories in government jobs. The state cabinet also approved hike in VAT rates on petrol, diesel and India-made foreign liquor besides entry tax on electronics, electrical equipment, footwear, ready-made garments, except hosiery. Briefing media after the cabinet meeting, principal secretary, cabinet secretariat, Brajesh Mehrotra said the existing 3% reservation for extremely backward castes women in government jobs would continue. Giving details, he said scheduled caste women will get 5.6% quota (35%) in the existing 16% reservation for SCs in government jobs. Similarly, scheduled tribe women will get .35% of the 1% seats reserved for STs. Out of the total 18% reservation for EBCs, their women will get 6.3% seats. The backward caste women will get 4.2% of the 12% seats reserved for that category. Earlier, government had reserved 35% seats for women only in police jobs. Women will get 17.5% reservation in the 50% unreserved seats, Mehrotra clarified. In case of the non-availability of women in all such categories, the posts would be filled up with male candidates in respective categories. In another major decision, the state cabinet gave its green signal to raise entry tax on footwear, ready-made garments, bidi products, medical equipment, devises and implants besides electronics items to enhance its tax revenue. The entry tax on electrical items would be raised from existing 8% to 12% while 8% entry tax would be introduced on electronic items. The government will also implement 5% entry tax on costly footwear/shoes barring plastic chappals and sandals. Bow an tie will also ge5t costlier with 5% entry tax on these items. Bidi leaves and its products would also be levied 5% entry tax. The recent 13.5% VAT hike on essential items would be further increased by additional one per cent. The commercial taxes department proposal to increase VAT in the range of 20%-30% on petrol, diesel, costly foreign liquor and tobacco products (cigarette, bidi) also got the cabinet nod. With the new VAT rates, Rs400 crore would be added to the state exchequer per annum. The government has decided to amend the Bihar Public Grievances Redressal Act 2015. Anyone can lodge his/her grievance either on a plain paper or on a prescribed format free of cost with any government department. Public grievance redressal officer would be posted in each department. Anyone can go for first appeal after 30 days in case his/her grievances were not redressed, Mehrotra said, adding that one can also lodge grievances online. All the grievances would be acknowledged to the complainant within a week. The proposal to create a post of adviser to CM for helping him on policy issues and its implementation for the year 2015-20 was also approved. A sum of Rs205.18 crore subsidy was sanctioned for the investors under the Bihar Industrial Promotion Policy in FY2015-16. The cabinet also sanctioned Rs12.07 crore to the Bihar State Aids Control Society. The proposal of the excise and prohibition department was cleared for the compulsory retirement of Arvind Kumar Khan, sub-registrar at Barh in Patna district for his dereliction of duty at various places of his posting. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

137. Call for reservation in jobs for Dalits in private sector (25)

KAKINADA: The second State-level conference of the Dalitha Hakkula Porata Samithi (DHPS) held here on Tuesday stated that implementing reservation policy in the private sector was the only way to bring Dalits to the mainstream. The conference, which was attended by more than 1,000 people, discussed at length the challenges facing Dalits. Inaugurating the meet, former Vice-Chancellor of Srikrishnadevaraya University Kolakaluri Enoch said even as the United Nations and the Indian Constitution accorded equal rights to all human beings, Dalits were constantly being deprived of their rights. “The plight of Dalit women needs special mention here, as they are a crucial part of the Dalit workforce,” he said, adding that awareness among Dalits about their rights was the need of the hour. “There is also a need for a campaign at the grassroots level, highlighting the rights of Dalit women,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, Communist Party of India (CPI) State secretary K. Ramakrishna asked as to why the government had failed to take a decision on extending reservation in jobs to Dalits in the private sector. “Both the Central and State governments are leaving no stone unturned to acquire lands belonging to the poor and Dalits and handing them over to industrial units. That being the case, why can’t they insist that private organisations implement reservation rules in recruitments?” he asked. He said a massive movement would soon be launched demanding reservations in the private sector. Former MLC Jalli Wilson and CPI district unit secretary Tatipaka Madhu also spoke. (The Hindu 20/1/16)

 

138. Rohith Vemula’s suicide: A missing conversation (25)

New Delhi: Rohith Vemula’s suicide has sent our politics into convulsion and has once again brought to fore the deep social fault-lines that criss-cross our society. Often masked, these divisions have always existed deep under. Through constitutionally mandated means — aided by political participation — the Indian Republic has sought to paper over the rumbling of these tectonic plates. Whether it has succeeded or failed depends on how you look at it. The government’s response has been to brush aside the casteist underpinnings of this issue. HRD minister, Smriti Irani, was at pains to deflect attention by suggesting that it was not a Dalits versus non-Dalits issue. A report in the Indian Express today highlights, how her deputies in the ministry — one of whom is a Dalit — have gone silent on the matter. This has only highlighted how important conversations around Dalit issues are ignored in attempts to tide over a crisis. The old debates of merit versus reservations, upper caste versus lower caste, privilege versus social justice have once again surfaced. What is at the heart of such breakdowns in our society, especially in our schools, colleges and universities? Why is our youth taking such pitched positions on these matters? What causes these conflagrations in educational institutes and among the youth now? At the heart of it, these disputes among our youth in our educational institutions represent a questioning of the status-quo. It represents how Dalit or Tribal youth question the status-quo they have inherited in the form of a rigid, discriminatory social order. It represents a pushing of existing boundaries by every new generation. It represents an assertion of their equality and a consciousness of their rights. This in itself represents a success of the republic that in 1950 decided to enshrine equality in the constitution in its attempt to fix centuries of oppression. To remove social stigma, to ensure equitable growth, to ensure the new Republic’s sustenance and to reform the society, reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes were introduced. This important feature continues till this day as Indian society has not reformed at the pace at which it was expected to, as Rohith Vemula’s suicide clearly demonstrates. On the other hand, we have a questioning of the status-quo by those from privileged castes. It represents a curious mix of casteism and entitlement but it also represents a questioning of the social order that has been bequeathed to them by the republic’s founders. It partly represents a lack of awareness and therefore understanding of the reasons this order was created in 1950. This questioning of the status-quo should also be welcomed. This mutual resistance coupled with entrenched power equations that are clearly tilted against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes leads to social flare-ups. The fuse that leads to these flare-ups is made up of multiple layers, each different from the other and each requiring careful parsing The challenge here is to understand that broad-brushing all questioning as assertion of caste superiority or entitlement is useless and lazy while the broad-brushing of assertion of rights by Dalits as usurpation of merit is disingenuous and lacks comprehension of dalit or tribal victimisation. … (Business Standard 22/1/16)

 

139. Caste-based reservations row: Congress brands Govt. ‘anti-Dalit’ (25)

New Delhi, Jan. 24 : The Congress Party on Sunday criticised the BJP-led NDA Government after Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan advocated a “rethink” on caste-based reservations in the country and alleged that it reflected the anti-Dalit mindset of the ruling dispensation. Congress leader Kapil Sibal branded the government as ‘anti-Dalit’ while asserting that they have always voiced their support for the people of upper caste. “Actually, the RSS has been from day one, 1947 and before, anti-Dalit. It was anti-Dalit, it is anti-Dalit and it will be anti-Dalit,” Sibal told the media here. “It’s not in their DNA to be pro-Dalit because they are people of ‘Savarna Jati’ and cannot be in favour of Dalits,” he added. Another Congress leader Manish Tewari cited the article mentioned in the Constitution of India to prove his point. “The Constitution talks about reservation for socially and educationally backward classes, if you read the article 15 or 16 of Constitution of India. So, fundamentally what requires the revisit is the question whether a class which is what the Constitution mandated is equivalent to caste,” Tewari told ANI. The Lok Sabha Speaker had yesterday advocated a ‘rethink’ on caste-based reservations in the country while asserting that even Father of the Indian Constitution Babasaheb Ambedkar had supported the same. “Ambedkarji had said, ‘Give reservations for 10 years and after 10 years, do a rethink. Bring them to that stage’. We have done nothing. Even I am guilty of this… We have not thought about it. We do not contemplate why this (a rethink) has not happened,” she said while addressing officials and representatives of local bodies at an event on smart cities in Ahmedabad. (New Kerala 24/1/16)

 

140. OBC, SC, ST People Will Decide Next Gujarat CM: Thakor (25)

AHMEDABAD: An arch rival of Patel quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, today urged OBC, SC and ST communities to unite ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections and asserted that the next Gujarat Chief Minister would be decided by them. Thakor was addressing ‘Vyasan-Mukti Mahakumbh’, a de-addiction conclave organised by Kshatriya Thakor Sena, a non-political body led by him. The event is being seen as a show of strength of OBC, SC and ST communities vis-a-vis the Patel community’s ongoing stir seeking reservation under OBC quota. “As leaders of OBC, SC and ST communities are here, I want to tell you that these communities will decide the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2017. It will be us, who will decide what will happen in 2017,” Thakor said at the programme held at GMDC ground here. Hardik Patel had earlier claimed that Patel community holds the key to make or break any government here and warned the state to face the wrath of Patel voters in 2017 if their demand for reservation was not met. However, Thakor, who had formed OBC-SC-ST (OSS) Ekta Manch after the Patel quota agitation gained momentum in August last year, had opposed Patels’ demand. The conclave was claimed to be attended by around two lakh people, mostly from Thakor community of north Gujarat region. OBC, SC and ST community leaders had also been invited to share the stage at GMDC ground. Incidentally, the programme was organised at the same venue, where Hardik had held a massive gathering of Patel community on August 25. Although during his address, Thakor repeatedly claimed that it was a “non-political” event aimed only at eradicating social evils and addiction, he asked them to choose the CM wisely. “I want to assure you that I do not have any political ambitions and I will not fight election. Me and my cause is totally non-political. However, we have to also ensure that we don’t choose a ruler (CM), who can’t even understand our problems. Thus, start preparing for 2017 from today,” he said to the cheering crowd. (New Indian Express 27/1/16)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

141.  ‘Strike balance between rights and duties, activists urged (1)

CHENNAI: A section of activists, who talk about human rights, have stopped thinking about the duties of each of the persons concerned, said Madras High Court Judge N. Kirubakaran. Delivering the presidential lecture at the presentation ceremony of Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Award on Saturday, Justice Kirubakaran said just five to ten percent of human-rights activists legitimately work towards realising their goals, and strike a balance between rights and duties. “A large number of people misused the statutory provisions pertaining to human rights. So, an order preventing misuse of such statutory provisions was passed. This reduced the misuse, but also inadvertently affected some genuine crusaders for human rights and social justice. I feel sorry for those affected activists,” said Justice Kirubakaran. “Many government employees have also stopped thinking about duties, failing to offer services to citizens. This has severely affected the nation. As a result, taxpayers’ money is getting wasted,” said Justice Kirubakaran. Stressing on the need for more awareness on all aspects of human rights in Tamil Nadu, National Human Rights Commission member Justice D. Murugesan said that of the one lakh human rights cases, only 4,000 were from Tamil Nadu. As many as 37 awardees including former Supreme Court Justice S. Rathinavel Pandian, former Madras High Court Judge K. P. Sivasubramaniam, senior advocate R. Vaigai, Frontline Editor R. Vijaya Sankar, member secretary of Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu J. Amalorpavanathan, former Additional Chief Secretary R. Christodos Gandhi, advocate Ravi Paul, The Hindu Tamil Editor K. Asokan and PUCL National Secretary V. Suresh received the Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Award for their role in the promotion of human rights and social justice. (The Hindu 3/1/16)

 

142.  ‘Govt. taking steps to ensure human rights and freedom’ (1)

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government, which has joined hands with international community in the last one year, is taking initial steps towards “ensuring human rights and freedom” for all Sri Lankans, according to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Taking stock of developments in the last one year since Maithripala Sirisena became President in the 2015 presidential elections, Mr. Wickremesinghe, on his return from a private visit to the United Kingdom, told a gathering at his official residence on Monday that “we have commenced the process of giving land back to civilians of the North. While resettling them, we will ensure the rights of people living in other areas as well.” Recalling how the country’s two principal parties, United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, came together in August to form a “ntional gvernment,” Mr. Wickremesinghe, who became the Prime Minister a year ago, said the parties had, by coming together, “successfully” overcome “the challenges posed by accusations of human rights violations.” Pointing out that the government would have in place a mechanism that would guarantee economic and social development in three years, he said “this journey seeks prosperity for all Sri Lankans and assures every Sri Lankan of a better tomorrow,” adding that there would be prosperity as much for Trincomalee or Hambantota or Jaffna as for Colombo. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

143. Reach out to us with a postcard, says State human rights chief (1)

Mumbai:  “People can reach out to us by writing a letter or by sending in a postcard, no lawyer or stamp duty is required”, said the current chairperson of the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission, Justice S R Bannurmath, former Chief Justice of Kerala High Court. Justice Bannurmath retired in 2010 and became chairperson of the Commission in 2013. He said people come to us and not approach the courts, because everything is free of cost here and does not take time. The courts, he added are costly and time consuming therefore it is the easiest and simplest to come to us. He said a letter written to us is a being taken up as a complaint and after it is scrutinized the report is sent to the complainant is free of cost. Explaining powers of the commission, Mr Bannurmath said, “we are a statutory and autonomous body and it does not hold proceedings but holds summary inquires into the complaints.” He said the most common complaints are on non-availability of basic facilities like water and abuse of basic procedures by collectors and tehsildars. He added that the commission also takes up suo motu (on its own) cases based on newspaper reports that highlights government employees being deprived of pensions, teachers not given salaries and cases of medical negligence. Commenting on the programmes undertaken by the commission the chairperson said, they hold programmes to sensitize public servants and organise camps to hear and dispose off complaints on violations of human rights. His team visits, custodial homes, lock ups, prisons, juvenile homes and senior citizens home. He added surprise checks are conducted at police stations to check illegal detention and torture. In 2014, three camps were conducted at Kolhapur, Buldanana and Amravati where they disposed off matters in the same day, he said. In 2015, Rs 26 lakh was disbursed as compensation and the highest was Rs 10 lakhs that was paid to an activist who sought police protection. He was receiving life threats but was not provided the same. He was shot, got paralyzed and sought compensation. Justice Bannurmath said it is primary responsibility of the commission to make people aware about their rights and what can be done when they are violated. (The Hindu 6/1/16)

 

144. NHRC issues notice to Bihar government over poor state prisons (1)

NEW DELHI: National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to Bihar government over the reported deplorable conditions prevailing in the prisons of the state. Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report highlighting an exhaustive report titled ‘Prisons of Bihar:- Status Report 2015′ prepared by activist and researcher, Smita Chakraburty, the Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Prisons, Government of Bihar and asked for a response within four weeks. Smita Chakraburty was assigned the project by Justice VN Sinha, Judge of Patna High Court and Executive Chairman, Bihar State Legal Services Authority and asked to visit all the 58 prisons of Bihar to study the living conditions and submit a report. “Although it is not oblivious of the ills plaguing the prison system in the country as a whole, the present cover story discloses gross violation of human rights of the prisoners who are under the care and custody of the state,” observed the Commission. Reportedly, Chakraburty interviewed as many as 30,070 inmates during the course of her study. The final report was released on November, 15, 2015. The report is stated to be an eye opener and throws light on the denial of basic human rights of prisoners in Bihar and points to the urgent need for prison reforms across the country. It highlights absence of medical facilities in prisons, particularly for women, bias against terror accused and under trials by denying them even the copies of charge sheets of the cases against them. Instances of forced labour by under trials which is punishable under IPC and need of medical and psychiatric help to the inmates were also underlined in the report. The exhaustive study also brought to the fore issues of punishment of prisoners under the discretionary powers provided by the Prison Manual Rules without supervision by an appellate body. Denial of free legal aid counsel to under trials was also talked about, as it pointed out that very few advocates meet the under trials in the court and they go unrepresented when produced before the Magistrate. (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

145. NHRC ask Odisha government to eliminate bonded labour (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) expressed concern over high incidents of bonded labour in Odisha and asked the state government for strict implementation of laws. “There are certainly some gaps in implementing the laws, which prohibit bonded labour in the state. We receive maximum number of complaints of bonded labour from Odisha after Uttar Pradesh,” said justice D Murugeshan, member of NHRC here on Tuesday. He was speaking on a national level workshop on elimination of bonded labour organized by NHRC. He said, most of eth complaints received in Odisha are in Bartan system in which upper caste employs lower caste families for a pittance like 15 kg rice a year. “Bartan system is major violation of human rights of a person. The government officers must be sensitive enough while identifying and rescuing bonded labourers. Rehabilitation of the rescued with alternative employment is most important so that they will not migrate again,” he added. According to the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011, Odisha has a total 6353 bonded labourers of whom 5413 have been legally freed. Since 2011, a total 1747 bonded labourers have been identified. The state government has so far rehabilitated 493 bonded labourers and has sought permission from the centre for rehabilitation of 891. The state and central government gives Rs 10,000 each to a bonded labourer under the rehabilitation. Senior officers of the state government, representatives of State Human Rights Commission, voluntary organizations, and representatives of brick kilns, stone crushing and other related industries participated in the day-long workshop.”The objective of the workshop is to familiarize and sensitize the district magistrates, sub-divisional magistrates, state labour officers and members of vigilance committees, brick kilns, stone crushing and other related industries involved in the process of identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers and with the provisions of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and other related legislations,” said chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi. A large number of people from washer-man and barber community are still working as bonded labourers in Puri and Cuttack districts. While many rescued bonded labourers in Nuapada and Balangir districts are again migrating due to delay in payment of the assistance money of Rs 20,000 each, alleged organizations working for bonded labourers. “The NHRC should ask the state government to increase the assistance amount from Rs 20,000 to Rs two lakh,” said Suresh Chandra Swain, convener of Odisha Goti Mukti Andolan, an organization working for bonded labour. (Times of India 12/1/16)

 

146. Delhi gets human rights panel (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi government constituted the State Human Rights Commission on Saturday. The commission will be headed by Meghalaya Chief Justice (retd.) Umanath Singh. A committee comprising the Delhi Chief Minister, Speaker of the Delhi Assembly, Leader of Opposition and the Home Minister unanimously agreed on Justice Singh as the chairperson and social activist Raj Mangal Prasad as the member. The Chief Justice of India had criticised the Delhi government on December 10 last year for not having a State Human Rights Commission. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

147. HRW demands strengthening of Transgender Rights Bill (1)

PANAJI: The Indian government should strengthen its groundbreaking Bill providing legal protections for the country’s transgender population, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a letter to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, on Tuesday. Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015 should be improved through broad consultations throughout the country with transgender people and groups, said HRW. “Transgender Persons Bill will help protect and empower India’s transgender population, but the government needs also to address the bill’s shortcomings,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW and added, “With the input of the transgender community, the government should ensure that a new law lays out a strong legal framework in line with the constitution and international law, and provides effective enforcement.” The Transgender Persons Bill resulted from the 2014 Supreme Court judgment NALSA v. India, which ruled that transgender people should be recognised as a third gender, enjoy all fundamental rights and receive special benefits in education and employment. The HRW has opined that the Bill should be amended to ensure that self-identification is the sole criterion for legal gender recognition without psychological, medical, or other “expert” intervention. This self-declared identity should form the basis for access to all social security measures, benefits and entitlements. The bill should also be expanded to include protections to address the specific concerns of intersex persons. Instead of criminalizing self-harm, the government should take action to combat the legal and structural causes that contribute to such marginalisation and poor mental health outcomes. “The Transgender Persons Bill offers the promise of both changing archaic laws and thinking about transgender people in India,” Ms. Ganguly said. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

148. NHRC seeks report on custodial deaths of two convicts, both senior citizens (1)

MEERUT: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked district authorities to submit a report on the custodial deaths of two convicts, one aged 68 years and the other 74. District authorities have been given a month to complete inquiries and submit the report. In a letter issued to the district magistrates of Meerut and Saharanpur where these two custodial deaths occurred in November and July, NHRC deputy SP Umed Singh said the matter could not be placed before the panel due to non-receipt of reports of the incidents. He asked the DMs to send the inquest report (ordinarily prepared after the first examination of the body), post-mortem report along with the final opinion on cause of death, video-recording of the post-mortem, complete medical treatment record, health screening report at the time of admission in the jail and magisterial inquiry report.An inquiry by a judicial magistrate is mandatory in only those cases of custodial death where there is reasonable suspicion of foul play or well-founded allegation of commission of an offence. The commission also said, “In case no response is received from your office, the commission may issue summons under section 13(1)(a) of the Protection of Human Rights Act to produce the requisite records in person.” According to Meerut’s senior jail superintendent SHM Rizvi, the 74-year-old convict had been suffering from septicemia and asthma when he was taken to the district hospital first and then admitted to a medical college. “He was facing life imprisonment in a murder case and was lodged here since February 2013. He was a patient of asthma ever since. We started his treatment on May 12, 2015, after he was diagnosed suffering from septicemia too. On October 10, he was admitted to the medical college where he passed away on November 4,” Rizvi added. When contacted, the Saharanpur jail superintendent refused to comment, saying that he did not have records of the convict with him. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

149. NHRC intervenes as relief eludes endosulfan victims (1)

Palakkad: Taking cognizance of a report carried by The Hindu on January 18, ‘Relief eludes Kerala endosulfan victims,’ the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Chief Secretary of Kerala and the District Collectors of Palakkad and Kasaragod asking why the relief ordered by the commission six years ago has not reached those affected. In an official release in New Delhi recently, the commission observed that the report raises ‘a serious issue of violation of right to the health of the victims.’ It sought detailed reports within two weeks. Observing that the Kerala government was bound to compensate and rehabilitate the victims, the commission recalled that the State government, in its order dated May 26, 2012, had notified that the recommendations of the NHRC were to be implemented and laid down the method by which the compensation was to be paid to various categories of the victims. “If the victims of endosulfan are not being compensated in terms of the order, it amounts to violation of their human rights. An unofficial survey has found that 613 children below the age of 14 continue to suffer from the illness caused by the aerial spraying of the pesticide in mango plantations of Muthalamada in Palakkad district. The newspaper report cites the case of a girl named Hemalatha, who, despite having born after two years of a global ban on the pesticide, suffers from physical illness because of the residuary effect of the pesticide,’’ the release said. The commission stressed the need for an expert study on the impact of endosulfan at Muthalamada, Velanthavalam, Vadakarapathi, Eruthempathy, Nenmara, and Nelliampathy panchayats of Palakkad. As per the earlier order of the commission, the State government was directed to pay at least Rs.5 lakh to the relatives of those who died because of the aerial spraying of the pesticide. An equal amount was promised to those who permanently bedridden and suffered from severe deformities. The NHRC ordered to pay at least Rs.3 lakh to all those who became living victims of the killer pesticide. (Thwe Hindu 24/1/16)

 

150. Girls’ death: plea for SHRC intervention (1)

MADURAI: Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, People’s Watch, has demanded the immediate intervention of the Chairperson of State Human Rights Commission in the recent death of three girls who were studying second year in SVS College of Naturopathy and Yoga Science at Bangaram in Villupuram. The organisation had urged that SHRC should ensure that all the students of the college were transferred to other medical colleges in the State free of cost. Alleging that the death was the result of wilful negligence by officials who failed to take action against the college for various violations, People’s Watch had also demanded the immediate suspension of all those authorities who were approached by students highlighting the issues plaguing the college. It had also urged the Tamil Nadu government to fill up all the vacancies in colleges at least now. The organisation called for the government, particularly officials from police and higher education departments, to treat students’ unions with dignity as they were the ones who brought out issues and fought for democratisation of educational institutions. (The Hindu 26/1/16)

 

151.  “Onus on activists and media to highlight rights violations” (1)

