Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 7 May 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Noida RTI activist killed, family blames land mafia (1)

New Delhi: A 38-year-old RTI activist mysteriously died after the car he was travelling in caught fire in Greater Noida late on Thursday night. His charred body was identified Friday morning. Chandra Mohan Sharma, the deceased, who was an employee at Honda Siel, was one of the first Aam Aadmi Party members from Greater Noida. While the police is examining the case from all angles, the deceased’s relatives alleged that it was murder as Sharma was getting threats from the land mafia, whom he had been exposing through his activism. Police officials said Sharma was returning home around midnight when his Chevrolet Aveo car caught fire due to a technical glitch near Eldeco Chowk, but his family gave a different version. His wife Savita Sharma said: “If the car caught fire while driving, it should be in the middle of the road, but it was found parked at the corner.” Savita added: “Contrary to police claims that the car windows were closed, my husband had been driving with windows open for the past few days as the air conditioner was not working. There was no central locking which could have jammed the doors. The CNG kit was also removed a few days ago.” Inspired by the Anna Hazare movement, Sharma had unearthed several irregularities in land allotments in Greater Noida. He had recently exposed the illegal capture of land in the Kasna area, and was allegedly on the land mafia’s radar. “He was fighting against the encroachers in the area, and had got threats of dire consequences several times. On April 28, while he was returning home, his car was overtaken and stopped by goons who threatened to kill him if he continued with his activism,” Savita said, adding: “We had asked the police to give him protection and take action against suspected persons, but no action was initiated. Now the police is trying to turn the murder into an accident.” On the basis of the complaint by the family members of the victim, the police has registered an FIR against five people at Kasna police station, and have sent the viscera samples to determine the exact cause of death. Technical assistance is also being sought to find out the cause of the fire, the police said. (Asian Age 3/5/14)

 

2. Difficult to get RTI information from Gujarat: Activist (1)

MUMBAI: Obtaining information from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat government is not just difficult but practically impossible as was found by RTI activist Anil Galgali. Galgali has been asked to travel to Gujarat and inspect the files personally for the information he had sought. Galgali in March this year had sought information under RTI on the expenses incurred for opposing the appointment of Justice R A Mehta as the state’s Lokayukta by the then governor Kamala Beniwal, details of advocates who appeared in high court and Supreme Court, their fees paid by the government. He sought case wise expense details as well as the total expense. He had also asked information on the nature of dispute with Beniwal who had appointed Justice Mehta in August 2011 which was opposed by the Modi government. Galgali said his RTI was tossed from one department to another. Galgali said in a second letter he was informed by Vora, Public Information Officer and dy secretary, law, D A Vora “Case wise information cannot be provided and the advocate wise information is not being denied but if I want the information I should come to Gujarat and inspect the files for the information. I had not sought inspection of the files and knowing that I am not from Gujarat, the government is resorting to such delaying tactics,” he said. The General Administration Department (GAD) sent it to the Law Department and within the Law department it was put up to the H branch and back again to GAD. Public Information Officer and dy secretary, law, D A Vora in a letter to Galgali said the fees were paid as per the Law Officer Rules 2009 and the expenses incurred are maintained by the GAD. He added that such simple information should be put up on the Gujarat government’s website and it was strange the government would want to suppress the information when Narendra Modi himself talks of a transparent government. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

3. RTI finds chinks in Aadhar-linked gas supply (1)

HYDERABAD: After the over enthusiastic administration made people run around by linking Aadhar card with Gas supply, it has now come to light that the gas agencies never even accessed the Aadhar database to verify the authenticity of the Aadhar cardholders. Worse, the agencies have given away the subsidies after just checking with the banks concerned, raising serious questions over bogus beneficiaries. This major flip-flop was exposed in a case hearing at the Central Information Commission (CIC) pertaining to a Hyderabad based RTI activist, C.J. Karira against UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India). Mr. Karira had approached the CIC over unsatisfactory reply from UIDAI to some of his queries. “The respondents (Aadhar official) stated that the use of the UID number, provided by the appellant to his gas agency and bank, was for the limited purpose of ensuring that the person being provided the gas cylinders and subsidy was the same. It did not involve authentication/matching by those agencies with the data held by the respondents,” read one of the contents of the order passed on March 18, 2014 after the completion of arguments from both sides. It also came to light that the UIDAI does not have a procedure in place for those who want to get their data surrendered or deleted from the database. “The Aadhar is a national fraud which caused a loss of Rs 500 crore. What is the use of forcing people to waste their time and energy to take Aadhar card for gas subsidies when the gas agencies do not even check the database,” wondered Mr. Karira. The RTI activist also realised that anybody could get a gas subsidy by telling random Aadhar number. “I was also shocked to know that UIDAI does not have a fool proof system to record all those accessing the data raising security concerns. How can they not have a mechanism to delete Aadhar users when the Supreme Court has declared that Aadhar is not mandatory?” he asked. (The Hindu 6/5/14)

 

4. State pays electricity bill of 4 Uttarakhand ex-CMs worth Rs 29 lakh (1)

Four former chief ministers of Uttarakhand consumed electricity worth Rs 29 lakh for free for over five years. According to an RTI reply got by an NGO, Rs 29 lakh of public money was spent in over five years for the power consumption of three former chief ministers of the BJP and one of the Congress. The reply from the Public Works Department of the state revealed that the highest amount of Rs 15.5 lakh was spent for B C Khanduri from 2010 to 2014 followed by Rs 8.5 lakh for R P Nishank from 2008 to 2014, both of whom belong to the BJP. Congress veteran N D Tiwari consumed power worth Rs 2.5 lakh from 2008 to 2014 while BJP’s Bhagat Singh Koshiyari used Rs 1.5 lakh worth electricity between 2007 and 2014, Padma Shri awardee Avdhash Kaushal, who heads the NGO that sought the RTI information, said in a statement here producing official documents. “Though often touted as Urja Pradesh, the reality in Uttarakhand is that, 2,574 million units of electricity worth Rs 829.5 crore is being purchased from the open market to ensure supply in the state.” “Despite this dismal scenario, according to information received through RTI, ex-chief ministers are recklessly using electricity worth lakhs of rupees at the expense of the tax payers’ hard earned money,” Kaushal said. “Does being former chief ministers give them the right to plunder the state’s resources?” he asked. (CNN-IBN 7/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. NHRC seeks report from Bihar government on girl’s death (1)

New Delhi, May 1 : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Thursday issued a notice to the Bihar government demanding a detailed report on the death of a girl due to lack of basic medical facilities, a statement said. The commission issued the notice after taking suo motu cognisance of a media report stating that a girl died of diarrhea due to lack of medical facilities in Dharhara village in Bihar. “The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to serious violation of right to health of the girl. A notice has been issued to the Bihar government through its principal secretary (health and family welfare), calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks,” NHRC said in a statement. The commission added that Dharhara is the village which came into the limelight in 2010 when its villagers planted 10 fruit saplings to mark the birth of a girl. To highlight the evil of female infanticide and dowry deaths, the villagers took this unusual initiative to plant the saplings of fruit trees. When the saplings mature, the fruit from these trees is sold and the proceeds used for the education and marriage of girls. It has become a tradition ever since and even state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar plants a sapling on the birth of a girl in the village. The state government has also termed Dharhara a model village. The NHRC stated that according to the media report, the village’s health centre is in a shambles and is often locked. Despite the health minister promising a six-bed hospital there in 2010, no action has been initiated yet. The commision, in its statement, quoted the victim’s father as saying that he “believes that his daughter would have been alive if the health centre had been functioning”. (New Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

6. NHRC notice to Chhattisgarh government over boycott of tribal families (1)

National Human Rights Commission on Sunday issued notices to Chhattisgarh government and state police in connection with alleged social boycott of two tribal families in Korba district after a village panchayat’s diktat. According to an NHRC statement released on Sunday, notices in this regard were issued to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Chhattisgarh to submit a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The step was taken after the Commission took suo motu cognisance of a media report that two tribal families have been facing social boycott in Dhaurabatha village for the last fourteen months following a diktat of the Ghunghutti Rampur Panchayat in Korba district. “Due to this, nobody talks to them; they are prevented from grazing their cattle; they cannot shop from the shops in the village; and their children cannot go even to Aanganwadi centre,” the statement said. According to the media report, the local police did not take any action in the matter. The Collector and Superintendent of Police of Korba were approached and a police team visited the village on April 15, only to level allegations against the affected families. “Allegedly, a youth accompanying the police team received a sum of Rs 2,000 from the affected families after threatening them,” the statement said. The first family was reportedly subjected to social boycott on February 25, 2013 when on charges of abusing the Sarpanch, it failed to pay the entire fine of Rs 10,000. The other family was made to suffer the same fate when one of its members was seen talking to a member of the socially boycotted family against the diktat of the Panchayat. The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights of the families of these tribal people. (CNN IBN 4/5/14)

 

7. Civil society activists condemn Assam violence (1)

New Delhi, May 5 : A host of civil society activists Monday condemned the violence in Assam and demanded a probe by a sitting judge or an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. Violence erupted in Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) last week when armed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) cadres attacked villages in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts. At least 31 people have died. “We express our profound sense of grief and alarm over the gruesome massacre of Bengali-speaking Muslims May 2. This most recent round of killings – in which 31 people, mostly women and children have lost their lives – is another link in the long and… bloody sequence of ethnic cleansing being carried out by tribal Bodo militant groups with impunity,” said a statement by civil society groups, activists and concerned citizens. Harsh Mander of Delhi NGO Aman Biradari, activist Ram Puniyani from Mumbai and Nirmalangshu Mukherjee, a professor of Delhi University, were among the signatories. The groups demanded the arrest of Pramila Rani Brahma, former agricultural minister of Assam, for making communal speeches, which according to them led to the violence. The activists demanded that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a serving IPS officer or a Supreme Court judge be set up. They also asked for increased deployment of paramilitary forces to ensure security of the non-Bodo people, particularly Muslims. (New Kerala 6/5/14)

 

