Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 27 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Table pending reports in Tamil Nadu assembly: RTI activists (1)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government, which has displayed extraordinary lack of compliance with rules under the Right To Information Act, 2005, will have a chance to come good in the upcoming session of the Tamil Nadu assembly. Activists have strongly urged the government to place all pending reports of the state information commission in the House during the session. The state government last tabled reports on RTI applications in 2006-07. Annual reports by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission should declare the number of RTI applications received by public information officers (PIOs) of overnment departments, cases disposed of and fines imposed on PIOs by the commission for violation of rules under the RTI Act. State chief information commissioner K S Sripathi recently pleaded helplessness over the information not being made public, saying his department had sent reports till 2010-11 to the government, which tabled reports only till 2006-07 in the assembly . “We can’t publish annual reports before they are placed in the assembly .” A survey by NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative found that Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Manipur, Sikkim and Tripura have all failed to table reports of their RTI cases in the assembly or put them online, which is mandatory under the RTI Act. Gujarat recently made amends. Maharashtra, which has an impeccable record, has placed annual reports in the assembly every year to evaluate the implementation of the legislation in the state. Publishing the annual reports makes government departments accountable and enhances transparency in administration, activists say. “The Tamil Nadu Information Commission and the personnel and administrative reforms department have not reacted to several petitions on the matter,” NGO Satta Panchayat Iyakkam member Siva Elango said. “It is disturbing that the government has not tabled reports in the assembly since 2006.” “In this assembly session, the government should place all reports till 2013 in the House. No data is currently available on the number of appeals the commission received and disposed of and those that are pending or of action taken against errant PIOs,” he said. Deepak P B, of NGO Voice of India, says people have a right to know which departments receive the most RTI applications and those that stonewalls petitions. “It is unfortunate not a single MLA has raised the issue in the assembly,” he said. The TNSIC receives an average of 55,000 appeals under the RTI Act every year, but officials say an acute shortage of manpower and funds has hampered disposal of petitions, leading to a huge backlog of pleas. (Times of India 10/6/14)

2. Assets disclosed by just 57% ministers (1)

Mumbai: A directive from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to his ministers to disclose their assets seems to have fallen on deaf ears, because only 57 per cent of ministers have done so. An RTI query this year has revealed that only 24 out of 42 ministers in the state have given details of their assets to the chief minister’s office. An RTI query seeking the details of the all ministers and details of the assets declared by them to the CM’s office filed by activist Anil Galgali has found that 18 out of 42 ministers in the Cabinet have not provided details of their assets to the state. Last year, the same RTI query had revealed that just 22 out of 40 ministers had followed the CM’s directives. Prithviraj Chavan, after being sworn in as the chief minister on December 10, 2010 had asked his ministers to declare their assets, so that people have greater faith in the government. “This shows that the CM has no hold on his colleagues. He is a weak administrator and working under pressure. His ‘Mr Clean’ image is a farce,” said Anil Galgali. Chief secretary of state J. S. Saharia remained unavailable for comment. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

3. UP government refuses to provide information about inquiry commissions (1)

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh government has refused to provide information about the various inquiry commissions formed by it since 1947 to probe various scams, scandals and riots among other issues. RTI activist Nutan Thakur had asked the chief secretary and home department to provide her information about the inquiry commissions formed under section 3 of the Commission of Inquiries Act 1952 after independence, their composition and membership, date of formation, increase of time duration and the interim and final reports submitted by them. While the chief secretary office transferred the matter to home department, the home department declined to provide the information saying that it was too lengthy. Thakur has said that information cannot be denied for being lengthy and she had sought this information because of the common perception of governments forming such commissions in times of crisis and later forgetting them. This perception has been strengthen by the refusal to provide information, she added. (Times of India 14/6/14)

4. Rationale behind passing judgement can’t be revealed under RTI: SC (1)

New Delhi: The rationale behind passing judgements or orders by courts cannot be disclosed to litigants under the Right to Information Act, Supreme Court has said. An appellate authority of the Supreme Court, constituted under the RTI Act, dismissed the plea of an RTI activist who had sought information on the rationale for passing orders on review petitions without holding a hearing and without giving any reasons. “It will be of essence to state that the CPIO is not the authority or the person from whom information can be sought on the rationale behind the delivery of judgements by the court as has been attempted to be done by the appellant in this case,” the authority said in its order. It dismissed an appeal filed by Ravinder Raj, an advocate, who approached the appellate authority after the information officer of the apex court refused to furnish information on the issue. (Zee News 15/6/14)

5. Parties Should Embrace RTI, Says Chennithala (1)

KOCHI: Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has reiterated that he is in favour of bringing political parties under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Inaugurating the ‘RTI Knowledge Meet 2014’ held at Hotel Presidency here, he said that a ‘Right to Hearing’ Act will soon be passed and that a discussion regarding the same is taking place in the government. “It is high time that the political parties come out of their iron veils. There should not be anything secretive about them. All people’s representatives, including MPs, MLAs and ministers, are accountable to the public. The Act will help evaluate their performances and perform better” he said. “For transparent governance, it is important that the parties reveal the details of their activities. The functioning of political parties need not be conducted clandestinely. People have the right to know what is happening inside the party. This will make people more aware and active in decision-making. The Act will strengthen democracy by making it participatory. The Right to Hearing Act will only add to the existing power of the people” he added. The meet was organised under the aegis of National Constitution Club, Thalassery, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), New Delhi. Colloquiums were held on topics such as ‘RTI Act and its Social Impact’, ‘Right to Services Act-a Corollary to RTI Act’, ‘RTI Act and Good Governance’ and ‘RTI in News Reports’ by Chief Information Commissioner Siby Mathew, Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI, New Delhi, former Central Information Commissioner Shylesh Gandhi, Kerala Press Academy chairman N P Rajendran and journalist P Mohamed Nazeer. RTI People’s Assembly was also held on the occasion. Over 100 delegates, including RTI activists, Public Information Officers and bureaucrats were present for the event. Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali presided over the meet. National Constitution Club vice-chairman P Sherafudheen also attended the meet. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

6. NHRC on track, kids on train (1)

Ranchi, June 9: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today took suo motu cognisance of media reports that Jharkhand labour department team “confirmed” trafficking of 500-plus Muslim children to Kerala from eastern states, on a day 119 state minors boarded a train back home after a fortnight’s ordeal. Media reports so far taken into account by the panel say that eight persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the interstate child trafficking racket with links to orphanages in Kerala. The panel observed that the contents of media reports, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights. It has issued notices to the chief secretaries and directors-general of police of the governments of Jharkhand and Kerala, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. According to Delhi-based NHRC spokesperson Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, they were taking the matter “very seriously”. Media reports, including one of the earliest in The Telegraph in May, said the racket was busted at Palakkad station only when children were held for ticketless travel and adults with them did not have valid papers. But for 119 children of Godda, this evening marked a comfortable — not to speak of high-profile — homecoming as Jharkhand’s eight-member team led by labour commissioner Manish Ranjan helped them board Ernakulam-Patna Express train. At Palakkad, a final check revealed one child of the 120 slated to board the train was from Bihar. Finally, 119 children of Godda finally boarded the train around 8pm. The children will reach Jasidih station in Deoghar on Wednesday around 3pm and then be sent to their homes in villages of Godda district, by buses. Labour commissioner Manish Ranjan told The Telegraph that 16 personnel from Kerala were part of the escort party. “They comprise eight police personnel, including four mahila police, six senior bureaucrats and two anganwadi workers,” said Ranjan. Social welfare minister Annapurna Devi, who took the rescue initiative in May within 24 hours of the media breaking the news on May 25, it is more like “mission successful”. “I pray the children come back home safe and healthy,” she told over the phone. “I will meet them once they are back in Godda. Let them settle down first. I will ensure that children get proper education and livelihood options are generated for their parents,” she said. Sajal Chakraborty, acting CS, who also was at the forefront of forming a rescue team, said: “Thank God. Our team has done a good job.” Godda administration is fine-tuning arrangements to ferry the children from Jasidih to Godda by buses. Godda DC Rajesh Kumar Sharma said that he directed DDC Godda (Arun Kumar Ratan) to make proper arrangements to send children from Jasidih. The DC said: “Initially, children will go to their parents. But after four-five days they will be enrolled to residential schools, the girls in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and boys in welfare department-run institutions.” If the above options do not work out, he said, a double-storey building has been identified in Godda town for the children’s education. Of the 589 children detained at Kerala’s Palakkad on their way to orphanages, 167 were from Jharkhand, while the rest were from Bihar and Bengal. But officially, 120 children were escorted to the train this evening as parents of the rest kept coming in the past few days to personally take charge of the wards. The incident has taken on a political colour ever since probe revealed that Jharkhand’s children were bound for Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode, chaired by Syed Hyederali Shihab Thangal of the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the ruling Congress-led United democratic front Government in Kerala. This is one tangle that chief ministers Hemant Soren and Oommen Chandy, who share a common Congress factor in their respective governments, will sort out. (The Telegraph 10/6/14)

7. Beas tragedy: Human rights body issues notices to Himachal authorities (1)

NEW DELHI: National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued notices and sought reports from authorities in Himachal Pradesh in connection with the drowning of 25 persons in the Beas allegedly due to unannounced release of water from a dam. According to a statement, the commission took suo motu cognizance of a media report about the incident and issued notices to the chief secretary, Himachal Pradesh, and the deputy commissioner, Mandi, calling for a report on the matter within two weeks. A tour operator and 24 engineering students of a college in Hyderabad were washed away in a flash flood in the Beas near Thalout, 40 kms from Mandi on Sunday. The victims were caught unawares by the sudden discharge of water in the river from the reservoir of 126 MW Larji project. Six bodies have been recovered so far by rescue teams. “The cause of the flash flood was stated to be the opening of the floodgates of the Larji hydel project’s dam without warning. Reportedly, the toll could rise as rescue operations were hampered by non-availability of search lights and divers,” the statement said citing a media report. The state government admitted that the authorities did not follow the right protocol on use of hooters and other warning signals on the release of the water from the hydel project, the statement said. The commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, raises a serious issue of violation of right to life and safety of the victims. (Times of India 12/6/14)

8. Foreign-aided NGOs under govt scanner after IB report (1)

New Delhi: The Union home ministry’s foreigners division has started examining records of some of the NGOs named by the Intelligence Bureau in its report to the Prime Minister’s Office. The IB report had expressed fear that activities of some of the NGOs was affecting the country’s economic growth. It is mandatory for NGOs registered with the home ministry to file their annual returns with it including donations and funds received from abroad. Sources said once the scrutiny of records is done and if some discrepancy if found there is a possibility that some of the NGOs may be issued show cause notices to explain their funding pattern. The government, sources added, was also looking at the possibility of amending the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). “It has been noticed in case of some of the NGOs that they receive funds through a circuitous route. Money comes into these NGOs through some other social or cultural organisations which may well be fronts for something else. It is this loophole that needs to be plugged”, a senior ministry official said. The home ministry has already directed intelligence agencies to carryout a more stringent check on funds being received by non-registered NGOs which are granted permission for receiving grants on a case to case basis. Meanwhile, a number of prominent citizens and activists on Friday rubbished the IB report which had said funding of several NGOs was “cleverly disguised” as donations for issues like human rights, but instead they were involved in stalling developmental projects. (Asian Age 14/6/14)

9. Rs 12,500 cr from abroad and only 2% NGOs report it: Home ministry (1)

New Delhi: Nongovernmental organisations in India received nearly Rs 12,500 crore from foreign contributors in 2013, according to a home ministry report. In 2011-12, they had received Rs 11,500 crore, which in turn was nearly 12 per cent since the previous year. In the two years preceding that, foreign donations had dropped around 4 per cent. The report also noted that only two per cent of the country’s estimated 20 lakh NGOs report their donations from abroad, and that most of the money is used for purposes not specified by the NGOs. NGOs have been under the government scanner following an Intelligence Bureau report to the PMO stating stating that they are “stalling development projects”. The home ministry report, released last December, states, “…It is necessary to note that the NGO sector in India is vulnerable to the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing.” The ministry report notes the absence of a centralised database on the number of NGO in the country and the quantum of finance involved in their operation. But it adds, “Unofficial figures indicate that there are over 20 lakh NGOs registered in India and those reporting to MHA for Foreign Contributions Regulation Act are only 2 per cent of the total NGOs.” The report classifies 15 major purposes for which the foreign contributions have been received, and states that the highest amounts were received and utilised for “activities which are not mentioned” and under the miscellaneous head — Rs 2,350 crore approximately in 2013 and Rs 2253.61 crore in 2012 — followed by work in rural development, welfare of children, construction and maintenance of schools and colleges, and research. The home ministry also raises concern that a “large number of registered associations still don’t submit their statutory annual returns mandated by the law”. Among states and UTs, the highest amount of foreign contribution for the year 2013 was reported by Delhi, followed by Tamil Nadu. Between 2012 and 2013, several anti-government protests were organised in both states, holding up various projects including the Kudankulam nuclear plant. In previous years, the highest foreign contribution by any district in 2011-12 was reported by Chennai (Rs 889.99 crore) followed by Mumbai (Rs 825.40 crore) and Bangalore (Rs 812.48 crore). Among NGOs, World Vision of India, Chennai, received the highest that year at Rs 233.38 crore, followed by the Believers Church India, Pathanamthitta, Kerala (Rs 190.05 crore), and Rural Development Trust, Anathapur, in Andhra Pradesh (Rs 144.39 crore)… (Indian Express 16/6/14)

10. UN rights chief calls time on caste-based sex attacks (1)

Geneva: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday urged India to ensure that perpetrators of caste-based sexual attacks do not escape justice. “Women from stigmatised castes suffer the double assault of caste-based and gender-based discrimination,” Pillay said on the sidelines of a session of the UN Human Rights Council.India has been trying to overcome its reputation for violence against women, but public outrage was reignited by the deaths last month of two girls, aged 12 and 14, who were gang-raped and lynched in their impoverished village in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The girls’ families refused to cut their bodies down from a tree in protest at alleged police inaction, which they said was because they were from a lower caste. Last week, a woman said she had been gang-raped by four officers at a police station in the same state, and police said they were also investigating the death of a nineteen-year-old found hanging from a tree. “The victims of these crimes must receive justice, and societies, communities and officials must receive the clear message that discrimination and violence will no longer be tolerated,” said Pillay. “States must take steps to prevent such violence and discrimination and protect the rights of vulnerable people and communities,” she added. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, an attack that drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. “Violence against women of poorly regarded castes has very deep roots, which cannot be tackled without far-reaching efforts. Clearly laws are necessary, but they are not enough,” said Pillay. “There must also be fundamental change within communities, to peel off, layer by layer, the mind-set that generates caste discrimination and bigotry,” she said. Pillay noted that caste-based discrimination was a global problem, hitting communities not only in India but other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Around 260 million people are affected, she said. (CNN IBN 18/6/14)

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

11. Dad of ‘custody death’ victim seeks CBI probe (1)

MUMBAI: Reay Road resident Leonard Valdaris on Monday moved the Bombay high court seeking a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of his 25-year-old son, Agnello. The petition filed by Valdaris and three others who were picked up by the Wadala railway police, along with Agnello, in a chain-snatching case, have alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse. The petition has urged the court to order that the 12 police officers, including a lady officer be criminally prosecuted. It has further sought compensation from the Maharashtra government. A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode have scheduled the case for hearing on Tuesday. According to the complaint, Agnello and three others, including a minor, were picked up by the Wadala railway police on April 15, from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs 60,000. The complaint alleged that they were sexually assaulted and tortured while in custody. On April 18, Agnello died. The Wadala GRP has claimed that Agnello had tried to escape and was run over by a train. The authorities have already initiated an inquiry against the 12 police officers. (Times of India 10/6/14)

12. Life term for 17 cops in fake encounter (1)

New Delhi: Seventeen policemen convicted in the fake encounter of a 22-year-old MBA student in Uttarakhand on Monday escaped the gallows, with a Delhi court awarding them life imprisonment, much to the disappointment of the victim’s family, who vowed to challenge it in a higher court for death penalty. The 17 policemen had been held guilty on June 6 of involvement in the conspiracy to kidnap and kill Ghaziabad resident Ranbir Singh, who had gone to Dehradun to take up a job on July 3, 2009. The cops were handed life terms as the court said the crime committed by them does not fall in the “rarest of rare” category that warrants capital punishment. Parents of the victim—Ranbir Singh—present with other family members in the courtroom immediately expressed disappointment, saying they would like to see all the policemen hanged, and that they would approach a higher court against the verdict. “I want death for all the policemen who killed my younger son,” said the victim’s tearful mother. The wife of one of the convicts, Santosh Kumar Jaiswal, also broke down in the courtroom and said the judge should have once given a thought to the fate of her children. “Where will we go? He (Santosh) is the only earning member in the family,” she shouted, before being taken out of the courtroom. Detailing the facts and circumstances of the case, Special CBI Judge J P S Malik said, “The case is purely based on circumstantial evidence, and the conviction is based on conspiracy between the convicts. I am of the opinion that the case does not fall in the category of rarest-of-rare cases. “Policemen at Dalanwala and Nehru Colony police station and the Special Operation Group (SOG), all of the Dehradun city, were involved. A (accused)-3 Rajesh Bhist, A-16 Inderbhan Singh, A-13 Vikas Chander Baluni and A-14 Sanjay Rawat, were of PS (police station) Nehru Colony; A-5 Nitin Chauhan, A-10 Chander Pal and A-11 Saurabh Nautiyal were of the SOG, and rest of PS Dalanwalla. What the common thread between the three was has not been revealed,” added the court. In his verdict, the judge also observed that the scene of the crime, in Ladpur forest, is within the jurisdiction of Raipur police station in Dehradun, and the then President of India was visiting the city on the July 3, 2009. “The city was on high alert but policemen from the Raipur police station were nowhere,” said the court. (Deccan Herald 10/6/14)

13. Woman gang-raped on police station premises in U.P. (1)

LUCKNOW: With the dust yet to settle down on the Badaun gang rape and murder, another shocking incident of a woman being gang-raped allegedly by a Station House Officer and two constables on the station premises has come to light in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur district. Sub-inspector Rahul Pandey was arrested but the constables absconded. The incident took place on Sumerpur police station premises on Monday night. The arrests were made on Wednesday after a complaint was registered with the Hamirpur Superintendent of Police, V.K. Shekhar by the victim. A police spokesman said the victim had gone to the station to meet her husband, who had been arrested and put in lock-up. It is alleged that Mr. Pandey demanded a bribe of Rs. 20,000 from the victim for her husband’s release. She was taken to the SHO’s quarters behind the station at 1 a.m. and allegedly gang-raped by the three policemen. (The Hindu 12/6/14)

14. FIR filed against seven cops in 25-year-old’s custodial death (1)

MUMBAI: The police cannot go to the extent of torturing a person to death, said the high court on Friday on a petition urging a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of Agnelo Valdaris (25). The petition was by the Reay Road resident’s father, Leonard, and three others, including a minor. The youths and the minor were picked up by the police on April 15 for theft. They complained of being beaten up and sexually abused in custody. The police claimed Agnelo died in a train accident while trying to flee. Public prosecutor Sandeep Shinde told a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode that an FIR had been filed on Wednesday against seven police officers, including the senior inspector of the Wadala railway police station, under the IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Shinde said the officers had been transferred, the probe handed to the crime branch and permission sought from the district magistrate to exhume Agnelo’s body. The judges remarked that the state takes action only after a matter comes to court. Shinde said that when the complaint was received in May, the statements of 32 witnesses, including the motorman, were recorded. “The impression that is sought to be created is that the police eliminated him, but a post-mortem report and videography indicate it was accidental death and not torture,” said Shinde, adding that CCTV footage of Agnelo’s escape has been sought from the railway police. Valdaris’s advocate Yug Chaudhry pointed out that in the FIR, the complaint had been filed by the Wadala police and not the victims or Leonard, who was made to wait and then told to go home. “None of the victims was called for the FIR. Why is it a police FIR? Is it a cover-up?” said Chaudhry. The judges said custodial deaths are “increasing” and interrogation is being done even for petty offences. They referred to a custodial death case where the man concerned had been picked up and interrogated for possessing six 180-ml bottles of liquor and another where an accused consumed poison and “preferred to die”. (Times of India 14/6/14)

15. Any decision on revoking AFSPA will depend on situation: Defence Minister Arun Jaitley (1)

SRINAGAR: Any decision on revoking Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir will depend on the progress in the situation in the state over a period of time, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said today. “As far as today the situation is concerned, our armed forces and local security forces have been handling the situation. Over the period of time, we have to watch how the situation progresses,” Jaitley told reporters here at the end of his two-day visit to the state. He was responding to a question on whether the Centre will consider revoking the controversial AFSPA in the state in view of the improved security scenario. “As far as your question is concerned, today I am not in a position to make any comment on this,” he said. Replying to another question, the Defence Minister said sanction for prosecution of armed forces personnel accused of involvement in human rights violations is decided on the merits of the case. “Each case is decided on its own merits. In case the permission has no basis, then it (prosecution) certainly cannot be allowed. In case there is a basis in it, there is a human rights violation, it will be viewed differently,” he said. (The Econopmic Times 16/6/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

16. Maharashtra deputy CM Ajit Pawar says ban social media, retracts (1)

New Delhi: Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar Monday suggested banning social media only to retract his statement minutes later. He was speaking in the context of rising instances of violence in the state due to offensive posts against iconic personalities on the social media. “The recent incidents have taken a toll on the society. China had adopted a two-year ban on social media. The government and the Opposition must press for a similar clamp down when we meet PM Narendra Modi,” Pawar said while replying to a discussion on the budget in the state legislative Assembly. A few minutes later, Pawar did a U-turn, and clarified, “I did not mean a ban on social media forums such as WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook. I am not against freedom of the social media but there must be some kind of regulation on it.” His public relations officer, seated in the media gallery when the initial statement was made, had sent him a note urging him to clarify his stand. Meanwhile, Home minister R R Patil said that apart from those who have been uploading offensive posts denigrating iconic personalities, all those who approve and ‘like’ such posts will also be liable for prosecution. (ndian Express 10/6/14)

17. Global media body condemns soft censorship by governments (1)

A new report by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) has strongly condemned “soft censorship” by governments and regulators as a “very serious threat to media independence and the very viability of media companies”. WAN, which is the umbrella organization of newspapers representing more than 18,000 publications and 15,000 online sites in 120 countries around the world, has urgently called for rapid action to stop this blatant repression of media and press freedom. “Soft censorship” is the practice where governments use financial leverage and regulatory powers -most often stopping advertising– when they find coverage to be “adverse”. The practice is rampant in India as well, with some state governments especially guilty of misusing tax payers’ money to try to pressurize and influence those media entities which criticize them. Some private sector companies also try to intimidate and pressurize the media in this manner and hence try to influence news coverage in their favour. In fact, the report — ” Soft Censorship, Hard Impact”, released earlier this week — goes into damning detail of the practice, specifying that: “Soft censorship is used to promote positive coverage of—and to punish media outlets that criticize-officials or their actions. It is the practice of influencing news coverage of state bodies and officials and their policies and activities through allocation or withholding of state media spending (subsidies, advertising, and other media contracts or assistance), or selective application of licensing, permits or regulations, to shape the broad media landscape; promote or diminish the economic viability of specific media houses or outlets; and/or reward or punish content produced by individual media workers”. (Times of India 13/6/14)

18. Media persons furious, probe demanded (1)

Bhopal: Media persons are furious over inaction in a case of police personnel beating up a journalist at the TT Nagar police station. No complaint has been registered against the police. On Friday when the journalist, Ajay Verma, was passing through the TT Nagar police station  he spotted one Brajesh Patil attempting suicide and tried to record the incident but was interrupted by the SHO, Rajkumar Saraf. Verma was taken inside the police station where the police personnel roughed him up. As soon as his condition worsened, he was admitted to Katju hospital. Since his condition was critical he was later referred to JP hospital where he is said to be out of danger. The doctors have said Verma has sustained serious injuries in his stomach, kidney and ribs.Verma has alleged that the SHO and constable Gorelal beat him up severely. Police have alleged that the journalist provoked the person to commit suicide so that he could record the act live, but the journalist claimed that he was silently recording the act of Brajesh Patil. In the evening, the Home Minister visited Verma at the hospital and assured him that the case would be investigated. MLA Vishwas Sarang also visited the injured journalist on Friday night after he was admitted in the hospital. Principal Secretary of Chief Minister Manoj Shrivastava also visited the victim at hospital, while Public Relations Minister Rajendra Shukla enquired about the health of Verma over phone. Meanwhile, Director-General of Police Nanden Dube has instructed Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Bhopal Srinivas Varma to investigate the matter. Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president Arun Yadav also visited the hospital on Saturday morning and enquired about his health. He condemned the police brutality on the journo and demanded strict action against the guilty police personnel. (Pioneer 15/6/14)

19. Don’t kill social opinion (1)

A few states have been very active in throttling displays of dissent on the social media, particularly if there were derogatory references to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The proliferation of social media users and the Internet’s several other avenues for expressing personal opinion have led to governments taking notice of what it believes is subversive activity. While no one would wish the country’s leader to become a subject of ridicule or a figure of hate, the state should understand that the social media is primarily a place in which people tend to vent their feelings. The establishing of some control over disparaging assaults on public figures and private individuals should not lead to a repression of the freedom of expression. There has been little concerted effort towards formulating a procedure by which the offending post can be voluntarily taken down, failing which a clearly defined course of action can be set in motion to make the person comply if indeed the post is disruptive, capable of spreading disaffection, or defamatory under the law. The larger issue is should dissenting opinion expressed only against politicians or their lampooning draw such a lightning response from the executive and judiciary to the extent that even college students have been booked for defaming the PM in their campus magazines. While the anxiety of a new government to get a handle on this before it explodes is understandable, it is important to understand that there is room for opinion in a democratic set-up. Not everyone putting up an irreverent post is to be deemed anti-national. (Asian Age 17/6/14)

TRAFFICKING

20. Child trafficking: NHRC issues notices to Kerala, Jharkhand (1)

NHRC today issued notices to authorities in Jharkhand and Kerala seeking detailed report on the alleged trafficking of children for orphanages. According to a statement issued by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the notices were served to the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of Jharkhand and Kerala asking them to submite their reports within four weeks. The notices were issued after the Commission took cognisance of a media report which said that Jharkhand Labour Department officials has confirmed reports of trafficking of over 500 children to Kerala from the eastern states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. As per the media report, the racket was busted by the Railway Police when the children arrived at Palakkad Railway Station and the adults who accompanied them were found not having any valid documents for taking the children from their home state. Reportedly, eight persons have been arrested in this connection. The arrested persons were booked under the Juvenile Justice Act and remanded to judicial custody. The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amounts to serious violation of human rights of the children involved. (DNA 10/6/14)

21. Once trafficked, she now rescues girls in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district (1)

RAIPUR: For 16-year-old Rukmani, world day against child labour on Thursday could have been another back-breaking day from dawn to midnight, cleaning utensils, mopping floors and washing clothes at households in Delhi. But she displayed exemplary courage to wriggle out of bondage and find her way back home in Jashpur. Rukmani, who was once sold to middlemen, is now at the vanguard of a campaign to ban child trafficking. With the help of an NGO, Rukmani, who had studied till Class 3, has also resumed her studies. Talking to Times of India, Rukmani from Kansabel block of tribal Jashpur district said, “I was 12 when I fled from captivity in Delhi. A resident of my village, Salma, had tempted me with big city lifestyle and with good money if I went along with her. Immediately after landing in Delhi, I was sold off to a placement agent, Kripa, who dumped me in a house as a 24-hour domestic servant for Rs 2000 per month.” She would work non-stop from 6 am till midnight and she would be abused and would be forced to sleep hungry. When she complained to the placement agency, Rukmani was bundled off in a train and sent to Indore where her working hours extended to 1.30 in the night as the family had visitors every night. “There was another girl from Jharkhand who was always frightened. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I told them I won’t continue.” In Jashpur, Rukmani’s parent filed a missing complaint with police and a search was launched. The placement agency in Delhi was tapped and she was tracked to her hellhole in Indore from where she was rescued. While Rukmani struggled to find her place back in family, she emerged as a multi-tasking girl. Learning to stitch and study, she also tries to save girls from traffickers. She has already helped police to nab Salma and other touts. Rukmani works with Jivan Jharna Vikas Sanstha, an NGO that rehabilitates trafficked children and has built her own brigade of boys and girls who act against touts. “We have groups at panchayat-level of 30 youths who keep vigil on middlemen. We tip off police and NGOs when we hear about girls being huddled into buses or trains. Many have been rescued and many agents are now in jail. I have vowed to ban trafficking,” Rukmani said. Sister Annie in charge of NGO said it was difficult to handle rescued children as they are traumatized and refuse to open up. Majority of these girls go with touts without informing parents. Six and a half decades after Independence, India’s tribal-dominated areas remain as backward as they are. Economical development is the need of hour so that tribal girls get enough opportunities for gainful employment locally. (Times of India 11/6/14)

22. 20 Jamtara kids rescued in Kerala (1)

DUMKA: Kerala police on Thursday rescued 20 more children, who were trafficked from Jamtara district, said the district deputy commissioner. Jamtara DC Chandrashekhar said a team of government officials would visit Kerala to bring the children back to the state. All of them are from Narayanpur block. “The collector of Kolam district in Kerala informed me about the rescue of 20 children from an orphanage. A team of administrative officials and local police will leave for Kerala on Thursday to bring them back to the state,” he said. The DC has also referred the matter to the Jamtara SP for lodging FIR against those involved in trafficking. Railway police had, on May 24, rescued 500 children, 119 of whom were from Godda district, from Palakkad railway station. On June 9, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to Jharkhand and Kerala seeking detailed report on trafficking. The 119 children, from different villages in Godda, Basantrai and Mahgama blocks, were brought to the state on Wednesday and sent home on Thursday. There were 44 boys and 75 girls between the age of five and 12 years. (Times of India 13/6/14)

23. Delhi: More women getting involved in sex trade (1)

New Delhi: Increasingly, women are becoming catalysts of exploitation of other women. The number of women being arrested for forcing others into prostitution at least suggests so. Delhi Police, which arrested 48-year-old Raj Radha for allegedly running a prostitution racket in the city on Friday, says that as many as 66 women were arrested in 2013 for forcing innocent women into the flesh trade. If one goes by the statistics, at least six women were arrested every month, on an average two every week, on similar charges. In 2012, 44 women were arrested for the same crime. It means that there was an increase of almost 50% in the arrests of women in such cases by Delhi police. Though data for this year is not available yet, senior police officers claim that they have arrested as many as 30 women already on similar charges. Other than their alleged involvement in flesh trade, a senior police officer said, some of the women were accused of cheating girls and luring them into paid sex on one pretext or the other — job offer being the most common ploy. Till 2011, the senior officer said, there were not many female names in the illegal flesh trade. However, a high profile prostitute-turned-pimp, Sonu Punjaban alias Geeta Arora arrested that year, changed the whole game. She was arrested a couple of times by different teams of the Delhi police for allegedly running flesh trade in the city. At that time only Kanwaljeet Singh— Delhi’s notorious supplier of women who was well known as the ‘Cadillac pimp’ because of the car he drove, was the most famous pimp. Sonu Punjaban emerged as the next big thing in the prostitution business. However, today, police claim, a good number of women, a few of them belonging to high society, are involved in the flesh trade because of it being ‘high profit, less risk’. On being asked why there has been a sharp increase in arrest of women in such cases, Ashok Chand, additional commissioner of police (crime branch) said, “The number has gone up because more people are coming forward to lodge their complaints against this illegal business. In some of the cases, the women were arrested for facilitating girls/women to their clients for sex without the consent of the victims.” Another senior police officer said that the arrests of such women has also gone up because of the directive by the Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi that the police should go after the pimps instead of arresting sex workers who are the victims of the crime. In March this year, the Delhi police had arrested two women for allegedly running a prostitution racket in west Delhi’s Hari Nagar. (Hindustan Times 15/6/14)

24. Sectarian Issues Cannot Cloud Government Intervention (1)

Kerala is home to about 1,100 government-recognised orphanages or children’s homes. They run on funds raised independently by the orphanage and aid provided by the state government. In 2013-14, monthly grant-in-aid given by the government per inmate was `700. In 2014-15, the amount has been raised to `1,000. On an average, the state government shells out approximately `30 crore, going up to `50 crore a year as grants-in-aid for the orphanages. However, it is mandatory for those orphanages receiving donations from abroad to come clean, even if such a move were to result in the automatic suspension of grants-in-aid by the state government. Following an Express investigation, it has come to light that 99 per cent of the orphanages in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, Palakkad and Malappuram have been concealing records regarding aid from foreign sources since 2010-11. The story in the other nine districts, though not yet made public, is expected to be no different. In other words, the scam involving fraudulent funds raised by orphanages in Kerala could figure in the `100 crore-150 crore bracket. Yet, the state government seems least bothered by all this and is more pre-occupied with scams such as those of the solar variety where the declared damage is well below `10 crore. All this is coming to pass when the government is struggling to provide aid to hapless endosulphan victims in Kasargod or to undernourished tribals in Attappadi. The alleged child trafficking busted in Kerala and the disclosures of fraudulent fund-raising are turning out to be a fit case for a central agency probe. The scam, in the name of giving succour to destitute children, is taking on alarming proportions. The government has a foolproof opportunity to crack down on erring orphanage managements, something that successive governments have been reluctant to do as they never wanted to hurt the minority vote bank—most orphanages being run by Muslim and Christian outfits. It is high time the state government stopped being bothered by sectarian considerations. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

25. Barbers turn away dalits in Bellary village (2)

HUBLI: The dalits of a Karnataka village have been boycotted by the local barbers allegedly under pressure from people of upper-castes. The dalits of Talur, a small village in Shiraguppa taluk of Bellary district, have been barred from entering barber salons. A scuffle broke out between dalits and barbers when the latter refused to cut their hair. All the five salons in the village are closed for five days. The social welfare department called a meeting on Sunday to resolve the issue, but the barber shops remained shut on Monday. Speaking to TOI, dalit leader Uchhappa Chalavadi, an employee of the state government’s revenue department, said: “We don’t know why people of our community are being denied a haircut. They had been visiting the salons for years. When we raised the issue with the village elders, they said we had to abide by the decision and get our hair cut elsewhere.” Anjaneya Tendaukkirappa, who runs a barber shop in Talur, told TOI: “Upper-caste people have forced us not to extend haircutting and shaving services to the dalits. We have been strictly told not to allow dalits to enter our shops. If we cut the dalits’ hair, upper-caste people will stop coming here. There are only 80-100 dalits here, but upper-caste people number more than 3,000. Our business will be affected if upper-caste people stop visiting our shops. Hence, we are not providing any service to dalits.” Four days ago, the barbers refused to cut dalit children’s hair, leading to arguments. Nagaraj Chalwadi, a dalit, told TOI: “Teachers don’t allow our children in class if their hair is not trimmed. Women are now cutting our children’s hair. We elders have to go to Bellary, Gullyam, Chanal Cross and Hudlagi villages for haircut and shave.” Tendaukkirappa said: “If we go against the diktat issued by upper-caste people, we may be thrown out of the village. We don’t know what to do. We have closed our shops for five days, and plan to stop this occupation and work as coolies.” Bellary district social welfare officer Rajappa N said: “We held a meeting with the barbers and the dalits. We asked the barbers to allow the dalits to enter their shops and get their hair cut. We told them there should not be any discrimination against the dalits once the shops reopen. We will also talk to upper-caste people. We will not coerce the barbers if they continue to keep their shops shut; it’s their decision. But the dalits should be served if they reopen the shops.”  (Times of India 10/6/14)

26. Dalit woman found ‘raped’, hanged in UP village (2)

Lcknow: A middle-aged woman was found hanging from a tree in Bahraich after allegedly being raped, a crime being reported a fortnight after two cousins in a different part of Uttar Pradesh met a similar fate. While police have not yet zeroed in on a motive, it has emerged that the woman, 45, took on a local liquor vend next to the grocery store she was running in her village Gauria Loniyarpurwa. The state administration has been battling allegations of incompetence since the Badaun rape-murders came to light and drew widespread condemnation from within the nation and outside. The UP government has transferred a slew of bureaucrats, including the chief secretary, in the wake of the criticism. Police officials said the body found in Ranipur village on Wednesday, around two hours from state capital Lucknow, bore injuries on her private parts that indicate possible rape before she was hanged. She had been missing since the previous evening when she was on her way back to her village. Her family had alerted the police on Tuesday, and a hunt was underway till the body was found in a guava orchard. District magistrate in-charge Uday Shankar Upadhyay and police superintendent Happy Guptan were at the spot for investigation. (Hindustan Times 11/6/14)

27. Rs 21,000 fine for interacting with dalits in a Punjab district: Report (2)

PATIALA: Already in news for allegedly organizing a boycott of dalits, upper caste community of Baupur village in Sangrur district had announced that penalty of Rs 21,000 would be imposed in case any member interacted with a dalit in the village, revealed a draft report of an independent fact finding team which visited the village last month. The upper caste villagers boycotted dalits last month, after members of the lower caste community demanded one-third of village common agriculture land on rent. Claiming that an announcement to boycott dalits was made from the village’s religious place on Mach 16, the report, quoting the announcement, reads, “Nobody shall take these people on work, ban their entry in fields, cut off any exchange of ghee, milk or lassi…anybody who shall keep contact with dalits will have to pay a fine of Rs 21,000″.The incident hogged the headlines after Rajesh Bagha, chairman of Punjab Scheduled Castes Commission, visited the village last week. Krishan Singh, who represents dalits of the village, claimed that the boycott was still continuing in some form or other. “On the other hand, district and police officials are claiming that there is no boycott,” he added. So much so that two dalit families reportedly migrated from the village on Tuesday due to unavailability of job. The report is prepared by the research scholar of Punjabi University, Patiala, members of Students for Society (SFS), Panjab University, Chandigarh, and a Chandigarh-based NGO “Lokayat”.The report said the village has 81 acres of agricultural common land, out of which 27 acres are reserved for dalits. “As it is a prevalent practice all over Punjab, the land reserved for dalits is never cultivated by them. The dominant landlords bid for the land on dalits’ names. So generally the Jats would bid for around Rs 50,000 to 60,000 per acre, which is obviously not affordable by the dalits who don’t have any means or resources”.This time the dalits refused. They decided to get the land by their collective efforts so that they could get the land for the collective farming, which ultimately led to their boycott,” reads the report. Krishan Singh said the bidding for village common land could not be materialized despite three attempts by the administration. (Times of India 12/6/14)

28. Govt to fix accountability for dalit funds (2)

NEW DELHI: The Centre is planning to fix accountability for diversion of funds meant for the welfare of dalits, a move that could institutionalize the concept of Special Component Plan (SCP) after four decades of drift. The Union social justice ministry is planning to insert “penal provisions” in the implementation of the SCP that would make the “sanctioning authority” and the “implementation authority” in the states and the Centre liable for diversion of dalit funds. Though at an early stage, the plan is to recommend specific punishment for the violation. The move is likely to be achieved by rewriting the rules on SCP, with the Centre and states in their ambit. “We want to fix accountability in the implementation of SCP. We want the budget for SC welfare to be used as per norms,” Union social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot told TOI. “This would act as a deterrent for the indifferent officialdom.” The SCP, also known as dalit sub-plan, mandates that the Centre and states should set aside funds for welfare of SCs in proportion to their population. The dalit sub-plan has failed to take off in the four decades of its existence with most arms of the governments only doing lip-service. The biggest problem has been the diversion of funds for non-dalit welfare measures. A reason behind its failure have been the constant battles by some ministries that they cannot divide funds into dalit and non-dalit compartments, like roads and schools that are used by all irrespective of their caste. Consequently, repeated efforts by the Centre to activate the SCP came a cropper. However, many states have lately brought in laws to give a legislative backing to dalit sub-plan with Andhra Pradesh pioneering the initiative. In UPA-2, the social justice ministry made a belated push in this direction at the fag end of its tenure but the move could not fructify. As per the draft law, it was proposed that all states and Union ministries would submit ‘dalit budgets’ six months ahead of the fiscal and “nodal bodies” would approve the proposed expenditure on the “only for dalit” parameter. The draft law also proposed that the governments formulate “incentives for commendable performance and disincentives for proven negligence and lack of due diligence by an official”.However, it could not move past the draft stage with the PMO turning down the demand from social justice minister Kumari Selja to rush it through the cabinet in the last month before the 2014 elections. (Times of India 15/6/14)

29. Caste Hindus object to Dalit participation in temple festival (2)

MADURAI, A group of eight Caste Hindus from Sathamangalam village in Melur Taluk near here has preferred a writ appeal in the Madras High Court Bench here challenging an order passed by a single judge on June 6 permitting the Dalits in the village to participate in the annual festival of Sri Harihara Puthira Ayyanar Temple. The appellant group led by P. Ganesan Ambalam contended that people belonging to its community had been administering the temple since 1978 and the Dalits had no right to interfere in the temple affairs but for worshipping the deity. It also stated that those belonging to the Scheduled Castes were administering a separate temple in the village. Filing an affidavit on behalf of all the appellants, Mr. Ambalam said that a dispute arose between the two communities over administering the temple way back in 1986. Then, the appellants filed a civil suit before the Munsif Court in Melur to restrain the Dalits from interfering in the administration and obtained a favourable decree in 1986 since the opponents failed to contest the suit. After a long time, a Dalit villager began claiming right over the administration of the temple since this year and obtained an order from a single judge of the High Court without including the appellants as parties to the case, the group claimed. It also stated that it was not against the Dalits worshipping the deity without interfering in the administration of the temple. When the matter came up for hearing before a Division Bench comprising Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice V.M. Velumani on Friday, they told the appellants that no one could be prevented from participating in a temple festival on the basis of his/her caste. Later, the matter was adjourned to Monday as the lawyers were on court boycott on Friday. (The Hindu 16/6/14)

30. Dalit man dies of burns in U.P.(2)

Lucknow: A Dalit youth was allegedly set ablaze by three brothers for reportedly refusing to work for them in Atbei village of Chirgaon in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. Within 24 hours of the incident, the police claimed that the deceased was an alcoholic and had set himself on fire following a dispute with the three brothers. The State IG ( Law and Order) Amrendra Kumar Sengar told reporters on Monday that following an inquiry by the Circle Officer of Chirgaon and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, it was found that the charges mentioned in the FIR were false. The complaint lodged by the deceased Pawan’s father, Gayadin, in which Rajesh Yadav, Brijesh Yadav and Suresh Yadav, and their father were named as accused. Pawan succumbed to his burn injuries in Jhansi Medical College, while his younger brother, who tried to save him, is reportedly battling for his life with 60 per cent burns. (The Hindu 17/6/14)

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

31. Modi’s governance agenda: Health, hygiene to get special attention (3)

NEW DELHI: The BJP-led coalition will revamp the critical healthcare sector, upgrade hygiene standards across the country and launch a mission to drive home the message. President Pranab Mukherjee stressed the need for an accessible, affordable and effective healthcare system. The government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. On the hygiene front, the focus will be on ensuring that every household has toilets and public spaces are not littered with garbage. The government announced ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. The government may end up spending about Rs 4 crore to make the country open defecation free and to ensure drinking water supply at home. The President said government will promote yoga and Ayush. India has a shortage of around 6.4 million allied health professionals. To address the shortfall, government will transform health education and training. Out-of-pocket expenditure on health in India, at over 70%, is one of the highest globally and is responsible for pushing hundreds of millions into poverty every year. The President added, “AIIMS-like institutes will be established in every state in a phased manner.” UPA government in 2006 approved six AIIMS-like institutions – in Patna, Bhopal , Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Raipur and Rishikesh. These institutes will also provide undergraduate medical education for 100 students a year. In 2009, the government approved two more such institutes, taking the final number to eight. (Times of India 10/6/14)

32. Vardhan asks doctors to achieve the targets ahead of schedule (3)

New Delhi: Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan today asked the doctors to achieve the target set by the government to control and eradication various diseases ahead of their schedule. He said the Health Ministry would soon roll out initiatives to make a social movement out of the mission to achieve high standards in public health, wedded to the priorities of prevention, environmental safeguards and disease control. “If there are targets then let’s bring them forward. If in the past achieving eradication of measles before 2020 was deemed impossible, then my objective is to do it by 2018. I would like to halve the maternal mortality rate and this determination is there for all diseases,” the Minister said, adding “as doctors, let’s make it possible to achieve targets set by the government earlier than schedule.” He said being specialists in different branches of medicine each of the doctors are aware of the issues concerning their respective departments. “Please give me inputs and your intellectual acumen which I wish to use in my drive to achieve health for all.” Vardhan also suggested to his “colleagues” to make the new generation of doctors understand that a patient’s first interface with a hospital doctor should be good in order to earn the respect, which earlier they had. “The respect that we gave to doctors in our childhood is no longer there in the popular perception. This is cause for introspection. I would urge you to make the new generation of doctors understand that a patient’s first interface with a hospital doctor should be good. This message must go down to the young resident doctors and all employees,” Vardhan stressed. Without referring to particular incidents of doctor- patient confrontation, Vardhan said he wanted expressions of short-temper to be controlled through proper training. “The difference between good and bad behaviour in the doctor-patient interface can often be only a hair’s breadth. So I would urge the seniors to instill in the young generation of doctors better behaviour standards,” he said while interacting with doctors at RML hospital after his review of hygiene conditions in the hospital. As part of the sanitation drive launched by his ministry, Vardhan today visited the hospital to review the hygiene conditions in there. He spent an hour reviewing the cleanliness drive at RML and visited the Emergency Ward to see its facilities. People also informed the Minister about the problem of water supply, issues with staffing and availability of medicine. (Zee News 12/6/14)

33. Malnutrition kills over 3mn toddlers a year: UN (3)

Rome: More than three million children under the age of five die annually of malnutrition, the UN food agency and World Health Organisation said on Thursday, urging governments to tackle the problem. “Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. Some 162 million children are left stunted by chronic malnutrition and 99 million children are underweight across the world, it added. Since the first international conference on nutrition in 1992, “important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made, but this progress has been insufficient and uneven,” FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said. There has only been a 17% reduction in undernourishment since the early 1990s, leaving over 840 million people still chronically undernourished. The FAO and WHO urged governments to “make stronger commitments… to ensure healthier diets for all” at an international conference on nutrition to be held in Rome in November. They warned that various forms of malnutrition often overlap and can coexist within the same country and even within the same household. “Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies,” they said in a statement. “At the same time, another half billion are obese.” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the aim of the upcoming conference was to get governments to ask themselves “why is it that severe undernutrition and obesity can exist side by side in the same country and in the same community?” She also called for more research into the health and environmental implications of “the rapid rise in the demand for meat and other animal products that coincides with rising income levels.” Efforts to improve food and nutrition security continue to be hampered by low political commitment and weak institutional arrangements, the agencies said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

34. Blood banks in each dist in 2-3 years: Vardhan (3)

New Delhi: Expressing concern over the high rate of maternal mortality in the country due to want of safe blood during pregnancy, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today said that the government will work to ensure that each district soon has a blood bank. “Almost 88 per cent of pregnant women in this country suffer from anaemia, which is a major contributor to the high maternal mortality rate in India. “Of these, 13.5 per cent women come under the grip of acute anaemia, often leading to death,” Vardhan said here at an event organised to mark World Blood Donor Day. He said that as many as 80,000 women die in the country due to want of safe blood during pregnancy. About 87 per cent of pregnant women suffer from anaemia of which 13.5 per cent suffer from acute anaemia, which can be life threatening. If there are more safe blood banks in the country, the number of women dying during pregnancy due to loss of blood can be significantly reduced, Vardhan said. “We will see that each district in the country has a safe blood bank in the coming one-two years. I will talk to the states and civil society organisations about this. The Centre will do all it can to see that this is implemented soon,” said the Health Minister. He also launched a National Plasma Policy on the occasion which is aimed at optimising the use of plasma recovered by blood banks which are tested safe for clinical use. The policy aims at making available high-quality proteins of immense clinical significance, derived from human plasma, which otherwise goes to waste. While attempting to bridge the gap between demand and supply of such life-saving plasma-derived proteins, it seeks to ensure adequate regulatory and legislative steps for monitoring of activities related to plasma-derived products. The policy, drafted by the Department of AIDS Control,is an addendum to the National Blood Policy, 2003. (Deccan Herald 14/6/14)

HIV/AIDS

35. Expired medicine for HIV victim at MGM (3)

An HIV positive patient admitted to MGM Medical College and Hospital in Jamshedpur discovered to her horror on Monday that she had been given a packet of ORS that had expired, prompting her husband to lodge a complaint with the authorities. While the superintendent in-charge of the hospital has promised to look into the matter, the patient’s family and members of support groups have expressed serious apprehension about the quality of treatment being provided at the government hospital. The 30-year-old woman, who had been diagnosed with the condition three years ago, is from Baridih. She had been admitted to the hospital on June 6 after doctors told her she needed blood. During the course of her treatment, she was also being given rejuvenating drinks of oral rehydration salts. On Monday, as soon as she saw that the ORS packet had expired in May, she informed her husband, who is also HIV positive. Before leaving the hospital after completing treatment, she informed the duty nurse and D.P. Shukla, president of Jamshedpur district-level network for people living with HIV/AIDS, an organisation that works for the welfare of patients. Later, Shukla came to the hospital, collected the packet of ORS that had expired and complained to the principal of MGM Medical College, A.N. Mishra, who is holding dual charge as hospital superintendent. “I went over to the medicine store and asked the nurse on duty to provide me with a packet of ORS. She gave me one with expiry date of August, 2014. But when I showed her the expired packet, the nurse said that it must have been mistakenly handed over by a staffer,” Shukla told The Telegraph. Shukla claimed to have found over 250 packets of expired ORS at the medicine store. “ORS is given to patients especially during the summer. But if this energy drink has expired, then it may aggravate the patient’s condition,” Shukla said. Superintendent-in-charge Mishra confirmed having received a verbal complaint. “I have received a complaint about expired ORS being given to patients. It is a serious issue. I will have the matter probed and take strong action against those found guilty,” he added. The patient’s husband was understandably upset. “We do not know whether the medicines the hospital is providing HIV-positive patients are also dated or not. All I can say is that patients suffering from HIV/AIDS are getting step-motherly treatment,” he said. (The Telegraph 10/6/14)

36. Migrant Labourers Push State’s HIV Graph Up (3)

KOCHI: For the past many years the Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) has been efficiently tackling HIV. But putting a spoke in its wheel is a new factor-the increasing homosexuality among  migrant labourers in the state. Shockingly, owing to their indulgence in sex with commercial MSMs (men having sex with men), categorised as high-risk groups, HIV is literally banging on the door which has been almost closed by the KSACS. The risk mounts when the migrant labourers also go for female sex workers. Much to the dismay of the officials, each HIV case reported from Thrissur, Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam is owing to the increasing homosexuality among them. Dennis Joseph, Joint Director, Target Intervention, KSACS, said that it is the occasional indulgences to suppress their libido which slowly slip into homosexuality. “They cannot be blamed for that and the nature of their jobs restricts them from going home. Hence they are left with no alternative. But we need strict monitoring to prevent it from sowing further risks,” he said. A migrant labourer based in Kochi opined that 80 per cent of the migrant workers indulge in homosexual activities. “Everywhere it happens and Kerala is no different. Indulging in homosexual activities is not deliberate. It just happens. But we always take necessary precautions,” he said. But the truth is that safe sex practice is always compromised. The construction sites in the cities have literally become a haven for sexual encounters as most of the migrant labourers are employed in construction sites. Ratheesh V K, counsellor, Suraksha project, of the Rajagiri outreach which works to prevent HIV among migrant labourers, said that his subjects offer various reasons for increased interest in homosexuality. “Living a morose life in a crammed living space and unsatisfied heterosexual relationships are some of the reasons. But slowly they move outside their circle and go for MSMs and female sex workers,” he said. But what makes the situation more grave is that they do not hesitate to shed safe sex practices. MSMs who go with the migrant labourers admitted that, many a time, they have to forsake safe sex. “Sometimes the situation would not allow us to take the necessary precautions as most of the encounters happen at construction sites. Apart from it, many who approach us also go for female sex workers. We know that there is a high risk involved,” said Gokul, a commercial MSM based in Kothamangalam. They offer good money and most primarily they do not  torture or harass us, said Baby K M,  an MSM based in Thodupuzha. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

37. TMC land ‘catalyst’ for NTPC (4)

The Trinamul Congress today participated in an all-party meeting on land acquisition convened by NTPC for its proposed 1,320MW thermal power plant at Burdwan’s Katwa and promised to play the role of a “catalyst” in helping the central utility purchase plots directly. The timing of the move, which marked a sea change in the party’s stand on land for the project in a little over three years, hinted at latent political concerns after the Lok Sabha poll results showed significant Opposition gains in seven Assembly segments in and around the site. “Trinamul will happily play the role of a catalyst. Land must not stand in the way when people are willingly parting with it for industry,” said Trinamul’s Ketugram MLA Sheikh Shahnawaz after the meeting at the SDO’s office. The ruling party today went to the extent of requesting NTPC to double the capacity — 2,640MW instead of the sanctioned plan of 1,320MW and four units instead of two — for the benefit of the region. Even if twice the quantum of land is required, according to Shahnawaz, “willing participation of land-owners will simply not be an issue”. The utility possesses 556 acres acquired by the Left government and needs another 227 acres. Following Mamata’s “gift” of 97 acres before the general election, it has to buy 130 acres directly from around 1,100 land-owners. Trinamul sources said the decision to help accelerate the Rs 9,000-crore project was taken at the “highest level” of the government after the elections. While the CPM led in the Ketugram and Katwa Assembly segments, the BJP was ahead in Mangalkot, Raina, Memari and Purbasthali North and South. The Ketugram and Mangalkot segments are under the Bolpur Lok Sabha seat, while the rest are part of the Burdwan East parliamentary constituency. “The sluggish progress of the project is causing discontent,” a source said. Less than a fortnight after Trinamul came to power in 2011, Mamata Banerjee had declared that the government would not acquire “even an inch” of land for the project. NTPC’s eastern regional chairman Mahendra Singh said the utility would start the process of buying land from tomorrow. “It’s great to see everyone coming together for the realisation of this dream project,” Singh said. After the meeting, 53 land-owners from Koshigram’s Sahapur gave a letter to Singh declaring their willingness to part with around 80 acres. (The Telegraph 11/6/14)

38. Draft rules on new land acquisition law soon: Min (4)

Bangalore: Karnataka Revenue department is hopeful of tabling the draft rules in the next Assembly session to implement the new land acquisition law after getting Cabinet approval tomorrow. “The Cabinet sub-committee is meeting tomorrow to discuss the framing of draft rules for implementing the state’s own Bill, modelled on the Centre’s Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” Karnataka Revenue Minister Sreenivasa Prasad told reporters here. “After framing the draft rules it will be placed before the Cabinet tomorrow for approval and tabled in the Assembly session scheduled this month,” Prasad added. Prasad held a meeting with officials to discuss the pros and cons of implementing the new land Act, which has replaced the 120-year-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, from January 1. Each state is allowed to frame rules to implement the Act.

Under the proposed Act, farmers selling their land will get attractive compensation and there will be transparency in land acquisition for public, public-private and private purposes, Prasad said. “Farmers holding land in rural areas will get a compensation four times more than the guidance value and two times more for holding land in urban areas,” Prasad said. The compensation under the new law will be paid with retrospective effect from January 2014, he added. (Zee News 12/6/14)

39. Narmada Dam height to be raised by 17 metres; lakhs will lose their homes, activists say (4)

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: The government has decided to raise the height of the Narmada Dam by 17 metres — a longstanding demand of Gujarat — within 20 days of Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister, raising protests from activist Medha Patkar who drew attention to the resultant displacement of thousands of people. On Thursday, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) approved the proposal to raise the dam’s height from 121.9 metres to 138.7 metres, making it the second highest dam in the world after Grand Coulee in the US. The approval came two days after the Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel met Modi and water resources minister Uma Bharti and reiterated the state’s demand. A higher dam will optimize hydro-power generation and water supply capacity of this project, and is expected to benefit not just Gujarat but also neighbouring Rajashthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat has been demanding this for the last eight years, and Modi would place this demand before the Centre on every official visit to Delhi as chief minister. (Times of India 13/6/14)

40. Government to review Special Economic Zones, Free Trade Agreements policies (4)

Chennai: The status of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) has come under critical review of the Union commerce and industry ministry and a policy decision on their viability, especially economic benefits, will be made soon. Union commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had ordered her ministry officials to undertake a thorough review also said a consultation with the stakeholders to address concerns of the industry with regard to the Companies Act had been planned. “There has been mixed reaction to the FTAs, particularly its benefits. I instructed the ministry officials to do a complete analysis and the ministry will soon come out with a status report in a fortnight,” she said. “I have also instructed officials to do a complete review of SEZs and why they have not worked. We are going to review and rework SEZs,” she added. Ms Sitharaman said that the review of FTAs and SEZ policies was meant to boost investments and improve employment opportunities. PM Narendra Modi was meeting officials in Delhi to address the problems related to SEZs on Saturday, she added. Nirmala Sitharaman is in the city to meet various industry associations like Confederation of Indian Industries and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to understand how to attract more investments to Tamil Nadu and create employment opportunities, said a meeting with all stakeholders would be held next week in Delhi to explore the changes that require to be effected in the new Companies Act to bring back investor confidence. The new Companies Act, 2013, replaced the old Companies Act, 1956 and had “posed a lot of problems” to companies, chartered accountants and industries. On the FDI in multi-brand retail, she said it was unwelcome. (Asian Age 15/6/14)

41. Dalit minor set on fire in Gujarat after dispute (2)

Ahmedabad: A spat with neighbours over disposal of dirty water resulted in a minor Dalit girl from Gujarat being set ablaze on Sunday. Chandrika Parmar (15) suffered 70 per cent burns when her neighbours, also Dalits, launched a sudden attack on her and her family. She is battling for her life at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. The incident took place in Syla village in Surendranagar district. Chandrika had complained to her neighbour, Suneeta Vaghela, about throwing dirty water outside her house, leading to an argument. Ms. Vaghela’s father Motibhai Sumera then slapped Chandrika’s younger brother Milan and threatened the family. When Chandrika’s mother Manjuben Parmar lodged a police complaint, the neighbours were infuriated. “That afternoon, Mr. Sumera, along with his immediate and extended family members, barged into the Parmar home and started beating everyone,” Chandrika’s cousin Mahendra Parmar told The Hindu. “They were carrying sticks, red chilli powder and kerosene. There were nearly 10 of them. They were trying to douse Chandrika’s younger brother with kerosene when she rushed to his rescue. The assailants then turned on her. While three women held her down, the men poured kerosene and set her on fire,” the cousin said. Chandrika suffered severe burns. “She is still in a critical condition,” M.M. Prabhakar, medical superintendent of the Civil Hospital, told The Hindu. “Had the police acted on Manjuben’s complaint, the matter would not have escalated to this extent,” said Anand Parmar, Chandrika’s elder brother. “Instead, the local police used abusive words. They threatened to put me behind bars. When we went to the police station, we were made to wait for hours.” The police have registered a case of attempt to murder, house-trespass and criminal intimidation against Mr. Sumera, a civil engineer; Sangeeta Vaghela, a school headmistress, and six other members of the Sumera family, based on Chandrika’s statement. “Such a violent reaction to such a trivial issue is quite unexpected. There is no history of animosity or violence between the neighbours, except for occasional arguments over petty issues,” P.N. Momaya, Deputy Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu. She denied the family’s allegations that the police was lax in acting on the family’s complaint. “We took prompt action,” she said. (The Hindu 18/6/14)

CORRUPTION

42. Goa illegal mining scam: Enforcement Directorate registers ECIR (5)

Panaji: The Directorate of Enforcement, Goa registered an Enforcement Case Investigation Report (ECIR) on Monday under Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 in respect of the illegal mining case in Goa and commenced investigation in the illegal mining scam under the provisions of PML Act, 2002. A senior official of the Directorate of Enforcement in Panaji told The Hindu on Tuesday that the case has been registered against official of the State Mining Department including ex-Director, a draftsman and others in respect of the scheduled offences of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 in Rs. 35,000-crore illegal mining case against government officials, mining companies and entities identified and mentioned in the report of Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court, Justice M.B.Shah Commission report and report of the Public Accounts Committee of Goa. The CEC appointed by the Supreme Court in its report had observed that in there was no system of periodic verification of the iron ore produced in the mining leases, payment of royalty after verification, issue of transit permits by the forest department, issue of permits by the State Mining department for transportation, etc., in Goa and hence illegal mining took place outside the mining leased area and the same was conveniently shown to have been done legally in the leased area. A number of environmental clearances for the status of the land was mentioned as non-forest whereas the leased area comprised partly/wholly of forest land. All the above facts are of serious nature having financial implications and loss to the exchequer in crores of rupees. The manufacture and fabrication of documents and using such documents for fraudulent purpose by active support of the government officials has caused a huge loss to the state exchequer, the complaint had noted. Mr. Pravin Pawar, Joint Director, Enforcement said on Tuesday that the documents and other related records are being collected from various agencies and its examination is under way. Summons will be issued shortly to various government officials, mining company directors and to those involved in the process of illegal mining activities, he said. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

43. ‘Make Anti-corruption a Curriculum Subject’ (5)

COIMBATORE: The University Grants Commission has asked universities to include anti-corruption as a subject in the academic curriculum, which was welcomed by anti-corruption movements. “The government of India is actively participating in the activities of International Anti-Corruption Academy to strengthen participation and to combat corruption in every form. The Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has considered the inclusion of the subject ‘anti-corruption’ in the curriculum, and research work in this field in the higher educational institutes,” UGC said in a recent circular to Vice-Chancellors of all universities in the country. The UGC has requested the universities to consider inclusion of anti-corruption in the curriculum of relevant subjects like law, public administration, human rights and convey relevant instructions to all the stakeholders concerned for recognition of this curriculum. Welcoming this, Coimbatore unit secretary of the anti-corruption movement NK Velu said including anti-corruption as a subject in curriculum is a very good proposal. “Corruption has become part and parcel of the Indian’s life. This needs to be changed on a war footing,” he said. (New Indian Express 13/6/14)

44. LTC Scam: CBI books Rajya Sabha MPs for cheating and forgery (5)

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked three sitting and three former Rajya Sabha MPs for cheating and forgery in Leave Ticket Concession (LTC) scam – they availed full fare reimbursements using fake tickets. The central probe agency filed FIRs, Friday, against sitting MPs D Bandopadhyay (TMC), Brijesh Pathak (BSP) and Lalhming Liana (MPF) and former MPs JPN Singh (BJP), Renu Bala (BJD) and Mehmood Arshad Madani (RLD). This is the first case registered by the CBI in the scam. Searches are being conducted at 10 locations, which include the houses, office premises of the MPs and also at the offices of travel agencies in Delhi and Odisha. The agency has registered a case of cheating and forgery among other charges under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The MPs are alleged to have purchased return air e-tickets in connivance with tour operators. They allegedly used online service to get boarding passes using web check-in facility and just before boarding time, these boarding passes and tickets were allegedly cancelled to pocket the refund money. Later the e-tickets and boarding passes, which were earlier issued, were allegedly submitted to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to claim the travel expenses by the MP. The incident came to light after the vigilance department of Air India (AI) was alerted about the arrest of a man in March at the Kolkata airport with 600 blank boarding passes of the airline in his possession. (Zee News 13/6/14)

45. Irrigation scam: ATR blames officials (5)

MUMBAI: Even as it tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly the report of the Chitale Committee, which probed the multicrore irrigation scam, the Congress-NCP government gave a clean chit to politicians in its Action Taken Report (ATR). The ATR made no mention of politicians, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who was Irrigation Minister between 1999 and 2009. He belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party. The probe was initiated in 2012 after allegations of major irregularities in irrigation projects. The outcry led to Mr. Pawar’s resignation as Deputy Chief Minister. However, he was reappointed three months later. The Chitale report itself lays the bulk of the blame on officers rather than politicians. It points out that investigating several irregularities were outside its terms of reference. The report has only one line which points to the role of Mr. Pawar, though it does not name him. It says that in some cases of cost escalation, a revised approval for more funds was given in violation of rules. “It was sanctioned despite being brought to the notice of the Governing Council. In such cases the responsibility lies with the members and the president of the Governing Council,” the report says. As Irrigation Minister during the period, Mr. Pawar headed the Governing Council. While the report has asked the government to decide on the possible action, the ATR claims that the Governing Council had the power to sanction extra money till August 2009. The Opposition called the ATR eyewash to protect politicians. “We hope the government initiates criminal proceedings against those criticised in the report. Otherwise, we will consider going to court,” said State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis. The report has pointed out major irregularities by project officers while granting Administrative Approvals (AA) for projects. In several cases, the AA was granted without finalising the design of the project, it says. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

TRIBALS

46. House disrupted over Polavaram (6)

New Delhi: The 16th Lok Sabha witnessed its first disruption — albeit a short one — by members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on its fourth day on Monday when Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Santosh Gangwar tabled the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, promulgated on May 29. The ordinance relates to the transfer of seven mandals of the Bhadrachalam revenue division, encompassing 205 villages and tribal hamlets, to Andhra Pradesh for execution of the Polavaram project. Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are opposed to the transfer as they feel that it would displace tribal people and adversely impact their power projects. While BJD member B. Mahtab sought to raise a point of order, the TRS members briefly trooped into the well shouting slogans. Some of them held placards, drawing the disapproval of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. The Speaker tried to pacify them with the assurance that they would be allowed to have their say when the Bill replacing the ordinance comes up for discussion. However, the TRS members persisted with their protest. As not much business was scheduled for the day, proceedings were adjourned after the papers listed for the day were tabled followed by the announcement of the 10 members nominated by the Speaker to the panel of chairpersons. On Sunday, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao had said the P.M. had assured him that the Centre would not act in haste on the transfer of villages. The Polavaram Ordinance was one of the first actions of the Narendra Modi government as it wanted the issue to be addressed before the Telangana came into existence on June 2. The government had to take the ordinance route as the proposed transfer was not part of the AP Reorganisation Bill approved by Parliament. Mr. Rao had said he wanted the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the four Chief Ministers in a bid to hammer out a consensus. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

47. Tribal kids give up studies fearing tusker attacks while trekking to school (6)

RAIPUR: Education in Chhattisgarh has hit an elephantine wall, particularly for children residing in villages hemmed in by forests. Rampaging tuskers in forests on the periphery of these villages have left scores of students stranded. At least 100 students of Raigarh district have quit studies after class 10 as they dread crossing forests to study in higher secondary schools, fearing attacks from elephants. For tribal students of Puringa village, walking 10 km to a school at Hati village is fraught with danger as man-elephant conflict peaks in the worst-hit districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Jashpur and Korba. Talking to TOI, vice-president of Janpad panchayat in Dharamjaigarh, Sanjay Gupta, said there are at least 100 tuskers in forests spanning 8km. “Due to rise in pachyderm population in last few years, students quit studies after class 10 over last five years. They prefer farming or other jobs than braving rampaging tuskers to study in school,” he said. The situation is same at Purunga, Kakedar, Tendumuda, Samarsingha, Gerwani and Gida villages. Students were traumatised after elephants trampled three schoolchildren. Block education officer V K Singh said along with elephants there are other factors that deter students. “It’s a tough task to walk to the school at Hati, particularly for girls. We have sent a proposal to tribal and education department to upgrade the existing school to higher secondary level, then students won’t have to trek long distances,” he said. Some students have displayed courage and continue with their studies. “Most of them have bi-cycles and manage to cover the distance,” said Singh. In Raigarh’s Dharamjaigarh area alone, 26 elephants and 64 people have died over 10 years in the continuing conflict between elephants and humans. While state government continues to pay unsatisfactory compensation to victims, it has also failed to resolve the issue. Raipur: Furious tribals in Jashpur district recently threatened to take up arms against elephants. They warned that if administration can’t resolve the issue, they will kill the elephants. While villagers have shown restraint due to religious sentiments, tusker deaths have risen with three deaths in Korba, three in Dharamjaigarh and two in Jashpur this year. To save paddy fields, villagers fence their farms with electrical cables which electrocute elephants. Though forest department claims elephants aren’t being killed by poachers, locals at Korba say ivory smugglers are active in the region. Locals have been demanding an elephant corridor in their region to maintain peace. However, the proposed corridor at Korba and Jashpur was put on the back burner after mining industries sought to acquire forest lands. (Times of India 11/6/14)

48. Include Khasi and Garo in the 8th Schedule: Meghalaya opposition dema (6)

Shillong, Jun 12 : Opposition legislators in the Meghalaya Assembly today stressed on the need for the state government to pressurize the centre to include Khasi and Garo languages in the Eight Schedule of the constitution. ‘We urged the government to pressurise the centre for the inclusion of the Khasi and Garo languages in the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution not only to get a national recognition but also protect the identity of the two tribes,’ UDP legislator Titostarswell Chyne said moving a resolution in the assembly.He said, the Khasi language has been recognized as one of major tribal languages by the Calcutta University since 1900 up to the entrance examinations, degree level in 1919 and NEHU recognized the language in its master degree, M phil and also doctorate level. ‘The inclusion of the language will also benefit the students’ community particularly those who aspire to appear for Indian civil services exams besides opening job opportunities,’ Mr Chyne said. Supporting the resolution, National People’s Party (NPP) legislator James K Sangma said, ‘It is important to have Khasi and Garo language included in the Eight Schedule because this is the aspiration of the people of the state.’Stating that the demand reflects that people of Meghalaya wants to have a sense of belonging in the Indian mainstream, Sangma said, ‘However, the state government has failed to recognize this aspiration of the people by not taking necessary initiative with the Centre.’According to Sangma, out of the 22 languages listed in the eighth schedule, three languages are from North East which includes – Assamese, Manipuri and Bodo. Participating in the debate, opposition leader and UDP president Donkupar Roy suggested that the state government should take initiative in building up a strong case to convince the centre on the need to include the Khasi and Garo language in the Eight Schedule. In his reply, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma informed that as a result of the persistence of the state government on inclusion of the Khasi and Garo language in the Eight Schedule, the Ministry of Home Affairs has recently sought details of the Khasi language for evolving a set of uniform criteria which may pave the way for deciding inclusion of the language or otherwise in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India. (New Kerala 13/6/14)

49. Proposal for C’garh Tribal University at Centre’s Doorstep (6)

NEW DELHI: The decision on the proposal of the Chhattisgarh Government to set up a Tribal university at Bastar is now at the Centre’s doors. At an interactive session with the state representatives during the conference of secretaries of higher and technical education on Tuesday, Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani discussed the infrastructure requirements for the new Central universities, IITs and other institutions. Chhattisgarh Government had proposed a Central university at the naxalite-affected Bastar to promote higher education among tribal people. When the issue came up for discussion in the conference of state secretaries, Higher Education Secretary to Chhattisgarh B L Agrawal said the state government had identified 100 acres of land in Bastar for the proposed Tribal university. He also requested the Centre to waive the requirement of 300 acres land as the additional land for the university needed the clearance of Forest Department. He said the Chhattisgarh Government wanted to set up the university in the conflict zone as part of measures to provide higher education opportunities for tribal youths, who are potential cadres for the Maoists. “Now the Centre assured us to consider our request positively on land requirement for the university. We have a hope now,” Agrawal told Express. Smriti said that a new Central University for Himalayan Technology will soon be set up in Uttarakhand with international faculty.  The minister also sought the help of states to create an enabling environment for the education of children in backward areas, minorities, women, weaker sections and tribal zones. Special steps are being taken by the Ministry to meet the needs of higher education of students from the North-East in the form of collaborative efforts with premier institutes of the country, she said. Highlighting the need for a Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyaan to make science interesting for children, system of finding patents and to make parents and communities a part of the innovation realm, Smriti asked the states to revisit the Right to Education Act in the light of their experiences. “The fragmentation between the primary, secondary and higher education should be removed and skill development should start at the school level. Technology will be leveraged for empowering the students and teachers,” she said. (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

50. Minorities will be Made Equal Partners in Development: Govt (7)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi-government today vowed to make all minority communities equal partners in the country’s progress as it regretted that the benefits of schemes do not reach them, leaving them in poverty even after decades of Independence. The government specifically promised to strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among them and initiate National Madrassa Modernisation Programme.  Addressing the first joint sitting of Parliament after the recent Lok Sabha polls, President Pranab Mukherjee said it is unfortunate that even after several decades of Independence, sections of minority communities continue to suffer from poverty, as benefits of government schemes do not reach them. “My government is committed to making all minorities equal partners in India’s progress,” he said. Mukherjee said keeping in mind welfare of people belonging to the SCs, STs, OBCs and the weaker sections of the society, the government will take steps to create an enabling “eco-system of equal opportunity” in education, health and livelihood.”My government is committed to see that those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes are able to avail emerging opportunities.”For the Scheduled Tribes, my government will launch a dedicated ‘Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana’. Electrification of tribal hamlets and connecting them with all-weather roads will be a priority area,” he said. The President said the welfare and rehabilitation of specially-abled people is integral to the NDA government’s vision of a caring society. “It will take steps to provide dignity of life to them by facilitating their participation in all walks of life. Steps will be taken to identify their special needs and to provide institutional care to them,” he said. (New Indian Express 10/6/14)

51. Mah Assembly presses for regulation of minority-run institutes (7)

Mumbai: Members in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly today sounded the need for government regulation of educational institutions run by linguistic minorities. The intervention on this issue was made by Speaker Dilip Walse Patil during a discussion on educational opportunities for minorities in the lower house through a calling attention notice. Walse Patil said apart from religious minorities, there are linguistic minorities, most of whom are well to do and own educational institutions who do not grant admissions to weaker and backward class students. The view was supported by Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse who demanded that government take steps to ensure that the erring educational institutions do not go scot-free. Industries Minister Narayan Rane assured the House that the issue would be discussed in the cabinet and an appropriate decision would be taken soon. Earlier in the debate, Congress legislator Amin Patel who initiated the calling attention notice, demanded 10 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs and education to which Minister of State for Minority Affairs Fauzia Khan said reservation for minorities in both the areas would be taken soon. Patel also demanded improvement in quality of education as well as upgradation of facilities in minority-run institutions. The proposal is being studied she said adding minorities included not just Muslims but Sikhs, Jains,Buddhists and Parsis too. (Business Standard 11/6/14)

52. Muslims, Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation: Subramanian Swamy (7)

New Delhi: Reacting to Congress MP Hussain Dalwai’s demand for reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy said Muslims and Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation, as they have ruled our country in the past. “Muslim rulers have ruled India for hundreds of years and have also destroyed it, and I find it surprising that now Muslims demand reservation claiming that they have been oppressed. When the Indian Constitution was being made, it was decided that the communities which had been oppressed and tortured will be given reservation, which is why SC/ST have reservation in our country,” said Swamy. He further said “Later, under VP Singh’s governance, whoever was poor or backward was given a reservation. Now, Yadavs, Jats and others have ruled the country, but I feel they shouldn’t be given reservation too. We have poor Brahmins in our country as well, and 50% of them are below poverty line, but they will never ask for reservations.” Swamy added, “I feel that only those who have been oppressed by the society and have been forced to live a backward life should given reservations. If Muslims want to study, then should be given scholarships, good schools, But Muslims and Christians can’t have reservation as they have ruled our country.” Dalwai had earlier made a strong pitch for reservation for Muslims in Mumbai at the time when the Maharashtra government is set to announce its decision on the Rane Committee’s recommendation for 20% quota for Marathas. (Business Standard 16/6/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

53. BJP hosts first rally of Muslims in Bengal (7)

KOLKATA: Days after a Muslim youth was killed in Pune by members of a radical right-wing outfit, Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), the West Bengal unit of the BJP took out a rally featuring hundreds of Muslims here on Tuesday. It is one of the rare occasions when a few hundred members of Muslim community raised their voices against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The rally is indicative of the BJP’s growing interest in Bengal’s Muslim vote bank as the party has realised it is virtually impossible to win any election in the State that has 25 to 26 per cent minority population without wooing the Muslims. So the BJP’s State committee and the Central leadership have stepped up their activities to win over the minorities, right after the Lok Sabha elections. Last week, the party had dispatched State-level teams to probe the killing of Sheikh Rahim, a daily wage-earner in Birbhum district, while announcing its plan to get the members of the minority cell to investigate the death of Mr. Rahim. On Tuesday, the party launched a rally through the heart of central Kolkata to protest the killing of Mr. Rahim. Minority Morcha President of the BJP, Shakil Ansari, told The Hindu that such ‘protest-demonstrations were already yielding results’. “Muslims are now joining the BJP because they have seen through the TMC and the CPI (M)’s falsehood that if BJP came to power Muslims would be slaughtered. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking a lot of steps for minority development,” said Mr. Ansari. He accused the TMC of trying to keep the ‘Muslims confined within the boundaries of Madrasa education, doing Namaz’. “Madrasa education will not help Muslim youth become doctors and engineers. They need modern education to achieve progress.” Taking a dig at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to provide monthly honorarium to Muslim clerics, Mr. Ansari said that by Madrasa education, Muslim youths would only become imams. When asked by journalists earlier in the day as to why any BJP leaders are not condemning the murder of a Muslim youth in Pune, BJP State president Rahul Sinha avoided giving a direct answer. He said, “I am not authorised to make comments on what happened in Pune as the State president of the BJP. Only Central leaders, who are authorised to talk on national matters, can speak on this.” Mr. Sinha, however, slammed the TMC for the murder of Mr. Rahim and said, “They (TMC leaders) always raise such a hue and cry about minority development, but their first victim after the general elections is a member of the minority community.” (The Hindu 11/6/14)

54. Suggestions to codify Muslim Personal laws (7)

MUMBAI: After months of brainstorming sessions and consultations, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a women’s advocacy group, has drafted a set of recommendations , which if accepted by the government, can “revolutionize” the to codify Muslim Personal laws. These laws mainly concern on marriage, divorce, maintenance and children’s custody. The draft, they said, will help end “arbitrariness and alleged patriarchal practices”. To be released on Wednesday, the draft is expected to annoy the orthodox elements in the community and may not find favour with the powerful All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). “This may be called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act and only the Centre can enforce it through notification in the official gazette. It will debar unilateral triple talaq, discourage polygamy and establish women as natural guardian of kids. Marriage, maintenance and divorce will take place on principles laid do8wn by the Quran,” said Noorjahan Safia Niaz, BMMA founder. Senior advocate and head of legal cell of AIMPLB Yusuf Muchchalla said the draft is ill-timed. “Security, arrest of youth on false terror charges, unemployment and lack of education are the issues that Muslims must focus on. Codification will create more problems as there are several schools of thought in Islam and one kind of family law can’t be applicable to all.” (Times of India 17/6/14)

55. Parties decry attack on Lanka Muslims (7)

Chennai: Political parties in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday condemned the attack on Muslims in Sri Lanka by hard-line Buddhists, in which three persons were killed. Several Muslim outfits, including the Tamil Nadu Tawheed Jamat, organised protests in Chennai. Hundreds of workers were arrested. Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan said the attacks on Muslims showed that the Sri Lankan government was against the interests of the minorities. (The Hindu 18/6/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

56. Nagaland MP urges Christian MPs to work with dedication (7)

Kohima Jun 10: The Lok Sabha MP from Nagaland Neiphiu Rio today urged upon the Christian members of parliament to serve the nation with sincerity and dedication in the greater interest of the people, especially the minorities and the marginalised. In a release, Mr Rio said while addressing the thanks giving service for Christian parliamentarians at the Cathedral Church of the Redemption in New Delhi. The service is part of the Parliamentarians Fellowship hosted by the National Prayer Tower and Cathedral Church of the Redemption. Others who participated in the service included former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, Lok Sabha MP Vincent Pala, Oscar Fernandes, Mizoram MP C L Ruala former MP Thomas Sangma and Manipur MP Thangso Baite amongst others. The service was led by Archbishop Emiritus Vincent Concessao and church leaders who participated included Rev. Dr Abraham Mar Paulos Episcopa, Bishop, Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, Diocese of Delhi, Rev. Subodh C Mondal, Bishop of Methodist Church, Delhi, Rev. Sunil Singh, Bishop of CNI, Delhi Diocese, Dr. M. Ezra Sargunam, Bishop, Evangelical Church of India, Rev. Dr. Paul Swarup, Presbyter in charge, Archbishop Anil J T Couto Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Delhi and Bro. Ashirvatham, Director of the National Prayer Tower. The thanksgiving service is held at the beginning of very new Lok Sabha, the release said. (New Kerala 11/6/14)

57. India will spare no effort to secure release of Catholic priest abducted in Afghanistan: Modi (7)

CHENNAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday assured Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa that the Centre would spare no effort to get Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar released from the custody of suspected Taliban militants in Afghanistan. “I will continue to monitor the situation very closely,” he said in a letter to Jayalalithaa. Modi expressed his deep concern over the abduction of Kumar in Herat province of Afghanistan. “I have been assured that the Government of Afghanistan and the authorities in Herat are taking every possible step to ensure the early release of Father Prem Kumar. Our ambassador in Kabul has been in regular touch with the President’s Office and the security agencies,” Modi said. The Prime Minister said national security advisor Ajit Doval had also spoken to the Afghan national security advisor, who assured full and sustained efforts by the Afghan government to seek Kumar’s release. “This is an extremely delicate situation and our primary concern at this stage is to ensure the integrity of the ongoing efforts for Kumar’s release and to ensure that he does not come to harm,” Modi said. (Times of India 12/6/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

58. 2 mosques burnt in riot-hit Mewat village, curfew on (7)

Tauru: At least two mosques, one barely 100 metres away from a police station, were gutted during clashes between Hindus and Muslims following a road accident in Tauru, 35 km from Gurgaon, in Mewat Sunday. At least 15 people, including a DSP, were injured in the clashes. Curfew has been clamped in the area where paramilitary and police personnel have been deployed in strength. Flag marches were staged Monday as shops downed shutters and streets wore a deserted look. The clashes broke out after 20-year-old Danveer, returning home on a motorcycle, was knocked down by a dumper around 7.30 am Sunday. Angry residents gathered and assaulted the dumper driver Raees, 35, and helper Mubarak, 18. But word spread that the mob had killed the duo. Muslims from adjoining villages landed in Tauru, allegedly carrying weapons. Eyewitnesses claimed that some in the large crowd opened fire and looted shops near the bus stand. Kiran Devi, whose 12-year old son was hit by a bullet, said, “Rohit had gone out to buy groceries when he was hit by a bullet in the abdomen. He is undergoing treatment at Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon.” Three others, also seriously injured, are admitted in the same hospital. Pointing towards the broken windows of the SBI branch, customer executive Vishal Sharma said many in the mob were carrying lathis. “They broke in and took away everything that they could. The Allahabad Bank branch next to ours was also targeted.” Anil Taneja, whose mobile shop was allegedly looted, said, “When we saw the mob approaching, we fled. I lost goods worth Rs 3.5 lakh. They smashed all counters and windows.” It is alleged that the mob stoned a Shiva temple on Bawla road. Minutes later, two mosques — Jama Masjid hardly 100 metres from the police station, and Qureshiya mosque a little further — were set ablaze. Mohammad Abdullah, Imam of Jama Masjid,said, “I saw groups of men gather in the locality and thought it safe to leave the place. So, I locked the mosque and went home. At night, a police team informed me that the mosque had been burnt and escorted me there.” But Raj Kumar Mittal, local councillor and president of Tauru Traders Union, denied that Hindus were behind the destruction of the mosques and a shop. “The shop was burnt due to a short circuit but the owner blamed it on us. In the case of Jama Masjid, a youth smoking near the mosque threw a cigarette on a straw mat, which caught fire and burnt the mosque,” Mittal claimed. Blaming politicians for “inciting the Muslims”, he demanded a CBI probe into the riots. …(Indian Express 10/6/14)

59. Riot-displaced given 3-day ultimatum to leave camps (7)

Muzaffarnagar: Displaced villagers who have been living in camps on government land in neighbouring Shamli district since the Muzaffarnagar communal riots in September last year have been asked to vacate them within three days by authorities. Subdivisional Magistrate Suresh Kumar Mishra on Saturday said that a team of government officials visited the camps on Friday and “appealed” to the riot-displaced people to return to their native villages within three days. “They would not be allowed to stay on government land. They have been asked to vacate the camps,” he told reporters. These camps are located in Malakpura, Narpur Khurgan, Akbarpur and Sunethi villages in Shamli district. More than 250 families, who fled their homes after the communal riots that claimed over 60 lives, are believed to be staying in camps in these places in Shamli district, 100 km from the national capital. (Indian Express 14/6/14)

60. BKU leaders booked for inciting communal passions (7)

MEERUT: Prohibitory orders have been issued in Shamli district after local people burnt effigies of Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders who allegedly made inflammatory speeches with the potential to set off communal tension at a mahapanchayat on June 13. Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining areas have been communally charged in the wake of remarks allegedly made by BKU president Naresh Tikait and district youth wing chief Puran Singh, who spoke at the Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat in Dulhera village of Muzaffarnagar district. SSP Muzaffarnagar HN Singh said, “Security has been tightened in the entire region. No one will be allowed to disturb communal harmony.” In the mahapanchayat, which was attended by khap chaudharys of dozens of villages in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, speakers demanded that the state’s Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities Prevention Act, 1986 be invoked against those involved in the riots of August-September last year in Muzaffarnagar. They also demanded that fast track courts be set up to punish the culprits. Some speakers said the circle officer of Shahpur should be terminated from service. During his speech, Tikait said all people in India must live like Indians. Referring to the incident that reportedly sparked the riots last year, the murder of a Muslim youth allegedly for teasing a Hindu a girl in Kawal village of Muzaffarnagar district, Tikait said that was “only a trailer”. He alleged that the state government had been sheltering a particular section of society. “If we come to our own, we will force ‘them’ to leave India”, he had said. Speaking of the cases slapped against him, Tikait said, “It seems it has become a sin to protect our women. I had commented on the perpetrators of crime and the state government has slapped these false cases against us.” The panchayat of June 13 was held to denounce an incident of gang rape of a woman who was returning to Dulhera from Shahpur village on June 3. The woman was abducted and brutally raped in a graveyard by 11 people. Eight of the accused have so far been arrested. Members of the minority community have reacted with outrage to the comments allegedly made by the BKU leaders. Effigies of Tikait were burnt at various places in Shahpur, Shamli, and Budhana. Considering the sensitivity of the situation, the city administration booked the two BHU leaders on June 16 for inciting communal tension through inflammatory speeches. Kaushal Raj Sharma, district magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, said, “After a thorough investigation, a case was registered against Naresh Tikait and Puran Singh for making inflammatory remarks and violating prohibitory orders.” A case has been booked under Sections 188 (disobedience of order promulgated by public servant) and 153a (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code, the police officer said. Meanwhile, the Shamli administration has issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 (preventing assembly of more than five people) of the Criminal Procedure Code in the backdrop of protests by Muslims. (Times of India 18/6/14)

WOMEN

61. Modi signals women’s quota in Parliament, zero tolerance for riots (8)

NEW DELHI: Pushed to the backburner for the last four years, the women’s reservation bill appears closest now to being passed with the Narendra Modi government expressing its commitment for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies. Spelling out the Modi government’s agenda in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday, “My government recognizes the important role our women play in the development of our society and growth of the nation. It is committed to providing 33% reservation to them in Parliament and state legislative assemblies.” While similar resolves for women’s quota in legislatures were expressed in the past as well, the fresh pledge sounds credible both because of BJP’s absolute majority in Lok Sabha as well as the near-rout of SP, BSP, JD(U) and RJD who vetoed the implementation. Stressing that women’s welfare will be one of the thrust areas for the new government, Mukherjee announced the launch of a country wide ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ (save girl child, teach girl child) campaign to save the girl child and enable her education and prevent crimes against women by strengthening the criminal justice system. He also put the challenge of communal violence on the same footing as terrorism, extremism and crime, stressing that the government would follow a “zero tolerance” approach towards all. “A national plan will be chalked out in consultation with the state governments to effectively curb incidents of communal violence and the challenges posed by left wing extremism,” said the President. (Times of India 10/6/14)

62. Sushma Swaraj seeks support for women’s reservation bill (8)

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday said the 16th Lok Sabha should be the one which passes the much-delayed women’s reservation bill. “A lot of parties have spoken about women’s empowerment, but we have done our bit by making a woman the chief minister of Gujarat. We also have 25% women in our Cabinet and even the speaker of Lok Sabha is a woman,” External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said during a debate in the lower house on the motion of thanks on the President’s address. Urging all members of the house to support the bill when it is introduced in Parliament, Swaraj named leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and said: “I request you to support the women’s reservation bill when we introduce it just as we did when you introduced.” The government on Monday announced a policy of “zero tolerance” for violence against women, and said it was committed to providing 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislatures. The bill, which reserves 33% of seats in parliament and the state legislatures for women, lapsed for the fourth time with the 15th Lok Sabha holding its last sitting ahead of the April-May general elections. Swaraj said the Congress lost badly in the Lok Sabha election due to non-performance, while the BJP succeeded as its “product” was good and became a hit with the people. “Let us be clear that the product should be good. If it is not, then marketing will make no impact. Our product was liked by the people because of its quality,” she said. “You also did your marketing. But there was anger against your government… People accepted Narendra Modi as an alternative and the candidates (of the ruling alliance) became secondary. People cutting across caste and creed voted for Modi,” she said. “People had thought that the era of single party majority has ended. But this time, it is unique as the BJP has got 282 and the NDA 336… When we talked of getting 272-plus (seats) on our own, people laughed,” she said. (Times of India 11/6/14)

63. Ten incidents of sexual assault, UP accounts for 4 (8)

New Delhi: More cases of crime against women were reported in several parts of the country with Uttar Pradesh alone accounting for four of the 10 incidents of sexual assault which included the alleged gang-rape of a 25-year-old girl in Delhi. Cases of sexual assault were reported from Meerut, Sitapur, Varanasi and Jalaun in UP. Three persons were arrested for allegedly throwing acid on a teenage girl in Rampur area of Jalaun, police said on Thursday. Rape cases were also reported from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. In south Delhi, the 25-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three men in a moving car following which police arrested them. The woman had approached police last night after which an FIR was registered, a senior police official said. In Moradabad in UP, a 19-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree but a senior police officer claimed that prima facie it appeared to be a case of suicide. A young Dalit woman was abducted and raped by a youth in Meerut following which he was arrested while a 21-year-old girl was raped by her paramour in Sitapur, police said. A mentally retarded woman was allegedly abducted and gang-raped by two persons in Manduadih area in Varanasi late last night, Manduadih police station in-charge Moin Ahmed said. A senior police officer said a six-year-old girl was allegedly molested by a 15-year-old boy who was her neighbour in Kadaura area of Jalaun on June 10. A 24-year-old girl accused a police sub-inspector in Hamirpur in UP of sexually assaulting her inside a police station when she had gone there to secure her husband’s release on the night of June 9. However, DIG (Banda range) Amitabh Yash today said no injury was detected in the medical report of the woman and rape was not confirmed. He added that, according to the medical report, the woman was three-and-a-half months pregnant. In Haryana, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped and raped by a youth in Kaithal. Police said a 22-year-old newly married woman was raped by a distant relative in a village in Moga district in Punjab. In Kota in Rajathan, a 22-year-old married woman was raped by her neighbour while her husband was away from the house, police said. In a shocking incident, a 17-year-old boy was on Thursday arrested in Ahmedabad for allegedly raping and killing a five-year-old girl from his neighbouring locality. The incident came to light after the father of the girl, living near Sola bridge area in the city, approached the police when his minor daughter went missing at 10am on Wednesday. While searching for the girl, the police learnt that the victim was last seen with the young boy working as a cleaner with a private bus operator. On the basis of suspicion, the police interrogated the boy this morning during which he admitted to have dumped her body in the luggage compartment of a bus, Sola police inspector SM Patel said. The boy, however, claimed that he did not rape the minor girl, Patel said, adding, “Based on the complaint we have arrested the minor boy on the charges of abduction, rape and murder.” The body has been sent for postmortem to ascertain whether she was raped, he said. Two minor girls, who were staying in a private hostel in Pollachi town near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, were abducted and gangraped allegedly by two persons at a nearby complex, the police said. The incident occurred past midnight when the two accused came to the hostel run by a church and asked for some water. When the girls, aged 10 and 11, fetched water for the duo, they pulled them by their hand, it said. A boy in the hostel witnessed the incident and questioned the men, but was thrashed by the duo, who then forcibly took away the girls to a nearby complex and raped them, it said. The victims were admitted to a government hospital in Pollachi, about 35 kms from Coimbatore, with severe bleeding and injuries. Davidson Devashirvatham, IG, West Zone and Sudhakar, Rural SP, who are conducting an inquiry, said they have received ‘some clues’ and would soon bring the culprits to book. Meanwhile, the postmortem report of the 45-year-old woman, whose body was found hanging from a tree in Bahraich in UP yesterday, has “not confirmed rape”, even as five policemen have been suspended in connection with the case. “The postmortem report of the woman has not confirmed rape. The cause of death is ante-mortem hanging. The body of the victim did not have any injury marks,” district magistrate NK Singh said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