MADURAI: Human rights had assumed several dimensions in recent times and it was the responsibility of activists and the media to highlight violations in any form, especially violation of rights of women and children, said D. Murugesan, Member, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday. Addressing the centenary celebrations of former Supreme Court Judge V. R. Krishna Iyer organised by the Society for Community Organisation (SOCO) Trust here, Mr. Murugesan elaborated how human rights had assumed new dimensions in the fields of health and education. Right to proper treatment was an inalienable human right and wasteful and unwanted expenditure was a violation. Human rights activists should take up the issue of strict implementation of the Right to Education Act from the Kindergarten level in all schools. Similarly, they should not rest with the rescue of bonded labour but ensure that the liberated workers were properly rehabilitated and enjoyed all their rights. He urged non-governmental organisations to create awareness of human rights among people and make the fight against violations participatory even while assuring human rights defenders that the NHRC would always stand by them. The former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court recalled that it was Krishna Iyer who gave a definition for human rights. Mr. Murugesan also presented the Justice V. R. Krishna Krishna Iyer Award for Social Justice and Human Rights Crusade to 32 persons on the occasion. The awardees included former Additional Chief Secretary Qudsia Gandhi, Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch; C. Ramasubramaniam, State Nodal Officer, District Mental Health Programme; N. Markandan, former Vice-Chancellor, Gandhigram Rural Institute; S. P. Udayakumar, Convener, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy; Gabriele Dietrich of the National Alliance for People’s Movement and B. Thirumalai, writer. Ms. Qudsia Gandhi dedicated her award to the unsung, unseen and fearless heroes who helped people during the recent Chennai floods. Mr. Henri appealed to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to intervene in the issue of suspension of Madurai advocates and said that there should be talks to revive the good relationship between the Bench and the Bar. A. Mahaboob Batcha, Managing Trustee, SOCO Trust, said that 100 people from all over the country had been chosen for the award. It was presented to 32 awardees in Chennai and the Madurai function would be followed by similar functions in Ernakulam and Delhi. M. Salihu, former Vice-Chancellor, Madurai Kamaraj University, proposed a vote of thanks. (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

152. India Failed To Address Attacks On Minorities: Human Rights Groups (7)

London:  The Indian government “failed” to address increasing attacks on religious minorities and imposed restrictions on civil society groups critical of it, two leading global human rights groups said on Wednesday. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also slammed the government for blocking foreign funding and targeting non-governmental organisations as well as activists. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government “failed to address increasing attacks on free expression and against religious minorities,” HRW said in its World Report 2016. In the 659-page report, it said authorities blocked foreign funding and increased restrictions on civil society groups critical of the government or large development projects. “The Indian government’s clampdown on dissent this year undermines the country’s long and rich tradition of free expression,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia director. “Instead of denial and retaliation, the authorities should encourage tolerance and peaceful debate and prosecute those committing or inciting violence,” she said in a statement. It said authorities used sedition, criminal defamation, and hate speech laws to harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views. The government often allowed a “heckler’s veto” to interest groups claiming to be offended by books, movies, or artwork and pushed for censorship or otherwise harassed authors, the statement added. “In a worrying trend, anti-Muslim rhetoric by some leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stoked insecurities among religious minorities,” it said, citing the killing of four Muslims by mobs over suspicion that they had killed or stolen cows for beef. The HRW said that the government blocked foreign funding for organisations such as Greenpeace India and targeted several others, including the Ford Foundation. It said authorities labeled activists such as Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand “anti-national” when they sought justice for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. “Such tactics had a chilling effect on the work of other groups,” the statement said. Amnesty International accused the Modi government of “targeting” activists and protest groups for “political ends”.The People’s Watch’s “bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012 with the result that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes abandoned,” Amnesty said. “The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment,” it said in a release. “This same Act is being used for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Amnesty added. (NDTV 28/1/16)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

153. Can’t challenge order after entering into settlement: HC (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court forced a woman to withdraw her plea challenging a divorce decree as she had already received Rs 5 crore as settlement. Justice Manmohan in a recent order took a grim view of the fact that despite getting the settlement amount the woman again turned up in court claiming that the decree had been passed in a fraudulent manner. She challenged the divorce decree granted by a matrimonial court on the ground that the husband initially promised to pay her more than double the amount. The woman also sought to restrain him from marrying a second time in her plea.

HC agreed to hear the matter but asked the woman to first cough up the Rs 5 crore she had been paid and deposit it with court registry. The court opined that if the woman claims the decree was obtained by fraud both parties must start on a fresh note. At the next hearing however the wife promptly withdrew her case admitting it was not “maintenable.” The high court’s order came on a contempt petition filed by the estranged husband who complained that even after a court endorsed settlement and payment of a huge alimony his ex-wife wants to revive the dispute a year later on the eve of his second marriage. Appearing for the husband advocate Prabhjit Jauhar informed the court his client and former wife entered into a settlement approved by a matrimonial court where the wife surrendered all claims and maintenance for a lump sum of Rs 5 crores. Accusing her of contempt the husband urged HC to begin proceedings since the woman had breached the terms of the settlement terms and her own undertaking before court. Justice Manmohan upheld the principle that no person after entering into a settlement before a court can back-track and challenge it on the ground of fraud. (Times of India 2/1/16)

 

154. 43% of high court judges posts vacant, backlog of cases may hit 1-crore mark by year-end

NEW DELHI: Despite the best efforts to speed up disposal of cases, pendency in the high courts may spiral to a monstrous one crore cases by the end of this year from the present 45 lakh cases as 24 HCs are functioning at present with 43% vacancies with only 599 judges as against a sanctioned strength of 1044. The disposal of cases suffered as the process for appointment of judges came to a standstill for almost a year because of the Constitutional tug-of-war between the Legislature and Judiciary over the validity of National Judicial Appointments Commission, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court. The SC too has five vacancies and last one to be appointed was Justice Amitava Thakur on February 27 last year. The SC has a pendency of around 60,000 cases, HCs have 45 lakh cases and trial courts around 2.75 crore cases making it a total of around 3.25 crore cases. Judges fear that it might touch 4 crore cases by the end of this year because of large number of vacancies. The SC had revived the collegium system, in which a CJI-headed group of judges chooses persons for appointment as judges on recommendation of a similar collegium in the HCs. But it is expected to resume functioning only by the beginning of February after the Centre finalizes the memorandum of procedure in consultation with Chief Justice T S Thakur. Even if the collegium gets on with the task of selecting persons for appointment as judges, filling 445 vacancies would take a long time, may be more than a year. By that time more judges would retire throwing the judiciary into a complex web of pendency caused by the huge number of vacancies. But this is just the beginning of the problem for judiciary and its newly appointed captain in CJI Thakur. The Centre is finalizing the memorandum of procedure (MoP) for selecting HCs and SC Judges and it could change many rules that had been entrenched into the system since 1998, when the Judiciary had decided to make itself the sole selector of judges erasing Constitutionally prescribed Executive’s role. For years, judges for the Supreme Court have been selected from among the Chief Justices of the high courts mainly on the basis of their seniority. Except a few, the senior-most among them have all been appointed as judges of the SC. But, the Centre wants this to change. It feels that merit should get as much consideration as seniority among the Chief Justices of the HCs. It also wants to insert in the MoP a clause that a high court judge with outstanding merit and ability to do justice should be appointed as a SC judge ahead of the CJs of HCs. This departure from tradition could cause severe heart-burns and disappointment among many CJs aspiring to become a judge of the apex court. .. (Times of India 7/1/16)

 

155. UP lower courts show the way in disposing of cases (19)

NEW DELHI: The performance of subordinate judiciary in UP, surprisingly, has improved considerably compared to other states. Last month they had disposed of 1,04,425 cases as against 76,479 new ones registered. The rate at which pendency has been reduced in the last three years has been impressive too. The disposal of cases by the subordinate and district courts in UP has gone up by almost 2 lakh a year in the last three years — from 27.98 lakh cases disposed of in 2012 to 31.82 lakh in 2014. Among other states, Karnataka and Kerala have also shown better performance during this period where disposals have gone up from 10.35 lakh to 13.67 lakh cases and 11 lakh to 13.55 lakh cases, respectively. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are among those which need to further strengthen their court procedure, to avoid being tagged laggards. The subordinate courts in Maharashtra had disposed of 20.48 lakh cases in 2012, which has come down to 15.36 lakh cases in 2014. Similar is the trend in MP and Tamil Nadu. The statistics released by the law ministry recently indicate the performance of subordinate judiciary has overall improved in the last few years. In comparison, the trend in 24 High Courts together show a dismal performance. More than 3 crore cases are pending in HCs and subordinate courts together — 41.50 lakh in HCs and 2.64 crore in subordinate and district courts across the country. UP still remains at the top with highest number of pendency at 48 lakh cases, followed by Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

156. Beef ban: High Court reserves judgement (19)

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Friday reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the law imposing an extensive ban on beef in Maharashtra. A division bench of Justices AS Oka and SC Gupte had started the final hearing last month. The President granted assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act last February. While the original Act of 1976 banned cow slaughter, the amendment prohibits slaughter of bulls and even possession and consumption of beef. Slaughter attracts a five-year jail term and a Rs 10,000 fine while possession of meat attracts one year. —PTI (The Hindu 9/1/16)

 

157. Unhappy kids and the politics of divorce (19)

Kochi: Unlike in the West -where the husband and wife usually maintain cordial relationship after their divorce -couples here go in opposite directions, often scarring their children’s lives. Children are caught between warring parents as they fight a bitter battle for divorce fuelled by vengeance. One such instance came up in the high court after a nine-month old girl’s father complained that the child was denied treatment by his estranged wife. After verifying the veracity of his complaint, the court ordered immediate medical treatment for the child battling liver cirrhosis. In another instance, Devika (name changed) and her brother chose to live with their mother, who left her husband because of the `other woman’ in his life. When Devika applied for PG admission, she needed her father’s signature on a document. When sought the same, he refused saying: “Why should I sign? You are staying with your mother and not with me.” She could not apply for the course because of the steep fee and non-submission of the certificate. Despite the ‘alarming’ increase in divorce cases, most couples are not looking at amicable settlement, said family counsellors involved in such cases. They said that the judiciary tries to avoid a situation where the child (above eight years) has to take a decision on staying with a particular parent. “We are seeing cases where one parent files for custody just to wreak vengeance on the other. They sometimes agree to file a joint petition but suddenly one would file for custody . Then it gets bitter,” said Shiela Maria Oommen, a counsellor attached to the Ernakulam family court. Women usually file for maintenance, return of gold and money and men seek child custody .”In most cases, fathers are given visiting rights, sometimes overnight stay and in case of others, a few hours of visiting time each week,” said advocate Thomstine Augustine, adding that most cases involved nurses and IT industry professionals. “We are seeing a trend where young couples with small children end up in courts. At that age, children need both parents and even parents want to keep the child. Then grandparents and relatives also add to the issue,” said Augustine. Women activists say that the earlier trend was joint property holdings by a couple. Now it is better if properties are registered under a single person’s name. “In most cases, we found that often all joint properties are near the man’s hometown or his circle. After divorce, if there is a contest, then it becomes difficult for the woman to travel all the way from her place to contest the case. I had a few cases where women struggled and finally gave up,” said Moly Kuruvilla, head, Centre for women’s studies, Calicut University . (Times of India 12/1/16)

 

158. Centre may take judiciary on board for accountability bill (19)

NEW DELHI: Bringing accountability in the working of the higher judiciary is next on the government’s agenda. But to avoid any confrontation with top judges, the government may consult judges of the apex court and high courts along with other stakeholders before finalizing the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill. The accountability bill proposes a five-member inquiry panel called the National Judicial Oversight Committee (NJOC) to deal with complaints against judges. As of now, there is no formal mechanism to deal with complaints against judges. All complaints are referred to the Chief Justice of India who decides how they are to be dealt with. The accountability bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2012 but it lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Parliament. Consultations with bar associations, jurists and political parties is likely to begin in the next 15 days and may be completed for tabling in the budget session of Parliament, a source said. The five-member panel is proposed to be headed by a former CJI and will comprise a sitting judge of the SC, a high court chief justice, the attorney general and an eminent person. The NDA government wanted to initiate the accountability bill soon after it came to power in May 2014 but deferred it till the constitution of the National Judicial Appointments Commission which the SC struck down as unconstitutional in October last year. While striking down the NJAC Act, the SC had observed that the Act impinged on the independence of the judiciary and all appointments to higher judiciary should be left to the SC collegium. The government was, however, asked to prepare a revised memorandum of procedure (MoP) in consultation with the CJI, which would guide the collegium on all appointments. This time, the government is treading with caution and would prefer to evolve a consensus with the higher judiciary before engaging with political parties for their views on the accountability bill. Though the original bill drafted during the UPA government talked about setting up an inquiry committee with the executive having primacy, this may be tweaked after the NJAC Act experience. The higher judiciary had earlier expressed concern when the UPA government proposed a clause in the bill barring judges from making comments on constitutional authorities in open court. This gag clause was part of the accountability bill.Former chief justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah had opposed the accountability bill saying this would have a “debilitating effect on judicial independence” and was against the 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 SC or HC judge which can ultimately result in impeachment. (Times of India 14/1/16)

 

159. PIL plea seeks closure of unrecognised schools (19)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has ordered notice on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking direction to the State government to ensure that all the unrecognised schools in the State are shut down by the end of this academic year. The PIL wanted the government to transfer the students of such schools to other government, government aided or unaided recognised schools in the neighbourhood. The petitioner activist A. Narayanan also sought the court to quash two Government Orders (GO) and to restrain the government from granting recognition to the schools, which have not fulfilled the norms specified in GO dated July 21, 2004. Mr. Narayanan submitted that based on the report of Justice Sampath Commission, which was appointed to probe the Kumbakonam school fire accident, and the recommendations made by Prof. Chittibabu Committee relating to infrastructural facilities for matriculation schools, the government issued an order on July 21, 2004. The order stated that as a condition for recognition, all the matriculation schools should fulfil the minimum land area and other infrastructural facilities prescribed in the GO. Subsequently, two more GOs were passed granting seven years time to fulfil the norms, which ended in 2011. Thereafter, the School Education Department constituted a seven member committee in 2013 to prescribe the minimum land area for giving recognition to those schools not fulfilling the norms. “However, the said report has not seen the light of the day. While so, the school education department has now proceeded to give temporary continual recognition till May 31, 2016 to as many as 746 matriculation schools, which have not fulfilled the conditions,” the petitioner said. Admitting the PIL, the First Bench of Chief Justice S.K Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana ordered notice to the State government returnable in two weeks and posted the matter March 7 for further hearing.  (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

160. Sabarimala Entry: Sorry, You Cannot Withdraw the PIL, SC Tells Litigant (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said it will hear on Monday a lawyer’s plea that he was getting threats for filing a PIL seeking entry of women in the Sabarimala temple. “Let people know this that once a public interest litigation (PIL) is filed and entertained, you cannot withdraw it,” a Bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice N V Ramana said. The observation came when Naushad Ahmed Khan, president of Indian Young Lawyers Association (IYLA) which filed the PIL on the Sabarimala issue, sought urgent hearing of the matter saying he has received 500 threatening phone calls and wanted to take back the PIL. For now, Khan has been given security by a guard in the Delhi Police and on Monday it will decide as to which type of security will be given in future. The Bench said it may think of appointing an amicus curiae to assist the court in the case. The question of the right of women would be decided constitutionally. The PIL has sought entry for all women and girls in the temple. The apex court, on January 11, had questioned the age-old tradition of banning entry of women of menstrual age group in the temple saying this cannot be done under the Constitution. “The temple cannot prohibit entry of women except on the basis of religion. Unless you have a constitutional right, you cannot prohibit entry. Anyway, we will examine it on February 8,” the Bench had said. It had asked the government whether it was sure that women have not entered the temple premises in the last 1,500 years. On this, the Devaswom Board said the prohibition was based on custom followed for the past half century. The Bench also observed that it was a public temple and everyone needed to have “the right to access”. There can be religious restrictions and not a general restriction, it said. Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the Kerala Government, had said women, who have not attained menopause, cannot preserve the purity during the religious journey to the temple. .. (New Indian Express 16/1/16)

 

161. Supreme Court Refuses To Re-Examine Its Judgement On Jallikattu (19)

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court today refused to re-examine its 2014 judgement banning use of bulls for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races across the country. A bench of Justices Gopala Gowda and PC Ghose, during in-chamber proceedings, dismissed the review petitions filed by some residents of Tamil Nadu seeking reconsideration of the ban order on the controversial bull-taming sport. The review petition filed by Tamil Nadu government is still pending in the court. On January 8, the Centre had issued a notification lifting ban on Jallikattu in poll-bound Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions, which was challenged in the apex court by Animal Welfare Board of India, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, a Bangalore-based NGO and others. The top court had stayed the notification. Jallikattu, also known Eruthazhuvuthal, is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of the Pongal harvest festival. The court in its 2014 judgement had said that bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country and banned their use across the country. The top court had declared Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 as constitutionally void, being violative or Article 254(1) of the Constitution. (NDTV 21/1/16)

 

162. Maharashtra government moves Supreme Court, challenges Salman Khan’s acquittal by Bombay High Court (19)

NEW DELHI: Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the Bombay High Court’s verdict acquitting Bollywood superstar Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case in which one person was killed and four others were injured. The petition was filed in the apex court against the high court’s judgement acquitting Salman of “all charges”, overturning trial court’s order sentencing him for five years. “The Bombay High Court has erred in not appreciating the prosecution evidence. The trial court’s order convicting Salman Khan was correct and should be upheld,” Sandeep Shinde, the public prosecutor who has been associated with the case, said about the contents of the Special Leave Petition (SLP). The high court, in its verdict passed on December 10 last year, had held that prosecution had failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the actor was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident and was drunk. The judgement by the high court had come on an appeal filed by the superstar, seven months after he was pronounced guilty by trial court of running over five people sleeping on a pavement outside a laundry in suburban Bandra, with his Toyota Land Cruiser on October 28, 2002. The high court had rejected as “wholly unreliable” the statement of eyewitness Ravindra Patil, former police bodyguard of Salman, recorded by a magistrate in which he had accused the actor of driving under the influence of liquor.The judge had said that Patil was a “wholly unreliable” witness because he had subsequently made “improvements” in his statement to the magistrate. Patil, the first informant in the case, in the FIR filed soon after the accident had not accused Salman of having consumed liquor but only said he was “speeding” against his advice.The prosecution’s case during the trial had firmly rested on the statement of Patil, who died in 2007, much before the case was tried afresh under more serious charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The magistrate’s court had conducted the trial for a much lesser offence of causing death by rash and negligent driving. On May 6 last year, a sessions court had convicted Salman in the case. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

163. Muslim Personal Law cannot override IPC in cases of rape and POSC O Act, court (19)

Bareilly: Muslim Personal Law cannot override Indian Penal Code(IPC)in cases of Rape and POCSO Act, ruled the court of Special Judge, POCSO Act, as it turned down the bail application of a man charged with illegally confining and raping a minor girl whom he claimed to be his legally wedded wife. The counsel of the accused pleaded in court that as per MuslimPersonal Law, a girl has the right to go with the person of her choice after completing her first menstrual cycle. But the court observed that since she is a minor the case would be dealt as per the provisions of IPC and establishing physical relations with her amounts to rape. Father of the minor girl and resident, Bhoorey Khan Ki Gautiya locality had lodged a complaint at Faridpur police station on Oct 8, 2015 alleging that his daughter was kidnapped by some persons including Nanhey, Munti, Salim, Bundan Beg, Afsana and sold her to a man named Jabbar for a heavy sum. He also expressed apprehension that his daughter might have been killed. Acting swiftly, cops recovered the girl within few days and arrested the main accused Jabbar. The statement of the girl was recorded before the magistrate under Section 164 of Indian Penal Code(IPC).In her statement the girl had said that she married Jabbar with her own consent and wants to stay with him. On Thursday, the bail application of the accused Jabbar was filed in the court of Special Judge, POCSO Act. His counsel argued that as per Muslim Persal Law a Muslim girl is entitled to marry a person of her choice without seeking the permission of her parents after completing the first menstrual cycle. Right Now she is staying with her husband as his legally wedded wife and her husband Jabbar should be released on bail. This was opposed by the government counsel, Rajpal Singh who pleaded that as per records date of birth of the girl is Aug 18, 2001 which means that she is a minor. After hearing the arguments from both the sides, Special Judge, POCSO Act, Syed Sarwar Hussain Rizvi while turning down the bail application of the accused Jabbar observed that “In cases coming under the purview of Indian Penal Code(IPC) and POCSO Act, Muslim Personal Law has no relevance. It cannot override IPC and POCSO Act. Establishing physical relations with a minor amounts to committing an offence coming under the category of rape”. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

164. HC to hear fresh contempt plea against Roy later (19)

Nagpur: A fresh intervention was filed against author Arundhati Roy by five lawyers on Monday alleging that she had taken assistance from elite personalities to create hatred towards higher echelons of judiciary. Quoting a press meet held at Delhi Press Club on December 24, the lawyers — Kishor Lambat, Shailendra Harode, Pankaj Tidke, Badal Lonare, and Tejas Patil — contended that Justice Arun Chaudhari’s orders of rejecting bail of alleged Maoist supporter GN Saibaba on December 23 last year was termed as “smacks of vendetta and vengeance” that “lacked knowledge in criminal law”, and “tainted with complete insensitivity towards human rights” by her supporters. The speakers in the meeting included senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, Prof Manoranjan Mohanti, Sanjay Kak, Manish Sethi, and Moushami Basu among others. A division bench comprising Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Pradeep Deshmukh, however, refused to allow their intervention in the suo motu contempt plea against the author, making it clear it would be considered during next hearing scheduled after four weeks. After the hearing, Lambat and other lawyers presented a bouquet to Roy. They termed it as “Gandhigiri” against her defence in the Supreme Court that she should be granted exemption from personal appearance in the Nagpur bench citing burning of her effigy, according to interveners’ counsel Shrirang Bhandarkar. Earlier, Bhandarkar claimed that Bhushan and others during the meet organized by ‘Committee for Defence and Release of Saibaba’had referred to the judge who passed orders against Saibaba as a “so-called judge” who was “trying to prove his patriotism”.”Various participants in the meet made scandalous and scurrilous allegations against the judge. Such demeaning and insulting remarks not only amounted to an aggravated contempt, but also appeared to be a conspiracy to impose public pressure on the judicial proceedings,” the interveners contended. Citing an audio clip of the press meet, they argued that such unwanted comments made on the judiciary were not only vitriolic and intemperate, but also deplorable. They pointed out that the author was earlier convicted for contempt by the Supreme Court in March 2002. “It appears that the respondent is habituated with confronting the judiciary for no valid cause or justifiable reason. The court should deal sternly with such cudgels against the judiciary who wanted to show the respondent as the torchbearer of human rights,” they said. (Times of India 26/1/16)

 

165. Odd-even: HC asks govt to treat PIL as representation (19)

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the AAP government to treat a plea seeking re-introduction of odd-even vehicular scheme through proper awareness campaign as a representation, saying it had very good suggestions. “The present petition has some good suggestions, look into it,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jaynat Nath said while disposing of the petition. “Treat this petition as a representation,” the court told the Delhi government. The court’s direction came on a public interest litigation filed by a Uttar Pradesh resident, Jeetender Gupta, who sought direction to the Delhi Government to “perform their legal and statutory obligations”.The petitioner said the scheme, which was done on trial basis from January 1 to 15, needed to be “re-introduced through awareness campaigns and with different tariff for parking lots, toll barriers, so as to reduce the air pollution and traffic congestion”.The unprecedented restrictive measures, aimed at curbing pollution, was rolled out in the national capital and led to a major cut in the number of cars on city roads. While highlighting the poor quality of air which improved during the odd-even scheme, the petitioner said, “the Delhi government has failed to ensure good quality of air in the city, which is threatening the health, well being of those residing, working or visiting the national capital”.It said the additional revenue, generated through differential parking and toll charges can be utilised for funding the awareness campaigns. (The Statesman 28/1/15)