8. Human rights, livelihoods issues included in Unilever’s growth plan (1)

MUMBAI: Unilever , the 49.8 billion fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) corporation, is finally attempting to fill up an unseemly gap in its sustainability stratagem. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), its blueprint for growth, launched in 2010, has so far focused on environmental impact, health, hygiene and ethical sourcing. Now, the company , which employs 1,74,000 people globally, is expanding the scope and depth of this 10-year plan by embracing complex issues on human rights, and providing a greater thrust on livelihoods. This expansion of the USLP manifests in the addition of three new pillars under enhancing livelihoods : fairness in the workplace, opportunities for women and inclusive business. “This is a great step-up for the USLP,” says Sanjiv Mehta, who took over as CEO and MD of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), its Indian subsidiary, in October 2013. “We are now going back to the drawing board to formulate the way forward on the new pillars.” Mehta released the annual progress report of the USLP, in New Delhi on Monday. The USLP, while setting great store on the well-being of consumers and other stakeholders in its value chain, was silent on human and labour rights. This has been a source of criticism by civil society organizations, who have been lately pointing to inadequacies and transgressions at Unilever’s tea gardens in Kenya and its manufacturing plant in Vietnam. Human rights have found greater articulation and traction in the business context in recent times, through the UN Framework on Business and Human Rights — Protect, Respect and Remedy. While extractive industries — oil & gas, and mining — and the garments sector are familiar with the implications of adopting a human rights approach to doing business, it is relatively new to the FMCG sector. Unilever will start reporting on the new measures from 2015 onwards. It now has to devise new frameworks in worker compensation, including those for contract workers, diversity at the workplace , promoting safety for women in communities it operates in, skill development, improving livelihoods of marginal farmers and increasing participation of young entrepreneurs in the value chain. The immediate provocation for the need to look at human rights seriously emerged after Unilever opened the doors of its Vietnam plant to Oxfam, the international civil society coalition , for an audit. Oxfam found the company was paying more than the minimum wages stipulated by law, but short of benchmarks on fair or living wage required by a family to meet its basic needs. In Kenya, its Kericho Tea Estates , which employs about 12,500 workers, has been rocked by cases of sexual harassment. Since 2013, the ratio of female leaders has been increased from 3% to 40%, and several other remedial measures have been put in place. In India too, HUL has crafted a robust mechanism to deal with sexual harassment cases and also induct more women in the managerial workforce. “It’s about 30% now, up from less than 20% in 2010,” says Mehta. As part of the USLP, Unilever takes responsibility not just for its own direct operations, but also for those of its suppliers, distributors and for how consumers use its various brands. Its 2013 report shows that Unilever has made good progress barring a few slippages in the consumer arena. Unilever’s total greenhouse gas footprint from its products, including consumer use, has increased by 5% since 2010 and domestic water by a sharper 15%.The greenhouse gas adverse impact has been attributed to its acquisition of US company Alberto Culver. The water impact is largely due to high levels of growth from affordable laundry bars in India, which is tied-up with a more water-intensive washing habit. The progress in India has been good. India has contributed a great deal to the Unilever system through innovations like the Lifebuoy hand-washing programmes, Pureit water purifiers and Shakti entrepreneurs (Shakti Ammas ), the consumption growth in India, which translates into a spike in water use, means working doubly hard on water issues. Mehta, therefore, is giving a new impetus to water conservation even as he crafts a couple of new programmes specific to India. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. Family alleges torture as minor snatcher escapes police custody, probe ordered (1)

JALANDHAR: While an inquiry has already been ordered into the escape of a minor snatcher from police custody, his parents have alleged that the boy was given electric shocks. On the other hand, police claimed that the boy had admitted to committing five snatchings during his questioning. A chowki in-charge and a head constable have also been placed under suspension for dereliction of duty. “He was very much afraid of torture which he said he had undergone previous night at CIA Staff and was pleading for help,” said Sonia, mother of accused Gagandeep on Thursday. Gagandeep had escaped from police chowki in Surya Enclave on Tuesday night and has not been traced yet. Sonia and her husband Rimple said that their 16-year-old son was caught in a purse snatching incident on Monday evening. “After Surya Enclave Police chowki officials informed me that my son had been arrested in a snatching case, I was even reluctant to go to the police station as I felt ashamed and finally when I went there, I asked police officers to punish him if he was guilty,” she said. She held that when on Tuesday she went to the police station, his cheeks were blue. “I was told that he was taken to CIA Staff on Monday night where he was thrashed and given electric shocks. He was scared that this might be repeated. After 9pm on Tuesday night, I received a call that he had escaped from the police station,” she said. Police commissioner Ishwar Singh has ordered an inquiry and has placed under suspension Chowki in-charge sub Inspector Vijay Kumar and munshi Balwinder Kumar while a case under sections 222 and 223 of IPC has been registered. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

10. Cops violate rights during arrests of suspected IM members: PUCL (1)

JAIPUR: Accusing the Rajasthan ATS of violating human rights during its arrests of suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) members, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has raised doubts on the timing of the arrests in the state. They have also demanded strict action against those police officials responsible for violating human rights. “In its 44-page fact-finding report, PUCL said serious human rights violation was committed when the youths were picked up by police officers. Very strict action, including launching of criminal prosecution, needs to be taken against all police officials who have very clearly violated the law in relation to the arrest, interrogation, search, sealing, seizure and other procedures,” an activist said on Friday quoting the report. The report pointed out that the use of sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act rather than those of IPC showed deliberate attempt to politicize the entire operation. However, a senior officer of the Rajasthan ATS said he was not aware of any such report. “We are not aware of any such fact-finding report. We have followed all the legal procedures in arresting and taking the transit remands of the arrested accused,” the officer said. On the allegations about the timings of the arrest, the officer said, “The ATS sleuths were already into surveillance and had important information on some activities in the state since August 2013 when IM’s Yasin Bhatkal was arrested by NIA.” (Times of India 3/5/124)

 

11. MNS man dies in police station (1)

MUMBAI: An MNS leader died after reportedly suffering a cardiac arrest at the Dahanu police station early on Tuesday. The body has been sent to J J Hospital for an autopsy. Prakash Raut (59), MNS vice-president, Thane district, was called to the police station after his widowed sister-in-law, Manvi Raut (29), registered a complaint against him for allegedly evicting her out of their house. A non-cognizable offence was filed against Prakash, who arrived at the police station around 11.30pm and complained of uneasiness. Though he took medicines that he was carrying, he collapsed at 12.04am. “A CCTV has captured Prakash collapsing at the police station and then being taken to a hospital,” said Dahanu DySP Abhijit Shivthare. The case will be treated as a custodial death and investigated by the CID. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

12. Special CBI court refuses bail to cop in Sadiq encounter case (1)

Ahmedabad: A special CBI court refused bail to an accused cop and retired Deputy Superintendent of Police IA Syed here on Tuesday, in connection with the alleged Sadiq Jamal fake encounter case of 2003. Special CBI court Judge CR Thakkar rejected Syed’s plea seeking regular bail on medical grounds. On March 18, the CBI court had issued a notice to the CBI, seeking its response to the bail plea filed by IA Syed. During arguments of the case, Syed relied only on medical grounds, while the CBI opposed his plea referring to his role in the alleged fake encounter. “Since investigation into the encounter case is over and the charge sheet has already been filed, so the applicant, being a senior citizen, should be granted regular bail,” Syed’s counsel Amit Nair .Nair has also pressed that Syed, who has been in jail since December 2012, suffers from multiple ailments including heart and kidney diseases. “Relevent medical documents suggest that he has been suffering from old age related diseases,” Nair said, assuring the court that Syed would not thwart the investigation or tamper with evidence. Countering the arguement, the CBI had contended that the accused cop played a crucial role and being a senior police officer, he had committed serious offences. Sadiq Jamal, a resident of Bhavnagar city, was killed by a Gujarat police crime branch team in an alleged fake encounter near Galaxy Cinema on the outskirts of the city on January 13, 2003. According to the Gujarat police, Sadiq was a terrorist who had entered the city on a mission to eliminate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia. In 2011, the Gujarat High Court had handed over the probe into the case to CBI after a petition was filed by Sadiq’s brother Shabbir Jamal. On December 21, 2012, the CBI had filed its charge sheet against eight accused. (Zee News 7/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

13. 34 journalists killed in Pak. since 2008: Amnesty (1)

ISLAMABAD: A day before he was shot at in Lahore, journalist Raza Rumi had contacted Amnesty International to inform that his name was on Pakistan Taliban’s hit list. The organisation’s new report, titled “A Bullet has been chosen for you, attacks on journalists in Pakistan” was released on Wednesday. Based on interviews with 100 journalists and media workers and extensive field research on over 70 cases, it examines several recent cases where journalists were targeted for their reporting. According to the research, at least 34 journalists may have been killed as a direct consequence of their work since democratically-elected government was restored in Pakistan in March 2008. The report says journalists face a range of threats in Pakistan, including those from civil and military state organs such as the police and security forces. But no state actor is more feared by journalists than the Directorate for Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Amnesty’s investigation of cases shows journalists are particularly at risk of harassment and abuse if they expose security lapses by the military, its alleged links to armed groups, human rights violations by the security forces in Balochistan and northwest Pakistan or if they work for foreign media outlets considered by the state to be hostile to Pakistan. Amnesty investigated 74 cases for this report, and in only two of these have the perpetrators been convicted — murder of Wali Khan Babar and the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Of these 74 cases, police or other authorities carried out an initial investigation in 36 cases, and in a handful of incidents victims or their families received security protection, compensation or other assistance from the state. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

14. Media coverage on gender identity issues draws flak (1)

NEW DELHI: The media can be a positive force for improving human rights, health of homosexuals and transgender people in South Asia, says a new report developed by Centre for Advocacy & Research (CFAR) and UN Development Programme (UNDP). The report, ‘A Framework for Media Engagement on MSM and Transgender Persons in South Asia,’ provides direction for how homosexuals and transgender communities should engage with the media and how the media itself should leverage its influence to reduce stigma and discrimination, educate and raise awareness of human rights issues and support strategies, programmes that improve the political, social and legal environments for homosexuals and the transgender people. Examining media reporting in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, researchers found prejudiced, inaccurate and sensationalised news coverage that increased stigma and distorted public perception on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. It also enforced stereotypes and not reported community issues accurately. “Though media coverage of HIV has increased over the last two decades, the coverage of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identities has often been weak and objectionable,” said Edmund Settle, Policy Advisor at UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre. “By engaging with communities, raising awareness among media practitioners and wielding their powers for good, the media can influence public opinion and policies and programmes, and contribute to a more effective HIV response in the region,” said Mr. Settle. The report recommends that community organisations create partnerships with all levels of the media – local, state and national – to improve accurate reporting and representation of key issues. Taking the appeal forward, Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, CFAR, said: “Today, more than ever before, there was both an imperative and an opportunity for community-based organisations to systematically harness the media, in particular the local language and district media and engage them in impacting policies and programmes with the decisive aim to advance social inclusion of and affirmative action for homosexuals and transgender persons.” The authors and researchers of the report, CFAR, also noted reasons for hope. “Sexual and gender minority communities in the countries studied have made huge strides in recent years. On several occasions, they’ve been key ‘newsmakers’ and driven intensive periods of national discourse around key community issues.” In India, media sensitisation workshops have improved coverage, as have partnerships between community and media to raise issues on HIV, human rights and human interest stories. (The Hindu 2/5/14)

