Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 28 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

1. Indian scientists warn of more intense freak weather in coming days (9)

HYDERABAD: India’s states will see more intense unpredictable freak weather in the coming days, warned climate change scientists, days after huge chunks of hail killed at least 10 people and wounded scores in Andhra Pradesh and hail storms this week destroyed cropland across Karnataka and Maharashtra. “The key word is these extreme events will increase under climate change and we near to gear up quickly to counter it before it’s too late though micro-level climate vulnerability assessment and drastic cut on fossil fuel emission,” G Bala, a top climate change expert at the Indian Institute of Science’s Divecha Centre for Climate Change in Bangalore. In absence of quality assessment, met department officials are struggling to answer why places like Hyderabad gets heavy rainfall in early March and sudden hail storms destroys lakhs of acres of land in Warangal, Bidar in Karnataka or Nasik and Aurangabad in Maharashtra this week. Scientists have predicted that the frequency of extreme weather is likely to increase with less rainy days, but more quantum of rainfall because of more intensity and severe drought hitting other places. They say states should immediately carry out a micro-level study to assess the unpredictable weather as the country’s fossil fuel emission is going up at alarming levels with no effort being made by governments to address climate change at local levels. “Knowledge is very important and information about climate change must be provided to politicians and policy makers. But there is simply no information. Climate action plans for states lack quality and there is no solid quality which is based on science,” said Bala. Scientists say last June’s cloudburst in Uttarakhand, a severe cold wave in north India this year, heavy snowfall in Chevalla, a sleepy hamlet in Andhra Pradesh last January, and Bangalore city recording 32 degree Celsius in January this year, are all extreme local weather phenomena, which needs to be studied and analyzed carefully. “What needs to happen is a clear micro-level vulnerability assessment that can help us understand and prepare for these unusual weather that will only increase,” says Siddharth Pathak, an International policy coordinator at the Climate Action Network International. (Times of India 11/3/14)

 

2. State to begin work on Kasturi draft soon (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Chief minister Oommen Chandy said on Tuesday that the state biodiversity board would begin the process of fine-tuning and implementation of ecologically-sensitive areas (ESAs) as per the guidelines issued in the draft notification by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The ministry has, however, provided 60 days for various stakeholders to give suggestions and complaints on the draft notification before the issue of the final notification. Chandy said the MOEF’s draft notification had accepted all demands put forward by Kerala and exempted 3,115 sq km ESAs in the state. The total area under ESA will be around 9993.7 sq km; out of this, forest land would be around 9,107 sq km and grasslands and barren land 856.7 sq km. The notification has also approved specific demands made by Kerala to exempt plantations, agriculture land and human habitations from ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs). “The boundaries of ESAs as identified by the HLWG may be fine-tuned after receiving inputs from stakeholders/state governments and suggest modifications based upon physical verification,” the draft notification said. “Kerala had pointed out that while in all other states in the Western Ghats region only a portion of natural landscape has been recommended as ESA by HLWG. In Kerala, the area of ESA (13,108 sq km) was more than the area of natural landscape (12,477 sq km),” a state official said. The HLWG had earlier classified around 13,108 sq km as ESAs in Kerala using satellite data. These included large areas of plantations and human settlements. Chandy said all concerns regarding the Kasturirangan committee report has been addressed by the draft notification. “The expert committee completed the massive survey within 40 days after having 30 sessions in all 123 villages. All complaints have been addressed and not a single person will lose his property of livelihood in the high ranges,” he said. Chandy said other clauses in the office memorandum issued on November 13 would remain the same. The major conditions include banning of quarrying and mining in the ESAs and restriction of construction above 20,000 sq m in ESAs. He said it was unfortunate that the LDF did not participate in any of the all-party meetings organised in connection with the Kasturirangan committee report. “The BJP had, in fact, attended the meeting but supported the Madhav Gadgil report, which was rejected by the state government,” he said. Chandy said he could not predict the future, on asked if the new government at the Centre if the BJP is voted to power could reject the Kasturirangan report and the ground work done by the state. (Times of India 12/3/14)

 

3. Pollution getting worse in Indian cities: Pachauri (9)

Beijing: A study pointing that the pollution levels in New Delhi is worse than that of Beijing may have been quoting the data from the worst period of the year but the air quality in Indian cities is progressively getting worse, UN climate change chief Rajendra Pachauri said on Monday. “We also have to allow the fact that there are variations in the composition of PM 2.5 in the atmosphere which varies from season to season. It may very well be the study they are quoting is that of the worst period during the year,” he told media here at a pre-launch function of the report on the India-China Low Carbon Study. The report will be formally launched on Tuesday. But at the same he said the situation is progressively getting worse in Delhi and Bangalore and even in second rung cities like Ludhiana. “Frankly I have to look at the numbers to be able to comment. All I can say it is getting progressively worse,” he said responding to questions on a study by Yale University stating that Delhi’s air quality is worse than that of Beijing, which is battling out worst polluted smog considered to several higher than the levels prescribed by the WHO. Dr. Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore in 2007. The Yale data was contradicted by officials in Delhi who contradicted it citing data of their own obtained from monitoring stations on the ground. About the quality of the data provided by the officials in Delhi, he said: “There are gaps in Delhi data. It is an issue needs to be investigated. We are taking about imperfect and inadequate information, we should need to get into this.” The Ministry of Environment should commission two or three institutions to carry out detailed assessment of the situation and what are the drivers of things making this is worse and future policy making, he said. On the debate about the safety of the nuclear power plants, he said: “Frankly we have to demystify nuclear energy. People have to have make decision. In a democracy you cannot ignore that aspect.” He ducked the question whether he is for the nuclear energy or not saying that “one has to be cautious. I would not say close your eyes let us go ahead with nuclear power“. “Nuclear energy is not a panacea to solve all our problems. We are little glib about it,” he said. He was answering questions abut China’s plans to build 28 nuclear power plants which are under various stages of construction. Asked about what India can learn from China, he said both can learn each from their strengths. “One cannot generalise. Some sectors they have done well, some we have done well. There has to be exchange of knowledge which will have enormous value for both,” he said. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

4. Forum in Mangalore to campaign for Gadgil report (6)

Mangalore: A series of programmes to create awareness and gather support for the implementation of the Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report will begin in the district with a public discussion at Kudremukh National Park near Aladangady in Belthangady taluk on April 1. Suma Nagesh from Chikmagalur-based Save Democracy Forum told presspersons here on Monday that the programme would dispel myths about the report among forest-dwellers, while highlighting the “negative” aspects of the K. Kasturirangan Commission report that was commissioned to replace the Gadgil panel report. “The Gadgil panel report sought to comprehensively conserve the Western Ghats, which is a bio-diversity hotspot. The government conveniently used the Kasturirangan report to reject the Gadgil report. We have petitioned the President to reconsider the Gadgil committee report, while also creating awareness among the tribal people and forest-dwellers about the report,” said Mr. Nagesh, referring to a letter written to Pranab Mukherjee on March 15. He blamed vested interests, industrial lobbies, and political representatives for creating fear among farmers about displacement if the reports were implemented. “The only fear is that mining and industries will shut down. The Gadgil panel report clearly states that forest-dwellers were needed in conservation projects and it does not advocate for their displacement,” he said. The meet will also discuss the government’s “surreptitious attempts” at displacing tribal people from KNP, said Harish Malekudiya, a resident of Aladangady. “The government refuses to give us basic amenities, while attempting to lure us with money to leave our homes. We don’t want to shift elsewhere, but the government is making it difficult to stay on,” he said. Mr. Gadgil will address the Kudremukh forest-dwellers — some of whom are fighting against displacement — on April 1. Apart from him, activist S.R. Hiremath and writer Na. D’Souza, who had criticised the government on their “inactivity” over conserving the ghats, are expected to participate. The group will travel around the six States through which the Western Ghats traverses, and distribute materials and books in local languages elaborating on the need to implement the WGEEP report. An integral part of the organisation’s demand is the scrapping of the Yettinahole project, which they called a hasty decision that endangers the ghats. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

5. Odisha to move MoEF seeking fund for Similipal biosphere reserve (9)

BHUBANESWAR: The State government will move Ministry of Environment and Forests seeking Rs. 2.14 crore assistance for overall development of Similipal Biosphere Reserve. A management action plan that has been prepared keeping in mind the infrastructure and manpower requirement has been approved by Biosphere Reserve Management Council headed by Chief Secretary J. K. Mohapatra here on Thursday. The prominent feature of management plan is to prepare a five-year Comprehensive Master Plan by an independent agency. Government sources said the Regional Plant Resource Centre (RPRC) will act as a lead institute for carrying out the work for which fund requirement of Rs. 10 lakh has estimated. The management plan also include strengthening of livelihood support, extensive water body development, pond creation and maintenance, solar energy promotion, health and veterinary camps in peripheral villages as well as research work. Chairing the meeting Mr. Mohapatra suggested that Similipal authority should document the rich biodiversity as has been done by Chilika Development Authority for Chilika Lake. The Similipal Biosphere Reserve came into existence during 1994 as per Man And Biosphere (MAB) programme of UNESCO with the objective of bringing the people and domestic cattle along with the forest and wildlife into one fold of management so that the economic condition of the people is enriched through eco-development programmes. The total area under the biosphere reserve is 5,569 sq km. with Similipal Sanctuary at the nucleus. Similipal has about1,076 flowering species and 96 species of orchids. It is home to wild animals including 55 species of mammals, 304 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians, 62 species of reptiles and 37 species of fishes. (The Hindu 21/3/14)

 

6. 2013 sixth warmest year on record (9)

LONDON: The year 2013 has now been confirmed to have been the sixth warmest year on record. Thirteen of the fourteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century, and each of the last three decades has been warmer than the previous one, culminating with 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record. The average global land and ocean surface temperature in 2013 was 14.5°C – 0.50°C above the 1961-1990 average and 0.03°C higher than the 2001-2010 decadal average. Temperatures in many parts of the southern hemisphere were especially warm, with Australia having its hottest year on record and Argentina it’s second hottest. The year 2013 once again demonstrated the dramatic impact of droughts, heat waves, floods and tropical cyclones in all parts of the planet, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s Annual Statement on the Status of the Climate released late on Monday. Scientists have predicted that in another 87 years, planet earth will be the warmest ever. Scientists for the first time reconstructed Earth’s temperature history back to the end of the last Ice Age using data from 73 sites around the world and found that the planet today is warmer than it has been during 70 to 80% of the time over the last 11,300 years. What was most worrying are projections of global temperature for the year 2100, when virtually every climate model evaluated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that temperatures will exceed the warmest temperatures during that 11,300-year period known as the Holocene – under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Highlighting the key climate events of 2013, WMO said Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines. Surface air temperatures over land in the Southern Hemisphere were very warm, with widespread heat waves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand it’s third warmest. Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeast United States while Angola, Botswana and Namibia were gripped by severe drought. Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border besides causing devastation in northeast China and the eastern Russian Federation. Northeastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years while the widest tornado ever observed struck El Reno, Oklahoma in the US. Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in Europe’s Alpine region and in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland while Israel, Jordan and Syria were struck by unprecedented snowfall. Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs and global oceans reached new record high sea levels. The Antarctic sea ice extent also reached a record daily maximum in 2013. “Naturally occurring phenomena such as volcanic eruptions or El Nino and La Nina events have always contributed to frame our climate, influenced temperatures or caused disasters like droughts and floods. But many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change. We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise — as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines,” said WMO secretary-general, Michel Jarraud. “There is no standstill in global warming,” said Jarraud. “The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90% of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.” (Times of India 25/3/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

7. RTE 25% admissions to go online in Mumbai (11)

MUMBAI: All unaided non-minority schools in the city will have to conduct RTE 25% reservation quota admissions online this year, said officials from the education department. In a meeting held in the city on Wednesday, the commissioner of education as well as officials from the BMC and education department decided that anybody seeking admission under the reserved quota for academic year 2014-15, will get a chance to apply to three schools within a 1 km radius, and will be placed a seat in any one of the schools based on lottery system. “Applicants can choose any three schools of their interest in their neighbourhood, within one kilometre. We will then conduct a lottery system to decide which school the applicant will be placed in,” said Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner, BMC. He added that online admissions will only be applicable to the 300-odd unaided non-minority schools in the city. RTE online admissions were supposed to go online for schools across the state this year but it was later decided that only on a pilot basis, schools in Mumbai and Pimpri Chinchwad will have to follow this procedure this year. “Based on the success of the model, it will later be followed in other parts of the state. We will form a proper schedule for this process soon and send it out to schools,” added Adtani. A notification about this will be sent to schools in the city on Thursday. (Times of India 12/3/14)

 

8. ‘Closure of small schools to do more harm than good’ (11)

HYDERABAD: When the Right to Education (RTE) Act was first brought into being, the legislation seemed to be a precursor of good tidings for lakhs of poor children across the country. But the much-touted law seems to have failed, both in its implementation and non-implementation. On one hand several crucial aspects like 25 per cent reservation for poor children in private schools have not been implemented, on the other hundreds of small schools running in slum areas have been shut down as they do not conform to the standards set by the RTE Act. Activists in the state said this has denied thousands of children their only chance at English-medium education. After the deadline to implement RTE measured expired in March last year, over 400 schools have been closed down by the state government, most of which provided English-medium education to students whose families are below the poverty line. With 800 more schools facing the axe soon, experts rue that the implementation of the Act may actually add to the woes of several students. Activists and politicos are now planning to highlight this issue. Kadiyam Srihari, ex-education minister and chairman of the manifesto committee of TRS, said the matter will be made a part of their manifesto. “The implementation of the Act has been faulty. The gist of RTE is to bring education to the poor and not take away education from them. RTE says there should be schools near the homes of children whose parents belong to the working class,” Srihari said. While the government said that the schools they shut were unrecognized ones that did not have basic facilities, the point being highlighted by activists is that these schools were charging only Rs.200-400 per month as fees. This made them incapable of implementing measures like playground and required student-teacher ratio. “The schools which were closed could have had few children studying in them. Nonetheless, they did provide temporary relief for children from deprived backgrounds,” said Y Rajendra Prasad from MV Foundation. Activists also pointed out that bigger private schools, which have failed to implement the reservation for poor students, have not been touched by the implementers of the Act. Most schools that were closed were located in slum pockets in the cities. Of the 34 unrecognised schools asked to shut shop in Ranga Reddy district, 60 per cent catered to children from slums. In Rajendranagar, about 14 of the 21 schools which faced closure were attended by children from similar backgrounds. “The need of the hour is to get more schools in areas where poor children live. Before closure of schools, the government should put in place alternative schooling solutions,” said Ramesh Patnaik from AP Save Education Committee. Meanwhile, the children in the schools that were shut down were shifted to nearby government schools, a move most of their parents resented due to their lack of belief in the Telugu medium of instruction. (Times of India 16/3/14)

 

9. Govt. to hold special camps to admit out-of-school children (11)

Bangalore: The State government on Monday told the High Court of Karnataka that special admission camps would be held in villages and taluks during the third and fourth week of March to admit out-of-school children to nearby schools. A submission in this regard was made by the government counsel during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition initiated suo motu by the court last year based on a newspaper report about children remaining out of school despite the Right to Education Act. Meanwhile, the government also told the court that around 30,000 children had been admitted to various private schools under the 25 per cent quota of the RTE Act for the ensuing academic year. It was also submitted on behalf of the government that the RTE Rules were being amended to bring down number of school dropouts. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna, which is hearing the petition, adjourned further hearing till April 8, while orally asking the State to ensure that the school dropout rate came down to zero. The government would have to take appropriate steps to achieve this task, it said. In another case, the Bench on Monday ordered issue of notice to the State government and the Lokayukta on a PIL petition, which alleged that special deputy commissioners were illegally exercising powers on appeals and revisions about disputes on mutation entries under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964. In their petitions, freedom fighters H.S. Doreswamy and Suresh Chandra Babu alleged that the special DCs were illegally exercising powers even after the government in October 2011 entrusted only deputy commissioners to deal with appeals or revision under Section 136 (3) of the Act. Despite this directive, more than 1,000 appeals had been dealt with by special DCs in Bangalore and as many as 680 appeals had been dealt with by a single officer occupying this post, the petitioner alleged.

The Bench ordered issue of notice to the Lokayukta on a oral request made by the petitioners’ counsel, while pointing out that an investigation ordered by the High Court in 2011 against special DC Ramanjaneya and others was closed by the Lokayukta in November last year citing that there was no complainant. The court also ordered issue of notice to several officials who had occupied the post of special DC in Bangalore Urban district, including the incumbents.  (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

10. 98% of aspirants fail test for teachers in India (11)

NEW DELHI: Questions over the quality of teacher training in the country continue with more than 98% of aspiring school teachers failing to clear the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) 2014. Just 13,428 of 7.50 lakh aspirants passed the test, conducted in January by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). In all, 8.26 lakh aspirants registered for the test. About 7.50 lakh finally appeared for the test, of which only 13,428 managed to clear either Paper I or II or both. Clearing Paper I is mandatory for those wishing to teach classes I to V while Paper 2 is for those wishing to teach classes VI to VIII. Aspirants who wish to get certified for classes I to VIII need to clear both the papers. The papers feature objective questions which test the aspirants’ knowledge of English, mathematics and environmental science. This year’s results actually mark a marginal improvement over last year, when over 99% of the candidates failed to pass. But CBSE sources said the board had worked on the difficulty level as well as extended the duration of the test, keeping in mind dismal results in the past. The CTET was introduced in 2011 by the human resource development ministry to improve the quality of teaching in schools after the enactment of the Right to Education Act. CTET certification has been made mandatory to become a teacher for classes I to VIII in any central government school, while CBSE-affiliated schools can either recruit teachers based on CTET or the respective test conducted by states. In fact, the Delhi government too decided to adopt CTET for recruitment of teachers for government-run and aided schools. All CTET applicants need to be BEd graduates. (Times of India 22/3/14)

 

11. Nursery admissions stalemate persists, stay on draw of lots to continue (11)

New Delhi: The agonising wait for parents to get their children admitted in nursery was prolonged as the Delhi High Court on Monday said its stay on fresh draw of lots will continue till Friday when it will hear pleas against the admission guidelines. The court also rejected the data provided by Directorate of Education (DoE) of Delhi Government in pursuance of earlier direction seeking details pertaining to nursery admission in the unaided recognised private schools. The bench of Acting Chief Justice BD Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul asked the DoE to file the data afresh containing recent status of seats and other aspects related to the nursery admission. During the brief hearing, the court was not convinced with the reply of government that nursery admission guidelines have been framed after proper deliberations, taking into account all relevant issues including the neighbourhood scheme. “What about the larger issue? What about the right to education? The issue is simply of demand and supply. Seats are few and demands are more. What are you doing to deal with it,” it said. “In every academic year, the courts are flooded with such petitions,” the bench said in the packed courtroom. As per the guidelines, out of 100, 70 points are given kids who reside within 0 to 8 kms of a school. Twenty points to a child whose sibling is studying in the same school and 5 points are earmarked for the kids whose parents were alumni. Delhi government has recently done away with five points which were being awarded to kids under inter-state transfer category. The court is hearing several petitions and appeals filed by parents against various aspects of nursery admission. One of the appeals seek scrapping of 5 and 20 points being awarded to kids falling under alumni and sibling categories respectively saying the kids, having only 70 neighbourhood points, are left with no hope or scope of getting admission. Another appeal has been filed by some parents against the March 6 order of the single judge bench by which government was asked to conduct a fresh draw of lots among similarly placed kids who have secured 70 points on the basis of neighbourhood criteria. The petition alleged that kids, who have already declared selected for nursery admission after the draw of lots, will have to undergo the same process again in pursuance of the single judge bench order on the issue. The present dispute started after the Lieutenant Governor (LG) had on February 27 issued an order abolishing 5 points, out of 100, being awarded to inter-state transfer cases. The LG’s order had said, “If a school has conducted draw of lots for those applicants securing 70 points, that draw shall remain valid for selected/confirmed candidates only…. (Zee News 24/3/14)

 

12. RTE admissions to be held online from April 1 (11)

MUMBAI: Entry-level school admissions in the city will be conducted online between April 1 and 10 this year. While the education department, along with BMC education officials, are yet to release the admission schedule, they aim to finish it before April 10. “A proper schedule will be shared with schools in the next two days and we will advertise about the same in all English and vernacular newspapers,” said a senior official from the BMC education department. All 300-odd unaided non-minority schools in the city will have to conduct online 25% quota admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) Act from this academic year, said officials from the state education department. As a pilot project, schools in Pune and Mumbai will be conducting 25% RTE admissions online. The applicants will get a chance to apply to three schools within a one-km radius of their home, and will be given a seat in any one of them based on a lottery system. (Times of India 27/3/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

13. Won’t be able to change lives in 10 days but will attempt: Rahul Gandhi (14)

Khara Ghoda: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday assured salt pan workers here that their problems would be addressed though he might not be able to bring a change in their lives in the “next 10 days”.He met the salt-pan workers in this village of little Runn of Kutch in Surendranagar district and listened to the problems faced by them. “I have understood your problems and I will try my best to address those issues. I am not saying that I will change your life in the next ten days but I will make attempts,” he said. The central government has introduced schemes like Right to Food, Right to Shelter and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MNREGA), he said, adding, “You people should get benefit of those schemes. We believe that each and every citizen should get the basic rights.” On the issue of development, Rahul said, “There are two thoughts associated with the idea of development. First is to build roads and claim that it is development, while another is to provide shelter to people like you.” “Until and unless you people do not have floor beneath your feet and roof over your heads it cannot be claimed development… Every citizen of this country should participate in the growth story and should be benefited.” Representatives of the salt pan workers told him that they do not even get drinking water on a daily basis. Responding to this, Rahul said, “In independent India, if we cannot provide you drinking water, then there is some serious problem.” A woman representative told him that despite losses due to unseasonal rains, the salt pan workers do not get any compensation. “Government must have introduced so many welfare schemes, but we are not benefited by them. We are left dry as we do not get even a drop of those schemes,” she added. Gujarat is the largest producer of salt in the country and the salt pan workers have to spent six months in the Little Runn of Kutch to produce salt without any basic facilities, the representatives said. Responding to this, Rahul said, “Despite rains, you people do not get water. There must be some loopholes in the system. Schemes are not reaching up to you people. I will try to address your issues.” Workers also told him that their work is considered illegal as they are not getting lease for salt panning, to which he said, “You people should get rights over the land and the lease should be renewed soon.” (Zee News 11/3/14)

 

14. Delhi High Court notice to 38 officials on hawkers’ plea (14)

New Delhi, March 12 : The Delhi High Court Wednesday issued contempt notice to 38 government officials, including the Delhi police commissioner and an MCD councillor, on a plea by hawkers alleging harassment and for flouting the court’s earlier order. A division bench of Acting Chief Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul issued the contempt notice to Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi along with 20 other police officials. Municipal Corporation Of Delhi (MCD) councillor Jeevan Lal along with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) commissioner, deputy commissioner, licensing inspector and other officers were also issued contempt notice for defying the court’s order. The court’s order came on a contempt plea filed by around 130 hawkers of Harkesh Nagar Subzi Mandi, Okhla Industrial Area Phase II, who formed an association called Delhi Shramik Sangathan (DSS). The plea said that despite the court’s earlier order not to harass the hawkers, police and the MCD continue to torture them. The court Jan 16 had restrained Delhi Police from interfering with the 130 petitioners saying that their right to pursue street-vending was protected. The association through advocate Indira Unninayar told the court that police and MCD officials were harassing them to vacate the premises where they have been hawking since the past more than 20 years, and demanding “hafta” (extortion money). The petitioners alleged that the MCD was piling up garbage in the surrounding area, thereby making their lives miserable. The Supreme Court through its Sep 9, 2013 order had also directed that no hawker can be removed, the plea said. Advocate Unninayar said municipal officials, with police assistance, were obstructing the livelihood of street hawkers and humiliating them. She said officials were beating up hawkers, and later filing false criminal cases against them alleging that they were obstructing public officials in performing their duty. Seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the officials, the lawyer said they had even arrested some hawkers who had filed a plea to lead honest and dignified lives in the pursuit of their occupation. “The inaction by the commissioners and other senior officials of SDMC, MCD and police are also contempt of court orders,” the plea said. Taking serious note of the piling of garbage in spaces where hawkers or vegetable vendors sit and their harassment by police and MCD officials, the court directed the removal of all garbage from the area. (New Kerala 12/3/14)

 

15. SC snubs UP plea, extends CBI probe ambit into NREGS scam (14)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday threw out a spirited challenge from the Akhilesh Yadav government to an Allahabad high court order extending CBI probe into alleged irregularities in MNREGA implementation from seven districts to the whole of Uttar Pradesh. Appearing for the state, senior advocate U U Lalit said CBI probe into MNREGA implementation in all 75 districts would bring the socially beneficial scheme to a standstill and pointed out that the government had already registered 495 FIRs in seven districts against 760 officers, filed 154 charge-sheets and arrested 208 persons. “The state has done an expeditious inquiry after allegations about irregularities into the alleged scam in implementation of MNREGA,” Lalit said. He attempted to show to the apex court that the HC’s January 31 order permitting CBI to look for into alleged MNREGA irregularities would cast a heavy burden on the central agency and at the same time render the state investigating machinery redundant. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice N V Ramana was unimpressed. “When so much material about alleged irregularities has been found in seven districts, why not scrutinize implementation of MNREGA in other districts too? At this stage we don’t think we will intervene,” it said. Lalit said it was not a case where the state wanted to protect anyone as the period of scrutiny related to the previous regime. “The Akhilesh Yadav regime was not in power during the period when the irregularities were reported. When there is not even a whisper of allegation about irregularities in other 68 districts, was it required for CBI to carry out a roving inquiry,” he asked. The bench rejected the appeal saying, “If everything is in order, why is the UP government fearing an inquiry?” Centrally sponsored MNREGA funds were released to seven districts between 2007 and 10. The biggest financial fraud, allegedly to the tune of Rs 250 crore, was detected in Sonbhadra district in construction of check dams. After a warning letter from the Centre, the then Mayawati government conducted inquiries and found that funds were embezzled. But instead of taking action against senior officials, the government only acted against 50-odd junior level officers. (Times of India 15/3/14)

 

16. 56 bonded labourers including 10 children rescued from brick kiln (14)

Trichy: The revenue and police department, on Sunday, rescued 56 bonded labourers from a brick kiln on the outskirts of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district. Steps are on to send back the bonded labourers to their respective districts. Investigation is on to arrest the brick kiln owners for subjecting the innocent people to work as bonded labourers for a meagre payment. A joint operation by revenue officials and the police department brought the issue to light on Sunday. The official acted on a complaint from International Justice Mission (IJM), an NGO which brought the matter to the notice of the Kumbakonam sub-collector M Govindarao. The officials conducted raid at GKM Agencies a brick kiln run by one Parvathi and her four sons at Thirumalairajan river bank at Kabisthalam village in Papanasam taluk. “A thorough interrogation with the labourers at the brick kiln brought to light that they were subjected to bonded labour for a long time. They were even paid meagre salary and were denied permission to go outside the kiln. So, we rescued them from the kiln. Police investigation is on to book the accused in connection with the case,” M Govinda Rao, sub-collector, Kumbakonam. The bonded labourers included 23 men, 23 women, six girls and four boys. They were hailing from Ariyalur, Thiruvidaimarudhur and Thirumancheri. “We got a tip-off few backs back that the labourers were denied their basic rights. A family of two was paid Rs 500 per week as salary for their work. Moreover, some labourers were not even allowed to go outside even during emergency. All of them expect two families belonged to the scheduled caste. We then informed the IJM which brought the matter to light,” said Irulappoo Selvakumar, secretary of Irular Tribal Development Society. The process was on to provide the immediate compensation and release certificate to them. “We will provide Rs 1,000 compensation for each labourer and issue release certificate. They will be sent to their town immediately,” Govindarao said. Meanwhile, investigation is on to arrest the owners of the kiln and few others for subjecting those labourers as slaves. (Times of India 17/3/14)

 

17. Central ministries to soon come under EPFO ambit (14)

New Delhi: Central ministries will soon come under the ambit of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, which manages retirement savings of formal sector non-government employees. With over half a dozen Central government ministries found to be defaulting on payment of provident fund contributions of its contract employees, the EPFO now plans to allot the establishment codes to each of them. Under the proposal being mooted, the drawing and disbursing officer (DDO) of each ministry, who is in-charge of payment of salaries and pensions to government employees, would be issued a provident fund code and would withhold the retirement contributions of the contract workers. “All DDOs in government departments and other organisations may be notified as establishment in respect of employees not getting any PF, pension or insurance benefits,” said the EPFO in an internal missive after a review meeting of its key officials. The proposal is similar to what is done for permanent employees on government roles whose retirement savings are withheld by the DDOs and deposited with the General Provident Fund or the National Pension System. The plan comes after the central labour commissioner found nine government ministries including labour, commerce and industries and railways, violating employment laws for contract workers. Notices were also sent by the CLC to departments of expenditure and revenue, ministries of petroleum, human resource development and health and welfare. Over 4,000 contract workers are estimated to be working in these ministries. The issue was also flagged by the Parliamentary consultative committee on labour that had pointed to the poor working conditions and non-compliance of labour laws for contract workers hired by several Central government departments and public sector enterprises. (Financial Express 16/3/14)

 

18. Cong promises 8 pc growth, generate 10 cr jobs (14)

Congress today promised to push economic growth rate to 8 per cent in the next three years, create 10 crore jobs and take firm steps to contain inflation. In its manifesto for the upcoming elections released by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the party also pledged to encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and push Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Direct Taxes Code (DTC) within one year of coming into power. The party also expressed its commitment to create a national consensus on affirmative action for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for jobs in the private sector. The 15-point agenda for socio-economic and political transformation include initiatives like promoting flexible labour laws, systemic efforts to recover black money and increasing health expenditure to 3 per cent of GDP. Indian economy, which grew by over 9 per cent before the 2008 global financial crisis, has slipped to decade’s low of 4.5 per cent in 2012-13. In the current fiscal, it is estimated to expand by 4.9 per cent. “Continuing our record of delivering India’s highest growth rates, we will restore India to 8 per cent plus growth rate within 3 years,” the manifesto said adding that government would continue to take firm action to control inflation even in difficult global economic scenario. Admitting that there will be a moderate level of inflation in a developing economy, it said “Reserve Bank must strike a balance between price stability and growth while formulating monetary policy”.The RBI, it may be mentioned, has been maintaining a hawkish monetary policy stance in its bid to contain inflation. The central bank is scheduled to announce its next policy policy on April 1. Although the WPI inflation which was nearing double digits fell to a nine month low of 4.68 per cent, the retail inflation still remained elevated at 8.1 per cent in February. As regards jobs creation, the manifesto said, that within 100 days of coming into power the party would announce “a detailed jobs agenda to ensure that we create 10 crore new jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for our youth. (Business Standard 26/3/14)

 

19. Rs 1100cr rural dues pop up before polls (14)

Calcutta, March 26: Mamata Banerjee has instructed the panchayat department to request Delhi for funds under the 100-day job scheme after it emerged that payments to the tune of Rs 1,100 crore was yet to be made to rural beneficiaries. Nabanna sources said the backlog in payments under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was discussed at a review meeting on Monday. According to the sources, the chief minister expressed her unhappiness at the failure to make payments and told panchayat department officials to do whatever they could to ensure that funds were released at the earliest. “The chief minister has reasons to be worried as delay in payment of dues could become an issue in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls and hurt the ruling establishment,” a senior state government official said. He said Mamata instructed Saurav Das, the panchayat department secretary, to go to Delhi to get some funds released. The sources said it emerged at the meeting that the panchayat department needed Rs 1,250 crore to clear the backlog but had only Rs 150 crore. “We need at least Rs 1,100 crore from the Centre to clear the dues of villagers. But it appears we will not get the money before the next financial year as the Centre has informed us that it has exhausted the funds allotted for the scheme,” a senior panchayat department official said. State government officials said the administration needed to pay beneficiaries in 18 districts but the situation was particularly bad in Hooghly, Nadia and West Midnapore. The government needs Rs 100 crore to clear the backlog in each of the three districts. Trinamul leaders said that during campaigning, they were facing uncomfortable questions from scheme beneficiaries who were yet to be paid. “It is getting tough for us with each passing day. We are finding it difficult to make villagers understand that funds for the project come from Delhi. As the rural bodies implement the 100-day job scheme, they villagers think the panchayats release the funds,” a Trinamul MLA said. The state government officials said the Centre couldn’t be blamed solely for the situation. “At the beginning of a financial year, the Centre gives a chunk of the money allotted under the scheme. The state can seek more funds only after it spends around 70 per cent of the amount released earlier. This year, the Centre had sent around Rs 1,000 crore under the scheme,” an official said. The state, the sources said, failed to use the funds on time and the demand for further allotment could be placed only in the last two quarters of this financial year because of the delay in holding the panchayat polls. “Work under the scheme actually started in November and it gained momentum in January and February. But by the time we sought more funds, the Centre had exhausted the money set aside for the scheme as other states had made timely claims,” the official said. The officials said the cash crunch made it impossible for the state government to release Rs 1,100 crore from its own coffers and get it reimbursed by the Centre. State panchayat department officials hoped they would be able to pay some of the beneficiaries as the finance department had promised to release Rs 200 crore soon. (The Telegraph 27/3/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

20. Judges are not ‘caged parrots’, says court (19)

New Delhi: Judges are not “caged parrots” and courts do not work as the “post office” of prosecuting agency, a special court on Monday observed, while rejecting the allegation that ex-Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had been spared “purposely” by the CBI in the Rs 10 crore cash-for- post railway bribery case. “While dealing with cases of corruption, it will be appropriate and wise to pass orders which send a strong message to the society that judges do not work as caged parrots and the judiciary in this country works freely without fear or pressure,” Special CBI Judge Swarana Kanta Sharma said. The court observed this while dismissing the plea of NGO, Delhi Pradesh Social Progress Society (DPSPS), holding that the petition was “devoid of merit” and that in the present case charges have already been framed against the accused persons. The plea claimed the CBI citing Bansal as a witness in the case was a bid to spare him. (Indian Express 11/3/14)

 

21. December 16 gang-rape brought major reforms: Delhi HC (19)

The Delhi High Court Thursday the December 16, 2012 gang rape brought about major reforms in criminal law dealing with offences against women. A division bench of Justice Reva Khetrapal and Justice Pratibha Rani observed that the incident sparked an unprecedented public movement where people from every strata of the society came on a common platform demanding justice for the victim. It said the outcry was for safety of women and punishment proportionate to the crime for the offenders and the demand was for amending the penal law, thereby prescribing death sentence in deserving cases of rape. The court said the volcano that erupted led to set up of a judicial committee headed by Justice J.S. Verma by the government to suggest amendments to the criminal law. “The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 was passed amending the Indian Penal Code to provide death penalty in rape cases that lead to death of the victim or leave her in a vegetative state,” the court said. The court said that within days of the incident, fast track courts were ordered to be set up in all parts of the country to deal with cases related to sexual assault against women. Overnight, safety of women became a cause for concern. The court said the incident not only shocked the nation but even the international community. The bench dismissed the appeals of the four convicts – Mukesh, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma – and confirmed the death sentences awarded to them by a trial court Sep 13. The 23-year-old physiotherapy intern was gang-raped by six men, including a juvenile, in a moving bus. The woman died of grave intestinal injuries Dec 29, 2012 at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital. (DNA 13/3/14)

 

22. Meeting Accused: HC Suspends Chief Judicial Magistrate (19)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court has suspended V P Indira Devi, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Thrissur, from service as part of disciplinary action. The decision was taken by the administrative wing of the High Court after it was found that Indira met  Mini an accused who was absconding after being implicated in a case. Mini was an accused in a case related to the missing of court documents from the Chalakkudy court. While Mini was absconding in the case, Indira met her at the Chalakkudy guesthouse with DySP Pradeep Kumar, stated a complaint by the Chalakkudy Bar Association before the High Court. The association produced a photograph and CD of the meeting, along with their complaint. Following this, the Vigilance wing of the High Court conducted a probe. Indira, who had been promoted as the District Judge at Manjeri District court, is yet to take charge there. (New Indian Express 20/3/14)

 

23. Aadhaar card not a must, reasserts SC (19)

New Delhi, March 24: Allegations that the government was denying services like marriage registration and property sales to people lacking Aadhaar cards today annoyed the Supreme Court, which ordered that any notification making the scheme mandatory must be withdrawn immediately. Solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran assured the court that if any such notification had indeed been issued, it would be withdrawn. Official sources told The Telegraph that no such notification had been issued and that the official website of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which handles the Aadhaar programme, clearly states that the scheme is voluntary. “We had earlier passed an order; why are you not implementing it?” the court said, referring to an interim order of September 23 last year that said that Aadhaar cards could not be made mandatory for extending welfare schemes to beneficiaries. It today stressed that no one should be deprived of any service for not possessing Aadhaar cards if they are otherwise eligible for such services. Parasaran replied: “I will ensure that fresh instructions are issued for compliance of the order.” Earlier, Justice B.S. Chauhan, heading a two-judge bench, had told Parasaran: “I have received a number of letters stating that you are insisting upon Aadhaar cards for providing certain services. “In one case, one lady said, ‘My marriage is not being registered for not providing Aadhaar card,’ while some say properties are not being registered if there are no Aadhaar cards.” He added: “You issue instructions withdrawing the notification making the Aadhaar card mandatory for availing the schemes.” The bench also restrained the UIDAI from transferring Aadhaar-related data to any investigative agency or government department without the express consent of the person concerned. It did so while staying a recent Bombay High Court order that had asked the authority to share with the CBI certain details of a group of Aadhaar cardholders who are suspects in a Pune rape being probed by the agency. An aggrieved UIDAI had approached the apex court complaining that such an order would encourage all investigative agencies to seek similar data from it, increasing its workload beyond manageable proportions. The bench, which also comprised Justice J. Chelameshwar, posted the next hearing after four weeks. The September 23 interim judgment came on a public interest litigation filed by a former Karnataka High Court judge, Justice Puttaswamy, alleging the Aadhaar scheme had been launched without statutory backing and violated citizens’ fundamental rights. Puttaswamy’s petition also raises privacy concerns. It is being heard by a three-judge bench comprising Justices Chauhan, Chelameshwar and S.A. Bobde. (The Telegraph 25/3/14)

 

24. Justice eludes consumers claiming damages (19)

LUCKNOW: Denied insurance claim in a case filed six years ago against a car company, an aggrieved person is waiting for justice. An engineer who booked a house in a posh locality of the city in 2007 was asked to wait for two years after paying 95% of the amount. He waited for 5 more years, before filing a case two years back but there is still no sign of the case being taken up. It is a common perception that in case a consumer is cheated or harassed one can file a case in the consumer forum and rest assured of justice within 90 days. But actually, there is no time-frame and in the real estate sector there are innumerable complaints. As in December 2013, there was pendency of 76,032 cases in the district consumer forum, filed from different parts of Uttar Pradesh. Out of these 4,876 cases were filed from Lucknow, despite there being two forums functional in the city. There is a pendency of 27,000 in the UP State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission. It is evident that neither the government nor the judiciary is concerned about the woes of the common man. Though there is a marked rise in number of cases filed, the manner in which consumer forums take them up leads to unnecessary delay. Experts in the field say though there is lack of awareness about consumer rights in a certain section of the society, need of the hour is for more NGOs and social workers to sensitise not only the masses but also lawyers, judges and government authorities about the difficulties the ‘aam admi’ faces. A consumer forum works parallel to the civil court but litigants are mostly disappointment and have to wait endlessly. Narrating innumerable cases in which consumers have been fooled, advocate R K Porwal said “solution lies in a well planned awareness initiative by government comprising information, education and communication (IEC) strategy that must be deployed for desired results.” “The establishment of consumer forums is not just to spread knowledge about consumer rights but also to uphold consumer duties,” said Vijay Acharya, president Bharat Jyoti, a consumer protection and social welfare organisation. He said consumers must check the expiry date of the product. (Times of India 27/3/14)

 

25. Govt notifies 183 Sections of new Companies Act (19)

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday notified 183 Sections of the Companies Act, 2013, pertaining to incorporation of a company, management, rotation of auditors and independent directors among several others. The rules to operationalise the Sections, effective April 1, are expected to be released later this week, an official source said. However, the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) did not notify the Sections relating to the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) and the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) along with those related to investor protection, winding up of companies, sick companies, among others. While the NCLT is under litigation in the Supreme Court, the NFRA has been facing stiff opposition from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on the grounds that it will lead to multiplicity of institutions. “The Sections relating to the NFRA and NCLT will come into being only when these institutions have been set up,” the official said. Lauding the development, experts said that while the notification ends the uncertainty for Corporate India, they emphasised that the rules should provide enough transition period to companies for conforming to the new act. ‘’While this has come practically in the last week of the year, giving corporate very little time to understand the ramifications of the detail in the final rules, one does hope the rules contain some additional transitional provisions that would provide companies some reasonable time to comply with the new requirements,” Sai Venkateshwaran, head of accounting advisory services, KPMG India, said. He said the requirement to approach the NCLT intermingles with several Sections of the Companies Act, notably the Sections relating to mergers and restructuring and winding up of companies. Until the NCLT and NFRA are formed, the regulatory framework under the Companies Act, 1956, would continue to apply, he added. The MCA has also not notified Sections relating to transfer of unclaimed dividend and corresponding shares to the Investor and Education Fund. Also, the new Act requires valuation to be done by registered valuers in many cases but the section for the same is also yet to be notified. (Financial Express 27/3/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

26.  ‘Food Security Act a big step in addressing malnutrition’ (21)

Bangalore: The national Food Security Act marks an important first step in the fight to eliminate hunger in India, but much more remains to be done, eminent agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan has said. Addressing the ninth edition of the Nutra India Summit organised by the International Society for Nutraceuticals, Nutritionals and Naturals, Prof. Swaminathan said on Wednesday that the provisions of the legislation enshrined access to food as a legal right, which was a very important step. The implementation of the Act would address the problem of calorie deficiency among the Indian population, but not hunger and malnutrition, and protein and micronutrient deficiency, he observed. Prof. Swaminathan, who later received the lifetime achievement award for work in the field of agriculture and nutrition, said South Asia remained an enigma because although the region had seen rapid economic growth in the last decade, 39 per cent of children suffered from stunted growth and malnutrition. Studies, he said, showed that malnutrition affected economic growth by about 8 per cent. Dinesh Gundu Rao, Minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, said while malnutrition continued to be a major problem among the poor, there was also the problem of “excesses” among the rich. Delegates from more than 15 countries are participating in the three-day conference. (The Hindu 13/3/14)

 

27. Unemployment, poverty rates high among Muslims: Study (21)

Poverty among Muslims in urban areas was twice the national average in 2011-12 and four times more than among  upper caste Hindus, says a committee which has probed the issue for the government. Also, it says, the employment situation among Muslims has not undergone much  change vis-a-vis other groups since the UPA government said it would go by the Sachar committee report in 2006. The panel, however, says job reservation for Muslims isn’t the answer. The committee was constituted by the government to assess implementation of the Sachar recommendations and the Prime Minister’s 15-point programmes for minorities. Chaired by Amitabh Kundu, a professor from the Centre for Study of Regional Development at Jawaharlal Nehru University here, it gave an interim report on Friday to the minority affairs minister, K Rahman Khan. Official data showed 13.7 per cent of Indians were below the poverty line (BPL) in urban areas in 2011-12, compared to 25.7 per cent in 2004-05. In absolute terms, 52.8 million people were BPL in urban India in 2011-12, compared to 80.2 mn in 2004-05. In the country as a whole, the proportion of BPL dropped from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12. In absolute terms, 269 mn were BPL in 2011-12, against 407 mn in 2004-05. In 2011-12, unemployment among educated urban Muslim youth was 18 per cent. In  lower educational categories, the unemployment rate was highest among Muslims, followed by scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). While the Kundu panel does not favour a reservation quota for Muslims, it favours the inclusion of those engaged in occupations similar to SC Hindus (like Arzaal Muslims) in the SC list, instead of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. Due to its historical association with secessionism, the demand for a separate quota for all Muslims or even a  separate sub-quota for them within the OBC category, without bringing in socio-economic considerations, is not feasible, the report said. It is, however, for a law to bar social discrimination against Muslims, on the lines of the existing one for SCs and STs. Rather, the panel wanted the government to go for resource allocation for public and private enterprises based on a diversity index, showing the percentage of  different social  groups employed by companies. It wants a diversity index-linked resource allocation for all public and private enterprises, instead of a separate Muslim quota, a senior official associated with the committee said. The panel said except for the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, the economic condition of Muslim OBCs had worsened in most other states in comparison to the SC population between 2004-05 and 2011-12. The assessment was based on the 61st and 68th round of Monthly Per Capita Expenditure Survey of the National Sample Survey. The committee said that though the growth rate in consumption had risen in Muslims in 2011-12 as compared to 2004-05 and 1993-94, this cannot be attributed only to the Sachar committee’s implementation, since this was in sync with the pattern among all communities. The committee says the percentage of poor among OBC Muslims was higher than the SC population in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Assam and Tripura in 2011-12. The committee also said properties under ‘Waqf’ should be exempted from certain enactments like the Rent Control Act, Land Reforms Act, etc, and unused cemeteries could be developed by changing their land use by the appropriate agencies. This would stop illegal encroachments, it said. (Business Standard 15/3/14)

 

28. NULM set for April 1 launch, to benefit city’s BPL population (21)

KOLHAPUR: The civic body will implement the centrally-sponsored National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) for the benefit of 43% of the city’s population living below the poverty line. The scheme, to be launched on April 1, involves providing employment to poor people, shelters to the homeless and training to street vendors. It will replace the existing Swarna Jayanthi Shahari Rojgar Yojana (SJSRY), which has failed to provide jobs due to the lack of trained manpower and non-availability of funds with the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC). Deputy municipal commissioner Ashwini Waghmale said, “Not even half of the candidates who had applied for the scheme (SJSRY) got any benefit. The new scheme also aims to provide jobs to the poor people in the city, but emphasizes on adding to the capacity of civic employees to make it successful.” During the last one year, the KMC has provided jobs to 32 individuals from the 63 proposals it received. It also received the 26 proposals from various organizations to start self-help groups, but could not do anything about those due to the lack of competent staff. “The state government, which was supposed to fund the implementation of the SJSRY, did not do so despite repeated demands. In the case of the new scheme, however, a separate management unit will be established and two technically sound staff members will be appointed for the execution. Its progress will be monitored by third party consultants to avoid frequent delays,” Waghmale added. The component of the NULM to develop the skills of street vendors was not included in SJSRY. Now, the civic administration has to conduct a periodic socio-economic survey of street vendors, register and issue identity cards to them. “We have completed the survey and issued identity cards to street vendors. The drafting of the police is in its last stage,” Waghmale said. According to guidelines, the Union government has to share 75% of the total cost to be disbursed to the beneficiary. The rest of it will be taken care of by the state government. “We hope for the maximum number of beneficiaries as they will not have to bear any financial burden. The earlier scheme (SJSRY) required them to bear 25% of the cost starting a small scale enterprise,” Waghmale said. On shelters for the homeless, she said, “The guidelines say they should house 50 to 100 persons. Once the scheme is rolled out, we will survey the homeless and see where the facilities could be set up. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

29. Africa: UN urges concrete measures to end hunger (21)

New York, Mar 25 : The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Monday that despite notable recent economic progress, Africa remains the world’s most food insecure continent and calls on all African agriculture ministers to focus their investments and support efforts on smallholder farmers, including youth and women. Kicking off in Tunis on Monday its 28th Regional Conference for Africa, FAO applauded the continent’s continuous growth since 1999, and called for providing an enabling environment to end hunger in the region by 2025. With an average annual GDP increase of 4.8 percent between 2000 and 2010 – up from 2.1 percent in the previous decade – Africa has seven out of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world. The agricultural sector, in particular, has progressed considerably, with the intensification of staple food production, improved varieties of banana in eastern and central Africa, high-yielding varieties of maize in east and southern Africa and increased productivity in cotton production in Burkina Faso and Mali, and in tea and floriculture in east Africa. On average, agricultural production has increased slightly less than 1 percent per year, compared with about 2 percent in developing countries. “The question is how African leaders can build on this progress by providing stable agriculture and fiscal policies that encourage investment, as committed 10 years ago in the Maputo Declaration, and strengthen governance and accountability mechanisms that contribute to more systemic implementation of policies and programmes,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, adding that “these actions are critical to trigger a transformation” in countries’ ability to deliver sustained growth and development. Eleven African countries have already met the first Millennium Development Goals (MDG) hunger target to reduce by half the proportion of hungry people between 1990 and 2015. Three countries – Djibouti, Ghana, and São Tome and Principe – have also met the even more ambitious 1996 World Food Summit goal to reduce by half the total number of hungry. Despite all the progress, levels of hunger and undernourishment remain worrying in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa, FAO warns, estimating that of the 388 million who live in extreme poverty in the continent, approximately 239 million are chronically undernourished. The 2012 UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Report states that Africa is 41 percent “off” the first MDG poverty target versus 25 percent in South Asia and 6.1 percent in Latin America. FAO insists that there are significant opportunities for accelerating smallholder-driven agriculture and agri-business in Africa as the basis for transforming and commercializing the sector. With 40 percent of Africa’s population now living in cities and consuming approximately 50 percent of the total food, the importance of rural-urban food supply chains should be acknowledged, FAO says, and policy makers should consider this urban market, which is more accessible to family farmers, at least as much as an opportunity as the export market. Numerous examples of the dynamic growth of rural-urban supply chains can be found throughout the continent: millers-cum-retailers of teff in Addis Ababa markets, the millet supply chain in Senegal, the chicken supply chain in urban Nigeria, Mozambique and many other African countries, and the rapid rise of dairy processing companies linked to small farmers in Kenya and Zambia. With a view to enhancing FAO contributions to the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) at country, regional and continental levels, the organization undertook important activities in 2013 towards strengthening and aligning capacity on CAADP activities for 2014 and 2015…. (New Kerala 25/3/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

30. Most rural population now not solely in agriculture: NCAER survey (20)

NEW DELHI: Employment in agriculture has fallen sharply over the last seven years and a combination of farm-oriented and non-farm work is now the most common form of rural employment, according to the findings of a nationwide representative sample survey conducted by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER).The Hindu is reporting exclusively from the findings of the NCAER’s 2011-12 round of the India Human Development Survey. The NCAER team covered 42,000 households across the country, 83 per cent of which were surveyed for the last round of the IHDS in 2004-05. The IHDS is the largest independent household sample survey in the country. The IHDS’s findings on employment show that the fall in agricultural employment — documented in the 2011 Census as well — is much larger than what was previously believed. In 2004-05, half of all rural men and 83 per cent of rural women worked only on farms, making it the most common type of rural employment. However, exclusive farm-oriented work is still the most prevalent form of employment among rural women, engaging 66 per cent. The IHDS findings contradict the latest data of the government’s National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), which shows purely farm-based work as the biggest employer in the country. “It is a fact that the NSSO has not been able to adequately capture the combinations of different types of economic activities that people engage in,” said Preet Rustagi, a labour economist, professor and joint director at the New Delhi–based Institute for Human Development (IHD). According to the IHDS findings, non-farm work is now a bigger employer for rural men in Punjab, Haryana, Assam, north-eastern States, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The same is true for rural women as well in the two southern States. The IHDS confirms an alarming trend — the NSSO found so too — of a fall in the participation of women in the workforce — from 47 per cent women aged 15-59 in 2004-05 to 43.7 per cent in 2011-12. The participation rate, which considers all those employed or looking for work, for men is 78.9 per cent and 77.2 per cent in 2004-05 and 2011-12 respectively. While the fall in male participation is primarily explained by rising higher education enrolment, the work participation rate for women have fallen even for those in their 20s and 30s. The IHDS also confirms that wages have grown exponentially over the last decade. The daily agricultural labour wage has nearly tripled for men in the last seven years, while the non-agricultural wage has more than doubled. The wages of women workers, though still much less that male workers, have grown similarly. (The Hindu 25/3/14)

 

31. Distraught Maharashtra farmer attempts suicide in collector’s office (20)

Nagpur: Distraught over not getting compensation for losses suffered in the recent hailstorm in Maharashtra, a farmer consumed poison in the Yavatmal collectorate office, officials said Tuesday. The incident occurred late Monday. Farmer Janardhan Raut, 70, hails from Akpuri village and is now battling for life in a hospital. “There was this unfortunate incident just outside my office and we rushed him to hospital. We are taking details about the farmer, his debts, losses, etc,” Yavatmal collector Ashwin Muddal said. “We have found a suicide note from his person and we are investigating,” an official from Yavatmal police station said. According to Kishore Tiwari, chief of NGO Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, Raut had gone to the collectorate to enquire when he would get the compensation for losses suffered in the hailstorm. “He is also facing harassment from some private money lenders for old farm loans, details of which we are inquiring into,” Tiwari told IANS. The hailstorm and unseasonal rains lashed 28 of the 35 districts in the state in February-March, damaging or destroying standing crops in about 1.90 million hectares of farmland barring the coastal Konkan region. As many as 18 farmers have committed suicide in the Vidarbha region alone while the state-wide figure has crossed 100, Tiwari said. Despite announcements by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and a visit by a central assessment team, the farmers have not received any assistance, he added. “The largest number of suicides have taken place in Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra. We wonder if all the aid has been diverted to western Maharashtra which has barely reported any case of a farmer ending life in the past couple of weeks,” Tiwari said. He said the state government has already declared a relief package of about Rs.4,000 crore, but officials at the ground level say the amount would not be disbursed till the Lok Sabha elections are over. (Zee News 26/3/14)

 

RESERVATION

32. 30 pc quota for women in central jobs: DMK (25)