 

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

166. Man alleges torture by police officer (1)

KOCHI: A person from Kanjiramattom was on Sunday hospitalised after alleged torture by a grade sub-inspector at the Udayamperoor Police station. Official sources said the complainant, identified as M.A.Nasser, was allegedly manhandled by the officer when the former was riding pillion on his friend’s two wheeler . As per the complaint, the officer punched him on the left side of the chest, following which he was admitted to the Tripunithura Taluk hospital. The police, however, denied the allegations. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

167. Calcutta HC stays trial in Sattor woman torture case (1)

KOLKATA: Calcutta high court, on Tuesday, stayed trial in the case of alleged torture of a woman from Sattor village in Parui, Birbhum, by the police and Trinamool Congress workers on January 17, 2015. Trial was scheduled to start in the court of the chief judicial magistrate of Birbhum at Suri on Wednesday. The woman’s husband had, however, moved a revisional application in the high court seeking probe by an independent agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). On Tuesday, Justice Tapas Mukherjee stayed the trial after the petitioner’s counsel Phiroze Edulji submitted that the revisional application would become infructuous if trial is allowed to proceed. It has been alleged in the revisional application that the victim Hayatunninsh Bibi is the aunt-in-law of Sk Mithun alias Masum who was a Trinamool Congress worker before shifting allegiance to the BJP. According to the petitioner, the torture of his wife is connected to the murder of independent panchayat candidate Sagar Ghosh by suspected Trinamool workers. Sk Mithun’s shift from the Trinamool to the BJP apparently enraged Sk Mustafa and Sk Asgar, accused in Ghosh’s murder. The two allegedly influenced the police to frame Sk Mithun for a crime. “On January 17, 2015, when Hayatunninsh Bibi was at her maternal home in the Budbud police station area of Burdwan, Sk Mustafa, his son Sk Akbar and other Trinamool workers arrived with a large posse of policemen there and wanted to know of the whereabouts of Sk Mustafa. When she failed to come up with a satisfactory answer, they allegedly took her to a forested area, tied her to a tree and tortured her. They allegedly slashed the palm of the woman and rubbed stinging nestles (Bichuti pata) on her body, including private parts. Among the accused are Kartick Mohan Ghosh, then OC of Parui police station and two constables. All three were subsequently suspended. The investigation against the policemen is being carried out by police officers of the district itself. Such investigation can’t be expected to be unbiased. Hence the prayer for an independent agency,” Edulji submitted in court. (Times of India 5/1/16)

 

168. Police torture: Scribe to move rights panel (1)

Kozhikode: Aneeb P A, the reporter of the Malayalam daily Thejas who was arrested for allegedly assaulting policeman during Kiss Street Protest, is planning to move Kerala State Human Rights Commission alleging that he was tortured by police while in custody. Aneeb has been admitted the General Hospital here after he was released on bail in Wednesday.”I was beaten up by the police in jeep on the way to the police station. I was again assaulted after reaching station,” Aneeb told TOI. Aneeb said he intervened when he saw the Hanuman Sena activists attacking Ajith M Pachanadan, Dalit writer and activist. “Ajith, who is differently-abled, was lifted and thrown to the ground. Police in mufti were standing as mute witnesses. They turned against me when I intervened,” he said. Aneeb said he didn’t know that men in civil dress were policemen. “They resembled the Hanuman Sena workers and were actually promoting the attack on the cultural activists,” he said. Kiss Street Protest was organised by the Njattuvela Samaskarika Pravarthaka Sangham, a cultural outfit, on January 1 against the ‘increasing intolerance in society and fascist violence.’Hanuman Sena, an extreme right wing group, had declared that their activist will physically disrupt the programme. Police had arrested 32 Njattuvela and Hanuman Sena activists after clashes erupted at the venue. All except Aneeb were released on bail on January 1 itself. (Times of India 7/1/16)

 

169. SC: Is AFSPA in Manipur eternal? (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Manipur government how long the Army should be deployed in the state and enjoy unaccountable power under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and whether 35 years of the Army’s presence had improved the law and order situation. The court had appointed a high-level inquiry committee headed by an ex-judge of the SC to inquire into allegations that the armed forces had carried out over 1,500 extra-judicial killings in the last 30 years and police were refusing to file FIRs because of AFSPA. AFSPA was imposed in Manipur on September 8, 1980 to tackle the lawlessness created by four main insurgent groups through dacoity, ransom and killings. Petitions by an NGO ‘Extra-judicial Execution Victims Families Association of Manipur’ and former director of Manipur Health Services Th Suresh Singh had sought withdrawal of AFSPA. After getting the report and hearing the petitions, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit told the state government, “AFSPA was supposed to be a temporary measure. But it has been there for the last 35 years. Two generations have grown up under the presence of Army. It was supposed to only aid the democratic government in tackling law and order situation created by insurgent groups.” Appearing for the Congress-led Ibobi Singh government in Manipur, senior advocate V Giri told the court that AFSPA was still needed to maintain law and order as insurgency continued to thrive in the state given its porous international border. When AFSPA was imposed, there were four prominent insurgent groups, after 35 years, there were more than a dozen prominent insurgent groups in Manipur, he added. The bench said, “AFSPA was imposed after declaring the state a disturbed area. You mean to say that in 35 years of Army presence in the state, the situation has not improved to remove the disturbed area tag from the state? Has nothing changed on the law and order front for the last three decades?” Giri attempted to convince the court that democracy had deep roots in the state, which saw very high percentage of voting in the last several assembly elections. “The test is whether the general public is fed up with AFSPA? The answer is, it is not so. Democracy is alive and kicking in the state. Should the elected representatives not take a decision whether AFSPA should be withdrawn or not? People are not disgusted with Army presence in the state. The Army is not in conflict with the people,” Giri said. (Times of India 15/1/16)

 

170. Woman officer suspended for custody torture (1)

SAMBALPUR: The inspector in-charge of Hirakud police station, Sabitiri Bala, was suspended for her complicity in the alleged torture of a minor in the police station. Superintendent of police (Sambalpur) Akhilesvar Singh confirmed the suspension. Earlier, Singh suspended two constables, Jeet Narayana Podh and Ambuja Sahu, and dismissed a home guard, Siba Gauda, for their involvement in the incident. The incident, which took place on September 19, 2015, came to the fore after a TV channel aired the visual of police torturing a minor on Wednesday evening. According to reports, the minor allegedly had a dispute with a person and snatched his cellphone on September 19. Police was also informed about the incident, subsequently. Police brought the minor to the police station and allegedly tortured the 15-year-old boy, who hails from Hirakud. In the video footage, police personnel were seen allegedly beating up the boy in the police station. The incident created uproar in the state and led to demand of exemplary action against them. Subsequently, Singh ordered the sub-divisional police officer, Burla, Abakash Routray, to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within 12 hours. And based on the report, the SP suspended the two constables and dismissed the home guard. “The report was sent to senior officials. And based on the report, the IIC was also suspended,” said Singh. A meeting of the child welfare committee (CWC) was also organised over the incident on Thursday. “The Childline has also been directed to produce the victim before the CWC. The statement of the minor will be recorded,” said member of CWC (Sambalpur) Surya Panigrahi. (Times of India 15/1/16)

 

171. Dalit scholar’s suicide sparks protests (1)

The suicide of Rohith Vemula, a second year PhD student at University of Hyderabad (UoH), saw protests by students of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) on Monday. The incident comes in the wake of the suspension of five Dalit PhD scholars of the Amnbedkar Students’ Association (ASA) at UoH, including Vemula, in August 2015. The suspensions followed scuffle between Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and ASA. As soon as the news of the suicide reached TISS, students gathered to condemn the incident on Sunday night. On Monday morning, they sat in protest, raised slogans and banners against the UoH administration. “This is not a suicide; it is institutional murder,” MPhil student Yashwant Zagade told The Hindu . “This is a new kind of atrocity and casteism against Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi students. These students are democratising university spaces, but Brahminical hegemonistic forces cannot tolerate it. Caste is the only reason behind this incident.” Students at TISS boycotted classes, fieldwork and other academic engagements for the day. In the evening, around 300 of them marched from the campus gate to Ambedkar Garden in Chembur, shouting slogans against what they termed as “Brahminical government and its structures”. They condemned the role of BJP leaders and ABVP at UoH for their role in initiating the expulsion of the Dalit Scholars, which allegedly led to the suicide. A Joint Action Committee of students’ groups at TISS demanded that the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be invoked in the case, and students who were detained by the police for protesting at UoH be released and the expulsion of the Dalit scholars be revoked. Following Vemula’s suicide, the Hyderabad Police have registered a case of abetment to suicide under the Atrocities Act. A statement issued by TISS students said: “The tragic death is yet another reminder that the marginalised in this country will be hunted down and killed until there is none left. The incident shocks, grieves and angers us. It brings to the fore the malicious and casteist role played by the Hindutva brigade led by the ABVP and BJP MLC Ramchandra Rao, who termed Dalits as ‘anti-national’, as well as the complicity of UoH administration through their inept handling of the situation.” Nilesh Kumar, a PhD scholar at TISS, said, “This suicide is a consciously done act. It was chosen as a form of protest. From my observations of cases of marginalised students, suicide is always the last means of protest. It is not an act of weakness or failure. It is the strongest form of protest. The only difference in this case is that external elements [reference to BJP’s Union minister of state Bandaru Dattatreya] were involved, whereas usually issues crop up between students and university administration.” He voiced concerns over the shrinking of space for democratic dissent. Though Vemula’s suicide invoked swift reactions from the student community, many said the incident was one among a series of suicides among Dalit and Advasi students, and a sign of a larger malaise in higher education. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

172. Father of Dalit teen who killed self after custodial torture awaits justice (1)

Meerut: At a time when Rohit Vemula’s suicide has rocked the entire nation, a beleaguered Dalit father at Meerut continues his routine of sitting in protest against the inaction of administration. It’s his 570th day on strike in the premises of the collectorate. Ashok Kumar, 52, demands justice on behalf of his 15 year old son who was allegedly picked up by police from his school on charges of theft of Rs 4,000. The boy was allegedly tortured in the police station. When they could not extract anything from him, the policemen threatened his father with dire consequences if he did not come back with the money within 15 minutes. On reaching home, while his father was trying to arrange for money, the teen felt so humiliated by the entire episode that he poured kerosene over himself and set himself on fire. For nine days he suffered in the hospital before succumbing to his burns. Police filed an FIR against two unknown constables and two car-borne persons. Ten months have passed ever since. The father continues to sit at the collectorate and keeps meeting officials but the only response he gets is that investigations are going on. Kumar is a beedi vendor and his son used to assist him after school hours. On June 30, 2014, two car-borne youths purchased cigarettes from Kumar and left after smoking them. Kumar alleges that the next day police picked up his son and took him to Kankerkhera police station where the two youths were present. “They had made a false allegation that my son had stolen a purse from them the previous day when they had come to us for cigarettes. Two constables, Ratan Singh and Pushpender Kumar, took him inside a room where he was beaten up and was showered with verbal abuses. Once they were convinced that he did not have the money, they threatened me with dire consequences if I did not bring the money within 15 minutes. Soon after, we left for home. I was busy arranging for money while in the other room, my son poured kerosene and set himself on,” the father said. Kumar further stated that even during his stay in the hospital police did not come to register his statement. They filed an FIR which was too weak. The two constables were not named in the FIR but were shown as unknown policemen. “Till date police has not been able to trace the two youths. My repeated requests to the SSP only resulted in two things – a magisterial enquiry was set up and the case was transferred to crime branch,” Kumar added. Meanwhile, Ratan Singh has been transferred to the same department which is conducting the enquiry into the matter – crime branch. When TOI contacted SP (crime) Tej Swarup Singh, he said, “The case is a bit old and I am not aware of the details as I recently joined the current office. I will certainly look into the matter.” Meanwhile, Kumar is determined to get justice. “I am resolved to get justice, no matter how long it takes. My son is a victim of the system and I am fighting against the system.” (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

173. Eight tribal women allege gang-rape by security forces in Bijapur (1)

RAIPUR: Eight tribal women from restive Bijapur district of south Chhattisgarh have accused the security forces of “repeated gang-rape and physical torture” between January 11 to 14 and four others have alleged that they were “molested” and their property was “plundered” by the security men. The women belong to Nedra village and surrounding Para (surrounding small village localities) under Basaguda police station limits of Bijapur. According to advocate Isha Khandelwal, the lawyer of the victims, eight women have testified to the police that they were gang-raped by security men. “There are many women in the village who have been raped by the security forces, out of which 12 came and gave a statement to the police. Out of 12, eight have said that they have been gang-raped. Some of them have even named the policemen who raped them. The incident took place between January 11 and 14,” Ms.Khandelwal told The Hindu. “The women came to Bijapur district headquarters on January 18 but the police did not register their complaint. The FIR was lodged only last night (on Thursday night) after avoiding it for four days,” she added. According to some local sources, the police were forced to file an FIR in the case after tribal activist and Aam Adami Party (AAP) leader Soni Sori addressed a press conference with all the victims on Thursday. “All the victim women told a press conference that they were gang-raped by the security men. Most of these women are married and have kids. Each of them has claimed that they were raped by more than three to four security men,” Soni Sori told this reporter. When asked about the allegations levelled by the tribal women against his men, Bijapur district Superintendent of Police (SP) Mr.K.L.Dhruw admitted that the police force was present in Nedra area between January 11 and 14. “Some NGOs have raised this issue. But I have not seen the entire matter as I was away from the district headquarters and returned a day ago. But I ordered that an FIR is registered in the case immediately and it has been filed. We will go to this village and inquire into the women’s complaints,” said the SP. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

174. NHRC seeks report on custodial deaths of two convicts, both senior citizens (1)

MEERUT: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked district authorities to submit a report on the custodial deaths of two convicts, one aged 68 years and the other 74. District authorities have been given a month to complete inquiries and submit the report. In a letter issued to the district magistrates of Meerut and Saharanpur where these two custodial deaths occurred in November and July, NHRC deputy SP Umed Singh said the matter could not be placed before the panel due to non-receipt of reports of the incidents. He asked the DMs to send the inquest report (ordinarily prepared after the first examination of the body), post-mortem report along with the final opinion on cause of death, video-recording of the post-mortem, complete medical treatment record, health screening report at the time of admission in the jail and magisterial inquiry report.An inquiry by a judicial magistrate is mandatory in only those cases of custodial death where there is reasonable suspicion of foul play or well-founded allegation of commission of an offence. The commission also said, “In case no response is received from your office, the commission may issue summons under section 13(1)(a) of the Protection of Human Rights Act to produce the requisite records in person.” According to Meerut’s senior jail superintendent SHM Rizvi, the 74-year-old convict had been suffering from septicemia and asthma when he was taken to the district hospital first and then admitted to a medical college. “He was facing life imprisonment in a murder case and was lodged here since February 2013. He was a patient of asthma ever since. We started his treatment on May 12, 2015, after he was diagnosed suffering from septicemia too. On October 10, he was admitted to the medical college where he passed away on November 4,” Rizvi added. When contacted, the Saharanpur jail superintendent refused to comment, saying that he did not have records of the convict with him. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

175. BJP cold to PDP feelers on Afspa, will wait for Mehbooba’s Sunday meet (1)

New Delhi: The BJP seems unwilling to expand the ambit of the agenda of alliance with the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP in Jammu and Kashmir and will not cede any more ground than what was agreed upon before forming a government under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whose death this month led to a political uncertainty in the state. The Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party had sounded out to the BJP that it wants the Centre to agree to lift the controversial Afspa from at least two districts of the state and deliver its commitment to vacate buildings occupied by security forces before she takes oath as the chief minister. The state was placed under governor’s rule earlier this month after the PDP put off Mehbooba’s swearing-in after her father Sayeed’s death to nudge its alliance partner to give her party a better deal. “There are issues (such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act) on which we have historically held different views. After a detailed discussion, we reached a common ground in the agenda of alliance. Now, it would be difficult to broaden the scope of the alliance… Like her, we also have certain constituencies to address,” a BJP leader in New Delhi told HT. He went on to point that the Bharatiya Janata Party was ready to give her sufficient time to make up her mind on forming a government. “We are not putting any pressure on her but we won’t buckle under pressure either,” he said. Another party leader said he expected the fresh concessions being sought by the PDP to be a starting point for any negotiations – rather than the ending – that might take place at a later date. So far, there have been no formal talks between the two sides. BJP leaders indicate that they would have a clearer idea of the situation when Mehbooba meets her party’s leaders on January 31 and could hear from her side soon after. A meeting between Mehbooba and BJP chief Amit Shah is also expected once there is a broad agreement on the terms of forming the government. The BJP does not expect Mehbooba to pull out of the alliance that was stitched together by her father in the immediate future. But there is some recognition that the PDP chief – who does not want to leave a political vacuum that separatist groups such as the Hurriyat occupy – may not be as flexible as her father……..  (Hindustan Times 27/1/16)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

176. Govt curbing media freedom: AAP MP Bhagwant Singh Mann (1)

Chandigarh: There has been a “media emergency” in Punjab for long, AAP MP Bhagwant Singh Mann said on Thursday. Addressing a press conference, Mann alleged that after some sections of the mainstream media, the “noose around social media was also being tightened by the SAD-BJP government” and freedom to speak and write was being “curbed”. “Recent examples of such cases are of (journalists) Kanwar Sandhu and Baltej Pannu,” Mann said. Accusing ruling government of indulging in “high-handedness to curb the freedom of media”, Mann said Pannu was “arrested in a hurry as if he was a dacoit.” “Why was a similar urgency not shown in Behbal Kalan (police firing in which two persons were killed), Channu and Abohar (in two incidents, two girls were mowed down by buses owned by an Akali leader),” Mann said. Asked what solution the AAP party had to restore media freedom, Mann said, “The solution is February 2017,” referring to the year in which Punjab goes to polls. Responding to the same query, Shergill said, “We are preparing a red book. We will act against all those involved in such criminal acts.” (Indian Express 1/1/16)

 

177. Freedom of speech critical for growth, say experts (1)

A seminar on ‘Expression: Challenge and Opportunities’ stressed the imperatives of freedom of speech as a precursor to stimulate growth and creativity in society, while airing concerns over this liberty being held hostage by fundamentalist forces. The seminar was held as part of the national theatre festival Bahuroopi here on Saturday and the theme was identified on the basis of recent developments in the country, which saw a debate on intolerance and freedom of expression. Political analyst Yogendra Yadav said power equations and social hierarchy influenced media articulations on issues, most of which has no relevance to at least 50 per cent of the population. He cited the treatment of drought in the media to highlight this aspect and pointed out that though more than 50 crore people of this country have been affected by drought, the media has distanced itself from it. Retired judge of High Court of Karnataka Nagamohan Das said freedom of expression in society was dovetailed with progress and cautioned that gains made by the country in the last 68 years was on the verge of being frittered away due to recent episodes of intolerance. Nataraj Huliyar, columnist, delivered the keynote address and stressed the importance of independent intellectuals in public life to highlight the follies of policy makers. “But the academicians who were singing paeans to Manmohan Singh and describing his policies as Manmohanomics, are today paying accolades to Narendra Modi by describing his policies as Modinomics,” he remarked. Rangayana director H. Janardhan was present. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

178. Naga dailies carry blank editorials after AR rap (1)

Guwahati: Three major English dailies in Nagaland — Eastern Mirror, Nagaland Page and The Morung Express — carried blank editorials on National Press Day on Monday in protest against a recent notification by Assam Rifles accusing five major Naga media houses of offering intentional or unintentional support to banned militant outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang). The five media houses which received the Assam Rifles notification included the abovementioned papers, as well as Nagaland Post and Capi.The move to carry blank editorials was the first of its kind since the inception of dailies in Nagaland. Editors and journalists said they observed National Press Day but refrained from celebrations. “We resorted to such a move to protest against this action (by Assam Rifles) that seeks to stifle our voice and freedom of expression. We are waiting to see what happens next,” said Monalisa Changkija, editor of Nagaland Page. “We have carried blank editorials earlier when only weekly newspapers were available in Nagaland. We as journalists are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and fair journalism,” she added. On October 25, the paramilitary force sent a notification to the five media houses expressing concern over how they, through their reporting of press statements issued by NSCN-K, were supporting the unlawful association intentionally or unintentionally. The notification accused the editors of violating the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. By publishing statements of the banned organization, the media houses were complicit in its illegal activities, the notification said. (Times of India 17/1/16)

 

179. At JNU, students exercise freedom of expression: VC (1)

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University vice chancellor S K Sopory has called the suicide of Hyderabad Central University research scholar Rohith Vemula “unfortunate”. At a press interaction ahead of his retirement, he was asked about JNU students holding several movements during his term and the current protest against the Dalit scholar’s suicide.Sopory said, “Students here (at JNU) are aware of the freedom of expression and they exercise it.”  About the Hyderabad incident, he told The Indian Express, “I hadn’t followed this before the incident… It’s unfortunate and I wish this could have been resolved at the university level before a student had to commit suicide.” He refused to comment on Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and HCU vice chancellor Appa Rao being booked. (Indian Express 20/1/16)

 

180. Karan Johar: Freedom of expression, democracy biggest jokes in the world (1)

JAIPUR: Filmmaker Karan Johar’s controversial remarks on intolerance on Friday kicked up a storm with the Congress hitting out against the Modi government accusing it of stifling freedom of expression and BJP dismissing the criticism saying India is the most tolerant country. Wading into the intolerance debate, Johar said, “The talk about freedom of expression is the biggest joke I believe in the world. Democracy is the second biggest joke I think.” “I really wonder how are we really democratic? How is there freedom of expression? As a filmmaker, I feel bound at every level be it what I put out on celluloid or what I say in print,” he said at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival. Attacking the NDA government, Congress leader Manish Tewari said, “This goverment of Modi is against intellectuals. They are against liberal voices. The tension is increasing from everywhere. Other than Anupam Kher, who is a pawn for the government, all other artists, painters, filmmakers are saying that this government is against intellectuals.” Union minister Mahesh Sharma retaliated saying, “The whole world is seeing that India is the most tolerant country.” Also hitting back at Congress, his ministerial colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “Those who are raising questions on India’s tolerance have no knowledge about the country’s culture and traditions. They are illiterate. It is true that issues of intolerance crop up the moment elections are announced.” In his conversation with Poonam Saxena who has penned his biography ‘An Unsuitable Boy’ and author-columnist Shobaa De, Johar said he felt he was living in a “tough country” where speaking about one’s personal life can land people behind the bars. Recently Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan found themselves in a controversy for speaking up against the “growing intolerance” in the country. Johar who has made films on contentious issues such as homosexuality (“Dostana”) and relationships outside wedlock (“Kabhi Alvida Na Kehana”), said, “I feel like there is always some kind of a legal notice awaiting me everywhere I go.” “I’ve become some kind of an FIR king,” Johar said referring to the controversy over the AIB roast, staged in Mumbai last year which involved the western concept of insult comedy. The Bombay high court recently asked Mumbai police not to file charge sheet against the filmmaker and others facing a criminal case for allegedly using obscene language on the show. Johar said he did not want to fight the “governance” by speaking out on “intolerance” like his colleagues in Bollywood industry did last year…. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