 

15. Facebook, Twitter, Google change face of Indian elections (1)

WASHINGTON: The three American social media giants, Facebook, Twitter and Google, have emerged as major players in the ongoing general elections in India, with political parties and candidates competing with each other in breaking the news, spreading their message through these outlets in addition to those via the traditional media. While the impact of these social media on the elections could be known only after May 16 when the results are declared or could be a matter of another academic research, all the three major players have seen substantial increase in their India traffic and usage. For instance, Facebook has now 100 million users in India, its largest outside the US, while that of Twitter has more than doubled since January this year. After the 7th round of polling, there were 49 million Indian elections-related conversations on Twitter, more than double the 20 million Indian elections-related conversations on Twitter for all of 2013. In 2009, Shashi Tharoor was the only Indian politician to have a Twitter account and had 6,000 followers. Five years later there is hardly any major political leader who does not have an account on Twitter. Tharoor is now the second most popular politician on Twitter with 2.16 million followers, after Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate with 3.89 million followers. Modi now also has nearly 14 million fans of Facebook. Barack Obama is the only other politician to have more Facebook fans than Modi. With political parties, leaders and candidates putting their advertisement on social media to reach out to their voters, all the three major players are reported to have made substantial addition to their revenue. Though none of the companies are willing to discuss the advertisement revenue this election cycle, all of them have put in several months of tireless efforts and diverted substantial amount of their resources in the elections, many of them working thousands of miles away from India. Facebook started working on the Indian elections towards the end of last year, says Katie Harbath, manager for policy at Facebook, adding that the company started doing a series of things beginning March this year when the elections were announced. This includes launch of election tracker so that people can see in real time. Candidates are now using Facebook and Twitter for breaking news. “We are really seeing the entire country discuss the issues (related to elections), Harbarth said in a recent interview. “Facebook is really the key place of the conversation that is happening,” she said. Adam Sharp, Head of Government and Nonprofits at Twitter, who has been involved in participating in elections in various countries of the world, said Twitter is a powerful way to return to retail politics. He conceded that elections have helped Twitter expand in India. While the majority of the users of social media are concentrated in urban areas, the elections have also helped them expand their reach to the rural areas too. Before the elections, the use of social media was generally restricted to the national political parties, but as the general elections gained momentum, even regional parties joined the social media bandwagon. In a recent interview, Raheel Khursheed, head of news, Politics and Government, Twitter India, said the electoral landscape of social media has changed forever in India… (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

16. Cong accuses Modi of violating freedom of the press (1)

NEW DELHI: Congress on Tuesday accused Narendra Modi of violating freedom of the press whenever he got a chance. The party also questioned BJP prime ministerial candidate’s promise of ridding politics of criminals when he “embraces” accused like Amit Shah. Law minister and Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal alleged that Modi’s regime in Gujarat epitomized unparalleled intolerance not witnessed in any other state in the history of India. “Given an opportunity, Modi has violated the freedom of press both in letter and spirit. He destroys freedom of the press, whenever he gets a chance,” Sibal said, alleging that there were “rampant” instances of “sedition” cases against mediapersons in Gujarat. Maintaining that hard facts tell a different story from what Modi says or tweets on various issues, Sibal said, “The art of fooling people has been perfected by him. We worry about the future of India when a man with dubious intentions seeks to occupy the office of the prime minister of India.” Sibal also slammed Modi over his claims that he would rid Parliament of criminals, saying the Gujarat CM has himself “embraced” criminals in his state. “Amit Shah is accused of triple murder in Sohrabuddin fake encounter. His minister Babubhai Bukharia, convicted for three years, continues to be in his Cabinet and another minister Purushottam Solanki continues while he is being prosecuted,” he said. The minister also targeted Modi for daring the Election Commission to file another case against him. “This amounts to threatening the Election Commission. I do not recall that anyone else in independent India has talked in such a manner. Our misfortune is that such a person is a PM candidate and such a man with a dubious distinction seeks to occupy the top post in the country,” Sibal said. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

17. 5 Children Rescued, Woman Arrested (1)

RAYAGADA: Fifteen minor children of Rayagada district were rescued from New Delhi where they were forcibly made to work in hotels. The minors were lured by one Delhi-based Sarala Sethi who ran a missionary – Ebenezer Children Nest – in 2008, on the pretext of educating them, said Inspector in-charge of Muniguda police station Diptikanta Pradhan, who along with the District Child Welfare Committee officials visited New Delhi on April 27 and brought back the children to Muniguda on Saturday. Sarala, a native of Tamil Nadu fluent in Hindi, English, Kannada and Tamil took 18 children, including five girls of the age group of 5 to 15 years from Litiguda, Tikirpada and Chandrapur villages under Muniguda area of tribal-dominated Rayagada district promising their parents that their wards will be educated properly, Pradhan said. She imparted them education for sometime in the missionary and managed to get donation from foreign countries, he added. But after sometime, she employed three of the minors in a hotel in Himachal Pradesh and rest of the children in different hotels in New Delhi. The three after being allegedly tortured by employers, escaped and reached home in Muniguda on April 24 and narrated the story to their parents, who in turn lodged a complaint with the police. On the other hand, Sarala visited Muniguda on the same day to take more children with her to New Delhi unaware of the fact that a police case was filed against her. Sarala was arrested and during interrogation, she confessed to the crime. The rescued children were handed over to their parents. A case has been registered against Sarala under various sections of the IPC and Juvenile Justice Act. She was produced before a local court which sent her to jail. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

18. Human Trafficking Case: 7 Accused Chargesheeted (1)

KOCHI: The CBI filed the chargesheet in one of the four cases registered in the Nedumbassery human trafficking case at the Ernakulam Chief  Judicial Magistrate Court. The agency has chargesheeted seven accused, including a Sub Inspector and a Civil Police Officer who worked in the immigration wing of the CIAL. The CBI filed the chargesheet in the case where a woman from Kizhakoottam was taken to UAE via Muscat using a fake passport issued in the name of another woman from Kattappana. The accused in the case are Santha, 46, Kuzhivila house, Maniyor, Punalur, Kollam, Lissy Sojan, 43, Madathivilakam house, Karunathara, Thrissur, P R Shaji, 42, Parassery house, Mukkundapuram, Thrissur, Raju Mathew, 44, Koniparambil, Lakkatoor, Kottayam who was the SI at the immigration wing of CIAL, Sethulal, 48, Andruthuyil house, Kodungaloor, Prashanth Kumar, 40, Vallethara house, Eriyadukara, Thrissur, who was a Civil Police officer working in the immigration department of CIAL and Varghese Raphel, Payyappil house, Chamabakkara, Maradu, Kochi, who is yet to be arrested. The first accused in the FIR, Mubeena, of Kizhakoottam, turned approver in the case, while chargesheet was not filed against another accused Sureesh K V, who has also not been arrested yet. The CBI registered a case under IPC 120B r/w IPC 417, IPC 419, IPC 467, IPC 468, IPC 471 and section 12(1)(b) and(d) of the Indian Passport Act. According to the CBI, Mubeena was working at a textile shop in 2012 when she became familiar with Santha. Santha, an agent for Lissy Sojan, who was running brothels in Gulf countries, promised her a job abroad. Later, Santha took Mubeena to Lissy Sojan in Thrissur and handed over passport-size photographs. She was asked to arrive at Nedumbassery airport for travelling to Muscat. As fixed, Mubeena arrived at the airport on June 11, 2012. Shaji, who also was working for Lissy Sojan, handed over the passport of Mohan Jyothy, of Kattapana, with Mubeena’s photograph. The fake passport was prepared by Varghese Raphel, who sent it to Prashant Kumar, the Civil Police officer. Prashant Kumar handed over the fake passport to Shaji before Mubeena received it at the airport. Though Mubeena hesitated to travel using fake passport, she was told to remember the address given in the passport and practice the signature of Jyothi. Raju Mathew took her inside the airport and showed the place where he would be sitting. After filling the boarding pass, Mubeena’s passport was cleared by Raju Mathew. Santha was paid `15,000 by Lissy Sojan as commission for assisting Mubeena. Prashant Kumar and Raju Mathew worked together at the airport in 2010 and both facilitated the racketeers in taking women abroad. When Mubeena reached Muscat, she was taken to a brothel in UAE. Even though she was forced to go into prostitution, she resisted. Mubeena revealed her plight to her sister Sajana on the phone. Sajana requested Lissy Sojan to release her sister. Lissy demanded `2 lakh for releasing Mubeena. Eventually, the deal was settled for a sum of `25,000. After getting the money, Lissy released Mubeena, but on her return, she was caught by the immigration wing at Mumbai airport on charges of travelling on fake passport, on July 6, 2011. The case was later handed over to the Crime Branch and then to the CBI. The case was investigated by George James, Inspector, CBI, Thiruvananthapuram. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

19. US recognition for trafficking crusader from Bengal backyard (1)

KOLKATA: A demure, unassuming woman in a printed cotton saree boarded a Mumbai-bound flight en route for Washington at the Kolkata airport last Saturday. She had never been to an airport before or travelled abroad. She hasn’t studied in a school either and narrowly escaped being sold off to a brothel soon after marriage. Yet, 31-year-old Monika Sarkar isn’t quite unknown in the USA. Her efforts to save young girls from the clutches of traffickers in the backyard of North 24-Parganas have earned her a state felicitation in the country. Monika will be a state guest there, spending three weeks across seven US states where she will be sharing her experience with social activists and change agents from around the globe. Recognition A mother of two, Monika appeared a tad nervous, but determined to make the most of the ‘unique opportunity’ that has come her way. Hours before boarding her first flight, she said she was eager to learn from the experiences of people she was going to meet in the US. “I have been working against trafficking for nearly a decade now. But there’s ought to be ways to make our efforts more effective. Challenges are going to be tougher in the years to come, so we need to upgrade ourselves and if possible, build a network with people doing similar work in other countries. I hope I am able to use this experience,” she said. At 23, she walked out on her husband refusing to cow down to his dowry demands, narrowly escaped from the clutches of traffickers and got together a dozen other women from her neighbourhood in Sayestanagar village to launch a movement against girl trading. Her gritty effort has almost wiped out trafficking from Katiahat – a remote rural backyard in North 24-Parganas, about 75 km from Kolkata – where every second woman was vulnerable to trafficking. In 2007, she came in touch with an NGO in Kolkata that helped her intensify the campaign. Whenever a girl went missing, Monika and her volunteers would inform the police and activate a rescue chain with assistance from the NGO. Counseling would be arranged for the rescued victims and efforts made to rehabilitate them. Scores of trafficked girls in the area have been sent back to their families and later married off, something that was impossible till a decade ago. Monika doesn’t stop at that. She has even started an initiative to identify traffickers across villages. It is believed that Monika has saved more than a thousand girls from being trafficked in the last nine years. “Monika has proved that she is a true leader. It is due to her single-handed effort that trafficking has stopped in the Katiahat area. Till she launched her campaign, around 15 girls would be trafficked every month from the area. So, she deserves every bit of the recognition that she has got,” said Bappaditya Mukherjee of Prantakatha, the NGO. At Washington, which is her first destination, the gutsy lady will receive a state felicitation. It could be given by the state governor. “The event details were not sent to us. But Monika will go around at least seven states and interact with state governors, other than participants and fellow activists from other countries. She will be accompanied by an interpreter and Monika will deliver a few lectures, with the help of power-point presentations,” said Mukherjee. The crusader from Bengal will be addressing conferences on anti-human trafficking activities. She has been working hard on the presentations, said Monika. “I knew nothing about them till I was asked to prepare them. My NGO colleagues have helped me a great deal. This is important for I wish to show the world how a group of women has braved all odds to get the better the traffickers, almost without any help. My experience has taught me that nothing is impossible. I am ardently looking forward to the trip and hope that it opens up new avenues for women and helps me to explore ways to make them independent,” declared Monika. She will be boarding her return flight to India from San Francisco on May 24. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