Chennai: In a bid to improve living standards of the marginalised and minorities, the DMK made several promises in its manifesto, including 30 per cent reservation for women in central government jobs, proper implementation of reservation in PSUs for differently-abled, recognition of transgenders as the third gender and boost to self-respect (inter-caste) marriages across the country. In its election manifesto released by party chief M Karunanidhi on Tuesday, the DMK promised to include the fishing community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list and create a separate ministry at the Centre to protect their interests in relation to other countries. Promising to espouse the cause of Tamils living across the globe, the DMK promised to press the Centre to take steps for conducting a referendum among the Tamils in Sri Lanka and appoint only Tamil envoys to nations which have a sizeable diaspora. While vowing to redeem Katchatheevu, an islet off Tamil Nadu coast ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1976, the DMK also promised to work for resettlement of Lankan refugees in India, after ascertaining their willingness. Sticking to its demand for implementation of the contentious Sethusamudram project, which it claimed would promote economic development in southern Tamil Nadu, the DMK said it would create a congenial atmosphere to again begin work by expediting disposal of cases pending before the apex court. The party also promised to seek waiver of farm loans, necessary laws to ensure construction of a second spaceport at Kulasekarapatinam in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, institutionalise Tamil as the official court language and additional language in central government institutions, appointment of 10 lakh women across the country as people welfare workers and a Constitutional amendment to abolish death penalty. (Deccan Herald 11/3/14)

 

33. OBCs, minorities encroaching on SC, ST quota (25)

LUCKNOW: Over 50% police stations in the state have station officers hailing from other backward classes and minorities, whereas number of officers from scheduled cast and tribe are less than 40%, reveals a Right to Information query. These appointments, applicant claims, violates government order on posting of officers and Supreme Court slab on reservation. The government order dated June 7, 2002 says clearly that 21% station officers in each district shall belong to Scheduled Caste (SC) and2% to Scheduled Tribes (ST) category persons. As per the RTI information obtained by RTI activist Dr Nutan Thakur from the DGP office, however, UP has a total of 1,447 police stations. Thus, as per the GO, a minimum of 303 station officers should have belonged to SC category and 30 to ST category. Against this, only 120 SC officers and one ST office have been posted as station officers. Further, the GO prescribes for 27% reservation for other backward classes, including minority communities which makes it 420 police stations. Against this, actually 614 station officers are from backward castes and 102 are from minority community, taking the total to 734. This, she said, makes up for more than 50% reservations and is clearly against the upper slab for reservation by the Supreme Court. (Times of India 14/3/14)

 

34. Karnataka has highest number of OBCs in police (25)

New Delhi: Southern states have the highest number of people belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in their police forces, with Karnataka topping the list. Over 55 per cent of the state’s police personnel come from these communities, according to the latest data on police organisations released by the government think-tank Bureau of Police Research and Development. Karnataka had 50,333 OBC personnel out of a total of 91,169 as on January 1, 2013.The state had sanctioned 33 per cent reservation for OBCs in the force, but the presence of such personnel in Karnataka Police is 55.21 per cent.“The Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, the traditional weaker sections, in India have been covered by affirmative action to accelerate the process of their socio-economic upliftment,” said the document. Tamil Nadu follows Karnataka with 48.86 per cent of its personnel coming from OBCs, followed by Kerala at 33.86 per cent and Andhra Pradesh at 23.63 per cent.At the pan-India level, there are 3,74,303 policemen from OBCs, constituting 16.94 per cent of the total of over 22 lakh personnel. (Deccan Herald 15/3/14)

 

35. 43 women among 318 candidates fielded by Congress (25)

Delhi: For all the claims of giving greater say to women this election, of the total 318 candidates announced so far by the Congress party just about 14 per cent happen to be women. The party has so far announced 43 women candidates. The party announced its third list late last night. The first list had 194 names while the second and third list announced featured 71 and 58 candidates respectively. Of 28 women candidates announced earlier in the first list, the party later brought it down to 26. Further, in the second and third list, the party selected 11 and six women candidates respectively for the polls. A month ago, while addressing an all-women rally in Tumkur, Congress vice-president stated that the opposition party, BJP did not support women. Further, he charged then that BJP didn’t want to give either positions or share its administration with women. Gandhi reiterated the view that the country can be transformed into a super power by giving more representation to the ‘fair sex’. Key highlights: 1) So far, the Congress party has announced 43 women candidates for the upcoming polls. 2) Till now, the party has offered less than 14 per cent seats to women. 3) Maximum 11 candidates have been fielded from Uttar Pradesh (UP) followed by Rajasthan (6), Madhya Pradesh (3), Bihar (3) etc. 4) The party has listed its first preference to enact the women’s reservation bill. This explains that why women remain grossly under-represented at the Indian Parliament. Just 11 per cent of seats were held by women in 15th Lok Sabha as against the global average of nearly 21 per cent.  As per state-wise list of Cong women candidates so far, maximum 11 candidates have been fielded from Uttar Pradesh (UP) followed by Rajasthan (6), Madhya Pradesh (3), Bihar (3), Chhattisgarh (3) etc. Not ignoring the importance of UP which represents 80 out of the 543 members of Lok Sabha, the party has fielded some prominent women candidates from there. For instance, former Uttar Pradesh PCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi has been made the candidate from Lucknow. Similarly, senior party leader Begum Noor Bano has been fielded from Moradabad, a Muslim-majority seat. Further, actress Nagma has received a ticket from Meerut. Other prominent women who are given tickets by the party include: Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla (from Chhatisgarh), actress Aparajita Mohanty (Odisha), and journalist Sucharita Mohanty (Odisha). Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar (Bihar) and sitting MP from Madhya Pradesh, Meenakshi Natrajan got selected to fight the upcoming general polls in the state. Likewise, Priya Sunil Dutt (Maharashtra), Girija Vyas (Rajasthan), Chandresh Kumari (Rajasthan), Jyoti Mirdha (Rajasthan), Rajesh Nandini Singh (Madhya Pradesh), Ranee Narah (Assam), Divya Spandana Ramya (Karnataka), Deepa Dashmunshi (West Bengal), and Mausam Noor (West Bengal) are some other sitting MPs who got re-nominated for the big event. Congress party’s has listed its first preference to enact the women’s reservation bill giving 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and assemblies. (Zee News 20/3/14)

 

36. Tribal Sangha demands rights (25)

Kokrajhar, March 23: The All-Assam Tribal Sangha has demanded reservation of majority seats for indi- genous people in the Assam Assembly. The Sangha adopted some important resolutions during its three-day 36th triennial general conference which concluded today after three days of colourful programmes at Mancotta in Dibrugarh. The Sangha said majority seats should be reserved for indigenous people of Assam in the state Assembly so that their rights and interests are protected and the minority indigenous communities have representatives in the Assembly. It also demanded that the rights and interests of the indigenous communities should be looked after for good, protection of tribal belts and blocks, eviction of illegal encroachers of tribal land, inquiry into the illegal mutation cases in tribal belts and blocks areas, land rights for the scheduled tribal forest dweller according to the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Sangha general secretary Aditya Kakhlary said they would discuss with the government and the BTC authorities on forest rights issue. “There is an urgent need to safeguard the tribal belts and blocks and protection of tribal lands from illegal encroachers,” he said. The Sangha also demanded enhancement of reservation for ST (plains) from 10 per cent to 15 per cent as per the 2011 census and inclusion of five more communities in list of ST (plains) in 2002. It criticised the state government for working against rights of tribal people saying the government and its machinery are not at all interested in proper implementation of reservation policy and rights of tribal people. Kakhlary said land issues are of foremost importance. “There is an internal strategy to grab tribal land and drive away the tribal people from their land,” he said. The apex tribal organisation criticised the Assam government for oppression and discrimination against the aboriginal people. “The tribal people are deliberately deprived of their rights by the state government,” Kakhlary said. He warned Dispur that this kind of discriminatory role and anti-tribal policy will not be tolerated and demanded implementation of the Assam Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Post Amendment Act, 2012, in the state. (The Telegraph 24/3/14)

 

37. Congress seeks to woo upper caste with quota (25)

New Delhi: In a bid to lure the upper caste, the Congress manifesto promises of looking at the option giving reservation on economic ground without distorting the current facilities provided to Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). In its manifesto for the 2014 elections, which was released here on Wednesday, the party said, “The Congress is committed to finding a way forward for introducing reservation in education and employment for economically weaker sections of all communities without in any way affecting existing reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs.” It is now generally believed that this promise is a clear indication of the Congress’ attempt to bring back to its fold the traditional upper caste support base, as except for a few in the upper caste population, most of the Hindu castes are benefiting from the current reservation policy. “Undoubtedly, the BJP has played the OBC card in this election by projecting Narendra Modi (an OBC) as its prime ministerial candidate. The BJP has also for long been a favourite of upper castes among Hindus. Thus, the Congress had no option to play its upper castes card,” said an analyst. However, in a bid to balance out its overtures to upper castes, the party in its manifesto also expressed its commitment “to create national consensus on affirmative action for SCs and Sts in the private sector”. Taking the caste card further to ensure that the present equilibrium does not get disturbed, the manifesto also promises to establish “special commission for SCs, STs and OBCs to identify communities within each group, which have not benefited so far”. It also promises to ensure that the existing Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for SC and ST candidates will be extended to students belonging to Other Backward Classes” (Asian Age 27/3/140

 

Posted by admin at 26 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. 17 custodial deaths in three years: Govt (1)

CUTTACK: In last three years, at least 17 custodial deaths have taken place in the state. According to information obtained by human rights campaigner Biswapriya Kanungo through Right to Information (RTI) Act, the deaths occurred between April 6, 2010, and December 23, 2013. The figure includes three custodial deaths each in Bhubaneswar and Ganjam district, two deaths each at Keonjhar and Berhampur and one each at Sambalpur, Rourkela, Angul, Dhenkanal, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj and Kandhamal. He had sought information from home department regarding compensation provided, inquiry done and accountability fixed on officials in the cases, but the authorities failed to provide them, the campaigner claimed. (Times of India 11/3/14)

 

2. Notice to Amit Shah in Ishrat Jahan case (1)

Ahmedabad: The CBI court‘s show cause notice asks the former Gujarat Minister of State for Home why he should not be made an accused in the case A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court here issued notices to the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s close confidante Amit Shah in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. The CBI court’s show cause notice asked Mr. Shah, the then Minister of State for Home and presently l BJP general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, why he should not be made an accused in the encounter case. Notices have also been issued to the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner K.R. Kaushik and the CBI. This follows an application by Gopinath Pillai, father of Javed Pillai who was among the four victims of the encounter besides 18-year-old Mumbai girl Ishrat Jahan. The notices are returnable on March 26. The CBI filed two charge sheets in the fake encounter case naming seven Gujarat police officials and four Intelligence Bureau officials, including the then State IB chief Rajinder Kumar, as the accused. The names of Mr. Amit Shah and Mr. Kaushik did not figure in the charge sheet. (The Hindu 14/3/14)

 

3. BJP promises to repeal AFSPA (1)

IMPHAL: With minimum presence in the North-east, the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party is leaving no stone unturned to capitilise on Narendra Modi’s growing popularity in Manipur The Manipur unit of the BJP has been trying to win the hearts of the people of the State by pledging to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 if it comes to power. The State unit president Chaoba Thounaojam has been making the announcement. But people are taking it with a pinch of salt since the party had done nothing about it in the past. On the other hand, Deputy Chief Minister and PCC president Gaikhangam Gangmei recently said Manipur burned during the regime of the BJP led union government. It had extended the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) on June 14, 2001 “without territorial limits.” On June 18, 2001 people from all walks of life had come out on the streets and torched offices of political parties, manhandled many elected representatives and torched the Assembly secretariat and offices of the Chief Minister and other Ministers and MLAs. 18 persons were killed in the police retaliation. Earlier Thounaojam launched a broadside against Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh contending that he had given his approval to the construction of the border fence deep inside Manipur. However the Chief Minister brushed it aside as misleading and not factual. Now the people’s agitation has fizzled out since the construction work has been suspended. The BJP has also been harping on the alleged corruption of the Loktak Development Authority which is chaired by the Chief Minister. However, in the absence of support from other political parties, nothing came out of the demand made on the basis of the expose by a news magazine. Thounaojam says there is corruption everywhere and that if the BJP comes to power some politicians in Manipur will be incarcerated. However sources in the ruling Congress brush aside these strident charges saying the state unit of the BJP is on a fishing expedition. They said that it has been failing to secure a single seat in the 60 member Manipur Assembly for the last two terms. They said that a “party hopper like Thounaojam” cannot befool the people. Meanwhile the BJP has fielded a former academic, R.K. Ranjan, in the general Lok Sabha seat. Another former academic and minister has also been fielded in the reserved seat. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

4. Police atrocities form bulk of rights violations: Hungund (1)

Mangalore: A bulk of the human rights violations in the State refer to police atrocities; if the police follow procedure, the violations in the State will reduce drastically, said C.G. Hungund, Member of Karnataka State Human Rights Commission, here on Sunday. Delivering a talk at ‘Praja dharma’, a convention of human rights awareness held here, Mr. Hungund estimated that up to 70 per cent of the complaints in Bangalore were of police atrocities, while up to 50 per cent of the complaints in other districts involved the police department. “I don’t agree with the contention that human rights comes in the way of the police maintaining law and order. All we ask for is that they follow procedure during arrest. Illegal custody occurs as the police believe it is the only way to maintain peace,” said Mr. Hungund, and added that there was a need to sensitise officers who believed that human rights was low priority. The KHRC member said modernisation and privatisation had led to issues such as female foeticide, enforcement of the Right to Education Act, and bonded labour — albeit existing in a “concealed form” of low wages and lack of benefits – and inter-country adoption, which amounted to “human trafficking” – that continued to persist in the state and needed the attention of human rights activists. “Violations such as moral policing come out of modernisation and deviation from our culture,” said Mr. Hungund. U.T. Khader, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, believed that using “human rights” as an excuse to release anti-social elements came in the way of police functioning. “Yes, there are numerous cases of police not taking complaints and other violations. But, there are cases when their hands have been tied after the culprit starts to take shield under human rights,” he said . The programme, organised by the nongovernmental organisation Human Rights Federation of India, also saw eight activists from Uttara Kannada, Hassan, Udupi, Chikmagalur, Shimo (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

5. Mother seeks compensation for son’s custodial death (1)

MADURAI: Home secretary and director general of police will have to answer on a plea seeking Rs 15 lakh compensation for the death of a youth following custodial torture. On Monday, the high court order to issue notices to them came up during the hearing on a petition filed by the victim’s 65-year-old mother, Periyamangi. Her 24-year-old son Pandiyaran died last November after alleged torture in police custody. Periyamangi is a resident of Anaiyur in Madurai. According to the petitioner, Pandiyaran, alias Rasukutti, had eloped on November 13 with a girl studying in class 12. Pandiyaran, who was working as a van driver at a private school in Madurai, was in love with a student of the same institute. After the girl’s father lodged a complaint before Koodalputhur police in Madurai, the lovers surrendered at Kariyapatti police station. Koodalputhur police reached Kariyapatti in Virudhunagar, along with the petitioner, girl’s parents and a few others. A friend of Pandiyaran had informed police that both the boy and the girl were staying at the house of the van owner in Kariyapatti. At the Kariyapatti police station, petitioner’s son was assaulted by two people, including sub inspector, in the presence of the petitioner. She was sent out of the station by the police after she wept. Later, when Periyamangi returned to the station, she saw police thrashing Pandiyaran and subsequently, being taken to a nearby house. Later, she was told that her son committed suicide. Seeking action against concerned police personnel, Periyamangi had sent representation to the state human rights commission (SHRC). As there was no follow up on it, she filed a petition at the high court bench which directed the SHRC to look into her complaint, the petition said. Periyamangi further said that her son who surrendered before the police should have been produced before the court as per legal provisions. But, police allegedly killed him and they continue in the service. Hence, they should be punished and be made liable to pay compensation of Rs 15 lakh to her. The court had recently passed orders transferring the investigation to the CBCID. (Times of India 18/3/14)

 

6. CBI court acquits ex-Haryana DGP in custodial killing case (1)

NEW DELHI: Nearly 20 years after two persons were killed in police custody, a special CBI court in Ambala convicted two persons on Tuesday even as three other police officers, including the then Director General of Haryana Police Lachman Dass have been acquitted. Besides Dass, the then SP (Vigilance) Ved Parkash and head constable Sube Singh were also allowed to go scot-free. The case relates to Jitender Pahal and Randhir Singh, both known criminals, who were killed while being taken from Jind to Sonipat in police custody on October 25, 1994. On the petition of Pahal’s mother, Punjab and Haryana high court had directed CBI to take over probe in the matter as the petitioner had alleged role of Haryana police officers in the killing of the two. Ambala special court convicted two policemen, Nar Singh and Ramesh Chander. Arguments for quantum of sentence will be heard on March 20. During the probe, CBI found that Pahal and Singh were known criminals in Haryana and were lodged in the prisons while Lachman Dass was serving as DG (Prisons) in the state. In 1991, a friend of Dass’s son Bunty, Budh Ram entered in a clash with Pahal. In November 1991, Bunty visited Ambala prison where Pahal was lodged and both threatened each other with dire consequences. “The CBI investigation disclosed that during the period from August 24, 1994 to April 30, 1995, Dass while posted as DGP Haryana entered into a criminal conspiracy with Ved Prakash Verma, Nar Singh, Ramesh Chander, Sube Singh and Mangat Singh Gill and in pursuance of the said criminal conspiracy eliminated both Jitender Pahal and Randhir Singh,” CBI alleged in its chargesheet. The agency charged Dass along with others with murder and furnishing false evidence. During the trial Gill died. “The court of Ambala district and sessions judge has held accused Nar Singh and Ramesh Chander guilty for commission of offences of murder while accused Lachman Dass, V P Verma and Sube Singh have been acquitted,” CBI spokesperson said. (Times of India 19/3/14)

 

7. Centre to discuss policy on encounters with states (1)

New Delhi: Unable to come up with a national policy on encounters, the Centre will hold consultations with state governments next week on the contentious issue of guidelines to be followed in instances of exchange of fire between police and terrorists/other criminals. The mha had earlier objected to Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government’s demand for a national policy on encounter cases arguing that law and order being a state subject, the Centre cannot frame a unilateral policy on the matter. The two-day meeting convened by Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami is likely to be attended by the chief secretaries from the states and DGPs, said officials. In 2012, the Gujarat government facing flak for a large number of encounter deaths during Modi’s regime moved the apex court demanding a national policy. More than two dozen police officials in Gujarat are facing CBI probe in alleged fake encounter cases of Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Sadiq Jamal. The MHA is likely to suggest states to come up with their own guidelines which can be the template for a national policy for the police force across the country later. However, they cautioned that each situation will demand a different response and it will be difficult for any police force to follow a standard operating procedure (SoP) in a situation which warrants a gunfight. The police response will vary, depending on if terrorists, Maoist or criminals are facing them, said officials A senior Home Ministry official said it will be difficult to implement such a policy in troubled areas of North East and Jammu & Kashmir but may lead to controversy because of the AFSPA. The Home Secretary will also take stock of security arrangements for the Lok Sabha elections. The Gujarat government had demanded a national policy arguing that it would serve to stop extra-judicial killings under the garb of fake encounters and at the same time ensure that police officers discharging their duties honestly against terrorist organisations/organised criminals are not demoralised by motivated allegations. The Gujarat police had taken the stand that the policemen from the state were being punished while police officers in other states were feted for gunning down terrorists. Highlighting zero tolerance to terrorism, the Gujarat government claimed it is a vigilant state. Gujarat police said it is tough for policemen armed with service revolvers to protect citizens from terrorists carrying AK-56, and be accused of engineering fake encounters. (Indian Express 19/3/14)

 

8. Two Haryana policemen get life sentence for fake encounter (1)

Ambala: Two Haryana policemen have been sentenced to life imprisonment by a special CBI court for killing two criminals in a fake encounter in 1994 even as it acquitted the then DGP of the state. The then Inspector Nar Singh and Constable Ramesh Chander were sentenced yesterday for their involvement in the Jitender Pahal encounter case and slapped with a fine of Rs 10,000 each. The then Director General of Haryana Police Lachman Dass and two other policemen have been acquitted. The case relates to Pahal and Randhir Singh, both known criminals, who were killed while being taken from Jind to Sonepat in police custody on October 25, 1994. On the petition of Pahal’s mother, Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed CBI to take over probe in the matter as the petitioner had alleged the role of Haryana Police officials in the killing of the two. During the probe, CBI found that Pahal and Singh were were lodged in the prisons while Lachman Dass was serving as DG Prisons in the state. In 1991, a friend of Dass’ son Bunty Budh Ram was involved in a clash with Pahal. In November 1991, Bunty visited Ambala prison where Pahal was lodged and both threatened each other with dire consequences. “The CBI investigation disclosed that during the period from August 24, 1994 to April 30, 1995, Dass while posted as DGP Haryana entered into a criminal conspiracy with Ved Prakash Verma, Nar Singh, Ramesh Chander, Sube Singh and Mangat Singh Gill and in pursuance of the said criminal conspiracy eliminated both Jitender Pahal and Randhir Singh,” CBI had alleged in its charge sheet. The agency charged Dass along with others with murder and furnishing false evidence. Gill died during the trial. (Zee News 22/3/14)

 

9. Activists write open letter to political parties on AFSPA repeal (1)

New Delhi: Around a hundred civil society members and several rights organisations have endorsed an open letter to all political parties urging them to take up the issue of repeal of AFSPA (Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958) imposed in the North-East and Jammu & Kashmir. The concerns of people in AFSPA-imposed states are being ignored while promises of development, secularism and corruption are being made in rallies and public meeting, says the letter issued by the ‘Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign’. Irom Sharmila, known as the “Iron lady of Manipur’, has been on fast since 13 years demanding repeal of AFSPA. “Your promises of development are incomplete and impossible without the repeal of AFSPA. Where is the place for your symbols of ‘development’ in the cities torn apart regularly by the repressive state machinery and military? Where schools and public parks are transformed into military camps?” adds the letter. On the “promise of challenging corruption” the letter says “You cannot challenge corruption without challenging AFSPA because AFSPA is the face of corruption — a corruption of humanity.” As of now, only the CPI(M) has included the issue in its election manifesto. Several political parties, such as BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (United) and Left parties have assured support to the demand of AFSPA repeal. Among the signatories to the letter are Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA Secretary, Advocate Vrinda Grover, activists Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Nandini Sundar, Lalita Ramdas journalist N Jayaram, Nandita Narain of Delhi University and various human rights activists, workers and women’s organisations. (The Hindu 24/3/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

10. Pictures of missing girls at GB Road not helpful in tracing them: police (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi Police’s idea of putting up pictures of trafficked and missing girls on a notice board hanging outside the police post on GB Road has proved to be a dud as policemen posted there say that no one has ever come to them with information on any of these girls. The idea was brought in by the last Deputy Commissioner of Police Central District Devesh Srivastva about a year ago. “If a person going inside any of the brothels spots a girl whose picture is displayed on this board, he can immediately inform us and we can rescue the girl,” said a police officer explaining the idea behind the notice board, adding that they have not received any help from this so far. A constable posted at the police post said: “I have been posted here for the last six months and never has a single person come to the police booth with any information about the girls whose pictures are displayed here.” Another one added, “People keep coming here to stick pictures of the women who have gone missing but we have not received any clue on a missing woman through this notice board.” While senior police officers refused to comment on the utility of this idea, some social activists slammed it saying it was destined to fail. “As soon as a person puts up a picture of a missing girl on a notice board, the information reaches the brothel where the girl is kept and the brothel owners either hide the girl or send her somewhere in Meerut or Agra for sometime, so that there is no possibility of people tracing them there,” said Rishi Kant, who works for rescuing trafficked girls. Another reason because of which the plan failed was that most of the people who come to GB Road are either those who come looking for a brothel or businessmen who come for work at the hardware market below. “Neither are interested in looking at the pictures of these girls,” quipped a police officer. According to the data gathered by an NGO working in the field of trafficking, almost 600 girls were trafficked to Delhi in the last two year and 60 to 70 per cent of them were brought to GB Road. However, the number of girls rescued out of them is miniscule. (The Hindu 12/3/14)

 

11. ‘Ignorance Major Cause of Human Trafficking’ (1)

BERHAMPUR: Lack of public awareness is the major cause for increasing human trafficking from the State and the organised crime continues to flourish under political patronage.Public intervention is a must to check the social menace dogging the Sstate. This was the opinon of speakers at a workshop on human trafficking organised by Seva, an NGO, which also highlighted that Berhampur railway station is the main transit point from where children mostly girls in the age group of 10 to 20 years from Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Koraput and Malkangiri are being sent to places like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam for commercial and sexual exploitation. The traffickers alure the children from poor families in the name of employment and marriages and in turn use them for wrong purposes. Secretary of Seva, Laka Sahu quoting police records,  said 87 human trafficking cases were registered in 2012. Of those, 72 related to women. While 164 persons were arrested in this connection, police rescued 200 victims. However, the figure doubled in 2013. Out of 421 human trafficking cases registered in the State during the year, 391 concerned women. While 299 persons were arrested in this connection, 464 victims were rescued. More than 35 members of different NGOs participated in the workshop where some rescued victims also narrated their ordeals. (Indian Express 22/3/14)

 

12. ‘Andhra one of the leading states in trafficking of women, kids’ (1)

HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh, along with West Bengal and Maharashtra, witnesses the highest number of trafficking cases, judicial and law enforcement officials said on Saturday. Speaking at a one-day colloquium organized by the AP Judicial Academy, the experts attributed the thriving trafficking to loopholes in the law. “Along with Maharashtra and West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh reports high incidents of trafficking. It is going on with the support of politicians and officials in key posts,” said AP high court Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta. He appealed to the judges in the gathering to take up trafficking cases and deliver justice quickly. Legal experts said various factors, including poverty and lack of education, drives people to trafficking. To protect victims from further exploitation, Justice K G Shankar said judges should restrain from levying huge monetary fines on convicts, who may later harass other victims to recover the penalty costs. Retired IPS officer S Umpathi, who is known for his work to curb trafficking, highlighted the magnitude of the problem saying an abducted girl may be subjected to abuse from hundreds of clients within the first week itself. “About 32 lakh women and children in the country are victims of trafficking, which thrives due to a nexus with local police officials and the support of the wealthy,” he said. The experts also spoke on the need to step up rehabilitation facilities for rescued victims. They said awareness should be created in rural areas from where women and girls are lured or abducted, as re-entry into the family and community becomes very difficult for the rescued victim. “The only government home for rehabilitation of victims in Kukatpally is not functional, forcing us to rely on public homes. Also, given the magnitude of the crime, there is no dedicated budget to tackle it,” Umpathi said. The audience mostly comprised the members of the AP Judicial Academy and public prosecutors, in addition to representatives from the ministry of home affairs. (Times of India 23/3/14)

 

13. Prioritise cases of human trafficking, judges urged (1)

Hyderabad:  “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta said as much when he shook the societal conscience to the menace posed by human trafficking. At a judicial colloquium here on Saturday, Justice Sengupta called for restoring the civic sense of people to the problem. The colloquium was organised by the A.P. Judicial Academy in coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs to examine human trafficking, which had become a global phenomenon and draw strategies to tackle the challenges posed to judicial, police and administrative wings of government. In a touching address, Justice Sengupta gave a graphic account of how the syndicate lured young girls with the promise of good salary and luxurious lifestyle. Justice K.G. Shankar of the High Court recalled the case of a young girl who was booked under section 294 IPC. The girl admitted to the offence and when he was about to impose penalty on her, she pleaded to be sent to jail for three months. When quizzed, the girl said she desperately needed some rest. If she was let off with a fine, her body would be exploited further, she cried. Justice Shanker urged judges to give top priority to cases of human trafficking and show compassion to the victims who were arraigned as accused. Justice R. Subhash Reddy, president, A.P. Judicial Academy, said human trafficking had become the third largest source of making-money after arms smuggling and drugs. He recalled a report in The Hindu about the exploitation of children by a circus company at Goa for 14 long years to show how youngsters were being abused. Speakers touched upon human trafficking from various perspectives. (The Hindu 24/3/14)

 

14. Couple booked for trafficking a maid from Assam (1)

NAGPUR: Three persons, including a couple, have been booked for procuring a girl from Assam and forcing her to work as a domestic help. Sunita (name changed) was brought from Assam with hordes of other girls on the promise of getting them jobs in factories and other such establishments, but later made to work as domestic helps. An offence has been registered against Gunjam and Satyam Rusiya along with Adam Horpad at Sadar police station following an order from the court. Sunita was brought to Delhi from Assam in 2012. She was forced to work as a domestic help in Delhi before being shifted to the city. Sunita was working as a help at the residence of Rusiyas in Sadar. Since she was reluctantly working here, the Rusiyas had informed the agency in Delhi that had sent Sunita to their residence. An agent had been sent to take Sunita back to Delhi. However, Sunita, who claims to have been underpaid, decided to stay back in the city to fight a case. Social worker Radhika Hedao and eunuch community from Pachpaoli supported Sunita and ensured she approached the cops at Sadar police station. However, offence was not registered for more than a month despite much efforts by the social workers, following which they approached the court, which directed filing of a complaint. (Times of India 26/3/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

15. HIV patients stage protest against drug scarcity (3)

MUMBAI: HIV/AIDS patients are going to protest against the scarce supply of drugs that requires them to frequent the treatment centres way too often. The protest is going to be staged outside the Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS) office in Wadala on Thursday. Patients are livid that they are given only a week’s supply of the antiretroviral therapy medicines when the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) allows the patients to take home a month’s quota. MSACS is responsible for giving free HIV drugs medicines to to all patients across the state, but has done little to tackle the severe shortage of HIV medicines. “Patients from as far as Nagpur and Sindhudurg and several other parts of the state have to travel every week to Mumbai to get these medicines. They cannot do this forever managing their jobs and concealed HIV status at workplaces or risk losing their jobs and dignities, because of the stigma attached to the illness,” said one of the patients. (Times of India 13/3/14)

 

16. Rare female to female HIV transmission detected (3)

Texas: According to media reports, a Texas woman has apparently contracted HIV through sexual contact with another woman, the Centres for Disease Control reported on Thursday, a rare female to female transmission of the virus. Testing confirmed the 46 year old woman with newly diagnosed HIV “had a virus virtually identical to that of her female partner, who was diagnosed previously with HIV and who had stopped receiving antiretroviral treatment in 2010,” according to the CDC’s Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report, a CNN  report said. “HIV transmission through female to female sexual contact “has been reported rarely and is difficult to ascertain,” officials were quoted as  saying in the report. Past confirmation of such transmission “has been difficult because other risk factors almost always are present or cannot be ruled out,” the report said. “In this case, other risk factors for HIV transmission were not reported by the newly infected woman, and the viruses infecting the two women were virtually identical.” The CDC said it was contacted by the Houston department of health about the case in August 2012. The woman newly diagnosed with HIV did not report any other risk factors, such as injection drug use, tattooing, transfusions or transplants, officials said. The woman is believed to have been infected by her 43 year old sexual partner, the CDC said. She told officials the woman was her only sexual partner six months before she tested positive. (Deccan Herald 15/3/14)

 

17. Most hospitals refuse to treat HIV patients (3)

COIMBATORE: A day after a private hospital in Race Course in the city refused to treat a 16-year-old boy further because he was HIV positive, NGOs working with HIV positive patients said almost 98% of private institutions in the city reject patients if they are HIV infected. Kamakshi (name changed), 43, a house-wife who was HIV positive had to undergo a simple colonoscopy because her physician advised her to do so after she complained of chronic stomach pain. She approached a mid-level hospital in Sundarapuram and got her admission form done. However, when she told the staff that she was HIV positive, they returned her admission and claimed they had too many patients lined up for colonoscopy for the next two days and didn’t have a vacant bed even in the general ward. “They asked me to a call three days later or better approach a government hospital for the test,” she said. The Coimbatore Positive Network, a city-based NGO, said the polite rejection that Kamakshi received was better than usual. “Almost all private hospitals in the city and surrounding districts refuse to treat or operate on HIV patients,” said the network’s president M Somesh. “They tell patients that they don’t have facilities or infrastructure to treat HIV positive people,” he said. They tell them to go to government hospitals in Coimbatore or Pollachi, he added. A campaign by the network sensitization programmes held by Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS), three large hospitals have agreed to treat and operate HIV patients. “We have got them to conduct around 15 deliveries so far,” says Somesh. However, these hospitals charge HIV patients twice the amount they take from regular patients. “They claim they have to purchase disposable instruments and gear such as gloves, masks, costumes which they have to dispose after one use and hence the higher charge,” said Somesh. But we are glad that they at least treat us, so we have learned to bear the costs, he said. Though Coimbatore district has more than 10,300 registered HIV positive patients, the two government hospitals and one link centre are the only venues where a patient can get Anti retroviral therapy (ART) at subsidised rate. “Even if other private hospitals offer ART, they do not tell us. In fact, hospitals that treat HIV positive patients do not want it to be known,” said Somesh. Hospitals said they can’t be blamed, because ART medication is expensive and the general public is scared of being treated along-side HIV positive patients. “We have a separate wing to treat HIV patients, conduct surgeries and even do deliveries. We do not publicise it much because we do not want our general patients to live in fear of a transfusion mistake or infection,” said a doctor at one of the hospitals that treat HIV patients. “We do not want doctors to lose out on their normal patients,” he added. Surprisingly, not a single complaint has been filed against any hospital for rejecting a HIV positive patient. “We have not got any such complaints against a hospital so far,” said Dr A S Valan, regional coordinator, TANSACS. “When we get such a complaint we will refer it to the Indian Medical Association and sensitise the particular hospital,” he says. The law clearly mentions that HIV patients can’t be discriminated against. IMA officials said many hospitals refuse HIV patients not because they intend to discriminate but simply because “they lack the expertise to treat them”. “Treatment of HIV patients is becoming a specialty on its own. For example, you need to understand the stage of the virus and there are drugs which can’t be prescribed along with ART drugs,” said IMA state president Dr M Balasubramanian. This is a far cry from Chennai where almost all big hospitals have started treating HIV patients. “We haven’t got any complaints from our members about being turned away from a hospital, despite them being very poor,” says S Noori, president, South India Positive Network. (Times of India 16/3/14)

 

18. Past HIV vaccine trials pave way for new treatment (3)

Washington: A multi-national research team led by Duke Medicine scientists has identified a subclass of antibodies associated with an effective immune response to an HIV vaccine. Earlier analyses of the results of that trial, known as RV144, suggested that antibodies to sites within a part of the HIV envelope called V1V2 correlated with reduced risk of HIV infection. These antibodies belong to a class called immunoglobulin G, or IgG. The new studies by two independent laboratories both found that only one subclass of V1V2-directed IgG antibodies—the IgG3 subclass—is associated with antiviral responses linked to the reduced risk of HIV infection seen in RV144. The experiments were led by Georgia D. Tomaras, PhD, of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, and Galit Alter, PhD, of the Ragon Institute, with funding in part from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. In the study led by Tomaras, scientists found that V1V2-specific IgG3 antibodies correlated with a decreased risk of infection in RV144 vaccinees and were linked to HIV-eliminating activity. The researchers also discovered that the level of V1V2-specific IgG3 antibodies in vaccinees’ blood waned rapidly, as did the efficacy of the investigational vaccines tested in the RV144 trial (from 60% efficacy at 12 months post-vaccination to 31.2% efficacy at 42 months). The study led by Dr. Alter demonstrated that RV144 vaccination induced antibodies able to direct multiple, coordinated HIV-eliminating activities, and that these activities were conducted primarily by V1V2-specific IgG3 antibodies. The finding has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. (DNA 20/3/14)

 

19. HIV patients 50 times more likely to develop TB (3)

New Delhi, March 23 : People infected with HIV have more chances of getting infected with tuberculosis – often fatally – and should get themselves tested in time as it can be cured if diagnosed early, experts said. “Ten percent of HIV patients are at the risk of suffering severe consequences of TB due to their low immune power,” Neeraj Gupta, senior consultant pulmonology, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon, told IANS. “HIV positive patients should regularly get themselves screened for the sputum and other mandatory tests,” he added. Gupta said that 80 percent of the people in India are likely to be affected by tuberculosis. “But among them, the HIV patients are more prone to the disease, which intensifies as the immune power among the patients keeps on decreasing,” he said. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 60 percent of the HIV patients in the world die due to TB. Between 2010-13, a total number of 3,80,000 HIV patients have died due to the disease – the highest in the last one decade, according to health officials. There are 2.2 million tuberculosis patients in India, which makes it the world’s highest TB-burden country. TB killed 1.3 million people worldwide in 2012 and India alone accounted for 26 percent of the total cases, according to WHO. Shashi Baliyan, managing director, Clearmedi Healthcare Private Limited, said an “estimated one third of the 40 million people living with HIV worldwide are co-infected with tuberculosis”.”People with HIV are up to 50 times more likely to develop TB in a given year than HIV negative people,” he added. B.R. Das, president, research and innovation, mentor-molecular pathology and clinical research services, SRL Diagnostics Limited said that in the active stage, patients infected with the disease show symptoms like weight loss, loss of appetite along with evening rise of temperature. Gupta said that though the symptoms remain hidden, fever and cough for more than three weeks could be worrisome. “If a HIV infected patient suffering from fever and cough for a long time does not respond to the treatment, he/she should immediately get all the tests for TB done,” he said. The biggest problem with HIV-infected patients is that they ignore problems of fever and cough, said Gupta. “HIV patients do not even bother to get the tests done for TB done as they believe that suffering from HIV is the end of their life. But they need to understand that by ignoring symptoms synonymous to TB, they are inviting death much faster than the death caused by HIV,” he said. “As both HIV and TB are curable, it is important for people to realise this and get it diagnosed early and get cured,” he added. Baliyan added that TB remains a leading cause of death among people living with HIV. “Many people infected with HIV in the developing countries develop TB as the first manifestation of AIDS,” he said. He suggested a few remedies which include access to quality diagnostics. “Political commitment for a sustained TB and HIV control, access to quality diagnostics, access to standardized and uninterrupted supply of medicines, surveillance and recording system and social awareness form the key suggestions,” he said. (New Kerala 23/3/14)

 

20. HIV+ patients to get 3rd-line treatment at JJ hospital soon (3)

MUMBAI: Due to growing resistance to second-line anti-retroviral therapy (ART) among HIV-positive people, the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) will soon roll out the third-line regimen. State government-run JJ Hospital in Byculla will be one of the 10 centres across the country where these specialized drugs will be distributed free of cost. “The decision has already been taken, but the drug-procuring process will take time,” said Dr B B Rewari, Naco’s national programme officer (ART). But the rollout should take place within six months, added Dr Rewari, who was in the city to attend the ongoing HIV Congress. India rolled out free ART in 2008, with 7.5 lakh people availing of it in 2014. Of these, around 7,500 HIV-positive people were moved to the second-line regimen after developing resistance. “Of these, 250 people are showing resistance to the second-line drugs as well,” said Dr Rewari. However, the government plans to prepare dosages of the third-line regimen for up to 1,000 patients. (Times of India 23/3/14)

 

21. ‘Provide Good Food for HIV Patients’ (3)

BANGALORE: The Karnataka State HIV-positives Welfare Association on Sunday asked the government to ensure that nutritious and good quality food is provided in all Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) centres in the state. Association president V A Nagaraj said he would submit a memorandum on measures needed to help people living with HIV to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday. “Free bus and train passes must be provided to individuals affected by HIV and patients who are admitted to government hospitals should be given free medicines,” he said. He also asked the government to set up special education funds for children of people suffering from HIV. (New Indian Express 24/3/14)

 

22. Suicides by HIV-TB patients stress need for counselors (3)

MUMBAI: Two alleged suicides of HIV-TB patients in a span of 45 days at Sewri TB Hospital have put the spotlight back on the need for counsellors at the city’s biggest TB hospital. Shockingly, the hospital that treats over 850 patients at any given point of time does not have a single full-time counsellor. On Monday, an HIV-positive woman, who was admitted to the hospital, about 10 days ago for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR) treatment allegedly jumped off the lift duct on the first floor of the hospital. Her brother and his wife had paid her a visit just a few hours before she allegedly committed suicide. The autopsy report showed that she died of head injury. On February, it was a 19-year-old boy from Bandra who slashed his wrist after he could no longer bear to go through the long-drawn treatment regime. “MDRTB treatment lasts for up to two years during which the patient can suffer from adverse effects ranging from nausea, deafness, blindness, among other things. The patient needs to be constantly motivated to take the medicines,” a senior public health official said. Currently, there is only one counsellor from Medicine Sans Frontiers visiting the Sewri hospital. Tnn “Counselling should be made mandatory for resistant TB cases. They suffer from extreme mood swings. Most of them endure enormous financial and personal hardships that inadvertently affect their treatment,” said a senior doctor from the TB hospital. The TB Hospital is already reeling under vacancies. For instance, only eleven assistant medical officer posts out of 27 are filled up. The hospital is running without two of its deputy medical superintendents. A BMC official, however, said that the situation will soon change. “Sewri TB Hospital will get four counsellors for its DOTS plus centres and so will KEM, Nair and Sion hospitals. The posts have already been sanctioned from the centre under the Revised National Tuberculosis Programme (RNTCP),” the official said. (Times of India 26/3/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

23. Odisha fixes Jan 1 as cut-off date for land prices under new law (4)

Bhubaneswar: The state government has decided to fix January 1, 2014, as the cut-off date to evaluate the benchmark value of land, the same day when the revised land acquisition law, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCTLAR&R), 2013, came into effect. The date would be applicable for finalising rates of land acquisition cases initiated before 2014. The new law has provision that the prices of the land must be taken into account from the date of the issue of initial land acquisition notification. But in cases where land acquisition process has already been initiated and price finalisation notice has not been served by the end of December, 2013, there was no clear instruction as to which date to be considered as cutoff date as per the revised law. “The new act does not indicate any cut-off date for those cases already initiated under the old act. In such a situation, it would be most appropriate to accept the date of coming into force of the RFCTLAR&R, 2013, as the cut-off date for determination of market value of land in those land acquisition cases initiated prior to December 31, 2013,” said additional chief secretary (revenue) Tara Dutt in a circular to all collectors last month. The revised act provides for better compensation for private land to be acquired for government or private projects. It includes calculation of 12 per cent increase of land price every year from the date of price notice along with all other immovable property prices on the land such as trees and houses. Besides, the land losers will be entitled to receive 100 percent solatium making the effective the land price double of the value after considering all criteria to fix the rate. The government has asked the collectors to submit data for showing the inventory of land acquisition processes that has not been completed. Though the new act makes land acquisition process costlier, major projects would not be affected as the land acquisition process for these projects had started earlier. Land acquisition for steel projects of Posco, Essar, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Tata Steel and power projects such as Odisha Ultra Mega Power Project had begun couple of years back with several people already receiving compensation for their land. However, upcoming steel projects along with many coal mining projects could face the blow due to the new rates applicable as per the revised law. Several port projects announced by the state government might also get hampered by the new land law, sources said. (Business Standard 11/3/14)

 

24. Poll code hits land acquisition for Gannavaram airport’s expansion (4)

VIJAYAWADA: The Gannavaram airport expansion process is likely to take some more time as the district administration is awaiting orders from the government for land acquisition. The payment of compensation could be a violation of model code of conduct hence the proposed acquisition may take some more time, according to officials. “The model code of conduct will not come in the way for land acquisition process. But, the payment of compensation will attract provisions of code,” said an official, who didn’t want to be identified. However, the official said that there shouldn’t be any problem in going ahead with acquisition process as the payment of compensation would come into picture at the end. The government would acquire little above 490 acres for the expansion . Notwithstanding, there is a talk in the villages that the government is likely to pay Rs. 35 lakh to Rs. 1 crore per acre. The government is proposing to acquire 243 acres at Buddhavaram, 133 acres at Kesarapalli and 115 acres at Ajjampudi villages. Initially, there was resistance from farmers towards acquisition but it subsided after assurance from officials that compensation will be paid according to the New Land Acquisition Act. The acquisition process is now suspended as the officials are yet to receive guidelines on payment of compensation and orders to go ahead with the acquisition. The district higher-ups are not willing to comment on the compensation to be paid to the farmers saying that they are yet to receive the guidelines on fixing the price. They, however, are quick to add that the compensation will be agreeable to the farmers who are giving their lands. The State government had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for expansion and development of the airport in 2007. As per the MoU, a modern passenger terminal building and hangers were to be built by 2009. The ILS and Automation of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) were some of the major developmental works taken up after the 2007. (The Hindu 16/3/14)

 

25. Forum to create awareness on Gadgil panel report (4)

Mangalore: A series of programmes to create awareness and gather support for the implementation of the Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report will begin in the district with a public discussion at Kudremukh National Park near Aladangady in Belthangady taluk on April 1. Suma Nagesh from Chikmagalur-based Save Democracy Forum told presspersons here on Monday that the programme would dispel myths about the report among forest-dwellers, while highlighting the “negative” aspects of the K. Kasturirangan Commission report that was commissioned to replace the Gadgil panel report. “The Gadgil panel report sought to comprehensively conserve the Western Ghats, which is a bio-diversity hotspot. The government conveniently used the Kasturirangan report to reject the Gadgil report. We have petitioned the President to reconsider the Gadgil committee report, while also creating awareness among the tribal people and forest-dwellers about the report,” said Mr. Nagesh, referring to a letter written to Pranab Mukherjee on March 15. He blamed vested interests, industrial lobbies, and political representatives for creating fear among farmers about displacement if the reports were implemented. “The only fear is that mining and industries will shut down. The Gadgil panel report clearly states that forest-dwellers were needed in conservation projects and it does not advocate for their displacement,” he said. The meet will also discuss the government’s “surreptitious attempts” at displacing tribal people from KNP, said Harish Malekudiya, a resident of Aladangady. “The government refuses to give us basic amenities, while attempting to lure us with money to leave our homes. We don’t want to shift elsewhere, but the government is making it difficult to stay on,” he said. Mr. Gadgil himself will address the Kudremukh forest-dwellers — some of whom are fighting against displacement — on April 1. Apart from him, activist S.R. Hiremath and writer Na. D’Souza, who had criticised the government on their “inactivity” over conserving the ghats, are expected to participate. The group will travel around the six States through which the Western Ghats traverses, and distribute materials and books in local languages elaborating on the need to implement the WGEEP report. An integral part of the organisation’s demand is the scrapping of the Yettinahole project, which they called a hasty decision that endangers the ghats. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

26. Navi Mumbai Airport: CIDCO might start land acquisition afresh (4)

Mumbai: The state-run City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), nodal agency for the Navi Mumbai international airport, will have to start afresh the land acquisition process for 271 hectares under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2014, if the villagers opposing the acquisition fail to come on board. This is necessary as the validity of the notices served in phases under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, to the project affected persons (PAPs) in 2012 would be over in July. CIDCO would have to serve new notices for the acquisition of 271 hectares of private land from six of the  17 villages under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2014. PAPs from these villages are opposed to land acquisition and they have refused to accept the state government’s compensation package announced in November last year. According to the provisions of the new act, land acquisition would be possible only after seeking approval from 70 per cent of the PAPs. Besides, under the new act, the compensation to PAPs would be four times of the prevailing market rate. Of the total area of 2,268 hectares proposed for the aeronautical and non-aeronautical works, 1,572 hectares is already in CIDCO’s possession. Of the 2,268 hectares, the core airport area would be 1,160 hectares. Despite several rounds of negotiations with villagers, CIDCO is yet to acquire 271 hectares required for the core airport area. PAPs last week held marathon meeting with the Cidco management reiterating their opposition for land acquisition and the compensation package. Cidco on February 5 has floated request for qualification and the bidders will have to submit it till June 18 this year. Cidco vice chairman and managing director Sanjay Bhatia told Business Standard ”Our efforts are on to convince the PAPs that the compensation offered by the state government is quite higher than what they will get as per the provisions of new act. As per the government package, PAPs will get 22.5 per cent of developed land for every hectare of land acquired. They will be provided one floor space index (FSI) for 12.5 per cent of developed land and 2.5 FSI for another 10 per cent. Further, the PAPs would get three times more land to the current residential plot they occupy.” Bhatia reiterated that government’s compensation is at a higher side. However, he clarified that PAPs have an option to go for compensation under the new act. Bhatia said that Cidco is currently engaged in the joint surveys of the villages and hoped that it will be in a position to acquire 271 hectare by end of July. Mahendra Patil, sarpanch of Pargaon, one of the village from where the land acquisition is yet to be done, indicated that the villagers are not in a mood to relent but continue their opposition to the Navi Mumbai international airport. He informed that retired judges PB Sawant and BG Kolse Patil have extended their support to their cause. (Business Standard 23/3/14)

 

27. ‘Development on Posco Project Only After Polls’ (4)

BANGALORE: Clearing the uncertainty around the Rs 52,000 crore 12 mtpa (million tonnes per annum) steel plant in Odisha, South Korean mining major Posco has said that any progress on the project will be likely taken up only after upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The company evinced their interest to set up the plant in June 2005 and said that they required 4000 acres of land for the same in Jagatsinghpur. Over 1700 acres of land has been transferred so far and the company is awaiting the transfer of 1000 acres of land as they need a total of 2700 acres for the first phase of the project. The company had announced to scrap their Rs 30,000 crore, 6 mtpa plant in Karnataka last year after local opposition and delays in clearances and land acquisition. Agencies reported that the state government is not likely to transfer land to the company before the general elections to be held from April-May 2014. The first phase of the project will commence operations in 2018 and the next two phases will commence operations within three years of every phase. The steel project had received initial clearance from the Environment Ministry in 2007 and final approval was granted in 2011. (New Indian Express 24/3/14)

 

28. 25-acre Tata Steel land fetches 1,100 crore bid (4)

MUMBAI: One of the biggest parcels of land in Mumbai, the 25-acre Tata Steel land in Borivli (E) is believed to have fetched the highest bid of Rs 1,155 crore following a day-long e-auction on Monday. It is rumoured that Oberoi Realty may be the highest bidder. But a Tata Housing source said, “We are still in the race. The bidder hasn’t been finalized yet. We understand the process is still going on.” Tata Steel declined to comment on the status of the transaction. Others in the race are Lodha Group, Oberoi Realty, Kalpataru, Peninsula Land and Indiabulls. Lodha stretched its final offer till Rs 1,150 crore before giving up, said sources. The reserve price was fixed at Rs 750 crore when the e-auction began at 11pm. Developers kept on increasing their bids by Rs 5 crore till it reached the final Rs 1,155 crore around 7pm. The auction was coordinated by global property consultant Knight Frank; its India chairman Shishir Baijal declined to comment. The land close to the Western Express Highway has a development potential of 28 lakh sq ft or 40 lakh sq ft in case the developer submits a proposal for parking FSI. Property rates in Borivli are currently in the range of Rs 13,000 a sq ft.”The land will be developed for residential purposes,” said a source. Tata Steel has put the onus of procuring regulatory permissions and clearances on the winning bidder, and that too, within three months of the deal being sealed. Of the total 1 lakh sq-m sprawl, an estimated 29,130 sq m is “Sanad” land, acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Tata Steel wants the winning bidder to obtain permission for sale of this portion from the collector’s office and an NOC from the Labour Authority within three months. The winning bidder will have to pay around Rs 150 crore to the collector as unearned income for this portion. “In case, the highest bidder is unable to obtain the approvals, the MoU shall automatically stand cancelled and participation deposit and earnest money deposit (Rs 20 crore) shall be forfeited,” said the information memorandum prepared by Knight Frank. “The balance consideration paid at the time of signing MoU shall be returned to the highest bidder along with interest etc,” he added. The Tata Steel document said only developers who have completed 2 million sq ft in the last three years and have a net worth of Rs 200 crore can participate. The successful developer has to pay 10% of the bid amount within two days of signing the letter of intent. The balance 90% has to be paid within a month of signing of the MOU. (Times of India 25/3/14)

 

CORRUPTION

29. Vigilance probes J&K land scam (5)

Jammu: In fresh trouble for the Congress at the time of Lok Sabha elections, the state vigilance body has begun preliminary probe into the Rs 25,000 crore land scam in Jammu and Kashmir, that was unearthed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) during an audit implementation of the much-hyped Roshni Act.  Official sources said two Special Investigation Teams (SITs) have been constituted to scrutinise the revenue record pertaining to the transfer of the state land to the occupants in Jammu, Samba and Udhapur districts, besides Srinagar and Budgam districts. The respective deputy commissioners have been asked to provide relevant records to the SITs. This reportedly followed instructions from State Vigilance Commission (SVC) headed by Kuldeep Khoda. Denying the registration of any formal FIR in the matter, IG (SVC) Alok Puri, said a preliminary scrutiny of the relevant revenue record is being conducted. The Jammu Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act was enacted by Farooq Abdullah’s NC in 2001 to mobilise Rs 25,448 crore for financing hydel projects in the state. For this, the Act envisaged selling of an over 20.64 lakh kanals of state land under to its occupants at market rates. The Act was later amended by the Congress-PDP regime and the Ghulam Nabi Azad government implemented it. (Indian Express 13/3/14)

 