181. Intolerance row: Indians ‘oversensitive’ on certain issues, says Kajol (1)

Jaipur: On certain issues Indians are “over-sensitive”, actor Kajol said on Saturday at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2016. Speaking at a press conference to release best-seller author Ashwin Sanghi’s latest book The Sialkot Saga, Kajol responded to a question on what she thought about the “intolerance debate”. “There is a certain sensitivity in the country today,” she said. “Yes, we are over-sensitive but at the same time I think that as public personality, it is credit to our intelligence, we speak well and speak correctly,” she added. Kajol responded to questions on “intolerance” after reporters kept on asking for her comments repeatedly. At first, she evaded the questions saying that in a literary festival the focus should be on books and their authors. The Jaipur Literature Festival 2016 has witnessed a range of comments on “intolerance in the country”, in the last two days. Film director Karan Johar had said on Thursday that “the talk about freedom of expression is the biggest joke I believe in the world”, adding that democracy was the “second biggest joke”. “I really wonder how are we really democratic? How is there freedom of expression? As a filmmaker, I feel bound at every level be it what I put out on celluloid or what I say in print,” he added. In his conversation with Poonam Saxena who has penned his biography An Unsuitable Boy and author-columnist Shobhaa De, Johar said he felt he was living in a “tough country” where speaking about one’s personal life can land people behind the bars. Recently Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan found themselves in a controversy for speaking up against the “growing intolerance” in the country. Johar who has made films on issues such as homosexuality (Dostana) and relationships outside wedlock (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehana), said, “I feel like there is always some kind of a legal notice awaiting me everywhere I go.”“I’ve become some kind of an FIR king,” Johar said referring to the controversy over the AIB roast, staged in Mumbai in 2015 which involved the western concept of insult comedy. On Friday, senior journalist Barkha Dutt said that murder of Mohammad Ikhlaq and the suicide of a Dalit student in Hyderabad were “inflection points” in the contemporary history of India. (Hindustan Times 24/1/16)

 

182. Nayantara Sahgal denies taking back award (1)

Kolkata: Eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal, who spearheaded the ‘Award Wapasi’ campaign, on Saturday clarified that she was not taking back the award and questioned the timing of the Sahitya Akademi’s announcement of a policy not to take back awards. “I don’t know why this nonsense is being spread that I have taken it back. The Sahitya Akademi rang me today that it is not their policy to keep returned awards and so they are sending back the cheque I sent them,” Ms. Sahgal said on the sidelines of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet here. The Akademi had on Friday said there was no provision in its constitution to accept any honour once conferred upon a writer. It had also said that some authors had accepted the award back. Ms. Sahgal said the cheque, which was sent in October by her, had anyway become invalid now as the Akademi had not encashed it. The award, given to her in 1986, comprised a small copper plaque-like memento and a cheque of Rs.21,000. “The Akademi attacked me saying I am returning the money but not the interest. That made me very upset, and therefore, I sent them a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh but that has been lying with them ever since. And now suddenly, they are saying that it is not our policy. It is their problem, not mine,” she said. She said they were fighting for freedom of speech and expression but after the Dadri lynching incident, the issue became bigger. “It worsened when (Mohammad) Akhlaq was lynched. That made it a much wider debate. We were fighting for freedom of speech and expression but that became a country-wide issue of the freedom to live and worship as you choose. Later on, historians and scientists also joined,” the niece of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, said.— PTI (The Hindu 24/1/16)

 

183. No threat to freedom of expression: Advani (1)

NEW DELHI: BJP leader L.K. Advani on Tuesday said that there was “no question mark on the freedom of expression in the country” and wondered “who are the people saying so”, in what is being considered as a rare instance of support for the Modi government. “I do not know who are the people saying that there is no freedom of expression in India. This right (freedom of expression) has always been there. Such a question does not arise today,” said Mr. Advani at a function at his residence to unfurl the national flag on Republic Day. “People had fought against attempts to stifle freedom of expression during the British rule and during the Emergency, even our, Indian government had tried to do so, but people fought back.” The remarks appear a little different from those made by him last year, when on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Emergency, he had said, “such a situation could exist today as well.” At the time, that was taken as a criticism of the government. “On Republic Day, it is natural for a feeling of nationalism to be present all around, but efforts should be made to keep it alive all the time…,” he said. (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

184. It is impossible to ban media: Arun Jaitley (1)

New Delhi: Saying that it was “literally impossible” to impose a ban on the media, finance minister Arun Jaitley declared on Monday that the “age of bans” was over and the State shouldn’t try and take such steps. “Many believe, and I am one of those who do believe, that the age of bans is now over. It is literally impossible, if not very difficult, to implement them. Should the state step in? As far as possible, no,” Mr Jaitley, who is also information and broadcasting minister, said. Mr Jaitley noted while the print media, and to some extent the electronic media, adopt discretion in their content, the social media completely lacked such a mechanism. The minister, delivering the Sardar Patel Lecture organised by All India Radio here, said while the right to freedom of expression has expanded in India through successive judicial verdicts and technological advances, its misuse still continued. He pointed out the framers of the Constitution had rightly held that freedom of speech and expression was not absolute, and subject to reasonable restrictions that were specifically defined. Mr Jaitley said that in a changing media landscape, with the arrival of the electronic media, news had become more sensational. “News was what television cameras could capture. What cameras can’t capture won’t be news. A major Africa summit will be some news, but a young girl returning home from Pakistan would be big news because television captures it differently,” he added. Mr Jaitley said, “In a society where because of multi-religious, multi-cultural reasons there are sensitivities, what do we do if somebody crosses the lakshman rekha itself? What would Indian society have done if instead of a Danish cartoonist, it would have been an Indian cartoonist? And therefore, we have criminal laws… but in extreme cases, very reluctantly so, some power of restraint in the larger interest so that it doesn’t disturb public order, and that is where those 1950s’ restrictions imposed in Article 19(2) itself will have an important role to play.” Referring to the social media, he said while citizens have got a voice, it was an unregulated medium and there was also a large amount of false, defamatory and damaging content being made available online. In such a climate, Mr Jaitley said, we have to rely on a sense of fairness of those who participated on the social media. (Deccan Cronicle 28/1/16)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

185. Communal tension in Sherkot after eve-teasing incident (7)

Bijnor: Communal tension erupted in Sherkot, Bijnor on Monday, when members of one community staged a protest outside the police station demanding an FIR against a young man from another community for allegedly attempting to rape a minor girl and beating her up. Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Samna Sarai, said, “My 14-year-old daughter had gone to worship at the nearby temple a young man, Vajid Ahmad attempted to rape her and beat her up. Her uncle, Harish Chand rushed to the spot when she started shouting but the accused fled from the spot.”BJP local leader, Kameshwar Rajput and former chairman, Sherkot Nagar Palia, Sansar Singh were also present supporting the protest. Station officer, Sherkot police station, Dharmendera Singh, said, “Prima-facie, the case seems forged. A case will be registered after the investigation. The situation is in control in the area.” (Times of India 5/1/16)

 

186. Muslim rally turns violent, mob burns police station over Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks on Prophet Muhammad (7)

Malda: Tension gripped West Bengal’s Malda district after a mob torched the entire police station and several vehicles over Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks on Prophet Muhammad. A massive Muslim protest rally against Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha was organised on Sunday against Kamlesh Tiwari . Kamlesh Tiwari is facing the wrath of scores of Muslims for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad. (Zee News 5/1/16)

 

187. Malda riots: What actually led to communal violence – 10 things to know (7)

Malda: West Bengal’s Malda district continued to remain tense on Thursday after a mob reportedly set fire to Kaliachak police station and over a dozen vehicles. Here’s what actually led to the communal violence:- – Tension gripped West Bengal’s Malda district on Sunday after a mob torched the entire police station and several vehicles during a protest rally against Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari- The protest rally was organised by a Muslim organisation – Anjuman Ahle Sunnatul Jamaat (AJS) – Kamlesh Tiwari had allegedly called Prophet Muhammad the first homosexual in the world. Tiwari’s statement came a day after UP Cabinet minister and senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan called RSS members homosexuals. – BJP is accusing Mamata Banerjee’s government of shielding the accused as only 9 out of 130 accused were arrested till Wednesday. Also, 6 of 9 were let off with bail hours after the arrest took place. -  Shamik Bhattacharya, the lone BJP MLA in West Bengal, was detained on Wednesday. He was not allowed to visit Kaliachak village, which had witnessed violence on Sunday. – The Centre has now sought a report from West Bengal government on the Malda communal violence. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is likely to visit West Bengal’s Malda district on Jan 18- A huge amount of public properties were due to mob attack – Malda district continued to witness violence for the third day- Section 144 is still imposed in the area since Sunday night- Additional security forces including RAF jawan have been deployed to control the situation and face any untoward incidentMalda’s Kaliachak police station falls in the Muslim-dominated Sujapur area in the district. Also, West Bengal will go to polls this year. Earlier, around one lakh Muslims on had gathered in UP’s Muzaffarnagar, demanding death penalty for Kamlesh Tiwari. Tiwari is currently behind bars on charges of hate speech. (Zee News7//1/16)

 

188. Attempts to create communal tension in Goa in recent past: CM Parsekar (7)

Panaji: Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Saturday said there have been attempts to disrupt the communal harmony in the state in the recent past. “Goa has had communal harmony since the liberation (from Portuguese rule) but in the recent past there have been attempts to disrupt it,” Parsekar told a gathering on the occasion of Goa Legislators Day on Saturday. The chief minister, however, didn’t specify who was making “such attempts”. “I appeal to my fellow colleagues, former ministers, legislators to guide the government on its policies, and also help in tackling the forces attempting to create communal discord,” he said. Parsekar said his government will take along the former legislators in the matters of governance.The former legislators being experienced should intervene in the issues which have the potential to create communal discord, he said. The Legislators Day is held to mark the commencement of first Assembly session of Goa on January 9, 1964. (DNA 9/1/16)

 

189. Communal riots in Uttar Pradesh: 4 dead in Jehanabad as Mankar Sankranti procession targeted (7)

Lucknow, Jan 14: Incident of communal violence is reported from Uttar Pradesh as four people have been reportedly killed inter-community clashes. According to local media reports, a procession related to Makar Sankranti was being taken from Kanpur to Fatehpur. However, as they reached Jehanabad, two groups began clashing against each other resulting into the death of four individuals.     Tension between two groups in UP’s Jahanabad area. Reports of stone pelting, firing and local shops set on fire. At least six shops of local traders and 3 vehicles have been burnt by the rioters. The security forces have rushed to the spot to take control of the situation. Uttar Pradesh government has imposed section 144 between Fatehpur to Jehanabad in order to control the situation. Police have been alerted across the state to prevent the communal fire from spreading. (ALSO READ: Azam Khan attacks BJP for creating ‘communal tensions’ in Uttar Pradesh) Social tensions in Uttar Pradesh is at an all-time high. Fringe elements within both major communities have left no stone unturned to polarize people. Ever since the remarks of one right-wing leader Kamlesh Tiwari against Prophet Muhammad, Muslims in the state have staged protest in several districts. The relaunching of Ram Janmbhoomi movement, along with the reports of hooliganism by the minority community in West Bengal’s Malda has escalated inter-community bitterness. (India.com 14/1/16)

 

190. District administration launches crackdown on rioters in Fatehpur during Sankranti procession (7)

KANPUR: The administration on Friday cracked down on rioters in Fatehpur, a day after communal violence broke out in the district over display of a model of the proposed Ayodhya temple at a Sankranti procession. Police claimed more than two dozen people were arrested and patrolling was intensified in the violence hit areas. “The situation in the district is peaceful. Altogether 27 persons out of the 37 named in the FIR have been arrested for Thursday’s violence. Nearly 250 other unidentified persons have been booked and are now trying to zero in on the offenders with the help of video-footage,” police chief Rajiv Malhotra told TOI on Friday. He added the district authorities have clamped section 144 in trouble hit areas to check any untoward incident. District magistrate Rajiv Rautela told TOI that members of peace committees have been roped in to restore normalcy in the affected areas. “QRT, RAF and Provincial Armed Constabulary staged a flag march to instill confidence among the people,” Rautela added. IG zone Brij Bhushan along with other senior officers on Friday again visited the trouble-prone areas. He said that an alert has been sounded in adjoining districts of Hamirpur, Kanpur and Kaushambi. He informed that prohibitory orders were in force to keep unruly elements under check. “Section 144 has been imposed and strict vigil is being maintained in the area,” he added. The Friday namaz passed off peacefully at all mosques in the district as police kept an eye outside mosques. No untoward incident has been reported Jahanabad, the epicentre of Thursday’s violence, or anywhere else in the district. Mot of the business establishments in Jahanabad area, however, remained closed on Friday. At many junctions, the district officials were witnessed urging shopkeepers to open their establishment, reports said. Tension had gripped Jahanabad town in Fatehpur district after members of two communities clashed during a procession on Makar Sankranti on Thursday. About a dozen persons were injured. A strong contingent of RAF and PAC were rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control. Incidentally, VHP leader Pravin Togadia and minister of state (MoS) for food processing industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti were in the Jahanabad area to attend a programme at the Ram Talai temple during the time of the incident. As the clash unfolded, Togadia was addressing a gathering at the temple where the Sankranti procession was to culminate. Later, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who is also the BJP MP from Fatehpur constituency, told reporters at the PWD Guest House, that she had spoken to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the state government officials about the incident. “I have spoken to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and demanded from him a high level probe into the Thursday’s violence, besides also had a talk with senior government officials of the state,” she told reporters on Friday. She added that Shobha Yatra on the occasion of Sankranti was an annual affair, which is taking place in Jahanabad town since the last 35 years. For the last few years, people from adjoining districts also used to throng the place and take part in it. Thursday incident was a complete failure on the part of the district police and the administration for not being able to provide proper security measures to the Shobha Yatra, despite being aware that it passes few sensitive areas en route.”.. (Times of India 16/1/16)

 

191. 85 major anti-Christian incidents in 2015, claims NGO (7)

NEW DELHI: Citing 85 major incidents of alleged persecution of Christians across 20 states last year, a report by a minority and human rights NGO says 2015 saw an unprecedented spike in “intolerance” against the community. The report says on an average India saw one such incident of hate crime against Christians a day last year. While the report terms Madhya Pradesh as the worst state, followed by Telengana and Uttar Pradesh for such attacks, it calls Maharashtra the ‘Hindutva capital’. Delhi too, the report says, is among the top 10 states that saw such incidents, with five Catholic churches vandalised and assaults on priests and community members. The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) in its report claims that at least seven pastors were killed and 8,000 Christians (including 6,000 women and children) targeted in 2015. The report cites incidents from across the country — from Arunachal Pradesh, where suspected Hindutva fundamentalists attempted to attack Christians and whip up mass hysteria by quoting the Census 2011 data, and Chhatisgarh, where there is an alleged ban on religious activities other than of Hinduism, to Himachal Pradesh where the CPWD wrote off the Shimla CNI Church as a government property, and Tamil Nadu, where Bibles were thrown on the road to incite community members and create tension.Hundreds of protesters Nuns, priests and archbishops chanted Hail Mary on the streets of Bengaluru in Feb 2015 as Christians took out a procession in the city against the recent attacks on churches in Delhi. “There is at least a 20% increase in the incidents in terms of the number of people victimized as against 2014. The real numbers are much higher as many don’t want to report such incidents as the police force is communal. Then we have incidents from areas where RSS is very dominant and victims are threatened to not report the attacks. In some cases the media is also biased. Being less in number, Christians can’t fight back,” says CSF general secretary Joseph Dias. Claiming a significant rise in Hindutva ideology in 2015, the report claims that RSS and its 38 ideological affiliates have consolidated in almost every sphere of activity, and are “preparing to strengthen their hold on the country’s polity”. “With the BJP government in the Centre, there is huge increase in RSS shakhas. Even though there is no BJP government in Kerala, the state has the highest number of shakhas. West Bengal, whic has long been under communist rule and is now governed by liberal forces, BJP has a strong hold over five districts where reconversions are picking up. There is saffronisation of secular institution and in every sphere secular activities have been saffronised — be it in the northeast, Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Goa,” claims Dias”Earlier Gujarat was the Hindutva capital but now it is Maharashtra. The biggest ever rally of RSS was held in Pune where 1.50 lakh people participated. Rationalist like Narendra Dabholkar and others are being threatened. And the anti-conversion bill has been admitted in the Maharashtra Assembly. There is one Narendra Maharaj who claimed to have reconveretd 2,000 Christians to Hinduism in 2015 and his headquarter is also in Maharashtra. Saffron terror attacks somehow have their roots in Maharashtra,” says Dias. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

192. Gujarat riots convict arrested for allegedly attacking journalist Revati Laul (7)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat riots convict Suresh Chhara, who was out on parole, was arrested in Ahmedabad on Thursday for allegedly attacking journalist Revati Laul. Laul, who is writing a book on the convicts in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case, said she was attacked by Chhara when she visited his house in Naroda area of Ahmedabad late on Wednesday evening. Laul said Chhara slapped her when she asked him to share information about his past. “I visited him at his house and I politely asked him if he wanted to share information about himself, his past and family. Without provocation, he started slapping me,” she said. “I kept meeting his family members regarding my book. Last year in July, his wife telephoned me saying Chhara raped her while he was released on parole and asked for my help, I helped her to get a lawyer and lodge a complaint,” she added. Chhara has been convicted to 31 years in prison for his involvement in the Naroda Patiya massacre, in which 97 people were killed during the 2002 communal riots. He was out on parole. “My question is how the court could give him parole despite knowing the fact that he attacked his wife last time when he came out,” Laul told reporters. “How can the country feel secure if the courts are unable to save the common people from these convicts?” she asked. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

193. 1984 anti-Sikh riots: 400 victims await compensation in Madhya Pradesh (7)

JABALPUR: Madhya Pradesh high court (MPHC) on Friday issued notice to state’s home department seeking explanation over undue delay in awarding compensation to victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Riots were triggered across India following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards on October 31, 1984. Sikh families residing in several cities of MP were attacked. However, MP government does not have exact record of such families, said sources. Petitioner Manjeet Singh Saluja said that there are around 400 riot victims living in Indore, Shivpuri and Damoh districts awaiting compensation for the last 32 years. Many of them are ailing and battling for life amidst extreme financial crisis. Double bench (Jabalpur) comprising Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Alok Aradhe has sought explanation from the home secretary for the delay. Saluja claims that collectors in these three districts had sent a proposal for compensation to the state home department in 2013 followed by reminders in 2014 and 2015, but to no avail. In August 2015, Rashtriya Sikh Sangat — an affiliate of Rashtirya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) — had also demanded that 1984 anti-Sikh riots’ victim families in Madhya Pradesh be identified and given compensation announced by the Centre. Rashtriya Sikh Sangat had requested the Madhya Pradesh CM that he should immediately identify the victim families and disburse Rs 5 lakh compensation to each, as announced by the Union government. Cities like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Bilaspur were worst affected by the riots. Sangat is also preparing a list of Sikh families that were victims of the riots. A delegation of this organisation had also met MPCM requesting that those who led the attack on Sikh families be charged under relevant sections. In 2006, the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced a package of Rs 717 crore, including a monetary compensation of Rs 3.5 lakh to each killed in the riots. Financial assistance was also announced for injured and lose of property. Nearly 3325 people were killed in the communal riots, of which 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone while rest of the victims were from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

194. Cong, BJP slam Ajmal’s ‘communal’ remarks (7)

Guwahati: The BJP and Congress on Friday launched a scathing attack on AIUDF chief and MP Badruddin Ajmal for his statement asking minorities of the state to unite before the assembly election.At a public rally at Baghbor in Barpeta district on Thursday, Ajmal said all Hindus of the state had united after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Assam and it was time for Muslims to unite as well. The BJP demanded that Ajmal be arrested immediately. The saffron party took out a protest march in the city and burned the perfume baron’s effigy. The party’s national vice-president and MP Bijoya Chakravarty accused Ajmal of preparing a blueprint to incite communal tension before the election.President of BJP’s minority wing Mominul Awal said Hindus and Muslims in Assam had been living peacefully for decades but Ajmal had resorted to emotionally blackmailing poor Muslims for votes. Congress vice-president Ripun Bora also criticized Ajmal for his statement. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

195. Communal clashes in Moradabad (7)

Moradabad: Communal clashes broke out in Lalbaagh locality under Mughalpura police station here on Monday evening. There was heavy brick-batting from both sides and one policeman was injured. Several vehicles, including a police patrolling jeep, were damaged during the clash that took place on the road which connects to the Mughalpura area. Heavy police force has been deployed in the area and hunt for the rioters is on. Section 144 of CrPc has been imposed in the city ahead of the Republic Day celebrations. According to police, clashes broke out between two communities over the issue of milk purchasing from a local shop in the Lalbaagh area. Speaking to TOI, senior superintendent of police, Moradabad, Nitin Tiwari, said, “The violence has been controlled and heavy police force has been deployed in the area. The search for rioters is on and they will be arrested soon.” Police has also order cyber cell sleuths to monitor social networking sites and takes action against those found spreading rumours online. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

COMMUNALISM

196. VHP will give deadline to govt for Ram temple

SANGAM(Allahabad): Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Sunday said it would set a ‘deadline’ for the Centre to take a decision on the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya in the ‘Sant Sammelan’ conference which would be held here during the Magh Mela on February 4 and 5. VHP international general secretary Champat Rai said the VHP has obtained signatures of MPs on the temple construction issue. He added that VHP’s decision making body, the Margdarshak Mandal, would decide on the future course of action if the Modi government failed to fulfill their demands. On the second day of Sant Sammelan, the proposal would be placed before the seers and mahants for their views. Top VHP leaders like Praveen Togadia, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and Rai, along with the sants, are expected to take part in the conference. “The central government is moving away from the temple issue despite being backed by hundreds of MPs who have supported the cause. So we have decided to give a deadline to the central government to take decision on whether it will be making a Constitutional amendment or not,” said Rai. He added, “If the government fails to take any action then we along with the sant community can resort to a number of movements, including gherao of Parliament and countrywide agitation. However, these decisions can only be reached after the meeting of the Margdarshak Mandal.” Rai said VHP feels that a special bench should be set up to hear the Ram temple case as it is moving at a slow pace in the Supreme Court. He added that the VHP would make a request to the appropriate authority so that the case is heard on a daily basis. It may be recalled that it was in the Dharm Sansad-2013 during the Maha Kumbh that the seers had rooted for projecting Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of Gujarat, for the prime minister’s post. (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

197. Raj Thackeray at it again, stirs debate on Hindutva (26)

MUMBAI: MNS president Raj Thackeray has revived the Hindutva debate by stating that his idea of Hindutva was not applicable to members of the minority community. Thackeray’s reply came after a student asked the MNS leader to clarify his party’s stance on the issue. “I have not undergone conversion. I am a Hindu and my party has unshakeable faith in Hindutva. However, our idea of Hindutva is compatible not with Muslims from Beherampada and Bhiwandi, but with the likes of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain, both musicians of international acclaim,” Thackeray said on Thursday. Thackeray was speaking at a special lecture for BMM students of the Podar college. The college had invited Thackeray to exchange his views with the students on the prevailing trends in the media. Stating that he didn’t believe in taking a partisan view on the issue, Thackeray said spreading communal hatred was not MNS agenda. “But we can prove our strength if needed,” he said. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