20. One more arrested for Dalit teen’s murder (2)

Ahmednagar police has has arrested another person regarding the honour killing of a Dalit teen in Kharda village in Ahmednagar, bringing the total to 11 persons including three juveniles. Republican Party of India (A) president Ramdas Athawale on Thurdsay demanded a high-level inquiry in the murder and said he would urge the CM and deputy CM to hand the prosecution to famed lawyer Ujjwal Nikam. On Monday night a teenager belonging to a backward community, who had an alleged love affair with a girl belonging to a majority community, was allegedly murdered in Kharde village. A case was registered in Jamkhed police station at around 1 am on Tuesday. Police said that the victim Nitin Raju Aage was beaten with sticks and rods and later strangled with a rope near New English School Kharda in Yeole brick kiln locality. (Asian Age 2/5/14)

 

21. Six dalit youths hurt in community clash (2)

Rohtak: Six persons of the dalit community suffered multiple injuries when a group of assailants, belonging to the upper caste, assaulted them in their colony at Sisar Khas village in Meham sub-division here on Wednesday night. The injured have been admitted to the hospital where condition of all of them is stated to be out of danger. A dispute between youths of both the communities over some personal issue is stated to be behind the assault. The Meham Police has started investigation into the matter after registering a case against 15 youths of upper caste under relevant Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on the complaints of dalits. The situation remained tensed in the village while adequate numbers of police personnel were deputed there to prevent any untoward incident. No arrest was made till the filling of news. According to the reports, Shiva, a dalit youth, allegedly engaged in a verbal duel with some youths of upper caste over the payment of his labour on Wednesday evening. After sometime, the youths armed with bamboo sticks reached the dalit area and attacked the dalit youths before smashing window panes of some vehicles and damaging motor-bikes parked there. The youths fled from the spot after committing the crime. The injured youths were then rushed to the hospital by their kin. The police on getting information reached the village and took stock of the situation. Later, statements of the dalit villagers were recorded to register case against the assailants. Meanwhile, it is learnt that a Panchayat of both the communities was held in the village wherein both the parties reached a compromise on some conditions. They had also intimated the police about the development, the sources said. Pioneer 3/5/14)

 

22. Maharashtra ministers visit Dalit victims of atrocities (2)

Mumbai, May 3 : Two senior ministers Saturday visited the Dalit victims of recent atrocities against the community in the state – the honour killing of a Dalit boy in Ahmednagar and the boycott of Dalits in Buldhana, official said here. Tribal Affairs Minister Madhukar Pichad went to Kharada village in Ahmednagar and consoled the grieving family of Nitin R. Aage, 17, who was killed and hanged from a tree last Monday following a love affair with a minor girl from an upper caste. The hue and cry started after the boy was noticed talking to the girl in a field by some locals, including the girl’s brother. Later, a group of villagers allegedly waylaid him, assaulted him with sticks and strangled him before hanging him to a tree where he was found later by his family. The state government has already announced a compensation of Rs.500,000 and a similar amount was given by the Nationalist Congress Party, Pichad said. Police investigations resulted in the arrest of 11 people, including the girl’s brother, who have been booked for murder and other charges, including Prevention of Atrocities Act and Protection of Civil Rights. Later, the minister apprised Home Minister R. R. Patil of the issue who said that the murder trial would be conducted in a fast track court. In a related development, Employment Guarantee and Water Conservation Minister Nitin Raut accompanied by SC and ST Commissioner C. L. Thul visited Belad village in Buldhana where the upper castes had imposed a boycott of the Dalits. The duo held meetings with the villagers from both sides and warned of strict action like cutting off financial grants to the village panchayat. Following the meetings, the village head announced the lifting of the boycott of Dalits. (New Kerala 3/5/14)

 

23. Rs. 10 lakh for murdered Dalit boy’s family (2)

Pune: Four days after a Dalit boy was beaten up and killed allegedly by Maratha youths in Ahmednagar’s Kharda village, Maharashtra Tribal Affairs Minister Madhukar Pichad declared a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh for the victim’s family. Mr. Pichad, who met the family of 17-year-old Nitin Aage, said: “The family will be given Rs. 5 lakh as compensation from the State government and Rs. 5 lakh from the Nationalist Congress Party as assistance.” He added that the State government would sponsor the education of Nitin’s sister. Mr. Pichad, who is also Guardian Minister of Ahmednagar district, faced criticism for not having visited the family. “I am sorry, I was late in paying a visit. Justice will be ensured. No communal issue will obstruct the trial,” he told presspersons in Kharda on Saturday. Nitin was beaten up and hanged from a tree by Maratha youths allegedly for meeting a girl from their family. Eleven people, including the girl’s brother, have been arrested.  (The Hindu 4//5/14)

 

24. Gujarat worse than neighbours in dalit justice (2)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat fares poorly when it comes to dispensation of justice to dalits in atrocity cases. Its neighbours Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh fare much better. Data released by NGO, Navsarjan Trust, on Monday showed that the conviction rate in atrocity cases in Gujarat is as low as 7.8%.According to the data received by the NGO through RTI, 8,884 cases of atrocity were registered in the state between 2006 and September 2013. The data revealed that on an average the state recorded 18 murders, 37 rapes, 52 severe injuries and 1,019 cases where families were afflicted with atrocities every year. Analysis of the data showed that 11 districts are sensitive to dalit atrocity. The NGO claimed that the state government has not followed the provisions enshrined in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 nor has it made reviews of cases registered in order to improve conviction rate. Navsarjan executive director Manjula Pradeep told the media that Gujarat government needs to review the law for faster solution to the cases. Manjula said, “Though the cases have been registered in police stations, the conviction rate is 7.8 % which is very poor when compared to Rajasthan (41%) and Madhya Pradesh (29%). The reason is that the state government has not reviewed either the atrocity law or the cases in last seven years.” Navsarjan activist Kirit Rathod told the media that there is a provision in the law to run special courts for atrocity cases but no court has been started by the state government, which has led to 42.47% of the cases pending in the court. “The chief minister has not called the meeting of the vigilance and monitoring committee to review the atrocity law. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are ruled by the same party, yet they have reviewed the law and sanctioned special courts and police stations. The Gujarat government is not sanctioning the vacant posts in police force for investigation of the atrocity cases,” said Rathod. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

25. Antibiotic resistance a worldwide threat to public health: WHO (3)

NEW DELHI: Antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to public health with cases being reported from every region of the world and having the potential to affect anyone, the World Health Organisation has said. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), as antibiotic resistance is also known as, is a technical term that means resistance to medicines used against microorganisms, thereby making the drugs ineffective. In India, the easy availability and higher consumption of antibiotics have contributed to the inappropriate use of the drugs, creating a situation where resistant microorganisms are becoming more common. The infectious-disease burden in India is among the highest in the world and the inappropriate and irrational use of antimicrobial agents against these diseases has led to an increase in development of antimicrobial resistance. In 2011, there were an estimated 6.3 lakh cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) among the world’s 12 million cases of TB. The WHO report, “Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance,” notes resistance to antibiotics used as a last resort to treat life-threatening infections caused by a common intestinal bacteria — K. pneumonia — has spread to all regions of the world. It is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia and bloodstream infections in newborns and intensive-care unit patients. In some countries, because of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics would not be effective for more than half of people treated for K. pneumonia infection. “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, would kill once again,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security, WHO. Resistance is occurring across many infectious agents but the WHO report focuses on antibiotic resistance in nine different bacteria responsible for common, serious diseases such as bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhoea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea. The results are cause for high concern, documenting resistance to antibiotics, especially “last resort” antibiotics, in all regions of the world. Resistance to one of the most widely used antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract infections caused by E. coli – fluoroquinolones – is widespread. Treatment failure to the last-resort treatment for gonorrhea — third generation cephalosporins — has been confirmed in Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. More than 1 million people are infected with gonorrhoea around the world every day. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

26. ’50 percent newborns suffer from communicable diseases’ (3)

New Delhi, May 5 : About 50 percent newborn babies suffer from communicable diseases because of lack of awareness, experts said Monday. “Due to lack of awareness among mothers and poor living conditions, at least 50 percent children in the country are born with communicable diseases,” Anuradha Gupta, additional secretary and mission director of the National Health Mission, said at a conference here. “We must strive for the survival and the overall development of the children. It is important to identify these ignorant young mothers so that surgical treatment can be provided to them when they need it,” she added. Experts on health spoke at a conference in the national capital where they deliberated over the issues of women’s healthcare and infant mortality rate in India. The event was organised by the NGO, Save the Children in collaboration with the ministry of health and family welfare (MHFW) that introduced an orientation programme for the RMNCH+A framework. The acronym RMNCH+A stands for “Reproductive Maternal New Born Child Adolescent Health”.Under this, health organisations plan to monitor child survival strategies and prevent child deaths in India. According to Rakesh Kumar, joint secretary of MHFW, the largest number of pregnant women are in the age group of 11 to 19 years. “As girls become pregnant at such a young age, we see a rise in maternal mortality rate as well as in infant deaths in the country”, Kumar said. “The programme has scope if it is implemented at the grassroots level and there will be quality improvement in the health of women and children,” he added. (New Kerala 6/5/14)

 