64. Uttar Pradesh: Four cops gang-rape woman inside police station (8)

Lucknow: Yet another ghastly incident of sexual assault has come to the fore in Uttar Pradesh where a woman was gang-raped by four policemen, including a Station House Officer (SHO), when she had gone to police station to meet her husband detained in connection with a case. The shameful incident happened in Sumerpur police station of Hamirpur district. The woman was sexually assaulted when she had gone to seek her husband’s release, who was held for possessing a country made pistol. The woman was allegedly gang-raped by SHO and three constables for two hours inside the premises of the police station. Following this, the alleged victim lodged a complaint and Hamirpur Superintendent of Police Virendra Shekhar assured the woman that no one would be spared if found guilty. Shekhar told IANS that following a complaint by the woman, a First Information Report was lodged and the SHO was arrested on Wednesday. The three constables are absconding. The latest incident is surely to put Uttar Pradesh government under huge pressure, which is already facing severe criticism over spurt in sexual crimes against women. Crime against women have witnessed a sudden spurt in the state and on an average, 10 cases of rape are being reported every day. BJP state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said the incident is yet another example of lawlessness in state of Uttar Pradesh. (Zee News 12/6/14)

65. Woman gangraped by 10 men, including husband, in MP (8)

Khandwa: A tribal woman in Madhya Pradesh was allegedly gangraped by 10 persons, including her husband, paraded naked and forced to drink urine in front of her minor son following a land dispute. After the woman lodged a complaint in which she alleged that the attack was carried out at the behest of her husband, all the accused were nabbed, police said. The incident took place three days ago at Bhiali Kheda village under Piplod police station and the victim reported the matter on June 13, 2014 to police after her family members brought her to Khandwa district hospital, police said. Acting on the complaint, police on Saturday arrested all the 10, including the victim’s husband, relatives and other villagers, Sunita Rawat, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Women’s Cell, Khandwa told reporters in Khandwa on Saturday. In her complaint, the woman alleged that she was gangraped by 10 persons, including her husband and relatives, the DSP said. Before raping her, the men manhandled the victim, paraded her naked and when she asked for water, they forced her to drink urine in front of her minor son, Ms. Rawat said quoting from the woman’s complaint. Meanwhile, the woman’s husband claimed before the media that she was levelling baseless allegations against him and other villagers over a land dispute. Police have registered a case under IPC sections 376 (g) (gangrape), 354 (b) (act with intent to disrobe a woman), 294 (obscene acts and songs), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) against the accused and are further probing the incident. The victim was undergoing treatment at the district hospital where women constables and Piplod police station in-charge were deployed for her security, Ms. Rawat added. There has been nationwide outrage on the string of incidents of sexual assault on women. The issue has come into fresh focus following the gangrape and murder of two teenage cousins, whose bodies were found hanging from a tree in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

66. UN rights chief calls time on caste-based sex attacks (8)

Geneva: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay today urged India to ensure that perpetrators of caste-based sexual attacks do not escape justice. “Women from stigmatised castes suffer the double assault of caste-based and gender-based discrimination,” Pillay said on the sidelines of a session of the UN Human Rights Council. “And all too often abuses of their rights are committed with complete impunity,” she said. “Such impunity must end,” said Pillay, a South African with Indian roots. India has been trying to overcome its reputation for violence against women, but public outrage was reignited by the deaths last month of two girls, aged 12 and 14, who were gang-raped and lynched in their impoverished village in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The girls’ families refused to cut their bodies down from a tree in protest at alleged police inaction, which they said was because they were from a lower caste. Last week, a woman said she had been gang-raped by four officers at a police station in the same state, and police said they were also investigating the death of a nineteen-year-old found hanging from a tree. “The victims of these crimes must receive justice, and societies, communities and officials must receive the clear message that discrimination and violence will no longer be tolerated,” said Pillay. “States must take steps to prevent such violence and discrimination and protect the rights of vulnerable people and communities,” she added. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, an attack that drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. “Violence against women of poorly regarded castes has very deep roots, which cannot be tackled without far-reaching efforts. Clearly laws are necessary, but they are not enough,” said Pillay. “There must also be fundamental change within communities, to peel off, layer by layer, the mind-set that generates caste discrimination and bigotry,” she said. Pillay noted that caste-based discrimination was a global problem, hitting communities not only in India but other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Around 260 million people are affected, she said. (Zee News 18/6/14)

67. Domestics pitch for legal reform in labour laws (8)

NEW DELHI: About 1,000, domestic workers from different parts of the city came together at Talkatora Stadium to demand an amendment in existing labour laws and a separate law to address their specific occupation. The National Domestic Workers Movement and Chetanalaya-Domestic Workers Forum brought the women to the event. Abuse and sexual harassment, lack of welfare measures and social protection were key concerns raised by them. N Mukta Toppo, president of the Council of Catholic Women, Archdiocese of Delhi, recounted the story of one of the workers who was abused by her employer. International Labour Organization representative Tushima Reiko advocated ratification of resolutions of the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention signed by the union government in June 2011. “The ratification of the ILO Convention 189 will provide much-awaited recognition to domestic workers across the country who work as hard as any other professional but hardly get recognition and relevant wages. Philippines is the only Asian country to get this done,” Reiko said. The main demands of the domestic workers were a comprehensive legislation for domestic workers, a tripartite board at the national and state level, fixed minimum wages, and registration of workers, employers and their social security contribution. Issuing of smart cards for the workers was also sought. “Seven Indian states had already fixed minimum wages for the domestic workers, 11 states have an unorganized social security board and three have a domestic workers welfare board. Delhi has got none of them,” said Leeza Joseph of NDWM. The Minimum Wages Act 1948, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, Equal Renumeration Act 1976 and Payment of Wages Act 1936 are the important laws that must be amended, she said. The domestics are often at the receiving end of serious yet unfair allegations. A worker, Radha Rani from Indore, said, “I worked in a house, in Jawahar Park near Devli Village for almost eight years. In 2007, I was wrongly accused of theft and a police case was registered against me. I fought persistently for two years in the Saket Court for my rights and dignity. I was declared innocent by the court in 2009.” (Times of India 18/6/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

68. Water pollution killing Goa’s marine population (9)

PANAJI: The next time you want to dig into a spiced, crunchy fried mussel or fancy some coconut-laced clam gravy while lounging in a Goa beach shack, you might have to look harder for it. An alarmed Goa forest and environment ministry last week ordered a probe into the death of thousands of clams at Velim, a coastal village in South Goa, one of the few places along the state’s coastline, where the molluscs have been surfacing for decades now. According to experts, Goa’s shellfish is also threatened by water pollution caused over the years by mining and the increasing discharge of toxins into the state’s main rivers, Mandovi in north Goa and the Zuari towards the south. The clam deaths come as yet another blow to the state’s traditional fish-loving population, which is already reeling under high prices on account of severe shortages in the fish catch over the last few months. Activist Clifton D’Souza was one of those few who saw first-hand the stretch of dead clams which lay open, with sandy grime in their cavity, instead of the sought after edible tissue. He claims the discharge of raw sewage into the Sal river is the reason for the carnage. Environment minister Alina Saldanha, who had earlier dispatched a team of the Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB) to inspect the site and interact with the locals, has now ordered a detailed investigation with the help of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), a central marine research institute located in Goa. “This mysterious episode of clam deaths will need detailed investigation to determine the true causes,” she said earlier this week. According to a preliminary investigation conducted by the state environment ministry, the deaths could have been caused by a shell pathogen, shell fish toxin accumulated through filter feeding, stress induced mortality caused by hypoxia/anoxia, a very high biological oxygen demand in the lower water strata close to the sediment or salinity. Local fishermen have been claiming over two months that there were recurring instances of clams coming up dead. One of Goa’s top marine scientists, Baban Ingole, claims that the beach state, well known for its sea-food, may soon have to bid goodbye to its mussels if it did not take steps quick enough. “The mussel seed in the Vasco bay area is seriously depleting. Very soon Goa will not have any mussels. Most of them which are sold in Goa are from outside the state any way,” he warned during an Environment Day function earlier this month. Ingole, who works for the NIO, was also the first in 2010 to warn of a possible fish famine off Goa’s coast due to pollution and overfishing to feed the state’s ever growing in-bound tourism. Subsequently, in the last couple of years, the scientific community has also been churning out research about how mining silt accumulated over the years and pollution are squelching Goa’s shellfish population. One of them was Padma Bhushan awardee and ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who has spearheaded a couple of major studies in Goa and the Western Ghats, a majestic mountain range which overlooks the state. He blamed the loss of fish and shellfish productivity in Goa to three key factors: “Turbidity in water, increased sedimentation and oil, iron and manganese pollution.” A similar sentiment is echoed in an NIO study, authored by a team of Indian and Chinese researchers, who examined both the major rivers. Released last year, the study blames “abundant” spillages from the ferrying of iron ore in river barges as one of the causes for river pollution. “Since ore handling – loading in barges, transporting and reloading at the port or mid-stream in giant ships – is done in an open system there is abundant spilled-over ore material into the estuaries (of the two rivers),” the study said. “Shipbuilding industries on the shores of both rivers may have contributed to the trace metals,” the study further stated, adding that in some areas in the two rivers, pollution had reached “significant” levels. (Times of Indi 11/6/14)

69. India, World Bank sign agreement for DPL loan to Himachal (9)

New Delhi, June 11 : Credit Agreement for World Bank DPL Loan of US$ 100 million for promoting Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development has been signed between the Government of India, the World Bank and the Government of Himachal Pradesh in New Delhi on Wednesday. The agreement was signed by Usha Titus, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs on behalf of the Indian government and Shrikant Baldi, Principal Secretary (Finance), on behalf of the Himachal Pradesh government and Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India, on behalf of the World Bank. The Loan agreement signed here on Wednesday will be financed by the Clean Technology Fund (CTF). “It will help Himachal Pradesh bring in better policies and practices to guide the development of sustainable hydropower; adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change; empower local communities to conserve their watersheds better; promote cleaner methods of industrial production; promote environmentally sustainable tourism; and integrate GIS in decision making,” read a government statement. The government of Himachal Pradesh is the implementing agency. (New Kerala 12/6/14)

70. India’s Plant, Animal Species Under Severe Threat: Govt Report (9)

NEW DELHI: India’s plant and animal species, particularly in the global biodiversity hotspots of Himalayas, Western Ghats, Northeast and the Nicobar Islands, are under severe threat due to overexploitation, forest fires and climate change, says an official report. The Environment Ministry report, came out in the midst of raging debate between environmental protection and industrial growth, rings alarm bells over destruction of forest and biodiversity in the country, which is home to 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. In a candid admission, the Ministry says that it has diverted an estimated over 1.7 million hectares of forest land for executing more than 23,000 developmental projects since the enactment of Forest Conservation Act in 1980. The report says that “a considerable area of forests in the country is under low fragmentation (49.63 per cent of the total geographic area of the country), 21.89 per cent under medium while 5.16 per cent was under high fragmentation. The Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), a copy of which is with PTI, was developed prior to CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. “Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation through conversion of land use through agriculture, urbanisation and industrial development, invasive alien species and over exploitation of natural resources, including plants and animals, are amongst the major threats faced by biodiversity globally and in India,” says the report. Mining and quarrying caused habitat loss and degradation, with severe consequences for the ecology of areas such as the Aravalli range and the Western Ghats. Considering the outstanding universal values and exceptionally high levels of endemism in the Western Ghats, 39 sites in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012. (New Indian Express 15/6/14)

71. Centre for Science and Environment insists on river pollution control (9)

PUNE: New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has stated that reinventing the strategy for river pollution control must be on the top government’s environment agenda. It has insisted a need to aggressively implement the national sanitation programme -make it a top governmental priority. In a recent press statement the CSE has stated that it has released ‘ Environment and Development Agenda’ for the newly elected NDA government at the Centre. This agenda is based on years of research by CSE on key environmental challenges. One section of the agenda is devoted to river improvement. ” Every river in India is like the Ganga – either dying or already dead—as cities take water from them and return sewage, and industries discharge effluents into them. The strategy of river cleaning by building sewage treatment plants has proved to be inadequate” states the CSE. The group has added that the government needs to make ecological flow mandatory in all stretches of a river and accept that urban areas cannot build conventional sewage networks at a required pace. ” Ensure treated effluent is reused or discharged directly into rivers for dilution and go for affordable water and sanitation solutions. Design a garbage disposal system to segregate waste and make a resource out of it. Learn that controlling industrial pollution demands effective enforcement of laws and appropriate technologies for small-scale industries” states the CSE press release. (Times of India 16/6/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

72. National Education Policy Soon, Sports to be Part of School Curriculum (11)

NEW DELHI: Emphasising its priority on social sector, the NDA Government would soon formulate a National Education policy. The policy would be aimed at setting up IITs and IIMs in each state and establishment of AIIMS-like institutions in every state as well as providing 33 per cent reservation for women in legislature. Addressing the Joint Session of Parliament on Monday, President Pranab Mukehrjee said that the government was committed to making all minorities’ equal partners in India’s progress and that a dedicated Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana for the Scheduled Tribes would be launched. In his address, which enlisted the agenda of Narendra Modi Government for the next five years, Mukherjee said, “The government will strive for transition from Youth Development to Youth-led Development. It will set up Massive Open Online Courses and virtual classrooms and formulate a National Education Policy aimed at meeting the challenges posed by lack of quality, research, and innovation, in our educational institutions.” “With the motto of ‘Har Haath ko Hunar’, the government  will strive to break the barriers between formal education and skill development, and put in place a mechanism to give academic equivalence to vocational qualifications. With the goal of Skilled India, my Government will also launch a National Multi-skill Mission,” the President added. Recognising the important role that women play in the development of society and growth of the nation, he said, “The government is committed to providing 33 per cent reservation to them in the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. With a commitment to ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao’, we will launch a mass campaign for saving the girl child and enabling her education.  The Government will have a policy of zero tolerance for violence against women, and will strengthen the criminal justice system for its effective implementation.” President added that the children and youth of the country need avenues of recreation to develop them constructively and keep them fit. “The government will launch a ‘National Sports Talent Search System’ to facilitate development and promotion of Indian sports, particularly rural sports. Sports will be popularised by making it an integral part of the school curriculum and providing educational incentives,“ he said. Maintaining that a holistic health care system that is universally accessible, affordable and effective, is the need of the hour, the President said, “To achieve this objective, the government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. It will promote Yoga and AYUSH. To address the shortfalls of health care professionals, health education and training will be transformed. AIIMS-like institutes will be established in every state in a phased manner.” Mukherjee said that a “Swachh Bharat Mission” would be launched to ensure hygiene, waste management and sanitation across India. Keeping in mind the welfare of the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the weaker sections, Mukherjee said that the government would take steps to enable an eco-system of equal opportunity in education, health and livelihood. The President also said that the government would especially strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities and that a National Madarsa Modernisation Programme will be initiated. (Indian Express 10/6/14)

73. SFI activists stage protest in Coimbatore over RTE Act (11)

COIMBATORE: Students Federation of India activists staged a protest in front of the School Education Department office here on Wednesday demanding effective implementation of the Right To Education Act in private schools. While the Act mandated private schools to set aside 25 per cent of their total seats to students from socio-economically weaker sections, the activists alleged that this provision was not being implemented and claimed that many schools were refusing to issue applications. In a petition submitted to Chief Educational Officer A. Gnanagowri, the members also alleged that the private schools were collecting fees in excess of the levels filed by the Private Schools Fee Determination Committee. They urged the official to crackdown on such schools. Ms. Gnanagowri assured them that action would be taken against schools violating the norms. She also explained the provisions of the RTE Act and the functioning of a grievance cell set up to look into these issues. In Tirupur, SFI members took to the streets on Wednesday alleging that inadequate attention was given to improve infrastructure in government/Corporation schools in the city and also demanded impartial checks in private schools to ascertain whether the institutions followed RTE guidelines. (The Hindu 12/6/14)

74. New RTE Norms for Minority Institutions (11)

BANGALORE: The state government has decided to change the norms for educational institutions to qualify themselves as linguistic or religious minority institutions for the implementation of Right to Education(RTE) Act in primary education. The state Cabinet which discussed the issue in detail on Friday decided to amend the existing rules to accord the status of minority institution to any school/ educational institution being run by people belonging to minority communities. According to the proposed new rule, if the number of students belonging to the community that runs the institution is not less than 25 per cent of its strength, it can be considered as a minority institution. The previous law stipulated that at least 75 per cent of the students should be from the concerned minority community to accord the status of minority institution for getting exemption from the RTE Act. Such institutions will be exempted from compulsory allocation of 25 per cent of seats to students from weaker sections whose fee will be paid by the government. Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters that the change in rule was in the wake of the High Court issuing a stay order against the  state government’s earlier rule. The court had directed the state to bring a new legislation. The Cabinet on Friday gave its nod to set up Karnataka Mining Environment Restoration Company Ltd (KMERCL) to provide basic amenities to people in mining-ravaged areas of Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts. The decision was taken in accordance with the Supreme Court directive to set up such a company. KMERCL will implement projects under the Comprehensive Environment Plan for Mining-Impact Zones, Minister Jayachandra said and added that it would work for mitigating the impact of mining. It will take up afforestation programmes and address issues in the field of education, health, nutrition, water supply, employment and minor irrigation. The KMERCL will receive funds already collected by the Monitoring Committee from A, B and C category mines in the form of compensation (fine) from sale proceeds of existing stock in accordance with the guidelines fixed by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC). “About Rs 10,000 crore has already been collected. We are hoping to get about Rs 30,000 crore from the mines which had violated various rules,”  he said. The cabinet has also decided to ask State-owned Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd to study the extent of iron ore mined and reserves left in C category mines, to speed up the process of auctioning of mines to comply with the Supreme Court directive. (New Indian Express  14/6/14)

75. Government teachers to work for 30 more minutes (11)

NEW DELHI: To comply with the minimum work hours prescribed by the Right to Education Act, 2009, the Directorate of Education has increased the work hours of government school teachers by half-an-hour. The RTE mandates a minimum of 45 working hours per week for a teacher. “The teachers will get 30 extra minutes to plan their lessons, check notebooks, evaluate their own performance as well as that of their students [and] prepare teaching aids,” says a statement issued by the department. “Because almost 300 of the school buildings have to accommodate two schools (in shifts), the average time for a shift was 5.30 hours which included an assembly and a recess period. So, the effective teaching time left with the school was only 4.40 hours,” says the statement explaining why the increase was required. The government had made an attempt to increase teaching hours in January this year but had to withdraw that circular following protests. However, director, education, Padmini Singla says they hadn’t withdrawn the %January circular but “had suspended it till this academic session.” (Times of India 16/6/14)

76. BJP Opposes Govt’s Decision on Minority Status to Schools (11)

BANGALORE: Bharatiya Janata Party has condemned the State government’s decision to change RTE guidelines for granting minority status to primary schools by reducing the strength of students belonging to a minority community from 75 per cent to 25 per cent. Former ministers S Suresh Kumar and C T Ravi told newsmen here on Tuesday that the government’s move has dealt a severe blow to the very spirit of the RTE Act enacted by the previous UPA government. The previous BJP Government had issued guidelines stating that institutions which do not have 75 per cent of student intake from religious and linguistic minority groups come under the RTE Act. It was aimed at protecting the interests of the students belonging to minority and oppressed classes enabling them to get quality education in reputed institutions, they claimed. “The Congress government has now changed the guidelines and thus, it has removed the very essence of the legislation. We will exert pressure on the government by mobilising public opinion against its order,” they said. “We will fight both within and outside the legislature to bring the government to sense on the matter,” Suresh Kumar said. The government, in a bid to protect the interests of the school managements, has ignored the idea to provide quality education to the deprived sections in the society, he alleged. Suresh Kumar and Ravi expressed apprehension that the government’s decision will prompt more and more institutions to seek exemption from the RTE Act.  (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

TERRORISM

77. India condemns Karachi airport attack (12)

NEW DELHI: India strongly condemned the Karachi airport attack saying there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism and that this scourge must be fought urgently and comprehensively, without making any exception. “The attack yesterday on Karachi International Airport by 10 suicide bombers must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “The attack underlines the magnitude of danger that is posed by terrorism. Left unchecked, terrorism will continue to hinder efforts to promote national economic development, overcome poverty and provide people better quality of lives,” it added. Terrorism in recent times has been the main bone of contention between the two countries with the Indian side insisting on Islamabad acting decisively against terror groups operating out of Pakistan soil for carrying the dialogue process forward. The attack, which began just before midnight on Pakistan’s biggest airport Jinnah International, ended on Monday afternoon after a 13-hour gun battle which left 28 people dead, including all 10 terrorists. (Times of India 10/6/14)

Ministry of Home Affairs beefs up security at religious places (12)

New Delhi: In a first exercise by the BJP government to tighten security measures at religious places in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura, the Union home ministry on Thursday called for beefing up of the security apparatus in view of intelligence inputs suggesting that terror outfits may try to attack them. The decision was taken at a meeting held here on Thursday and chaired by Union home secretary Anil Goswami and attended by DGP of CRPF Dilip Trivedi, Uttar Pradesh DGP A.L. Banerjee, principal secretary (home) Deepak Singh Singhal among others. Ayodhya and Varanasi had witnessed terror attacks in the past. Top security officials said more CCTV cameras and other high end electronic devices will be put in place which is part of a new security drill which will be carried out at the religious sites. CRPF, which is guarding the sites, has been asked to deploy more forces and remain alert round-the-clock to foil any possible attempt by terrorists to attack these sites. Beefing up peripheral security at the religious sites, enhanced cover for the sites, deployment of snipers were among other steps suggested. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

78. ‘Pak Taliban had sleeper cells for Karachi attack’ (12)

Islamabad: The brazen Karachi airport attack clearly suggests the role of the Pakistani Taliban’s sleeper cells in the city that must have planned it during the interval when their central leadership was busy talking peace with the government, a media report said on Thursday. Background interviews with current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials revealed that real success against militants was not possible till the elimination of their sleeper cells. The cells provided shelter, weapons, explosives, transport and even intelligence to their comrades responsible for carrying out attacks, the Dawn reported.

The report said the attack on the airport was a work of planning that must have begun weeks if not months before its execution and it appeared the TTP leadership was using the time it had bought through a ceasefire to put the finishing touches to the planning of the airport attack. “It’s not that simple that one fine day 10 men find a weak spot in the security and sneak into the airport, fire at security personnel and get killed after a pitched battle while trying to blow an aircraft,” said an intelligence official. “Even a common man can understand that there must be a mastermind (behind such attacks) but what they don’t understand is the fact that there are people, a lot of people in fact, who are living in their midst like normal people but actually work for terrorist groups,” he said. The official said the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which claimed responsibility for the airport attack, has been sending its associates to Karachi with the single objective to blend with the local population and settle in their midst without arousing suspicion. The officials said that it could not be ruled out that some Taliban loyalists managed to get some low-level jobs in sensitive places, where background checks were not at all carried out. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

79. Anti-terror law extended in Tripura for six more months (12)

AGARTALA: Tripura government has once again extended for six months the operation of AFSPA, the anti-terrorism law that gives full powers to the armed forces to take any steps to control terror, an official said on Saturday. “Top security and civil officials of the state government recently assessed the prevailing law and order situation of the state and decided to extend the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958) for another six months,” a home department official told reporters. He said: “A state-level coordination committee (SLCC) on security affairs led by chief secretary SK Panda periodically assesses the overall security situation in the state with top officials of the state and central security forces”.The SLCC is overseeing the counter insurgency operation in Tripura, which shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh. Two separatist outfits – National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) – who operate in the state are also sheltering and availing arms training in the adjoining Bangladesh. Both outfits have set up bases in Bangladesh and get support from other separatist outfits of the northeast India. They have been demanding secession of Tripura from India. Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion earlier this month had recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition in Satchhari jungles in the northeastern district of Habiganj, bordering India’s western Tripura. The arms and ammunition, belonging to ATTF, included anti-tank weapons, mortars and AF series rifles. “Though the four-and-half-decade old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the state government is averse to taking any chances for some more time,” the official added. The northeastern state of Tripura has 72 police stations. The AFSPA has been in force in 30 police station areas; it is fully operational in 24 police station areas, and partially operational in six. In view of the improvement of the situation and the lessening of terrorist activities, the Tripura government in June last year reduced operational areas of the AFSPA to 30 police station areas instead of the 40 earlier. The act was earlier fully operational in 34 police station areas, and partially in six. The act was first enforced in Tripura in 1997, when terrorism was at its peak in the mountainous state. The central act provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without obstacles and without any one’s consent. It also insulates the security forces from legal processes for any action undertaken under the act. Local rights groups and political parties, specially the tribal-based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), describe the act as “draconian” and want it repealed. “Innocent people are victimized by the security forces in the name of anti-insurgency operations,” said Nagendra Jamatia, former minister and a senior leader of the INPT, an electoral ally of the opposition Congress. “Demand for repealing the AFSPA was one of the issues in our movement against the Left Front government,” Jamatia said. Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland, and in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 14 years, demanding the withdrawal of the act. (Times of India 14/6/14)

80. Over 100 militants killed in fresh air strikes in Pakistan (12)

ISLAMABAD: Over 100 militants were killed as Pakistani fighter jets pounded nearly six militant hideouts in the country’s northwestern tribal region early on Sunday. The air raid targeted the militants hideouts in Degan area of Data Khel in North Waziristan tribal district, Geo News reported. Meanwhile, Express Tribune reported that the bombing is feared to have caused civilian casualties as well, including women and children. Following the incident, the local administration has imposed a curfew in the area for an indefinite period. The latest air strikes come a week after ten Uzbek militants entered the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi from different directions in two groups, resulting in a bloody standoff lasting for about 13 hours that left 37 people dead including 10 terrorists. Pressure has been mounting on Pakistan to react after the airport attack. At least 25 militants were killed on Tuesday when Pakistani jets pounded targets in the northwestern tribal region. The US also carried out two drone strikes in North Waziristan the same day in which 16 militants perished, including 10 from the dreaded Haqqani network. This was the first time the controversial CIA drone strikes were launched this year. (Times of India 15/6/14)

81. India knocks on Iraq military door (12)

New Delhi, June 17: India has sought help from Iraq’s military forces to rescue over 100 of its nationals trapped in Mosul and Tikrit, seized by militants from an al Qaida splinter group. Anil Wadhwa, the secretary (east) at the external affairs ministry, today met Iraq’s ambassador to India, Ahmad Tahseen Ahmad Berwari, to discuss joint evacuation efforts as the US moved warships and firepower close to Iraq. India has been scrambling to try and rescue at least 44 Indians — many of them nurses — trapped in Tikrit and dozens more estimated in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. But the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has grabbed control of a quarter of the area of Iraq, is engaged in firefights with Iraqi forces on key roads leading up to Baghdad. “It is impossible for us to evacuate our nationals without cover and assistance from Iraqi forces, and that’s what we’ve requested for,” an Indian official said. “We are still looking at multiple possible strategies but none of them can work without the on-the-ground assistance of Iraq.” Indian ambassador to Iraq Ajay Kumar had said on Saturday that India is exploring the possibility of evacuating citizens into parts of Kurdistan in north Iraq still controlled by the region’s semi-autonomous government. They can then be flown out either from Kurdistan or through neighbouring Turkey. India has strong diplomatic ties both with Turkey and with the Kurdish government. On Tuesday, India set up a 24/7 control room at the foreign ministry headquarters in South Block to coordinate evacuation efforts and to collect as well as share information about these efforts. The embassy in Baghdad on Sunday set up helplines to communicate with trapped nationals. The control room was set up after foreign minister Sushma Swaraj convened a meeting with senior officials to evaluate possible strategies for evacuating Indian citizens. The embassy in Baghdad has been asked to update the foreign ministry headquarters every hour, officials said. Several families from Punjab and Kerala have also sought the intervention of the foreign ministry and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has written to Swaraj, requesting the Centre to launch rescue operations. India’s acceleration in efforts to rescue citizens trapped in Iraq’s battlezones comes as the US positions key military assets in and around Iraq. At least three ships — including a launch vehicle and a warship — have reached the Persian Gulf, just off the coast of Iraq, the US has confirmed. The seriousness of the crisis in Iraq can be best gauged from the talks US secretary of state John Kerry has begun with long-time rival Iran in Geneva to collaborate in beating back the offensive from the ISIS, as the advancing terror group is widely referred to. Indian officials said they agreed with Baghdad’s assessment that external assistance might be needed to tackle the ISIS amid multiple reports of desertions from Iraq’s army. India, the officials said, also shares global concerns that the spread of the ISIS could lead a coalescing of Syria’s civil war with the one threatening to explode in Iraq. (The Telegraph 18/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

82. No plans for aerial attacks on Maoists: Raman Singh (12)

Raipur: Stressing that “an integrated approach with focus on holistic development of Bastar is the only way to tackle the Maoist problem”, the Chhattisgarh government has refuted speculation that the state is preparing for aerial attacks on the rebels and with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, an all-out war will be launched against them. The government clarified that the recent meeting of Home Minister Rajnath Singh with Chief Minister Raman Singh and other senior state officials was “not for seeking more choppers or battalions”, but to essentially draw the integrated plan. “No. Not at all. I categorically deny this,” the Chief Minister told The Indian Express, when asked about the possibility of aerial attacks on Maoists. “The main agenda of the meeting was to discuss law and order and development issues in Left Wing Extremism affected region. We need to take a holistic view of the problem and evolve a new strategy particularly for development. We emphasized that the development projects pending at Union level should be fast-tracked as only all-round development can bring permanent solution. The need for streamlining and resolving pending projects in a set time frame was mutually agreed upon,” he said. In fact, during the meeting Singh conveyed that “if the country is to fight Left Wing Extremism then the biggest battle to be fought will be in Bastar, and this battle is possible only through the holistic development of Bastar”. Contrary to the perception that Chhattisgarh sought more firepower, senior officials present in the meeting said the policing aspect occupied less than 10 per cent of the presentation as the state advocated for a paradigm shift in identification and execution of projects in Bastar. Explaining the reason behind the demand of choppers, ADG (Naxal Ops) RK Vij told The Indian Express: “More choppers were asked for improving mobility of forces and response time in crisis situations, not for aerial attacks or dropping bombs.” About the need of more battalions, Vij said, “Security vacuum still exists in many areas of Bastar. Forces are needed to make inroads in such zones and for providing protection to road construction programmes.” Officers pointed out that while the Centre has approved 10 regular and two technical battalions, it has not promised even a single chopper so far, and they at most expect only two aircraft, which will be used for ferrying forces. Many police stations, and posts and CRPF camps are located in remote areas of Bastar where troops and ration is airlifted as roads do not exist. “We need choppers primarily for this reason,” said an official, adding that even the thought of aerial attacks in Bastar is absurd… (New Indian Express 11/6/14)

83. Naxals becoming parallel force: MHA (12)

New Delhi: Contrary to the UPA government’s claim that Naxal growth is being contained, fresh statistics presented by security forces to Union home minister Rajnath Singh shows the CPI (Maoist) has become almost a parallel force in the “Red Zones”. One lakh sangam cadres, 2,080 dalam members, more than two dozen “platoons” and “companies” of 3,000 Naxalites with regular weapons and 3,000 with sophisticated weapons like LMGs, AK-47s, INSAS rifles, SLRs and mortars are part of a formidable Maoist army. The Reds have key links with the PLA of Manipur, RPF and NSCN-IM, the home ministry has told Mr Singh. The secret note, prepared by the ministry of home affairs (MHA), also warns that Maoists will get more active in espousing the Kashmir cause and work for a strategic “United Front” in its bid to counter the hard anti-Naxal push planned by the new BJP government. The Naxal forces have built up formidable strength and have chalked out a detailed plan of deployment across the red corridor, making it difficult for the security forces or any government machinery to penetrate, top government sources said. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal being their areas of operations, the deployment plan chalks out core areas of operations. In the Dandkaranya region, two “battalions” and 22-25 “platoons” have been spread out, making it one of the hardest regions for state machinery to penetrate. The Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh zone has at least 12 “battalions” and around 45,000 weapons. The Andhra-Orissa-Bihar special zonal committee of the Maoists has at least the “companies” (180 cadres) deployed in the border areas. (Asian Age 12/6/14)

84. Coming soon: Jingles, videos to counter Naxal propaganda (12)

New Delhi: With themes like ‘Ladai Nahi Padhai’ (Don’t fight, study), the government will soon launch an audio and video campaign to discourage tribals from joining the ultra-Left armed movement. Four jingles will be aired through All India Radio and four videos will be telecast through Doordarshan regularly to reach the maximum number of people in nine Naxal-affected states, officials in the Home Ministry said. Through these jingles and videos, the government plans to educate rural populace — especially tribals — about the negative effects of violence and the armed movement besides the necessity of education and development. The jingles and videos — each 10 minutes long — will be made in five languages; Gondi, Halbi, Nagpuria, Oriya and Telugu. Apart from being telecast on Doordarshan, the videos will also be broadcast in Maoist-affected villages. The government will play the jingles through AIR to counter Maoist propaganda and will urge villagers and tribals to join the mainstream. (Indian Express 14/6/14)

85. Four Naxals, including woman surrender (12)

Raipur: Four Naxalites, including a woman, laid down their arms before the police in the insurgency-hit Bijapur district on Saturday. Superintendent of Police, Bijapur, Prashant Agrawal here said that the surrendered insurgents were highly discontented with the dual standards and ideology of the Naxals in sprawling Bastar region which is made up of seven districts. According to police, the surrendered left wing insurgents have been identified as Lakshman Hemla alias Sagar (24) resident of Palnar village under Gangalur police station, Ganesh Irpa (24) of Rajpenta village under Basaguda police station, Jamuna Pallo alias Jatte (26) hailing from Nugur under Bedre police station and Kosa Parsa (19) of Chhote Palli, Bhairamgarh. Giving information about the surrendered naxalites, the police said that Lakshman Hemla had joined Naxal cadre in 2007 as a member of ‘Jan militia’, an offshoot of banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).From 2008 to 2009, he was section commander of militia platoon and from 2011 to 2014 he was president of Jantana Sarkar–a form of local governing system adopted by the Maoists. Ganesh Irpa and Kosa Parsa were members of Naxal supply team. Ganesh joined the outfit in 2001. From 2002 to 2005, he was commander of Janmilita group and in 2009 he was made member of Local Operating Squad (LOS). Kosa Parsa had joined the group in 2005, and he has been member of the platoon number 16 active in the region. Jamuna Pallo ailas Jatte was member of platoon number 16. She had joined Naxal cadre in 2006 and had received Naxal training in Abujhmad region. She had also worked as member of LGS (Local Guerrilla Squad) in Narayanpur and Pakhanjur areas, police informed.Discrimination among Naxal cadres hailing from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, killing of innocents in the name of police informer and having soft corner only for Maoists who are in jail have forced them to lay down their arms, the police claimed. Initially, the surrendered outlaws would be given Rs 10,000. Later the state government would give them all the benefits of different government schemes, the SP Bijapur stated. (Pioneer 15/6/14)

86. Five arrested for Maoist links in Odisha (12)

Five persons were arrested for allegedly providing logistic support to Maoists in Rairakhol area of Sambalpur district, police said today. “The five arrested persons are sympathisers of Maoists. They had come to Rairakhol market to purchase some goods for the ultras. We arrested them while they were going back in an auto rickshaw on the weekend,” Deputy Superintendent of Police of Rairakhol, Abakash Raoutray said. Police have seized 40 items including medicines, Maoist literature, uniform and footwear besides Rs 16,920 from them, he said. (DNA 17/6/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

87. Pandits Want to Discuss Rehab Package with Government (13)

SRI NAGAR: Amid reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may announce a special package for the return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits to  Kashmir Valley, Kashmiri Pandit (KP) groups on Monday urged the Centre to consult the community’s representatives and seek their suggestions before coming out with any rehabilitation package. “The Centre should not take hasty decisions on the return of migrant KPs to the Valley. The government must create a cordial atmosphere in the Valley. It should talk to the representatives of KPs, mainstream groups, separatists, civil society members and the majority community (Muslims) and seek their suggestions for a smooth and dignified return of migrant KPs to the Valley,” said Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS) president Sanjay Tickoo. The exodus of Pandits from the Valley began  after militancy erupted in the Valley in 1989. According to government figures, 24,202 KP families had migrated from the Valley and 219 Pandits were killed in Kashmir from 1989-2004.  The migrant KPs are living in Jammu and other parts of the country. Tickoo said the political agenda behind Modi Government’s “package for Pandits” could well backfire. “The ground situation in the Valley should be made conducive for their return. The militant activities are taking place regularly in the Valley and how is it going to instil confidence among the migrant KPs?” he said, adding the Pandits should not be put up in concentration-type camps because it will increase the animosity between the different communities. Disapproving of the hype about the return of migrant KPs, Tickoo said, “There should be no media hype. In 1997, then J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had chalked out a plan for the return of KPs to the Valley. 15 days  after the plan got media hype, seven Pandits were killed during the night of March 21-22, 1997 at Sangrampora in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.” Ashwani Chrangoo, president of KP group ‘Panun Kashmir’,  said conditions in the Valley are not conducive for the return of migrant KPs. ‘Panun Kashmir’ is known for its radical views. It has also demanded a homeland for Pandits in the Valley. “Lot of packages (at least four) have been announced in the past by the previous governments at the Centre. Ours is not a money-related issue. It is a geo-political issue,” he said. According to Ashwani, the two mainstream parties in the Valley– the NC and the PDP– and the separatist groups have been saying that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved while, “our point of view is that the Kashmir issue has already been settled and the region is now part of India”. (Indian Express 10/6/14)

88. Delhi NGO offering skill development to refugees (13)

New Delhi:  Bosco Delhi, in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), is providing comprehensive support in education and skill training programmes, language and vocational training, health services and psychosocial support to refugees from Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar and African countries. Don Bosco is a global organization operating in 132 countries in the world. It works like a companion, accompanying the refugees to lead a dignified life. Bosco helps the refugees in upgrading their skills by providing various training programmes to get suitable job in the market. Ahmed Yusuf hails from Kabul and studied till Class 10. He is now happy to continue his studies through Bosco. Bosco helps the migrants to get access in government schools and also make them accessible to avail health benefits from the government hospitals. They also provide generic medicines to them. Delhi is home to a large number of refugees from conflict countries and they seek better opportunities to settle their life. Skill development of refugees is the prime aim of Bosco. Bosco is operating in South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area with three learning centers, a creche and health services. Besides providing education and health facilities to the refugees, the NGO creates small scale business opportunities for them in support of UNHCR. UNHCR is always negotiating with the government for the safe and protection of refugee because it is mandate of UNHCR and therefore there is always a liaison with the government to give maximize dignified life to any refugee. Psychosocial element is given particular attention in Bosco. There are refugees who go through Psycho-traumatic situation, personal and individual counsel is given to the refugees. Those who are in acute cases are given institutional care and protection. Bosco is linked with one of the technical support in psychosocial interventions with Vimhans Mental Health Center. The government of India has taken proactive steps for the refugees who keep coming into India are helped to stand on their own feet. (New Kerala 12/6/14)

89. Fleeing Pakistani tribesman consider Afghanistan safer (13)

Islamabad: Over 6,000 people from Pakistan’s North Waziristan province fleeing to Afghanistan to take refuge due to the recent targeted military action, consider the neighbouring country safer than their own, a media report said on Friday. “Keeping in view the long stay and plight of thousands of internally displaced persons of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in and off relief camps, I have made my mind to take my family to Afghanistan instead of keeping them in grimy tents in the adjacent Bannu district,” Dawn online quoted a tribesman from Miranshah. Several families have already crossed over to Afghanistan’s Khost province next to FATA, due to uncertainty. Displaced people from other tribal agencies in Pakistan, including South Waziristan, Kurram and Khyber, have been living in awful conditions in and off camps for as long as seven years. The Taliban shura has asked the tribesman to move to areas close to the Afghanistan border instead of proceeding to relief camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. An Afghan official said that families crossed over to Khost since the fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban began. “The provincial government has provided land for the refugees in Gurbaz, Nadirshah Kot, Mandozai and Esmail Khail districts of Khost, while a site has also been reserved for them in the provincial capital,” the official said. (Zee News 13/6/14)

90. 9 ‘Biharis’ killed in Bangladesh (13)

Dhaka: Clashes in a refugee camp north of Dhaka killed at least nine people during festival celebrations on Saturday. The shanty town in Mirpur suburb is home to a community of Bihari Muslims and authorities said tensions there had been rising. Emergency services put the death toll at nine, including eight in the camp and another who was brought to a hospital in central Dhaka. The exact trigger for the incident was unclear. “We can confirm the death toll of eight people (in the camp). All of them are Biharis,” fire service director Mahabubur Rahman told AFP. Half a million Indian-origin Muslims have lived in refugee camps in the country since the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Although not all came from the Indian state of Bihar, they are referred to as “Biharis” in Bangladesh. Anti-Bihari feelings run deep among Bangladesh’s majority Bengalis as the migrants supported Pakistan during the war. Most of the victims at the camp burned to death after their homes were torched during the clashes, Rahman said. An AFP photographer inside the camp said he counted nine bodies there, all of them with burn injuries. Several people were injured after police fired shotgun pellets at the rioters, Rahman added. “The situation is now largely under control. But we could not recover the bodies from the camp,” he said. (Asian Age 15/6/14)

91. Refugees don’t leave Tripura for Mizoram (13)

Agartala/Aizawl, June 17 : The much-awaited repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura didn’t resume Tuesday as the displaced men and women refused to go back to Mizoram unless their demands were met. Over 36,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura for almost 17 years. “We want financial assistance of Rs.150,000 per family, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security from paramilitary forces,” refugee leader Ranjit Reang said. He was speaking to reporters at Kanchanpur, 185 km north of the Tripura capital Agartala. The Mizoram government earlier announced they would make necessary arrangements to take back the tribal refugees. But no officials of the Mizoram government Tuesday came to the refugee camps in Tripura. The refugees, including women, began a sit-in demonstration at the Kanchanpur refugee camp Tuesday in support of their demands, which also included signing an agreement between the refugees, the union home ministry and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram. North Tripura District Magistrate Sandeep R. Rathod told IANS on phone that they had arranged a large number of vehicles for the refugees to move to Mizoram. “But no tribal is ready to go back to western Mizoram,” he said. Over 36,000 Reang tribals, locally called ‘Bru’, are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura since October 1997. They fled their villages in western Mizoram following clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official in October 1997. The Mizoram home department said in Aizawl that the central government had sanctioned Rs.7.87 crore as financial assistance for the repatriated refugees. “An adequate amount of foodgrain has been stored to provide free ration to the repatriated tribal refugees for one year,” an official added. The official said refugee leaders had told the Supreme Court’s Special Commissioner Harsh Mander that if the Mizoram government ensured their security and livelihood, they would return to their villages. Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana met senior officials in Aizawl recently and decided to facilitate the return of the refugees. Only about 5,000 refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years. (New Kerala 17/6/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

92. Trade unions slam Rajasthan govt bid to reform labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: Central trade unions cutting across party affiliations resolved to oppose any move by the BJP government in Rajasthan to bring crucial labour law reforms in a bid to boost job creation and attract investment to the state. Recently, the Vasundhara Raje cabinet cleared critical amendments to three central labour laws — Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act. The state government proposes to introduce relevant Bills in the Assembly next month and send it to the president for his assent. Speaking to TOI, Baijnath Rai of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliated to the RSS said, “It is just a cabinet note now. Yet, we oppose this move by the Rajasthan government taken without any consent. We are talking to all central trade unions to protest jointly against such attempts to reform labour laws.” While the BJP’s election manifesto was being drafted, BMS leaders had met Murli Manohar Joshi and conveyed their opposition to labour reforms. “We had said that we are for review of labour laws, not reforms. This is reflected in BJP’s manifesto. What the Rajasthan government proposes is reform and we will oppose it,” said Rai. Rai of BMS said the Rajasthan unit has let the state government know about its opposition. “Soon we will send a letter to register our protest,” said Rai. Left affiliated trade unions like CITU and AITUC, too, opposed such moves. Trade unions at the state level will soon meet in Rajasthan to discuss this. “Achhe din aa gaye hain (good days are here). But for whom is the question? It seems they (BJP) have taken a political decision where the state government will take the lead (in labour law amendments). We will consult our colleagues in central trade unions to decide the future course of action. We will face the situation together,” said CITU president A K Padmanabhan. Slamming the move, veteran AITUC leader Gurudas Dasgupta said, “We strongly condemn and oppose the move. We ask the working people to protest against such attempts.” (Times of India 10/6/14)

93. Govt bid to make labour laws investor-friendly (14)

NEW DELHI: In tune with BJP’s election manifesto, the Union labour ministry made its first move to reform labour laws for a “conducive environment for investors” through flexible mechanisms like hiring and firing. On its website, the ministry invited comments or suggestions on proposed amendments to the Factories Act, 1948. Amendments to the Factories Act are pending since 2008. Earlier, the cabinet of Rajasthan’s BJP government cleared crucial amendments to Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act. The move elicited stiff opposition from central trade unions. The labour ministry’s invitation for suggestions on its website, too, did not go down well with central trade unions. “I don’t know what amendments they are talking about,” said Baijnath Rai of the BMS, affiliated to the RSS. While BJP’s election manifesto was being drafted, BMS leaders had conveyed their opposition to labour reforms. BJP’s poll manifesto promised review of “outdated, complicated and even contradictory” labour laws. Trade union leaders criticized linking labour law reforms with creating Investment friendly environment. “It is idiotic. Employment generating investment is not dependent on labour laws,” said CITU leader Tapan Sen. Veteran AITUC leader Gurudas Dasgupta said, “We will not send any suggestions. The Factories Act does not need to be amended immediately. This is an attempt to liberalise the Act.” CITU, too, won’t send its suggestions to the labour ministry. “The trade unions are stakeholders. So, the ministry must write to all stakeholders, including employers and trade unions,” said Sen. Only about 8% of the country’s work force — in the organized sector — is covered by labour laws. India has the largest number of workers — 93.7% — in the unorganized sector. “Has that brought investment? Since 2008, private corporate investment has been consistently going down to 28% of total domestic investment by end 2012. It is public sector that is making the bulk of the investment,” said Sen. Ministry officials said the aim is to strike a balance between promoting growth and employment friendly environment and safeguarding rights of workers. (Times of India 12/6/14)

94. Government to give an additional Rs 12,000 per household .. (14)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to give Rs 12,000 per household to the poor for working on building their homes, a measure that signifies the biggest convergence of two social welfare schemes and could provide a boost to both rural employment and consumption at a time when the monsoon is expected to be below average. Two of the biggest welfare schemes – the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which together have a corpus of more than Rs 50,000 crore – will pool their resources as part of the new government’s plan to provide a roof to everyone. The government will provide the amount as labour component from MGNREGA to the poor who work on building their homes under the grant from IAY. This is likely to benefit cement, steel and local building industries as more people find encouragement to build their homes through IAY. “The ministry has decided to give Rs 12,000 per household for construction of IAY house under MGNREGA. This is over and above the unit cost that the government shells out under the rural housing scheme,” a senior government official told ET, adding that the fresh guidelines to this effect would be issued shortly. The idea is to incentivise rural households to take up construction of houses on their own, thereby saving on labour cost besides adding a significant amount to their kitty and reviving interest in MGNREGA. According to the official, who did not wish to be identified, “This will help the ministry significantly save on the overall scheme expenditure which can thus be used to scale up the number of beneficiaries.” (The Aconomic Times 13/6/14)

95. Textile sector may get incentives to boost exports (14)

New Delhi: The government is expected to increase incentives for the labour-intensive textiles industry in the forthcoming Budget to boost sector’s exports and manufacturing. As a part of support to the textiles sector, the government may enhance allocation for the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS) in the Budget, sources said. TUFS, launched in 1999, facilitates modernisation and upgradation of textiles industry by providing credit at reduced rates to entrepreneurs both in the organised and the unorganised sector. The government had approved the continuation of TUFS for the 12th Plan period (2012-17) with a budgetary allocation of Rs 11,900 crore. Sources said that the government is also expected to streamline the procedure for timely disbursement of the fund. In its pre-Budget consultation with the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, industry has asked for increasing the fund allocation under the scheme to ensure that it operates without any problems during the entire 12th Five Year Plan period. “We would also request that annual allocation for the scheme may be kept at the maximum possible level in order to ensure prompt disbursement of TUFS assistance to the industry,” Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI) has said. CITI has also asked for reduction in excise duty from 12 per cent to 8 per cent to encourage production and consumption of man-made fibres in large quantities. The sector accounts for about 14 per cent of total industrial production, 12 per cent of exports and 4 per cent of GDP of the country. The size of the industry is over $90 billion at present including nearly $40 billion in exports. It employs about 45 million workers. The textiles industry requires constant modernisation of plants and machinery to remain competitive in global markets against rivals like China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to present Budget for 2014-15 in the second week of July. (Deccan Herald 15/6/14)

96. Technopark to create 45,000 fresh IT jobs (14)

Kochi: Technopark Thiruvananthapuram, the first IT park in the country, has chalked out an ambitious target of creating 45,000 new jobs during 2014-16 as part of its efforts to emerge as India’s IT powerhouse. Technopark, which is poised to celebrate its silver Jubilee next year, provides direct employment to 45,000 IT/ITeS professionals through its 330 IT companies. With the completion of the ongoing construction activities of TCS, Infosys, UST Global, Tata Elxsi, IBS and Technopark’s Phase III building, around 45,000 additional direct jobs will be created, leading to a total of 90,000 direct jobs and 350,000 indirect jobs, said KG Girish Babu, CEO,Technopark. Technopark’s export turnover is expected to be around Rs 5,000 crore in 2013-14, as against Rs 3,500 crore in 2012-13. It also added 1.1 million sft of built-up space during the period. Phase I and II construction of buildings on a total area of 2.5 million sft was progressing well and is likely to be completed within a year. The companies, which are building their own campuses are Infosys, TCS, UST Global, Tata Elxsi and IBS. Technopark Phase II project is an 86-acre Special Economic Zone (SEZ) campus, being jointly developed by Infosys and UST Global. When fully developed, it can accommodate 50,000 professionals. Infosys has constructed two ultra-modern software development blocks, which employ 3,300 professionals. The software major plans to invest another Rs 800 crore in this campus over the next few years. The third building on an area of 350,000 sft, having 3,500 seats, is also complete. The fourth covering 450,000 sft will accommodate 4,500 IT professionals more. The fifth will also seat 4,500 people. In all, there will be around 16,000 direct jobs in the campus. UST Global’s near-complete IT building can accommodate 8,500 IT professionals. The plan for the second building is also being finalised by it. The SEZ being developed in Technopark Phase I by TCS will have a total of 1.12 million sft. The main four IT buildings will seat 2,200 professionals each. The first building will be ready by August this year, leading to 8,800 jobs by early 2016. Tata Elxsi and IBS together will add 2,000 new jobs by the next year-end. The expansion of other existing companies will create another 3,000 jobs, Babu added. “With the commissioning of the Twin Towers—Ganga and Yamuna—a capacity of 8,500 seats has been created in Phase III. This iconic twin tower, the most modern green building built by the state government, will also be filled by 2015. A total of 40 companies had been allotted space in the new Twin Towers. Another 18 companies are set to commence their operations shortly,” Babu said.  With a rental income of Rs 49 crore, the annual turnover of Technopark has been pegged at around Rs 100 crore, including income from power and maintenance services, helping it  continue its profitable operations since 2001. Technopark’s expansion plans are Phase III (92 acres) and Technocity (451 acres), which were funded through bank loans. For Phase III, it took a bank loan of Rs 21 crore for land acquisition, which was fully repaid with interest. It took a loan of Rs 207 crore for works in this phase. The repayment, starting this month, will be met primarily from the income generated from Phase III. Further, Technopark had availed a loan of Rs 321 crore for the land acquisition for the massive Technocity project.  Of this amount, it has repaid Rs 360 crore (including interest). “The outstanding amount (Rs 38 crore) will be paid this month itself. When the Technocity loan is closed within a month, the financial position will drastically improve,” he added. Technopark is governed by Electronics Technology Parks, an autonomous body under the Kerala government. Set up in 1990, it is home to 330 companies, 767 acres of land and 45,000 IT/ITeS professionals. (Business Standard 16/6/14)

97. Domestics pitch for legal reform in labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: About 1,000, domestic workers from different parts of the city came together at Talkatora Stadium to demand an amendment in existing labour laws and a separate law to address their specific occupation. The National Domestic Workers Movement and Chetanalaya-Domestic Workers Forum brought the women to the event. Abuse and sexual harassment, lack of welfare measures and social protection were key concerns raised by them. N Mukta Toppo, president of the Council of Catholic Women, Archdiocese of Delhi, recounted the story of one of the workers who was abused by her employer. International Labour Organization representative Tushima Reiko advocated ratification of resolutions of the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention signed by the union government in June 2011. “The ratification of the ILO Convention 189 will provide much-awaited recognition to domestic workers across the country who work as hard as any other professional but hardly get recognition and relevant wages. Philippines is the only Asian country to get this done,” Reiko said. The main demands of the domestic workers were a comprehensive legislation for domestic workers, a tripartite board at the national and state level, fixed minimum wages, and registration of workers, employers and their social security contribution. Issuing of smart cards for the workers was also sought. “Seven Indian states had already fixed minimum wages for the domestic workers, 11 states have an unorganized social security board and three have a domestic workers welfare board. Delhi has got none of them,” said Leeza Joseph of NDWM. The Minimum Wages Act 1948, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, Equal Renumeration Act 1976 and Payment of Wages Act 1936 are the important laws that must be amended, she said. The domestics are often at the receiving end of serious yet unfair allegations. A worker, Radha Rani from Indore, said, “I worked in a house, in Jawahar Park near Devli Village for almost eight years. In 2007, I was wrongly accused of theft and a police case was registered against me. I fought persistently for two years in the Saket Court for my rights and dignity. I was declared innocent by the court in 2009.” (Times of India 18/6/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

98. Child exploitation annually generates Rs.21 lakh crore in India: Report (14)

New Delhi: At the end of the day it all boils down to money. Child exploitation, through child domestic labour (CDL) and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) is a “lucrative industry”, reveals a report by child rights organisation, Global March Against Child Labour, as between Rs. 2-21 lakh crore ($35-360 billion) is generated through it in India every year. To put things into perspective, the report, which was released June 12 on the World Day Against Child Labour, says that this illegal monetary pool accounts for 2-20 percent of India’s GDP. In 2012, India’s GDP was Rs.110 lakh crore. Titled “Economics Behind Forced Labour Trafficking”, the report relied on 420 cases of child domestic labour and 196 cases of commercial sexual exploitation and holds significance because it is one of the first comprehensive studies on the subject in the country that reveals the lure of big money behind child exploitation, the extensive network of beneficiaries from such exploitation and ultimately the reason why this vicious cycle continues to spin. “It is a shocking revelation that Rs.21 lakh crore is generated by enslaving (mostly) young girls in brothels and homes that is equivalent to one-fifth of the country’s GDP. This black money propels capital corruption and most heinous crimes against girls and women,” Kailash Satyarthi of the NGO said. “The dream of development and child slavery cannot coexist. Time is running out,” he added. Terming CDL as an invisible, large-scale industry, “hidden behind private homes”, the report estimates that 220-250 million people, or 15-20 percent of India’s population, represents the upper-middle and middle class. Of these, 60 percent live in urban areas and “research shows extensive trafficking of CDL to urban areas is to serve these growing upper, and upper-middle class urban families”. According to ILO in 2012, the total number of domestic workers in India is 90 million, and 20-40 percent of them – 18-36 million – are CDL. The report further estimates that the number of such children will increase by 7-17 million. The study, which has also taken inputs from other NGOs working on child rights, finds that most children employed as domestic labourers are girls (80 percent), and are mostly in the 14-16 age group. The most common source states from where they are trafficked are Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Placement agencies play one of the biggest roles in the network of trafficking children for domestic labour and they have sourcing agents in villages to lure parents into sending their kids on the pretext of a better life. “Seventy percent children were lured to leave their homes for high-paying jobs. The remaining children – 2 to 5 million – are either kidnapped or tricked into working as CDL, a gruesomely large number that is going unnoticed,” the report said. “Placement agencies make Rs.23-74 lakh per year by placing CDLs. In the national capital region, the market for CDL causes circulation of as much as Rs.205 crore to Rs.1,554 crore illegal money in the market,” it added. Commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), a “transnational illegal industry” because Nepal and Bangladesh are also part of the source areas, has in its well-established trafficking ring, traffickers, law enforcement officials, border guards and village goons eating into the monetary pie generated. The study found that 60 percent victims of CSE had fallen into the trap while looking for employment – which makes CDL and CSE interconnected – since abject poverty makes victims of both to become vulnerable in the first place. The remaining 40 percent, the study says, were duped under the pretext of love or marriage or were kidnapped. “Most individuals are unable to fathom the amount of money movement in CSE,” the study says. “On a conservative level, the amount of money generated per brothel per year from CSE can range between Rs.150-1,440 lakh. This gigantic sum of money in circulation is black money raised by selling of bodies of enslaved women and girls.” “As per our most liberal estimates, the total costs incurred in CSE amounts to $19- $309 billion per year. This causes $11-34 billion to circulate in the economy as unaccounted, untaxed, illegal floating profit,” the report said. The total number of girls trafficked for CSE per year is 0.5-4 million per year. The study reveals that the “purchasing cost” is the highest for the youngest girls. So, for 10-12 year old girls it’s Rs.3-5 lakh; for 13-15 year olds it’s Rs.2-4 lakh and for 15-20 year olds it’s Rs.1-3 lakh. The report further estimates the monetary gain made by law enforcement officials (Rs.9,000-144,000 crore), lawyers and the judiciary (Rs.18,000-309,000 crore), healthcare practioners (Rs.9,000-144,000 crore) every year via CSE in various forms, like smooth operation of brothels. One of the key recommendations of the report, which was also shared with the union home ministry, is for the need of monetary compensation to victims of labour, abuse, and their rehabilitation. “Many states have adopted plans for (trafficked) victim compensation (ranging from Rs.25,000-200,000) but they are not yet standardised or adequate,” a home ministry official was quoted as saying in the report. Regularisation of placement agencies, integration of data for proper monitoring, sensitisation of stakeholders and the need for the external affairs ministry instead of NGOs to repatriate victims from across the border are some other recommendations. (Zee News 12/6/14)

99. Jharkhand government determined to free state from child labour in five years (14)

Jharkhand government said the state would be free from child labour within five years and all government employees would be instructed not to engage child labour. Jharkhand Rural Development, Labour, Employment, Training and Panchayati Raj Minister KN Tripathi said announced this at the meeting organised by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) and UNICEF to mark the World Day Against Child Labour. He sought suggestions to formulate creative and innovative schemes and policies to prevent child labour. Job Zachariah, Chief, UNICEF Jharkhand Office, said the most effective strategy to prevent child labour was by improving access to quality education. “If all children of 6-14 years attend school regularly in the state, there would be no child labour,” Zacharia said. Stating that child labour should become a socially unacceptable practice as it is a crime against children and violation of their rights, he said, “We need social mobilisation to create a social norm against child labour. A vigilant child protection committee at village level can prevent child labour, child marriage and child trafficking.” (CNN IBN 13/6/14)

100. Child rights experts urge fixing minimum age of child labour at 18 years (14)

NEW DELHI: Child rights experts on Thursday reiterated fixing minimum age of child labour at 18 years and urged holding a survey to determine the number of children employed in the country. At a meet jointly held by NCPCR, UNICEF and ILO to mark the World Day Against Child Labour, experts also recommended linking labour laws to Right to Education. Currently, there is no minimum age of child labour though children below 14 years cannot be employed in hazardous work. Speaking to TOI, NCPCR chief Kushal Singh said, “Children up to the age of 18 years should not be working during school hours. About 2-3 years ago, we had sent our recommendations to the labour ministry so that labour laws could be amended accordingly.” Proposed amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2012 and is pending since then. Experts also proposed on Thursday also urged greater clarity on linking social security schemes with child rights. Besides, they stressed on the importance of definition of child and alignment with international labour standards to eliminate child labour altogether. This year, NCPCR’s theme on World Day Against Child Labour was ‘Social Protection: Combat child labour’. Social protection would enable access to education, health care and nutrition, and plays a pivotal role in the fight against child labour, said Singh. Recently, ILO released World Social Protection report which said that globally governments allocate only 04% of GDP to child and family benefits. “These investments should be scaled up, considering that about 18,000 children die every day and that many of these deaths could be averted through adequate social protection,” the report said. Experts at Thursday’s meet also urged district collectors be responsible for registration and tracking of child birth registration to combat child labour. (Times of India 13/6/14)

101. Poor Educational Facilities Drive Tribal Kids to Labour (14)

MYSORE: Despite education being made a fundamental right by the government in 2010 and the observance of World Day Against Child Labour every year, child labour remains rampant among tribals. The increase in school dropouts among tribal children is due to the lack of basic facilities and teachers in most of the government-run 118 ashram schools for tribal children. A survey conducted by various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) shows that only eight per cent of tribal students below Class 7 can read and write Kannada, 10 per cent can add or subtract and only one per cent are able to read and write in English. Though the efforts of many non-governmental organisations and the government have brought 3,000 children to schools from 34 haadis of Hunsur and H D Kote taluks, there is lack of amenities and trained teachers. The ashram schools are being run by teachers who have failed to qualify Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC). The government has failed to appoint B.Ed qualified teachers as wardens. This has turned the schools into mere feeding centres, villagers allege. The dropout rate increases after classes 5 and 7 as the children cannot attend schools in neighbouring towns or hoblis. Ashram school children also fail to compete with others for admission in other schools, they said. As a result, they become child labourers and get into coffee harvesting in the neighbouring Kodagu or in tobacco or cotton fields at Hunsur, Periyapatna and H D Kote taluks, they rued. There are no teachers to impart physical education and the teaching of tribal languages remains neglected. Further, a lot needs to be done for the health of tribal children, social activists say. Nanjundaiah, who has served as a teacher in tribal haadis for more than two decades, opines ashram schools should be run on the lines of Navodaya Vidyalayas and should be jointly administered by the Tribal Education Board and the Education and Social Welfare Department. “It is unfortunate that there is no increase in the number of graduates and post graduates among tribals although one lakh students have passed out from ashram schools,” he said. The appointments in ashram schools should not be a tool for rehabilitation of SSLC failed unemployed youths, he added. Development Through Education (DEED) Director Srikanth said he had sent a letter to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya stating that they should keep their commitment to provide quality education to tribal children. He said the government should form a Tribal Education Board to ensure all children receive education up to class 12 and are taken care of till they attain 18. According to Srikanth, the government should not blame tribals for not being interested in educating their children. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

102. CRY Cries for Strong Anti-child Labour Laws (14)

CHENNAI: The National Census figures of the year 2001 reveal some very disturbing facts regarding the state of child labour in India. According to the report a whopping 12.6 million children between ages five and 14 are child labourers. Despite the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1992, and the articulation in Article 32 wherein the government of India undertook to progressively ban all forms of child labour, the phenomenon still widely exists. The election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party states its commitment to “review, amend and strengthen the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2012”. It is in this context that CRY (Child Relief and You) convened an expert consultation to build upon the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee. Experts of the subject Prof Shantha Sinha, University of Hyderabad; Prof Babu Mathew, National Law University, Delh; Shireen Khan, ILO, Delhi; Ms Vandana Khandari, UNICEF; Bharti Sharma, ex-chairperson, CWC participated in the national consultation to discuss a way forward to the CLPRA amendment bill 2012 and share their valuable insight. Various concerns like path to progressive elimination of child labour, policy implications of having multiple definitions of age of children across various labour laws and social legislations, measures of rehabilitation of rescued child labourers, hazardous and non hazardous work processes, were raised in the consultation. “The new government’s mantra of ‘less government and more governance’ is seen as the underlying philosophy that could drive merger of some departments and ministries to create more focused outfits. On a similar ground we would like to demand that everything related to children also need greater coordination,” said Babu Mathew of National Law University. He also opined that the gravity of this issue is connected to the convenience of interest groups. Various policies and acts are also drafted keeping in mind the targeted employment criteria of that sector. While the social legislations define a child to be 18 years, most labour legislations define it as 14. There is a clear contradiction in the way we see our children and are ready to compromise when they can be a source of cheap labour. Shanta Sinha, former chairperson, NCPCR appreciated the remarkable gain of extension of age for ‘working’ to 18 years and linkage of child labour Act with RTE act, “Once the act is linked, all provisionsn and aspects of RTE act will get covered under this. There has to be globalisation of secondary level education and a deep focus on infrastructure for quality education can play an important role in eliminating child labour.” Conveying that children’s rights and issues needed to be looked at separately, he added, “Children’s issues and their needs should be showcased as a separate constituency.  We would want the children of this country be considered separately in their capacity as individual persons and not just in terms of their entitlements with respect to aspects such as education, health and skill development.” Komal Ganotra, director, Policy and Research, CRY said, “The issue of child labour cannot be seen in isolation. It is integral to the concerns of child protection, education and social security. While each ministry has its own mandate; it is imperative for different ministries to institutionalise mechanisms of working together to address multiple issues that result in child labour.” She also emphasised that the Government of India needed to fulfill its national and international obligations towards children that there should be zero tolerance towards violation of child rights.” (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

103. Law varsity to push for Bill against superstitions (19)

Bangalore: The National Law School of India University (NLSIU) will submit a memorandum to Law Minister T B Jayachandra to persuade the government to table the Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Bill, 2013. The faculty involved in drafting the bill have sought that it be tabled in the next Assembly session, to curb inhuman practices like black magic. During a discussion on elimination of blind beliefs held at NLSIU on Monday, the faculty came up with certain recommendations, which include banning only 13 practices. These practices are mainly affecting dalits, women and children, they said. The faculty also made it clear that they have recommended ban on only blind beliefs of people and not beliefs as such or the various cultural practices of people Mukta, daughter of Narendra Dabholkar (the crusader against blind beliefs who was killed in Maharashtra), said that people who are working towards implementing the law should have patience and not lose heart as it takes a long time for people to understand the ban on blind beliefs. “The law was implemented in Maharashtra after a long struggle. It is only a matter of time for Karnataka to implement the law,” she said. (Deccan Herald 10/6/14)

104. Inter-religious marriage: SC orders protection for couple (19)

New Delhi: A young couple won protection from the Supreme Court after quoting the court’s tolerant view on inter-religious and inter-caste marriages. The Supreme Court in a judgment in 2006 had stressed that “inter-caste marriages are, in fact, in national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system.” The court had in its decision in Lata Singh versus State of Uttar Pradesh given a standing direction to the administration and police authorities “throughout the country to see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple is not harassed by anyone nor subjected to threats or acts of violence”. Almost eight years later, a couple from Ferozabad in Uttar Pradesh, who said they fell in love and married beyond the confines of their religions at Arya Samaj Mandal here on April 17, 2014, sought the highest judiciary’s intervention, encouraged by its words. A vacation Bench of Justices J.S. Khehar and C. Nagappan on Monday ordered the Uttar Pradesh police to protect the couple for three months. The Bench then allowed the couple to approach the Allahabad High Court for any further redressal. Their petition said the husband had been “falsely implicated” of abduction by the wife’s family. The FIR lodged by her family in Sirsaganj Police Station claimed she was a minor. Their petition, filed through counsel Savitri Pandey, asked whether two people who are “majors” have no fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution to enter wedlock out of their own free will. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

105. Rationale behind passing judgement can’t be revealed under RTI: SC (19)

New Delhi: The rationale behind passing judgements or orders by courts cannot be disclosed to litigants under the Right to Information Act, Supreme Court has said. An appellate authority of the Supreme Court, constituted under the RTI Act, dismissed the plea of an RTI activist who had sought information on the rationale for passing orders on review petitions without holding a hearing and without giving any reasons. “It will be of essence to state that the CPIO is not the authority or the person from whom information can be sought on the rationale behind the delivery of judgements by the court as has been attempted to be done by the appellant in this case,” the authority said in its order. It dismissed an appeal filed by Ravinder Raj, an advocate, who approached the appellate authority after the information officer of the apex court refused to furnish information on the issue. “The Supreme Court in the case of Khanapuram (judgement) has held that the judge speaks through its judgements or orders passed by him and no litigants can be allowed to seek information as to why and for what reasons the judge came to a particular decision or conclusion,” it said. (Indian Express 15/6/14)

106. Govt working towards liberalising labour laws to boost factory jobs (19)

New Delhi: The NDA government has begun a fresh review of the country’s labour laws that have remained unchanged since Independence, and tailor them to meet the needs of the National Manufacturing Policy with an aim towards boosting growth in the manufacturing sector. Accordingly, the labour ministry has proposed changes to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, for easier retrenchment of workers in the National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs). Under the proposal, workers in any unit in the NIMZ may be removed without notice or compensation if the employer provides them with alternative employment in the same zone at the same pay and conditions of work. In case alternative employment is not possible, the employer will have to pay compensation to the worker at the rate of 20 days’ wages for every completed year of continuous service or any part over six months. This is a significant change from the current law where such a provision is not available for workers in the manufacturing sector. Companies with over 100 workers cannot terminate the services of workers who have been employed for over one year without prior permission of the state government and three months’ notice. However, a clause in the Industrial Disputes Act, allows workers in mining operations to be retrenched if the mine shuts down due to exhaustion of resources, provided the employer provides them with alternative employment under him from the date of closure, on the same wages and terms of service or compensation, based on the workers’ service period. “Such a provision is already present in the Act for workers engaged in mines. Based on a recommendation of the department of industrial policy and promotion, we want to extend it to cover the manufacturing sector as well,” said a senior labour ministry official, adding that the objective is not to make retrenchment of workers easier, but to give some flexibility to employers. The labour ministry has now called a tri-partite meeting with trade union representatives and employers before finalising amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act.Interestingly, while trade union leaders had opposed the amendments in negotiations held in September 2012, this time around they are willing to provide some flexibility. “It is in the interest of the country and workers if there is some progress in the manufacturing sector. We are willing to make some compromises, but the government has to ensure that rights of workers are safeguarded,” said a leader with a trade union who has been invited for the consultations with the labour ministry next week… (Indian Express 16/6/14)

107. Centre mulls law change to crack down on hoarders (19)

NEW DELHI: On the back of spike in food prices, the consumer affairs department plans to amend some sections of the Essential Commodities Act to empower the Centre to issue directives to state governments to act against hoarders. Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday asked the states to take effective steps against “speculative hoarding”, blaming it as one of the reasons behind the rising prices of some essential commodities. A top consumer affairs department official said as of now most states don’t respond to the department’s letters to crack down on hoarders and take all possible steps to ensure that prices of essential commodities don’t skyrocket. “It’s a peculiar situation where the Centre takes the blame for price rise, but implementation of the Act remains with state governments. Centre has no power to intervene in case of crisis,” said the official. (Times of India 18/6/14)

108. In 2010, SC ruled govt change not a ground to remove Governors (19)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is trying to prod UPA-appointed Governors to tender resignations on their own rather than removing them from office through Presidential orders. It has a reason: the Supreme Court had ruled in 2010 that a Governor “cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre”. A Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had also ruled that “change in government at Centre is not a ground for removal of Governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government”. The five-judge Bench ruled that there was scope for judicial review of a decision to remove Governors on the ground that their ideology was out of sync with the policies or ideologies of  the central government. “For withdrawal of pleasure in the case of a Governor, loss of confidence or the Governor’s views being out of sync with that the Union Government will not be grounds for withdrawal of the pleasure,” the Bench said. The ruling came in response to a PIL filed by then former BJP MP B P Singhal, who had challenged the removal of the Governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa on May 2, 2004 by the President on the advice of the newly formed UPA government. During the hearing, Singhal’s counsel Soli Sorabjee had asked the Bench to issue a set of guidelines or limitations with regard to power of President to remove Governors under Article 156(1) of the Constitution, asserting that it was required to ensure the independence and effective functioning of Governors. In its judgment, the Bench, while noting that the Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President and hence the President can remove the Governor from office “at any time without assigning any reason and without giving any opportunity to show cause”, ruled that the power to remove can’t be exercised in an “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner”. “The power will have to be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons… A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union Government has lost confidence in him. It follows therefore that change in government at Centre is not a ground for removal of Governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government,” the Bench ruled. The Bench held that the court will presume that the President had “compelling and valid” reasons for the removal but if a sacked Governor comes to the court, the Centre will have to justify its decision. ..(Indian Express 18/6/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

109. Modi’s governance agenda: Bringing back the profit in farming (20)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi administration has lined up a string of major initiatives to jump start the crucial farm sector bringing in innovative ideas, using technology and efficient use of ‘non-cultivable land’. This along with other measures, including increasing investment in agri-infrastructure like setting up specialized agri-rail networks for perishable farm products, launching massive irrigation projects at village level and inter-linking of rivers, if feasible, for irrigation and taking steps to promote “scientific practices” and agro-technology will be among the top priorities of the Narendra Modi government. “My government will adopt a National Land Use Policy which will facilitate scientific identification of non-cultivable land and its strategic development,” President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday. The plan for a national policy assumes significance as cultivable land in India continues to shrink. Latest data showed that as many as 20 states reported decrease in cultivable land to the extent of 790,000 hectares in four years from 2007-08 to 2010-11. The decrease is mainly attributed to diversion of cultivable land for non-agricultural purposes including construction, industries and other development activities. Once the new policy is made, such activities will strictly be allowed on such non-cultivable land, which cannot be reclaimed. The other remaining non-cultivable land will be reclaimed scientifically for agriculture purpose. His remarks and suggested measures, outlining the priority of government, were in sync with what the BJP had listed in its election manifesto for containing food inflation. Mukherjee in his speech also mentioned incidents of farmers’ suicides in the past and said that his government was committed to reverse this unfortunate trend. He said, “Steps will be taken to convert farming into a profitable venture through scientific practices and Agro-technology. My government will address issues pertaining to pricing and procurement of agricultural produce, crop insurance and post-harvest management”.Focus will also be on long pending irrigation project by launching the ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana’ with the motto ‘Har Khet Ko Pani’. The President said, “There is a need for seriously considering all options including linking of rivers, where feasible; for ensuring optimal use of our water resources to prevent the recurrence of floods and drought. By harnessing rain water through ‘Jal Sanchay’ and ‘Jal Sinchan’, we will nurture water conservation and ground water recharge. Micro irrigation will be popularized to ensure Per drop-More crop”. (Times of India 10/6/14)

110. 559 farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 2014 (20)

Mumbai: Relief and rehabilitation minister Patangrao Kadam on Tuesday revealed that there had been 559 farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra in 2014. Of these, he claimed 232 farmers’ families have been given aid by the government.The figures emerged during a discussion held in the Legislative Council on the hailstorm that had hit the state in January. Mr Kadam said, “559 farmers have committed suicide this year and the state has given help to 232 families of the deceased farmers and 180 were disqualified as the deceased farmers had not taken any loan and 148 cases are pending due to technical reasons. However, I have told the officials to reconsider the cases in which the farmers’ families have not got compensation yet.”The issue of farmers’ suicide was raised by BJP MLC Ashish Shelar who said 562 farmers committed suicide due to after effects of the hailstorms between January and May 2014. He said the numbers were obtained using RTI and lashed out at the government for its failure to prevent the suicides. In his reply, Mr Kadam admitted the suicide numbers. The minister, however, refused to accept the Opposition’s allegation that financial aid sanctioned by the government did not reach the victims. “We have sanctioned Rs 4,980 crores this year as relief for the victims of the natural calamity. The government has so far distributed Rs 2,810 crores and the Centre gave assistance of Rs1,856 crores,” Mr Kadam said. The minister also said the government had increased the per hectare compensation this year for the hailstorm victims’ farming lands and orchards. Rs 1.57 crores had been given as compensation for animals which died in the hailstorm, he said. (Asian Age 11/6/14)

111. Pune based group, Adiwasi Samaj Kruti Samitee (ASKS) adopts 15 teen tribal girls (20)

Pune: Hailstorms devastated their lives. But just when the future of these young girls was looking bleak, a group of Punekars came forward. They have adopted 15 girls from hailstorm-affected areas, including Marathwada and Vidarbha, who recently cleared standard XII examinations. They will now staying in Pune till they graduate. The group — Adiwasi Samaj Kruti Samitee (ASKS) — which was formed to help people from tribal areas, has decided to help girls from the hailstorm-affected areas this year. Out of a total 15 girls, five are from tribal areas. Sitaram Joshi, chairman of ASKS, said, “Earlier this year, most parts of the state witnessed massive hailstorms which damaged the crops in huge quantity. Many farmers could not bear the loss and committed suicide. As these families have not yet recovered from the losses, our organisation decided to help some of them.” “We decided to adopt some girls so that we can help them complete their education so that they have a better life ahead. They have recently cleared HSC exams and now we will be helping them,” Joshi added. These girls will be residing in Karvenagar-based hostel. Dnyanesh Sawant, who runs the hostel, said, “These girls will be staying free of cost.” Apart from these ten girls, five others from Bhamaragad are being adopetd. (DNA 15/6/14)

112. Seeds given by govt couldn’t help Bundelkhand farmers: CM (20)

Luckow: Even before monsoon is to arrive in Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav Saturday said the farmers in the Bundelkhand region are already the worst sufferers as the seeds provided by the state haven’t helped with production. “The crops have suffered in Bundelkhand once again and the seeds which we supplied could not succeed. If you look (at the information) you will know that if there is someone who has suffered the most it is the farmer of Bundelkhand,” the Chief Minister said while inaugurating the second UP Agriculture Science Congress here, adding there is  a need to consider and “think” how to deal with the situation. He said the situation is made worse with the receding groundwater “and many blocks have been declared as “dark”. On this note, he said the scientists should come forward with such work which directly benefits farmers. “The real goal of research would be achieved when we are able to help the farmers commercially,” the CM said, adding the farmers are “poor and unhappy and by the time the information reaches him it is already too late so we need to also look at how the information reaches them soon; there are numerous countries whose faces have been changed through their agricultural practices.” Calling for more active role by agricultural scientists, he said that farmers will be the most affected by climate change “and if there is someone who can protect the farmers, it is scientists. He also said the state is trying to establish Kala Namak rice variety as a brand and “if the scientists assist us with their research in this regard it would directly help our farmers.” (Indian Express 16/6/14)

113. Farm activists criticise IB report on GM foods (20)

New Delhi: Agricultural activists on Tuesday criticised a report of Intelligence Bureau for terming NGOs as a threat to India’s economic security, especially with regard to genetically modified foods. “The IB report has a special section on GMOs (genetically modified/engineered organisms) that supports the introduction of GM crops into Indian agriculture. “GM crops have already shown no-yield gain, no ability to engineer for traits of drought, saline resistance and have some serious bio-safety issues which no regulator wishes to examine,” activist Vandana Shiva alleged. They further alleged that the report was an “outrageous insult to Parliamentarians” by suggesting that they have in effect been “led by the nose” by activists and civil society groups and have no competence to address their official mandate on the subject. “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the IB report has been influenced by those who have most to gain by undermining our seed and food sovereignty ie. The foreign corporations,” the activists alleged. Citing the example of Bt cotton, activists alleged that it was introduced into India’s hybrids so that our farmers would be forced to buy seeds each year. Activists accused IB of conspiring with global corporate interests to “hemorrhage” India’s agricultural economy and demanded an investigation on the “foreign influence in writing the GMO section in the IB report”. (Zee News 18/6/14)

POVERTY/ HUNGER

114. Not poverty alleviation, but elimination: Pranab (21)

New Delhi: Terming poverty a “curse” and considering it a “greatest challenge before us”, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the Narendra Modi government is committed to the welfare of the poor people. The President was addressing the joint session of Parliament to highlight the proposals of the NDA government. “My Government is dedicated to the poor. Poverty has no religion, hunger has no creed, and despair has no geography. The greatest challenge before us is to end the curse of poverty in India,” Mr Mukherjee said. The President said the new government will not be satisfied with mere “poverty alleviation” — it will go about vigorously to eliminate poverty. Poor will have the first claim on development, the President said and added that Modi government will focus its attention on those who need the basic necessities of life most urgently. It will also “take necessary steps to provide security in its entirety to all citizens; through empathy, support and empowerment”, the President said.  (The Hindu 10/6/14)

115. Malnutrition kills over 3mn toddlers a year: UN (21)

Rome: More than three million children under the age of five die annually of malnutrition, the UN food agency and World Health Organisation said on Thursday, urging governments to tackle the problem. “Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. Some 162 million children are left stunted by chronic malnutrition and 99 million children are underweight across the world, it added. Since the first international conference on nutrition in 1992, “important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made, but this progress has been insufficient and uneven,” FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said. There has only been a 17% reduction in undernourishment since the early 1990s, leaving over 840 million people still chronically undernourished. The FAO and WHO urged governments to “make stronger commitments… to ensure healthier diets for all” at an international conference on nutrition to be held in Rome in November. They warned that various forms of malnutrition often overlap and can coexist within the same country and even within the same household. “Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies,” they said in a statement. “At the same time, another half billion are obese.” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the aim of the upcoming conference was to get governments to ask themselves “why is it that severe undernutrition and obesity can exist side by side in the same country and in the same community?” She also called for more research into the health and environmental implications of “the rapid rise in the demand for meat and other animal products that coincides with rising income levels.” Efforts to improve food and nutrition security continue to be hampered by low political commitment and weak institutional arrangements, the agencies said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

116. Gap between farm and shelf to be bridged: Badal (21)

New Delhi, June 13 : Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that her priority is reduction of poverty by bringing the food inflation down and to do that Food Processing Sector has to play central role in driving improvements in the country and in filling the gap between ‘farm and shelf’. The minister said: “To feed increasing population, food shall be a very critical sector and apart from driving food processing growth, India would need to turn wastage of fruits and vegetables into packaged food and to do that all States need to focus on food processing industries”.With a view to give boost to the food processing industries in Punjab, Badal on Thursday evening met officials of various Food Processing government undertakings like Milkfed, Markfed, Punjab Agro and asked them to build ‘Brand Punjab’ and to focus on making Punjab number one State in terms of food processing. The minister also studied the practices being followed by various organizations in Punjab and suggested improvements and more market linkages. Talking to officials, Badal emphasized that all States need to make their own Brands, like for ‘Brand Punjab’ be made and be marketed globally both by government and by all. Badal also met Food Processing Commissioner of Punjab and discussed the ways and means to improve food technology with Dr. Nripendra Singh, Head of the Food Science and Technology dept of Guru Nanak Dev University. (New Kerala 13/6/14)

117. Malnutrition continues to stalk tribal children (21)

Palakkad: A year after a large number of child deaths were reported from Attappady owing to malnutrition, an official survey held in the past two weeks has found that 572 children below the age of five in the tribal belt still remain malnourished. As per the findings of the survey conducted by the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM), the condition of 127 of these 572 children remains extremely serious and the rest are in the high-risk group deserving immediate attention. This is happening at a time when the Central and State governments are pumping in about Rs.500 crore under different special packages in the region to fight poverty and malnutrition and for employment generation and improving basic living standards. The report, submitted to the Central and State governments on Friday, was prepared after health workers under the NRHM visiting almost all tribal hamlets in Agaly, Puthur, and Sholayur grama panchayats and continuously monitoring 4,841 children in the below-five age group. As per the report, lack of nutritious food and proper health care for tribal women during pregnancy has led to such a devastating situation. Most tribal women are anaemic. The condition is acute among pregnant women and lactating mothers, says the report. While a below 10 gram haemoglobin count is termed dangerous for pregnant women, the haemoglobin count of most pregnant Adivasi women in Attappady is seven or eight, point out health workers who have taken part in the survey. Attappady has 10,000 tribal families belonging to the Irula, Muduga and Kurumba tribes, living in 192 oorus (settlements) scattered in the three panchayats. The report attributes the reasons for malnutrition to marginalisation and impoverishment of Adivasi communities, lack of food and nutritional security, and poor health-care and supplementary nutrition services. It was after 54 child death cases, attributed to malnutrition, were reported from Attappady during June last year that the Central government announced a special package of Rs.250 crore for the region. The State government also set apart a similar amount to improve the conditions there. P.V. Radhakrishnan, director of the Integrated Tribal Development Project of Attappady, a special project to the tune of Rs.1.29 crore would begin this week to provide nutritious food to all the identified children. Nutritious food would be made available through Anganwadis and it would be supplied to children who did not attend Anganwadis at their home. Other health interventions were also in the offing, he said. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

118. Venkaiah Naidu urges bank finance for urban poor housing (21)

New Delhi: There is need to give a fillip to the flow of bank finance for housing for the poor in urban areas, said Union Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu. “For this purpose, there is a need to create an apex bank to monitor the financing in urban areas. The matter should be taken up with the Finance Ministry to extend the jurisdiction of NABARD to the urban areas or give this responsibility to any other agency like SIDBI,” a statement from the ministry said. The minister has directed for formulation of new schemes for slum redevelopment and affordable housing for the urban poor, the statement said. Naidu said the schemes must be simple in conception and actively involve various stakeholders including State Governments, Urban Local-Bodies, Civil Society/NGOs as well as banks and financial institutions. He called for involvement of private partners through a transparent and competitive process to inject more managerial and financial efficiencies in the execution of the projects. In view of the huge shortage of urban housing, estimated at around 19 million, active participation of all the stakeholders in a synchronous fashion is necessary, the Minister said. “If we carry on with a business-as-usual approach, the housing shortage would balloon to 30 million by the year 2020.” The Minister issued instructions for the expeditious completion of the houses, under construction, estimated to be around 3.77 lakh, as the top-most priority under the JnNURM, which is scheduled to close in March, 2015. (Business Line 17/6/14)

RESERVATION

119. Varsity Posts’ Quota: Assembly Passes Bill (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill, seeking to amend laws governing two universities, in order to evolve uniformity in reservation and communal rotation in teaching and non-teaching posts. The University Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2013, makes amendments to the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) Act, 1986 and Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University Act, 2013, so as to ensure category-wise communal rotation in jobs, treating all departments under these universities as one unit. The amendment bill was drafted after the government found that the provisions relating to reservation pattern – for appointment to the teaching and non-teaching posts – in the two universities were not clear and may invite different interpretations. Since the Kannur University Act of 1996 was more specific in this respect, the government decided to amend the acts governing Cusat and Malayalam University in tune with that of the Kannur University Act. Participating in the discussion, most of Opposition members spared no chance in targeting the government for appointing “under-qualified persons” as Vice-Chancellors in various universities “on the basis of religion, caste and political considerations”. T V Rajesh of the CPM alleged that most of the Vice-Chancellors of universities in the state did not have qualifications prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC). He sought to know the reason why people who did not have the prescribed qualifications and against whom vigilance cases were registered, were selected to the Vice-Chancellor posts. “The government, which closed down 418 sub-standard bars, should take action against such sub-standard Vice-Chancellors also,” Rajesh said in a lighter vein. K T Jaleel from the Opposition camp warned that giving the Chancellor (Governor) the mandate to nominate more members to the Senate and the Syndicate is “fraught with dangers”, especially after a BJP Government had assumed power at the Centre. “How can we ensure that Governors appointed by the BJP Government will follow the State  Government’s advice while nominating members to administer affairs of the University?” Jaleel asked. He warned that those with “Sangh Parivar affiliations” would soon make their way to top administrative bodies of universities. G Sudhakaran of the CPM criticised the government for favouring academic autonomy to select colleges. “The government should take steps to ensure that all appointments to autonomous colleges are done by the Public Service Commission,” he said. Quoting statistics, the MLA from Ambalapuzha said that aided schools had not appointed persons from the SC/ST communities as teachers even though their salaries were being paid by the government. However, the Opposition members thanked Education Minister P K Abdu Rabb for incorporating suggestions put up by them in their dissenting note to the bill. (New Indian Express 12/6/14)

120. Congress seeks speedy implementation of ST, minority reservations (25)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana government has been put on notice for implementing the 12 per cent reservation for Scheduled Tribes and minorities before June 29 to enable students of those communities to avail the benefit before Eamcet counselling commenced. Opposition leader in the Legislative Council, D. Srinivas, sought to know if the TRS had any road map for implementing its promises made in its manifesto. He was speaking after Mr. Paturi Sudhakar Reddy, TRS MLC, moved a motion to thank the Governor for his address. “Let the Ministers speak on the vital issue. If clarity on promised reservation for minorities and STs is not given, the students will not get any benefit this year,” Mr. Srinias argued. Congress member Shabbir Ali said the reservation notification should be sent to the Eamcet convener before June 29 and said he was also writing to the Chief Minister. Responding to the issue, Agriculture Minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy explained that the Governor’s address only gave a policy directive and the government would give a detailed explanation on the implementation of schemes for various groups. He said the government would consult the Centre on removing the 50 per cent cap on reservations as it did in the case of Tamil Nadu. Independent member K. Nageshwar said the government should be prepared to face legal and constitutional hurdles going by the Supreme Court’s judgements. He said that instead of extending reservation on the basis of religion, it should be given to the Backward Classes among minorities. MIM member Syed Amin Jaffrey advised the government to proceed cautiously on Muslim reservation and carry out a survey to determine the educational backwardness of Muslims in all districts. (The Hindu 13/6/14)

121. Maharashtra govt. okays 20 per cent quota for Marathas (25)

MUMBAI: Playing the quota card in the run-up to the State Assembly polls, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra declared on Friday that it will clear 20 per cent reservations for the Maratha community. An announcement is expected after June 20. At present, the community has 52 per cent reservation in jobs and education. This will raise the quota limit to 72 per cent. “We have decided to give 20 per reservations to the Maratha caste. This will be cleared by the State Cabinet after June 20th when the Code of Conduct for State council elections ends,” said Industries Minister Narayan Rane. The Marathas are a dominant caste in the State, comprising roughly 30 per cent of the population. The community wields massive political clout. The majority of the State’s Cabinet Ministers and sugar barons are Marathas. In fact, most of Maharashtra’s Chief Ministers have been Marathas, among them current Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. However, the government said a substantial number of Marathas depend on agriculture and are economically deprived. Mr. Rane headed a committee, which conducted a survey of 5 lakh Maratha families before recommending a quota. The Supreme Court had earlier capped quotas at 50 per cent, a reason why the Opposition is questioning whether the Maratha quota will stand legal ground. However, Mr. Rane said: “Our survey proved the economic backwardness of the community, so the court’s ruling will not come in the way.” Sources said OBC leaders within the government, including Cabinet Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, are unhappy with the government’s move. “I am surprised this was announced without being discussed in the Cabinet,” Mr. Bhujbal told The Hindu. A section of Marathas from the Kunbi agricultural community avail of quotas for the OBC category. Mr. Rane clarified that the Maratha reservation would not impact those already in the OBC category. (The Hindu 13/6/14)

122. JD(U) demands sub-quota for SCs/STs, OBCs in women’s bill (25)

New Delhi: JD(U) on Saturday joined BJP ally Apna Dal in demanding a sub quota for SCs/STs and OBCs in the proposed 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies as the issue is back in focus with NDA government pledging to ensure passage of the women reservation bill. “JD(U) fully supports the statement of BJP ally Apna Dal’s MP Anupriya Patel in which she had made a demand for a separate quota for OBC,” party general KC Tyagi said in a statement. He said the demand that the bill for 33 per cent reservation to women, which is being brought, should have OBC and SC/ST sub quotas in it is justified His remarks came after Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel said in a newspaper interview that her party is in favour of separate sub quota for OBCs and SCs/STs in the bill that is being brought to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and Assemblies. Patel is an MP from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh and her party Apna Dal was an alliance partner of BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. While the bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in March 2010 amid pandemonium after the use of marshals to evict the protesting MPs, it could not see light of the day in Lok Sabha. The BJP-led NDA government affirmed its commitment to the Bill in President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament on June 9. Talking to PTI, Tyagi said Anupriya Patel’s demand shows that even the NDA is not unanimous on the issue. “In the past also, BJP leader Uma Bharti had supported such a demand while BJP leader Gopinath Munde had also demanded quota within quota on the floor of Lok Sabha.” He said BSP chief Mayawati, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and others have also made similar demands in past. “Government should pay heed to them.” Interestingly, the JD(U) had supported the UPA in ensuring passage of the the bill in Rajya Sabha in 2010. While JD (U) President Sharad Yadav had his reservations, the party backed it as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had taken a stand to support the bill. Seeking to explain the contradiction, Tyagi said that JD(U) had then supported the bill brought by UPA in Rajya Sabha on the assurance that the concerns and needs of the deprived sections will be included. (Zee News 14/6/14)