198. BJP to fight Kerala polls on Hindutva: State chief Kummanam Rajasekharan (26)

NEW DELHI: The BJP will fight the 2016 Kerala assembly election “to reinstate the position of Hindus” in a state where they have been “massively exploited” for over half a century by governments led by the Congress and Communists, the party’s new state president, Kummanam Rajasekharan, said. “In all these years, just once, and that too for a very short period, did Kerala have a Hindu education minister. Hindus of Kerala are the most marginalised. They get no social justice from the country. The state doesn’t feel responsible towards them as they are not a political force,” Rajasekharan told ET in an interview. Rajasekharan, a RSS pracharak for more than 35 years, has often been referred to as the ‘Togadia of South’ for his hardline Hindutva stand and firebrand style. He was handpicked by BJP national chief Amit Shah last month to lead the party in the state where it has never won any assembly or Lok Sabha seat. The appointment was considered strange, as Rajasekharan has never been a functionary within the BJP, and it was seen by many as aimed at tackling factionalism within the party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Rajasekharan during his Kerala visit last month to convince him to take up the responsibility, sources said. “I am just an RSS missionary trying to rescue the state from antinational elements,” he said. “Hindus in Kerala have never been a political force. They have no bargaining capacity. They are disintegrated. They have to be united.” Political patronage given to minorities by the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Left Front has resulted in much resentment among Hindus, Rajasekharan said. “Hindus make up around 52% of the population in the state, but the land they occupy in Kerala is only around 40%. When it comes to building businesses, there are no opportunities for the Hindus. They are all leaving the state.” The party’s campaign for 2016 will be called “Samshuddha Kerala”, which means “Clean Kerala,” he said. “The leadership of both Communists and Congress is tainted. Only the BJP can bring in clean governances and positivity in the State now.” The BJP will promote research and development in the state and open as many closed factories as possible, and also give boost to Ayurveda and investments, Rajasekharan said. “Kerala is gifted with a lot of ancient knowledge but whatever material, agricultural, spiritual progress we made in the past is getting ruined now, because the Communists and the Congress are destroying traditions for politics.” Actively involved in agitations to “protect” temples, Rajasekharan said the need of the hour is to have dedicated squads across Kerala to enlighten Hindus against conversion. “Hindu ideals mean welfare of people, society and nature. Being committed to Hindutva is being committed to country’s welfare.” Though the BJP is not a strong player in Kerala politics, it emerged as the single largest party in the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram Corporation in recent civic polls, and is hoping to do better than in the past in the state assembly election. (The Economic Times 8/1/16)

 

199. India has given spiritualism, not communalism to world: PM Narendra Modi (26)

MUMBAI: Against the backdrop of ‘intolerance’ debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India’s contribution to the world is not communalism but spiritualism which can resolve all problems and invoked former President APJ Abdul Kalam to underline his point. He regretted that the world has failed to understand the people of India properly as he praised the saints and religious leaders for their contribution to the country’s legacy. “India is a country, which has not tried to bind the world in a particular sect … We are the people whom the world has probably not understood in the manner in which we should have been understood,” Modi said while addressing via video conferencing a book release event here. “India has given the world neither community nor communalism. Our saints and sages (Rishis and Munis) and traditions have given the world spiritualism and not communalism,” he said, adding sometimes, sect leads to problems while spiritualism resolves the same.The Prime Minister’s comments assume significance as these come against the backdrop of debate on ‘intolerance’ and allegations of growing communalism in the country. “Saints, hermits and religious leaders have blessed the world with spirituality, a legacy in which our former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam believed and said that the problems of human beings can be neutralised by the spiritualization of mankind,” he said.Modi, while addressing the event to mark the release of a book titled ‘Maru Bharat Saru Bharat’ written by Jain Acharya Ratnasundersuriswarji Maharaj, described the monk as a “great social reformer and spiritual leader” who has expressed his views about all concepts and objects of the universe through his various books. “National religion is above all religions and Guruji has lit the candle of national religion through his writings, as it has been the glorious tradition of our country,” he said. The book, ‘My India, Nobel India’, in four languages – English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi – was released at the Somaiya Grounds in Sion-Chunabhatti area here during the ‘Sahitya Satkar Samaroh’ programme on the concluding day of the 10-day-long religious and spiritual conclave. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

200. Ram temple will be built when Hindus come together: VHP (26)

Meerut: “We cannot give a set date for the construction of Ram Mandir, but the day Hindus come together, construction of the temple can be completed. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is committed towards the cause of Ram Mandir, and members of the organization are even prepared to sacrifice their lives to ensure that the construction of the temple is complete,” said Devesh Upadhyay, national spokesperson, VHP. He was addressing the regional get-together of VHP members at Keshav Bhawan in Meerut. The meeting is after every three months to plan the organization’s strategy. “When Hindus can come together to demolish Babri Masjid, all of us can even come together to construct the Ram Mandir. Now, not only the Hindus but also Muslims want the Ram temple constructed. The recent statement of Bukkal Nawab, a Samajwadi Party (SP) MLC that he would donate Rs 10 lakh and a gold crown strengthens our resolve to construct the temple,” said Balraj Doongar, state convener, Bajrang Dal. Almost six months after VHP announced a nationwide drive to collect stones for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, two trucks of stones have already arrived in the temple city, on December 21, 2015. “The stones have already arrived in Ayodhya and these will be used to construct the temple very soon. It should be noted that the construction will not be carried out illegally. We will win the legal battle and then construct the temple with the stones that are already there in Ayodhya. More stones will reach the spot soon,” said Upadhyay. VHP also asked its members to demand a common national population policy. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

201. 8 lakh Hindus converted every year: VHP leader Mohanlal Agarwal (26)

GUWAHATI: At a time when religious conversion has emerged as one of the controversial topics, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) national general secretary, Y Raghavulu, has once again stirred the hornet’s nest with his claims that every year over 8 lakh Hindus are being converted to other religions. On the sidelines of a function organized to felicitate veteran VHP leader Mohanlal Agarwal here on Sunday, Raghavulu said 8 lakh Hindus were converted to either Christianity or Islam. VHP international president G Raghava Reddy was also present there, but he refused to speak to the media. Religious conversion of Hindus is taking place in great numbers and this is a threat to India’s integrity, Raghavulu alleged. The VHP leader has also alleged that Christians and Muslims are encouraging religious conversions in the country as one of the five strategies to dominate India. Encouraging infiltration, grabbing the land of Hindus, creating divisions among Indian communities are some of their other techniques to dominate the country. “We all know very well about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir and the burning of Bodo villages by Bangladeshis in Assam recently,” Raghavulu alleged.Raghavulu claimed that in Assam religious conversions and infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh were taking place at an alarming pace. Like many other parts of the country, in Assam, too, many districts have seen a significant rise in Muslim population, while the number of Hindus are declining. This is indeed a threat to the Hindu samaj. It is high time we wake up to the threat from religious conversion,” the VHP leader said. “Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of Akhand Bharat. Today, these have become separate countries. We cannot allow further disintegration of our country,” he added. Issues of religious conversion has become a controversial topic in the country last year, especially after constituents of the Sangh Parivar spearheaded the Ghar Wapsi initiative for reconversion of non-Hindus into Hinduism. (Times of India 11/1/16)

 

202. VHP asks political parties to refrain from appeasing minorities (26)

Bengaluru: After uniform code, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Sunday pitched for a uniform population policy in the country for all communities and wanted all political parties to refrain from appeasing the minorities. “The total fertility rate (TFR) and child ratio are uneven across religions and unless uniform measures are adopted it will be difficult to achieve the ideal figure of 2.1 as national fertility rate,” VHP joint general secretary Surendra Kumar Jain told reporters after the two-day Bajrang Dal Akhila Bharata Baitak here. Quoting the Census Report of 2011, he said the Hindu population percentage, which was 84.10 per cent in 1951, came down from to 79.80 per cent. But at the same time, he added that the percentage of Muslim, Sikh and Buddhists has all gone up. “The demon of minorities appeasement policy adopted by certain political parties is badly hurting the country’s growth,” he added. Rajesh Pandey, national convener of Bajrang Dal, said the growing demographic imbalance will become a dangerous threat to India’s very existence. (Times of India 17/1/16)

 

203. Madrasas must teach about Muslim patriots: RSS leader (26)

New Delhi: In the wake of criticism and the growing impression that the BJP is being run by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo and the party’s central team lacks “credible” faces, the RSS asked the saffron party to ensure the new BJP president’s team should have “credible” and “effective” leaders. The RSS, it is learnt, feels that the criticism and the allegation that decision-making in the BJP has been concentrated in the Modi-Shah duo could create problems for the party, given that key states are going to the polls. While Mr Amit Shah is likely to get his first full term as BJP president, the RSS has advised its affiliate that the party president’s new team should be seen as a step to strengthening the central organisation. Mr Shah is currently completing former party chief Rajnath Singh’s term, after he was inducted in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet in the middle of 2014. It may be recalled that in a strongly-worded letter after the party’s Bihar election debacle, BJP veterans including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha had attacked the party leadership for destroying the “consensual character” of the party and alleged that BJP leaders were now “forced to kowtow to a handful”. Speculation is rife that RSS loyalist and BJP general secretary (organisation) Ramlal could be replaced. The names of V. Satish, Shivprakash and B.L. Santosh are doing the rounds as his replacement in the incoming BJP president’s team. With key non-NDA-ruled states like West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh set to go to the polls soon, the new team may see larger representation from these states. But the RSS’s advice is that the new team should also send out a message that the leadership has taken a concerted step in strengthening the organisation and not favouritism. The RSS also feels that instead of Union ministers being asked to brief the media on various issues, unless it directly concerns their respective ministry, the BJP should have “heavyweight” and “proficient” leaders in the central party team. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

204. RSS calling the shots in State BJP (26)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The change of guard in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State unit and the dissensions thrown up by the organisational reshuffle are likely to weigh heavily on the Vimochana Yatra being undertaken by party State president Kummanam Rajasekharan from Kasaragod on Wednesday. Sources said that more than opening the party’s account in the Assembly, Mr. Rajasekharan’s self-imposed brief was to consolidate power. He had been emboldened with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) support, its plan to cash in on the discontent against the rival fronts in the State and the performance in the local body elections. But they maintained that it was not an easy road ahead. The BJP national leadership leaving little scope for democratic dissent within the organisation is learnt to have sowed resentment in the State unit. The Sangh leadership’s claim of having stifled dissent could come unstuck soon after the elections, the sources said. Though the party claims to be riding the crest of a popularity wave across the State, the machinery is focussed in Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad and is reportedly planning to field an array of leaders in the capital. The alliance with the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), it is feared, may estrange the Nair Service Society (NSS), Brahmana Sabha and such others who had always been arrayed behind the party. Moreover, the BJDS is not a force to reckon with in the segments where the party has pinned high hopes, mainly Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad. Sources said the credit for the BJP’s faring well in the recent local body elections went to the RSS, and its machinery was equipped to take up even more greater challenges. It has started work at the grassroots-level too. But this is likely to pave the way for a minority consolidation and its impact needs to be watched again. As party sources said the yatra would be focussing on the lapses of the rival fronts and projecting itself as a third alternative. But like the State government, the Centre too had been unable to effectively intervene in a host of issues such as the Western Ghats, rubber, and farm sector crisis. Above all, the Central decision to do away with the separate NRI Department is likely to be a major campaign plank for the rival fronts. The party has also not been able to clear the air over the Aranmula greenfield airport project and also on declaring Sabarimala as a national pilgrimage centre. But the leadership exuded confidence to tackle such issues and was bullish about the party’s Assembly poll prospects, sources said. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

205. PM Modi to address principals of 1,100 RSS-run schools on Feb 12 (26)

New Delhi: PM Narendra Modi is set to address principals of nearly 1,100 RSS-run senior secondary schools at Vigyan Bhawan on the “role of principals in present academic and social scenario.” The three-day conference will be inaugurated by Modi on February 12 and will also be addressed by HRD Minister Smriti Irani, RSS’s BJP incharge Krishna Gopal, NCERT director Hrushikesh Senapaty and CBSE Chairman Y S K Seshu Kumar. RSS sources said February 12 was chosen for the PM’s address as the day will be observed as Vasant Panchami and Saraswati Puja this year. RSS sources said the programme was confirmed only on Thursday. This is first time since 1991 that Vidya Bharati, the Sangh’s frontal organisation working in education sector, is organising such a conference for principals of senior secondary schools. A senior RSS pracharak told The Indian Express, “We got confirmation from the PMO only on Thursday. The PM will spend around 70 minutes with us. He will address principals and will also have an informal chat with our senior functionaries.” Vidya Bharati is a prominent frontal organisation of the RSS. As many as 56 pracharaks work for it. This is the largest number of pracharaks working for any frontal organisation. Sources in the RSS said that while Atal Bihari Vajpayee had addressed two programmes of Vidya Bharati during his tenure as PM, this will the first time any PM will directly address school principals. (Indian Express 23/1/16)

 

206. Hindu group observes Republic Day as ‘black day’ (26)

New Delhi: Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha observed January 26, Republic Day, as “black day” and took oath to make India a “Hindu Rashtra.” Over hundreds of activists of the Hindutva group waved black flags on the streets of Meerut on Tuesday. Pandit Ashok Sharma, national Vice President of the Hindutva body, has been organising a protest against the Constitution of India since last five decades quite religiously. Tuesday, when entire country celebrated Republic Day, was no different for him. Mr. Sharma, who was quite categorical in declaring that he didn’t believe in Constitution of India, told The Hindu: “The purpose of my life and that of millions of people like me who are present in this country, is to make this country a Hindu Rashtra. Nobody can stop this country from becoming a Hindu Rashtra”.”This is the 51st year I, as an obedient solider of Hindu Mahasabha, have shown black flag to the idea of secular India and the Constitution which declares this nation to be secular,” Mr. Sharma, a man in his late seventies who sports white beard told this correspondent. Mr. Sharma got international limelight last year for coming up with the idea of temple for Nathuram Godse who had killed Mahatma Gandhi. On the occasion of mourning the Constitution of India, Mr. Sharma paid generous homage to Godse the “martyr” who “wanted to save India from Gandhi and his proposal of partition.” “Though the Indian State prevented us from installing Godse’s statue in a temple but we are going to do that one day,” he said. Like Mr. Sharma, Bharat Rajput is also an old Hindu Mahasabha hand who has been actively taking up Hindutva causes. Mr. Rajput, the district president of the Hindutva body, posed a question to this correspondent. “When the partition of India happened, Pakistan became ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan.’ So, why was India not declared to be a ‘Hindu Rashtra?” “The anti-Hindu leaders like Gandhi and Nehru declared this country to be secular. We want to correct the historical mistakes which these people forced on us,” Mr. Rajput declared. After the protest, the Hindu Mahasbha volunteers sent a memorandum to the President of India, like they have been doing since last fifty years, demanding India to be declared a Hindu state. Keywords: Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Republic Day, Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi assasination, Hindu Rashtra, Hindutva group (The Hindu 26/1/16)

 

TERRORISM

207. India won’t buckle under dastardly attacks: Minister Naqvi (12)

Lucknow: The government will not buckle under terrorist acts, union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Saturday, in the wake of the attack at the Indian Air Force base in Punjab’s Pathankot town. The minister of state for parliamentary affairs, while on a visit to Rampur, said the recent stopover by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lahore to wish his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday was a goodwill gesture. “We have always wanted cordial and friendly relations with all our neighbours but there can be no compromise on national security and issues like terrorism,” he said. Claiming that the Pathankot attack was a “sign of frustration and despondency” on part of terror groups, the minister said the day was not far when Pakistan will have to hand over fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Sayeed to India. Naqvi praised Indian Muslims, saying they had not accepted the ideology of the Islamic State militant group, because of which the dreaded organisation has not found base in India. He also said the union government has given Rs.330 crore to the state for the welfare of Muslims. (Business Standard 2/1/16)

 

208. UN chief condemns attack on Indian Consulate in Afghanistan (12)

United Nations: UN Secretary General BanKi-moon has condemned the terror attack on the Indian Consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif and underlined the need to protect diplomatic posts, his spokesperson said. “On the attack on Mazar-e-Sharif, obviously, it is an attack we condemn. Especially in light of what we’ve said, an attack on a diplomatic outpost, that needs to be protected,” Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric told PTI when asked to comment on the terror attack on the Indian Consulate and the assault on the Pathankot Air Force base. On the terror attack on the Pathankot air base, Dujarric said he did not have any comment as the operation there was ongoing. “Yes, on the attack at the air base, the operation is still ongoing. I don’t have anything in particular to say on that. I don’t have enough details to speak to it,” he said. In response to a question on the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Dujarric told reporters here yesterday that under the Vienna Convention, the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and to protect diplomats lies with the countries where these diplomats work and where these missions work. “We have seen in the past years, recently in various places, attacks on diplomatic missions, which the Secretary-General has spoken out against and which he did again this time. But it is clearly the responsibility of the host country to protect diplomatic premises and to protect the lives of diplomats,” he said. An intense 25-hour gun-battle between security forces and terrorists outside the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif came to end last night with the killing of all the attackers who attempted to storm the Mission building. While three of the attackers were killed in the gunfight earlier, the remaining were neutralised by the night. A group of terrorists had attacked the Consulate at around 9.15 pm (local time) on Sunday with an aim of storming the building but their plan was thwarted by the security forces. (Asian Age 5/1/16)

 

209. India names JeM, its chief for Pathankot terror attack (12)

New Delhi: India has named Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the banned terror organisation Jaish-e-Muhammad, as well as the organisation itself and others as being responsible for the Pathankot attack in evidence shared by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval with his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua, according to sources here. JeM goes by two other names in Pakistan, after it was banned in 2002. However, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup refrained from naming any group, while confirming that “actionable intelligence” had been provided to Pakistan. “We have given some information to Pakistan. They have to act on that information. All individuals and groups will be included in that,” the spokesperson said. Asked about the evidence, Swarup said he “cannot make the intelligence public”.On a question whether JeM was named by India in interactions between the NSAs, the spokesperson refrained from giving a direct reply. “This is a matter for investigation by Pakistani authorities on the basis of the evidence that we have provided them. Once they have investigated, we will know the exact identity of who is behind it,” Swarup said. Seven security personnel were killed in the attack early on Saturday morning on the Pathankot Indian Air Force Station by six terrorists who, according to officials, crossed over from Pakistan. All the six terrorists were killed by security forces later. (Business Standard 7/1/16)

 

210. Tribunal to hear NSCN(K) case on January 14 (12)

KOHIMA, Jan 10 – The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal set up by Centre will hear the case of NSCN(K) having been declared an unlawful association later this month at Delhi High Court, the State Government has said. The Registrar of the Tribunal has asked NSCN(K) to appear before it through a duly-authorised person on January 14 at 3 pm in Delhi High Court for further proceedings, the release said. The Centre had set up the Tribunal – comprising Justice Najmi Waziri, a judge of Delhi High Court, for adjudicating whether or not there is sufficient cause for declaring NSCN(K) an unlawful association under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The Centre on September 16 last had declared the outfit as an unlawful organisation for a period of five years under Unlawful Activities (Prevention), Act, 1967. NSCN(K) had abrogated the 14-year-old ceasefire with the Centre on March 27 last year and carried out several attacks on security forces within Nagaland and outside, leading to the death of more than 25 personnel since May, 2015. A split took place within NSCN(K) after the faction led by SS Khaplang abrogated the 14-year-old truce. That led to the creation of a new faction, NSCN-Reformation, by expelled senior NSCN(K) leaders P Tikhak and Wangtin Naga. The signing of a peace accord in 2015 between the Centre and the NSCN-IM brought a ray of hope for an early resolution to the decades-old Naga political issue. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 11/1/16)

 

211. ‘Pathankot squad was more lethal than 26/11 attackers’ (12)

New Delhi: The modus operandi adopted by the terrorists speaks volumes about the precision training they received, says an Intelligence official. After initially refraining from blaming the country, a top government official said on Monday that the terrorists behind the Pathankot airbase attack appeared to have received training from a “professional armed force in Pakistan.” The fidayeen (suicide) squad was more lethal and better trained than the 26/11 Mumbai attackers. They had enough arms and ammunition, including under barrel grenade launchers, for a sustained operation of more than 60 hours against a professional army. An Intelligence official told The Hindu that establishing the identity of the terrorists would be a challenge because Pakistan would certainly not own them up. Security forces inside the air base have found bodies of five terrorists. A sixth one was blown to pieces when the building he had taken refuge in was brought down with explosives on Monday. DNA samples would be preserved, he said.After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Pakistan had refused to accept the bodies of nine Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists killed by the security forces. The tenth terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, the only one to have been captured alive, was hanged in a Pune prison in 2013 and his body was buried on the premises. “We are yet to ascertain the identity of the terrorists as no recoveries have been made. No terrorist group has so far claimed responsibility. The statement by the United Jihad Council (UJC) is only an attempt to give it a Kashmir colour,” said the Intelligence official. The UJC, an alliance of more than a dozen pro-Pakistan militant groups based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, had claimed responsibility for the air base attack. “The attack is a message by Mujahideen [militants] that no sensitive installation of India is out of our reach,” UJC spokesman Syed Sadaqat Hussain said in a statement.Security agencies believe there were six terrorists and they were divided into two groups — one of 4 and the other with 2 members. The modus operandi adopted by the terrorists speaks volumes about the precision training they have received, said the official. “They opened fire at a patrol team at 3.30 a.m., an unusual hour to engage with the enemy. They were clearly aware that the level of alertness would be low at that hour. They did not all come out together, but took on the security forces from different directions. It is suspected that two terrorists might have entered the Pathankot air base before the Superintendent of Punjab Police Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal were abducted by the other four, and much before an alert was sounded about their presence in the area. Mr. Verma, who survived a slit throat, told his interrogators that he heard the four terrorists who hijacked their vehicle talking to their handlers, presumably in Pakistan. The handler apparently ticked them off, asking why they had not been able to enter the air base when two other terrorists had already reached the target. The four explained that they were on their way. They had not been able to reach the base because there were several police pickets on the way. It is possible that the four terrorists entered the Pathankot air base in the morning of January 1, much before an alarm was sounded to secure all vital installations, the official said. (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

212. Delhi Police Special Cell arrests suspected al-Qaeda terrorist from Haryana (12)

New Delhi; A 32-year-old man from Haryana’s Mewat district has been arrested by Delhi Police for suspected links with al-Qaeda, fifth arrest in its ongoing operation against the terror outfit, police said on Monday. Abdul Sami, was arrested by Delhi Police’s Special Cell from Nuh town in Mewat. He was brought here and produced before a court which remanded him in police custody till February 1, Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Arvind Deep said. Sami, a native of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, is alleged to be a key operative of al Qaeda’s module in the Indian sub-continent (AQIS), police said. On January 6, the Special Cell had arrested Maulana Anzar Shah, a cleric from Bangalore, for alleged links with AQIS. In December, they had arrested three suspected AQIS operatives. While Mohammed Asif (41), the first one to be arrested from Seelampur in Delhi, is believed to be one of the founding members and the head (amir) of AQIS’s motivation, recruitment and training wing, another operative Abdul Rahman (37) was arrested from Jagatpur area of Cuttack in Odisha. The third suspected AQIS terrorist to be arrested was Zafar Masood, who allegedly acted as a financier for the module. He was arrested from mohalla Deepa Sarai in UP’s Sambhal district. Shah, the fourth to be arrested, had allegedly met Mohammed Asif at a religious congregation in Bangalore, following which he was introduced to Abdul Rahman and Zafar Masood. He was asked provide logistical support whenever the need arose, said an official privy to the investigation. They were all booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The police have yet not disclosed Sami’s role in the module. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

213. Five Bangladesh militants jailed for 10 years for bombings (12)

Dhaka: A court in Bangladesh on Monday jailed five militants of a banned Islamist group for 10 years over bombings in 2005 that formed part of a series of blasts across the Muslim-majority nation. The Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group set off nearly 500 bombs almost simultaneously on a single day in 2005, including the capital Dhaka. Subsequent suicide attacks on courthouses by its militants killed 25 people and injured hundreds. Five members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group were convicted and sentenced for the explosions in the southeastern district of Rangamati, court inspector Mominul Islam said. “Six militants were charged with the bombings,” he said. “And five of them were convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail, while one was acquitted.” The group, thought to have been lying low since six of its top leaders were hanged in 2007, is blamed for a spate of recent attacks, including the bombings of a Shi’ite shrine and the shooting of three foreigners, two of whom died. In 2015, four bloggers and a publisher were killed in Bangladesh, amid a rise in Islamist violence in which liberal activists, members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have been targeted. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but the government has denied that the militant group has a presence in Bangladesh. At least five militants of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen have been killed in shootouts since November, as security forces stepped up a crackdown on Islamist militants seeking to make the moderate Muslim nation of 160 million a sharia-based state. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