27. Rats! Chennai faces threat of disease outbreak (3)

CHENNAI: The city needs a Pied Piper. Data from Corporation of Chennai shows that Chennai has a serious rodent problem, with poor hygiene, improper garbage disposal and lack of a proper pest control system allowing rats to breed in large numbers. The corporation’s health department killed 1,523 rats in Anna Nagar, 1,282 in Teynampet and 1,168 in Alandur in 2013, according to statistics sourced through an RTI application from the civic body. The corporation is killing more rats each year, from 537 in 2008 to 9,116 in 2012 and 11,266 in 2013, but experts reckon that the number of rodents exterminated account for a small fraction of the city’s actual rat population. The fact that the civic body killed more rats in Anna Nagar than any other zone does not mean it is more infested with rats than other zones. What is worrying, health experts say, is that the corporation has not conducted any study that would allow it to identify localities in which there has been a serious proliferation of rodents. The vermin eat foodgrain, gnaw at electrical circuits and even damage buildings. But evidence of the biggest threat they pose is too small for the human eye to see — plague-causing bacteria Yersinia pestis, carried by rat fleas, and leptospira, which is transmitted by rat urine and causes leptospirosis. In its worst form, leptospirosis results in acute respiratory distress syndrome and death. But, as with other infectious diseases, the corporation is in denial about leptospirosis. In its RTI reply, it refused to divulge the number of cases reported in Chennai. Experts say the corporation should consider the mass extermination of rats like municipal authorities in Surat did following the 1992 plague outbreak, which left 52 people dead and resulted in close to three lakh people fleeing that city. A city’s rodent population reflects its sanitation levels. Chennai has expanded but it lacks basic infrastructure to ensure that it stays clean. There are few dustbins in public places and garbage collection is not efficient in several areas. S S Radhakrishnan, president of NGO Good Governance Guards, says the rodents are a threat to organic farming and can devour entire gardens. “Rats eat earthworms and the plants you grow,” he said. “Officials do nothing to prevent rats from multiplying.” Anna Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association secretary S Vetrivel says only comprehensive action can tackle the problem. “There has been an increase in rats in several parts of Anna Nagar,” he said. An official said the corporation places rat traps in areas like Broadway bus terminus, along Marina Beach and in government offices. “We immediately send a team to the spot when we receive a complaint,” he said. “The team identifies burrows and sprays them with raticide.” (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

28. ‘Decline in maternal mortality rate by 45%’ (3)

New Delhi: Even as the new United Nations data show a 45 per cent reduction in maternal deaths since 1990, India reported a maximum of (50,000) maternal deaths among other high-burden countries. An estimated 2,89,000 women died in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, down from 5,23,000 in 1990, reveal the WHO report further suggesting that many low and middle income countries will not be able to achieve the millennium development goal (MDG) 2015. While, the WHO said that the global reduction of MMR has accelerated, with a 3.5 per cent annual decline from 2000-2013, as compared with 1.4 per cent between 1990 and 2000. However, at current trends, most countries will not achieve the MDG target of a 75 per cent reduction in MMR from 1990 to 2015. An average decline of 5.5 per cent or more every year since 1990 is needed to meet the target on time. According to the report, 11 countries that had high levels of maternal mortality in 1990 (Bhutan, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Nepal, Romania, Rwanda, Timor-Leste) have already reached the MDG target of a 75 per cent reduction in maternal mortality from the 1990 rate by 2015. “Based on these latest trends, however, many low- and middle-income countries will not achieve this goal,” revealed the WHO. On the other hand, the report suggested that more than 15 million girls, aged 15 to 19 years, give birth every year — 1 in 5 girls before they turn 18 — “and many of these pregnancies result from non-consensual sex”, highlights deputy executive director, United Nations Population Fund Kate Gilmore. According to the report, in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 210 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births, down from 380 maternal deaths per 10,0,000 live births in 1990 (a 45% reduction. Ten countries account for about 60% of global maternal deaths including India (50000), Nigeria (40000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (21000), Ethiopia (13000), Indonesia (8800), Pakistan (7900), United Republic of Tanzania (7900), Kenya (6300), China (5900) and Uganda (5900). A WHO study of causes of more than 60 000 maternal deaths in 115 countries shows that pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by pregnancy (such as diabetes, malaria, HIV, obesity) caused 28% of the deaths. Other causes included:severe bleeding (mostly during and after childbirth) 27%, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure 14%, infections 11%, obstructed labour and other direct causes 9%, abortion complications 8%, blood clots (embolism) 3%.Experts opined that simple and well-known interventions, like midwifery services and gender-based violence prevention and response, can make a huge difference if scaled up and coupled with investments in innovations, especially in the area of contraceptives.” (Asian Age 7/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

29. Treat Early HIV Positives Without Discrimination: HC to BSF (3)

Shillong: The Meghalaya High Court has asked the Union Home Ministry and the BSF to accord same treatment to personnel afflicted with HIV P-2 (earlier stage of the disease) from service The ruling, under Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution, came in the wake of a petition by a Manipur-born man serving as constable in the BSF after he could not join the force’s higher rank after being tested HIV positive despite clearing all examinations including physical tests. “The respondent is directed to allow the petitioner to join the post of head constable for which he has been selected within a period of one month from the date of receipt of this order,” Justice Sudip Ranjan Sen said in an order recently. He said if the said person is deprived, the right of the petitioner as vested under Article, 14 & 16 of the Constitution of India is infringed and such discrimination is not encourageable at all. “Since in this instant case, the petitioner is only at the stage of HIV P-2 (patient suffering from HIV P-5 are dismissible) but otherwise fit to serve, hence, I do not see any reason that he should be deprived…Only on the ground that he is suffering from HIV P-2,” Justice Sen said. He said, a person suffering from HIV needs more care and support from the society and he be treated with compassion and understanding. The name of the petitioner was not given. Justice Sen based his ruling on the earlier directive of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 2006 stating that denial of employment to the petitioner, who had fulfilled the prescribed physical and other standards, only because he tested positive impaired his dignity and constituted unfair discrimination. (Outlook 1/5/14)

 

30. OHRC Seeks Report on Death of 2 SCB Patients (3)

CUTTACK: The Odisha Human Rights Commission has ordered a probe into alleged medical negligence at SCB Medical College and Hospital which resulted in the death of two persons suffering from HIV and Hepatitis B last month. Commission chairperson Justice B K Mishra has instructed the Secretary of Health and Family Welfare department and the Superintendent of SCBMCH to inquire into the matter and submit reports within a month. The directions came in response to a petition filed by Shankar Prasad Pani and Achyuta Kumar Sahoo drawing attention towards the serious issue where two unidentified men in critical condition were left to die in the hospital without even basic medical care. The matter also assumes significance as both the patients were destitute without anyone to take care of them. The petitioners stated that the Hepatitis B patient was admitted to the hospital on April 4 and left to his fate at the corridor of the New Medicine Ward before finally succumbing on April 15. The patient was not even administered saline let alone medical care by the doctors and staff for  10 days. Only one saline was given when he was admitted and no one attended to him thereafter. While he suffered serious bacterial infections lying on the floor, the medical authorities allegedly did not bother to provide basic care to him. Even repeated requests for making an attendant available fell on deaf ears. He died of complications and starvation, the petitioners alleged. As with the second patient, who suffered from HIV, he was kept in the Casualty department for four days from March 29 to April 3, when he died. Though rules stipulate transfer of a patient from the Casualty to department ward concerned within 24 hours, he was left on the Casualty floor till his death. In the absence of transfer to departmental ward, the patient was not provided any medical support required for the specific disease.  “The patient died because of criminal negligence of hospital authority. The Hospital administration and staff, including doctors, discriminated the patient on the ground of the nature of disease and nobody even touched the body,” the petitioners stated, while calling for a probe into the incidents.  While action should be initiated against the hospital authorities for criminal negligence, the Secretary of Health department was asked to frame guidelines on special care for destitute and unidentified patients. (New Indian Express 3/5/14)

 

31. AIDS awareness programme held for labourers (3)

Mumbai: In a bid to create health awareness and educate about the perils of AIDS among labourers employed at construction sites and other labourers, the Kolhapur zilla chief Rajaram Mane conducted a workshop for all health officers on May 2. Pointing to the fact that those who contract AIDS are susceptible to TB and other diseases, Mr Mane said that efforts needed to be made to safeguard the labourers from unsafe intercourse. He added that apart from the various organisations working on creating AIDS awareness, it was also the responsibility of the industrialists to keep their employees educated about the perils of the disease by putting up posters and information banners at the workplace. (Asian Age 4/5/14)

 

32. HIV among antenatal women dips in Krishna (3)

VIJAYAWADA: For the first time, prevalence of HIV infection among antenatal women has dropped to .3 per cent in Krishna district. “We have been maintaining low antenatal HIV infections for the last four years but this time, it has been officially established by the Hospital Sentinel Survey (HSS),” says T.V.S.N. Sastry, Krishna District AIDS Control Officer. Mr. Sastry said this was possible due to constant efforts of the AP State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) through different interventional programmes implemented effectively. Referring to the Society’s Mamta Plus programme launched in 2012 to curb mother-to-child HIV transmission, the scheme envisaged triple drug regimen and mandatory HIV screening for every pregnant woman. Earlier, it was a single drug treatment with Nevirapine. “The scheme has yielded positive result and the transmission rate has come down. The Government has also altered the drug regimen strategy in January this year to bring down the mother-to-child transmission to zero,” said Mr. Sastry. As per the new strategy put in place, the mother will be administered HIV medicine from the 14 week of gestation and it will continue lifelong. The newborn will receive Nevirapine drops from the first day of the birth up to six weeks. The baby will be tested at six weeks, six months, 12 months and 18 months. “After 18 months, if the baby is found negative, he/she remains negative for life which means that he/she has been protected,” said Mr. Sastry. To reduce stigma associated with HIV testing, every Primary Health Centre in the district has been made a testing centre. Last year, of the around 48,000 antenatal women tested, 140 tested positive. More than 82,000 people voluntarily came forward for HIV testing. Of them, 3,790 tested positive which amounts to 4.6 per cent, informed Mr. Sastry. A paradigm shift in treatment method and additional care taken at every possible level had helped the authorities bring down HIV positive instances drastically, said Mr. Sastry.  (The Hindu 5/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