123. Muslims and Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation, says Subramanian Swamy (7)

New Delhi: Reacting to Congress MP Hussain Dalwai’s demand for reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy said Muslims and Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation, as they have ruled our country in the past. “Muslim rulers have ruled India for hundreds of years and have also destroyed it, and I find it surprising that now Muslims demand reservation claiming that they have been oppressed. When the Indian Constitution was being made, it was decided that the communities which had been oppressed and tortured will be given reservation, which is why SC/ST have reservation in our country,” said Swamy. He further said “Later, under VP Singh’s governance, whoever was poor or backward was given a reservation. Now, Yadavs, Jats and others have ruled the country, but I feel they shouldn’t be given reservation too. We have poor Brahmins in our country as well, and 50 percent of them are below poverty line, but they will never ask for reservations.” Swamy added, “I feel that only those who have been oppressed by the society and have been forced to live a backward life should given reservations. If Muslims want to study, then should be given scholarships, good schools, But Muslims and Christians can’t have reservation as they have ruled our country.” Dalwai had earlier made a strong pitch for reservation for Muslims in Mumbai at the time when the Maharashtra government is set to announce its decision on the Rane Committee’s recommendation for 20 per cent quota for Marathas. (DNA 16/6/14)

124. Just 384 engineering seats for general category (25)

PANAJI: Only 384 engineering seats, of the available 1,230 in Goa, are now open for students under the general category. They are down by 59 from last year after the state government raised the reservation quota in the state for other backward classes (OBC) from the earlier 19.5% to 27%.The seat reservation chart for professional degree courses in Goa for the academic session 2014-15 has been revised by the directorate of technical education and post the revision, engineering seat aspirants from the general category have now been left with only 31% seats to vie for. Supreme Court norms require that general category quota should account for at least 51%.What is striking about the revised seat reservation chart is that medicine, dentistry and pharmacy seats in Goa meet the requirement of 51% seats in the general category, despite increase in the OBC reservation quota. This is because different formulas have been applied to calculate the reservation quotas in case of medicine and engineering. In medicine, the all India quota of 15% or approximately 22 to 23 seats have been set aside before calculating seats available to reserved categories like scheduled tribe (ST), scheduled caste (SC) etc. In case of engineering, the 425 seats under the management quota have not been subtracted from the total seats available before the reserved seats are calculated. Management quota seats have been taken into account while calculating the reserved seats even though seats under this quota are not available to the directorate of technical education to fill up through its process of drawing of merit list. These seats are filled up at the discretion of the respective managements of the engineering colleges. Goa offers reservations to children of central service personnel transferred to the state, children of NRIs and those of Goan natives or students whose parents or grandparents were born in Goa. The state has opted to reserve these seats, which further eat into the general category seats, even though Goa is not duty bound by the Constitution to provide for these quotas. Goa is among the rare states that offers reservation under the central service personnel category. This year, the state has wandered away from the universally accepted pattern of seat reservation by providing for sub-reservations in the general, ST and SC quotas for categories of physically handicapped, children of freedom fighters and Goan natives. Seats reserved for these categories are usually independent and not treated as sub-reservations within a category of reservation. This has reduced seats available under the general category by 21 for physically handicapped, 6 for children of freedom fighters and 14 for Goan natives. The sub-reservation has taken up the seat count under physically handicapped by two and one each under the children of freedom fighters and Goan native categories. (Times of India 17/6/14)

HINDUTVA

125. Sayyad Nagar wants Hindu Rashtra Sena banned (26)

Pune : Some residents of Sayyad Nagar have demanded a ban on the radical right wing radical group Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), after the eruption of communal riots in the city. The riots broke out in the Hadaspur region, after the members of the HRS killed a 26-year-old hardware engineer Mohsin Shaikh, on allegations of posting a derogatory post on Shivaji Maharaj and the late Bal Thackeray. Residents who have suffered during the riots have decided to write a letter to the state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding a ban on the outfit headed by Dhananjay Desai, on charges of disturbing the communal harmony in the city. One of the local residents of Sayyad Nagar, Akbar Shaikh, said that the HRS is spreading hatred in the society, and diverting the minds of youth for wrong doings, which is dangerous for the communal harmony of the society. “The government has banned the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), after the members of the organisation were found to be involved in terrorist activities. Why is the government then taking time to ban outfits like the HRS, whose role has been established Shaikh’s murder,” he questioned. He added that the head of the HRS, Dhananjay Desai, has a history of making hateful and inflammatory speeches, against the Muslims community, and there are several cases registered against him in various police stations across the city (DNA 10/6/14)

126. First time in 23 years, Deendayal volumes printed afresh (26)

New Delhi: The RSS has for the first time reprinted a set of books about Jana Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyaya, 23 years after the first edition was published and coinciding with the formation of the BJP’s first government with a full majority. The first editions of Deendayal Upadhyaya: Ideology and Perception, comprising seven volumes, were published in 1991. Reprints were completed last April and reached RSS-run bookshops last month. Two additional volumes are being writen. Suruchi Prakashan, run by the RSS, has printed 1,100 copies each in Hindi and English of six of the seven volumes — Deendayal Upadhyaya: A Profile; Integral Economic Policy; Politics for Nation’s Sake; Political Thought; Integral Humanism; and  An Inquest. The seventh, Concept of The Rashtra, is yet to be reprinted. Vijay Gupta, who manages the bookshop near RSS headquarters in Delhi, says the books had been in preparation for years. Suruchi Prakashan has published more than 400 titles, mostly in Hindi and English, and is one of two major RSS-run publishing centres, the other being Lokhit Prakashan in Lucknow. “We have sold around 100 sets of the new edition to various people, including research scholars and political activists besides RSS workers,” Gupta said. Former HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi will write one of the two additional volumes being planned. This will be on Upadhyaya’s views on education. “Joshi’s volume has been held up because of political events. But these should be completed in the next two months,” said an RSS leader. The other new volume will be on Upadhyaya’s views on  environment and is being written by RSS kshetra sanghchalak Bajranglal Gupta. Upadhyaya (1916-68) was among the founders of the Jana Sangh, which later became the BJP.  When Narendra Modi was elected leader of the BJP parliamentary party on May 20, he had mentioned that 2016 will be the centenary of Upadhyaya’s year and praised his pro-poor ideals. Another book on Upadhyaya, Ekatma manavvaad, a collection of essays on “integral humanism” by prominent Sangh Parivar leaders including late D B Thengdi, is set to be reprinted. (Indian Express 11/6/14)

127. Eyeing Narendra Modi resolve, VHP raises Article 370, Uniform Civil Code, Ram temple (26)

Jaipur: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today raised the contentious issues of Article 370, Uniform Civil Code, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and Ram Temple and said they expect the Narendra Modi government to resolve these issues. Addressing a ten days “Parishad Siksha Varg” represented by over 100 delegates from entire Rajasthan, VHP’s Kendriya Mantri Jeeveshwar Mishr today demanded there should be Uniform Civil Code and an action be taken on Article 370 to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. “We expect from the present Modi government that there should be a debate and action on the issues of Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley,” Mishr said. Besides, there should also be comprehensive awareness programmes on the construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, Srikrishna Janambhoomi (birthplace) in Mathura and Kashi Vishwanathan temple in Varanasi, Mishr said. Mishr also demanded to ban cow slaughtering in the entire country. (The Financial Express 13/6/14)

128. CBSE syllabus anti-national: RSS Gram Bharti functionary (26)

INDORE: Shashikant Phadke, a RSS functionary associated with Gram Bharti-Vidya Bharti has alleged that the syllabus designed by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is anti-national, which needs to be made nationalistic. Phadke, who is the convenor of Gram Bharti (rural education wing of the RSS), told reporters in Neemuch on Thursday that CBSE syllabus was confusing the minds of nation’s generation next. He said that Gram Bharti identified 135 flaws in CBSE syllabus and even moved to court for their deletion. “Sustained efforts by Gram Bharti-Vidya Bharti have resulted in deletion of 80 of the 135 flawed parts in the CBSE syllabus,” he said. Phadke was in Neemuch on Thursday to take stock of Gram Bharti activities in Malwa region of the state. (Times of India 15/6/14)

129. VHP has not changed its stand on Ram Janam Bhoomi: Deshpandey (26)

Jaipur: Reaffirming its commitment, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Monday said its stand on Ram Janam Bhoomi and cow slaughtering has not changed with the change of guard at the Centre. “VHP’s agenda does not change with the formation of a new government… It is committed on main issues of Ram Janam Bhoomi, Krishna Janam Bhoomi, Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, anti-cow slaughtering, and against intrusion of Bangladesh nationals…,” senior VHP leader Vinayakrao Deshpandey said. Deshpandey was addressing VHP activists during a 10-day workshop-cum-training camp here. He said the VHP would continue its country-wide “Hindu Jagran” campaign over all these issues and the recent debate on Article 370 of the Constitution which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir. He, however, said VHP would first observe its 50th anniversary across the country. (Zee news 17/6/14)

Posted by admin at 18 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Over 14,000 RTIs pending in rajasthan (1)

Jaipur: Rajasthan, the state pioneered Right to Information (RTI) is now a laggard. While, the government’s reluctance is understandable and babus would create hurdles in providing information was also expected but surprisingly state information commission has also failed to meet the expectations. A report prepared by RTI Manch Rajasthan and Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) reveals that more than 14,000 appeals have been pending before the state information commission. This is after the commission rejects more than 50 per cent appeals filed with it. The incremental rate of application has also increased since the central RTI act was implemented in 2005. The fact that the government never fulfilled all posts of information commission has also hampered its work to a great extent and raises doubts about the government’s intentions. Yet, it is about more about attitude so when the commission rejects appeals in big numbers, the government and bureaucracy are unlikely to bother, which shows in the report based on information collected on 20 departments in 33 districts, only 42 per cent people got information in the first year. (Asian Age 30/5/14)

 

2. UPA spent Rs 187 crore on Bharat Nirman ads in 2013-14 (1)

NEW DELHI: The UPA-2 government spent nearly Rs 187 crore on publicizing its much touted ‘Bharat Nirman’ programme in 2013-14, 80% more than the previous year. In response to an RTI query by activist Subhash Agrawal, the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity said the Manmohan Singh government spent Rs 186.98 crore in the election year 2013-14 compared to Rs 100.95 crore in 2012-13, Rs 86 crore in 2011-12 and Rs 47 crore in 2010-11. However, the details of NDA government’s spending on “India Shining” campaign were not available, according to DAVP, the nodal agency of government spending on advertisements. The DAVP said it did not have records pertaining to expenses incurred on ‘India Shining’ campaign run in the election year in 2003-04 during the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “Our campaign wing has intimated that records pertaining to the campaigns — India Shining and Mera Bharat Mahan — are no longer available with it. Computerization of records was done from 2007 onwards,” the central public information officer of DAVP said. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

3. Private schools too come under RTI Act: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: In a significant order, the Central Information Commission has ordered that private schools, whether public authority or not, must provide information on service records and salaries. The order came on an RTI plea filed by an ex-employee of Jindal Public School with Directorate of Education seeking a certified copy of service book and other details from her past employer. The Directorate of Education provided the information available with them but the school refused to furnish the reply, saying RTI Act did not apply on it. Private unaided schools had challenged an earlier CIC order in court which said that schools must give information related to vacant seats, EVS quota but would be exempt from providing information on disbursement of salaries, public budget estimate of receipts etc. Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu directed the school to provide the information, reasoning that provisions of RTI Act applied on private schools since they were governed by laws such as the Delhi Education Act. Directing the school to disclose information sought by its ex-employee, CIC said the school was duty bound under Sections 4 and 8 of Delhi Education Act, 1973 to abide by the regulatory conditions of service, payment of salaries as prescribed for which the school has to maintain records which provide an “inherent and implied” right to information to their employees. “Under Right to Education Act, 2009 also, the recognized school is under an obligation to appoint eligible teachers and provide them with prescribed wages. This also reveals that it has given inherent right to information to the teachers from their employers,” Acharyulu said. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

4. Only 0.6% RTI pleas frivolous: Study (1)

A study, “Who uses the RTI Act and for what?” conducted by the Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RAAG), was presented in the ‘Western India RTI Convention 2014′. The convention, a joint initiative by the Mahiti Adhikar Manch and Department of Civics and Politics of the University of Mumbai, was held at the Kalina Campus of the Mumbai University. RAAG initiated the study in the backdrop of the earlier statements made by former PM, Manmohan Singh that the RTI Act was misused and “vexatious” applications were filed. “The idea was to see how many vexatious applications were filed as was suggested by the PM,”said Anjali Bharadwaj, one of the authors of the study. Around 4,000 applications were filed across the country with various SICs asking for details about, and copies of, the applications by people between 2005 and 2008. “Since there is no definition of vexatious applications, we tried to derive one of our own,” said Amrita Johri, co-author of the study. Applications that can be tagged for the “misuse” were divided under several heads like vexatious, frivolous, requiring voluminous response, infringing privacy, seeking information covering a long time span, very lengthy application or asking too many questions or questions on too many topics, among others. “Our findings indicate that less than 0.6% of the applications were conceivably vexatious or frivolous, or sought to infringe privacy,” said Bharadwaj. Only 2% required voluminous responses, and 1% sought information that covered a long time span (over 10 years). The study stressed that the government continued to be reluctant to provide suo motu information as 54% applications were asking information that should have been declared by the government on its own. About 20% applications were such that they did not require usage of the RTI Act. Only 26% of the applications asked for information that was not required to be disclosed proactively, either publicly or privately to the applicants. The study stated that 68 % of the information was sought as a response and only 44% wanted documents for their applications. A bulk of the applications were about one or more public authorities (26%), followed by information about specific villages or sub-districts (10%). Specific locations (17%) and specific localities (4%) were other popular subjects. An overwhelming 90% citizens felt that political parties should come under the RTI Act. Average length of the applications was 119 words, but after revised updates, it was 116.2 words, as compared to the 150 words permitted. A number of recommendations were suggested, including nomination of public information officer responsible for ensuring proactive disclosures and private sector be informed about their obligation to give information and governments bring out a guide indicating what types of information can be accessed from private bodies under what provisions “any other law.” (DNA 8/6/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. Pakistan stoning: Woman’s husband wants justice (1)

Lahore: The husband of a pregnant Pakistani woman who was beaten to death outside Lahore’s high court for marrying against her family’s wishes vowed to fight for justice. Farzana Parveen, 25, was attacked outside Lahore’s grand high court building by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers including her brother and father, who has been arrested, police said. Three-months pregnant Parveen, whom police earlier identified as ‘Farzana Iqbal’, had gone to testify in defence of her husband Muhammad Iqbal who was accused by her relatives of kidnapping her and forcing her into the marriage. Speaking to AFP by telephone from his home village of Jaranwala where he had gone to bury Parveen earlier that day, Iqbal said: “We demand justice. We were being threatened since we got married.” The 45-year-old said he and his wife had survived a previous attack during the first hearing of the case on May 12. “On Tuesday as we were going to court from our lawyer’s office almost 30 people attacked us, including her father, brothers and cousins,” he said. The group of 10 or so people accompanying him were overwhelmed by the suddenness of the attack and fled in all directions, he said. “One of her brothers shot at her but missed, then the women in their group fell upon her and her brother and father finished her off,” said Iqbal. “The most painful thing is that nobody came forward to save my wife, the police were there and hundreds of lawyers were there along with ordinary men, but they all just watched like spectators.” A police officer said Parveen’s father Muhammad Azeem had been detained while five others two brothers and three cousins remained at large. Another police officer, told AFP police were launching raids in the Nankana Sahib district to arrest the accused. Despite the gruesome and public nature of the killing in Pakistan’s most liberal city, media reaction has been relatively muted indicating what activists said was a growing apathy amid rising extremism. (Asian Age 29/5/14)

 

6. Child Abuse: NHRC Notice to Collector (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to Keonjhar Collector on the issue of pouring of boiling water on a three-year-old tribal boy at an anganwadi centre in the district last month. Two aganwadi workers had perpetrated the crime on the child, Parsuram Munda, because he had touched the cooked food. The incident occurred on May 9 at Anganwadi Centre-1 at Khendra under Jhumpura block in the district. Acting on a petition filed by human rights activist Prabir Das, the NHRC has sought a report from the Collector within four weeks. According to the petitioner, anganwadi workers Subhashree Giri and helper Soudamini Naik allegedly poured boiling water on the boy for ‘touching and desecrating’ eggs and cooked food. The child suffered about 40 per cent burns. Munda was admitted to the Community Health Centre at Jhumpura from where he was shifted to District Headquarters Hospital. Doctors found that the skin on the stomach of the child was severely burnt. The police registered a case on the basis of an FIR filed by the boy’s mother. Parsuram’s parents alleged that the incident occurred because they belonged to Munda tribe and were looked down upon. In his petition, Das stated, the incident called for a proper inquiry and stringent action should be taken against the duo while suitable compensation must be awarded to the victim. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

7. Enhance old age pension, food grain amount: NHRC

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended the State Government to enhance the amount paid as old age pension and the quantity of food grains under the Annapurna Yojana, besides directing the Chief Secretary to submit an action plan for improving the conditions of the poor and destitute people who are facing starvation and unable to avail medical facilities at the old age. The historic order from the apex human rights watchdog came pursuant to the petition filed by renowned rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy. Pertinent to mention here that Harischandra Yojana for performing the last rites of poor people have been initiated and implemented during the proceeding of the case as the petitioner sought a scheme to help the poor people for the last rites. In the initial petition filed by Radhakanta in 2011 maintained that Kuntala Nayak and Kusha Nayak died in Hinjilicut Block of Ganjam district due to failure of Government in ensuring them free medical treatment and food during old age. The petitioner had urged the Commission to intervene in the case and to ensure the basic human rights of the surviving member of the family. Considering the petition the NHRC had issued notice to the State authority and sought response over the issue. On June 27, 2012 the Commission observed and directed thus: “The Commission perused the report and observed that the district authorities have not intimated date of death of the wife of Kusha Nayak, date from which the monthly pension of `200 was being paid to them. The Annapurna rice (10 kg per month) was allotted to the couple since February, 2012, but how many times it was issued to them. The Commission further observed that the report is sketchy and does not cover the factual details of the incident and the action taken by the State Government. In his rejoinder on July 26, 2012 Radhakanta had stated that the report of the district authorities admits that the victim Kusha Naik was leading a life in poverty at extreme old age without any attendant or living family member. The Government had been paying him a meagre old age pension of Rs 200 and 10 kg of rice per month which was not adequate for the poor old man. (Pioneer 4/6/14)

 

8. NHRC writes to states on gender sensitization (1)

Chennai: With the escalation of crime against women in the country, the National Human Rights Commission on Friday asked all state governments to take immediate steps to introduce lessons on gender sensitisation in school curriculum. “The National Human Rights Commission has seen with concern several recent media reports of sexual assault in different parts of the country, violating human rights of girls and women. “Wherever and in whatever number these incidents have happened, the commission deplores all such acts, which have a direct bearing on human rights, including right to life, dignity and liberty,” the commission said in a statement. The commission has also noted that women have been assaulted in many instances when they step out of their homes to answer nature’s call, since there is no toilet facility at their residences. The rights panel has asked all stakeholders, including individuals, governments and civic agencies to work towards building a toilet for each household among their other priorities. The panel said it is necessary to take immediate steps to introduce topics or subjects at school which would instil gender sensitivity among children. (Deccan Herald 7/6/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. I will eat right now if AFSPA is repealed, says Irom Sharmila (1)

New Delhi: Manipuri civil rights activist, Irom Sharmila, who has been on an indefinite hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), broke down before a Delhi court on Wednesday. Sharmila had been brought to court in a case registered against her for attempting to commit suicide. The AFSPA, or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, confers special powers to armed forces to respond at will in the “disturbed areas” to maintain law and order. A number of activists have come out against the act — which is also in force in J&K. Standing before the court with a pipe in her nose – through which she has been force-fed since November, 2000 – Sharmila told the court she would eat her first bite in over a decade right there and then if the “draconian” AFSPA was repealed by the Modi government. Just a day before her appearance in Patiala House, Sharmila’s family had told the media that she hoped to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi while in Delhi in order to talk about the repealing of AFSPA. Sharmila, who appeared before the court in pursuance to a production warrant issued against her, claimed that wide scale discrimination was being meted out to the people from North East. The 41-year-old activist-poet also told Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain that she never intended to commit suicide and her fast was just a protest against AFSPA. “I love my life very much,” she assured the judge as her eyes welled up. During the proceedings, when the court told her that she would be given exemption from physical appearance due to her health condition, Sharmila insisted on being there, saying “It is my case and I want to be physically present in the court during the proceedings.” The court, during the hearing, also recorded the statements of two policemen, who were arrayed as prosecution witnesses in the case in which the Manipuri activist is facing trial. The court has fixed the matter for July 17 for recording of statements of other witnesses in the case. (Hindustan Times 29/5/14)

 

10. P.A. Sangma seeks Modi’s intervention in Meghalaya custodial deaths (1)

Shillong, May 31 : National People’s Party (NPP) supremo Purno Agitok Sangma Saturday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in the twin custodial death in Meghalaya. Sangma, who is the lone NPP member in the Lok Sabha, has also asked National Human Rights Commission chairman K.G. Balakrishnan to institute an inquiry into the twin custodial death. In his letter to Modi, the former Lok Sabha speaker highlighted the prevailing law and order situation and the violation of human rights in Garo Hills districts in western part of Meghalaya. He also asked Modi to instruct the relevant authorities to take necessary and appropriate action in the twin custodial death. There were two custodial deaths in Garo Hills this month. Witson Sangma, arrested on charges of supplying explosives to the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), was found dead in police lockup of Chokpot police station Wednesday, while Balsan Marak, accused of illegally confining, kidnapping and torturing 12 women, died at the Tura Civil Hospital May 20. Civil society groups, including the Garo Student’s Union have announced a non-cooperation movement June 2 in the five districts of Garo Hills over the custodial deaths. Meanwhile, curfew was on Saturday relaxed for eight hours at Chokpot block in South Garo Hills district, two days after it was imposed following mob violence over the death of Witson Sangma, officials said. (New Kerala 1/6/14)

 

11. SHRC Directive Against Lock Up ‘Dress Code’ (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has asked the DGP to initiate action against those police officials who keep people in lock up by forcing them to wear only underclothes. Rights Commission chairman Justice J B Koshy  issued the orders in this regard on Tuesday on a complaint filed by C Joseph, a native of Amboori here. In his complaint, Joseph stated that police officials were humiliating the suspects  by forcing them to remain in the lock up  cladding only inner wear or with newspaper to cover their nakedness citing that they would commit suicide if they were allowed to wear normal dress. Justice Koshy said it was a serious violation of human rights to make them wear only the inner wear while putting them in lock ups. It is also a crime under the Police Act, he observed. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

12. The rot behind the prison bars: Urgent need for reforms (1)

There has been a 100 percent increase in deaths of inmates in Tihar jail. Thirty five prisoners have died there in judicial custody in 2013 in comparison to 18 in 2012. This is not all. Such horrifying news often keep on coming from Ghaziabad, Rohini and the country’s other jails. All this, once again, has brought into sharp focus the working of our prison administration. It goes without saying that the state of Indian prisons is so deplorable that less said about it the better. These are the walled houses of cruelty, torture and defiled dignity. The jail manuals are antiquated, the architecture is primitive and the attitude of jail authorities is not only indifferent, but unpardonably dehumanising. Subhuman living conditions, prison riots, jail-breaks, suicides, custodial deaths and frequent escapes are regular occurrences.  All this notwithstanding, we have to accept the prison system as a necessary evil and reform it with a sense of urgency. As per our judicial philosophy, jails are expected to serve four objectives:  retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. Crimes that disrupt society have to be punished and hence criminals must pay by losing part of their freedom.  Law-breakers ought to be segregated so that they do not harm innocent people. Future crimes have to be prevented by making the delinquent understand that the infringement of law is not permissible in a civilized society. And when the jail term ends, the prisoner should be able to return to the mainstream as a law abiding citizen Ironically, the ground realities are different. No jail in the country has the resources for keeping prisoners in healthy surroundings. No prison has an imaginative reformatory system governed by upright officers who want to bring about a change of heart in a criminal. In that event, jails make hardcore criminals even out of ordinary offenders. Insanitary conditions, shortage of food, medicines and medical staff, laxity, mismanagement and corruption in the prison administration only add to the misery. The government has still to evolve guidelines for prison management on modern lines. Although the subject has been examined in depth by four committees since 1919-20 and in four landmark judgments of the Supreme Court in 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1990, the fact remains that prison authorities pay scant regard to the guidelines evolved. They do not adhere even to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners, 1995. Worse still, their decisions are dictated by a piece of legislation — the Prisons Act 1894 –  which was enacted by a colonial regime that saw jails as places to break the back of the nationalist movement. The Union government should evolve a standard jail manual applicable throughout the country with the help of human rights activists, judges, lawyers and eminent criminologists. The root cause of all the problems in the country’s 1394 jails is overcrowding. In some cases, jails are filled to 500-600 per cent more of their official capacity, as widely reported. For instance,  Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, has a sanctioned capacity of 804 inmates, but statistics reveal that 2,300 prisoners are currently lodged in it. In Bihar, jails have a capacity of about 21,750 inmates but house over 38,000. Similarly, Asia’s most prestigious Tihar jail houses 13,500 inmates against its authorised capacity of 6,250.The position in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat and West Bengal is no better. The influx of new inmates adds to the problem. It goes without saying that overcrowding is as much a violation of the “right of life” as denial of a “speedy trial”. .. (Deccan Herald 4/6/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

13. ‘Won’t trample media freedom’ (1)

New Delhi: Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday assured the media that its freedom will be intact under the Narendra Modi-led government. Adding that external curbs will not work on the media, he recalled days of the Emergency in 1975 when media was gagged by the state. Dissent has a place in a democracy and “we will always welcome constructive criticism”, added the Minister of State (independent charge) for Information & Broadcasting taking charge of  the ministry. “Modi ji ke netritva mein aayi sarkar media ki swadheenta ko akshun rakhegi (The Modi-led government will keep media freedom intact),” Javadekar said, and recalled how “we fought” curbs imposed on media in 1975 and how “we were in jail for 16 months”. “We believe freedom of press is essence of democracy…it gives people choice in a rainbow of differing opinions. There is no external regulation that works in the media. In 1975, media freedom was trampled upon but we fought it,” the minister said. Asked about recent cases where several youngsters had been arrested for allegedly posting anti-Modi messages on social media, Javadekar said those cases had been registered under the IT Act by the respective state governments and the Centre had no role. Javadekar said Modi has said though BJP has the numbers to run the government, it needs the cooperation and support of all to run the country. “Rajnetaon aur media ki zimmevari banti hai ki loktantra ko safal banayein (success of a democracy lies on the shoulders of political leaders and the media).” Asked whether state-run broadcaster Doordarshan will be allowed to edit important interviews (in reference to the controversy over DD for removing a chink of Narendra Modi’s interview in the run-up to the elections), Javadekar’s response was: “Bilkul nahin (Not at all).” He further said “change in work culture is what we promised” and it will be delivered. He added priorities would be worked out after consultation with all stakeholders. On his predecessor Manish Tewari’s views that there was no need for an I&B ministry, Javadekar said, “It doesn’t take much time to end an institution, but it takes a lot of time to build it. We’ll take stock of everything and will not waste whatever is good.” On whether any important decisions taken by his predecessor would be reversed, he said, “Jo achha hai woh chalega, jo nahin hai woh nahin chalega.(What’s right will continue, what’s not won’t).” (Indian Express 29/5/14)

 

14. Prakash Javadekar resolves to strengthen press freedom (1)

PANAJI: Prakash Javadekar, Union minister of state for information and broadcasting and environment and forests on Saturday said his I&B ministry will strive to strengthen press freedom in totality. In his keynote address at the GoaFest, his first public function since he was sworn in as MOS, Javadekar said the government will take digital media, print media and electronic media into confidence in order to find solutions to pending problems. He said consultations will precede informed decisions in larger public interest. The government will also strive to improve Doordarshan and All India Radio such that people love them and they give real competition to the existing channels. The minister also urged self-discipline by the media, saying the government will then have no role to play in monitoring the media. Responding to a question whether people need to be careful while making posts on social media, Javadekar said social media is governed by the IT Act which is 10 years old. “Every freedom is accompanied by some responsibility. People need to know the Lakshman Rekha which needs to be preserved,” he said. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

15. One held in Odisha for journalist’s murder (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Unidentified men stabbed 35-year-old Tarun Kumar Acharya with sharp-edged weapons in a lonely place when he was riding a motorcycle on his way to home at Bikrampur from Khallikote town, about 135 km from here. Acharya was a stringer of a local television channel and a reporter of a local news paper. Anirudha Singh said a family feud might have led to his murder and Acharya’s own brother and two others were believed to be behind the crime. The incident has nothing to do with journalism, he said. Police have formed two teams and they are conducting raids to nab the assailants, said Anirudha Singh. The murder was condemned by the opposition parties and journalist associations in the state. The state government should order a CBI probe and pay compensation of Rs.50 lakh to Acharya’s family, the Odisha Union of Journalists said in a statement. Bharatiya Janata Party state spokesperson Sajjan Sharma said the murder has showed that there is no law and order in the state. “We demand that police should immediately arrest assailants,” Sharma said. Hundred of activists of the Communist Party of India-Marxist staged a demonstration in Bhubaneswar Thursday to protest the journalist’s murder. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

16. Civil society activists question PM’s ‘silence’ on attacks on dissent (1)

NEW DELHI: Prominent citizens and civil society activists on Saturday questioned the “silence” of the Prime Minister’s Office on the recent “blatant” attacks on free speech of writers and academicians and demanded that these constitutional rights be protected. The citizens in a joint statement said that in the last fortnight there had been a “resurgence” of attacks to curb the right to free speech and expression of those who did not “share the euphoria, hope and enthusiasm associated with recent election results”.The statement said the brutal lynching of an innocent young professional in Pune, following the arson and rioting in reaction to a Facebook post, is evidence of a “continuing atmosphere of intolerance and fear that threatens our democracy and must be stopped immediately”.It said such attempts to curtail the right to free speech and expression have been recurring over the past two decades, irrespective of the political party in power. (Economic Times 8/6/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

17. Social Welfare Department to Probe Suspected Child Trafficking (1)

THRISSUR: The Social Welfare Department will hold a detailed investigation into the suspected child trafficking incidents in the state in the wake of the suspected trafficking of 456 children below the age of 12, detained by the Railway Police at the Palakkad Junction railway station on Saturday, said Social Welfare Minister M K Muneer. The department will peruse the documents submitted by the officials of the orphanage where the children in the Palakkad incident are boarded. Those children with no valid documents will be rehabilitated. A three-member committee has been formed to conduct inspection at all the orphanages in the state, the Minister said. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, he said that stringent laws will be enforced in the state in two weeks to curb the trafficking of children to the state in the guise of study purpose. “Though transportation of children to and from the state for study purpose cannot be curbed, the government will not allow child trafficking under the garb of studies,” he said. “The committee that was assigned to look into the suspected cases will complete the exercise in a time-bound manner. Those children with valid documents will be handed over to respective orphanages and children without valid documents will be returned to their respective places after the inspection. Besides, stringent action will be taken against institutions that lodge children without valid documents,” the minister said. He said the department has initiated steps to deport 12 Bangladeshi immigrants, who are staying at the elderly home of the government at Ramavarmapuram here, after serving jail term for illegally staying in the state. (New Indian Express 30/5/14)

 

18. A case of trafficking, say Jharkhand officials (6)

Palakkad: A team of officials from Jharkhand that reached Palakkad on Sunday in connection with the detaining of 589 children from West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar at the Palakkad Railway Junction station last week has termed it a case of child trafficking. Talking to The Hindu after visiting the children sheltered at two children’s homes in the district, Jharkhand’s Labour Enforcement Officer Maneesh Sinha said the children were taken to Kerala without completing due procedures and violating key provisions of the child rights Act. Recommending an investigation, he said the children indicated that they were “purchased” by agents paying about Rs.1,500 to each parent exploiting their poverty. The team from Jharkhand included three assistant development officers and two labour welfare officers. Mr. Sinha said Jharkhand Labour Commissioner Maneesh Rangan would reach Palakkad on Monday for consultations with district authorities, police, and child welfare activists on the future of the detained children. The team left for Kozhikode in the evening to meet children handed over to the District Child Welfare Committee there. Mr. Sinha said Jharkhand provided free and compulsory education to all along with free food in its schools and shelters. He said no orphanage in Kerala had contacted the State government to get children through legal process to ensure their overall development. The delegation also held talks with the railway police, district authorities, and members of district child welfare committee. The Kerala Minority Commission and the Indian Union Muslim league had claimed that poor children from the minority communities outside the State were being brought to Kerala in an attempt to provide better education and nutritious food. (The Hindu 2/6/14)

 

19. Meghalaya Girls, Mom Detained in Home, Rescued (1)

COIMBATORE: In what is claimed to be the latest in a string of human-trafficking related allegations surrounding a school in Sulur, a woman from Meghalaya and her two minor daughters who were illegally confined by an employee of the school, were rescued by police and child protection officials in Sulur on Tuesday. According to sources, the 35-year-old woman and her two daughters, aged 11 and 16, were rescued after the woman’s son, who is studying at a college in Manipur, informed the college authorities about the ‘forced confinement’ of his mother and two sisters. The college authorities then forwarded the complaint to a right-wing organisation, whose activists took up the matter with officials in Coimbatore. Local administration officials, who received the complaint on Monday night, alerted the Singanallur police, who, with the assistance of child protection officials and the anti-human trafficking police wing, raided the Sulur school and rescued the woman and her two young daughters. The three are said to be from West Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya. They were produced before the Child Welfare Committee, where they told the officials that one Lungu from Assam had brought them to Coimbatore promising that he would arrange for her daughters’ schooling. Believing his words, the woman came along with her daughters to the city. However, Lungu, an employee of the Sulur school,  confined the woman and her daughters in a separate hostel. CWC officials recorded their statement, while Lingu was detained. Police told Express that the school had courted similar controversies in the past. The school is believed to have many students from Manipur and Meghalaya, apart from students from Tamil Nadu. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

20. Trafficked and raped, tribal girl 2 months pregnant (1)

New Delhi: She had hoped her move to Delhi will help her support her family of six. But within a week of her arrival, she became a victim sexual abuse. She is now two months’ pregnant. The 18-year-old tribal girl was brought to Delhi by a woman in March on the pretext of a job. “She told the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that she was kept at a placement agency in east Delhi’s Shakarpur. She was raped not only by the owner but his friends too,” said Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini NGO. She was repeatedly assaulted by the owner and his friends and all her requests of being sent back home went unheeded. The man kept her locked inside the agency office and made her do all the work. He would not even pay her wages. According to the girl, he was negotiating with someone to employ her in a home as a domestic help. The girl can barely speak Hindi and had come to Delhi from West Bengal. She did not even know she was pregnant till she saw the medical report. Originally a resident of Odisha, she had managed to escape by locking the placement agency owner in the washroom and stealing Rs. 1,000 from his wallet. She was found sitting at the Old Delhi railway station, looking lost, when members of Shakti Vahini found her and took her to the hospital. “An auto driver dropped her to the Old Delhi railway station where she was sitting quietly and looked very scared. A person, who was from her village, noticed her and informed the West Bengal police. They informed us and we rescued her,” Kant said. The NGO informed her mother, who works at a tea garden in New Jalpaiguri and earns barely Rs. 70 a day.  Both mother and daughter will now return to their hometown but are scared of the rape stigma attached to her.

“The police need to investigate the case thoroughly and find out the culprit. If we don’t take action, such people will continue to assault women,” said an activist working with the NGO. (Hindustan Times 6/6/14)

 

21. Assam becoming a hotspot for child trafficking (1)

New Delhi: Now penniless and without a clue about how to rescue their 12-year-old daughter Lakshmi, who went missing over eight months ago from their village in Assam, Deepak Munda and his wife are in the Capital looking for their child and stuck with no means to return home for over six months now. The couple is now staying at a shelter home run by non-government organisation working in the area of child rights, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). Holding up a black and white photocopy of their only child sitting in The Hindu office on Friday evening, the couple narrated the ordeal they had been through. “Our child was kidnapped by an agent in Assam and brought to Delhi. This we got to know through our people in the village and so we came here in search of our child. We even tracked her down to the placement agency and when we went there we were told that if she works for two-three more days she will get her entire month’s salary. So we waited and even handed the placement agency owner the money we were carrying. This, he said, was to be used as transport charges for Lakshmi,’’ said Deepak. Now, six months later, the couple are yet to get back their child and have no money left even to feed themselves. “Whenever we go to the agency, they abuse us and throw us out. We even threatened them with police action and still there is no result. We will go back to Assam only after getting our child back,’’ said Deepak, holding onto the shoulders of his wife, who silently sobbed. Sadly Deepak and his wife aren’t alone in this tragedy. Also ‘stuck’ in Delhi for over a month is Sadan Tanti from Assam’s (Dulahat tea garden) whose two granddaughters – Unita (15 years) and Sunita (17 years) – went missing. “While my eldest granddaughter went missing several months ago, recently even her younger sister was ‘kidnapped’ and reportedly brought through a placement agency to Delhi,’’ said Sadan. Carrying the passport photo’s of his grandchildren he has been going to various placement agencies with help from BBA. “So far I have only got to know that my girls have been ‘trafficked’ to Mumbai. So I will now go to Mumbai. I cannot go back home without my granddaughters. I have a son who is mentally unstable and these girls are all I have to live for,’’ he added. In the city looking for his sister, who went missing from the same area as Unita and Sunita, is also Jisoya Tanti, who has been in Delhi for over two weeks now. Narrating his story, Jisoya said: “My sister was kidnapped by a local agent and after I came here I got to know that she was kept as a bonded labourer in some house. But now I have got information that she has managed to run away from the place and I have no whereabouts of her. I have appealed to the Delhi Police and have been putting pressure on the placement agencies to find my sister but so far nothing has materialised.’’ Refusing to go back along without his sister, Jisoya said: “I am stuck in Delhi till I find my sister. Where can I go? I need to know if she is dead or alive.’’ Meanwhile, Assam has in the recent years emerged as one of the ‘hotspots’ for child trafficking according to child rights activists. BBA founder Kailash Satyarthi speaking about this large-scale child trafficking, specially from Assam, said: “The place has become a hub for child trafficking and there are areas here which are notoriously unsafe for children. Many placement agencies are earning huge profits by bringing in children from these States to the Capital and also sending them to Mumbai from here.’’ He added that in the past three years alone, over 77 Assamese children who were trafficked have been rescued after BBA lodged complaints. (The Hindu 8/6/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

22. UP: Dalit sisters gangraped, hung in public; (2)

Badaun (UP), May 29: In a brutal incident of human violation, two teenaged-cousins were gangraped and then hung to a tree in a village in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. The two girls were missing from their homes since Tuesday. Their bodies were found the very next morning from a tree in Katra village in Ushait area. The incident triggered protests in the area when the villagers blocked police access to the site until they were convinced that action would be taken. Citing police apathy, the villagers demanded suspension of all police officers on duty in Ushait police station. Following this, FIR was registered against seven persons including constables Sarvesh Yadav and Rakshapal Yadav, who were suspended. Villagers alleged that the police had refused to file an FIR on Tuesday night. As police awaited the postmortem report of the two girls, the four accused-Brijesh, Awadhesh and two other unidentified were arrested, said SP Chauhan. Police are awaiting the postmortem report of the two girls. (One India 29/5/14)

 

23. 3 Dalits Killed in Row Over Path to Graveyard (2)

TIRUNELVELI: Members of an intermediate caste have allegedly murdered three persons belonging to Dalit community in a dispute over the route to the graveyard near Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli on Sunday. Sources said, K Murugan (40) and R Venugopalan (42), natives of Udappankulam are working as drivers in Coimbatore. On Sunday, they came to Sankarankoil to attend a family function at Malaiyur. After the ceremony, they went to meet Murugan’s elder brother, Kaliraj at Udappankulam. Later, Kaliraj went to drop the duo, in his two wheeler, at Sankarankoil. However, the trio was attacked by some miscreants at a distance of two kilometre from Udappankulam. They died on the spot. There was enmity between the Dalit community and a dominant intermediate caste regarding the route to the graveyard. The Dalits were denied the rights of taking their dead ones through the main street, where the intermediate caste lives. Instead, they were taking the dead bodies through another route, sources said. On information, Tirunelveli SP Narendran Nair, Madurai DIG Anandkumar Somale, DSPs Vanamamalai, Kalivarathan, Pichai, and Tiruvengadam police inspector Krishnasamy rushed to the spot to control the situation. More than 100 police were deployed in this regard. The dead bodies were sent to Tirunelveli Medical college Hospital for postmortem. Tiruvengadam police registered a case and are investigating. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

24. Uttar Pradesh: Another girl raped, hanged from tree (2)

Sitapur, June 4 : After the Badaun case, another minor was allegedly raped and later hanged from a tree in Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh, said reports on Wednesday. A 15-year-old was allegedly abducted by six men when she went out of her house to relieve herself and her body was later found hanging from a tree, said reports. “My daughter was raped and killed by our 40-year-old neighbour and his friends. That old man wanted to marry my daughter. When we objected, he did this crime,” said the girl’s father. The police said they have booked the six men for murder. The post-mortem examination report of the girl is awaited. Two Dalit minor sisters were allegedly gangraped and then hanged from a tree at Katra village in Badaun district on May 27. The cousin sisters, aged 14 and 15 respectively, were reportedly missing since May 27 night. (New Kerala 4/6/14)

 

25. One in four Dalit women face harassment due to a lack of toilets: Report (2)

One in every four Dalit women faces harassment due to a lack of toilets, reveals a study conducted by WaterAid International. The report also stated that only 13% of Dalit households in these states had sanitation facilities, and that 26% of Dalit women that had to resort to open defecation had reposrted some form of humiliation. 6% of these women had also reposted sexual harassment. The full report, to be released later this year, has taken into account 9,644 Dalit households, from rural villages in four Indian states — Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In UP, the survey was conducted in Allahabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Etawah, Gorakhpur, Jhansi, Kanpur Dehat, Rae Bareli, Sitapur and Sonbhadra. Between 15 and 20 Dalit majority villages from each district (based on the 2001 census) were selected to give a representative sample. In total, just over 500 households from villages in each of the 20 districts were selected for interviews, comprising a total sample of 9,644 households. The WaterAid India survey was undertaken in 2013 in partnership with the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR). WaterAid International has released the extract from their study on open defecation in response to the gangrape and murder of two girls in Katara village in Badaun. The forthcoming report is based on the caste-based discrimination and sexual harassment Dalit women face due to open defecation. “Priority needs to be given to end open defecation and to put in place the resources needed to significantly increase access to basic toilets. We call upon governments around the world to back proposals at the United Nations for everyone, everywhere to have basic sanitation, as well as clean drinking water and hygiene services, by 2030,” said WaterAid chief executive Barbara Frost. Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, who had sent a team to the village for a survey said that the report had come at a right time, and that it stated what many women faced in the country. “I have seen, heard and felt through my several yeas in the field of sanitation that Dalit women are the worst-hit. Vulgar jokes, catcalls and sexual harassment is rampant. While the government claimed that only 100 houses in the village has no toilets, my team has found that all 406 houses in the village has no toilets,” said Pathank. Pathak who has written to PM Narendra Modi on Monday asking for resources to build toilets in every homes in the country, said that he is hopeful that the PM will respond positively. (DNA 4/6/14)

 

26. Haryana rape protestors evicted from Jantar Mantar (2)

New Delhi: The Delhi Police on Wednesday morning evicted more than 70 Dalit families from Jantar Mantar. They had been camping there for two months to protest the gang-rape of four minor girls in Haryana’s Bhagana village on March 23. The Dalit villagers said they were evicted around 5am without prior notice despite having sought permission for their protest. “No person can protest at Jantar Mantar for more than a day and these people housed themselves here for over two months now,” said SBS Tyagi, additional commissioner of police (Central range). Before their eviction, the protestors said men of higher castes frequently pick up Dalit women in their village when they go out to relieve themselves. None of the cases are reported. “Upper caste people do not allow Dalit households in our village to have toilets and the women generally go to the fields to relieve themselves either before sunrise or after sunset,” said Jagdish Kadla, a member of the family of one of the victims. The youngest of the four gang rape victims is 13 years old. She had her class five exam the day before she was raped allegedly by the family members of the village head. She and the other victims aged 15, 16 and 17 years were picked up from the field across their neighbourhood where they had gone to relieve themselves. “Five men forced us inside a car, rolled up the windows and took turns to rape us,” said one of the victims (Hindustan Times 6/6/14)

 

27. Dalit groom beaten up in M.P. village for riding a horse (2)

Chhattarpur: A Dalit groom was allegedly forced to get down from the horse he was riding as part of a pre-wedding ritual and beaten up by upper caste men at Sadwa village in the district, the police said here on Sunday. The incident took place two days ago, when Manoj Ahirwar (21) went around the village on horse-back seeking the blessings of village elders, said Chhattarpur’s Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Neeraj Pandey. As per village “tradition”, only upper-caste grooms are “allowed” to ride on a horse, while lower castes have to go on foot to seek the blessings of elders. The police said they had arrested seven people identified as Ladle Yadav, Khadia Yadav, Ammu Yadav, Mitthu Yadav, Jaahar Yadav, Ram Singh and Pavrat Pal, while six others, including village headman Khuman Singh, were absconding. Some persons in the groom’s procession also allegedly made some comments leading to the scuffle, with upper caste men objecting to the “violation” of village “tradition”. (The Hindu 9/6/14)

 

28. Panel discusses dalit boycott issue (2)

SANGRUR: State scheduled caste commission held meetings with district officials on Sunday to sort out issue of landlords boycotting dalits in Bopur village in Sangrur district. Commission chairman Rajesh Bagha met the officials and asked them to settle the issue and take stern action against persons found guilty. The panel also formed a five-member committee to solve the issue. Landlords in Bopur had socially boycotted dalits on May 16 when they claimed their right to 27 acres of village common land earmarked for the community. The plot was to be leased out to landless dalits for farming for an amount which would be decided by tenders. However, till now, tenders were grabbed by landlords with proxy dalit candidates. Angry over the dalits’ move to take the land on lease for cultivation, landlords had boycotted dalits last month. Commission member Dalip Singh Pandhi had visited the village on May 29. (Times of India 9/6/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

29. Govt to tax tobacco more to reduce consumption (3)

NEW DELHI: Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is for levying increased taxes on tobacco and tobacco-related products to discourage its consumption. Releasing a report on the economic burden of tobacco related diseases in India on Thursday, the minister said he will be writing to the finance ministry soon seeking necessary action on the issue. “It makes perfect economic sense to regulate the use of tobacco in order to achieve the goal of controlling non-communicable disease in India. Tobacco use is a preventable risk factor for major diseases and the resultant economic consequences,” Vardhan said, releasing the report, compiled by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). The report, supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated direct and indirect costs from all diseases caused due to tobacco use and four specific diseases namely, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. It estimated that the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs 1, 04,500 crores — 12% more than the combined state and central government expenditure on health care in the same year. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) shared the highest burden (Rs 3,600 crore) of direct medical and indirect morbidity costs on account of tobacco use, followed by respiratory diseases (Rs 2,800 crore), tuberculosis (Rs 2,300 crore) and cancers (Rs1, 400 crore). “Of the 13 states which were part of the study, Uttar Pradesh shared the highest (28%) of the estimated health cost burden followed by West Bengal (13%) and Andhra Pradesh (12%),” said one of the researchers. WHO representative to India Nata Menabde said raising taxes is one of the strongest weapons to fight out tobacco and this is what the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control mandates. “A tax increase that raises prices of tobacco products by 10% is estimated to reduce tobacco consumption by 4% to 5%.Essentially, as tax goes up, death and disease goes down. Raising taxes on tobacco is a win-win situation. It is good for people’s health and good for the economy,” Menabde said. The WHO recommends that share of excise tax for tobacco products should be increased to 70% of retail price. “The tobacco dependence treatment should be mainstreamed into the existing health care delivery systems,” said Dr Monika Arora, director, health promotion, PHFI. (Times of India 30/5/14)

 

30. High performance gap in healthcare infra, manpower availability in Gujarat: study (3)

Ahmedabad: Acknowledging the importance of health performance in overall human development index (HDI), a study by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has laid out certain performance gaps in Gujarat’s health sector. Performance gaps in areas like life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate and neo-natal rates have been found to be pretty high in Gujarat as compared to other states, according to the study titled ‘What Determines Performance Gap Index of Healthcare in Gujarat?’ Authored by Shreekant Iyengar and Ravindra Dholakia of IIM-A, the study attempts to identify the gaps in performance of the health related outcome, output and input indicators from the best performers in each indicator. The gap would indicate the distance that Gujarat has to cover to reach the best performance in the country in each indicator. A higher value of this index indicates more gap from the best and thereby a relatively poorer performance of Gujarat. Moreover, the paper also reviews the trends in health performance of Gujarat over time and also estimates the effectiveness of the state in converting its health inputs to outputs and outputs to outcomes. Indicators such as health infrastructure and manpower, among others were looked into to assess performance gap of Gujarat. For instance, gap has also been found in total government hospitals and number of available beds at 96 per cent and 64 per cent, it further states, while adding that the state will have to enhance health expenditure in order to reduce these gaps. “It is only the maternal mortality where the performance gap is low at 22 per cent putting Gujarat relatively near to the top performer. The performance gap of Gujarat in terms of the Indian system of medicine AYUSH (Ayurveda Yoga Unani Siddha Homeopathy) is also extremely large for the number of hospitals (99 per cent), beds (81 per cent) and dispensaries (86 per cent),” the study states. In terms of manpower availability (numbers per hundred thousand of population) in the public health system of Gujarat, the gap for the number of general doctors at primary health centres (PHC) is 90 per cent and for the specialist doctors at community health centre (CHC) it is as high as 95 per cent. “Moreover, considering the total number of doctors and nurses in the state, we find that the performance gaps are relatively lower at 50 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. However, the gap in terms of the total number of AYUSH doctors (66 per cent) is again quite high. The gaps for total and government doctors in Gujarat show that the non-availability of doctors is more severe in the public health care system than overall level in the state,” the study further states. Meanwhile, the study called for enhancing expenditure on health in Gujarat which it termed as a challenge. “The process of expanding infrastructure and increasing manpower would require significant public expenditure to be incurred. This can be placed as a major challenge to the state towards achieving better health outcomes and finding its place in the top performers among the states in the country,” the study concluded. (Business Standard 5/6/14)

 

31. ’1 in 10 adults in country has thyroid’ (3)

CHENNAI: One in 10 adults suffers from some thyroid related disorder, said health minister Dr C Vijaya Bhaskar on Thursday. Speaking at a national workshop organized at the Tamil Nadu Government Multi-Specialty Hospital on ‘advanced management of thyroid disorders,’ the minister, quoting recent studies, said thyroid disorders affects 42 million people in India. “Studies in eight major cities in the country have shown that one in 2,640 neonates have thyroid dysfunction,” he said. Thyroid, the most common endocrine disorder, is common among women and it also puts them at a risk of cancer and cardiac issues, he added. Pointing out that the state is moving ahead rapidly in terms of healthcare development, the minister said, “Maternal mortality rate has reduced in the state at 68 per every one lakh live births in 2013 from 450 per one lakh live births in 1980. Infant mortality rate, too, has reduced over the years at 21 per every 1000 live births in 2012 from 93 in 1980.” The Tamil Nadu Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, since its inauguration three months ago, has treated 20,500 out-patients and over 1800 in-patients. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

 

HIV/AIDS

32. HIV prevalence among women sex workers falls (3)

HYDERABAD: There is some heartening news on the AIDS front. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among Female Sex Workers (FSW) in the State has gradually decreased from 11 per cent to seven per cent now. Officials of the Andhra Pradesh States AIDS Control Society (APSACS) say measures at spreading awareness on safe contraceptive practices as a prevention strategy for the disease has finally paid off. They point out that it is not just the prevalence of HIV: even the percentage of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among FSWs is on the decline in the State. In the last five years, STI prevalence among FSWs has come down from a whopping 18 per cent to just two per cent, a reflection of the growing realisation among FSWs on the need to follow safe practices. “The bottom-line, however, is that HIV/AIDS prevalence and STIs among FSWs has to be brought down to zero. This is very much possible, but requires concerted efforts by all over a period of time. But, definitely, we have made a lot of progress in spreading awareness on safe practices leading to the drop,” explained APSACS Joint Director (Targeted Intervention) T. Kailash Ditya. The APSACS official was addressing a meeting organised by Integrated Rural Development Services (IRDS) and Mahila Abhivrudhi Sangam (MAS) here on Thursday. The meeting also discussed threadbare a host of issues related to the sexual and reproductive health needs of FSWs and released a study report on them. According to existing data, there are 1, 44,245 FSWs in the State who are being targeted by APSACS to take up safe practices that would prevent HIV/AIDS. “There is a definite need to focus more on spreading awareness on sexual reproductive health among FSWs in our State. This will help prevent ailments like cervical cancer in addition to HIV/ADS,” Mr. Kailash pointed out. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

33. Family abandons woman after she tested HIV positive (3)

AJMER: A woman was abandoned by her family when they came to know that she was HIV positive. This was revealed when she went to a hospital after conceiving a child. She was thrown out from her house and then she went to the police but no one came to help her. The woman then took the case to court and on its orders her husband was arrested and sent to jail. This happened nearby Kishangargh, where a woman accused her husband of not even returning her personal clothes. “They have not even returned my clothes and discarded me like an animal. I went to my parents but they even fear to keep me in the family,” said the victim. According to the police, the couple got married in 2009 and has a kid. “At the time of her first delivery all reports came normal,” said the report given to the court. The report further read that last year she fell ill and was taken to a private hospital for treatment. Again last month, the woman conceived a child and was taken to hospital where she was found HIV positive. “When the family came to know about the report they abused her and threw her out of the house,” the report read. The woman then went to the police, who did not help her fearing that HIV will spread by her presence. At last she approached the court. After hearing her side the court ordered to initiate enquiry and action against her husband. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

34. District Tops in HIV Through Reused Syringe (3)

KOCHI: It’s time Ernakulam district tackled drug taking on a war footing. For, it has got the dubious distinction of being the district with the highest number of HIV patients who have contracted the disease through reused syringes, in the state. The district is also said to have the maximum number of drug addicts. The Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) has identified 5,000 drug takers in the state, of which 157 are HIV-infected and 50 per cent of them belongs to Ernakulam, said Dennis Joseph, Joint Director (targeted intervention) KSACS. Against this backdrop, the KSACS is all set to launch a drug therapy called opioid substitution therapy (OST), a medical procedure wherein the drug, ‘Buprenorphine’, is administered to the patient. “It is crushed and then given to the patient so that the effects are similar to  that of drugs they are addicted to and its dosage is gradually tapered.  The therapy will be launched across the state. In Ernakulam, measures have been initiated to set up the facility at the Aluva District Hospital, the Muvattupuzha Taluk Hospital and the Cherthala Taluk Hospital. “A team comprising a doctor, nurse and councillor will handle the therapy. Since Buprenorphine belongs to a special category, special permission is required for its administration. Hence, the team will have to undergo training from All-India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS ). The training for the Ernakulam team will commence on June 16,” he said. The high rate of drug peddling in the district is a major reason why it tops the state in drug addiction, he said. “The district has literally become a haven for drug peddlers who lure many into drug taking. There are even ‘shooting galleries’ where drug addicts converge and share a doze from a single syringe. This is dangerous,” he said.   The KSACS has identified drug addicts and HIV patients across the state through eight different projects. Dennis said that the rehabilitation of drug addicts was a strenuous task when compared to the rehabilitation of alcoholics. “Once it is stopped, the withdrawal symptoms become too intense,” he said. CAPE, an NGO, will be entrusted with the task of identifying the targeted population in the district. “In 2004, syringes were distributed to curb their re-use. Hence, the main task of the NGO is to distribute the syringes and collect the used ones. Once in six months, the therapy process will be monitored and analysed,” the official said. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

35. New method to make latent HIV reveal itself identified (3)

Washington: Researchers have identified a new way to make latent HIV reveal itself, which could help overcome one of the biggest obstacles to finding a cure for HIV infection. Leor Weinberger, PhD, Associate Investigator in the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and senior author of the study, said understanding how to reactivate latent HIV is one of the major challenges we must overcome in order to find a cure for HIV. One of the properties of latency that makes it so difficult to address is that it is random-or stochastic-in nature. Random fluctuations in transcription are unavoidable and a general aspect of life at the single-cell level and lead to “noise” around the average level of gene expression. In this study, the team tested the counter-intuitive notion that compounds that increase noise in gene expression could work together with transcriptional activators to increase overall levels of HIV reactivation. The concept borrows from other fields of science such as chemistry, where theoretical arguments long ago argued that increased fluctuations can increase the efficiency of reactions. First, they screened a library of 1,600 compounds using a specialized cell line that produces a green fluorescent protein (GFP) when gene expression is activated. The team identified 85 small molecules that increased noise without changing average GFP gene expression levels. They then combined these newly identified noise enhancers with known transcription activators in a cell line that serves as a model for HIV latency. They found that while the noise enhancers could not cause reactivation on their own, 75 percent of them could synergize with activators and increase viral reactivation relative to activator alone. In fact, some noise enhancers doubled reactivation levels when combined with activators. Furthermore, they found a direct correlation between noise enhancement and the degree of reactivation synergy; the greater the noise, the greater the effect on reactivation. For the first time, these results show that expression noise and reactivation of latent HIV are directly related, and identify new candidates for the “shock and kill” approach to treating latent HIV infection. The findings have been ere published in the journal Science. (Business Standard 6/6/14)

 

36. Submit report on action taken against lab in false HIV case, .. (3)

MUMBAI: The home ministry got an earful from legislative council chairman Vasant Daokhare on Saturday when he asked it to submit in a week a report on action taken against a Kandivli pathological lab which allegedly gave a man a wrong HIV-positive report and blackmailed him. The directives came after legislators Bhai Girkar, Ashish Shelar and others blamed the home ministry for granting “favours” to the accused and the owners of ‘The Pacific Lab’, Geeta Mehra and Rajendra Mehra, by delaying the investigation. Despite assurance from minister of state for home Satej Patil that the investigation would be completed within 15 days and stern action would be taken against the Mehras, the legislators sought Daokhare’s intervention. Girkar and Shelar said the lab owners had allegedly asked for Rs 1 lakh from the man who was tested to cure him and later pressurized him to withdraw the police complaint. (Times of India 8/6/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

37. ‘No repeal of land acquisition law’ (4)

New Delhi: Restructuring rather than repealing the controversial Land Acquisition Act initiated by the UPA government will be the focus of new minister for rural development Gopinath Munde. He asserted that he was not in the favour of scrapping the scheme but will rather focus on providing compensation and rehabilitation to the farmers. He emphasised that one of his priorities will be asset development in the villages, which due to the integration of the three ministries will be easier to streamline. Mr Munde added that he will tackle the issue of non-timely payments under the rural job scheme, MNREGA by working in coordination with the state governments. “Ensuring timely payments under the MNREGA by coordinating with the state governments will also be on priority. Timely performance of the scheme will be assessed to ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach its beneficiaries,” Mr Munde said. He, however, rejected the idea of increasing the duration of the scheme from 100 days as he said that most parts in India witness 100 days of rainfall. Another focus area he emphasised will be the rejuvenation of the drinking water scheme. “We will identify the problem areas in ensuring a permanent source of clean drinking water. The challenge is the fact that the implementing agency for the scheme are the district council and not the state agencies,” he said. He added that new groups will be added to the flagship scheme of the Congress-led UPA government, Indira rural housing scheme. (Asian Age 30/5/14)

 

38. Will use force if Campa Cola residents do not cooperate: MCGM (4)

Mumbai: Armed with the supreme court order dismissing a plea of residents of Campa Cola compound against demolition of their flats, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) today said that it would not hesitate in using force to ensure that flats are vacated by occupants. “Use of force is the last thing that we will do. If it (eviction) is happening peacefully, it’s welcome. (However) if the eviction does not happen peacefully, there is no other option than to use force. But why should there be any confrontation?” Additional Municipal Commissioner Mohan Adtani, in charge of the demolition of flats, told PTI. The apex court had yesterday dismissed the resident’s petition to stay the demolition of their flats till the court decides on a curative petition filed by the residents. “Under the SC directives, the residents are legally bound to vacate their flats, but if they fail to do so we might use force against them as last resort,” he said. Seven high-rise buildings of Campa Cola Housing Society in South Munbai were constructed between 1981 and 1989. The builders had permission for only six floors. However, one of the compound buildings, ‘Midtown’, has 20 floors and another building, ‘Orchid’, has got 17 floors.As many as 102 illegal flats in the seven buildings will be razed. Adtani said that the residents have realised after the supreme court order that they have entirely lost the case. The MCGM had asked the residents to hand over the keys of their flats and vacate them. The deadline expired on June 2. “So far they (residents) had thought that they will find a (legal) solution (against the eviction). But after yesterday’s court order they (the residents) have probably realised that they have lost the case completely, and have started vacating (their flats). This a sign of new hope for us,” Adtani said. Adtani said that the civic body will take a call on starting the demolition process after it assesses the number of flats being vacated by residents.He also said that the civic body was mulling over filing a contempt case against the illegal residents. When asked to comment on the residents’ plea to grant them an extension until the monsoon season is over, Adtani said that this was beyond jurisdiction of the MCGM. “We cannot give them any (more) time. The supreme court had already given them time on two occasions in the past. It is not within our powers (to give any relief) as it is fixed by the supreme court,” Adtani said. The curative petition filed by the Association of the Residents of Campa Cola has said that they had come across certain facts under a Right to Information (RTI) query, that were never out before. The plea had further said that the MCGM and the state had decided to regularise the illegal construction in 1985. In 2013, the supreme court stayed the demolition of unauthorised flats in the Campa Cola compound till May 31, 2014 after the BMC squad bulldozed its way into the compound to take action against illegal flats in the Society with the residents putting up a stiff resistance. (Deccan Herald 4/6/14)

 

39. Posco Faces Fresh Protest over Mining at Khandadhar (4)

ROURKELA: Renewed resentment is brewing against prospective mining by Korean steel major Posco at Khandadhar under Lahunipara block of Sundargarh district. Members of Khandadhar Suraksha Sangram Samiti (KSSS) with support of civil rights activist and Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Prafulla Samantara on Tuesday announced to hold a mass convention near Khandadhar waterfall on Thursday and observe the World Environment Day as ‘Save Khandadhar’ Day. Flanked by Samantara, KSSS secretary Suresh Munda and leader of Paudi Bhuiyan tribe Bilua Naik informed that the villagers of Talbahali, Haldikudar, Phuljhor, Kuliposh, Khuntgaon, Kurda, Bhutura and Sasyakala would participate in the convention. Reiterating the need to save Khandadhar waterfall, Samantara demanded the Central and State governments to ensure no mining activities within 25 km radius of the waterfall and declare the region as National Natural Heritage. He insisted on protecting the natural habitat of the diminishing primitive tribe Paudi Bhuiyan, who along with other tribal communities, are religiously attached to the Khandadhar hill, the abode of their presiding deity Kanta Devi. He also appealed to the State Government to withdraw its second recommendation of Prospective Licence (PL) to Posco. Samantara said the greater Khandadhar waterfall in Lahunipara sustains greenery and feeds the residents of several panchayats. The waterfall merges with river Brahmani. Apart from KSSS, the Khandadhar Suraksha Samiti, Rourkela unit of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Chheliatoka Parivesh Suraksha Samiti, Khandadhar Mahila Suraksha Samiti and Bonai Bikash Parishad (BBP) are also fighting for the same cause. BBP kicked off a post card campaign against the proposed mining at Khandadhar on March 12 urging the State Government to protect Khandadhar through post cards. BBP general secretary Babaji Sahu said above 15,000 post cards have been submitted so far. A convention would be held at Khandadhar after 13 days where a new outfit, Khandadhar Parivesh Suraksha Samiti, would be formed with representations from 56 affected villages. Following the formation of the outfit, women members would visit villages to mobilise public opinion against Posco. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

40. NH revamp left in lurch – Firm dumps Rs 940cr project (4)

Ranchi, June 5: A Calcutta-based construction company has backed out of the Jamshedpur-Kharagpur highway link widening project two years after bagging it, citing pending forest clearances and land acquisition glitches. Simplex Infrastructures Ltd has written to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) headquarters in Delhi, saying it was unable to execute the Rs 940-crore four-lane project involving 127km of national highways Nos. 33 and 6 covering Jharkhand and Bengal. A source in NHAI said Simplex, appointed the project concessionaire under build-operate-transfer (toll) in 2012, had not got a date of appointment — or time from when it could start groundwork — as forest clearances and land acquisition were held up. According to Central Vigilance Commission norms, the NHAI can give the appointment letter to a firm on contract only when forest clearances are obtained and 80 per cent land needed is acquired. The onus of readying forest clearances lies mainly with the Centre, while the state government is responsible for acquiring land. “Simplex wrote to NHAI recently saying it would not be able to execute the four-lane work. NHAI may have to go for a fresh tender. Finalisation of a new agency will take time,” an NHAI official said, requesting anonymity. Covering the dilapidated Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur stretch, 71km of the project falls in Jharkhand and 56km in Bengal. The proposed widening covered two sections, Mahulia-Baharagora on NH-33 and Baharagora-Kharagpur on NH-6. Close on the heels of this fallout, NHAI is also concerned over the slow pace of widening work on the NH-33 link of Ranchi-Jamshedpur. Ranchi-based project director of NHAI Awadhesh Kumar told The Telegraph that Delhi headquarters is “already concerned” over the slow pace of work executed by construction major Madhucon Projects Limited, which last year was appointed the concessionaire for the Rs 1,500-crore project. “The overall deadline for the project is June 2015, which we doubt would be realised,” said Kumar, who was in Delhi earlier this week and inspected the site today with NHAI chief general manager Rabindra Kumar. (The Telegraph 6/6/14)

 

41. ‘Farmers whose land will be acquired for airport upgradation to get compensation’ (4)

LUDHIANA: As the land acquisition authorities have issued notification before fixing the rates for acquisition of land from farmers for the upgradation of Sahnewal airport, the authorities are likely to give compensation to the farmers as per the New Land Acquisition act. Giving details, Kuldeep Singh, additional chief administrator GLADA, said “We have already submitted the objections from the farmers of the villages in which land is being acquired after we issued notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition act in June last year. On May 30 we also issued notification under section 6 of the land acquisition act after which we are calculating the rates for the land to be acquired”. “The process of fixation of prices of the land will be completed within a month or two. The compensation is likely to be given to the farmers before the end of this year”. He added that the farmers will be given rates as per the new land acquisition act and according to that they will get twice the rate than the collectorate rate given previously. Officials in GLADA which is acquiring the land for the project say that whereas the collectorate rate for an acre of land previously was around 35-40 Lakhs per acre but as per the new land acquisition act, the farmers may get around Rs 80 lakhs for the same piece of land. In the meanwhile farmers whose land is being acquired are not happy with the double the collectorate rate. Says Amar Singh, a farmer of Neechi Mangli, “We had heard that rates will be four times of the collectorate rate but two times is too less a price for the land. Once the authorities announce the rates for the land, we will decide next course of action”. (Times of India 9/6/14)

 

CORRUPTION

42. SIT may not get to know to know source of black money stashed abroad (5)

NEW DELHI: Even if the Special Investigation Team under Justice MB Shah succeeds in tracking most of Indian black money stashed away in tax havens, it may never be known how much of it is proceeds of crime or if money is hidden in secret accounts abroad just because its owners don’t want to pay taxes in India. It would remain a challenge to figure out what part of the black money is generated from criminal activities such as drug smuggling, arms deals, policy manipulations etc which have serious implications for national security, beyond just financial integrity. However, there is one disturbing statistics that could give an idea of the growing proportion of money generated through such criminal activities. Over 50 percent of the cases under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) since it was notified on July 1, 2005 were registered in just the last one year. Under this act that deals with proceeds of criminal activities, the first conviction could be in the high profile scandal involving former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and his cronies who swindled out hundreds of crores. And the second major conviction could be in the 2G spectrum allocation scandal. Between April 2013 and March 2014 the Enforcement Directorate registered 55 cases under PMLA. And in the ongoing financial year, ED could end up registering over 90 money laundering cases. In the previous eight years (2005 to 2013) just 49 cases were registered, and not one case has ended in conviction. One of the reasons for the sudden jump could be better enforcement of PMLA, but what also cannot be ignored is the fact that many scandals have emerged in recent times. And in most of these scandals, the ED has been able to track down the proceeds of crime, which show the huge amount of kickbacks in each of the scandals. In most of these cases while money laundering to distant tax havens is one of the activities, what is noticeable is the fact that much of the bribes and kickbacks have been moved around in India itself. There are several tactics used to move them around. Real estate is a key target of investment, while buying shares in private companies at exaggerated share values and offering unsecured loans are among the ways to move around black money or pay kickbacks. In sectors like real estate, black money is staggering, and a significant portion of it could be proceeds of various crimes such as kickbacks. The SIT, to be headed by Justice MB Shah, is tasked with duties of investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution in cases of Hasan Ali and other matters involving unaccounted money, the cabinet statement had said. In Hasan Ali case, investigations have found that documents showing $8 billion deposits by him were forged. The SIT would serve its full purpose if it were to put sharper focus on the criminal aspect of black money, especially in the Indian context. PMLA cases might be a good beginning to make. Times of India 30/5/14)

 

43. 2G Case: Shahid Balwa Wants to Depose as Witness (5)

NEW DELHI: Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, one of the accused facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case, Tuesday told the court that he wanted to depose as a witness in the case to defend himself. Balwa’s counsel Vijay Aggarwal told the special CBI court hearing the case that his client wanted to depose as a witness in the case in which recording statements of defence witnesses will commence July 1. Central Bureau of Investigation counsel K.K. Goel did not object, saying to depose as witness to defend himself is Balwa’s right. Balwa’s counsel told the court that he wanted to bring six witnesses in his defence and he would be one of them. “Defence is my right. They (CBI) have produced 153 witnesses and I am only seeking to summon five to six witnesses in my defence,” said Aggarwal on behalf of his client. Aggarwal added that co-accused, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal, directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd, were seeking permission to examine a total of five witnesses only in their defence in the case. Regarding former telecom minister A. Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R.K. Chandolia, also an accused in the case, Aggarwal told the court that he was only summoning some documents in his client’s defence. Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini reserved the order for Wednesday on the issue of calling defence witnesses and documents as sought by these accused. The court had earlier allowed Raja’s plea seeking to depose as a witness to defend himself in the trial. The court had on Oct 22, 2011 framed charges against 14 accused and three companies under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, faking documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking bribe. All the accused are out on bail. (New Indian Express 3/6/14)

 

44. CBI launches helpline against officials demanding bribe (5)

Bhopal: To keep a tab on corruption in government offices, CBI unit here has started a “citizen helpline” where people can call and register their complaints against officials demanding bribe. The agency has provided a mobile phone number and an email ID through which such complaints can be made, a statement from the CBI office here said. People can also file their complaints through a mail addressed to Superintendent of Police posted here. “Complaints against corruption and bribe related demands, can be lodged to email hobacbpl.Cbi.Gov.In or contact cell number 09425600070. Citizens can also write to Superintendent of Police, CBI, Anveshan Parisar, Char Imli, Bhopal,” a CBI statement said.   (Zee News 5/6/14)

 

45. Sub-Registrar Held in Rs 30-Cr Wadiyar Land Grab Case (5)

MYSORE: In a major breakthrough in `30-crore Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar’s property grabbing case, Lokayukta police have registered a case against more than eight people, including the Sub-Registrar, District Registrar of Stamps and Registration and two real estate agents. Four among them, arrested by the Lokayukta police led by Lokayukta SP S M Jagadish Prasad, were produced  before the Lokayukta Court on Thursday. The arrested were B K Sundar, son of Kunjappa Poojary (65) of Sulagalale village in Shanivarasanthe of Somwarapet taluk in Kodagu district, Girish, Sub-Registrar, Mysore East, real estate agents R Mahadev, son of T Raju of Janatha Layout in J P Nagar II Phase and Ravikumar, son of Lakshman of Ramakrishna Nagar E and F Block. All  the accused have been booked under different sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Section 463-568, 473, 473, 474, 420 and 109 read with 120 (B) of IPC, according to the first information report. According to Lokayukta police, the gift deed was registered by the Sub-Registrar Girish to help Sundar to grab the Wadiyar’s property. Initially, both  Girish and District Registrar and Deputy Commissioner of Stamps L G Hamsaveni clarified that the gift deed given on October 10, 1961 by erstwhile Mysore Maharaja has no  legal sanctity. Later, they accepted it to help the criminals who hatched conspiracy to grab the property. Finally, they helped the main accused Sundar to pay registration fee and registered the property on January 27, 2014. Girish and Hamsaveni were booked for misuse of power, fabricating of documents and connived with the private parties. Sundar has been accused of fabricating the gift deed dated October 10, 1961 to claim  200×250 ft land, about 50,000 sq ft, Survey No 1 in Maharaja’s Estate Office as his own and submitted to the Registrar’s office. Based on this, Girish registered the deed illegally by creating the documents saying that he himself took the signature, left thumb impression of late royal scion Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar at Mysore Race Club in Mysore on January 7, 2014 for confirmation deed. R Mahadev, a real estate agent, is allegedly involved in the deal by paying a registration fee of Rs 47.59 lakh in the name of Sundar. One more real estate agent Ravikumar has also paid `8.50 lakh in the name of Sundar, the police said. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

46. CBI wants to examine former Army chief General V K Singh (5)

NEW DELHI: Amid growing speculation that CBI may close its probe into allegations of bribery offer to former Army chief General V K Singh, the agency recently asked the newly-appointed minister to join investigations as it wanted some clarifications. The first-time MP and minister of state wrote to CBI’s that “he won’t be able to join investigations right now” as he was busy with the Parliament session. Agency officials said they wanted some clarifications from the former Army chief on his allegations against Lt Gen (Retd) Tejinder Singh and evidence provided by him. The audio recording CD, notes from personal diary and RD (record of discussion) of ministry of defence are being examined by CBI and it is planning to soon finalize the investigations. A request to V K Singh to join investigations was reportedly made by CBI during the Lok Sabha elections to which he replied recently. V K Singh’s lawyer Vishwajeet Singh, when contacted, told TOI, “CBI has been informed that our client will join later since Parliament session is going on.” CBI, however, is not very happy with V K Singh’s reply as its investigations are pending. The case has been dragging for more than two years now. Earlier, CBI officials had claimed that there is not enough prosecutable evidence in the case and it might be closed as well. It recently decided to conduct fresh forensic analysis on the audio CD provided by V K Singh as the previous examination did not reveal much. CBI had registered a case on October 19, 2012 after carrying out preliminary enquiry for nearly six months. Tejinder Singh was named by the CBI as an accused under Prevention of Corruption Act, as charges were levelled against him by V K Singh in his complaint. V K Singh had alleged that Lt Gen (retired) Tejinder Singh had offered him Rs 14 crore to clear the tranche of 1676 high mobility Tatra vehicles in the Indian Army. Tejinder Singh had met V K Singh at latter’s office on September 22, 2010. Tejinder had denied all charges levelled against him and also filed a defamation case against the former chief. (Times of India 7/6/14)

 

TRIBALS

47. Gearing up for an empowered tribal affairs ministry: Oram (6)

New Delhi: Newly-appointed tribal affairs minister Jual Oram on Thursday said he would ensure his ministry has a greater say in deciding approvals to industrial and infrastructure projects in tribal areas. Oram’s statement assumes importance in the backdrop of his predecessor V Kishor Chand Deo’s recurring grouse that the tribal ministry did not have any say in such approvals. “Deo was right when he said the tribal ministry did not have much power in many matters. We will ensure it changes,” he told HT. While the tribal affairs ministry runs several programmes aimed at welfare of tribals, approvals for any industrial project in tribal-dominated land lies with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The tribal affairs ministry’s role in such projects kicks in only when there is a case of violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA). The ministry is the implementing authority for FRA which grants tribals and forest dwellers the ownership over the land they have been living on for years. Oram said he would find a way to empower the ministry through inter-ministerial discussions. “In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ten priorities which includes putting in a place a system for sorting out inter-ministerial issues, I will discuss the vexing issue with the environment ministry,” he said. The minister also said that the tribals had, over the years, lost faith in the government machinery and that he would endeavour to win back their confidence. “The way tribals are denied their basic rights, it is only obvious they will lose faith in government. FIRs are not registered, ownership of forest land they have been living on for years are denied,” he said. These factors he said had contributed to the rise of Maoists in tribal areas.  On whether he would oppose large-scale operations on the lines of operation Greenhunt carried out by the UPA government, he said, “That’s something the home ministry will decide not us. While the MHA will treat as a security problem we will treat it as social problem,” he said. (Hindustan Times 29/5/14)

 

48. Anti-Posco Villagers Pin Hopes on Jual (6)

ROURKELA: The anti-Posco villagers opposing the proposed mining at Khandadhar in Bonai Assembly segment are upbeat over the elevation of BJP Lok Sabha member Jual Oram as Minister of Tribal Affairs. They are also buoyant after the victory of CPM’s Laxman Munda from Bonai Assembly segment. While campaigning in the segment during elections, both Jual and Laxman had taken a hard line stand against Posco. Khandadhar Mahila Suraksha Samiti president Baita Pradhan of Paudi Bhuiyan tribe said she and several others are forced to live with apprehension of losing their natural habitat for the last seven years. They have now pinned their hopes on Jual and Laxman to get relief, she said. A host of anti-Posco activists residing in several villages in the vicinity of Khandadhar waterfall said mining would destroy the scenic beauty of the environmentally rich region. Sources said though Jual won from Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat, the BJP leader has reasons to worry as he polled 47,684 votes from Bonai against 52,926 secured by hockey icon and BJD nominee Dilip Tirkey. Moreover, the CPM legislator of Bonai also won with a narrow margin of 1818 votes against his BJD rival Dayanidhi Kisan. Before his victory, Jual had said, “At no cost, iron ore mining would be allowed in Khandadhar as local tribals are emotionally and religiously attached to it. Posco should be ousted from Odisha for larger interest of the State and nation.” Four months ago, the BJD-led Odisha Government had made its second recommendation to grant Prospective Licence (PL) to Posco at Khandadhar. With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik resuming office for the fourth consecutive term, the BJD Government is likely to push for mining in Khandadhar region. Jual said his stand over Khandadhar remains unchanged and he is committed to protect it from mining. In fact, Posco’s mining proposal will be reviewed by the NDA Government in which Jual is a Cabinet Minister. The CPM legislator also reiterated Jual’s stand. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

49. ST/SC Land Commission may be formed in Jharkhand (6)

Jharkhand Industry and Tribal Welfare Minister, Champai Soren today said he was contemplating to set up a land commission for ST/SC people for speedy disposal of pending land related cases. “We are contemplating to form an ST/SC Land Commission in the state to facilitate speedy disposal of land-related cases involving ST/SC people,” Soren told newsmen here. Soren said he would soon discuss it with Chief Minister Hemant Soren to give the proposal a concrete shape. He said he would soon write a letter to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in this regard. Soren regretted that hundreds of cases were pending in the court for years across the state and the poor tribals were unable to afford to fight the lengthy legal battle. (Business Standard 4/6/14)

 

50. Tribal MLAs oppose inclusion of Dhangars in ST category (6)

Mumbai: An all-party delegation of 25 MLAs and Ministers from tribal areas of Maharashtra on Thursday asked Governor K Sankaranarayanan not to recommend to the Centre the inclusion of Dhangar and other non-tribal communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Maharashtra. The delegation comprising ministers Madhukarrao Pichad, Shivajirao Moghe, Padmakar Walvi, Deputy Speaker Vasant Purke and MLAs from various political parties told the Governor that all tribal MLAs will resign from the legislature if the government recommended inclusion of Dhangar and other communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes. Some political parties, “with an eye on Assembly Elections”, were assuring Dhangar and other communities of inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes, members of the delegation said. This had caused a deep unrest among tribals communities in Maharashtra, they said. Claiming that a large number of non-tribals had already usurped the government jobs meant for tribals through bogus caste certificates, the delegation urged the Governor to protect the Constitutional rights of tribals. A Raj Bhavan spokesperson said the Governor assured the delegation that he will discuss the matter with the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. (Zee News 6/6/14)

 

51. Tribals Pledge to Prevent Mining in Khandadhar (6)

BUDHABHUI ( SUNDARGARH ): Hundreds of members of anti-Posco tribal communities including the Paudi Bhuiyan tribe on Thursday pledged to save the bio-rich reserve from mining.  Braving scorching heat, members of various tribal communities with traditional weapons reached the venue from far-flung villages of Lahunipara block in Bonai sub-division of Sundargarh district. Under the aegis of Khandadhar Suraksha Sangram Samiti (KSSS), they vowed that they will lay down their lives, but not concede ancestral land for mining. Paudi Bhuiyan tribe head Bilua Naik administered the oath. They also observed the World Environment Day as Save Khandadhar Day. Later they went in a procession and held a meeting at Budhabhui. The anti-Posco movement in the tribal hinterland got a boost with leaders of various anti-displacement movements in Odisha joining hands. Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Abhay Sahoo, Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Parfulla Samantara and Coordination Committee of Western Odisha Farmers Organisations’ convener Lingaraj were present among others. Talsara Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi and Sundargarh unit CPM secretary Banamali Dhupal attended on behalf of CPM’s Bonai legislator Laxman Munda. They appealed to the Central and State Governments to ensure that mining operation is not allowed in 25 km radius of the waterfall and national natural heritage status is accorded to the site. They demanded strict implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the region to recognise the forest dwellers’ community ownership and habitat rights on forest. Claiming that the Khandadhar region resembles all features of Niyamgiri, Samantara said the State Government should abide by the Supreme Court order related to Niyamgiri which makes it mandatory to take prior approval of the local Gram Sabha before recommending mining right to Posco. They also appealed to all anti-displacement outfits and political parties to fight jointly to help preserve the natural heritage, traditional ethos, culture and customs. They warned that the agitation will be intensified if the Central and State Governments refuse to concede to their demand. KSSS secretary Suresh Munda said various tribal communities should be allowed to lead a natural lifestyle. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

52. Hindu gods cast spell on ST tag report (6)

New Delhi, June 8: Communities should not be denied Scheduled Tribe status just because they follow the “Hindu way of life”, a panel appointed by the UPA on the eve of the general election has suggested. The recommendation comes at a time many tribes have been shifting gradually towards mainstream Hinduism and away from their animist and nature-worshipping traditions, anthropologists say. Many among the 700-odd communities on the Scheduled Tribe list too have been following Hindu practices — some of them, perhaps, after having gained the status. However, one of the five current criteria for inclusion on the list is “indication of primitive traits” — which seems to require adherence to the traditional animist practices. Now this criterion has been dropped from a set of six new criteria suggested by a committee headed by Union tribal affairs secretary Hrushikesh Panda, which has also recommended the inclusion of 30 new communities. (See chart) Sociologist Andre Beteille criticised both the old and the new criteria, saying they were based on “political considerations” and not on any “academic definition”. Beteille blamed the “attraction of the quota” — the Scheduled Tribes have 7.5 per cent of government jobs and higher education seats reserved for them — for the clamour for inclusion in the list. “The communities that are already in the list do not want others to come in,” he said. “The middle class people from communities that are outside the Scheduled Tribe list want to get into the list because they want a share in the quota. That is why these criteria are coming up.” Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram did not want to comment on the recommendations but said he would examine the report soon. His predecessor, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, endorsed “Many studies have shown that some tribal the Panda panel’s suggestions. He told The Telegraph that many hill tribes were being denied Scheduled Tribe status because of “rigid” (dated and narrow) criteria and “long bureaucratic scrutiny”.  communities follow Hindu practices,” said Soumendra Patnaik, a Delhi University teacher and president of the Indian Anthropological Association, a professional body of anthropologists. “The study by Surajit Sinha on the Bhumij community of West Bengal has established that a section of the Bhumij community was following Hinduism in the 1940s.” C.R. Sathyanarayanan, deputy director of the Anthropological Survey of India, said: “In many mountain landscapes in southern India, tribals have started following the Ayyappa culture. They should not be left out of the Scheduled Tribe list for that reason.” Lord Ayyappa, the deity of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, is considered by believers to be the offspring of Shiv and Mohini, the female incarnation of Vishnu. Deo, the former Union minister, said the Saara tribe had fallen victim to the Odisha practice of spelling tribal names differently in different areas. He cited how the Shabar were included in the Scheduled Tribe list but the Saara — who Deo said were Shabar tribals living near Khurda — were not. The Registrar General of India, a home ministry arm that oversees censuses and collects demographic data, has ruled that the Saara are not the same as the Shabar. But Panda’s panel has recommended Scheduled Tribe status for the Saara. The demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list is a major issue in many states, such as Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Nearly two lakh people from the Dora community in Koraput had threatened to boycott this summer’s general election if not granted Scheduled Tribe status. If a community is to be included in the list, the state government has to send a proposal to the Union tribal affairs ministry, which forwards it to the Registrar General and, if it agrees, to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. If the commission gives its nod, the ministry prepares a bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order of 1950 to include the new communities. After both Houses pass the bill, the government notifies the new communities’ Scheduled Tribe status. (Time of India 9/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

53. Parrikar’s charges mischievous, say Fr Prakash (7)

PANAJI: Fr Cedric Prakash, whom Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar likened to Ram Sene chief Pramod Mutalik for allegedly spreading religious discontent, has described Parrikar’s statement as ‘extremely mischievous and very unfortunate.’In a press release, Prakash said that his talks in Goa, during his visit here in March, were focused on the Constitution of India, the values enshrined in them and the fact that large sections of people are deprived of their legitimate rights, both in Gujarat and in other parts of India. Prakash stated that the Freedom of Religion Law enacted by the Gujarat government in 2003 goes against the Indian Constitution, particularly Article 25 which guarantees every citizen the right to freely profess, practice and propagate one’s religion. “It also goes against Article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights which gives one the right to freely change his religion or belief,” Prakash said. Prakash asserted that there is sufficient data to prove that the so-called development of Gujarat is a myth. Denying that he has abused any religion to create ‘discontent’, he said that his closest associates and friends belong to all religions and particularly to the majority community. The Catholic Association of Goa (CAG) expressed deep disappointment with Parrikar’s statement, where the chief minister compared Muthalik to Prakash, terming them as ‘two sides of the same coin’. In a press release issued by CAG, Brig (Retd) Ian da Costa said that as a long-time resident of Gujarat, Prakash felt compelled to speak about the ground realities there. CAG urged Parrikar to substantiate his charges against Prakash. (Times of India  1/6/14)

 

54. KCR keeps his promise of priority to SCs, minorities (7)

Hyderabad: The oath-taking ceremony of the first chief minister and ministers of the newly-born state of Telangana began at 8.15 am at Raj Bhavan, which was packed with people from all walks of life, including the kin of those martyred in the cause of Telangana, industrialists, sportsmen, etc. Slogans of “Jai Telangana” and “Jai Mana Rashtram” rent the air. The new CM, Telangana Rashtra Samiti president Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, dressed in his trademark white shirt and pants and a vermilion tikka on his forehead, took the oath of office in the name of God. Many of his Cabinet colleagues took it in the name of Pavitra Hrudayam (conscience). The first CM of the fledgling Telangana state bowed to the crowd and received a bouquet of pink roses from the governor after taking the oath. As predicted by this newspaper, Mr Rao retained the SC, ST, BC and minorities welfare portfolios, municipal administration and urban development, energy, coal, GAD and all other portfolios that have not yet been allotted. Mr Ali took the oath after Mr Rao. Dr Rajaiah, a dalit from Station Ghanpur (SC) constituency, was the third to take the oath. By appointing the two men as his deputies the CM demonstrated that he had kept his promise to give priority to minorities and SCs. (Asian Age 3/6/14)

 

55. Police failed to anticipate trouble: Minorities panel (7)

PUNE: State minorities commission chief Munaf Hakim blamed the city police for its “absolute failure” to anticipate trouble and take preventive measures to check the violence that followed the objectionable posts on social networking sites last Saturday. Besides damage to public property, the violence resulted in the brutal murder of a youth in Hadapsar on Monday night. Lack of intelligence inputs has also contributed to this failure, Hakim said here on Saturday. “The violence was not a sudden reaction,” the minorities panel chief told reporters, pointing to a systematic build up by the elements who wanted to target a particular community by misusing technology and circulating hate messages. “Over the last one year, organisations like the Hindu Rashtra Sena have consistently tried to disturb the city’s social fabric and create tension by displaying provocative banners. We wonder why the seriousness of all this was not taken into account. Adequate preventive measures ought to have been in place,” he said. “If a city as big as Mumbai could be kept peaceful in the wake of objectionable posts, I can see no reason why the situation in Pune could not be anticipated and controlled,” Hakim said, adding, “This calls for a serious review of our intelligence network.” Hakim and other members of the commission visited various locations in the city, including Hadapsar and Bhosari, where violence occurred between May 31 and June 2. They held a meeting with top police officials to discuss what went wrong and what was needed to be done. “We will submit our report to the chief minister in the next two days,” he said and called for stern action against those responsible for the violence. Hakim avoided commenting on whether it was the state government’s failure that reflected in the police’s inability to curb violence. “It was for the police commissioner and the government higher-ups to work out measures needed to curb violence. The commission has no role to play in this,” he said. He also declined to comment on the failure of ministers and legislators, including deputy chief minister and Pune’s guardian minister Ajit Pawar, to visit the violence hit areas. “As commission members, we are here to examine the situation on ground, collect information from the police and submit our report to the government. It is only after we get all the information that we will be in a position to say who was responsible for the violence,” he said. Hakim defended the commission’s visit six days after the murder as had the commission visited on the day after the violence, it risked facing the allegation of siding with a particular community and interfering in the police’s effort to curb violence. (Times of India 8/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

56. Fall in Muslim representation in Cabinet sets MIM thinking (7)

Hyderabad: The sharp fall in Muslim representation in the Parliament has set the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen thinking. The party feels there is an urgent need for the community to emerge as an independent political entity at the national level. “The community should do serious introspection on this. The Majlis is ready to support any initiative in this direction,” says Majlis president Asaduddin Owaisi. The Majlis leader feels the decline in Muslim MPs’ strength doesn’t auger well. Not a single Muslim MP got elected from Uttar Pradesh and in the entire south just four Muslims were elected. “Is India heading towards majoritarian form of democracy,” he asks. The election results are an eye-opener in that they clearly showed how the ‘secular parties’ had failed to transfer their votes to Muslim candidates while the community plumped for these parties religiously. Parties like Congress, SP, NCP did not succeed in transferring their votes to Muslim contestants with the result the BJP gained wherever Muslim population was more than 15 per cent, he reasons. “It’s a pity that the BJP could not ensure success of its lone Muslim face, Shahnawaz Hussain,” he feels. He, however, gave credit to the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Benerjee, for bucking the trend and sending eight Muslim MPs from West Bengal. The Hyderabad MP favours redrafting of the electoral strategy by Muslims. He wants the community to support the Majlis or the Muslim League at the national level so as to avoid dispersion of Muslim votes. “If 23 Muslim MPs have been elected it is solely due to the community support. Other parties have no role in their election,” remarks Mr. Asaduddin. He strongly protests the remarks of Minority Affairs Minister, Najma Heptulla, ruling out reservations to Muslims and the move to stop benefits under the Sachar Committee report. But he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Let’s wait and watch. I want them to disprove me,” is all that the Majlis leader would say about the new dispensation. While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to forge friendly relations with neighbouring countries, the Majlis leader wants him to invite the Hamas leaders also as India had always extended solidarity to the Palestinian cause. Mr. Asaduddin plans to meet the TDP leader, N. Chandrababu Naidu, after he takes oath as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to discuss minority issues in the State. The Majlis will seek allocation of at least Rs. 1,000 crore budget for minority welfare. The other demands include effective implementation of Urdu as second official language, housing, education and setting up of skill development centres in Anantapur, Hindupur and Kadapa districts. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

57. Shahi Imaam Punjab slams Heptullah (7)

LUDHIANA: Coming down heavily on minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah for her remark that Muslims are not a minority in India, Shahi Imam Punjab on Saturday asked the minister to resign on moral grounds. Addressing mediapersons, Shahi Imam Punjab, Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Saani Ludhianvi said that while making such a derogatory statement, Heptullah seems to have forgotten that she became the minority affairs minister because she is a Muslim. He added that if she, in her capacity as minister, can’t talk of the rights of Muslims, she has no right to lead the minorities. He claimed that Heptullah was opposing the wakf property and Sachar committee report to just pay back the Modi government for giving her a cabinet berth. He added that Najma is speaking the language of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP and said that it won’t be tolerated. He asked the home minister and BJP president Rajnath Singh to clear the air on the statement made by his colleague. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