30. Coal scam: Manish Tewari brands BJP a ‘self-firing automatic weapon full of blanks’ (5)

New Delhi: With the opposition targeting the Prime Minister over coal block allocations in wake of remarks of ex-Coal Secretary P C Parakh,Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari hit back at the BJP,calling it a “self-firing automatic weapon which is unfortunately full of blanks”. “Our attention has been drawn to some reports which have appeared in sections of press today. Most respectfully,I would like to submit that the entire matter is under investigation and the investigation that is being monitored by the Supreme Court of India directly. Therefore,in a subjudice matter where investigations are in progress it is inappropriate for people to be commenting in a manner in which they’ve done” he told reporters at New Delhi. Parakh,who has been booked by CBI in the coal scam,earlier said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the final decision maker and must be counted as a “conspirator”,prompting BJP to demand a thorough probe. On if the latest FIR in connection with alleged irregularities in the allocation of two coal blocks in Odisha would give fresh ammunition to BJP,Tewari said,”Well do you think that the Bhartiya Janata Party requires ammunition? They are a self-propelled and self-firing automatic weapon which is unfortunately full of blanks,” he said. Attacking the opposition party,Tewari said,”To expect anything else from BJP except irresponsibility would be expecting the Sun to rise from the west rather than the east. I don’t think it is important as to what BJP has to say,because they have been saying this for the last ten years. But responsibility and propriety demand that in an investigation which is being monitored by the apex court,people need to be restrained in their utterances,” he said. The Minister said that if some people did have anything to say,they will have their say at the appropriate forum,at the appropriate time. The government has provided all documents to the investigators and,therefore,this “unnecessary speculation” is something which needs to be avoided,he added. On a complaint being lodged against a Madhya Pradesh minister for allegedly handing over cash after the model code had come to force in poll-bound state,Tewari said distribution of money,especially when the model code has kicked in,its an extremely serious violation. “The Election Commission needs to take cognisance of and,accordingly,take appropriate action,” he said. To another question as to whether Congress was underestimating the challenge posed by BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi,Tewari said,”The proof of the pudding lies in the eating and the eating would be determined in 2014 when Lok Sabha elections would be contested.” (Indian Express 14/3/14)

 

31. Missing file may help babus get away in coal scam (5)

New Delhi: Bureaucrats responsible for the Hyderabad-based Navbharat Power Private Ltd (NPPL) being allocated two coal blocks in Odisha in 2008 despite misrepresentations made in the firm’s application could get away as a crucial coal ministry report that could determine their complicity is missing. The agency suspects that government officials responsible for scrutinising applicants for basic criteria appear to have colluded with the firm, but it cannot charge any government functionary yet as the file containing the report is missing. Earlier this week, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed its first charge sheet in the coal blocks allocation scam in which it accused NPPL and its two top officials of misrepresenting facts in their application for the coal blocks. NPPL was allocated the Rampia and Dip-side of Rampia coal blocks and the CBI has alleged that the firm’s promoters made an illegal profit of around `208 crore by selling the company in 2010 after it was allocated those blocks. A senior CBI source told HT that some other coal scam cases – the agency filed 16 FIRs in all – are also likely to be affected because of the missing file. The Supreme Court has directed the CBI to file charge sheets in five cases by the end of this month. In 2007, the government had asked experts from the public-sector Coal India Limited (CIL) to scrutinise applications to ascertain the financial strength of the applicants. The CIL had prepared a scrutiny report but the file containing this report is missing. “It would have helped us determine if public servants had colluded with the accused firm via willful omission or it was negligence or a systemic flaw,” a CBI officer said. For a proposed power project of 2,220 MW capacity, the firm was required to have a net worth of at least Rs. 4,000 crore as per the coal ministry’s norms. But the firm’s total worth — including that of its two promoters — was only Rs. 300 crore when it applied for the coal blocks. “NPPL wrongfully claimed to have a net worth of around R1 lakh crore on the strength of two European firms — Globeleq and Suez Energy International — in its application form,” the official said. Acting on an SC directive, the CBI had filed two preliminary enquiries (PE) last September to probe if there was any conspiracy on the part of government officials due to which files related to the coal-scam probe in 29 categories were missing from the coal ministry. In January, senior CBI officials said that since most of the missing files had been recovered and no criminality against any government official was found, the agency would approach the apex court for its permission to close the PEs. (Hindustan Times 15/3/14)

 

32. Corruption, bribery and fraud biggest risks for India Inc: Survey (5)

New Delhi:  ‘Corruption, bribery and corporate frauds’ has emerged as the biggest risk affecting corporate India, according to a new survey. The India Risk Survey 2014 released here on Friday was carried out by FICCI and Pinkerton to assess the impact of risks across the industry and geography of the country. ‘Strikes, Closures and Unrest’ has been rated as the second biggest risk. In last year’s survey, it was ranked as the biggest risk, the survey added. Interestingly, ‘Corruption, Bribery and Corporate Frauds’ ranked fourth in the last year’s survey. ‘Political and Governance Instability’ has been rated as the third biggest risk this year, an obvious pointer towards political uncertainty surrounding the upcoming general elections. ‘Crime’ and ‘Information and cyber insecurity’ have been rated as the No. 4 and No. 5 risks, respectively. G.K. Pillai, Chair, FICCI Homeland Security Committee and former Union Home Secretary, said, “Political and governance instability will not lead to creation of employment which is the most important issue facing the nation and its youth. A policy environment that trusts businessmen and entrepreneurs is the need of the hour.” The results of the survey are based on a collation from a set of 12 risks that have been identified after a series of brainstorming sessions. (Business Line 21/3/14)

 

33. Corruption being blown out of proportion: Sam Pitroda (5)

Bangalore: Chairman of National Innovation Council Sam Pitroda feels that corruption has become a way of life in Indian society and it was being blown out of proportion. “I think lot of this corruption is blown out of proportion. First of all, let me tell you – not that I like corruption, don’t get me wrong, corruption is a way of life in our society,” Pitroda told reporters replying to a question on corruption being a big issue for UPA government today. Speaking at “Meet the Press”, organised by the Bangalore Press Club and the Reporters Guild of Bangalore, he said that it was not that any party was corrupt or not, but everybody in the society was corrupt. “Business is corrupt, teachers are corrupt, doctors are corrupt, politicians are corrupt, everybody is corrupt. Not just the Indian society is corrupt, there is corruption in US but it is sophisticated. As it is sophisticated, you and I don’t get affected directly. There is corruption in China, Japan, Russia – so it has became a way of life, not that I like it. But let’s not get hung-up on it,” he said. Pitroda said that one can’t stop doing things just because there was corruption. “If somebody is corrupt, action should be taken… but you can’t take 20 year to decide it. Fix it soon, three years or whatever.” He stressed on the need to improve the system slowly and said if somebody has done wrong then he should pay for it; each one of us has to take responsibility…so I think we will have to work with the system we have and slowly and slowly improve.” Pitroda also stated that good work done by the government was not being publicised and said “we probably didn’t do a good job of communicating, explaining to people.” To a question as to who was accountable for this communication gap, he said “I don’t blame anybody, there is no sense in blaming somebody, everyone has their own style; we didn’t do a good job of communicating, that’s what people think and I am just telling, what people tell me.” (The Financial Express 22/3/14)

 

34. Vasundhara Raje attacks Congress over corruption (5)

Jaipur: Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje today kick started the Lok Sabha campaign with an attack on Congress, alleging that each person in the state is under a debt of Rs 75,000 due to the policies of its previous government in the state and at the Centre. “People in the state are under a debt of Rs 75,000 each and the economy suffered due to the policies of the Congress governments,” she said. Addressing rallies in Jaipur and Churu, Raje alleged that corruption was rampant during the rule of former Congress government in Rajasthan and government did nothing for the development of the state. “Due to the former government, the state is facing a difficult phase financially. There was a gap between people and the government during Congress rule but when BJP came to power, we started doing ‘Jan Sunwai’ and Cabinet meetings at divisional headquarters level to get the ground level feedback,” she said, while asking people to vote for BJP to get a better government at the Centre. BJP secretary Bhupendra Yadav, party’s state president Ashok Parnami, health minister Rajendra Rathore and other leaders were present in the rallies. (Zee News 23/3/14)

 

35. Whistleblower writes to PM, says PMO officials withholding info (5)

NEW DELHI: Facing roadblocks in his crusade against corrupt public servants, whistleblower Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officer, has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking action against certain PMO officials who were allegedly protecting powerful politicians and bureaucrats of the B S Hooda-led Haryana government by not sharing information under the transparency law. Chaturvedi alleged that some PMO officials were concealing certain information directly and indirectly linked to the ‘proposed’ CBI probe into the multi-crore plantation scam in the state unearthed by him during his posting in Haryana in 2009. The IFoS officer, posted as chief vigilance officer of AIIMS, had sought this information from the PMO under the RTI Act which, he claimed, would go a long way in fixing responsibility of politicians and bureaucrats in many cases of corruption in Haryana. The specific information sought by him pertained to documents and file notings on meetings of officers of the ministries of personnel and environment that took place in the PMO on the issue of recommending a CBI inquiry into the plantation scam. Unable to get the information, he went on to appeal before the first appellate authority under the transparency law. Though the authority in November last year directed the PMO to provide Chaturvedi the relevant information, he has not got the details. In his letter to the PM on March 10, the Haryana-cadre IFoS officer of 2002 batch said, “This is a very unfortunate situation where officers of your own office are involved in blatant violation of one of the flagship legislations (RTI Act) of your tenure, which has always been projected by your good self as the most significant achievement of your government.” Without taking names of public servants, he alleged that the motive of these officers (of the PMO) appeared to be to somehow protect corrupt politicians and bureaucrats of Haryana government. “However, in the process, these officers of your esteemed office have simply made a mockery of the RTI Act, 2005, for which, they should be properly punished,” Chaturvedi said in his letter which he claimed to have written in his “private capacity as citizen of India”.Besides demanding inquiry against concerned PMO officials, Chaturvedi also forwarded his letter to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) seeking immediate protection for himself under the statutory provisions related to protection of whistleblowers. Chaturvedi had exposed the scam while he was posted as divisional forest officer in Jhajjar in January 2009. He had detected that funds from international donor agencies were allegedly embezzled in the state in the name of plantation. He had blown the lid off the irregularities when he found that the plantation existed only on paper. The ministry of environment and forests carried out an inquiry and termed it a fit case to probed by CBI. The ministry had in its inquiry in 2010 even named certain bureaucrats and politicians in Haryana as being involved in the scams and harassment of the whistleblower. Chaturvedi had in November 2012 moved the Supreme Court to implement the ministry’s inquiry report and order a CBI inquiry into the matter. The state government, however, recently filed a petition before the high court for quashing the inquiry report. (Times of India 26/3/14)

 

36. CBI arrests two more in fake MCI registration scam (5)

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Tuesday arrested alleged middleman Jitendra Jagodia and a leady cleark of the Medical Council of India (MCI) in its probe in the scam involving registration of fake doctors. The illegal network of fake doctors who got their medical degrees from Russia and China was being assisted by Jagodia in getting clearances from the medical body. Sources said that certificates, that allow doctors to practise anywhere in India, were being sold for Rs 15 lakh each. Jagodia, sources said, was in touch with MCI officials. “They didn’t require undertaking exams for getting the clearance. The records were altered in MCI to favour the doctors,” said an officer. CBI had last week unearthed the scandal after arresting five doctors who possessed medical degrees from Russia and China and allegedly obtained recognition from MCI through fraudulent means. So far, nine people have been arrested in the scandal. At least three of the doctors, who had allegedly got a forged registration from MCI, were working in government hospitals in Gujarat, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. The CBI case was also against unnamed officials of MCI and some others. Government has made screening test mandatory for medical students who passed out from erstwhile USSR countries and China to be eligible to practise in India. CBI alleged these candidates had colluded with MCI officials who gave them permission to practise in return for illegal gratification even as the doctors did not fulfill the necessary parameters. Sources said there could be more arrests soon. The registration documents seized during searches last Thursday would be sent for forensic examination. (Times of India 27/3/14)

 

TRIBALS

37. Odisha tribal leader Linga fails to appear in public (6)

NARAYANPATNA (ODISHA): The CMAS leader, who has remained underground since November 2009, decided not to appear in public apprehending arrest at the hands of para-military forces before he could surrender in court. Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) leader Nachika Linga, who has been underground for more than four years, failed to appear in public as was speculated due to heavy deployment of para-military forces in an around Balipeta panchayat in Narayanpatna block of Odisha’s Koraput district on Tuesday. Mr. Linga was to address a meeting of his supporters at Balipeta, after which he was to appear before a court at Laxmipur, about 30 km away. A team of social activists and journalists, who went to bring Mr. Linga to the venue of the meeting from his hideout, told the gathering that Mr. Linga decided not to appear in public apprehending arrest at the hands of para-military forces before he could reach the court. The CMAS leader has remained underground since November 2009, following a clash between CMAS activists and police at Narayanpatna police station in which two of Mr. Linga’s associates were killed. Though the team of activists had earlier informed the State Director General of Police that Mr. Linga was likely to appear before the court at Laxmipur, there was no sign of any district police at Balipeta. Despite deployment of para-military forces and personnel of Special Operations Group, hundreds of supporters of Mr. Linga and a large number of media persons had gathered at Balipeta. Had Mr. Linga been able to surrender before the Laxmipur court, which had issued several warrants against him, it was speculated that he was also likely to contest the coming assembly elections from Laxmipur assembly segment in an attempt to join the social mainstream. The CMAS, under the leadership of Mr. Linga, has been spearheading the agitation of tribals in Narayanpatna block for land rights and other issues related to development. About 2000 para-military personnel have been deployed in Narayanpatna block since 2010 to counter Maoist activities in the area. Though the police had earlier alleged that Mr. Linga had Maoist links, the social activists who interacted with him on Tuesday told the gathering at Balipeta that he had no relations with left wing extremists. (The Hindu 11/3/14)

 

38. PUCL condemns killing of security personnel in Chhattisgarh (6)

New Delhi, March 13 : The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned the killing of 15 security personnel and one civilian by Maoists in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh March 11. In a statement released Wednesday, the human rights organisation regretted the loss of lives in the incident and said it “is part of a continuing and seemingly endless series of bloody and counter attacks by security forces and Maoists in the state”.Observing that under no circumstances can violence be justified, the PUCL said the unending spiral of violence is of utmost concern to it. It said the only way out of the present context of “vicious violence” is for the government to initiate a process of unconditional ceasefire, which could end hostilities on both sides and create the ground for talks. “We appeal to the Maoists also to agree to an unconditional ceasefire and engage in talks,” it said. “It is very important that adivasi groups like the Adivasi Mahasabha, Sarva Samaj and other representative organisations need to be included in the talks to end violence, apart from the two sides – the Maoists and the government,” PUCL added. Quoting studies by the Planning Commission — which said the only solution to the issue is land distribution, implementation of the Forest Rights Act and acknowledgement of rights of the tribals, the PUCL said the best way to restore faith in democracy is by integrating human rights, equity and social justice considerations into all government policies, plans and programmes and abandon militaristic solution. (New Kerala 13/3/14)

 

39. Tribals to Play NOTA Card to Claim Rights (6)

TIRUNELVELI: While political parties are busy preparing strategies for the parliamentary elections, tribal leaders across the State are mobilising their communities to wrench out their long pending demands using the ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) voting option threat. Though Kanikkarar community in Nagercoil has already announced its decision of choosing NOTA, Paliyars from Madurai, Uralis and Solakars from Erode have kept the option open in case their demands go unheeded. According to S Rajan Kani, member of Kani tribe and president of Pecchiparai Panchayat in Kanyakumari, “Our traditional settlements and livelihood activities should be safeguarded. Though Forest Rights Act was introduced in the State in 2008, it has not been implemented. We have decided to opt for NOTA to register our protest.” (New Indian Express 15/3/14)

 

40. Adivasis call for boycott of local body polls(6)

KHAMMAM: After boycotting the local body poll process by not filing a single nomination for eight MPTC and one ZPTC member posts in Kukunoor mandal, the Mumpu Pranthala Parirakshana Samithi has stepped up efforts to ensure withdrawal of nominations filed in other areas under the submergence zone of Polavaram project in the district. The Samithi consisting of various Adivasi organisations, political parties and associations representing people living in Polavaram submergence zone under Bhadrachalam and Palvancha divisions has given a call for boycott of the ensuing local body elections. The move is intended to register its strongest protest against the Central government’s “decision” to shift five mandals totally, one almost fully and one partly from Bhadrachalam Agency in Khammam district, an integral part of Telangana, to the successor State of Andhra Pradesh. Kukunoor mandal in Palvancha division is one among the five tribal sub-plan mandals earmarked for merger with the residual State of Andhra Pradesh. The Centre’s merger plan envisaged transfer of Bhadrachalam mandal, barring the revenue village of Bhadrachalam, including the temple town, to successor State of Andhra Pradesh. The boycott call assumes significance in the backdrop of the series of agitations recently organised by Adivasi organisations demanding scrapping of Polavaram project and some political parties seeking change in the existing design of the project to prevent large-scale submergence of vast tracts of tribal lands. Meanwhile, the Samithi leaders held discussions with the representatives of various political parties in Velerupadu, V.R. Puram and Kunavaram mandals to persuade them to ensure withdrawal of nominations filed by their candidates before the stipulated time slated for Monday. “We will explore all options to exert pressure on the Centre withdraw its “detrimental decision” and ensure continuation of all the seven mandals in Khammam district as part of Telangana State,” said S.K. Ghouse, an “all-party” mandal level committee representative of Kukunoor. A plan is on the anvil to give a call for boycott of the upcoming general elections too, he said pointing out that the seven mandals, including Kukunoor mandal constitute more than 1.10 lakh voters under the ST reserved Aswaraopet, Bhadrachalam and Pinapaka Assembly segments in the district. (The Hindu 22/3/14)

 

 41. ‘Schemes for tribal people not implemented properly’ (6)

Udhagamandalam: Condemning the alleged callous outlook of officials towards the problems concerning tribal communities, members of the Erumad Adivasi Kurumbas Munnetra Sangam staged a demonstration in front of the Collectorate here on Monday. N.M. Balan, president of the sangam, said that though their grievances were many, they wanted the officials to take action on at least some of them. Though the government had evolved several schemes, and enacted laws to uplift the tribal communities they were not being implemented properly by many of the officials. Owing to this they were not serving their purpose. By misusing the schemes, the officials were defeating their objectives. Many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were getting funds from the government and other agencies within the country and abroad for the uplift of tribal communities. Of the amount, 80 per cent was used by the NGOs for paying salaries and meeting other expenses. This gave the impression that the focus of the NGOs was not on tribal development but ensuring the livelihood of their employees. Several complaints notwithstanding nothing tangible has been done to check the trend. Referring to a scheme implemented recently by the Department of Adi-Dravidar and Tribal Welfare for the benefit of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Communities, he said that action should be taken against officials who allegedly distributed benefits to ineligible persons. Education assistance for tribal students for 2012-13 should be fully disbursed. The mystery surrounding the death of Govindan of Kallichal in Cherambadi at K.R. Pet in Karnataka in January 2010 should be unravelled. The explanations given so far by the police were not satisfactory. (The Hindu 25/3/14)

 

42. Latehar activist shares tribal woes on Aamir show (6)

Tribal rights crusader James Herenj, who is associated with MGNREGS Sahayata Kendra in Latehar’s Manika block, recently had his tryst with television when he appeared as a special guest in Season 2 of Aamir Khan-hosted Satyamev Jayate on March 23. The episode, Sachha Loktantra Kisko Kahenge, saw discussions on various aspects of Indian democracy, including state employment schemes, RTI provisions, social audit and self-governance. Guests from various backgrounds and age groups shared their opinions on the issues. Shyama Singh, also associated with the MGNREGS centre, appeared on the show with Herenj. Speaking to The Telegraph, Herenj said: “We were invited as special guests on show and during our interaction with Khan saab, we apprised him of our daily struggles for the implementation of MGNREGS in Naxalite-affected Latehar district.” On being asked how they got the opportunity to appear on the much-coveted programme, Herenj said that it all started when the show’s research team visited Manika block in January. “The team captured videos of our work under MGNREGS. These were shown to Aamir Khan and we were invited on his recommendation,” he added. Shyama Singh said that during the episode, they told Aamir and the audience how the benefits of government schemes did not reach most villages. “We also shared our achievements. We motivated residents of Swadih village in Manika block to construct roads without any help from contractors,” she said. The duo recalled interesting behind-the-scenes conversations with Aamir and other special guests on the show. “A day before this episode was telecast, Aamir Khan asked us why we did this work. We replied, ‘Aamirji, someone has to come forward and become the tribals’ voice. In places like Latehar, villagers suffer in silence owing to fear. We decided to come forward and implement schemes like MGNREGS so that they can earn a livelihood,” he said. Both Herenj and Singh went on to say that even after six years of MGNREGS implementation in Jharkhand, people were unaware of their rights under the Act. “We are struggling to ensure timely payment of wages to NREGA workers and making efforts to employ as many people as possible,” said Herenj. He added that in Manika block alone, there were around 22, 000 MGNREGS workers. Of these, only 50 per cent were currently employed. “We’re trying our best to streamline this scheme. Now we have another problem. Due to forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, our people are again out of work,” he said. (The Telegraph 26/3/14)

 

WOMEN

43. Gender-based violence remains a challenge in India: UN report (8)

NEW DELHI: Women across India have unanimously cited gender-based violence as a widespread an d persistent challenge, linking it directly to alcoholism and dowry, according to a new UN Women report “Hearts and Minds: Women of India Speak.” Some women, however, felt they were more aware of their rights and more were reporting violence to the police than before. Child marriage was cited as common as female foeticide, though at reduced levels than earlier due to legislation that has made sex-determination illegal, according to the report released here on Monday. Violence against women in the work place was identified as another “blind spot,” especially in industries and areas where women work as informal labour without any rights, such as garment industry or as domestic help. Similarly, the report said that while there was greater awareness about HIV and AIDS in select quarters in rural India, the awareness level remains very low and associated stigma and discrimination is very high. “Rural women are in a “high risk” category as the most common way they contract disease is unknowingly through their husbands. The stigma adversely impacts their health and nutrition, ability to earn a livelihood and their children’s lives, which women living with HIV and AIDS are most concerned about,” the report said. Speaking on the occasion, Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women Multi Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka said: The report ensures that the voices of those who remain socially and economically marginalised are meaningfully reflected in India’s policies and the emerging global Post-2015development agenda. The Gender Equality Goal, developed by UN Women calls for increased participation if women in decision-making. In the context of the upcoming elections, this is a pertinent issue as despite the advances made through Panchayats, women account for only 10 per cent of seats in Parliament.” The survey was conducted over a year in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan where women were spoken to individually and in groups. In terms of women’s empowerment, most feel that there have been positive, even some transformative, changes in their lives over the past decade compared to previous generations. They said they had greater visibility, more education and employment, better health-related access, facilities and social security cover especially for pregnant and lactating mothers, among other things. However they raised many issues that remain unaddressed such as access to water and sanitation, housing, roads, electricity, lack of employment options and skills training. (The Hindu 11/3/14)

 

44.  “Death sentences will not deter increasing crimes against women” (8)

NEW DELHI: Punishing the December 16 gang-rape case convicts with death sentences will not deter the increasing crimes against women, rights activists said on Thursday. The Delhi High Court on Thursday confirmed the death sentence and upheld the conviction given by the fast-track court in the case that has captured public attention due to its gruesome nature. According to the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, the death penalty ignores the wider socio-economic and cultural factors in play. “This was an extremely gruesome and unacceptable crime on a defenceless girl,” said PUCL national general secretary Dr. V. Suresh. But, he added: “The PUCL is against the death penalty in principle. There is no proof that it acts as a deterrent.” Crimes are committed due to circumstantial and socio-cultural factors, Dr. Suresh said, adding that widespread unemployment was leading to misplaced frustration and anger among young men. Women’s rights activists, however, were divided on the death penalty acting as a deterrent in sexual assault cases. The secretary of the All-India Progressive Women’s Association, Kavita Krishnan, said: “Death penalty is not synonymous with justice”. On whether the death sentence in this case could deter such crimes in the future, Ms. Krishnan said: “Let us not kid ourselves”. Centre for Social Research director Ranjana Kumari, however, welcomed the High Court’s decision. “It is a good message to criminals and sexual assaulters in the country that they can’t get away,” she said. Though she added this was “not enough”, Dr. Kumari said if all rape cases are tried by fast-track courts then it could have a deeper impact. Giving examples of the Khairlanji and the Manorama Devi cases, Ms. Krishnan said: “If justice has to be even-handed, you can’t have one law for cases in Delhi that get more attention and another for those in other parts of the country.” “We need to fight for a uniform standard for justice,” Ms. Krishnan said. With the December 16 case bringing protesters out on the streets across the country, Dr. Suresh said people today want instant justice. “There is no instant solution for systemic failures that are leading to crimes. We need to go back to our schools and tell boys that girls have equal rights,” he said. While activists agreed that the crime was indeed brutal, as the Court found, they couldn’t agree on whether the order would have an impact on the instances of sexual assault. “This is not the first crime of this kind and will not be last,” Dr. Suresh said. (The Hindu 14/3/14)

 

45. Sex-violence reaching epidemic levels globally: ‘Nirbhaya’ play director (8)

Ahmedabad: Theatre can play an important role in helping women speak up against sex violence, which has now reached epidemic levels globally, says acclaimed playwright and director Yael Farber whose award-winning play ‘Nirbhaya’ makes its India premiere. Theatre can play an important role in helping women speak up against sex violence, which has now reached epidemic levels globally, says acclaimed playwright and director Yael Farber whose award-winning play ‘Nirbhaya’ makes its India premiere. “Sex violence has reached epidemic levels universally and the more we can get people to talk about the issue, it is better. Theatre can play a role in initiating dialogue and help women raise their voices and break the silence,” Farber told PTI in an interview. The South African-origin director, who now lives in Montreal is bringing the play “Nirbhaya-Breaking the Silence” based on the December 16 bus gangrape incident in 2012 to the country. It will be staged in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore between March 17 to March 28. The seven-member cast stars five women, including “Delhi Belly” actress Poorna Jagannathan, TV actor Priyanka Bose, celebrity hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani and acid attack survivor Sneha Jawale, who narrate their personal experiences on sexual and gender based violence. “These testimonies include dowry bride burning, child abuse, marital rape, gang rape – as well as the daily iniquities of sexual harassment on public transport and in the streets of urban India,” says the director. Farber weaves Nirbhaya’s story within the five personal stories. The remaining two performers, Japjit Kaur and Ankur Vikal evoke the key people, events of the night of December 16 and what followed in its wake. “It is highly personalised material and required tremendous courage by the artists. It is a profound gesture of breaking the silence that has been culturally engendered as a response to sexual violence around the world,” says Farber. Although Farber’s productions, including her previous one titled “Mies Julie” have toured the world extensively earning her a reputation for hard-hitting, controversial works, this is the first time she is showing in India. “We are keeping our expectations open and very humble about it. We don’t know how the audience will consider our play. We understand that we are bringing it home now,” says Farber. The production was conceived when Poorna Jagananthan contacted Farber on Facebook after the gruesome rape incident. British Council, Unesco, Oxfan along with South African Airways and DHL have supported the production, which opened at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in London and has won Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award, the Scotsman Fringe First, and the Herald Angel Award for Outstanding New Play. (DNA 16/3/4)

 

46. Sri Lanka army admits torture of women recruits (8)

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s military admitted today soldiers had abused and tortured female recruits, a rare admission of guilt after years of allegations over its personnel’s treatment of Tamil rebels during an uprising. A military spokesman said it accepted the authenticity of a video leaked on a dissident website that appeared to show soldiers torturing women soldiers, adding instructors had overstepped their authority for an undisclosed act of violating “military discipline”.”The investigation which is being carried out by the Sri Lanka Army Corps of Military Police has so far revealed that the video in question is an authentic one,” military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said in a statement. “According to a preliminary report, the instructors (the troops) have punished the recruits for an act in violation of military discipline,” Wanigasooriya added. “However, the method adopted is not in accordance with standard procedures,” he said. The anti-establishment www.srilankaguardian.org website, which is blocked by Internet providers in Sri Lanka but can be accessed through servers outside the country, published the 4.41-minute footage Friday, saying it had been filmed on a phone camera by another soldier. The fuzzy footage showed women recruits being subjected to cruel and degrading treatment and sustained beatings by men in uniform. The spokesman said the incident had taken place in October 2012 in the north-central district of Anuradhapura, further south of the war zone where fighting ended in May 2009 with the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels. “The individuals who carried out this excessive action had overstepped their mandate and acted in (sic) their own volition,” he said. It is the first time the military has accepted a leaked video showing torture as authentic, previously rejecting as fabrications several others allegedly showing executions of surrendered Tamil rebels and sexual abuse of female detainees. The latest video came a week before the UN Human Rights Council was due to debate a US-led resolution pressing for an international investigation into allegations that Sri Lankan troops killed up to 40,000 civilians after ordering them into a no fire zone. International rights groups have said Sri Lanka’s government was complicit in many of the crimes. A study published yesterday by South African human rights lawyer and UN adviser, Yasmin Sooka, alleged that Sri Lankan troops carried out horrific sexual abuse of ethnic minority Tamils even after the end of the island’s separatist war. She said the “highest levels” of Sri Lanka’s government were complicit in raping, torturing and abducting ethnic Tamils following the war and accused security forces of sexual abuse of Tamils, including forced oral sex and anal rape as well as water torture. Colombo did not comment specifically on Sooka’s report but has always denied such allegations and also insists that not a single civilian was killed by its troops while battling Tamil Tigers known for their trademark suicide bombings. Colombo, in turn, has accused the defeated rebels of using civilians as human shields. (Deccan Herald 22/3/14)

 

47. Big drop in child sex ratio in 9 Indian states (8)

NEW DELHI: In many of India’s least developed states, girls are disappearing not so much from foeticide as from infanticide or just plain neglect of the girl child leading to more number of girls dying. This is revealed in the latest Annual Health Survey data of the census office, which shows a substantial fall in the sex ratio in the 0-4 years age group in several districts spread across nine states. Since many of these are the most populous states, this fall would account for lakhs of missing girls. In fact, in four of the nine states, it is not just specific districts but the entire state that has seen a worsening of the 0-4 sex ratio. What is also worrying about this trend is that most of these states have traditionally had better sex ratios than the national average. The malaise, it appears, is growing even where it wasn’t much in evidence in the past. In a majority of the districts in these states, the sex ratio at birth has actually improved. But about 84 of the 284 districts recorded a fall, even if in 31 of them the fall was marginal. The fall in sex ratio in the 0-4 age group is much more widespread, with 127 districts exhibiting this trend, 46 of them showing a significant drop.  The census office has been conducting an annual health survey in nine states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Assam. A baseline survey conducted in 2007-09 has been followed up by similar ones in 2010 and 2011. Jharkhand, which had a relatively better sex ratio to begin with, and Rajasthan, which figured at the bottom of the pile, have shown the greatest improvement in both sex ratio at birth (SRB) and the 0-4 sex ratio. States that started off with high sex ratio in both categories, such as Chhattisgarh and Assam, have recorded the biggest declines in 0-4 sex ratios along with Bihar and Odisha. In Uttar Pradesh, 30 per cent of the districts recorded a fall in the 0-4 sex ratio. In Chhattisgarh, the ratio fell in 13 out of 16 districts. As a result, the state’s 0-4 sex ratio fell from 978 to 965. Having started with a very high sex ratio, despite the steep decline, Chhattisgarh continued to have the best sex ratio among the states surveyed. The sharpest dip among all 284 districts was in Chhattisgarh’s Kawardha district where it fell from 1076 to 1001. In Bihar, 21 of 37 districts registered a decline in 0-4 sex ratio. Of these most recorded a steep decline. Darbhanga dipped by 39 points from 908 to 869, Vaishali from 909 to 874 and Sitamarhi from 877 to 855, making it the district with the worst 0-4 sex ratio in the state. In Orissa, the 0-4 sex ratio declined in 21 out of 30 districts. In Madhya Pradesh, the SRB declined in 20 of 45 districts and 0-4 sex ratio in 17 districts. However, the decline was marginal, except in a few districts. Uttarakhand had the worst sex ratio among these nine states to start with and despite showing some improvement, it continues to be the worst. While the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) (regulation and prevention of misuse) Act might address foeticide and help improve sex ratio at birth, there is no law to protect the girl child from neglect within her family. And the health survey data reveals that overall improvement in sex ratio often masks pockets of intense and growing skew in the sex ratio. (Times of India 23/3/14)

 

48. Dowry law cannot be harassment tool, says court (8)

New Delhi: A court here has observed that dowry prohibition law cannot be allowed to become a tool for harassment. Granting relief to a man, who was booked in a dowry harassment case by his wife, the court ordered investigation against the complainant for filing a false case. The man’s wife in July 2012 filed a first information report (FIR) against him in a South Delhi police station, alleging that he demanded dowry and subjected her to cruelty, which resulted in her miscarriage. Police investigated the complaint and filed a cancellation report, giving a clean chit to the accused. Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan, accepting the cancellation report of Delhi Police, said Sections 498A (subjecting woman to cruelty) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) and Dowry Prohibition Act are special legislations enacted for the “protection of women” and have serious penal consequence for the offender. “Under no circumstances can it be permitted to become a tool for harassment of innocent persons,” the magistrate said. “There is a enough material on record to show that the complaint was false and fabricated.” During the investigation it was revealed that it was the woman’s second marriage and there was no evidence of dissolution of the first. The woman alleged cruelty by the man which had resulted in her miscarriage. But the court noted that the investigation report showed she had voluntarily got the medical termination of her pregnancy. It was observed the woman had mentioned the name of the other man in the medical report. The bills of hospital were cleared by the other man. (Deccan Herald 24/3/14)

 

49. Mathura: Panchayat bans girls from wearing jeans (8)

Mathura: The mahapanchayat, held at Rahera village in Mathura on Sunday, also decided to ban child marriages, use of DJ at weddings, grant of dowry and gambling by members of the community. “The decision will help control evils of the society,” said community leader Udai Singh, who presided over the mahapanchayat. “It has also been decide that a maximum of only Rs. 21,000 can be given as gift during ‘kanyadaan’ (a marriage ritual carried out by the girl’s parents),” he said. “It is a good decision. The ban on use of DJ in marriages, child marriage, use of liquor is also welcome,” said a saint, Ramesh Baba, while addressing the mahapanchayat. “Use of liquor has ruined several families. It (the ban) would pave the way to uplift the community,” he stated. The mahapanchayat has decided on a fine of Rs. 11,000 for not following the orders. The panchayat also decide to give a reward of Rs. 2100 to anybody who will bring to its notice any violation of the orders. Other leaders who attended the mahapanchayt were Gopal Singh, Ram Swaroop, Jaipal Singh and Raghubir Singh. The mahapanchayat was attended by members of the Yadav community from 52 villages in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, they claimed. (Hindustan Times 26/3/14)

Posted by admin at 24 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. Sri Lanka accuses US of human rights abuses(1)

Colombo: Days before a US-sponsored resolution will be taken up against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council, Colombo accused Washington of committing human rights abuses. Cabinet Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena Monday said that there were reports that the US had killed civilians during its military operations in Afghanistan. He noted that most countries were overlooking such abuses and yet making allegations against countries like Sri Lanka. “Despite all this, the Sri Lankan government will not be shaken by such allegations and will instead continue with its policies for the country,” Abeywardena said. The US-sponsored resolution was submitted before the UNHRC in Geneva last week after the document was initially circulated among Council members. The draft resolution, “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka”, is still open for amendments before it is discussed at the Council and debated on next week. The resolution notes the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s call for an independent and credible international probe into alleged violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka. It also expressed concern at the alleged continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture. Already countries such as the European Union, Canada and Britain have stated that they will vote against Sri Lanka when the final resolution is submitted. (Deccan Herald 11/3/14)

 

2. Do we live in a more peaceful world? (1)

Chandigarh: Technology has made it possible for us to know about each other and communicate faster. The internet, cellphones and dish antennae have made it possible to connect with any corner of the world at the click of a button. We know of the Arab Spring, terrorist attacks, military built-up around some regions, daily bomb blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan, crisis in Syria and Somalia, threat from North Korea – and about several other volatile pockets. They generate fear and alarm about violation of human rights, worse loss of human lives. These are matters of genuine concern. So we know much about the goings-on around the world and are apprehensive about nuclear conflagration, poisonous gases, bio-chemical wars etc. Thus with advanced knowledge of the world, we carry the impression that we are living in a dangerous and violent world. Not surprisingly, we call the present as kalyug and apprehend the nearness of kaal (apocalypse). But a closer look will show that the world today is much less violent than it used to be in the past centuries. So let us make an outlandish statement that our generation lives in a safer world and try to see if that can be sustained by some arguments. There are cogent reasons behind making this unusual statement. The ancient and medieval world witnessed far too many human catastrophes, from the times of the Mahabharata. Despite all the violence that we see around us, it is much less than what happened during innumerable battles of the ancient and medieval world. Let us recollect the marauding and killing forces of Mongols and Huns. Everything perished that came in the way of the militaries of Halaku and Chengiz Khan. Today’s civilised Europe and America had thousand battles including the Crusades, the mighty battles of the Roman Empire, the Hundred Years’ War and the War of the Roses; later the fallouts of the American War of Independence and the Civil War and the French Revolution. We cannot forget the brutal purges of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Russia. Even these paled into insignificance by the horrors of Nazi Germany under Hitler. We had Nero earlier and Mussolini later. Lest we forget, the Vietnam War and before that nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima by America were responsible for colossal loss of human lives. The two World Wars together led to the death of no less than three million human beings. We may also respectfully remember all the heroic lives lost by the suppressed nationalities that fought for freedom from imperial yoke. Nearer home, we may recall various battles all over the country for two thousand years. History will not forget the ravages brought by Afghan invaders, Ahmed Shah Abdali and Nadir Shah Durrani,the wanton killings by the British of Indians during the revolt of 1857 and the untold killings and human misery during the Partition Era. China had its share in the Cultural Revolution, Bangladesh during its War of Liberation and Kampuchea during the Pol Pot regime. Happily these horrors of wars have subsided during the last three-four decades, with some exceptions like Iraq. The battles that ravaged in all parts of the world claimed hundreds of thousands of life every year. While scores died on the battle-fields, many more succumbed to the injuries due to lack of medical relief — a wounded soldier had less little chance of surviving a wound received in the battle ground. Secondly, the diseases and epidemics took a huge toll of life. We may remember how villages after villages and towns after towns were laid waste by plagues and cholera that left vast swaths of habitation desolate for years and it was impossible to count the numbers of humans who perished like flies.A word may also be said about various diseases that killed human beings routinely in the absence of medical facilities. Thirdly, in various parts of the world famine was as frequent as the annual floods and the two together devastated huge areas of land and destroyed massive population. The locusts completed the remaining task by destroying the crop and in aggravating the famine conditions. Large number of people die due to road accidents these days and many because of crimes. But fortunately their number is still small compared to those killed in the past by dictators and totalitarian regimes. Ours may not be an Ode to Solitude but definitely a limerick to peace and security. There are inequalities, injustices, violence and many other ills that we would desire to vanish. But the present age still gives to the world promises of life and liberty and dignity as a gift of democracy. Let us avoid pessimism and embrace hopefulness and feel sanguine about the credo of the modern world — to live and let live. We may perhaps agree that humans today have a more secure and peaceful existence than ever before. (Pioneer 16/3/14)

 

3. Sri Lanka arrests two human rights activists (1)

Colombo: The Sri Lankan police have arrested two human rights activists on terrorism-related charges. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana told Xinhua Monday that the two activists, Ruki Fernando and a Catholic priest Reverend Father Praveen, were arrested in the northern town of Kilinochchi under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The PTA was “used” mostly during the civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels but with the end of the conflict in 2009 some aspects of the law remained in force, the Xinhua report said. The police spokesman said that the main charges for the arrest of the two  activists were that they were attempting to create instability among communities and were also allegedly promoting separatism. Meanwhile, the US embassy in Colombo called on the Sri Lankan government to  ensure that due legal processes were followed in the case of the human rights activists. The embassy said that the US government was concerned over the arrest of the two activists. It urged the government to ensure the two have full access to a legal counsel. The Free Media Movement (FMM), a leading media rights group in Sri Lanka, condemned in the strongest terms the arrest of the two activists and called for their immediate release.The FMM raised concerns over the arrests at a time when human rights issues in Sri Lanka were being discussed at the UN Human Rights Council currently meeting in Geneva. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, had in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, raised concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.The US has also raised concerns and submitted a draft resolution to the UN Human Rights Council which will be taken up for a vote next week. (Deccan Herald 17/3/14)

 

4. Amnesty seeks prime ministerial candidates to show evidence of commitment.. (1)

MANGALORE: Amnesty International India is asking the declared and probable prime ministerial candidates of various political parties to clarify their positions on key human rights issues ahead of Parliamentary elections in April and May. “Political parties have sworn to uphold constitutional values of justice, liberty, equality and dignity,” said Shashikumar Velath, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India. “But their leaders’ actions must reflect this pledge. It is essential for everyone to know where Prime Ministerial candidates stand on important human rights questions.” Amnesty International India’s “14 for 2014″ campaign asks candidates to state their positions on issues including police reforms, marital rape, undertrial detention, impunity for armed forces, land acquisition, decriminalization of homosexuality, and freedom of expression. The candidates approached include Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, J Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal. “Human rights are unfortunately often seen as fringe issues during elections. But these crucial issues should be at the centre of debates and decisions around the elections,” said Shashikumar Velath.”The next five years will show whether India is willing to be seen as a true global power by upholding human rights at home and abroad, or whether it will continue to be driven by politics and narrow conceptions of national interest. “”Amnesty International India’s “14 for2014″ human rights charter calls on political parties to incorporate 14 key human rights issues in their election manifestos. The charter includes issues of business and human rights, reforms to the criminal justice system, violence against women, the death penalty, migrant workers’ rights, human rights through education, and a principled approach to human rights abuses abroad. Amnesty International India has submitted the Charter to various political parties, both national and regional. The organization has also launched a website, www.14for2014.com, and a missed call number – 09223322777 – for people to support the campaign by pledging to vote for candidates who commit to upholding human rights. (Times of India 19/3/14)

 

5. Sri Lankan rights activist, priest freed (1)

Colombo: Sri Lankan human rights activist Ruki Fernando and Catholic priest Fr. Praveen, who were arrested in Kilinochchi on Sunday under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, have been released. The two, who had been held in the Colombo headquarters of the Police Terrorism Investigation Division (TID), were released around midnight on Tuesday, with no charge framed against them. Mr. Fernando, in a message on his Facebook page, attributed his safety and release to the support and concerns expressed by so many in Sri Lanka and across the world. “Let us try to help others who also need similar support,” he said. The arrests triggered immense concern within the country and among the international community, particularly since Sri Lanka figures prominently in the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva. When the issue of their arrest was raised at the Council, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. said the two were detained as they had been engaging with a person in Kilinochchi who reportedly had links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Late Monday, international rights watchdogs, including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the International Crisis Group, jointly issued a statement expressing shock and demanding their immediate release. Meanwhile, Kilinochchi resident Balendran Jeyakumari, who was arrested along with her daughter on March 13 by the TID, still remains in police custody. She was an active participant in rallies against involuntary disappearances, raising concern over her son who reportedly went missing in the final phase of the war. Her 13-year-old daughter, BalendranVithushaini, after a brief detention, has been ordered into probationary care. (The Hindu 20/3/14)

 

6. Human rights groups to take up Madani trial delay (1)

Bangalore: Raising concern over delay in trial of Abdul Naser Madani in the 2008 Bangalore blasts case and jail authorities denying proper medical facilities to the leader who is reportedly unwell, Alliance for Protection of Human Rights & Justice and other groups will convene a conference here on Saturday. “We want justice for innocent people. The state is biased against minorities and Dalits, and many organizations have brought to public notice wrongful arrests. We will discuss this issue at the conference,” member of the People’s Democratic Front, Nagari Ramesh, said. Accusing jail authorities of not providing Madani with proper health facilities, APHRJ’s Rizvan Bappanad said the PDP leader was in urgent need of expert medical attention. Madani was denied bail through filing of false documents in court, he alleged. Bappanad accused a prison doctor of misleading court by certifying Madani was in  ‘sound health’. (Indian Express 21/3/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

7. 75 p.c. of working women have health problems: survey (3)

Bangalore: A survey now finds that this daily “multi-tasking” is taking a toll on their health. The worst part is most of the affected women are in the 32 to 58 age group. The survey titled ‘Multi-tasking seriously affecting corporate women’s health’ was conducted by the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry to mark International Women’s Day on March 8. The survey found that 75 per cent of the total sample size of 2,800 corporate women employees from 120 companies across 11 broad sectors had one or the other health problem. The survey covered all levels of hierarchy and the problem was found to be prevailing across all levels of seniority and grades. It was conducted in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, and Pune. According to a press release, the study found that 78 per cent of the sample size suffered from lifestyle, chronic and acute ailments. These included obesity, depression, chronic backache, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart and kidney diseases. “Those in the younger age group manage to cope up but are in a danger of developing problems,” the release said. About 42 per cent of the sample size was found to be suffering from lifestyle diseases such as backache, obesity, depression, diabetes, hyper-tension, and heart ailments. While 22 per cent were reported to be suffering from chronic diseases, 14 per cent had acute ailments. “A majority of the respondents said while the jobs were demanding, fear of losing them in an environment of economic slowdown and low employment generation was making things worse,” the release said. The worst part is that a majority of them do not get to visit the doctor. The reasons vary from a busy schedule to staying in denial mode, and some of them take to home remedies. Increasing medical costs also add to the problem, particularly for those at the lower strata of jobs, the release added. (The Hindu 9/3/14)

 

8. India, Africa should form working group on healthcare: Experts (3)

New Delhi, March 10 : India and the African countries should mull forming a working group to explore healthcare cooperation, stakeholders and experts said here Monday. “Cooperation in sharing local-level experiences in healthcare of both the regions will help,” Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director of the Medanta group of hospitals, said at a discussion on “Delivering affordable healthcare solutions for Africa”. The discussion took place at the 10th CII Exim Bank conclave of India-Africa Project Partnership. Trehan said one of the similarities in the healthcare scenarios of India and Africa were that both regions have not been able to eliminate communicable diseases like malaria and were burdened with non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. “A working group to explore issues of healthcare cooperation between India and Africa should be considered,” he said. Asserting that India was committed to help Africa as far as healthcare was concerned, Ranjan Chakravarti, head of transformation and business consulting at Ranbaxy, said: “The setting up of a centralised cell should be explored to address such issues. This will play an effective role in sharing experiences”.A.K. Khanna, executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals Limited, said: “In Africa, each and every healthcare provider is focusing on HIV/AIDS.” Though HIV was one aspect of the health issues facing Africa, there were others which were affecting the economy much more. “The disease burden is shifting to diabetes, hypertension and anaemia,” he said. “India also has to think of Africa as an opportunity. Medical tourism is very important and it should be developed properly,” he added. Remy Lamah, health minister of the Republic of Guinea, said: “Africa, specially Guinea, needs to improve the quality of healthcare at the national level.” “We need to focus on pre-natal care and HIV,” he added. (New Kerala 10/3/14)

 

9. Lack of medicos behind poor IMR (3)

LUCKNOW: When it comes to infant and maternal health, even Bihar is better that Uttar Pradesh. While the Infant Mortality Rate for UP is 53 per 1000, Bihar scores 43 on the same. Similarly, Maternal Mortality Rate in UP is 300 per one lakh, Bihar has a figure of 258 per 1 lakh. This was revealed at the national seminar on ‘Demographic Transition and Development: Issues and Challenges in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar’ organised by International Institute for Population Sciences at SGPGIMS. Experts claim that shortage of qualified doctors and lack of health units in UP is the reason behind this. “Against the standard of one doctor over a population of 5,000, UP has a doctor for every 8,000 which explains the crisis,” said experts. (Times of India 12/3/14)

 

10. Care & cure tips for kidney patients (3)

Residents were enlightened on how nausea or dehydration caused from diarrhoea could damage one’s kidney if proper treatment is not done. According to experts, during nausea or vomiting, excess pressure is created on the kidneys. Even excessive bleeding during delivery can also cause acute kidney injury. Dr Pankaj Hans, assistant professor of the medicine department of Patna Medical College, told the audience of these facts at a city hotel on the eve of World Kidney Day on Wednesday. Hans, who is also a consultant nephrologist at Ruban Memorial Hospital, said people often take nausea and diarrhoea very lightly but these ailments should not be ignored as these might damage the kidneys. “Those suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and those who smoke need to be more careful. During diarrhoea, one needs to take oral rehydration solution from time to time,” said Hans. He added that in most of the cases, kidney patients’ problems are diagnosed very late. “Most of them consult a physician, who continues to treat them without having knowledge of the actual disorder. Physicians refer kidney patients to nephrologists very late. There should be an early diagnosis programme for the detection of kidney related disorders. Even in school health programmes, only the height and weight of the body is measured. The need of the hour is to read the blood pressure of children. The state government has to take an initiative in this regard,” said the doctor. He added: “The number of kidney patients in the state is on a par with the national average. One person out of every six is suffering from kidney disorder in this country and the same situation prevails in the state.” He also pointed out the lack of necessary machines in the dialysis units in the state. “Many new dialysis centres have opened in the state but not all are properly equipped. There are dialysis centres in Purnea, Ara, Muzaffarpur and other places, which are running with one dialysis machine. For kidney patients there are different kinds of dialysis machines to be used according to his/her condition. The state government should regulate the dialysis centres. This would keep a tab on ill-practices,” said Hans. He added that a person whose kidney has been damaged should be kept on dialysis for at least four hours. “There are dialysis centres in the state which are not doing a proper dialysis of kidney patients. The units are keeping them on dialysis for less than four hours, which is not good for the patients,” he said. (The Telegraph 12/3/14)

 

11. Diabetes, hypertension often lead to chronic kidney diseases (3)

VIJAYAWADA: In 70 per cent of the cases, diabetes and hypertension are the cause for chronic kidney disease. Deterioration caused by age resulted in the disease in 10 per cent of the cases and congenital factors caused it in the remaining 20 per cent cases, said Vignesh Superspeciality Hospitals Private Limited Director and nephrologist doctor Bodepudi Chowdary. Dr. Chowdary in association with The Hindu conducted an awareness programme for employees of the Southern Power Distribution Company of Andhra Pradesh (APSPDCL) on the occasion of the World Kidney Day here on Thursday. Talking to the employees he said that the theme of the World Kidney Day this year was promoting awareness in diabetes and hypertension patients about the risks of kidney diseases. The danger the elderly faced from chronic kidney diseases had to also be highlighted, he said.Dr. Chowdary said that kidney damage usually happened without any indication. Even if the kidney functions were reduced by 90 per cent the physical indications were not serious. “Patients only experience weakness, swelling of legs, froth and some times blood in the urine so the severity is not known to them,” he said. But it was easy and inexpensive to establish kidney disorders by conducting tests or a simple scan. Usually the family doctor would be in a position to establish if there was any problem with the kidney. The levels of waste lie creatinine and urea would be high in blood and albumin (a protein) level would be high in the urine, he explained. The best way to prevent kidney damage was bringing about a change in lifestyle. Increase in exercise, reducing intake of salt, oily and fried items were needed. Consuming excessive non-vegetarian also increased the burden on the kidney, he explained. In a lively interaction session that followed Dr. Chowdary answered questions raised by SPDCL employees. To a question on the amount of water that should be consumed he said water should be taken whenever there was thirst. Explaining the link between body weight and the kidneys, he said that the average kidney was designed to deal with a body weight of about 70 kg. anything above that was a burden. SPDCL Chief Engineer K. Raja Bapaiah said changes in lifestyles were causing more people to suffer from kidney disorders and lauded The Hindu for organising such awareness programmes. Rural DE Satyanandam also shared his personal experiences of close relatives suffering from kidney disorders and the difficulties they faced. (The Hindu 14/3/14)

 

12. Children at danger from third hand smoke : Study (3)

Washington: Leftover cigarette smoke that clings on to walls, furniture and toys may be a threat to young children. Such “third hand smoke” may damage DNA and cause cancer, says a study. Research suggests that “third-hand smoke” could pose a far more serious threat, especially to young children who put toys and other smoke-affected items into their mouths. Scientists reported that one of the tobacco-specific nitrosamines newly formed in “third-hand smoke” damages DNA and could potentially cause cancer. Their talk was one of more than 10,000 presentations at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas this week. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

13. NAMHHR raises concerns over maternal health (3)

New Delhi: The National Alliance of Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR) with Oxfam India Thursday organised a two-day event here related to priorities in maternal health and upliftment of marginalised women across India. The event raised concerns regarding medical services and policy framework, government health programmes for tribal women, manual scavengers and migrant women. It examined the current maternal health policy on the basis of available case studies and women’s perspective particularly those belonging to marginalised social groups. Ritu Priya, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, chaired the event. The convention also saw speakers from different parts of the country like Choti Bai (Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, Madhya Pradesh), Neeta Hardikar, (Anandi, Gujarat), Sudha N. (SPAD, Karnataka), Anita Ghai (Jesus & Mary College, New Delhi). “Pregnant women who belong to backward classes do not get adequate medical care in small districts of Madhya Pradesh, hence the maternal mortality rate is high,” said Vinod Pateriya, Lok Sangharsh Sajha Manch, Madhya Pradesh. “HIV positive women are not given adequate medical care, they are often referred from one hospital to another,” Sunil Kaul, the Ant, Assam said. “There is a need to increase awareness among the adolescent women who are forced into marriage and become pregnant at an early age,” health expert Sebanti Ghosh said during the event. The event also highlighted the issues of nutrition and diet during pregnancy. (New Kerala 20/3/14)

 