33. Tension as protesters block eviction drive in Wayanad

ARAPETTA (WAYANAD DISTRICT: A group of people under the aegis of the Adivasi Kshema Samiti and the Kerala Karshaka Thozhilali Union resists an eviction drive at Arapetta, near Mepadi, in Wayanad district on Saturday.Tension prevailed here on Saturday morning after a team of revenue and police department personnel which tried to evict a group of people who had encroached upon a piece of land reportedly in possession of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd. (HML) was thwarted. The Kerala High Court had directed the district administration on January 29 to evict those who had encroached upon the HML land at five sites such as Arapetta under the Mupainad village; Anappara in Chundale; Perumkoda in Puzhuthana; Pozhuthana in Achuranom; and Thovarimala in Nenmeni within two months. It was reported that the protesters encroached upon the land and erected huts under the aegis of the Adivasi Kshema Samiti (AKS) and the Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union (KSKTU), two feeder organisations of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], in 2012 demanding that the government resume surplus land allegedly possessed by the HML, and disburse it to the landless people. Close to 400 people belonging to 150 families encroached upon nearly 200 acres here as part of the agitation. When a team of Revenue officials led by K.K. Ganeshan, Additional District Magistrate, reached the spot along with armed police personnel around 9 a.m. to implement the court directive, a group led by C.K. Saseendran, district unit secretary, CPI(M), and P. Krishnaprasad, former MLA, resisted the attempt. Suicide threatThe tension increased when four protesters, identified as Mary George, 50, of Panayamkadom; Ismail of Vadakkan; Rahim of Changassery, and M.C. Aneesh, poured kerosene on themselves and threatened to commit suicide if they were evicted. Later, Mr. Ganeshan held a discussion with the leaders of the protesters around 12 p.m. and promised that the issue would be solved after a discussion in the presence of the District Collector. The protesters led a march to the HML Arapetta office in protest against the eviction drive. Mr. Ganeshan told The Hindu that the drive could not be completed owing to massive resistance from the protesters, and future action would be decided after a discussion with senior department officials. On Tuesday, the revenue officials had evicted seven families, reportedly tenants on the land, at Nedumbala, near here. On Wednesday, the officials opened a relief camp for them at a school at Mepadi following a public protest. However, the relief camp was closed on Saturday after village officials reported that the evicted families possessed own land. Though the families protested against the stance of the officials, they were removed using force. (The Hindu 4/5/14)

 

34. Uttarakhand rehabilitation: No development in sight (4)

Dehradun: For the 60-70 odd families of Gondar village in Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary in Uttarakhand, life is virtually an everyday struggle. Bereft of basic needs like electricity, drinking water and roads, Gondar is still miles away from development. “We have promised electricity, water and well- constructed roads this year to the people and Rs 1 crore has already been sanctioned,” said Shailarani Rawat, the local ruling Congress MLA from Kedarnath. The inhabitants, refusing to be satisfied by such promises, have threatened to boycott the May 7 general elections. Like Gondar, there are scores of villages falling under wildlife sanctuaries and other protected areas that are still miles away from development. The forest dwellers here have spent lifetimes fighting for their basic rights. Also, the Tongia community, residing in the Rajaji National Park in Haridwar district, has been neglected by successive governments. Demands of Van Gujjars, a Muslim tribal community residing in the Rajaji Park and Corbett National Park, has been turned down repeatedly. “We are seeking scheduled tribe status for Van Gujjars on the lines of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Avadhash Kaushal, chairperson of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, a Dehradun-based NGO which fights for the rights of Van Gujjars in the hill state. Ironically, the state forest department claims to have chalked out plans to rehabilitate all these Van Gujjars outside the park areas. “Most of these Gujjars have already been rehabilitated,” said a top forest department official. Surprisingly, the state election commission asserts that there are no issues related to the flood-affected people in the state. “We have inquired from the District Magistrates of all the five disaster-affected districts regarding the problems being faced by the people there. There is no issue and people are ready to vote for the May 7 election,” said Radha Raturi, the state chief electoral officer. (Business Standard 5/5/14)

 

35. Eviction Drive near Rajmahal, 16 Shops Removed (4)

BHUBANESWAR: The General Administration (GA) department and Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) removed about 16 temporary shops near Rajmahal flyover in a joint eviction drive on Monday. However, the eviction of about 26 mud houses in a slum near Kasturbha Nari Mahal could not be carried out due to stiff resistance by the slum dwellers. Sources said besides 16 temporary shops, two cabins were also removed from one of the roads adjacent to SBI branch under Rajmahal flyover. About 37 street vendors were evicted from the road leading towards Adivasi ground in Unit-I. The enforcement team consisting of BDA and GA officials reached the slum near Kasturbha Nari Mahal on Monday morning, but could not carry out eviction of about 26 mud houses. Despite deployment of two platoons of police force, the eviction drive was halted due to protests by the slum dwellers and a few locals having political affiliations. Senior State Government officials present during the eviction drive said the dwellers squatted on the road to prevent the bulldozers from moving ahead. BDA Encroachment Officer Debaprasad Das said stiff resistance from slum dwellers prevented the eviction which could have cleared encroachment on a large chunk of GA land. The slum dwellers have reportedly encroached upon the conservancy line, an area near Government quarters which is usually used for drainage or sewerage channel. The increasing number of slums encroaching upon Government land in the city has become a problem for the civic authorities. Currently, there are about 120 authorised and more than 340 unauthorised slums in the city. Sources said the eviction of the slum near Kasturbha Nari Mahal will be taken up later. The BDA will also undertake eviction drives across the city after the model code of conduct is lifted from the State. BDA Encroachment Officer Das said there should be timely provisioning of police force during eviction or demolition drive. If the police personnel are provided on time, eviction could be carried out smoothly, he added. (New Indian Express 6/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

36. Give Black Money Info to Jethmalani: SC (5)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday appointed two of its former judges to head the Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe the black money stashed by Indians in foreign tax havens. The court also asked the government to hand over the names, documents and information of 26 Indians, who were investigated by the tax authorities, to senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, a petitioner in the case. “Since the investigation is complete into the aforesaid mentioned cases, now we once again direct Union of India to furnish the documents and information which is kept in the covers (sealed) to petitioners within three days from today,” a bench comprising justices H L Dattu, Ranjana Prakash Desai and M B Lokur said. The government was resisting for nearly three years the disclosure of the names and appointment of SIT, though the court had directed it to do so in its judgment dated 2012. The government argued that the disclosure of names will violate the confidentiality clauses in international protocol. The names have already been handed over to the court. Former judge M B Shah will be the chairman of SIT and Arijit Pasayat will be the vice chairman. The court asked them to “initiate and conclude” the work as expeditiously as possible. Justice Shah will replace former apex court judge B P Jeevan Reddy who recused himself due to personal reasons. The bench directed the Centre to issue notification on their appointment within three weeks. The court will monitor the progress of the SIT which will submit its first report on August 20. (Indian Express 2/5/14)

 

37. L-G clamps down on corruption, 19 surprise checks in govt depts. (5)

New Delhi: A series of surprise checks was carried out to clamp down on corruption and illegal activities in public-dealing departments of the Delhi government on Thursday. This action was initiated on the directions of Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung, officials said. Nineteen teams comprising  IAS and  IPS officers, Anti-Corruption Branch officers and SDMs conducted surprise checks in the Food and Supplies, Education, Health and Transport departments of the Delhi government. Such visits are likely to continue over the next few days, the official said. “The checks were carried out by joint teams of the departments of Food and Supplies, Consumer Affairs, Weights and  Measures, Transport and Anti-Corruption,” the official said. Five zonal offices of the Transport department, petrol pumps, fair price shops (FPS) and schools were visited. The Directorate of Education carried out surprise checks of five schools — Maxfort School, Pitampura; St Lawrence Convent, Geeta Colony; Vivekananda International School, IP Extension; Modern International School, Sector-19, Dwarka; and Moti Ram Memorial Girls Sr Sec School, Dilshad Garden. “The objective of the inspection was to check any irregularities related to nursery admission. Irregularities in the admission process were found in one-two schools which were not following the circulars issued by the Education department. Besides that, the 25 per cent EWS quota was not filled,” an official said. The reports are being examined and action will be taken after obtaining comments from schools. Some  teams also inspected 26 fair price shops, of which 13 were either found closed or diversion of foodgrains was detected. These have been sealed by the teams.   “In five cases where diversion of food grains was detected and records were not properly maintained, FIRs have been lodged,” the official said. Action will also be taken against violators for irregularities like not opening shop, non-distribution of food grains, non-display of rate list and statutory information… (Indian Express 2/5/14)

 

38. CBI can investigate corruption charges against top babus without govt nod: SC (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a single directive provision which barred CBI from investigating corruption charges against joint secretary and above rank officers without prior permission of the Centre. The court held as invalid and unconstitutional the provision in the law requiring government’s approval to probe senior bureaucrats on corruption charges. All government officials have to be treated equally and have to face the same process of inquiry in graft cases, the SC said, adding, “status of top bureaucrats is of no relevance in the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act”.The apex court said such a classification of bureaucrats for investigation purposes violated Article 14 of the Constitution which mandated that law would treat everyone equally. “Prior permission from the Centre to probe corruption charges against joint secretary level officers would fetter the CBI from collecting evidence and also alert the corrupt to destroy evidence,” the Supreme Court added. “Protection of prior approval for probing graft charges against officers at level of joint secretary and above has propensity of shielding corruption,” the Supreme Court said. This is the second time the apex court is striking down the single directive provision in Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

39. Lokayukta awaits government nod to book corrupt babus (5)

BHOPAL: Contrary to avowed zero tolerance to corruption, the state government is dragging its feet on giving its go-ahead to prosecute three officials, who were caught red-handed accepting bribe, for almost 10 months. The dithering on the issue continues despite a nod for action from state’s advocate general and law department, sources said. After waiting long to hear from the government, Lokayukta’s special police establishment (SPE) has shot off yet another missive to remind the department of its clearance for prosecution. Authorities’ apparent reluctance prompted Lokayukta police to bring the issue to notice of Lokayukta Justice P P Naolekar. Justice Naolekar will summon secretary of the department to seek explanation for the inordinate delay, sources said. SPE officials maintain that their hands are tied and they would not be in a position to act against the three before prior sanction, which is mandatory under the Section 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Three employees of corporation, vehicle department in charge Rajeev Lochan Sharma, accountant Anil Prakash Soni and clerk Ramji Choudhary were caught accepting bribe to clear pending bills worth Rs 2 lakh of a travel agency. Rs 5,000, Rs 2,000 and Rs 1,000 were recovered from the three, respectively. Travel operator Hariom Raghuvanshi had filed a complaint with SPE alleging that he had given vehicles to the corporation on contract and some employees were demanding kickbacks to release his outstanding dues, for more than three months. The accused were charged under section 7, 13 (A) (B) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The corporation hired the vehicle for vice-chairman of the corporation. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