58. Muslim techie beaten to death in Pune, 7 men of radical Hindu outfit held (7)

Pune: A YOUNG IT professional was killed, allegedly by members of a radical Hindu outfit, as he was returning home Monday night, after derogatory pictures of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray uploaded on Facebook triggered communal tension across the city over the weekend, police said. Police identified the victim as Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh, a 24-year-old from Solapur district, who worked as an IT manager with a private firm in Pune. They said seven people, aged between 19 and 24 years, have been arrested. They were associated with the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a radical outfit active in the state, police said. The Crime Branch also called Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai for questioning. He was later arrested in connection with an earlier case at Pune Cantonment police station, relating to distribution of objectionable pamphlets in March this year. Shaikh was reportedly assaulted near his rented home in Bankar Colony, Hadapsar, as he was returning with a friend, Riyaz, after offering namaz at a masjid, around 9 pm. Riyaz alleged that Moshin was targeted because he was wearing a skull cap and had a beard. “I ran from the spot and called his brother Mobin for help. However, by the time Mobin came, Mohsin was badly beaten up and the assailants were about to leave,” he told The Indian Express. A police team reached the spot soon but the assailants fled from the spot, leaving behind their motorcycles and wooden sticks. Police seized three motorcycles that helped in identifying the assailants. The arrests were made on Tuesday. Mohsin was admitted to a private hospital where he was declared dead around 1 am. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV) Manoj Patil said all seven accused are associated with the Hindu Rashtra Sena. However, before his arrest, Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Desai told The Indian Express that his outfit was not involved in the murder. “We understand that circulating derogatory pictures is a cyber crime but the problem cannot be solved by killing innocent persons. We did condemn the uploading of derogatory pictures, but we did not plan attacks on innocent persons. We have branches across the state and there is no incident of attack carried out by our activists till now,” Desai said… (Financial Express 4/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

59. Goa wants Pope for St. Francis Xavier’s exposition (7)

Panaji, May 31 : Goa, where Catholics comprise nearly 30 percent of the state’s 1.4 million people, wants to invite Pope Francis to the exposition of Spanish saint Francis Xavier, scheduled to be held later this year. The external affairs ministry would be requested to invite Pope Francis for the exposition, union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik, elected from Goa, said Saturday. “If the Church makes the request to invite the Pope to Goa, we will help speed up the process with the external affairs ministry,” Naik said. Every 10 years, the remains of the missionary saint, also called the “Patron Saint of Goa”, are lowered from the silver casket in which they are permanently stored, for viewing by the faithful. Earlier, the body was on permanent display. However, after church authorities noticed deterioration of the corpse they decided to have it viewed only once every 10 years. St. Francis Xavier, who hailed from Navarra in Spain, was sent by the then Pope as an apostolic nuncio (ecclesiastical diplomat) in 1541 at the request of the king of Portugal, after explorers led by Afonso de Albuquerque captured the city of Goa. He was also responsible for initiating the process for the Spanish Inquisition in Goa, which saw tenets of Christianity imposed by force and violence on Goan subjects. After his death in 1552 in Shanchuan, China, his body was first ferried to Malacca in Portugal. In 1637, it was placed in the newly-built Basilica of Bom Jesus, built by the Jesuits in Goa. Believers regard it as a miracle that the body has survived for nearly 500 years, while sceptics argue that the mortal remains of the saint have been embalmed which has ensured its survival. A festival is held every year Dec 3, with nearly a million believers paying homage, some even walking hundreds of kilometres to the church complex in Old Goa. (New Kerala 1/6/14)

 

60. Priest Worked for Refugee, Tribal Welfare (7)

SIVAGANGA:  Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted in Afghanistan on Monday, was appointed as director of the Dindigul unit of Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organisation, after he completed his theological studies at the Theological Centre in Beski College, Dindigul. He then started working with Sri Lankan refugees and tribal people in Kodaikanal. “He always urged us to visit Kodaikanal to understand the plight of tribal people,” said his father Antony. Antony, who along with his family, organised a special prayer in their house for the safe return of his son, said, “Whenever he talked to me, he would enquire about my health. He visited us in February to attend the first death anniversary of his mother Mariya Thangam. He stayed with us for a month.” Prem Kumar’s brother Manoharan said, “Officials from the Indian embassy in Afghanistan spoke to us today morning and assured us they would rescue my brother soon. We hope Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa would also urge the Central government on this.” (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

61. Family of abducted priest pleads for his safe return (7)

New Delhi: A day after Indian Jesuit priest Alexis Prem Kumar was abducted from Herat province of Afghanistan, his family has pleaded for the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to intervene and secure his safe release. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and other officials on Tuesday to review the situation and also discussed the frequent attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan. “The incident is being tracked very closely,” an official said. So far, no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the kidnapping but details have emerged on how the abduction was carried out. Kumar, 47, is the Afghan director of Jesuit Refugee Service — an NGO that works with Afghan refugee kids. He had been working there for the past three years and was visiting a school for refugee kids on the day he was abducted from Sohadat village, 24 km outside Herat. Deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Nadir Fahimi said six gunmen had abducted Kumar without using any force and may have taken him to Gulran district. He said authorities were working with district elders to mediate his release. “We are trying to get him back safely,” said provincial governor Fazelullah Wahidi. “Since this was the only Indian charity in the region, whoever planned the kidnapping had a fair idea about the target,” said a source. The priest’s 77-year-old father Anthony, a retired teacher, told PTI that Kumar went to Herat in 2011 to do social work and help poor people. “He came home in February and left for Afghanistan in March. He used to talk to us frequently over the phone and always said that there was no problem from militants,” said Anthony. “I request the government to take necessary steps immediately to rescue my son from the militants,” he added. The abduction comes just days after heavily-armed gunmen had tried to storm the Indian Consulate in Herat. (Hindustan Times 4/6/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

62. Most recommendations of Nanavati Commission already implemented: Phoolka (7)

AMRITSAR/PATIALA: The recent statement of SAD leaders over the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 in Delhi that theyt would get the Nanavati Commission report implemented is contradictory to the fact that most of the recommendations of the commission were implemented by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-I government, especially those against Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. Union cabinet minister Harsimarat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, had stated on Tuesday that Akali Dal would get the Nanavati report implemented in letter and spirit to get perpetrators of the heinous crime behind bars. The statement came after she took over as Union food processing minister in the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. However, contrary to this claim, months after Nanavati Commission report was tabled in Parliament in 2005, the then Union government had referred the cases against senior Congress leaders to CBI, which registered FIRs against Tytler and Sajjan. The report was submitted in February 2005 and tabled in Parliament in August the same year. CBI registered cases against Sajjan and Tytler in October and November 2005. The rehabilitation package announced by Manmohan Singh in 2006 and was not included in the recommendations made by the commission, said sources. “This is not a well thought-out statement. We must keep in mind that all recommendations of the Nanavati Commission have been implemented by the Central government. The commission had recommended registration of only four cases, against Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. These four cases were registered and investigated by CBI. Making a hue and cry for its implementation now would serve no purpose and would be a wastage of time,” said senior Supreme Court lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader H S Phoolka, who fought cases of riot victims and was “appreciated” by Justice G T Nanavati for his assistance rendered to the commission. “Rather, the only body that can dig out correct facts and bring perpetrators of crime to justice is the special investigation team (SIT)”, said Phoolka. Asked to elaborate, Phoolka added, “Justice Nanavati had mentioned in his report that 241 cases were closed by police and were never sent for trial to courts. But, unfortunately, it recommended reopening of only four cases. Guilty could be punished if the leftover 237 cases were reopened. For this purpose, he said Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi had constituted an SIT to reinvestigate the 237 cases closed by the police. The Modi government should immediately make the SIT functional and get these 237 cases probed again.” (Times of India 29/5/4)

 

63. Muzaffarnagar riots’ inquiry panel records statements of 33 victims (7)

Muzaffarnagar: The one-member judicial inquiry commission of Justice (Retd) Vishnu Sahai recorded the statements of 33 more victims here on Tuesday. More than 700 victims have submitted their affidavits to the commission in connection with the riots. Earlier, statements of 248 riot victims were recorded and the commission would continue recording the statements of rest of the victims, Justice Sahai said. Over 60 persons were killed and more than 40,000 displaced in communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in September last year. The commission was constituted on September 9 to probe the Muzaffarnagar violence starting from Kawal incident on August 27 till September 9. Failing to submit the report within the stipulated time of two months, the commission was granted an extension of six months in November last year. (Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

64. Pune attack follows social media posts (7)

Pune: The Pune police said Mohsin Shaikh from Solapur was beaten to death when he was on his way home after evening prayers. The incident was a fallout of communal tensions in the city after morphed images of Shivaji and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray were posted on Facebook. According to a senior police official, a group of youths from the Hindu Rashtra Sena took to the streets after the social media posts, targeting Muslim settlements. “Motorcycles found at the place where Mohsin was beaten up led to the suspects,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Manoj Patil said. Mobs from both sides had gathered, the police said. Riyaz, who was with Mohsin during the attack, told The Hindu: “I was saved because I don’t have a beard and wasn’t wearing a skullcap. Mohsin was targeted because his appearance revealed him to be a Muslim.” Riyaz said that Mohsin was beaten as he ran to seek help. He was admitted to a private hospital, where he died of injuries on Tuesday. (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

65. Twenty injured as Hindus, Muslims clash over sewer line in UP village (7)

Shamli: They had been living harmoniously for decades until work on a sewer line ruptured ties between Hindus and Muslims at Chausana village in UP’s Shamli district late Wednesday night. The two communities clashed over displacement of a Hindu place of worship for the purpose of laying down a sewer pipeline, which was proposed by the Muslim pradhan of the village. While the Hindus were against it, the Muslims went ahead with the construction work leading to tension. A riot broke out in which more than 20 people were injured. Many suffered serious head injuries and were referred to hospitals in Delhi, Meerut and Chandigarh. Locals told The Indian Express the Muslims proposed an underground sewer line through the Hindu place of worship — an 80 square yard plot having idols of deities. After protests, it was decided that the sewer line would be diverted, but the sewage pipe would discharge the untreated water next to the plot. This infuriated the Hindus who opposed the proposal. On Wednesday, around 10 pm, when the Muslims were working on the site, a 90-year-old Hindu woman alerted her sons and soon a large group reached the site to stop the construction. When the Muslims saw them coming, they called their men and a clash broke out. Both sides reportedly used bricks, stones, lathis and swords. While police called it just a “clash”, a case of rioting and attempt to murder has been registered on the complaints of both communities. While the Muslims claimed they started the work only after the Hindus gave their consent, the Hindus claimed otherwise. Munni (32), whose husband sustained a severe head injury, said the moment the clash broke out, she ran to the police outpost barely 100 metres away, and the officers on duty ignored her. “I told them that our men were getting killed but the two officers sat there sipping tea. They asked me to go home and wait till one or two people are dead and then approach them,” she said. “I ran to the spot myself. When I reached there I saw two of our men lying on the ground bleeding profusely. With the help of my neighbour and children, I dragged the two of them to a safe place.” She alleged that when she arranged for a car to rush his husband and other injured to the hospital, the Muslims blocked all the exit points of the village. “The police came after everything was over. They just took a round and said everything is ok. When I asked them as to why they did not take action, they said they did not have orders from above,” she said. The family of the pradhan, Mohammad Irshad, however, alleged the Hindus came armed and attacked them. “We were just doing our work… (Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

WOMEN

66. Outrage over gang rape, murder of cousins in U.P. village (8)

BADAUN (Uttar Pradesh): In a crime that is rapidly gathering casteist and political overtones, two teenage girls from a backward community were raped and murdered allegedly by three brothers of the Yadav community in the village of Katra in this district. The girls, who were cousins, had left their house together at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and walked toward the nearby open field as there was no toilet at home. Their bodies were found hanging from a tree 250 metres away from their home at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday after neighbours and relatives began a frantic search. “We have arrested one of the brothers, Pappu Yadav, and a hunt is on for the other two,” DIG Bareilly R.K.S. Rathore told The-Hindu. The State government on Thursday suspended three policemen, including constable Sarvesh who has been detained for interrogation. The others are Katra Saadatganj police outpost in-charge Ram Vilas and head constable Chatrapal. IG (Special Task Force) Ashish Gupta said autopsy confirmed the cause of death of the two girls as “ante-mortem hanging”. It was also “indicative of rape.” Although the parents informed the police immediately after the girls failed to return, the policemen asked them not to worry. The villagers immediately fanned out in all directions to trace the girls. After the bodies were found in a mangrove, they informed the police, who however made no effort to come to the crime scene. Only when irate villagers gathered and sought action against the killers and the police chowki staff did the policemen reach the spot. The villagers, however, did not allow the policemen to lower the hanging bodies, but relented after local politicians BSP MLA from Jalalabad Neeraj Maurya, Bhagwan Singh Shakya of the Maurya Samaj and Brijpal Shakya of the Congress pacified them. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav justified the suspension of three police officials charged with laxity. (The Hindu 30/5/14)

 

67. Gujarat CM Seeks Help from Holy Men to Save Girl Child (8)

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel has sought co-operation from religious leaders in its movement to save the girl child and prevent female foeticide. “I make a request to holy men to expedite the movement to save the girl child,” she said, addressing a religious event in Junagadh district. Patel also cited the Gujarat government’s success in the movement against female foeticide which resulted in moderating the state’s gender ratio. “Gujarat government has been successful in eradicating female foeticide. So, today the state’s sex ratio is 904, while a few years ago, it was 804,” she said. The first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat has also stressed the need for equal rights to women. “In this 21st century of science and technology, we must ensure that girls are given equal rights and education. We must make sure that girls will also be given an equal chance to participate in each and every sector,” Patel said. Gujarat health minister Nitin Patel, Rajkot MP Mohan Kundaria and BJP leader Parshottam Rupala attended the religious event along with religious leaders. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

68. UP again: Woman judge raped, forced to drink pesticide (8)

Lucknow: Rapes continue to plague Uttar Pradesh — a woman judge was raped and an attempt was made to kill her in Aligarh, said the police. The attack comes just days after the gang rape and murder of two minor girls in Badaun that has caused a nationwide furore. Image used for representational purpose only. Reuters Image used for representational purpose only. Reuters The woman judge was found unconscious in her official residence on Monday. She was drugged and badly injured. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nitin Tiwari told IANS that based on the complaint of the victim’s brother, a case of rape has been registered. “As of now, no medical has been conducted and we are waiting for the victim to be in a position to testify,” he added. Officials told IANS that a half-empty bottle of pesticide was also recovered at the crime scene and it is feared that after raping the judge, the assailants force fed her pesticide. She has since been admitted to a hospital where her condition continues to be serious. After a complaint was lodged by the brother of the victim at the Civil Lines police station, police lodged an FIR and are on a lookout for the assailants, officials said. (First Post 3/6/14)

 

69. 17,800 cases of crime against women reported in Maharashtra (8)

Mumbai: Whopping 17,800 cases of crime against women and 3,456 cases of crime against children were reported in Maharashtra in the year 2012, the State Economic Survey report for 2013-14 today said. The report, tabled in the state legislature, said that among cases of crime against women, 1,839 cases of rape; 1,140 cases of kidnapping; 329 dowry deaths; 7,415 cases of domestic violence; 3,935 cases of molestation, 1,294 cases of sexual harassment and 366 cases of illegal trafficking were reported. It said 212 children were murdered in 2012 and 917 cases of rape against children were reported that year, while 893 children were kidnapped, besides 199 children were found abandoned. There were 1,482 cases of crime other than rape, kidnapping and dowry deaths against women, while 1,023 cases of crime against children other than rape, murder and kidnapping were reported, the survey report said. (Zee News 4/6/14)

 

70. Horrified at reports of violence against women in India: US (8)

WASHINGTON: The United States has said it is “horrified” at reports of sexual violence and murders in India and it also applauded the role of individuals, government officials and civil society groups working to protect the survivors. “Like so many in India, we were horrified to learn of these violent sexual assaults and murders. Our thoughts are with the victims families during this difficult time,” state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said on Tuesday. Harf was responding to questions on the brutal gang rape and murder of two teenaged girls last week in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district. “As we have said, changing laws and changing attitudes is hard work,” she said. However, Obama administration had praised the role of government officials along with civil society groups working to protect the survivors in the country. “We applaud the many individuals, government officials, and civil society groups in India that are working to protect the survivors, to prevent gender-based violence, to help it try to change what is really hard to change,” she added. The former USIBC president, Ron Somers, said the urgent need of the hour is to double-down on law and order, particularly to protect women and to administer the law fairly to all sections of society. “The headlines of the recent rape case are becoming all too frequent. This tragedy is a blight on all humanity, affecting all of us directly. The damage such an act perpetrates on India’s image is real. Investors and travellers the world over hesitate and pause while considering basic safety,” he said. “Recognising that law and order is a state subject, and knowing that crimes of hate are acts of violence that respect no national borders, if only the central government could set a model example to spur best practices for keeping the peace, protecting the innocent across all of India, this is the urgent need of the hour”, Somers said. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

71. Teenage girl raped, sets herself ablaze in Jaipur (8)

Jaipur: A 17-year-old girl attempted suicide by setting herself ablaze after she was allegedly raped in Mahesh Nagar area of Jaipur, police said on Thursday. The 25-year-old accused identified as Manish lives as a tenant in the same building where the victim lives with her parents. The incident took place on Tuesday when the victim was alone at her house. While she was being raped, a friend of the accused identified as Rajendra Sharma was watching the criminal act from the window, they said. After the incident, the girl poured kerosene and set herself ablaze. Neighbours came to her rescue and rushed the girl to hospital, said police. “On information from the hospital, police recorded the statement of the victim on Tuesday night,” ACP-Sodala Prem Dan Ratnu said on Thursday. Both Manish and Rajendra have been arrested, he added. The victim has sustained 45% burn injuries and is being treated at the SMS government hospital here, said police. (DNA 5/6/14)

 

72. Sex ratio in Haryana improves to 881 (8)

Chandigarh: In a positive sign, Haryana’s skewed sex-ratio has improved to 881 from 875 last year on the back of measures taken by the health department, the state government said on Saturday. In the last one year, the sex ratio has improved in 12 districts of the state including the five districts of Ambala, Kaithal, Panchkula, Panipat and Mewat, where it has improved to more than 900, the spokesman said. “The slew of promotional-cum-punitive measures taken by the Health department have paid rich dividends,” the spokesman said, attributing credit to the pro-active policies adopted by the state’s health department. The various steps taken by the health department to improve female sex ratio include improving health facilities on one side, and punishing those found involved in female foeticide or sex determination of the unborn child, the spokesman added. The Health Department has cancelled registration of 37 illegal gender detection centres and sealed ultrasound machines of 38 centres between April, 2013 and March, 2014, the spokesman said. Besides, seven doctors have been convicted under the PNDCT Act and their names removed from the register of Haryana State Medical Council for five years. In the last two months, 22 FIRs have been registered for the violation of the PC and PNDCT Act 1994. In addition to this, all villages showing positive improvement in their sex-ratio will be rewarded under the scheme ‘Best Village’, the spokesman added. The health department is trying to meet its target of improving the sex-ratio to 900 females per 1000 males. (Zee News 7/6/14)

 

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

73. Proposed Kerala airport hits environment barrier (9)

CHENNAI: The multi-crore private Greenfield airport in Aranmula near Sabarimala shrine in Pathanamthitta district in Kerala has again hit a roadblock with the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directing KGS International Airport Ltd to stop construction at the project site. The Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council (AHVPAC), private individuals like K P Sreeranganathan and others had petitioned the tribunal stating the project was located in an ecologically sensitive area near the holy river Pampa. Also, because of its location near the Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy temple, the project faced stiff resistance from the devotees, as it could cause structural damage to the temple. After the Kerala government provided the NOC for the project, the ministry of environment and forests provided Environmental Clearance (EC) in November 2013. Earlier in April 2013, the tribunal had stayed the project. The petitioners said the ministry had provided the EC without considering the area was a wet land comprising of paddy fields. Its conversion into an airport would affect the fragile ecosystem. On Wednesday, the bench of judicial member Justice (retd) M Chockalingam and expert member R Nagendran said the private consulting agency, Enviro Care India Private Ltd, Madurai was not competent to prepare the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) or appear before the Environment Assessment Committee (EAC). Also, the EAC (constituted by the ministry of environment and forests) after granting the EC had issued recommendations for the project. These had not been followed, said the bench adding the public hearing of the project too had not conducted in violation of the compulsory provisions of the EIA. In February, the Kerala government had filed an affidavit in the Kerala high court supporting KGS Group’s claim that the proposed private airport at Aranmula would not affect Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. The company had given an undertaking to preserve the sanctity of the temple and not to interfere with its structure, said the affidavit. Chennai-based KGS Group heads the 2000 crore project spread in an area of 500 acres. More than half of the project reclaimed large swathes large swathes of low-lying marshlands (Times of India 29/5/14)

 

74. Glacier feeding Indus tributary melting fast, JNU study says (9)

NEW DELHI: This could be worrisome for Himalayan glaciers. A team from Jawaharlal Nehru University has found significantly accelerated ice melting on Chhota Shigri glacier in Lahaul and Spiti over the last 10 years. The JNU team, which has been studying the glacier for several years to understand the impact of climate change, has used meteorological data of 40 years to extrapolate the pace of ice-melt on the glacier. This is the first scientific study to have monitored a Himalayan glacier for four decades which, according to scientists, is enough time to understand the trend of glacial melt. While the Chhota Shigri glacier may give clues to glacial melt in other Himalayan glaciers, but scientists say topography and micro-climatic factors for each glacier is different. The team from the School of Environmental Sciences, JNU, has focused on mass balance—difference of ice accumulated and lost to melting since 1969. It has divided the span of 43 years into three periods. In period I (1969-85) there was a negative mass balance and ice mass loss of 5.76 metres (water equivalent) in 16 years, in period II (1986-2000) there was status quo, but in period III (2001-12) a massive 6 metres (water equivalent) was lost in just 10 years. Over the whole modeling period the specific annual MB has been negative 60% of the time. The glacier lost about 13 metres (water equivalent) in the 43 years. “This acceleration in ice melt in the Chhota Shigri glacier can surely be attributed to temperature rise. But the acceleration has not yet reached dangerous levels. Also, topographical factors influence glacial melt, so we cannot just say that the only reason for this kind of loss is climate change. Glaciers have their own way of balancing mass,” said A L Ramanathan, one of the authors of the study. The JNU team has its own weather station on Chhota Shigri glacier which has been recording weather parameters since 2009. But for this study, published in Annals of Glaciology journal recently, the team has used weather data from Bhuntar airport’s observatory close by. Chhota Shigri is at a slightly higher elevation than the airport but it can reflect the status of the glacier with a minor error margin, Ramanathan said. The steady loss of ice mass in last 10 years was further corroborated by the team by conducting studies on ground and manually measuring ice loss annually. A team of PhD researchers from JNU visits Chhota Shigri every October. Glacial melt is of concern because of its impact on water resources. “If most of the glacial mass melts, there will be more water in the rivers for a few years but later the perennial nature of rivers will be affected. For Chhota Shigri, the entire mass or what we can call the foxed deposit has not eroded yet. But melting has accelerated,” Ramanathan added. Chhota Shigri feeds Chandra river, one of the tributaries of the Indus river system. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

75. 90% of Indians concerned about improper waste management: Teri (9)

New Delhi: Almost 90 per cent Indians felt the quality of environment had immediate health implications, with a vast majority showing concerns about solid waste management, a survey conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) said. The study showed 60 per cent of the respondents felt generating less waste at the first place was the best way to deal with waste management. But a little more than 50 per cent were not willing to segregate their waste into biodegradable and non-degradable as they thought it was the municipality’s job. Close to half the population surveyed complained about non-collection of garbage from their doorsteps. Teri Director-General R K Pachauri said, “The public has to realise the benefits of solid-waste segregation. “If we want to bring about improvement in environmental quality, the foundation on which any such effort would rest, would be on public awareness.” However, on a positive note, 86 per cent people favoured a complete ban on polythene bags. Further, 90 per cent of people were aware about the climate change phenomenon. While 80 per cent believed the mean temperature had risen, 63 per cent felt the average rainfall had declined. The survey revealed a majority complained about a lag in policy implementation on all parameters including air pollution, water pollution, water supply, ground water, water conservation, waste management, forest conservation and climate change. The survey noted that there had been improvement when it came to awareness related to water usage and electronic waste. Over 70 per cent of the respondents were aware of the water being subsidized by the Centre and among them over half felt that water should be charged as per usage. Over 80 per cent people were aware of the problem of e-waste, and most of them either repaired or re-used electronic goods. The survey titled ‘Environment Survey 2014’ was conducted in eight cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Guwahati, Indore, Jamshedpur, Kanpur and Pune with over 11,000 respondents and is the third such survey conducted by the organization. (Business Standard 3/6/14)

 

76. Gwalior leads pack in polluting monsters (9)

BHOPAL: A month after World Health Organization found Gwalior as one of the top four polluted cities of the world, the 2013-14 data of the state’s pollution control board also substantiates this claim. Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board, which monitored vehicles across the state, found Gwalior leading other cities in MP with 23% diesel and 6.9% petrol vehicles emitting pollutants above permissible limits. Head office of road transport department is also situated in Gwalior. “The board sends data on vehicular pollution to the state transport department, but no action is taken. And the level of pollution remains the same,” said activist Ajay Dubey. Official records of MPPCB show that around 25,000 vehicles were monitored in last fiscal and of this nearly 1500 were found emitting pollutants above permissible limits. Gwalior is followed by Jabalpur where 10% of 1,312 petrol vehicles and 8.4% of 785 diesel vehicles were found emitting above permissible limits. In Bhopal, 3.3 % of 1,618 petrol vehicles and 13.1 % of 199 vehicles emitted excessive pollutants. In Indore, 1% of 1,358 petrol vehicles and 37.7 % of 204 diesel vehicles crossed the legal limit. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

77. Shun Plastic is NGOs’ Slogan to Mark World Environment Day (9)

VELLORE: On the eve of World Environment Day, NGOs have called upon industries to reduce pollution. They have also called upon citizens to switch to bicycles. The district administration has appealed to the people of the district to avoid polluting nature as the lifestyle and growth of people should never hamper the environment. Social activists here have suggested that the domestic garbage be segregated and handed over to civic body workers. Indiscriminate use of plastics and dumping them in public places choked the drainage and rainwater canals, which had become a breeding ground for vector borne diseases. People should start using cloth bags instead of plastic, they suggested. Hotels should avoid using plastics for packing food items. Used plastic cups, water bottles and polythene sheets used during marriage functions should never be reused. Medical waste should be handed over to designated agencies for safe disposal. Every individual should plant trees and protect them. In order to tackle water scarcity issue, every household should install rainwater harvesting system and maintain them. Treated effluent must be reused. Industries should never emit smoke from their premises. The solid waste from industries should be properly treated and reused, the activists said. Further the activists pointed out that people should switch over to solar power system to meet their requirements while reducing dependency on electricity. The emission from vehicles should be reduced. People should also start using bicycles, not only to protect environment but also for health reasons. Cancer causing smoking should be totally avoided. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

78. Gujarat govt to set up model schools for quality education (11)

Rajkot: Gujarat government will be setting up model schools that could compete with any of the private schools in terms of providing quality education. With the beginning of new academic year in mid June state government will be opening 79 model schools in 85 talukas. Out of these 12 schools will be located in tribal dominated areas of the state. These model schools will be set up under the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan” (RMSA), where central government provides 72 percent funds while rest 28 percent is contributed by the state government. “We are aiming to provide quality education to the children from under privileged society and the children below poverty line (BPL) families,” said state education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. “Education provided in a model schools will be based holistic and integral approach touching upon physical, emotional and aesthetic development in addition to academics,” he added. According to education department officials, students’ enrolment process has been almost completed in model schools and academics will commence from June. “Under RMSA, state government is aiming to improve secondary education in rural areas mainly for the girls in Gujarat. These all are residential schools where students will have hostel facility,” said R S Ninama, joint director of education department. Ninama said, “Model schools will have the same facilities as of any of the private educational institutes and each class will have 40 students.” The project cost of model school is around Rs 315 crore. About Rs 4 crore has been spent on each school. Infrastructure in the model schools would include computer classrooms, security, air conditioned laboratory over and above the basic requirements. The schools will also provide meal and residential facilities to the students. (Business Standard 1/6/14)

 

79. Fifty Matric Schools Likely to be Closed (11)

COIMBATORE:  Close on the heels of the closure of nursery and elementary schools functioning without approval in Coimbatore district, the Directorate of Matriculation Education has decided to initiate action against close to 50 such Matriculation schools in the State. Sources in the Directorate of Matriculation Education said that a list of around 50 Matriculation schools functioning without approval from the Directorate would be sent to top authorities of the School Education Department and closed from June. As per the free and compulsory Right to Education Act 2009, every school including matriculation schools, can function only after getting the approval from the Directorate. Ten days ago, the District Elementary Education Department  ordered the closure of 49 nursery and primary schools in Coimbatore which lacked recognition. These schools were functioning either without adequate land or necessary certificates such as fire and safety, sanitation, building licence and stability certificate. As per norms, schools should have a minimum space of 33 cents in Corporation area, 55 cents in a municipality, one acre in urban areas and three acres in rural areas. Schools functioning without the necessary approval or after withdrawal of the approval are liable for a fine of `1 lakh and further violation will attract a penalty of `10,000 per day. Coimbatore Chief Educational Officer A Gnanagowri said, “The RTE Act is applicable to students in the age group of 6 to 11. Matriculation schools too come under the purview of the Act. Any Matriculation school that is functioning without approval, the necessary clearance from other government departments and not complying the norms with regard to land, should be closed.” “In Coimbatore district, no school has been found to have violated the norms, but we have recommended closure of one Matriculation school in Nilgiris district,” said another official who was earlier in-charge of Matriculation schools in Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

80. Call for changes in RTE reservation provision (11)

Madurai: Parents and activists working in the field of education have called for changes in 25 per cent reservation provision of the Right to Education Act. As per the Act, the schools are required to provide 25 per cent reservation to students from the weaker sections at the entry level classes. Activists and parents have expressed concern that the provision serves no purpose when implemented only at the entry level classes. The provision should be extended to at least five classes from the entry level, they have urged. “When I approached a private school to admit my daughter under the RTE Act for Class III, they declined the request stating that they will admit students under the Act at the entry level that is kindergarten,” said R. Kodeeswaran, a parent. Besides, no school notifies details such as dates when applications are issued for admission under the RTE Act, he claimed. T.V. Parvatha Vardhini, managing trustee of Littles Trust, a non-governmental organisation, said that as per legal guidelines the private schools are required to put up notifications on admissions in the school notice boards. “In most cases, no one is aware of the notifications put up in notice boards inside the school campus. The schools are supposed to notify the number of vacancies and complete admission process under the Act in May. However, many parents approach the schools for admission only in June, making it convenient for the schools to say admissions are already over,” she said. “No private school in the State has implemented the Act properly.” (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

81. Put A-School children in other CBSE schools: court (11)

Chennai: The Madras High Court has directed the education authorities to accommodate the children who studied in 36 ‘A-schools’ run by the Management of Chettinad Foundation A-School, in other recognised CBSE institutions, preferably near their place of residence, in terms of the RTE Act. The court also directed the management and the founder of the A-School Chettinad Foundation, Annamalai Chettiar, to jointly and severally pay Rs. 15,000 to the parents of the students admitted in the A-Schools as interim compensation within four weeks. Transfer certificates should be issued immediately to all the children. The parents could approach the appropriate forum for getting refund of fees and for claiming further compensation. The First Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice M. Sathyanarayanan was disposing of writ petitions by parents of children in A-Schools to accommodate their wards in some other recognised CBSE schools and pay them compensation. They submitted that the A-Schools did not have recognition either from the State or the CBSE. The institutions lacked basic infrastructure and amenities. In spite of that, hefty fee was collected. The parents made repeated representations to the authorities concerned. Though the management gave an assurance that the children would be accommodated in the nearby CBSE schools, nothing was done so far. Because of this, the future of their children was in jeopardy. The school education authorities submitted that the management had established the schools without permission/recognition. A show cause notice was issued to the management and the unrecognised schools had been closed. The Bench said the court had, in an order of October 2011, considered the same issue in detail and found that collection of fees by the A-Schools was unsustainable as the institutions were unrecognised. It was also the authorities’ stand that all the 36 schools had been closed and stringent action was being taken by the department. Hence, it was issuing the direction to the authorities. (The Hindu 6/6/14)

 

82. TRS Govt to Shut 118 Unrecognised Schools (11)

HYDERABAD: The government will shut down as many as 118 schools in Hyderabad as they do not have recognition.The grace period extended to them also has expired and now they cannot do anything except wait for the inevitable to happen. The notices and ample time provided by the district education officials could not goad them into action. They have not made nay effort to get recognition from the government. Three notices had been served on them in the last one year and yet it was water off ducks’ skin. They have to comply with a  host of infrastructure and academic requirements besides depositing Rs 50,000 for endowment fund and Rs 20,000 for inspection fee to obtain recognition. In an effort to improve the quality of education and arrest a mushroom-like growth of unrecognised schools in the district operating in hazardous conditions risking the lives of the children, Hyderabad district education officer A Subba Reddy had served the final notices on them and said no more extension of time would be given to the erring schools. According to the information available with the district education officials, in April 2013 a total number of 497 schools were found to be functioning without recognition. In the last one year, 90 such schools have been closed down. Of the 407 such schools still functioning, the department is in the process of granting recognition to 129 schools as they met the requirements. This leaves 278 schools. Of those, 160 schools which have been accorded Permission To Open (PTO) and Extension of Temporary Recognition (ETR) status. Finally, 118 schools are left which the department proposes to shut down as they did not do anything to meet the government’s requirements. The PTO recognition will last for one year and schools have to apply for ETR which, in turn, would be valid for three to five years. The ETR has to be renewed continuously after the expiry of the recognition. “All these 118 schools will be closed down without any compromise. Besides, appropriate action would be initiated against the managements for not even responding to the notices served by the district administration,” he added. It may be noted that three years of time period has been given to unrecognised schools to procure recognition from the district administration after the enforcement of the Right to Education Act (RTE) . However, neither the school managements nor officials concerned have finished the task till date owing to negligence. The DEO advises parents to verify whether or not a school has got recognition efore admitting their wards. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

TERRORISM

83. Dreaded Lashkar Militant Gunned Down in Kashmir (12)

SRINAGAR: A top commander of the Pakistan-based  Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror outfit was killed by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday. The slain ultra has been identified as Abu Ukasha Afghani, a foreign national, and  is the seventh militant commander to be killed by the security forces this year. A senior police officer said acting on specific information about the presence of  the terror chief in village Sudal area of Magam in Handwara, a combing operation involving the Army, police and paramilitary personnel was carried out in the village early on Sunday to flush out the militant holed up there. “The militant hiding in the area opened fire on the search party after being asked to surrender. The fire was returned by the security men and in the ensuing firefight, the LeT commander was killed. The security men did not suffer any casualties or injuries,” he said. Defence spokesman in Srinagar, Lt Col N N Joshi said one 9mm Pistol, one magazine with 15 rounds and one matrix sheet was recovered from the slain militant. “ Afghani was the seventh top militant commander to be killed by security forces in 2014,” he said, adding that 10 top militant commanders had been killed by the security forces last year. A police official termed Afghani’s killing  a major jolt to LeT in Kashmir. “He had been operating in the Valley for a long time and was involved in several attacks on security forces,” he said. General Officer Commanding (GoC-in-C) of the city-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Gurmit Singh had told Express that the security forces were targeting the militant leadership to demoralise the militants and weaken the militant outfits. “Foreign militants are our enemy and there would be no leniency while dealing with them during the counter militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir,” he  had said. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

84. Terror law invoked in gender-test case (12)

Bhopal, June 1: The National Security Act (NSA), mainly used against hardcore criminals and terrorists, has been invoked for the first time against a person allegedly caught using ultrasound scans to reveal the sex of foetuses. Medical technician Kapil Pandey has been ordered arrested under the NSA, which allows detention up to a year, by Gwalior district magistrate P. Narhari after a sting operation by the local administration found the suspect allegedly involved in the illegal activity. If Pandey is found guilty under the NSA, he could face a life term or death, besides fines. Under the amended Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT Act), the maximum punishment is jail up to five years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh. Pandey is accused of having performed hundreds of tests over the past 12 years on an illegal ultrasound machine at his home to help would-be parents abort female foetuses. Narhari described Pandey as a “habitual offender” and felt his conduct was a dire threat to society. A case was filed against the technician, in his early forties, in 2012 over such tests under other laws but he secured bail. The stated goal of the National Security Act of 1980 is to prevent individuals from acting in a manner prejudicial to certain state objectives. These include national security, public order, and maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community. The NSA allows detention up to a year without trial or other rights that suspects in other cases take for granted. Gwalior police said they had confiscated the ultrasound machine from Pandey’s residence and added that it did not have the registration certificate mandatory under the PNDT Act. The act prohibits sex detection, before or after conception, and makes the crime a non-bailable offence. A .32-bore revolver, four live cartridges and Rs 8 lakh in cash were also found at Pandey’s home, the police said. A separate case under Arms Act has been started. Gwalior and the neighbouring Chambal region have a dismal sex ratio of 822 women for every 1,000 men. In some blocks of the region’s Bhind, Morena and Gwalior districts, at least 100 villages have sex ratios below 600. Manohar Agnani, a senior IAS officer who had served as Morena district magistrate, recalled how he had to crack down on the practice. “On one visit to an Anganwadi (government childcare centre) centre, I found that there were very few girls named in the register and scolded the anganwadi worker. Imagine my shock when she told me, ‘Gaon mein ladkiyaan ho to darj karein (only if there are girls in the village can I register them)’. That was when we started a door-to-door survey.” When Agnani visited other villages, many women confessed to him that they had abortions after discovering that the foetus was female. They had even named the doctors who conducted the tests. The practice continues in spite of separate laws in Madhya Pradesh, in addition to the central PNDT act, against such tests. A senior Delhi doctor who has been calling for stringent punishment for sex determination tests for over a decade said he could not recall the NSA being applied in any instance. But he bemoaned the fact that the real culprits often got away. “Why has this (the NSA) been applied on a medical technician and never on the big cats (doctors)?” asked Puneet Bedi, who had about a decade ago used birth records to document how prenatal sex determination had contributed to skewed sex ratios in south Delhi. “Why don’t the authorities catch and convict qualified professionals engaged in this illegal act,” Bedi asked. Health activists have long complained about the low rates of conviction in such cases. The Union health ministry, citing the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, had told Parliament in August last year that the authorities had cumulatively registered 453 cases of female foeticide over a three-year period till 2012, but only 28 people had been convicted. Share on email Share on print Share on facebook Share on twitter More Sharing Services (The Telegraph 2/6/14)

 

 85. Security forces bust Garo National Liberation Army camp in Meghalaya (12)

SHILLONG: A day after a woman was murdered by Garo National Liberation Army militants for resisting rape, a joint team of commandos from Meghalaya’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit and Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) intensified operations against the rebels and busted a GNLA camp in Adugre village near the Durama hills range in East Garo Hills on Thursday. A gun battle was on in East Garo Hills district since morning after security forces launched a crackdown on militant hideouts. Till the time of filing this report, it was not known if there were any casualties. “Security forces have busted the GNLA camp here,” East Garo Hills SP Davis N R Marak said. “The gun battle continues.” Police sources said though the camp was busted, the militants escaped. “Security forces are in search of the militants,” said a source. The husband of the woman who was killed denied there had been an attempt to molest or rape her. Abel Sangma told reporters the militants made her sit on a chair and accused her of being a police informer, before shooting her in the head from point-blank range. The FIR lodged by the victim’s family also did not mention any sexual assault. Following the worsening law and order situation in the Garo Hills, which culminated in the woman’s killing at Goera Rangot in South Garo Hills, the Centre rushed 1,000 paramilitary personnel to Meghalaya and sought a report from the state government. Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju spoke to chief minister Mukul Sangma and urged him to take strong action against the militants. State home minister Roshan Warjari visited the victim’s house. Chief minister Sangma said his government was offering a “one-time” peace settlement to all militant groups active in the state. He said the government would set up a special court to prosecute the militants involved in Tuesday’s crime. The state also announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the deceased’s family. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

86. 30 years on, Khalistan war turns into supremacy battle in Pakistan (12)

CHANDIGARH: Even as Friday will mark the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, an IB( Intelligence Bureau) note has revealed how Pakistan spy agency ISI coronated banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) boss Jagtar Singh Tara as the new chief of global Khalistan movement to “renew aggression”.Tara’s terror group KTF had claimed the responsibility of RDX explosives recovered from a car in Ambala in October 2011 that was allegedly meant to hit 1984 riot-tainted Sajjan Kumar. “It is learnt that in a recent joint meeting of all terrorist outfits conducted by the ISI, Sikh militants were told in no uncertain terms to produce results or face consequences, including them being dislodged from their Pak bases. In that meeting, Tara was selected the new face of Sikh extremists,” the note said. The note, dated September 30, 2013, was discussed at an internal security meeting in Delhi last year with then Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The note further said that ISI has announced parting of ways with KTF and another banned militant outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). “There has been a cleavage and parting of ways between Wadhawa Singh Babbar and Jagtar Singh Tara,” the note said. The IB note also revealed that Tara has made his new residence at a place near the revered Sikh shrine Nankana Sahib. As a result of growing friction between ISI and BKI over “no major strikes in India”, Wadhawa Singh has now given the operational control to his son-in-law Satnam Singh, his son Jatinder Singh and his aide Ratandeep Singh alias Virk. It also pointed out that even Germany and UK-based followers of BKI, known as Babbars, including one Avtar Singh Sanghera (London) and Resham Singh (Germany) have shifted support to Tara. (Times of India 6/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Police jawan killed in encounter with naxals (12)

Raipur: A police jawan was killed and another injured in an encounter with naxalites in insurgency-hit Narayanpur district of Chhattisagrh, police said on Saturday. The face-off took place when the joint party of Special Task Force (STF) and district force was patrolling forests of restive Orchha police station area last evening, Narayanpur Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) O P Sharma told PTI. According to the officer, the security personnel were mobilised from Orchha police station of Abhujmad region for an anti-naxal operation in the region since Thursday night. When the search party was returning to its camp last evening, a group of armed rebels ambushed it between forests of Becha and Ilam villages, located around 400 kms from here. Ultras opened indiscriminate firing on security personnel leaving two constables injured. However, naxals fled to the core forests when jawans retaliated, he added. Constable Pankaj Suryawanshi (22), a native of Narayanpur succumbed to his injuries while being taken out of the jungle last night while another injured constable Ramesh Kumar Nag (23) admitted to a local hospital, he said. The condition of the injured jawan is said to be stable, he added. Soon after getting the news of the incident, additional forces were rushed to the spot, the ASP said, adding a manhunt has been launched in the region to nab the attackers. (Zee News 1/6/14)

 

88. Naxals kill youth for refusing to join outlawed movement (12)

Raipur: A tribal youth was killed allegedly by Naxals when he refused to join their movement in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, police said on Monday. Devendra Modem, 20, was brutally beaten and then axed to death by rebels at his native place Baiguda under Awapalli police station limits last night, Bijapur Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Sukhnandan Rathore said. About 20-25 rebels stormed Devendra’s house in Baiguda village, located around 450 kms away from the state capital, last evening. They demanded from the victim’s family members that either Devendra or his brother join the movement. When the family refused to give in to their demand, the Naxals forcibly took Devendra out of his home and started thrashing him. Even after being beaten up when when the victim remained firm on his stand of not joining the outlawed outfit, the rebels axed him to death, the DSP said. Security forces were rushed to the spot after being informed about the incident by the villagers, he said, adding that the body was brought to Awapalli for postmortem. Security personnel have launched a search in the region to nab the assailants, he said. (Zee News 2/6/14)

 

89. Maoists Kill Cong Worker in Rayagada (12)

RAYAGADA: Suspected Maoists killed a contractor in Sikarpai  village here on Tuesday. Gopal Chetty Gandhi (48), also a Congress worker and panchayat samiti member, took three gun shots on his chest. The ultras, belonging to the Basadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali Division of the outfit, then used knives to stab him. Sources said Chetty reached the petrol pump owned by him at 6 am and was waiting for a staffer when a group of five armed ultras attacked him. Before Chetty could realise anything, one among them fired  three rounds at him. When he fell down, the Maoists stabbed  him. Following the attack, they raised slogans in favour of the CPI(Maoist) and fled from the spot. A note found near his body said, “You swallowed money of tribals. So we killed you.” It was written by one Umakant, secretary of the divisional committee, police said. The note also stated that the decision to kill Chetty was taken in a kangaroo court. Police recovered three cartridges from the spot. Combing operation has been launched in the area to track down the killers. Chetty, who was also a lawyer, was in the hit-list of the Maoists. The note warned that whoever is found exploiting the public or supporting multi-national companies would meet the same fate. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

90. Maoist Posters Threaten Villagers (12)

RAYAGADA: Maoist posters were found in Sirigumma and Bhalumaska villages in the district on Thursday. Both the villages come under Sirigumma panchayat of Kalyansinghpur block. Through the posters, Maoists threatened villagers of dire consequences if they worked as police informers. They also mentioned that the villagers found guilty in this regard would meet the fate of Gopal Chetty Gandhi, a contractor, who was killed by the rebels in Sikarpai village on Tuesday. Gandhi (48), also a Congress worker and panchayat samiti member, received three gun shots on his chest after which the rebels, belonging to the Basadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali Division of the outfit, stabbed him with knife. A note found near his body said, “You swallowed money of tribals. So we killed you.” It was written by Umakant, secretary of the divisional committee, police said. The note also stated that the decision to kill Chetty was taken in a kangaroo court. In fact, Maoist violence in Rayagada district has increased during the last 10 days when they committed one murder and set abalze two camps of a contractor. Through the posters and banners, Maoists have also threatened companies like RSB, Utkala Alumina, Vedanta and Aditya Birla groups which have their units in both Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. They directed the companies to cancel all the mining agreements with the State Government. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

91. Twelve Maoists surrender in Koraput (12)

BERHAMPUR: Twelve Maoists of Srikaulam Koraput Divisional Committee under Andhra Orissa Border State Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of outlawed CPI (Maioist) organisation surrendered in Koraput district of south Odisha on Sunday. All of them were operating in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput district. They surrendered before the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Yashwant Jethwa and Koraput Superintendent of Police (SP) Awinash Kumar. All the surrendered Maoist militias claimed that they now wanted to join the mainstream to lead normal life. According to the SP, they would be rehabilitated as per the policy of government for surrendering naxalites. According to Mr. Jethwa, in 2014, till now at least 33 Maoist cadres or militias have surrendered in Koraput district. Most of them were from Narayanpatna area. According to him there are hints that more Maoists are planning to shun violence and surrender. The IGP urged other naxalites to take cue from their surrendering compatriots and take similar decision or face the strict action of security forces. According to the recently surrendered Maoists, they had been drawn into the Maoist organisation via the controversial tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) which is active in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon areas. They had joined the CMAS in 2009 and were later actively involved in building up Maoist organisation in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks. “It was suspected that they were involved in abetting several major cases of Maoist violence in the area of their operation,” said Mr. Kumar. All these surrendered Maoist militias were from Narayanpatna police station area. Out of them Lengu Habika of Narikhilwa village was the president of revolutionary peoples committee of Maoists in Narikhilwa area and was a close associate of Maoist leaders like Santu, Andru and Daya. The surrendered Maoist said they had realised the futility of violent activities of Maoist organisation. They were also critical of recent targeting of local tribal leaders of Naraynapatna and Bandhugaon area by Maoist commanders, and other violent activities which were detrimental to development of tribal people of the area. (The Hindu 9/6/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

92. BJP move to deport migrants (13)

Kohora, May 31: Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, the newly elected BJP MP from Jorhat, will launch a campaign to deport illegal migrants from his constituency. Tasa told this to reporters on the sidelines of the extended office-bearers’ meet after the election held at the Kaziranga convention centre here. “The campaign will be initiated by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the party within the next 15 days. In the first phase of the campaign, we will appeal to illegal immigrants to leave our land and also launch a house-to-house movement urging people not to engage these immigrants in any kind of work,” Tasa said. The campaign can be seen as the outcome of Narendra Modi’s ultimatum to the illegal immigrants to leave the country after May 16. Today’s meet was organised to work out plans for the party’s strategy for the municipality elections and review the results of the party in the Lok Sabha election and assess the cause for being unsuccessful despite putting up a tough fight in the constituencies where the BJP candidates lost. State BJP president and Union minister of state, independent charge for sports and youth affairs, skill development and entrepreneurship, Sarbananda Sonowal, addressed a news conference after the meet. He said they chose Kaziranga as the venue for the meet to send a strong message to illegal migrants who have been encroaching the national park for quite some time. It was also chosen as a symbol of protest against the state government’s alleged failure to stop the menace of rhino killing in the national park. “A lot of concern has been displayed by several indigenous organisations of the state regarding the killing of the one-horned rhino and the presence of a large number of suspected Bangladeshi migrants that is threatening the very existence of Kaziranga National Park. But ironically the state government blatantly denied the issue as baseless, and even conspired to provide safeguards to them,” Sonowal said. “We will go to the root of the poaching that is going unabated and no one will be spared, including bureaucrats or even ministers, if found guilty,” Sonowal added. Sonowal said he had a meeting with Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home affairs, regarding flushing out of illegal immigrants. The government will establish the maximum number of foreigners’ tribunals to identify and deport the Bangladeshi immigrants, he added. Sonowal said the new president of the party would be selected through a democratic process. Altogether 120 delegates attended today’s meet from 36 district committees, including all the MLAs and four of the newly elected MPs of the party. The Golaghat district unit of the BJP imposed a ban on forest minister Rakibul Hussain from entering Kaziranga, alleging his inaction in controlling poaching inside the park. The BJP has also threatened dire consequences if the minister tries to enter the park. (The Telegraph 1/6/14)

 

93. 250 Bangladeshi tribals seek refuge in Tripura (13)

Agartala, June 3 : Over 250 Bangladeshi tribals, mostly Buddhists and Hindus, have entered Tripura seeking refuge after ethnic clashes with non-tribal Muslims in their country, an official said here Tuesday. “Over 250 men, women and children of Chakma and Tripuri tribes have taken shelter in northern Tripura’s Gandachara area along the international border since Monday after fleeing their villages in Khagrachari district,” Gandachara sub-divisional magistrate Bhaskar Dasgupta told IANS over phone. “The tribals entered India Monday and Tuesday after ethnic trouble in Bangladesh. We have asked the Border Security Force (BSF) to step up security along the unfenced border,” he said. The tribals fled the Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeast Bangladesh after ethnic clashes and incidents of arson. The exact reason for the conflict is not yet known. A state home department official said Tripura has informed the union home ministry about the development. The BSF here also informed their headquarters in New Delhi and is coordinating on the matter with the Border Guards Bangladesh. In a similar incident in August last year, over 1,500 tribals took shelter in the border village of Karbook after fleeing from five villages in the same Khagrachari district over the reported abduction of a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Tripura shares a 856-km border with Bangladesh which is porous because it extends over mountains that are densely forested. (New Kerala 3/6/14)

 

94. Priest’s Kin Pin Hopes on Govt to Rescue him (13)

SIVAGANGA: Family members of Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted in Afghanistan on Monday, were inconsolable when they visited the Sivaganga collectorate on Tuesday to submit a petition to Collector V Rajaraman requesting the intervention of the State and Central governments to rescue him. Prem Kumar’s father Antony (75), a retired schoolteacher from Variyanvayal village, broke down when he submitted the petition. “Please rescue my son alive. God please save my son,” Antony said when he spoke to the media. Antony was accompanied by his younger son Albert Manoharan, a government schoolteacher, and daughter Sagayaselvi, a private schoolteacher, to the collectorate. “My son is always concerned about the welfare of people. When he spoke to me recently, he expressed concern about the status of Iran and Pakistan refugees in Afghanistan,” Antony told Express. Manoharan said he had last received a message from Prem Kumar on Sunday. “Alexis sent me a text message about the demise of his colleague’s father in Afghanistan,” said Manoharan. Prem Kumar’s family members last contacted him when an US embassy vehicle was attacked recently at Herat in Afghanistan. “Alexis told us he was safe in the Jesuit Refugee Services office. Even then he expressed concern about the refugees there,” said Manoharan. He was studious from childhood, said his brother. “I  remember him talking about the plight of poor people he came across during his schooldays to me,” he recalled. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

95. US in touch with India, Afghanistan on abduction of aid worker (13)

WASHINGTON: The US is in touch with India and Afghanistan on the abduction of an Indian aid worker from the Herat province by gunmen, American officials have said. “We are aware of the reports that an Indian national has been kidnapped near Herat,” a state department spokesperson said when asked about the abduction of 47-year-old Prem Kumar, country director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). “We are in touch with the Indian and Afghan authorities regarding this issue,” the spokesperson said. A native of Tamil Nadu, Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an educational charity, as its Afghanistan director and has been in the war-torn country for over three years. Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. Kumar had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for the returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS said. The abduction comes nearly 10 days after the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat by four heavily-armed gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The attackers were subsequently killed by the security forces who repelled the attack on May 23. On May 29, the Indian mission in Herat had issued an advisory asking its nationals to exercise extreme caution while venturing out. “We are deeply shocked by Prem’s abduction. We are in contact with all the relevant authorities and doing everything possible to ensure his safe and speedy return,” said Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Peter Balleis. Headquartered in Rome, JRS is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced persons. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

96. Tribal refugees in Tripura repatriated to Bangladesh (13)

Agartala, June 8 : Bangladesh has taken back the tribals who have been sheltering in the Indian state of Tripura since Monday following an ethnic strife in the former’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region, an official said Sunday. Officials of the Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) after holding a series of meetings on the issue, said 92 of the over 350 men, women and children were repatriated late Saturday to Bangladesh in the presence of senior civil and security officials of the two countries. “After entering into Tripura, many tribals mingled with the same community people of the state. We are looking for them and if we find them, they would be pushed back to Bangladesh,” an official of the Dhalai district administration told reporters. Over 350 tribals, including women and children of over 70 families of Chakma and Tripuri tribes, have taken refuge in four villages of northern Tripura’s Gandachara area, around 200 km northeast of Agartala, along the Bangladesh border since June 2. Earlier, the Tripura government communicated the matter to the union home and external affairs ministries. An official of Tripura’s home department told IANS that Tripura Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda and Dhalai District Magistrate Milind Ramteke had separately spoken to Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Pankaj Saran to take up the matter with the Bangladesh government. The district administration has provided food and relief to the immigrant tribals. According to the Tripura government officials, the tribals, mostly Buddhists and Hindus, fled from their villages in Bangladesh after some “miscreants” allegedly attacked their homes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), a tribal dominated area in southeast Bangladesh that borders India and Myanmar. BGB officials during the meetings, however, told their BSF counterparts that tribals were not attacked. “Only a market was burnt recently and after that the fear-stricken tribals left their villages and took shelter in Tripura.” In a similar incident related to ethnic trouble in August last year, over 1,500 tribals took shelter in the border village of Karbook after fleeing from five villages in the same Khagrachari district over the reported abduction of a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Tripura shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh that is porous because it extends over densely forested mountains. Over 25 to 30 percent of the India-Bangladesh border is still unfenced. (New Kerala 8/6/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

97. State to Get Labour Research Centre (14)

BANGALORE: Labour Minister Parameshwar Naik announced on Thursday that the State will soon get a Labour Research Centre, which will address the problems of labourers and the unorganised sector. He said that Rs 12.60 crore had been released for the same. At a workshop on social security of unorganised labourers and contract workers, the Minister said that the area lacked many technicalities and specifications. “An official should be trained in order to effectively solve the problems of a labourer. Due to the lack of the necessary training, an interaction problem occurs leading to other issues,”he said. Quoting official statistics, he said that more than 40 lakh labourers engaged in construction activities were registered with the Labour Union. “We registered 2.25 lakh labourers last year. The Rashtriya Svasthya Bima Yojana has been extended to cover all BPL card holders,” he said. Adding that, “The Unorganised Labour Welfare Board has identified 43 classes of labourers and various welfare provisions are being made available to them.” He also announced that information centres will be set up at the Gram Panchayat level to increase registrations. “We aim to register four lakh labourers in 2014-15 and to facilitate the same we are extending the information centres that exist at the State level to Gram Panchayats.” (New Indian Express 30/5/14)

 

98. Families’ Plea to Rescue Bonded Labourers (14)

RAYAGADA: Families of 10 bonded labourers of Matikona panchayat in Rayagada block on Monday requested ADM Laxmikanta Behera to rescue the labourers from the clutches of middlemen who had sent them to Belari of Karnataka. Out of 10 labourers, three are minor. They are Anchan Himirika (13), Nabeen Himirika (13) and Babula Himirika (12). Meeting the ADM at his grievance cell, the families stated that Dilip Naik and Ramesh Himirika of Matikona village had sent 17 labourers to Benudhar Pradhan of Balugaon who sent them to Belari of Karnataka. Unable to tolerate the workload and torture, seven labourers came back last month. Rest 10 labourers were forcibly detained by their employer and not allowed to even speak to their family members since they have left. After hearing their grievances, the ADM directed the Labour Officer Narendra Raika to inquire into the matter and rescue the labourers. Hari Urlaka, who managed to escape with six others, said, “We were not given enough food despite heavy workload. When we protested, they threatened us of dire consequences. Somehow seven of us escaped, but others continue to be subjected to exploitation at the workplace.” (New Indian Express 3/6/14)

 

99. Fund to secure security – Welfare scheme for BPL category construction workers (14)

Bhubaneswar, June 3: The state government has decided to include construction workers belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category and employed on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes within the ambit of a welfare fund. “Earlier, they were being deprived of social security benefits. Now, they will be brought within the construction workers’ welfare fund,” new labour minister Prafulla Kumar Mallick told The Telegraph. The state has around 37 lakh BPL cardholders. A government notification stated: “The rural job project workers, having worked for 90 days a year, shall be brought within the fold of construction workers.” The state has around 3.21 lakh registered construction workers with many more yet to be counted. On the other hand, more than 14.99 lakh job seekers worked under the rural job scheme during 2013-14. Though the scheme beneficiaries are guaranteed unskilled job for at least 100 days a year, failing which they are entitled to unemployment allowance, they, however, do not get any social security benefit like the construction workers. The construction workers, who are registered under the Odisha Building and Other Constructions Workers’ Welfare Board, are eligible for a host of social security benefits. These include Rs 1 lakh home loan assistance with 2 per cent interest, Rs 1 lakh health insurance, Rs 1.5 lakh accident benefit for total disability, Rs 80,000 for partial disability, Rs 2 lakh assistance for death in accidents and Rs 1 lakh for natural death. An assistance of Rs 5,000 will also be given for performing last rites of a construction worker. Besides, Rs 20,000 assistance will be available for the marriage of a construction worker’s daughter or an unmarried female construction worker. A construction worker’s son studying in Class XI and XII will get a stipend of Rs 3,000 per year, and his daughter, Rs 4,000 per year. The rate of stipend for degree and postgraduate studies will be Rs 4,000 (for son) and Rs 5,000 (for daughter). A one-time assistance up to Rs 4,000 will be given to a construction worker for buying bicycle and up to Rs 1,000 to buy shoes, helmet and gloves. A highly skilled or skilled worker will get up to Rs 2,000 to purchase equipment. According to official sources, the strength of corpus fund of the Odisha Building and Other Constructions Workers’ Welfare Board has crossed Rs 600 crore. However, only Rs 8 crore has been spent. “The government has, therefore, decided to widen the net, so that more workers can avail themselves of the social security benefits,” said Mallick, who recently assumed office. However, board member and CITU leader Naba Kishore Mohanty said the rural job project workers should not be covered under the welfare fund for construction workers. “The scheme patterns are different,” he said. Mohanty said the state government had no contribution in providing assistance to the construction workers. “The Odisha Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund has been constituted with 1 per cent cess collected from construction firms and contractors. Rather it has failed to utilise even 2 per cent of the corpus fund. Now, it is contemplating to extend the benefits to the rural job project workers to take the political mileage,” he said. Another welfare board member and AITUC leader Souribandhu Kar was also critical of poor implementation of the social security scheme for the construction workers. “The procedures are cumbersome, and there is a lack of infrastructure at the nodal office and the district level. Benefits are, therefore, not percolating to the beneficiaries, as desired,” he said. A labour department official, however, said the department had taken several proactive steps despite infrastructural deficiencies. A financial assistance of Rs 7 crore has been disbursed during the period between October 2013 and February 2014. A state-level seva divas for construction workers was held on February 21 at Bhubaneswar and an assistance of Rs 3 crore was distributed to the beneficiaries on that day. (The Telegraph 4/6/14)

 

100. Builders warned on minimum wage (14)

NEW DELHI: Now, construction companies and private developers will face cancellation of licence for not paying minimum wages to construction workers. Noticing large-scale violations of its minimum wages order, the labour department of Delhi government has issued another order making it mandatory for all companies and contractors to pay minimum wages by cheque or electronic cash transfer to workers and declare it on the website of companies. All joint labour commissioners have been made responsible of ensuring that orders are complied with. Transactions between the employer and employee will be verified when licences under Contract Labour Act 1970 are renewed and if violations are found the licence will be cancelled. The state has decided on a 90-day time period for all employers to ensure payment of wages. To ensure compliance at time of issuance of registration certificate and licence under Contract labour Act, a checklist has been prepared. All licensing officers have to follow this checklist. The office order of the labour department opens with a statement saying, though the labour department has been revising minimum wages from time to time on basis of consumer price index number, there are large-scale violations regarding non-payment of the notified minimum rates of wages. “The department has received a large number of complaints from various trade unions, workers and even from the offices of the labour minister and chief minister,” it is stated in the order. Public advertisements have been issued by the department in various newspapers for creating awareness among employers. The contractors shall facilitate workers in opening their bank accounts. Every employer shall upload details of the category of workmen employed, wages being paid and other statutory records on their respective websites within 90 days from date of issue of this order. In case the contractor does not have his own website, this information shall be uploaded by the principal employer on his website till the contractor uploads it on his. Hard copies of all the transactions must be submitted by the employer and contractor to the registering and licensing officer of the labour department. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

101. ‘Magistrate courts to hear cases on bonded labour’ (14)

CHENNAI: From now on, all cases concerning release of bonded workers would be heard by regular judicial magistrate courts and not by tahsildars and revenue divisional officers (RDOs), the Madras high court has held. It also ordered the immediate transfer of all such cases filed under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 to the chief judicial magistrates concerned, so that trial could be held and completed in a regular court. An order was passed by the first bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, on a PIL filed by a bonded worker released from a rice mill in 2005, after 15 years of undeterred labour. In his petition, C Gajendran of Tiruvallur district explained the harassment and ill-treatment faced by him and others at the hands of a rice mill owner for more than a decade, and said they were all finally released and issued release certificates in March 2005. After the Chevvapet police registered an FIR the matter was referred to the Tiruvallur revenue divisional officer for trial. The case is still pending there along with nine other cases, he said. Questioning the very legality of Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 which empowered the state governments to permit its tahsildars and RDOs to try and prosecute the offenders, Gajendran said it was violative of constitutional scheme envisaging division of powers. Powers of executive magistrates such as tahsildars and RDOs are limited only to maintaining law and order. The petition assailed the July 17, 1987 government order of Tamil Nadu conferring on tahsildars and RDOs the power to try bonded labour cases. Noting that the state government is not justified in exercising its enabling provision in the central Act and permitting executive officers to handle judicial functions, the petitioner pointed out that on conviction the guilty could be sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment besides a fine of up to 2,000. Pointing out that the Madhya Pradesh high court had dealt with the same issue and struck down the provision, the first bench said: “It is declared that Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 is in violative of Articles 14, 21, and 50 of the Constitution, and consequently the government order dated July 17, 1987 is also quashed.” The judges then ordered all RDOs to transfer all pending bonded labour-related cases along with the relevant documents/records to the respective chief judicial magistrates, “who in turn are directed to transfer the cases to the respective judicial magistrates’. On such transfer the judicial magistrates shall make endeavor and dispose of the cases as expeditiously as possible, they added. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

102. Rajasthan shows way in labour reforms (14)

Mumbai: The Vasundhara Raje-led government in Rajasthan has taken the lead in bringing about dramatic changes to Central labour laws, which reformists have long argued are holding back job creation in the country. Labour laws form part of the Concurrent List and the Union government has often claimed pre-eminence in allowing amendments proposed by states to the legislations framed by the Centre. The Raje Cabinet on Thursday cleared state-level amendments to three critical and archaic Central government labour legislations — the Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act — seeking to liberate the corporate sector from the shackles of stringent requirements of the laws. The related Bills will be introduced in the Assembly early next month and then referred to the President for his assent. When contacted, Raje said, “I had promised 15 lakh jobs and this is one area which desperately needs to be opened up. I don’t have a choice.” Describing it as “creating a habitat for job creation”, she said she would try to find innovative ways to further reforms. “Policy-level changes require political will. For decades, everybody has advocated an overhaul of labour laws. What we did will change the paradigm,” Rajiv Mehrishi, Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, told The Sunday Express. According to the changes in the Industrial Disputes Act, government permission will not be required for retrenchment of up to 300 workers. The Act, as it stands now, allows retrenchment of up to only 100 workers. The Rajasthan Cabinet has also introduced a three-year time limit for raising disputes and increased the percentage of workers needed for registration as a representative union from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. In the context of politicisation of trade unions, this raises the bar. As far as the Contract Labour Act is concerned, the amendments raise the applicability of the Act to companies with more than 50 workers from the current 20. In the Factories Act, currently applicable to premises with more than 10 workers with power and 20 without power, the amendments raise these numbers to 20 and 40, respectively. Senior BJP leader and former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie had recently said that should Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister, he could bring about genuine federalism by allowing more progressive states to change their laws. When contacted, Shourie said Section 254 (2) of the Constitution of India allows states to enact laws that do not necessarily conform to the Central law provided they receive the President’s assent…. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

103. Children Raped, Forced to Eat Excreta at Karjat Horror Home (14)

ALIBAUG: Shocking tales of rape and torture have emerged from an illegally-run shelter for tribal and poor children in Maharashtra’s Raigad district following which two of its officials were arrested, police said today. Chairman of Chandraprabha Charitable Trust Ajit Dabholkar and manager Lalita Tonde were arrested on Tuesday after the children, some as young as 11 years old, complained about being forced to have sex among each other and with the accused. The offence came to light when one of the inmates informed her mother who approached the Raigad Child Helpline, which complained to the police. Pune-based social worker Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe of Pune Childline, who is a complainant in the case, said the children were forced to have sex with each other and with the accused and the act was even “filmed”.”The victims were forced to eat dog excreta if they resisted and locked up. If they threw up, they had to eat the vomit,” she alleged. The Karjat police have found during preliminary investigation that at least five inmates aged between 11 and 15 years, had been sexually abused. The shelter at Takve village in Karjat taluka, barely around 60KM from Mumbai, had 32 inmates in the age group of 4 to 15 years. Senior Inspector of Karjat Police Station R R Patil said the Trust was running the establishment as a residential school without necessary permission. “They don’t have any document to show that they have necessary clearances to run the establishment. It was being run illegally,” he told PTI. According to reports, the duo targeted poor families in the area and persuaded them to send their children to the shelter for better education. The unsuspecting and impoverished parents sent their children to the shelter where they stayed for 10 months in a year and spent two months of summer vacation at home. It was during the vacation that one of the victims mustered courage and told his mother about the sordid happenings at the shelter. The accused were booked under IPC sections 377 (unnatural offences), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 342 (wrongful confinement) and under sections 3, 5 and 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The duo were produced before a magisterial court at Karjat which remanded them in police custody till June 5. (New Indian Express 29/5/14)

 

104. Unicef mulls scheme to train Assam cops in child protection (14)

GUWAHATI: Concerned about the rise in cases of child labour, the Assam chapter of Unicef is mulling a programme to train police to deal with child rights issues. Ahead of the World Day against Child Labour, the UN body has already written to the state police in this regard, a Unicef official said here on Friday. Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) will organize a round-table conference titled ‘Extend Social Protection-Combat Child Labour’ on June 2. “We have already written to the state police. We are planning to train all second-level officers across the state so that whereever they are posted, they can provide the necessary service,” Vedprakash Gautam, child protection specialist of Unicef, Assam said. “We have written about the need to introduce a chapter on child rights in the curriculum in police academy,” he added. Besides, a plan of action to make accountable all the state government bodies, as far as protection of child rights is concerned, will be discussed at the conference. “Once it is in place, protection of child rights will be an easy task as maintaining data is tough. The data base also needs to be strengthened,” Gautam said. ASCPCR chairperson Runumi Gogoi said all the state government agencies will take part in the conference. The recommendations will be sent to a New Delhi convention on June 12 on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour. Unicef and International Labour Organization (ILO) will take part in the conference. “A detailed panel discussion on challenges in addressing child labour in the state and challenges in policy implementation will be a part of the seminar,” she said. The event will cover 12 states, including West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and Sikkim besides the northeast states. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

105. ‘Children not Brought for any Illegal Purpose’ (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The recent incident in which children were brought from other states to orphanages in Kerala cannot be termed as ‘’human trafficking’’ as the children were not brought for any illegal activity, Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty said here on Thursday. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, Kunhalikutty admitted that there were ‘’serious lapses’’ in the way the children were brought. However, he said said using the term ‘’human trafficking’’ was meaningless as it would only serve to create a hype. “The children were not brought here with any ulterior motives such as organ harvesting, sexual harassment, for selling them off or for using them as child labour. Punishment, if any, should be given only if any illegality is committed and not on the basis of wild allegations,” Kunhalikutty said. The minister, who holds temporary charge of the Social Justice Ministry in the absence of M K Muneer, said that the High Court was right in observing that the matter was serious. “Yes. It is a serious issue. It should not be taken lightly. Ensuring the safety of children is the government’s responsibility,” Kunhalikutty said. “But if anyone wants to bring poor, destitute children from outside the state for the purpose of giving them education and a better life, the government will extend all support. However, it should not be done in this way. All the due procedures should be followed and it should be done in a more responsible manner,” he said. (New Indian Express 5/6/14)

 

106. Jharkhand child rights panel seeks CBI probe (14)

Palakkad: The Jharkhand State Child Rights Protection Commission (JSCRPC) will urge its State government to recommend a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the two incidents of alleged child trafficking in which 589 children from Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal were brought to Palakkad in Kerala. Talking to The Hindu here, commission member Sanjay Kumar Mishra said a CBI investigation was necessary as the case involved four States and two orphanages run by religious minority groups. ‘‘The commission is for a through probe into all the angles of the case and there would be limitations to the present probe by the crime branch wing of the Kerala police. We have detected several anomalies in taking these children to Kerala by the two orphanages. The ongoing probe is satisfactory but only a central agency can lead it to a logical conclusion,’’ he said. Mr. Mishra was here to decide on the future of 167 children from his State who have been temporarily lodged at a shelter home at Pezhumkara. (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

107. Man held for running gang with minor kids (14)

LUCKNOW: A man in late 30s, Ravi Yadav, resident of Jugauli, an old settlement in Gomtinagar located near railway tracks in Vishwas Khand, inducted children in the age bracket of 8 to 15 years to commit thefts across Gomtinagar. Working on a tip-off, a sub-inspector from Gomtinagar police station was shocked to find a paan shop owner sporting a wrist watch worth more than Rs 10 lakh. The paanwallah did not know the value of the watch as he had bought it for Rs 300 from a kid who collected garbage near his shop at Mithaiwala crossing. “Children sold items worth over Rs 22 lakh as scrap in the market,” said in charge of Gomtinagar police station, inspector Ajeet Singh Chauhan. The thieves struck at locked houses in Vishwas Khand, Vijay Khand, Vipul Khand, Vikas Khand, Viram Khand, Vivek Khand after carrying out proper recce while collecting garbage. Around second week of May, the minor children with Yadav’s help cut the iron grill and entered the house of Piyush Mishra at Nehru Enclave locality. Mishra had gone to his native village at Ballia for a 15-day period. The children stole items worth close to Rs 13 lakh from the house, including an expensive camera. The same group committed thefts in three more houses later. “The gang was busted on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday,” added Chauhan. Cops have managed to recover items worth Rs 18 lakh so far and were contacting people who purchased stolen items from the gang. Besides Yadav, two minor children had been detained. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

108. Badaun horror stalks Delhi, public toilets unsafe (8)

New Delhi: Delhi, like many other Indian cities, has been outraged by the rape and hanging from a tree of two girls in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh under similar circumstances, but the horror is a lot closer home. The shocking number of children sexually abused in areas such as Shahbad Dairy, Nangloi, Samaipur Badli, Jahangirpuri and Haiderpur has come to light as a result of a Right to Information (RTI) petition filed by CRY (Child Rights and You). Though Delhi’s civic agencies have built public toilets in these areas, most of them either do not function or are unsafe and badly lit, or locked up. So children — like the girls in Badaun — often have to venture out after dark to relieve themselves in the open. That is usually when rapists strike. In Shahbad Dairy, her parents still curse the day in April when their nine-year-old daughter came home in tears and told them what the man had done to her. A five-year old from the same area was abducted while she was waiting for her mother who was using a public toilet. Her kidnappers tried to rape her, but she managed to give them the slip. HT spoke to victims and their relatives, and most blame a lack of security at the public toilets and poor maintenance as the main reason for what happened. “My four-and-a-half-year old daughter was kidnapped from a bus stop and taken to a public toilet in the area. These public toilets have become a den of crime. A number of anti-social elements take over these structures and play cards and drink alcohol there. She was looking for a place to relieve herself; they took her inside and raped her there,” said one victim’s father. CRY has partnered with local NGOs including Saksham, which works in some of worst areas and says that it has raised the issue of toilets several times with the authorities. “The seriousness of the issue needs to be acknowledged by the state government and stakeholders responsible for protecting the safety of the child,” said Soha Moitra, regional director, north, CRY. “The social-economic condition of the area also adds to the gravity of the situation; both the parents are required to earn to sustain the family and thus the child falls out of the safety net,” Moitra added. “The only option left is to train the kids. We have started training them on how to react in such situation. Even shouting at the right time is important. Recently, a girl was taken to a public toilet but during a rape bid she bit the hand of accused and managed to escape,” said Sant Lal, an official at Saksham. The number of attacks is horrifying, but what is worse is that there may be many more cases that go unreported. Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which manages a number of public toilets, admits that lack of toilets is a major cause of concern and security is another major area. “Considering the toilets are in a bad shape we suspect that cases of sexual assault do take place but somehow they are not getting reported,” said a senior Delhi government official. “Security is a big concern for community toilets and systematically we are taking it up. We want to end open defecation by the end of this year by having safe community toilets in every area. We are aware of the fact that vulnerable groups such as women and children do have apprehension in using the public toilets and we are trying to address the issue,” said a DUSIB official. Delhi has 413 public toilets out of which 176 managed by Delhi Urban Improvement Shelter Board (DUSIB), 174 by Municipal Corporations of Delhi and 63 by Delhi Development Authority and New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC). Badaun has brought the problem into the headlines, and DUSIB wants to quadruple the budget for toilets to Rs. 15-16 crore from as little as Rs. 3-4 crore earlier. (Hindustan Times 8/6/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

109.  Article 370: RSS joins row (19)

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The controversy over Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, continued unabated on Wednesday with J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asserting that it cannot be abrogated unless the State’s Constituent Assembly is recalled. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor, joined issue and asked Mr. Abdullah if he thought that the State was his “parental estate.” Sources close to Union Home Minister said that Rajnath Singh had declined to speak on the controversy, as he is scheduled to take charge on Thursday. However, sources pointed out that Mr. Singh had made observations during election campaign on the subject, favouring a debate on the issue. Reacting to Omar’s remarks, RSS leader Ram Madhav said the state will always be an integral part of India with or without the provision. “What a silly argument about Constituent Assembly! Indian Constitution too was made by Constituent Assembly but amended by Parliament 100 times. Article 370 and Instrument of Accession are two separate things six years apart,’’ Mr. Madhav tweeted.Talking to reporters after the National Conference core group meeting in Srinagar, Omar Abdullah asserted that nobody other than the State’s Constituent Assembly could revoke Article 370. “How can BJP strengthen ties with people of J&K when they are hell-bent to damage the relation by virtue of Article 370?” Mr Abdullah asked. He also asked the Centre to make clear on who were the “stakeholders” it was talking to for repealing special status to the State. He said the move to re-open the issue would amount to re-opening the issue of the state’s accession with India. Meanwhile, PDP President and Lok Sabha member Mehbooba Mufti said that the Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh had put his foot in the mouth on day one of assuming office. She urged the Prime Minister to “discipline” his ministerial colleague. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

110. Justice Katju advocates uniform civil code (19)

NEW DELHI: Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju has come out in strong support of uniform civil code, a controversial core issue of BJP, claiming one of the reasons for the backwardness of Muslims was that there was no modernization of their personal law. “The issue of a uniform civil code has recently been raised. I am fully in support of a uniform civil code,” Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said in a recent article. He said Article 44 of the Constitution says “the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.The Constitution was made in 1950, and 64 years had passed since it was promulgated, but Article 44 had been totally ignored, “obviously for vote-bank politics”, he said, adding that this had contributed to making Muslims backward. Katju said Article 44 was in the Directive Principles, and not the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution, but Article 37 states that “the provisions contained in this part shall not be enforceable in any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”.Contending that he had always raised his voice for the rights of Muslims, Katju said, “In fact, one of the reasons for Muslims in India remaining backward is that there was no modernization of their personal law.” Katju said in all modern countries, there is usually one common law for everybody and in India also there is one common criminal law. “Nobody objected to that, though many of these laws are against the Muslim law. For instance, Muslim law provides for stoning to death for women committing adultery, but that would be illegal under the IPC,” Katju said. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

111. Govt tells Supreme Court it will appoint 50 more judges at Allahabad high court (19)

NEW DELHI: The government has conveyed to the apex court that it can appoint 50 more judges to Allahabad high court and that court infrastructure, including courtrooms and judges’ chambers, would be ready for them by December. The law ministry has already approved raising the strength of Allahabad HC to 200 judges, up from 160. At present, the country’s biggest HC has 90 judges, with 70 posts vacant. Chief Justice of India R M Lodha had recently said the government allocation for the judiciary was too low and that it was resulting in lack of infrastructure to accommodate judges and fill up vacancies. Soon after the CJI’s adverse remarks, the law ministry held a review meeting with the apex court’s committee on court management headed by Justice H L Dattu. The law ministry informed the SC committee that work on creating additional infrastructure to accommodate 30 more judges had also begun, besides the 50 for which courtrooms will be ready by the year end. Filling up vacancies is a major problem for the apex court with as many as 300 positions vacant against a sanctioned strength of 906 judges in 21 HCs. Working strength of these HCs are around 611, includeing permanent and additional judges. The situation is no better in the district and subordinate judiciary which faces huge shortage of judges. Against a sanctioned strength of 17,715 judges, more than 3,300 posts are vacant. Though the apex court has set a target of taking the combined strength of the judiciary to 30,000 in five years, the target looks difficult . This has already resulted in huge pendency of cases. Currently, there are more than 3.20 crore pending cases in different courts. Of this, nearly 2.76 crore cases are in subordinate courts while 44 lakh are pending in various HCs and nearly 60,000 in the Supreme Court. The pendency in Allahabad High Court is 10 lakh. Subordinate courts in Uttar Pradesh have over 58 lakh pendency, highest in the country. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

112. ‘Indian prisoners to get free legal aid from Pakistan lawyers body’ (19)

New Delhi: Lawyers Congress, an advocates’ body in Pakistan, has agreed to provide free legal aid to Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails, National Panthers Party supremo Bhim Singh said on Thursday. Singh, who returned here after a 10-day visit to Pakistan, said he had taken up the issue of Indian prisoners with Lahore chapter of Lawyers Congress following which it had agreed to provide legal help to them. “The Lahore chapter of Lawyers Congress has agreed to provide free legal aid to Indian prisoners languishing in jails in that country,” he told reporters. Singh said his proposal to set up a joint free legal aid committee in cooperation with Lawyers Congress (Lahore) and Islamabad and Lahore chapters of the Bar Associations to provide help to the Indian prisoners has also been accepted. He said he has filed several writ petitions in the Supreme Court and as well as other courts challenging “illegal, unconstitutional and improper arrest and detentions” of Pakistani nationals in Indian jails. He claimed that his efforts ensured release of around 300 Pakistani prisoners from Indian jails in the past 15 years. Singh said he was also facilitated by the Bar Association of Islamabad and Lahore during his visit. The Panthers Party leader said he was not allowed to visit Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by the authorities there and called it an “undemocratic decision”. “I hope that governments of both the nations realise that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir can be resolved by the joint efforts of leaders, intellectuals and social activists from both sides of J&K,” he said. Singh said he was going to organise ‘Heart-to-Heart’ talks in October and several Pakistani leaders will be invited. (Indian Express 5/6/14)

 

113.  HC nixes PIL on uniform civil code (19)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has declined to entertain a public interest litigation (PIL) for time-bound implementation of Supreme Court”s suggestion to provide a uniform civil code applicable throughout the country. Citing several apex court judgments, which have held that the judiciary cannot direct the executive to introduce a particular legislation, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw dismissed the plea. The petitioner, Mool Chand Kucheria, had submitted in his PIL that the apex court in its 1995 verdict in Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India had suggested to the government to “secure for the citizens a uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India” and sought that the same be implemented in a time-bound manner. He had also sought a direction “for constitution of a committee of religious gurus or experts to see the smooth implementation of the said guidelines”.Disposing of the plea, the high court said even the Supreme Court did not issue any direction. “Nevertheless the fact remains that the Supreme Court, in spite of having held so, did not issue any direction as the petitioner is asking us to issue. We, therefore, do not find any ground to entertain this petition which is dismissed,” the division bench said. The high court also noted in its verdict that the apex court in Sarla Mudgal judgement had observed that “the Government would be well advised to entrust the responsibility to the Law Commission to bring about the comprehensive legislation in keeping with modern day concept of human rights.” In the Sarla Mudgal judgement the apex court had held as void the second marriage of a Hindu man who got married again after converting to Islam. The apex court had ruled that under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, a Hindu husband cannot marry a second time simply by embracing Islam without lawfully dissolving the first marriage. He would be guilty of bigamy, the Court ruled. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

 

114. Joint sitting of Parliament to fast-track crucial pending bills? (19)

The task is cut out for the new government as the president Pranab Mukherjee addresses first joint sitting of parliament in the newly formed 16th Lok Sabha on Monday. But the new government has a huge responsibility of taking a call on 60 pending bills pending in the Rajya Sabha. Some of the important bills pending in the Upper House might get pushed by the BJP led government. They are: the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, the Food and Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2014, the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2013 the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and the Judicial Appointment Commission Bill, 2013. Establishment of the National Judicial Commission was also part of the BJP’s manifesto in the recently-held general elections. Moreover, the Narendra Modi government will also need to decide if it wants to restart the process of introducing 68 Bills that lapsed in the previous Lok Sabha. Some of the important bills like Women’s Reservation Bill, Direct Taxes Code, Micro Finance Bill, Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill and the Bill enabling the introduction of Goods and Services Tax lapsed. The Constitution provides that if a bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha and not passed by it, the bill shall not lapse on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. To pass a Bill the government requires the support from both the Houses. While NDA is sitting comfortably in the Lok Sabha with about 340 seats, in Rajya Sabha they have just 57 members.  In the current Rajya Sabha BJP enjoys support of 42 members while its ally TDP has six. Shiv Sena and SAD gave three each while RPI, NPF and MNF have one member each. While the government can easily pass Bills in the Lower House, it might have a problem in the Upper House. If such situation arises, the government can call joint sitting of both the Houses to push through key bills. As per Article 108 of the Constitution, a joint sitting of both Houses can be called if a bill has been passed by one House and rejected by the other; if the two Houses have finally disagreed on the amendments to be made in the bill; or if more than six months have elapsed after a bill is passed by one House but is not passed by the other. A joint sitting of both Houses is presided over by the Lok Sabha Speaker and only a simple majority is needed to get a bill passed, which is then immediately sent to the President for his assent. Under article 118 of the constitution, the President can call a joint session of both the Houses to pass any bill that is not a constitutional amendment bill. In a joint sitting, the total number of members (LS and RS) would be 795 – 545 from the Lok Sabha, including two nominated members, and 250 Rajya Sabha members in its full strength, including 12 nominated ones. With 340 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP needs only 60 votes from the Rajya Sabha in a joint sitting. The previous NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had used this method to pass important bill the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. Earlier it was used twice during the passage of the Dowry Prohibition Act, in 1961 and the Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill in 1978. However, in 2008 joint sitting was called for the fourth time for Women Reservation Bill, but it couldn’t be passed. (DNA 8/6/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

115. Govt moots insurance scheme for farmers, use of GM technology to increase yield (20)

NEW DELHI: Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh is open to the idea of using genetically modified (GM) technology to increase farm productivity, saying the government will go for it “if it is absolutely necessary”.After taking charge of his ministry, Singh on Wednesday hinted at the possibility and spelt out his plan to launch big-ticket schemes in the farm sector including a nation-wide “rural irrigation programme” and a “new insurance scheme” to protect farmers’ income in case of crop failure. Singh’s stand on GM technology is in tune with his party’s position over this controversial issue as the BJP doesn’t categorically oppose the move. It, however, makes it clear that the transgenic foods will not be allowed “without full scientific evaluation on its long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers” – the stand taken by the previous UPA government. Sticking to BJP’s manifesto which spoke about “protection and promotion of cow and its progeny”, Singh, an old RSS hand and five-time MP from East Champaran in Bihar, said his ministry would work to conserve “indigenous breeds of cows”.In his first meeting with officials, he is learnt to have asked them to prepare a roadmap to implement the “doable” suggestions as reflected in the BJP’s manifesto including amendments in the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and cooperative laws within “two to three months” (100 days). “I held a meeting with ministry officials and we have decided that we will bring ‘Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sinchayee Yojana’ similar to the ‘Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana’ which was launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government,” Singh said. Without giving any time-frame, he said his government is very serious about launching it. He said 44% of the country’s cultivable land was bereft of irrigation facilities, affecting a majority of small and marginal farmers across the country. Emphasizing on having an effective crop insurance policy, Singh said his ministry has decided to bring ‘Kisan Aya Bima Yojna’ which would take into account average income of farmers in the last 5-7 years while devising a compensation scheme. If the government launches such a scheme, it will be a much needed improvement over the existing scheme which does not treat an individual farmer as a unit while providing compensation against insurance. The present scheme takes village or group of villages as a unit while deriving at compensation formula and therefore it invariably tends to benefit big and medium farmers. “The Centre will bear the burden of premium for insurance of average income. Farmers will take interest in agriculture only when their investment is guaranteed,” Singh said. The minister also said the government would soon take a decision on the proposal to fix minimum support price (MSP) of kharif crops. Besides, there is a long-term plan to fix the MSP at 50% more than the cost of production, he added. Addressing his maiden press conference, he also emphasized on setting up more central agriculture universities in different parts of the country. Asked what he would do for his home state of Bihar, Singh said, “If India develops, Bihar will also develop.” (Times of India 29/5/14)

 

116. Vidarbha farmers to hold ‘chai pe charcha’ on Monday (20)

Yavatmal: Farmers and widows of farmers from Vidarbha region who committed suicide, will gather at Maregaon town nearly 70 kms from here tomorrow for ‘chai pe charcha’ to highlight their demands. The farmers will gather under the banner of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) for a programme titled “Kisano ki chai pe charcha aur chinta” (Discussion over Tea – and Despair). “The programme organised for farmers and farmers’ widows, seeks to draw attention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to recall assurances made by him to farmers during election campaign in Dabhadi village in Malegaon district, three months back,” general secretary of VJAS Mohan Jadhav said yesterday. “Modi had raised hopes of the farming community at his ‘chai pe charcha’ meeting in Dabhadi and asked Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to prepare a time-bound integrated solution to stop farmers’ suicides,” VJAS president Kishor Tiwari said. Their major demands include – minimum support price (MSP) for cotton and soybean to match the production cost with a 50 per cent profit margin; new crop loan to farmers after waiving their existing debt dues; bringing in new technology in agriculture and irrigation; financial assistance for farm widows and higher education facilities to their wards, etc. (Zee News 1/6/14)

 

117. GM Seeds Promoted, Farmers Go Red-eyed (20)

ROURKELA: Farmers under the aegis of Centre for Integrated Rural and Tribal Development (CIRTD), a voluntary organisation, are up in arms against use of genetically modified (GM) and hybrid seeds in Sundargarh district. The Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) is promoting use of GM seeds for maize in selected blocks on an experimental basis. On the other hand, farmers are demanding preservation and promotion of indigenous varieties of seeds which are on the verge of extinction. Sundargarh-based CIRTD has started a fight against GM and hybrid seeds and questioned the alleged move of ATMA in promoting these seeds. The district administration has, however, steered clear of the controversy by claiming that the government supply chain includes only high-yield seeds. Four days back, the CIRTD organised an indigenous seeds exchange fair to educate and encourage tribal farmers to help revive indigenous seeds and protest GM and hybrid varieties. CIRTD secretary Suru Mishra said recently 600 households were provided 50 kgs of GM seeds along with fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide in Kinjirkela, Birkaldihi, Kusumura and Saunamura villages of Balishankara block. The seeds were given to 150 households in Subdega block. Mishra said GM seeds not only pose health hazards, but also bring down the fertility of soil after two to three years of usage. Agriculture officials said the seeds production target for the district in this kharif season has been set at 1100 quintals of high-yield non-paddy crops and nearly 26,300 quintals of paddy. Rourkela-based District Agriculture Officer (DAO) PC Shaw said the Government supply chain only includes superior quality high-yield seeds supplied by the Odisha State Seeds Corporation. The GM and hybrid seeds are procured by farmers from open market. Sundargarh-based Deputy Director of Agriculture (DDA) Narendra Behera said the Agriculture Department is not involved in distribution of either GM or hybrid seeds. Denying any information about it, Behera said the local agriculture committees through the block offices might be involved in distributions of GM and hybrid seeds. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

118. Punjab to work out policy on farmers’ suicides (20)

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday approved the constitution of a committee to formulate a comprehensive policy on farmers’ suicides in Punjab. Punjab State Farmers Commission chairman GS Kalkat will head the committee that will have six other members from the state government and the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The state government got detailed surveys done by three universities – Panjab University of Chandigarh, Punjabi University of Patiala, and Guru Nanak Dev University of Amritsar – from 2001 to 2011. These surveys identified about 4,500 farmers and farm labourers who committed suicides due to indebtedness, a spokesman of the Chief Minister’s Office said. Under its earlier policy, the Punjab government would give a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family of a farmer who ended his life due to indebtedness. “However, it was felt there was a need for preparing a comprehensive policy on such suicides, with a view not only to compensate the aggrieved family but also prevent occurrence of such unfortunate incidents,” the spokesman said. (Zee news 4/6/14)

 

119. Sops for farmers, traders in Maharashtra Budget (20)

Mumbai: With an eye on assembly elections after the drubbing it got in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-NCP state government Thursday presented a Rs 4,103.3 crore deficit Budget for 2014-15 with a slew of sops for farmers, traders and professionals. The Budget presented by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who holds the finance portfolio, in the assembly pegs revenue receipts at Rs 1,80,320.5 crore and expenditure at Rs 1,84,423.28 crore. The Budget has many relief measures for the farming community in the state where many farmers had committed suicide. “We have doubled the minimum assistance given to farmers,” the minister said, on the relief provided by the government to farmers in areas hit by drought, unseasonal rains and hailstorms. The government, he said, would pay electricity bills of the affected farmers for the January-June 2014 period, Pawar said, adding it would also pay the interest on the crop loan taken by the affected farmers, besides extending loan repayment till December 2014. The Deputy CM said no coercive action will be taken to recover the loans till then. To keep the trading community, which has disapproved of the Local Bodies Tax (LBT) introduced last year, the turnover limit for registration under VAT has been doubled from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh and that for filing audit report has been increased from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore. Though there have been talks of the LBT being replaced with Octroi again, nothing has been announced yet. To keep urban citizens happy, the Budget has increased the minimum salary limit for profession tax to Rs 7,500 from Rs 5,000. To appease the cotton farmers, the government has reduced tax rate on cotton to 2 per cent from 5 per cent. Similarly, sugarcane sector has been exempted from the purchase tax for 2013-14. The budget provides for Rs 100.4 crore to boost the textile sector. An amount of Rs 4,255 crore has been earmarked for creation of 27,000 new jobs, Pawar said, adding an outlay of Rs 2,836 crore has been provided for road development. (Zee News 5/6/14)

 

120. BJP committed to creation of separate Vidarbha: Gadkari (20)

Nagpur, Jun 8 : Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari today said his party was committed to creation of separate Vidarbha state. Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Gadkari said the creation of separate Vidarbha was on his agenda and pointed that the party was working on it. While drawing attention to the less number of MPs in the Rajya Sabha, he said that the party was keeping the issue on the agenda and noted that it would work on the situation. On the farmers’ suicides in the Vidarbha region, Mr Gadkari said considering the gravity of issue, the government was assessing the situation and was keeping it on top of its agenda. The government would take different measures to prevent the farmers’ suicides such as irrigation, proper market and adequate price to their produce. (New Indian Express 9/6/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

121. Revamp PDS: Kozhikode ration dealers (21)

Kozhikode: The All Kerala Ration Dealers Association has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revamp the existing Public Distribution System (PDS) introduced by the previous United Progressive government so as to end the hardships faced by the people of the State. The association, in a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister, said that out of 82 lakh ration card holders in the State, the below the poverty line (15 lakh) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (5 lakh) categories formed only 25 per cent of the population and they alone got sufficient quantity of foodgrains under the PDS. The majority, 62 lakh people above the poverty line category, was given only 9 kg of rice and 2 kg of wheat a month. This would not be sufficient for a five-member family even for a week. Association general secretary T. Muhammedali said the categorisation of ration card holders and large curtailment of the ration quota were a blow to middle class families in the State, who depended on the PDS for their day-to-day requirements.