14. Chemists threaten nationwide agitation (3)

New Delhi: Chemists and pharmacists on Thursday threatened to launch a nationwide stir against a new government order, which makes it mandatory to maintain a separate sale-register for several hundred medicines, ranging from sleeping pills to antibiotic and anti-tuberculosis drugs. While pharmacists claimed it was impractical to maintain such a register, industry insiders said the order was not only difficult to implement with over 6,00,000 retail shops across the country, but would also fail to meet its objective of eliminating rampant drug abuse. As per the order that came into effect on March 1, 2014, retail shop owners have to maintain a register while selling drugs containing one of the 46 molecules identified by the government. These drugs were categorised under a new schedule called H-1. The register must record the name and address of the doctors, name of the patient, besides the name of the drug and quantity supplied. “This is impractical because of the patient pressure at the shops. We receive 300-400 prescriptions every day and maintaining a manual register would be cumbersome and time consuming,” said Kailash Gupta, president of the All India Chemists and Distributors Federation. Maintaining such a record will prove to be particularly difficult for government hospitals or CGHS clinics, where prescriptions make no mention of the names of prescribing doctors. The register, however, need not have a copy of the prescription. Further, prescriptions do not have to be stamped once the drug is sold by a chemist. “The notification will not serve any purpose in preventing drug abuse as the same prescription can be used to buy a medicine from 20 different shops against clinical advice,” C M Gulhati, a former consultant to the World Health Organisation, told Deccan Herald. A section of pharmacists said maintaining such a register would be duplication of efforts, as a large number of shops use software to tender bills, making prescription drugs a new tool for harassment in the hands of inspectors. “But there is no law to make the use of computers mandatory in medical shops,” pointed out Gulhati. The government came out with the notification on August 30 in an attempt to tackle the issue of drug resistance and stop the misuse of certain medicines as intoxicants. Chemists and distributors have planned a sit-in in the capital on March 24, which will see the participation of pharmacists from other states. As of now, however, medical shops will not go on strike. (Deccan Herald 21/3/14)

 

15. Unlikely volunteers ease mothers’ heavy hearts (3)

Chennai: Inmates of a shelter home for the mentally challenged give parents of young cancer patients respite from their worries. Prince Frederick on the exercise orchestrated by Chennai VolunteersAs she begins to talk about her 14-year-old son, Mallika’s voice quavers with emotion. The boy is battling cancer with an army of oncologists from the Cancer Institute. A recent MRI scan has revealed to Mallika, who has come from Thanjavur for his treatment, an intense fight is on the horizon. Mallika needs help: she cannot be enabled to stop worrying entirely, but her troubled mind can be offered a soupcon of relief. Her oppressive thoughts are temporarily beaten back, thanks to a boy who is coincidentally of the same age as her son. Fourteen-year-old Ankeeth is making paper bags and simultaneously explaining the process to Mallika and a few other women who have also brought their children to the paediatric section at the Institute, for treatment. As they conscientiously follow Ankeeth’s instructions and try their hand at making these bags themselves, these women find some respite from their worries. The most striking aspect of the exercise is that Ankeeth is not a regular volunteer: he is an inmate of Sri Arunodayam, a reception home for abandoned mentally challenged children. Ankeeth, whose left hand hangs limp, has actually come along with a couple of other members of the home, more severely challenged, to train these women in garland- and bag-making. This interface between distressed mothers of young cancer patients and the mentally challenged inmates of a shelter home has been initiated by Chennai Volunteers to promote reciprocal volunteering, which creates an environment where beneficiaries of volunteering efforts in turn volunteer for others facing difficulties that are different from their own. “Therapy for members at the home includes practice of vocational skills: besides paper bags and garlands, they make candles, wedding bags and notebooks,” says A. Balamurugan, vocational skills trainer at Sri Arunodayam. Ankeeth readily interacts with everyone who has questions about his craft. He seems to be enjoying his role as a giver and has a personal share of the healing that is taking place at the foyer of the children’s ward in the Institute. “We are witnessing such an interface for the first time,” says T.S. Manohar, administrator, Mahesh Memorial Trust, Adyar Cancer Institute. “Mothers of patients at the children’s ward watch television as they wait at the Institute. To engage them, a kolam competition was conducted recently. It was a great success: the women came up with brilliant designs, displaying unbelievable control as they created them. But what is happening today is beyond words. Besides easing the minds of these mothers, these unlikely volunteers from the Home are sending out a silent message to us. They seem to be asking us, ‘You have everything, but what have you given back’.” (The Hindu 22/3/14)

 

16. Most drug-resistant TB patients in India: WHO (3)

NEW DELHI: One in every three tuberculosis cases in the world goes undetected despite the advances made in medical science, according to data from World Health Organization. TB is the main cause for high morbidity and mortality in such patients. On World TB Day on Monday, doctors will stress on need to create awareness about the disease which affects one third of the world’s population. India has the highest number of TB patients with an estimated 1.8 million new cases taking place every year. It has also the highest number of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis patients, according to a WHO report. “I recently operated on a six-year-old TB patient who developed severe bone deformities. Three vertebrae at the juncture of her upper back and neck had been completely destroyed due to infection. She underwent a major surgery involving removal of the destroyed bones and replacing them with leg bones and plates normally used in neck surgery in adults,” Dr Yash Gulati, orthopaedic spinal surgeon at BLK Super Speciality Hospital, said. If diagnosed on time, the girl could have been treated successfully with TB medication only, he added. But hers is not the only case. According to Dr S K Sharma, professor and head of medicine department at AIIMS, most patients suffering from TB visit hospital only when the disease has reached an advanced stage. “Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandhi and Munshi Premchand are some famous names who contracted this disease. But there is still a stigma. The general belief is TB is a poor man’s disease but it is wrong. It can affect anyone with low immunity,” he said. AIIMS is organizing a public awareness programme on Monday to mark World TB Day. The day-long event, to be led by Dr Sarman Singh, is likely to see participation from a diverse group of health experts, researchers, government representatives, volunteers from University of Delhi, children from New Delhi Municipal Council schools, non-government organizations and industry. As per the Global Tuberculosis Report 2013 by WHO, India has the highest number of multi-drug-resistant TB patients, partly due to poor disease management by the healthcare system. Health experts stress on need for rational prescribing of TB drugs. “There have been no new drugs for TB for 50 years. If we continue to prescribe them irrationally, we will be left with nothing to treat patients with,” Dr Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant, respiratory medicine at Apollo Hospital, said. Medecins Sans Frontieres has sought the government’s intervention in preventing unregulated sale of tuberculosis drugs in the private healthcare sector, saying it has led to emergence of drug-resistant TB in the country. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

TERRORISM

17. Meghalaya to consult centre on Garo peace talks (12)

Shillong, March 10 : Meghalaya will consult the central government to initiate peace talks with the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) rebel outfit, state Home Minister Roshan Warjri said Monday. “Since the GNLA was declared a terrorist organisation by the central government under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, it would be necessary for the state to consult the centre in the matter,” Warjri told the state assembly. The GNLA, headed by Champion R. Sangma, its jailed chairman, is fighting for a separate Garoland state to be carved out of Meghalaya in the five districts of Garo Hills. Over 150 people, including security personnel, have been killed in the last five years by GNLA rebels and more than 50 businessmen and government officials were abducted. Use of force may not be the only solution to deal with the rebels, Warjri said, adding that the state government is thinking of asking all outfits to come out for talks. “An open offer was also made by Governor K.K.Paul to all the rebel outfits to shun the path of violence and engage in a dialogue with the government,” the minister said. The GNLA later issued a statement suggesting it was prepared for talks. (New Kerala 10/3/14)

 

18. ED registers case against Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin (12)

New Delhi: In a first, the Enforcement Directorate Tuesday registered a money laundering case against ten people, including chief of banned militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin, for alleged cross-border funding of terror activities in the country. The ED was prompted to register the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (Act) after it took cognisance of an NIA FIR registered against these people. The central probe agency, sources said, will look into the financing and terrorist activities by Hizbul Mujahideen from Pakistan to different militant organisations in India. (Zee News 11/3/14)

 

19. Rajapaksa says Lanka only fought LTTE not Tamils (12)

Colombo: “The war was not against the Tamils. We only fought a brutal terrorist outfit that was the LTTE ,” the president told a political gathering in the southern district of Galle yesterday. “If our war was against Tamils how could the Tamils live happily and peacefully among the Sinhalese in the south of the country,” Rajapaksa quipped. Responding to accusations that his government had promoted a culture of impunity for those who attack the island’s religious minorities, more particularly Muslims, Rajapaksa said the religious harmony and reconciliation was visible throughout the country. “I am aware that some non governmental organisations with foreign help are trying to show there is religious disharmony,” Rajapaksa stressed. The remark was a reference to his predecessor Chandrika Kumaratunga’s meeting with his main rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe this week. Kumaratunga heads an NGO which promotes religious harmony. All these are attempts to embarrass the government at a time the UN Human Rights Council meeting is happening, the president said. Attacks against religious minorities is an issue of concern as the next UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka is to be put to vote in two weeks time in Geneva. The UNHRC is certain to adopt another adverse resolution later this month in Geneva censuring Sri Lanka on its lack of progress on human rights accountability and reconciliation with its Tamil minority after the civil war ended with the defeat of the LTTE. India had backed the previous two resolutions. The US-moved resolution is expected to prompt an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses and crimes against humanity during the last phase of the military conflict which ended in 2009. (Deccan Herald 13/3/14)

 

20. Hyderabad blasts: charge sheet filed against Bhatkal (12)

Hyderabad: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed charge sheet against top Indian Mujahideen operatives, Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar in the February 2013 twin blast case. IM had hatched a high-level conspiracy to wage a war against India and carried out the blasts here to create terror in the minds of the people and to further the outfit’s activities, according to NIA. Eighteen persons were killed and 131 were injured in the deadly twin explosions at Dilsukhnagar in Hyderabad. Investigation had produced evidence of all the financial help received by the accused from abroad through hawala route and other money transfer facilities, the charge sheet, filed before special NIA court in Hyderabad, says. The conspirators had carried out a test explosion on a hillock near Abdullapurmet here prior to the blasts, it says. Mohammed Ahmed Siddibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, who were arrested on the Indo-Nepal border last August, have been charged for murder and various other offences under the Indian Penal Code and Explosive Substances Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. (Hindustan Times 14/3/14)

 

21. Court issues production warrants against Bhatkal, others (12)

New Delhi: A special NIA court today issued production warrants against Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and two others seeking their presence before it on April 2 in connection with a case of alleged conspiracy to carry out terror acts in India. During an in-chamber hearing, District Judge I S Mehta issued the production warrants after Bhatkal, his close aide Asadullah Akhtar and suspected IM operative Obaid-Ur-Rehman, chargesheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for their alleged roles in the case, were not produced before the court today, sources said. They also said that Bhatkal and Akhtar are presently in Mumbai under custody of Maharashtra ATS while Obaid-Ur-Rehman was in Bangalore in connection with the cases lodged against them there. The court has now fixed the matter for April 2 for further proceedings and asked NIA to supply the copies of charge sheet and other documents filed along with it to the counsel appearing for the accused. The sources said the counsel appearing for the accused told the court that scrutiny of documents filed along with the 277-page supplementary charge sheet of NIA is going on. The court had on February 24 taken cognisance of NIA’s charge sheet in which Bhatkal, Akhtar, Manzer Imam and Ujjair Ahmed were named as accused for allegedly waging war against the country, conspiring for terrorist acts, membership of a terror organisation and radicalisation and recruitment of youths for IM. They have been chargesheeted under various sections of IPC, including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the country), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war) and under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Bhatkal and Akhtar were among the 12 top IM members listed as absconders in the 42-page charge sheet filed earlier against arrested accused Mohammad Danish Ansari, Mohammad Aftab Alam, Imran Khan, Syed Maqbool and Obaid-Ur-Rehman under various penal provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IPC for conspiracy to commit offences against India. (Business Standard 18/3/14)

 

22. 2 Rights Activists Arrested Under POTA in Sri Lanka (12)

CHENNAI/COLOMBO: On a day Sri Lankan police arrested two rights activists under anti-terrorism law to prevent them from spreading “communal disharmony”, ahead of voting on a resolution against the country at the UNHRC, 17 students of Dr Ambedkar Government Law College launched an indefinite stir demanding that the Centre introduce its own resolution against alleged rights abuse in Lanka. “Two people were arrested at 10.30 pm on Sunday under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. They were acting so as to promote communal disharmony,” police spokesman  in Colombo said. The arrests came ahead a key meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva later this month that is expected to pass a US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka over its alleged rights abuses during the ethnic war with LTTE rebels. Human rights groups said the arrested activists were Father Praveen, Director of the Jaffna-based Center for Peace and Reconciliation and Ruki Fernando of the Colombo-based INFORM, a human rights documentation center. They were arrested from the northern town of Kilinochchi. The Kilinochchi’s police chief said: “Ruki Fernando and Rev Praveen behaved in a suspicious manner as they visited some families of those who have lost their family members.” The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution is the third in as many years on Sri Lanka’s accountability and reconciliation with the Tamil minority after the end of the 37-year ethnic conflict. Meanwhile, the US on Monday expressed concern over the arrest of the two rights activists. “The United States government is concerned about the arrests and detention of several well-known Sri Lankan human rights defenders and activists over the past week,” a US Embassy statement in Colombo said. “We urge Sri Lankan government authorities to ensure that all those detained are given transparent and due legal process, including full access to legal counsel,” it said. “With these actions, we remain convinced that continued scrutiny by the Human Rights Council is necessary,” the statement added. Meanwhile, in Chennai, the protesting law students accused New Delhi of failing to prevent the genocide of Tamils in the island nation during the final phase of war with the LTTE. “This should not continue. A separate Eelam will only be the solution to ensure a dignified life of Tamils in the country,” they claimed. (New Indian Express 18/3/4)

 

23. Four suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists arrested in Rajasthan (12)

New Delhi:  Four suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists have been arrested in Rajasthan by the Special Cell of Delhi Police. One of them, in fact, is alleged to be a close aide of jailed Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. “Four terrorists have been arrested by us. One of them has been identified as Waqas,” Special Commissioner (Special Cell) SM Srivastava told PTI. Waqas, a Pakistani national, is one of the most wanted in connection with several blasts in the country, including the serial blasts in Mumbai on July 12, 2011 that 26 persons and injured around 130. He was, in fact, identified by Bhatkal on CCTV footage as one who planted a bomb at Zaveri Bazar, one of the three sites where blasts occurred. While Waqas was picked up in Jodhpur, the other three were arrested in Jaipur. Police recovered detonators and bomb material during these arrests. The four are alleged to be members of the Rajasthan module of the banned terrorist group. (NDTV 23/3/14)

 

24. IM planned to strike at political rallies, mall & temples in Rajasthan (12)

JAIPUR: The arrests of six Indian Mujahideen terror suspects in 24 hours in Rajasthan have revealed that they were allegedly planning to carry out blasts at some locations in Jaipur including the World Trade Park, Moti Doongri Temple and Birla Temple. Other places the terrorists had conducted recee include a temple in Bharatpur where they were allegedly conspiring to strike in retaliation of the Gopalgarh communal violence that left 10 people dead in 2011. The local sources have not ruled out the possibility that the terror suspects were planning to carry out blasts at political rallies also ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Elaborate security arrangements will be planned for political rallies to be organised in coming days. Additional DG, ATS, Alok Tripathi said that the arrests have exposed an IM module which cropped up in Rajasthan in the last few months. “We didn’t want to create panic in the public, but the module had conducted recee of several places. We were trying to unravel the module for a long time, so the arrests are a huge success for security agencies,” Tripathi told TOI. Five of the six terrorists arrested since Saturday were Rajasthan natives while the remaining one was a top IM commander identified as Waqas. The Delhi Police’s special cell arrested Waqas, a top IM commander from Ajmer railway station on Saturday morning. His revelations led the police to the five other terror suspects. The five IM terror suspects were in touch with Waqas and were learning to put together bombs under his guidance, sources said. The five terror suspects include Mohammed Saqib and Adil from Jodhpur and Mohammed Maroof alias Ibrahim, Waqar Azhar and Mohammed Mehrajudeen. The three terror suspects arrested from Jaipur are engineering students. While Maroof who stayed with parents in Jhotwara’s Sanjay Nagar- D colony studied at VIT College in Jagatpura and the other two studied at GIT College in Jagatpura. Waqar and Mehrajudeen were staying at a rented accommodation at house number – 118 at Pratap Nagar’s Sector-35 and belonged to Gangapur City in Sawai Madhopur and Pali respectively. A huge haul of explosives was recovered from Sakib’s house. While interrogating him, the police came to know about one Barqat, however, he was tipped off by his aide Adil and escaped. Adil was arrested, said ADG Tripathi. The five Rajasthan natives had been recruited in IM through Mohammed Taseen Akhtar alias Monu who carries a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. Taseen had visited Jaipur and Jodhpur in June last year and had procured SIM cards on fake documents. The arrests have come in the wake of some revelations made by the National Investigation Agency in its chargesheet filed against Bhatkal in February. The security and intelligence agencies had sounded an alert in Rajasthan after the NIA chargesheet revealed that the terror outfit was using the state as its base. The chargesheet revealed that IM is recruiting people to spread its network in the state. These members have allegedly been tasked to carry out terrorist activities in the country. They are in close contact with Riyaz Bhatkal who is allegedly hiding in Karachi, the NIA chargesheet says. Posters of these terror suspects, Mohammed Taseen Akhtar, Haider Ali and Waqas alias Javed Mohammad, were splashed in several cities by the ATS in December last year requesting people to remain on alert and inform the police if they spot any of them. A reward of Rs 10 lakh had been announced on each of them by NIA. Taseen, a native of Samastipur district in Bihar, was suspected to have gained some local sympathizers. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

25. Muzaffarnagar riot camp refugees start getting voter ID cards (13)

ALIGARH/MUZAFFARNAGAR: They have been angry, agonized and dispossessed. And they didn’t even have voter cards using which they could articulate their rage. But all that might change for many of those rendered homeless by the Muzaffarnagar riots last year. NGOs working overtime and a local administration that has been hard at it have ensured that a chunk of the refugees who had lost all their documents, including voter ID cards, will be equipped by the end of this month to cast their votes. At least 25 people received their voter cards on Monday, and another 3,200 have been guaranteed they will get it by the end of the month, well in time for the polls that begin in April. “Forms 6 and 8(A) needed for the cards have been made available,” said Muzaffarnagar ADM Inder Mani Tripathi. “This brings a sliver of hope to the displaced who had lost all hope of being able to exercise their right this election.” However, for a bulk of the displaced — estimates put the total around 50,000, a substantial chunk of them without voter cards — it would be a race against time to get the document before the region goes to polls on April 10. “It will be very sad if the people who suffered in the riots do not get to exercise their right to vote,” said Faraz Badr Rizvi from Jagriti Seva Sansthan, an NGO that is helping in the mission. A large percentage of the refugees, a majority of them Muslims, is perceived to be disenchanted with the SP government. The way they vote this time, coupled with the empathy of community members outside the belt and across UP, could well be a game changer for political parties in the fray for the LS polls. Mohammad Yameen, who has been living in a relief camp for months now, said, “If the SP government really wanted to help us, we would not have been surviving like this.” (Times of India 11/3/14)

 

26. UN refugee chief warns world powers not to forget Syria conflict (13)

Washington: The head of the United Nation’s refugee agency said on Tuesday it must be ready in case Ukraine’s crisis causes refugees to flee Crimea, but his biggest worry is that “a total disaster” could occur if the international community diverts its attention away from Syria’s conflict. Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said in an interview that little progress was being made in efforts by the United States and Russia, now at loggerheads over Ukraine, to bring Syria’s warring sides together after the collapse of talks in Geneva last month. “In the moment in which we need the most relevant countries in the world to be able to come together to narrow their differences and to try to find a way to move into peace for Syria, this tension around Ukraine will obviously not help,” Guterres told Reuters while visiting Washington to discuss Syria’s refugee crisis. “I hope that those that have the most important responsibility in world affairs will be able to understand that forgetting Syria will be a total disaster,” he said. Tensions between Washington and Moscow have risen over Russia’s bloodless seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which has brought US-Russian relations to one of their lowest points since the Cold War. The United States and European allies have threatened sanctions against Moscow, which has said people in Crimea, a small majority of whom are ethnic Russians, should have the right to secede by voting in a referendum to be held on Sunday. Guterres said his agency was preparing for the possibility of refugees from Crimea and had moved teams inside Ukraine to monitor the situation. “We are preparing ourselves for any movement of population that might occur,” said Guterres. “Until now it has not happened in a significant way, and we hope that it will be avoided,” he said. “Our hope is that things will not evolve in a way that will force large numbers of people to be displaced. We have enough problems of refugees and displaced people in the world, we can live without a new massive displacement,” he added. But Guterres said he was concerned that tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine could worsen divides that have already played out in the UN Security Council over Syria. Throughout the civil war, Russia, backed by China, has shielded Syria on the UN Security Council by vetoing three resolutions condemning Syria’s government and threatening it with possible sanctions. “I don’t think there are reasons to be optimistic,” he said of the possibility of resolving the Syrian war. “We see the war going on and on and on, not only with tragic humanitarian consequences with suffering of Syrian people that is unimaginable, but also becoming a serious threat to global peace and security, not only to regional stability but also to global peace and security.” Repeating what political leaders have said that the conflict can only be resolved through political dialogue, Guterres also said that “discreet diplomacy” was needed among the main players – the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran – to narrow differences and avoid a prolonged deadlock in talks. “There was never any major international crisis that was solved without a lot of silent, discreet diplomacy behind the scenes to support the public diplomacy process,” he said. “That is lacking in the Syrian crisis.” With the Syrian conflict now heading toward a fourth year this week and more people fleeing the war, the UN has warned that Syrians are about to replace Afghans as the world’s largest refugee population. There are currently more than 2.5 million Syrian registered by the UN in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, but Guterres said it is believed more than 3 million have fled the conflict. “It is absolutely essential that the international community mobilizes massively to support Lebanon, to support Jordan, to support all the other neighboring countries to make sure that they are able to cope with the challenge and to preserve the stability of the region,” he said. With the bulk of UN funding for refugees focused on Syria, Guterres said other UN operations in Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo were underfunded. (Zee News 12/3/14)

 

27. ‘Exiled’ Naga activist fights for rights (13)

New Delhi, March 14: A human rights activist from Manipur, now a Canadian citizen under “compelling circumstances”, has sought “restoration” of his Indian citizenship. Luingam Luithui, who was branded a pro-NSCN (Isak-Muivah) human rights activist in the 1990s and lived in Canada as a refugee for over a decade before becoming a citizen, and his wife Peingamla have approached Delhi High Court for “restoration” of their Indian citizenship. Their premise is that they had remained “stateless” for 10 years before taking up Canadian citizenship. They said they attempted to return home more than once but had to live in “virtual exile” in Canada. The court issued notices to the ministry of home affairs, ministry of external affairs and the Indian high commission at Ottawa, Canada, on March 10 in response to the writ petition filed by the couple. In the four weeks that the court has given to the ministries to respond, the Centre will need to not only argue whether citizenship can be granted to the activist and justify its stand on citizenship rules but may also face questions on why it did not grant a visa to Luithui despite a “look-out circular” in his name being withdrawn in 2011. Sources in the Union home ministry claimed that Luithui had fled to Thailand to be with NSCN general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and had joined forces with the rebel group, a charge the petitioners stoutly deny. Luithui is the founding member of the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), which is known for its fight for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. “We may tell the court that we can ask him to apply for citizenship and let him observe the mandatory wait of seven years and respect the Indian Constitution, before getting citizenship,” a home ministry official said. “There is no case against him nor are we considering him a criminal,” the source said. What is unsaid is that even after a seven-year wait, it will be the Centre’s prerogative to grant the couple Indian citizenship. Luithui’s family finds the Centre’s argument unreasonable. A relative of Luithui said Peingamla had lost her passport in Bangkok in 1994 and had applied for a fresh one but did not get one despite a high court order in September 1995 that she could be given documents to travel “on emergency basis” from Bangkok to New Delhi. Later, Luithui found out that as he was fighting a court battle in September 1995, the government had “impounded” his passport without his knowledge. This was revealed to him only when he approached the Indian high commission in Canada next year to add pages to his passport. “When he approached the high commission, he was told that his passport had been impounded following a government circular, the contents of which have still not been revealed to him,” the relative told The Telegraph. Luithui’s family members said that in 2011 it was decided by none other than then home minister P. Chidambaram that the “look-out circular” issued against Luithui in 1996 would be withdrawn. Accordingly, a “deletion circular” was issued in early 2011. An RTI application filed by the petitioners has revealed that then home secretary G.K. Pillai noted that Luithui was “not a member of any group but only an activist”. But even in October 2011, his fresh visa application was turned down. In 2012, the couple applied for a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card but the government’s answer was: “No services are rendered to refugees and asylum seekers”. Home ministry sources asserted that India does not grant PIO status to asylum seekers and refugees who have fled India. Luithui’s relative said even if that was true, the activist’s case was more complex as he was forced to live as a refugee. “They did not live as refugees willingly,” the relative said, and questioned that even if Luithui was an activist, why did the government not grant visa or passport to his wife. “This tragic violation of their fundamental rights is a direct result of unconstitutional acts and omissions, of abuse of process and of fraud and deception perpetrated by the government of India, making it impossible for them to return to India and forcing them to take Canadian citizenship after almost a decade of statelessness abroad,” the NPMHR said in a statement while welcoming the high court’s step. The case is a classic example of how developments of the 1990s in the Northeast, particularly in Nagaland and Manipur, continue to have a bearing on activists and rebels. Luithui’s case refers to events before the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) signed a ceasefire with the Centre in 1997 but it continues to impact him and his family even today. (The Telegraph 15/3/14)

 

28. Don’t allow Bru refugees to vote in relief camps: Mizoram CM (13)

Aizawl: Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla has submitted a memorandum to Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath urging him not to allow Bru refugees living in relief camps in Tripura to exercise their franchise in the April 9 elections to the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat. A press statement issued by the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee on Monday said Mr. Lal Thanhawla submitted the memorandum to the CEC in Delhi last week. The Chief Minister said that if the Bru voters wanted to exercise their franchise, they should cast their votes inside Mizoram, not in the relief camps through postal ballots. He also suggested that if the Bru voters in the relief camps insist on casting their votes in the relief camps, then their names should rather be deleted from the voters’ lists in Mizoram. Earlier, the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum, having its headquarters in the Naisingpara relief camp in North Tripura district, asked the Election Commission to conduct polling for the Lok Sabha polls in the camps. The Election Commission had reportedly agreed to the appeals made by the Bru representatives. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

29. For Tibetan refugees, it is so near and yet so far (13)

BANGALORE: A section of Tibetan refugees in Karnataka can exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April 17. The Election Commission on February 7 directed the electoral officers in States to include children of Tibetan refugees aged above 18 in the electoral list “because they are citizens of the country.” However, because of a technical glitch, not all of them will get the right to vote though there are about 25,000 eligible voters in Karnataka of Tibetan origin. While those settled in Bangalore and Mysore and already registered in the rolls will vote, many eligible voters in the five settlements elsewhere in the State will have to wait till the next election. Gelek J., coordinator for the Tibetan Settlement Office, Bylakuppe, said though a few refugees in Bangalore could get the voter cards following the EC’s direction, those settled in Bylakuppe could not. For, C. Shikha, Deputy Commissioner, Mysore, did not receive any clarification on the citizenship criteria till Sunday, last date for inclusion of names in the voter list. However, Ms. Gelek pointed out that the EC had directed that the voting right be not denied to Tibetan applicants. “We are yet to get details of those who applied for voting rights during the special drive,” she said. Children of Tibetan refugees born in India between 1950 and 1987 as mentioned in the Citizenship Act 1955 can no longer be denied enrolment in the voter list. The EC’s move came in the wake of an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order, which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees, the EC order said. According to Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha, the EC has directed the Deputy Commissioners to enrol the names of those refugees who have complied with the stipulated conditions. “The Election Commission’s move is a great relief to Tibetan refugees who are currently deemed ‘stateless’,” said Mr. Sonam, a teacher in the Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe. Tibetan Youth Congress ( Karnataka) president Lhekyeb said that he was happy with the move of the Election Commission. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

30. Bru refugees allowed to vote via postal ballot (13)

Agartala: The election commission has established rights of Bru or Reang refugees housed in camps in north Tripura to participate in ensuing Lok Sabha election in Mizoram. Announcing postal ballot voting facility for the evacuees the commission virtually turned down demand of Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla who insisted the refugees should only be entitled to cast vote inside Mizoram and not in camps. Officials of Tripura election department which has to facilitate the voting exercise of Reangs stranded in six makeshift camps in Kanchanpur subdivision said on Friday that the commission has set April 1, 2 and 3 to ensure franchise of eligible voters. Though around 35,000 refugees are housed, the Mizoram election department enlisted only 11,500 voters in last enumeration process. The voters represent 10 assembly constituencies in western Mizoram, but their voting is crucial for lone Lok Sabha constituency of the state. Mizoram National Font (MNF) is expected to put up a fight against Congress which won last Lok Sabha poll. One voting centre would be set up in each of the camps and the election commission would despatch an observer to oversee the voting. Tripura government has been directed to arrange logistic and security for Election Commission and Mizoram officials and assist transportation of ballot boxes to Mizoram. The Reang refugees crossed over to Kanchanpur in North Tripura district in October 1997 to escape ethnic violence in Mizoram. Their repatriation remained stalled as Mizoram government refused to budge on some political demands of the refugee leaders, but the former offered lucrative rehabilitation package sponsored by the union home ministry for the returnees. (The Hindu 21/3/14)

 

31. Industrialized nations report rise in asylum claims: UN (13)

New York, Mar 22 : A new report issued on Friday by the United Nations refugee agency found a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialized countries over the course of last year, driven primarily by the crisis in Syria. According to “Asylum Trends 2013,” 612,700 people applied for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year – the highest total for any year since 2001. Afghanistan, which in the previous two years was the world’s principal country of origin for asylum-seekers, ranked third in terms of new claims behind Syria and Russia, a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) pointed out. Among the top 10 countries of origin, six are experiencing violence or conflict – Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan. “There is clear evidence in these numbers of how the Syria crisis in particular is affecting countries and regions of the world far removed from the Middle East,” said High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. “This makes it all the more important that refugees and the communities receiving them are being properly and robustly supported.” For 2013, the biggest increase in asylum applicants by region was in the 38 countries of Europe which together received 484,600 claims – an increase of a third from 2012. Germany was the largest single recipient with 109,600 new asylum claims, followed by France (60,100) and Sweden (54,300). Turkey, currently the biggest refugee-hosting country in Europe due to the Syria crisis, saw 44,800 asylum claims lodged last year, mainly from nationals of Iraq and Afghanistan, while Italy received 27,800 claims and Greece 8,200. North America received the second highest number of asylum claims – nearly 98,800 in total. However, the majority of these applicants originated in China. Canada, with its recent changes in asylum policies, received some 10,400 claims – half the number seen in 2012. The United States (88,400) has long been a leading country of asylum in industrialized countries, and in 2013 was second only to Germany in the number of applications received, UNHCR noted. In East Asia and the Pacific, both Japan (3,300) and the Republic of Korea (1,600) received higher numbers of claims relative to previous years. Australia (24,300) too saw a significant rise from 2012 levels (15,800), putting it almost on par with levels seen in Italy. According to UNHCR, asylum-seekers arriving in industrialized countries undergo individual assessments to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. As such, their numbers are always higher than those who eventually get accepted as refugees. For the 44 industrialized countries mentioned in the report, acceptance rates vary widely and tend to be higher among people fleeing conflict. The agency tracks forced displacement globally and issues a number of reports each year showing trends worldwide. The three major components of global forced displacement are internal displacement, refugee numbers, and asylum-seekers (together totalling 45.2 million people, as of data from early 2013). (New Kerala 22/3/14)

 

32. 13,000 Indians applied for asylum in the last 2 years (13)

LONDON: Nearly 13,000 Indians applied for asylum in 44 industrialised countries in the last two years, figuring among the top asylum seekers in countries like Australia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Japan. The UN Refugee Agency’s latest Asylum Trends 2013 report says 612,700 people applied for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year – the highest total for any year since 2001. According to the latest data, 6998 Indians applied for asylum in 2012 – the number dipping by 16% to 5872 in 2013. While India was ranked 18th among asylum applications in 2012, it dropped to 26th the following year. Europe was the top destination for Indian asylum seekers – 6300 applications in 2012 and 2013. As many as 1393 Indians wanted asylum in Canada and US while 1162 wanted to live in Australia and New Zealand. Around 165 Indians applied for asylum in Korea. In comparison, the number of Pakistani asylum seekers increased from 23,640 to 26310 between 2012 and 2013. Bangladesh too saw a 47% increase in asylum seekers – 6583 in 2012 to 9659 in 2013. The report confirms a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialised countries over the course of last year, driven primarily by the crisis in Syria. Reflecting a shifting international dynamic, Afghanistan, which in the previous two years was the world’s principal country of origin for asylum-seekers, ranked third in terms of new claims behind Syria and the Russian Federation. Among the top-10 countries of origin, six are experiencing violence or conflict – Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan. “There is clear evidence in these numbers of how the Syria crisis in particular is affecting countries and regions of the world far removed from the Middle East,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. For 2013, the biggest increase in asylum applicants by region was in the 38 countries of Europe which together received 484,600 claims – an increase of a third from 2012. Germany was the largest single recipient with 109,600 new asylum claims. France (60,100) and Sweden (54,300) were also major receivers. The United Kingdom ranked sixth among the 44 countries, with 29,200 applications received in 2013, equal to a five per cent share of the total number of asylum seekers in industrialised countries. The top five countries of origin of asylum seekers in the UK are: Pakistan (4,507), Iran (2,946), Sri Lanka (2,246), Syria (2,032) and Albania (1,587). The number of Syrian asylum seekers in the UK in 2013 grew considerably compared to 500 claims in 2011 and almost 1,300 claims in 2012. Turkey, currently the biggest refugee-hosting country in Europe due to the Syria crisis (a registered Syrian refugee population of 640,889 as of March 18) also saw 44,800 asylum claims lodged last year, mainly from nationals of Iraq and Afghanistan. Italy received 27,800 claims and Greece 8,200. North America received the second highest number of asylum claims, amounting to nearly 98,800 in total. Here, however, the main country of origin of applicants was China. Canada, with its recent changes in asylum policies, received some 10,400 claims – half the number seen in 2012 (20,500). The United States (88,400) has long been a leading country of asylum in industrialised countries, and in 2013 was second only to Germany in the number of applications received. In East Asia and the Pacific, both Japan (3,300) and the Republic of Korea (1,600) received higher numbers of claims relative to previous years. Australia (24,300) too saw a significant rise from 2012 levels (15,800), putting it almost on par with levels seen in Italy. Asylum-seekers arriving in industrialised countries undergo individual assessments to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. For the 44 industrialised countries mentioned in the Asylum Trends report, acceptance rates vary widely and tend to be higher among people fleeing conflict. Acceptance rates for people from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, for example are between 62% and 95%.Acceptance rates from nationals of the Russian Federation and Serbia are significantly lower at around 28% and 5% respectively. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

33. Farmers’ widows to protest in Nagpur (20)

Nagpur: Scores of Vidarbha farmer widows will go on a day-long hunger strike here on Saturday on the occasion of International Women’s Day to protest the growing apathy of government and lawmakers towards the agrarian crisis while demanding restoration of their “right to live” with dignity.

The western part of Vidarbha region has been reeling under farmer suicides since 2005, farmers advocacy group, Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJS) which is organising the protest, said here on Friday.

This Protest Day is to draw attention towards demand for basic facilities like food and health security besides educational assistance to their wards, Samiti president Kishore Tiwari said in a release. Even various expert committees had factored all these in their recommendations in 2008, but the government has become apathetic, he said. (Asian Age 8/3/14)

 

34. Nationwide survey finds Indian farmers in bad shape (20)

NEW DELHI: Minimum support price (MSP) of most of the food-grains has been increased by over 100% in the past 10 years, but it hardly benefited farmers in eastern and central India as majority there have not even heard of such procurement system. The situation is equally bad in other parts — except in states like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Western Uttar Pradesh — where farmers don’t get adequate price on time and therefore they have to opt for distress selling route in open market. This conclusion is part of a survey on state of Indian farmers, conducted by a Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). It also found that all the government schemes in agriculture sector mainly benefit “rich” farmers. Findings of the survey, based on interviews of 11,000 farmers of over 5,000 households in 137 districts across 18 states, show that 62% of the farmers were not even aware of the MSP system which allows public sector agencies to procure food-grains at the price fixed by the government. Though the system is aimed at helping the farmers through intensives by providing them minimum price to their farm produce, the findings of the survey show that the majority of the respondents (64%) – who know the scheme – are not satisfied with the government decided rate of crops. The CSDS, which conducted its survey at the behest of a non-political association of farmers Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS), released its report on Tuesday, making many other eye-opening revelations on government’s key employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA, Direct Cash Transfer, subsidies, Land Acquisition Law, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and political preferences of farmers. It found that the highest numbers of medium and big farmers in the country, except in South India, prefer to vote for the BJP in the forthcoming Parliamentary election. Interestingly, most of the farmers don’t think corruption is the main issue in election. They find price rise is the most important issue. According to the survey, nearly 85% of the farmers have heard of MGNREGA. However, 51% of the household did not ever get work under the scheme. Nearly 57% of the respondents said the farmers would stand to lose from the Land Acquisition Law. Referring to the findings, chairman of the BKS, Ajay Vir Jakhar, said, “Farmers have got raw deals from successive governments because they are not organized. Disorganized farmers are not taken seriously and their consent for policies are taken for granted”.He said most of schemes had not got its desired result as it was not implemented and monitored properly in states. The survey also shows that 74% of the farmers do not get farming related information from officials of agriculture department. Contrary to the general opinion, the survey finds that a very low proportion of farmers are worried about “repayment of loan”.Jakhar said, “It is, perhaps, because farmers know that the government may invariably come out with loan waiver schemes, specifically before elections”. (Times of India 12/3/14)

 

35. In Maharashtra, 22 farmer suicides in three weeks: report (20)

Mumbai:  Nearly two dozen farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra in the past three weeks due to massive loss of crops, a report has claimed. The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers’ advocacy group, claims that 22 farmers have ended their lives in three weeks, mostly in the Vidarbha and Marathawada regions. Nine of these deaths took place in just the past three days, after a prolonged and unusual hailstorm destroyed acres of crops, the group says. The Maharashtra government has not confirmed these grim statistics. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has asked for Rs. 5,000 crore from the Centre but farmers say they don’t expect quick relief; the process involves a report from the state government, followed by a spot assessment by a central team, before any money is sanctioned. Sources say even this amount may not be enough to compensate for the loss of crop spread over at least 16 lakh hectares. Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region is often described as ‘suicide country’ with reports of a farmer suicide every eight hours even till two years ago. Ahead of next month’s general election, the tragic deaths have fueled a political blame-game. The opposition Shiv Sena has alleged that the Congress and NCP, which co-govern Maharashtra and are allies at the Centre, are using the election code of conduct as an excuse for inaction. “I blame the system. Farmers have no godfathers. Should we talk of rules when people are dying?” said the Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut. The poll code of conduct bans any political party from making announcements that may influence the voter. Senior NCP leader and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said, “I appeal to people that we will find a solution in spite of the Model Code of Conduct. We cannot resolve this in a day. There will be delays. But we will resolve it by talking to other parties.” (NDTV 18/3/14)

 

36. Farmer suicides: Maharashtra government announces Rs 4000 crore package (20)

Mumbai:  The Maharashtra government today announced Rs 4,000-crore package for farmers affected by unseasonal rain and hailstorms. The state government has also asked for Rs 5000 crore from the Centre to help farmers. The state cabinet also decided to waive Rs 268 crore towards interest on crop loans and electricity bills of Rs 200 crore of farmers. The cabinet, at a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, decided to write to the Election Commission of India seeking its permission to make the announcement in this regard in view of the model of code of conduct for Lok Sabha polls. Sources said the compensation will be Rs 25,000 per hectare. A pro-farmer group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti claims that 32 farmers have killed themselves in the past three weeks, including 45-year-old Uddhav Nanabhau Tandale, who hanged himself in his home in Maharashtra’s Beed district this morning. The farmer suicides have taken on political overtones ahead of next month’s national election. On Thursday, it will be the theme of Narendra Modi’s ‘Chai pe charcha’ or discussion over tea campaign in the Vidarbha region, which has often been described as “suicide country.” Mr Modi, who is running for prime minister, will address a rally in Wardha before holding a “chai pe charcha” discussion at a village of debt-ridden farmers in the Yavatmal district. The BJP says Mr Modi will interact with farmers in 33 districts across India as part of the campaign. (NDTV 19/3/14)

 

37. Maharashtra finalizes Rs 4,000cr relief package for hailstorm-hit farmers (20)

MUMBAI: The state government on Wednesday evening finalized a Rs 4,000 crore relief and rehabilitation package to farmers in 28 districts in the state hit by unseasonal showers and hailstorms. The decision was timed to take the wind out of the sails of the BJP, whose prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will kick off the saffron alliance’s Lok Sabha poll campaign from Vidarbha – one of the badly hit regions — on Thursday. The unseasonal rains and hailstorms had caused heavy damage to about 20 lakh hectares crops, killed cattle and destroyed other farmland properties, leading to a spate of farmer suicides across Vidarbha, Marathwada and Northern and Western Maharashtra. The state’s relief package will benefit millions of agricultural families, and was decided at a cabinet meeting held in the evening with permission from the election commission. The package provides for compensation of Rs 10,000 -25,000 per hectare to farmers besides waiver of electricity bills for the next six months, sources said. The state will also waive off the interest on farmers’ loans and will halt recovery of loans for a few months. Of the Rs 4,000 crore, the Centre will bear about Rs 1,600-Rs 2000 crore. The formal announcement will be made by state chief secretary J S Saharia on Thursday as the election code of conduct prevents ministers from making such announcements. The grim situation following the hailstorms had begun to badly hurt the poll prospects the Congress-NCP ruling combine. The latest deaths were of two farmers, one from Rajawadi village in Renapur taluka of Latur district, and another from Khandapur, who hanged themselves from trees. Some social activists peg the farmer suicides at 80-100, far more than the average 80 such deaths that occur in the state every two months. Crops such as horse gram, wheat, jowar, and fruit crops including Pomegranate, sweet lime, grapes, mangoes, bananas, watermelons, and papayas have sustained heavy damage while vegetable crops have been fully destroyed. Modi plans to tap into the deep unhappiness and desperation of farmers by flagging off his poll campaign from Vidarbha. He will spell out the NDA’s agriculture policy, state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis said on Tuesday. Modi will address a conclave of farmers at a village in Yeotmal and meet relatives of farmers who ended their lives. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

38. Modi’s ad campaign shows ‘dictatorial mentality’, NCP says (20)

MUMBAI: The Sharad Pawar-led NCP on Thursday objected to the ad blitzkrieg of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, saying it depicted “dictatorial mentality.” “The ad talks not of a BJP government, but of a Modi government. They (BJP) should realize that the days of rajas (kings) where the regime were named (after the emperor) are long gone,” party spokesperson Nawab Malik said. “In the old days, there used to be Shinde Sarkar, Gaekwad Sarkar, Khilji Sarkar, Mohgul Sarkar…. After Independence, it was Sardar Patel who abolished the princely states. Indira Gandhi later ended their privy purses,” the NCP leader said. To a query on Modi meeting farmers and widows of farmers who committed suicide, in Vidarbha today, Malik said, “a leader of traders wants to reap political benefit of the plight of farmers.” By fielding Modi from Varanasi, the RSS wants to bring in the Ram temple agenda to forefront afresh, he said. Modi’s contesting from two seats shows he lacks confidence, he added. Malik claimed that farmers in hailstorm-affected areas of Maharashtra were committing suicides due to the politics played by the opposition BJP. “BJP is aware that there are certain restrictions (on rendering relief) due to the model poll code in place. Despite this they are creating a certain atmosphere,” he said. Malik indicated that NCP would expel Vijaykumar Gavit, who was sacked as medical education minister yesterday after his daughter joined BJP, from the party too. The Congress-NCP combine would win 38 of the 48 seats in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, he said. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

39. Farm Income Commission mooted for secured income of farmers (20)

BHUBANESWAR: Farmers organisations here on Saturday demanded that political parties must spell out strategies to provide a ‘secured income for farmers’ instead of making conventional promises like increasing crop productivity or extending irrigation facilities. On eve of elections, more than 34 farmer organisations of the Odisha put forward their charter of demands before political parties. “It is a shame for the entire nation that on an average, one farmer in this country is committing suicide every half an hour and every day, around 2,300 farmers are quitting agriculture. Despite so many years of so-called agricultural development and Green Revolution, the average monthly income of an overwhelming majority of Indian farmers is far less than what their average monthly expenditure is, making it difficult for most farm households to make their ends meet,” farmers leaders who gathered here said.. “It is high time that we should stop measuring agricultural development only in the form of production and productivity. We must focus on farmers’ well-being and the net returns or income accruing to them. It is in this context, that we demand that a minimum living income be guaranteed to all farm households of this country,” said Saroj, spokesperson of Paschim Odisha Krushak Sangathan Samannaya Samiti (POKSSS), here. Farmers leaders mooted an idea of setting up of ‘Farm Income Commissions’ at the national and State level tasked with assessment of income and focused recommendations to ensure that such incomes are realised. The term ‘minimum support price’ should also be redefined through which farmers could get back its production cost and 50 per cent of production cost, he said. Farmer leaders criticised all parties for the neglect that farm livelihoods had been subjected to, and the industry-friendly anti-farmer policies being pursued resulting in massive displacement of farmers in the country. “There should be a land use policy. There should be moratorium on diversion of agricultural land for non-irrigation purposes. The land use policy, in which landless farmers and women should get priority, should be framed in gram sabhas,’ said Ashok Pradhan, convenor of POKSSS. Mr. Pradhan said government must intervene in the event of weather disturbance and sudden drop of demand in market. They also demanded agriculture should be made sustainable by keeping production cost under control. (The Hindu 23/3/14)

 

40. Punjab orders fresh survey of farm suicide-hit families (20)

BATHINDA: After remaining in a state of denial all these years, political constraints have nudged the SAD-BJP alliance government into a position of acknowledging the harsh reality of farmer suicides in the state. The shift has come after protests by farmer and labourer organizations, with some declaring their resolve to oppose SAD candidates in the Lok Sabha elections. The state government has asked three universities of the state — Punjab Agriculture University, Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University — to undertake a fresh survey of suicide-hit farm families. In their earlier surveys, the varsities had identified about 6,900 families whose members committed between 2000 and 2011. However, the government had excluded 2,200 families, citing suicides due to reasons other than farm debt. Besides, the state has only recently provided Rs 64 crore to the families of suicide victims. Going by the call of farmer organizations to lay siege to the residence of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and DC offices in six districts of Malwa region, the state government acted swiftly and directed deputy commissioners to assist the universities in fresh survey. A letter has been written by the state revenue department to all deputy commissioners on March 19, wherein principal financial commissioner (revenue) N S Kang has asked them (DCs) to provide logistics to the universities for the smooth conduct of the survey. The letter has made it clear that the universities have been asked to conduct the survey to identify families where suicides have taken place up to 2013. Terming the figures much less than the suicides committed by farmers and labourers in the state in the 15 years, the BKU Ekta (Ugrahan) had provided a list of debt-ridden farm families listing out more than 8,500 suicides in only about 600 villages spanning over 8 districts and had demanded a fresh and exhaustive survey. Confirming receiving the letter, Bathinda DC Kamal Kishor Yadav said data has been provided for the survey as soon as the letter was received. “It seems more of a politically motivated step than a sincere effort to help out the suicide-hit families. If the government is really concerned, it should order exhaustive survey from the year 2000 to till date because as per our estimates more than 30,000 farmer and labourers have committed suicide in the past 14 years in the state,” said BKU Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union general secretary Lachman Singh Sewewala. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

HINDUTVA

41. Tension in Kalladka over “insult” to RSS leader (26)

Mangalore: Violence erupted in Kalladka, with instances of stone throwing and burning of vehicles reported on Saturday evening, after a speaker at a Congress conference allegedly referred to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat as “communal”. Around 5 p.m., congress workers had gathered for a ‘harmony’ meet where local leaders and B. Ramanath Rai, Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment, spoke. However, one of the speakers allegedly said that Mr. Bhat will incite communal violence before the elections to polarise voters, said the Bantwal Town Police. A group of people took offense to this, and allegedly tried to storm into the venue. In the ensuing fight and throwing of stones, at least three Congress workers were injured, while four policemen, including Sub Inspector Sanjay Kumar, suffered injuries. They have been admitted to a nearby private hospital, said the police. With the police fearing the situation may turn communal, platoons of the Karnataka State Reserve Police were rushed to the town. At least two bikes were set on fire, while several establishments along National Highway 75, which runs through the town, suffered damage in the stone throwing, said the police. Police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd and the violence abated around 8 p.m. While confirming the tenor of the speech, Mr. Rai said there was “nothing” wrong in the accusations. “This is nothing compared to the inflammatory, communal speeches made by Kalladka Bhat. We have the recordings and there is nothing defamatory about it. It is the RSS men creating trouble,” the Minister told The Hindu. Responding to the speech, Mr. Bhat said he was in Bangalore and was in no way connected to the violence. Denying that he ever made inflammatory speeches, he said, “I have heard that it was the congress workers who started throwing stones when some men of the town went to peacefully register their protest against the speeches. They (Congress) are trying to provoke and incite violence by repeatedly referring to disharmony in Kalladka. These speeches are for votes before the election,” he said. (The Hindu 9/3/14)

 

42. RSS asks cadres to focus on national issues, not Modi (26)

NEW DELHI: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has distanced itself from the controversy over its stance on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi. The RSS has reiterated its “non-political” posture and asked its cadres to focus on “national issues.” Comments made by the RSS top brass at the recently concluded three-day Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Bangalore set off speculation that the leadership was unhappy with the growing focus on Mr. Modi. On Wednesday, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said the brief to the cadres was to ensure high voter turnout and drive home the message of ushering in change. “The country is facing multifarious threats because of the inept handling of affairs in the past 10 years. Since we have widespread grass-roots presence, our cadres will educate people to make an informed choice. We need change for the better,” Mr. Madhav told The Hindu. He said cadres were asked not to canvass for an individual, but to advise voters on issues of governance and make an informed choice. “There is corruption, threats to national security, destruction of the social fabric; we will flag some of these issues and advice people to choose the next government with due diligence.” On RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat asking cadres not to root for Mr. Modi as PM, Mr. Madhav said: “Our chief’s main concern at the Bangalore meet was that RSS cadres have always been non-political.” (The Hindu 13/3/14)

 

43. Ban book with allegations against Amritanandamyi: VHP (26)

Thiruvananthapuram: Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Friday demanded the government to proscribe the book ‘Holy hell: A memoir of faith, devotion and pure madness” written by a former inmate of Amritanandamyi Mutt holding that its contents brought disgrace upon the spiritual leader. Australian born Gail Tredwell, the author, was “instigated by an international agency with an objective to defame Hindu society and its spiritual leaders”, VHP Chief Ashok Singhal told reporters here. A massive congregation of leaders of Hindu religious outfits and heads of various mutts in the country would be held at Kochi on March 23 to chalk out further course of action, he said, adding, “defaming the Hindu leaders have to be stopped”.Criticising a section of media for ‘playing up the news’, he said “the kind of seva(service) done by Amritanandamayi Ashram is unparallelled in the history of the state.” “The current events are seen as a part of a greater national and international conspiracy against the Hindu Dharma. Few fundamentalist organisations, who are envious of Hindu Dharma, are behind maligning the image of our great Saints. The book had triggered a row as it contained certain allegations and bitter experiences of Tredwell when she was an inmate of the mutt. The mutt, headquartered at Vallikavu in Kollam district, had already denied the allegations and said its functioning was transparent and “it is an open book”. (Zee News 14/3/14)

 

44. VHP moves Election Commission against government move to revert properties to Wakf (26)

New Delhi: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad or VHP today moved the Election Commission (EC) against the government for reverting the title of 123 government properties in the national capital to Delhi Wakf Board, saying the move was in violation of the model code. In a memorandum to the poll body, the VHP alleged that the notification facilitating handing over of the properties by withdrawing of acquisition by Land and Development Office and DDA was issued on March 5, when the model code came into effect. “The largesses are being attempted to confer on a minority for votes. Surely, the impact of this act vitiates the purity of election process and is an unholy attempt to win over a particular religious minority. This has been done when the Model Code of Conduct had come into operation,” the memorandum said. The VHP demanded a stay on the operation of the notification and “appropriate action” against the government for violating the model code. The decision of the government will enable the Wakf Board to take a call on the properties including selling them. Many of these properties are located in prime locations of the capital. At present, 61 of these 123 properties are owned by L&DO under the Urban Development Ministry while the rest of 62 are with DDA. Most properties are in and around Connaught Place, Mathura Road, Lodhi Road, Man Singh Road, Pandara Road, Ashoka Road, Janpath, Parliament House, Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazaar, Darya Ganj and Jangpura in the national capital. (NDTV 18/3/14)

 

45. RSS moved court against Rahul Gandhi (26)

BHIWANDI: The RSS filed criminal application against the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Bhiwandi court over his recent remarks against RSS linking their role in to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Recently on March 6, addressing party rally at Sonale sports ground in Bhiwandi, Rahul Gandhi had said that RSS shot Mahatma Gandhi and now they are using his name to campaign for elections. Following to the Rahul Gandhi remarks over RSS, the BJP had demanded action against Rahul Gandhi blaming that for vote he is unnecessarily making false allegation against RSS and had also moved the Election Commission against Rahul Gandhi. Now the RSS’s Bhiwandi unit wing secretary Rajesh Kunte on Wednesday filed a complaint against Rahul Gandhi. Talking to TOI, Kunte said, “The remarks made by Rahul Gandhi against our organization were defamatory and we sought action against the Rahul Gandhi under section 499 and 500 of Indian Penal Code”.Kunte further said, “Rahul Gandhi’s allegation, that RSS men killed Mahatma Gandhi, was against the court verdict in the case in which no where RSS is linked. We want that action should be taken against Rahul Gandhi who looking at Lok Sabha election is deliberately for vote bank making false allegation”.The court is likely to hear the matter on March 27. (Times of India 19/3/14)

 