214. ISIS cell busted in Uttarakhand, 4 in plot nabbed (12)

New Delhi: Dreaded global terror outfit ISIS appears to have made its debut in India, with its first major terror attack plot foiled by the security agencies. A group of four self-radicalised Islamic State operatives in Uttarakhand had planned to carry out a series of low-intensity blasts in the Ardh Kumbh mela in Uttarakhand and at some strategic places in New Delhi. The four operatives were allegedly directly in touch with ISIS bosses Shafi Armar, who handles recruitment for Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT), the Indian offshoot of ISIS. A former Indian Mujahideen operative, Shafi is the brother of Sultan, who gained notoriety by becoming the first Indian to die fighting for ISIS in Syria last year. The four suspects, identified as Akhlaq ur-Rehman, Mohammed Osama, Mohammed Azim Shah and Mehroz, were arrested from Manglour town in Uttarakhand’s Hardwar district on Tuesday night and produced in a court here on Wednesday, which sent them to 15 days’ police custody, special commissioner of police (special cell) Arvind Deep said. Their design was to create panic and mayhem with the blasts, that could have led to the death of a large number of devotees in a stampede at the large religious gathering. The plotters also hoped to spark a communal outbreak given the heavy religious symbolism of the event, top sources said. Mr Deep refused to give any more details, including the specific outfit the suspects belonged to, and said: “The national capital faces a threat until the entire module is busted.” The Union home ministry is on its toes and has decided to rework its counter-radicalisation strategy as its policy to tackle the growing ISIS threat had roped in only 13 states, that did not include Uttarakhand. The four suspected ISIS operatives were using social media platforms to remain in touch with ISIS bosses. One suspect, Akhlaq, is also being questioned over the attacks in Pathankot. Sources said Akhlaq was studying for a diploma in engineering and was weaned towards Islamic State by reading inflammatory ISIS posts on Facebook and its online magazine Dabiq. Later, he is learnt to have got in touch with Shafi Amrar, who radicalised him and three others. A large number of incriminating material has been recovered, with sources saying these men were making bombs by collecting explosives from matchsticks, among other things. Also, their involvement in all possible ISIS networks is being verified. The investigators are also looking into whether any of the arrested ISIS operatives had travelled overseas. “The four suspects were tracked down with inputs from a Central intelligence agency. They had planned to carry out terror attacks at the Ardh Kumbh mela, on trains heading towards Hardwar passing through Roorkee and at some strategic locations in New Delhi,” Mr Deep said. The suspects have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The Armar brothers joined the Indian Mujahideen in 2004 and later fled to Pakistan after the Batla House encounter. Shafi’s brother Sultan is reported to have fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2011-12, and then went to Syria where he was anointed “emir” of AuT by Baghdadi. In 2015, Sultan became the first Indian to die fighting for the ISIS. Shafi was then made AuT chief. Earlier this month, Delhi was put on high alert and the city’s security was stepped up after the special cell got inputs on the presence of some key Jaish-e-Mohammed members two days after the Pathankot attack. On Monday, two persons with suspected Al Qaeda links were detained from Mewat in Haryana. However, the special cell has so far claimed to have arrested only one. Senior officials also reviewed Delhi’s security Wednesday in view of the coming Republic Day celebrations. (Asian Age 21/1/16)

 

215. 12 terror suspects sent to NIA custody (12)

New Delhi: A court here on Monday remanded 12 suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) in National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) custody till February 5. During in-camera proceedings, the NIA told District Judge Amar Nath that the accused were involved in recruiting and financing those willing to join the global terror outfit and that their custodial interrogation will help unearth the larger conspiracy. The agency said the accused were also encouraging Indian youths to join the IS. Earlier, the accused, their faces covered, were presented in the court amid tight security. They were brought from different places on trasit remand. The accused are Asif Ali alias Arman Saani, 21, Sayed Mujahid, 33, and Nazmal Huda, all from Karnataka; Suhail Ahmed, 23, Muhammed Abdul Ahad, 46, Mohammed Afzal, all from Bengaluru; A. Mohammad Aleem, 20, from Lucknow; Mohammed Obedullah Khan, 33, and Mohammad Shareef Mounuddin Khan from Hyderabad; Mohammad Hussain Khan, 36, Mudabbir Mushtaq Shaikh from Mumbai and Imran Khan Pathan from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Mohammad Nafees Khan and Abu Anas, 24, Hyderabad are also among the 14 people arrested by the NIA. On Saturday, official sources said all 14 suspects picked up by the NIA in cooperation with state police during raids at 12 locations in six cities on January 22 had been formally arrested. Till Friday, only five of the total 14 were formally arrested. All of them have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. (Business Standard 25/1/16)

 

216. Terror hits unite Delhi, Paris in counter-attack (12)

NEW DELHI: India and France have decided to intensify counter-terror cooperation and asked for decisive action against terror groups like LeT, JeM, Hizbul Mujahideen and al-Qaida. A joint statement, issued after visiting French President Francois Hollande held wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the two countries would work together to disrupt recruitment, prevent terrorists from moving across borders to join groups like the Islamic State, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure and prevent supply of arms to terrorists. “To this end, they committed to further develop exchanges in the fields of intelligence, finance, justice and police. They welcomed the strengthening of the cooperation between Indian and French counter terrorism authorities and units, in particular between their cybersecurity experts,” it said. A joint working group on counter-terrorism will meet and exchange intelligence, information and find other ways to counter radicalisation. The JWG would function under the annual strategic dialogues. There would also be operational exercises between the French GIGN and India’s National Security Guard. “Condemning the recent terror attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur in India, the two countries reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring to justice their perpetrators and the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which also caused the demise of two French citizens, and to ensure that such attacks do not recur in the future,” the statement said.”From Paris to Pathankot, we saw the gruesome face of the common challenge of terrorism… I also commend the strength of your resolve and action these terrorist attacks. President Hollande and I have agreed to scale up the range of our counter-terrorism cooperation in a manner that helps us to tangibly mitigate and reduce the threat of extremism and terrorism to our societies. “We are also of the view that the global community needs to act decisively against those who provide safe havens to terrorists, who nurture them through finances, training and infrastructure support,” Modi said at a joint press event with Hollande.Interestingly, the joint statement listed a long string of terror attacks including the most recent attack on the Bacha Khan university in Charsadda, Pakistan. Making a point of highlighting Afghanistan’s plight as a consequence of terror being exported from Pakistan, India and France said terrorist activities and proxies supported from safe havens across Afghanistan’s borders pose a grave threat to peace, security and stability of Afghanistan. They called on Pakistan to dismantle terrorist sanctuaries and disrupt financial support to terror groups and terrorists. “They called for actions to be taken, consistent with international law, against all entities, including States, that sponsor, provide support, active or passive, to terrorist groups or harbour them,” a separate joint statement on counter terrorism said. .. (Times of India 27/1/16)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

217. Two Maoists killed, four arrested in Bastar (12)

Raipur: Two Maoist guerrillas of the outlawed Communist party of India (Maoist) were killed and four others were arrested in different parts of restive Bastar region of Chhattisgarh on Friday. “The District Reserve Guard (DRG) of Narayanpur district police recovered two dead bodies of uniformed Maoists and apprehended three Maoists during an anti-Maoist operation in Kutul area of Maoists’ undeclared capital Abujhmarh today. Seven weapons, including a 303 rifle, were recovered,” said Mr.S.R.P. Kalluri, the Inspector General of Police, Bastar range. “Keeping in mind the TCOC (Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign) of the Maoists which would be starting from January 2016, the police forces of all districts made a plan to hit the Maoists before they can strike at the security force. In this context, combined parties of different forces were launched in Abujhmad area to intercept and neutralise the Maoists. The forces were given the target of Kutul that is in the heart of Abujhmad area and considered the capital of the Maoists,” he added. The IG also informed that the police parties were attacked by the Maoists near Kutul. “Our men retaliated the fire and the encounter lasted for about two hours. Finally, the Maoists tried to flee away from the area taking the cover of heavy forests. But because of an excellent cordon of the police, three Maoists were nabbed,” he claimed. In a separate incident, Nandu, an active Maoist and deputy section commander of military company number 2, surrendered before Dantewada police. He carried a reward of Rs.8 lakhs on his head. In another incident, Maoist Jan militia Commander Sona alias Sonadhar of Metapal range committee, was arrested by Sukma district police. (The Hindu 1/1/16)

 

218. If Naxals can fight with women cadres, why can’t we: CRPF DG (12)

New Delhi: Keeping with the trend of forces increasingly opening doors for women in combat roles, CRPF DG Prakash Mishra on Tuesday said women personnel from the force will soon be pressed into anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. “If Naxals can fight with women cadres, we can fight better,” said Mishra at an event ahead of the Seventh National Conference for Women in Police that CRPF is hosting this year. Addressing a gathering of senior women police officers among others at the CRPF headquarters, Mishra said, “We will soon be sending more women to most difficult operational areas.” The CRPF has five battalions of women personnel of which four are deployed and one is under raising. However, all women personnel, even those deployed in J&K, are largely restricted to administrative or law and order duties. Women as yet have not been pressed into combat action. Two years ago, CRPF had sent a unit of women fighters to Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh in combat operations. It was part of a pilot project launched to assess feasibility of pressing women personnel in Naxal areas. “It went off well. We want more women to come and fight alongside men. We are now in the process of creating infrastructure for women to be able to function in Naxal areas,” said a senior CRPF officer. Lack of infrastructure, which includes toilets, has been one of the primary roadblocks to women being deployed in tough operational areas. While the cumulative strength of the six paramilitary forces is over 9 lakh, there are just over 18,000 women personnel, making their representation in the central forces less than 3 per cent. (The Indian Express 6/1/16)

 

219. To Naxal land and back: ‘abducted’ trio returns home (12)

Pune: After being held captive by the Maoists for five days, the three Pune youths — Adarsh Deepak Patil (21), Shrikrushna Pandurang Shevale (24) and Vikas Dnyaneshwar Walke (21) — finally reunited with their families on Wednesday. A team of Gadchiroli police escorted them to Pune in a police vehicle. Senior Pune city police officers interacted with the boys for a few hours before they were handed over to their families at the Pune police commissionerate around 5 pm. The trio said they had circulated messages on social media appealing to youths to join their cycle tour “Jodo Bharat” with route “Bhamragad – Dantewada- Sukma – Bastar – Malkangiri – Balimela – Vishakhapatnam” and their intention was to “meet the people”. But finally, only three of them could make it. They left Pune by bus on December 22, carrying cycles on top of the bus, went to Nagpur, briefed Professor Arvind Sovani about their tour and then went to Bhamragad by bus and started cycling. According to them, they reached Basaguda village in Bijapur district on December 29. Soon after they left this place, they were captured by some Naxal supporters. The Naxals then kept them for four nights and five days and questioned them rigorously suspecting their links with the police. On Sunday, Naxals released them near Chintalnar in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh from where the police brought them to Gadchiroli on Tuesday morning. “Naxals questioned us as they suspected us to be police informers or having links with security forces. They found our cycle tour map with routes and places in Maoist areas and grew more suspicious. We showed them our college identity cards and explained that our intention was to understand the people and that we had no connection with the police. On the fifth day, they decided to leave us… I am happy to meet my family now. There was a time when I had lost all hope,” Shevale told The Indian Express. Adarsh said, “The Maoists did not harm us physically, but our movements were restricted. We wanted to go, but they were not leaving us.” Apparently, investigating agencies also questioned the three to confirm why they had planned a cycle tour through Maoist affected areas. However, they went ahead despite warnings given by the local administration. Also, there is suspicion about the ideology followed by the three. Adarsh’s Facebook page has a poem titled “Ha hum hain Naxal (yes we are Naxals)”. Joint commissioner of police Sunil Ramanand told reporters they had interacted with the three and a detailed inquiry would be conducted in this case. Adarsh, however, denied having any support for Naxals. “We had conducted a cycle rally of 900 kilometres last year and visited Sevagram Ashram and projects of noted social workers Prakash Amte and Abhay and Rani Bang. It inspired us to plan the Jodo Bharat cycle tour. We could not finish it, but we now plan to conduct our next tour in North East India,” he said. The youths said they were fond of adventure and liked to understand the society and its people. Professor Sovani said, “The boys met me in Nagpur. It is appreciable if youths, who are not from the government and the police, travel in forests and completely undeveloped areas having high Maoist influence for understanding the situation there. But some precautions should be taken. I am happy the boys have reached home safe.” (Indian Express 7/1/16)

 

220. Odisha: BSF officer, jawan killed in Naxalite IED blast attack (12)

BHUBANESWAR: A BSF officer and a jawan were on Friday killed in a landmine blast carried out by Naxalites when they were out on a bike patrol in the jungles of Koraput district of Odisha. The incident occurred around 1pm when a team of about twenty Border Security Force personnel were returning from an operational task in Dandabari village of the said district on ten motorcycles and the first carrying the team commander and his jawan got trapped into the blast carried out by using a hidden bomb on the dirt track. The jawan driving the bike, constable S P Panda, was killed on the spot while pillion rider and commander of the squad Deputy Commandant Sunil Kumar Behra succumbed to his injuries later. “The two men sustained fatal injuries from shrapnels and heavy explosives used in the IED cleverly hidden and planted under the road by Naxalites. A big crater was created at the spot where the bike was blown off,” officials said. They said the bike was tossed high in the air due to the impact of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast and the rest nine motorcycle-borne teams immediately took positions suspecting a gunfire from hiding Maoists. “However, the Naxalites did not rain heavy gunfire on the patrol party and they escaped into the jungles after firing few shots. The BSF team was returning to its base in Ramagiri from Dandabari village after verifying reports of killing of a civilian by suspected Maoist cadres,” they said. The patrol party led by Behra belonged to the 143rd battalion of the BSF deployed in Koraput for undertaking anti-Naxalite operations. Officials said in order to escape getting trapped into IED and hidden explosive booby-traps in jungle tracks of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, the troops very rarely use four-wheelers and rely on motorcycles for movement. This is a rare incident in the LWE theatre when bike-borne personnel of security forces were hit by a Naxalite planted IED, the most potent weapon used by ultras to target forces in these areas. The BSF has constituted a Court of Inquiry into the incident even as additional forces have been deployed for sanitization of the blast area and adjoining villages for similar IEDs and bombs. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

221. Maharashtra Cops kill two Naxals in encounter (12)

Mumbai: In two back to back encounters with Naxalites in Sandra area of Chhattisgarh close to Maharashtra border in Gadchiroli, the Gadchiroli police along with their Chhattisgarh counterpart gunned down two Naxalites, including a dalam commander on Monday morning. The joint operation in Sandra area of Bijapur district led to first encounter in which Sandra dalam commander Mangi was killed. An Insas rifle and six rounds were recovered from the spot. In the next encounter around noon about two km south of the first encounter, a dalam member was killed. His identity is yet to be established. While the first Naxal group comprised around 12, the other group had 20-25 cadres. “We had knowledge of regular Naxal movement in the area. So an operation was planned with 120 jawans from Gadchiroli police and 60 from Bijapur were pressed into action on Sunday evening. It started early on Monday morning and resulted in two encounters with two different groups of commandos. This is quite a significant success in an area that has rarely seen Naxal casualties,” Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police Sandip Patil told The Indian Express. (Indian Express 12/1/16)

 

222. Chhattisgarh police seeks fortification of 50 police stations in Naxal hit Bastar (12)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh police has sought fortification of additional 50 police stations in the Naxal hit areas of the state, particularly Bastar, in order to effectively counter the threat of Naxalism. These 50 fortified police stations (FPS) would be in addition to the 75 already sanctioned by the union government. While of 40 the 75 approved FPS have already been constructed in the districts of Bastar, Durg and Sarguja, 30 are under construction and are likely to be completed soon. Talking to media Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) anti-Naxal Operations, RK Vij, said the fresh proposal has been sent as the FPS have proved to be an effective way to prevent Naxals from storming into police stations, providing a sense of security to police personnel lodged there.The construction of FPS are part of the union government programme, introduced in 2011, under which 400 police stations in the naxal affected states are to be fortified at a cost of Rs 2 crores each. Vij said while various agencies are involved in the fortification work, the Chhattisgarh Police Housing is constructing them wherever others have denied to work due to security reasons. He said presently there are 42 FPS were for Bastar, 12 for Durg Range and 21 for Sarguja. Setting of a fortified police stations include, a double-storey building, high boundary walls, a sophisticated control room and watch towers. Claiming that 2015 had been a successful year of anti-insurgency operations, Vij said surrenders had seen a massive increase since 2012. “As compared to 39 surrenders of Naxals in 2013, 421 and 327 had surrendered in 2014 and 2015 respectively,” he added.Besides, 46 naxals were gunned down in encounters and the police recovered 167 weapons from their possession. He said 47 security personnel, including 3 CRPF and a BSF jawans, were martyred and 115 were injured Naxal violence in 2015. Vij claimed Naxals interrogated during the period had admitted that finding fresh recruits is getting difficult and there has been a fall in the numbers of the cadres due to increased surrenders. Stressing on the importance of road construction in the strategically important locations in Bastar, Vij said Jagargunda (Sukma) would soon be connected to Aranpur. Similarly Konta would be connected to Golapalli in Sukma and Kistaram in Sukma to Bhadrachalam in Telangaana. (Times of India 13/1/16)

 

223. Four Maoists killed in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur: Police (12)

Raipur: Four Maoists were killed in a gun battle with the security forces on Friday in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said. Police had received a tip off of presence of Maoists in the region after which a team of security forces was dispatched to nab them. When the team reached between Kamkanar and Poddejojer villages, the ultras opened indiscriminate firing at them, Additional DG (anti-Naxal operations) RK Vij told PTI. Police opened retaliatory firing, the senior officer said, adding, the ultras fled the spot after the skirmish which lasted for about an hour. When police inspected the area, the bodies of four Maoists fighters, and some arms and ammunition were recovered from the site, Vij said. The team is still at the spot and the process of retrieving the bodies is on, he said, adding that more information will be available once the team returns. As many as seven Maoists have been killed so far this month in Bijapur. Earlier, an LOS commander was killed on January 6, while two women ultras were gunned down in a joint operation of the state and Maharashtra Police on January 11. (Hindustan Times 15/1/16)

 

224. Woman Maoist commander killed, eight surrender in Bastar (12)

Raipur: A woman Maoist commander was killed and eight others surrendered before police in different parts of restive Bastar region of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday. “An encounter took place between the police and the Maoists between 12 to 12.45 pm today near Bayanar forest of Bijapur district. A woman Maoist commander was killed during the encounter and one 12-bore rifle, one locally made gun and heavy Maoist dumb was recovered from the spot of the encounter,” said statement issued by the police. An official claimed that the number of casualties could be more on the Maoists side as they could be seen dragging dead bodies inside the forest. In a separate incident, eight “Maoists” surrendered before the police in Naraynpur district of Bastar. The surrendered Maoists include two women. The Bastar police, on Tuesday, sent an IAF chopper to Bijapur to bring an injured Maoist to Jagadalpur district headquarters for treatment. “A chopper was sent to Bijapur today to bring Linga Sori, a Maoist who was injured and arrested during Pedia encounter on Monday, for better medical treatment. He will be admitted to Mecoz hospital in Jagadalpur. This gesture from the police will shut the mouths of those so-called human rights activists who term the police-Maoist encounters as fake and at times call the Maoists as innocents,” Bastar district Superintendent of Police, Mr.R.N.Das said in a statement. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

225. Love story of Bastar Maoists ends in a tragedy (12)

Raipur: Zareena and Kiran wanted to marry but their organisation denied permission. He was an area secretary of the Maoists in south Bastar. She was a member of his team. While joining the Maoist organisation, both vowed to fight for “revolution” until their last breath, however, after a few years of guerrilla warfare, they fell in love with each other and started craving for a simpler life. Kiran alias Kamlesh (28), the Malangir area secretary of the CPI(Maoist) and also a divisional committee member, decided to marry Zareena (24), a member of Malangir area committee. The couple asked for their party’s permission. After their senior leaders denied them permission, they planned to leave the party but could not come out of the forest together. “Senior Maoist leaders, who mostly come from Andhra Pradesh, denied them permission to marry. Therefore, Kiran surrendered before the police in May last year on the condition that the police shall emancipate Zareena from the Maoist organisation and conduct their marriage,” Bastar range Inspector General of Police SRP Kalluri said. However, after Kiran’s surrender senior Maoist leaders shifted Zareena to Burgam area. Later on, she was transferred to west Bastar region in the National Park committee, making it difficult for Kiran to approach her. “Kiran, along with other surrendered Maoist Badaru, continued to make serious efforts to reach out to Zareena and bring her to the mainstream but the Maoists were keeping a strict vigil on her,” Mr. Kalluri added. The love story of Kiran and Zareena met with a tragic end on Tuesday when Zareena was killed in an encounter with the police in Bijapur district of Bastar, leaving Kiran heartbroken. “Zereena joined the Maoists in 2005 as a member of National Park area committee. Later on, she was elevated as a Dalam commander and she accompanied senior Maoist leader Ramanna. After some time, she was shifted to the regional company no. 2 and 3. Later on, she was sent to Malangir area committee of Darbha, where she fell in love with Kiran. “Coward Maoist commanders from outside Chhattisgarh exploit woman Maoists of Chhattisgarh origin and they also use them as outer layers of their security cover,” said Mr. Kalluri reacting to Zareena’s death. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

226. Two Maoist leaders killed by security forces (12)

BHUBANESWAR: The two extremists were identified as Puttapaka Kumaraswamy alias Sushil, secretary of Kalinganagar divisional committee and a member of CPI (Maoist)’s State committee, and his wife Sindri Lingo alias Soni, who was also a senior cadre in the Naxalite group. While Sushil, who hails from Warangal district of Telengana, was carrying a cash reward of Rs.20 lakh on his head, Rs 5 lakh reward was announced for his wife Soni. An Insas rifle and Maoist literatures were recovered from the spot. The two cadres along with other members were tracked by security forces during a regular combing operation being carried out in the Debgarh-Angul district border on Saturday night. When the Maoists first opened fire, the security personnel retaliated. There was no casualty or injuries reported on the side of security forces. “Sushil was involved in about 78 cases including 30 murder cases in Keonjhar, Angul, Debgarh, Rayagada and Gajapati districts. He was also involved in blasting of Daitari police station,” said K. B. Singh, Director General of Police, here on Sunday. He was widely involved in a number of instances of Naxal violence in Rayagada and Gajapati districts, Mr. Singh said, adding that police had information about his participation in looting of explosives in Chinduguida IMFA and IDC mines in Jajpur district in 2008. Declining to reveal operational details, Mr. Singh, however, said security forces had carried out a perfect operation without hurting themselves. Meanwhile, combing operation in forested region of Angul-Debgarh area had been intensified with mobilisation of additional forces. (The Hindu 25/1/16)

 

227. Chhattisgarh will soon get rid of Naxal menace: Governor (12)

Raipur: Hailing the efforts of security forces and locals for maintaining peace in the Naxal-affected pockets of Chhattisgarh, Governor Balramjidas Tandon on Tuesday exuded confidence that the state would soon be “free from the clutches” of Maoist menace. “Security measures and development activities have gained momentum in the Maoist-hit Bastar region. Security forces and local people have played a crucial role in maintaining law and order (in the region) and protecting unity and integrity of the country,” he said addressing the 67th Republic Day function at the police line grounds here. “I am confident that the state will soon get rid of Maoist menace and Bastar will witness the light of inclusive development,” he said. Tandon also lauded measures being taken by the state government for the welfare of drought-hit farmers. “This year, Chhattisgarh is going through a severe drought situation and around 80 per cent of the tehsils in it were drought-affected. In this situation, the state government is with farmers and making every possible effort to provide relief,” he said. According to him, financial assistance, waiving farm loans and free power supply to farmers were some of the steps taken by the state government. Appreciating Prime Minister Narendra Modi for launching ‘PM Crop Insurance Scheme’, he said the farmers of Chhattisgarh will be benefited of it.Speaking on the clean India campaign, the Governor said, “We are swiftly heading to achieve goal of ‘Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat’ (clean India, healthy India) with the concentrated efforts of administration, public representatives and community.” “I am happy that 1,200 villages of the state have been freed from open defecation while the target is to cover 5,000 villages under the campaign by the end of this year,” he said. “The state government has been giving special attention to the development of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes, labourers and down trodden. “A special programme has been launched for the inclusive development of special backward tribes and the target under it will be accomplished within two years,” the Governor added. (Times of India 27/1/16)