‘Paddy insufficient’He said that though the staple crop of the State was rice, commercial crops such as rubber, spices, tea, and coffee were now being preferred. Paddy cultivation was nominal. The State had to depend on Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for rice. It was in this context that the Centre provided a statutory rationing system in 1963. The PDS had a provision for per capita distribution of rice, wheat, sugar, and kerosene, whereby 90 per cent of the population could draw their entire essential commodities at subsidised rates. With slight modifications effected from time to time, the PDS had gone smooth until 1997. Though there were variations in quantity in supply, the allotment was sufficient to cater to the needs of at least 75 per cent of the population. A family consisting of five members was able to get 10 kg of rice and 10 kg of wheat a week in addition to 2.25 kg of sugar, and 5 litres of kerosene for non-electrified and 2 litres for electrified houses a month. Mr. Muhammedali said the people of the State at large longed for a decision from the new government to dispense with the categorisation of cardholders and to revive the original method of per capita distribution of foodgrains to the entire population. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

122. ‘Main focus of Govt will be on housing, public transport’ (21)

Hyderabad, June 1:  The main focus of the new Government at the Centre would be to provide housing for all and public transport facility according to M Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development. Addressing his maiden press conference after taking over as Minister, Naidu said the target was to provide housing for all by 2022. The Ministry would convene a meeting with all stake holders in this regard to chalk out a strategy which would be followed by a State Urban Development Minister’s conference, he added. “The people living in urban areas will go up from present 31 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050. We need to plan ahead from now,’’ the Minister said. To eliminate poverty in urban areas, a basic skill development programme to train people in small trades such as mobile-repairing would be taken up. “In Gujarat, the model proved to be very useful and the State Government is spending ₹800 crore while the budget allocated by the previous Government at the Centre was only ₹1,000 crore for entire country,” he added. On the opposition status for the Congress in the Parliament, Naidu said, as it failed to get above 10 per cent seats to be recognised as the Opposition, conventions and practices were being examined. “I have heard about coalition governments but not coalition Opposition. But this has to be examined and a decision has to be taken by the Speaker,” he added. (Business Line 1/6/14)

 

123. Karnataka govt to bring legislation to punish bogus ration card holders (21)

Bangalore: “On the instruction of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, we are enacting a legislaton to punish fake ration card holders to implement Anna Bhagya (scheme to provide rice at Re 1 a kg to the poor) without any obstacles,” he told reporters here. No leniency would be shown after the initiation of the process of filing criminal cases against the bogus ration card holders, the minister said. Gundurao said the government is keen on eliminating the large number of bogus ration card holders, who are affecting the effectiveness and efficiency of the Anna Bhagya scheme. He said bogus ration card holders were indulging in malpractices and even blackmarketeering of foodgrains supplied by government to help eradicate the hunger among the poorest of the poor belonging to Below Poverty Line families at Re one per kg. Already five lakh fake ration cards have been cancelled, he said. Moreover, the process of registering Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) number with the Food and Civil Supplies Department would begin next week, Gundurao said. The Food and Civil Supplies Department has made it mandatory for all ration cards holders to register their EPIC number with the department. The Minister said ration cardholders who got their cards before 2010 should also furnish EPIC and Aadhar numbers, failing which their cards would be suspended. New applicants who are yet to receive their cards would also have to furnish their EPIC and Aadhar numbers, Gundurao said. Cards will be distributed to them only after they furnish the numbers, he said. (Zee News 2/6/14)

 

124. Too Poor to Care for Him, Woman Sells Newborn Son for Rs. 13000 (21)

Jalpaiguri:  A woman from an impoverished family in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri has sold her newborn son for Rs. 13,000 because she was too poor to take care of him. The woman, Gauri Das, already has three daughters; her husband left the family a few months ago. The only source of income for the family of five is the alms earned by Gauri’s mother, who begs on the streets of Jalpaiguri. Gauri claims that though she has worked for a few days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, she was never paid for it. After hearing about the case, the administration swung into action and found the baby, but Gauri refused to take him back. “I wouldn’t have been able to take care of him. How am I going to feed him,” she told NDTV. She added that she was willing to take her son back if the government offered her some kind of help. So far, she said, the local administration had provided her with some rice, daal and sugar. A neighbour told NDTV that the family was so poor that on rainy days, when Gauri’s mother could not go out to beg, the family went without any food. The infant is currently under the care of the district child welfare committee. The state administration has given Gauri 60 days to change her mind, after which the baby will be given away for adoption. NDTV 6/6/14)

 

125. Houses for dalits, BPL families a dream in Mandi (21)

Mandi: The government has to build small houses or provide financial aid to financially weaker sections under the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojna (RGAY) and Jawaharlal Nehru Shahari Navinikaran Awas Yojna (JNSNAY). But, in some cases funds are not available, whereas the others are locked between political rivalry or fighting between councilors out to take credit of the scheme to convert it into the vote bank later on. Under the JNSNAY, the total 208 houses would have been constructed in Sundernagar and 104 houses in Sarkaghat sub-division area, but after going through long paper formalities, Sundernagar Municipal Committee (MC) could construct only 65 houses in last two years. Interestingly, rest of the 143 applicants could get first installment recently after waiting for more than two years. In Mandi town area, the proposal for construction of houses for Dalit community under the RGAY is running in files from last two years. The issue of constructing houses for dalits and poor people got momentum when Mandi MC demolished a number of dalits houses on the name of unauthorised  construction following Himachal high court orders two years ago. But there is little progress and the schemes are still running in files and the poor despite the assurance from chief minister Virbhadra Singh are waiting for the ‘legal’ shelter. “The MC lacks staff and it is the biggest hurdle in implementation of the scheme and the crunch of finance discourages its staff who are not sure whether they will get salary next month. Moreover, the urban development department always delays the implementation of welfare schemes for local urban body’s employees. The government considers local urban body’s employees as second grade employees and never bothers to improve the situation,” said Kuldeep Thakur, state president of local urban bodies employees union. Thakur said, “Encouragement, facilities, handsome salaries, security of employees convert into development, but here in the state it is just opposite, employees lack facilities at work places, less salaries, no security of health and family if met with an accident, excess work load due to lack of employees are the common feature of urban development agencies in the state and it is all depressing”. Thakur said that the RGAY and the JNSNAY need single window system for clearance, and houses be completed in stipulated time. (Hindustan Times 8/6/14)

 

RESERVATION

126. Four Minority Institutions in Delhi Exempted from OBC Quota (25)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Friday exempted four minority colleges of Delhi University from reserving 27 percent seats for students from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for the 2014-15 academic year. Justice Manmohan passed the order while hearing a plea filed by Mata Sundari College seeking exemption from the OBC quota as it was minority-run institution. The order will benefit four DU colleges run by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), constituted under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act. Apart from Mata Sundari College, these are Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Guru Gobind Singh College, and Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College — all declared minority institutes. Passing the order, the court also said that these colleges shall provide reservation in admission for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes as per the Delhi University’s norms, but they will not be obliged to give reservation to OBCs for this academic session. Mata Sundari College, during the hearing, contended that the reservation policy was not applicable to these institutions in view of a Supreme Court verdict on OBC reservations. The apex court had held that minority educational institutions (MEI), whether they were aided by the government or unaided, were exempted from reserving seats for OBCs, the college added. However, DU maintained that reservation rule of DU for OBC should be followed by these colleges also. (New Indian Express 31/5/14)

 

127. Centre revises OBC caste certificate format (25)

New Delhi: With government job seekers from Other Backward Class (OBC) facing difficulty in getting reservation benefit due to faulty caste certificates, the government has now revised the format to include a number of castes and communities that were added to the list over the years. The move by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) comes as the government found that intended beneficiaries were facing trouble in availing the benefits as the form prescribed 21 years ago had not updated the fresh inclusions. A set of instructions was issued in September 1993 for providing OBC reservation in services and posts under the government. A format for the caste certificate was prescribed in November 1993 along with the list of castes and communities treated as OBC till that time. Since then, a large number of castes and communities have been added to the central list of OBCs through various resolutions of Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry. The format also prescribes that the certificate issuing authority should certify that the candidate does not belong to creamy layer. However, the details of the resolutions subsequent to the September 1993 resolution do not find mention in the existing format, which led to discrepancies. A senior official said the DoPT has been receiving complaints from candidates belonging to OBC about the problems they were facing. The officials cannot issue accurate caste certificates in the absence of later additions under relevant rules and regulations. In order to clear this anomaly, the official said fresh guidelines have been issued, including the fresh additions. The DoPT consulted the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) before deciding on revising the existing format. “The caste certificate issued by district authorities concerned mention the name of the caste and community of the applicant but the specific resolution under which the said caste or community was added on in the central list of OBCs is not indicated,” the official said. This led to procedural problems, he added. “All the certificate issuing authorities are requested to mandatorily mention the details of the Resolution (Number and Date) by which the caste/community of the candidate has been included in the central list of OBCs and also to ensure that he or she does not belong to creamy layer as amended from time to time,” the official said. The DoPT has also asked state governments to advise the issuing authorities on the revised format. (Deccan Herald 1/6/14)

 

128. DU admissions: Confusion on ‘Jats’ in OBC quota (25)

New Delhi: Students applying for admission to various courses in Delhi University are unsure whether the ‘Jat category’ is included under the OBC quota this academic year. The National Commission for Backward Classes had included ‘Jats’ in the National Capital Territory of Delhi by amending the central list of OBC’s vide a circular dating back to March 4, 2014. Dr. Dinesh Varshney, Deputy Dean (South Campus) confirmed to The Hindu that applications of such students falling under the 27 per cent OBC quota shall be entertained. “Students applying for statutory admission can apply by producing relevant documents. We have clarified this earlier. In case of confusion, the information centres can be approached,” he said. Though Delhi University has undertaken various steps to keep the aspirants informed about the admission process, the student welfare helplines have been flooded with calls in the last few days. “Since Friday, we have been receiving about 450-500 calls a day but on Monday we have answered more than 1,500 calls in just 6-7 hours on multiple lines,” said the Deputy Dean, Students’ Welfare. (The Hindu 3/6/14)

 

129. Persons with disabilities get 1 pc reservation in teaching posts (25)

Chandigarh, Jun 5 : The Punjab Government has issued instructions to all departments to reserve 1 per cent of the identified teaching posts in the faculties and colleges of various Universities for people with disabilities. An official spokesperson for the Social Security Department today said the state government was fully committed to implement the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 (For short 1995 Act) and take all necessary steps in this direction. He said instructions to identify such posts have been issued to all departments and they have been directed to comply with 1 per cent reservation for Persons with Disabilities as defined in Act. He said it has been reiterated to the departments that denial of appointment to the visually disabled persons in the faculties and colleges of various Universities in the identified posts would be considered as violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and 15 read with Article 41 of the Constitution. They have been also apprised about the directions of the Supreme Court. (New Kerala 6/6/14)

 

130. UP Muslims to get 25% quota in new pension scheme (25)

LUCKNOW: The Samajwadi Party government is set to launch yet another populist scheme – Samajwadi Party Pension Yojana, earmarking a quota of 25 per cent for Muslim families. The scheme will aim at providing financial assistance of Rs 500 per month for the extremely poor. In the second year, this amount would be enhanced to Rs 750 per month. The new scheme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 2,400 crore, said the director of the social welfare department. He said applications have been sought from the potential beneficiaries to complete the required formalities. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had highlighted his government’s new pension scheme aggressively in the election campaign and had also promised he would implement it soon. The government machinery started implementation of the scheme after the Lok Sabha elections when the model code of conduct provisions were lifted. The government order (GO) for the scheme states that 30 per cent beneficiaries would be from the SC/ST category, 25 per cent from the Muslim community and 45 per cent from OBC and General categories. The ruling party’s other populist schemes include free laptops for students, financial assistance of Rs 20,000 to every Muslim girl which runs by the slogan – ‘Humari beti uska kal’, the Kanya Vidya Dhan scheme and unemployment allowance etc. The Samajwadi Party had promised 18 per cent job reservation to Muslims, who constitute around 18 per cent of the population, but it has so far not been able to implement the plan. The government, however, is giving reservations to Muslims in other schemes. (Times of India 7/6/14)

 

131. Minority status for Piramalai Kallars sought (7)

MADURAI: A demand to accord minority status for Piramalai Kallars was made at a denotified tribes upheaval conference organised by Seermarabinar Nala Sangam at Keezhakuyilkudi near here on Saturday. The conference was organised to mark the centenary of the Criminal Tribes Act 1911. Claiming to be the earliest tribe in India, the participants also passed a resolution seeking Scheduled Tribe status. All the benefits enjoyed by minorities and STs should be extended to Piramalai Kallars, a resolution said. The meet wanted the government to issue community certificates for Piramalai Kallar students as belonging to de-notified tribes (DNT) as was done in some States. Ten per cent reservation should be provided to the DNT in education and employment. Their other demands included enhancement of basic facilities to Kallar reclamation schools, setting up premium institutions such as IIT, IIM in places populated by Piramalai Kallar community, provision of agricultural lands to landless people of the community and recognition of the “battle” waged by Piramalai Kallars against the British in 1920 as a freedom movement. D. Pandian, State secretary, CPI, spoke. Minister for Cooperation ‘Sellur’ K. Raju, MLAs M. Muthuramalingam and P.V. Kathiravan spoke. (The Hindu 8/6/14)

 

HINDUTVA

132. Time to review Article 370: RSS leader Indresh Kumar (26)

Jaipur: RSS leader Indresh Kumar has pitched  for a wide debate on Article 370, that grants special status for Jammu and Kashmir, to determine its usefulness in the interest of the nation. Kumar, the founder of “Muslim Rastriya Manch”, said Kashmir is an integral part of India and the Article was a “temporary” arrangement initially but it is still continuing hence it needed a proper review. “It should be reviewed whether the Article 370 proved to be beneficial and in the interests of the nation or not. It must be discussed widely in order to make people of the country understand what its advantages or disadvantages have been,” he told PTI over phone here. “If the law was a temporary provision, then why it still exists and if it was really necessary then why it is still  temporary… why Congress governments in the past did not make it permanent? And why they are afraid of a debate? “The time has come for its review to ascertain what was the gain and what was the loss the country had because of the Article 370,” he said. He said Congress wants to avoid debate on the issue because “it has nothing to tell people about its advantages.” (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

133. Hindu Rashtra Sena chief named in 23 cases, say cops (26)

Pune: Dhananjay Desai, the chief of Hindu Rashtra Sena who was arrested on Tuesday, has been in news as much for his radical speeches as his outfit’s attacks targeting media organisations. Desai, according to the police, is a history-sheeter, named in 23 cases of extortion, rioting and other crimes. It is likely that he will be questioned regarding the murder of 24-year-old IT professional Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Hadapsar on Monday. Earlier, Desai was questioned by the crime branch in connection with the murder of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar. Formed about a decade ago by Desai, who hails from Mumbai and currently stays at Paud in Pune district, the HRS is known for its aggressive agitations on Hindutva issues. On several occasions Desai has shared stage with right-wing leaders like Pramod Muthalik of Shri Ram Sene and Himani Savarkar of Abhinav Bharat. He was chief guest at a function to release a book by Sanatan Sanstha activist Vikram Bhave, who is a convict in the Thane blast case. Desai’s outfit was involved in the attack on Star News office at Mumbai in April 2007 for telecasting a news item on a Hindu girl falling in love with a Muslim youth. Last September, the HRS was in news for its plan to hurl a footwear at actor Sanjay Dutt during a cultural programme organised by the Prisons department at Balgandharva auditorium here. The programme was cancelled, but the HRS created a ruckus at the spot following which an offence was registered at the Deccan police station. HRS activists had earlier been booked for staging protests outside Dutt’s Mumbai residence in May 2013, claiming that he was being given VIP treatment in jail. The HRS had also taken an aggressive stand in support of Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya and others arrested in the Malegaon blast case. According to the police, Desai is always accompanied by bodyguards. He is known for his radical speeches and is reportedly popular among a section of youth who are said to copy even his hairstyle. A Hindu activist close to Desai said that the HRS chief was like “Robin Hood” who looted the wealthy and used the money for the cause of Hinduism. A senior police officer, however, alleged that Desai gets funds for his outfit through extortion. (The Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

134. Pune Techie Murder: 17 Hindu Rashtra Sena Men Arrested (26)

Pune: Continuing the crackdown on a little known Hindu radical outfit in connection with the brutal murder of a young IT professional in a Pune suburb on Monday, police have arrested four more of its activists, taking the total arrests in the case to 17, official sources said. The authorities are also mulling invoking the stringent provisions of Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act (MPDAA) making it difficult for them to secure bail, Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur said. Mohasin Shaikh, 28, a resident of Bankar Colony in suburban Hadapsar, was allegedly bludgeoned to death with hockey sticks by a group of Hindu Rashtra Sena men after uploading of an objectionable post on social networking website Facebook by unknown people which denigrated warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji and Shiv Sena chief late Bal Thackeray. Some media reports said the posts might have originated in a foreign country but there was no official word on it. Those arrested have been booked under various sections of IPC including murder. In addition, about 180 persons have been arrested in connection with cases related to the rioting and damaging of city buses in the area in the incidents on Sunday and Monday during the Bandh called to protest against the Facebook post. Mathur said the role of self-styled chief of HRS Dhananjay Desai in Mohasin’s case was under investigation. Desai was arrested in a case filed against him for allegedly circulating inflammatory literature after the violence. Police are also probing the conspiracy angle to the murder after emergence of an SMS circulated by the accused among themselves which said in Marathi, “Ek wicket geli (one wicket has fallen).” Asked about the possibility of imposing a ban on HRS, Mathur said such a move needed thorough investigation and documentation of the organisation’s activities and cannot be taken in a hurry. The arrested accused were produced before a magistrate who remanded them in police custody till June 9. The situation in the area continues to be peaceful with no fresh violence in the last two days, police said. An appeal has been issued to citizens not to circulate or forward provocative messages on social media or spread rumours thorough SMS. Meanwhile, in a controversial statement, the newly elected BJP MP from Pune Anil Shirole has said though the incident (murder) was “unfortunate” the repercussions of the derogatory post were “natural”.”What happened is unfortunate but after the Facebook post some repercussion was natural,” he said, but hastened to add “we are making all efforts for restoring peace in Pune, people there want peace.” Home Ninister R R Patil said strict action will be taken against those responsible for the incident. “Some people always want to create communal tension. Strict action will be taken against all those responsible,” he said in Mumbai. (Outlook 6/6/14)

 

135. Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai: a radical who cares little for law (26)

Pune: Coming from a modest family, Dhananjay Desai, head of Hindu Rashtra Sena, was just another boy until he formed the right-wing group at the age of 14 with a base in Pune. Within a few years, Desai and his group, began launching minor protests on issues related to the so called “injustice” meted out to their religion. The organisation first came into focus when it carried an attack on the office of a Marathi television channel in 2007 protesting their coverage of an incident involving a Hindu minor girl who had eloped with a Muslim boy. Considered to be a radical group, members of Hindu Rashtra Sena have also held protests against the arrests of Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Srikant Purohit in the Malegaon blasts case. In the past decade, 34-year-old Desai has been slapped with as many as 20 cases in various police stations in Pune. The cases were mostly against rioting and giving inflammatory speeches in which Desai has secured bail. While Desai regularly gets notices from the police asking him to restrain from delivering inflammatory speeches, he says he always throws them into the dustbin. Recently when cops sent him a notice warning him not to issue provocative statements ahead of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s birth anniversary in March, Desai posted on his Facebook profile that his house is full of similar notices and every month he sells them as scrap. Desai, who is known as “bhai” among his friends and belongs to Mumbai, was most recently booked for making inflammatory statements during March. “Our interrogation reveals members of Hindu Rashtra Sena are hardcore about their ideology,” said joint commissioner of police Sanjay Kumar.

Soon after killing IT graduate Mohsin Shaikh, a 28-year-old IT graduate, members of the right wing group exchanged an ominous message on their mobiles. The message said “pahili wicket padli” or the first wicket has fallen. The killing came as a fallout of violent protests after morphed images of Maratha warrior king Shivaji and late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray were uploaded on Facebook by unidentified persons. The police have taken off those images and a complaint has been registered. Police cracked down against the organisation and arrested 25 members of whom 17 have been charged with murdering Shaikh. The police also arrested Desai though in connection with an old case. While speaking to the media on Thursday, Pune police commissioner Satish Mathur said a report will be sent to the government on the protests that led to Shaikh’s killing. According to Mathur, the police are in the process of compiling details about the HRS in order to send proposal to the state and central home department to ban the organisation. “You have to compile enough documents backed by enough evidence before the proposal is sent (to ban any group). It is in process,” said Mathur. (Hindustan Times 6/8/14)

 

136. Muslims Will Soon Give Nod to Ram temple at Ayodhya: VHP (26)

JAIPUR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today said it was hopeful that the Muslim community will give up its opposition to the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. “We firmly believe the Muslim community will understand this truth… will respect religious sentiments… and will voluntarily give decision with regard to temple construction,” Champak Rai, VHP’s international general secretary, said at a press conference here. About expectations from the newly-formed BJP government at the Centre, the VHP leader said, “Government’s duty is to protect every citizen. Security on borders. No one should cut off head of our soldier…food inflation be reduced… every one expects this, not only VHP”.On completion of fifty years of VHP foundation, Rai said VHP would organise ‘Hindu Sammelan’ in every district of the country from November this year to February next year. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

Posted by admin at 9 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Former IB chief Rajiv Mathur takes over as new CIC (1)

New Delhi: Former IB chief Rajiv Mathur today took over as the new Chief Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission. He was administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan. 64-year-old Mathur succeeds Sushma Singh, who demitted office yesterday, as the sixth chief of the transparency watchdog. His name was recommended by a three-member selection panel headed by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “My priority would be to reduce pendency of appeals and complaints, and to strengthen RTI apparatus. One of the priorities of the Commission would be to ensure adherence of Section 4 of RTI Act (which mandates public authorities to disclose information related to their working in public domain) by various government departments,” Mathur told PTI. There are about 14,000 appeals and complaints pending with the CIC, he said. He will have a tenure till August 23, when he attains 65 years of age. According to rules, CIC is appointed either for a maximum of five-year term or till 65 years of age, whichever is earlier. Mathur, a retired IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, was Director of Intelligence Bureau for two-year term from December 31, 2008 and was instrumental in revamping the intelligence set up and raising the quality of intelligence gathering and sharing. He also galvanised the IB machinery and provided leadership to the organisation to face challenges, according to Mathur’s official biodata. He is recipient of the Indian Police Medal for Meritorious Service and the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service. Mathur had in March 2012 joined as Information Commissioner in the CIC. His predecessor Sushma Singh had joined as CIC on December 13, last year. Deepak Sandhu, Satyananda Mishra, A N Tiwari and Wajahat Habibullah have also served as CICs. There are seven Information Commissioners– Vijai Sharma, Basant Seth, Yashovardhan Azad, Sharat Sabharwal, Manjula Prasher, M A Khan Yusufi and Prof Madabhushanam Sridhar Acharyulu– against the Commission’s strength of 10. The CIC is mandated to resolve appeals and complaints filed by information seekers, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, against government departments or public authorities. (Business Standard 22/5/14)

 

2. RTI activists blow their top against info panel (1)

CHENNAI: It was a war cry against the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission. Sore with the commission’s attempts to deny them information under the Right to Information Act, several activists gathered in front of its Teynampet headquarters on Wednesday and blew conches to register their protest. They raised slogans and demonstrated for a while before being arrested. They were later released. “No other information commission has disrespected the RTI Act the way TNSIC has. The act is aimed at bringing transparency in governance and also to expose corruption but TNSIC is least bothered to protect the rights of RTI applicants” said Siva Elango, a member of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, a group that led the protest. Most public information officers (PIOs) in state government departments refused or delayed providing information to RTI applicants, he said. “TNSIC has failed to implement the RTI Act even eight years after its enactment. RTI applicants from other districts are disappointed because of this attitude of the commission.” Commission staff even berated RTI applicants, he alleged pointing out that an inactive commission was a waste of tax payer’s money. Activists also demanded the removal of chief information commissioner K S Sripathi and commissioners P Thamilselvan and S F Akbar. “We blew conches to awake the sleeping commission which has done nothing for the RTI Act in the state. We are also planning to file a petition to the governor seeking the dismissal of the commission,” said Satta Panchayat Iyakkam general secretary Senthil Arumugam. Sripathi, however, could not be reached for a comment. Earlier, in reply to a RTI query filed by TOI, the commission said it did not have records of applications filed since 2007 despite having instructed government departments to upload details about themselves on their websites. According to Sections 4 (1) (a) and 4 (1)(b) of the act, cataloging of registers is mandatory. The commission also said it did not have the number of RTI applications received by each departments or the total number of appeals. “If the commission itself violates the act, how will other departments follow,” asked Arumugam. A comparison with websites of information commissions in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala shows that TNSIC has disclosed very little information, while its counterparts have provided comprehensive data on annual reports, awareness programmes and action taken against PIOs. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

3. RTI consultant ready for the job (1)

NEW DELHI: S C Agrawal, Delhi government’s newly-appointed Right to Information (RTI) consultant, is planning to publicise the list of post offices where applications under the transparency law can be filed by people. “Giving people the details about the post offices where they can file their RTI plea would help them use the law more efficiently,” said Agrawal, fresh from a visit to Nepal where he represented India at a Transparency International’s conference. Within a few days of being appointed as consultant by the administrative reforms department, Agrawal, who himself has been active in filing RTI applications, has chalked out a blueprint for smoothening the process of Delhi government departments sharing information with public. “I also have in mind a strategy for briefing all public authorities on how to handle nuisance petitions,” said Agrawal, who would be holding workshops for government officials and college and school students. A qualified mechanical engineer from Chandni Chowk, it is Agrawal’s activism and knowledge in the RTI field that has landed him the crucial assignment of improving the Delhi government’s response to public queries. The 64-year-old consultant, who also holds the Guinness World Record for most number of published letters to the editor in newspapers, plans to give suggestions to government officials to simplify RTI procedures and save public money. “One of my suggestions to the officials will be regarding the size of the paper used for giving a reply to an RTI applicant. Some departments use legal size paper which is longer than a normal A4 sheet. I am going to suggest disuse of legal size paper as it is difficult to photocopy,” he said. Agrawal also has a plan to improve intra-departmental communication on giving responses to RTI queries. “At present, if a query requires response from various offices of a department, each office sends a separate reply to the applicant. Not only are a bulk of these replies in the negative, the RTI applicant is flooded with dozens of letters. We are going to iron out the system for reducing paper work,” said Agrawal. The veteran RTI applicant, who takes pride in being the first Indian to use the transparency law on January 3, 2005 by filing a plea in the Supreme Court, said he was also working towards introduction of an ‘RTI stamp’, like a revenue stamp, for replacing a postal order which every RTI applicant is required to attach with a query. He said on his suggestion the post and telegraph department was also considering to increase the number of post offices in the country where citizens can file an RTI application. (Deccan Herald 25/5/4)

 

4. Nine years on, RTI yet to get fully functional in state: RTI Manch Rajasthan report (1)

JAIPUR: After nine years of its introduction, Right to Information Act 2005 is yet to see its proper implementation in the state, says a detailed report on status of RTI prepared by RTI Manch Rajasthan along with the Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) during a public hearing held at Kanoria College in Jaipur on Monday. The report was presented amid presence of noted social activist Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey. The report found irregularities in many departments and government offices. Many key offices dealing in public centric issues were found to have not kept RTI manuals, which were mandatory. It includes — Election Commission, Rajasthan Secretariat, Employment Department, Social Justice and Empowerment Department, colleges, Minority Affairs, Local Self Government etc. Some find it least important to put RTI boards indicating its office or location. Such examples include — Excise department, Finance Department, Health Department, Medical Department, Minority Affairs etc. The report doesn’t stop here. It also includes a survey prepared by interns of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The survey says 86% people were not given information on the 30-day time period according to the act. Whereas, 83% respondents say nothing happened in the first appellate, which indicates the slow pace of affairs. The survey presents an exhaustive picture of the state on the bases of 33 districts covered and information sought from 20 departments. The startling revelations say that only 42% people got the information within the first year followed by 32%, who got it between the first and the second year of them filing the query, while for rest it took over 2 years to get the information. The government’s laxity for RTI is indicated by the fact that in many departments and offices it was found that officers in-charge were lacking information relating to RTI. The survey found that 41.66% of the total departments don’t have a single widow system for the processing of RTI queries. Also, government officials failed to present RTI section 4 manual when asked. The manual, which is mandatory to keep, was found missing from various government offices. “Every government and government aided offices should implement the section 4 of this act with immediate effect without which we will not able to achieve its desired objectives,” said Roy. Section 4 of the RTI Act directs that offices which come under RTI purview that they should suo moto put the information before the public through various means of communication, including internet, so that the public need not formally apply for obtaining information. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. HR & CE should take over temple at Uthapuram: human rights activists (1)

Madurai: Human rights activists here on Monday urged the State government to take control of the temple at Uthapuram, a village where caste clashes erupted 19 years ago. So far, the clashes have claimed nine lives. The members alleged that despite High Court orders to allow Dalits to enter Muthala Amman Temple in the village, Caste Hindus denied them permission. “It is a violation of basic right guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. Hence, the Hindu Religious and Charities Endowment Department must take over the temple,” said A. Rajini, State convenor, People’s Union of Human Rights (PUHR). “Moreover, those responsible for the attack on the revenue officials last month must be brought to book,” she added. Further, the activists charged the district administration of Theni with having a “callous” attitude towards allaying the fears of Dalits living in Melamangalam following clashes that took place in the village last month. Members of the PUHR and the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) alleged that the administration had not convened any peace talks between the warring groups. Releasing the report of the fact-finding panel that visited Melamangalam, Ms. Rajini said that the victims of caste clashes were not given adequate relief under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 20/5/14)

 

6. US sanctions 12 Russians for human rights violations (1)

WASHINGTON: The Treasury Department on Tuesday sanctioned 12 Russians under a US law named after whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who alleged in 2008 that organized criminals colluded with a Russian government official to claim a fraudulent $230 million tax rebate. The Magnitsky affair ignited a high-emotion dispute between Russia and Washington that has included US sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators, a ban on the adoption of Russian children by US citizens and calls for the closure of Russian non-governmental organizations receiving American funding. Magnitsky died in prison in November 2009 of untreated pancreatitis at age 37, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment. His death prompted widespread criticism from human rights activists and spurred efforts in Europe and the US to punish Russian officials who may have been complicit in human rights abuses. The law enacted in 2012 requires that US sanctions be imposed on individuals suspected of being responsible for or financially benefiting from Magnitsky’s detention, abuse or death, or were involved in the criminal conspiracy he uncovered. The law also requires sanctions against individuals responsible for killings, torture or other human rights violations committed against individuals trying to defend human rights or expose illegal activity by Russian government officials. Magnitsky was arrested on tax-evasion charges linked to his work with Hermitage Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar fund headed by US-born British investor William Browder. Hermitage has accused Russian Interior Ministry officers of illegally taking over assets it managed and using them to fraudulently reclaim $230 million in taxes from the Russian government. Sanctioned were four prison officials, a judge, court official, a law enforcement investigator and alleged co-conspirators in the fraud case. The sanctions ban US visas for the individuals and freeze any assets they have under US jurisdiction. On the list is Dr Dmitry Kratov, the sole person charged in Magnitsky’s 2009 death. Kratov, who was acquitted of negligence, is the former chief medical officer of the Butyrka Detention Center Hospital where Magnitsky was held. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

7. Pay Salary of Nurses in Two Months: KSHRC (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) has ordered that the nurses appointed as part of the Dengue Fever Preventive Programme should be given their pending salary within two months. KSHRC chairman J B Koshy ruled that the nurses should be given 9 per cent interest if the salary was not given within the prescribed time. Fifty-five nurses were appointed for the programme from the rank-list of the staff nurses on the directives of the Health Department. The DMO had extended their service and the salary till March 2013 was paid by the NRHM. However, these nurses were not paid salary from November 2013. Though the Health Director had given instructions to pay the salary from the plan fund, the DMO had said that he had not received such an instruction. In the order on a petition filed by V P Sudheeshkumar, the KSHRC said that it was improper on the part of the government not to pay salaries after making appointments.  Stating that it was violation of human rights, Justice Koshy ordered that the salary should be given from plan fund or any other fund. He also instructed the Health Secretary and Health Director to furnish details in this respect on June 16. (New Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

8. Tribal girl rape: NHRC show-cause to Government (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show-cause notice to the State Government asking its Chief Secretary to respond within six weeks as to why monetary relief of Rs 3 lakh be not recommended and paid to a 10-year-old tribal schoolgirl of Balangir, who was raped in a school hostel by a school peon. Adjudicating a complaint filed by human rights activist and advocate Prabir Kumar Das, the commission has observed that basing on reports of Balangir district Collector and the District Welfare Officer, it has been prima facie established that the State authorities had failed to protect the child in their custody and, therefore, the victim is entitled to get a monetary relief under Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act-1993. Das in his complaint has maintained that the victim was a Class IV student of a residential school at Kushumal under the Saintala police station of the district run by the ST and SC Development Department. “Around 10 pm on the night of October 29, 2013, a school peon in an inebriated condition forced his entry into the school hostel and raped the tribal girl, who was only nine-years old then,” Das has said, stating that the girl lost her consciousness. A police complaint was made by the victim’s brother-in-law, following which the accused was arrested three days after the incident under Sections 376 and 511 of IPC and Section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. However, demanding an independent inquiry and seeking monetary relief to the victim, Das approached the NHRC in November 2013. (Pioneer 27/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. Armed Forces Tribunal gets teeth to implement its orders(1)

CHANDIGARH: The Army authorities would not be able to deny the execution of orders passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), as the central government has empowered the AFT with the powers of execution prescribed in the civil procedure code (CPC). The powers of execution of orders under CPC includes the civil arrest, civil contempt and attachment of property of defaulters till the orders are not executed. A statement regarding the empowerment of AFTs with execution powers under CPC was made on Monday by the central government before the Punjab and Haryana high court in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking powers to ensure compliance of orders passed by AFT. When the matter came up for hearing on Monday, the central government submitted that the AFT could follow the procedure prescribed under Order XXI of the CPC. Hearing this, the division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul disposed of the PIL on the satisfaction expressed by the petitioner’s counsel on the issue. The PIL filed by the founder president of AFT Chandigarh bar association, Major Navdeep Singh, had submitted that the ministry of defence (MoD) has refused to implement the orders passed by AFT even when upheld by Supreme Court. Pointing out some provisions of the Armed Force Tribunal Act ordain execution of its orders, the petitioner informed that the procedure is not laid down and neither does the AFT have powers of civil contempt. The PIL had sought directions to the law ministry to either notify or amplify the procedure of execution of AFT orders or that the AFT be directed to initiate criminal contempt proceedings in each case of non-compliance. There are more than 3000 cases of the AFT that have not been complied with by the Government on the pretext that the decisions are against ‘Government policy’. The PIL had also stated that the Chandigarh bench of AFT though is imposing costs on MoD for non-compliance of its orders but the said costs were being directed to be paid to the registrar of the AFT rather than the litigants which was not only against the concept of “costs” but also directly against law laid down by constitutional courts. The petition says that costs are hence being paid from one pocket of the government to another which itself is alien to law.  (Times of India 20/5/14)

 

10. Irom Sharmila wishes to meet Modi over AFSPA

Imphal, May 22: Activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, on a fast-unto-death since the past 10 years against alleged rights violations by security forces, wants to meet Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi to secure his help in getting AFSPA repealed in Manipur, her lawyer said on Thursday. “She has expressed a desire to meet Prime Minister(-designate) Narendra Modi to highlight the sufferings of the people through the imposition of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in Manipur and in other northeastern states as well,” Sharmila’s counsel Khaidem Mani told IANS. “We will seek an appointment with the prime minister. We are hopeful that the prime minister would give Sharmila an audience to listen to her. Sharmila is optimist that the new government will surely heed her words and repeal AFSPA from Manipur,” he said. Sharmila, described as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’, has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Nov 2, 2000 in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home. AFSPA, which was passed in 1990, gives Indian armed forces arbitrary powers in states such as Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur that have been declared “disturbed areas” because of ongoing armed militancy. Sharmila will be flown to New Delhi May 27 and will be presented before the metropolitan magistrate the next day. She would be accompanied by a doctor, two nurses, a women police team and two jail officials. She, meanwhile, indicated her support for the Aam Admi Party while rejecting Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s offer for her to join the Congress. Several human rights groups, including the North East Students’ Organisation, have also been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA. Amnesty International has campaigned vociferously against the law. However, army officials maintain that it was for the central and the state governments to decide whether to revoke or continue AFSPA. Human Rights Alert – an Imphal-based rights group – is not confident that the incoming National Democratic Alliance government would repeal AFSPA. “We do not foresee that the Modi government will repeal AFSPA as he has never mentioned repealing of the controversial act during his electioneering in Manipur,” Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, told IANS. “Nonetheless, we hope that they will repeal AFSPA,” Loitongbam said. (Oneindia 22/5/14)

 

11. Freed Indian prisoners handed over by Pak at Wagah border (1)

Lahore: Pakistan on Monday handed over 150 Indian fishermen and another prisoner held for crossing the border to Indian authorities at the Wagah border in a goodwill gesture by Premier Nawaz Sharif who is in India to attend the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. Fifty nine prisoners were released from the district prison Malir in Karachi and 92 from the Nara prison in Hyderabad, officials said. Out of the 151 people handed over to the Border Security Force at the Wagah border, 150 were fishermen and one was a prisoner in Karachi jail who inadvertently crossed into Pakistan from the Sindh border. They were brought to the Wagah Border from Karachi by buses. “After going through their papers they have been handed over to the Indian authorities,” a Rangers official told PTI. Talking to reporters fisherman Dapu Teja said he learnt bead work in jail. “I get Rs 60 per every piece I make and I know how to make bracelets, anklets, necklaces and key chains with beads,” he said. Teja was on board a ship which allegedly crossed over into the Pakistani territory seven months ago. He said there were seven people on the boat but only four were arrested by the Pakistan coastguards. “They let the three older fishermen go back as they will have been a burden here due to their age,” he said. Another fisherman named Nanji Soma said: “I am an illiterate man good enough to catch fish only but my son will not be one. He is 10 years old now and goes to school. In my absence the fishermen community back home contributed for my poor family to keep sending him to school.” “Now I will go back and work again and also pay back my friends. I may get caught again as there are not clear boundaries marked in the sea to keep us from drifting into your country but it will not happen to my son,” he said. Kamal Shah of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has appealed to the Indian government to release the Pakistani fishermen locked up in Indian jails. Sharif yesterday ordered the release of the 151 Indian prisoners and 57 boats, a day before his visit to India. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

12. Custodial death triggers anger, six cops arrested (1)

New Delhi: Six Delhi Police personnel, comprising a head constable and five constables, were arrested after a 30-year-old man died in their custody in south-west Delhi on Monday. It is alleged that the man was a victim of torture while being in detention. A mob turned violent after the incident and resorted to stone pelting outside Bindapur police station. Police used lathi-charge and tear gas to bring the situation under control.The victim has been identified as Manoj Chand, a resident of west Delhi’s Pankha Road in Uttam Nagar. Police said a call was made to the police control room around noon reporting that Manoj had been picked up for questioning. Sources said the police officers were not wearing uniform when they visited Manoj’s house. The caller also claimed that Manoj was being falsely dragged into a case of Arms Act registered with Bindapur police station. “An initial probe has revealed that Manoj was detained and taken to old Matiala police post for questioning,” said a police officer. Manoj’s health allegedly deteriorated during questioning due to which the policemen decided to take him to the nearest hospital. “Manoj was taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, where he was declared brought dead,” the officer added. Currently, police are waiting for the post-mortem report to ascertain the exact cause of the death. A protest was held outside Bindapur police station after Manoj’s family members were informed. The protesters claimed that Manoj was beaten up by police, and questioned the reason behind Manoj being taken to a police post and not the police station. They soon turned violent claiming that local police were trying to shield the policemen involved, and damaged at least four vehicles parked in the area. Senior police officers also visited the area, but failed to prevent the violence. Till late on Monday, around 200 locals continued to stay outside the police station and clashed with around 100 policemen. Taking strict action over the allegations, senior police officers ordered a case and arrest of the personnel involved in detaining Manoj. The accused have been identified as Head Constable Bhoop Singh and constables Rajesh Solanki, Rajesh, Sudhir, Uttam and Arvind. A case under sections 302 (murder) and 365 (kidnapping) of the Indian Penal Code has been filed against the police personnel. “Further action in the case will depend on the post-mortem report. A departmental inquiry has also been ordered,” the officer said. Manoj’s body will be handed over to family after the post-mortem on Tuesday. He is survived by his wife Rishi and a seven-month-old child. The couple had married around two years ago. (Deccan Herald 27/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

13. Pravin Togadia’s hate speech: Despite FIR, no action (1)

RAJKOT: A month after a first information report (FIR) was registered against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia for an alleged hate speech, Bhavnagar police seem to be in no hurry to expedite legal proceedings in the matter. Togadia was booked for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration and disobedience of an order duly promulgated by public servant following an order from Election Commission of India (ECI). He had allegedly asked a group of residents to forcibly evict a Muslim individual, who had bought a house in a predominantly Hindu area of Bhavnagar. TOI was the first to report Togadia’s hate speech delivered in Bhavnagar. Sources said there has been no significant progress in the investigations in this case even after a month of the FIR being lodged. The police are still in the process of taking statements of local residents who attended the function chaired by Togadia where he delivered his speech. When contacted deputy superintendent of police, Bhavnagar city, R I Patel said the investigation is on and the police have sent video footages of Togadia to Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) for verification. On being asked whether the police have issued any summons to Togadia, Patel said, “The case requires ‘deep’ investigation and it will take time.”Meanwhile, VHP workers in Bhavnagar have carried out a series of protests outside the house in question purchased by the Muslim businessman. The police have enhanced security in the area to avoid any untoward incident. (Times of India 21/5/14)

 

14. BJP social media blitz against AAP (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi BJP is all set to use social media in a bid to counter the Aam Aadmi Party. It plans to use comic strips, jokes, couplets, photographs and cartoons to take on the AAP.The saffron party has finalised a social media team, which will focus on former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana said, “We would bring up all of Arvind Kejriwal’s and his party’s goof-ups and U-turns from his statements. He is a habitual offender.”Terming many actions taken by Mr Kejriwal as “unethical,” he said the AAP supremo exposed himself during his 49-day “misgovernance” in Delhi. A media adviser and volunteer for the BJP’s online campaign said, “The AAP convenor is a media-hungry person. His actions depict that he wants to be in the limelight. Here, at social media campaigns, we would take upon him and expose his gimmickry.” This cyber army would be active on almost all social websites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. In addition to this, the team would also use WhatsApp to share jokes about the party. A source said, “This time around, he raised allegations against our senior leader Nitin Gadkari. The party would never accept anything against our leaders. He seeks cheap publicity. He has double standards.” Taking a dig at Mr Kejriwal, Delhi BJP president Hasrsh Vardhan said, “Arvind Kejriwal’s only motive is to get media attention.” (Asian Age 23/5/14)

 

15. With increasing number of arrests, activists worried about online free speech (1)

NEW DELHI: Facing imminent arrest in Goa for a Facebook post against Narendra Modi, Devu Chodankar’s case is not an isolated one. The 33-year-old shipbuilding professional joins a growing list of activists and common people booked under Section 66 A of the IT Act for political remarks. In Delhi, activist Sheeba Fehmi’s review petition following a court order directing the police to file an FIR against her for “anti-national” Facebook posts was dismissed in Tis Hazari court earlier this week. Back in 2011, she had filed a complaint against one Pankaj Dwivedi, who had sent her e-mails strongly opposing her political views on Facebook, threatening her with “consequences” if she did not fall in line. The court not only ruled in favour of Dwivedi in 2012, but also directed the police to file an FIR against Fehmi for posting “anti-national” content. Fehmi, several of whose posts had been critical of then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, has now approached the Delhi High Court with the matter. Fehmi says she is strongly opposed to section 66 A of the IT act, under which Dwivedi was booked. “I had no agency in the matter when the police booked him under 66 A. He was then acquitted by the same people under the section,” Fehmi told TOI. Section 66 A of the IT Act can be employed against anyone who sends any information by computers “that is grossly offensive or has menacing character”. Chodankar has been booked under this in addition to sections 153(A) and 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 125 of the People’s Representation Act, which cover promoting enmity between groups. The Act attracted most attention in 2012 with a few notable arrests and cases. In November 2012 following the death of Bal Thackeray, a girl from Palghar, Maharashtra had been arrested for a Facebook post. She had posted a status questioning the legitimacy of the bandh in the state following the late Shiv Sena supremo’s death. Oddly, a friend of hers who had clicked “like” on the status was also put behind bars. After a national outcry, charges against the teenage girls were dropped. The same year, a businessman was arrested under 66 A for alleging former finance minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram of amassing disproportionate assets. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s website – Cartoons Against Corruption — was also taken down under the same section back in 2012 for “sedition”. He was later arrested. “The new government should take care that this case doesn’t send out the wrong message,” says Trivedi. That very year, law student Shreya Singhal filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking an amendment of the IT Act. “There shouldn’t be a trail of suppressive cases like this. People should be allowed to say what they want. An aggrieved person can file a defamation case. His (Chodankar’s) choice of words might not have been the best, but to face arrest for this is just out of place,” says Singhal. In December 2012, in a Rajya Sabha debate, MPs such as Gyan Prakash Pilania of the BJP, D. Bandyopadhyay of the AITC and Baishnab Parida of the BJD, Narendra Kumar Kashyap of the BSP and Basavaraj Patil of the BJP had supported a resolution for the amendment of Section 66A. (Times of India 24/5/14)

 

16. Online free speech hangs by a thread (1)

BANGALORE: There’s something stifling in cyberspace — Indian cyberspace, that is. Though the web is known to offer a fresh freedom to express ideas and views, India has choked this space with speech-smothering laws. A good population of lawyers and legal experts term the laws “unconstitutional” in many of their writings available online. As editor and columnist Aakar Patel puts it: “The fourth amendment of the US said the Congress shall never pass a law that curtails the freedom of speech. But the first amendment of our Constitution says the exact opposite.” The enactment of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was to facilitate and regulate transactions and business online, but the 2008 amendment introducing the “infamous” Section 66A has dealt a heavy blow to the freedom of expression. This section mandates that any electronic communication that is grossly offensive, of a menacing character, false or misleading, annoying or even inconvenient, can attract a three-year jail term. “What is annoying or causes inconvenience is left to the police, can you believe this?” asks Sandalwood director and actor Prakash Belawadi, of laws that have curbed citizen freedom. “Aseem Trivedi was arrested for publishing cartoons termed ‘offensive’. They were made out to be seditious. It’s time we revisit such laws,” he said. In her column for Forbes India, Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy said: “…Of course, a balance has to be struck between free speech, hate speech and defamation…But some of the internet speech laws are so draconian even a layman’s reading shows they are unconstitutional.” Said Patel: “There are many draconian laws that curb our freedom, but it’ll take time to change that. We should understand our laws cannot cordon off Indians surfing the web. Cyber laws must be aligned with global laws.” The new government and Narendra Modi should take this as an opportunity to make amendments and revisit such laws, adds Belawadi. The only respite for the citizenry is the matter is sub judice, with petitions questioning the introduction of Section 66 before the Supreme Court. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

17. Kejriwal agrees to furnish personal bail bond in defamation case (1)

New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal today accepted Delhi High Court’s suggestion to furnish personal bond to get bail in a defamation case filed by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari. The court today advised Kejriwal, who has been lodged in Tihar Jail, to furnish a bail bond in the criminal defamation complaint filed against him. A bench of justices Kailash Gambhir and Sunita Gupta said Kejriwal can raise whatever legal issues he wants to, once he comes out of jail and that he should not make it a prestige issue. After senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Kejriwal, sought to meet the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader in prison to seek his instruction and put forth the court’s suggestion, the bench allowed them to meet him anytime before 1 pm. The judges advised Kejriwal to furnish the bail bond and said that the same would be subject to final outcome of the legal issues raised by him. The legal issue raised by Kejriwal, in his petition seeking his immediate release from the jail, is whether bail bond is necessary in summons case when accused appears and is accompanied by a lawyer. The petition challenged the May 21 and 23 orders of a magisterial court remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing bail bond in the criminal defamation complaint filed by Gadkari, saying the same was not mandatory and he should have been allowed to give a written undertaking instead. Kejriwal in his plea, filed through advocate Rohit Kumar Singh, has said the magisterial order sending him to judicial custody was “illegal” as it was based on a “completely wrong premise of law.” During the proceedings, the bench suggested that Kejriwal should furnish bail bond and challenge the magisterial orders once he comes out of jail. It also questioned how a habeas corpus, filed on behalf of Kejriwal, applies against a judicial order. A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or detainee before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful. Kejriwal’s counsel argued that his detention is “totally illegal” as only a person in custody is required to furnish bail bond. The counsel argued that Kejriwal had appeared in pursuance to summons of the court and was accompanied by a lawyer and, therefore, there was no need for him to furnish bail bond, especially when he was willing to give an undertaking. They said the requirement of pre-trial bail in the current situation is an antiquated practice which is absent in socially developed and forward nations like the US. When the accused was present in court with counsel in pursuance to its summons, then there was no need to direct him to furnish bail bond, the counsel argued. Senior advocate Pinky Anand, appearing for Gadkari, opposed the habeas corpus plea, saying such a petition was not maintainable against judicial orders. She also argued that under the law, every person is required to furnish bail bonds in such cases to ensure his presence. She also objected to Kejriwal’s conduct in the jail by having written an open letter questioning the magisterial orders sending him to judicial custody. A former Delhi Chief Minister, Kejriwal was sent to judicial custody by a magistrate on May 21 for two days. On May 23, his custody was extended by 14 days till June 6 after he refused to furnish a bail bond when he was granted bail in the case. The magistrate had refused to review its May 21 order remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing the bail bond and had asked him to approach the higher court, challenging the decision. Kejriwal was earlier summoned as an accused by the court in the defamation complaint in which Gadkari had alleged that he was defamed by the AAP leader, who had included his name in the party’s list of “India’s most corrupt”. On May 21, the court had granted bail to Kejriwal in the defamation complaint, saying the offence under Section 500 of IPC was bailable and had asked him to furnish a personal bond. He, however, was taken into custody after he refused to give the bail bond, saying the case was politically motivated and he does not wish to seek bail. He had said that he was ready to give an undertaking that he would appear in the court whenever required. The court had on February 28 summoned Kejriwal as an accused in the case, observing that statements allegedly made by the AAP leader have the effect of “harming the reputation” of the complainant. (Business Line 28/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

18. Nuns warn of trafficking in Brazil (7)

Vatican City: Roman Catholic nuns backed by Pope Francis on Tuesday raised the alarm over increased risks of human trafficking, exploitation of workers, forced prostitution and sexual tourism at the football World Cup in Brazil next month. The nuns, whose campaign is also backed by the US embassy to the Vatican, announced an international campaign called “Play in Favour of Life Denounce Human Trafficking”, on the risks they say will be associated with the June 12-July 13 tournament. “We need to make people conscious of what happens on the margins of big world events such as the Fifa World Cup and the suffering of those who are trafficked,” said Sister Carmen Sammut, a Maltese nun and one of the campaign organisers. “Without this awareness, without acting together in favour of human dignity, the World Cup finals may turn out to be a terrible shame instead of a feast for humanity,” she told a press conference at the Vatican. Sammut said the initiative had the full backing of Pope Francis, an avid Argentine football fan who has called several conferences at the Vatican to study ways of combating human trafficking.Sister Gabriella Bottani, an Italian nun who works in Brazil, said human traffickers and others took advantage of large events like the World Cup to exploit the most vulnerable.She said young people from the countryside are lured with the promise of a job and forced into prostitution. Children in rural areas may be kidnapped and taken to cities hosting the venues and forced to beg. Others who are already being exploited as sex workers may be forced to move to one of the 12 venue cities because they would be more profitable to their pimps. In countries like Brazil, she said, large events could also give rising to kidnapping for adoption. (Asian Age 21/5/14)

 

19. Child traffickers held, 63 rescued (1)

NEW DELHI: Sixty three children were rescued and 23 traffickers arrested from Old Delhi railway station on Wednesday morning in what police have called the biggest operation this year. The children had been brought to the capital to work as labourers, police said. The children were rescued by the Railway Police with help from NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Aandolan, Shakti Vahini and Prayas. The NGOs had been tracking the children from Razaul, where the train started, and had deployed volunteers at stations en route. Once the train reached the capital, a team led by DCP (Railways) Sanjay Bhatia and the anti-human trafficking unit of north district searched each compartment and asked 38 people and 71 children to accompany officers into the waiting room. “Kids accompanied by their parents were allowed to leave,” said Rakesh Senger from Bachpan Bachao Andolan. The traffickers claimed before police that they were distant relatives of the children. They had divided the children into groups of three or four and were travelling with them in different compartments. The children, all between seven and 17 years old, belong to remote villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. “They were promised work in sweat shops, restaurants and factory outlets in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab and were told they would be paid around Rs 3,500-4,500 per month. The children will be sent to a shelter till their parents are traced,” said Rishikant from Shakti Vahini. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

20. 8 Held in Connection with ‘Trafficking’ of Kids (1)

PALAKKAD: A total of eight persons have been arrested by the Railway police in connection with the  alleged child trafficking in which 466 children were brought from Jharkhand and Bihar in the Patna-Ernakulam Express and 124 children from West Bengal in the Guwahathi Express. While the 466 children were being brought by the Mukkam Muslim orphanage, another 124 children were brought for an orphanage in Vettathoor in Malappuram. Of the eight persons arrested, three are from Bihar, four from West Bengal and one from Jharkhand. They have been charged under section 370(5) of the Indian Penal code. Of the 466 children who were detained on Sunday, 183 were transferred to the Child Welfare Committee in Kozhikode. The Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee, Jose Paul, said that 165 girls have been transferred to the Providence Home in Malampuzha and 124 boys to the Palakkad orphanage in Pezhunkara. They were the remaining children of the first 466 batch of children who arrived from Bihar and Jharkhand. The four arrested persons in connection with the trafficking of 466 children from Jharkhand and Bihar were identified as Abdul Khader Ansari, 32, son of Ghose from Chasanagar in Bihar, Mohammed Alangir, 24, son of Mohammed Ibrahim from Bhaska in Bihar, Mohammed Eidothalam, 30, son of Mohammed Bhadarudheen from Viswasani post in Jharkhand and Moulana Faisalullah, 26, son of Mohammed Ansarullah from Bhagalpur in Bihar. The other four persons arrested in connection with the transportation of 124 children from West Bengal were Mansoor,32, Bakker, 30, Dost Mohammed and Jabir, all natives of West Bengal. Jose Paul said that though only 63 of the 124 children had valid documents, all the 124 children were transferred to the Child welfare committee in Malappuram as an orphanage there had claimed them. The verification of the second batch of 124 children were conducted at the RPF mobilisation centre at the Palakkad junction. (New Indian Express 27/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

21. Dalits ostracised from village after tiff with upper castes in Punjab (2)

Chandigarh: Sources said the Dalit villagers were keen to get the land auctioned at a lower price, which their upper caste counterparts of Bopur village objected to. The community wanted the land leased to them for a year at a nominal price. The influential landlords allegedly threatened the Dalits over the loudspeakers. The supply lines which supplied potable water to the Dalit homes were snapped and they were warned not to use ponds and water tanks in the village. “They (the influential landlords) have blocked water supply to our homes, fields and sheds. It was also announced on the loudspeaker that anybody employing people of our community will be imposed a fine of Rs.21,000,” a Bopur Dalit said. In a memorandum submitted to Sangrur Additional Deputy Commissioner Pritam Singh Johal on Monday, the Dalits said, the landlords have not only blocked the water supply but also stopped them from entering their fields. Many of these Dalits work as labourers in the farms of the upper caste landlords. They also alleged that their upper caste villagers also made casteist remarks against them over the loudspeaker. “The people of our community are shocked after the incident. We have requested the Deputy Commissioner to take appropriate action against the people involved in the incident,” Secretary of Guru Ravidas Welfare society, Bopur, Raj Kumar said. On Tuesday, the Sangrur district administration swung into action and restored the main water supply line in the village. But the supply line to the Sant Ravidas temple remained disconnected. “Incident like this is anti-constitutional. Though the water supply has been restored by the administration, but the issue of ostracisation and the insult done by using loudspeakers has shocked the people who may leave the village,” President of Aadi Dharam Samaj, Rajpal said. The Sangrur administration said that the water supply to the Dalit settlements has been restored. It, however, denied the Dalits were threatened by the upper caste landlords. “There was a tiff between the landlords and the Dalits over the auction of village common land. The Dalits have filed a complaint against the upper caste people. We have ordered a magisterial probe. The sub-divisional magistrate has been asked to file a detailed report. The initial probe has not found the allegations of threatening Dalits on loudspeakers. We will take appropriate action on the basis of report,” Additional Deputy Commissioner Pritam Singh Johal said. (India Today 21/5/14)

 

22. Face of Mahadalit schemes takes over (2)

Patna: Though the elevation of Jitan Ram Manjhi came as a surprise to many, JD(U) sources said Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav had decided on the Musahar leader soon after Nitish resigned from the chief minister’s post on May 17. Apparently, Nitish called up Manjhi the very next day. On Tuesday, Manjhi took oath as the 23rd chief minister of Bihar, and the first from the economically and socially backward Musahar community. Manjhi and Ravidas are the largest groups among Mahadalits, who, in turn, account for 12 per cent of Bihar’s population. Bihar has had SC CMs — Bhola Paswan Shastri and Ram Sundar Das. Manjhi, a six-time MLA, first became a deputy minister (for welfare) in the Chandrashekhar Singh-led Congress government in the early 1980s. In his second ministerial stint he was MoS for education in the RJD government in 1996. In 2005, Nitish made him public health and engineering minister. However, allegations cropped up against him in connection with a BEd scam of the RJD government, when he had been deputy to then minister Jayprakash Narayan Yadav. He had to resign. After the court cleared his name, he re-entered the cabinet with Nitish creating a new department — SC/ST welfare. As Nitish started his social engineering to cater to a new constituency of SCs minus the Paswans — the Mahadalits — Manjhi’s department played a key role in implementing its dozen schemes. Until then, Mahadalits used to be primarily a Congress constituency. The biggest scheme of this department, Mahadalit Vikas Mission, pertained to free distribution of land for building homes, with 2.5 lakh SC families as beneficiaries. The government conducted exhaustive surveys to get the exact figure of landless Mahadalits. Manjhi’s job was to coordinate with the rural development and land revenue departments to ensure the scheme was implemented smoothly. Though there were controversies and even landed Dalits got land — as reported by The Indian Express in June-July 2012 — it continued to be Nitish’s flagship scheme and even seemed to be threatening Ram Vilas Paswan’s hold on his Dalit vote-bank. Other schemes included Dasrath Manjhi Kaushal Vikas Yojana for vocational and skill development training, Mahadalit Poshak Yojana that gave Rs 500 to each student to buy uniforms and footwear, and appointment of 10,000 Vikas Mitras to monitor the progress of government schemes. Mahadalit Shauchalaya Yojana ensured each Dalit family got Rs 300 to build a toilet. Manjhi set a target of 2,33,333 toilets by 2014. Giving Rs 400 to every Dalit family to buy a radio was another popular move. Manjhi always gave credit to Nitish, who has now rewarded him. (Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

23. Parents abandon daughter for eloping with Dalit youth (2)

RAMANATHAPURAM: The deep-rooted caste system in this backward district came to the fore again when the parents of a 16-year-old girl decided to ‘abandon’ her after she had eloped with a Dalit youth, and declined to guarantee her safety and security. After the parents at Kathayan in the Mudukulathur police limit told the local Judicial Magistrate (JM) court that they would not take the girl back and refused to give a written undertaking, guaranteeing her safety, Magistrate Mohanram ordered on Friday that she be kept in a home, though the girl insisted on going with her parents, police said. Allirajan, a temporary worker at the local electricity board, and Vanitha Rani, a farm worker, in a virtual disapproval of their daughter’s love affair with the Dalit youth, told the Magistrate that they could not be held responsible if the girl committed suicide at home when they went for work, the police said. On the Magistrate’s order, the girl was admitted to the reception home for girl children at Muthupatti in Madurai for transit stay on Friday, police said. The girl was awaiting the SSLC examination results, when she eloped with R. Saranraj, 22, a canteen manager in a private nursing home in Chennai, on May 16. On a complaint by her father, the Mudukulathur police registered a case under Section 366 (A) of the IPC (abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage) and launched a search, sending special teams to Madurai and Coimbatore. Sensing that the police were zeroing in on them, Saranraj brought the girl to Sivaganga on Thursday evening and absconded, leaving her at the JM court-I. After arranging her stay at a local home on Thursday night, the magistrate transferred the case to the JM court at Mudukulathur, the next day, police said. When contacted, CWC Chairperson R. Sakunthala said the case was not referred to the commission by the Mudukulathur court. However, the CWC would arrange further studies and safe custody of the girl, if she was handed over to it. The girl has passed SSLC, scoring 398 marks. Recently, a mother and her family members had murdered a 22-year-old pregnant woman in the district, hiring mercenaries, for she had married a man from outside the community. (The Hindu 25/5/14)

 

24. Dalit Youth Murdered, Caste Hindu Trio Grilled (2)

VELLORE: A 25-year-old Dalit youth was allegedly murdered on Saturday night. Three persons were taken for inquiry in this connection in Thiruvalam police station limits on Sunday. The deceased, identified as F Richard of Sivanandha Nagar in Thiruvalam, was found dead with multiple injuries, inside the government Kodugapuli Thoppu near Ampundi village around 6 am on Sunday. The locals who had gone to answer nature’s call found the body and alerted the police. P Vijaykumar, Superintendent of Police, Vellore, rushed to the spot and conducted an inquiry. Officials from the Forensic Wing swung into action and searched the murder spot for evidences. The preliminary inquiry revealed that two weeks back, during a temple festival, Richard  and his friends had a brawl with a group of youth, who belonged to a caste Hindu community, of Sembrayanallur village, and were participating in the temple festival. The two groups quarrelled over a trivial issue that led to fisticuffs. Following this reportedly the Caste Hindu youth assaulted Richard and his friends in the melee, said the police attached to the Thiruvalam police station. Further inquiry revealed that after the temple festival episode, on Saturday Richard had gone to Sembrayanallur to attend a funeral of his relative. After attending the final rites, Richard returned home on his bike in an inebriated condition.  He was intercepted by a group of youth who thrashed him and took him to Korgaliga Thoppu and later bumped him off. The police nabbed Basker (25) of Salavanpettai in Vellore, Madhiazhagan (27) and Sivaraman alias Kalai (20) of Sembrayanallur village for interrogation. The involvement of the trio was strongly suspected, said the police source. SP Vijayakumar said that if the evidences and inquiry prove that the three suspects were involved in the crime, and they will be arrested. Meanwhile, the brutal murder of the youth created tense moments in the locality. Police have been deployed to provided security in the area and avert any untoward incident in light of the caste clash.  Until noon, relatives of the deceased refused to receive the body  from Government Vellore Medical College and Hospital, demanding immediate arrest of the murderers. (New Indian Express 27/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

25. Shocking report: A mother dies every 2 hours in Rajasthan (3)

Jaipur: Despite increased health facilities in Rajasthan, even today one mother dies every two hours in the desert state due to delivery or delivery-related complications.Every year, 4,600 mothers die while delivering a baby in Rajasthan, revealed a study by NGO Save the Children. The NGO has demanded the government to address the loopholes in the primary health centres (PHCs) and sub-centres (SCs), so that pregnant women can deliver the child here instead of going to community health centres (CHCs) and district hospitals. Save the Children state health and programme coordinator OP Singh said that on a survey conducted by the NGO on the situation of motherhood facilities, India ranked 137 out of 178 countries surveyed. In India, every 20 seconds a child dies due to diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea or malnutrition. The data of the state on safe motherhood is worrying. Singh said the state government made efforts to stop maternal mortality in rural areas, but only in about 7% of a total of 11,494 SCs do over three deliveries take place in a month. Similarly, only in 43.9% of the 1,100 24-hour PHCs do over 10 deliveries take place in a month. The figure is the same for about 3.3% of the 417 PHCs. The remaining health centres are grossly under-utilised. Singh said the government should look into these PHCs and SCs and plug in the lacunas so that maximum deliveries take place here and pregnant women do not need to go to the community health centres or district hospitals. He said that due to the lack of facilities in PHCs and sub-centres, pregnant women go to CHCs and district hospitals, and as the result, the patient load increases and proper care is not extended. According to the Annual Health Survey 2012-13, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Rajasthan has reduced by 37% from 331 to 208 per 1 lakh live births from 2010-11. However, there is still a long way to go to reduce the MMR, the official added. Save the Children advocacy and campaign coordinator Hemant Acharya said awareness is to be brought in rural areas about safe motherhood by launching a special campaign. He suggested that special schemes should be introduced to motivate and encourage health workers in rural areas.

(Hindustan imes 20.5.14)

 

26. Health services to high risk pregnant women on priority basis in Haryana (3)

Chandigarh, May 20 : With a view to provide health services to high risk pregnant women on priority basis in Haryana, the Health Department is actively considering to issue red OPD card to such women so as to make them avail the health services on priority basis. This information was given by Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Ms Navraj Sandhu in a two-day state level Civil Surgeon Conference organised by Health Department today. While emphasizing the need of giving priority to high risk pregnant women, Ms Sandhu said it would contribute to the reduction of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). She said high risk pregnant women would be issued red OPD card to make them avail the health services on priority basis. This investigation card would contain the details of case history of the patient and risk factors for the particular pregnant women. Addressing the gathering, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, Dr Rakesh Gupta said the Quality Monitoring Officers and District Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Consultants along with District Intervention Coordinator (DIC) and Technical Officer from support agencies like MCHIP and ASSIST (Technical partner) would support the Department at local level in every district for improving health services. These consultants would not only provide technical inputs in the health services but also monitor the processes adopted by district. He also emphasized the strengthening of capacities of ASHA and ANM to speed up the process of identification of high risk cases at grassroots level. These steps would ensure overall contribution of the Department to the reduction of IMR and MMR in the state. The Civil Surgeons need to focus on providing quality services at high delivery load facilities and also ensure proper referral linkages. At district level there should be regular Maternal and Infant death reviews and gaps identified should be filled up, he added. Director MCH, Dr Ravikant Gupta said success rate of Post-Placental Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices (PPIUCD) insertion in family planning program is notable. He said Haryana has the highest PPIUCD insertion cases after Tamil Nadu in India. He said there is need to rationalise the delivery load in the district and normal deliveries should take place 24X7 at Primary and Community Health Centres. PMO/Deputy Civil Surgeon, Medical Superintendent, Quality and Monitoring Officer (QMO), DIO of all districts also attended the conference. (New Kerala 21/5/14)

 

27. Child Rights Body to Start Mother’s Milk Banks (3)

HYDERABAD: Balala Hakkula Sangham, an organisation for the protection of child rights, has come with a first of its kind initiative to start a Mother’s Milk Bank, in association with Lotus Hospitals, to cater to the needs of orphaned infants. Infant mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh is 41 per 1,000 births in 2012 and most of the deaths are due to respiratory and diarrheal causes. The main objectives of the initiative is to ensure that every baby born receives mother’s milk, to avoid bottled or animal formula milk and to provide ancillary support to breastfeeding. Donors of milk are tested for various diseases like Tuberculosis, HIV VDRL and Hepatitis before they make a contribution and will be screened by experts to rule out any virus or harmful bacteria. After a thorough screening procedure, the milk is donated to the needy children free of cost. The average volume of milk taken is between 50-150 ml. “Experts say on an average, lactating women can produce 600 ml milk per day and 300 ml should be sufficient for their little ones. The minimum requirement for children without a feeding mother is 150 ml per day,” said Balala Hakkula Sangham general secretary P Anuradha Rao. For women who donate their milk, it helps them too as it would increase prolactin levels, preventings benign tumors in them. The contributed milk is refrigerated and transferred to the bank in large containers. Later, it is pasteurised at 62.5 degree centigrade for 30 minutes, which preserves the milk from 80 percent of immunological factors, destroying pathogens, including HIV virus. The pasteurised milk can be stored for six months, in the freezer for 48 hours, and six to eight hours at room temparature. The milk will be donated on first come first served basis. Campaigning for donors will begin on the International Day for Protection of Children on June 1. Mother’s Milk Banks will come into operation from the first week of August, which is the International Breast Feed Week. Breast milk contains various proteins and enzymes such as Immunoglobulins, Lysosomes and Lymphocytes that kill bacterial cells and increase immunity. “Breast milk is every child’s right. Unfortunately there are instances where a child is deprived of this valuable right. In such a circumstance, the child can still be fed with breast milk through the breast milk banks,” Anuradha Rao said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

28. Hospital, doctor to pay patient in Chennai (3)

CHENNAI: The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF), Chennai (North), has asked a hospital and a medical consultant to compensate a patient who was discharged after he was wrongly diagnosed with HIV. R. Mohandoss, president of the DCDRF, Chennai (North), directed Sooriya Hospital in Saligramam, and neurosurgeon K. Subramanian to pay Rs. 50,000 each to the complainant, E. Chankrasekar of Mangadu, with 9 per cent interest per annum from June 3, 2004 till date of payment. They have also been asked to pay Rs. 10,000 towards costs. The complainant was referred to K. Subramanian for a surgery and admitted to Sooriya Hospital on May 8, 2004. On May 10, 2004, the doctor informed the complainant that according to tests reports he was HIV positive. The doctor then discharged him without performing the surgery. Mr. Chankrasekar then got himself tested at a private lab in Tambaram as well as Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine, and found that he was not infected. The forum stated that the hospital and doctor had discharged the complainant without treating him for cervical spondylitis due to the stigma of HIV infection, and pointed out that such an act would have caused mental agony and trauma to the complainant. (The Hindu 21/5/14)

 

29. New regimen to reduce HIV risk to infants (3)

JAIPUR: New multi-drug antiretroviral (ARV) regimen has been initiated in the state aiming to further reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission from HIV infected mother to her newborn. The decision has been taken to promote birth of HIV-free children. The Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) has initiated lifelong multi-drug antiretroviral (ARV) regimens for all pregnant and breast-feeding women living with HIV. The transmission of HIV from infected mother to her newborn is one of the leading causes of spread of HIV. According to RSACS, it is estimated that 5.2% of total HIV infections are due to transmission of HIV from mother to newborn. To deal with it, earlier the RSACS was providing single dose of Nevirapine to such women at the time of labour pain to prevent the HIV transmission from mother to her newborn baby. But, from May 19, the RSACS has changed its strategy. Health department’s project director (AIDS) Dr SS Chauhan said, “From an HIV infected mother, the risk of vertical transmission of HIV to newborn is 30%. But, a single dose of Nevirapine reduces the risk to around 15%. So far we were giving single dose of Nevirapine to pregnant women at the time of delivery. But, still the high risk (up to 15%) remained the cause of concern for us. Now, to bring down the percentage of risk of vertical transmission of HIV from mother to her newborn, we have initiated the lifelong ART (triple drug regimen). The multidrug ARV regimen would further decrease the risk from 11% to up to 5%. It will be the major benefit of the new multidrug regimen.” The triple drug regimen includes — Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz. The three drugs would be administered to the women living with HIV and her infant. The drug would continue lifelong to reduce mortality and morbidity in mothers and children. The RSACS is spreading awareness of HIV testing among pregnant women. They take consent of pregnant women for HIV testing. If the women test positive for HIV, they link the women with anti retroviral therapy centre. Also, they put effort to prevent the transmission of HIV to her newborn. In 2013-14, the RSACS conducted HIV testing on 4.68 lakh pregnant women and found 412 women living with HIV. In 2012-13, the RSACS had tested 3.86lakh pregnant women and found 383 of them living with HIV. They have linked the newborns with antiretroviral therapy centres. An RSACS official said that they have provided training to its staff to start the new multidrug regimen. The new multidrug ARV regimen is part of prevention of parent to child transmission (PPTCT) of HIV launched in 2001-02 by ministry of health and family welfare. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

30. Area Acquired by Kamarajar Port May be Turned Into SEZ (4)

CHENNAI: A new Special Economic Zone (SEZ) or a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) may be set up within the 650 acres recently acquired by the Kamarajar Port Limited (KPL), formerly the Ennore Port, with the KPL deciding to appoint a consultant to look into the proper utilisation of the land. Speaking at an interactive session on exports organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on Monday, the Chairman cum Managing Director of the KPL M A Bhaskarachar said that the port had decided on appointing a consultant to look into how to properly utilise the 647.8 acres of land that it took over from the Salt Department of the Government of India early in March this year. “We have decided to appoint a consultant to look into how to utilise the land and one of the options we have is to set up a SEZ or a FTZ within the property,” he said. The port acquired the land after a 12-year wait only on March 2 this year. The CMD pointed out that the port had managed to increase the draft of the vessels it can accommodate to 14.5-15 metres from the 12 metres it was earlier by dredging the channel and the basin. Consequently, the port can now accommodate much larger vessels. “We hadn’t announced it earlier because of the Model Code of Conduct being in effect, but the port has increased its draft by 2 metres to 14.5 metres. The benefit to the port is huge,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the session. “We have got a request from the Chettinad berth to dredge the berth to the same level so that they can avail of this draft. We will be awarding this dredging contract within a month and the operation will begin by June and be completed in six months,” he added. (New Indian Express 20/5/14)

 

31. Ministry officials want Modi govt to look at land laws (4)

New Delhi: With Narendra Modi set to take over as prime minister in the next few days, the department of agriculture is proposing a comprehensive review of land ceiling laws as a first major reform in the sector. Land also figures in the to-do list of the rural development ministry. It has proposed centralisation of land records to enable smooth operation of the Land Acquisition Act initiated by the outgoing government. Officials said though issues related to land and agriculture primarily come within the domain of state governments, the Centre can advise and suggest changes. And, any changes in agricultural land ceilings have to have Centre’s concurrence. The agriculture ministry has in a presentation to cabinet secretary Ajit Seth called for a comprehensive review of the land ceiling laws, to stop fragmentation of farms and promote consolidation. At present, most states have a ceiling of 10-20 acres in holdings of irrigated land with two crops, which hampers leasing and also stops large-scale acquisition (see chart). Some officials said the farm ministry has also proposed amendments to the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act and boosting irrigation as other big proposals. If initiated, the proposed measures could turn out to be big reforms in the farm sector. Repeated attempts by the UPA government to review land ceiling laws and to create a centralised database of land records failed due to inadequate cooperation from state governments. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll manifesto talked of a national land use policy. This would, it said, look at the scientific acquisition of non-cultivable land and its development, protect the interest of farmers and keep in mind the food production goals and economic goals of the country. “The idea mooted by the department of agriculture is a good one. Agricultural land has become highly fragmented, with average holdings dropping below two hectares. This makes farming uneconomical for growers and also sometimes leads to reverse tenancy, like by small farmers in Punjab and Haryana,” Gokul Patnaik, chairman of Global AgriSystem, an agribusiness consulting group, told Business Standard. He said in some states tenancy laws were very outdated, which stymied any substantial land reform. “In the interest of mechanisation of farming in India and also for growth of irrigation, government should initiate steps to reform the ceiling Acts,” Patnaik said. S Mahendra Dev, director of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, said the move would ensure small and marginal farmers got productivity benefits and more acres could come under mechanisation. “In some states like Maharashtra, legally there is no tenancy; in others like Andhra Pradesh, much of tenancy is only oral. So, there are a lot of discrepancies in land-related issues in states which need to be corrected,” he said. However, some also say the Centre’s move would unnecessarily muddle land issues. “Land is primarily a state subject and the Centre has a very limited role. So, there is no point in making suggestions,” said Ajay Jakhar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmers’ advocacy group. (Business Standard 22/5/14)

 

32. UP objects to Delhi govt acquiring land (4)

New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government has urged the Supreme Court to recall its April 15 order allowing the Delhi government to go ahead with the process of acquiring 100 ‘bighas’ (20 acres) of land for Jamia Millia Islamia University. The land in question is along the UP border near the south east region of the capital.UP sought the maintenance of status quo on the Delhi government’s September 2011 bid to acquire around 215 bighas of land near the village Okhla, until a decision on the original suit is made. It, however, said: “If the Jamia Millia Islamia University requires land for the purpose of its expansion, it can request the government of UP and the same can be considered.” Claiming that the land came under the ownership of UP, it contended that the notification issued by the government of Delhi was illegal and without jurisdiction or authority. “Any further proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act for the remaining land will be a futile exercise, as the same is claimed by the plaintiff state as owned and under possession and there is no other owner/interested person for it,” an interlocutory application by the UP government said. It said that the disputed land was first acquired around 1882-1887 by the then Lt Governor of Punjab for the purpose of construction of ‘bunds’ (embankments), adding that it was then given to Agra canal estate, which was part of Uttar Pradesh, for maintenance and control of flooding in the river Yamuna. The UP government claimed that the ‘khatonies’ (document of title/ownership) mentioned the UP’s irrigation department as the land’s owner. It also said that the UP government had in the past provided land to the Delhi government, such as the 31.54 acres of land near Akshardham temple that it gave for the purpose of building construction during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, besides 12.12 hectare along the Yamuna bank for the Delhi Metro Rail project. The UP government also claimed that it handed another portion of land for the purpose of building a flyover near Geeta Colony. In November 2011, the apex court ordered a status quo in the matter, but modified its interim order on April 15 and lifted the stay. (Deccan Herald 26/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

33. South Asia is world’s most corrupt region: Transparency International (5)

Kathmandu: South Asia is the world’s most corrupt region and rampant corruption is preventing its people from breaking the barrier of poverty despite the fact that the subcontinent has attained strong economic growth over the past several years, a global anti-graft watchdog said here today. “South Asia now is the worst region in the world when it comes to corruption based on our studies,” said Srirak Pilpat, Asia Pacific director at Transparency International (TI), while releasing a report titled ‘Fighting Corruption in South Asia: Building Accountability’. “How does a region with such strong economic growth still have such high levels of poverty? It is corruption, which allows the few to profit without answering for their actions,” said Pilpat. “As long as nobody brings the corrupt to justice, South Asia’s leaders run the risk that future growth only benefits the powerful, doing nothing to help the half billion South Asians, who still live in poverty,” he pointed out. Governments in corruption-stricken South Asia must allow anti-graft agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption independently, TI said in the first comprehensive study on transparency and corruption prevention in the region. The TI report analysed how well 70 national institutions in Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stop corruption. In South Asian countries, government and people who want to expose and investigate corruption face legal barriers, political opposition and harassment that allow bribery, secret dealings and the abuse of power to go unchecked, the report warned. According to TI, Nepal improved from 139th position in 2012 to 116th in 2013 out of 177 countries surveyed in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) made public today. Despite economic growth averaging 6 per cent a year over the past two decades in the sub-continent, 31 per cent of people live on less than USD 1.25 a day, according to a World Bank report. “Corruption in public bodies that should provide basic services to the poor means that economic growth is only enjoyed by the few,” points out the report. In Nepal, corruption in government organisations remained uncontrolled due to political interference, the TI Nepal chapter said. “Governments will find transparency is the best investment they will ever make. Ordinary people can ensure their communities are served by governments, whistleblowers can save billions by exposing fraud,” remarked Pilpat. According to the TI report, 90 per cent of Nepalese believe that political parties are corrupt or extremely corrupt and 85 per cent consider public officials and public servants to be corrupt or extremely corrupt. Interestingly, 72 per cent believe that corruption in the country has increased over last two years. (Deccan Herald 21/5/14)

 

34. One week to notify black-money SIT (5)

New Delhi, May 23: The Supreme Court today gave the Centre a week to notify the three-member special investigation team it had appointed to unearth the black money stashed by Indians in foreign accounts. The vacation bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and A.K. Sikri also asked the Centre to ensure that all files and documents containing information on the black money accounts are “kept under the custody of a revenue department officer not below the rank of secretary”. The bench passed the order after solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran urged the court to grant one more week’s time to notify the special investigation team (SIT) as a new government was yet to assume charge. He said the draft notification was ready with the outgoing government but since a new dispensation was taking over, the matter had been left to it. Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, the petitioner in the case, sought safe custody of the documents in view of Monday’s fire at Shastri Bhavan, which houses several government departments. “You have burnt Shastri Bhavan; don’t burn North Block (which houses the finance ministry),” the senior counsel said in a lighter vein to Parasaran. Along with the banter, Jethmalani expressed fears that documents relating to the black money case, said to be stored in Shastri Bhavan, may be destroyed deliberately. He sought the court’s intervention. Conceding his plea, the apex court asked the outgoing UPA government to keep the documents in the custody of a senior revenue department officer. Last month, the apex court had warned the Centre that failure to notify the SIT would amount to contempt. In July 2011, the apex court had directed that an SIT be set up and notified but the Centre has not yet fully complied with the order. Earlier in 2011, Jethmalani had filed a public interest litigation for an SIT to be set up to probe allegations that black money amounting to Rs 70,000 crore was stashed in foreign banks and, if this was found true, to take steps to bring it back to the country. On July 4, the then apex court bench of Justices Sudarshan Reddy (now retired) and S.S. Nijjar had castigated the government for not showing any seriousness in retrieving the money. Although the Centre opposed the formation of an SIT, the bench rejected the plea and passed an order for its constitution. The SIT was set up with former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, as its chairperson. It is yet to be notified. “The volume of alleged income-taxes owed to the country, as demanded by the Union of India itself, and the volume of monies, by some accounts $8.04 billion, and some other accounts in excess of Rs 70,000 crore, are said to have been routed through various bank accounts of Hassan Ali Khan and Tapurias. Further, from all accounts it has been acknowledged that none of the named individuals has any known and lawful sources for such huge quantities of monies,” the apex court had said in 2011. “All of these factors, either individually or combined, ought to have immediately raised questions regarding the sources being unlawful activities, national security, and transfer of funds into India for other illegal activities, including acts against the State. It was only at the repeated insistence by us that such matters have equal, if not even greater importance than issues of tax collection, has the Union of India belatedly concluded that such aspects also ought to be investigated with thoroughness.” It added: “However, there is still no evidence of a really serious investigation into these other matters from the national security perspective.” (The Telegraph 24/5/14)

 

35. New division in place to deal with Lokpal-related works (5)

New Delhi: A separate division – to be headed by a Director-level officer – has been formed by the outgoing government to deal with all works related to the anti- corruption watchdog, Lokpal. Officials in the Personnel Ministry, which acts as the nodal department to provide administrative support to the Lokpal, said that the separate unit will help streamline the activities related to the working of the anti-corruption body, including handling of RTI applications and appeals. The ministry has appointed Anil Kumar V Patil as Director of the Lokpal Division recently, they said. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act (also known as Lokpal) provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Centre has already received nominations from various individuals for becoming chairperson and members of these bodies. The outgoing UPA government, however, could not appoint the chairperson and members of the much-touted Lokpal, apparently due to objections raised by BJP leaders on the selection process for the same. The UPA government had in February this year hurriedly formed an eight-member search committee which was mandated to draw up a panel of persons for consideration by the Prime Minister-led Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal. Those who been selected for the search panel included Justice (retd) KT Thomas (as chairperson) and seven members — Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), FS Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), ML Kumawat (former Director General of Border Security Force), HK Dua (senior journalist and Rajya Sabha member), SY Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner) and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha member). But, in a setback to the UPA government, Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel. (Zee News 25/5/14)

 

36. New Lok Sabha has four MPs facing corruption charges (5)

NEW DELHI: The 2014 polls were supposed to be a vote against corruption. However, they seem to have been fought on the faceless perception of it than the ground reality. In fact, all the MPs facing charges under Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) in the 16th Lok Sabha are from the BJP and its allies. An analysis of the election affidavits of candidates of all major parties and their allies shows that both BJP and Congress fielded three candidates each facing PCA cases. While all Congress candidates lost, all BJP ones were embraced by voters. BJP fielded B S Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu, both facing PCA cases, from Karnataka with positive results. The third BJP candidate who won in this category was Ganesh Singh from Madhya Pradesh. The three Congress candidates were Nitin Suresh Patil from Maharashtra, N Dharam Singh from Karnataka and Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya from Assam. Similarly, BJP ally PMK’s candidate Anbumani Ramadoss facing corruption charges won his seat while two belonging to DMK, 2G-tainted A Raja and N Pongalur Palanisamy, lost. DMK was until recently a Congress ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha has four MPs facing corruption charges and all belong to BJP and its allies. In the outgoing Lok Sabha too there were four MPs facing PCA charges. Thus in terms of statistics, at least, nothing has changed. Other parties which fielded candidates with PCA cases against them include Trinamool Congress which had Bandhu Tirkey contesting from Jharkhand and Churchill Alemao contesting from Goa. Badrudin Ajmal’s AIUDF too fielded one such candidate, Paresh Baisya, from Assam while Samjawadi Party fielded Kunjbihari Jugalkishor Agarwal from Maharashtra. Among the major parties which did not field any candidate with PCA cases were AAP, BSP, BJD, AIADMK and TDP. It must be mentioned, though, that PCA cases alone are no measure of the thrust a party has on anti-corruption agenda or even the number of corrupt people it fields. For example, former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, charged by CBI in the Adarsh housing society scam, is not part of PCA list as Maharashtra governor did not give the agency sanction to prosecute him under the Act. Socio-politics scientists often argue that a variety of factors which include the advent of identity politics post-1990 along with local issues ride over the large issue of corruption when voters decide to vote for a tainted candidate. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

37. More than 250 tribals get married in mass marriage function (6)

Thane, May 20 : Predominantly tribal villages in Jawhar and Mohada talukas of Thane district came alive and were buzzing with brisk activities all day long yesterday, as over 250 tribal couples from the region tied the knot with the help of social organisations. Multifaceted philanthropic initiative Vedanta foundation, organised a mass marriage program for 252 tribal couples belonging to Jawhar taluka and Mokhada taluka in Thane, yesterday. Most of the people belonging to this tribal community, get married without any ceremony to avoid the financial burdens, which creates a huge problem for their future. Their children do not get admission into schools due to lack of parents’ identity, and even staying as a married couple is not accepted within the community. More surprisingly they have also been ignored by society for any other social events. The marriages were solemnized in traditional fashion, without exchange of any dowry or any ostentation, and all basic necessities for the marriage like Mangalsutra, Mundavane, Janwe, Kumkum, Varmala, and Padha were organised by the foundation. One of the office bearers of the foundation said that the Foundation also gifted ornaments, sarees, utensil sets, rajai, mobiles, cycles, watches, school bags, goggles, and hygiene kits like soaps to the couples, to help fulfill theri basic requirements of a married life.’Founder trustee, DP Agarwal told UNI that the foundation is also facilitating them with marriage certificates to avoid further problem within the community, and has given fixed deposits worth Rs 5,000 to each couple in the local post office and also trained 75 women with new tailoring machines to help them earn a better livelihood. “The aim of this mass marriage was to promote simplicity in marriages, discouraging dowry and providing a new beginning for the underprivileged people under the social inclusion,” Dr Lona Nayak, CEO of Vedanta Foundation said. Besides the brides, grooms and around 2,500 people thronged the venue, to have a glimpse of the unique wedding ceremony. Actress, Reema Lagoo congratulated and guided every couple to have a healthy life and appealed other organisations to come forward for such noble initiative. (New Kerala 20/5/14)

 

38. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Report (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A 2010 survey conducted by the Scheduled Tribes Development Department had found that nearly half of the total deaths in the ST communities over the previous five years were premature or unnatural. The department recently prepared a state-level socio-economic status report based on the survey data which is yet to be published. The report accessed by ‘Express’ revealed stark disparities in the development indices of the tribals compared to the general population. According to the report, 5957 of 12189 deaths between 2005 and 2010 were ‘unnatural’ with 28 starvation deaths. A total of 432 persons died due to excessive consumption of alcohol/ drugs, 3,802 for lack of proper medical care, 950 in suicides, 48 in wild  animal attacks and 697 in accidents. The report which found some positive trends like a sex ratio of 1000:1031 and literacy rate of 74.44 percent, opined several other parameters required a drastic improvement. It suggested an integrated policy for the comprehensive development of the over four lakh tribals who form 1.28 percent of the total population. The report said 13.09 percent of the total families were affected by malnutrition and their number was maximum in Wayanad district, followed by Palakkad and Idukki districts. A total of 18 percent of the total families had members who were differently-abled or mentally-challenged. A total of 31 percent of families had members with chronic diseases. A total of 23.15 percent of Scheduled Tribes do not have ration cards while a majority of those distributed were defective. Only about 51 percent of the families were included in the below poverty line (BPL) category which was a far cry from reality, the report  said. About 56 percent of the families were in debt and one-third of them had borrowed from private money lenders. Nearly 30.27 percent of persons in the 15-59 age group were unemployed. Despite reservation benefits and special recruitment drives, only 4.33 percent had government or quasi-government jobs. Social security schemes were still a dream for the majority as only 17 percent of the widows were beneficiaries of widow  pension and 13 percent of the aged received old-age pension. The dropout rate was 62 percent in general and 80 percent among primitive tribes. 70 percent of the 4762 oorus (settlements) in the state did not have an anganwadi. About 9.66 percent families were houseless and 4.78 percent landless. The number of landless was high in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. (New Indian Express 20/5/14)

 

39. Soni Sori Fails to Hold Sway Over Voters in Bastar (6)

Raipur: Contrary to expectations of a triangular contest in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar Lok Sabha seat during the just-concluded elections, it turned out to be a confrontation only between BJP and Congress as AAP nominee Soni Sori could not make an impact on the voters. Political experts were anticipating that there could be a three-sided clash in Bastar with the entry of 38-year-old tribal teacher-turned-activist-turned-politician Soni Sori in the fray. Moreover, the poor show by the BJP in the last year’s assembly polls in the Bastar region was being seen as another factor likely to influence the LS polls in the zone. However, it was like a cakewalk for the BJP’s sitting MP Dinesh Kashyap, who comfortably won with 3,85,829 votes, defeating his Congress rival Deepak Karma (2,61,470 votes) by a whopping margin of 1,24,359 votes. Kashyap is the son of veteran BJP leader and renowned tribal leader, Baliram Kashyap. BJP state spokesperson Rasik Parmar feels different issues influence the winning factor in both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha seats and they were well aware that people would not accept Sori, who had earlier been arrested on charges of acting as a Naxal conduit. “The issues were different in this election as compared to last year’s assembly polls. Both the name of Modi ji and work of Chief Minister Raman Singh orchestrated BJP’s sounding win in the general elections,” Parmar told PTI. “We were already aware of the fact that people of Bastar will not accept Sori. We were confident of our victory in Bastar Lok Sabha seat,” he said. Sori tried to attract tribal voters by issuing her manifesto on a stamp paper, but looked completely out of the race as she got only 16,903 votes and stood in the fourth position. Notably, the None of The Above (NOTA) option was the third choice of voters in Bastar as a total of 38,772 of the electorate opted for it. Sori secured only 2.1 per cent of the total 7,69,449 votes polled in the Bastar seat. In the 2013 assembly polls, the BJP had only won 3 – Jagdalpur, Narayanpur and Bijapur- out of the eight assembly segments of Bastar, which was another key factor expected to play a crucial role in the general polls. The rest of the five assembly seats- Kondagaon, Chitrakot, Bastar, Dantewada and Konta – had then gone to the Congress. Keeping in mind the political situation, the Congress had fielded Deepak Karma, whose father Mahendra Karma, founder of the Salwa Judum (declared by the Supreme Court to be illegal and unconstitutional) and former leader of Opposition, was killed in the Jiram Valley (Bastar) Naxal attack on May 25 last year, to garner sympathy votes. But this failed to make any impact on the BJP’s victory margin. In 2011, in the Bastar Lok Sabha bypoll, Dinesh Kashyap had defeated the Congress’ Kawasi Lakhma by a margin of 85,000 votes and this time his victory margin crossed 1.24 lakh votes. Outlook 23/5/14)