46. Rajnath betrayed Hindus on Ram temple, Hindutva issues: VHP (26)

Ayodhya: Senior VHP leader Ram Vilas Vedanti on Thursday accused BJP President Rajnath Singh of betraying Hindus on Ram Temple and Hindutva issues and said he will contest Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow against him. The fire brand leader, who is also a founder member of Ram Temple movement, said he wants Singh to be defeated and for this he would take help from any political party. Vedanti is a member of VHP’s high powered committee ‘Kendriya Marg Darshak Mandal’ and also a senior member of Ram Janam Bhoomi Nyas Trust in Ayodhya. He also said that he was in contact with different parties for their support for in the LS elections. Vedanti alleged that now the BJP has now become a “staunch anti-Hindu party”, as it has “kicked out” all those leaders who were connected with Ram Temple movement. “Whoever takes the name of Lord Rama in BJP, he is shown the doors. BJP has left the Ram temple issue at all,” he said. Vedanti was first elected as BJP MP in 1991 from Machhlishahr Lok Sabha constituency, then in 1996 he was again elected on BJP ticket from Pratapgarh. In 2009, he contested from Rae Bareily Lok Sabha seat on BJP ticket against Sonia Gandhi butu lost his deposits. (Zee News 20/3/14)

 

47. New twist to old chant: ‘Har har Modi’ in Varanasi (26)

VARANASI: The original line goes “Har har Mahadev, ghar ghar Mahadev”. But after a clever twist giving it a subtle Hindutva flavour, BJP supporters in this ancient temple town chant “Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi”.Not everybody is pleased. Congress leader Ajai Rai says the slogan “Har har Modi” is “a humiliation of Lord Shiva and people of Kashi”. Rai, who contested the 2009 LS polls on an SP ticket here, says: “Modi is trying to replace Baba Viswanath.” Rai, a contender for the Congress ticket this year, has raised this point in public forums. Social scientist Dipankar Gupta says the slogan “Har har Modi” has definite Hindutva allusions. “Modi is trying to pitch himself as some kind of diety,” he says. Writer Krishna Mohan believes the slogan is loaded with hidden meaning and virtually equates Modi with Mahadev. “It remains to be seen whether it backfires,” says Mohan, who teaches Hindi at BHU. Sanskrit scholars explain that “Har har Mahadev” is a chant in praise of Lord Shiva. “Har is derived from haran (to take away). It urges Mahadev to rid us of our pain,” says Narendranand Saraswati, Shankaracharya, Kashi Sumeru Peeth. In Varanasi, “Har har Mahadev” is a traditional form of greeting. BHU scholar Rameshchandra Panda recalls the Kashi Naresh (the city’s ruler) was once greeted with the “Har har Mahadev” chant. “That was a city tradition,” says Panda, who teaches Panini’s grammar. But it was also a famous battle cry that medieval Hindu kings used. Experts suggest that its usage, albeit with a twist, seeks to create the image of a warrior king. Old-timers recall hearing the “Har har Modi” slogan first when BJP’s PM candidate visited the city’s Sankatmochan temple last December. Gupta say Modi has been talking development elsewhere but has chosen Varanasi as his second constituency. This brings “his Hindutva core to the fore”.However, local BJP spokesperson Rakesh Trivedi says everyone, including Rai, is making a mountain out of a molehill. “Truth is the slogan expresses the public sentiment. That’s why it is being used in every home,” he says. That’s an exaggeration. Varanasi has over 3 lakh Muslim voters. (Times of India 22/3/14)

 

Posted by admin at 21 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. RTI activist cop fights to clean up police system (1)

NOIDA: Sushil Kaushik (45) is not like any other constable deployed at the Gautam Budh Nagar SSP’s office. A passionate RTI activist, Kaushik has filed several RTI applications against his own bosses. His upright stand against corruption has seen him facing frequent transfers and penalties, with a promotion being a wishful thought. It doesn’t faze him, however, as he says that he is working to reform the police system from within and narrow the gap between cops and people. Kaushik said that he joined the UP police force as a constable in 1989 and was first posted in Bijnor district. “I was taken aback to see how corrupt police officials could be. I saw police taking money from contractors, vendors and scrap dealers.,” he said. He would complain about his colleagues’ wrongdoing to senior officials in his early days at the department. “Later, I came to know that some senior officials themselves shared the swag. The complaints went against me,” he said. Over the last 15 years, Kaushik has been transferred to at least 15 places. “Sometimes I was transferred to a police station. When the SSP came to know about my past record, the same night I was transferred from there to other places,” he said, stating that he had been transferred to Ghaziabad, Serkot, Kalagardh, Afzalgardh, Dadri, Podi Gadwal and Noida among other places. Fed up with the frequent transfers, the constable went on medical leave in 1996, the same year he got married. He joined the force at the Dadri office soon after. When the RTI Act came into force in 2005, Kaushik found a new way to tackle the system. He has filed over 100 RTIs, mostly against senior police officers. “I filed an RTI application against five SPs from Baghpat district that year. The police department had been deducting Rs 20-30 every month from constables’ salaries in the name of education, entertainment, a mess fee and sports. This money was not audited and we did not know where it was spent,” he said. Such deductions came up to over Rs 80 lakh a month and Kaushik’s RTI ensured that such deductions were stopped. Kaushik’s struggle has had its obstacles. In 2005, an SP against whom he filed an RTI application, hired goons to teach him a lesson. Through his time in the force, Kaushik continued to study and completed an MA-LLB to better comprehend legal aspects. All police officials are not same, he says, particularly admiring Gautam Budh Nagar SSP Preetinder Singh. “He is a good person and is dedicated to serving people. I get his support in my work and he appreciates what I do,” said Kaushik, who has launched a campaign titled ‘Agar Police Satayen, Toh Hume Batayen’ (If the police trouble, tell us) to narrow down the gap between police and people. Preetinder Singh said that Kaushik is an ideal constable and he has done good work in seeking information through RTI. “I support him in his works. Once Kaushik sought for voluntary retirement, but I advised him against it,” SSP Preetinder Singh said. Kaushik then dropped the idea. Singh said he has planned to organize a Jan-Chaupal where people can discuss problem they face with police. (Times of India 8/3/14)

 

2. ‘Passport details can’t be disclosed to third party’ (1)

NEW DELHI: Passport information, just like the Permanent Account Number of an individual, is personal information and cannot be disclosed to a third party under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Delhi High Court has held while deciding a bunch of petitions moved by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). “This Court is also of the view that if the passport number of a third party is furnished to an applicant, it can be misused. For instance, if the applicant were to lodge a report with the police that a passport bearing a particular number is lost, the Passport Authority would automatically revoke the same without knowledge and to the prejudice of the third party,” a Bench of Justice Manmohan said. “After all, passport number is not only personal information but also an identification proof, specifically when one travels abroad,” the Bench added. The MEA, through counsel P. Roychoudhary, had moved the High Court challenging the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing it to provide copies of passports of third parties along with their birth certificates, educational qualifications and identity proofs to certain applicants under the RTI Act. The CIC had held that the information is not personal and that citizen’s right to information is to be given primacy over their right to privacy. Initially, the petitioners, who had either sought passport information of their estranged spouse or any other third party, were denied information by the passport office. In appeal, the Chief Passport Officer also refused to part with the information so sought. The petitioners then moved the CIC, which directed the information be shared. The CIC in its order had said: “Given our dismal record of mis-governance and rampant corruption which colludes to deny citizens their essential rights and dignity, it is in the fitness of things that the citizen’s right to information is given greater primacy with regard to privacy.” Justice Manmohan, however, held that the CIC neither examined the issue of larger public interest nor considered Section 11 of the RTI Act, which mandates that views of third party whose information has been sought needs to be invited and considered in such cases before deciding whether to disclose the information or not. The Bench said even if the CIC concluded that passport information was not exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act, it would still have to follow the third party information system under the RTI Act. (The Hindu 10/3/14)

 

3. PIL Challenging Info Panel Appointments Dismissed (1)

Bangalore” The high court on Monday dismissed a PIL challenging the appointment of the president and four other members of the Karnataka State Information Commission under the RTI Act. A division bench comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice B V Nagarathna dismissed the PIL filed by S Umapathi, an RTI activist. The PIL questioned the appointments of A K M Nayak as Chief State Information Commissioner as well as the appointments of D Thangaraj, a retired IAS officer, M R Pujar, a retired IPS officer, T Rama Naik, an advocate and social activist from Shimoga and Shekhar D Sajjanar, a medical practitioner from Gadag. The petitioner alleged that in addition to appointing persons with political affiliations, in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, the selection was made in a non-transparent manner in the absence of any guidelines. No Spl Counsel in Nithyananda Case The high court on Monday stayed the appointment of a special counsel in a petition against self-styled godman Nithyananda. He was accused of rape by a former disciple Arathi Rao. Hearing a petition by Vallabha Neni, the third accused in the case, Justice Abdul Nazeer stayed the appointment of Govindhan as counsel. The petitioner had contended that the State government cannot appoint a counsel in this matter. (New Indian Express 11/3/14)

 

4. Guj activist says Ramdev flouted poll code; CEO seeks report (1)

Navsari: Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer Wednesday asked the district collector to submit a report on whether yoga guru Ramdev violated the Model Code of Conduct by making political comments during a religious function here as alleged by an RTI activist. “I have asked the collector to submit a report. We will take appropriate action after verifying the claims made in the complaint,” CEO Anita Karwal told reporters in Gandhinagar. City-based RTI activist Kanu Sukhadia had lodged a complaint with Navsari collector against Ramdev on March 6 for allegedly making political comments during a religious function. Sukhadia said Ramdev while attending a ritual at Ramji temple in Navsari town on March 5 exhorted people to vote for BJP, even as some local political leaders were present in audience. “On March 3, I had informed the district collector to keep a watch on the function and stop it from becoming a political event as poll code is in effect. But, Ramdev made several political comments and openly asked people to support BJP in elections,” Sukhadia said. Sukhadia said he recorded Ramdev’s speech and the entire event and lodged complaint with collector on March 6. The CEO has now asked the collector to submit a report in this regard.  (Zee News 12/3/14)

 

5. RTI loses bite as pending appeals choke system (1)

New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi mentioned RTI 33 times in his TimesNow interview two months back. He claimed that the UPA government’s biggest contribution in its fight against corruption was the Right to Information (RTI) Act. However, HT has found that the transparency Act is slowly becoming ineffective due to pending appeals, non-action on erring information officers and attacks on RTI activists. More than 1.5 lakh appeals are pending before the central information commission (24,000 appeals pending) and state information commissions (SIC), HT has found. The Congress-ruled states of Maharashtra and Karnataka are among the worst performers, with 35,000 and 24,000 pending appeals respectively. Some of these appeals are pending since 2011. Besides, lack of disciplinary action against erring public information officers (PIOs) has led to more applications getting rejected. Across states, PIOs are penalised in less than 5 per cent of the cases, HT has found. As per the Act, the CIC or SICs can impose a penalty if the PIO has not furnished the information sought within 30 days, or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information. But since such penalties are scarcely imposed, genuine applicants get replies such as “the query is not specific”, “the documents are voluminous”, “information not available” or “the information is in public domain”. HT filed more than 100 RTIs in the past six months and found that a majority of the applications did not elicit a proper reply. Former Central Information Commissioner Sailesh Gandhi explains that in the eight years since the Act came into being, penalties have been imposed on PIOs in only 1,000 cases of the more than 1.7 lakh appeals that were disposed. “This is pathetic. If PIOs don’t have the threat of penalty, then RTI is under threat,” he added. Despite Gandhi mentioning in his RTI applications that he is a former CIC, PIOs in various Maharashtra state departments did not even bother to reply. “Most first-timers get discouraged if the PIO rejects their application on frivolous grounds. Very few go in appeal but even then the cases remain pending or the order is given after years,” says Rama Nath Jha, lawyer and director of Transparency International. As if rejections were not enough, threats to the lives of RTI activists are scaring information seekers. As per the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) data, to date around 250 individuals have been allegedly attacked, harassed, their property and belongings damaged and some even murdered for seeking information under the Act. Chief Information Commissioner Sushma Singh could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts. However, TY Das, secretary, CIC, said: “The 24,000 appeals are pending because we have a limited number of commissioners. They dispose of appeals as and when these reach them…. I would not like to comment further.” (Hindustan Times 14/3/14)

 

6. RTI commissioner pulls up Chittoor officials (1)

State RTI Commissioner Tantiya Kumari on Thursday, flayed the negligent attitude of officials in implementing the Right to Information Act and maintained that there was zero percent awareness among officials in Chittoor district. Hearing the RTI cases in revenue, higher education at Sri Venkateswara University (SVU), she directed the officers to furnish the requested information, without fail, to the appellants within the specified period. She further instructed them to maintain files and records of every case in the RTI register. Out of the 30 cases, Mr. Kumari solved 4 and adjourned the remaining. Earlier on Wednesday, Ms. Kumari adjourned nearly 50 RTI cases pertaining to Revenue Department and sent ‘show cause notice’ to the officials. She maintained that it was appalling to find the implementation of RTI Act in such deplorable conditions in the district. “It is imperative that the concerned officials (RDOs, MROs and PIOs) convey the requested information to appellants within 30 days, but many cases have surpassed the time limit. We will take strict action on the officials who have not discharged their duties properly”. Mr. Kumari also urged the government to take up awareness programmes in order to uphold the real intention of the Act.  (The Hindu 14/3/14)

 

7. Plea for women in anti-corruption body (1)

Shillong, March 14: RTI activists have demanded the inclusion of women in the Lokayukta in Meghalaya, while asking the state government to expedite the process of making the anti-corruption body functional. The state government will table the Meghalaya Lokayukta Bill, 2014 during the ongoing budget session of the state Assembly. The bill is slated to be tabled on Tuesday, the last day of the session. The bill is in tandem with the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act as enacted by Parliament recently, and it will repeal the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2013. Welcoming the new bill, Meghalaya Right to Information Movement (MRTIM) leader Michael N. Syiem said the bill is far stronger than the previous law. He also stated that information seekers through the RTI Act, 2005 would have the opportunity to place their findings before the anti-corruption body once the bill is passed and notified. Hitherto, RTI findings largely remain within the domain of the media. But once the anti-corruption body is established, people would have the opportunity to lodge complaints based on the information collected through the RTI Act. MRTIM member Angela Rangad expressed the hope that some percentage would be considered for women to become members of the anti-corruption body. As per the bill, there would be a chairperson and four other members who would constitute the Lokayukta, and 50 per cent of them would be judicial members. However, Rangad said the bill should not be too harsh on the complainants. Else, it would deter people from filing complaints before the Lokayukta. According to the bill, whoever makes “false and frivolous or vexatious complaint”, shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to six months and with fine, which may extend to Rs 1 lakh. At the same time, she demanded that the Lokayukta comprise persons who have not been involved in any kind of corruption. She also said that a timeframe should be set for the notification of the law. )The Telegraqph 15/3/14)

 

8. EC Squatting on 200 Cases Fit for Disqualification, Says RTI Activist (1)

CHENNAI: Coimbatore-based RTI activist M Loganathan, a practising advocate and coordinator of the Federation for Sustainable Development, an NGO, has unearthed nearly 200 cases wherein no action has been initiated by the Election Commission (EC) on removing those who have been convicted of electoral malpractices from the electoral rolls. Speaking to Express, Loganathan said the information provided in the representation was gathered from replies given by various police stations across the State through RTI queries and convictions done up to October 2012. “By this time, more persons would have got convicted,” he added. “Handing out warning after warning to people to eschew electoral malpractices will not help much. Only news about punishment given to those involved in these crimes will act as a greater deterrent,” he said and added that on this count, the Election Commission has failed to act. “When a person gets convicted in electoral malpractices, the police should inform the Collector who, in turn, apprises the Election Commission. But, this is not happening at present. Due to this procedural lacunae, even after conviction, the names of errant persons continue to be in electoral rolls”, he said and urged the EC to pay serious attention to this and issue guidelines to all concerned to enforce the law. In this connection, he showed a letter from the Coimbatore Collector, dated January 10, 2011, to the Chief Electoral Officer requesting him to delete the name of a person who was convicted of  indulging in malpractices during the by-election toThondamuthur Assembly constituency in 2009, Loganathan said. He said the police and the district administration should have sent similar letters to the EC, but it didn’t happen. When contacted, the CEO said, “We have received a list of persons reportedly convicted for electoral malpractices. We will send it to the Collectors for verification. If found true, the law will be followed in this regard.” The Coimbatore-based NGO has been engaged in protecting natural resources in the State and has been carrying out a campaign against genetically modified crops. (New Indian Express 18/3/14)

 

9. College fined for denying info under RTI (1)

Bangalore: Taking the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) casually proved costly for the principal of Basaveshwara Engineering College, Bagalkot, who has been ordered to pay a penalty of Rs 15,000 for denying information to an RTI applicant. As the college receives government aid, it has to abide by the rules followed by any government college and also have a similar fee structure. Two years ago, Umapathi, a resident of Bangalore, had filed an RTI application seeking some information from the college management, but it was not provided to him. The management did not entertain the application saying the institution did not come under ambit of the RTI Act. Later, Umapathi approached the KIC. While hearing the case, Information Commissioner M R Pujar ruled that the college be brought under the RTI Act, as it enjoyed government aid and other benefits. In his next order passed on December 2, 2013, Pujar directed the college principal Dr R N Herakal to provide information if there was no High Court stay on its show-cause notice dated December 14, 2012. But the principal did not comply with the order. On March 11, when the matter was heard again, the commissioner found that the principal had overlooked his orders. Pujar ruled, “The respondent had not filed his written application for the show-cause notice issued against him on December 14, 2012, though three opportunities were given to him. Hence, it is treated that he (principal) has no explanation to offer for the show-cause notice and the commission has come to the conclusion that it is a fit case to impose penalty.” The commission imposed a fine of Rs 15,000 on Herakal and directed him to pay the amount lump sum or in three installments of Rs 5,000 per month to the government. He also directed him to pay a compensation of Rs 1,000 to Umapathi “for the loss and other detriments suffered by the petitioner.” (Deccan Herald 21/3/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

10. UNESCO urges Iraq to ensure safety of media workers (1)

New York, Mar 13 : The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom on Wednesday stressed that decisive action must be taken to ensure the safety of media workers in Iraq, following the recent killing of two cameramen. Muthanna Abdul Hussein and Khaled Abed Thamer, cameramen for Al-Iraqia TV, were killed in a suicide bomb blast at a checkpoint at the city of Hilla on 9 March, according to a news release issued by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “I condemn the killing of Muthanna Abdul Hussein and Khaled Abed Thamer,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said. “The number of media workers killed in Iraq is a source of grave concern. “I call on the authorities once again to ensure that those responsible for the death of journalists be brought to justice. Decisive action is needed to ensure that the media can carry out their work and the public can remain informed.” Bokova has condemned the killing of 18 journalists in Iraq since Jan 1, 2013. (New Kerala 13/3/14)

 

11. Media told to refrain from publishing paid news (1)

Dehradun: To ensure free and fair election, chief electoral officer (CEO), Uttarakhand convened a workshop for media in Dehradun on Thursday. During the workshop, they apprised the media to refrain from publishing paid news. CEO Radha Raturi said that paid news has been defined by the Press Council of India (PCI) as “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print & electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration”. PCI guidelines say: “News should be clearly demarcated from advertisements by printing disclaimers, should be strictly enforced by all publications. As far as news is concerned, it must always carry a credit line and should be set in a typeface that would distinguish it from advertisements.” Paid news misleads the public and hampers the ability of people to form correct opinions. It causes undue influence on voters and also affects their Right to Information (RTI). She reminded that paid news is an electoral offence through amendment of Representation of People Act-1951. “Use existing mechanism of expenditure ceiling to curb the menace; partner with stakeholders, including political parties and media to fight the menace and sensitise people on the subject,” she said. To deal with the menace (paid news), starting with June-2010, the ECI has issued instructions to the State and district officers to scrutinize, identify and report cases of paid news. The commission has appointed a media certification & Monitoring committee (MCMC) at District and state level; it has officers from ministry of Information and Broadcasting and state DIPR; the committee will scrutinize all media within its jurisdiction to identify advertisement in the garb of news and MCMC shall also actively consider paid news cases referred to it by the expenditure observers. “We have instructed District Election officer (DEO) to take meeting with political parties as well as media houses to alert them against surrogate advertising and paid news and consequences of violation. Political parties and media houses have been briefed and sensitised in advance at Head quarters. We have written to PCI for support to strengthen the mechanism.” Once cases are decided as paid news, the print media cases should be sent to ECI for referring it to PCI for action against the concerned media house and electronic media cases are being referred to National broadcasters Association for consideration by national broadcasting standards Authority (NBSA). Replying to media queries about violation of model code of conduct, CEO Radha Raturi said that as far as Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s residence is concerned that Additional Secretary Estate department has informed that few portion of Bijapur guest house was declared as temporary residence of chief minister on February 26 because some renovation work is in progress in Chief Minister’s residence. In another query, about Principal Secretary Tourism Umakant Panwar, who had addressed media and claimed that tourism department will organise Char Dham Yatra for senior citizens (completed 65 years), Raturi said that: “We sought explanation from him, then Panwar said that the decision was taken by Cabinet in February so it was not new.” He further said that the press conference was called to explain about Char Dham Yatra, which date was already announced in past.” (Pioneer 14/3/14)

 

12. Editors guild condemns Kejriwal’s attack on media (1)

New Delhi, March 14 : The Editors Guild of India Friday condemned the repeated attacks on the media by Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal “that violate the norms of decent democratic debate”.A statement issued by the guild said “accusation against the media as being bought by a particular political party and candidate and his threat, even if it be an empty one, to send media persons to prison after an enquiry reflect an intolerant mind-set that resents any critical scrutiny”.”It is the democratic right of the free media to raise any issue and to subject any public person or party to scrutiny, and it is ridiculous to label criticism of a party or of a political leader as ‘paid news’.” It went on to say that “most parties have grown to take critical scrutiny for granted and have shown the maturity to counter and get their points of view across in a reasonable manner”.”One hopes the intolerance that is reflected in Arvind Kejriwal’s recent attacks on the media does not represent the new style of politics promised by the Aam Aadmi Party and its leaders.” (New Kerala 14/3/14)

 

13. Media has no guts to expose Narendra Modi’s Gujarat: Arvind Kejriwal (1)

Bangalore: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday the media has no guts to expose the darker side of Gujarat under the leadership of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday the media has no guts to expose the darker side of Gujarat under the leadership of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. “Has media guts to expose Modi? They are only repeating all the lies he tells in campaign speeches about the so-called development in Gujarat,” an unfazed Kejriwal told reporters here during the AAP road show underway in this tech hub. Continuing his vicious attack on the media, especially news channels, Kejriwal said the truth about Modi’s development claims was hollow. “The question, however, is which media house will dare show that. For instance, about 800 farmers committed suicide and about 16,000 small scale industries shut down under Modi’s regime. But these stark facts are neither shown nor reported,” Kejriwal said.  Recalling his recent visit to Gujarat for a firsthand account and assessment of the much-touted Modi’s development model and growth across sectors, Kejriwal said corruption was no less in that state than elsewhere. “Corruption reeks across Gujarat even 11 years after Modi became its chief minister. Why doesn’t media go there and verify what I am saying. Is it not its job or duty to tell people the harsh reality there? Will media have the courage to tell the truth about Modi’s Gujarat at least now for people to know before the general elections?,” Kejriwal said. Lamenting that some sections of the media were deliberately misleading the people by bluffing about the development in Gujarat under Modi, the former Delhi chief minister said a make-believe image was being created to influence the people to vote for the BJP. “It is not just the BJP which is desperate to grab power, but some media houses, which are showing and writing on opinion polls based on false surveys on behalf of vested interests who are keen on making Modi prime minister,” Kejriwal said. (DNA 15/3/14)

 

14. Endorsing abusive postings on social media to invite trouble (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Beware social media users about what you endorse. Not only those posting defaming contents on social media against candidates in the Lok Sabha polls will be running into trouble but those sharing such status are also bound to face legal consequences. This has been made clear by the authorities while considering a complaint lodged by Union minister and Congress candidate Kodiukunnil Suresh seeking action against defamatory postings on social media against him. Suresh, seeking re-election from Mavelikkara seat, alleged that fake and morphed pictures casting him in poor light had been appearing in social media with political intentions. Alappuzha district collector N Padmakumar, who looked into the complaint, said not only those who made the postings but those who shared them would also be liable to face legal action. Police had been asked to register a case and investigate Suresh’s complaint, official sources said. Meanwhile, senior CPM leader M Vijayakumar ran into trouble for allegedly making abusive comments against Union minister Shashi Tharoor here. Tharoor, who filed nomination from Thiruvananthapuram LS seat, said the comments of Vijayakumar involved breach of election code of conduct and he would be lodging a complaint with the Election Commission. (Times of India 18/3/14)

 

15. EC to scrutinize use of social media by candidates in elections (1)

HYDERABAD: For the first time, the Election Commission of India (EC) will scrutinize the use of internet by candidates in the general elections to be held in April/May. Political parties and candidates cannot issue advertisements in websites and social media without ‘pre-certification from competent authorities’. Therefore, candidates would now have to submit information about their social media accounts in addition to their e-mail ids and telephone numbers in Form 26 when they file their nominations. The EC has broadly identified five different types of social media – collaborative projects (Wikipedia), blogs and micro blogs (Twitter), content communities (Youtube), social networking sites (Facebook) and virtual game-worlds (Apps). “Legal provisions relating to election campaigning apply to social media in the same manner in which they apply to any other media,” Rahul Sharma, under secretary, EC, stated in the EC notification. Sharma has also written to Chitrita Chatterjee, associate vice-president, Internet and Mobile Association of India, New Delhi, and the chief grievance officers of major social networking sites on the issue of internet election campaigning. The EC has issued certain guidelines to the Internet and Mobile Association of India to ensure that political advertisements are not displayed without pre-certification. Internet sites will have to inform the EC regarding expenditure incurred by political parties and candidates when requested. In addition, internet-based media will also have to scrutinize content to ensure it is not unlawful, malicious or violative of the model code of conduct. If such content comes to the notice of the election machinery, it would have to be removed. The Media Certification and Monitoring Committees, at both district and state levels, should undertake the pre-certification of advertisements by political parties and candidates. The EC is relying on the Supreme Court’s orders in SLP (civil) N 6679/2004 dated April 13, 2014 for issuing instructions about the use of internet by political parties. Following the SC order, the commission had issued detailed instructions on the issue of advertisements by parties. “Since social media websites are also electronic media by definition, these instructions of the commission shall also apply to social media websites and fall under the purview of pre-certification,” the EC stated. While advertising in social media by political parties will come under scrutiny, the Election Commission has also turned its attention to content posted by the general public. The EC is in consultation with the ministry of communication and technology on practical ways to deal with the issue if the posts are found to be connected with election campaigning of political parties and candidates. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

16. Dalit groups in Rajasthan want certain expressions deleted from SC/ST Act (2)

JAIPUR: Dalit groups in Rajasthan have demanded deletion of expressions such as “intent,” “on the ground” and “wilful” from various sections of the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, saying they give leeway to the police and judiciary to dilute cases of atrocities through “subjective or arbitrary interpretations” of the law. Releasing a status report on the Act’s implementation in the State here over the week-end, Dalit activists said a new chapter should be added to the statute to deal with the rights of victims and witnesses, thereby explicitly granting various citizen rights to them in atrocity cases. Besides, the Act should be amended to bring in all types of negligence by public servants at various stages in their handling of atrocity cases and punishment for offences under the law enhanced to bring it on par with the Indian Penal Code. “Punishment for crimes against Dalits must be commensurate with the nature and gravity of the offences [so as] to ensure its deterrent effect,” said Centre for Dalit Rights patron P. L. Mimroth. The other group was the National Dalit Movement for Justice. In their major findings and observations in the report, the Dalit groups pointed out that Rajasthan occupied second position in the top 10 atrocity-prone States in the country, with an increasing rate of 7.4 per cent. The atrocity cases are often registered after a delay or not registered at all, investigation is kept pending for long, charge-sheet is not filed on time and cases are closed under the influence of dominant caste people or under political pressure. As a result, the acquittal rate is very high and the cases with conviction are few and far between. The report cited 199 sample cases, among which 79 were closed as “fake” by the police. Only two convictions were ordered by the court, while acquittal was awarded in 13 cases and the rest were either pending in the court or were in the process of compromise at a crucial stage. Dalit activists Satish Kumar, V. A. Ramesh Nathan and Rahul Singh also demanded appointment of a high-level committee to review the implementation of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, assess the achievement of its objectives and take appropriate and speedy action for strengthening the law for its effective implementation. (The Hindu 9/3/14)

 

17. Denial of priesthood to Dalit alleged (2)

RAMANATHAPURAM: A large number of Dalit Christians, including women, thronged the Collectorate here on Monday, protesting against alleged denial of priesthood to a Dalit theology student by Sivaganga Catholic Diocese. A five-member committee, headed by T. Thavamani from Devendra Kula Vellalar Munnetra Sangam, presented a petition at the Collectorate here on Monday, complaining that the Diocese had denied priesthood for G. Michael Raj, even after he had completed theology course as he hailed from Devendra Kula (Dalit) community. Raj had completed theology in 2012, but he was not given ordination by the diocese, dominated by a particular community, he said, and alleged that about 170 priests had been given ordination in churches in Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts but not even one belonged to Devendra Kula Dalits. Pointing out that there were 17 Dalit priests, he said they belonged to other sub-sects of the community and only Devendra Kula Dalits were given the raw deal by the diocese, he alleged. (The Hindu 11/3/14)

 

18. Eight held for ‘attacking’ Dalit wedding procession in Sabarkantha (2)

Ahmedabad: The Sabarkantha police have arrested eight persons for allegedly attacking a wedding procession of Dalits. The upper caste community of the village was against the Dalit family following the tradition of riding horseback in the wedding ceremony. The arrests were made on Saturday. According to the police, on March 6, Harshad Solanki, a resident of Tejpuri village in Himmatnagar taluka, Sabarkantha district, was returning  with his bride after marriage, when the procession following him was attacked by people belonging to the upper caste. They pelted stones and attacked them with sharp weapons injuring at least two dozen people, including children and women. Kodar Solanki, uncle of Harshad, lodged an FIR stating that upper caste residents of the village had threatened not to follow the tradition of riding horseback. Fearing a clash, the groom Harshad, who is a police constable posted in Himmatnagar, sought police protection for the occasion. “We were apprehensive of this attack, but nothing happened on the day of wedding and we followed the tradition. But when we were getting back after the marriage, we were attacked by a group of 30 to 40 people. We had followed the other route to enter our village. However, we couldn’t avoid the  clash,” said Alpesh Solanki, cousin of the groom. About 20 people from Dalit community sustained injuries. Three of them are said to be in critical condition. Sabarkantha District Collector Banchhanidhi Pani told The Indian Express that the situation in the village is under control and the administration is taking care of the victims. “We have assured them the expense of their treatment will be born by the district authority. Since Dalit family are apprehensive of losing their jobs in the aftermath of this incident, we have also assured them of giving jobs under MNREGA among others,” Pani said. Tajpuri houses about 30 Dalit families who are farm labourers. They are dependent on upper caste community who possess most of the farm lands. According to Alpesh, the upper caste people would not give them any employment now and Dalits will be ostracised for taking out the procession and going to police to lodge the complaint. (Indian Express 11/3/14)

 

19. Dalit girl tonsured, face blackened, paraded in Bihar (2)

Purnia: A panchayat in eastern Bihar tonsured the head of a 14-year-old orphan Dalit girl, blackened her face and paraded her through a village as “punishment” for talking to a boy. The incident of extreme public humiliation took place at Kadwa Tola village under sadar police station, about 10 km east of divisional headquarters town of Purnia on Tuesday, police said on Wednesday. “They smeared my face with ash, shaved my head and made me run around the village in that state as I was too poor to pay Rs. 12,000 fine the panchayat had imposed on me for talking to the boy,” police quoted the girl as saying. Six out of seven accused including the village headman Vishnudeo Rishi has been arrested, said Shweta Kumari, the station house officer (SHO) of Purnia women’s police station. The Bihar incident, though not as brutal, brought back memories of the gang rape of a 20-year-old tribal woman in west Bengal’s Birbhum district in January at the orders of a salishi sabha, the state’s equivalent of khap panchayats, for a similar “crime” Then too the kangaroo court had imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000 on the girl and her boyfriend and her failure to pay up had led to the sexual assault as “humiliation”. The victim of the Bihar incident, who lives with her grandfather, told Hindustan Times through an intermediary that both her parents died a few years ago from leprosy.  She is a class 6 student of a middle school. Coincidentally, the public humiliation of the minor took place on a day when a woman lawmaker of Purnia district, Dhamdaha MLA Lesi Singh, was sworn in as a member of the Nitish Kumar cabinet. But a section of Kadwa Tola residents sought to justify the village panchayat action as necessary for maintenance of “social discipline and moral propriety”. Police “interference” in such matters was unwarranted, they insisted. As per the girl’s statement to the police, some residents of Kadwa Tola found her talking to a boy of the same village near the Gulabbagh marketing yard on Monday evening. “They tied me and the boy I was talking to and kept us hungry for the whole of Monday night. On Tuesday morning, the panchayat members slapped a fine of Rs. 12,000 on each of us,” she told the police. She said that the boy was released after his parents promised to pay the fine. Her 65-year-old grandfather supports his family of four members including the victim by pulling a rickshaw. The Purnia SHO said, “we are keeping the victim under police protection. She may be referred to a rehabilitation centre in a day or two”. (Hindustan Times 12/3/14)

 

20. Dalit students appear in board exams under police protection (2)

Ahmedabad: Under threat from upper caste community in the village, eight students of Dalit families of Tejpuri village in Sabarkantha district appeared for their board examination under police security on Friday. A police vehicle took them to their examination centre and brought them back home. On the other hand, about two dozen students of primary school have shunned their classes, while their parents are forced to go to the nearest town to buy essentials under police protection as the shops owned by upper caste would not sell them anything. This is the scene of the village where on 6 March about 20 Dalits, including children, were assaulted by a mob of 40 to 50 people, belonging to dominant Darbar community. These Dalits were coming back from a wedding when they were attacked. “We were attacked because the groom rode a horse during the wedding procession. We had been warned by the upper caste people not to do so. Can’t the grooms of our caste ride a horse during wedding,” said Alpesh Solanki, a villager. He also said that due to approaching police, the people from upper castes have stopped selling them anything. About 30 Dalit families, living in the village, are being ostracised due to FIR lodged bythe against Darbar community. So far, 14 persons have been arrested by the police while around 30 accused have left the village and are still at large. According to Sabarkantha Superintendent of Police Chirag Koradia, after attack on March 6, there was no further disturbance in the village. He said that more than 20 policemen were posted in the village to maintain peace. Koradia added that though there was no further threat, but people from Dalit community were still apprehensive. (Indian Express 15/3/14)

 

21. Dalit body seeks party tickets for real SC people (2)

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Dalit Suraksha Samiti (ODSS), a body of real untouchable Scheduled Caste people in the State, on Thursday urged all frontline political parties in the State to give party tickets to real untouchable SCs as their candidates in all 24 Assembly and three Lok Sabha seats which are reserved for them. In open letter to BJD, BJP and Congress State chiefs the Samiti said, “Odisha records 16 per cent real untouchable SC population. We want to draw the kind attention of all concerned regarding the manipulative entry of 2 per cent Keuta/Kaibatra/Dhibar (Savarna OBCs) into SC list of Odisha through clandestine and fraudulent manner since December 2002 by falsely claiming themselves as synonymous of Dewar (Nomadic/Banjara) of Madhya Pradesh, not existing in Odisha thereby snatching away almost 80 per cent of the total reservations meant for the real untouchable SCs in education, employment and politics.” “We urged all the political parties not to field duplicate SC people in the elections,” said Samiti president Gayadhar Mallik.   (Pioneer 16/3/14)

 

22. Dalit bodies to unite in fight against communalism (2)

VELLORE: The Ambedkar People’s Movement has decided to unite Dalit organisations to support candidates opposing communalism in constituencies where Dalit organisations are contesting and Congress candidates in all other constituencies during the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu. A resolution was adopted at the State executive committee meeting of the Movement held under the presidentship of M. Kamalakannan at Villupuram on Friday, according to a release. Through another resolution, it also decided to unite Dalit organisations and conduct political conferences in all districts. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

23. Tsundur Dalit massacre case takes new turn (2)

HYDERABAD: Additional Solicitor General of India Wilson told a Bench of the A.P. High Court on Tuesday that a Special Public Prosecutor can’t plead for change of a Bench hearing a criminal case in the name of feelings of victims and this amounts to committing the contempt of court. The Additional Solicitor General was appearing upon the request made by the court to assist it in the case pertaining to the Tsundur Dalit massacre case. A Division Bench of the court comprising Justice L.Narasimha Reddy and Justice M.S.K. Jaiswal heard the arguments earlier on behalf of the persons convicted for over a week and then the Special Public Prosecutor, Bojja Tarakam, appointed by the State government to pursue the case, requested the Bench not to adjudicate the matter further. An affidavit was filed citing the feelings of the victims in this regard. The Bench asked for the appearance of either the Attorney General of India or any other senior law officer deputed by the Attorney General of India to answer serious questions of law arising in this case in such situation. Mr. Wilson told the Bench that the Special Public Prosecutor can’t take the assistance of anyone other than the State. It was also brought to the notice of the court that the State government has taken a stand that it has not authorised the special public prosecutor to resort to asking for change of the Bench. Mr. Bojja Tarakam said this was a unique case and he had been requested by the government to be the public prosecutor involving cases arising out of the SC /ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

24. Dalit manifesto focuses on land rights, education (2)

KOCHI: Even as major parties are fine-tuning their political manifestoes for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Kerala will get a dalit manifesto, drafted by four young dalits, following a successful Facebook campaign. The final version will be available online (https://www.facebook.com/dalitmanifesto) on Wednesday after a nine-day Facebook campaign that began on March 10. In its approach (relying exclusively on social media) and focus this would be a rare step in Indian electoral arena. The dalit manifesto sets a six-point agenda for political parties in Kerala. It broadly focuses on land, education, housing, health and entrepreneurship. The key demands of the dalit community are: 1. Land for agriculture in villages and commerce and industry in urban areas. 2. Educational stipends and grants should be increased not merely nominally, but corresponding to price index and inflation. 3. Wherever government, semi-government and private organizations set up industrial and commercial shopping complexes on land given free by the government, dalits should be given a stake in real estate 4. In IT parks and corridors, there should be an exclusive incubation park for dalit entrepreneurs. 5. Extend reservation rights to dalits among Christian and Muslim communities. 6. Make Ambedkarism part of the curriculum, deviating from the current practice of treating Ambedkar as the architect of the Constitution. The campaign is the brainchild of V B Ajay Kumar, a rights activist; Jeevachaithanyan, a software engineer; P S Pradeep, a multi-media student; and Prashant Koliyoor, an activist. “A manifesto is an important document in governance even though the common man as well as political parties tend to disregard them. When we began this, we wanted to collate the aspirations of the dalit community. This has been an encouraging exercise. It’s the first campaign among Kerala’s online dalit community and we have received overwhelming response, close to 5,000 daily,” said Ajay Kumar. Kerala has two reserved Lok Sabha constituencies for dalits – Alathur and Mavelikkara. Both LDF and UDF, the two leading political alliances in the state, have fielded dalit candidates in these mandatory constituencies but have ignored dalit community in the remaining 18 parliament seats. Ajay Kumar, director of RIGHTS, an NGO based in Thiruvananthapuram, said the project has not been carried out with the backing of dalit organizations. “We will not hold a press meet (since it costs a minimum of Rs 3,000), but will release the document online. It will be interesting to watch the response of frontline parties such as Congress, CPM and BJP,” he said. ITimes of India 19/3/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

25. BSP MP, MLAs charged for UP communal riots (7)

LUCKNOW: Six months after the Muzaffarnagar riots in which at least 60 people were killed, the special investigation team (SIT) set up to probe the violence has filed a chargesheet against BSP MP Kadir Rana and a group of his supporters for allegedly inciting communal passions with inflammatory speeches at a public gathering after Friday prayers. This was three days after the killing of three youths on August 27 that triggered a two-month carnage in parts of western UP. Besides Rana, chargesheets were also recently filed against BSP MLAs Noor Saleem Rana and Maulana Jamil, apart from Congress leader Saeed-uz-Zama and his son Salman Saeed. Others facing trial are Muzaffarnagar city board member Asad Zama Ansari and ex-member of the city board Naushad Qureshi, apart from traders Ahsan Qureshi, Sultan Mushir and Naushad. DIG Muzaffarnagar Raghubir Lal confirmed that the chargesheet was filed in the court of the chief judicial magistrate. “The accused persons violated prohibitory orders enforced by local administration to address large gatherings,” police sources said. Police said people’s statements, camera footage as well as electronic evidence against some people were used as evidence to strengthen the case. Earlier, BJP MLAs Sangeet Singh Som and Suresh Rana were charged under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) and sent to jail, but a high court panel dropped the charges following which they got bail. Rana and his group were booked under charges relating to promoting enmity between groups, rioting with deadly weapons, deterring public servants from discharging duties and disobedience of public servant’s orders, besides Section 7 of Criminal Law Amendment Act in the FIR lodged after the riots. Post investigations, the SIT team collected evidence against Rana and nine others. (Times of India 9/3/14)

 

26. Muslim sisters’ ‘nikah’ in Shiva temple in Uttar Pradesh (7)

Lucknow:  At a time when Uttar Pradesh has witnessed an increase in communal violence, a small temple of Lord Shiva at a village in the state’s Bulandshahar district,  turned into a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity when it became witness to the marriages of two Muslim girls. The “nikah” of the sisters was solemnised at the Shiva temple at the Ramnagar village of the district on Monday by the “kazi” in the presence of hundreds of people from both communities. According to reports, Iqbal Khan, a resident of the village, had fixed the marriage of his two daughters, Nazma and Muzma, with two youths of the same district. Though the nikah ceremony was scheduled to be performed at his residence, Khan wanted the ceremony to be a symbol of communal amity and brotherhood. He had also expressed his desire to some of his Hindu friends. Khan was surprised when he was approached by members of both communities a few days ago with a proposal to solemnise the nikah of his daughters at the Shiva Temple in Ramnagar. “It was like a dream come true for me,” said Khan. He readily agreed. Khan discussed the matter with the families of the two grooms, and they too said they had no objection to the arrangement. The priest of the Shiva temple also happily gave his permission. On Sunday, the wedding party of the two girls arrived at the temple for the ceremony. While the kazi performed the ceremony in accordance with Islamic traditions, a local Hindu family made arrangements for the community feast on the occasion. The two girls were given a traditional and tearful send-off by hundreds of people from both the Hindu and Muslim communities on Monday. (Deccan Herald 10/3/14)

 

27. RSS opposes minority status for Jain community (7)

Bangalore: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on the last day of its annual meeting opposed the move by the UPA government to accord minority status to the Jain community stressing that the community is essentially Hindu. Speaking at the conclusion of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi said Jains are not separate from Hindu culture. “Sangh has already said it does not support any move to divide the society as majority and minority. Jains are a part and parcel of the Hindu ethos, history and culture. Few of our traditions and rituals might be different but every culture of this land are Hindu,’’ the RSS general secretary said. The RSS functionary was reacting to the UPA government’s move to declare Jains as a minority community. In the course of the three meeting of its members, the RSS has charted out a plan for the coming year. Over 1,400 RSS functionaries who were elected by the local karyakartas across India attended the meeting along with RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat. Issues like homosexuality and live-in relationships were discussed in the meeting, but no resolutions were passed. “These are a danger to the culture. To make a law on these issues government has to consult the opinion of saints and sanyasis,” Suresh Joshi said. The degradation of family morals and counselling to prevent marriage divorces across the country had also been discussed. When asked about the recent controversy between Modi and Murli Manohar Joshi over contesting from Varanasi, he said: “BJP is capable of solving its own issues.” About Aam Aadmi Party’s performance in the next election, he said that RSS is willing to work with anyone who wants to make India corruption-free. The RSS functionary said that the meeting was keen to condemn the attack on Mata Amritanandamayi in a book called ‘Holy Hell’.The RSS had also a statement on their strategy to spread itself among the North-Eastern states by carrying the message of a woman freedom fighter from Manipur in those states. (Indian Express 10/3/14)

 

28. Denial of priesthood to Dalit alleged (7)

RAMANATHAPURAM: A large number of Dalit Christians, including women, thronged the Collectorate here on Monday, protesting against alleged denial of priesthood to a Dalit theology student by Sivaganga Catholic Diocese. A five-member committee, headed by T. Thavamani from Devendra Kula Vellalar Munnetra Sangam, presented a petition at the Collectorate here on Monday, complaining that the Diocese had denied priesthood for G. Michael Raj, even after he had completed theology course as he hailed from Devendra Kula (Dalit) community. Raj had completed theology in 2012, but he was not given ordination by the diocese, dominated by a particular community, he said, and alleged that about 170 priests had been given ordination in churches in Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts but not even one belonged to Devendra Kula Dalits. Pointing out that there were 17 Dalit priests, he said they belonged to other sub-sects of the community and only Devendra Kula Dalits were given the raw deal by the diocese, he alleged. (The Hindu 11/3/14)

 

29. To catch one chain-snatcher, 80 Muslims held in Mumbai (7)

Mumbai: In an unprecedented “combing operation” launched by Thane police in the wee hours of March 13, more than 80 Muslim males, including several minors, were detained at the Mumbra police station for over four hours, apparently to nab chain-snatchers. But those who were detained, all residents of Rashid Compound in the Kausa area of Mumbra, alleged it was done to instigate them and stoke communal feelings. Mumbra is 30 km from Mumbai and 80 per cent of its 9 lakh people are Muslim. “Police kept abusing us and screamed aatankwadion ko bahar nikalo (terrorists, come out). We stood there dumbfounded, unable to comprehend anything,” said Shamshad Nasir Pawaskar, one of those detained. Angry residents have filed a complaint, based on which Thane Police Commissioner Vijay Kamble has ordered an inquiry. “The residents have complained of police excesses and highhandedness. But it is too premature to comment,” Kamble told The Indian Express. Sameena Khan, who lives in Akbar Apartments from where 45 people were detained, said, “I was fast asleep. My husband, who is recuperating from typhoid, was discharged from hospital the same night. The police came screaming at our doors, dragged my husband out, shoved him inside the van and drove away. They did not even let him change his clothes.” She claimed policemen were waving batons at those who resisted and used bolt-cutters to break into a few houses. “If they were looking for just two men, why did they need seven vans,” asked Gulam Abbas Irani, 25, an IT consultant, who feels he was detained because of his last name. “Many of us have lived here for over 20 years. But this incident was one of its kind,” said Farida Shaikh, who was alone with her three children when the police came. “I kept telling them I am alone and that my husband is in Saudi Arabia. They did not budge. Two women constables stayed outside and men entered the house. I was in my night dress and it was humiliating to have men walk inside the house and search,” she said. Police claimed they were looking for “two men from Balochistan” who apparently stayed in Mount View building within Rashid compound. “Most of them have criminal cases. They engage in theft and chain-snatching. Two men have been in hiding and are notorious,” said a police officer. (Indian Express 15/3/14)

 

30. Kandhamal verdict: court relied on communal harmony in region (7)

Cuttack: Cuttack district sessions judge Gyanaranjan Purohit, who on Friday sentenced key accused Mitu Patnaik in the 2008 Kandhamal nun rape case to rigorous imprisonment for 11 years, relied heavily on communal harmony in the locality, which was disrupted for a brief period after the murder of Hindu seer Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. But taking into the consideration the circumstances in which the nun was gang-raped in the presence of a mob, the court felt that Patnaik did not deserve lenient sentence. Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhei were held guilty of outraging the modesty of the victim, obscene act and criminal intimidation. Digal and Badhei were sentenced to undergo RI for two years. While Digal has already been an under-trial prisoner for over four years and his sentence is likely to be set off, Badhei, who was behind bars for over a year, may go back to jail to serve the remaining period. However, the court later granted bail to both Digal and Badhei till the period the convicted persons prefer an appeal in the Orissa High Court. The 25-year-old nun said she was raped on August 25, 2008 after a mob ransacked and attacked the local pastoral centre following the murder of the seer the day before. (The Hindu 15/3/14)

 

31. Bring law like SC-ST Act to protect Muslims, says panel on Sachar (7)

Mumbai: A committee appointed by the central government to review the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar panel has suggested that a law on the lines of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be enacted to safeguard the Muslim community. The committee headed by Amitabh Kundu, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, submitted its report to the Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 14. “The committee has recommended the need for the creation of a special Act on the lines of the SC/ST Act for Muslims in the country. It has been seen that the members of the Muslim community face similar challenges to that of the SC community, and in certain cases, they are more violent challenges,” sources who played a role in the drafting of the report said. The committee has suggested that the new law could supplement the communal violence Bill, which is facing political opposition. The panel has also recommended that a special sub-quota for Muslims be created within the OBC category, and has stressed the need to include Muslims in the Scheduled Castes category. The interim report identifies Muslim OBCs as one of the most deprived sections, and says many Muslim OBCs actually belong to the SC category. Dalit Muslims are currently not included in the SC category, and are notified as OBCs. In its evaluation of the implementation of the Sachar recommendations, the committee has said that while the central government has created institutions like the Minority Affairs Department to address the problems of the minority community, there is a lack of convergence and coordination in these institutions. “The institution building process to address the concerns of the minorities has been successful at central level, for which we laud the government. However it has not succeeded in creating the convergence of these institutions. There has been no coordination established between various bodies at the state and central level which is a matter of concern. There is also no punishment over the failure to implement schemes and this has led to the unsuccessful implementation of the Sachar recommendations,” the sources said. Almost seven years after the submission of the Sachar report, the Centre decided to set up a committee to review the implementation of the recommendations. The primary task of the Kundu panel, which was set up on August 5 last year, was to evaluate the process of the implementation of the decisions taken on the recommendations of the Sachar committee, and to assess the important programmes initiated by the ministry and the schemes covered by the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme. The committee had been asked to submit a report in six months. IIndian Express 18/3/14)

 

32. AP Reorganisation Act does not include Minorities Commission (7)

HYDERABAD: The AP State Minorities Commission (APSMC) does not find a mention in the 10th Schedule of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014 which specifies the ‘continuance of facilities in certain state institutions.’The Schedule lists 107 government-appointed bodies. Though agencies working for the development of minorities and their institutions such as the AP State Wakf Board, Survey Commissioner for Wakfs, Centre for Educational Development of Minorities, AP State Haj Committee and Dairatul Maarif have been listed, the Act does not include the APSMC. Reacting to this, APSMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan on Wednesday said that he has sent a letter to chief secretary PK Mohanty with a request for its inclusion. “The chief secretary will send the letters to the Centre after which the President makes the required changes and it is then is sent to Parliament for incorporating them,” Khan said. “The lists in the 9{+t}{+h} and 10{+t}{+h} Schedules are not exhaustive and the non-inclusion of the commission seems like an omission. It was after the MIM’s representation pertaining to minority welfare agencies and companies, among others, that the tenth Schedule list was expanded to cover 107 bodies and the ninth to 89 by the Group of Ministers. We had made the suggestions as soon as the bill was ready,” said MIM MLC Syed Amin Jafri. “However, clauses 74 and 75 of Part VII of the Act make provisions that these bodies can be included and that they should continue to provide their services in both Telangana and the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh,” he added. Meanwhile, after reviewing the PM’s 15-point programme which reflects poor implementation, Khan has recommended that candidates from minority communities be given one Assembly seat in each district of Telangana and the Seemandhra regions. This, he said, would ensure better results. There are only 11 legislators from minority communities in five districts of Andhra Pradesh. “Around 22 assembly constituencies in Telangana and 23 from Seemandhra with a minorities concentration between 20 and 40 percent which could yield legislators from minority communities,” he noted. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

33. Alarm over ’2002 Guj riots video’ (7)

VARANASI: A video clipping, purportedly containing graphic images of 2002 Gujarat riots, is being circulated widely on the social media since Tuesday night. Coming close on the heels of BJP announcing Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its candidate from the city, it is bound to create trouble in the communally sensitive east UP region. The video, ‘& Rioter,’ edited by one Sayed Mohammed Raqeem SM, contains visuals of charred bodies, hooliganism, riot victims and terms Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders and Modi as ‘dharm ke numayinde’ (patrons of religion). A police official with a quote and symbolic visual of judiciary has also been figured in the video. All these visuals appear in the form of a slide show with a background music, ‘Gujarat ka manjar hamne dekha hai’. A local Samajwadi Party leader and nominated corporator of Varanasi Municipal Corporation, Varun Singh, too has upload this video clip on a social networking site. He said that one of his friends shared the video with him following which he realized that “making others aware about the truth of Gujarat was a must” and he shared the video with others. His comments were also tagged with his uploaded video. Circulation of this video through social media accounts has brought the officials on their toes. DM and district election officer Pranjal Yadav said, “I have reported the matter to the Election Commission.” SSP Jogendra Kumar also summoned the crime branch in-charge and assigned him the task to ensure that “sharing of this video on social sites is checked and appropriate action taken under sections of IT Act”.This is not the first time when a hate video has emerged as a challenge for the police. Following Muzaffarnagar communal riots in 2013, a hate video was circulated through same mediums. The video, with some visuals of riots recorded somewhere in Pakistan, was shared by trouble mongers as the scenes of Mujaffarnagar riots. To put a check on this video, the then officials had announced to give cash rewards to those who would inform about the source or origin of the hate video. However, the cops had failed to trace the trouble mongers. (Times of India 21/3/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