40. Tribal girls paraded nude in Betul (6)

BHOPAL: Two tribal women were thrashed, their hairs cut off and were paraded semi-nude across the village by four women allegedly after a panchayat diktat in Betul district on Wednesday. “Both survivors are siblings. One of them married a man who belonged to another community. This irked villagers leading to the incident,” superintendent of police, Betul Sudhir Laad told TOI. The incident took place at Khapadhana village under Chunahazuri panchayat of the district. “The woman in her statement said that a panchayat was held in her village and four women of their village namely Dasto, Shanti, Ramkali and Malti cut their hair and beat them up in public after a panchayat,” Laad told TOI. Two of them, Dasto and Ramkali, held sticks in their hands and the other two, Shanti and Malti, cut their hairs of both the women, Laad said. “Both women were paraded across the village and the four women continued to beat them all through the way,” he said. “Sibling of the woman who married with a member of another community was thrashed because she didn’t inform community members even after knowing what her sister had done,” he said. Both of them have been admitted to the district hospital for treatment. A case has been registered against all four women and the role of panchayat members is also being investigated by the police. “Police team has been sent to the village for arresting the accused and recovering evidence,” Sudhir Laad told TOI. (Times of India 1/5/14)

 

41. NHRC notice to Chhattisgarh government over boycott of tribal families (6)

National Human Rights Commission on Sunday issued notices to Chhattisgarh government and state police in connection with alleged social boycott of two tribal families in Korba district after a village panchayat’s diktat. According to an NHRC statement released on Sunday, notices in this regard were issued to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Chhattisgarh to submit a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The step was taken after the Commission took suo motu cognisance of a media report that two tribal families have been facing social boycott in Dhaurabatha village for the last fourteen months following a diktat of the Ghunghutti Rampur Panchayat in Korba district. “Due to this, nobody talks to them; they are prevented from grazing their cattle; they cannot shop from the shops in the village; and their children cannot go even to Aanganwadi centre,” the statement said. According to the media report, the local police did not take any action in the matter. The Collector and Superintendent of Police of Korba were approached and a police team visited the village on April 15, only to level allegations against the affected families. “Allegedly, a youth accompanying the police team received a sum of Rs 2,000 from the affected families after threatening them,” the statement said. The first family was reportedly subjected to social boycott on February 25, 2013 when on charges of abusing the Sarpanch, it failed to pay the entire fine of Rs 10,000. The other family was made to suffer the same fate when one of its members was seen talking to a member of the socially boycotted family against the diktat of the Panchayat. The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights of the families of these tribal people. (CNN-IBN 4/5/14)

 

42. 3 get jail for raping tribal woman (6)

SURI: Three persons were sentenced to long prison terms by the Birbhum district court on Monday for raping a tribal woman in 2012. Subhradip Mitra, the first additional district and sessions judge, sentenced prime accused Seikh Rintu to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and two others, Seikh Kadam and Seikh Habal, to seven years in jail. On February 26 last year, the woman, a construction worker, was returning home with a mason. When they reached a canal bridge, the three appeared before them, beat up the mason, dragged the woman to a bush and raped her. In a separate case in the same court, 35 persons were found guilty for the murder of one Jainal Abedin who was killed on September 5, 1996, in Parui. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

43. Canacona tribals struggle for drinking water (6)

KERI: Tribals living in the hilly areas of Canacona are struggling these days to get drinking water from springs since their settlements are situated away from the main road. Getting water supply through water tankers has also become cumbersome. In Gaondongrim, Canacona, many of the tribal hamlets are situated on the hilly slopes. In some areas, there are no approachable roads and hence providing drinking water through water tankers is difficult. The tribal Velip community are forest dwellers and since the past, they have been relying mainly on traditional sources of water like springs. Janu Soyaru Velip of Bhupar, 42, who walked almost two kilometers to bring a pitcher full of water from a spring, said “Few areas get drinking water through taps and, that too, only for restricted hours. We have no other way except to bring water from this spring.” “This water source is perennial and provides good quality potable water. The water from a spring oozes out from the forest of indigenous trees and hence we, through tradition, believe that it possesses medicinal value,” he added. Manuk Velip, 80, said “As the spring of Bandhavyale Udak is situated in a remote hilly area, I fetch water for drinking by digging a pit at Gunjikond.” Deeprag Madkaikar, junior engineer at the public works department, Canacona, said “We have made provision of three tankers to provide treated drinking water to people in Gaondongrim. Taking a loaded water tanker in the hilly areas is risky. The department is in the process of providing these areas with water through pipelines.” (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

44. US: India unable to protect minorities (7)

Washington: A US Congressional panel on religious freedom, which was instrumental in the visa ban on Narendra Modi, has said that despite its status as a pluralistic and secular democracy, India has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice to them. In its latest annual report, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom has rued that the US has enforced its law on visa ban on foreign individuals involved in violation of religious freedom only once on Modi and as such it urged the State Department to expand such a visa ban for other individuals who had done the same.(Deccan  Chronicles 2/5/14)

 

45. Violence against minorities on the rise in Pakistan (7)

March was the worst month for attacks on Hindus in 20 years with five temples attacked, up from nine during the whole of 2013, said Life for All, a Pakistani rights group. But it’s not just Hindus who feel victimised. All of Pakistan’s minorities — Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and Shias — feel that the state fails to protect them, and even tolerates violence against them. Many complain the problem has become worse since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is seen as more conservative and indulgent of Islamists than his predecessor, came to power last year. This raises questions about the state’s pledge to rein in the militants who allegedly launch attacks into nuclear armed India and Afghanistan. The neighbours say the militants act with the complicity of Pakistan’s security agencies. Islamabad denies that allegation as absurd. Non-Muslims make up a small fraction of the 180 million people in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the hero of the country’s creation as a haven for the sub-continent’s Muslims, ushered in independence in 1947 with a promise to minorities that they would enjoy freedom of worship and equality without discrimination. But for many members of Pakistan’s minorities those words ring hollow. The US Commission on Religious Freedom said in a recent report that conditions in Pakistan had “hit an all-time low” and governments had failed to adequately protect minorities and arrest perpetrators of crimes against them. “Pakistan is increasingly failing to protect its minorities for two broad reasons: principally, rising religious intolerance and the space ceded to violent ideologies,” said Sherry Rehman, who was a government minister and ambassador to the United States under the previous Pakistani administration. The security establishment has used Islamists for decades, against political opponents at home and to pursue aims in Afghanistan and against old rival India. But some militants, like the Pakistani Taleban, have turned on the state since Pakistan joined the US-led war on militancy. The government launched peace talks with the Taleban in February and rights activists fear that they and other militants have been emboldened by the talks to step up attacks on their minority-group enemies. Activists also say the tolerance of militancy provides cover for opportunist attacks by those who just want to grab land, homes or businesses of minority neighbours under the guise of religion. Hindus and members of other minorities say the situation has worsened since Sharif won an election last year. Whatever the cause of the surge of violence and abuse, many Pakistani Hindus in the richest province of Punjab are feeling beleaguered and increasingly looking to get out. More than 100 families are leaving for India each month, rights groups say. Among those who have gone were Munawar Jee’s brothers and their families after his married sister was kidnapped last year. Her abductors got her certified as a Muslim convert and re-married her off the next day. Recanting Islam would mean she could legally be put to death. “Losing my sister is the biggest regret of my life,” Jee told Reuters at his shoe shop in Punjab’s Rahim Yar Khan district. He said he would soon join his family in India. Hindus say their women are easy targets for rape or forced marriage. Temples are attacked and looted. Accusations of blasphemy, punishable by death, are increasingly being used to drive Hindus from their homes, they say. Punjab, the prime minister’s heartland, had until recently been a refuge for Hindus compared with some other areas. (Khaleej Times 7/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

46. Assam govt mulls arming Muslims in Bodo areas (7)

GUWAHATI: The Assam government on Sunday was thinking of arming Bengali-speaking Muslims in Bodo areas with licensed guns and asked for applications from villagers even as the situation in Kokrajhar and Baksa returned to normal with no reports of fresh violence. However, security forces intensified their operations against National Democratic Front of Boroland militants with three guerrillas killed in two encounters in northern Assam’s Sonitpur and Udalguri districts on Sunday. Police recovered three pistols, two grenades and some incriminating documents from the slain militants. DIG (NR) Subhrajyoti Hazarika confirmed this, saying, “The Sonitpur encounter took place in the morning while the Udalguri incident occurred around 1.15pm on Sunday.” The death toll in the current killings by NDFB(Songbijit) group rose to 34 after two more bodies of Bengali-speaking Muslims were recovered from Beki river in Baksa district. Cops also fired in the air to disperse crowds in Narayanguri in Baksa district as they gathered in protest and refused to bury 18 of those killed on Friday, demanding a visit by chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Hours later, the last rites were performed after the border development minister assured them Gogoi would visit the village once the code of conduct was lifted on May 16. Bengali-speaking Muslims have clashed with Bodos four times in the past, the earliest being in 1952 and the most recent being in 2012 when 105 people from both communities were killed in five days. Assam Police additional director general A P Raut said, “The situation is fast improving. We’ve relaxed curfew in some places today. Tomorrow, we will relax it in Baksa. We have handed over the investigation into the killings to the special task force till NIA probe is cleared by the Centre.” State forest minister Rockybul Hussain said Bengali-speaking Muslim villagers should be given licensed arms by the state government for self defence. “Since the home department in Bodoland Territorial Council area is under the state government, the government can provide licensed arms if anyone applies for it.” National Highway 37, which wore a deserted look over the last four days, saw traffic once again. But Jamiat-e-Ulema (Hind) leader Mahmood Madani, in Guwahati, demanded the Congress government break its links to the Bodoland People’s Front. “People suspect BPF’s hand in these killings and in that case, the Congress should not run the government with them,” Madani said. The police have arrested 26 people so far and five cases have been registered in connection with the violent incidents in BTAD. A relief camp has been established by the Baksa district administration where 498 people from the violence-affected areas under Gobardhana have taken shelter. Protests continued in Barak Valley of Assam. A dawn-to-dusk bandh in Hailakandi district on Sunday disrupted life. Meanwhile, NIA sources said they will discuss the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) violence with the Assam government on Monday. NIA is likely to sit for a detailed discussion with the state home department in Dispur and draw up a strategy to probe the recent violence in BTAD. On Saturday, Gogoi had said the state government was going to hand over the probe into the killing of 32 civilians to the NIA. “We are sending the official letter to the Union home ministry this evening. An NIA team will be discussing the matter with the state government on Monday. The NIA is going to look into the various FIRs registered in the BTAD areas regarding the violence,” said state home commissioner and secretary G D Tripathi. Amnesty International, India, strongly condemned the killing of 32 people in Assam’s Kokrajhar and Baksa districts and termed the act as shameful and displaying contempt for human lives. “Authorities in Assam must take action to protect the rights of all communities and bring those responsible for the attacks to justice,” it demanded. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