 

40. Tribal protest continues, enters 6th day (6)

Kannur, May 24 : The indefinite agitation of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGMS) today entered sixth day demanding protection of Adivasi families residing in Aralam Farm. The AGMS has been protesting in front of district Collectorate office for the Aralam Farm’s Adivasi residents, which is the lone tribal resettlement area in the state from wild animals. Their demands also included end to corruption and exploitation of the farm’s natural resources. The AGMS will organise a Janasabha People meet on June 5, said Geethanadhan, Coordinator of AGMS, while talking to the media. He said they are also demanding restructure of the Government’s Tribal department. According to AGMS, though there are many welfare schemes and housing schemes for the tribals as launched at various times by the government, the residents of Aralam Farm are not getting any benefit. Though the government gives advance to the beneficiaries of the housing schemes, the Tribal people at Aralam are not given the money in advance. So the contractors exploit the situation and corrupt officials support them, he said. He alleged that there was large scale corruption in the Scheduled Tribes office here and the fund for tribals is diverted to help the contractors, who build poor quality houses. In order to solve this problem the fund should be transferred directly into the account of Adivasi welfare Committees in instalments, suggested Mr Geethanadhan. He said there is no engineer even to examine the quality of work, adding that the vacancy should be filled with immediate effect. (New Kerala 24/5/14)

 

41. Odisha to enumerate displaced primitive tribal group families (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha government will enumerate primitive tribal group (PTG) families those have been displaced, but without rehabilitation or compensation. Responding to recommendations of National Advisory Council, Odisha government submitted that it was ready to undertake assessment while seeking required funds from Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The SCs and STs Research and Training Institute (SCSTRITI) would include project proposal in its work plan for the next three years from 2014-15 to 2016-17 for carrying out assessment of the status of PTGs who have been displaced with or without compensation and devise support mechanisms for ensuring livelihood. A survey conducted by the State government in 2012 finds population of primitive tribal groups was growing at meagre 5.20 per cent while PTG literacy rate was estimated at 33.38 per cent. Literacy among female PTG was 24.75 per cent, much lower than other population. Although the State government had been undertaking focused implementation of welfare schemes for PTGs, the rate of poverty was 80.95 per cent. Deforestation and loss of traditional rights on forests was another malady, the PTGs face. Around 26.43 per cent of PTGs were landless and homeless. In several southern districts, tribal groups were displaced by dam projects decades ago. Of late, mining and industrial projects were threatening to displace PTGs. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

42. BJP gains on minority vote, trust in Delhi (7)

New Delhi: The one crucial element in BJP’s historic 7-0 win in Delhi was the support it received from the minority community. The party put in a lot of effort, right from organising conferences, holding public meetings, conducting door-to-door programmes to ensure the anti-Modi image created by the Congress and AAP was dismantled. The efforts seem to have yielded results. Across all assembly segments, which are dominated by Muslims, BJP gained 5,000-25,000 votes in the recently held Lok Sabha elections. Senior BJP leaders further said the results will boost the party’s prospects if re-elections are held in Delhi assembly and they should continue to undertake such programmes. The minority cell of the BJP played a crucial role in getting the support of Muslims. For instance, in the Matia Mahal assembly segment, which is part of Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency and is dominated by Muslims, Harsh Vardhan managed to get 15,453 votes against 6,061 votes the party had won in the 2013 assembly elections. “We had worked hard in areas dominated by Muslims and constituencies such as Seemapuri, Seelampur, Ghonda, Babarpur, Mustafabad, Okhla and Ballimaran. We have gained in Okhla too where the party candidate got 39,445 votes against 23,358 votes in the assembly election. It shows that the party is getting the support of the Muslim population and they believe in our agenda of positive governance,” said a senior BJP leader. The minority cell of the Delhi BJP had also prepared a video of Narendra Modi, the party’s face this election, highlighting the fact that he and the party is not anti-Muslim. “Traditionally, Muslims are believed to be the vote bank of Congress but that notion has undergone a sea change. A number of Muslims, especially the youth, came out in huge number and supported us as we gave them the development model. Our minority cell held interactions and public meets to ensure more people came out and voted for our candidates,” said Atif Rashid, president of minority cell of Delhi BJP.  (Hindustan Times 20/5/14)

 

43. Rs 245cr approved for minority, women’s education (7)

PATNA: The state cabinet on Thursday approved more than Rs 245 crore to link women sections and minority communities with school education. The decision was made to allocate funds under the ‘Mahadalit, minorities and extremely backward castes akshar anchal yojna’. Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi presided over the meeting. The plan aims at linking 8 lakh Mahadalit and EBC women with basic school education. Four lakh of them hail from minority communities. It also entails children in the age group of 6-14 hailing from Mahadalit, minorities and EBCs with school education. Principal secretary, cabinet coordination department, Brajesh Mehrotra said the cabinet gave its nod to 15 proposals of various departments like education, health, power, social welfare and agriculture. It approved the energy department’s proposal to sanction a subsidy of Rs 2344.58 crore to the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) against the purchase of power in current financial year. A sum of Rs 780 crore at the rate of Rs 195 crore per month has been approved for a period of four months starting from April 2014. The state government will directly pay the amount to the Reserve Bank of India for the payment of monthly energy bills to the NTPC. The cabinet also okayed the proposal to make capital investment out of the state plan amount available with all the five companies of the Bihar State Power Holding Company Limited. The proposal to set up an additional 100-bed ward at Darbhanga sadar hospital at an estimated cost of Rs 25.99 crore and a 100-bed super specialty eye hospital at Rajendra Nagar to be constructed at the cost of Rs 76.04 crore in the current financial year also received the nod. The amount would be sanctioned to the Bihar State Health Infrastructure Corporation Limited. A proposal for the construction of a separate building of the centre for excellence under the ‘Anveshan’ programme at Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH) at an estimated cost of Rs 42.11 crore also got the government nod. In another major decision, the government approved state share amount of Rs 1,697.42 crore against the total central share of Rs 4,000 crore under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) for the current financial year, Mehrotra said. The state share would be released as and when the central share reaches. The cabinet also sanctioned Rs 1,522 crore under National Social Security Programme. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

44. HC reinstates MoS status to minorities commission chairman (7)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Thursday stayed the order of the state government withdrawing the minister of state status accorded to the chairman of the state minorities commission. Justice M N Bhandari stayed the order after commission chairman Mahir Azad approached the court challenging the government order dated February 4 this year. The counsel for the petitioner argued that he was appointed chairman on November 2011 and his three-year term expires only on November 22 this year. Hence withdrawing the staff and facilities of the chairman are untenable and politically motivated. The BJP government soon after coming to power, withdrew all the staff attached to the commission on December 15 and later through a government order withdrew the facilities of the minister of state status enjoyed by the commission chairman. According to Section 5 of the Minority Commission Act, 2004, the staff and facilities accorded to the commission could not be withdrawn mid-way. The court, while staying the order, issued notices to chief secretary, additional chief secretary minority affairs and principal secretary, general administration. The court had earlier stayed the order relating to state women’s commission and Bhoodan commission after the respective chairpersons approached the court challenging the government order. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

45. Kashmir Valley happy over Modi invite to Sharif (7)

Srinagar: Indian Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi’s invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his swearing in ceremony has evoked a positive response in the Kashmir Valley. Both separatist and mainstream politicians as well as residents here have welcomed the step. “Excellent move by Modi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pakistan PM for his swearing in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks,” Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on twitter site. “At the same time I can’t help wonder what (the) BJP would have said if a PM designate Rahul Gandhi had done the same thing,” he added. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat, too welcomed the decision, adding this should also translate into addressing the Kashmir problem in line with the aspirations of its people. The Pakistan government says Sharif has not yet decided whether or not he should attend Modi’s oath taking in New Delhi Monday. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has, however, dismissed the change of guard in India, saying New Delhi’s Kashmir policy won’t change no matter who the prime minister is. The man on the street in the Kashmir Valley is also looking forward to better India-Pakistan relations under Modi. “He has done the right thing by inviting Sharif… This will help undo the impression that Modi will rule India as a hawk,” said Shabir Ahmad, a 39-year-old resident of Narwara area in Srinagar. Others believe that Modi would work for peace between the two countries but for that the Kashmir problem would have to be addressed. “Let us not play the ostrich. Kashmir is the main problem. Anybody who wants to seriously apply himself to better India-Pakistan relations must strive to work for the resolution of this basic problem,” Farooq Ahmad, 53, a bank officer, pointed out. As a Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government prepares to get into the driving seat, Kashmiris say Modi could disprove all they have heard about him — from his rivals. “For us there are scary memories of Gujarat and Godhra riots. As the prime minister of India, Modi will have to prove he was not behind those events,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a college teacher.”For this to be done and seen, Kashmiri Muslims and others living outside will have to be taken on board through positive action. “He cannot rule without being every Indian’s prime minister. Winning elections is one thing but governing a vast, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country like India is a very difficult call,” he added. According to Ahmad, “the most difficult task would be working for better ties with Pakistan and winning the hearts and minds of Kashmiris”. Added Noor Muhammad Wani, 61, a resident of Shalteng in Srinagar’s outskirts: “Congress failure or deliberate reluctance to resolve the Kashmir dispute somehow gives me an impression that Modi will definitely ensure peace in Kashmir. This will be possible only if he takes Nawaz Sharif on board.” (Hindustan Times 22/5/14)

 

46. To show Muslim support, RSS ensures invites for three dozen (7)

New Delhi: The BJP may not have a single Muslim MP but the RSS wants to ensure that at least 30 Muslim faces are present for Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Monday. It has organised invites for over three dozen Muslims, from across the country. Some of them have already arrived in the Capital. Likewise, passes have been arranged for some guests from the Christian community as well. Girish Juyal, a former pracharak working with the RSS’s Muslim Rashtriya Manch and one of those assigned to look after the Muslim guests, confirmed the invitations. “Our effort is to ensure that a message doesn’t go out that this government has no support among Muslims,” Juyal said. During the campaign, the BJP had distributed skull caps to show Muslim presence at its meetings. Some of them may not be able to come but passes have been arranged for all, said sources. Most of the guests are associated with the Muslim Rashtriya Manch. Some are religious leaders, while a few are ordinary Muslims, sources said. Apart from Juyal, Virag Pachpore, Golok Behari and Mahiradhwaj Singh have been deputed to look after these guests. Of them only Pachpore is a pracharak, others are former RSS pracharaks. The invitees include Faiz Khan (from Raipur), Dr Salim Raj (Raipur), S K Moinuddin (Jabalpur), Tayyab Qureshi (Ghaziabad), Maulana Shamoom Kasmi (Bijnore), Maulana Shoeb Kasmi (Bijnore), Dr Sadakat Ali (Roorkie), Mohd Ashraf Asharfi (Bareilly), Imran Chaudhary (Delhi), Mohammad Afzal (Delhi), Shehzad Ali (Agra), Abbas Ali Vorah (Bangalore), Latif Maqdoom (Pune), Dr Shahid Akhtar (Ranchi), Engineer Ghulam Ali (Srinagar), Abu Baqar Naqvi (Tonk), Reshma Hussain (Jaipur), Ghani Bhai Qureshi (Gujarat), Maulana Zahid and Zahangir Alam, among others. (Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

47. Muslims are not minorities, Parsis are: Najma Heptullah (7)

NEW DELHI: Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah on Tuesday said Muslims were not minorities by any stretch of the imagination and instead Parsis with their dwindling population qualified for the tag. On her first day in office, Heptullah appeared determined to reorient the ministry by playing down its role in welfare of Muslims and dismissing the policies espoused by the UPA government. “Muslims are not minorities. Parsis are. We have to see how we can help them so that their numbers don’t diminish,” she told reporters when asked how her government proposed to take Muslim welfare forward. With more questions about the community being lobbed at her, Heptullah snapped back, “This is not the ministry for Muslim affairs, this is the ministry for minority affairs.” The remarks from the experienced politician, who is the grand-niece of freedom fighter Abul Kalam Azad and has played the major part of her political innings in Congress, appeared in line with BJP’s point of view. There was speculation in the run-up to government formation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may disband the minority affairs ministry or merge it with a bigger ministry like social justice, a reason why the appointment of a minister came as a surprise. However, a change of approach may be in store. Given that most of the ministry’s policies are specifically targeted at Muslims, Heptullah steered clear of giving her views on the policies or what she planned to do. “Till I get guidance from the PM, I will not draw a roadmap for my ministry,” she said. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

48.  “Missing priest” has gone into retreat: Bishop

TUTICORIN: The Roman Catholic Church has denied that Fr. Vasanthan, 34, Kudankulam parish priest, is missing. He was reported “missing” after allegedly assaulted at a meeting of priests. In a statement on Thursday, Most Rev. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticorin, denied that Fr. Vasanthan was missing. He said the priest, in a letter addressed to him on May 15, had stated that he would take rest from his parish for one year and expressed a wish to spend all days of the year on a retreat. Fr. Vasanthan left the parish on May 18, the statement said. The Bishop also denied media reports that the priest was assaulted since he opposed the demand of several priests to support the Aam Aadmi Party. On a complaint from F. Suganthan, 29, brother of Fr. Vasanthan, the Tuticorin Central police filed a ‘man missing’ case on Wednesday. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

49. Indian Christian Secular Party: Name strikes blow to party in elections (7)

VISAKHAPATNAM: “What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A lot, it would seem, going by the fate of the Indian Christian Secular Party (ICSP) in the assembly elections. The party garnered barely 1,200 votes in the assembly constituencies of Vizag East, Gajuwaka and Pendurthy and political analysts attribute this dismal performance to the name, as well as the propaganda that it is an offshoot of YSRCP. The use of Christian in the name of the party has been one of the causes of its alienation from non-Christian voters, said a political analyst. “How can you have Christian and secular juxtaposed in the name of a national party? Voters would assume that the party is meant for the welfare of the Christian community only and, thus, would not be able to relate to it,” said the analyst. “The mention of Christian in our party’s name may not go down well with some educated intellectuals who may have some reservations about highlighting the name of any religion. However, considering that fighting for minorities’ rights and their protection is one of the priorities of our party, the name might not be changed,” said Esther Lepcha, the MLA candidate from Vizag East. Lepcha also blamed the false propaganda by other parties that ICSP is an offshoot of the YSRCP for the dismal performance. “Certain other parties spread the word that we are an offshoot of the YSRCP or are linked to it in some way because we happen to be Christians. We are in no way connected to the YSRCP,” she said. The members of the party have decided to strengthen their reach for the 2019 elections and are preparing for a review meeting in early June. “Our party was launched on February 21 in Hyderabad. After candidates filed their nominations, they got just a few days for campaigning for a new party, which was not adequate. However, we will soon have a review meeting in the first week of June where all the candidates and members from Seemandhra and Telangana would participate,” said Tatipudi Sriramulu, the candidate for the Pendurthy MLA seat. “We are hopeful of strengthening the party before the 2019 elections and expanding to other states. Till then we will work for the minority communities and make our presence felt,” said Lepcha. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

50. CBCI Greets Modi (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has greeted Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi and hoped that the new government would work for the welfare and progress of the poor, marginalised, minorities and weaker sections of the society. In a statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India assured the Prime Minister-designate of its prayers and wholehearted support in his efforts to lead the nation towards new heights of peace, prosperity and harmony. “The CBCI hopes that the resounding victory in the general elections should enthuse the BJP and the NDA to work relentlessly for the welfare and progress of all people, especially the poor, the marginalised, minorities and weaker sections of society,” the statement from the CBCI said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

51. Amity still eludes tense, scared Muzaffarnagar (7)

Muzaffarnagar: Months after riots broke out Muzaffarnagar district is still under a communal siege, with the district administration failing to restore harmony. Hindu and Muslim neighbours still eye each other with suspicion and live in constant fear. This distrust is strengthened by frequent killings in the area as miscreants belonging to different faiths move about freely in groups, attacking members of the other community.Latest in the spate of killings is the lynching of four youths by villagers. According to the police, in the last four weeks, six such incidents have been reported in which ten people have been killed in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining Meerut. Locals say that despite security measures and deployment of additional policemen, killings and fights break out regularly, filling villagers with fear. Most incidents involve fights between Muslims and Hindus, mainly Jats.They also claimed that the Lok Sabha election results and the overwhelming victory of the BJP had acted as a catalyst and since then the situation appears to have gone out of control. Locals claimed that rumours of renewed communal violence were flying thick and fast on counting day (May 16) but any untoward incidents were prevented by an alert district administration. “As election results started appearing to go in favour of the BJP, scores of local vendors, majority of them Muslims, downed shutters,” a resident of Muzaffarnagar said.Members of both communities admitted to The Pioneer that all is not well in the district, and it may witness more communal clashes as several anti-social elements are actively creating a rift between Hindus and Muslims. They added that such elements are not missing any opportunity to give a communal flavor to any criminal incidents in the area. “This has resulted in widening of the chasm between the two communities who have co-existed since ages. We had expected the situation to return to normal after the violence last year but the recent crisis indicates more trouble in coming days,” said Ishwar Malik, a resident of Khedi Village where the murder of Sanjeev Malik, secretary of the Bar Association of Muzaffarnagar, and the lynching of his killers took place recently. Though he attributed Sunday morning’s incident to a land dispute, Malik added that the accused persons were from the minority community. “When people came to know that the lawyer, Sanjeev Malik, was killed by Muslim youths, hundreds of people from nearby villages gathered to avenge his death. The mob calmed down only when Satbir Malik, the deceased lawyer’s father, appealed for peace,” he said. However, the angry villagers blocked roads in the area and lynched the four accused. The villagers also held a Mahapanchayat (public meet) which was attended by local MP Sanjeev Baliyan. After the incident, hundreds of policemen along with the Provincial Armed Constabulary were deployed to keep the situation under control. The lawyer’s murder is not an isolated incident. A farmer was shot on April 28 and a mob blocked the Delhi-Dehradun national highway and pelted stones at the police. Police said that Yamin (50) was gunned down by some unidentified persons from another village after an argument. On May 9, tensions sparked in city area after a student of class ten, Uvais, was shot by some youths in a mobile shop. Just after the murder, scores of people had gathered in the town and created a stir. Two days later, Amit Bhardwaj, another resident was randomly shot at by car-borne assailants who stopped him on the pretext of asking his name. He was immediately rushed to a hospital in Meerut to avoid any retaliation by residents of the area. Four days ago, a clash took place in Hajipura area, but police immediately controlled the situation. A communal clash was also witnessed in Meerut district earlier when two communities fought over the construction of a water kiosk near a mosque. The incident left one dead and 50 people injured even as police registered cases against 200 people. Meanwhile, security personnel were deployed in huge numbers at Budhana Police Station area where the four youths were lynched following the lawyer’s murder.Alok Kumar, Inspector General, Meerut Range, said they were keeping a close watch on the situation. “We quickly normalized the situation but we have deployed the police force to avoid any more untoward incidents. We have registered an FIR and the matter is being investigating,” said Kumar. However, the role of the local police came under a cloud as it tried to insulate the villagers involved in lynching of the youths. (Pioneer 21/5/14)

 

52. Communal clash in Faizabad village (7)

FAIZABAD: Communal tension gripped Ibrahimpur village of Raunahi police station area after two groups clashed over the passage of a religious procession late on Saturday night. Police resorted to lathicharge and used teargas to control the mob. According to reports, around a dozen persons have been injured in the clash. Heavy contingent of police has been deployed at the affected area and other sensitive parts of the district. Faizabad had witnessed communal riots in October 2012 in which about a hundred shops were looted and burned, two people were killed and many were injured. (Times of India  25/5/14)

 

53. Tension in Muzaffarnagar after abduction, gang rape (7)

MEERUT: Communal tensions have erupted in the riot-affected Kakroli area of Muzaffarnagar after a gang rape. “A case of abduction and gang rape has been registered against Sonu, Saddam and Kamrulzama after a medical examination of the victim [their neighbour] confirmed rape, and they will be arrested soon,” Superintendent of Police (Crime) Rakesh Jolly told The Hindu on Sunday. The suspects allegedly abducted her when she was alone at home on Friday afternoon. When neighbours tried to save her, the accused threatened to kill them. A search was launched after her parents returned in the evening, and she was found in the nearby forests. The parents immediately took her to the Kakroli police station where a first information report was lodged. Last week, two youths gang-raped a postgraduate student and shot a video in the nearby Chaproli area of Baghpat district. They allegedly threatened the girl that if she tried to complain, they would upload the video on the Internet. She, however, gathered courage and filed a complaint with the police on Saturday. In another incident, the Bijnore police arrested a gram pradhan and the father of a girl for allegedly blackening the face of her lover and parading him with a garland of shoes at Nagina on Saturday on the orders of a kangaroo court. Another person was also arrested in the incident. “The matter is serious and we will arrest all the 11 persons who participated in the kangaroo panchayat,” Superintendent of Police Anis Ahmed Ansari told The Hindu on Sunday. Parents of the boy said he had not returned home after the humiliation. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

54. Clash between two communities in Modi’s heartland (7)

AHMEDABAD: The police fired tear gas to break up clashes between two communities in Narendra Modi’s heartland of Gujarat on the eve of his swearing in as Prime Minister, officials said on Monday. Angry crowds set fire to several shops and vehicles and pelted stones at each other during the clashes in western Gujarat state’s main city of Ahmedabad on Sunday night, police and fire officials said. Ahmedabad joint police commissioner Manoj Shashidhar said officers fired tear gas to halt the violence which left four people injured. Shashidhar said an investigation was under way into the clashes which appear to have started when two cars from the different communities crashed in an accident during a marriage procession. “The incident flared up following a petty argument between people of two communities on Sunday night in Gomtipur area of the city. The situation was immediately brought under control,” Shashidhar told AFP. The incident escalated when mobs set property on fire, Ahmedabad chief fire officer M S Dastur told AFP. “Some three shops, one mini-bus and a couple of two wheelers were burnt during the incident,” Dastur said. The clashes came as Modi, chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years, was set to be sworn as premier on Monday after a landslide victory in Lok Sabha elections as head of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi has pledged national unity as he attempts to revive the faltering economy, but he remains tainted by anti-Muslim riots on his watch in Gujarat in 2002 that left at least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, dead. Modi has denied wrongdoing and a court investigation found he has no case to answer. But some members of religious minorities fear a rise in communal tensions under a Modi government and warn they will be sidelined at the expense of the Hindu majority. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

55. Sexual assault case: Asaram to remain in jail, SC to hear bail plea on July 3 (8)

New Delhi: Controversial self-styled godman Asaram, who has been behind bars since August last year for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl, will have to remain in jail for now with the Supreme Court on Monday putting off hearing on his bail plea till July 3. A bench of justices BS Chauhan and AK Sikri adjourned the matter and posted the hearing for July, after the court’s annual summer vacation, on a bunch of petitions filed by the 75-year-old seeking bail and dropping of charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Asaram has challenged the minor status of the alleged victim, claiming that she was born in 1995 and not in 1997, as stated by her father. The Rajasthan High Court had earlier in February denied bail to Asaram in the case of alleged sexual assault of a minor girl in his ashram in Jodhpur. The controversial spiritual guru has been lodged in the Central Jail in Jodhpur since his arrest in August, 2013. (Zee news 20/5/14)

 

56. Will Women’s Reservation Bill see the light of day… ? (8)

New Delhi: The 16th Lok Sabha will have the highest number of women MPs since the first election in 1952, 61. It had the maximum number of women candidates, 668 and the highest women voter turnout in numbers. The women MPs are 11.3 per cent of the total members of parliament, nowhere near the 33 per cent mark that the Women’s Reservation Bill seeks to implement. The Bill seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. “It is the will of the men in the parliament and not that of the women which is required to pass these Bills. Though I am proud of the fact that women were a significant part of this election, the same thing should be reflected in the parliament,” Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Najma Heptulla said. Some of the other Bills pending in the parliament which pertain to women include, The Constitution (110th Amendment) Bill for reserving half the seats in panchayats for women and The Constitution (112th Amendment) Bill reserving one-third of elected seats in municipalities for women. “Since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a majority in the Lok Sabha now, the Bills should be passed. These Bills were brought into the Rajya Sabha by the Congress and so I don’t see them opposing its passage,” Heptulla said. “If there is a problem in the proceedings I am ready to ask the BJP to call for a joint-sitting of both the houses and get the bills passed,” she added. Currently the NDA with 398 members in Parliament crosses the halfway mark of 394, with the combined strength of both houses being 788. The BJP has 42 members in the Rajya Sabha while the Congress has 68. Though a joint session was called in 2008 for the Women’s Reservation Bill, it could not be passed. According to Heptulla, Mulayam Singh-led SP and Mayawati-led BSP are the only two parties who are against certain sections of the Bills and may not let them pass. Apart from Congress President Sonia Gandhi, leader of opposition in the outgoing Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Hema Malini and Maneka Gandhi, other prominent women elected to the 16th Lok Sabha include Kirron Kher, Poonam Mahajan, Uma Bharti, Dimple Yadav, Moon Moon Sen and Meenakshi Lekhi. Congress had the largest number of female candidates, 57, while BJP fielded only 37. While 28 of the 37 BJP women candidates won only four won from the Congress. West Bengal has the largest tally of women winners at 14 who will be entering the new parliament. According to data released by the Election Commission, out of a total of 8,251 candidates, 668 were women, which is the highest ever. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 556 women had contested. General Election 2014 saw the total voter turnout of 66.48%. Out of this the male voter’s turnout was 67.17% and female voter’s turnout was 65.71%. According to the EC, female voter turnout (in percentage) was higher than male turnout in 16 states and UTs. 59 women were elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in the 2009 election. The number of women members in 2004 was 45, and in 1999 it was 49. The least number of women in the Lok Sabha was 19 in 1977. (DNA 22/5/14)

 

57. Women-only cab service launched in Kochi (8)

Kochi: With the support of the Kerala government, a women-only cab service called “She Taxi” has been launched here to ensure safety and empowerment of the fairer sex. Kochi is only the second city after Thiruvanathapuram in India to have such a facility focused for women. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy launched the “She Taxi” facilities at an event here. A similar service was introduced in Thiruvanathapuram six months ago. Kerala government’s department of social justice is backing the venture which has been conceived and implemented by The Gender Park and has actress Manju Warrier as its goodwill ambassador.  “She Taxi has become a women empowerment model for countries across the globe to emulate,” Chandy said at the launch event Monday. “The She Taxi has grabbed global attention after its successful introduction in Thiruvanathapuram. Even the authorities in the UAE are actively looking at the possibility of similar cab services for women,” he said. To begin with, Kochi will have a fleet of ten cabs. Later, Kozhikode will become the third city in the state to launch She Taxis, said M.K. Muneer, Kerala’s minister for panchayats and social justice.“We are planning to roll out 250 She Taxi cabs in all major cities across the state,” said Muneer. She Taxi was launched in Thiruvananthapuram Nov 19, 2013, with five cabs.  The customised pink-and-white taxis, supplied by Maruti Suzuki India, are fitted with best-in-class technology such as GPS, precision metering systems and in-car LCD systems. They also have a number of safety features such as emergency alert switches for drivers and passengers and safety alert mobile application for women drivers. (Pioneer 22/5/14)

 

58. Women’s Participation in NREGS Drops (8)

BHUBANESWAR: With women’s participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) on a decline in the State, the Odisha Government has asked the district collectors to adopt women-specific plans to reverse the trend. Apart from specific types of work which are favourable to women, facilities at the work sites and if possible, incentives must also be provided to district coordinators, the collectors have been told. In last couple of years, participation of women in NREGS has gradually declined in Odisha, posing a worry for the Government. What’s worse, the figures are even below the national average. From 39 per cent in 2011-12 to 37 per cent in 2012-13, the share has now dropped to 33 per cent in 2013-14. This, despite special provisions in NREGA to promote women’s participation. However, the nature and condition of work, burden of responsibilities at home and labour market are some of the factors that prevent the women’s participation from improving. To arrest the trend, the Panchayati Raj Department has asked the collectors to study the composition of women workers at work sites and the nature of work to understand why the participation has dropped. Special attention must be given to widows, deserted and destitute. The gram panchayats must identify such women and ensure they are provided at least 100 days of work. Similarly, pregnant women and lactating mothers must also be treated as a special category. The Department has identified at least 18 types of works which should be offered,  preferably to women. Such works should be identified and implemented close to their houses. Similarly, the GPs have been asked to identify at least one work which remains operational round the year for women. “The circular on ensuring at least one community project in each revenue village must be strictly followed. This would mean women workers are engaged in MGNREGS in their own village, mostly those living in hilly and difficult terrains,” Director, Special Projects NB Jawale said in a circular. The districts have also been asked to follow the example of Kerala and Tamil Nadu where women’s participation is above 80 per cent because of availability of economic activities for women self-help groups. This strategy must be adopted in districts where National Rural Livelihood Mission is implemented. The collectors have also been asked to put in place an incentive system to push women’s involvement. If participation exceeds 70 per cent, the district programme coordinators must be provided incentives. Flexible work hours, making available amenities such as shades, drinking water and child care should be provided to improve the participation. According to the Panchayati Raj Department, participation of women in NREGS is less than 33 per cent in the districts of Sonepur, Sambalpur, Puri, Nuapada, Malkangiri, Koraput, Khurda, Kendrapara, Jharsuguda, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Bhadrak, Bargarh, Balasore and Angul which need immediate attention. (New Indian Express 25/5/14)

 

59. CSR to work ‘meri shakti meri beti’ campaign in Haryana (8)

New Delhi, May 19 : In a bid to eliminate from the society the practice of sex determination of embryo, the Centre for Social Research (CSR) is all set to roll out “meri shakti meri beti” campaign in Haryana. The campaign started by the CSR and supported by the German embassy aims at addressing gender biased sex-selection, replicating best practices in combating sex-selective abortion and mend the gap in the regional approach for sex selection by coordinating cross-jurisdictional programming. According to the 2011 Census report, Gurgaon city and Manesar town have an extremely low sex ratio of 854 girls per 1,000 boys. The region is highly stratified across the economic spectrum, with a high-earning urban class and a large and growing population of rural migrants from surrounding regions, the report says. Speaking about implementing the plans, CSR director Ranjana Kumari said: “We are hopeful and confident that by partnering with other grassroot level NGOs, ‘meri shakti meri beti’ project will be a success. Community watch groups and committees against sex selection are also being formed that will keep a constant check on incidences of female foeticide in this region.” The project has already been implemented successfully in the national capital in the last couple of years and now aims at raising awareness about pre-natal sex determination and prepare stakeholders and community members for deeper engagement to curb the declining sex ratio in the region, she said in a statement. (New Kerala 19/5/14)

 

60. Srinagar: Husband, in-laws demand dowry, burn 20-year-old with acid (8)

Srinagar: A shocking incident of domestic violence has left a 20 year newly wed woman with burnt hands and feet in Srinagar. The woman has alleged that her husband and in-laws demanded dowry and subjected her to inhuman torture and threw acid on her. “A year back 20 year old women of Gujran village of Rajouri District married accused 24 year old Mohammad Razaq, a labourer who used to work in Gulf. After marriage, her husband and his parents started to torture her and demand dowry. Her in-laws even used to keep her hostage for days together,” SP Rajouri Mubashir Latiffi said. In her statement, the woman alleged acid was first thrown on her hands and lower limb on February 9 by her husband and in-laws as a result of which her both hands suffered massive burn injuries. She alleged some local leaders intervened in the matter and assured her that her husband would pay her money for treatment. However, she resented when nothing was done to treat her for two months and she was confined in house. With the help of her father, she approached the Rajouri police on Friday. The police have registered a case in against her husband and his parents. (CNN IBN 25/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

61. NGT notice to Centre, Odisha over Posco green nod (9)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the state pollution control board and Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to reply within three weeks regarding extension of environment clearance (EC) for Posco’s steel plant project at Paradip. “Let reply be filed within three weeks from today with advanced copy to counsel for appellant, who may file rejoinder within two weeks,” the court said today in its daily order posted on its website. Hearing a case filed by environmentalist Prafulla Samantray, the green court today asked the Central and the state governments to clarify the questions raised about the re-validation of environment clearance granted on 7 January, 2014. The EC for the steel plant was extended as per an order issued by NGT in 2013. While hearing another case related to forest clearance and tree felling at proposed plant site of Posco, the court had asked the MoEF to re-validate the EC granted in 2007. The original EC in 2007 was granted for 12 million tonne per annum (MTPA) steel plant of Posco along with its captive port and other facilities. However, in the re-validated EC, the MoEF has granted the clearance for four million tonne plant and said there is an inbuilt provision to build another steel mill of 4 MTPA capacity later. The petitioner, in a fresh appeal filed in last week of March, said the re-validation approved in January this year and the original EC granted in 2007 was cleared without looking into ground reports submitted by experts and hence is illegal. “The EC was illegal and that’s why the court admitted our prayer to hear the matter,” said Samantray. (Business Standard 20/5/14)

 

62. Cry to save reserve forest from zoo inside (9)

Bangalore, May 22: Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have been a threat to Iron Men and some gents in khaki shorts when he was in power but never to other species. Now a zoo named after him is at the centre of a battle raging around the fate of assorted animals such as sloth bears, wild boars, leopards, pangolins, simians and hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. Conservationists are up in arms against the upcoming project — the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park — inside a reserve forest that already houses a bear sanctuary in north Karnataka. The project — inside the Billikallu West Reserve Forest — has been a bone of contention ever since the then BJP government ordered in November 2010 to develop it in the current location in Kamalapura, in Bellary district, where the Daroji Bear Sanctuary is located. Although it was supposed to come up at Munirabad in neighbouring Koppal district, the project was shifted to Bellary, the home district of former tourism minister Janardhana Reddy who showed a lot of interest in getting the zoo to enrich tourism potential in his turf. The mining baron apparently exerted pressure to shift the project before he was arrested in the mining scam and was sent to jail in September 2011. Work is on in 350 acres carved out of the 55sqkm reserve forest. The Daroji Bear Sanctuary that houses more than 150 sloth bears is nearby in the same forest stretch. Some 380km north of Bangalore, the zoo site is 15km from Hampi, the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire and a major tourist hub. By positioning the zoo close to Hampi, the government plans to capitalise on the local tourist presence. But the contention of wildlife activists is that zoo animals would be dangerous for the wild animals as they could transmit diseases usually borne by captive inmates. The reserve forest is home to animals like sloth bears, wild boars, leopards, pangolins, simians and hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. This prompted two wildlife activists to file a PIL with Karnataka High Court recently. But the court being in summer holidays is likely to hear the petition only in June. The petition sought judicial intervention to quash the government order that led to the shifting of the zoo to the reserve forest. One of the petitioners, Santosh Martin, told The Telegraph it would be disastrous to have a zoo inside the forest area. “Pristine forest should not be destroyed for the sake of a zoo which can be built elsewhere,” said Martin, a former honorary wildlife warden of Bellary. “This is a corridor for many animals and a nesting ground for endangered birds. Much of the biodiversity in the area will be lost forever if the zoo is built,” he said. “There could be outbreak of diseases from zoo animals that can threaten the existence of the animals in the wild. Not just that, the zoo will give rise to commercial activities that will destroy the area’s serenity.” But the authorities feel the outcry is unreasonable. “It’s not as if the entire flora and fauna in the Billikallu forest would get destroyed,” R.S. Suresh, additional principal chief conservator of forests and member secretary of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka, said. …(The Telegraph 23/5/14)

 

63.  ‘Just planting trees is not enough’ (9)

Visakapatanam: Every living organism is dependent on one another and it is this healthy coexistence among different species that strengthens the ecosystem. The disproportionate percentage of plant and animal life will adversely affect the environment and lifestyle of mankind. Coinciding with the International Day for Biological Diversity being observed in the city, members of India Youth for Society along with Green Pals Club spoke on the importance of safeguarding the planet and various means to protect multiple species. Every individual should step out of his or her comfort zone and come out with effective solutions to enhance the overall ecosystem, they felt. “Though agricultural biotechnology leads to better yields, it has its own negative impact on health. The need of the hour is to adopt traditional organic farming techniques over contemporary methods,” Professor in Zoology, Andhra University C. Manju Latha, one of the invitees, said. President of India Youth for Society Appala Reddy said that one’s responsibility does not end by just planting trees. “We need to move beyond the planting drive and take serious measures to nurture them for a longer period. This apart, several showrooms and retail outlets join hands to cut down trees because they block the visibility of their hoardings. We want to meet concerned officials and request them to take necessary action against such persons,” he said. According to N.B. Murthy of Green Pals Club, factors like deforestation, global warming and climate change have an impact on the extinction of various species. Before it becomes too late, he said, it is necessary to join hands and take little steps to strengthen the green world by all means. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

64. Rs 30,000-cr to undo damage done by mining in Karnataka (9)

Bangalore: The country’s first programme to mitigate the adverse impact of mining on the environment – forests, wildlife and the local community -is set to take off in Karnataka soon. With the Supreme Court having given it the green signal recently, the state government will set up a company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, in a month with an initial corpus of close to Rs 4,000 crore. The court, while rejecting the Karnataka government’s plea for allowing it to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, ordered the state to set up a Section 25 company under the Companies Act. This company will formulate and implement projects under the Comprehensive Environment Plan for Mining Impact Zone (CEPMIZ), a senior official in the state government said. “Karnataka will be the first state to undertake such a massive and ambitious environment project. It could become a model for replication elsewhere in the country,” said Tushar Girinath, secretary, department of mines, Karnataka. The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court, in its report dated February 3, 2012, had recommended the establishment of a special purpose vehicle for taking ameliorative and mitigative measures according to the CEPMIZ around the mining leases in the districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur. “As directed by the Supreme Court, we will have to form a Section 25 company within a month and start implementing the environment rehabilitation projects. This company will be in existence for the next 30 years and spend at least Rs 30,000 crore for repairing the damage done by mining to the environment in the three districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur,” Girinath said. The SPV will implement not only afforestation programmes but also a whole series of development works in the areas of education, health, nutrition, water supply, employment and training, roads, minor irrigation, among others…  (Business Standard 25/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

65. 28 schools issued warning for ignoring RTE admissions (11)

CHENNAI: The directorate of matriculation schools in Tamil Nadu has issued a warning to 28 schools in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts to comply with the 25% reservation of seats stipulated under the Right to Education Act. This warning came after a complaint filed by city NGO Becoming I Foundation. The directorate also forwarded the complaint to the Central Board of Secondary Education as several of the 28 schools mentioned are affiliated to the CBSE. “It is unacceptable for private schools with state and central government approval to defy the orders of the government,” the statement said. “All schools have received the warning from the directorate and we have put up notices on the board so that it is convenient for parents. The RTE admission process is underway but we request parents to bring their income certificate when they come to get the applications because we have no other way of determining their eligibility,” said K R Nandakumar, general secretary of Tamil Nadu nursery, primary, matriculation and higher secondary association. However, a volunteer with Becoming I Foundation said, “We visit schools in the city everyday to help parents with the application process but none had put up anything on the notice board or were helpful to the parents.” In its complaint, the NGO had listed several prominent schools in the city as refusing to issue application forms under RTE. Some had refused outright, while others claimed to have filled up their quota already. Some claimed they were not even aware of the RTE Act. The directorate also recognised that several institutions pose as minority schools and refuse admission. The body has promised strict action against these schools if they are not certified by the government as minority institutions. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

66. Saffron outfit wants Modi govt to revamp education (11)

NEW DELHI: “Total change” in education complete with new textbooks and a new pedagogy that promotes modernity with Indian base is what has been demanded by the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from the new government. RSS pracharak Dinanath Batra of SSUN, who also runs Shiksha Bachao Andolan, told TOI, “I am meeting Narendra Modiji after the swearing-in. We have already sent our demands. Political change has taken place, now there should be total revamp of education.” Batra’s recipe to revive education includes institutional reform as well as creation of a new moral universe. He wants amendment in the RTE Act so that provisions like ‘no-detention’ can be reworked. His outfit has demanded that after class X and XII, the “super energy” of children should be channelled for social work that includes mandatory service in slums and villages. Batra wants An All India Social Service Mission that will conduct three-month course to achieve it. Schools should adopt some villages and universities should adopt at least 50 villages, he says. Batra, who played a vital role in the saffronisation of education during the earlier NDA regime, says in all subjects the first chapter of school textbooks should be entirely devoted to highlight India’s contribution in various fields. “From physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, history and religion, Indian contribution to world civilisation should be taught to students,” he says. Batra said, “NCERT textbooks will be rewritten according to the aim and objects of the nation so that it inculcates feeling of patriotism among children. Modernity is not westernisation. We want modernity with Indian base.” He says there should be common thread to bind syllabus and textbooks “through values of Indian tradition, social consciousness, patriotism and spiritualism”. He regrets that “due to Macaulay’s education, Indians have become intellectual slaves of the West”.Batra says he had pointed out 70 mistakes in the existing NCERT textbooks many of which were rectified after a court verdict. But he alleges that mistakes have been restored now. His list of grouse with NCERT textbooks is long, ranging from inadequate teaching of Indian history to, what he claims, untruthful depiction of heroes like Shivaji. He is also angry that Hindi textbooks have poems written in Persian. “It has destroyed Hindi. Also there is no place for Sanskrit,” he says. As for institutional reforms, he wants an All India Autonomous Education Commission on the lines of the Election Commission. “It will look after primary to university education. There will be no interference of government except funding,” he says. He also wants revival of the old proposal to have Indian Education Service through an all-India examination. “IAS officers are jack of all trades, master of none,” he says. Batra also wants four-year teachers’ education course immediately after class XII and linkage between academic and vocational education. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

67. ‘No Clarity About RTE Among People’ (11)

CHENNAI: The School Education Department in the city has received a total of 2,635 applications for the 6,600 seats available under the Right to Education (RTE) quota till date. A senior official of the department said that there had been a gradual increase in the number of applications compared to last year, when 1,600 applications came. However, this did not bring a smile to the faces of parents and social activists, who complain that 25 per cent quota in the city schools won’t be filled up as there is no clarity about the Act among the people.  With only a couple of weeks left for schools to reopen for the next academic year, parents are finding it hard to get the applications and many of them have been turned away from schools. A Devaneyan, director, Thozhamai, who helps parents living below the poverty line to access the application forms, said that there was no clarity on the Act whether it was applicable to the aided and minority institutions or not. He said many parents who don’t have identity or resident proof docuemnts may not be able to meet the May 31 deadline because of the Lok Sabha elections. “Parents were unable to get the documents on time because the Revenue Department, was focusing on elections,” he said. Officials said that the deadline to submit applications had been extended to May 31 following the elections. The decision to extend the deadline is a welcome step, said State convenor, Campaign Against Child Labour, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry P Joseph Victor Raj. But he feels that RTE being implemented under different boards makes it complex. While the State is only monitoring primary, private, elementary and matriculation schools, most parents below poverty line who aspire to provide Central Board of Secondary Education for their children don’t know where to get applications. “They are uneducated but all they want is to provide quality education for their children,” said Devaneyan. A  State government official said that CBSE applications under RTE arebeing scrutinised by the Regional Director. “There are contradicting figures of the total availability of seats under RTE in the States as those are being filled. Initially, the figure was given as 56,682 and then it rose by a couple of thousand, said Joseph. “There is a need to have a White Paper in this regard, which provides details about the number of seats available in the State as well as those being filled during 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic year, so that schools are properly reimbursed,” he said. (New Indian Express 24/5/14)

 

68. 8 top priorities for the HRD ministry (11)

1. Strengthen the Right to Education. The Vajpayee government had made education a fundamental right in 2002. The first task should be to help states with funds so that trained and qualified teachers are recruited. Allocation for education must go up at least 6% of GDP. 2. We are producing thousands of educated youth who are not employable. To make education in line with the requirements of the job market, a big push is required in skilling. Bulk of the new jobs will be in industry (manufacturing, particularly) and in the services sector. We need to produce an army of skilled personnel for them. The private sector should be roped in for this. 3. Modi should reverse BJP’s opposition to allowing foreign universities to open campus in India. Even if Ivy Leaguers are not interested initially, many A-grade institutions like Carltech and Duke are keen. The bill is pending in Parliament. Once legislation is in place, FDI would flow. Already, 100% FDI is allowed. 4. A quality audit of IITs/IIMs needed. IITs should be asked to pay attention to research. It has become a factory producing engineers. IIMs should be given deemed university status so that it attracts genuine research in the fast changing economy. Despite expansion, there is a scope for more IITs/IIMs. 5. The syllabus of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the vehicle of RTE, should be recast. Top priority should be given to teaching English. Across India a new aspirational class has emerged that feels constrained by the lack of knowledge of English. 6. Mid-Day Meal needs a serious revamp. HRD ministry needs to get into a mission mode to ensure hygienic food reaches children. Cook-cum-helpers should be given better and regular remuneration. 7. UPA’s promise of 6,000 quality schools the district level, 2,500 through the private-public partnership (PPP) mode, didn’t take off. The new government should kick start these schools with qualified teachers and syllabus that bridges the urban-rural divide. 8. The huge gap between central and state universities needs to be bridged. In this regard, UPA’s Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan should be bolstered. This is the first time that Centre is doing something for state universities. Initial response of states has been positive. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

69. Afghan attack: Taliban fighters kill 10 policemen (12)

Kabul: Taliban fighters have struck in two Afghan provinces, targeting the country’s police forces and leaving at least 10 policemen dead, officials said today. In northeastern Badakhshan province, a large group of insurgents attacked several police checkpoints late yesterday, forcing the police to retreat and triggering gunbattles that were still raging on today. Six policemen were killed there. And in eastern Laghman province, insurgents wearing head-to-toe burqas, the traditional women’s covering that encompasses the female body, launched an attack on a district base belonging to the local police that killed four policemen. The attacks are part of the Taliban spring offencive that was launched last week in a renewed campaign of assaults on the Afghan police and military. This season, the offencive is expected to be an important gauge of how well Afghan forces can face the insurgents once foreign combat forces leave at the end of the year. In the attack in Badakhshan province, a large group of Taliban simultaneously hit several police checkpoints in Yamgan district. Gen. Fazeluddin Ayar, the province’s police chief, said the fighting started late yesterday and was still underway today. Reinforcements were sent to the location but the police were forced to pull back tactically from the area and were now fighting the Taliban forces in the mountains around the district, Ayar said. He added that Afghan Army helicopters were flying over the district as the battle raged on below. Apart from the six officers killed, five insurgents have also died in the gunbattle and three police officers were wounded, he added. The Taliban said their mujahedeen, or holy warriors, raised the insurgents’ white flag above the Yamgan district headquarters in Badakhshan in a sign of conquest. The other attack, in Laghman province, started early today morning with insurgents dressed as women opening machinegun fire and firing rocket-propelled grenades into the local police base in Alingar district, said Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. Zwak said four members of the Local Police were killed and that there were causalities among the Taliban but gave no more details. The Taliban claimed responsibility both for the Badakhshan and the Laghman attacks in a statement to media, saying they are part of the spring offencive named Operation Khaibar, after a famous battle from the time of the Prophet Muhammed. This time, the Taliban spring offencive comes as voters prepare to go to the polls for the second round of presidential balloting on June 14. The Taliban have pledged to disrupt the vote with bombings and other violence, although the first round of voting on April 5 passed relatively peacefully. (Business Standard 21/5/14)

 

70. Suspected terrorist arrested in robbery of Mumbai jewellers in Delhi (12)

New Delhi: A suspected terrorist, associated with militant outfits of Punjab, has been arrested alongwith three of his associates in connection with the sensational robbery at DBG Road area in Central Delhi last week when two Mumbai-based jewellers were robbed of diamond jewellery worth more than Rs 1 crore, police said on Friday. “The accused, identified as Avtar Singh (47) alias Bittoo has previously been convicted in two TADA cases and one case of murder,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Central) Alok Kumar. He has been a member of All India Sikh Student Federation and Bhindrawala Tiger Force. He has been convicted in a TADA case of Civil Lines police station in Delhi. He is also convicted in another TADA case in Punjab when one AK-47 with 100 cartridges and 2 pistols of .32 Bore with 50 cartridges were recovered from his possession. His younger brother namely Paramjeet alias Pamma, Age-42 years was arrested in the year 1997 for the murder of Chief Minister Beant Singh along-with his associate Jagtar Singh Hawara. Avtar Singh’s three associates, Gurjeet Singh (30), Anil Luthra (19) and Amit (24) have also been arrested with him and gold and diamond jewellery to the tune of approximately Rs 35 lakh have been recovered at their instance. Six members of the gang have already been arrested by the Crime Branch. Stolen jewellery worth 20 lakh was recovered from them. During further investigation, it was established that one of the workers at a jeweller’s shop where the complainant used to visit for sale of his jewellery items, had tipped off the robbers. Critical analysis led police to locate Avtar Singh, one of the masterminds of the heist who had carried out exhaustive reccee of complainant’s movements. This accused was learnt to have been involved in terrorist activities and also a member of certain terrorist groups/outfits. Several teams were dispatched on probable hideouts including NCR and neighbouring states. However, his movements could only be known after lots of efforts at the local level from where he was finally arrested. Sustained interrogation of Avtar Singh revealed the role of his accomplices and the team was able to track them down and arrest them. The incident took place at around 8:45 PM on May 15 in the congested area of Desh Bandhu Gupta Road when two Mumbai-based diamond merchants traveling in a car were intercepted near Liberty Cinema by bike-borne assailants. (Zee News 23/5/14)

 

71. Twin blasts case: NIA gets custody of IM operatives (12)

Hyderabad: A local court on Saturday allowed National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take custody of two alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives — Tahsin Akhtar alias Monu and Zia—ur Rahman alias Waqas — involved in the 2013 Dilsukhnagar twin blasts case, for questioning. The accused were brought from Delhi on a transit warrant and produced before the court here. Though the probe agency requested 20 days’ custody of the accused, the court granted only 15 days. The duo will be under judicial remand till June 23. A special court in Delhi on Friday allowed the plea of NIA Hyderabad seeking three days transit remand of the two accused. NIA had earlier claimed before the court that Tehsin and Waqas had “exclusive knowledge” about the plans of IM to carry out terror attacks in the country in future. It had also said that IM Indian chief Yasin Bhatkal, his aide Asadullah Akhtar and other top operatives of the banned terror outfit were in touch with Tehsin and Waqas. Tehsin and Waqas, along with other alleged IM operatives, Mohd Maroof, Wakar Azhar and Mohd Saqib Ansari, were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in March this year. The twin blasts, triggered by powerful IEDs, planted near Konark and Venkatadiri theatres in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, had left 17 dead and 100 injured on February 21, 2013. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

72. Judge quizzes application of MCOCA in terror case (12)

Mumbai: The judge of a designated Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court, conducting trial against 23 alleged members of the banned organisation Indian Mujahideen (IM), has directed defence lawyers and the prosecution to make their submissions on application of MCOCA on the case. The court would start recording evidence only after it is satisfied that the law is applicable on this matter. According to advocate Shahid Nadeem Ansari, who is part of the defence lawyers’ team representing some of the accused on behalf of Jamiat-e-Ulema Maharashtra, special judge A.L. Pansare last week directed defence advocates to make arguments on why MCOCA is not applicable on this case. The prosecution was asked to make submissions on how the law is applicable. The court has posted the matter for arguments on June 18 as Mr Ansari informed the court that advocates Sharif Shaikh and Khan Abdul Wahab, who would be arguing, are busy with the Mumbai trains blast case as the final arguments are underway in that trial. The 23 people have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. One of the reasons for postponing the arguments was that another defence lawyer, Ishrat Ali Khan, also informed the court that his senior has challenged the application of MCOCA in this case in the Bombay high court. The matter is posted for after the court’s vacations so they would be able to make their submission after the hearing is over in the high court. There are 23 persons facing trial in connection with sending mails to media houses and government houses before blasts in Surat, Delhi and Hyderabad. They have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for being a member of IM, the Arms Act, Explosives Act and Information Technology Act. They are also charged under MCOCA. (Asian Age 26/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

73. Six of Naxal gang suspected to have killed TRS leader held (12)

Hyderabad: Six members of a gang allegedly belonging to former Naxal leader Nayeem, who is on the radar of Andhra Pradesh police in connection with the murder of TRS leader K Ramulu, were arrested in Thiruvananthapuram today, police said. Ramulu, a member of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) executive committee and brother of former top Maoist leader Sambashivudu, was shot dead by unidentified persons on May 11 in Nalgonda town of Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, fugitive Nayeemuddin alias Nayeem had emerged as the prime suspect behind the killing of Ramulu. “We have got information on arrest of six persons in Trivandrum. It is still not clear whether they are members of Nayeem’s gang. Their involvement in the killing of Ramulu is also not confirmed…However, we are sending a police team to Kerala to interrogate the arrested persons,” Nalgonda district Superintendent of Police T Prabhakar Rao told PTI. Sambashivudu, a TRS polit bureau member, was hacked to death by unidentified assailants using sickles and swords also in Nalgonda district in March 2011. Incidentally, Nayeem was listed as the main accused in the murder of Konapuri Ilaiah alias Sambashivudu. The district police had in April 2011 arrested five of the 12 accused in Sambasivudu’s murder and claimed that the accused killed Sambashivudu at the behest of Nayeem. Even Ramulu had earlier told a private TV news channel that his life was under threat from Nayeem. Police had also suspected the role of Nayeem in the murder of Ramulu. (Pioneer 20/5/14)

 

74. Five IEDs planted by naxals recovered in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Five improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suspected to have planted by Naxals to harm security personnel during just-held parliamentary polls, were recovered today in insurgency-hit Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The joint team of security personnel found five IEDs – four of 5 kgs each and a 15 kg one stealthily placed beneath Chhingnar-Muusalnar road under Geedam police station limits, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Narendra Khare said. A team of 195 battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and district force was mobilised in the restive Geedam region after getting a tip-off about the explosives being planted in the Chhingnar area, the SP said. When they reached near the place they spotted five IEDs packed in steel containers averting a major mishap, he said. Besides, a 50-meter wire was also recovered from the spot.  Prima facie it appears that the explosives were allegedly planted by rebels to target the security personnel during last month polling in the region. However, security personnel strictly followed the standard operating procedure (SOP) while moving through thisroute foiling the evil design of ultras, he said. The IED was immediately destroyed by the bomb disposal squad, the SP added. (Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

75. IB raises alarm over growing Maoists activities in Punjab (12)

Chandigarh: Though IB’s internal report has established growing Naxal activities in Punjab, there is no information about the exact number of frontal organisations active in the state. The Naxal insurgency is not limited to the eastern or central parts of the country. It is slowly advancing in the north too. According to a recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) internal report, the banned CPI (Maoist) is operating through 128 frontal organisations in Haryana, Delhi (NCR), Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Kerala. Though IB’s internal report has established growing Naxal activities in Punjab, there is no information about the exact number of frontal organisations active in the state. While no arrests were made recently, the Jalandhar Police in January 2009 arrested Jai Parkash Dubey from Phillaur, a senior Communist Party of India (Maoist) Naxalite, who was trying to revive Naxalism in the state. Former chief minister and newly elected Amritsar MP Captain Amarinder Singh in his address delivered during the Chintan Shivir in Jaipur on January 2013 had said, “All 22 districts of Punjab have reported Naxal activities. When I was the chief minister, only two districts had Naxal presence,” Captain Amarinder Singh said. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal too, during a state plan meeting in New Delhi in April 2012, had warned the Planning Commission functionaries. “The farmers are facing challenges like falling agriculture income, rising agriculture debt and high farm investments. If nothing is done soon to deal with this impending crisis, there would be Naxalism in Punjab,” Badal had said. Director general of Punjab Police Sumedh Singh Saini, however said no naxal activity has been noticed in the state, and refused to comment any further. Meanwhile, the IB report states that while eight CPI (Maoist) frontal organisations are active in Haryana, activities of nine frontal organisations are under scanner in Delhi NCR. The Naxal connection to Delhi and Gurgaon was established on Friday when the Special Task Force arrested a zonal commander of a naxalite outfit. Krishna Mochi alias Abhay alias Ajay was nabbed from Salarpur area of Gautambudh Nagar. Mochi was wanted in connection with an October 2013 attack on CRPF jawans in Bihar’s Gaya district. During his interrogation, Mochi confessed he was treated in a Gurgaon hospital after he was injured by the Bihar Police on March 19 in an encounter. “The probe is on and we are trying to establish his (Mochi’s) connection with Gurgaon. We have not received any official communication regarding his involvement in any Naxal activity in the area,” Gurgaon Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Vivek Sharma told MAIL TODAY. This is, however, not the first time that a Naxal movement has been established in Gurgaon. Former minister of state for home Jitendra Singh had said in Rajya Sabha on August 22, 2012, that a number of organisations sympathetic towards the Naxal movement had protested during unrest at Maruti’s Manesar plant in 2012. Meanwhile, though no Naxalrelated violence has been reported in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand, the IB had found at least two Naxal frontal organisations active in Uttrakhand during the 2013 landslide and floods. There are also speculations about the presence of Nepalese Maoists in Himachal Pradesh. (India Today 22/5/14)

 

76. Police, naxals exchange fire in Balaghat (12)

Balaghat: Police and naxals exchanged fire in a brief encounter in forest area near Raasimeta village in the district on Thursday, a senior officer said. The incident occurred when police confronted the ultras on a tip off that they are arriving in the area to collect “donations” from pluckers of Tendu leaves, district SP Gaurav Tiwari told PTI. Naxals then fired at police who returned it, forcing the Reds to beat a retreat in deep forest. “Neither any naxal nor any police jawan was injured in the firing,” Mr. Tiwari said. He also dismissed the report that any Maoist cadre was killed in the firing or a dead body found at the spot. Police have seized belongings of ultras, mostly of daily use, the SP added. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

77. Naxals spreading base in urban areas: Nagpur police (12)

Pune: The arrest of Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba has proved yet again that Naxalites are spreading base in urban areas, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Nagpur range, Ravindra Kadam said. The Maharashtra police is monitoring cities such as Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Nagpur, he added. Prof. Saibaba was part of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, an organisation banned by the Andhra Pradesh and Odisha governments. He aided in the spread of Maoist ideology internationally, Mr. Kadam claimed. “Prof. Saibaba was involved with many human rights organisations. We have to investigate to what extent he could influence them,” he said. Stating that the police case against him was strong, he said he could lead them to many other urban cells. Organisations that promise to fight for a cause as a front for luring and radicalising youth was a tactic that the police had been able to crack, Mr. Kadam said. “There are also efforts to tap into the unorganised labour in industrial areas in Maharashtra and Gujarat,” he said. According to him, this was being done through the Golden Corridor Committee established in 2009, which was responsible for mobilisations in the region. Claiming that Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural organisation whose members were arrested over alleged links with Naxalites last year, was one such front, Mr Kadam said: “Expressing dissent is allowed, but within limitations.” The KKM should come out and condemn actions of Naxalites if their goal is pure, he added. (The Hindu 28/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

78. Pre 1971 Bangladeshi settlers are Indians: Meghalaya HC (13)

Shillong: In a historic judgement, the Meghalaya High Court has said that Bangladesh nationals who have settled in this north eastern state before March 24, 1971 should be treated as Indians and they be enrolled in voters’list. The judgement was based on a petition by over 40 refugees from Bangladesh, who were denied enrolment in the electoral roll by the district administration citing their citizenship was doubtful. These refugees hailing from Amjong village near the Assam-Meghalaya border in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district moved the High Court after their citizenship certificates were seized by the deputy commissioner. Justice S R Sen, in his May-15 order, directed the district Deputy Commissioner Pooja Pandey to return the seized certificates to the petitioners and enrol them in voters’ list before the next elections. Justice Sen said there was an understanding between the two countries as to who should be allowed to stay and who should be deported back to Bangladesh. “It is clearly understood that the forefathers of the petitioners entered India much before March 24, 1971. As such there is no question of deporting them at this stage when they have acquired the right of permanent rehabilitation in Amjong village,” he said. Ruling out that they are Bangladesh citizens, the court said there was no scope for their deportation and directed the state government and the Centre not to disturb them, but to give them proper rehabilitation. The state government had earlier argued that the petitioners and their forefathers were not permanent citizens and were rehabilitated temporarily by the autonomous district council. (Zee News 21/5/14)

 

79. BJP Govt Kindles Fresh Hopes for SL Refugees (13)

RAMANATHAPURAM:  With Narendra Modi set to assume charge as Prime Minister of India, the Lankan Tamil at the Mandapam transit camp are hopeful of a new lease of life. The change of guard at Centre has kindled hope in the minds of Lankan Tamils, who expect a more proactive role on the part of Indian government to ensure peace and a dignified life for Tamils living in the northern province of the island nation. Sri Lanka witnessed armed conflict between LTTE cadre and Lankan armed forces in 2009, during which thousands of Lankan Tamils fled to India to save their lives. Meanwhile, the attitude of UPA government at Centre, which maintained silence when Tamils were subjected to torture disheartened the refugees. With the BJP government set to assume office next week, the Lankan Tamils are hopeful that India will intervene to ensure peace and a dignified life for Tamils in Sri Lanka. The historical victory of AIADMK in the Lok Sabha elections also has kindled hope in their minds. Viyakulan (name changed) of Jaffna revealed that the Lankan Tamils have pinned their hopes on the AIADMK  government in Tamil Nadu and the BJP government at Centre. The two parties were sympathetic towards the Tamils who were tortured by the Lankan forces. (New Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

80. Pope to see Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan (13)

Amman: On the first leg of his three-day Mideast trip, Pope Francis will get a firsthand look at the plight of Syrian refugees and witness the toll the civil war next door is taking on Jordan. Francis frequently has lamented the plight of refugees, denouncing the “globalisation of indifference” that often greets them in their newly adopted homelands. At the same time, he and his predecessors have decried the flight of Christians from the Holy Land, insisting recently: “We will not be resigned to think about the Middle East without Christians!” After meeting with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania at the royal palace, Francis is due to celebrate Mass on Saturday in Amman’s International Stadium. The Vatican expects some 25,000 people to attend, many of them Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Later, he will meet one-on-one with refugees and disabled children at a church in Bethany beyond the Jordan, which many believe is the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism. Christians make up about 5% of Syria’s population, but assaults on predominantly Christian towns by rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s rule have fueled fears among the country’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists in the revolt. Christians believe they are being targeted in part because of anti-Christian sentiment among Sunni Muslim extremists and partly as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad. The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Francis wants to offer comfort to all Christians who live in the region and encourage them to stay. “These Christians are living stones, and without their presence, the Holy Land and its holy sites risk becoming a museum,” Parolin told Vatican Television on the eve of the trip. Jordan last month opened a third camp for Syrian refugees, a stark indication of the strains the civil war is creating for the country. The sprawling facility is designed to accommodate up to 130,000 people and potentially become the world’s second-largest refugee camp. Jordan is hosting 600,000 registered Syrian refugees, or 10% of its population. Jordanian officials estimate the real number is closer to 1.3 million. For the Syrian Christians who will greet Francis, his presence is a chance to show the world their hopelessness as the conflict drags on. “We are very happy because he will see Christians in the Arab world, he will see us and see our suffering,” said Nazik Malko, a Syrian Orthodox Christian refugee from Maaloula who will be among the 600 or so people to greet the pope at Bethany beyond the Jordan. “We wish that peace will be restored in the whole world, and in Syria.”… (Hindustan Times 24/5/14)

 

81. Lanka nabs returning Indian refugee family (13)

Colombo: Sri Lanka Navy has detained a family of five who were trying to enter the country via sea after staying in India as refugees for a few years, the police said on Friday. Police spokesman and superintendent Ajith Rohana said the family members were arrested on Thursday off the coast of Talaimannar in the north as they were returning via sea. They had fled to India in 2004 from Mannar and spent time in Rameshwaram. The Navy intercepted their boat on Thursday. The family members included three youths aged 21, 19 and 15 years and their parents aged 44 and 38, Mr Rohana said.The motive of their fleeing Sri Lanka would be investigated, he said. There was a large influx from Sri Lanka’s north and east to Rameshwaram by boats during the decisive military clashes between the LTTE and the Army five years ago. Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan nationalist party has asked Norway to immediately handover an Oslo-based LTTE leader to face a criminal trial in the country. In a letter written to the Norwegian ambassador, the Jathika Hela Urumaya also known as the National Heritage Party accused Perinpana-yagam Sivaparan, alias Nediyavan, of conducting terrorist activities against Sri Lanka. “We urge Norway to immediately handover Nediyavan to Sri Lankan authorities so that he can be tried for all his many crimes against the state of Sri Lanka and the people of Sri Lanka,” JHU chief Champika Ranawaka wrote in the letter. According to Mr Ranawaka, Nediyavan, LTTE’s top military leader, lives freely in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Mr Ranawaka accused Nediyavan of conducting terrorist activities against Sri Lanka. He said that recent investigations have confirmed Nediyavan’s involvement in attempts to revive the LTTE. Mr Ranawaka is also a minister in the President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government. (Asian Age 25/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

82. MGNREGS: Ombudsman gets 136 complaints from GPs  (14)

Mangalore:  Ombudsman of Dakshina Kannada district for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has received 136 complaints from different gram panchayats, on the illegality in the implementation of the MGNREGS,  since August 2010. According to the available statistics, the cases include 60 cases related to delay in payment of wages, 11— on misappropriation of funds, 34—illegalities, 17—denial of employment, denial of employment card—1, misuse of job card—2, lack of transparency in implementation—5 and three related to action plan. In 26 cases, a sum of Rs 36,10,984 have been recovered and deposited in the State treasury. All the cases have been settled. The Ombudsman has imposed a fine of 78,000  in 58 cases on the officials who were responsible for the illegality in the implementation of the scheme in Dakshina Kannada district. He has ordered for departmental inquiry in five cases. Warnings have been issued in 57 cases. The Ombudsman in Udupi district has received 33 cases in the last two and half years. After the DK Ombudsaman took additional charge of Udupi, he has received four cases related to delay in payment of wages, denial of payment for Kayaka bandhu, and denial of unemployment allowances. ‘All the complaints are against gram panchayats. The gram panchayats from where the complaints have come are Balpa, Markanja, Hariharapallathadka, Kollamogru, Aranthodu, Mandekolu, Panja, Bilinele, Mundoor, Shiradi, Aithoor, Kaukradi, Kutruppady, Puduvettu, Maladi, Kaliya, Nidle, Kaniyoor, Barya, Mithabagilu, Marodi, Kalmanja, Andinje, Shibaje, Aladangady, Kotekaru, Konaje, Neerumarga, Beluvai, Muchoor, Thenkamijaru, Talapady, Paduperara, Kuppepadavu, Harekala, Edapadavu, Kandavara, Balkunje, Aikala, Kinya, Munnur, Kinnigoli, Gurpura, Amblamogaru, Alike, Sajipamooda, Perne, Karopadi, Kanyana, Peruvai, Vittal, Kavalapadoor, Pilathabettu and Veerakamba. When the Act was implemented in DK, many had doubted the success of the programme in the district. However, over the years it has brought in a ray of hope among families hailing from poor background, especially among Koraga, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. Many families have improved their livelihood by levelling land, taking up public work like construction of drains, afforestation, planting of fruit-bearing saplings, water conservation programmes and so on, said Ombudsman Sheena Shetty to Deccan Herald. (Deccan Herald 21/5/14)

 

83. India among countries that systematically violate workers’ rights, says report (14)

Islamabad, May 22 : India is reportedly ranked among countries where systematic violations of rights of workers are widely reported. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), an alliance of regional trade confederations that advocates for labour rights around the world gave India a score of 5+ on a scale of 1-5 on the The Global Rights Index: The World’s Worst Countries for Workers. Countries were ranked on a scale of 1-5 with 1 considered best and 5 worst, on the basis of standards of fundamental rights at work in particular the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, The Express Tribune reports. Meanwhile, Pakistan scored 4 along with countries like United States, Kuwait, Bahrain on the index. Central African Republic, Libya, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine were described in the report as the worst country to work in. Due to breakdown of the rule of law, workers were reported to have no guarantee of rights in countries that scored a 5+ on the index. (New Kerala 22/5/14)

 

84. Labour ministry to examine laws with a focus on MSMEs (14)

New Delhi: Amid the BJP-led Central government talking about reviewing ‘outdated’ labour laws, a committee, under the ministry of labour, has called a meeting on May 28 to “examine all aspects of labour laws affecting micro and small enterprises”. The key agenda item for the meeting is to relax labour laws for small scale units. A senior official told The Indian Express that given the new government’s intention to make India a hub for cost-competitive, labour-intensive mass manufacturing, the timing of the meeting is significant. “An order has already been sent to all the concerned stakeholders including employees’ organisations, employers’ organisations, state governments, DIPP, MSME, and women and child development department, among others. The meeting is on examining all aspects of labour laws affecting micro and small enterprises,” the official said. “The committee will consider how to amend the definition of factory in small scale industry,” the official added. The committee has representations from all the concerned stakeholders. It would also discuss issues ranging from multiplicity and complexities of labour laws, rationalisation of inspections to difficulty in affecting changes in service conditions and maintenance of records. Amendments in the labour laws have also been sought by the ministry of commerce and industry to promote manufacturing in India under the national manufacturing policy. The meeting would also see discussion on labour law flexibilities sought by the ministry including employment of women in three shifts, temporary status of employees; flexibility to downsize; number of hours per shift; social security scheme for the work force among others. “The DIPP is already engaged with the labour ministry on amending section 25 FFF(1A) of the Industrial Dispute Act. The DIPP has said that the section should be extended to the manufacturing sector as well,” the official said. The section applies only to mining operations, saying if a mining undertaking closes down due to exhaustion of the minerals in the area, no workman shall be entitled to any notice or compensation if the employer provides him/her with alternative employment with effect from the date of closure at the same remuneration as he was entitled to receive and same terms and conditions. As Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, who will take oath as Prime Minister of the country on Monday, undertook a series of steps to make its labour laws flexible. The state amended the Industrial Disputes Act in 2004 to allow greater flexibility in the labour market for Special Economic Zones. It also allowed the firms within SEZs to lay off workers, without government approval by giving a one-month notice to the worker. By implementing such reforms, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs, Gujarat experienced a 60 per cent (Financial Express 26/5/14)

 

85. Treat Maternity Right as Women’s Birthright (8)

Maternity benefits are denied, rather than given. A study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found that in a majority of countries, women are not given the ILO-recommended four weeks of leave at the minimum, with at least two-thirds of the monthly salary last drawn. It reached this conclusion after studying the maternity-related legislation in 185 countries and territories since 1994. Thus, the ILO Maternity Protection Convention is in force only in 34 per cent countries. This does not redound to the credit of the international community. One redeeming finding is that no country has cut the duration of maternity leave since 1994. Women in India are entitled to better benefits than their counterparts elsewhere. For instance, they are statutorily entitled to 14 weeks of paid leave. But in practical terms, a majority do not get such benefits. Women in government or public sector service get much better benefits than 14 weeks’ paid leave. However, in other sectors, they are cheated of maternity benefits on one pretext or another. In the sunshine Information Technology sector, they do not get any special treatment. They are not allowed flexi-time or facilities to work from home. More often than not, all that they get is annual earned leave. Often, they are forced to return to work soon after delivery. In the unorganised sector, where a majority of the working women are employed, maternity leave is unheard of. They are forced to work as agricultural and construction labour till almost their D-day and have to return to work as soon as possible. The ILO has rightly pointed out that maternity laws are, for all practical purposes, beyond the reach of a majority of Indian working women. For a country, which extended adult suffrage to women along with men and where women enjoy equality of rights, this isn’t encouraging. There is an Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, to take care of the needs of women in the unorganised sector but alas, it is rarely made use of. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

86. Modi govt to restructure MNREGA, implement land acquisition law (14)

New Delhi: Narendra Modi Government will restructure UPA’s flagship programme MNREGA by linking employment with development in rural areas and “rigorously” implement the new land acquisition law. Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who took over as the Minister for Rural Development today, said that proper implementation of recently enacted Land Acquisition law and Modi’s key electoral plank that every household will be provided sanitation and drinking water will be his priority. Munde, who is also the Minister for Panchayati Raj and Sanitation, said that the rural job scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) will be restructured to ensure development of villages and provide employment to rural poor. “I like this scheme. This scheme is best for villages. Basically, people get employment,” the Minister said about MNREGA–an ambitious Act passed by the UPA-I aiming at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household. Noting that he supported the scheme during a debate in Parliament, Munde, however, said there were “problems” in its implementation. “Proper management was a problem, proper disbursement of money was a problem. I think the MNREGA money should go to the development of villages and people should get employment. “I want to link the programme with the progress of villages. Development of villages and employment will go together,” Munde said. Asked about the Land Acquisition Act enacted by the UPA government, Munde said this was a “very good” legislation supported by BJP in Parliament. “Now this is my responsibility, this law should be implemented. I will do this rigorously. For last 20 years, people were demanding this new legislation,” he said. Asked about the industry’s concerns, he said, “The bill is passed. I am happy that implementation part has come to me.” Speaking on sanitation and drinking water, a key concern raised by Modi and Munde’s predecessor Jairam Ramesh, the minister said budgetary allocation for them should be increased further. “Present allocation is not enough. I will give a proper shape to sanitation programme. Toilets should be constructed in every rural house hold and public place as it is an issue involving the dignity of women,” he said. The new Minister said that development of 250 backward districts including 82 Naxal-affected ones would also be a priority. (Zee News 28/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

87. ‘Children of farmers who committed suicide need help’ (14)

Thane, May 21 : The Sambhaji Brigade of the Maratha Seva Sangh has come out and declared that it would help the cause of the more than 200 children of the farmers who had committed suicide in the state under utter duress. Addressing a news conference here today, Thane Divisional President Datta Chavan and State Chief Co-ordinator Somnath Navle said these children who needed care from the members of the society were presently housed in the ‘Adharteerth Ashram’ at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik. ”The children are living a cursed life and need a helping hand from the members of the society. These children, most of whom are in the age group of 4-13, need special care and need to be shown a way out of the fear that they carry with them following the suicide of their parents,” they said and added that the Brigade had taken up the task of providing for the needs of these children. Inmates of the Ashram, including around 70 to 80 girls, come from around 12-13 districts of the state where there had been suicides by farmers. ”We had sought assistance from the state government but it is still not coming through. The ministers and politicians who boasted of doing big things for the sake of the family of the farmers who had committed suicide turned their backs when it came to helping these helpless children. The children are left high and dry and hence the Brigade has taken up the task of rehabilitating the children and also identified a five acre plot for their sake. ”The children will be given courage to desist them from taking any extreme steps and bring them out of their sufferings,” they added. A Jagrut Jagran Rath Yatra of the affected children would be taken out in the state soon, they declared and said two-day programme for raising funds for the children would be held in Thane on May 24 and 25 where some 50 children will narrate their story. On this occasion, about a dozen people who have been doing exemplary work in their fields including teaching, sports, industry, and social work would be honoured with the Samaj Bushan award which comprise of citation and shawl and srifal, they said. (New Kerala 21/5/14)

 

88. Case Registered in Baby-Parasailing Incident (14)

KANNUR THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The police have registered a case on Thursday, under section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, in the controversial parasailing incident in which an 11-month-old girl was made to ride solo, violating child rights conventions, at Muzhappilangad beach on Wednesday. According to the Edakkad police, a medical check-up of the child was also performed as per the rules. The adventure sports event had drawn widespread criticism forcing the State Human Rights Commission and Kerala State Child Rights Commission to intervene in the issue. Human Rights Commission Chief Investigation Officer DIG Sreejith had recorded the statements of the parents of the child on Wednesday evening. Kerala State Women’s Commission member Noorbeena Rasheed deplored the incident and said that the commission will take action as it involved the violation of rights of the child. The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) has suo motu registered a case in which a 11-month-old baby was sent on a solo para-sailing trip by her parents. The Commission issued notices to Kannur Range Inspector-General, Kannur District Collector and secretary of District Tourism Promotion Council asking them to submit a report within a week. The Commission has sought details of rules governing such para-sailing trips, permissions if any, safety precautions, the condition of the child at present.  The child rights panel has also sought details of cases if any registered in connection with the incident. (New Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

89. RPF rescues 456 kids from train in Kerala (14)

Kochi: The Railway Protection Force took into custody 456 minors who were being brought in the Patna-Ernakulam Express when it reached Palakkad Junction on Saturday. The cops initially suspected that some of them were brought to be employed in hotels and shops. There were nearly 20 grown-ups along with them and they told the police that the children were inmates of an orphanage (Yathimkhana) in Mukkom and that they were returning from their native place after summer vacation. “They were all children from other states and had boarded from Badhpur near Patna. However, 150 children have no required documents to show that they are inmates of the centre teaching Arabic and other subjects. The others have no documents. We suspect they were brought here for child labour,” said a Railway Protection Force officer. The children were accommodated at the mobilisation room. Palakkad district collector K. Ramachandran and top police officials reached the station. “About 150 students have no documents with them. We’re shifting them to Muttikulangara government school as an immediate measure. An inquiry will be conducted based on which further action will be taken,” the collector said. When contacted, Mr Muhammed Haji, vice-president of the Mukkom Muslim Orphanage, said about 400 of the 1,200 inmates of the institution are from other states. “A total 210 students had gone back for summer holidays on April 8 and 12.” (Asian Age 25/5/14)

 

90. What to do when you come across missing children (14)

Madurai: Crowds that thronged the Tamukkam Grounds on Sunday evening to enjoy the Chithirai Exhibition were exposed to an important social issue. To mark the ‘International Day for Missing Children’ the District Child Protection Unit and Madurai Childline, in association with the Department of Social Defence, organised an innovative awareness programme there. “The public is often at a loss on how to handle a situation when they are faced with missing children who are either runaway or trafficked. The Childline has been set up specifically to help peoplelodge a complaint or seek help if needed,” said District Child Protection Officer M. Vijayalakshmi. The awareness programme had dance performances set to folk songs as well as a number of skits which threw light on issues of child abuse, trafficking and child labour. “The skits were performed to inform the public on how to react when they are faced with such situations. They are required to contact the Childline at ‘1098,’ the nearest police station or the District Child Protection Unit,” she said. The audience was given pamphlets with details of the Childline and the nodal agencies to contact in the case of issues related to children. Officials from the District Child Protection Unit said they had rescued three child labourers in the city last month and had taken up the issue up with the Child Welfare Committee in the district. “We booked cases against owners of the shops that employed them and made them sign an undertaking that they will never employ minors. After the children are handed over to their parents in such cases, we do the follow-up and make sure that they continue their schooling,” an official also said. The Madurai Childline is functioning in coordination with Sakthi-Vidyal, a non-governmental organisation run by Jim Jesudoss, who is also the chairman of Child Welfare Committee. Apart from handling distress calls and coordinating rescue efforts, the Childline also has a unit functioning in the Madurai Institute of Social Sciences for counselling children. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

91. Trafficking of children: Railway police yet to make breakthrough (14)

Palakkad: The Government Railway Police have not made much headway in the investigation into the suspected case of trafficking in of 589 children to the State. The railway police had detained the children who arrived in two trains at the Palakkad Junction railway station on Saturday and Sunday. Investigators have failed to get details from eight persons from Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, arrested on Monday under Section 370 (5) of the Indian Penal Code on the charge of trafficking in the children, below the age of 12. As the children speak local dialects of Bengali and Bihari, efforts of the investigators to elicit basic information such as their native place have not yielded result. Talking to The Hindu, railway police inspector M. Manu said the investigators had reasons to suspect that many of the children were from migrant families from Bangladesh. “Some of the children told us that they were refugees from Bangladesh who live in near total starvation. Poverty may have driven their parents to sell the children to those who brought them here,” he said. The railway police ruled out claims of the two orphanages in Kozhikode and Malappuram that the children were orphans and being taken to Kerala to ensure better education and other basic facilities. The police were also investigating the child labour angle and whether they were destined for schools facing division fall. Fr. Jose Paul, chairman of District Child Welfare Committee, said the children, which included infants, did not have mandatory documents such as admission papers and certificates related to birth, age, income etc. Though the arrested belonged to villages in Bhagalpur and Bankha districts in Bihar, Khodda district in Jharkhand, and Malda in West Bengal, the police believe the children may not be from these areas. Meanwhile, 73 children from the first batch were handed over to the District Child Welfare Committee in Kozhikode on Sunday. The committee was earlier entrusted with the task of safekeeping 156 children from the first batch. All the children from the second batch were handed over to the child welfare committee in Malappuram. The rest were at two shelters at Pezhumkara and Malampuzha. (The Hindu 28/5/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

92. 2300 courtrooms added in 3 years, law ministry tells SC (19)

NEW DELHI: The law ministry has informed a high-level committee of the Supreme Court that at least 2,300 courtrooms were added in the last three years across the country, enough for augmenting the strength of the judiciary in subordinate courts to bring down pendency of cases. Senior SC judge, Justice H L Dattu, heading the apex court’s committee on court management, met senior officials of the law ministry on Monday to review the situation on court infrastructure in different parts of the country and increasing judges’ strength. The review assumes significance considering that Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha had a day before expressed concern saying judiciary had suffered due to lack of financial resources. The CJI had said that “less than 0.5% of the central budget is spent on judiciary”. The CJI was critical of the government as he said judiciary was accorded lower priority in its budget exercise. He pointed out how in the 2014-15 budget, out of a total expenditure of Rs 17.60 lakh crore, only 0.11% was allocated for judiciary. Sources in the law ministry, however, said fund allocation was not the only the reason behind lack of court infrastructure in some states. A number of states like Punjab, Gujarat and Delhi have augmented their court infrastructure and significantly brought down their pendency of cases. The government has cleared a proposal for augmenting the strength the subordinate judiciary by over 1,400 — from current sanctioned strength of 18,000 judges to 19,421. Similarly, for high courts, the government has approved increasing the sanctioned strength from 906 at present to over 1,100. Sources said the apex court would soon initiate recruitment of additional judges for the subordinate courts so that pendency could be restricted. Subordinate courts account for over 2.5 crore cases out of a total of 3.2 crore pending. (Times of India 21/5/14)

 

93. Why not change vote counting process? SC asks Centre (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre why it had slept over the Election Commission’s five-year-old suggestion to amend the law to stop revealing EVM-wise vote garnered by candidates in an election. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana had entertained a PIL filed by advocate Yogesh Gupta, who had cited the alleged poll-eve threat by Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar to cut off water and electricity supply to a Baramati village if the residents did not vote for his cousin and sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule. Though Sharad Pawar’s daughter won by 70,000 votes over a political greenhorn, it remains to be seen whether Ajit Pawar carries out his threat after the elections. But the potential for mischief by politicians had made the bench seek answers from the EC on not making the vote count of every EVM machine public. The bench even recalled the good old days when ballot papers from all booths were mixed before counting. The EC, through its counsel V Anantha Raman, told the bench that the commission agreed with the essence of the PIL and had in 2008 sent a recommendation to the Centre to amend Rule 66A of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to stop exposing voters from possible backlash from politicians humbled in the polls. It also said poll-eve threat to voters was not something new. “The EC, after receiving certain complaints from certain quarters with regard to threats received by voters of certain areas, has entered into correspondence with the Union of India suggesting amendment of the rules so that adequate precautionary steps/measures can be taken in counting,” Raman said. He added that the EC has been requesting the Centre for machines capable of ‘cluster counting’, which would connect to 15 EVMs at a time and give out total votes polled by each candidate in the fray. “This would not reveal which segment or locality voted for which candidate,” he said. The court allowed petitioner’s counsel Vaibhav Sehgal to make Union of India a party within a week. “After the competent authority of Union of India is added as a party respondent, the registry is directed to issue notice to the newly impleaded respondent, returnable within four weeks,” the bench ordered. “The competent authority of Union of India is directed to file its response so that the steps taken by the government can be made clear to the commission, and accordingly, if required, appropriate steps can be taken,” the bench said while posting the matter for further hearing on July 7. “In the present form of declaration of results, political parties become aware of the wards where they have not been voted and where they have got maximum votes. The present form of declaration of results also acts as a catalyst for registration of false cases based on political vendetta against persons who have not voted for the victorious parties,” the petitioner had said. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

94. Court issues directive to Centre over PIL on Delhi statehood status (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Central government to apprise it on whether the constitutional amendments granting “partial statehood” to Delhi had been challenged in any court of law. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw issued the directions on a PIL filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, which has sought to declare Article 239AA and 239 AB of the Constitution, as ultra vires.   During the hearing, the court raised the question of whether the amendment had been challenged before any other court of law. “This system has been in place for decades. Has it been challenged till date?” asked the court. “While the Constitution talks only of states as the primary unit of the Union, with a small area being placed among the UTs which possibly were found not fit to be governed through separate states and/or needed to be governed directly by the Union, these Articles 239AA and 239AB create such Constitutional entities which are neither states nor UTs and are hence a structure completely unknown in the Indian Constitution,” the plea states. According to Bansal, the status of Delhi as a “half-state” was “violative of the federal structure”, which is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. “In the case of Delhi, while the executive and legislative power remains with the Union, it simultaneously has also been provided to the UT council of ministers and the UT legislature…That thus there are simultaneously two executives for the same territorial region of Delhi without very definite division of authority and functioning. The same is true of the legislature because both the Parliament and the UT legislature are simultaneously operating in Delhi,” the plea states. (Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

95. Death penalty: Law panel seeks views (19)

NEW DELHI: India had an execution free run for eight years before the execution of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru last year. The Supreme Court, which has averted at least 19 imminent executions in recent past, has asked the Law Commission to undertake a study and suggest whether capital punishment should be retained in certain category like terror incidents or should be abolished all together. On Friday, the law panel floated a consultation paper inviting comments before finalizing its recommendation. The panel in its paper has cited different standards adopted by the judiciary and the executive while treating death penalty. “While the standard applied by the judiciary is that of the rarest of rare principle, the standard applied by the executive in granting commutation is not known,” it said while emphasizing the need for an informed debate on the issue. Despite the fact that the United Nations had adopted a resolution calling upon countries to establish a moratorium on executions and abolish death penalty, India is one of the 59 countries which still retain the capital punishment. The SC has also asked the Law panel to look into UN resolution and examine “whether death penalty is a deterrent punishment or is retributive justice or serves an incapacitative goal.” The commission proposes to collect death penalty related data from various trial courts, High Courts and the Supreme Court. Prison authorities will also be requested for data on death row conditions, the paper said. The commission may also involve various law schools to conduct qualitative and quantitative research on various death penalty themes. (Times of India 25/5/14)

 

96. Lokpal & judges bill on Prasad table (19)

New Delhi, May 27: Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today said the government might revisit the Lok Pal act and a bill that seeks to give the executive a say in the appointment of judges but avoided a direct reply on the new regime’s stand on homosexuality. Prasad, who is also in charge of telecom, said the right investment climate would be created for attracting foreign direct investment. But the Union minister, who assumed charge this morning and was closeted with law secretary P.K. Malhotra and other department officials for over an hour before he met reporters, asserted that the BJP-led government would not brook “corruption, extraneous factors and influence” in the name of foreign investment. Prasad, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, said a national judicial commission was part of “our manifesto” and the new government would, if needed, take a fresh look at the bill, which has been passed in the Rajya Sabha and needs clearance from the Lok Sabha. “It is part of our manifesto to have a national judicial commission. Surely, we will go through the existing instrument and if there is a need for (improvement), we may consider it,” he told reporters. The bill, which relates to appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts, seeks to replace, among others, the collegium system in which judges appoint judges. The proposed commission that the bill envisages will include the Prime Minister, the leader of Opposition and eminent jurists, apart from judges. Asked about the anti-graft Lok Pal law, Prasad said he would have to “go into” the details of the act. “It has been passed in the House after final improvements by the select panel. In my new role as the Union law minister, I will look into it,” he said. Prasad said the government would give top priority to promoting arbitration and conciliation as alternative systems to address disputes to avoid clogging and to create a favourable investment climate. He also voiced the new government’s opposition to imposing retrospective tax on overseas deals. Asked whether he endorsed the previous government’s decision to apply retrospective tax on companies like Vodafone — a dispute that reached the Supreme Court — he said retrospective taxation should be “avoided… because India needs investment”. “Our manifesto is clear, we want a stable regime. Those who invest in India must have an assurance of a stable, fiscal policy and legal regime. But any wrongdoing, corruption or extraneous reason will be visited very seriously.” The minister said “improvement of infrastructure, creation of more courts, more computerisation, more judges and also creating all other enabling atmosphere to improve access to justice” would be high-priority areas. “For good governance, good legal access is essential. We will work in this direction,” he said. On the gay sex law, however, Prasad appeared evasive. “We will have to examine the Supreme Court judgment. I will have to examine what is the nature of the government’s direction,” he said, asked whether the government was opposed to the deletion of Section 377 under which gay sex is a criminal offence. The penal code section has become a contentious issue after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutional validity but granted the government liberty to delete the provision. The previous UPA government did not accept the gauntlet thrown down by the apex court. Prasad said the government would shortly constitute a special investigation team in accordance with the apex court’s directive to unearth black money stashed abroad. “(Unearthing) black money is part of our manifesto. A proper SIT for unearthing the black money will be set up. The black money issue is our priority area,” he said. On ending capital punishment, Prasad said the government has to take into consideration judgments from the apex court and views of various sections of the society. (The Telegraph 28/5/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

97. Farm bodies plan agitation against Punjab govt (20)

AMRITSAR: In the wake of increase in the number of farmer suicide cases from Malwa region, several farm sector organizations have decided to launch an agitation against the government seeking fulfillment of their demands. General secretary of the Border Area Sangarash Committee Rattan Singh Randhawa said at least 10 such incidents have been reported from Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa districts between April 10 and May 10, forcing the organizations to start a fight for the fulfillment of farmers’ demands. The number of suicides, however, could not be officially confirmed. Randhawa alleged that the government downplayed the issue and has never given a true picture of the situation. He said in many cases the family members didn’t even report the incident due to social pressure. The farmer organizations are unhappy with the government scheme of granting Rs 2 lakh compensation to the kin of the person who committed suicide. They also want the government to exclude rich farmers from the free electricity scheme. General secretary of BKU Ekta (Ugrahan) Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said, “Rs 2 lakh is too little for the family members of the deceased.” According to him, one of the major reasons for the farmers committing suicides is harassment by bank employees and money lenders. “Suicides will never end by arresting farmers, auctioning their properties and humiliating them in public. It has to be stopped immediately as first preventive measure,” he stated. Giving reference to the Punjab Land Reforms Act under which a family unit (husband, wife and children) couldn’t own more than 17.5 acres of fertile agricultural land, he said official figures state that there is about 17 lakh acre surplus land. “This land should be distributed among landless farmers and farm laborers,” he said. He added that the BKU (Ugrahan) was also in favour of levying income tax on rich farmers, withdrawing free electricity facility and subsidies from them. Punjab agriculture secretary K S Pannu said a survey by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; and Punjabi University, Patiala had stated that about 4,800 farmers had committed suicide between 2000 and 2011. “A policy for framing a scheme regarding financial assistance and other relief to farmers would be ready within three months,” he added. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

98. Agriculture: Invest in irrigation and tech, help farmer earn better (20)

Nearly two-thirds of India’s population still depends on agriculture for its livelihood, yet only 14% of the country’s GDP comes from this sector. Obviously, agriculture is being forced to support far more people than it can. That is why over 9 million people left farming and the number of landless labourers increased by 36% in the past decade. Yet, agriculture is essential to ensure food security for the country. Although food production has touched new highs in recent years, productivity needs to increase rapidly if anticipated future needs are to be met. Increase productivity (yields) of food grains, vegetables and other cash crops, which lag behind international benchmarks; for this, end dependence on rain by massively expanding irrigation network, provide better seeds and other inputs, ensure soil health and boost local varieties. Strengthen agri-extension services to deliver new technologies and modern inputs to farmers. Modi has used some of this in Gujarat with good effect. Develop agricultural markets with deep linkages with small producers, including transport infrastructure, as well as infrastructure for storage and warehousing, including cold chains. Ensure remunerative prices to farmers and competitive wages for agricultural labourers. Implement thoroughgoing land reforms to unleash the potential of small landholders and the landless; 67% of land is held by small, marginal and semimedium farmers with holdings of less than 4 hectares, there were 8.6 crore landless labourer households in India in 2011; this is the force that land reforms can tap into. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

99. Loan waiver to put a burden of Rs.1,500 cr. in Medak (20)

SANGAREDDY: Loan waiver to benefit 2.9 lakh farmers. It will put burden of Rs.1500 cr. on State exchequer in Medak district. Mr. Chandrasekhar Rao, during his campaign, had promised to waive farming loans up to Rs. 1 lakh. As the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is all set to form the government in Telangana state on or after the ‘appointed date’, i.e. June 2, the famers in the region are eagerly waiting for Chief Minister designate K. Chandrasekhar Rao to sign the file related to the loan waiver. The loan waiver would be a great relief for farming community in general and Medak in particular, where 113 famers had committed suicide last year alone. It was estimated that about 2,200 farmers had taken the extreme step since 1995 in the district and in the last six months the figure touched about 30. Mr. Chandrasekhar Rao, during his campaign, had promised to waive farming loans up to Rs. 1 lakh. According to officials, the loan waiver would benefit about 2.9 lakh famers of the about 4 lakh famers in the district. Various banks in the district have extended loans to the tune of about Rs. 1,300 crore last financial year. Most of the farmers had stopped repayment of loans with the hope that that the new government would waive their loans. Officials are putting the total burden due to loan waiver at about Rs. 1,500 crore. Actually the tendency of farmers not repaying bank loans started after Telugu Desam party president N. Chandrabau Naidu made the promise of farm loan waiver during ‘Meekosam’ visit in November 2012. “Mr. Naidu asked the farmers not to pay the farm loans stating that he would waive them after coming to power. This made the farmers to hold back repayment with a hope that all the parties will follow him. Actually that was what happened with almost all major parties announcing the same decision,” said a bank officer on condition of anonymity stating that the actual figures come out when a policy decision was taken. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

100. Fall in prices of tea leaves puts farmers in a quandary (20)

KATTAPPANA: The sudden fall in the prices of green tea leaves has put small-scale tea growers in a crisis in the prime season beginning with the summer rain. The factories of main tea estates, the sole agencies that procure green tea leaves, are collecting the leaves at Rs.6 to 7 a kg as against the previous price of Rs.16 a kg. There are an estimated 12,000 small-scale tea growers who provide tea leaves to the factories. The factories sometimes reject the leaves, leaving farmers with no other option but to abandon the plucked leaves. Small-scale Tea Growers Federation State chairman Y.C. Stephen told The Hindu that there were a number of farmers in areas such as Calvery Mount, Upputhara, Kunjithanny and Bison Valley. In areas where there were no procuring agencies, the farmers themselves transported the leaves to the factories. If the transportation got delayed, the bundle would become unfit for use. He said that had the three factories proposed for small-scale tea growers in the Idukki Package were set up, it would have come as a solution to their woes. Even if the leaves were rejected by the factories, the farmers had to pluck the leaves in time to maintain the plants.P.P. Mathew, a farmer at Upputhara, said they got the highest yield in the two plucking after the summer rain. If a farmer got 500-kg yield in the two plucking after the summer rain, the entire yield during the year might not cross more than twice that. Farmers usually plucked leaves by hand every 15 days and if it was machine cutting, it would take 40 days for the next yield, he said. Njanasikhamani, a farmer at Valardi, said the farmers had to suffer losses if the tea leaves were sold to distant factories as they had to bear the transportation cost. Shiby, a farmer at Thankamani, said the factories kept the rate at as low as Rs.3 a kg while the prices of tea dust remained high, he said. Mr. Stephen said farmers did not get financial aid for natural calamities as growing tea came under the Industries Department. He said the small-scale tea growers should be brought under the Agriculture Department and a minimum price should be ensured for the green leaves. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

101. Vidarbha farm widows await concrete steps by Narendra Modi on agrarian crisis (20)

Nagpur: Hundreds of farm widows from Vidarbha have huge expectations of a relief and rehabilitation package from the newly-elected BJP government at the Centre to combat the agrarian crisis in the region. Some widows who were indirectly a part of ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ on March 9 this year at village Dabhadi of Vidarbha region during the election campaign, have brought to notice core issues like cost, credit and crop failure resulting in deep distress and despair among farmers. Bebitai Bais President Vidarbha Farm Widows Association (VFWA) said, “More than 10,000 innocent people affected by Vidarbha agrarian crisis due to crop failure of their main cash crop cotton and poor market price since 2004 have seen an era of farm suicides, which is spiralling.” Those affected are still awaiting relief of family pension, land right restoration ,food-health and education security and right to live with respect and dignity. We hope Modiji will provide the much needed healing touch as promised in the manifesto,” farm widow of KBC fame Aprana Malikar and Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti said in a communication here. The Samiti has urged adoption of minimum support price (MSP) formula recommended by the National Commission of Farmers and also keep promises of giving fresh crop loan to crisis ridden, debt trapped and distressed farmers. They are also expecting that the Centre will revamp the mechanism of fixing MSP acknowledging that farmers are not benefiting by the current policy. We hope the long pending demand of cotton farmers will be fulfilled but the experience of cotton farmers in the last NDA government was disappointing as it allowed free import of more than 20 million cotton bales and entry of MNCs in the agriculture sector in the name technology, Tiwari added. (Business Standard 28/5/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

102. Monsoon readiness makes food security top Agriculture Ministry agenda (21)

NEW DELHI: Cabinet secretary Ajit Seth will review the country’s preparedness for a poor monsoon during the crucial khari planting season as well as other issues relating to India’s food security at a meeting with top bureaucrats today. The issues are likely to be on top of the new government’s agenda as weak rainfall can hit farm output and increase food inflation, which had shot up to 20% in 2009 after a drought and remained stubbornly high after that. Agricultural secretary Ashish Bahuguna and Anup Kumar Thakur , secretary department of animal husbandry, are expected to attend the meeting. Sources said officials have prepared presentations on drought preparedness in the wake of forecasts that El Nino would disrupt the monsoon, and another on the future growth of agriculture sector in the country. The IMD has already forecast a weak monsoon and said it is closely monitoring the El Nino phenomenon, which is associated with changes in surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific that lead to floods or drought in different parts of the world. “The government’s top priority as it takes over is to ensure that prices of essential commodity remain stable. In this regard the agriculture ministry will have to work to make sure that food production is not badly hit by the weather as monsoon rainfall is likely to be weak this year,” said a government official. (Economic Times 21/5/14)

 

103. Haryana govt cancels licenses of 14 PDS depot holders (21)

Chandigarh: Haryana government today cancelled licenses of 14 depot holders in a drive against irregularities in distribution of essential commodities under the targeted Public Distribution System. “State Food and Supplies Department has cancelled licenses of 14 depot holders and forfeited security deposit of 15 dealers worth Rs. 36,500,” an official spokesman said here. A police case was also registered against a depot holder, he said. Essential commodities are being provided to people through 9,218 fair price shops in the state, he said, adding of the total fair price shops in the state, 6,524 are located in the rural areas and 2,694 in urban areas. As many as 77 fair price shops are located near industrial units and 22 near schools or hostels, he said. (Hindustan Times 21/5/14)

 

104. 84% Delhi students confident of India’s growth: survey (21)

New Delhi: About 84% of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Delhi NCR feel that India’s growth story will remain intact in future and thus prefer to settle in the country for better career prospects, says a survey conducted by the research bureau of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The remaining 16% are of the view that moving abroad would help them repay their education loans and attain good finances and better living standards for themselves. The study, titled Youth Economics: Career Expectations Survey, was undertaken during November 2013-February 2014 to understand the perception of students in terms of their career expectations, sources of income and managing finances. About 3,000 students that included undergraduates and postgraduates across colleges in Delhi NCR participated in the survey. It revealed that students are grappling with multiple challenges such as lack of financial resources for pursuing education vis-à-vis ever increasing prices and lack of employment opportunities. Regarding their plans for career development, 55% of the respondents said that after completing their graduation/postgraduation, they want to become self-sustainable financially as early as possible, while 29% of the respondents were thinking about going for further studies. Twelve per cent wanted to start their own venture while 4% said they would want to join their family business. Of the total job aspirants, around 44% of the students said  that they would prefer private sector jobs for excellent growth opportunities, fabulous remuneration packages and challenging roles. While 36% respondents preferred government jobs as they were in favour of a good combination of job security and privileges, stability and satisfaction. The remaining 20% surveyed students did not differentiate between  public or private sector jobs. According to the survey, about 16% students borrowed money to meet their day-to-day expenses due to high inflation. About 53% of them have curtailed expenditures by 35% in times of inflationary pressures in terms of food, clothing, transportation and entertainment while 14% of the students opted for part time jobs and tuitions; 12% of them used previous savings. However, 5% of the respondent students said there is hardly any impact on their finances during the times of high inflation.