34. Ousted Maoist commander looks for exit from Odisha forest hideout (12)

New Delhi: He was once a darling of the CPI (Maoist) leadership. From his bastion in the Kandhamal forests of Odisha, top Maoist commander Sabyasachi Panda planned and executed many daring operations for his party. But two years after being forsaken by the Maoist leadership, 45-year-old Panda is trapped now somewhere along the Ganjam-Kandhamal border with a bullet injury in the thigh. The police are closing in on his hideout. “We are very close to him and we will get him very soon,” Ganjam district police chief Ashish Singh said. Panda is believed to have been injured in an encounter with the police on February 15. While he took one bullet in the thigh, another shattered his laptop. This has been revealed to the police by his bodyguard Nikita, who was arrested with two other women rebels on the night of February 28. One of Panda’s close associates told The Hindu that he was trapped with only three rebels, one a woman. Other twenty-four associates have either been killed in police action or arrested. The four, the associate believed, had no food left. “They are in possession of very few weapons and hardly any cash,” he said. There are indications that in the past two weeks, Panda has been desperate to secure an exit for himself. The Orissa police say he was in touch with the Aam Aadmi Party to save his life and secure his “political career.” However, one of the executive members of the AAP, who the police believe has been in touch with Panda, has denied it. “I have never met Sabyasachi Panda, and he has never contacted me about joining the AAP or anything else,” he said in an e-mail response. Panda, a Mathematics graduate, was the mastermind of the Nayagarh raid in February 2008, in which 14 policemen were killed and a huge cache of arms and ammunition was looted. He faces over 30 charges of murder, including that of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmanand Saraswati. The killing triggered off the 2008 Kandhamal riots. In a 16-page letter addressed to the Maoist supreme commander, Ganapathi, in July 2012, Panda accused the party’s Telugu leadership of “superiority complex.” Two days later, the CPI (Maoist) expelled him. Panda then went on to create his own outfit. But in the absence of party support, he got isolated along with a handful of rebels. (The Hindu 8/3/14)

 

35. 16 killed as 200 Naxals draw CRPF into a trap (12)

Raipur: Less than a year after carrying out a ghastly massacre of 32 Congressmen at Jiram Ghati, in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district, the Maoists on Tuesday chose the same valley to trap the security forces in an ambush, killing 15 jawans — 11 belonging to the CRPF and four local policemen — plus one civilian. The attack was carried out at Takawada in the Tongpal jungle in neighbouring Sukma district of Bastar. Three jawans, including two of the CRPF, were also grievously injured in the incident. It was also a gory reminder of the 2010 massacre in Dantewada in which 76 CRPF personnel were gunned down in almost the same area. A massive manhunt has been launched to apprehend the attackers, who escaped into the thick jungles. It was not immediately known if the Naxals had suffered any major casualties. The Maoists “led” a road-opening party of 30 jawans of the CRPF’s 80th Battalion and 14 district force personnel of the Chhattisgarh police to walk into their ambush at Takwada in the Tongpal jungle, around 5 km from Jiram Ghati, and opened indiscriminate fire on them from all sides, making the securitymen virtually sitting ducks. “The joint team of the CRPF and DF jawans left Tongpal for road-opening operations to pave the way for ongoing road construction in the stretch (in National Highway 30) in the morning. The team was ambushed by the Naxals between Tongpal and Jiram Ghati between 10-10.30 in the morning, leaving 15 jawans and one civilian dead”, said additional DGP (Naxal operations) R.K. Vij. The firing was followed by a landmine blast. “The ultras laid a 1.5-km-long ambush. The Naxals blocked the road after the security forces walked into the ambush zone, and then opened indiscriminate fire on them from all sides from their elevated positions”, State Intelligence Bureau DIG Dipansu Karba said. “The deaths were caused due to bullet injuries” he added. The dead and injured were pulled out of the attack site by reinforcements rushed to the spot after the attack. They were airlifted to Raipur by two helicopters. The state police is trying to secure the body of a CRPF jawan lying at the attack site reportedly booby-trapped with a pressure bomb by Naxals till reports last came in. Police sources said the Naxalites, who numbered around 200, had gutted three trucks to block the road to deny the troopers an escape route from the ambush. Sources said two IAF helicopters had been sent from Jagdalpur and Raipur to the ambush area with reinforcements drawn from the CoBRA battalion and the CRPF. The Naxals walked away with the arms and ammunition of the slain policemen after the encounter that lasted nearly three hours. The attack came exactly a month prior to the Lok Sabha elections in Chattisgarh. Mr Karba admitted that the Chhattisgarh police had got intelligence inputs about the presence of Naxals in the surrounding villages, but could not assess their strength. “Special Task Force personnel have been mobilised from Sukma and Jagdalpur to intercept the attackers who were trying to cross over to Maharashtra and Orissa,”, he added. (Asian Age 12/3/14)

 

36. Over 12,000 killed in Naxal violence in past 20 years (12)

New Delhi: Over 12,000 people, including security force personnel, have been killed by Naxals in nine Left Wing Extremism-hit states in the past 20 years. Of the total 12,183 people killed, 9,471 were civilians and 2,712 central and state security force personnel, the Home Ministry said in reply to an RTI query. The killings were reported in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. About 468 people were killed by Naxals in 1993, 376 in  1994, 396 in 1995, 541 in 1996, 583 in 1997, 489 in 1998, 595 in 1999, 548 in 2000, 564 in 2001, 481 in 2002 and 515 in 2003 in these nine states, it said. As many as 565 people lost their lives due to Naxal violence in 2004, 659 in 2005, 678 in 2006, 691 in 2007, 717 in 2008, 908 in 2009 and a huge 1,005 during 2010, the Home Ministry said. Besides, 608 people (466 civilians and 142 security force personnel), were killed in the nine states by Naxals in 2011, 415 (301 civilians and 114 security force personnel) in 2012 and 381 (267 civilians and 114 security force personnel) between January and December 15, last year, it said. Maoists had on Tuesday ambushed a security patrol killing 16 people, including 11 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, in Naxal-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. The attack was carried out barely five km from the area where top Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh were killed in a Maoist attack in May last year. Mahendra Karma, who started anti-Naxal movement Salwa Judum, Nand Kumar Patel, Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee chief and his son Dinesh were among 25 others who were killed in the attack carried out by Naxals on May 25, 2013 in Darbha Valley of the state. Veteran Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla, who was also injured in the attack, later succumbed to his injuries in a Gurgaon hospital. As many as 75 CRPF personnel and a Chhattisgarh Police official were killed in a Naxal attack in Dantewada district on April 6, 2010. A total of 90 battalions (90,000 men) of central security force personnel and one Indian Reserve Naga Battalion (1,000 personnel) have been deployed for anti-Naxal operations in the nine Naxal-hit states, the reply said. States like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal have constituted a unified command to carry out anti-Naxal operations. (Indian Express 12/3/14)

 

37. Eleven Naxals held in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Eleven suspected Naxals, including six women, were apprehended by security forces from the jungles of Balrampur district in Chhattisgarh early today. Officials said that a joint squad of paramilitary CRPF and state police apprehended the Naxals during a combing operation in Lahsunpath forest of Kushmi area in Sarguja division of the state. “Eleven Naxals including six women have been handed over to the local police after they were held from the jungles,” they said. “One .315 bore gun, a pistol and two detonators along with some other explosive material have been seized from the squad,” they said. The suspected ultras are being interrogated, they said. The Sarjuga-Ambikapur belt in northern part of Chhattisgarh is not an active Naxal hotbed compared to the southern parts of Bastar and this is after a longtime that Maoists have been apprehended in these areas, they said. (Times of India 15/3/14)

 

38. Anti-naxal forces won’t be used for polls: Odisha DGP (12)

BHUBANESWAR: Ruling out diversion of the Central paramilitary forces from the ongoing anti-naxal operations in the State, the Odisha Police on Saturday said it required an additional 50 companies of Central forces for the elections in Odisha. “There is no question of diverting the jawans, both the Central paramilitary and the State’s Special Operation Group (SOG), deployed in the anti-naxal operation. They will be engaged in providing security in polling booths in their respective areas,” Director-General of Police (DGP) Prakash Mishra told reporters after reviewing situation in the southern range. Mr. Mishra said the State had asked the Centre to provide an additional 50 companies of the Central forces for the Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls. (The Hindu 16/3/14)

 

39. Chhattisgarh: Naxal camp busted, arms seized (12)

Bhubaneswar: Ahead of the first phase of election in 70 Assembly seats and 10 Lok Sabha seats in Naxal-dominated districts of Orissa, security forces achieved a major success when they busted a Maoist camp operating in the Chhattisgarh forests on the state border. The operation was initiated from Nawrangpur district side of Orissa two days ago. Senior police officials said around 50 Maoists of Mainpur division and Nuapada division were camping at the forests in Raigarh area of Chhattisgarh when the Border Security Force and District Voluntary Force and Special Operation Group of Nabarangpur district police attacked the camp. The joint team seized 8 landmines, three SBML guns, one 8mm pistol, 70 detonators, seven bundles of wire, a solar panel, five kilogrammes of gun-powder, Maoist uniforms and literature from the camp. Acting on a tip-off, the security personnel tracked the Maoist camp, but soon came under attack from the rebels. The security forces fired in retaliation, but the Naxals managed to escape. There was no report of any casualty from the Maoist side. Meanwhile, in Sorada area of Ganjam, police arrested 4 persons who were allegedly supplying provisions to the Maoists. In Koraput district’s Boipariguda block, the Maoists, in a message through posters, have asked locals to boycott polling on April 10 and accused all political parties of being anti-poor. The posters also asked the people not to let politicians enter villages for campaigning. According to the police, the Maoist central committee has asked its cadres of Jharkhand to plan a major attack on security personnel. Inspector General of Police(Anti-Naxal operations) Soumendra Priyadarshi said the encounters showed police was succeeding in engaging the Maoists. “The Maoists strategy is to avoid any encounter or exchange of fire with cops. They would rather want to surprise us. After their failure in 2013 Chhattisgarh Assembly polls, they have taken a conscious decision to thwart the election process.” To avoid any Darbha-type incident, police would now issue district-specific and area-specific guidelines for candidates during campaigning in Maoist-hit districts of Koraput, Malkangiri, Nuapada, Nawrangpur, Kandhamal, Ganjam and Gajapati. “If someone wants to go to a place like Narayanpatna with just a PSO, we would strongly advise against it,” said a senior police official of Koraput district. (Indian Express 17/3/14)

 

40. Anti-Naxal operations: CRPF to build first road in Maoist hotbed (12)

NEW DELHI: With civil contractors reluctant to take up road construction work in Naxal-hit areas, the CRPF has for the first time taken upon itself to build a 7 km stretch in the Maoist hotbed of Sukma in Chhattisgarh. The force, which is guarding a number of road projects in the state, one of which came under attack in Tongapal last week killing 15 security men, will soon bid for the tender and related procedures of gaining rights to construct the particular patch which is considered one of the important lifelines of the area. The paramilitary will deploy its civil engineer troopers and supervisors to see the completion of the project and it will be guarded by an armed squad. “This is a pioneer step we have taken to ensure that road projects in Naxal areas are taken up and completed. Our engineering wing will supervise this maiden project that been undertaken by the force,” CRPF chief Dilip Trivedi told PTI. He was speaking after reviewing the security in the state in the aftermath of last week’s Naxal attack on security personnel in Bastar area of the state. The CRPF Director General said it was essential for security forces to “dominate” the roads in these areas as they are harbingers of development in far-off areas and hence an eyesore for Naxals who do not want progress to usher in order to maintain their strongholds. “We are determined to keep doing the road construction and securing task. Such attacks (last week in Tongapal) will not deter us,” Trivedi said. The particular project route is being kept under wraps for security reasons and the stretch is also crucial for forces as it will enable them to carry men and material to their posts in remote jungle locations. The Union Home Ministry, two years back, had sanctioned a full-fledged civil engineering wing in the country’s largest paramilitary force, mainstay for anti-Naxal operations in the country as it was getting difficult to get roads constructed in Naxal areas as civil workers feared for their security. The wing was mandated to not only recruit engineering manpower from the public domain but also depute some of its existing expertise in these areas for the road buildings task. The unit will function under command of the Additional DG (Works) of the CRPF and will also have state police and civil construction officials in its decision-making board. According to sources, some more road projects are under the consideration of the CRPF and Union Home Ministry for independent construction by the force. (The Economic Times 18/3/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

41. CACL urges parties not to use children in poll campaign (14)

BERHAMPUR: The possibility of use of children during election campaign for the coming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls has started to worry child rights activists. By the time the election process starts, most school-going children would have completed their examinations. It is feared that a number of children may be used as cheap labour for pasting posters, hanging banners or even being part of election rallies and meetings. Apart from the school-going children, child labourers are also suspected to be used by political organisations for various works during the campaign. The child rights activists feel that children from economically backward sections, particularly from rural areas and slums of urban centres, would get lured into political activities for meagre amounts, said convenor of Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL),Sudhir Sabat. The CACL has decided to request all major political parties to see that they should not misuse children during their campaigns. According to Mr. Sabat, they would hold discussions with leaders of all major political parties regarding this on March 13. Apart from this, the CACL also wants all major political parties to give importance to child-related issues as well as measures for eradication of child labour in the State. “We would request all political parties and candidates to include issues related to child rights and child labour in their manifesto,” Mr. Sabat said. (The Hindu 10/3/14)

 

42. Mumbai: 125 Child Labourers Rescued, Police Arrest 32 (14)

Mumbai: About 125 child labourers were rescued and 32 owners of hotel and leather manufacturing units arrested for employing underage workers at Agripada area in South Mumbai, police said here today. Acting on a tip-off from NGO Pratham, which alerted the police about the presence of underage workers in hotels and leather manufacturing units in the Agripada area, the police said. “Accordingly, raids were conducted today, during which 125 child labourers, aged between 5 and 14 years, were rescued and 32 owners of these establishments were nabbed,” Deputy Police Commissioner (Enforcement) Mahesh Patil said, adding a case was registered under relevant sections of the Child Labour Act at Agripada police station. “Majority of the children hailed from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. They were getting anything between Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 a month,” he said. The rescued children would be taken to rehabilitation centres in the city and their parents would be notified, police said, adding that the accused would be produced before a local court tomorrow. (Outlook 11/3/14)

 

43. Uncertain Future for Rescued Child Labourers (14)

GULBARGA: Over 6,000 children in 131 rehabilitation schools for child labourers in 17 districts, funded by the Centre, face a bleak future again with the Centre proposing to close the schools from March 31. The schools are run by NGOs and the Union government provided financial assistance. Official sources told Express that the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has written to the state government recently stating that it has proposed to close these schools. Of the 131 schools, in which 6,168 child labourers are studying, 81 are residential and 50 are day centers.  Bangalore-Rural has 25 schools, including two residential, Bangalore-Urban 14 (three residential), Bellary eight residential, Bijapur 18 (four residential), Belgaum two (one residential), Chitradurga and Davangere three residential each, Dharwad four residential, Gulbarga 10 residential, Kolar seven residential, Koppal two residential, Mandya seven residential, Mysore three residential, Raichur 16 schools (15 residential,) and Haveri nine residential schools. Though child labour rehabilitation projects were sanctioned by the Union government for Bagalkot and Tumkur, no schools were running this year.  In the other 13 districts, the state government is running 33 residential schools with 951 students. Joint Labour Commissioner T Srinivas said he and the labour commissioner will meet the Secretary to the ministry in a couple of days to discuss the issue. (New Indian Express 12/3/14)

 

44. Patna: 2 kids tied to pole, thrashed for stealing (14)

Patna: In punishing two children for the crime of theft, a Patna shopkeeper went on to commit one himself – he tied the 10 and 13 year olds to a pole and thrashed them. Babban Kumar alias Bablu, who runs a store in Sri Krishna Puri locality of Patna, kept the children tied in front of his shop for more than two hours, before their parents finally pooled in the ‘stolen’ amount and gave it to him, on Friday. Later, Kumar even called up the HT reporter who witnessed the child abuse to inform him that he had released the children. The grocer alleged four children stole Rs. 3,000 from his shop when he stepped out for a while. Kumar caught two of them and tied them up to “persuade” the other two offenders to return his money. “Wads of Rs. 10 notes totalling Rs. 1,000 were recovered from the pocket of a child. The other two took Rs. 2,000,” he said. Kumar was unmoved even when the victims’ parents came and pleaded with him to release their children. When a third accused was brought to the shop by his mother, the shopkeeper detained him as well. It was only after the three families decided to pool the amount and “compensate” Kumar that the children were released. Locals claimed they had informed the police about the incident, but the station house officer of the Sri Krishna Puri police station, Vidyasagar, said: “We have not received any such complaint and have no knowledge about the incident.” Secretary of Bihar Child Rights Protection Commission, N Vijayalakshmi, told HT: “We will seek a report from the district administration and the police.” (Hindustan Times 15/3/14)

 

45. Over 40 p.c. children undernourished in State (14)

HYDERABAD: A study on the nutritional status of children (zero to six years) in 12 districts of the State by People’s Voice for Child Rights (PVCR), in collaboration with Child Rights and You (CRY), has thrown up rather disturbing trends. Of the 5,568 children covered, 40 per cent i.e., 2,250 children were undernourished. The study, which covered 240 Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) centres in 12 districts between December 2012 and January 2013 says that out of the 40 per cent undernourished children, 18 per cent are severely underweight while 23 per cent are moderately underweight. The PVCR and CRY officials maintained that the nutritional status report indicates “failure in providing strong measures to combat child malnutrition because it re-emphasises the same findings of NFHS 3 study of 2005, wherein 42.4 per cent of children were underweight. In NFHS study, the percentage of severely underweight children was 9.9 per cent, but now according to our study it is has doubled to 18 per cent”. “The report reiterates that there is a lot more work to be done to improve the nutritional status of our children. Radical changes and better regulation to improve ICDS is need of the hour,” said Advisor, Supreme Court appointed National Commission on Right to Food case, Dr. Rama S Melkote, who released the report. The PVCR and CRY conducted the study in 12 districts including Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Adilabad, Khammam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari. “We have also covered children from primitive tribes, nomadic tribes, coastal community, urban and rural poor,” said M. Madhu, the researcher. Apart from nutritional status, the study also concentrated on the present status of ICDS centres, whether they are own or rental ones, storage facilities, water for general use and drinking etc. “ Seventy per cent of ICDS centres are in rental buildings and there are no facilities for specially-abled children. Over 66 per cent of the centres do not have electricity and 74 per cent do not have toilets for children. Close to 70 per cent of the ICDS centres do not have drinking water facilities,” the study said. Among the many recommendations, PVCR and CRY officials have maintained that right to food and free from malnutrition should be given constitutional guarantee for children below six years. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

46. Experts Advise Early Intervention to Prevent Kids’ Suicides (14)

BANGALORE: In the wake of the suicides of two highschool girls in Bangalore on Tuesday, questions have arisen about whether parents and teachers are doing right for children. Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Kamal Pant says out of 2,033 who committed suicide in 2013, around 10 per cent (203) were children. Dr Chandrashekar, professor and head, Department of Psychiatry, Bangalore Medical College, says, “Exam pressure and depression are leading causes of suicide among students.” By his reckoning, around 30 per cent of suicides are caused by depression. Alarm bells should ring when children express a death wish, scribble in their books about death, and give up things they love. Among children below 15 years, depression manifests in bursts of anger or irritation.  “These are signs parents and teachers must look out for and address,” he says. A schoolboy attempted suicide recently after his friends teased him over a medical condition due to which he was losing hair. His parents took him for counseling, and discovered there that he had been suffering from depression for more than three months. Priya Jaiswal (name changed), who teaches at a Bangalore college, failed a student for listening to music on her iPod in class. The college management asked Priya for an explanation. The student’s mother called Priya and told her that her daughter had lost her father recently and was disturbed. Rajesh is a parent of two children, one 15 and the other 10. He is not sure how to deal with kid tantrums. “I don’t want to hurt my children but want them to learn discipline,” he says. Dr Dhanya Raveendranathan, assistant professor of psychiatry at Dr B R Ambedkar Medical College, says, “Children are exposed to the same degrees of stress as adults, but from different avenues.” For them stress at home comes from alcoholic parents or parents always being at loggerheads. Children also face neglect and physical and sexual abuse. In school, they are stressed by their inability to cope with their lessons. Learning difficulties go undetected, and they also face adjustment problems with peers, she explains. “Undiagnosed psychiatric problems like anxiety and mood disorders can lead to suicide,” she warns. Doctors say teachers and parents need to be sensitised to identify these problems early. Children getting unusually moody, or throwing tantrums and picking up quarrels must be attended to. “Training of teachers and regular counselling would help. A prompt referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist can result in quick recovery,” says Dr Dhanya Raveendranathan. Parents should be non-punitive, and openly communicate with their children, making it comfortable for them to discuss their problems at all times…  (New Indian Express 21/3/14)

 

47. Rehabilitate sicklecell patients: HC to K’mal admn (14)

PHULBANI: On a petition of sicklecell and thalasamia child victims from G Udayagiri area in Kandhamal district, the Chief Justice of Odisha High Court has issued a direction to the district Collector, Kandhamal and also Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Secretary, specifically to take up immediate appropriate action for rehabilitation, sustainable healthcare and education of the victims. Petitioners Jeeram Pradhan, Sujat Dalabehera, Atuli Nayak and Sunati Nayak expressed deep anguish regarding the expensive, delayed and complicated process of healthcare of their children. Besides, they alleged that they have to bear regular travel expenses from G Udayagiri area to Phulbani or Brahmapur for blood transfusion. “We are in dark about the use of RSVY as we are not told how much amount is deducted for what purpose”, alleged Jeeram Pradhan. The children affected by the genetic health disorders undergo a painful process of constant, physical, mental and emotional suffering even during their schooling as teachers are not aware of the seriousness of the disease and thus not sensitive to the problems of the affected children. There is no specific provision for special care of the victims in the teaching and learning process, the petitioners complained. Due to the need of residential facility near the schools, the children are forced to cover a long distance in hilly tracts of the scheduled district and even compelled to remain absent due to sickness. Even the child care institutions and residential schools lack the minimum sensitivity based arrangements for the inmates. Kandhamal is a scheduled district and mostly the affected belong to tribal, Dalit and other marginalised communities and BPL category. The issue was highlighted when the problem with ground reality was put forth before Health and Family Welfare Principal Secretary Pradeepta Kumar Mahapatra, Women and Child Development Principal Secretary Arati Ahuja, School and Mass Education Principal Secretary Usha Padhee and State Protection of Child Rights Secretary in January by well known child rights defender Hemant Naik. The rate of infant and maternal mortality of Kandhamal is reported to be highest in India and more than 80 per cent of families of Kandhamal are said to be affected by different genetic health disorders. Surprisingly, the required appropriate health service mechanism is yet to be developed for the control of sicklecell and thalasamia though it is a major health issueof Kandhamal. (Pioneer 21/3/14)

 

Posted by admin at 10 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Rights Commission Demands Report (1)

KOCHI: As protest brews among the legal fraternity over the reported custodial torture of an advocate and his brother by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, the Kerala State Human Rights Commission has asked the RPF commandant, the Thiruvananthapuram City Police Commissioner and the Divisional Manager of Railway to file a report on the issue. “The Commission has taken notice of the matter. Besides, a human rights organisation has lodged a complaint with the Commission. The notices were served on the basis of the complaint,” KHRC Chairman Justice J B Koshy said. Meanwhile, various courts, including the High Court of Kerala, was paralysed on Wednesday when advocates boycotted work to mark their protest over the incident. The Kerala Bar Council had exhorted the lawyers to abstain from attending the courts. The RPF detained and later took Advocate Ragendu into custody even as he tried to convince them that the ticket reportedly was with his brother who was also on the train. The advocate was detained when he alighted to buy food.   Though the Judges were present at the High Court as usual, advocates did not turn up. The majority of the government pleaders also abstained from appearing in court. Most judges, except Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, returned by afternoon. The Chief Justice was present at the court till noon.    A general meeting of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association was convened on Wednesday morning.  Advocates James Mathew Kadavan, John Varghese, Subhash Chand, Saiby Jose Kidangoor and Nagaraj Narayanan spoke. “We have also passed a resolution demanding that the authorities concerned take stringent action against the erring RPF personnel. The Association will also lodge a complaint with the Railway Minister,” said Association president Shaji P Chali.  The general body meeting was followed by a protest march at 11 am in front of the High Court. Advocates Joy George, N Manoj  Kumar, Krishnadas and Lekha Suresh spoke at the meet. Meanwhile, the All-India Lawyers Congress has also registered its protest on the issue. Lawyers Congress president M V S Namboodiri said that they would also lodge a complaint to the Railway Minister.    The Kerala Bar Council authorities claimed that the agitation was total at the lower courts also. “We have information that the court proceedings were paralysed across the state, owing to the strike,” Bar Council authorities said. (New Indian Express 6/3/14)

 

2. Bodies renew AFSPA repeal demand (1)

Imphal, March 06 2014 : Conflict Widows Forum, Self Support Group, Survival Action for Human Right Manipur and North East Dialogue Forum have once again urged the Government to repeal Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and deliver justice to the people who have killed without any sort of trial under the infamous Act. Speaking to media persons at Khuman Lampak Youth Hostel today, Conflict Widows Forum convenor Gangarani said that many people have been killed over the past many years on mere suspicion under the impunity guaranteed by AFSPA. Surviving widows of men killed in such arbitrary manner without any sort of trial are enduring lots of difficulties. If AFSPA is imposed for any longer period, the number of widows and fatherless children would grow continuously , she said. She further demanded that justice should be done people killed under AFSPA and their families should be compensated adequately so that they can live with dignity. Special investigation teams should be set up to probe into all cases of extrajudicial killings, rapes and torture. Political parties and candidates contesting in the 16th Lok Sabha election should ensure that their election manifestoes reflect the public demand for repeal of AFSPA 1958 . Saying that her husband was killed in 2001, A Kiran lamented that justice is still eluding her family. AFSPA which empowers security forces to kill people on mere suspicion without ever putting them on trial is the enemy of humanity. Pointing out that Irom Sharmila has been fasting for the last 14 years against the draconian Act, Kiran said that Sharmila has been fighting for all the people of Manipur. Conflict Widows Forum Thoubal convenor N Sunibala demanded immediate repeal of AFSPA in order to avoid any further growth in the number of widows because of the same Act. (E-PAO 7/3/14)

 

 

3. Police Reforms: Judiciary Must Enforce its Writ to Defeat Defiance (1)

The process of police reforms triggered by the Supreme Court judgment of 2006 appears to have also galvanised what the Marxists call reactionary forces. The states have been dilly-dallying in the implementation of court’s directions. Some states found it convenient to pass laws ostensibly in compliance of the court’s directions but actually with a view to circumvent them. The Supreme Court’s judgment contained a clause that the directions shall be implemented “till framing of the appropriate legislations”. The states took advantage of this to pass Police Acts in great hurry with the avowed object of perpetuating status quo. Bihar went further; it passed a law which was even more regressive than the Police Act of 1861. Fortunately, one of the leading advocates of Supreme Court has challenged the constitutionality of all these Acts and urged the Supreme Court to declare them ultra vires. There have been two ugly expressions of reaction in first two months of the year.  The Government of India was expected to respond less negatively than the states, but unfortunately it has fared no better, if not worse. Soli Sorabjee had prepared a model Police Act and it was expected that the Union Government would pass a bill on those lines and the same would mutatis mutandis be adopted by the other states. Government of India, however, preferred to sleep over the matter. And now, on January 28, 2014, the Ministry of Personnel issued the Indian Police Service (Cadre) Amendment Rules, 2014 purportedly in compliance of Supreme Court’s order in Writ Petition (Civil) No.82 of 2011 in TSR Subramanian & Ors. vs Union of India & Ors. wherein the court had directed the setting up of a Civil Services Board to guide and advise the state government on all service matters, especially on transfers, postings and disciplinary action. The court orders were essentially for IAS and other civil service officers. For IPS officers, the Supreme Court had already given separate directions in 2006. The ministry, however, took advantage of the latest judgment to subvert whatever autonomy was given to police by the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh & Ors vs Union of India & Ors. The IPS (Cadre) Amendment Rules constitute a Civil Services Board for police officers comprising the Chief Secretary, senior-most Additional Chief Secretary or Chairman, Board of Revenue, Principal Secretary or Secretary, Department of Personnel, Principal Secretary or Secretary (Home) and Director General of Police. Four out of five members of the board are thus IAS officers. They would naturally call the shots and lord over the fate of IPS officers. It is a mischievous attempt to bypass Supreme Court’s judgment and assert the hegemony of the IAS in personnel matters of the police….  (New Indian Express 9/3/14)

 

4. NHRC for probe into undertrial prisoner’s murder (1)

CUTTACK: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the state government to order a Crime Branch (CB) probe into murder of undertrial prisoner (UTP) Kalia Swain. He was allegedly shot dead in February last year by two inmates at Bhanjanagar sub-jail in Ganjam district. While hearing petitions, seeking justice to the deceased, the commission on March 7 observed that there were serious lapses on the part of jail officials and their connivance in the crime cannot be ruled out. Human rights campaigner Prabir Das and social organization India Media Centre had filed two separate petitions, seeking compensation for the deceased’s family and stringent action against jail officials. Two UTPs Manoj Pradhan and Debasis Bhoi had allegedly opened fire on Swain. The petitioners alleged that despite high security in the jail, the duo could possess guns. This shows poor state of affairs on the jail premises, the petitions added. The commission observed that as Swain was in jail, it was the responsibility of the state government to ensure his safety. It issued a showcause notice to the government, asking why compensation should not be paid in the matter. The commission also asked IG (prisons) to submit a report within four weeks on action taken against jail officials. (Times of India 10/3/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

5. Concern over growing trafficking cases (1)

GUWAHATI, March 5 – With growing concerns over trafficking of women and children in the State, a comparative analysis of secondary data brought out by UNICEF, in association with the State government, has once again highlighted the gravity of the issue in the State. The time bound study covering the period of January 2011 to July 2013 (31 months) has brought together the data related to trafficking, scattered among the agencies like Department of Labour and Employment, Crime Investigation Department (CID), Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and civil society organisations. While analysing the data available with different agencies, the study has substantiated that there is trafficking in and from Assam, and that gender bias influence such trafficking. The study was released on Tuesday on the occasion of the first Child Protection Day in the State, which was observed that day. A CID data of missing people within the period of 31 months shows that of the 2,425 missing cases reported in State, 369 were boys, 868 are girls and 1,188 women. Again an year wise variation in the bulk of missing person in Kamrup Metro district shows that whereas 201 women, 192 girls and 102 boys were missing in the year 2011, the number came down dramatically to only one girl missing in 2012 and another girl missing in the study period of 2013. The study has also suggested an in-depth investigation in this sudden decline in the number of missing persons in Kamrup Metro in the past two years. A data of children handled by the CWCs in different district also suggests that Kamrup Metro is the single most important destination of trafficked children with nearly 160 children being trafficked there within the time frame of the study and most of them are concentrated in Guwahati as child labour. A comparative analysis of Kamrup Metro and all other districts as per the data of the Department of Labour and Employment says that whereas 14 girls were found to be engaged as child labour in Kamrup Metro alone, similar number of girls were rescued from all other districts. On the other hand, 155 boys were rescued from all other districts and 83 boys engaged in child labour were rescued from Kamrup Metro district. The study has also suggested establishing a strong network of organisations working in the major source district and organisations working in Kamrup Metro, especially in Guwahati, as the single most important destination point for child labour to facilitate faster rescue and more efficient restoration. (Assam Tribune 6/3/14)

 

6. Focus on trafficking of women in Hills (1)

DARJEELING: To celebrate International Women’s Day, the District Legal Services Authority and the Legal Aid and Advice Society of West Bengal, jointly conducted a seminar at Kalimpong on Saturday. Key speakers invited by the organizers from Kolkata highlighted the rights of women. Justice Asim Kumar Ray of high court said, “It is imperative that the society is sensitized to ensure that the rights of women are protected at the grassroots. Only this can bring about a change towards the way we look at women”. Former judge of Kolkata high court, Prabir Kumar Samanta, also highlighted the right of women under the Legal Services Authority Act of 1987. “All the women of the country irrespective of financial stability are entitled to get free legal aid from the government. And this starts from the lower court to the Supreme Court,” he said. Other programmes were held at Gorubathan, also in Kalimpong sub-division, and at the town hall. More than 500 women participated in these programmes. “We got a good response. It was nice and heartening to see the women folk of the region take interest and participate,” said Biplab Kumar Roy, the chief judicial magistrate of Darjeeling court, who had organized the programme. The CJM spoke about how women from this region were being trafficked and pointed out the remedy to curb the menace. “Women are especially vulnerable in areas of the Hills due to their financial conditions,” Roy said. “Women are easily lured by traffickers with promise of money and jobs in the cities. But sadly, in most cases these women are cheated,” he added. The CJM said the need of the hour was to create awareness in the society to the effect of this menace. “We must as a responsible citizen fight for the right of the women. We must create awareness in the society, first. Then the role of the police and the civil administration are also important. Overall we must work in tandem to rid the society of such evils,” said the CJM. (Times of India 9/3/14)

 

7. Minors being given growth shots for sex trade: PIL (1)

NEW DELHI: Giving a bone-chilling account of commercially-run sex-trade rings in the country, an NGO told the Supreme Court on Friday that criminal gangs entice or kidnap minor girls, forcibly administer hormonal injections to speed up physical growth and then push them into sex trade. NGO ” Guria Swayam Sevi Sansthan”, which claimed to have been working in ‘red-light areas of UP for last 24 years, cited a central government report to say there were an estimated 30 lakh sex workers in the country and 40 per cent of them were minors. This means 12 lakh minors have been forced into sex trade, it said. It cited statistics from National Crime Records Bureau to say that between 2008 and 2010, over 28,000 children were kidnapped while 184,605 children went missing. Attempting to establish a link between missing children with the trafficked minor girls, the NGO’s counsel Aparna Bhat said: “Most of this trafficking is for the purpose of ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ by organized group of criminals through their brothels run across the country.” A bench of Justice HL Dattu and Justice SA Bobde issued notices to the Centre and States seeking their responses to the NGO’s plea for framing a standard operating procedure across the country for the law enforcing agencies to rescue exploited minor girls living in horrible conditions in the brothels. But, what came as most inhuman act was the allegation that the criminal gangs force hormonal injections on the minor girls to speed up their growth. Drawing court’s attention to the emerging trend, the NGO said: “The brothel-keepers feed and groom up the children till they are ready for ‘business’ at the age of 10-13 years.” “These minor girls living in brothels are made to grow forcefully with the help of hormonal injections/tablets from their first entry into the area. This affects the age verification test of the victim even if she is rescued from the brothel,” the NGO said. From the experiences gained by working among sex workers for more than two decades, the NGO said most brothels have in-built tunnels and hidden rooms, which were used to hide trafficked minor girls during raids by police or NGOs. It requested the SC to direct the authorities to physically verify each brothel for any such secret chamber or tunnel and demolish them as and when these were discovered. The NGO said it has so far rescued 153 minors from brothels in UP, Bihar, Karnataka, Assam, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan between 2005 and 2012. It said it was pursuing cases against 812 persons facing human trafficking charges. (Times of India 10/3/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

8. Early treatment is found to clear HIV in babies (3)

When scientists made the stunning announcement last year that a baby born with HIV had apparently been cured through aggressive drug treatment just 30 hours after birth, there was immediate skepticism that the child had been infected in the first place. But on Wednesday, the existence of a second such baby was revealed at an AIDS conference at Boston, leaving little doubt that the treatment works. A leading researcher said there might be five more such cases in Canada and three in South Africa. And a clinical trial in which up to 60 babies who are born infected will be put on drugs within 48 hours is set to begin soon, another researcher added. If that trial works — and it will take several years of following the babies to determine whether it has — the protocol for treating all 250,000 babies born infected each year worldwide will no doubt be rewritten. “This could lead to major changes, for two reasons,” said Dr Anthony S Fauci, executive director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Both for the welfare of the child, and because it is a huge proof of concept that you can cure someone if you can treat them early enough.” The announcement was the third piece of hopeful news in two days about the virus that causes AIDS. On Tuesday, scientists reported that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs fended off infection in monkeys, and on Wednesday, researchers announced a “gene editing” advance that might enable immune cells to repel the virus. The first infant to make an apparent recovery from HIV infection, now famous as the “Mississippi baby,” was described last March at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, the same annual meeting where the new case was reported on Wednesday. The Mississippi child, now more than 3 years old, is still virus-free, said Dr Deborah Persaud, a virologist who has run ultrasensitive tests on both children in her lab at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. The second baby, a girl born at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, Calif., is now 9 months old and apparently free of the virus that causes AIDS. Her mother, who has advanced AIDS and is mentally ill, arrived in labor; she had been prescribed drugs to protect her baby but had not taken them. Four hours after the birth, a pediatrician, Dr Audra Deveikis, drew blood for an HIV test and immediately started the baby on three drugs — AZT, 3TC and nevirapine — at the high doses usually used for treatment of the virus. The normal preventive regimen for newborns would be lower doses of two drugs; doctors usually do not use the more aggressive treatment until they are sure the baby is infected, and then sometimes not in the first weeks. (Deccan Herald 6/3/14)

 

9. ‘Treat AIDS patients like normal patients’ (3)

AGARTALA, March 6 – Voicing concern over spiraling HIV positive cases, Tripura Health Minister Tapan Chakraborty has called upon the society to treat AIDS patients or HIV positive carriers like a ‘normal’ patient. Though AIDS is a non-communicable disease, people have a misconception about the ailment inviting social stigma or discrimination for the AIDS patients, he said while speaking at a sensitisation programme on Stigma, Discrimination and Mainstreaming on HIV/AIDS : Role of Media at Prajna Bhavan here recently. Asserting that social stigma is a major obstacle in the fight against AIDS/HIV, Chakraborty said, “Vulnerable section of the people don’t want to get their blood samples tested fearing social stigma or isolation from the society. In some cases, patient’s family members don’t want to keep him/ her in the house. This kind of mind set must be changed by way of sensitising the people at large”. He further said, “If we can live with cancer or hyper tension patients why the AIDS/ HIV positive patient would not stay with us? We have to make people understand the disease AIDS is also non-communicable”. Giving a brief history on the vulnerability of AIDS/HIV cases, he said the State has only 1,155 HIV positive cases while 438 patients have been diagnosed with AIDS during the past 14 years. And, a total of 127 AIDS patients have fallen prey to the disease. Chakraborty also called upon the Centre to think about the rehabilitation of AIDS/HIV positive carriers as they have been facing a lot of problem. In the same tune, Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Bhanu Lal Saha also urged the society to change the mindset on the AIDS/ HIV positive cases. “There are AIDS/ HIV positive carriers, who don’t want to admit their disease fearing social stigma or isolation. We have to dispel the misconception centering on the AIDS or HIV positive”, he said. Saha also laid emphasis on sensitisation of student community about the disease so that they could avoid such kind of disease. Dr Madhu Sharma, Mainstreaming Cell of Delhi AIDS Control, New Delhi shared his experience on how AIDS/ HIV positive carriers have been socially isolated in spite of awareness programmes. The one-day programme was organised by Tripura AIDS Control Society (TDCS). (Assam Tribune 7/3/14)

 

10. HIV scenario alarming in Nagaland (3)

DIMAPUR, March 8 – The HIV scenario in Nagaland continues to be alarming. This despite many awareness programmes initiated by the Health department and NGOs to combat the dreaded disease. According to a report presented by the District AIDS Programme Control Unit (DAPCU), Dimapur, the State has recorded 5,070 new HIV+ cases in the last three years. In 2010-11, 1667 people tested HIV+, while in 2011-12 and 2012-13, the number of HIV+ cases stood at 1,719 and 1,684 respectively. These facts were revealed yesterday during an advocacy campaign on HIV/AIDS, organised by Christ for the Downtrodden Ministry and supported by the Legislators Forum on AIDS, at Industrial Village Razhüphe here. Nagaland is listed as one among the highly affected HIV prevalent States in the country along with Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Among the districts, Dimapur alone recorded almost half of the total affected patients. In 2010-11, the number of HIV+ patients in Dimapur stood at 912 as compared to the rest of the districts which recorded 755 such cases. In 2011-12, the commercial city recorded 822 cases against 897 in other districts. Even in 2012-13, Dimapur with 843+ cases stood above the rest of the districts with 841 such cases. What could be more threatening with regard to HIV scenario in the State is the increasing rate of deliveries among HIV+ pregnant women. The number of deliveries of HIV+ women in 2010, 2011 & 2013 stood at 110, 144 and 161 respectively, while the live birth of HIV+ babies was 106, 127 and 145 in the respective years. The advisable use of condom for protective sex still seems to be an ignored warning among the Nagas as it has been recorded that 89 per cent of HIV transmission (2012-13) was through sexual contact. The transmission from parents to child stood at five per cent and four per cent through infected needles and syringes and two per cent for reasons not specific. As per the DAPCU report, 74 per cent of HIV patients fall in the age group of 25-49. Between the age group of 15 to 24, it stands at 16 per cent, above 50 years five per cent and below 14 years four per cent. Out of 10,200 registered number of People Living with HIV/AIDS across the State, there are 3,859 patients who survive on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) while 4,918 have started on ART as of today. Addressing the programme, ADC Dimapur Dr Kadambari Bhagat stressed the need for a multi-pronged strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. She also suggested mainstreaming of all NGOs in order attract the involvement and participation of more people to fight the disease. The president of DNP+ pointed out the existence of social stigma and discrimination on HIV patients in the Naga society. He cautioned that if the society continues to discriminate against the HIV+ patients, no one will reveal their identities which he said will hinder the fight against the disease at large. “HIV is spreading underneath our society because of the social stigma. And if this continues, I fear the number of HIV cases instead of falling will only increase,” the DNP+ president said. (The Assam Tribune 9/3/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

11. Reprieve for EFL status for land below 2 hectares (4)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state cabinet has decided to provide a reprieve in ecologically fragile land (EFL) status to those holding land up to two hectares. Land falling under such category which was taken over by the forest department will be returned to the original owners with immediate effect, said chief minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday. With this the government has decided to give back the land acquired (below two hectares) to the owners. If the land is found to be necessary for protecting the forest, then adequate compensation will be given to the owners, he added. Under EFL category, in cases of land acquired above two hectares and up to 15 acres, the owners will be compensated with two hectares of land. If this is not possible, adequate compensation will be given. If the land belonging to tribal people has been acquired, it will be given back. However, if their habitat is getting affected due to the EFL laws, then it will be resolved. “All aspects pertaining to acquisition of land in connection with EFL will be examined. If it is a pattayam land, it will be acquired only after giving appropriate compensation,” said Chandy. Further land acquisition under EFL can only be done with the sanction of the government. The changes made by the state government to the EFL stipulations need to be ratified by the central government, he said. The government has decided in-principle to revive the Travancore Rayons in Perumbavoor which has remained closed for years. It will be handed over to KINFRA. After the appeal from the trade unions and workers, the government has decided to take over the land as part of the revival package, which also includes meeting the liabilities totalling to Rs 71 crore due to bank loans, salary dues, EPF, etc. It has been decided to give appointments to all candidates in the PSC list for the post of doctors in the health service. As many of the posts would remain vacant even after filling up vacancies, the government has decided to give extension of six months service to doctors who are retiring this month. As there are only limited schools for the education of SC/ ST students in the state, the government has decided to upgrade the lower primary school under Prathyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha (PRDS) at Amara in Changanassery to upper primary. The government upper primary school at Mamalakandi in Kothamangalam (Ernakulam), having a predominance of tribals, will be upgraded to high school. It has also been decided to start three aided arts and science colleges for the SC/ST students at Kuriyottu Mala in Kollam under KPMS management, at Amara near Changanassery under PRDS and at Vandoor in Malappuram managed by Indira Gandhi Memorial Society. The cabinet also decided to provide reservation in admission to students of 30 backward communities. (Times of India 6/3/14)

 

12. Vandalur Terminus Land Gets Pricey (4)

CHENNAI: The State’s plan to acquire 65.30 acres of land to construct a mofussil bus terminal in Vandalur has hit a roadblock with the Union government’s new Land Acquisition Act having come into force. Sources told Express that since notices were not issued under Section 4 (1) of the old Act, the State now has to follow the new one. The government had passed orders for acquiring the land in February without knowledge about the new act. Sources said this was a serious lapse on part of the officials who, without application of mind, drafted the Government Order. Now, the three GOs in this regard are likely to be cancelled. The new Act which replaced the 119-year-old legislation, proposes a unified policy for acquisition of land and adequate rehabilitation mechanism for all the affected persons. The State now has to start from the scratch and it will take time for the acquisition, as a number of rules will have to be drafted both by the Centre and the States, besides soliciting comments from stakeholders which include industries, NGOs and civil society. The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) had prepared a `376 crore blueprint for construction of the mofussil bus terminus in Vandalur. This includes the proposed land cost at `1.75 crore per acre and the proposed development cost at `4 crore per acre, besides preparation of detailed project report. Also, 50 per cent of the funds is likely to be spent on infrastructure and amenities. Sources said that the cost now has to be reworked. The new Act proposes a compensation of four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas. It also states that acquisition of agricultural land and multi-crop land should be done only as a last resort. The Act states that there will be restrictions on the extent of acquisition of such lands in every State, which is to be determined by the State concerned. Interestingly, the site identified for the mofussil bus terminus is classified as wetland, and in a geographically strategic location in view of its proximity to NH45 (GST Road) and Outer Ring Road (ORR). The site abuts the Vandalur-Walajabad State Highway and is about 1 km from National Highway 45 and 250 metre from ORR. (New Indian Express 7/3/14)

 

CORRUPTION

13. NGO Challenges Lokpal Selection Process in SC (5)

NEW DELHI: An NGO on Wednesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning the entire selection process for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal and sought its stay. The NGO ‘Common Cause’ had filed the plea through advocate Prashant Bhushan and sought to declare illegal the Search Committee (Constitution, Terms and Conditions of appointment of members and the manner of selection of Panel of names for appointment of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal) Rules, 2014, framed under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2014. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) sought a declaration that certain provisions of the rules are ultra vires of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and also sought quashing of the entire selection process initiated under the rules alleging that it is illegal, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. It said the government is going ahead with the selection process despite serious flaws in the rules under which selections are being made. “Justice K T Thomas and Fali Nariman, who were offered the post of the chairman and member of the Search Committee, respectively, have already declined to accept the offers on these very grounds,” the petition said. It also said Rule 10 (1) provides that the Search Committee shall prepare a panel of persons to be considered by the Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, from among the list of persons provided by the Central Government, “directly runs counter to the very object of having an independent Lokpal and the provisions of the said Act”. (New Indian Express 6/3/14)

 

14. Panel pulls up Delhi Police for corruption (5)

New Delhi: In its report, a parliamentary panel has pulled up the Delhi Police for prevalence of corruption among its ranks. Corruption in government departments, especially in the police force, impacts public at large, it said. The panel has also suggested that CCTV cameras should be installed at all traffic signals to prevent traffic policemen from taking bribes. There will be a constant monitoring of not just traffic movement, but also whether the police personnel are discharging their duties honestly. “The Delhi Police’s zero-tolerance policy to corruption flies in its own face when people observe traffic police officials accepting money at red lights from bus drivers and commuters for violation of traffic rules. It is said that transporters, particularly bus operators, have to pay them a monthly fee at various points on their route of operations,” the committee said in the report. Another important suggestion was formation of flying squads that would conduct raids and organise traps. The committee has also directed the Delhi Police to take corrective measures to change its image of ‘paying money for lucrative postings”. In its reply to the panel, the Delhi Police had claimed that all complaints of corruption are immediately looked into and strict action is taken if the allegations are substantiated. “As regards the appointments to various posts within the Delhi Police, transfers and postings are decided by the Delhi Police Establishment Board and not by any individual. The Delhi Police maintains total transparency in this regard,” the force had said in its reply. Police also said that its vigilance branch conducts enquiries into complaints of non-registration of cases, corruption and other malpractices against police officials. The department, it said, also maintains a list of personnel of doubtful integrity. (Hindustan Times 10/3/14)

 

15. CBI to submit status report on coal scam in Supreme Court today? (5)

NEW DELHI: The CBI is likely to submit a status report on Monday informing Supreme Court about the progress made in the coal scam probe and on filing chargesheets in cases registered by the agency in 2012. Sources said that along with the status report, CBI may file a few chargesheets as well on Monday before the designated court naming private companies. The Supreme Court had asked CBI, during the last hearing on February 11, to submit a status report about filing of chargesheet in six of the cases finalized by the agency. CBI has filed over 16 FIRs which include those against AMR Iron and Steel, JLD Yavatmal Energy, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog, JAS Infrastructure Capital Pvt Ltd, Grace Industries, Jindal Steel and Power, Rathi Steel and Power Ltd, Jharkhand Ispat, Green Infrastructure, Kamal Sponge, Pushp Steel, Hindalco, BLA Industries, Castron Technologies and Castron Mining and Nav Bharat Power Private Limited. These FIRs were registered after the agency probed three preliminary enquiries related to coal block allocation between 2006 and 2009, 1993 and 2004 and projects given under a government scheme. CBI may also inform the apex court about the permission sought from nine states which were reluctant in allowing the agency to conduct probe in their jurisdiction. CBI had been directed to file chargesheet in all the cases finalized by it by the first week of March but the agency had moved a petition on March 4 seeking more time to file chargesheets in the cases. “The CBI is strenuously making efforts to meet the deadline fixed by the court. Inquiry or investigation in all three PEs and arising out of 14 cases are being attended to simultaneously. In the process, reaching a logical conclusion is taking its due time,” the agency had said. “For these reasons, forming an opinion in terms of Section 173(2) of Criminal Procedure Code (filing of chargesheet) on the basis of scrutiny of evidence collected in six completed RCs and preparation of final report would take some more time for submission before the appropriate trial court,” CBI had said in its plea before the apex court. In its earlier status report before the Supreme Court, CBI had said inquiries in respect of 87 companies had been finalized besides probe in respect of 38 companies had been concluded. According to the comptroller and auditor general, an estimated loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore was caused to the exchequer in the coal block allocation scam. (Times of India 10/3/14)

 

TRIBALS

16. 6-Year-Old Tribal Girl Raped in Uttar Pradesh (6)

Ballia : A minor girl belonging to a scheduled tribe has allegedly been raped by two youths here, police said today. The victim, a 16 year-old girl was raped when she was returning home after attending a wedding in Bansdeeh police station area here last night, DSP Ajay Singh said. An FIR in this connection was filed yesterday, police said. On the complaint of her mother, a named FIR was filed against two persons and a hunt has been launched to nab them, the DSP said, adding that the girl has been sent for medical examinations. (Outlook 6/3/14)

 

17. Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha Plans Parliament March on March 11, 12 (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Seeking to protect the tribals from the attack of land sharks and to grant Scheduled Tribe status to Vedans, Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS), Vedan Gothra Maha Sabha (VGMS) and Guravu-Attappadi Adivasi Organisation will jointly take out a Parlimanet march and stage a fast at Jantar Mantar on March 11 and 12. AGMS will stage the fast on March 11 and VGMS on March 12. AGMS state coordinator M Geethanandan and  VGMS state general secretary K K Rajan said here on Thursday that the Union Government had allotted 19,600 acres of land in Attappadi and Wayanad areas, where infant deaths had been reported, for distribution among the tribals. But the government-sponsored land mafia was encroaching upon these land. They alleged that Congress leaders were supporting the land mafia to encroach the land set apart for tribals at Aralam Farm. Mathew John and D Mohanan, hailing from Vazhakualm and Thodupuzha respectively, had encroached over 1,500 acres of land at Aralam. They demanded the government to evict them from the land meant for the tribals. They said that the UDF Government had  stopped the rehabilitation of tribals started by A K Antony Government. They alleged that land sharks had encroached upon 2,000 acres of land in Attappady alone. Of the land distributed by Antony Government during 2004 at Kundala and Chinnacanal, over 400 acres were encroached by land sharks.  They asked the government to enact a piece of legislation to protect the Adivasi  hamlets. They also wanted the government to ensure justice to evictees from Muthanga. They would submit memorandums to the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Forest and Environment Minister in this regard. (New Indian Express 7/3/14)

 

18. Tribals threaten poll boycott (6)

KORAPUT: People belonging to five communities in Koraput district have decided to boycott assembly and Lok Sabha polls, protesting against the government’s failure to give them tribal status. Leaders of Dora, Muka Dora, Nuka Dora, Rana and Mali communities under the banner Koraput Zilla Bana Basi Maha Sangh (KZBBS) declared this here on Friday. “Around two lakh voters of our communities will boycott the upcoming twin polls. Many times we have approached both the state and Union governments regarding our demand, but in vain,” secretary of the sangh Trinath Gamel told the media. According to KZBBS president Gokul Chandra Khoda, “Members of the communities are deprived of various benefits meant for tribals. The state government should include us in the list of tribals and launch a special project for our development.” People of these communities mostly reside at Pottangi, Semiliguda and Nandapur blocks of the district and eke out a living by doing minor cultivation and collecting minor forest produce. Assistant sub-collector (Koraput) Muralidhar Swain said, “It is up to the community members to decide whether they should participate in the elections or not. We cannot force anybody to take part in poll process.” (Times of India 10/3/14)

 

19. Tribal activist to join BSP (6)

RANCHI: The 40-year-old tribal activist, whose petition brought to light the money laundering scam allegedly involving former chief minister Madhu Koda in 2008, is all set to join Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) for contesting 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Durga Oraon said on Sunday he is choosing politics because he can help clean corruption from the society only if he is part of the system. In October 2008, Oraon gathered evidence against Koda, several ministers and other government officials. He filed a PIL with the Jharkhand high court and sought CBI investigation. Following a high court directive, CBI investigated the case and found evidences against many, including Koda, named in the PIL. They were arrested and sent to jail. Oraon was given armed bodyguards after the PIL. “I am impressed with the policies of BSP and its relentless efforts to champion the causes of the poor and so I have decided to join the party. I will formally join BSP on Monday evening,” Oraon told TOI over phone. Oraon, whose real name is Durga Munda, changed his surname when he was running a campaign against suspected corrupt leaders in Jharkhand. He comes from a farmer’s family and lives in Morhabadi. The activist, howver, did not disclose from where he would contest. “I will declare it tomorrow,” he said. A source said he is likely to contest from Ranchi . At present, Oraon is the president of an organization Jharkhand Against Corruption. (Times of India 10/3/14)