 

228. Seven dead, six injured in Maoist landmine blast in Jharkhand (12)

Ranchi: At least seven policemen were killed and six others were injured in a Maoist land-mine blast in Chattarpur area of Palamu in Jharkhand. “Seven policemen were killed and six others were injured in a Maoist laid land mine blast at police vehicle in Palamu, Jharkhand. Search operations are underway,” Jharkhand Director General of Police D.K. Pandey told ANI. According to reports, a mini-bus carrying 12 police personnel was attacked by a Maoist in Palamu on Wednesday night. The attack comes after a relatively quiet 2015, when for the first time since 2011, there hadn’t been a single Naxalite attack on police stations in Jharkhand. (Asian Age 28/1/16)

 

TRAFFICKING

229. Woman gets death threats for fighting traffickers (1)

Patna: The brave 30-year-old woman, Ms Fatima Khatoon, who fought and rescued many young girls from various red light areas of Bihar, now wants security for herself and her six young kids. She’s been getting regular threat calls on her mobile phone by some unidentified person who she thinks has been tracking her movement. Ms Khatoon, who lives with her six children in Forbesganj, had lodged a complaint with the local police seeking protection for herself and her young children but she says the police did not take any concrete steps against those who harassed her on phone. “A person has been calling and threatening to kill me, I am scared now not for myself but for my young kids as they are totally dependent on me. I live alone with them, I only want the police to provide us protection but till now what I have received from them is only assurance,” Ms Khatoon, a social worker told this newspaper from Forbesganj on Wednesday. According to Ms Khatoon, she has been fighting human traffickers since her childhood. She said her parents got her married to a 40-year-old brothel owner when she was just nine years old. She recalls that she had started by forming a group when she was still very young as she found girls were being forced into sex trade. “My journey began from my own husband’s house, I was just 12 years old when I helped four women escape from the brothel which was being run by my husband and my mother-in-law and I have never looked back since then but now I have small kids and I want the police to cooperate with me in my work,” she said. (Asian Age 1/1/16)

 

230. 3 minor Adivasi girls rescued (1)

GUWAHATI, Jan 4 – Three minor Adivasi girls were rescued from Dumni area in Baksa district when they were being reportedly trafficked by a group of traffickers this afternoon. The girls aged between 11 to 13 years were being brought to Guwahati when a team of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) intercepted them. Although the traffickers manage to escape from the spot, police said that it was following the movement of the kingpin, who is believed to somewhere in Kokrajhar district. The girls belong to Dumni tea garden in Baksa district. The rescue operation was launched after family members of one of the girls intimated the team of BBA and the police about the developments. “The girls were rescue from Dumni outpost after which a case was also registered,” sources stated. Meanwhile, two more victims of trafficking and sexual abuse from Assam have decided to formally lodge complaint with the Delhi Police. The minor girls complained that before the BBA that they were sexually abused from time to time, said Rakesh Senger, director, BBA while talking to this newspaper. Senger said that BBA is providing all kind of assistance and support to the victims who were brought from Assam to New Delhi recently. He also informed that the BBA, in its effort to raise awareness level in various trafficking affected districts, will launch a mass awareness programme in the State from this month itself. (The Assam Tribune 4/1/16)

 

231. UP couple held for child trafficking (1)

New Delhi: With the arrest of a UP couple, Delhi Police claimed to have busted a child trafficking racket in the city. Cops said that the accused, Nazra and Sohail, used to abduct children from night shelters near Chandni Chowk and sell them to their conduits in Saudi Arabia. Cops rescued a four-year-old child on Wednesday. The victim had gone missing in August last year and was rescued before being sold to a Saudi couple for Rs 30,000.The incident first came to fore when the child’s parents, Chandu and Jubeda, reached the Kotwali police station to report his abduction to the cops. Locals in Chandni Chowk claimed to have seen a woman abducting the child. “A team led by SHO Kotwali, Parmod Kumar, tracked down the woman. She revealed the boy was also to be sold to someone,” said Madhur Verma, DCP, north. The woman, Nazra, was traced to a village near Meerut two months later. The team stayed for about four days in the area to find the whereabouts of the child even as the kidnappers kept changing their locations to evade the cops. Local police teams were also informed about the movement of Nazra. During interrogation, she admitted to the role of an associate, Mohammad Sohail. She claimed that the child was sold off to another trafficker, Fukran, who would hand him over to Saudi “dealers”.Police said that the children abducted were flown to Saudi Arabia with couple posing as their parents. Later, they were kept as bonded labourers. A case under section 370 of IPC has been registered against Nazra and Sohail. Efforts were being made to nab Fukran. Police suspect they had committed similar crimes elsewhere too. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

232. Tribal couple held for trafficking in Giridih (1)

DHANBAD: A group of villagers on Friday morning caught a tribal couple from Jhalakdiha village, 15km from Giridih town, for alleged involvement in human trafficking on Friday morning. Pavindra Kisku, 28, and Nikitmuni Hemram, 26, of Gandey, were handed over to the local police by late afternoon. Police said the couple targeted uneducated youth and minors to take them to Delhi, Mumbai or other big cities and over 50 villagers were sent by them in the past few years. Most of the victims are said to be minors belonging to the tribal communities of the district. “Both have confessed their crime and revealed that they were in the business of trafficking for more than five years. They had recently transported 8 minors from different villages under Taratand PS areas of Gandey block,” said the Giridih DSP, Vijay A Kujur, adding that the couple were getting paid heavily from the concerned middlemen or the agencies. “A case of human trafficking has been lodged against the couple with Taratand PS in this connection,” Kujur said. Around 10am on Friday a few villagers saw a couple wandering in the locality. The villagers, after getting suspicious about them, confined the duo for a few hours and informed the local police. “Soon after getting information, we visited the site. As most of their crime was related to the different villages of Gandey, they were further handed over to the Taratand PS for further probe,” said muffasil PS in-charge, Ajay Kumar Sahu. (Times of India 16/1/16)

 

233. MEA had flagged human trafficking issue in 2014 report (1)

Jalandhar: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had recently revealed that there were 920 Indian detainees in US jails. The information was provided following queries posted to the US department by North American Punjabi Association (NAPA). NAPA executive director Satnam Singh Chahal said they apprehended that most of them were Punjabis and victims of illegal human trafficking. When 22 Punjabi youths were released from a jail in Miami, US, in August it was revealed that 68 more Indians, mostly Punjabis, were confined in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s contract detention centre at Tacoma (Seattle) in Washington State. The arrest dates for these individuals varied widely. “Punjab state administration was failing to check illegal human trafficking even as the issue had been confronting it for several years. We raised this issue with the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and it put this on record in Action Taken Report of September 2014. But nothing was done by the Indian government,” said Chahal. The ATR, while mentioning the issue of refugees, economic refugees, especially from Punjab, noted, “This issue is basically a result of the human trafficking from northern states/UT’s, especially Punjab, Delhi, and Chandigarh etc as persons from these areas move to destinations like USA and Canada illegally and get detained in refugee camps. This issue has been flagged by North American Punjabi Association.” (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

234. Chaos in data a key challenge in fighting slavery and trafficking (1)

New Delhi: International organisations working to tackle slavery and trafficking have a daunting task ahead due to lack of consensus on uniform definition of slavery and a global number to assess the problem worldwide. While the International Labour Organisation (ILO) data estimates that there are 21 million people in the condition of modern day slavery across the globe, Walk Free, an international organisation working to end contemporary slavery and human trafficking puts the figure at 36 million. According to Nick Grono, head of the Freedom Fund, world’s first private donor fund dedicated to ending slavery, measuring the issue is crucial to mobilise resources and to be able to document whether the efforts taken by the organisations to end slavery are making a difference or not. “Data is a powerful a tool to push your governments. When the global slavery index identified India as a government which has large population of slaves, the leading Indian newspaper criticised the government saying that the country that was seeking to become the world superpower got this massive system of exploitation. This is an example of why it is important to measure, contrast, and compare and draw attention to these things,” Grono told HT on the sidelines of Trust Women Conference held in London. Grono was earlier with the Walk Free Foundation that puts out the Global Slavery Index. The 2014 Index estimates India and Pakistan alone account for over 45% of total global enslaved population and have highest prevalence of modern slavery in Asia. The report says, “India’s modern slavery challenges are immense. Across India’s population of over 1.2 billion people, modern slavery occurs in brick kilns, carpet weaving, embroidery and other textile manufacturing, forced prostitution, agriculture, domestic servitude, mining, and organised begging rings. Labour is particularly prevalent throughout India with families enslaved for generations.” A man passing by a wall carrying anti-trafficking message in Jharkhand’s Gumla district (India). (Vipin Kumar/ Hindustan Times) Surveys done at different points of time, no uniform definitions and different methodologies adopted by various institutes are key reasons for confusing numbers. Experts believe that the lack of uniform data not only makes it difficult to fight slavery, wrong classification can end up harming the vulnerable population than helping them. The ILO acknowledges that discrepancy in figures is an issue. The International Conference for Labour Statistics, under the ILO, is working on operational definitions for forced labour and expects the process to be complete by 2018, said Leanne Melnyk, technical officer, forced labour and trafficking, ILO. “There has been an international recognition that we do need to have a common understanding of how to do nation- wide surveys on forced labour,” said Melnyk. According to Matt Friedman, CEO, The Mekong Club, part of the problem is that unlike HIV/ AIDS and poverty, trafficking, donor agencies never paid attention to issues related to human trafficking. “Two decades ago, when we went to donor communities asking for data, we would hear responses such as we don’t have time for data collection and research or it is too time consuming and expensive, we got to help those people right now. We should have acted back then,” said Friedman. (Hindustan Times 20/1/16)

 

235. CBI to probe abuse at Trichy home (1)

MADURAI: Anti-human trafficking activism got a shot in the arm on Wednesday , when the Madurai bench of the Madras high court asked the CBI to probe allegations of child trafficking and abuse against an unauthorised children’s home Mose Ministries in Trichy where 89 girls were recently found housed in violation of every norm governing homes for rescued children. A division bench of Justice V Ramasubramanian and Justice N Kirubakaran asked the joint director of CBI to appoint an officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police, preferably a woman officer, specialized in anti-human trafficking case, and investigate allegations of trafficking as well as abuse. The team should also take the help of a team of experts from NIMHANS, Bengaluru, to counsel the children and liberate them from any obsessive mindset, if any. After this, they should ascertain from the children whether they had been abused. As most children reportedly belong to Usilam patti in Madurai district, the team should visit hospitals in that region and consult doctors and nurses to find out the adoption methods employed by the institution to take in the children. Some parents have submitted petitions to the collector claiming the children in the home were theirs. DNA tests shall be conducted on such parents and children to ascertain the claims, the judges said. They added that there was prima facie reason to believe children in Mose Ministries Home were trafficked or held against their will. Authorities of the home, however, claimed the children were either deserted by their parents or orphaned and didn’t know anything about their background. The fact that records pertaining to the children were missing made it murkier. The order has come on a PIL filed by director of ChangeIndia A Narayanan claiming that 89 girls in the home were being held in violation of human rights and provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

236. HC orders CBI probe into trafficking in unauthorised girls’ home (1)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the affairs of an unauthorised girls’ home run by Tiruchi-based Mose Ministries, which claimed to have sourced all its 89 inmates, including 35 minors, from Usilampatti near here after rescuing them from female infanticide since 1994. Passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition, Justices V. Ramasubramanian and N. Kirubakaran directed the Joint Director, CBI, Chennai, to depute a team led by an officer in the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, specialised in anti-human trafficking issues, to hold “an investigation into allegations of trafficking as well as abuse.” Suggesting that the investigating team could comprise lady officers to the extent possible, the judges said: “The team so nominated shall take the assistance of a team of experts from National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, to speak to the children, counsel them and first liberate them from any obsessive mindset if they have.” They also ordered that the investigators should make enquiries with doctors and nurses employed at hospitals in Usilampatti to find out the modus operandi adopted by the home for procuring the children besides arranging for DNA test on people who had claimed to be the parents of some of the inmates after the filing of the case. Directing the investigating team to file a status report in the court by the second week of April, the judges made it clear that a committee appointed by them under the chairmanship of Tiruchi Collector on December 7, after overthrowing the management led by Pastor Gideon Jacob of Mose Ministries, shall continue to administer the home until further orders. They also directed the pastor to deposit Rs.4 lakh, apart from Rs.6 lakh already deposited by him as ordered last month, with the committee for managing the home since he had taken the children in batches to Germany and Poland, using passports obtained through “dubious” methods and on the strength of guardianship certificates issued by some government officials, to raise donations. Though the pastor had feigned ignorance about the parentage of the inmates and claimed that all of them had been abandoned by their parents on the doorsteps of his institution in Usilampatti, the Tiruchi District Social Welfare claimed that her subordinates had recently laid their hands on a register that contained details of the parents. Hence, the judges directed CBI to utilise those documents. In the order passed last month, the judges said that they were not inclined to order immediate closure of the home and shift the inmates to other authorised homes. (The Hindu 21/1/16)

 

237. CB-CID arrests five for forcing girl into prostitution (1)

CHENNAI: The Crime Branch CID police on Thursday arrested five persons, including two women, who forced a girl into prostitution after promising her good employment. According to an official release, a juvenile girl who was compelled into commercial sex was rescued by the Anti Trafficking Cell of the CB-CID in 2014. She was lodged in a home where another inmate promised to help her in getting a good job. The victim escaped from the home and met the woman who along with others forced her into prostitution again. The accused Fathima, her mother Saira Banu, Senthil, Jayaraj and Mahendran, staff of a guesthouse in Kovalam, were arrested. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

238. 3 minor girls ‘trafficked’ to Delhi (1)

Gumla: Three minor girls, including one from Kasturba Gandhi Girls School in Gumla, are suspected to have been sold by traffickers in Delhi and other places. The matter came to light when the parents of the girls lodged a complaint with the district child welfare committee (CWC) fearing that the traffickers had sold their daughters after luring them with false promises. The CWC will refer the complaint to the district anti- human trafficking unit (AHTU) for registering a case against traffickers, who are already in jail in another case, on Monday. “Deosar Lohra, the father of the girls, has lodged a complaint that two sisters one studying in Class VIII at Kasturba Gandhi Girls School, Baghima (Palkot) and her younger sibling studying in the Sarubeda Primary School under Palkot police station in the district were allegedly trafficked to Delhi and sold there by two traffickers Sudarshan Singh and his wife Lalita Devi,” said CWC member Alakh Narayan Singh. The trafficker duo, who happen to be the distant relatives of Lohra, had visited his house in August last year and suggested to him to send his daughters to Delhi where they would earn money and support him, Singh said. Though Lohra did not agree, both minor girls were lured to Delhi within a couple of days. Since then both are traceless. When Lohra contacted the trafficker, they kept telling him that they were working in Delhi and would return soon. Lohra now suspects that his daughters were sold by the traffickers. Ultimately, Lohra approached CWC, added Singh. In another incident, a minor girl from Baghima-Semra village under Palkot police station is traceless for last 11 years, her father Jhaman Lohra has stated in his complaint. When she was 6-7 years old, she was trafficked to Delhi or some other city by traffickers, Jhaman suspects, according to Singh. “About 150 cases of human trafficking and missing persons, which were later converted into trafficking cases were registered with Gumla CWC while about 50 of them were rescued in 2015,” said CWC chairperson Tagren Panna. In 2015 , a total of 88 cases of human trafficking were filed with Gumla AHTU, according to SP Bhimsen Tuti. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

239. Many rescued kids not on Jharkhand cops’ missing list (1)

Ranchi: More than 75% of the children recently rescued by the state police were from Jharkhand, a hub of inter-state child trafficking, and a majority of them were not on the cops’ missing list, according to police’s Operation Muskan-II figures. Anti-human trafficking activist Baijnath Kumar said this showed how reluctantly the police pursued the missing child cases as many of the rescued children were not on their list. “They are just not serious about missing children. Barring a few, still many policemen in rural areas do not want to lodge FIRs in child-related cases,” he said. At least 249 were rescued during the operation, which was launched in the end of December by the police with a list of 464 missing children. The operation was carried out by 10 teams comprising about 100 policemen. Out of the rescued, 188 were found working in factories and garages within the state. According to figures with the state police, more than 1000 Jharkhand children have been reported missing since 2000. But, nobody knows how many have been rescued so far, the activists said. Member of the state child labour commission Sanjay Mishra said, “The police are rescuing children, but not fining the employers or taking any actions against them…this itself shows the lack of awareness (and interest).” The Jharkhand police had launched Operation Muskan-I in 2015, first in April and second in July and had rescued about 248 children then. Inspector general (Organized Crime) Sampat Meena admitted the fact and said it was possible that the children were not properly searched in the past. She said that only “some of the rescued children during the operations were found in the police record of missing children here…there was a lack of awareness and sensitivity among policemen at the ground level, which is gradually changing.” However, she said that things were moving in a positive direction after the policemen were sensitised about the child rights and the importance handling the cases related to the missing children. (Hindustan Times 25/1/16)

 

CORRUPTION

240. No minister should hold post in BCCI: Lodha panel (5)

NEW DELHI: Justice Lodha Committee’s report has recommended a host of reforms for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday. Here are ten of the recommendations: 1. Legalize betting. The panel felt that the move would help curb corruption in the game and recommended that except for players and officials, people should be allowed to place bets on registered sites. 2. Separate governing bodies for IPL and BCCI and one association of each state will be a full member of BCCI and have a right to vote. 3. The chief governing body in the IPL will be known as the governing council, which will comprise nine members. The secretary and the treasurer of the BCCI will be ex-officio members of this IPL governing council. Two other members of the IPL governing council will be nominated/elected by the full members. Of the remaining five, two will be the nominees of franchises, one will be a representative of the players association (so one needs to be formed), one will a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s office. 4. The panel gave a clean chit to former IPL COO Sundar Raman in connection with the 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal, citing lack of evidence against him. 5. A robust agent registration system to safeguard players and there will be a steering committee to include Mohinder Amarnath, former India women’s captain Diana Eduljee, and Anil Kumble. They will take up matter with BCCI for formation of players’ association in light of suggestions from the report. 6. Three other authorities which will have a distinct role: a. An ombudsman, whose task is to preside over the internal dispute resolution mechanism in the BCCI, grievances regarding access to stadiums and ticket selling process can also be brought before the ombudsman by anyone. The ombudsman should be a judge of the supreme court or a retired judge of the high court. b. The second authority is an ethics officer whose task is to administer the issues relating to the conflict of interest, misdemeanour, misbehaviour or corruption issues. The ethics officer proposed by Lodha would be a former high court judge. c. The third authority proposed is an electoral officer who will oversee the entire BCCI election process relating to the office bearers, namely preparation of voters list, publication, disputes over eligibility of the office bearers … all these matters relating to election shall be overseen by the electoral officer. The electoral officer will be nominated at least two weeks before the date of election, and such electoral officer should be a former election commissioner of India. 7. The office bearers of BCCI – president, VP, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer, certain eligibility criteria has been fixed like, he must be an Indian, he must not be above age of 70, he must not be insolvent, he must not be a minister or a government servant, and who has not held office in the BCCI for a cumulative period for nine years. … (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

241. Rs 80-Lakh Fraud Found in Yogam Scheme (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a major setback to SNDP general secretary Vellappally Natesan, the Vigilance has unearthed irregularities of Rs 80.3 lakh in the Yogam’s micro finance scheme. The Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau on Wednesday submitted before the Vigilance court here that they came across the irregularities during the investigation. The Vigilance legal advisor said this during the hearing of the case filed by Opposition leader V S Achuthananadan against Natesan, the first accused and three others, seeking an inquiry into the alleged corruption in the scheme. The court asked the Vigilance to submit the report in a sealed cover. The next hearing is scheduled for Jan 11. The Vigilance informed that it had recommended a departmental inquiry against Backward Development Corporation former MD Najeeb. But no action was taken against him as he had retired from service, the legal advisor told the court. Advocate S Chandrashekaran Nair appearing for VS filed more documents in the case. The other accused are SNDP president M N Soman, SNDP Yogam micro finance state coordinator K K Mashean and Najeeb. (New Indian Express 7/1/16)

 

242. Corruption leeches funds from CSR projects in tribal areas (5)

Even as the State government strives to align corporate funds with its developmental activities, the Maharashtra Lokayukta has been receiving a steady stream of complaints from tribal pockets around Mumbai alleging diversion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds. Following complaints of leakages and corruption at the village and taluka level, especially in tribal gram sabhas and gram panchayats on the city’s periphery, the Lokayukta this week issued orders for FIRs to be filed against officials, gram sabha and gram panchayat heads for diverting and siphoning off CSR funds meant for development work in Thane and Palghar districts. Based on the Lokayukta’s orders, Palghar police have registered an FIR against four persons including two engineers, a gram sevak and the sarpanch of Akarpatti gram panchayat, but are yet to make arrests. “We are awaiting the final report form the Lokayuta, following which we will take further action in the case,” a senior IPS officer told The Hindu on Friday. Engineers and officials of the Akarpatti gram panchayat came under the scanner after a Lokayukta investigation established that Rs 58 lakh of CSR funds meant for road works in villages was siphoned off. The CSR initiative in Palghar was being undertaken by the Nuclear Power Corporation Limited (NPCL) for construction of roads in the remote regions of Dahanu taluka . “Massive irregularities were found in road works carried out by Meghana Enterprises. While much of the road work was never done, Rs 21.78 lakh was pocketed by the gram sevaks and sarpanch with the help of the engineers. We have ordered an FIR after hearing all sides. There is very little monitoring of CSR funds in the village areas, and the system must be improved by various auditing mechanisms,” a Lokayukta official said. Activists working in the region say in the absence of sustained funding from the government for local works, CSR activities are a much-needed relief to complete smaller projects like construction of small check dams and storage tanks, which provide donations of labour or borrowings. However, none of these are monitored efficiently by district authorities. Forest rights activist Milind Thatte said, “In Thane and Palghar districts, development is a continuous process carried out with the help of local people and non-profit organisations working with CSR funds in the area. There is little or no monitoring of how these funds are being spent.” On Friday, the Governor met over 30 major corporate houses and leaders to invite investment in sectors where the government could need help., including tribal development, forest conservation, education and Internet penetration in rural areas. Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the government will highlight such areas for private and public sectors to invest. (The Hindu 9/1/16)

 