The survey reveals that a large share of the students (73%) were found to be financially dependent on their parents, while 19% of the students were dependent on scholarships or stipends, part time jobs like assisting accounts, giving tuitions etc and the remaining 8% were dependent on small home-based businesses like trading, direct selling etc. As per the survey, almost all the students felt that volatility in global and domestic economic scenario have impacted their career planning. (Hindustan Times 22/5/14)

 

105. Central African children fleeing to Cameroon: UN (21)

New York, May 24 : Nearly 30 children – the youngest a baby – died in the past month fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations refugee agency on Friday confirmed, renewing its appeal for USD 22 million in urgently-needed funds to help the growing number of people taking “a journey of starvation and death” in search of safety in Cameroon. “Since mid-April, the rate of deaths among refugee children has been particularly high,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the agency (UNHCR) said in Geneva. Between 14 April and 18 May, at least 29 children died, most of them at therapeutic feeding centres, which they reached gravely ill. “Dehydration, hypothermia and severe anaemia had been the main causes of death,” said Edwards. Acute malnutrition rates are up for the groups arriving in Cameroon. According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), 25 per cent are malnourished, as compared with a global emergency threshold of 15 per cent. UNHCR added that in the worst-affected area of Gbiti, about 400 kilometers east of Yaounde, the severe malnutrition rates among new arrivals is close to 40 per cent. Since early December, refugees from CAR have been arriving in Cameroon, many of them after having walked for weeks through the treacherous bush. At present there are at least 85,000 refugees in some 300 villages. WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said the situation of refugees and third country nationals in Cameroon was “dramatic” and living conditions in camps were likely to deteriorate with the onset of the rainy season. Arrivals apparently decreased last month after anti-Balaka militias, who had attacked refugees along the way, blocked the main roads leading to Cameroon. Edwards said “the journey people were making from CAR is a journey of starvation and death.” A number of people were severely wounded, he added. Some with knife cuts, gunshot wounds, and people arriving in an extremely poor physical shape, often a result of having lived in bushes for weeks. The UNHCR has requested USD 22.6 million for its programmes, of which only USD 4.2 million have so far been received. In addition, the Regional Refugee Response Plan for CAR, which includes UNHCR and 14 partners in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, is only 12 per cent funded at present. Meanwhile, an eight-month emergency feeding operation in Cameroon at USD 15.6 million has so far not received any contributions, according to WFP. Fighting in CAR has taken on an increasingly sectarian nature following a 2012 rebel-led coup and has since become more brutal with reports of ongoing human rights violations and clashes that have left 2.2 million in need of humanitarian aid. Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in CAR, had called on the anti-Balaka militia to lay down their arms, and on the opposition, former Seleka fighters, to enter the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. Support from the international community would be in vain if the parties did not act responsibly for the long-term stability of the country, a UN spokesperson said on his behalf. (New Kerala 25/5/14)

 

106. Food security experts to submit action plan to new NDA govt (21)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Setting an agenda for food security with focus on toxic chemicals-free organic farming, noted trade and food security experts led by Vandana Shiva and Devinder Sharma are on a mission to prepare a comprehensive action plan on food security, which will be presented to the new government at the Centre. “We must have a national mission to grow more food. When every fourth Indian is hungry and every second child is malnourished, we have a major food and nutrition crisis. Growing more of Monsanto’s Bt Cotton or hybrid corn is not a solution to hunger,” said Vandana Shiva. “We must lower costs of production to reduce farmers’ debt and suicides – 2, 84,000 suicides is an emergency and it should be addressed as one. This means organic farming which is good for the environment and people’s health should be encouraged. Instead of bringing in big corporations through FDI in retail, we must create diversified markets, to promote fresh food. Every village, every town must have farmers markets to get rid of the middle men – including the corporates,” she added. “If corporate lobbyists and neo liberal economists have their way, the new government’s food and agriculture policies will be a clone of the policies of the UPA government. We will have more farmers’ suicides, more unemployment, higher food prices, junk food and disease. Crisis of prices and jobs will deepen, ” said Vandana Shiva. Food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma, who chairs the New Delhi-based forum for biotechnology and food security, said any move to reduce import duties on fruits, vegetables and dairy products so as to augment supplies would ruin the market for indigenous products and affect the livelihood of farmers here. “Import duty cut is what the European Union is demanding under the on-going EU-India Free Trade Agreement negotiations. It will only flood India with cheaper and highly subsidized imports,” he said. “Higher import duty on imports with subsidies to farmers and setting up an income commission to ensure income to farmers, should form part of the new government’s food security, agriculture and trade policy,” said Devinder Sharma. “Ensuring a corruption-free Food Corporation of India (FCI) regime, an effective public distribution system, insulating farmers from vagaries of agrarian crisis by offering fair price, income guarantee for farmers and sustainable agro-ecological farming to ensure safe food free from toxic chemicals for consumers should be the agenda for the action plan on food security by the new government,” said Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture steering committee member Sridhar Radhakrishnan. While, Vignana Bharathi’s national science movement secretary general A Jaikumar said a meeting was held with food security experts including Vandana Shiva last week to chalk out a background paper on the action plan, which would set the agenda for a new paradigm shift towards food and agriculture security. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

RESERVATION

107. Third gender awaits admission in universities, colleges (25)

LUCKNOW: Even after the Supreme Court on April 15 recognised transgender people as the third gender, they are yet to avail opportunities in education. Despite the formal recognition, neither Lucknow University nor the two prominent colleges – National PG and Isabella Thoburn (IT) are liberal to the third gender when it comes to pursuing higher education. Speaking to TOI, LU admission coordinator for UG courses, Prof Praveen Naggar said, Discussions were held whether to offer transgender as a third option for applicants. It was finally turned down in the absence of a government notification.” Any transgender seeking admission in LU will have to choose male or female as their gender. According to the judgment, the third gender can now be admitted to campuses and work places under the third category and will be given reservation as OBCs. Similarly, National PG College that kicked off its admission process on May 6 too didn’t offer the third gender as an option. We had a detailed talk on the topic. We had almost finalized to include it but there was no formal notification from the government. The government should initiate action,” said Rakesh Jain, admission coordinator, NPGC. IT College, however, showed no interest to include the third gender option. College principal Vinita Prakash said, We did not think about it. At least this year, we are not including it. May be from the next academic session, the third gender option will appear in the application form.”The exclusion of transgender in the campuses has come as a disappointment for the community. The transgender community has been marginalized for a very long. I feel some advocacy needs to be done. Community based organizations will approach as a consortium to the government and seek inclusion in universities and colleges,” said Arif Jafar of Bharosa trust that closely works with LGBT community. Jafar added that there are quite a number of third gender who are eager to study. The society is opening up. Earlier, transgender people were not considered part of mainstream society. There has been discrimination in early school and so there was no question of higher studies till now.”(Times of India 20/5/14)

 

108. ‘Riots, reservation and ration cards cost Samajwadi Party dear’ (25)

BAREILLY: For Samajwadi Party, it’s time to introspect. An outfit which did exceptionally well in 2012 (during assembly elections) had to face the wrath of the same people two years later. Apart from the “Modi factor”, three ‘R’s: riots, reservation and ration cards contributed immensely in the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, feel senior leaders. The youth, in particular the educated ones, who voted overwhelmingly for a new SP leadership under the foreign-educated Akhilesh Yadav, became its worst critic when the state public service commission introduced the policy of three-tier reservation for OBCs in government jobs. A scenario like the anti-Mandal movement of the 90s gripped the entire state with eastern part being worst affected. At this moment, support for the disgruntled sections of the student community came only from the saffron party, whose leaders even went to jail during the anti-reservation movement in 2013.Talking to TOI, BJP leader Yogesh Shukla, who went to jail after sharing platform with anti-reservationists, said, “For youth who had been lured into the SP fold with doles of laptops, tablets and unemployment allowances, it was the worst nightmare come true. Thanks to the court which intervened and forced the state government to withdraw the controversial decision.” But it wasn’t just the general category which drifted away from the SP. Even the OBCs blamed the government for failing to live up to its promise, said Shukla. Commenting on the development, sociologist Ashish Joshi said, “Reservation in government jobs turns best friends into bitter rivals. This time, it was the state government which earned the wrath of the student community from both reserved and general category.” The SP’s failure to implement the Food Security Act and its decision to clamp down on preparation of ration cards in the state till the conclusion of parliamentary elections hurt the middle class and poorer sections of the society. This was the period from 2013 onwards when public distribution system of the state came to a grinding halt with no new ration cards being prepared. While talking to TOI, SP’s national general secretary Rewati Raman Singh hesitatingly accepted, “There was a yearning for change among the masses and Modi occupied the centre-stage in this paradigm shift in the mind of voters. But this does not mean that our government faltered on any front.” As regards to the three ‘R’s, he said, “It was the saffron party and its frontal organizations which fomented communal trouble and we acted with alacrity in controlling it. On the issue of preparation of ration cards and implementation of Food Security Act, the central government was not willing to shoulder the responsibility of providing funds. Moreover, there was no categorization of people living below poverty line. But one must also realize that we were the first to waive the irrigation tax on farmers in the state and provided them uninterrupted supply of fertilizers and manure round-the-year from 2012.”.. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

109. Court annuls ZP member’s caste certificate (25)

Madikeri: Complainant K J Dundappa demands ZP membership suspension and withdrawal of facilities provided under ST quota. The Madikeri AC Court has annulled the caste certificate (Marata, ST) of Kodagu Zilla Panchayat Member S N Rajarao. Based on the report submitted by Civil Rights Enforcement Directorate Additional Director General of Police, AC Abhiram G Shankar has passed the order suspending the caste certificate on May 17. The copy of the order is with the Deccan Herald. Questioning the caste certificate produced by Rajarao, Meda/Gauriga Kshemabhivridi Sangha President K J Dundappa had approached the court and had urged to suspend the membership of Rajarao. Bhagamandala constituency was reserved for ST during ZP election in 2010. The BJP had fielded Rajarao. K J Dundappa from Meda/Gauriga community was his opponent. During the election Rajarao had submitted a caste certificate stating that he belongs to Marata community in Kodagu. Objecting to the caste certificate, Dundappa had claimed that Marata community comes under ST in Kodagu. Maharashtra Kshatriya community comes under 3B category. Inspite of belonging to Maharashtra Kshatriya community, Rajarao had submitted a false caste certificate. Following the writ in the High Court, the court had directed the Civil Rights Enforcement Directorate Additional Director General of Police to probe into it. Based on the report, the court had directed the committe under Deputy Commissioner to look into the issue. Following the direction, Mysore ADGP had visited the district and submitted a report on May 17. Complainant K J Dundappa said “my son Suresh had contested from Koodige ZP constituency in 2005. Rajarao had contested as a Congress candidate. (From 2010, Rajarao is in BJP). He had submitted ST caste certificate. I have been fighting since then. Criminal case should be filed for submitting false caste certificate. The facilities enjoyed in the name of ST should be withdrawn and ZP membership should be suspended.” (Deccan Herald 25/5/14)

 

110. Forum Smells Corruption in G’barga Varsity Recruitment (25)

GULBARGA:  The Hyderabad Karnataka Pradeshada Horatagala Samanvaya Samiti has alleged that Gulbarga University Vice-Chancellor E T Puttaiah passed an order for recruitment of 53 teaching posts without following reservation rules under Article 371(J) of the Constitution. However, Puttaiah refuted the allegation saying all norms have been followed. As per the Article, 80 per cent of the posts should be reserved for candidates of Hyderabad Karnataka. Samiti president Lakshman Dasti told reporters here on Sunday that the Samiti members will stage an indefinite dharna at the university from May 29 till Puttaiah withdraws the order and passes a fresh one to recruit as per the provisions of the article. Dasti alleged that the V-C, whose term ends in a month, passed the recruitment order illegally and encouraged corruption. As per a government order, a Vice-Chancellor whose term ends in three months cannot pass a recruitment order, he said. Dasti alleged that Puttaiah did not follow the reservation criteria properly since most of the seats have been allotted to SC/STs, the other categories did not get jobs. He also alleged that of the 388 vacant teaching and non-teaching posts, the university is filling up only 53 teaching posts. Puttaiah on the other hand refuted the allegations and said no rule was violated in the recruitment drive. When Express asked him about the 53 recruitments without following the reservation criteria, Puttaiah said that when he took over as V-C in 2010, he found that not many were recruited in the past 25 years. So, he asked the officials concerned to list out the vacant posts and he wrote to the state government to fill 143 teaching posts and about 200 non-teaching posts. The Finance Department of the state government, Puttaiah said, informed the Higher Education Department in February 2013 that it would permit the recruitment of only teaching staff, and that too just 53 out of the 143 posts. The university was then informed and the recruitment order was passed. Puttaiah said that as per the State Universities Act, V-Cs can pass recruitment orders even on the last day of their term. On allegation of not following the reservation rule, he said each department was allotted only one or two posts and hence local SC or ST candidates were given priority as per the government rules. Local people of other castes will be given priority for the remaining posts, he said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

111. Minorities 4.5% sub-quota as good as dead? (25)

NEW DELHI: With the advent of Narendra Modi, it may well be the end of ‘Muslim quota’ promulgated by the Congress. Social justice minister Thavarchand Gehlot told TOI that the BJP government was opposed to 4.5% sub-quota for minorities because it was reservation based on religion which was “unconstitutional”. Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah also said she was opposed to minority reservation because quota killed the “spirit of competition”.The strident calls may end the Centre’s aggressive stance to fight the quota case in the Supreme Court where it is awaiting review. The sub-quota was struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the Centre had filed a review in the apex court. If the upfront opposition from the newly-appointed BJP ministers is any indication, the Centre may reverse its stance or even withdraw the review petition from the apex court. The comments from Gehlot and Heptullah indicate that both ministries, which powered the sub-quota, appear set to renege on the stance taken by them under the UPA. In December 2011, the Centre carved out 4.5% quota within the 27% reservation available to OBCs. The sub-quota was earmarked for backward communities belonging to religious minorities who form part of the OBC list. While the sub-quota caters to all minorities like Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists, it has come to be known as ‘Muslim quota’ because Congress planned to bait the largest minority community through the policy. It was announced just ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Rahul Gandhi made it the principal campaign plank in his speeches, flagging it as evidence of Congress’s concern for Muslims. While Heptullah decried reservation as being “no solution to deprivation”, social justice minister Gehlot was combative, telling TOI that 4.5% sub-quota smacked of reservation based on religion. “It is not allowed by the Constitution and BJP is against it,” he said. Gehlot said the sub-quota for “minorities” was “unnecessary” because backward communities among all religious groups were part of the OBC list and availed the 27% reservation in jobs and education. In fact, indicating that this could be the end of the sub-quota, Gehlot said giving benefits based on Sachar Commission and Rangnath Mishra Commission, the key reference points under UPA, was a bad idea. “They are not required,” he said. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

112. Najma Heptullah rules out reservation for Muslims (7)

New Delhi: Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah, the senior-most members of the newly sworn-in council of ministers, has said the minorities needed a “level playing field” in society, but reservation was not the answer. “The minorities are more backward than other backward (groups). But their development needs are the same as that of the majority (communities). Therefore, they need a level playing field,” Heptullah told HT. Heptullah, the grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a prominent freedom fighter who became the country’s first education minister, said the new government would like to continue many existing welfare programmes for minorities as possible, but virtually ruled out reservation, a dogmatic demand of Muslims, India’s largest minority community. “Reservation on the basis of religion is not permissible under the Constitution. Nor is it the solution. It kills the spirit of competition,” she said. Azad is known for his contribution in setting up key academic institutions such as the University Grants Commission, Sangeet Natak Akademi and the elite Indian Institutes of Technology. Heptullah said education was still one of the main needs of the community. She however said these were her preliminary views and her ministry would formulate a policy of robust development of the minorities once she is able to sit down with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss matters pertaining to her ministry. The previous UPA government had announced a share for disadvantaged Muslims in jobs and education within the larger quota for Other Backward Classes, but could not implement it because of legal hurdles. The matter is now before the Supreme Court. (Hindustan Times 28/5/14)

 

HINDUTVA

113. Build Ram temple in Ayodhya, Congress’ Waghela tells Modi (26)

Gandhinagar: Leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, Shankarsinh Waghela on Wednesday asked PM-elect Narendra Modi to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya within the constitutional framework now that the BJP has got an absolute majority, in a statement that could embarrass the Congress. “When (Lal Krishna) Advani ji took out the Rath Yatra, BJP was at the climax (sic) in terms of votes but (Atal Behari) Vaypayee had to make compromises because of NDA. “Now, BJP has a majority on its own. If NDA comes along, it is good. If not, build a Ram temple in Ayodhya within the Constitutional framework,” Waghela said at a special session of the Legislative Assembly called to bid farewell to Modi, whose tenure as Chief Minister ended on Wednesday after ruling Gujarat for 12 years. Waghela, who had roots in the RSS and BJP, also spoke of BJP’s promise of enforcing a Uniform Civil Code and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits to the Kashmir valley. Waghela had parted ways with BJP in 1996 to form his Rashtriya Janata Party and became Chief Minister before joining the Congress. While touching upon the contentious issues, in his sarcasm-laced speech, Waghela also referred to Godhra, a sore point in Modi’s otherwise remarkable political career, where the burning of Karsevaks in Sabarmati Express train triggered communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002. “Godhra has played important role in the lives of two people from Gujarat who became Prime Ministers of India. Morarji Desai was deputy collector of Godhra when riots broke out in 1969 and he was accused of bias (in handling it). After that he left the job and joined politics and later became prime minister,” Waghela said. Then turning to Modi, Waghela said, “You spent life as a Pracharak in Godhra and Vadodara and I would not wish to go into what happened in 2002.” “During the campaign many things were promised like giving jobs to youth and controlling inflation. Once you take oath, pressure will come on you to fulfill all these promises. “You have said you will bring down inflation by 25 percent over the next six months. We will not ask you any questions till you complete one year (in office). But we will seek answers after one year about inflation,” he said. On the issue of black money, Waghela suggested constituting a committee under yoga guru Ramdev to bring it back. Ramdev, facing several criminal cases relating to alleged financial irregularities by his firms, had strongly backed the BJP during the election campaign. Waghela also asked Modi to resolve all pending issues Gujarat had with the UPA government at the Centre. He listed the issues like delay in construction of gates on the Narmada dam, gas prices and coal linkages for power plants in the state over which the Gujarat government under Modi was critical of the Centre. (Indian Express  21/5/14)

 

114. Saffron outfit wants Modi govt to revamp education (26)

NEW DELHI: “Total change” in education complete with new textbooks and a new pedagogy that promotes modernity with Indian base is what has been demanded by the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from the new government. RSS pracharak Dinanath Batra of SSUN, who also runs Shiksha Bachao Andolan, told TOI, “I am meeting Narendra Modiji after the swearing-in. We have already sent our demands. Political change has taken place, now there should be total revamp of education.” Batra’s recipe to revive education includes institutional reform as well as creation of a new moral universe. He wants amendment in the RTE Act so that provisions like ‘no-detention’ can be reworked. His outfit has demanded that after class X and XII, the “super energy” of children should be channelled for social work that includes mandatory service in slums and villages. Batra wants An All India Social Service Mission that will conduct three-month course to achieve it. Schools should adopt some villages and universities should adopt at least 50 villages, he says. Batra, who played a vital role in the saffronisation of education during the earlier NDA regime, says in all subjects the first chapter of school textbooks should be entirely devoted to highlight India’s contribution in various fields. “From physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, history and religion, Indian contribution to world civilisation should be taught to students,” he says. Batra said, “NCERT textbooks will be rewritten according to the aim and objects of the nation so that it inculcates feeling of patriotism among children. Modernity is not westernisation. We want modernity with Indian base.” He says there should be common thread to bind syllabus and textbooks “through values of Indian tradition, social consciousness, patriotism and spiritualism”. He regrets that “due to Macaulay’s education, Indians have become intellectual slaves of the West”. Batra says he had pointed out 70 mistakes in the existing NCERT textbooks many of which were rectified after a court verdict. But he alleges that mistakes have been restored now. His list of grouse with NCERT textbooks is long, ranging from inadequate teaching of Indian history to, what he claims, untruthful depiction of heroes like Shivaji. He is also angry that Hindi textbooks have poems written in Persian. “It has destroyed Hindi. Also there is no place for Sanskrit,” he says. As for institutional reforms, he wants an All India Autonomous Education Commission on the lines of the Election Commission. “It will look after primary to university education. There will be no interference of government except funding,” he says. He also wants revival of the old proposal to have Indian Education Service through an all-India examination. “IAS officers are jack of all trades, master of none,” he says. Batra also wants four-year teachers’ education course immediately after class XII and linkage between academic and vocational education. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

115. Building Ram temple not only aim of bringing BJP to power: VHP

New Delhi: Building the Ram temple was not the only aim to ensure that BJP came to power, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal said on Thursday. AFP AFP “Our aim was only one: that we come to Parliament with a big majority. Only building the Ram temple was not our aim. We wanted to come in such large number that the Ram temple is also built subsequently and no one dares to bring the temple down,” he said at an event organised by industrialist BK Modi in New Delhi. Claiming that the relevance of minority vote bank is over, he said Muslims should make sure that they are not used as vote bank. “When such a big political event has taken place in the country, Muslims should make sure they are not used as vote bank and they should also not allow it to happen. Just as the whole society has come together for the betterment of the nation, they should also join in and work for the prosperity of the nation”, Singhal said. Singhal said till now vote bank politics was in play during elections and that too in the “garb of secular politics, which has been exposed”. People of the country can now understand that how significant it is to chase Muslim votes and how relevant it is to chase Muslim votes, its relevance is not visible now, he added. “In this country, vote-bank politics should not be done, whether it is division on basis of caste, religion, or community.. the country gets weakened because of all this.. and till now this used to happen due to which coalition government would come to power,” the VHP leader said. “One party coming to power was not possible earlier because everyone was busy dividing the country. I believe Narendra Modi has brought the country and its people together,” he said. He said reservation has nothing to do with vote bank. “Reservation came into existence because 15 percent of our people were termed untouchables (Dalits). I believe untouchables should be given an opportunity to move ahead,” he said. (First Post 23/5/14)

 

116. VHP compares Modi to Prithviraj Chauhan: He will restore Hindutva rule (26)

New Delhi: Comaparing Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi to Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal on Saturday said the new government will help restore “Hindutva’s lost rule” by facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, imposing a Common Civil Code and banning cow slaughter. “There was a large section in the country that dreamt of the return of our lost rule. After Prithviraj (Chauhan), it is now that Hindutva has got the reins of Bharat,” Singhal told a press conference here. Saying that a Ram Temple in Ayodhya would be built soon under the Modi-led regime, he said, “Mazboot sarkar bani hai, mazbooti se banega  (It is a strong government, a strong temple will be built)… the responsibility of Ram Temple has come on the new government, and they should do it.” Listing the VHP’s priority issues, he said, “Common Civil Code is not only a key to the fundamental unity and integrity of Bharat, but its implementation is also binding in the light of the Supreme Court’s decree. Legal prohibition of horizontal religious conversions is a necessity to ensure peace and well-being of the society.” (Indian Express 25/5/14)

 

117. Development over Ram temple: VHP’s Praveen Togadia sings a different tune (26)

Agra: Vishwa Hindu Parishad International Working President Dr Praveen Bhai Togadia on Tuesday made it clear that despite BJP enjoying a clear majority in Parliament, the VHP does not place the Ram temple issue over development of the country. Talking to IndiaToday.in, Togadia said that even though the Ram Temple is part of the BJP manifesto, it is just one of several other issues like common civil code and abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution will be dealt with in their due time. “The priority of the Modi government should be the development of the country and the VHP will fully cooperate with him in this quest,” he said. Togadia’s comment is in sharp contrast to VHP leader Ashok Singhal’s statement on Saturday, a day before Modi was to be sworn in as PM. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Singhal had compared Modi to Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan and hoped that the new government will help restore “Hindutva’s lost rule” by facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, imposing a Common Civil Code and banning cow slaughter. “There was a large section in the country that dreamt of the return of our lost rule. After Prithviraj (Chauhan), it is now that Hindutva has got the reins of Bharat,” Singhal had said. Maintaining that a Ram Temple in Ayodhya would be built soon under the Modi-led regime, he had said, “Mazboot sarkar bani hai, mazbooti se banega (a strong government has come to power, the temple will be built soon).” Talking to IndiaToday.in, Togadia added, however, the government should not lose its focus on key issues like expelling illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and fully integrating Kashmir into the Union of India. Asked what he felt about the fact that despite a clean sweep in the region, none of the Braj MPs had been given a place in the Modi Cabinet, he said that it was a Prime Ministerial prerogative and he has probably chosen the best team for the hard work he sees ahead of him for the next five years. Not everybody is convinced though with this sudden change of tone in the hardline Hindu organisation’s development over temple remark.   Social activist and former UCO Bank director Rajkumar Nagrath said that it is both reassuring and suspicious that the VHP, which so vehemently promulgated the theory of a Hindu nation, has suddenly stepped back from its previous stance and is talking about development before temple. (India Today 28/5/14)

 

Posted by admin at 29 May 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Citizens’ movement tries to create awareness about Lok Adhikar Act (1)

Mumbai: A citizen movement called Lok Adhikar launched in April has started working towards creating awareness among public about a little-known Act, which after Right to Information Act (RTI), is the second law that gives power to the public and guarantees timely delivery of public services. The members attached with the movement have also written a letter to chief minister Prithviraj Chav-an and are trying to meet him to demand a better implementation of the Act. The Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005, was passed in the same year as the RTI, however, few are aware of it. The Lok Adhikar is calling it the “Right to Service Act” and to create awareness, it had organised a public meet on Tuesday at the Indian Merchant Chambers that was attended by many prominent citizens and member of NGOs like RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, Sanjay Ubale, Nitai Mehta of Praja, Gerson da Cunha of AGNI, Shashi Baliga, Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch and many others. This law mandates all agencies of the state government to declare timelines within which it will provide public service through the Citizens Charter. Incidentally, a government department must have a Citizens Charter detailing the nature of services it offers the citizens and the time frame within which those services are to be provided. As a Citizen Charter is an important factor of this Act, it says this should be displayed prominently in the department as well as be available on its website. It is also to be noted that while the RTI only provides information, this Act can take things to the next level and get work done, as citizens can file complaints against timelines of Citizens Charter not being followed. (Asian Age 9/5/14)

 

2. 812 personnel deployed for security of 84 VIPs in Maharashtra: RTI (1)

Mumbai: A combined total of 812 police officers and security personnel have been deployed for the security of 84 VIPs in Maharashtra, with 52 men accorded to guard only Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and his MLA daughter, a RTI query revealed. The information came in response to the query filed by Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Dhurve, who sought to know the total number of police and security force deployed for the protection of political and non-political VIPs in Maharashtra. Sushilkumar Shinde and his daughter Praniti have been accorded Z-Plus security, and have a total of 52 security personnel guarding them, while Union Home Minister’s wife Ujwala Shinde has been granted a Y-category security and has a total of 14 personnel for her security. However, Ms. Praniti, while speaking to PTI said the security provided to her family was “unnecessary” and they want their security withdrawn. “We are provided security as per protocol, but we have not asked for any security. We do not even use the security provided to us. I have even written a letter to the state Home Minister and the Director General of Police to withdraw our security. We want it to be used for better purposes,” she said. The 12 VIPs that are entitled to Z-plus category security include Maharashtra Governer K. Sankaranarayanan, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R.R. Patil and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. While there are a total of 46 security personnel guarding Mr. Chavan, there are 31 for Ajit Pawar. 25 personnel are deployed for the security of PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria are among the 18 persons that have been granted Z-category security and have 15-22 personnel guarding them. A total of 19 VIPs in Maharashtra that have been provided with Y-category security include Former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Samajwadi Party Maharashtra Unit President Abu Azmi, sitting Congress MP Milind Deora and former Petroleum Minister Murli Deora. Justice Mridula Bhatkar has also been provided with Y-category security while Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata is among the 27 VIPs that have been provided with X-category security. Both of them, however, have declined to accept any police protection. Additional Commissioner of Security and Protection Branch Kiran Shelar said the protection to VIPs is provided on the instructions of the committee which reviews the security threat to them. “There is a committee that makes an assessment and reviews the threat perception on VIPs frequently. Then committee then instructs us to provide security cover based on their assessment. No security is provided to anybody without specific orders from the committee,” Mr. Shelar added. Activist Vihar Durve, who obtained the information through RTI, has demanded that security cover for VIPs should be reduced and diverted to safeguard women. “A large number of security contingent provided to VIPs is a cause of concern for the common man. Their security can be reduced and diverted to provide security to women and senior citizens. Public money should not be wasted on unnecessary security for VIPs,” Mr. Durve said. (The Hindu 12/5/14)

 

3. Whistle-blowers Bill gets President’s assent  (1)

NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha in February. The law provides for an institutionalised mechanism to protect, and thus encourage, those who disclose information on corrupt practices or abuse of power by government officials. The Bill was first passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011. The law makes a provision for inquiry into the disclosures and also prescribes punitive measures to curb frivolous complaints. According to the Centre, it supplements the Right to Information Act in fighting corruption. In 2004, the government introduced a resolution to empower the Central Vigilance Commission for protecting whistle-blowers. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

4. EC Has No Data on Status of Poll Code Violation Cases of Last Three LS Polls (1)

MUMBAI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has no data or records on ‘status’ of various cases pertaining to violations of the model code of conduct in last three Lok Sabha elections, an RTI query has revealed. City-based activist Anil Galgali had filed an RTI query in this regard. He also sought to know the “minimum and maximum action” being initiated by the ECI against politicians concerned in the mandatory time limit, if any, in cases of poll code violations. “There are no records or data maintained with the Election Commission on the status of cases of violation of model code of conduct filed before it,” the ECI Under Secretary A K Pathak said in his reply. The official said there is no standard policy or the mention of any provisions of law enforced that enables the body to take specific action against the violators of the poll code. Pathak said there was “no specific time limit to decide on a particular case of violation and that the actions are taken on the basis of priority as per the prescribed procedure”.The reply stated that since there has been no compilation of information on record, the RTI query seeking information on the ‘status of cases of violation of model code of conduct stood rejected under section 7 (9) of the RTI Act, 2005. Pathak said the compilation of record would have put unnecessary burden on the resources of the ECI. Reacting to this, Galgali said, “It is disheartening to see that there is no time limit under which the EC would be bound to take action against errant politicians. Strong policies need to be formulated to change the image of the EC, which is now largely seen as a toothless tiger.” (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

5. RTI activists nail govt on huge expenditure (1)

Shillong, May 14: The Meghalaya government is incurring huge expenditure on political appointees, with whistle-blowers calling it “mind-boggling”. According to RTI activists, the government spends an astounding amount on such “unnecessary appointees”. This money, they said, could have been utilised for various development activities or help solve unemployment in the state. The expenditure incurred on political appointees came to light today when members of the National Khasi Union (NKU) exposed it through information they had received through the Right to Information Act, 2005. The union sought the information from the Meghalaya finance department on the perks and facilities provided to political appointees holding various posts such as chairman, co-chairman and deputy chairman, among others. The union said only for one political appointee, who holds the post of chairman, the government spends nearly Rs 10,54,000 per annum (Rs 87,833 in a month), including one-time amount of Rs 2 lakh for furnishing hishouse. The total expenditure incurred only for one chairman comes to around Rs 12,54,000 in a year. The other expenditure incurred for the chairman includes travel and dearness allowance, expenditure on office staff such as stenographer, special assistant, personal assistant, typist, driver, additional driver, one grade-IV staff in office and five at the residence. The chairman has got one telephone in office and a phone at home. The chairman’s post, especially in government-run public sector undertakings (PSUs), is drawn mostly from sitting legislators or former members of Parliament or former legislators. For a person holding the chairman’s post, his/her rank in the government is categorised as A+ and enjoys the same TA/DA as provided to a grade-I officer. NKU general secretary Samborlang Diengdoh told reporters that according to information received so far, there were around 60 political appointees appointed in various boards and corporations run by the state government. “There are more political appointees and more information is awaited. If one political appointee can avail of huge benefits from the government, the kind of money spent on other political appointees is mind-boggling,” Diengdoh said. Stating that political appointees were “unnecessary” as it resulted in wasteful expenditure of public money, Diengdoh said crores of rupees were spent by the government on political appointees. The NKU also sought to know from the government contribution of political appointees to the state. “What have these political appointees contributed to the state? Instead of spending onthem, the government could have utilised the money for various development activities in rural areas, including the border, pay salaries of teachers and Anganwadi workers as well as create jobs for educated unemployed youths in the state,” Diengdoh said. The NKU will soon compile a list of educated unemployed youths who could have benefited from this money, Diengdoh added. (The Telegraph 15/5/14)

 

6. Information Commission exempted from bifurcation (1)

HYDERABAD; While every other State government department is speeding up the process of internal bifurcation before the appointed day, the A P Information Commission’s static status seemed to have created confusion among RTI activists and appellants. In the Finance Department Government Order (GO) Ms No. 100 dated May 12, 2014 which pertains to the reorganisation of government departments, the commission also found a mention. “Many of us were of the opinion that the department will be divided. Some of the complainants were also confused on whom to approach in case it is divided,” said an RTI activist. However, the commission has been listed in the tenth schedule of the Union government which exempts the commission along with a few other departments from being bifurcated for a certain period. This would mean the information commissioners will continue to hold the same portfolios and discharge their duties. “The commission will function as it is for a period of one year,” said Jannat Hussain, Chief Information Commissioner. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

7. NHRC seeks state reply on girl’s death (1)

CUTTACK: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show-cause notice to the state government, seeking reply why compensation of Rs 3 lakh should not be paid to the family of a seven-year-old girl, who was crushed to death in her school when a cupboard fell on her last year. The chief secretary has been asked to reply within six weeks. The NHRC has also asked the government to submit a report on the death of 28 people in Balangir after allegedly consuming contaminated water in the last three years. A petition was filed, alleging that eight persons of Adendunguri village, 12 of Dhanradadar and eight of Rampur died after consuming water high in fluoride content from tubewells. “Though the government officials were aware of the problem, they made no arrangements to supply water to the affected villagers,” it added. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

8. PUCL seeks NHRC intervention for release of professor (1)

New Delhi: People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Thursday has sought National Human Rights Commission’s intervention for the release of the Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, who was arrested by the Maharashtra police last week for his alleged links with the Maoists. The PUCL has also demanded a comprehensive enquiry into the matter by the NHRC. “In view of the severe 90 per cent locomotor disability and cardiac problem suffered by Saibaba, the NHRC should immediately intervene to get Saibaba released from the prison so that he can get expert medical attention, utilise the services of a personal attendant and also be able to access toilet facilities adapted to his personal needs,” said the human rights organisation in a statement. “Such a demand is not unreasonable as the Supreme Court itself has stressed the importance of safeguarding the rights and dignity of the arrestee, it argued. “During the present arrest, the Gadchiroli police violated all mandatory provisions relating to arrest,” alleged the human rights organisation. “The harsh and violent manner of effecting the abduction and arrest of Prof Saibaba is unacceptable and condemnable in a democracy which claims to follow rule of law. Saibaba had always cooperated with the police authorities whenever they wanted to question him as part of their investigation,” said the PUCL. The PUCL has argued that Saibaba has been a human rights activist  and this is the reason why he has been arrested. “For the police, he represented a major threat to their lawlessness and therefore, they have been trying to somehow implicate him in some case or the other” it said. The PUCL has alleged that Saibaba is the latest victim of the Maharashtra police’s attempts to silence and intimidate anyone from daring to take up the human rights issues of Maoists while continually challenging state terrorism. (Deccan Herald 15/5/14)

 

9. Civil society seeks lasting solution in Bodoland territorial areas district (1)

GUWAHATI: Civil society groups on Wednesday staged a demonstration here to demand permanent peace in Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD). People from all communities participated in the peace meet organized by Concerned Citizens of Assam here on Wednesday and urged the Prime Minister to bring about a solution to the violence and increase security in the region. They demanded long-term security arrangements for the vulnerable areas of BTAD for at least five years. They said this would thwart attacks by extremists who usually target the innocent to pressurize the government. “It has been seen that security measures are in place for about two months after such incidents take place. Then the areas become vulnerable to attacks by miscreants again. The government should take immediate steps in this regard,” said Raju Narzary, one of the organizers of the peace meet. “We demand a thorough and objective inquiry into the various socio-political, economic and extremist factors that are instrumental in the recurrence of violence in BTAD,” he added. The demonstrators also advocated immediate seizure of all illegal arms from various rebel groups and individuals. “Existence of illegal arms is one of the most influential factors which give rise to repeated occurrence of violence in Assam,” he added. The demonstrators submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, governor and the chief minister. Some participants, mostly writers, activists, social workers and peace-loving citizens from various parts of the state, condemned the brutal killings in BTAD, So far, 44 people have been killed by armed militants in this month alone. “We want punishment for the culprits at the earliest,” said Narzary. Noted educationist Surath Narzary said, without peace, no progress would be possible. “Without peace, there cannot be progress. Without progress, human civilization will not last. Hence, irrespective of differences, all divisive forces must be identified. The criminals who are involved in heinous crimes must be given stringent punishment so that justice prevails,” he said. Monirul Hussain, a professor of Gauhati University who also joined the event, expressed solidarity with the riot victims in Bodoland. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) also demanded that the state government should bring back peace in BTAD and punish the culprits. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

10. Human rights groups condemn killing of Pakistani advocate (1)

New Delhi, May 16 : Human rights and civil society groups, in a joint statement Friday condemned the brazen killing of a Pakistani advocate and human rights commission member. Rashid Rehman Khan was murdered by unidentified gunmen at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Multan last week. Khan, a Pakistan Supreme Court lawyer, was killed for defending a university lecturer against unfounded accusations of blasphemy — a charge that carries the death sentence. He had been openly warned by fellow lawyers in the presence of the presiding judge against continuing to defend the accused during the course of a hearing being held inside jail premises, the statement said. “Khan’s requests to the local police to investigate these threats had gone unheeded. He was murdered as he sat preparing an appeal asking that the blasphemy case be quashed,” it said. “Constitution of Pakistan obliges the state to ensure each individual a fair trial, assures each person of a right to an effective defence as well as assures each person of the right to hold their own views, associate with others and follow a profession,” the statement said. It said the killing of Khan for doing his duty as a lawyer amounted to a traitorous act against the Constitution. “We urge the government of Pakistan to take necessary steps toward effective investigation by higher police authorities and swiftly identify the killers and bring them to justice along with their abettors,” it said. The statement has been endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sri Lanka), Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (Pakistan), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India), Gulmina Bilal Ahmad (Pakistan), INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre (Sri Lanka), Maldivian Democracy Network (Maldives), Rozan (Pakistan), Ruki Fernando (Sri Lanka) and Working Group on Human Rights in India. (New Kerala 16/5/14)

 

11. Lanka Hires Pakistan Lawyer for UN Rights Probe (1)

COLOMBO: Faced with an impending UN inquiry, the Sri Lankan government has hired a prominent Pakistani lawyer to defend itself over its human rights record and alleged war crimes, a media report said here today. Aitzaz Ahsan, a 70-year-old Pakistani legal expert, was in Colombo last week for consultations on the matter, a Sunday Times report said. His visit came after President Mahinda Rajapaksa made an appeal to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Ahsan had defended Sharif when he faced charges of attempting to hijack former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s aircraft in 1999 before he was ousted as premier in a coup. On Ahsan’s advice to Sri Lanka, the report said he had asked Colombo to convene a special session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after getting the support of more member countries. He was of the view that besides the 12 countries that had voted in favour of Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, only 4 more countries were needed to call such a special session.         He advised that such a session could be used to present Sri Lanka’s case to win over more members.    Ahsan’s advice has come as the UN braces to announce a panel of investigators and terms of reference for the rights accountability investigation on Sri Lanka as per the last US-moved resolution adopted at the UNHRC session in Geneva in late March.The resolution was the third in as many years censuring Sri Lanka on its lack of progress on human rights accountability and reconciliation with its Tamil minority after the 30-year civil war ended with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

12.  ‘Fear of consequences’ needed to stop AFSPA misuse: Omar (1)

New Delhi: There is a need to build a “fear of consequences” within laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) so that they are not misused by the Army, feels Jammu and Kashmir Chief Omar Abdullah. Talking on wide-ranging issues in New Delhi on Saturday at a conclave, Mr. Omar also dismissed suggestions mainly coming from Army that withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will have bearing on Kashmir’s internal security. The Chief Minister, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of AFSPA from areas more peaceful in the state, did agree that as long as Army was involved in internal security duties, it needed a legal cover to operate. “So long as you are using army for internal security duty, they need legal cover to operate. I think we need to differentiate between legal cover and impunity. “The sort of cover they get now is they can do whatever they believe without fear of consequences. I think that fear of consequences has to be built back into the system,” Mr. Omar said. Mr. Omar along with the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram had raised the issue with central leaders many a time but even his proposal for partial withdrawal of AFSPA hit a road block from Defence Ministry which, on advice of Army, red flagged it. Even the Administrative Reforms Committee favoured withdrawal of AFSPA and drafting of a new law with certain checks and balances. Mr. Omar appeared optimistic on the issue. “I am sure we will be able to withdraw some rules,” he said. Mr. Omar rejected the suggestion made by Army at various forums that withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will have an adverse impact on his state. “I don’t buy that argument at all. The reason why I don’t buy this argument is that so far we have been taking credit for whatever improvement has taken place and now if we are going to blame Americans for the deterioration, then it means that improvement was because of their actions as well, which I refuse to accept,” the Chief Minister said. “Therefore, if the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan, it will have very limited consequences for the state which has been seeing good years on anti-terrorism front.” On India and Pakistan relations, Mr. Omar sought to draw a comparison between the two nations. “I don’t think India’s relationship with Pakistan is centred around Kashmir” but Pakistan’s relationship with India certainly is focused on Kashmir. “They (Pakistan) have uni-focal dimension sort of relationship with India…. For them Kashmir is everything and everything else is secondary. It is not the same for us. “While we believe that Jammu and Kashmir is an important issue and it needs to be resolved, it need not be the only issue that dogs our relations. There are host of other issues that needs to be resolved,” he said. (The Hindu 8/5/14)

 

13. Elimination Case: 3 Cops Get Jail Term (1)

CHANDIGARH: Three Punjab police officers were sentenced to five years of imprisonment by Additional District and Sessions Judge Pooam R Joshi on Friday after they were held guilty in the infamous “elimination” case of Kuljit Singh Dhatt. S P S Basra, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police; Jaspal Sinngh, retired Superintendent of Police; and Sita Ram have been awarded five years jail term in connection with the 25-year-old case. Earlier on Friday, the Judge held the three guilty in the fake encounter case. Two others accused — Ajit Singh Sandhu and Sardul Singh — in the case have already died. After the verdict was announced, the victim’s family protested in court and said that it was too small a sentence for which they had to wait for 25 years. “We will go to the High Court for the enhancement of the sentence,” said Harbhajan Singh Dhatt, Kuljit’s elder brother. The sentence was awarded under sections 364, (abduction with intention of murder), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture) and 120 B (conspiracy). A fine of `1.1 lakh each fine was imposed on the police officers found guilty and 90 per cent of the fine amount will be handed over to the victim’s family. Kuljit was killed in a fake encounter by police in 1989. Kuljit was the son-in-law of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s sister Parkash Kaur. Parkash made an appeal to the Supreme Court against the fake encounter and the apex court set up a Judicial Commission. Currently, Jaspal Singh is lodged in Barnala jail for another murder. SPS Basra retired  last year while Sita Ram was dismissed and is also in jail in connection with another case. Basra was on Friday taken into custody and sent to the Patiala Central Jail. (New Indian Express 10/5/14)

 

14. Amit Shah summoned in Tulsiram Prajapati case (1)

Mumbai: The special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court has issued summons to former junior home minister of Gujarat Amit Shah, who is also Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s close aide, and other accused in the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter case. The court on Friday asked Shah and other accused to attend the proceedings on May 23. The CBI had filed a chargesheet in the case on September 29, 2012 against Shah and other 18 others including many police officers. The papers of the Prajapati case were transferred to the Mumbai CBI court last month from Gujarat and Friday was the first date of hearing. Indian Police Service (IPS) officer OP Mathur and deputy superintendent of police RK Patel from Gujarat also appeared before the sessions court and surrendered. The court later released them on bail and asked them to attend the court proceedings whenever required. The court, however, rejected the bail application of another IPS officer DG Vanjara. Advocate Vinod Gujjar, appearing on behalf of Vanjara said, “We had filed the application on the ground that my client has spent more than seven years behind bars.” Vanzara, who is lodged at Sabarmati Central Jail for the past seven years, has also been chargesheeted in Ishrat Jahan encounter case. His bail application in this case has been pending. Vanzara figures in Sohrabuddin encounter case as accused No 1. He is alleged to have masterminded the fake encounter in which Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi were killed by police officials. In the chargesheet filed by CBI in the case, it was mentioned that Sohrabuddin and Kauser Bi were allegedly abducted by Gujarat’s anti-terrorism squad from Hyderabad and killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005. Tulsiram  Prajapati, a key witness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by the police in Banaskantha district’s Chapri village in December 2006. The central probe agency had claimed that Tulsiram was an eye-witness in Sohrabuddin encounter and that was why he was killed in a fake encounter by the accused, many of whom are also accused in the Sohrabuddin case.? (Hindustan Times 11/5/14)

 

15. Five policemen suspended for custodial death in Villupuram (1)

Chennai: Tamil Nadu government on Monday suspended five policemen attached to the Government Railway Police, Villupuram, in connection with the custodial death of an accused on May 7 and announced a cash relief of Rs. 5 lakh to the victim’s family. The accused R. Jeyavelu had suffered a heart attack while in custody and died while being rushed to a hospital, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said while expressing sympathies with the family of the victim. She said five GRP officials, including an inspector, have been placed under suspension and that a probe was on into the matter. Due action would be taken at the end of the probe, she said in a statement here, adding that the relief would be paid from the Chief Minister’s General Relief Fund. (The Hindu 12/5/14)

 

16. Many Indians Feel Custodial Torture Justified: Amnesty (1)

New Delhi: Fear of torture in custody is widely prevalent among people across the world though respondents in many countries, including India, felt that the practice can sometimes be justified, a survey by Amnesty International (AI) has found. A new global survey by the human rights watchdog covering more than 21,000 people in 21 countries reveals that the fear of custodial torture spans all continents, AI said in a release today. According to AI, nearly half the respondents were afraid of the prospect of torture if taken into custody while more than 80 per cent of them wanted strong laws for protection against torture. However, more than a third of the respondents believed that torture may be justified. As per the survey, support for international rules against torture is weakest in India, Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru –- where less than three quarters of people agree that these rules are necessary. “Shockingly, 74 per cent respondents in India (with China, the highest number in any of the countries polled) feel that torture can sometimes be justified to gain information that may protect the public,” said the release. The statement also claimed that torture is rife across the Asia-Pacific region with China and North Korea among the worst offenders. “The shocking fact that so many people fear torture –- in some countries the majority of those polled — should spur authorities across Asia-Pacific into meaningful action. To eradicate this horrific human rights violation,” said Richard Bennett, AI’s Asia-Pacific Director. Custodial torture and ill-treatment are illegal in China but, in practice, beatings, electrocutions, forced injection of drugs and denial of medical treatment are regularly used to punish dissidents or criminals, the statement said. In Pakistan, torture is frequently used by police, intelligence services and the army, in particular in the conflict-ridden Tribal Areas or Balochistan. Authorities in Sri Lanka still routinely torture detainees, the statement said. (Outlook 14/5/14)

 

17. Torture cry spurs gherao (1)

A group of residents gheraoed Bistupur police station on Sunday to protest the detention and alleged torture of a woman in lock-up. Around 50 protesters — mostly living in outhouses of posh bungalows in Northern Town Area — demanded Bistupur thana officer-in-charge (OC) Jitendra Kumar be suspended for his alleged high-handedness related to the way a maid servant was treated. Domestic help Lakshmi and her husband Nimai Das were taken for grilling on Saturday after their employer Sunil Kumar, head of emergency ward (casualty) at Tata Main Hospital (TMH), lodged a theft FIR on Thursday. Sources said after grilling the two for hours, police had forwarded Nimai to judicial custody and allowed Lakshmi to go home. But Lakshmi, who worked as a maid in the complainant’s house, alleged police had tortured her in lock-up during interrogation. The agitated mob, which gathered around 10am, dispersed after three hours when SP (city) Karthik S. intervened and asked the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) J. Karketta to probe into the allegation. Karthik added that as it was a serious matter, he ordered DSP Karketta to start the probe as early as possible. According to complainant Kumar, gold ornaments worth over Rs 15 lakh were stolen from his home on Thursday when he and his wife left Lakshmi in charge and went out. Kumar said he and his wife found both the ornaments and the domestic help missing on their return. Apparently, the couple had kept ornaments inside a steel almirah and left the key on a table. Later, when Kumar questioned Lakshmi, she claimed she knew nothing and said she had gone to a temple. “The doctor then lodged a complaint with Bistupur police after which Nimai and Lakshmi were picked up for interrogation. While Nimai had been forwarded to judicial custody, Lakshmi was set free. She later complained that the police had tortured her in the lock-up. She added they were innocent,” SP (city) Karthik said. (The Telegraph 19/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

18. CBI investigation of former journalist’s suicide demanded (1)

MUMBAI: The Press Club on Monday demanded that the Charudatta Deshpande suicide case be transferred to the city crime branch or the Central Bureau of Investigation. Deshpande was found hanging in his Vasai flat on June 28. The Thane rural police are investigating the case. Deshpande’s son Gaurav and brother-in-law Mahesh Bhatkal recently wrote to home minister R R Patil expressing lack of faith in the Thane rural police. They sought investigation by an independent agency. The Press Club in its submission to Patil said that though the Vasai sessions court rejected the bail application of main accused Prabhat Sharma, the senior Tata Steel official charged under Section 306 of the IPC for abetting Deshpande’s suicide, the local police decided not to apply for custodial interrogation in December. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

19. TMC slams role of media in elections (1)

Kolkata: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on Monday voiced her strong displeasure over what she described as the “alarming role” played by a large section of the media in the run upto the Lok Sabha election which concluded on Monday. In a Facebook post, she wrote: “The partial and biased conduct of a section of the media, both electronic and print, has shocked me. There’s hardly any room for doubt that a few major cash loaded political parties have taken up control of media houses and engaged them to serve their narrow political interests, trampling down the ethics of democracy and voice of people.” Trinamul Congress Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Derek O’Brien also slammed some local news channels apparently for airing reports of violence and rigging. “A particular Bangla channel has been bashing Trinamul for months. It’s worried exit poll results will make it look silly, expose bias,” Mr O’Brien tweeted. “So what does this channel do to hide its embarrassment? It ignores Bengal’s 31,000 peaceful booths and hypes one or two stray incidents,” he added. The fifth and final leg of Lok Sabha polls in the state were marred by some violent incidents which received wide coverage on local news channels. This apparently displeased the ruling party and its leaders. Ms Banerjee’s outburst on Monday was not sudden. She has been increasingly targeting the media for the past few days. Early this month she said that 90 per cent of the media had sold themselves to BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi. “It is really tragic and exceptional that 90 per cent of media houses in India have sold themselves to Modi. They are only dancing to Modi’s tunes. A day will come when an inquiry about how media houses were sold out would be made,” she told a meeting at Talla Park. In another rally in Jangalmahal, Ms Banerjee claimed that the media wanted to control her government just as they had done with her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee but she did not allow it. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

20. India reacts strongly after Pakistan asks two Indian journalists to leave the country (1)

NEW DELHI, In a strong reaction, India on Wednesday termed as “regrettable and unfortunate” the expulsion of the two Indian correspondents in Pakistan and said not allowing independent journalists to function was a “retrograde step”.Asserting that free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognized as an important confidence building measure, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said this confidence building measure (CBM) should be safeguarded by all concerned. In an abrupt action, Pakistan has expelled the two Indian journalists, Press Trust of India’s Snehesh Alex Philip and The Hindu newspaper’s Meena Menon, posted there and asked them late on Tuesday night to leave within seven days without assigning any reason. “It is regrettable and unfortunate that the two Indian correspondents in Pakistan have been asked to leave prematurely and suddenly only a few months after their arrival there. “Not allowing independent journalists to function is a retrograde step especially as free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognised as an important confidence building measure,” the spokesperson said. Asked if expulsion could be related to the ongoing ferment and debate in Pakistan about the media and the differences between various organs of state on freedom of media, he said, “We are surprised that there have been numerous allegations against India in the ongoing controversy in Pakistan on media freedom and the different views of Pakistan institutions thereto. “The stationing of journalists and free flow of information is an important CBM and should be safeguarded by all concerned.” (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

21. DMK men attack reporters in front of Stalin’s house in Chennai (1)

CHENNAI: Three reporters, including Times Now reporter Shabbir Ahmed and cameraman Jayaprakash, were attacked by a group of DMK men in front of the house of party treasurer MK Stalin. The attackers, numbering over 50 people, damaged cameras and other equipment. They kicked Jayaprakash on the chest, and he suffered leg injuries too. Jayaprakash was admitted at a private hospital after he complained of chest pain. Headlines Today cameraman Daniel was also attacked by the mob. The attack happened immediately after a DMK press briefing in front of Stalin’s house at Teynampet in the city. Reporters assembled in front of Stalin’s house after he had tendered his resignation from party posts in the wake of the DMK’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections. (Later, Stalin was said to have decided not to press for his resignation as senior party leaders advised him not to resign.) The attackers shouted that the media was responsible for party’s defeat in the elections. Almost an hour after the attack, a van carrying DMK men stopped in front of the Times of India office at Nandanam and abused and threatened the crew of Puthiya Thalaimurai TV, a Tamil news television, which was covering the attack on the Times Now reporters. Cases were registered against unknown persons under sections 147, 341 323 294 (B) 506 (1) of the IPC read with Section 3 the Tamil Nadu Public Properties Damage Act. The Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP and various journalists unions condemned the attack. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

22. Thane Sessions Court acquits 60-year-old woman tried for human trafficking (1)

THANE: The Thane sessions court has acquitted a 60-year-old woman from Bhiwandi, who was tried for human trafficking under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA). The prosecution said that the incident dated back to July 5, 2008, when the Thane police got a tip off about flesh trade conducted at a brothel in Indira Nagar, Bhiwandi. When the cops raided the place run by accused Zarina Ahmed Shaikh, they rescued two minor girls who were allegedly forced into prostitution. Shaikh was subsequently arrested. However, Thane additional sessions judge A S Waghwase observed that if the victims stayed against their wishes, they could have escaped from the brothel, but they didn’t. The judge also pointed out that the victims could have raised an alarm and there was no evidence to suggest that the room that was raided had only curtains and no doors. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that there could be any detention or confinement under such circumstances. The lawyer, defending the accused, said that there was no documentary evidence to show that the police officer was empowered to carry out investigations. Also, there was no documentary proof that the room that was raided was in possession or ownership of the accused. (Times of India 15/5/14)

 

23. 2 arrested for illegal human trafficking (1)

CALANGUTE: Calangute police arrested two persons for illegal human trafficking and rescued three women on Thursday. Calangute police said that they received information about a prostitution racket being operated in Candolim and accordingly set up a trap using decoy customers. As agreed with the decoy customers, when the two pimps, Anil Kumar Srivastava and Mohan Jadhav, arrived by car at the prearranged spot near St Theresa’s Church in Candolim, they were promptly taken into custody by Calangute police. Three women who were brought along by the pimps for the purpose of prostitution were also rescued and sent to the protective home at Merces. The two pimps were arrested after being charged under Sections 4, 5 and 7 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956. While Anil Kumar is a native of Uttar Pradesh, Mohan Jadhav is a native of Karnataka. Both were residing at Candolim. PI Nilesh Rane is conducting further investigations. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

24. Indian sentenced to 3 years for human trafficking in US (1)

Washington: An Indian has been sentenced to three years of imprisonment in the US on charges of trafficking immigrants from India into the country. Kaushik Jayantibhai Thakkar, 33, along with Brazilian national Fabiano Augusto Amorim were sentenced yesterday to serve 36 months in prison for their roles in smuggling undocumented migrants to the US for private financial gain, Acting Assistant US Attorney General Mythili Raman said. In addition to their prison terms, Thakkar and Amorim were sentenced to serve two years of supervised release, as per the order of the US District Judge Ewing Werlein in Southern District of Texas. On December 2, 2012, and January 4, 2013, respectively, Thakkar and Amorim each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to bring undocumented migrants into the US for profit and to one count of unlawfully bringing two undocumented migrants into the United States for profit. They worked together and with other co-conspirators to smuggle individuals from India into the United States, according to court documents. In support of the conspiracy, Thakkar and others recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay up to USD 60,000 to be smuggled into the US. For their smuggling operations, Thakkar, Amorim and their associates used a network of co-conspirators in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the United States, including the state of Texas. Using this network, they and their co-conspirators transported groups of undocumented migrants from locations within India through South America, Central America and the Caribbean and then into the US by various means, including by air travel, automobiles, water craft and foot, the Justice Department said. Many of these smuggling events involved illegal entry into the US via the border between the United States and Mexico near McAllen and Laredo, Texas, it added. (Deccan Herald 18/5/14)

 

25. Seven Minor Boys Rescued in Rayagada (1)

RAYAGADA: Seven minor boys of Govindpalli in Malkangiri district were rescued from Raygada bus stand on Saturday night. Police detained Dhana Sagadia of Govindpalli in connection with human trafficking. Sagadia was taking the children to Paralakhemundi where another middleman was supposed to take them to Andhra Pradesh, said police. Rayagada Child Protection Officer Ramesh Nayak said Malkangiri DCPO has been intimated about the matter and they will hand over the children to their respective parents on Monday. Sources said the children in the age group of 11 and 16 boarded in the bus. Suspecting foul play, a passenger Dilip Bhupati informed the police who reached the spot and rescued the children with the help of Childline and CWC member Siba Prasad Mishra. The children were then sent to district hospital for medical checkup and were kept in Childline office of Rayagada. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

26. Ramdev sued for Rs 1,000 crore (2)

AHMEDABAD: A dalit rights activist has sought damages of Rs 1,000 crore from yoga guru Baba Ramdev for his controversial “honeymoon” remarks targeting Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over visiting dalit homes. Advocate Ratna Vora of NGO Ambedkar Karvaan has filed a civil defamation suit against Ramdev in the city civil court for allegedly hurting the feelings of the dalit community. “Ramdev has made defamatory remarks against dalits, especially the women of the community,” she said. Vora said, “In fact, Ramdev’s remarks were defamatory to the entire dalit community. As there are approximately 28 crore dalits living in the country, Ramdev must be made accountable to pay the damages to the entire community.” Two other lawyers had also filed criminal defamation complaints against the yoga guru before a magisterial court on April 25. The court has also ordered an inquiry into these complaints. During a press conference in Lucknow last month, Ramdev had sparked off an unseemly controversy saying that Gandhi goes to dalit houses for “picnics and honeymoon”.Two FIRs were filed in different police stations of the city, demanding criminal action against Ramdev under Section 3(1) (X) of Prevention of Atrocities Act. When criticized, the yoga guru had expressed his regrets about his remarks. (Times of India 10/5/14)

 

27. Dalits pour out woes before Deputy Commissioner (2)

Mangalore: Complaints and grievances poured in at the district administration’s meeting with the Dalit leaders that is held after five months, at the deputy commissioner’s office on Thursday. Dalit leaders raised a whole lot of issues ranging from title deed problems, to eviction of poor Dalits, from lack of development in Naxal-affected areas to scholarship distribution to scheduled caste and tribe students, at the meeting. Dalit Hakkugala Horata Samiti Convener Shekhar Laila alleged that the funds sanctioned for providing basic amenities to Naxal-affected areas were not utilised for the said purpose. Pointing at one such instance, he said that the money was used for constructing a road stretching for about 1.5 km that leads to a Jain ‘Basadi’ in Savanal in Belthangady taluk, while only 150 metres of road leading to Malekudiya hamlet in the same village was asphalted. “Where are the crores of rupees released by the government going?” he asked. He also demanded to construct a road to the Malekudiya hamlet in Banjarmale near Neriya, where Malekudiyas are forced to pass through a private property. Dalit Sangharsh Samiti leader S P Anand cautioned about the pathetic condition of the quarters provided by the Mangalore City Corporation to its civic workers, at Mahakalipadpu. With monsoon only a month away, there is fear of these houses getting collapsed due to wind and rain. Lives of 36 families residing in these quarters are at risk, he said demanding the city corporation to make an alternative arrangement to them till the new quarters are built. Anand urged the administration to allot a cremation ground for SCs and STs at Niddodi. “After continuous demand, the department sanctioned two acre land on the top of the hill, which is inconvenient for cremation,” he said. A few Dalit community members raised objection over the use of ‘Harijana’ and ‘Girijana’ words, despite the ban on public usage of these words. “Those words attached to the names of the Dalits, should be removed from the RTC and other government records,” a Dalit leader said. In reply, Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim ordered the authorities concerned to remove Harijana, Girijana and Holeya words from the government records all at once. The deputy commissioner also directed all the tahsildars to convene grievance meetings in the respective taluks within a week. When asked about the employment provided to scheduled caste and tribe youth under tourism employment programme, the social welfare officer said that 30 taxis have been sanctioned to SC youth and 16 have been sanctioned to the ST youth. (Deccan Herald 10/5/14)

 

28. Rights to land tops Dalit leaders’ meet (2)

Mangalore: Rights over land — allotment or encroachment that has allegedly led to homeless labourers being displaced — was the most contentious issue at a meeting of leaders from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities held at the office of the Deputy Commissioner here on Thursday. Karnataka Dalita Sangharsha Samiti said the Depressed Classes (DC) Manna land — which is reserved for the socio-economic backward – should be allotted only to landless SC and ST people. Shekar L., president of Dalitha Hakkugala Horata Samithi, alleged that “thousands of acres” of DC Manna land were given to local industries and educational institutions in Belthangady taluk. Activists said many applications requesting allotment of land to the landless were pending at MCC and Revenue Department. Among those who complained of “diversion of land” was Shivananda S., an activist from Moodbidri, who claimed that though the tahsildar had cancelled allotment of 2.70 acres of land in Mellikaru village to nine persons, who were from “outside” the state, the order had yet to be followed. “Though they were given land in 1993, they had not built houses since. The Tahsildar’s cancellation order in 2012 and its allocation to SC/ST persons has not been followed,” he said. An activist suggested that when the Revenue Department evicted landless persons for encroaching into government land, compensation for the house demolished and subsidy to construct a new house must be paid. With the complaints mounting, Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim directed Tahsildars to conduct taluk-wise meetings within a week and submit a report on the action taken on the complaints. “We will ask the district legal services authority to look into the legality of the issues,” he assured the leaders. Activist S.P. Anand said 38 houses built for civic workers in Jeppu-Mahakalipadpu were “on the verge of falling”. When an official confirmed that there was a danger of the houses collapsing during the monsoon, Mr. Ibrahim ordered officials to find alternative arrangements and evict the residents within three days. Numerous activists claimed that government colleges and aided colleges were demanding capitation fees from students admitted through the quota system. While leaders from Belthangady said government colleges there were asking for Rs. 1,000 for ‘college development’, others said even CET students were being asked to pay extra fees. Mr. Ibrahim said Block Education Officers would be asked to inquire into the allegations. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

29. Dalit murder case: Accused’s cop custody extended (2)

Mumbai: The police custody of the 10 accused in the honour killing of a Dalit teen in Ahmednagar was extended till 18 May on Monday. The police has arrested 13 persons, including three minors, in connection with the case. On April 28, Nitin Raju Aage (17), belonging to a backward community, who was in a relationship with an upper-caste girl, was allegedly murdered in Kharde village by her relatives. All Dalit factions have taken the murder seriously and the Republican Party of India and Republican Sena held two morchas in Ahmednagar to protest the killing. RPI (A) president Ramdas Athawale has demanded a high-level enquiry into the murder and said he would urge the CM and the deputy CM to appoint prominent lawyer Ujjwal Nikam for the prosecution. Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil visited the bereaved family and condoled the death of Aage. He also assured them all government help.The Jamkhed police said that the situation in Jamkhed tehsil and Kharda village was normal. Police security in the village has been tightened. Deputy superintendent Dheeraj Patil told The Asian Age that there was progress in the interrogation. “We applied for extension of police custody on Monday and it was granted,” Mr Patil said. The girl that Aage, an HSC student, was in a relationship with was the prime accused Aba Golekar’s sister. The police had said that the victim was beaten with sticks and rods and later strangled with a rope near New English School Kharda in Yeole brick kiln locality. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

30. Over 50 Dalits allege police harassment in church fest (2)

TIRUCHI: Over 50 Dalit women and men of Pokkattakudi Seshasamudram near Lalgudi in the district thronged the Collector’s Office in the city on Tuesday alleging police harassment following a dispute over their participation in the annual car festival of a church in the neighbouring Periyavarseeli village last weekend. The trouble began on Saturday after a few caste Hindus youths of Periyavarseeli village reportedly told the Dalits that they should not participate in the car festival of the Adaikalamatha Church held last week. The Dalits had returned after the incident, but some of them had questioned a youth who visited their village on Sunday. A police constable on patrol, the villagers alleged, had intervened and assaulted the Dalits without any enquiry. “We were just talking to the youth in a friendly manner asking him about the reason for being told to stay away from the festival. But the constable started attacking us. Some of us objected to his action and there was a scuffle. The constable called up his colleagues and 10 to 15 policemen descended on the scene and attacked us indiscriminately,” said N.Mohan, one of the villagers. However, police claimed there was a scuffle between the two groups necessitating the intervention of a police constable on patrol. The villagers had taken objection to this and attacked him, a senior police officer said. Cases have been registered against 11 persons in connection with the incident and two have been arrested  (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

31. AIDWA condemns Dalit youth’s murder in Maharashtra (2)

New Delhi, May 15 : The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) Thursday condemned the murder of a Dalit youth in Maharashtra in the name of honour and demanded a separate law with regard to the killings and crimes being committed of such nature. AIDWA condemns the murder of the Dalit youth in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra,” AIDWA said in a statement released here. “We demand stringent action against the perpetrators, and justice for the victims. There is a urgent need to for a separate law with regard to killings and crimes being committed in the name of honour,” it said. Nitin R. Aage, 17, was killed and hanged from a tree last week following a love affair with a minor girl from an upper caste. “The AIDWA Maharashtra unit has visited the village where the atrocity took place, and has intervened on the issue,” it said. (New Kerala 15/5/14)

 

32. Dalit man set on fire in Maharashtra, 5 arrested (2)

Nagpur: A dalit man was set on fire allegedly by a group at Kawalewada village in Gondia district of Maharashtra on Saturday. Sanjay Khobragade (50) suffered 90 per cent burns and is under treatment at Nagpur. All five accused — four men and a woman — have been arrested. The alleged attack took place reportedly over a dispute between the accused and the victim over land for a Buddha Vihar in the village. The accused are from Powar community, which belongs to the OBC category. “We have booked an attempt to murder case against the five accused on the basis of the statement given by Khobragade,” Inspector General of Police (Nagpur range) Ravindra Kadam told The Indian Express. According to Khobragade’s statement, the five poured petrol over him and set him on fire at his residence around 2.30 am on Saturday. “The five accused — Rishipal Tembhre, Madhuri Tembhre, Shriprakash Rahangdale, Bhaulal Harinkhede and Punaji Thakre — had allegedly opposed land allotment to Buddha Vihar and got the allotment by the gram panchayat cancelled,” said Kadam. According to reports, Rishipal Tembhre is a tehsil unit general secretary of the BJP. (Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

33. UN study shows decrease in maternal deaths (3)

NEW DELHI: Fresh data released by the United Nations shows a 45 per cent decrease in maternal deaths since 1990. An estimated 2.89 lakh women died in 2013 from complications in pregnancy and childbirth as against 5.23 lakh maternal deaths in 1990. Another WHO study, also published in “The Lancet Global Health”, adds a new dimension to maternal mortality by stating that more than one in four mothers die due to pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, which can aggravate during pregnancy. “Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis”, finds that this is similar to the proportion of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth from severe bleeding. The report said India has been making good progress as its maternal mortality numbers have gone down by 65 per cent from 569 per lakh live births in 1990 to 190 per lakh live births in 2013. “Together, the two reports highlight the need to invest in proven solutions, such as quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth, and particular care for pregnant women with existing medical conditions,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general, family, women’s and children’s health, WHO. According to “Trends in maternal mortality 1990 to 2013” brought out by the UN bodies, including the WHO, in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 210 maternal deaths per lakh live births, down from 380 maternal deaths per lakh live births in 1990 (a 45 per cent reduction). The global reduction of MMR has accelerated with a 3.5 per cent annual decline from 2000 to 2013, as compared to 1.4 per cent from 1990 to 2000.  (The Hindu 8/5/14)

 

34. 37 Million Premature Deaths Can be Prevented by Reducing Only Six Risk Factors (3)

After the UN General Assembly agreed to reduce deaths from the top four chronic diseases in 2011, the World Health Organization created targets for premature deaths from these diseases and their key risk factors. Now, research published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal reveals that reducing six modifiable risk factors to the agreed target levels could prevent over 37 million premature deaths over 15 years. The four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are cardiovascular diseases, respiratory disease, cancers and diabetes, while the six modifiable risk factors are tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, salt intake, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and obesity. There is another, more worrying side of the finding: if these targets are not reached, 38.8 million deaths from the four main NCDs will likely occur in 2025.  Reducing high blood pressure and tobacco use will likely bring the biggest benefits, say the researchers, who estimate a 50 per cent reduction in smoking by 2025 will reduce risk of dying by over 24 per cent in men and 20 per cent in women. (New Indian Express 11/5/14)

 

35. Alcohol consumption on the rise in India, World Health Organisation worried (3)

New Delhi: Consumption of liquor in India has increased during the past decade as 32% of men and 10.6% of women above 15 years of age were found to be drinking alcohol. Alcohol caused some 3.3 million deaths in 2012, whereas HIV/AIDS led to 2.8%, tuberculosis–1.7% of deaths and violence is responsible for just 0.9%, WHO study said. The revelations were made in an World Health Organization (WHO) report which cited the data of 2010. Drinking habit in populous China and India is rising fast as people are earning more money, the report said. According to the experts, alcohol abuse is emerging as a major public-health problem in the country. Shekhar Saxena, who heads the WHO’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse department said today that alcohol kills 3.3 million people worldwide each year which actually translates into one death every 10 seconds. (DNA 12/5/14)

 

36. India tops global list of maternal deaths: WHO (3)

New Delhi: With an estimated 50,000 deaths of pregnant women every year, India tops the global chart of countries where maximum number of mothers die every year, overtaking several nations from Asia and Africa. The data, released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) a week before Mother’s Day, shows only two countries account for a third of all global maternal deaths: India at 17 per cent (50,000) and Nigeria at 14 per cent (40,000). Officials in the Union Health Ministry and doctors, however, point out that though thousands of Indian mothers die because of a large population base, the nation has made progress since 1990. “India will continue to be at the top of the list for several more years because we have almost 3 crore pregnant women each year, the highest in the world. But our MMR (maternal mortality ratio) stands at 178 as against 560 in 1990,” Health Ministry Additional Secretary Anuradha Gupta told Deccan Herald. MMR is the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Reduction of maternal deaths is one of the targets under the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Though there has been 45 per cent reduction globally, many countries are still above the danger mark. While the WHO report takes note of India’s progress—65 per cent improvement since 1990—it says 10 nations accounted for 60 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality, and India was way ahead of its neighbours Pakistan and China. “Male domination and mother-in-law’s diktat many-a-times influence a girl’s decision to go to a healthcare centre or see a doctor,” said Mumbai-based Dr Suchitra Pandit, president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. While institutional deliveries have improved from 47 per cent in 2007-08 to more than 80 per cent in 2013, there are still pockets where mothers are unable to access healthcare services. The government has identified 184 such districts across the country where renewed efforts are being made to bring down MMR further. “We have already reduced MMR by three-fourths from the 1990-level. Our target is to bring it further down to 100 by 2017,” said Gupta. Kerala has the lowest MMR of 66, while Assam has the highest of 328. UP is a close second to Assam (292). Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra (87) have MMR below 100. The figures are not that rosy for Karnataka, as it has the highest MMR (144) among the South Indian states, despite recording a fall in 2010-12. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have MMR of 90 and 110, respectively. (Deccan Herald 12/5/14)

 

37. Family seeks probe into rabies patient’s sudden death (3)

NEW DELHI: The family of 23-year-old Kavita Joshi, who died of suspected rabies on Friday after being bitten by a dog in Manali, conducted her last rites on Tuesday, soon after police finished her autopsy on Delhi high court’s order. Kavita’s family and friends are unable to understand how a dog bite could lead to her sudden death within four days of her hospitalization. Speaking to TOI, her family and well-wishers said they are mulling legal options that include seeking a thorough probe into the circumstances surrounding her death. The family wants the cops to investigate if fake medicine was administered to her or if there was any kind of medical negligence. While Kavita’s father Mohan Chandra Joshi said the family will decide what to do next in a few days, their lawyer RK Saini said seeking an inquest can be an option given the nature of her death. It took a series of Delhi high court orders for Kavita’s family to first ensure she was not forcibly discharged from Max Hospital, Patparganj, and later for police to conduct postmortem. With Kavita passing away on Friday, her postmortem was stuck because of holidays on Saturday and Sunday that left the high court furious. Family friend BS Negi, who monitored the petitions filed by the Joshi family, was unable to hide his grief. “She had such a bright future. Kavita’s brother was present when the incident happened. She had offered a biscuit to the animal and its teeth just grazed her hand. Despite taking injections in Manali, her condition suddenly deteriorated nearly 20 days after the incident. The hospital authorities here didn’t cooperate,” Negi alleged. On Tuesday, while taking stock of the family’s condition, the high court advised them to approach the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) seeking a probe into her death if they feel there were lapses. The court also took exception to repeated cases of delay in post mortem. “There is a problem in structural response. There is lack of coordination between police and health department which needs to be worked out.” On this issue it tagged the plea of her family members with another case on delayed post mortems pending before the Chief Justice’s court. Justice Manmohan had intervened and asked the health department of Delhi government to order Max Super Speciality Hospital at Patparganj not to discharge 23-year-old Kavita Joshi from the hospital last week, when the panic stricken Joshi family moved court. After her death the family had to again knock on HC doors to get the post mortem done. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

38. UN report shows rich-poor longevity divide persists (3)

New York, May 16 : People everywhere are living longer, the United Nations health agency on Thursday reported, mostly because fewer children are dying, certain diseases are in check, and tobacco use is down, but conditions in low-income countries continue to plague life quality there. According to the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Statistics 2014, a girl born in 2012 can expect to live around 73 years and a boy to the age of 68. That is six years longer than the average life span for a child in 1990. With one year to go until the 2015 target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), substantial progress has been made on many health-related goals, the report authors wrote. “The global target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water was met in 2010, with remarkable progress also having been made in reducing child mortality, improving nutrition, and combating HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” the report states. WHO’s statistics show that low-income countries have made the greatest progress, with an average increase in life expectancy by 9 years from 1990 to 2012. The top six countries where life expectancy increased the most were Liberia which saw a 20-year increase (from 42 years in 1990 to 62 years in 2012) followed by Ethiopia (from 45 to 64 years), Maldives (58 to 77 years), Cambodia (54 to 72 years), Timor-Leste (50 to 66 years) and Rwanda (48 to 65 years). Nevertheless, nearly 18,000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, according to the findings, with large inequities remaining in child mortality between high-income and low-income countries. “There is still a major rich-poor divide: people in high-income countries continue to have a much better chance of living longer than people in low-income countries,” said Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan. Women live longer than men in general, but in high-income countries the difference is around six years, while in low-income countries, the average falls to three years. The findings among children are even more glaring. A girl born in 2012 in a high-income country can expect to live to the age of around 82, which is 19 years longer than a girl born in a low-income country. The difference for boys is 16 years. Geographically, women in Japan live the longest, with an average life expectancy of 87 years, followed by Spain, Switzerland and Singapore at 85 years. The average lifespan of men is highest in Iceland at 81 years. “In high-income countries, much of the gain in life expectancy is due to success in tackling noncommunicable diseases,” said Ties Boerma, Director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO. “Fewer men and women are dying before they get to their 60th birthday from heart disease and stroke. Richer countries have become better at monitoring and managing high blood pressure for example,” he added. Declining tobacco use is also a key factor in helping people live longer in several countries. At the other end of the scale, life expectancy for both men and women is still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries, including Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. (New Kerala 16/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

39. NGOs demand increase in HIV tests during pregnancy (3)

JAIPUR: On the occasion of World AIDS Orphans Day, the social organizations demanded that the government increases conduction of HIV tests of pregnant women to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to the newborn. The social organizations including FXB Suraksha and Positive Women Network of Rajasthan on Wednesday at Press Club appealed to the government that more women coming for institutional deliveries should be screened for HIV through counseling. FXB India programme coordinator (Rajasthan) Suraksha Lata Singh said, “May 7 is observed as World AIDS Orphan day and the state government is running Treatment & Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) centres to save the newborn from HIV transmission during their birth.” The representatives of the social organizations pointed out that once an infant is born with HIV his life becomes challenging as there have been instances of the child being shifted to shelter homes by his close relatives after his HIV positive parents died. The organizations claimed that the transmission of virus from mother to newborn could be prevented by taking some medication, which minimizes transmission chance. More the HIV testing of pregnant women is done less would be the chances of newborns being infected with the virus. Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) is already conducting HIV tests of pregnant women through counseling. They take the women’s consent before conducting the test. The RSACS said they have conducted tests on more than 6 lakh pregnant women for HIV in 2013, which could be nearly 33% of the total pregnant women giving birth to newborns every year, through proper counseling. The auxiliary nurse midwife and general nurse midwife counsel the women to take the test before she gives birth. So far, the new infections among children are 130, the social organizations claimed. (Times of India 8/5/14)

 

40. HIV patient gets violent, kills one in the Bombay (3)

MUMBAI: A 42-year-old HIV positive patient got violent in the Bombay Hospital early on Monday morning and killed a 65-year-old TB patient besides injuring two others. The accused, an Agripada resident, has been admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital for treatment, and booked for murder and attempt to murder. The deceased, Lilabihari Thakur, was to be discharged in three days. The incident took place at around 6.30 am in the general ward on third floor of the hospital. The accused, who returned from bathroom, used a saline-drip stand to attack the victims, said police. The Azad Maidan police initially registered an attempt to murder case against the accused but later added the section of murder Thakur died during treatment. The two injured were Praful Parmar (70) and Janardhan Arte (66), both being treated. Thakur’s son, Pankaj, said that his mother Miradevi has been accompanying his father since he was admitted on April 12. “On Monday morning, my mother had gone down stairs to bring medicines which were to be given to my father.At around 6.30 pm, the accused got up from his bed and removed the stand used to mount saline bottles. He later attacked my father thrice with the rod on his head. My father was bleeding profusely and meanwhile he ran towards the other ward too. He attacked two other patients too and injured them grievously,” said Pankaj, who works in a private firm as administrator. He added that while the other patients got scared, there is no correct information where the accused’s care taker was. “He had hit the other two patients on their head too,” he said. (Times of India 12/5/14)

 

41. Rights groups oppose Uganda’s HIV bill (3)

Kampala: Human rights activists Wednesday opposed a “deeply flawed” HIV bill passed by Uganda’s parliament, which they say is discriminatory and hampers the fight against AIDS. The new law, passed by parliament on Tuesday, foresees jail sentences of up to 10 years for spouses who infect each other with HIV. The bill also allows medical workers to disclose patients’ HIV status without consent, includes mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners. It criminalizes HIV transmission, attempted transmission and behaviour that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status. “This HIV bill is yet another step backward in the fight against AIDS in Uganda,” said Maria Burnett, researcher at international non-profit Human Rights Watch. “It is founded on stigma and discrimination and based on approaches that have been condemned by international health agencies as ineffective and violating the rights of people living with HIV,” Ms. Burnett added. “It is a very detrimental bill. The law will chase away people from testing for AIDS,” AIDS activist and medical doctor Margret Mungherela said. The bill has been pending in parliament since 2010 and was passed even though the Health Ministry’s AIDS commission as well as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and other international agencies discouraged the law. About 1.5 million of the East African nation’s 36 million people are infected with HIV, according to the Health Ministry. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

42. Govt to Issue BPL Cards to All HIV +ve Patients (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a meeting attended by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Health Minister V S Sivakumar and Social Justice Minister M K Muneer at the Secretariat, it was announced that the government had formulated several policies to protect the 8,227 HIV positive patients in the state. For patients undergoing Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART), the monthly aid has been increased from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000. Kerala State AIDS Control Society will be entrusted with a corpus fund of Rs 3 crore towards this purpose, according to a release. “Children of HIV patients will be provided free education and scholarships. There will be no age limit for pensions given to widows of AIDS patients,” it said. All tests will be free for HIV infected patients in the labs run by hospital management committees in various government hospitals. In case a hospital doesn’t have the provision for a particular test, the government will take measures to reimburse the money spent on tests. To ensure the financial security of HIV patients, the Social Justice Department will introduce self-employment schemes. The government is also envisaging a housing project for them. Medicines that are not available at the eight ART centres in the state will be made available through Kerala Medical Services Corporation. In the eight ART centres in the state, counsellors to implement Social Justice Schemes through single window clearance would be appointed. Schemes to provide nutritious food would be re-introduced in all ART centres, according to the release. Special training will be given to those willing to provide nursing care to HIV patients. AIDS awareness will be part of the school curriculum. The Social Justice Department will protect the rights of HIV patients, through a health centre to be established in Kochi. The government has also decided that once in three months, the Chief Minister, Health Minister and Social Justice Minister would meet  to analyse the issues which affect HIV patients. (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

43. Dosage of key drug for HIV+ too low to counter TB, reveals study (3)

CHENNAI: Experts may fret about overprescription of drugs for tuberculosis, but it has emerged that central health authorities’ mandatory dosage of a key drug for HIV-infected patients with the disease is too low for it to be effective. A study by National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis found that dosage of rifabutin — a second-line drug for HIV-infected TB patients — prescribed by Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) is insufficient to tackle mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of the disease, one of the leading causes of death among AIDS/HIV+ patients. “The programme recommends 150mg of the drug thrice a week. But based on our studies of blood samples collected from 17 patients, we found that for 150mg of rifabutin to work, patients would have to take the drug every day,” said Dr Geetha Ramachandran, who led the study. The subjects of the study were all patients at Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine, Tambaram. All of them had failed to respond to first-line treatment. Researchers found that the RNTCP stipulated dosage administered to seven patients was too low to counter the disease. Four of the subjects died during the course of the study. “Ten of the patients, who received a dosage of around 30mg/ml higher than that prescribed by the RNTCP, showed favourable response to the treatment,” Dr Ramachandran said. Experts say the dosage of the drug has always been a matter of debate, with doctors exercising extra caution due to possible chemical interaction of medicines for HIV and TB. “While in some countries like the US, the dosage of rifabutin has been increased from 150mg three days a week to the same amount daily, in India insufficient data and studies resulted in health authorities failing to increase the dosage,” NIRT director Soumya Swaminathan said. The researchers have presented the results of the study to the National AIDS Control Organisation. “A multi-centric study will be undertaken in different parts of the country to assess the effect of rifabutin. This could change the drug regimen for HIV-positive patients with TB,” Dr Swaminathan said. Experts say 60%-70% of HIV-infected patients are likely to develop TB, mostly those on second-line therapy. “There are several factors that may lead to poor treatment outcome, including malnutrition and other infections. The dosage of rifabutin, which kills the bacteria, is also a contributing factor which can’t be taken lightly. Although we recommend daily dosage, more studies will be required to determine the optimal level,” Dr Ramachandran said. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