 

WOMEN

20. Male MPs not keen on passing Women’s Bill: Margaret Alva (8)

Jaipur: It was not political parties but the male parliamentarians within parties who were not keen on getting the women’s reservation bill passed, Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva said here on Saturday. During an informal interaction with journalists at the Raj Bhavan here on the occasion on the International Women’s day, Ms. Alva denied that the women’s reservation bill was not seeing any progress. “That is not true…the bill has been tabled in the Rajya Sabha so it will not lapse even when the Lok Sabha is dissolved,” she said. “The lack of will is not among political parties…but among the male parliamentarians who don’t want to leave their chairs,” said the governor. Ms. Alva was all praise for women Chief Ministers Mamata Bannerjee, Jayalalithaa and former U.P. Chief Minister Mayawati. “I was watching Mamata Bannerjee’s interview on TV and she seemed so clear about what she had to say and do…I believe leadership is all about standing up for what you believe in,” she said. “Today is a day when we have a lot to remember…the struggles that women have been through…we must also keep in mind those women who still have a long way to go to achieve freedom and empowerment,” said the governor. “As a woman, I have fought many battles…I won some and lost some but I have no regrets,” said Ms. Alva. Asked if she had made any specific recommendations with regard to women in schedule V areas, in her report presented at the Governors’ conference in New Delhi last month, Ms. Alva said she had drawn attention to the lack of women wardens in residential schools/hostels in tribal areas. When asked if women’s safety would get a boost in Rajasthan with men at the helm—her as the governor and Vasundhara Raje as the Chief Minister, she said it was not something that could be achieved in the short term.  (The Hindu 8/3/14)

 

21. 60 pc women drop career in middle: Experts (8)

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the upsurge of debates and measures to promote gender equality in workplace, experts say around 60 per cent of the women drop their career in the middle. At the entry level, most organisations do well in hiring and training women, but the struggle with retention begins when women reach mid-managerial levels. Greater gender balance in the workplace helps companies to improve their organisational performance, operational results and overall market status. “Some of the factors that companies can adopt in order to bring in more women into their payrolls are by maintaining a better work-life balance for female employees and by mentoring and grooming them for bigger projects and promotions,” Ritu Mehrotra, VP Global HR and Talent Management of Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group Company said. According to GlobalHunt MD Sunil Goel “more than 60-70 per cent of the women drop their career at mid, due to their personal and family liabilities or been not given a adequate support and space within the organisation to grow further.” Experts are of the opinion that these trained women are valuable assets to a company and they need to see how to retain them, sometime even go the extra mile and ensure that all the investment made on the women employees is realised. According to PwC India Consulting leader Satyavati Berera “organisations need to have more pro-gender diversity policies and ensure equal participation of women and men in decision making process at all levels.” Gender equality at the workplace can help in propagating a sense of equality in society as well, experts said, adding that companies today are carrying out various innovative initiatives that empowers women to secure a better future for themselves. “Tata Steel believes that empowerment of women ultimately benefits society at large,” a company spokesperson said, adding that the company has an initiative called Tejaswini, that trains women for jobs which were earlier considered suitable for ‘men only’. “To achieve sustainable change, a focus on women in leadership is not enough,” PricewaterhouseCoopers International Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader Agnes Hussherr said, added that companies must understand how to attract, develop, and retain “millennial women”. According to a Grant Thornton research report, the representation of Indian women in senior company positions remains a cause of concern at 14 per cent, below the global average which was around 24 per cent. Moreover, in an average year, 13 per cent of the graduates that Indian businesses hire are women, while the corresponding global figure is 21 per cent. (Indian Express 9/3/14)

 

22. India will take around 56 years to achieve female youth literacy: Report (8)

NEW DELHI: Literacy is still a distant dream for vulnerable young women. Going at the present pace of development, India will take at least another 56 years to achieve female youth literacy. A serious gender imbalance in global education has left over 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries unable to read a single sentence, and will prevent half of the 31 million girls out of school from ever enrolling. These are among the main findings of the gender summary, which analyses data from the Unesco Education for All Global Monitoring Report. As per the South-West Asia factsheet of the report, young people who have spent just a few years in school do not develop literacy skills and in some cases even completing primary school is not always a guarantee for literacy. The report cited the example of India where after completing up to four years of school, 90% emerge illiterate and after five to six years in school, around 30% still emerge illiterate. Poor women are the most vulnerable, with two out of three of them in South and West Asia who cannot read are from this category. While poorest young females in Bhutan are not projected to achieve universal literacy until 2083, Pakistan will not reach the target until the 22nd Century. India is no better, projected to meet the target between 2070 and 2080. The new summary, launched in partnership with the United Nations Girls Education Initiative, calls for equity to be at the forefront of new global development goals after 2015, so that every child has an equal chance of learning through quality education. Despite some progress, in 2011, only 60% of countries had achieved parity in primary education and only 38% of countries had achieved parity in secondary education. Among low income countries, just 20% had achieved gender parity at the primary level, 10% at the lower secondary level and 8% at the upper secondary level. It is projected that only 70% of countries will have achieved parity in primary education by 2015, and 56% will have achieved parity in lower secondary education. Unless improvements are made, the poorest girls will achieve universal primary completion 60 years later than the richest boys. “It is simply intolerable that girls are being left behind. For poor girls, education is one of the most powerful routes to a better future, helping them escape from a vicious cycle of poverty,” said Irina Bokova, director general, Unesco. (Times of India 10/3/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

23. Don’t vote for parties ignoring environmental concerns: Seechewal (9)

Jalandhar: Noted eco-activist Balbir Singh Seechewal, who has been spearheading a campaign against pollution of rivers in Punjab, has asked all political parties to lay due stress on environment protection in their election manifestos. He also appealed people not to vote for those parties that ignore the issue completely. Addressing a press conference here on Friday, Seechewal said during the previous term of the Lok Sabha, none of the MPs from the state had raised the issue of environment protection. “In the last session, not even a single query was raised by the state MPs on environmental issues. This is highly unfortunate. The people must deny power to political leaders who are insensitive towards environment concerns,” he added. “Environment protection has so far not figured among the top priorities of political parties. I have discussed this with every political leader who came in contact with me during the past few years. In the previous assembly elections in the state, I took every leader to drains that are being polluted by contaminated water released by industries. We’ll continue our efforts in the upcoming general elections and have already contacted all political parties through email,” Seechewal said. Linking the issue of drug addiction in Punjab with environmental pollution, Seechewal said: “It’s pollution only that lead to vices in society. People aren’t able to eat healthy food. With every passing day, ground water is being further contaminated. Industries are releasing untreated water in drains, rivers, lakes and other water bodies and all of this is going unchecked”.Seechewal was accompanied by Harkishan Singh Sodhi, Jeet Simgh Roorhewale, Daya Singh, Amrik Singh Khukhrain, Ranjit Singh,  Satpal Singh, Nirmal Dass and other representatives of the Sant Samaj. (Hindustan Times 7/3/14)

 

24. Govt sets up 750 committees to map biodiversity in Maharashtra (9)

PUNE: A total of 750 biodiversity management committees (BMC) have been formed in the state at the district, zilla parishad, panchayat samiti, gram panchayat, municipal council, nagar panchayat and municipal corporation levels in the past year. Speaking to TOI, Rahul Mungikar, senior research consultant, Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB) said, “The state government created the board in January 2012. The board contacted district collectors, zilla parishads, gram panchayats, municipal councils and corporations and directed them to form the committees. So far, 750 committees have been formed in the state.” District-level committees have been formed in Raigad, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Pune, Kolhapur, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli. Municipal corporations in Pune, Aurangabad and Kolhapur have also formed the committees. “The committees have to create a people’s biodiversity register (PBR) which will contain details of biodiversity in their areas. The board gives seed money of Rs 36,000 to each village as financial assistance. Forty villages in the state have benefitted. The municipal councils and corporations have their own sources of income so they can create the PBR. The PBR will help us know the number of indigenious species of plants and animals as well as traditional medicinal plants found in a particular area. The board has prepared 34 formats for filling the information in the PBR as per one’s requirements and the natural conditions in different areas,” Mungikar said. The board, he said, is providing training about preparing PBR in tribal dominated villages. The board has also held training workshops in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Pune, Jalgaon, Dhule and Nandurbar districts to train the local self-government bodies about the formation of the committees and their functions. “There are joint forest management committees (JFMC) formed by the forest department in the villages that have forests. We have asked forest officials to take a lead and encourage such villages to form the BMC,” he added…  (Times of India 9/3/14)

 

25. Draft copy of IPCC report warns of heat stress, flooding (9)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair warns that floods and storms are increasing in intensity and frequency. The heaviest rainfall in 200 years, and floods and gales experienced in Britain this year are a foretaste of what is certain to occur in a warming world, the head of the UN’s climate science panel has said. “Each of the last three decades has been warmer than the last. Extreme events are on the increase. Even if what we have just had [this winter] was not caused by anthropogenic climate change, events of this nature are increasing both in intensity and frequency,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC. “Two types of extreme events are going to occur more frequently — extreme precipitation and heatwaves. It is important for societies to deal with climate change if we want to avoid the impacts.” Mr. Pachauri was speaking ahead of the publication next month (APR) of a major global assessment of the impact of climate change on the world’s food supplies, human health, cities and rural areas. Leaked copies warn of crop yields falling 2 per cent a decade even as the demand from a rapidly growing population increases by 14 per cent per decade. It also warns of extreme heat stress in cities, increased precipitation and widespread flooding. “Due to sea level rise throughout the century and beyond, coastal and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as coastal erosion and flooding. Without adaptation, hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and will be displaced due to land loss,” says the draft copy of the report, which has been prepared by the IPCC with the inputs of several thousand scientists. Negotiators from 193 countries will resume the UN’s long-running climate talks in Bonn on Monday. UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said the “very strange” weather experienced across the world this week was a sign that we are already experiencing climate change. “If you take them individually you can say maybe it’s a fluke. The problem is it’s not a fluke and you can’t take them individually,” she said. “What it’s doing is giving us a pattern of abnormality that’s becoming the norm. These very strange extreme weather events are going to continue in their frequency and their severity…It’s not that climate change is going to be here in the future, we are experiencing climate change.” “Climate change is now built into the system,” said Mr. Pachauri. “We can say that there will be serious impacts on food production in every region of the world with climate change. The Mediterranean will have severe problems with water scarcity which will impact on food. Some parts of Africa could have declines of 50 per cent [in crop yields] as soon as 2020. We must keep in mind the fact that population is going up rapidly.” He added that the world did not have much time. “There is a very short window of opportunity to cut emissions enough to hold temperatures to an increase of 2 degree C. Six years ago we said that emissions would have to peak by 2015 if we wanted to hold them to 2 degree C. The cost rises the later you do it. Countries have to decide what would be the implications of inaction.” Mr. Pachauri’s warnings came as a new paper in the journal Nature suggests that even a 1 degree C rise in temperatures could lead to an extra three million malaria cases in children under 15 years of age per year. The disease, which infects more than 200 million people every year, , is spread by mosquitoes and will start to affect higher elevations as temperatures rise.  (The Hindu 10/3/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

26. SC nod for city school’s admission process (11)

PUNE: The Supreme Court has permitted the city-based Jnana Prabodhini school to continue with its existing admission process, based on a screening test, for standard V for the academic year (AY) 2014-15. The school is run by the Jnana Prabodhini Trust and has classes from standard V. “The petitioner (school) is permitted to follow the existing procedure for selection/entrance test for the AY 2014-15,” the apex court bench of justices H L Dattu and S A Bobade ruled on March 3. “The pendency of this special leave petition shall be notified by the school authorities to the students who take admission for AY 2014-15,” the bench ordered. On May 29, 2013, the Pune zilla parishad (ZP) education officer had issued an order directing the school to cancel its Std V admissions to 80 students for the year 2013-14 and to conduct a fresh admission process without a screening procedure. The school has been implementing a psychological intelligence based test for admissions since the last 45 years. The ZP education officer’s order was in response to complaints by activists alleging that the school had contravened the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, by admitting students through a screening procedure. Jnana Prabodhini had moved the Bombay high court on June 3, 2013 against this order. On June 17, 2013, the high court division bench of justices S J Vazifdar and R Y Ganoo ordered a stay on the ZP education officer’s impugned (under challenge) order after hearing all parties concerned with the litigation. “The term has already started. It would cause considerable inconvenience to students who have already been admitted if their admissions are cancelled at this stage. In the circumstances, pending admission (of the petition), the impugned order shall remain stayed,” the high court then ruled. Since the high court’s stay order was only for one year, the school faced the prospect of cancelling the std V admissions effected in 2013-14 on completion of one year and implementing admissions as per the ZP education officer’s directives. To avoid this situation, the school had moved the Supreme Court by filing the special leave petition (SLP). The Supreme Court while hearing the SLP on March 3, also allowed an intervention application and ruled that the students who secured their admission in AY 2013-14 in std V will continue the same till the disposal of the SLP. Lawyers Makrand Aadkar and Pravin Satale appeared for the school in the apex court matter. (Time of India 7/3/14)

 

27. Minorities’ body to file contempt case against govt (11)

Bangalore: An association of minority educational institutions is in the process of filing a contempt-of-court case against the Commissioner of Public Instruction and Principal Secretary of Primary and Secondary Education for their alleged violation of a recent Karnataka High Court order which directed the State government not to resort to forceful measures to enforce the provisions of the RTE Act on minority schools until the court decides on the ‘linguistic minority’ status issue. The Karnataka State Minority Educational Institution Management Federation (KSMEIMF), consisting of as many as 3,500 institutions, claimed that schools under their ambit were being constantly harassed by Block Education Officers and that the Education department was not paying heed to their pleas to stop it. C R Mohammed Imtiaz, chairman, KSMEIFM, said the harassment was worse in Bangalore Rural and Urban districts. “We have shown the order to BEOs and other educational officers. However, they say it does not hold good and they are still asking us to admit students,” he said. (Deccan Herald 9/3/14)

 

28. Country has to create opportunity for young minds: Union Minister (11)

VIJAYAWADA: By 2025, India would have the largest and youngest working population and it is time to create the right opportunity for them. And apart from the government, private sector firms and other institutions should work in this direction by providing the right facility for the development of the skill sets, said the Minister for Human Resources and Development M.M. Pallam Raju. He was delivering the chief guest’s message at the diamond jubilee celebration of Andhra Loyola College here on Saturday. According to Mr. Pallam Raju, the Right to Education Act that was implemented in 2010 has placed over 25 crore children in schools. “In the last 10 years the government has launched various programmes for development of primary school and high school level of education and it has embarked on an ambitious project called RUSA (Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan) for giving fillip to the higher education system,” he said. He also pointed out that in the last 10 years, the government had initiated 152 new institutions and had increased the expenditure budget for education many folds. “But along with the numbers, quality should play a key role and for which both the State government and the institutions have to chip in a big way. It is the responsibility of the State Higher Education Councils to not only increase the numbers but also enforce quality. As a step towards that direction we have made accreditation now mandatory,” he said. Appreciating the efforts taken by Andhra Loyola College, he said that colleges such as ALC should take the lead in setting the barometer for quality. Earlier, talking about the journey taken by the college, the correspondent of the college Fr. S. Raju said that the college was initiated in 1954 by its founding principal Fr. Devaiah and has grown to include PG courses over the years, with ‘A’ grade NAAC accreditation. The former MP of Vijayawada Lagadapati Rajagopal, Krishna University Vice-Chancellor V. Venkaiah, Principal of the college Fr. G.A.P. Kishore, Andhra Jesuit Province Provincial Fr. P. Anthony and others present spoke. A huge contingent of alumni from the ALC Alumni Association, former teachers, present staff members and students were present. The four wings of the Nation Cadet Corps conducted an impressive march past and the students enthralled the gathering with a number of traditional, folk and fusion dance performances. (The Hindu 10/3/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

29. SC/ST, street vendors law comes into force (14)

New Delhi: Barely a month before the Lok Sabha polls, the UPA has notified two key laws — to empower India’s Dalit population and give about 10 million street vendors legal protection. The amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill — came into force from Thursday. They are among a slew of laws that was notified by the government in a hurry before the code of conduct kicked in. In the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, several new offences committed against Dalits including imposing social or economic boycott on SC/STs, obstructing use of common property resources, forcible tonsuring of head and garlanding with footwear have been made criminal offences. These acts though widespread are not covered currently in the existing law. The Dalits are seen as a crucial votebank for political parties across the spectrum. According to Census 2011, SC & ST’s comprise 24 % of India’s total population.  The other law that came into force from Thursday — the Street Vendors bill mandates municipalities to set up restriction free vending zones/ night bazaars where hawkers can sell their wares without being harassed by the authorities. Presently, there is no law to regulate and safeguard the interest of urban street vendors in India. (Hindustan Times 7/3/14)

 

30. State govt steps in to help rescued bonded labourers (14)

CHENNAI: For rescued bonded labourers, their new-found liberty often translates into an agonising wait for documents, their only identity. Rehabilitation is complex, and when help arrives, it’s either too little or too late. In an effort to help these labourers, often scarred emotionally and physically, the state government will initiate a three-year pilot project in Vellore and Kancheepuram, which entails identifying workers and helping them in paperwork. The Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women (TNCDW) will coordinate with NGO International Justice Mission (IJM), which has drawn a detailed plan to ensure medical care, housing and psycho-social rehabilitation of freed labourers. “The only relief the state government provides to bonded labourers is a compensation of Rs 1,000 at the time of release and Rs 19,000 after a few months. Now they have shown interest in going beyond paying money,” said Alice Suganya, director of Casework, IJM. The initiative comes close on the heels of the National Rural Livelihood Mission writing to the states to rehabilitate rescued labourers and clear their entitlements. As part of the project, IJM will train TNCDW staff to identify and rehabilitate rescued bonded labourers at the village level. “We will train 30 staff and cover 50 families in the two districts. We will train them to generate livelihoods for these families and help create a market,” said Alice. Kancheepuram, after Tiruvallur, is infamous for its brick kilns and other smaller industrial units, where bonded labourers are forced to work in subhuman conditions. The proposal by IJM has asked TNCDW to enrol bonded labourers into various schemes they may be eligible for and to mobilise them to form self-help groups, which will serve as the first level of protection. TNCDW will also organise medical check-ups and training on personal health and hygiene. According to a 1995 report by a commission on bonded labour, there are over 10 lakh bonded labourers in Tamil Nadu. Experts say the number could be much higher now. Families are trapped in a vicious circle, sometimes for two or three generations to pay off a paltry sum. “The money is just an excuse, it’s the labour they need,” said S Gowri, a 34-year-old who was rescued from a brick kiln in Vellore.  (Times of India 7/3/14)

 

31. Focus Needed on Workers in Unorganised Sector (14)

In every corner of the country, demands are being raised for jobs, regularisation, pay parity, pay scales, etc. Recently, there were rumours of mass regularisation of unorganised employment and even for abolition of provisions permitting such employment. Regularisation claims are generally made by employees working as contract labour, fixed-term employees, or on temporary posts, etc. These claims are made by workers/employees either when they have been working like this for many years or when they claim that the contract arrangement through which they have been employed is a sham and camouflage or they approach the government claiming prohibition of contract labour in operations they are working in. Generally, in all these scenarios, pleas of the employees are that work done by them is being carried on for many years; it is perennial in nature; regular employees also perform the same work; work is necessary part of the establishment, full-time workers are required, etc. It is also pleaded that the system has been made a sham only to avoid giving contract workers benefits of regular employees. Court procedures take several years in deciding such issues, thereby resulting in time-consuming and costly litigations. Therefore, these issues need to be sorted out by addressing the root cause for the sake of our economy, companies and individuals too. Before looking into what can be done to eradicate such issues, it is important to know as to why we have such kinds of employment. Apart from various reasons such as insufficiency of funds among others, basic problems that government as well as private sector face in creating more posts or to have or employ more regular employees are the tough laws our country has for termination and retrenchment; second, as soon as an employee becomes regular, his efficiency at work and output is substantially reduced. What is required is simplifying retrenchment laws. In most states where there are more than hundred workers in an organisation, permission from government is required before retrenching them, which is seldom given. This provision needs to be simplified. Further, a system of ACRS, performance records and reviews needs to be introduced for various categories of employees. In cases of misconduct and non-performance, corrective and disciplinary measures need to be taken. Besides, appointment procedures need to be made even more transparent and subject to review by higher authorities. Backdoor entries need to be stopped as the country strongly needs people with merit who can perform. Work timings, leaves, working days in a week of regular employees, especially in public sector, need to be reviewed. For the betterment of individuals , till there are more posts created, it may not be practically possible to give absolute pay parity to employees in unorganised employment. Depending upon years of work and experience among other factors, however, certain pay scales or pay packages need to be fixed for such employees than keeping them on bare minimum for years altogether. It also needs to be checked that employees in unorganised sectors are not made to slog beyond statutory hours and are given due entitlement of leaves holidays, etc. Huge difference of pay between regular and irregular employees doing same or similar work needs to be look into. It is an urgent need of the country to have better performers and bona fide people recruited at all levels, but at the same time it must also be ensured that better means of livelihood are provided in even the remotest parts of the country to enable people to live in human conditions. (New Indian Express 9/3/14)

 

RESERVATION (6)

32. Quota for Jats has hurt Muslim sentiments, says Alvi (25)

New Delhi: The former Congress spokesperson, Rashid Alvi, shot off a letter to party president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, expressing his unhappiness with the UPA government’s recent decision to extend reservation to Jats. He said it had sent a “wrong signal” to Muslims, who had been at the receiving end of violence, perpetrated by the Jats during the Muzaffarnagar riots last year, resulting in a massive exodus. Officially, the Congress said an entire community could not be blamed for the acts of a few rioters. “To award reservation to a particular community after massive riots in Muzaffarnagar has given a wrong signal to the people at large and the Muslim community in particular,” Mr. Alvi wrote in his letter. He stressed that Muslims believed the Jats were the “perpetrators” of the violence. The Muslims, he underscored, had not only lost their family members but also their livelihoods and land, with more than 50,000 of them forced to live in camps after the riots. Answering a question at a briefing on Thursday, party spokesperson and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor said: “We do not believe that crimes are committed by an entire community or caste. I do not think you can ascribe such conduct to an entire community.” Expanding on this, he said: “We cannot blame all Jats or all Hindus for what happened in Muzaffarnagar just as we do not blame all Gujaratis for the 2002 riots.” Mr. Alvi, who is from western Uttar Pradesh, pointed out that the State is “highly polarised…at this juncture. The decision to award reservation to Jats not only hurts the sentiments of the Muslims but also other backward castes.” He, however, clarified that he was not opposed to reservation for any community per se. He was also critical of the party’s failure to legislate the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill. “Passage of the Bill would have showcased our commitment to our core values.” If Mr. Alvi has openly criticised the Cabinet’s approval on Monday for the inclusion of Jats in the Central list of OBCs in nine States, including Uttar Pradesh — a decision the party hopes will benefit about nine crore people from the community — other Uttar Pradesh Muslims in the Congress, too, are disturbed by the decision. However, the fact that Mr. Alvi, who was dropped as party spokesperson last year and was not re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha, has chosen to go public with his criticism is being read as a prelude to his departure from the Congress at a time when some others have left — or are in the process of — leaving the party. He joined the Congress in April 2004, when he was expelled from the Bahujan Samaj Party for accusing its president Mayawati of working under BJP pressure and taking bribes for ticket allotment. Earlier in the day, the issue of reservation came up at meeting of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), affiliated to the Congress, when a member asked why reservation should not based on economic criteria. Coming as this does in the wake of party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi making a similar proposal — which was rejected by Ms. Gandhi, who described the current policy as “an article of faith” for the Congress — a question on it was posed to Mr. Tharoor. Mr. Tharoor clarified that though the issue was interesting, it was not possible to rethink or discuss it “in the heat and dust of elections” and that the Congress had no intention of re-opening this issue at this stage. It had been “raised too late in the political calendar,” he said. However, “if these are important issues for the young people, there is a legitimate ground for discussing this, after the elections, inside party forums. There is a political constituency behind this, and if the issue is to be reopened, the time will come after the elections for calm reflection within the party.”  (The Hindu 7/3/14)

 

33. Government notifies Jat reservation, but OBC Commission raises red flag (25)

New Delhi: Even after facing vociferous opposition from Congress party’s Muslim leaders for extending poll eve reservations to Jats, the government on Friday went ahead notifying their inclusion in the central OBC list. The cabinet at a special meeting on Sunday had extended reservation facilities to Jats in nine states.  The notification mentions that Muslim Jats in Gujarat are also included in the central list, but in other states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi, there is no mention of communal identity. The poll eve sop extended to Jat community has also run into controversy, with the statutory National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) rubbishing  the government’s claim that the Cabinet decision was based on the advice of the commission.  On December 19, the Cabinet had approached the Commission to seek its advice on extending reservation to Jats. The NCBC has put its 138-page report on its website <ncbc.nic.in> to clarify that it did not advice any such reservation and in fact “rejected” the Jats’ case “as they are not socially and educationally backward communities.” The government clearly took the decision to woo the Jat voters who matter in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and some other states, influencing the results in some 70 Lok Sabha constituencies. Though, the  BJP has welcomed the government move, but the party managers are worried that it will upset their plans in at least 30 seats — 10 in Haryana, 14 in western Uttar Pradesh and six in Rajasthan. In its unanimous advice rendered on February 26, the NCBC headed by Justice Vangala Eswaraiah, a former acting chief justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, held it has no doubt that Jats as a class cannot be treated as a backward class. Other commission members, who too were unanimous, on the advice are S K Kharventhan, A K Saini and A K Mangotra. “Ethnically they are at a higher level; they are of Indo Aryan descent, their educational level is high; and the social status they command is far higher than the ordinary Shurdas….Even in the absence of reservation in the central services, Jats are adequately represented in the Armed Services, Government services and educational institutions and their literacy rate is also good,” the NCBC advisory said. Pointing out that only Jats of Rajasthan (except two districts of Bharatpur and Dhaulpur) were notified in the list of the central OBCs in October 1999, the NCBC underlined that the Jats of the state “are cornering all the central services of other backward classes and for example it is sated that in 2012, Jats of Rajasthan have cornered majority of central services, mainly IAS and other important services” showing that they are not socially and educationally backward. Meanwhile, despite Jats being the domineering community and the land owners in Punjab, the Punjab Cabinet too decided before the model code to include them in the list of the state OBCs. The move was to silence former Congress chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh trying to take political advantage by accusing the Parkash Singh Badal government of betraying the state’s Jats by not pursuing their case for inclusion in the central OBC list. In Lukhnow, just minutes before the elections were announced and the model code of conduct came into force, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday announced reservation to 17 most backward castes (MBCs) in the development, accusing the Centre sitting on the list sent for their inclusion in the central list of Scheduled Castes. The castes which will get the benefit in the state include Nishad, Malhar, Bhar, Batham, Turha, Kashyap, Kewat, Kumhar, Rajbhar, Prajapati, Deevar, Dheemar, Bind, Majhi, Gaund and Machhua. In Haryana, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda got 16 Bills passed by the Haryana Assembly last Tuesday in just one hour and 45 minutes in the last session before the elections in what was dubbed by the Opposition as the “sop opera” to beat the anti-incumbency ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. (DNA 8/3/14)

 

34. BEO issues notice to school on RTE quota seat fee (25)

Bangalore: The Block Education Officer (BEO) issued a notice to East West Academy in Rajajinagar seeking explanation for allegedly asking parents of wards, who had obtained admission under RTE quota, to pay for the seat. A group of parents staged a protest on Friday in front of the office of the BEO North Range 1. One of the protesters said that each of the parents, whose ward had got a seat under the RTE quota, was being called to the school individually and was being asked to pay Rs. 25,000 for the seat. Nagasimha G. Rao, convenor of the RTE task force, said parents “were being exploited and forced” to pay. Mala Prakash, RTE officer of East West Academy, claimed that the school was charging for extra activities. “We are only charging for courses in language lab, keyboard, music, dance, accent lab, yoga, music, dance. If parents want additional facilities for their children, they will have to pay.” She rubbished the parents’ claim that payment of Rs. 25,000 was made compulsory. Gopalkrishna M., BEO North Range 1, said action would be taken against the school after it responded to the BEO’s notice.  (The Hindu 9/3/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

35. Treat marital sexual abuse as rape: Court (19)

NEW DELHI: A victim of marital sexual abuse should be treated as a rape survivor, a trial court has held while denying bail to a man accused of sodomizing his pregnant wife. The court lamented that there were no laws to protect survivors of marital rape but said such a victim cannot be discriminated against just because she is the wife of the sexual aggressor. Pushing the envelope to apply section 377 of IPC, which deals with ‘unnatural sex’, to relations within marriage, additional sessions judge Kamini Lau said sexually abused wives had every right to getting help and protection from the state. “Legislatures are yet to take serious note of rampant marital sexual abuse which women suffer silently … but that does not mean that a battered wife who has been sexually abused and has invoked the legal system of our country is not entitled to any state assistance just as help is available to other victims of sexual abuse,” judge Lau said. Refusing to grant bail to the man, the court noted that the extent of his mental perversity was demonstrated by the charge that he went to the extent of polluting the mind of his nine-year-old son by boasting to him about the unnatural sex he had with the victim. Judge Lau directed the Delhi government to take responsibility of the woman, a resident of Keshav Puram, who has accused her husband for allegedly forcing her into ‘unnatural sex’ after consuming alcohol, even when she was pregnant. “She is the responsibility of the state and is required to be taken care of just as any other victim of aggravated sexual assault and abuse and the state cannot abdicate its responsibility and she cannot be discriminated only because she happens to be the wife of the sexual aggressor,” the judge said. Time and again, activists have demanded that laws to be amended to protect survivors of marital rape. But even after the Nirbhaya assault, when laws dealing with crimes against women were made stricter, marital rape was not made a criminal offence. The law offers some protection to minor victims of marital rape but rape of a wife above 15 years of age is not punishable. Statistics paint a disturbing picture about the condition of married women in our country. According to the UN Population Fund, more than two-thirds of married women in India, aged between 15 to 49, have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex. Marital rape is illegal in countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Israel, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Russia and Poland. It is also an offense in 18 states in the US and three in Australia. A survivor of marital rape in the country can get some relief by filing a case against her husband under 498A IPC (husband subjecting his wife to cruelty). However, the section doesn’t clearly define the term cruelty and carries a maximum punishment of three years and fine. Judge Lau also slammed the police for its shoddy investigation into the case and rebuked it for not invoking section 498A (husband or his relative subjecting woman to cruelty) of the IPC on the man even though there were specific allegations that he used to harass and mistreat her since the time they got married. Terming the police’s approach as “shocking”, the court expressed displeasure over the deputy commissioner of police (northwest Delhi) showing “total lack of concern regarding court cases”.”Sensitivity and required departmental response is totally lacking. Needless to day, the investigation so far has been seriously lacking and highly non-professional and there is every possibility that this non-serious approach is solely on account of the fact that the accused is the husband of the victim,” the judge observed. During the bail hearing, the woman had come to the court pleading that her husband be released as she was in a state of destitution, being totally dependent upon him and there was nobody to look after her. The court, however, said the woman was present before it despite her advance stage of pregnancy and this showed that she was under extreme pressure of her in-laws with whom she was staying. “At this stage, his release is neither advisable nor warranted. Merely because the victim now wants the accused to be out does not mean that the court is obligated to oblige,”judge Lau said. The court directed the joint commissioner of police (range) to intervene and ensure that an inquiry relating to psychological assessment and financial destitution of the victim is conducted and also sent a copy of its order to the police commissioner. (Times of India 6/3/14)

 

36. SC to take cognisance of Mudgal report on March 25 (19)

New Delhi: The much-awaited hearing on betting and spot fixing scandal in IPL was on Friday adjourned with the Supreme Court posting the case for March 25 when it would take cognisance of its probe panel report indicting BCCI chief N Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan in the scam. A bench headed by justice AK Patnaik said the case will be heard on non-miscellaneous day as the hearing would take time. It also agreed to consider contents of a sting operation which a news channel wanted to place before it on the scam. The Supreme Court-appointed committee has said Meiyappan’s role in CSK as the team official and his involvement in betting during the IPL matches stands proved. The report of the committee, headed by former Punjab and Haryana chief justice Mukul Mudgal, however, said allegations of fixing against Meiyappan require further investigation and also left it to the Supreme Court the issue of conflict of interest against Srinivasan, who heads India Cements that owns CSK. “The role of Gurunath Meiyappan in Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as the team official stands proved and the allegations of betting and passing of information against Meiyappan stand proved,” said the report of the committee presented to the Supreme Court on Friday. “However, the allegations of fixing require further investigation,” the committee, also comprising additional solicitor general N Nagehswar Rao and Assam Cricket Association member Nilay Dutta, had said. The over 100-page report went into various issues like suspected involvement of six India-capped players in fixing, betting allegations against Rajasthan Royals owners and the need to bring discipline in players. Under the Franchise Agreement and IPL’s anti-corruption code, CSK runs the risk of facing disciplinary action including ban for the acts of Meiyappan, who was its Team Principal, for bringing the game into disrepute. “The committee is of the view that the material on record clearly indicates that Meiyappan was the face of CSK and the team official of CSK,” the report had said, while rejecting Srinivasan’s contention that he was merely a cricket enthusiast.  (Hindustan Times 7/3/14)

 

37. PIL demands Lokayukta Bill implementation (19)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Friday issued notice to the secretary of the governor over a PIL demanding the implementation of the Gujarat Lokayukta Bill, 2013. This demand was made by petitioner Pankaj Bhatt, who demanded appointment of the Lokpal in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) for curbing corruption. But the civic body said that there was no need to appoint a separate ombudsman, though provision was made to this regard in a resolution passed in 2004. This was because the state government has widened the scope of work of the Lokayukta as per the recently amended bill. According to AMC, since the Lokayukta has been empowered to look into the issue of corruption in the municipal corporation also with the widened jurisdiction, it would lead to duplicating authority and wastage of financial resources. This led the petitioner to seek immediate implementation of the Lokayukta Bill, which is under consideration of the Governor. The petitioner has sought immediate implementation of the bill so as to ensure public accountability at the hands of public functionaries. Therefore, it would be necessary for the court in exercise of its prerogative constitutional powers of judicial review and to call for the relevant records with regard to the Bill and look into the same to find out the real state of affairs. (Times of India 8/3/14)

 

38. Ahmedabad lawyer writes to CJI over Lokpal ambit (19)

AHMEDABAD: A city-based lawyer practicing in the Gujarat high court, HB Shethna, has written to the Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam, asking whether there is any plan to bring judges of higher judiciary within the ambit of any supervisory authority like Lokpal. In connection with the incident of Justice A K Ganguly, advocate Shethna has written, “The Supreme Court is mulling to set in place a mechanism to deal with complaints of sexual harassment against judges of the higher judiciary. But, what about the complaints against judges of incompetence, corruption and favouritism?” The lawyer further questioned, “Is there any mechanism in place to deal with such complaints? With the passing of Lokpal, even the parliament has been put to checks and balances. Then why should one arm of the constitution, that is, the judiciary be bereft from it?”(Times of India 9/3/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

39. Increasing number of people going hungry in Britain (21)

London: A 40-day campaign to draw attention to the increasing number of people going hungry in the U.K. led by “End Hunger Fast” a coalition of 20 anti-poverty charities including Oxfam, Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group, Just Fair, several Church groups, Members of Parliament, celebrities and anti-poverty activists, was formally launched here on Wednesday. “Hunger has returned to Britain, with more and more people just one unexpected bill from empty cupboards,” the group said in an open letter published in the London Times on Wednesday. Calling the rise in hunger a “terrible social failing,” the letter said, “One in five mothers is skipping meals to better feed their children, one in four families are shrinking portion size and over 60% have cut the amount they spend on food in order to get by. Hospitals are seeing increasing numbers of people who are malnourished.” It identified three crises as being responsible – food prices, which have risen 30 per cent in five years, wages that have fallen in real terms, and the benefit system, which has become “increasingly punitive in the use of sanctions.” The campaign, which calls on the government to take action on welfare, wages and food markets in the 2014 budget, will see a form of protest common enough in India but unusual in the U.K. A fasting relay has begun where high profile faith leaders, celebrities and campaigners fast for 24 hours each. Comedian Eddie Izzard set off the fast on day one. The campaign has also invited the public to fast “in solidarity with the thousands of Britons going hungry and in calling on the Government to take action.” (The Hindu 8/3/14)

 

40. All households in Burdwan district to have toilets: DM (21)

Burdwan (WB): Altogether 80,000 individual household toilets have been constructed in Burdwan district during the current financial year, which is a record, a top district official said today. The 80,000 individual toilets both in Below Poverty Line (BPL) and in Above Poverty Line (APL) households have been constructed in the district between April 2013 till February this year, which is a record, Burdwan District Magistrate Saumitra Mohan told PTI. The Government of India has set a target that by March 2017 every individual household in the country should have a toilet. But all households in Burdwan district would have individual toilets by March 2015 which is two years before the deadline set by the Centre, Mohan said. Asked the reason for the success in constructing such a huge number of toilets, the district magistrate said rigorous monitoring and intensive field visits by district officials led by him are delivering sterling results. In the financial year 2011-2012 around 50,645 toilets were constructed in both BPL and APL households in the district, he said. In the last financial year 2012-2013 some 42,056 toilets were constructed in both BPL and APL households of the district, Mohan added. High tech safety for Kedarnath pilgrims: Uttarakhand CM New Delhi: Pilgrims to Kedarnath this year can use special mobile Apps for their safety and alert authorities in case of an emergency. With the sacred portals of the Himalayan shrine, which bore the brunt of devastating floods last year, slated to be thrown open to devotees on May 4, the Uttarakhand government is gearing up. Chief Minister Harish Rawat said his government will use modern technology including special mobile Apps for pilgrims to provide a safe and smooth yatra. “Our first challenge is to ensure safety of pilgrims and we will use modern technology for that. We will strengthen our telecom network and will provide special mobile Apps to the pilgrims at the time of registration,” Rawat, who took over charge from Vijay Bahuguna last month, said. “They can press them if they are in any danger and remain connected with the headquarters. It’s just like women safety mobile Apps. We will establish the headquarters in Bheembali and Guptkashi,” Rawat told PTI in an interview. He said his government is also seeking special satellites for getting advanced information about any climatic change. “Had those satellites been installed earlier, the damage would not have been to that scale last year. We are trying to get some satellites to know about the climatic changes in advance,” the former water resources minister said. He also said that BSNL network in the state will be upgraded and all funds have been sanctioned for this. “We will also strengthen BSNL network in the state. State government has sanctioned the necessary funds for that. We are in talks with two-three companies for mobile Apps and one has already given presentation. We will implement this as soon as the yatra begins,” he said, but did not elaborate on the technicalities of the Apps. (Zee News 9/3/14)

 

 

Posted by admin at 7 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. RTI applications pile up at Chennai Corporation (1)

CHENNAI: A growing number of RTI applications have been gathering dust at Ripon Building because records have not been digitized. Activists are urging Chennai Corporation to follow the Pune model of proactive disclosure to bring transparency in the system. They said the civic body’s health, revenue, land and estate, bus route roads and parks departments rarely provide information under the Right to Information Act on time. In Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation’s 45 departments proactively disclose important records on its website (www.pcmcindia.gov.in) in a Frequently Asked Questions format. PCMC has also provided the timeframe within which every civic service has to be provided. The PCMC website has details of unauthorized constructions, reserved lands, rates of construction material and more. “We have developed a mobile phone application to track complaints. The status of the complaints is evaluated by higher officials every week,” said a PCMC official. Similarly, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has opened an RTI library at its headquarters for people to get information and documents related to various civic works. “Every Monday, people can visit the library to access documents pertaining to contracts, minutes and agendas of council meetings,” said a PMC official. On the other hand, the Chennai Corporation has disclosed very little information under Section 4 of the RTI Act, which mandates regular cataloguing and indexing of records. Eight years after the act came into effect, the corporation has failed to provide contact details about public information officers, despite instructions from the state information commission. The Chennai Corporation receives an average of 5,000 RTI applications every year from citizens. The queries relate to everything from delay in getting birth certificates to poor quality roads. “I have filed several RTI applications in various departments of the corporation but replies are always incomplete or vague. Many PIOs transfer applications to other departments to delay replies,” said M Thuyamurthy, an RTI activist from Tondiarpet. Officials said the lack of digitized records delays replies. “Most particulars are in the respective zonal and ward offices and there is no connectivity with the headquarters. Only a few zones respond to the queries on time,” said a PIO of the corporation. Officials said they plan to put details about building plan approvals and contracts on the corporation website. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

2. RTE, black money assurances still pending (1)

New Delhi: The UPA government whose second term draws to a close has reneged on more than 40% of its promises made in Parliament. Different ministers in UPA II gave 7,456 assurances on the floor of the House, HT has found under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Out of these, 2,812 assurances are still pending and 299 have been dropped, the RTI revealed. As per ministry of parliamentary affairs, some of the important assurances pending include — strengthening laws to curb generation of black money, extradition of Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson, a white paper on disinvestment and funds for implementation of right to education. If assurances had been met, eight hospitals on the line of All India Institute of Medical Sciences would have been established. Farmers would have been compensated for damaged crops, the Mangalore air crash victims’ families would have been compensated and the country would have had guidelines for pharmaceutical companies on clinical trial injuries and deaths. Whenever concerned ministers say they would consider a matter, take action or furnish information later, it is counted as an assurance. A Lok Sabha committee monitors time-bound implementation of such promises by ministers. Maneka Gandhi, chairperson of the committee on government assurances in the Lok Sabha, said, “We have been pushing ministries to fulfil their promises, but they are just not bothered.” Congress MP and member of assurance committee Sukhdev Singh said, “The government is not taking its assurances seriously, they just make excuses.” All pending assurances will now have to wait for the new government to be formed in May. (Hindustan Times 5/3/14)

 

3. RTI activists claim Special Task Force ‘shielding’ senior officials (1)

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) has sbeen shielding senior officials, who were deployed as observers for Madhya Pradesh Professional Examinations Board (MPPEB), alleged a group of RTI activists on Tuesday. Activists of Soochna Ka Adhikar Andolan (SAA) said the revelation has come to light in a reply to a query by Manoj Tripathi, a volunteer. It is learnt that about 30-40 senior officials including a former chief secretary of Chhattisgarh, former director general of police, MP, were among the observers deployed by the board for its various recruitment examinations held since 2010. “Move to deploy observers to oversee recruitment exams was taken after a scam broke out in 2009. Interestingly, even after their deployment the condition remained same,” RTI Activist Ajay Dubey, who is convener of the organization told TOI. (Times of India 6/3/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

4. NHRC Rapporteur visits Suktel area (1)

Bhubaneswar: Special Rapporteur of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Damodar Sarangi on Tuesday visited the Lower Suktel Budi Anchal area, 30 kilometres from here, and listened to the villagers’ complaints of police abuse and assault. Villagers of Gadshankar and Dunguripali alleged that the police tortured them while they were on a peaceful protest. They blamed Bolangir SDPO and the then Sub-Collector Jyoti Ranjan Pradhan for the harassment meted out them. Similarly, Pardhiapali villagers, who have been staging protest for a month now at the dam site, told the Rapporteur that the school buildings and many of their mud houses have developed cracks and, thus, been unsafe for their living due to blasting of the dam construction. Notably, the NHRC had received two complaints, one on police atrocities and another on loss of livelihood due to the project. After listening to the villagers’ complaints, Sarangi said, “I have come to conduct an investigation into the complaints. After completion of the inquiry, I would submit a report to the Commission.” He declined to give any comment as to if any human right violated in the area.  (Pioneer 6/3/14)

 

5. U.P. doctors’ strike, a violation of right to health, says NHRC (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the Uttar Pradesh government to take immediate action to end the strike by government doctors which has resulted in “violation of people’s right to health and life.” The strike began in protest against the arrest of two dozen junior doctors in the GSV Medical College, Kanpur, after a scuffle with an MLA on February 28. In a statement here on Wednesday, the NHRC expressed deep concern over reports of paralysed health services, leading to the death of many patients, owing to the strike in different parts of Uttar Pradesh. The Commission apprehends that the strike would have repercussions in other parts of the country. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has reportedly said that if its demands for withdrawal of charges against junior doctors and action against the MLA and the SSP, Kanpur, were not met, it would go on all-India strike from Thursday. Reportedly, a number of doctors had already tendered their resignations, the statement said. Noting that patient care was sacrosanct to the medical profession, the Commission said the medical fraternity should explore alternative ways of registering their protest. It also urged the government to bring the guilty to justice at the earliest. (The Hindu 6/3/14)

 

6. Amnesty tells state to stop criminalising sex lives (1)

London: Amnesty International today urged governments to stop criminalising people’s sex lives and instead protect their right to control their own bodies. The London-based human rights organisation launched a global two-year campaign aimed at defending sexual and reproductive rights against state control. Amnesty said that around the world, people were “coerced, criminalise and discriminated against” for making choices about their bodies and their lives. It said that in many cases, the state, medical professionals or relatives undermine people’s freedom to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproductive lives. “It is unbelievable that in the 21st century some countries are condoning child marriage and marital rape while others are outlawing abortion, sex outside marriage and same-sex sexual activity – even punishable by death,” said Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty. “States need to take positive action – not just by getting rid of oppressive laws but also promoting and protecting sexual and reproductive rights, providing information, education, services and ending impunity for sexual violence.” The “My Body My Rights” campaign, which targets young people via social media, focuses on seven countries – Algeria, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Ireland, Morocco, Nepal and Tunisia. Amnesty said that in Algeria and Tunisia, and until January in Morocco, a rapist could avoid prosecution by marrying his victim. It said around 100 women a day were raped in Morocco. The group said it would campaign to decriminalise abortion in Ireland, citing the case of Indian national Savita Halappanavar who died after being refused a termination. Following the case, abortion became legal in July in limited cases where the mother’s life is at risk. In Burkina Faso, many young people struggle to access contraception and sexual health services, while in El Salvador, gender-based violence remains widespread, Amnesty said. It said that in Nepal, around 600,000 women suffer from uterine prolapse, a painful condition often triggered by carrying heavy loads during pregnancy, having children very young and having several pregnancies in quick succession. “We want to help the next generation realise and claim their sexual and reproductive rights,” Shetty said. .. (The Financial Express 6/3/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

7. SC refuses to hear PIL on hate speech (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a public interest litigation seeking mandamus to politicians to file an undertaking before the Election Commission that they would not use hate speech, creating enmity between communities, during elections. A bench of Justices R M Lodha and Dipak Misra asked how the court could issue direction on a petition filed under Article 32 (writ jurisdiction), as there was no violation of any fundamental right of the petitioner. “Freedom of expression is a precious right given in Constitution. Don’t curtail it. Our Constitution does not empower you to put restrictions on it,” the court told petitioner Manohar Lal Sharma. Sharma had claimed that various politicians not only make false accusations against one each other but try to pit one community against the other. The court, however, said, “These are matters of perception. Who will determine what constituted hate speech?” The petitioner claimed that politicians violated provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Representation to People Act. (Deccan Herald 3/3/14)

 

8. Paid news: EC wants it to be made electoral offence (1)

NEW DELHI: Recognising the malaise of paid news, Election Commission has proposed to the government to make it an electoral offence even as it continues to tackle it itself by monitoring the expenditures of candidates. Addressing a press conference here to announce the Lok Sabha poll schedule, chief election commissioner V S Sampath said paid news has three aspects — print media, electronic media and expenditure by candidates. “Since there is no law (to deal with paid news), we have made a proposal to the law ministry to make it an electoral offence,” he said. Meanwhile, he said, the Election Commission deals with the malaise by keeping a close watch on the expenditures of the candidates. “Election Commission is doing what is under its control. We have monitoring committees in districts and states. We add the expenditure to the expenditure account of the candidate concerned,” Sampath said. With regard to complaints about paid news in print media, he said the cases are referred to the Press Council of India. As far as complaints regarding paid news in electronic media are concerned, such cases are referred to the National Broadcasters Association (NBA), he said. To a question regarding demands for banning opinion polls, the CEC said it is for Parliament to decide. “We never hesitate to use powers that we can. However, the issue of opinion polls is to be dealt with by the lawmakers. They have the legislative competence,” he added. The issue of banning opinion polls has been hanging fire since 2004. The chief election commissioner said a proposal to ban opinion polls was made in 2004 but only exit polls were banned. Existing law allows EC to ban opinion polls just 48 hours prior to voting. The poll panel has proposed that there should be a prohibition on publication and broadcast of the results of opinion polls starting from the date of notification of elections till the completion of the last phase of polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. Attorney general G E Vahanvati, whose view was sought by the law ministry, has supported this proposal. “As rightly pointed out by the EC, what is paramount is the necessity to have free and fair elections. One cannot disagree with the view of the EC that such opinion polls often tend to cause a prejudicial effect on the minds of the elector,” Vahanvati had said in his opinion. He said, “One must also take into consideration the view of the political parties at the meeting held on April 6, 2004 and the unanimous view expressed therein.” Responding to questions on false affidavits, Sampath said there are provisions that the Returning Officer or any citizen can file a complaint against the candidate seeking action. Under the present provision, candidates found guilty of concealing, failing to furnish information or providing false information in the election affidavit face six months in jail and a fine. With regard to convicted persons trying to contest polls, Sampath said, “There are sufficient safeguards”. He said a candidate has to furnish details such as disclosure of pending cases and convictions in cases. “Convicted people are not allowed to contest even as per law…in certain categories of conviction there is disqualification of nomination. We have got ample information about conviction of these people after the judgement of Supreme Court. We haver also written to state governments to keep us properly informed,” the CEC said. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

9. CBI to probe murder of journalist, family in MP (1)

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Wednesday registered a case into the sensational killings of journalist Chandrika Rai, his wife and two children in February 2012 in Umaria, Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh High Court’s Jabalpur bench had recently ordered CBI investigation into the murders. It was alleged that the journalist’s entire family was brutally murdered on the night of February 17, 2012 by unknown persons. The local police had arrested Rai’s driver and had filed a chargesheet against him in May 2012. However, there were doubts over conspiracy in the murders and family members of Rai had approached the HC seeking CBI probe. Rai, a 43-year-old stringer for Hindi newspapers, his wife Durga, a former janpad panchayat member, and their two children — son Jalaj (19) and daughter Nisha (17) — were murdered at Rai’s office-cum-residence in Umaria town. The police had first claimed the killings were linked to a failed bid to collect ransom after the kidnapping of a government officer, and later arrested Rai’s driver, accusing him of the crime. The bodies were found in four separate rooms. Rai had been reportedly writing against illegal coal mining in the region. He had written a series of articles alleging the involvement of a local leader in the illegal mining. CBI will recreate the crime scene with the help of CFSL officers and interrogate the concerned persons. (Times of India 6/3/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

10. Cops Cool to PoA Act, Dalits Upset (2)

KANNUR: Police officials in the state are shying away from including the provisions of the Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act (SC/ST PoA Act) while filing chargesheets in the court in relevant cases, if the complaints piling up before the State SC/ST Commission are any indication. Take the case of V Laxmi, a Dalit widow from Cherukunnu near here, who has approached the commission against the dropping of the Act’s provisions, from a chargesheet based on a  police complaint preferred by her. Laxmi, a government employee, in her petition says her problems began after she decided to shift from a Dalit colony to the newly built house in a predominantly upper caste locale. She had faced stiff opposition from her neighbours during the construction of her home. After she moved in along with her three children, a police officer barged in to her home and allegedly threatened her. Even more unnerving is the case of Koyyon Sheeja, living at Chal near Azhikkal, whose house was attacked with a crude country bomb on  May 22, 2011. The attack, Sheeja suspected, was the latest in a series of atrocities perpetrated by a neighbour against whom she had filed two complaints under the PoA Act. The fear-stricken Dalit family lodged another complaint with the Valapattanam police, but they refused to register a case initially.  (New Indian Express 6/3/14)

 

11. KCR promises more sops for dalits in Telangana (2)

Mahbubnagar: TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao on Thursday launched his party’s election campaign from the weavers’ town of Gadwal by announcing a plethora of sops to various sections of people and exuded confidence that his party would form the first government in Telangana state. At his first public meeting after parliament cleared the Telangana bill, the TRS president said the statehood for Telangana was achieved because of his party’s tireless efforts. He announced the party’s first candidate for the Assembly elections. The TRS chief named Krishna Mohan Reddy as his party candidate from the Gadwal Assembly constituency. He said the TRS would show its political and electoral strength in the general polls. “Neither the Congress nor the Telugu Desam Party gave us Telangana. The TRS achieved the new state through its concerted struggle for more than a decade,” Chandrasekhar Rao said. He announced that there would be no contract employee in the new Telangana state if the TRS was elected to power. “Dalits will get priority in the allocation of funds. We will give them Rs 10,000 crore in the budget. We will upgrade all tribal hamlets (thandas) into gram panchayats. All the demands of Anganwadi workers will be met. Valmiki Boya community will be declared as a scheduled tribe and the percentage of quota for STs will be increased to 12,” he said amidst thunderous applause. He said his major achievement as Mahbubnagar MP was to make Telangana state a reality. He said he would stop migration of people from Mahbubnagar district by increasing the irrigation potentiality of the area. (Times of India 7/3/14)

 