243. Allegations against Jaitley based on facts: Kejriwal to HC (5)

New Delhi: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal today claimed that the allegations he had made against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the DDCA row were based on “true facts and documents in public domain” and that his claim he has high public character was “frivolous”.Responding to a notice issued by the Delhi High Court on a civil defamation suit by Jaitley against him and five other AAP leaders, Kejriwal said in a statement filed before the court registrar that he had made the allegations in public interest to eradicate corruption from sports. Senior advocate H S Phoolka, lawyer for Kejriwal, said the chief minister has said in a written statement that “the allegations are true and have been in public domain for last many years. “The venture (DDCA) did not take any steps to challenge these allegations for all this period. It raises a presumption of truthfulness of these allegations,”  he claimed. Phoolka told reporters that “the allegations are made in public interest to eradicate corruption from the field of sports”.AAP’s senior leader and party spokesperson, Raghav Chadha, also filed his response to the notice. Elaborating on the contents of his reply, he claimed that no injury has been caused to the reputation of Jaitley. He maintained that he and the Chief Minister have a similar stand  and said that Jaitley’s “claim that he enjoys a high public character is totally frivolous and unsustainable.” “The last time he contested the election to the Lok Sabha was from Amritsar as a BJP candidate in 2014. Despite the success of the BJP, this plaintiff lost by a margin of more than 1,00,000 votes. Indian democracy has never accepted his claim of public character,” they said in their reply. The High Court on December 22 last year had sought the response of Kejriwal, Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai–on a civil defamation suit by Jaitley seeking Rs 10 crore in damages from them for issuing allegedly false and defamatory statements against him and his family. Phoolka said they have submitted over 2000 pages of documents along with three CDs in support of the allegations. It is learnt they have annexed Delhi and District Cricket Association’s (DDCA) annual meeting notings which as per the AAP leaders establishes the allegations against Jaitley.  They have also submitted DDCA’s minutes of meetings and phone records, Phoolka said. The counsel said that Kejriwal has questioned why BJP MP Kirti Azad was not made a party to the suit. Jaitley’s action had come in the backdrop of attacks on him by Kejriwal and other AAP leaders over alleged irregularities and financial bunglings in DDCA of which he was the president for about 13 years till 2013. The minister has also filed a criminal defamation complaint in a Delhi court against Kejriwal and the five AAP leaders for making false allegations about financial irregularities in DDCA. In his suit, Jaitley has said Kejriwal and other AAP leaders, with common intention, have from December 15, 2015, “undertaken a false, malicious and defamatory campaign against him and his family members for political mileage causing irreversible damage to him”.It was done to deflect issues from an unrelated search during investigation by CBI of a bureaucrat in the secretariat of the Delhi government based on a complaint by a third party, Jaitley has said. (Deccan Herald 12/1/16)

 

244. Corruption was ‘embedded’ in IAAF: WADA report (5)

MUNICH: IAAF leaders must have been aware of the full extent of doping in Russia but did nothing to stop it, and the track and field organization itself was riddled by corruption, a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel said on Thursday. “It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged,” said the report, written by former WADA head Dick Pound and presented at a news conference in Munich. “It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting … athletics in Russia. If, therefore, the circle of knowledge was so extensive why was nothing done? Quite obviously there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia.” The report added, “The corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own.” The report laid considerable blame at the feet of the IAAF Council, the overseeing body that included the now president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe. Coe was in the audience as Pound presented his findings. The report said council members “could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism that operated within the IAAF,” and also “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping.” The report found that former IAAF president Lamine Diack “was responsible for organizing and enabling the conspiracy and corruption” that took place at IAAF. It said Diack “sanctioned and appears to have had personal knowledge of the fraud and the extortion of athletes.” Pound’s first report, issued in November, detailed a state-sponsored doping program in Russia involving corruption and cover-ups. That led the IAAF to suspend Russia’s track and field federation, leaving its athletes in danger of missing this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (The Hindu 14/1/16)

 

245. Need to change Whistleblowers Act to protect witnesses: CVC (5)

New Delhi: There is a need to bring some provisions in Whistleblowers Act to protect witnesses that would provide confidence to those who expose corruption, Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary said here on Monday. He also emphasised upon making public aware on the procedure to file complaints under Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informer (PIDPI), widely known as whistleblower resolution. Chowdary said a whistleblower is the one who has the direct and personal information or leads which are very useful in an investigation. “In my view it is only that category of people need to be brought into the whistleblower not anybody and everybody who files petition. “The other important thing and I am concerned more about is the witness protection. The witness is a person or an expert is a person who stake their life. They stand in a witness box and tell the truth. They tell the truth that could lead to a conviction,” he said addressing a roundtable interaction with Chief Vigilance Officers of public sector undertakings and Chief Compliance Officers of private companies. Chowdary said witnesses may have to face consequences whether it is a criminal case or civil. “We need to bring some provisions in our Whistleblowers Act which would have an overriding effect on the Evidence Act…Some mechanism unless we bring in, it may be difficult to give confidence to whistleblowers or witnesses,” he said. There is a need to apply some filters as to who needs protection under the PIDPI or whistleblowers Act “not anybody and everybody who files petition” should get it, he added. “This is not relevant for public sector alone. In the private sector also, there is a huge amount of whistleblowing which needs to be answered,” the CVC said. He said there is a need to make people aware as to how to file complaint under PIDPI resolution. “Not only we need to make these laws, but we need to take these to people and then guide them how these should be used. How to make it so that people do get the benefit and they don’t take the backlash of making the complaint,” Chowdary said. Parvez Hayat, President of Vigilance Study Circle (Delhi and NCR), said private companies need to focus on having forensic tools to check corruption and illegal practices there. “The companies need to focus how to check misuse of technology to prevent illegal activities,” he said in the event organised by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

246. Coal Scam: Ex-MoS Coal Dilip Ray, 5 Others Summoned as Accused (5)

NEW DELHI: Dilip Ray, who was Union Minister of State for Coal during the erstwhile NDA government in 1999, has been summoned as an accused along with five others in connection with a coal block allocation case by a Special Court here. Ray is the first minister of the NDA government who has been summoned as an accused in a coal scam case.  Besides Ray, the court has also summoned Pradip Kumar Banerjee, who was the then Additional Secretary in Ministry of Coal (MoC), Nitya Nand Gautam, who was the then advisor (projects) in MOC, Castron Technologies Ltd, its director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla and Castron Mining as accused in the case.   The case pertains to the alleged irregularities in allocation of Brahmadiha coal block in Giridih in Jharkhand to Castron Technologies Ltd in 1999. Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar summoned these four persons and the two firms for the alleged offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 409 (Criminal breach of trust) of IPC and under the relevant provisions of Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act. The court summoned these accused after taking cognizance of CBI’s charge sheet filed against them in the case.  In its order, the court said there were “prima facie” enough evidence to summon them as accused in the case.  “The public servants, in fact, actively connived with private parties involved so as to facilitate misappropriation of nationalised natural resources of the country by them,” the judge said in its order.   (New Indian Express 18/1/16)

 

247. ACB Unearths Rs 10 Crore Assets in Raid on Excise Official’s House (5)

HYDERABAD: A 55-year-old assistant commissioner of excise and prohibition, currently working as chief manager of APBCL in West Godavari was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for amassing illegal assets worth of Rs 10 crore. On a tip off, the ACB officials carried out simultaneous raids on the house of Mamillapalli Adiseshu, assistant commissioner, Excise & Prohibition, presently working as Chief Manager, APBCL, Chagallu, West Godavari district located at Hyderabad and found illegal assets. The ACB officials also raided the houses of accused officer’s friends and relatives located in various places and seized documents. During the searches, one flat at Vijayawada, eight plots at Kakinada of East Godavari district, Bikkavolu of West Godavari district and Nallapadu of Guntur district, 17 land documents for the extent of 22.65 acres, cash of Rs 2.82 lakh were recovered at his residence, bank balance in different banks for Rs 28 lakhs, FDRs for Rs 5.5. lakh, one Honda car, one Pulser bike, gold 540 gram and silver 2.5 kg, 24 promissory notes for Rs 30 lakhs together with blank cheques, were found. Apart from these illegal assets, some promissory notes found are to be calculated and two lockers yet to be opened. Searches are going on. Assets and cash worth about Rs 1.50 crores of disproportionate assets were unearthed. The current market value of seized assets is said to be Rs 10 crore. The accused officer Adiseshu was arrested by the ACB officials and produced in court. (New Indian Express 21/1/16)

 

248. Bar bribery scandal: Kerala excise minister K Babu resigns (5)

Thrissur: Kerala excise minister K Babu, who has been facing corruption charges over a bar bribery case submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The resignation was put forth by the minister after the court ordered the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to register a case against him. The Vigilance Court also ordered that the first report in the case should be filed by February 22. The order was issued by Thrissur Vigilance Court Judge S S Vasan, who criticised the Vigilance for the slow progress in filing Quick Verification Report (QVR) ordered earlier by the court. After submitting his resignation to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Babu said he was victim of ‘conspiracy’ by bar owners with support of CPI-M. The court also ordered that a case be registered against Biju Ramesh, bar hotelier, who had levelled the bribery allegations against the Minister. Biju Ramesh, also the Working President of Kerala Bar Owners Association, had alleged that Rs 10 crore was given to Babu for renewal of licences of liquor bars. Babu will be the second state minister to be booked by the vigilance over the bar bribery charges after the then Finance Minister K M Mani who quit in November last following adverse remarks by the High Court against him in the matter. The allegation against former Finance Minister KM Mani was that he received a bribe of Rs 1crore from Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association (KBHA) for allowing renewal of bar licences between March 20, 2014 and April 3, 2014 while Babu was accused of receiving Rs 10 crore from KBHA for not raising the annual fees of bar licensees. Responding to the court directive, Opposition leader V S Achutanandan sought Babu’s resignation immediately. “Babu should resign without any delay”, he demanded. In the present case, the Vigilance had sought one more month’s time to complete the QVR, which was to have been submitted today. The court granted time to file the first report by February 22, but made it clear that a case should be registered and probe conducted. The probe will be monitored by the court. The court also expressed displeasure at the contention of the Vigilance that the transfer of an SP was one of the reasons for the delay in completing the report. The judge wanted to know if the Vigilance had taken evidence from Babu and whether his home and assets had been searched for the alleged bribe amount. It was based on the charge by Ramesh that the Vigilance had filed a case against Mani, who is the supremo of UDF partner Kerala Congress (M). (Asian Age 24/1/16)

 

249. Solar scam: FIR ordered against Kerala CM; Left wants him to quit, he says no (5)

Thrissur: A court here on Thursday told Kerala’s vigilance department to file an FIR against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on corruption charges in the solar panel scam. The Left immediately asked Chandy to resign. He refused to, saying he had done no wrong.The Thrissur Vigilance Court also directed a First Information Report to be registered against Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed. The direction followed a petition by activist P.D. Joseph after Saritha Nair, a key accused in the scam, told the judicial commission probing the matter that she gave Rs.1.90 crore in bribes to Chandy. She said on Wednesday that this done in two instalments and was part of the Rs.7 crore bribe demanded by Chandy through his then staff member Jikumon. Saritha Nair said she also paid Rs.40 lakh to minister Mohammed. In response to the court’s direction, Chandy told reporters in Malappuram that he had a clear conscience. “I have done no wrong. I will face the probe and cooperate with it,” he said. Asked if would resign, Chandy shot back: “For what?” His ministerial colleague Mohammad also said: “We have done no wrong. I will cooperate with the investigation that has been ordered.” Meanwhile, CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters that Chandy has to quit immediately. “The court has made its intentions clear through the FIR, and Chandy has only one way now to go forward and that is to quit at the earliest,” said the Communist Party of India-Marxist leader. The scam erupted in 2013 when a fradulent company, Team Solar, allegedly used two women to weave political contacts and duped several influential people of large sums of money by offering to make them business partners or by setting up solar panels. Sources close to Chandy told IANS that he was speaking to lawyers to prepare a legal response. The corruption allegations threaten to derail the Congress-led United Democratic Front’s (UDF) bid to retain power in assembly elections to be held this year. Congress leader and former Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony and party president Sonia Gandhi are reported to have discussed the issue along with Mukul Wasnik, who is in charge of the party affairs in the state. State Congress president V.M. Sudheeran has held talks with Gandhi while Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has cancelled all his programmes for the day. (Zee News 28/1/16)

 

250. ACB to file Chhagan Bhujbal chargesheet in a month (5)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau on Thursday informed the Bombay high court that it would file chargesheet in connection with disproportionate assets case against NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal within a month. The division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite Dere also directed the Enforcement Directorate to take action against directors of companies who are not cooperating in investigation. The judges asked the agency to take action after it stated before the court that a few of the directors are not cooperating in the investigation. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seeking registration of FIR against Bhujbal. The ACB had in June last year registered two FIRs against him. On Thursday the bench asked both the agencies, ACB and ED, to file progress report in four weeks on their investigation against Bhujbal and his family members. The bench said in cases where the allegations are serious in nature and are levelled against people holding important positions, monitoring is necessary. During hearing the ACB informed the court it would file the chargesheet against Bhujbal and his family members in a month. The chargesheet would be filed in two cases where these people are facing charges of involvement in Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land grabbing case. The first one was related to alleged irregularities in allotment of a prime plot at Kalina in Mumbai to a developer. The second case was for alleged rampant corruption and large-scale irregularities in the construction of the new Maharashtra Sadan, the state government’s guesthouse in Delhi. The ACB further informed the court that in three allegations against Bhujbal, the agency has not found any material that discloses FIR. Another case was registered by Navi Mumbai police concerning a housing project scam wherein `44 crore were collected from over 2,000 people for houses in a project ‘Hex World’, promoted by a realty firm owned by the Bhujbal family. Meanwhile the ED reiterated before the court that it has registered two Economic Case Information Reports (ECIR) against Bhujbal under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) but it can go ahead with the investigation and file an FIR only after the ACB files its chargesheet. (Asian Age 29/1/16)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

251. Vehicles contribute most to air pollution (9)

PUNE: The city’s air quality could soon be as bad as that in Delhi, courtesy heavy vehicular emission.

According to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) data, the city’s air pollution has increased by 35.7% since 2010. The percentage of pollutants in the air from vehicular emission has increased manifold as compared to that from other sources. Poor monsoon last year and below normal minimum temperature are also responsible for poor air quality in the city of late. Expressing concern about the rising pollution in Delhi, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis underlined the need for new green technologies and reigning in vehicular emission during his speech at an Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) event in the city on Sunday . “The major cause of pollution in Pune is transport. Its emission has increased by 1215% in the past three years,” sa id System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) programme director and IITM scientist Gufran Beig. “Also, since the minimum temperature in both Pune and Mumbai were very low – lower than expected, the air quality level deteriorated,” he said. Beig explained that emission levels were proportional -though not directly proportional -to the air pollution. If the emission level could be reduced, pollution would also decrease, he said. Mangesh Dighe, the environment officer of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), said, “The level of pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter below 2.5 microns is higher than the prescribed level in the city .They have increased over the years. Vehicular emission -the source of particulate matter 2.5 -pollutes the city the most. The 2.5 particulate matters are dangerous because they could enter deep into lungs and cause health hazards.” “The dust particles or particulate matter 10 is also high in the city and above the prescribed level,” he added. .. (Times of India 5/1/16)

 

252. Biodiversity database for smart city initiative to be launched soon (9)

MYSURU: A biodiversity database for urban India will be prepared for better species diversity management, dovetailed to the smart city initiative. The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, has made a proposal in this regard to its parent organisation, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has given its consent. Speaking to presspersons on the sidelines of the Indian Science Congress (ISC) here, Sudarshan Kumar, Senior Principal Scientist and Head, Bioinformatics and ICT of NBRI, Lucknow, said the database would be launched in three months. He said the core infrastructure of a smart city demands sustainable environment and health, and the portal will be helpful in this regard. “The prototype of the web portal has been launched and from the ongoing ISC session, ideas have been generated by the participants that would be developed over the next three months,” said Prof. Kumar. Each city has its own biodiversity, but the details should be made known to the public and local authorities as to how best to manage it, he said. The portal will help identify as to which species would be suitable for growing in a particular environment. The CSIR has agreed that the portal on biodiversity would be one of the three priority areas of the NBRI, said Prof. Kumar. To start with, the NBRI will upload the published database pertaining to the local biodiversity of each city, including the varieties of plants and trees that are endemic to it. Local universities and members of the public can also submit details, which will be uploaded in the database after authentication by NBRI experts. Besides containing the database, the portal will also be an attempt to help the public and local bodies in enabling them to make the best choice for local plantation. This project will be one of the core outputs for the smart city initiative from the CSIR, he said. (The Hindu 7/1/16)

 

253. IBM to help Delhi tackle air pollution (9)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi government has roped in technology major IBM to study and collect data on the effect of vehicular traffic on the quality of air in a bid to tackle rising air pollution levels in the national capital. IBM will join hands with Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC), a think tank of the state government, for a three month pilot programme that will provide the government with relevant insights and recommend suitable policies to improve air quality of the city where air pollution levels have shot up to ‘severe’ warning category. “Vehicular traffic and dust are two main sources of pollution in the national capital. The study will help policy makers come up with ways to deal with it,” said Ramesh Gopinath, vice president and chief technology officer of IBM Research, India. IBM will put sensors in several locations across the city to collect data. It will also use satellite monitoring technologies to identify other sources of pollution apart from vehicular traffic and dust.Gopinath said IBM’s partnership with DDC will “provide greater insight about the complex and dynamic nature of air pollution in the city and help identify sustainable methods for improving the outlook in the short and long term.” DDC vice chairman Ashish Khetan said that to optimize the government’s action plan to tackle air pollution, it needs “accurate, real-time insight about the situation on the ground and a better understanding of how to respond in the most effective and sustainable way.” (Times of India 9/1/16)

 

254. A green world in Kerala’s laterite hills (9)

With ecological significance of these hills remaining unknown, Kanams are recorded as waste lands in revenue records and often assigned to development projects. Mining too is damaging this system. As the laterite hills are recorded as waste land since it is not productive for agriculture there is the tendency to allot these areas to large-scale projects, which leads to the destruction of the unique ecosystem, pointed out Dr. Sreejith Namboodiri from the Kerala Forest Research Institute in Thrissur. Realising the ecological relevance of the ecosystems supported by Kanams, which don’t enjoy any legal protection, a group of scientists of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Kerala, have taken a green step to protect them. The team including Dr. Namboodiri and V. B. Sreekumar and two research scholars who surveyed and mapped some of the Kanams, have suggested a new concept known as Eco-Grove as the first step towards its classification and conservation. The concept was presented in an international conference on biodiversity. The team attempted to define the newly identified ecosystem which does not come under the ambit of any of the existing systems.  It is defined as man-made or natural systems dominated by trees and protected by an individual or community with or without any rituals or beliefs attached to them or law enforced by authorities. It is protected by locals who have realised the ecological significances of Kanams and services rendered by the system, explained a scientific paper by the researchers. The floral diversity of four Kanams (Kanayi, Vannathi, Easwaran, and Vattappoyil) in the Kavvayi River Basin caught the researchers by surprise. They were able to document 452 plant species in these four Kanams. Of these, 56 were endemic to the area and 35 were endemic to Western Ghats. They also reported that two endemic species recorded from these areas were classified as endangered and five as vulnerable to extinction in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. From Vattappoyil Kanam alone, they recorded the presence of 155 species of angiosperms, 52 species of birds, 86 species of butterflies, 22 species of reptiles, 17 amphibians, and 43 spiders. The presence of the rich diversity of flora and fauna indicated the importance of the unique ecosystem and called for urgent conservation measures. (The Hindu 10/1/16)

 

255. Tobacco Curing Causing Forest Degradation in Karnataka (9)

BENGALURU:  With an estimated seven lakh tons of fuelwood required for curing tobacco every year in Karnataka, more than 300 hectares of forest land are lost annually. Experts opine that tobacco cultivation is not only a big threat to environment but also likely to become a threat to food security with farmers in Mysuru-Hassan belt lately shifting to this cash crop. Recent studies have indicated that around 8 kg of fuel wood is required to cure 1 kg of tobacco leaves. Increasing demand for wood is a dangerous development which directly causes forest degradation and loss of bio diversity. Further, the forests in Mysuru district, which are adjacent to tobacco growing villages of Titimathi, Anechowkur and Kushalnagar (Dubare), are vulnerable and more prone to be disturbed by the farmers. The burden of tobacco on environment is enormous and the need for immediate action to protect the environment is imperative, says Mahesh of Karnataka Swaraj Jana Sangatan. He adds, “There is no control on cutting down of trees be it in forest or private lands in Hunsur, Periyapatna and other areas. In fact, the situation is alarming with trees being cut every day while reforestation is happening only on paper. The Forest Department is hand in glove with farmers even as they refuse to switch over to other methods of curing as they feel it is too expensive.” “In the past, there have been plenty of debates in the Lok Sabha where directives were sought to ban cutting of mature hard wood trees in the forest areas of Karnataka for tobacco curing as these verdant lands were becoming dry lands over a period of time. However, till date nothing has happened. So, we have been demanding that the State and the Centre come out with concrete steps to reduce tobacco production in the country,” says Mahesh. Rubbishing the experts’ reports on disappearance of forests in the state, Karnataka Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Vinay Luthra said, “At this rate, forests would have completely vanished.  Large amount of fuel wood comes from private lands while we do supply them Eucalyptus and Acacia wood from our depots that are in Mysuru, Periyapatna and other areas. In fact, we do not support this method of tobacco curing as the Indian Institute of Science has developed special chullahs (stoves) for curing tobacco which uses 20 per cent less firewood than normal chullahs. However, there is a need for educating farmers and launch awareness programmes to shift from tobacco to food crops.” Agriculture experts add that the government had already instructed the Agriculture Department to decrease the acreage in Mysuru, Hassan and Belagavi districts. The emphasis is on phased reduction in areas like Hunsur, Periyapatna, Arkalgud and Nippani. In this regard, the Mysuru Horticultural Division has already been making efforts to wean away tobacco farmers, which is not an easy task when one looks at the commercial advantages. .. (Indian Express 13/1/16)

 

256. Delhi gears up to weather higher pollution levels (9)

NEW DELHI: The first Monday after odd-even expectedly saw a rise in PM2.5 levels. System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) data till 6 pm pegged the average PM2.5 levels for Monday at 153 mg/m3. During the days when the odd-even scheme was in force, the daily average level was 113/m3. It subsequently fell to 96/m3 on Saturday, but started rising again from Sunday when it touched a daily average of 123 mg/m3. While, at present, the government is not operating its mobile air-monitoring units, which were recording data during the 15-day trial period, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) will continue monitoring pollution levels at 200-odd places and prepare a report for the government in the next few months. “The SAFAR data is showing an increase, but since it is limited to 6 pm, it is only indicative. However, there are clear signs of pollution levels rising, especially in light of the delayed winter and a conducive wind pattern,” said sources. Met officials said a sudden drop in wind, which also resulted in a dense fog over Delhi, could have had a role to play. “Between January 13 and 16, Delhi was experiencing winds of 15-20 kmph during the day. Because of this, there was fog in the early-morning hours, which was converted to low clouds during the day. From January 17, the wind became calm. On Monday, especially, the wind was calm till about 10 am, which resulted in zero visibility in the western and southern parts of the IGI Airport. It picked up later but by 7 pm, it had dropped again significantly,” said Dr RK Jenamani, director in-charge, IGI Met. Going by the expected wind pattern and cloud cover over Delhi, Met department said there would be little respite from fog and smog till at least January 21 though it warned that the wind had been quite erratic so far. Weather conditions play a crucial part in determining the pollution levels.Monday’s maximum temperature was 19 degrees Celsius, one degree below normal, while the minimum came down to 6 degrees Celsius, one degree below normal. Jafarpur was the coldest area in the city with the lowest maximum and minimum temperatures for the day at 17.3 degrees Celsius and 4.7 degrees Celsius, respectively. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

257. Government urged to initiate steps to conserve Kaanu forests (9)

Shivamogga:The Vrukshalaksha Andolana, Karnataka, an organisation for environment protection, has urged the State government to initiate measures to conserve the Kaanu forest in Malnad region. A team of experts comprising president of the andolana Ananth Hegde Ashisara, T.V. Ramachandra from the Indian Institute of Science and environmentalists Nagesh Hegde and Keshav Korse visited the Kaanu forests, adjacent to Baniga, Keshavapura, Batte Mal