44. Stay on acquisition of land in NCR to continue: HC (4)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday clarified that the stay on acquisition of land and issuance of any change of land use (CLU) licences to developers to build colonies in Gurgaon and the National Capital Region (NCR) area would continue till further orders. The HC on January 23 had stayed the acquisition process and the issuance of CLU licences till the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) approves a sub-regional plan for the area. The orders were passed by the HC after hearing petitions alleging unregulated construction and development around Gurgaon and NCR without the mandatory sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the town and country planning department informed the court that it has prepared a sub-regional plan and submitted the same before the board on February 17 on which a report is awaited. NCRPB informed the HC that it has prepared a report on the issue and sent it to the Haryana government. However, the counsel for the Haryana government submitted that it is yet to receive the report. After hearing all the parties, Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked all the parties to submit a status report on the matter and till the submission of them the stay order would continue. Petitioner Rishi Dagar and others had also challenged the proposed Gurgaon master plan of 2025 and 2031. The petitioners argued before the court that the Haryana government had permitted haphazard construction in and around Gurgaon and NCR and licences have been issued without obtaining mandatory approval of its sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. Sub-regional plan is one that a state government needs to prepare for its areas coming in NCR. (New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

 

45. Tamil Nadu to compensate landowners in two phases (4)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has worked out a strategy to address the issue of compensation for land acquisition so as to ensure smooth progress of the ongoing infrastructure projects. It has combined the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 with some aspects of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, for the purpose. Under the plan, interim compensation will be initially paid to landowners on the basis of the existing system. Additional compensation will be given under the 2013 Act as and when rules under the law are available. This approach will be adopted in the cases of land acquisition initiated under Section 4 (1) of the 1894 law [publication of preliminary notification] or Section 6 [declaration of intended acquisition]. This has been reflected in a notification issued by the Housing and Urban Development Department two weeks ago for the outer ring road project. In this case, the Department has declared its intention to acquire 43 hectares in Tiruvallur district under Section 6 of the 1894 Act, but provisions of the 2013 Act for the determination of compensation will apply. The strategy was spelt out in an order issued a couple of weeks before the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections came into force on March 5. A similar approach will be adopted in the case of land acquisition for the Kannankottai-Thervoy Kandigai reservoir project proposed in Tiruvallur district. The reservoir will supply water to Chennai, a senior official says. And, using the same law, the process has been set in motion for a major bus terminus at Vandalur, on the outskirts of Chennai. Furthermore, land is acquired under three State laws: the Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act of 1978, the Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act of 1997 and the Highways Act of 2001. In late February and early March, under clauses of the 1997 law, the proceedings have been initiated for the expansion of the SIPCOT industrial complex at Oragadam near Chennai, the industrial units at Cheyyar in Tiruvannamalai district and the extension of the Coimbatore airport runway. Given the importance of land acquisition under these laws, the government has decided to continue the process for one year, choosing not to apply the 2013 law for the time being. A Bill for this purpose, adopted by the Assembly in February, is awaiting the President’s assent. Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA K. Balakrishnan feels that the government should have at least kept the 1997 law out of the exemption provision as the rationale behind the 2013 law is to give owners a higher compensation when their land is bought for industrial purposes. An official says the scheme to provide interim and additional compensation, now worked out for the cases under the 1894 Act, will soon be extended to those under the 1997 law.  (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

46. Stay on acquisition of land in NCR to continue: HC (4)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday clarified that the stay on acquisition of land and issuance of any change of land use (CLU) licences to developers to build colonies in Gurgaon and the National Capital Region (NCR) area would continue till further orders. The HC on January 23 had stayed the acquisition process and the issuance of CLU licences till the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) approves a sub-regional plan for the area. The orders were passed by the HC after hearing petitions alleging unregulated construction and development around Gurgaon and NCR without the mandatory sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the town and country planning department informed the court that it has prepared a sub-regional plan and submitted the same before the board on February 17 on which a report is awaited. NCRPB informed the HC that it has prepared a report on the issue and sent it to the Haryana government. However, the counsel for the Haryana government submitted that it is yet to receive the report. After hearing all the parties, Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked all the parties to submit a status report on the matter and till the submission of them the stay order would continue. Petitioner Rishi Dagar and others had also challenged the proposed Gurgaon master plan of 2025 and 2031. The petitioners argued before the court that the Haryana government had permitted haphazard construction in and around Gurgaon and NCR and licences have been issued without obtaining mandatory approval of its sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. Sub-regional plan is one that a state government needs to prepare for its areas coming in NCR. (Times of India 15/5/14)

 

47. Allahabad HC sets aside land acquisition notice (4)

ALLAHABAD: The Allahabad High Court on Thursday set aside the notification dated November 9, 2009 by which the land at Hazratpur in Greater NOIDA was acquired by the state government for planned industrial development. Under this notification, 73 hectares of land was acquired by the state government through Greater NOIDA Industrial Development Authority. The order was passed by a division bench comprising Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Naheed Ara Moonis, on a writ petition filed by Uday Veer of Greater NOIDA, after hearing the counsel for the petitioner, counsel for Greater NOIDA and counsel for the state government. The petitioner contended that the land of the petitioner was acquired through the notification by using the urgency clause in an illegal manner. He alleged that the villagers and farmers, whose lands were acquired, were not given opportunity to file objections in view of the urgency clause. This was patently illegal. Secondly, the counsel for the petitioner contended that the possession over the said land was also made in an improper manner. On these grounds, he urged the court to set aside the notification. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

48. Anti-corruption bureau caught 508 errant officials in four months in Maharashtra (5)

MUMBAI: A deputy collector, a public works executive engineer, a senior police inspector, and a principal of a leading college were among the 508 public servants trapped by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) in 375 graft cases in the first four months of 2014. Significantly, in the entire last year, the ACB had arrested 281 erring officials in 216 cases. According to ACB records, the highest number of erring officials caught this year was from the state home department (87), followed by the revenue department (79), municipal corporations (25), state electricity distribution company (16) and land records (11). More shocking was the fact that a few senior police inspectors were caught taking bribes in police stations itself. Admitting that the data was worrying, Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria said he was determined to end the menace. “I had a meeting with all deputy, additional and joint police commissioners, and have drafted a comprehensive action plan to take on the erring officials. The results will be visible in a time-bound period,” he said. “We have prepared a list of the erring officers. We will counsel them and take action against them. But if there is no improvement, we ourselves will submit the list to the ACB for further action.” Maria said all deputy, additional and joint police commissioners have also been asked to personally monitor sensitive cases, where there is scope for corruption. “In cases where an officer can use his discretion on whether or not to arrest the accused, there is scope for corruption. We will monitor all such cases,” Maria said. An IPS official said that owing to the proactive role played by the ACB, led by IPS officer Praveen Dixit, there was “alertness in all walks of life”. “Social activists are knocking at the doors of the ACB and the results are visible,” he said. Additional chief secretary (revenue) Swadhin Kshatriya said even the revenue department has drafted a strategy to curb corruption. “We have worked out a action plan to provide a corruption-free administration,” he said, adding that more emphasis is being given on maximum utilization of information technology. “All services will be available online, as a result, there will be less scope for corruption.” Kshatriya said as there was scope for irregularities in land records, they have been completely digitized. “We have simplified rules and set a time-bound disposal for all pending revenue cases. We are set to bring e-governance at all levels.” Food and Drug Administration commissioner Mahesh Zagade said they have taken measures to reduce corruption at all levels. “Our entire administration has been digitized and all services are available online. We are implementing all the legislation in letter and spirit, as a result, there is less scope for lower-level officials to indulge in illegal activities,” he said, adding that if citizens stop giving bribes, corruption will automatically end. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

49. CBI forms SIT to probe Saradha group, 17 other firms (5)

Kolkata: The CBI formed a special investigation team (SIT) on Monday — the last day of polling in the 2014 elections — to probe the Saradha group and 17 other such companies for duping millions in Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and the northeastern states. To be led by the agency’s joint director for the northeast zone, Rajiv Singh, the team will have officers from various CBI departments in the states, besides men from the agency’s Delhi office and specialised units. On April 10, 2013 after his company went bust, Saradha group boss Sudipta Sen wrote a letter to the CBI, detailing the involvement of some Trinamool Congress top guns as well as relatives of some Congress leaders in the scam. As the scam rocked Bengal and the neighbouring states, TMC chief and chief minister Mamata Banerjee set up a commission under a retired judge, Shyamal Sen, to initiate the process of documenting the investors and returning some money to the victims. Already more than 60 persons – agents and depositors – have committed suicide since April last year. A source in the CBI, which received the top court’s order on Friday to take up the probe, told HT that since the `20,000-crore scam involved fraud, money laundering and even hawala transactions, officers from specialised departments had to be roped in. The SIT will soon start collecting documents from the special investigation team of the Bengal police as well as the Enforcement Directorate, which are now probing the scam. It will also seek documents from the Serious Fraud Investigation Office. The Bengal police SIT arrested several persons, including Saradha group boss Sen, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh and others. ED, too, in its probe interrogated and arrested a number of persons, including Sen’s wife and daughter. Since cases have already been registered by the police on the basis of first information reports, the CBI will re-register the cases before initiating the probe. But the agency will decide on the sections to be applied, changes in the list of accused persons and incorporate any other changes that it feels necessary. (Hindustan Times 13/5/14)

 

50. CBI’s Fresh Guidelines For Probe Against Joint Secretary and Higher Officers (5)

New Delhi:  Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday issued fresh guidelines for its officers, asking them to take permission of the Additional Director or above before beginning investigation against any joint secretary and higher ranked officers in the government. The direction comes in the wake of a recent Supreme Court judgement which struck down the provision of seeking mandatory prior approval by the CBI of the government to probe against officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above. CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, who had termed it as a landmark judgement, however, had a word of caution to its officers and said “those found guilty of abusing their authority will be dealt with severely.” Mr Sinha had said the order had added more responsibilities on the CBI as a proper mechanism had to be put in place to ensure that no innocent person is subjected to this provision. “We have strengthened our already existing mechanism and due diligence will be done before questioning any senior officer,” he had said. According to the circular issued by the CBI, any inquiry against a joint secretary or above officer in the government will have to be approved by a competent authority which would be either an Additional Director, a Special Director or the Director of the CBI. It said that in case of a complaint in any CBI office against a Union Minister, the same shall be forwarded to the Home Ministry promptly for further action and the relevant file should remain in the personal custody of the head of the branch. No complaint against any such officer will be handed over to a CBI officer below the rank of a Superintendent of Police, the guidelines said. The Superintendent of Police should ensure that the departmental records are examined discreetly so that secrecy of the verification is maintained and advised to consult the records informally by contacting the concerned Vigilance Officers or the Head of the Department. During the course of verification of the complaint, a written requisition for record should normally be avoided but wherever absolutely necessary, such requisition must go under the signature of the Head of the Branch only and never of the Verification Officer, failing which, the concerned unit heads would be held squarely responsible, the circular said. “The period of three months, which is provided for completion of the verification of complaints, must be strictly adhered to and all complaints that are time-barred should be individually examined by the head of the zones and necessary direction be given in this regard,” it said. While reiterating that adequate precautions should be taken to ensure that motivated complaints or cases are not registered, the circular warned that a trend was seen that complaints were received against an officer who is on the verge of promotion. “It should be carefully scrutinised and finding out this fact should become part of the verification” and unless the information is specific, it need not be entertained, it said. A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, held as invalid and unconstitutional the provision which makes it mandatory for prior approval of competent authority for the CBI to probe Joint Secretary and above-ranked officials in corruption cases and said the protection has the propensity of shielding the corrupt. The 6-A clause of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs the CBI, says no inquiry or probe can be conducted into any offence committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 except with the prior approval of the central government. This is applicable to central government employees of the level of Joint Secretary and above and officers appointed by the Centre in corporations established by or under any central Act, government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by that government. (NDTV 14/5/14)

 

51. 34% of MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha have criminal charges against them (5)

New Delhi: Every third MP in the 16th Lok Sabha has criminal charges while 82% of the lawmakers have assets worth Rs one crore or more, as per Association for Democratic Reforms’ (ADR) analysis. Civil society group ADR have analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 541 out of 543 winners in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections filed before the Election Commission. They found that 34% of the winning candidates are faced with criminal charges. It was 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004. “Out of the 541 winners analysed, 186 (34%) have declared criminal cases against themselves,” ADR said in its detailed analysis BJP is leading the chart with as many as 98 winning candidates (35%) out of total 282, are facing criminal charges. While, 8 out of total 44 candidates of Congress are facing criminal charges. In AIADMK 6 out of 37 winners have been booked by police in some case or other. The percentage of candidates facing criminal charges is highest in Shiv Sena as its 15 candidates out of the total 18 are booked in some case or other. Trinamool Congress’ 7 out of 34 winners are facing criminal charges. ADR in its analysis also found that on an average four out of five candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls have declared assets worth over Rs 1 crore. “Out of the 541 winners analysed, 442 (82%) are crorepatis,” the analysis pointed. In this category also BJP is leading as 237 (84%) out of its 282 winners are crorepatis. In Congress, 35 (80%) out of 44 winners are crorepatis. ADR also underlined that chances of candidates with criminal charges were almost double as compared to clean candidates. “The chances of winning of a candidate with criminal cases in the Lok Sabha 2014 elections are 13% while for a candidate with a clean record it is 5%,” ADR said in its analysis. The ADR was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad. (DNA 18/5/14)

 

52. Mere collection of money doesn’t amount to bribery: Madras HC (5)

CHENNAI: Holding that mere collection of money from people alone would not be enough to convict public servants on charges of bribery, the Madras high court has acquitted a woman village administrative officer who was sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment for taking Rs 200 for issuing a birth certificate. While the complaint was that she sought this as bribe for issuing the certificate, S Vijayalakshmi said while Rs 150 was collected as flag day charges Rs 50 was towards transport expenses. Vijayalakshmi was VAO of Keelambi village in Kancheepuram district in June 1999 when the incident occurred. In August 2008, chief judicial magistrate of Chengalpet found her guilty under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sentenced her to one-year imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 5,000. Justice Aruna Jagadeesan, setting aside the order and acquitting Vijayalakshmi last week, said: “It is settled principle of law that mere recovery of the tainted money is not sufficient to record a conviction, unless there is evidence that bribe had been demanded or money was paid as a bribe. In the absence of any evidence of demand and acceptance of the amount as illegal gratification, recovery would not alone be a ground to convict the appellant.” According to the prosecution, Vijayalakshmi demanded Rs 200 for issuing birth certificate to one Priyanka who gave birth to a child in 1999. Priyanka’s father informed the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption personnel, who laid a trap for the VAO. She was caught while receiving the money. Later, during trial, the complainant himself admitted that the VAO had demanded the money towards flag day collection and transport expenses. Justice Jagadeesan said: “I am of the considered opinion that the prosecution has failed in establishing the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt that there was a demand and acceptance of illegal gratification. Whereas, the accused has given a plausible and acceptable explanation and discharged the burden.” (Times of India 19/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

53. Woman stripped in public, asked to pay Rs 1 lakh fine (6)

RAIPUR: In an apparent imitation of controversial “khap panchayat”, a 35-year-old tribal teacher in Pathalgaon area in Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh was not only beaten and stripped in front of everyone but was also asked to pay Rs 1 lakh or face boycott from village. The incident took place at Pakargaon of Pathalgaon block on April 19. Despite the fact that the woman had reported the matter naming the accused, police is still waiting to get a detailed complaint on assault and the truth in her being stripped naked to take stringent action. The teacher has now approached human rights commission and women’s commission after alleged police inaction. She was assaulted because her nephew was allegedly in a relationship with a girl of same village. According to woman’s statement given to state commission for women, her nephew and the girl belonged to same caste and wished to get married. While discussions were going on for the wedding, the girl allegedly stayed at woman’s home where her nephew Bijendra also lived but after brief counseling the girl left. However, as soon as village sarpanch Nehru Lakda came to know about the girl’s stay, he blamed the woman for misleading her and accused her nephew of rape. When the village gathered at gram sabha of April 19, the girl under pressure denied having any relationship with the boy following which sarpanch, holding the woman responsible, ordered men and women present there to beat her. The victim also complained that she was robbed off her gold ornaments while she was being assaulted. On accusations of defaming the girl, the woman was asked to pay Rs 1 lakh or leave the village with her family. “No one visits or talks to me. Moreover, I have been struggling for help from police since a fortnight but even after reporting the matter, none of the accused were arrested,” she said. Talking to TOI, secretary of state commission for women Jagrani Ekka said that a letter has been sent to superintendent of police Jitendra Mina asking Jashpur police to register a case under relevant sections. “Following the report submitted by police, commission would intervene for her justice,” she said. According to eyewitnesses, the woman was not stripped but her clothes were torn off while she was being beaten and assaulted. Hence, they said, stripping wasn’t intentional. TOI spoke to the victim, who while weeping over phone, said, “Sarpanch abused me before everyone, dragged me by hair and kicked me on ground, stripping me off my clothes. Nehru is habitual of assaulting people and has boycotted more than 10 people from village and sent many to jail.” Demanding justice, the victim said, “I have already informed police amid threats from sarpanch to withdraw the complaint.” Police had registered FIR against sarpanch. “Sarpanch and two others were arrested and released on bail. If survivor has more to say about assault and being stripped by locals, she has all rights to approach the police,” Neha Pandey, Jashpur additional superintendent of police told TOI. Meanwhile, state Congress committee president Bhupesh Baghel has formed a party level committee for examining the case. (Times of India 10/5/14)

 

54. NGO comes forward to help poor adivasi couples get married (6)

Jalpaiguri: An NGO and a tea garden management came forward and helped 26 poor adivasi couple to get married in Jalpaiguri district. Himdong Tea garden and Spandan Welfare society today organised a mass marriage ceremony at the Himdong Tea garden where 26 poor adivasi couple were married. The Spandan Welfare Society said as the poor adivasi couple were too poor they could not afford to get married so they came forward and helped them get married along with the Himdong tea garden management. (Financial Express 11/5/14)

 

55. In a first, Chhattisgarh tribal widow remarries (6)

Raipur: A tribal group in Chhattisgarh has set a new social trend in its society by allowing a widow of the community to remarry. Kanwar Samaj, considered a socially and economically-backward tribe, has decided to do away with its age-old tradition of prohibiting widow marriage in the community, when its leaders gave nod to the wedding of Chuneswari Kanwar (24), who lost her husband barely a month after her nuptial a couple of years ago. Chuneswari married Siddhartha Singh Kanwar (28), who is currently serving as an engineer in a private power company in Bhillai nearly 30 km from here, at a simple ceremony, attended by the elders of the society, in her village of Jejera in tribal-dominated Gariabandh district in east Chhattisgarh on Sunday night. “This is the first remarriage of a widow in the history of our tribal society. The social reform undertaken in the society will go a long way in helping the group fight backwardness,” Gariabandh district president of Kanwar-Paikra society Bharat Singh Diwan said on Monday. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

56. Tribals desert govt homes citing lack of facilities (6)

MADURAI: Tribal families in Varasanadu in Theni district who were rehabilitated have decided to desert their new homes and return to the hilly regions as they do not have access to basic amenities. The tribal families living in Yanaikajam near Varasanadu were rehabilitated in government constructed homes near Upputhurai village in the region. Twenty-four group houses were constructed for them at a cost of Rs 28 lakh, with each house costing Rs 1.20 lakh. They occupied their new homes about two months ago, little before the elections, but ever since they have been saying that they want to give up their new homes because they do not have basic amenities. The houses were constructed under the Indira Gandhi Rozgar yojana. Similar houses were constructed for the tribals in the region in various places including Arasaradi near Nochiodai, Thalaiyoothu and only the homes constructed near Kadamalaigundu have some facilities. Three families left their homes on Wednesday and went up to their old habitation in Yanaikajam declaring that it was better than their new homes. Velu, one of the people who left their new homes said that they had come here expecting better facilities than their previous ones, but the new houses were not up to their expectations. The compound wall was not constructed as promised and as there is no electricity the women are fearful of venturing outside even late in the evening. “At least in our old homes we did not a problem for drinking water as it was easily available,” they said. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

57. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Survey Report (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  A 2010 survey conducted by the Scheduled Tribes Development Department had found that nearly half of the total deaths in the ST communities over the previous five years were premature or unnatural. The department recently prepared a state-level socio-economic status report based on the survey data which is yet to be published. The report accessed by ‘Express’ revealed stark disparities in the development indices of the tribals compared to the general population. According to the report, 5,957 of 12,189 deaths between 2005 and 2010 were ‘unnatural’ with 28 starvation deaths. A total of 432 persons died due to excessive consumption of alcohol/ drugs, 3,802 for lack of proper medical care, 950 in suicides, 48 in wild  animal attacks and 697 in accidents. The report which found some positive trends like a sex ratio of 1000:1031 and literacy rate of 74.44 percent, opined several other parameters required a drastic improvement. It suggested an integrated policy for the comprehensive development of the over four lakh tribals who form 1.28 percent of the total population. The report said 13.09 percent of the total families were affected by malnutrition and their number was maximum in Wayanad district, followed by Palakkad and Idukki districts. A total of 18 percent of the total families had members who were differently-abled or mentally-challenged. A total of 31 percent of families had members with chronic diseases. A total of 23.15 percent of STs do not have ration cards while a majority of those distributed were defective. Only about 51 percent of the families were included in the below poverty line (BPL) category which was a far cry from reality, the report  said.About 56 percent of the families were in debt and one-third of them had borrowed from private money lenders.  Nearly 30.27 percent of persons in the 15-59 age group were unemployed. Despite reservation benefits and special recruitment drives, only 4.33 percent had government or quasi-government jobs. Social security schemes were still a dream for the majority as only 17 percent of the widows were beneficiaries of widow  pension and 13 percent of the aged received old-age pension. The dropout rate was 62 percent in general and 80 percent among primitive tribes. 70 percent of the 4762 oorus (settlements) in state did not have an anganwadi. About 9.66 percent families were houseless and 4.78 percent landless. The number of landless was high in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

58. Technical issues hit minorities welfare department division process (7)

HYDERABAD: With days to go before the Appointed Date of bifurcation, the minorities welfare department (MWD) said that the process of division of five out of 11 agencies under its control would be finalized only after June 2. The five entities, Urdu Academy of AP (UAAP), AP State Wakf Board, Survey Commissioner of Wakf, AP State Haj Committee (APSHC) and the Wakf Tribunal, would be divided after the formation of the new Telangana state. According to sources from the MWD, the decision to not bifurcate the tribunal is based on the fact that it is a statutory body which acts as a court of law and deals with a large number of cases. In a similar case, the AP State Minorities Commission, headed by senior Congress leader Abid Rasool Khan, would continue to function in Telangana but its formation in the residual state of Andhra Pradesh would be the government’s prerogative. “Once a government comes to power in residuary Andhra Pradesh, it will decide if a commission for minorities of the state should be constituted. The tribunal currently handles many cases which is why we want to be careful with its bifurcation. Speeding up its division could adversely affect cases which are being heard,” an official, who did not wish to be named said. With the state being allotted a quota of 5,384 seats for haj pilgrims this year, the APSHC too will not be divided immediately. “The government has decided not to divide the haj committee at least till November’s haj season comes to an end. Further, in mid-March, 3,908 pilgrims were selected by means of qurrah (draw of lots). Another 1,476 seats have been allotted in the reserved category. Bifurcation of the committee could cause problems in arrangements and inconvenience pilgrims,” the source said. Interestingly, sources said that the MWD special secretary Syed Omar Jaleel has recommended against the bifurcation of Dairatul Maarif, an institute with the objective of preserving Arabic manuscripts, which is located in Osmania University. “The institute is a repository of rare manuscripts and books. We think that it is the cultural heritage of Muslims which should not be divided. We have recommended that it functions as a single entity,” Jaleel said. He added that the bifurcation process at the department was proceeding smoothly. “We are ready for a smooth transition,” he added. The government had originally set a deadline of May 15 for all government departments to complete the bifurcation process, including division of manpower and assets, but not a single agency has been able to complete the process and many were unlikely to do so before the appointed date of June 2. “It’s almost impossible to complete the process in such a short period. It’s a mammoth exercise, a gigantic task at hand,” said a government official. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

59. Dal Khalsa cautions minorities against miscreants (7)

Chandigarh: Expressing concern over Wednesday’s violent clashes in Hyderabad, the radical Sikh organisation, Dal Khalsa, has appealed to the local leadership of both minority communities to ensure early resolution and frustrate the attempts by miscreants to escalate tensions. In a statement, spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh expressed grief over the loss of lives in the clashes reported from Kishanbagh after miscreants burnt a Nishan Sahib (religious flag) of the Sikh community. Mr. Singh said that while the burning of the Nishan Sahib was condemnable, certain miscreants had resorted to spreading rumours over the social media to vitiate atmosphere. Mr. Singh alleged that certain miscreants associated with Hindu right-wing organisations were spreading rumours to create further animosity between the minority communities. According to the versions of some Sikhs of Hyderabad, he said, the propaganda was carried on social media that Muslims had attacked Sardars, angry over Sikhs supporting the BJP instead of voting for the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen. (The Hindu 15/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

60. Muslim representation to be low in 16th Lok Sabha, none in BJP’s 282 (7)

NEW DELHI: The 16th Lok Sabha will have one of the lowest representation for Muslims with just about 20 of them emerging victorious in the Lok Sabha polls in the wake of the saffron surge in the north and western parts of India. Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 seats, has not returned any Muslim candidate in the just-concluded elections. An analysis of the results shows that there are about 20 winners from the Muslim community. BJP, the largest party with 282 members, does not have a single representative from the community. In the new Lok Sabha, the biggest contingent of Muslim MPs would be from West Bengal with seven members followed by Bihar where at least four Muslim candidates have won. Going by estimates, there were more than 25 Muslim members in the outgoing Lower House. Trinamool Congress has at least three members from the community among whom are Idris Ali (Basirhat), Sultan Ahmed (Uluberia) and Mamtaz Sanghamita (Burdwan-Durgapur). The others minority community members from West Bengal include CPM’s Badaruddoza Khan (Murshidabad) and Md Salim (Raiganj). There are also two Congress members — Mausam Noor (Maldaha Uttar) and Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury (Maldaha Dakshin) — who have won in these elections from the state. From Bihar, there are at least four Muslim MPs in the new Lok Sabha. They include RJD’s Tasleemuddin (Araria), NCP’s Tariq Anwar (Katihar), LJP’s Chaudhary Mahboob Ali Qaisar (Khagaria) and Congress member Mohd Asrarul Haq Qasmi (Kishanganj). From Jammu & Kashmir, there are three Muslim members for the new House, including PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti (Anantnag). The remaining two, Muzaffar Hussain Baig (Baramulla) and Tariq Hameed Karra (Srinagar), are also from PDP. There are two Muslim MPs from Assam — Siraj Uddin Ajmal (Barpeta) and Badruddin Ajmal (Dhubri). Both are members of the All India United Democratic Front. NCP’s Mohd Faizal PP has won in Lakshadweep while AIADMK member Anwhar Raajhaa has made it to the Lower House from Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi, representing Hyderabad, has retained his seat. Registering its best-ever showing, BJP has won 282 seats in Lok Sabha polls, becoming the first party in 30 years to have single majority. (Times of India 17/5/14)

 

61. BJP gains on Muslim vote, trust in Delhi (7)

New Delhi: The one crucial element in BJP’s historic 7-0 win in Delhi was the support it received from the minority community. The party put in a lot of effort, right from organising conferences, holding public meetings, conducting door-to-door programmes to ensure the anti-Modi image created by the Congress and AAP was dismantled. The efforts seem to have yielded results. Across all assembly segments, which are dominated by Muslims, BJP gained 5,000-25,000 votes in the recently held Lok Sabha elections. Senior BJP leaders further said the results will boost the party’s prospects if re-elections are held in Delhi assembly and they should continue to undertake such programmes. The minority cell of the BJP played a crucial role in getting the support of Muslims. For instance, in the Matia Mahal assembly segment, which is part of Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency and is dominated by Muslims, Harsh Vardhan managed to get 15,453 votes against 6,061 votes the party had won in the 2013 assembly elections. “We had worked hard in areas dominated by Muslims and constituencies such as Seemapuri, Seelampur, Ghonda, Babarpur, Mustafabad, Okhla and Ballimaran. We have gained in Okhla too where the party candidate got 39,445 votes against 23,358 votes in the assembly election. It shows that the party is getting the support of the Muslim population and they believe in our agenda of positive governance,” said a senior BJP leader. The minority cell of the Delhi BJP had also prepared a video of Narendra Modi, the party’s face this election, highlighting the fact that he and the party is not anti-Muslim. “Traditionally, Muslims are believed to be the vote bank of Congress but that notion has undergone a sea change. A number of Muslims, especially the youth, came out in huge number and supported us as we gave them the development model. Our minority cell held interactions and public meets to ensure more people came out and voted for our candidates,” said Atif Rashid, president of minority cell of Delhi BJP. (Hindutan Times 19/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

62. Election Results: Church circular checked by BJP counterattack (7)

PANAJI: BJP’s victory in both Lok Sabha seats in Goa has brought into focus the role of the “highly influential” Church and its relationship with the government. The religious institution, whose ‘advise’ in 2012 to vote against corruption was believed to be a reason why Congress lost the assembly polls, this time issued a circular through its council for social justice and peace (CSJP) to “revitalize a truly secular republic”. It did not specify BJP, and “secular parties” could have included AAP, TMC and GSRP; but BJP took it as a boost to the Congress. BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who for two years, against his own party’s leanings, has appeared to placate the Church, including with state grants to English-medium primary schools, launched a counterattack. While Catholic BJP legislators and party-men said the circular referred to the “communal Congress” and that none in the party “feels discriminated”, BJP’s local unit stopped highlighting Narendra Modi’s ‘Gujarat model’ touting instead Parrikar’s ‘achievements’, worked aggressively in Salcete, and activated satellite organizations that led to some polarization of votes. On Friday, political commentator Prabhakar Timble told TOI the Church circular did work-”the Congress vote share in Salcete increased”-but its impact was minimal “because Parrikar and his team dared to challenge the diktat”.Respecting the people’s verdict, Fr Savio Fernandes, executive secretary, CSJP, said the circular had only offered guiding principles to voters. Parrikar too said the Church had not said not to vote for any party. On his party’s future relationship with the Church, he said, “Our approach will be the same; BJP’s relation with everyone will remain the same. We will not look different to even those who didn’t vote for us.” (Times of India 17/5/14)

 

63. Students Urged to Fight for Dalit Rights (7)

CHENNAI: Prominent Dalit activist and Supreme Court advocate Franklin Caesar Thomas condemned fundamentalists and caste Hindus for still following the ancient and outdated caste system, which does not respect equality among all. He especially spoke for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims whose SC status has been revoked due to their religious affinity. “Because of the obnoxious reservation and the caste system practised, the richest Dalit Hindus get SC status, while the poorest Dalit Christians and Muslims are not entitled to any benefits that SCs receive,” he said. Speaking at a three-day workshop conducted by the Dalit Students’ Federation, Thomas explained the several legal and constitutional aspects relating to Dalits who chose to convert to another religion. According to the 1950 Constitution order (Scheduled Caste) 19, ‘No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Caste.’ Thomas said that the benefits of reservation were necessary to economically empower the Dalit minorities rather than continuing to facilitate the advancement of those who have already reached heights, taking advantage of the SC reservations. He expressed the hope that the Constitution order would be amended by the new government to include the Dalit Muslims and Christians and urged them  to fight for their rights in a legal way. “I strongly believe in the legal system, although it is controlled by the Brahminic hegemony,” he added. Maduravoyal MLA Bheem Rao of the CPM encouraged the students to focus on education and economic empowerment. “Involve yourself with progressive thinkers and groups. The courage to bring about a change in ideology and opinions is a necessity,” he said. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

64. Meerut sees ‘vested interests’ behind riots (7)

NEW DELHI: An uneasy calm prevailed in Meerut’s Old City on Monday after a communal riot in Guzri Bazaar area of the city last Saturday afternoon left one dead and several injured. Residents remained huddled inside their houses as security personnel, deployed in huge numbers, kept a watch in the area. People of both Hindu and Muslim communities were unanimous in their opinion that the riots were instigated by some miscreants with the purpose to communally polarise voters in several parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh which went to polls on Monday. Violence started after an argument between two groups over the installation of a “piyau” (a kiosk offering free drinking water) next to a well outside a mosque in Guzri Bazaar. Those present at the spot claimed some Hindus objected to the minority community’s initiative to put up the water kiosk, alleging that it would later “encroach” the well which belongs to the adjacent Basanti Devi Girls School. This triggered a clash between two groups and soon tension spread to nearby areas of the Old City, where members of both the communities reportedly fired at each other, leaving many injured. Even as security was beefed up in the city, the situation remained tense on the ground with rumours of eve-teasing and weapons distribution keeping people locked up in their houses. Local Senior Superintendent of Police Om Prakash Singh said, “To restore peace and avert renewed clashes, patrolling has been intensified in the riot-hit areas and personnel from Provincial Armed Constabulary and Rapid Action force have been deployed.” Members of the minority community on Monday alleged that local BJP leaders uploaded photographs of a youth who was critically injured in the clashes on social networking sites, aiming to spread communal tension in other parts of communally sensitive region of Western Uttar Pradesh, a claim which local BJP corporator Vijay Anand rejected. Sitting few hundred meters away from the site of the clash, Suhail Zuberi, a Unani medical practitioner in his early 50s, said the “triviality” of the issue behind the clash makes it clear that riots are being triggered to make political gains. “Clashes are sparked to hijack and consolidate votes and it is in this context that people here see this incident, which has once again highlighted how fickle is the centuries-old Hindu-Muslim relation in front of the onslaught of politics of communal riots,” said Mr. Zuberi. Pointing towards prominent Hindi and Urdu dailies of the region, Mr. Zuberi said, “The news of communal riot has made it to the front pages of the vernacular press, which has only polarised people and consolidated votes in constituencies like Varanasi, and Gorakhpur, which went to polls today.” Abhimanyu Singh, a fruit vendor in the Kagzee Market, (paper market) seconded Mr. Zuberi. “Meerut has learnt to move on with life. We have reached a stage when the conspiracy to create hatred among us gets defeated by our search for better livelihood.” (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

65. Victims suffered multiple injuries in communal riots (7)

HYDERABAD: Armed personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) seemed to have fired indiscriminately on rioters on Wednesday with some of them hit by multiple bullets, underscoring complete failure of the Cyberabad police in directing the paramilitary force to exercise caution. Human rights activists wanted strong action against senior police officers, who ordered the BSF to fire, knowing well that they are trained to kill. Examination of bodies by the forensic science departments of Gandhi and Osmania General Hospital revealed multiple bullet injuries above the waist. Shockingly, Mohammed Fareed, 26, one of the three victims, was felled by four bullets on various parts of his body. Bullets pierced through Fareed’s chest, left hand, left thigh and left leg. In case of Mohammed Shujauddin Khateeb, 38, a bullet pierced through his chest, killing him instantly. The post-mortem on these two victims was conducted at OGH, while autopsy on the third victim, Mohammed Wajid, 20, was done at Gandhi Hospital where doctors said he had one bullet injury. Even among the injured victims, bullets were found mostly above the waist or in the thigh area. Among the five injured people admitted at Premier Hospital, Nanalnagar, bullet injuries were found on the upper arm and two in the forearm. In one case, bullet injury was found in the thigh. “Another injured victim was hit on his head requiring eight stitches,” said Dr K Kamalakar, CEO, Premier Hospital. Similarly, at Apollo Hospital, where three injured persons have been admitted, one has a bullet injury in his lower chest that has harmed his other vital organs including kidney, liver and gall bladder. Another has bullet injury in the arm, while the third patient suffered a deep cut in the thigh. Bullets stuck in the thighs of two victims were removed at Care hospital. Human rights activists condemned the firing and said BSF when deployed in civilian areas cannot operate like they do in border areas. “They are a trigger-happy force and fire randomly. Action has to be taken against BSF personnel who fired at people,” said Francis Raj, a human rights activist. “With President’s rule in the state, police think it can do anything. It is not good for the state that will be bifurcated soon,” Raj added. Activists said shooting was not required at that time. “Live ammunitions should never be used for crowd control,” said Mazhar Hussain, executive director, COVA. “The flag burning incident was wrong but the reaction to the incident without ascertaining the identity of the people responsible for it was also wrong,” said Nanak Singh Nishter, director, International Sikh Centre for Interfaith Relations. He further added that “culprits need to be punished whichever religion they belong to. We keep swords but we are not entitled to use them to harm others. Use of swords or stones to harm others cannot be supported,” said Nishter. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

66. ‘Women Not Safe in Politics Too’

BANGALORE: Political power has not insulated women from facing gender-based violence. A recent report by the United Nations (UN) has found that verbal-sexual abuse and character assassination of women are rampant in South Asia politics. Worse, Karnataka is one of the three states in India affected by such behaviour. The study ‘Violence Against Women in Politics’ revealed that women from all parties in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi were victims of gender violence. In most cases, the perpetrators were men within their party, and fear prevented women from participating as contestants and voters. Conducted between 2003 and 2013 in India, Nepal and Pakistan by UN Women and Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, the study had 250 respondents from India, including men and women in urban and rural areas, police, campaigners, Election Commission officials, judges, advocates, journalists and elected representatives. “Women risk physical violence and harassment and women politicians and parliamentarians experience violence during election campaigns and constituency visits,” the study said and added: “They experience political isolation for not following party lines drawn by male party members.”According to the report, 49 per cent of respondents in India agreed that there was verbal abuse and 45 per cent said physical violence and threats were common. An alarming 67 per cent said the perpetrators were other male contestants and 58 per cent were members within the party. “In Karnataka, while 35.8 per cent of the respondents believe that violence reduced women’s political participation, 24.69 per cent believe that it makes them more isolated,” the report said. KPCC women’s wing state president Manjula Naidu said verbal abuse, and use of slang and expletives were part of everyday life for a woman politician in Karnataka. “Men constantly sabotage and persuade you to withdraw your ticket. Once men realise that a woman is gaining political clout, they mentally harass her. Character assassination is common, but sexual and physical assault are rare,” she said. However, women from political dynasties or actor-turned-politicians do not face these hassles. “Violence reduces political participation. Reservation for women in gram panchayat and zilla panchayat elections is ensuring their participation in the electoral process to some extent,” Manjula said…. New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

67. Over 100 under-15 girls in Mumbai had abortions in last one year (8)

MUMBAI: Of the 30,000-odd women who underwent abortions in Mumbai in 2013-14, more than a 100 were younger than 15 — an age at which their peers are busy preparing for their school or board exams. Another 900-odd were in the 16 to 19 age-group, reveals data gathered from the civic administration’s public health department using the Right to Information Act. The numbers raise three concerns: one, poor sex education among teenagers, two, the possibility of the girls having been victims of sexual violence, and three, the prevalence of under-age marriages in Indian society. Sangeeta Rege of NGO Cehat (Centre for Enquiry into Health & Allied Themes) said, “The reasons could be early marriage, pregnancy as a result of sexual violence or lack of information about contraception in situations of consensual sex.” Maharashtra government data released in 2013 showed that 18% of the state’s women got married before the legal age of 18. A doctor at a public hospital said teenage pregnancies are not unheard-of in Indian society because of early marriages. “But the fact that the girl sought an abortion indicates it’s an unwanted pregnancy arising out of abuse or an illicit relationship,” he said. RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who got the data from the BMC, said it is shocking that “children of 15 or younger get into situations where they have to undergo an abortion.” Dr Nozer Sheriar of FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India) said, “It is difficult to say whether these girls were abused or whether they willingly entered into a relationship. But it reflects the need to teach our youngsters to stand up for themselves and use protection not only against unwanted pregnancy at such an young age but also against sexually transmitted diseases.” At the same time, experts praised the availability of safe abortion services in Mumbai because the girls were able to access these easily. Rege said, “The data underscores the need to ensure access to safe abortion for girls even below 15 years of age.” However, experts pointed to a peculiar problem that is being noticed with respect to teenage abortions. Dr Sheriar said that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) guarantees complete confidentiality to women who seek abortions. “However,” he said, “the new Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 states that every girl under 18 who is pregnant should be considered as a rape victim”. (Times of India 11/5/14)

 

68. 42 Percent Women in Odisha Face Abuse (8)

BHUBANESWAR: If the Naveen Patnaik Government returns to power post May 16, it would like to erase one blot – a scenario of growing atrocities against women that brought it embarrassment in the last tenure. Though it may have claimed to have initiated several measures to provide protection to women, its latest policy document – Odisha State Policy for Girls and Women – sheepishly admits how bad the state of affairs is. Forty-two percent women in the age group of 15 to 49 are subjected to either physical or sexual violence, the draft document admits. The national figure stands at 35 percent. That’s not all. It further says that Odisha ranks 10th when it comes to crimes against women, seventh in terms of dowry-related murders and eighth in terms of incidence of rape. Incidence of rape rose from 1,112 in 2011 to 1,458 in 2012, a 30 pc jump. Social welfare measures for women with special needs is another sector the Government would like to focus on. The policy paper says elderly women constitute about 9.5 pc of women population of the State which is also the seventh highest among large states of India. Women with disabilities constitute about 2.47 pc of the women population which is higher than the national average of 2.01 pc. The State Policy reveals that a third of the married women – between 20 and 24 years in the State – were married before attaining the legal age of 18. In undivided Koraput, the scenario is even more appalling. Except Rayagada, in all other districts more than 50 pc women have been married even before attaining the legal age to wed. Marrying well before attaining the legal age may have been a cause for the dropping child sex ratio in the State which has fallen from 953 in 2001 to 941 in 2011 though the overall sex ratio has improved from 972 to 979. Infant mortality too has remained high and girl child mortality has been higher than boys. In 24 out of 30 districts, the gender gap is huge. Similarly, a whopping 67 pc girls in the group of six months to five years are found to be anaemic besides those of six out of every ten women in their reproductive age. Though maternal mortality rate has dropped, it is still the fourth highest in India.  The policy document says that share of women workforce in the organised sector has increased from 14.9 pc in 2005 to 16.8 pc in 2011 but over 75 pc of them are still working in the agriculture sector. About 66 pc marginal workers are women in Odisha. (New Indian Express 14/5/14)

 

69. Include rape laws in school curriculum: Women panel to UGC (8)

JAIPUR: The Nirbhaya gang rape failed to evoke any sensibilities in the society as the brutal sexual assault on girls and minors continue in the state. In the latest in the series, the case of a six-year-old girl, who was raped, brutally beaten and is still recovering in the JK Lon Hospital, indicates that more needs to be done to curb this menace. The figures released by the state women commission say that this year five cases of minor rapes had been registered at State Women Commission through JK Lon hospital till May 10. These are those cases in which victims were admitted in a critical condition in the ICU. The actual number of rape cases involving minors swelled to an all time high in first five months of 2014. Taking cognizance of rising number of rape cases involving minors and the slow pace of investigations leading to weak cases, the women commission has asked UGC and state education department to introduce chapters on laws (rape), case studies and other exercises to sensitize students on dignity of women. The commission, in a letter, said at a time when strong laws failed to curb the cases of rape indicates that much more needs to be done. Lad Kumari Jain, chairperson of state women commission, also explained that these chapters can be included in the textbooks of classes IX and X followed by compulsory exercises like short plays, skits, debate and poster competitions to involve students. “Only education can transform the stereotypes and break the old notions. In our society we don’t treat women equally neither at home nor outside and this has formed the basis of male dominance. This can be changed only if we hit this mentality which can be done at school level. I expect the education department to react to our plea and introduce content on such lines in the coming session,” said Jain. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

70. 61 Women in This Lok Sabha, Highest Ever (8)

NEW DELHI: The 16th Lok Sabha will have the highest number of women members at 61. “This is the highest number of women members elected to the Lok Sabha in the history of the country, although by a small margin. Fifty-eight (58) women were elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in the 2009 election,” said PRS. Some of the prominent women winners are Congress president Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh and actor Kirron Kher from Chandigarh. West Bengal had the largest tally of women winners at 13. The number of women members in 2004 was 45, and in 1999 it was 49. The least number of women in the Lok Sabha was 22 in 1957. (New Indian Express 17/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

71. Scanner on loss of forest cover (9)

Shillong, May 8: Experts from the North Eastern Space Applications Centre, Umiam, have focused on the loss of forest cover in Meghalaya’s Jaintia hills region where cement plants are located. The reiteration on the loss of forest cover has been made through an article published in the Current Science — a fortnightly journal of research — in its April 10, 2014 issue (Volume 106, Issue 07) written by Kasturi Chakraborty and S. Sudhakar. The outcome of the study has been published under the title: The expansion and impact of cement manufacturing units and mining areas in Lumshnong, Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya. The authors said the study was carried out to observe growth of cement industries in Lumshnong, which is leading to alteration in land use/land cover from forest to non-forest categories. The study also attempted to “automatically extract” the areas of change, taking advantage of the change-detection software. “With the rapid developmental process taking place across the globe, there are several pockets widespread in North East Region of India which are becoming hotspots of land-use change. Industrial expansion is one of the main reasons for conversion of land use/land-cover classes, particularly from forest to non-forest,” the study opens. The study focusses on the impact of industrial and mining activities leading to loss of forest cover in Jaintia hills. In it, remote sensing has been used as a tool to observe the extent of land-use change using an automatic change-detection software DeltaCue to map the expansion of the cement industrial units and their impact on the vegetation in the immediate vicinity. The study highlighted the spread of the industrial units from 2005 to 2011 and loss of vegetation. Remote sensing has been universally recognised as a “highly effective and extremely versatile technology” for identification of natural resources, including forest resource, the researchers stated. Moreover, the researchers observed that the recent trend of development process in the region is leading to rapid deforestation. “Mining activities in Meghalaya have increased by leaps and bounds. Indiscriminate mining has disastrous effect leading to deforestation, destroying good soil ingredients and loss of wildlife,” the authors said. “Being rich in minerals, particularly limestone, coal, shale, bauxite, laterite, etc. the Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya has become a boon to the cement industry. The setting up of such industry exploits natural resources of the area degrades the environment and can lead to imbalance in the ecosystem. According to the IPCC special report, from 1850 to 1998, approximately 270 (+30) GT carbon has been emitted as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning and cement production,” they added. The satellite images were registered carefully using AutoSync, an automated image registration tool in ERDAS Imagine software. The satellite data of 2005 was classified to understand the existing forest in the study area. Further, the researchers stated that the 2005 image was classified by supervised classification technique into forest and non-forest classes. The classified map has forest area divided into three categories — less dense forest, medium forest and very dense forest, and other non-forest classes….  (The Telegraph 9/5/14)

 

72. Alappuzha Farmers Fear Amendment Will Badly Affect Ecology, Agriculture (9)

ALAPPUZHA: The move of the state government to make an amendment to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008 has drawn a storm of protest. The state government is presently laying the ground work to make an amendment to the existing Act. The social and agricultural organisations have opposed the government’s move to help the corporates and land developers to fill paddy lands and wetland for industrial and business purposes and the amendment will sabotage the proposed policy of the state government to promote agricultural growth and sustain the ecological system in the state. The farmers of Alappuzha fear the amendment to the Act will adversely affect ecology and the agriculture sector. The implementation of the Act in 2008 helped the district protect the paddy fields of Kuttanad and other parts of the district. The Kuttanad Vikasna Samithi and Pokkali Samrakshna Samithi have asked the government to withdraw its decision to make an amendment to the Act. “The state government had implemented the Act in 2008 to put an end to illegal filling of paddy fields and wetland in the state.  Now the government is striving to make an amendment to the Act to help the private parties,” alleged Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi executive director Fr Thomas Peelianickal. In the proposed amendment, the government is aiming to allot land filling for public utility without an area limit. Private parties can fill the paddy and wetland after paying the market price of the paddy land. The new amendment is aimed to sabotage the existing Act, Fr Thomas said. The 2008 Act allows land filling only upto 5 cents of land for the purpose of construction of houses. The Act prohibits the reclamation of land for industrial or business purposes.  The paddy land can be filled or reclaimed only for the benefit of farmers. Local Level Monitoring Committees (LLMCs) were also set up in villages in the state to monitor paddy field filling. The LLMC can recommend the application to fill the land to the District Level Monitoring Committee (DLMC) after proper monitoring of the application. “If the regulation is implemented, the monitoring committees become irrelevant and it can lead to indiscriminate and uncontrolled filling of land by private land developers without the consent of the LLMCs. It aims to help private industrialists who are backing the Aranmula Airport project,” said Fr Thomas. Pokkali Samrakshana Samithi general convener Francis Kalathunkal said that the new amendment will help the land mafia to fill more paddy lands and pokkali lands in the state. “Pokkali farmers face crisis due to the vagaries of nature and the failure in the implementation of government policy of ‘alternate seasons of fish farming and paddy farming’ in pokkali lands. Rampant urbanisation in villages is shrinking the area of pokkali and paddy fields. “Landowners and fish farmers have resorted to spreading false news about the loss in pokkali cultivation as well as trying to fill the land and continue fish farming in the fields the entire year. This will adversely affect the ecology of the state.  If the government makes an amendment to the Wetland Act, it will aid land mafia,” he said. (New Indian Express 12/5/14)

 

73. Wait for green panel bench ends (9)

The eastern bench of the National Green Tribunal, proposed to be set up in Calcutta three years ago, will finally open on May 24. The bench, whose verdict can only be challenged in the Supreme Court, will adjudicate on cases related to “environment, forest and bio-diversity” in eastern and north-eastern India. “The bench will start functioning from the Finance Centre in New Town from May 24,” said Asish Senapati, the registrar of the eastern zonal bench. The jurisdiction of the bench — largest of all green tribunal benches — covers Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Metro had in November 2011 highlighted how the state government’s failure to provide space was delaying the setting up of the tribunal. This, despite a number of reminders to the state from the Union environment secretary. The state government finally provided space for the tribunal on the third floor of Finance Centre in New Town in August 2013, after the Supreme Court threatened to shift the bench to Bhubaneswar or Guwahati.A notification issued by the tribunal on May 12, a copy of which is with Metro, states that the registrar of the bench (for the eastern zone) has been authorised to “receive all the applications, appeals and all other documents including transfer applications, appeals… and (also) to issue notices to the parties concerned with effect from 24th of May, 2014, until further orders”. The tribunal has “transferred” the ongoing green cases from eastern and northeastern India — which were being heard by the principal bench in Delhi — to the eastern bench. The Calcutta bench will be led by judicial member Justice P. Jyothimani and expert member Prof P.C. Mishra. “It’s a welcome move. The eastern bench was long due. I feel that with so many cases pending, the Centre should think about having a second bench in Calcutta,” observed green activist Subhas Datta. “We hope the tribunal will be able to provide timely justice to people in cases related to environment violation. A large number of such cases are pending in the high court,” said Biswajit Mukherjee, former chief law officer of the state pollution control board. Mukherjee expressed the hope that hapless people affected by various kinds of environment violations and are not being heard by the administration would benefit from the tribunal. Tribunal sources said a bench takes on an average about six months to dispose of a case. The likely litigation cost is Rs 1,000. “If the members allow, a litigant may plead his or her case,” said an official of the bench. Dutta said the authorities should ensure that documents related to green cases are transferred from the various high courts to the bench in time. “It was a major issue when such documents were shifted to the tribunal’s principal bench in Delhi. There should not be a repetition of that during the transfer of the papers to the eastern bench. (The Telegraph 15/5/14)

 

74. Green India Mission gets appointment blues (9)

The much-delayed 13,000-crore Green India Mission has run into rough weather, on a controversial decision nominating an IAS officer to head it, despite a Union cabinet decision that it should be headed by someone from the Indian Forest Service (IFS). It was to be one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, decided in 2008. This is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the country by greening five million hectares of forests by 2022. After a long gestation period, the Mission was finally approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in February this year. The project promises to substantially swell the environment ministry’s budget. For this year, the latter is only a fifth of the allocated Mission funds.The Mission, while seeking convergence of funds from different sources, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme, is to be run through the forest bureaucracy across the country. Keeping that in mind, the cabinet had preferred that a forest officer of the rank of Additional Director General head the mission, and that a separate Special Vehicle Society not be created. But, on April 25, an IAS officer of the rank of additional secretary was appointed Mission Director by the ministry. This led to protests by the forest service officers. The IFS Association wrote to Union environment minister Veerappa Moily on May 5, a copy of which is with Business Standard, stating their displeasure (officers also met the minister personally) “…(appointment pays) utter disregard to the said (cabinet) approval…It is humbly requested that CCEA’s decision on the matter is respected and to ensure smooth implementation in the field…”After hearing their plea, Moily on May 8 ordered the earlier order appointing the IAS officer be reversed and a forest officer be appointed.  Business Standard has accessed a copy. “It is desirable that an IFS officer of the rank of Additional Director of Forests in the ministry is nominated as Mission Director for smooth functioning of this forestry scheme. Since the Mission will be implemented by the state forest department, it will smoothen the functioning of the Mission at central and state level,” the letter said. A week after this order, the ministry is yet to comply with Moily’s directives. It would be for the next government to take a call on the turf battle between the two lobbies over the lucrative Mission. (Business Standard 17/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

75. Exemption for Minority Institutions to Hit Poor Students Hard (11)

KOZHIKODE: The Supreme Court verdict exempting the minority educational institutions from the limits of the Right to Education Act (RTE) will not only affect the students from the weaker sections of majority religions, but also the economically backward (those under the BPL category) sections from the minority communities. Once the order removes the 25 per cent reservation existing in the aided/unaided educational institutions coming under the minority category, it will be in effect a kind of denial of quality education to the economically weaker sections, who otherwise cannot dream of a seat in any of these institutions, say educationists. Some experts point out that the new order is applicable only to those institutions with ‘minority status’ received from the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions and not for all the educational institutions under minority communities. Those with the ‘minority status’ in the state are as low as 1,800. But Vidyabhyasa Samrakshana Samiti-Keralam state coordinator A Vinod said that the ‘status’ was an easily available one and those institutions with the status gained it in last one year, when the rule was expected to come out. “By leaving the choice of mother tongue to be taught at the school to the students and the government not having a say over the functioning of the aided/unaided schools, the standard of mother tongue taught in schools is sure to come down. The famed educational institutions in the world are using their mother tongue as the medium of instruction in their academic sessions. Only in our place, we are having a disregard for our mother tongue,” Vinod said. He added that the minority-run institutions can obtain the nod from the Centre, surpassing the state government’s objection, if they seek a minority status. In effect, education in these institutions will be distant dream for the students from economically weaker sections in any community. Educationist B Hridayakumari, who dismissed the new developments as impractical, said that the move would only add extra burden to the government institutions. “Though there is a meagre amount of hope behind the implementation of the verdict, this is no way going to improve the educational standards in the state,” she said. SCERT consultant Dr K N Anandan said that considering the special situation of Kerala, where more number of educational institutions are run by minority communities, the rule may not turn out to be fruitful. “A full picture of the admissions will be available only next month, after the schools reopen. If the verdict applies to all the institutions the education zone will be an open market in the near future,” he said. Meanwhile, the Kerala Sahodaya Schools Complex, on Wednesday, urged the state government to reconsider its decision to make mother tongue or regional language compulsory for imparting primary education. (New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

76. UAE NGO to help improve education in India (11)

Dubai: A Dubai-based philanthropic group has partnered with an Indian NGO to improve education for over 1 million school children in India over a period of three years. Dubai Cares has joined hands with Pratham Education Foundation to launch a programme aimed to improve literacy among students in Grades 1 and 2, in six states across India. The charity, however, did not specify the states. The two organisations will assist local communities by strengthening programmes focused on three core issues- enhancing learning levels of beneficiaries in government schools, providing school readiness among children, and supporting the Central Resource Group, a statement issued by UAE’s official news agency Wam said. “Our partnership with Pratham will ensure quality education for children attending schools in India and will facilitate high levels of literacy and numeracy skills,” Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said. “We lay a lot of emphasis on monitoring, evaluation and learning, so this programme will also serve as demonstration sites to generate evidence and showcase best practice that can be replicated across the country to enhance the educational support system on a national level,” he said. The Dubai-based charity said the Indian education system has been handicapped by inadequate teacher qualifications, low teacher motivation, high absentees and flawed teaching methods, leading to a lack of incentives for students to stay in school. The partnership aims to reverse the school dropout rates and low learning levels prevalent in the country. India is one of 135 nations to make education a ‘fundamental right’ with the Right to Education Act (RTE) in effect around the country. Under the partnership, Dubai Cares has earmarked three programmes — to boost language skills, physical and emotional readiness, and innovation among children in rural areas — that will reach a total of 1,053,954 direct beneficiaries. The programme will be delivered to 150,000 villages in 150 blocks across the country. Similar to many Dubai Cares initiatives, the India programme is in line with the ‘Global Education First Initiative’ launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in September 2012. Dubai Cares has so far reached over 8 million children in 31 developing countries. (Zee News 13/5/14)

 

77. 3,380 get seats under RTE Act (11)

Mumbai: The first round of admission to the 25 per cent reserved seats in private schools under the Right To Education Act (RTE) took place on Tuesday in which 3,380 students were allotted seats. In all 1,539 students secured admission in 57 private schools through the lottery system, while the remaining 1,811 students were assigned seats according to the school of their preference. The lottery and seat allotment was conducted by the education section of the BMC that also announced that a second round would be held to allot seats to the remaining students. The lottery for admission to primary was conducted at IES Raja Shivaji School at Dadar in the presence of school education secretary Ashwini Bhide, education director Chokligam, deputy director N.B. Chavan, education officer Shambhavi Jogi and Amol Damdare of the Raja Shivaji School. After last year’s low seat allotment at 3,208, this year the BMC decided to conduct the admissions itself through the online admission system for the 8,243 seats in 312 city schools. The process for accepting applications for the online admissions had started on April 10 and went on till May 5 wherein the BMC received more than 6,500 applications. However, as the application for 57 schools outnumbered the seats, a lottery was held for disbursement of these seats. About 1,811 students who had applied for admissions to the other 191 schools with a reservation of 5,186 seats were also granted admission as per their choice. “The online admission and lottery system was facilitated to ensure that students belonging to the vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of the society get an equal opportunity to gain admissions to the schools so that they are not kept away from good education opportunity,” said Ms Bhide. As per the instructions of the BMC, students who have secured a seat through the lottery system will have to take admission in the allotted school by May 20, failing which their allotment will stand cancelled. (Asian Age 14/5/14)

 

78. Bengal refuses Gujarat lesson (11)

Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal has snubbed a suggestion by Delhi to follow the method devised by Narendra Modi’s Gujarat to redress complaints under the Right to Education Act in three to 30 days. “We cannot adopt the Gujarat model as the administrative set-up in Bengal is totally different from that of Gujarat. We are trying to craft a mechanism where the time limit would be two months,” Suhas Chatterjee, registrar of the Right to Education Protection Authority, said. The Trinamul government has written back to the Union ministry of human resource development, saying it would prefer to devise its own method of redressing complaints about violation of the landmark legislation that guarantees free and quality elementary education to all children aged 6 to 14. The RTE also bars corporal punishment and donations and screening tests for admission. All schools, barring minority-run institutions, are required to reserve one-fourth of their seats for economically underprivileged students. Neither government-aided nor financially independent schools can refuse to admit students throughout the year. Section 32 of the act states that state governments should settle all complaints within three months, a stipulation Bengal has done little to honour other than setting up the Right to Education Protection Authority. In contrast, the Gujarat model specifies the time needed to redress complaints under each provision of the act. Grievances pertaining to corporal punishment are to be redressed within three working days from the date of receiving the complaint. Complaints about violation of the 25 per cent reservation for underprivileged students are meant to be redressed within a fortnight, as are those regarding screening tests, capitation fee and gender discrimination. The maximum limit of 30 days is for redress of grievances regarding infrastructure, teachers not fulfilling their duties and failure to maintain the recommended student-teacher ratio of 30:1. The outgoing UPA government had written to all states a couple of months ago, showcasing the Gujarat model as the best practice. At least 10 state governments, including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi, have since adopted the system, a source in the West Bengal Sarva Siksha Mission said. The state school education department informed the Union human resource development ministry last month about its wish to follow a different path, citing differences in the administrative framework. The RTE Act stipulates that state governments draft policies based on the guidelines incorporated in the legislation and provide clear, concise details about how students and guardians can approach the administration and how long it would take for a grievance to be redressed. “For instance, the government must specify where a complaint about corporal punishment can be filed, how long the complainant has to wait for a response from the relevant authority, what to do if the complaint is not taken up and what happens next,” an education official said. The Right to Education Act, 2009, took effect at the start of the 2013-14 academic session. On May 6 this year, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the state could impose admissions on private unaided schools, except minority-run ones, if the purpose was to provide free and compulsory education to children from six to 14. Two days later, Metro highlighted how most private English-medium schools in Calcutta reserve a quarter of their seats for underprivileged students but find few takers for want of awareness and parents’ insecurity about approaching these institutions. (The Telegraph 16/5/14)

 

79. Private schools urge department to expedite decisions (11)

COIMBATORE: With Parliamentary elections over, associations representing private schools have urged the Department of School Education to act expeditiously on several important issues. With barely two weeks to go before the next academic year, which begins on June 2, the associations are seeking clarity on a range of issues starting from the minimum land requirements, closure of unrecognised schools, norms for school buses and reimbursement of fees for students admitted under Right To Education (RTE) Act. Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association general secretary G. Krishnaraj says many files submitted for recognition have been pending for months awaiting inspection by the officials. With election over and the Plus Two and Class X valuation also completed, the department officials must act with haste as the private schools are prohibited from operating without recognition, he adds. R. Visalakshi, president of Tamil Nadu Private Schools Association, says RTE Act norms limiting the strength to 30 students per class must also be revisited. The space available in the schools must be factored in while determining the strength. “Many schools which are functioning for decades have the infrastructure to support a lot more students per class. The Act is being implemented in Tamil Nadu only since 2011. Within such a short span, how can schools reduce the strength in all classes to 30?” she asks. Further, she also calls for according permanent recognition to private schools and mandating them to periodically seek certifications. At present, they must renew recognition every three years. This process alone takes almost a year, adds Ms. Visalakshi. R. Lakshmanasamy, president of Pollachi Private Schools’ Welfare Association, says the department must accord priority to the issue of reimbursing private schools for students admitted under the RTE Act. Despite two years having elapsed since the Act came into force, the Government is yet to even designate district level officers to coordinate with private schools on the issue of reimbursement. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

80. Amnesty claims Nigerian military ignored schoolgirl kidnap warning (12)

Abuja: Nigeria’s military was warned of an attack on a school at which more than 200 girls were abducted by Islamists but failed to take action, Amnesty International claimed on Friday. The claim, which the military has denied, came as foreign experts arrived on the ground in Nigeria to help trace the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Amnesty said that from 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) on April 14, the authorities failed to act on repeated warnings about the impending raid in the remote town of Chibok, in northeastern Borno state. Two senior military officers interviewed by the global rights monitor said the commander was unable to muster enough troops to head to the town to stave off the attack. Up to 200 armed Boko Haram fighters abducted a total of 276 girls at about 11:45 pm after fighting a small number of police and soldiers stationed in the town. Amnesty’s Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay, described the situation as a “gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians”, adding that people remained “sitting ducks” for future attacks. “The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” he said. “The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls’ safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again.” Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade told AFP Amnesty’s “allegation is unfounded as usual”.”The report is just a collation of rumours,” he said. The US embassy in Abuja told AFP that a team of its experts had arrived in Nigeria, without specifying the make-up of the group. British specialists, including defence ministry personnel, had also landed, the Foreign Office said. The US and Britain are among a number of countries, as well as France and China which have pledged expert support, with the kidnapping raising international awareness about an Islamist uprising that has killed thousands since 2009. Nigeria had initially been slow to respond to the kidnappings and the military’s search and rescue effort has been fiercely criticised by activists and parents of the hostages. But a series of protests in the capital, a growing global social media campaign, and attention from world leaders and celebrities has put pressure on Nigeria to act more aggressively. Outrage in particular has come after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to sell the girls as slaves. Amnesty said the teenagers’ abduction and detention were war crimes. …  (Zee News 10/5/14)

 

81. Social media significant for terror groups, study reveals (12)

Washington: Terrorist groups such as Al qaeda and others have increased their online presence through the use of social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, a recent study reveals. Involvement with the social media allows the terrorist organizations to entail a more vehement proactive role in associating with a younger audience, the study said. Released by Woodrow Wilson Center’s DC Commons Lab, it said that the increased use of social media by the groups created more challenges for thwarting attacks. Gabriel Weimann, author of the report, said that from the point of view of a terrorist social media provides an important advantage of anonymity and become tools for recruitment, propaganda, fundraising and training. According to news24, Weinmann argued that trying to block terrorists’ online activity is mainly counterproductive, and that it may be more useful to monitor and learn from their online activities. Further adding, that the Al Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab was removed from Twitter after the Westgate attack but it was regenerated in a few days. (Zee News 15/5/4)

 

82. India Islamic Centre Condemns Boko Haram Terror Activities (12)

NEW DELHI: The India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) Thursday “strongly condemned the terror activities” of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram which has been holding more than 200 schoolgirls hostage for over a month. In a statement released here, Sirajuddin Qureshi, president of IICC, said that no Islamic tenet approves the abduction of innocent girl students to press for any kind of demand. He said even if the demand was legitimate, this kind of act cannot be religiously justified in any manner. It is “barbaric”, to say the least. He strongly criticised the group for committing an “un-Islamic act” in the name of Islam. Qureshi also maintained strongly that the Boko Haram terrorists were not followers of Islam or Prophet Muhammad, the statement said. Qureshi appealed to the international community to help Nigeria tackle this situation and “wipe out the terror group without any delay”.He also requested prominent Indian clerics to openly condemn the Boko Haram and “bring a swift end to this prolonged crisis”.Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is currently grappling with security challenges, one of which is the insurgency of Boko Haram which also seeks to enshrine the Islamic Sharia law in the constitution. The IICC’s objective is to “promote mutual understanding and amity amongst the people of this country and to depict the true face of Islam which is most tolerant, liberal, progressive, rational”, says its website. (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

83. Centre extends ban on LTTE by five years (12)

NEW DELHI: The ban on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been extended by a sweeping five years with the Centre noting that the outfit has been “clandestinely” working for a separate ‘Eelam’ and fostering separatist tendency among people in Tamil Nadu. The LTTE was banned across the country in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a suicide attack. The last extension of the ban was on May 14, 2012 for two years, which period ended on Wednesday. “The Government of India, under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, has proscribed the LTTE as an ‘Unlawful Association’. The declaration of LTTE as an ‘Unlawful Association’ has been extended for a further period of five years with effect from May 14, 2014,” a Home Ministry statement said on Thursday. The fresh ban comes at a time when a new government is to assume charge at the Centre. Pro-LTTE parties like Vaiko-led MDMK are part of the BJP coalition, which exit polls claim could form the next government. According to the government notification issued on Wednesday, “The separatist Tamil chauvinist groups and pro-LTTE groups continue to foster a separatist tendency amongst masses and enhance the support base for LTTE in India and particularly in Tamil Nadu.” (Deccan Herald 16/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

84. Woman Naxal carrying reward arrested in Kanker (12)

Raipur: A woman Naxal was arrested from a forested patch of Udanpur village under Koyalibeda police station of the insurgency-hit Kanker district, a senior police official informed here on Friday. According to police Lalita (24) resident of Udanpur village and a member of Maoist Military Battalion number 2, active in the region, was arrested during search operation. Bhanupratappur Sub Divisional Officer of Police (SDOP) Tarkeshwar Patel talking to The Pioneer over phone informed that a joint team of the BSF and the district police had arrested Lalita from the jungles of Udanpur about 8 kms from Koyalibeda police station.  The SDOP said, “We got information that the left wing insurgent had reached her parental home in Udanpur. On the information, police force was sent to the spot and she was nabbed. The arrested Naxal operative was member of Maoist Military Battalion and state government had declared cash reward of Rs 1 lakh each on the arrest of each member of Maoist Military Battalion,” the SDOP maintained. Lalita is a prominent member of the military wing of the CPI (Maoist) operating in North Bastar region. She is being interrogated, police said adding that the arrested woman Maoist was involved in several serious criminal incidents happened in the region inducing attack on camp in Udanpur wherein station house officer Todki and a head constable had lost their lives. She was also part of Naxal ambush on police party in Rowghat. (Pioneer 10/5/14)

 

85. 7 policemen killed in Maoist blast (12)

NAGPUR: Seven policemen were killed and two injured when Maoists blew up a police vehicle in the Chamorshi division of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on Sunday. The incident comes two days after the arrest of G.N. Saibaba, a Delhi University Professor, by the Gadchiroli police over his alleged Maoist links. Inspector Dharmendra Joshi, public relations officer of the Gadchiroli police, said a landmine was used to blow up the vehicle carrying the men of the C-60 force (Maharashtra’s special anti-Naxal unit) at 9.40 a.m. A local police officer expressed shock over the Maoists targeting police in a “plain area” such as Chamorshi, considered relatively peaceful. Police sources said the C-60 commandos launched a combing operation at Kotmi on Friday. The men returned to Yedanur after two days of patrolling on foot, and called for vehicles to reach the Gadchiroli headquarters since Yedanur is considered a “less-affected” zone. They boarded eight vehicles. The third one in the convoy was blown up near Murmuri village, police sources said. The dead are Dipak Vighave, Sunil Madavi, Rohan Dambare, Subhash Kumare, Tirupati Allam, Laxman Munde and Duryodhan Naktode of the Gadchiroli police, the Superintendent of Police said in a statement. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

86. Naxal pamphlets supporting Saibaba seized (12)

NAGPUR: Gadchiroli police on Saturday seized several incriminating pamphlets from Jambiya Gatta which is a small hamlet in Etapalli tehsil. They had been issued by the western regional committee of the banned CPI (Maoist) which was protesting the arrest of Delhi university professor GN Saibaba. The pamphlets had similar contents and condemned the action of Gadchioli police which had filed a case against Saibaba and five others, including Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, for their alleged links with Naxals. The rebels said it was a conspiracy by the authorities to terrorize intellectuals who had been raising voices in favour of atrocities against the masses. Police claimed that the wheelchair-bound Saibaba, who is currently housed in the Nagpur Central Jail, had been working as joint-secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) which acted as a frontal mass organization of the rebels. A senior official, involved in the investigation, claimed that Saibaba was engaged in coordinating the activities of the front organizations at the behest of the Naxals’ central committee based in Abujmadh on the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border. The Naxals, who have condemned police actions on RDF leaders, also highlighted the fact that false cases were being registered against the activists in a cultivated manner to suppress their voices. In the pamphlet, the Naxals have also appealed to the masses to come together to fight against state-sponsored terrorism. It has also criticized the central and Maharashtra government. Nagpur and Gadchiroli range IGP, Ravindra Kadam stated that an offence has been registered at Etapalli police station against unidentified Naxals for having issued the pamphlets. “We have invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act among others against the perpetrators,” he said. Saibaba, who was arrested on May 9 in New Delhi, was brought to Aheri the next day. However, since the lock-up did not have facilities for the handicapped, he was sent to Nagpur Central Jail. He is under magisterial custody issued by a lower court in Aheri. Saibaba has also been suspended by his college. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

87. 436 Naxals Surrendered in Maharashtra Since 2005 (12)

NAGPUR: 436 Naxals have surrendered in Gadchiroi, Gondia and Yavatmal districts of eastern Maharashtra since the state government launched its scheme to facilitate rehabilitation of the ultras in 2005. Last week, the government extended the `Naxal Surrender Scheme’ till August 29, 2015. Interestingly, the Naxals who have laid down their arms under the scheme include 30 couples, official sources said. The authorities have disbursed Rs 3.15 crore to the surrendered rebels by way of financial aid so far. Of this, Rs 2.72 crore was from the state while the rest came from the Centre. The surrendered Naxals were also provided with bullock carts, diesel engines etc so that they could earn their livelihood in a legitimate way. Among the surrendered ultras are a state zonal committee member of Naxals, five ‘divisional committee’ members, 13 ‘dalam commanders’, 17 ‘deputy commanders’ and 166 ‘dalam’ members, besides members of Gram Rakshak Dal and Sangam groups. The highest number of Naxals — 133 — surrendered in 2008. As many as 82 rifles were recovered from the surrendered ultras. (Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

88. J&K refugees still face issues of acceptance (13)

Srinagar: Various political parties, which have a voter base mainly in the Jammu region, are trying hard to woo refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan. There are over 1.5 lakh such refugees, mainly Hindus and Sikhs, who live in border districts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua. For the past 66 years, they can vote in the Lok Sabha elections, but not being permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, they have no right to vote in the Assembly elections. By law, they are citizens of India, but they do not qualify to obtain the “state subject certificate,” which confers state citizenship on the holders. They also cannot seek admission in professional colleges and do not have the right to employment in the state government. These refugess regard Article 370, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union, as the biggest hurdle in their rehabilitation. It is on these issues that the BJP, the Congress, the BSP and regional National Panthers’ Party are trying to reach out to the refugees and are promising to solve if voted to power. Though the Congress is silent on the issue of Article 370 for obvious reasons, other parties are vicariously pledging that they will bring a constitutional amendment for its abrogation. The Congress coalition partner, National Conference, and its political bête noire, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, have also launched vigorous campaigns amongst the refugees. The two parties have been opposing the demand for citizenship rights by erstwhile West Pakistan refugees. Now these parties are telling the refugees that they would make an effort to resolve their other problems and work towards creating conducive atmosphere for addressing the domicile issue too. The BJP, in particular, is trying to win over the refugees because of its stance on the Article 370 is likely to do better in comparison to the other parties. The party’s Rajya Sabha member and in-charge of J&K, Avinash Rai Khanna, on Friday met Labha Ram Gandhi, who heads the Association of the Refugees at his residence to seek his support (Asian Age 9/5/14)

 

89. Anti-LTTE operations create fears of a refugee influx into Tamil Nadu (13)

Chennai: Ten Sri Lankan Tamil refugees arrived in Rameswaram last week just as the Sri Lankan government ramped up its cordon-and-search operations in Tamil areas and been detaining Tamil youths for questioning – all to quell what the government has dubbed as efforts to re-establish the LTTE within the island nation. Political parties in Tamil Nadu that have been critical of the Indian government’s attitude toward the Sri Lankan government have not reacted to the arrival of refugees. But it does seem that at least for these refugees and more than 50 others who tried to flee to Australia recently, the situation is intolerable in their homeland. S Balakrishnan, Sri Lanka-based rights activist, says a sense of insecurity and lack of opportunities in Tamil areas can once again create a significant refugee outflow. Those who are persecuted for their past LTTE links may pay traffickers the money to arrange for an escape, he said. Among the refugees who have been detained in Puzhal prison is a former LTTE cadre. Though Balakrishnan discounts reports of LTTE resurgence saying it has been decimated, the word on many Sri Lankan lips in April was once again LTTE. The government had put up wanted posters of three men it called former cadres who were trying to revive the organisation. Noted journalist D B S Jeyaraj reports an encounter between the security forces and the cadres in the Wanni jungle in which the men were killed. There have also been reports of recent mass detentions of Tamil youths in Kankesanthurai. The Jaffna university will be closed from May 16 to 20 to prevent any student demonstrations on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the end of the war. “Stories of LTTE coming back are concoctions of the government intended to create a situation where abuses can continue. The three people who were killed had been government spies bumped off in fake encounters,” says K Ratnavel, a human rights lawyer in Sri Lanka. However, S C Chandrahasan, founder and chief functionary of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, says there is some evidence of a plot and it’s not all a bogey. Chandrahasan, who visited the Tamil areas last month, says the situation is qualitatively different and the Sinhalese soldier operating in Tamil areas is more sophisticated and understands local concerns. While agreeing that there may be “human” factors behind the recent cases of refugee outflow from Sri Lanka, Dayan Jayatilleka, who served as the permanent mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva from 2007 to 2009, says nothing dramatically different has taken place to expect a major refugee problem. “There have been roundups of Tamils by the army. But there have been no disappearances without the families being informed,” he said. Jeyaraj notes in his blog that the situation is not similar to the early 70s when the general public supported militancy. Most analysts agree that a war-weary population will not back an LTTE resurgence. Balakrishnan says a hierarchical organisation such as the LTTE cannot come back since its leadership has been decimated. The fear across Palk Bay is that a fearful Lankan government may up military activities in Tamil areas and create a refugee outflow from the island nation. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

90. ‘Two to Six Crore Bangladeshi Migrants in India’ (13)

NEW DELHI: There are 2-6 crore Bangladeshi migrants living in India – the largest illegal migration from one country to another, a former senior officer of India’s border guards said Tuesday. “Nobody can verify the trend of Bangladeshi migrants in India but our estimation is no less than 2 to 6 crore of them in India,” former Border Security Force (BSF) additional director general P.K. Mishra said at the launch of his book “Bangladeshi Migrants – A threat to India.” “Many of them have settled between Purnia and Islampur (Bihar), which are very close to the Nepal border. In Pari Pura in Srinagar, there is a Bangladeshi migrant village,” he said. Mishra claimed that 25 percent of the items disbursed under the Public Distribution Scheme goes to the Bangladeshi migrants. “What we can give to our children are snatched by them,” he charged. “There has been 20 years of land acquisition in (Assam’s) Guwahati and Kokrajhar. Government land has been sold to migrants by the state’s revenue department,” said Mishra, alleging that the Congress government in the northeastern state has closed its eyes to all this due to vote bank politics. “The Bangladeshi chunk in India is the largest illegal migration from any one country to another,” said former BSF chief Prakash Singh. (New Indian Express 14/5/14)

 

91. Chengalpattu Special Camp to be Shifted (13)

VELLORE: The special camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees at Chengalpattu in Kancheepuram district would soon be shifted to the defunct sub-jail, which is under renovation, in Cheyyar town in Tiruvannamalai district. The special camp at Chengalpattu was one of the two special facilities in the State. Foreigners arrested under the provisions of the Foreigners Act 1946 (Central Act 31 of 1946) for indulging in illegal activities are remanded in these camps. A total of 36 foreigners – five Nigerians, three Bangladeshis and 28 Sri Lankans – were detained in the special camp in Chengalpattu, while about 30 others were in the Tiruchy camp. The sub-jail in Chengalpattu was converted into the special camp in 1993. “After the decades-old building became dilapidated, the State Home Department has taken the initiative to shift the special camp to Cheyyar. The department is also planning to upgrade this sub-jail to a district-level jail after razing the existing structure and creating new infrastructure,” said a police officer. The officer added that shifting of the special camp from Chengalpattu to Cheyyar was purely for administrative purposes. The renovation of the sub-jail in Cheyyar was undertaken by Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation and it has completed the work. “The Home Department has asked for the status report of the jail from the Tiruvannamalai Collector. After getting the report, the department will issue an order to shift the inmates from here to the new special camp. We are expecting the order within 10 days,” said a Q branch police officer. Collector A Gnanasekaran told Express that he had sent a report before the election regarding the pending work. “A final report will be sent to the Home Department within two days after the Revenue Department takes over the building from the Police Housing Corporation,” he said. The district administration would convene a meeting with Tiruvannamalai SP J Mutharasi before sending the report, he added. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

92. Complaint of labour law violation at poor home (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Sree Chithra Poor Home administration may have to answer for serious labour law violations with one more resident of the home filing a complaint with the Kerala Legal Services Authority on Friday. The latest complaint is related to the work that some of the residents are doing in a printing press located in the same compound. Speaking to The Hindu on condition of anonymity, the complainant said that it is a case of labour exploitation as they are provided meagre amounts annually in the name of ‘bonus’ for close to 8 hours work daily. “Most of us who work there were not allowed to complete our studies. Even if we fail in just one subject, mainly due to the lack of a conducive atmosphere to study, the administration refuses to give us the fee to be remitted for the ‘Save an year’ examination. We are asked to join for work in the press or tailoring shop right away” “In the press, work starts after 9 a.m. and it continues non-stop till 5 p.m. These days, we are not getting even public holidays. But we get an amount of around Rs. 3,000 as bonus annually. There are no monthly or daily wages. At the same time, four daily wagers appointed from outside work in the same press and are paid daily,” said the complainant. In a complaint filed last week, another resident had alleged that she was paid a total amount of Rs.28,500 as bonus, after working for 8 years. The printing press generally takes up government work only, mainly that for forms and documents needed in hospitals. The Public Service Commission is also one of the clients. “The workers from outside do the machine work, of just printing the material. We have the task of stitching and binding it. We sometimes get cuts on our fingers from working with the threads. We are appointed here as trainees but the work can be learnt in one week’s time, ” said the complainant. The District Labour Officer had visited the home on Friday following the complaints. When The Hindu contacted the Home’s Superintendent Eliamma Varghese, she said that the residents are being paid “20 per cent of the profit from sales based on their individual work and the daily wagers from outside are paid Rs. 350 per day”. “For the residents, we give an annual bonus, which is handed over to them when they ask for it. If there are complaints, we will take action according to the directive of the labour officer,” said Ms. Eliamma. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

93. Migrant workers’ data to be collected by June 15 (14)

Kozhikode: The city police will complete by June 15 the first phase of data collection from hotel entrepreneurs as part of issuing identity cards to migrant workers. The format of the card is ready and the distribution is likely to begin in the first week of July. Senior officers in charge of the project said most of the hotel entrepreneurs had expressed their willingness to cooperate with the data collection process. The goal of the department is to prepare a detailed record of all migrant workers recruited by hotels. In the second phase, details of workers employed in the textile and industrial sectors will be collected. The employers will be responsible for gathering the data and passing it on to the police. The Special Branch officials will coordinate the project and verify the reliability of the data collected. Cards will be issued after verifying the details through all possible sources. The workers will have to renew the card every year and surrender it to the employer if they leave the State. “Through the project, we intend to prepare an authentic record of the migrant population in Kozhikode. We will issue the card only after recording their fingerprint,” said P.C. Sajeevan, Assistant Commissioner, Special Branch. The record would help the police track the workers if they were involved in a crime, he said. The card will bear the name of the hotel, its owner, and the identity details of the worker. The labourers will have to produce the card in case of police inquiry. (The Hindu 18/5/14)

 

94. Street vending cannot take form of permanent structure: HC (14)

NEW DELHI: Street vending cannot take the form of permanent or semi-permanent structures erected on municipal land or land belonging to a statutory public body under any circumstances. It can be of two kinds – an open Tehbazari at a fixed spot or mobile hawking using handcarts – and should not affect people’s right of way. With this ruling, the Delhi High Court has dismissed a contempt petition and terminated the proceedings in a writ petition moved by Delhi Shramik Sangathan, which had raised the issue of 130 hawkers and vendors engaged in business at Harkesh Nagar in Okhla Industrial Area Phase II being removed from their site in front of a temple. Another grievance of the petitioner was that the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 was not being given effect to as the Street Vending Committees were not constituted and the street vendors had no forum where they could make a representation. Until the committees were constituted, the vendors had a right to carry on their trade. A Division Bench, comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Jayant Nath, on Friday said the beneficiaries whose cause was being espoused had misused the judicial process after the Court, through an interim order, directed the Delhi Police to abstain from interfering in their business. The Municipal Corporation was also directed to ensure that no garbage was dumped at the place. The judgment carried some photographs taken from a video submitted by the Delhi Police, which showed a temporary market erected using bamboo, tarpaulin and tin sheets and even refrigerating machines brought to the site. Vendors had also brought ‘malba’ consisting of retrieved bricks to surreptitiously raise temporary structures. The Judges said the action taken by the police at the asking of the municipal authorities was justified, as nobody was entitled to violate the law under the garb of court orders. The Court also said a trespasser, who was not in legal possession of a site, could not get the right to hearing before an action was taken against him. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

95. Expedite Aadhar Linking of Job Card Holders: Govt (14)

BHUBANESWAR: The Panchayati Raj Department has asked all the district collectors to conduct a special drive to integrate the Aadhar information of job card holders under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA). Since the Ministry of Rural Development has been insisting on migration to a Aadhar-based payment system for the wage earners, the State Government has stepped on the peddle. It has asked all the collectors to launch a special drive for updating account information of the job card holders, upload them in NREGASoft, a dedicated software for the employment programme and complete the work by June 25. During the drive, all the districts have been asked to seed the Aadhar account information of the card holders in the NREGASoft so that it is easy to move to a Aadhar-Based Payment (ABP) system. Not long ago, the Ministry had made electronic fund management system (e-FMS) mandatory in a bid to streamline the wage payment system and reduce delay. Under the system, wages are credited to the bank accounts of the workers electronically. This system is based on either National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT)of the Electronic Clearing System (ECS). After the RD Ministry decided to move to ABP, districts were asked to begin the account update and merger process. However, the progress has been slow. Though there are 64,42,259 job cards issued under NREGA with 1.70 crore persons enlisted, only 64.30 lakh have any kind of accounts as of now. Of them, 35.61 lakh are active workers. The job card holders have accounts in commercial banks, regional rural banks, cooperative banks as well as in post offices. However, the information convergence on accounts has been slow. While only 25.85 lakh accounts have been frozen in NREGASoft, the link to Aadhar has been paltry, to say the least. Across the State, just about 5,175 accounts have been uploaded in the management information system so far while 3,191 of them are linked to bank accounts. The Department has asked the collectors to use the field functionaries in linking of the accounts. The BDOs have been vested with the responsibility of verifying accuracy of the information. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

96. Forum to fight for children’s safety (14)

NGOs, advocacy groups, children’s forums and academicians in the city came together on Saturday to discuss the formation of the eastern region chapter of the proposed National Action and Coordination Group Against Violence against Children (NACG). India will be the last of the eight Saarc countries to get an NACG, whose purpose is to strengthen the alliance between the governments and various groups to end violence against women and children. The group is composed of representatives of the UN, multi-lateral and bilateral agencies, NGOs, children and youth groups. “Bengal is not faring well as far as violence against children is concerned — be it child trafficking, child marriage or child labour. Some of the issues are cross-national…,” said Rajib K. Halder, the additional director of CINI, who was part of the Interim Working Group that was set up in February 2013 in consultation with the women and child development ministry. The group was formed to steer the formation of the regional chapters. Halder is representing the eastern region in the attempt at creating the national body. Meetings for the formation of the northern, western, northeastern and the southern chapters will be held in the next few days. Elected representatives from each chapter will travel to Delhi in the first week of June for the formation of the national body. This will be followed by a meeting in Colombo, where representatives of all NACGs will sit with South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIVAC), which tries to prevent and respond to all forms of neglect of and violence against children. An action plan to be discussed in Colombo will focus on “child trafficking, child marriage, corporal punishment, child sexual abuse and exploitation and child labour,” Halder said. “The most important standard has to be set with education, which can be a very big answer but is not reaching all children,” said Sister Cyril, the former principal of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, who steered Saturday’s meeting alongside Manabendra Mandal, the director of Socio-Legal Aid Research and Training Centre. The Calcutta meeting was attended by International Justice Mission, Apne Aap Women Worldwide, Sanlaap, Banglanatok dot com, Women’s Interlink Foundation, CRY and other organisations. (Telegraph 12/5/14)

 

97. Report exposes child labour on U.S. tobacco farms (14)

Washington: Although the U.S. often leads campaigns to reduce child labour in developing nations such as India, this week Washington was embarrassed by a report on the debilitating effect that tobacco plantations have had on the health of children as young seven years working there. According to a 138-page study by the Human Rights Watch advocacy group, in the absence of child labour policies that sufficiently protected children from hazardous work on U.S. tobacco farms, those employed there reported vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness, “all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.” This type of poisoning, often referred to as Green Tobacco Sickness, is said to occur when nicotine is absorbed through their skin while handling tobacco plants, particularly when plants are wet, and in addition to the short-term symptoms, “some research suggests that nicotine exposure during adolescence may have consequences for brain development.” Based on interviews with 141 child tobacco workers, ages seven to 17, the HRW report noted that many of them also reported working “long hours without overtime pay, often in extreme heat without shade or sufficient breaks, and wore no, or inadequate, protective gear.” With several hundred thousand children said to be working in U.S. agriculture each year, yet no data is readily available on the number working in tobacco farming. Among the children interviewed by HRW, many said that they had begun working on tobacco farms at age 11 or 12, primarily during the summer, to help support their families. Most were the children of Hispanic immigrants who lived in communities where tobacco was grown and who attended school full-time. In addition to exposure to tobacco, children working on tobacco farms were said to face other serious risks linked to their use of dangerous tools and machinery, lifting of heavy loads, and proximity to tractors spraying pesticides in nearby fields. Regarding the latter some of the children interviewed by HRW said that the spray “drifted over them, making them vomit, feel dizzy, and have difficulty breathing and a burning sensation in their eyes.” Ironically under U.S. labour law, children working in agriculture are permitted to work longer hours, at younger ages, and in more hazardous conditions than children in any other industry. For example, children as young as 12 could be hired for unlimited hours outside of school hours on a farm of any size with parental permission, and there is no minimum age for children to work on small farms, HRW explained. While children in most other economic sectors are required to be 18 years of age to do hazardous work, child farm workers as young as 16 years of age are allowed do jobs deemed hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labour. Co-author of the report Margaret Wurth argued, “As the school year ends, children are heading into the tobacco fields, where they can’t avoid being exposed to dangerous nicotine, without smoking a single cigarette,” adding, “It’s no surprise the children exposed to poisons in the tobacco fields are getting sick.” Ms. Wurth said that Washington had failed America’s families by not sufficiently protecting child farm workers from dangers to their health and safety, including on tobacco farms, and that the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress ought to enact laws to remedy this. When HRW presented the latest study to ten corporations that purchase U.S.-grown tobacco grown in the United States, including eight cigarette manufacturing companies, all but one, China National Tobacco, responded and said they were “concerned about child labour in their supply chains.” “However, the companies’ approaches do not sufficiently protect children from hazardous work,” HRW said, adding that in some cases, companies allow for lower standards of protection for children in their U.S. supply chain than for children working on tobacco farms in all other countries from which they purchase tobacco. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

98. Child rights panel raps police for insensitivity in teen rape case (14)

DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand Commission for Protection of Child Rights has lambasted the state police for behaving insensitively in the matter of a mentally unstable 15-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and impregnated by her teacher at a primary school in Ghansali tehsil of Tehri district. The commission’s chairman, Ajay Setia wrote to the director general of police to press for the arrest of the accused. The latter was put behind bars on Tuesday. “The state police are not equipped to deal with the cases of highest sensitivity related to Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act which is a non-bailable offence. In this case, the accused was arrested on May 13 while the FIR was lodged on April 25. Police gave him enough time to threaten the girl’s family. It was after the commission’s letter that the accused was arrested,” Setia said. He added that the police neither contacted the child welfare committee nor informed a special court. This should have been done within 24 hours of filing of FIR under POCSO Act. Tehri superintendent of police Janmayjay Khanduri said, “Nobody had heard about such a heinous crime in the district before. The girl was found to be 28 weeks pregnant when her mother took her to the hospital after she complained of stomach ache. “The teacher took advantage of her mental state. Police had to seek the help of two experts from an NGO to record her statement under Section 164 of CrPC on May 1. However, as the accused, Ramesh Prasad Bhandari has not admitted to the crime, police are waiting for the child to take birth so that a DNA test can be performed,” he said. Setia also accused the police of registering the case under lighter sections of POCSO Act (3 and 4) under which the minimum quantum of punishment is five years. He said that it should have been registered under sections five and six under which the minimum punishment is for 10 years. He also objected to police’s suggestion of a DNA test saying that the court will decide about the test. With regard to rehabilitation of the girl, Jagdish Lal, sub-divisional magistrate of Ghansli, said, “The administration will bear the costs of the girl’s hospitalization and delivery and also assist in the adoption procedure of the newborn if the girl’s parents are willing.” Setia said the commission will ensure that the special court grants a rehabilitation package to the girl under the provision of the POSCO Act as the girl’s father is working as a driver in Delhi while two of her siblings are staying with their mother in Ghansali. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

99. No Country for Labourers’ Left Out Children (14)

BALANGIR:  Pitiable is the condition of children who are staying independently with their extended families in the district. According to a study, while around 20,000 children migrate every year from the district, more than 3,000 left behind by their parents in the villages remain isolated and find it difficult to sustain themselves. Balangir is noted to be a migration-prone district from where lakhs of people migrate every year in search of livelihood. While most of the children of the migrant labourers accompany their parents, some stay back in their villages. The study revealed that the children, who stay back, lead a life of an orphan. With no support mechanism available in the villages, the children are forced to be engaged in various forms of child labour. The children living with their grandparents even shoulder the responsibility of sustaining the elderly. The ones residing with relatives perform household chores, graze cattle, collect fodder and other sundry jobs. While ill health is quite common among these children due to lack of care, they have hardly any money to consult doctors. The study further states that such children are mostly found in migration-prone blocks like Bangomunda, Turekela, Muribahal, Titlagarh, Khaprakhol, Belpara and Patnagarh. The life of an orphan for six months every year is taking a toll on these children’s health and growth. With parents away in some distant place, the children don the mantle of watchmen of their houses and are left to fend for themselves. These children are deprived of socio-psychological care, education and filial affection. Their rights are also blatantly violated. At a time when people from high income group groom their children by spending lavishly on every aspect of life, the children of migrant labourers are deprived of basic education and care. The condition of differently abled children is much worse. With parents away, these children lead a vegetative existence.