12. SC/ST, street vendors law comes into force (2)

New Delhi: Barely a month before the Lok Sabha polls, the UPA has notified two key laws — to empower India’s Dalit population and give about 10 million street vendors legal protection. The amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill — came into force from Thursday. They are among a slew of laws that was notified by the government in a hurry before the code of conduct kicked in. In the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, several new offences committed against Dalits including imposing social or economic boycott on SC/STs, obstructing use of common property resources, forcible tonsuring of head and garlanding with footwear have been made criminal offences. These acts though widespread are not covered currently in the existing law. The Dalits are seen as a crucial votebank for political parties across the spectrum. According to Census 2011, SC & ST’s comprise 24 % of India’s total population.  The other law that came into force from Thursday — the Street Vendors bill mandates municipalities to set up restriction free vending zones/ night bazaars where hawkers can sell their wares without being harassed by the authorities. Presently, there is no law to regulate and safeguard the interest of urban street vendors in India. (Hindutan Times 7/3/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

13. Doctors’ stir continues, 25 die in Kanpur hospital (3)

Lucknow: As many as 25 patients have allegedly died in 72 hours since Saturday due to lack of medical attention at the Lala Lajpat Rai (LLR) Hospital in Kanpur, where a strike by junior doctors has spread across the rest of Uttar Pradesh. The strike began following a police lathicharge on resident doctors and students of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial (GSVM) Medical College — near LLR Hospital — after they clashed with Samajwadi Party MLA Irfan Solanki on February 28. Janki Prasad of Farrukhabad lost his son, Bhoo Dev, at LLR Hospital on March 1 and holds the doctor’s stir responsible. “My son was suffering from liver infection. I kept running from one place to another for doctors. They refused to have a look at him. He died on the stretcher.”Most of the patients have left the LLR Hospital and only 157 beds out of 1,200 are presently occupied. Thousands of junior doctors across the seven medical colleges of UP are on the strike, which has the support of senior doctors — government, private — and even faculty members. Nurses and class four employees too are part of the agitation that entered the fourth day on Tuesday.The agitating doctors are demanding action against Sisamau MLA Solanki and Kanpur’s senior superintendent of police Yashasvi Yadav. The standoff had intensified after the police arrested 24 GSVM Medical College students following the clash. The students were granted bail on Monday evening, but they refused to leave jail. “Nothing short of SSP Yashasvi Yadav’s suspension and arrest of SP MLA Irfan Solanki is acceptable,” said Arti Lal Chandani, president of Indian Medical Association, Kanpur. The agitating junior doctors say they will not relent unless the 24 students are released unconditionally and they get an apology for police excesses. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has ordered an inquiry into the violence. According to reports, he has indicated that charges will not be pressed against the 24 students.  I have asked for the CCTV footage to be examined properly and punishment to the guilty. Doctors should return to work in public interest. Nothing is more important than life of a common man,” the CM said in Lucknow. Much of the doctors’ ire is directed at Solanki, whom they blame for instigating the police to storm the GSVM campus and lathicharge students in the hostel.”Students were beaten up savagely. They were dragged out from hostels and lined up. Lathis rained on them; their laptops, cellphones were all thrown away,” said Dr Ambrish Gupta of GSVM Medical College. Solanki, however, says medical students got into a fight with him and are at fault. The MLA said he was buying medicines near the LLR hospital when a medico’s car knocked down an elderly woman. According to Solanki, he intervened after an ugly spat broke out between the woman and the car’s occupant. “What wrong did I do? Is saving an elderly woman a crime? The doctors called 500-600 others to attack me, damage my vehicles beyond repair,” said Solanki, who was injured in the attack. “You don’t expect doctors to behave like criminals.”The police defended the action against the students, saying the use of force was allowed only after 30 personnel were injured in brickbatting and firing by the students. “We found pistols, petrol bombs, rods, knives from the hostels. If we hadn’t acted, the students would have set a petrol pump on fire. We have the CCTV footage to show acts unbecoming of medical students,” said SSP Yadav, who was last week given a prize by the state for bringing down Kanpur’s crime by 51%.Kanpur district magistrate Roshan Jacob said the continuance of strike revealed it was motivated. “We took special measures to make sure the students got bail and their future was not spoiled even when their behavior was not justified.” (Hindustan Times 4/3/14)

 

14. Hospitals have no drug kits for STDs (3)

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of patients suffering from Sexually Transmitted Diseases ( STDs) have been left to fend for themselves as there is no drug kit available at Delhi hospitals. The kits, seven pre-packed colour-coded medicines to be given to patients for various symptoms caused by the infections, are supposed to be given free of cost at all specialized clinics run by the government, but sources say there has been no supply for six months. STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, are caused by more than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites and are spread predominantly by sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Many STIs—including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, HIV, HPV, HSV2 and syphilis—can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth. “National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), an autonomous body under the ministry of health and family welfare, is supposed to procure the kits and supply it to STI clinics for free distribution among patients. For last six months, there have been no supplies. But we are supplying medicines from our own inventory,” said Dr H K Kar, medical superintendent of Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital. He said the STI clinic at RML gets 10-15 patients daily. The national and regional referral centres for treatment of STIs at Safdarjung and Lok Nayak hospitals, respectively, have also been hit by the shortage of drug kits. AIIMS spokesperson Dr Amit Gupta, too, confirmed the unavailability of drug kits. “The hospital does not procure drug kits for STIs. It is provided to us by Delhi State AIDS Control Society. We have not received any supplies for four months,” he said. A senior doctor at Lok Nayak Hospital said, “Drug kit for STI was developed on basis of WHO guidelines. It aimed to promote single dose therapy and ensure quality. Due to shortage in supply, we have been forced to prescribe medicines separately. If the same is not available in the hospital pharmacy, one has to buy it from the market.” STIs can cause symptoms like vaginal discharge, genital ulcers and painful scrotal swelling. Doctors say non-compliance with drug therapy can cause infection to spread. Individuals with STI have a higher chance of acquiring and transmitting HIV. “There are many patients who do not want their illness to become public. They do not buy medicines if the hospital does not provide them,” said a senior doctor. As per ICMR data on community prevalence of STI, 5-6% of sexually active adult populations suffer from these infections. There is a low level of STI awareness and treatment seeking behaviour among all population groups, studies have shown. (Times of India 4/3/14)

 

15. National Rural Health Mission booklet ‘wrongly’ promotes use of emergency contraceptive pills (3)

ALLAHABAD: In a case of grave misinformation, government booklets on adolescence and sexual health in rural areas mention that emergency contraceptive pills or ECPs can be taken by girls any number of times without any hitch or worry. Call it a printing mistake or negligence by those who have published them, these booklets – given to auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and counsellors working under the adolescent reproductive & sexual health (Arsh) programme – say ECPs pose no harm and can be consumed by girls without any restriction. The Arsh programme comes under the ambit of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and aims to provide a framework for a range of sexual and reproductive health services to be provided to adolescents. It incorporates a core package of services including preventive, promotive, curative and counseling services. In Allahabad, the district has a lone Arsh clinic at the district women’s or Dufferin Hospital. The clinic caters to the needs of adolescents who come with sexual problems and counsellors advise them. These counsellors, in turn, are guided by a booklet which has chapters on specific reproductive or sexual issues that adolescents face. Chapter VIII of the booklet deals with the methods of using contraceptives. A line says, “Sabhi kishoriyan ECP kha sakti hain, bar bar istemal par, bina kisi rok-tok ke” (ECPs can be used time and again without any hindrance). This sentence has been termed as complete misinformation renowned gynecologists in the city as well as by health officials. The anomaly was found by a senior official of the district health department when she was called to conduct interviews for Arsh counsellors. “I thought of going through the pages of the booklet before asking questions in the interview but was astonished to see such a blunder,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.”It is documented that levonorgestrel, a synthetic progestin has the drawbacks of causing irregular bleeding, secondary amenorrhea, depression, headache, weight gain, migraine and ectopic pregnancy, can jeopardize the health of an individual taking ECPs on a regular basis,” said Dr Jaishree Naithani. “It is very worrying that they are permitting free usage of these pills and that too in a central government-run programme,” she added. Likewise, Dr Krishna Mukerjee of Kamla Nehru Hospital said, “Firstly, one should refrain from creating a situation where ECP has to be taken and if at all necessary, the dose has to be controlled as repeated usage makes the girl anemic in the long run”. Dr Amita Tripathi said, “Such programmes do have positive implications but dispersing such misinformation is dangerous as taking ECPs misbalances the menstrual cycle”. When additional director health, Dr Abha Srivastava was asked to comment on the error, she said, “I have informed my seniors that the information is not correct and should be rectified”. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

16. Private hospitals to stop CGHS cashless scheme from March 7 (3)

BANGALORE: In a blow to government employees, including those who have retired, the Central Government Health Service has announced withdrawal of cashless medical service in private hospitals empanelled with the CGHS scheme from March 7. Patients will henceforth have to cough up hospital charges and later claim the amount from the government, according to the new rule. The move will affect 50 lakh serving employees and over 30 lakh pensioners, as well as their family members. At a conservative estimate, the total number of persons affected could well be over two crore. The move was necessary, said the Association of Healthcare Providers India (or AHPI, the nodal body of private empanelled hospitals) for a number of reasons, the main ones being CGHS owes these hospitals around Rs 200 crore in unpaid services as well as “unreasonably low” CGHS tariffs that haven’t been revised for the last four years. A doctor’s consultation fee, for example, remains Rs 58. Also, AHPI says CGHS makes “illegal” deductions of 10% on all payments leading to losses for member hospitals. AHPI claims the amount runs up to Rs 180 crore. In Karnataka, 20 hospitals, all in Bangalore, are empanelled with AHPI. HCG, Apollo hospitals, MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital and Bangalore Baptist Hospital, among others, will not provide the cashless health scheme from March 7. “When we were empanelled with the government, it was agreed upon that we will get 10% rebate on treatment charges if the government pays within seven days. But now, this deduction has been made applicable even when the amount is unpaid for years. That’s illegal. This has led to huge losses for member hospitals amounting to over Rs 180 crore over the past three years,” says Dr Alexander Thomas, CEO, Bangalore Baptist hospital, who represents AHPI in Bangalore. Some hospitals have put up a public notice to this effect, reading, “CGHS tariffs are unreasonably low and not been revised for the last four years, threatening the very existence of the medical service providers.” Dr Naresh Shetty of AHPI said, “The empanelled hospitals have been providing services under most difficult circumstances. They had to deal with steep hikes in electricity and water tariff, consumables, wages, taxes. We’ve been requesting a revision since June 2013 but there’s been no response.” (Times of India 6/3/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

17. Congress leaders target Modi at minorities rally (7)

Bangalore: Congress leaders belonging to minority communities, and Congress state unit president Dr G Parameshwara, addressing a rally of minorities on Saturday called for defeat of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls. “The man who carried out a genocide in Gujarat is being projected as prime minister. What is the future for minorities if Modi becomes prime minister? Do we not have doubts about his agenda,’’ Dr Parameshwara said. The Congress leader also called for a minute’s silence for the souls of victims of the riots. Dr Parameshwar said minorities need not fear as Modi was just one among a dozen aspirants for the PM’s post including Mulayam Singh Yadav, Jayalalithaa, Lalu Prasad, Mayawati and Karnataka’s own H D Deve Gowda. “Narendra Modi is a non-entity,’’ he said. Aspirants for the Congress ticket from Bangalore Central, former Youth Congress president Rizwan Arshad, former railway minister Jaffer Sharief and former MP H T Sangliana addressed the rally. Arshad said the minority community would not allow an “RSS stooge” to be prime minister. “You must teach people, who believe they can govern this country by spilling blood of innocent people, a lesson. The lesson must be taught in polling booths,’’ Arshad said and called Rahul Gandhi the real leader of the youth. Minority community leaders demanded six seats for minorities to contest in the state, four for Muslim candidates and two for Christian candidates.(Indian Express 4/3/14)

 

18. Grave need haunts Christians, Muslims (7)

SAS Nagar: The Punjab government claims to have earmarked land for both Muslim and Christian graveyards in rural areas in compliance with the Punjab and Haryana high court directive but the ground reality is different. In its letter to the relevant authorities, the state government had also claimed to have raised signs at these graveyards. Punjab’s 4.5-lakh Christians and 7.50-lakh Muslims, in most rural areas of the state, have to bury their dead at Shamlat (common) land. The problem is acute in Gurdaspur district that is home to nearly 2-lakh Christians. Acting on the Punjab and Haryana high court directions after a public-interest petition by National Christian League president Jagdish Masih in December 2010, the Punjab government framed a policy for allotting burial land in rural areas to Christians and Muslims. However, till date, nothing much has been done. In a recent letter to the petitioner, the Punjab rural development and panchayat department director had stated that the burial land had been allotted in all districts and even the signs were up. “The Punjab government is playing with the sentiments of minorities. Even two years after framing the policy, no land is allocated, and the claim is just an election stunt,” said Masih. Parkash Masih, a member of the National Christian League from Hoshiarpur district, said: “For a decade, we have been fighting for land to bury our dead. We can’t comprehend how the government can be so insensitive.” Former Punjab Waqf Board chairperson Razia Sultana said: “The state government has failed to provide us with even burial space. It can make tall claims in newspapers but the truth is different, and at most places in the state, Muslims don’t have final resting place.” Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Abhinav Trikha claimed the issue had been resolved at most locations and, at other places, efforts were on to lay it to rest. “I’m unaware but I will look into it,” said Hoshiapur deputy commissioner Tanu Kashyap. (Hindustan Times 4/3/14)

 

19. Christians to march to Azad Maidan to protect land (7)

MUMBAI: Christians in Mumbai will march to Azad Maidan on Saturday to protest the unjust land acquisition notices issued to various churches and church-run schools. The protest is being held under the banner of Save Our Land (SOUL). Activists said since December they have been approaching various authorities including the municipal commissioner to withdraw the land acquisition notice in case of St Anthony’s church, Malwani, Malad (W). “The church structure is approximately 400 years old, the church has already given 10,000 sq feet of land for the current road acquisition. The measurement for land acquisition is not from the middle of the road and most of the acquisition is from the church side,” said activists. They pointed out that similar attempts at land acquisition has been made at St Peter’s church, Bandra, St Andrew’s church and the Parsi agiary lands also at Bandra. Similarly notices were issued to Sacred Heart church at Santa Cruz and Missionaries of Charity at Vile Parle. Activists have demanded permanent withdrawal of land acquisition notices to Our Lady of Assumption church, Kandivali and St Joseph school, Kandivali. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

20. Attacker, victim: 2 faces of Gujarat riots come together for ‘Hindu-Muslim’ unity (7)

At a seminar organised in Thaliparamba in Kerala’s Kannur district on Monday, two men sat together, smiling and talking. Twelve years ago, these men had entered India’s collective consciousness through their pictures published in the news media — images that went on to become iconic reminders of the Gujarat riots of 2002. One of the men was seen as the victim, wearing a shirt streaked with blood, pleading for mercy with folded hands, his eyes brimming with tears. The other appeared as the ruthless perpetrator of the violence, wearing a black beard and saffron Bajrang Dal bandana, standing with a leg on a signboard and both hands aloft, in one of which he held an iron rod. Behind him burnt a large fire. The first picture — of a tailor named Qutubuddin Ansari — was taken in Naroda Patiya, which saw some of the worst violence of the riots. The other picture, of Shahpur cobbler Ashok Bhavanbhai Parmar, or Ashok Mochi, was taken in Dudheshwar. On Monday, participating in a seminar cal‘ed ‘A decade of genocide’, organised by the CPM, the two men showed they had come a long way since February 28, 2002, the day their pictures were taken in riot-torn Ahmedabad. The men were brought together by journalist-activist Kaleem Siddiqui, who travelled with them to Kerala from Gujarat for the launch of a Malayalam edition of Ansari’s autobiography. Speaking at the seminar, Mochi apologised to Ansari and the entire Muslim community for the killings of 2002. The 40-year-old Ansari is now happily married with three children; the 39-year old Mochi, by contrast, does not even have a voter’s ID, and has been deprived of the benefits of all government schemes. Ansari has been trying to stay out of the public eye ever since his picture was used in an email allegedly sent by the Indian Mujahideen. Mochi said he has decided to devote his time to working for Hindu-Muslim amity, and to “improving my image of a communal zealot”. “It is because of my unsound financial position that I have not been able to get married,” Mochi told The Indian Express over the phone from Kerala. In 2002 he lived in Kajimiya ni Chali in Shahpur with his elder brother. He now lives across the road in Haleem ni Khadki. Cases were filed against him for rioting. “I was acquitted in the lower court because they could not get any evidence against me from local Muslims. The government appealed against the acquittal, and a judgment is now pending,” he said. (Indian Express 5/3/14)

 

21. Kandhamal nun rape case verdict on March 14 (7)

Cuttack: The Cuttack district sessions court has fixed March 14 to deliver its verdict in a case involving rape of a Christian nun allegedly by religious fanatics during Kandhamal riots in Odisha. The trial in the case began here in August 2010 and after the completion of the hearing yesterday, the court has fixed the said date. On the last day of the hearing, the counsel of the accused questioned the identity of the nun and wondered as to how the state crime branch police went to New Delhi and recorded her statements whose whereabouts came in the front after she held a press conference much later after the alleged incident. He further questioned the veracity of the statements of the prosecution and alleged that much of it is prevaricated. Thirty-eight people were killed in the Kandhamal riots during 2008 occurred in the tribal-dominated district in the aftermath of the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati at the Jalespata Ashram. The nun had alleged she was attacked, gang-raped and paraded semi-naked through the streets two days later in Kandhamal. (Zee News 5/3/14)

 

WOMEN

22. Woman allegedly raped, kept in confinement for 11 months (8)

Jaipur: A 30-year-old woman was allegedly raped for 11 months by a man who kept her locked in a room in Bhattabasti area here, police said on Tuesday. The woman in her complaint to a local court last year also accused Ramkhilari Saini and his wife Geeta of attempting to terminate her pregnancy. Following the court’s order to register an FIR in the case, police filed the victim’s complaint yesterday. A case under various sections of IPC including 376 for rape was lodged against the two accused, who are labourers and hail from Bamanwas in Sawaimadhopur district, police said, adding, both are absconding and efforts to nab them are on. Meanwhile, in a dowry-cum-sexual exploitation case, a 19-year-old newly-wed was allegedly raped by her father-in-law two days after she got married in Sanganer here. The incident took place on February 10 and FIR in this connection was lodged yesterday. According to the complaint, the victim said she was physically and mentally tortured by her in-laws for dowry. The FIR has been lodged against ten persons including her husband, police said. (Zee News 4/3/14)

 

23. US First Lady Felicitates Indian Acid Attack Victim Laxmi (8)

WASHINGTON: US First Lady Michelle Obama has felicitated Indian acid attack victim Laxmi after she won the International Women of Courage Award for successfully leading the campaign against acid attacks on women in India. Obama and the large crowd at the State Department auditorium was moved and touched when Laxmi, a standard-bearer of the movement to end acid attacks, recited a poem recounting her experience on the occasion yesterday. “You haven’t thrown acid on my face; you threw it on my dreams. You didn’t have love in your heart; you had acid in it,” Laxmi recited soon after receiving the prestigious award along with several other women from different parts of the world including Afghanistan and Fiji. The original poem was in Hindi. Laxmi was 16 when an acquaintance threw acid on her face while she waited at a bus stop in New Delhi’s busy Khan Market in 2005, disfiguring her permanently. Her attacker, a friend’s 32-year-old brother, threw the acid to destroy Laxmi’s face after she refused to respond to his romantic advances. Recognition for her effort through this award, is a great encouragement and motivation for the girls and women of India, many of whom still are not able to speak out against the atrocities inflicted upon them, Laxmi said soon after receiving the award. “After this award, girls of India would think, if Laxmi can do this, I can also raise my voice against injustice,” Laxmi told PTI in an interview. Last year, Nirbhaya, the courageous 23-year-old girl whose brutal gang rape and murder on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012 triggered widespread protests, was honoured with the award. Ruing that acid is still being sold without following the recent Supreme Court order in this regard; Laxmi demanded the creation of a high level committee at the national level to prevent acid attacks against women. “Victims of acid attacks not only be given compensation, but also the entire medical expense be meted by the Government. The victim should be given a government job and given justice through fast track courts,” Laxmi said and urged the political parties to incorporate this in their election manifesto for the forthcoming elections. “There was never any love in your eyes. They burn me with caustic glance. I am sad that your corrosive name will always be the part of my identity that I carry with this face. Time will not come to my rescue. Every Thursday will remind me of you,” Laxmi said reciting her poem with the First Lady and other top US officials on the dais. “When we see these women raise their voices and move their feet and empower others to create change, we need to realise that each of us has that same power and that same obligation,” the First Lady said in her speech. “And as I learned about this year’s honorees and I thought about how we could support their work, I realised that for most of these women, there is a common foundation for their efforts. It’s a foundation of education,” she said. Observing that she always walks away feeling inspired by these women, determined to reflect their courage in her own life, Obama said she is not alone in that feeling because every day with every life they touch and every spirit they raise, these women are creating ripples that stretch across the globe. “Last year on this stage, we honoured the memory of a tremendous young Indian woman known simply as Nirbhaya. This tragedy sparked outrage and inspired people all over the world to come together to say no more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens, no more stigma against victim or survivors,” said Deputy Secretary of State, Heather A Higginbottom. “That is also the message of Laxmi from India. Acid attacks are committed almost exclusively on women, particularly on young women,” she said. “Many of the victims feel they have no choice but to withdraw from society or even commit suicide, and they’re more common than you might realise, in part because it’s such an easy weapon to get your hands on. Until recently, anyone could walk into a store and buy a litre of acid as cheaply and as easily as a bottle of window cleaner,” she said. “But after her attack, Laxmi became a tireless campaigner against acid attacks. Thanks to her hard work and tremendous diligence, Laxmi was successful in petitioning the Supreme Court to order the Indian government to regulate the sale of acid and to make prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue. And she continues to push for progress still today,” she said. “For fearless advocacy on behalf of victims of acid attacks and for bringing hope to survivors of gender-based violence and disfigurement, we name Laxmi a Woman of Courage,” Higginbottom said. (New Indian Express 5/3/14)

 

24. Major report reveals ‘extensive’ abuse of women in EU (8)

Vienna: A third of women in Europe have suffered a physical or sexual assault and five percent have been raped, a major new study revealed Wednesday, uncovering “extensive human rights abuse” throughout the European Union. In addition, just over one in 10 women indicated that they experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15 years old, according to the large-scale survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The damning report “shows that physical, sexual and psychological violence against women is an extensive human rights abuse in all EU Member States,” the group’s director Morten Kjaerum said. One in 10 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, one in 20 has been raped, and just over one in five has experienced physical and/or sexual violence from either a current or previous partner, the report by the Vienna-based FRA said. Kjaerum called for measures tackling violence against women “to be taken to a new level now”.The FRA, which interviewed 42,000 women aged 18-74 across the 28-nation bloc for the report, said it was the most comprehensive of its kind to date both in the EU and worldwide. “What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women’s lives, but is systematically under-reported to the authorities,” Kjaerum said. The FRA probed women’s experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence including domestic abuse, as well as stalking, sexual harassment, childhood experiences and the role played by new technologies. “Yet, as an illustration, only 14 percent of women reported their most serious incident of intimate partner violence to the police, and 13 percent reported their most serious incident of non-partner violence to the police,” Kjaerum said. He said that “violence against women, and specifically gender-based violence that disproportionately affects women, is an extensive human rights abuse that the EU cannot afford to overlook”.The emotional and psychological consequences of physical and sexual violence “can be long-lasting and deep-seated,” the survey said. Over a fifth of the victims of sexual violence suffered from panic attacks, over a third became depressed and 43 percent spoke of difficulty in subsequent relationships as a result. There were sizeable differences when the survey’s findings are broken up by country. At the top end, 52 percent of women in Denmark were said to have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse, while the rate was 47 percent in Finland and 46 percent in Sweden. At the other end of the scale, the report found that 19 percent of women in Poland had suffered in the same way, 20 percent in Austria and 21 percent in Croatia. The report said higher levels of gender equality could lead to more disclosure of violence in some countries. The report also cited a World Health Organisation finding of “a relationship between perpetrators’ drinking habits and women’s experiences of domestic violence”, noting that differing drinking patterns among countries could help explain certain aspects of such abuse. (Zee News 5/3/14)

 

25. Newborn thrown into river, survives (8)

BHOPAL: A newly born girl child was thrown in a river soon after birth but was saved. The girl was thrown into the river but was saved as she got stuck into the vegetation and bushes near the river. The incident was reported from Morena district of Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday. The child was spotted when a person travelling on the bridge over the river, saw the kid. The child was rushed to a hospital. It is suspected that the child was thrown because of her sex. The region has one of the worst sex ratio where female infanticide is widely prevalent. The police have registered a case against the unidentified persons who threw the baby. The local policemen are trying to identity those who abandoned the kid. (Times of India 6/3/14)

 

TERRORISM

26. 27 dead, 109 injured in ‘terror’ attack at Chinese train station (12)

Beijing: At least 27 persons were killed and more than 100 injured in what authorities have called a terrorist attack at a railway station in the city of Kunming in southwest China on Saturday night. State media reports said knife-wielding assailants rushed into the Kunming railway station around 9pm on Saturday and indiscriminately targeted people, triggering panic and chaos in and around the station. In the ensuing attack, at least 27 were killed and as many as 109 were injured, police were quoted by the state media as saying. Many of the unidentified assailants were overpowered and detained by the police. Some agency reports said that police shot at the assailants as well. An Associated Press report said the attackers were wearing black uniforms. While the incident happened in China’s deep south, it is expected to cast a shadow of unease on the upcoming meetings of the Communist country’s National People’s Congress and its advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee beginning Monday. Security had anyway been heightened because of the meetings but following Saturday’s incident, an unprecedented security blanket is expected to be thrown over Beijing for the next few weeks. Knife attacks in China are not uncommon but none of similar attacks have been carried out in such a large-scale. In recent history, several cases have been reported where Chinese citizens carried out knife assaults, some with grievances against officials. In at least one case, a knife wielding man had attacked school children… (Hindustan Times 1/3/14)

 

27. Tribunal starts hearing on extremist groups in Tripura (12)

Agartala: The central government tribunal has started its hearing in Agartala on Monday to scrutiny legal locus standi over decision of the union government to declare two extremist groups unlawful. The proceedings chaired by Delhi Court Judge Justice Veena Birbal would continue till Wednesday before delivering a judgment. The union government declared National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) outlawed under unlawful activities (prevention) act almost 15 years ago and renews the ban every year. The state police officials earlier said the ATTF has completely lost its strength to carry on subversive activities following arrest of its chief Ranjit Debbarma and NLFT also lost its ground except some pockets in state’s Dhalai district. However, the CPI(M) led Left Front government is in favour of continuation of the ban order till the extremist groups are completely wiped out. The extremists had taken lives of thousands, kidnapped huge no. of people and displaced a few lakhs in two decade-long insurgency in the state which often triggered bloody strife between tribal and non-tribal communities. Justice Ms Birbal and 12 other officials including Additional Solicitor General Rajiva Mehra and union government standing counsel Sumit Pushkaran arrived and joined in the first hearing at Tripura state guest house in the afternoon. Tripura government appointed lawyer Gopal Sinha also came from Delhi to represent state in tribunal. Senior police officials and some witnesses deposed before the tribunal which had issued notices to all concerned parties in November last year to submit representation in person or through representative. However NLFT and ATTF are unlikely to be represented in the hearings. (The Hindu 3/3/14)

 

28. BJP sees terror from communal angle, Nitish Kumar says (12)

PATNA: Reacting to the ‘venom’ spitted by his political rival and BJP’s PM pick Narendra Modi at Muzaffarpur on Monday, chief minister Nitish Kumar said ‘a poisonous person can only spit poison’. “He has openly attacked the pride of Bihar and its 11 crore people by alleging that Bihar has become a haven for terrorists. If on the basis of one or two incidents Bihar is called a haven of terrorism, what shall we say about several such incidents happening in Gujarat or other parts of the country?” Kumar asked while talking to a group of mediapersons here on Tuesday. The CM accused Modi and BJP of taking advantage of terror acts and said, “There is a strong suspicion of some nexus (between the BJP and terrorists) to give political benefit to the saffron party.” He asked, “Who gained from the blasts at Gandhi Maidan here before Modi’s rally and who suffered?” “It is amply clear who benefitted from terrorism. Had there been no blasts at Gandhi Maidan, the rally would not have been worth mentioning,” said the CM and added that the state police caught the culprits in no time and even solved the Bodh Gaya temple blasts case. Nitish said some people see terrorism from a communal angle and this is a big challenge. He alleged, “Some people are taking politics to such lows and propagating lies like the founder of fascism, Hitler. The hypocrites are hurling allegations on me, but people believe in communal harmony and will not be misguided by such poisonous propaganda.” He said all is not well in BJP over the projection of its prime ministerial candidate and new alliances, and added that the Muzaffarpur rally attracted poor response. About third front, Nitish said that was the real pain for some of his detractors. They feel a threat because of this non-BJP and non-Congress front of 11 parties. Asked about any possibility of JD (U)’s alliance with the Congress, he said, “There is neither such a proposal nor talks at any level.” He added that his party has finalized an alliance with the CPI and talks are going on with the CPM. About RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, the CM said he was desperate to get into alliance with any party and added, “He has already offloaded 10 seats.” Nitish recalled that LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan had been claiming secular credentials for quitting the NDA government following the Gujarat riots, but was now cozying up to Modi. He (Paswan) had got himself introduced to the then Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, in Islamabad as the man who sacrificed his ministry for secularism and in protest against communal riots, even as internal affairs are not discussed on foreign land, Nitish said. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

29. Attacks in Baghdad area kill 21 people  (1)

Baghdad: Bombings mainly targeting Shiite areas of Baghdad and attacks on security force checkpoints in and around the capital killed at least 21 people Wednesday, officials said. Iraq has been hit by a year-long surge in bloodshed that has reached levels not seen since 2008, driven by widespread discontent among its Sunni Arab minority and the bloody civil war in neighbouring Syria. And Baghdad is hit by near-daily bombings and shootings. Wednesday’s seven car bombs and two roadside bombs, which struck six different areas of Baghdad, killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 70 people, the officials said. One of the car bombs exploded near the University of Technology in the Karrada district of central Baghdad, killing three people and wounding at least 10. “The terrorist was planning to blow up the car on the main road near the university,” but security forces do not allow cars to stop there so he instead left it on a side street, a police officer at the scene said. An AFP journalist saw the charred remains of the car, and said two cars and several nearby homes were damaged by the blast. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, Sunni jihadists often target members of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, whom they consider to be apostates. Gunmen later attacked three checkpoints in Baghdad while a roadside bomb exploded near a fourth in Tarmiyah, north of the capital, killing at least four police and three soldiers. Gunmen also attacked a bus northeast of the city of Baquba, killing an Indian man and wounding four others. The violence came a day after two suicide bombers attacked the city council headquarters in Samarra, north of Baghdad, and took employees hostage. A third bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle after police and anti-Al-Qaeda militiamen arrived at the scene, while the two inside blew themselves up after exchanging fire with security forces.The violence, which showcased the impunity with which militants can strike even targets that should be highly secure, killed six people and wounded 46. Powerful militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which operates in both Iraq and Syria, claimed the attack in a statement posted on the Honein jihadist forum. The statement said that “three lions of the Islamic State” attacked the building, “killed its guards and executed its members, and took complete control of the council.” Militants have carried out similar assaults elsewhere in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad, and battled security forces for control of the Sulaiman Bek area, killing dozens of people. The government also faces a more than two-month crisis in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where it has lost the city of Fallujah as well as shifting parts of provincial capital Ramadi to anti-government militants. This is the first time anti-government forces have exercised such open control in major cities since the peak of the deadly violence that followed the US-led invasion of 2003. More than 370,000 people may have been displaced by the violence in Anbar during the latest crisis, according to the United Nations. Violence in Iraq has killed more than 1,800 people since January 1, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources. (Zee News 6/3/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

30. Two suspected Maoists killed in Odisha encounter (12)

BERHAMPUR: Two suspected Maoists were killed during an exchange of fire inside the jungle under the Pottangi police station area of Koraput district in south Odisha on Tuesday. Speaking to The Hindu, Koraput Superintendent of Police (SP) Awinash Kumar said as per initial reports the uniform of the slain men hinted that they were Maoist commanders. Their identity was being ascertained. But they were suspected to be members of Koraput-Srikakulam division under the “Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee” (AOBSZC) of the outlawed CPI (Maoist). The security personnel have also seized two carbines, two magazines of fire arms and a grenade from the encounter spot. The encounter occurred during an anti-Maoist operation by the District Voluntary Force (DVF) of Koraput police, which had been initiated following intelligence reports that a group of hardcore Maoists were camping in the jungle under Pottangi police station bordering Andhra Pradesh. The DVF personnel tracked down this group of Maoists near Golluru inside the jungle, said the SP. When the ultras opened fire, it was retaliated by the security personnel, leading to the death of the two. Others in the camp managed to escape. Security personnel have intensified search operations in the area with sealing of inter-State border to nab the escaped persons. On August 27, 2013, four personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) were killed and three others were injured in a landmine blast by Maoists on NH26 in Pottangi police station area. After the incident, security personnel have kept extra vigil in this region. (The Hindu 4/3/14)

 

31. Join mainstream, SP urges Maoists (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The tribal people of Mukudupalli and Gorrilametta and surrounding villages in Koyyuru mandal in the Agency area of the district appealed to Superintendent of Police Vikram Jeet Duggal, Officer on Special Duty (Narsipatnam) A.R. Damodar and their team to sanction roads, schools, transport and water facilities to their villages. These villages, located around 50-km away from the Galikonda base, the Maoist stronghold in the area, do not have basic transport facilities. A meeting, Sadhbhavana Yatra, was held at Mukudupalli village on Monday. Addressing the meeting, the SP said roads were the lifeline for development of the tribal areas and an answer to their problems. The efforts of the government machinery to provide roads and basic infrastructure facilities were being opposed by the Maoists. They were burning road laying equipment and were threatening contractors which indicates that they do not espouse the cause of the development of tribal people. Referring to the recent murder of the Balapam sarpanch Sindri Karla, he said the killing of a man, who was working for the welfare of tribal people was a reflection of the desperation of the Maoists to retain their waning support among tribal people. Mr. Duggal called upon the Maoists to shun violence and join the mainstream of society. He appealed to them to surrender and promised that all they would get all help from the government. Responding to the plea of the tribal people, he promised to take their grievances such as lack of roads and communication facilities to the notice of the Collector and strive to get them solved. The SP distributed saris to tribal women, lungis to men and volleyball kits to youth. The SP and his team had community lunch with the tribal people. Assistant Superintendent of Police (Narsipatnam) Vishal Gunni, IPS Trainee Kamlesh Kumar and Inspectors Venkata Rao (SBX), G. Somasekhar (Koyyuru), KNSV Prasad (Chintapalli) and G. Rambabu (G.K. Veedhi) participated in the yatra. (The Hindu 4/3/14)

 

32. ‘Adequate Police Force to Be Deployed in Naxal-Hit Areas’ (12)

Bokaro: Three of the seven districts under North Chhotanagpur Division in Jharkhand are the most sensitive areas and adequate security personnel would be deployed there in the run up to the General Elections, a senior police official said today. “Areas under Giridih, Bokaro and Chatra districts are sensitive as they are naxalite affected. Maximum security personnel will be deployed in these areas,” Inspector General of Police (North Chhotanagpur Division) Laxman Prasad Singh told reporters here. He chaired a meeting with SPs of Giridih, Bokaro, Chatra, Dhanbad, Koderma, Ramgarh and Hazaribagh under the division to chalk out operational strategies ahead of the three-phase elections in the state beginning April 10. “We are ready to conduct elections peacefully. A survey of booths under naxal-affected areas is also underway,” he said. The meeting comes in the backdrop of recent reports that the union Home Ministry has sent an advisory to various states to step up operations in naxal strong-hold areas and the forces must remain in ‘mission mode’ during the entire electoral process to ensure peaceful elections. The 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand are going for polls on April 10, 17 and 24. The police officer also appealed to the extremists to join the mainstream. (Outlook 7/3/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

33. Over 350,000 families displaced in Syria (13)

Damascus: There are 350,177 internally displaced families living in shelters inside the country, the Syrian social affairs ministry has revealed. The number reflects the displaced families registered in local displacement shelters from the country’s 14 governorates, but around 5,878,317 internally displaced people are currently living outside of the protection of the local shelters, reported Xinhua citing recent data by the ministry. According to the report, the ministry is working to provide displaced people with basic necessities and is working inside the displacement shelters in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Apart from those who are internally displaced, millions of other Syrians have sought refuge outside their country, mainly in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Recent statistics showed that 9.3 million Syrians, half of whom are children, are in need of basic necessities. Around 2.5 million Syrians live in areas cut off by the conflict and around 1.9 million Syrian children are unable to attend school. Syria’s civilians have been hard hit by the three-year-old conflict that has already killed more than 100,000 people since opposition protesters first sought the ouster of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. (Zee News 4/3/14)

 

34. Resolution Wants Serious Focus on Justice, Reconciliation Issues (13)

Colombo: The first draft of the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka has given the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) the mandate to investigate alleged rights violations and related crimes by both the Lankan  government and LTTE. The resolution encourages the High Commissioner and special procedures mandate holders to advise and technically assist on implementing the above-mentioned steps. It calls upon the SL govt to co-operate with the High Commissioner’s office. While asking the UN High Commissioner to investigate, the US resolution also calls upon the SL govt to conduct “independent and credible” investigations into violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law and to “hold accountable those responsible for such violation and end continuing incidents of human rights violations”. While acknowledging the progress made by the SL govt in re-building infrastructure, de-mining and re-settling Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), the resolution noted that “considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation, demilitarisation and the resumption of livelihoods”. The resolution also calls upon Colombo to implement the recommendations of its own LLRC, and investigate all attacks on temples, churches, mosques, journalists, human rights and civil society activists and religious minorities. It wants the perpetrators to be brought to account and recurrence of such attacks prevented. The resolution wants the Lankan government to release the report of the army’s inquiry into its alleged excesses and encourages it to “provide the NPC and its CM with the resources and authority to govern, as required by the 13th Amendment .’’(New Indian Express 5/3/14)

 

35. Bonded to brick-kilns, migrants from Odisha may forfeit vote (13)

BHUBANESWAR: Tied to brick-kilns in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka because of a ‘debt-bondage,’ more than three lakh migrant workers from the western districts of Odisha will miss out on voting in the Lok Sabha polls. Odisha is going to the polls in two phases, on April 10 and 17. However, most migrant workers from these districts must have to slog away at brick-making till mid-June because they have taken a loan from labour agents, promising to work from November to June. A mere hint from them at leave of absence for voting is provoking brick manufacturers. Jagannath Banchoor, along with 200 others, is working in a brick-kiln in the Ellapuram block of Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu. “Many of us came to the brick-kiln in November-December last. None will be allowed to leave before June 15. Sensing that political parties might contact us, the employers have asked us not to take phone calls,” Banchoor told The Hindu on the phone. According to official data, the State government has granted licence to 3,046 contractors for taking 1,18,451 labourers to other States. Back in 2001, 1.44 lakh people from the districts of the Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region migrated for work. According to Umi Daniel, head of the Migration Information and Resource Centre (MiRC), Aide et Action South Asia, more than 60,000 families (around three lakh people) migrate from the districts of Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Bargarh, Sonepur and Sambalpur every year. “If migration from all other districts is taken into account, the population that migrates to work in brick kilns and the construction sector will not be less than four-five lakh. Around three lakhs of them must be eligible voters,” Mr. Daniel said. At the same time, migration within Odisha has assumed dangerous proportions. Around Bhubaneswar, at least 4,000 brick-kilns have come up, both legally and illegally. They engage thousands of people from the districts of Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Ganjam, Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi and Bargarh. Migrant workers within the State seem better off than those stuck in brick-kilns of other States. While many brick manufacturers here are reluctantly ready to give workers leave for a couple of days to vote, many others fear they will not return once allowed to go. At Bingharpur, on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, Bhagya Nayak, 35, from Paladhuajali in Ganjam district, said: “The local Sarpanch may send a bus to take us for voting. Of the 700-odd families of our village, members of 400 families are working in different brick-kilns here.” Mr. Daniel said: “Migrant workers from Ganjam have a better social network. They could collectively bargain for a few days of leave to go to their villages. But migrants from western Odisha districts have slipped into bondage. There is a little chance of these workers getting freedom before June and July.” (The Hindu 6/3/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

36. Goa: 14 Minors Rescued From Circus, Owner Held for Rape (14)

Panaji: At least 18 persons including 14 minors were rescued during a a raid at a circus in Margao town and the circus owner along with his aide was arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl, police said today. Besides the 40-year-old owner of the circus, Abdul Khan from Assam, the joint team of Goa women’s police station and district police also arrested three other persons on various charges. “Six minor girls, eight minor boys and four adults who were employed by the circus owner when they were minors, have been rescued during the raid conducted this morning. Local forest department and labour department were also roped in,” Deputy Inspector General of Police O P Mishra told reporters. Khan and his 25-year-old accomplice Virendra Chandra Mandal have been arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl, who was trafficked when she was a year old. Three others- Vijay Nikumb, Ram Prasad and Rohan Singh– have been charged under various sections dealing with child labour, human trafficking, bonded labour, among others. Besides the rape charge, Khan and Mandal have also been booked under all these other charges. Mishra said that police is trying to ascertain whether other girls were also sexually abused by the accused. According to police, the issue came to light this week after three girls from the circus, including the rape victim escaped from Margao and landed in Thane (Maharashtra) on their way to Howrah (West Bengal). One of the girls fell on the platform and was rescued by Mumbai police, which then came to know about the “horrifying experiences” of the girls in Moonlight Circus, which is originally from Assam and travels around the country. A Mumbai-based NGO ‘International Justice Mission’ had recorded the statement of the girl, who in turn informed Goa counterpart – ARZ (Anyay Rahit Zindagi), about the presence of several other girls in the circus. “The girls were brought by the circus owner when they are as young as one year old and later made to work in circus. During the probe, we would know whether other girls were also sexually abused,” the DIG said. Police said that the circus had arrived in Goa recently and was supposed to move to Kudal in Maharashtra which was its next stop. (Outlook 1/3/14)

 

37. Child rights body to examine Chanho boy’s autopsy report (14)

RANCHI: Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR) will examine the postmortem report of the seven-year-old Chanho boy who died because of lung illness according to autopsy but was alleged to be a victim of corporal punishment. Member of JSCPCR, Sanjay Mishra, said, “The postmortem report say the boy died of lung ailment. But, the investigation report by police and JSCPCR has raised questions on the role of the teacher, Mohd Arshand Ansari, in the child’s death. On Monday, we will meet the director of Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences and the doctors there to get details of the autopsy done.” Members of JSCPCR, along with the district education superintendent, went to Chanho on Saturday to probe the boy’s death. Mishra said, “National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), New Delhi had taken a suo moto cognizance of the case and demanded a report on the child’s death. We have submitted a basic report. The detailed report is yet to be submitted so we visited Chanho.” Mishra added that the report is likely to be prepared by Monday evening and he will take it to Delhi on Tuesday. The JSCPCR team did not only probe police action but also interacted with the child’s family and villagers to know the truth. Mishra said, “The boy’s younger brother said he was beaten up by a thick piece of wood in class. His parents said the next day the boy complained of back pain and two days later he died.” Villagers, too, said the teacher was known for beating up children in his class. Mishra said, “The teacher has also been accused of mismanaging midday meals.” JSCPCR was convinced with police role. “Police have applied appropriate IPC sections against the teacher. In fact, this is the first time in the state that Section 17 (1) of Right to Education Act has been implemented in any case and this will be a milestone in the implementation of RTE,” said Mishra. Section 17 (1) of RTE Act says that no child should be subjected to physical torture or mental harassment. The other section implemented against the teacher includes Section 23 of Juvenile Justice Act which elaborates on punishment for cruelty to children. It says, whoever, having the actual charge of or control over a juvenile or the child, assaults, abandons, exposes or willfully neglects the juvenile or causes or procures him to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected in a manner likely to cause such juvenile or the child unnecessary mental or physical suffering shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or fine, or both. Besides, Sec 304 of Indian Penal Code, which talks about culpable homicide was imposed on the teacher. (Times of India 2/3/14)

 

38. Inclusion of child-friendly policies in manifestos sought (14)

Bangalore: With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, scores of children on Monday visited the offices of some political parties seeking inclusion of child-friendly policies in their election manifestos. Nagasimha G. Rao, campaign coordinator of the Karnataka Child Rights Observatory (KCRO), said that children visited the offices of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) parties and submitted memorandums. They sought measures to tackle malnutrition and enforcement of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. Their other demands included strengthening children’s homes in State, holding childrens’ gram sabhas regularly, and making education and healthcare facilities accessible to children with disabilities. Monica R., Class 7 student, underlined the need to upgrade infrastructure at the State-run hospitals. “Children’s health is a major area of concern. We want the government to ensure that the government hospitals are child-friendly.” Kavita C., Class 8 student, said: “Even though we do not have voting rights, we hope political parties will take our demands seriously.” She said steps should be taken to ensure all children in State were sent to school. (The Hindu 3/3/14)

 

39. Slum kids to go to posh schools (14)

Ranchi: Come Wednesday  and over 5,000 slum children of Jharkhand will begin to attend classes at private and government schools in Jharkhand. The endeavour is part of the street to school programme of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). Initially, the children have been picked from the slums of Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Bokaro and Dhanbad districts of the state. Later, children from other districts will also get the opportunity. The idea inspired by the right to education and is aimed at dropping the separating veil of haves and have-nots as far as education is concerned . The move will help the under privileged students get an opportunity to feel and be part of the mainstream education. Classes at these schools will also be conducted in the evening especially for the working children who work at garages and hotels in the day time. At least five qualified teachers would be appointed for teaching these children at each school. The members of Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR), the organising body of the programme at the state level, had been in talks with various private schools in the concerned areas for past couple of months and the school authorities agreed to provide their infrastructure for the purpose. This initiative will also encourage the schools to successfully follow the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, which specifies that each private school should enroll at least 25% children from the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category. The children from the slums who would study in these schools free of charge would be added in the percentage of BPL category children studying in the school under the RTE guidelines. Since the formation of the Act, the schools in Jharkhand had been claiming that they were open to enrolling  the BPL category children but few approached them. Other than the child rights commissions at the national and the state level, various other stakeholders such as the social welfare department and the human resource development department along with a few NGOs such as the Bachpan Bachao Andolan are actively involved in the programme. Sanjay Mishra, member, JSCPCR said, “We had addressed letters to many private companies asking them to provide books, clothes and other necessary items for these children under CSR activities, most of them have agreed.” (Hindustan Times 5/3/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

40. Farmers seek livelihood security (20)

Ahmedabad: With elections around the corner, farmers in the state came together along with other groups across the country to demand income and livelihood security to be made key promises by all parties. The groups held a meeting at Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad during a seminar on the recent approval of Genetically Modified (GM) crop trials by Environment Minister and Kisan Swaraj Niti in the context of upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Key demands included land, forests and seed to remain in the control of rural communities and not be allowed to be monopolised by corporates for their profiteering. Farm unions and civil society groups also demanded open-air releases of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the garb of field trials be stopped. “It is a shame for the entire nation that on an average, one farmer in this country is committing suicide every half an hour; every day, around 2,300 farmers are quitting agriculture. Despite so many years of so called agricultural development and Green Revolution, the average monthly income of an overwhelming majority of Indian farmers is far less than what their average monthly expenditure is, making it difficult for most farm households to make their ends meet. The largest displacement in human history is happening from Indian agriculture,” said Devinder Sharma, food policy analyst. Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust said, “Official data shows that around 25 per cent of our land is degraded because of the chemical and water intensive technologies that we have adopted; it is being predicted that in another 20 years, 60 per cent of our groundwater resources will reach a critical state. In places like Punjab, most of the area is already under Dark and Grey zones. Our seed diversity has been badly eroded. A variety of measures have to be adopted to take this up, and we want political parties to promise that ecological farming will get a huge thrust.” Talking about the need for ensuring that resources like land and seed are not grabbed and alienated from farmers, Maganbhai Patel of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh explained that without control over such resources in the hands of farmers, livelihood and food security cannot be ensured. (Indian Express 4/3/14)

 

41. Two farmers attempt suicide, another suffers heart attack (20)

BHOPAL: After hailstorms wrecked crops across the state, the spate of suicide attempts by farmers continued despite chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s compensation promise. Two farmers attempted suicide and one suffered a heart attack allegedly due to crop damage in Damoh district on Tuesday. This is the fourth suicide bid in a week by devastated peasants. Swadesh, 21, resident of Berkheda village in Damoh consumed poison due to crop damage. Sources said Swadesh cultivated wheat and gram on 30 acres of rented land and after rain ravaged his fields, he did not have money to even pay rent to his landlord. This forced him to attempt suicide, said villagers. In another incident, Puran Singh Lodhi, 35, resident of Hardua village also tried to kill himself after surveying his wrecked crop. Another farmer, Antram Patel, 45, resident of Khaujakhedi village of Damoh could not bear the shock and suffered a heart attack. All three have been admitted at the district hospital. District collector Swatantra Kumar Singh said, “We are investigating the cases. Officials are taking statements of the villagers and a field verification would be done”. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

42. Farmers’ groups give wish list to parties (20)

NEW DELHI: More than 100 farmers’ organisations from about 14 states on Thursday presented a charter of demands to political parties for their considering while preparing the manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections. The groups demanded guarantee of minimum income for farm households, ecologically sustainable farming, shift to organic farming and control of rural communities over agricultural resources, including land, water, forests and seeds. They also demanded that open-air release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the garb of field trials be stopped. Farmers’ representatives spoke out against land acquisation for industries. “We are not against industry, but we don’t want farmers to give away their fertile land, as it is possible to establish an industry elsewhere but impossible to make a barren land fertile,” said Rohtas Rathee, national secretary of Bharat Kisan Union. Citing census data, farmers’ representatives said on an average, one farmer commits suicide every half an hour. Everyday, hundreds of farmers are quitting agriculture. “The average monthly income of an overwhelming majority of Indian farmers is far less than what their average monthly expenditure is, making it difficult for most farm households to make their ends meet,” said Kavita Kuruganti, convenor for Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. “What is the point of increasing the food grain production if the farmers are not benefiting from it,” Kuruganti said. The members also stressed on the formation of a farm income commission to ensure minimum living income for the farmers. “There should be a farm income commission to oversee and ensure minimum living income to all farm households, through assessment and focused recommendation,” said Rathee. (Times of India 7/3/14)

 

HINDUTVA

43. RSS apex body, affiliated organizations to meet in Bangalore from March 7 (26)

BANGALORE: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s highest policy making body, Akhil Bharateeya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), is holding its annual three-day meeting here from March 7, when it would review its activities and discuss important national issues. RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat and general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji would chair the meeting, in which representatives elected from different Shakhas all over the country, state-level office-bearers and national functionaries of Sangh affiliated organizations would take part. Prominent leaders from BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, ABVP, Bharateeya Kisan Sangh, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Bharateeya Mazdoor Sangh would attend the meeting, besides those from Rashtra Sevika Samithi and Swadeshi Jagran Manch and other outfits, RSS said in a release. (Times of India 4/3/14)

 

44. Hindus Use ‘Namo’ in Referrence to God: Parrikar (26)

PANAJI: The Hindu community uses the word “Namo” while referring to god, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told the state assembly Wednesday as legislators debated the intricacies surrounding the BJP’s “NaMo” chant. “For Hindus, Namo is god’s name,” Parrikar said during question hour, responding to a question from Congress legislator Aleixo Reginaldo. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader quoted a Sanskrit phrase “Namo Vasudevaya namaha” and said “Namo means namaskar”.Parrikar said the word “Namo” invoked the name of Hindu deity Lord Vishnu. At this point, Lourenco said Parrikar was actually equating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi – who is also popularly referred to as NaMo – to god. But Parrikar said the other NaMo, to which Lourenco was referring, was gearing up the country to bid goodbye to the Congress. “In a way, that NaMo is saying namaskar to the Congress,” the chief minister said. (New Indian Express 5/3/14)

 

45. Stage set for high-profile Sangh meet (26)

Bangalore: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Wednesday inspected preparations being made for the three-day Akhila Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the meeting of the Sangh Parivar’s apex decision-making body, scheduled to be held at Rashtrothana Vidya Kendra at Thanisandra in Bangalore from March 7. Top functionaries of the Sangh Parivar and BJP national president Rajnath Singh will attend the meeting, which is scheduled to draw up a plan for among others their expansion activities. The meeting will review the activities conducted by the RSS in the last one year. As many as 1,400 representatives elected from different shakhas, State-level office-bearers and national functionaries affiliated to the Parivar organisations will attend, Manmohan Vaidya, RSS all-India media cell convenor, told reporters. Almost all representatives have already arrived in Bangalore. However, Rajnath Singh is scheduled to participate in the meeting only on March 8 as he will be busy canvassing for the Lok Sabha elections. The meeting is not scheduled to discuss politics. It will be confined to the activities of the RSS. Bhagwat will chair the meeting, he said. The meeting will review the activities of each of the 40 provinces of the RSS. It has been planned to conduct about 65 training camps across the country in the coming days. The meeting will finalise venues and dates for conducting the camps. Besides, evaluation of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda organised by the RSS will be conducted, he said. Asked whether the meeting will discuss the coming Lok Sabha elections, Vaidya said the meeting has nothing to do with politics. But the RSS workers have been involving themselves in awareness campaigns on the need for voting in the elections and they will continue to do so, he said. The meeting of the Akhila Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal of the RSS will be held on Thursday ahead of the Pratinidhi Sabha meeting. A huge pandal has been erected at a ground adjacent to the Rashtrothana Vidya Kendra for conducting the meeting. Arrangements are being made for organising an exhibition on the activities of the RSS. (Deccan Herald 6/3/14)