47. Vote for ‘secular leaders’ to defeat communal forces: Andhra church body to Christians (7)

While the letter makes it clear that the federation, including its member-churches, is not inclined towards any political party, the message is being seen as a tacit declaration of support for the YSR Congress Party of Jagan Mohan Reddy. A state-level body of bishops and church heads in Andhra Pradesh has asked all Christians to vote for secular leaders in the May 7 polls in Seemandhra, to defeat communal forces. For the first time, the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches has issued such a ‘Pastoral Letter’ urging all its members “to elect leaders who uphold secular and pluralistic character of our nation and promote communal harmony”. While the letter makes it clear that the federation, including its member-churches, is not inclined towards any political party, the message is being seen as a tacit declaration of support for the YSR Congress Party of Jagan Mohan Reddy. Minorities, including a large number of Christians in Andhra, are wary of the TDP-BJP tie-up in the state.The letter would be read on May 4, Sunday, in all the churches in Seemandhra. While the federation had also issued a letter before voting in Telangana on April 30, it only talked about making the “right choice”. “We need to elect leaders who are close to people and respond to their needs; who strive for social justice and equality of the marginalised groups like the tribals and Dalits especially Dalit Christians and protect the rights of the minorities; who are determined to advance an inclusive economy that supports the poor especially to (sic) the unorganized labourers and marginal farmers by ensuring their basic human rights to food, water, shelter, health, education and employment; who strive to ensure the safety and security of women and children and their essential rights to life and livelihood; who lay focus on youth for ensuring their holistic development with character building, critical education and life skills; who make every effort to curb corruption and bring about good governance with peoples’ plans and decentralized, transparent, accountable and responsible administration; and who endeavour to protect the environment with sustainable development and (to) safeguard the rights of Tribal and Local communities over land, water and forests,” the letter says. It adds that the federation considers it its duty to work with people to “effectively contribute to shaping the future of our State and Nation”, and urges voters not to be swayed by money and liquor or considerations of caste, creed and clan. “We are deeply concerned about the pressing needs of our Christian Community in State,” the letter goes on. “Our State records one of the highest numbers of atrocities committed on Christians and pastors. During the recent months these attacks have increased in some districts. Organized mob attacks are taking place on Christians during their worship.” (Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

48. 32 killed in 36 hours by Bodo militants in Assam, curfew imposed (7)

Guwahati: There seems to be no end to the bloodbath in Assam as seven more bodies have been found in Baksa district, taking the total death toll to 32 in the last 36 hours. This comes after suspected Bodoland militants killed at least 23 people in a span of 24 hours in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of lower Assam. Curfew has been clamped in all of Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang, three of the four districts of the Bodoland area, and on contiguous areas in neighbouring districts. The Army has carried out flag marches, and shoot-on-sight orders have been issued in Kokrajhar and Baksa. The state government has accused the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) of carrying out the killings. All the victims are migrant Muslims. The government has denied any connection between the attacks and the Lok Sabha elections. However, one of the three massacres has taken  place in a village that saw violence and the killing of a police constable as Kokrajhar went to polls on April 24. Around 7.30 pm on Thursday, militants shot dead two women and a man of a family in Narsingpara village in the Anandabazar police station area of Baksa district. The victims were identified as Shampa Bewa (55), Sona Miya (35) and Ramisa Khatun (32). Some five hours later, between 12.30 am and 1 am on Friday, four militants armed with at least two AK series rifles opened indiscriminate fire in Balapara village in the Tulsibeel outpost area of Gossaigaon police station in Kokrajhar district. Four women, a man and three children belonging to two Muslim families were killed. Late on Friday evening, 12 bodies were recovered in the villages of Narayanguri and Khagrabari adjoining each other on the fringes of Manas National Park in Baksa district, Assam home secretary G D Tripathi said. At least 10 people were injured, and several homes were reported to be on fire, he said. Tripathi said curfew had been clamped on those police station areas of Dhubri, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Darrang and Sonitpur districts that lay adjacent to the Bodoland districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri. In Baksa district, groups of non-tribals were fleeing on Friday evening for fear of more attacks. “There have been reports of villagers belonging to a particular community leaving their villages seeking safety in adjoining villages in Baksa after the third incident that occurred at Narayanguri and another village,” ADG (Special Branch) Pallab Bhattacharyya said. The attack in Balapara came at a time when most adult males have been staying away from their homes for fear of police, who have been looking for the killers of the constable at the polling booth on April 24. An angry mob set upon the policeman  (Indian Express 3/5/14)

 

49. Assam violence aimed at starting full-fledged communal conflagration: Shinde (7)

New Delhi: With 32 people killed in Assam, the Centre said it is determined to curb attacks on minorities as the violence there was aimed at starting a “full-fledged communal conflagration”. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that in the last few days, there have been wanton acts of depredation leading to death of 32 people, mostly women and children, and of them, 31 belonged to the minority community. “These innocent lives were lost at the hands of cadres of certain group. The objective of this group seems to be aimed at starting a full-fledged communal conflagration,” he said in a statement. Without naming NDFB(S), the Bodo militant group believed to be responsible for the violence, the Home Minister said these acts of violence have started only after the group started steadily losing its cadres either through surrender or elimination during operations when they opened fire on the forces. “The central government cannot remain unaffected by these killings and is determined to ensure the safety and security of innocent human lives. “This determination is all the more important since these incidents are targeted at the minorities,” he said. Strongly condemning the acts of the militant group, Shinde said the Home Ministry has already deployed 43 companies (4300 personnel) of central armed police forces and 10 more companies (1000 personnel) are being sent. He said Ministry of Defence also has deployed 15 columns of the army comprising of approximately 1500 soldiers. These numbers are not fixed and can be increased as per further requirement, he said. “My appeal to all is to maintain calm and quiet as the forces on the ground will definitely control the situation and bring the guilty to justice,” Shinde said. He said the public leaders of both Bodo and minority community must see to it that the situation does not deteriorate. (Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

50. Home Ministry Delayed Communal Violence Bill: Rahman Khan (7)

NEW DELHI: Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan today said the Home Ministry had delayed the controversial Communal Violence Bill which ultimately could not become a law. “From the time I became the Minister I started pursuing that. I met the Home Minister, I met the Home Secretary …. Absolutely they were not keen,” Khan said while interacting with members of Indian Women’s Press Corps here. Asked whether he was holding the Home Ministry responsible for killing the bill, he said, “it was the bureaucratic delay, where if bureaucrats want to delay, they can do it.” He went on to add, “Sometimes, either you call it our weakness or political weakness or minister weakness, we were not able to pursue.” Khan, who became Minority Affairs Minister in 2012 when Sushilkumar Shinde was the Home Minister, was talking about the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill. He said the bill, which was finally approved by the cabinet, could not be passed since the “secular parties” also joined the opposition bandwagon in stalling the bill. “Ultimately we brought a bill, Cabinet approved it and we wanted to introduce. We knew we could not get it passed but still we introduced. But at the last moment the opposition raised that you have no right to introduce the bill because it is interference of the state. Even the secular parties opposed it,” he added. .(Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

51. Sexual harassment at workplace law gets tepid response (8)

BANGALORE: It’s been a year since the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was passed; one of Parliament’s several responses to increasing attacks on women. The act has been described by some as one of the most exacting in the world, especially with regard to the responsibilities it places on employers. To understand what has changed since the act came into being, TOI spoke to a number of people — HR heads, employees, and legal and workplace harassment experts. The findings are mixed. Many of the larger and more progressive companies have taken important steps, but even among them, most are yet to implement measures in the full spirit of the act. The vast majority of business establishments, however, are still trying to figure out what to do. Gaurang Kanth, a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in workplace harassment cases, provides a particularly harsh assessment. He says organizations have “completely failed” in their obligations. “I find more and more sexual harassment cases coming from workplaces.” He points to a teacher’s case against the principal and two other management committee members of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Delhi, and one from a major technology company that he does not wish TOI to name because the case is not yet public. On the contrary, Nirmala Menon, founder of Interweave Consulting, an organization focusing on diversity management and inclusion at the workplace, says there is some visible change. “Companies are far more proactive in addressing issues around workplace harassment. It’s more than putting a check in the box. It’s like fire insurance, and firms realize that there is too much to lose, including the company’s brand equity, besides stringent penalties imposed by law. Companies have put in place stringent polices and set up committees to look at issues,” she says. Some have even asked Interweave to create policy documents and literature in regional languages for the benefit of their housekeeping and administrative staff who may not understand English. Experts agree that most companies have, at best, taken only partial steps in all of these areas. Many rushed to establish internal complaints committees soon after the act was passed. But not many of these committees have, as required by the law, a person from an NGO or association committed to the cause of women. “Companies are mechanically putting together three people from the legal team and one woman employee. They are treating it in a legal mode, rather than in a resolution mode,” says Pankaj Sharma, chief trustee of the non-profit Centre for Transforming India and an expert on workplace sexual harassment issues. He notes that the committee has been bestowed partial powers of a civil court — to take penal action, impose fines. “It’s the first time private entities have been offered such powers. But most companies are yet to define their sexual harassment policies and service rules, what would constitute, for instance, a sexually coloured remark. They have not defined their investigation process. So on what basis will these committees act?” Sharma asks. (Times of India 1/5/14)

 

52. Betul rape accused marries survivor at police station (8)

BHOPAL: This was a marriage where the venue was not a temple, a wedding hall or a village ground, but a police station. The rituals were solemnised under the glare of men in khaki and villagers at Athner police station of Betul district. And the 25-year-old groom, Vinod, a resident of Hidli village, was a rape accused. The bride, a 20-year-old resident of Meda village, had accused him of sexual assault after she became pregnant. Both are distant relatives and were into a relationship for over a year. When Vinod refused to marry her, she rushed to the police. SP Sudhir V Laad said, “The girl came to lodge a complaint of rape against Vinod. It was a case of misunderstanding, which could have ugly ramifications. Soon, residents of two villages reached the police station and both sides agreed to get them married,” Laad said. The wedding was held on April 29. “It was good for the two families and young couple. The issue was sorted out without rancour and ill feeling or the boy would have been booked for rape and sent to jail. The girl, who came to file the complaint was in love with the youth and would have also suffered,” said a police official at Athner police station. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

53. Village eves built paid toilet to end sexual harassment (8)

LUCKNOW: For women in most villages of UP, nature’s call comes with the risk of sexual harassment. This is true especially if the female ventures out unaccompanied. Voice of dissent against the harassment is silenced as dignity of the family is more important than that of the faceless survivor. In Ahmedpur village near Lucknow, women have acknowledged the problem and come up with a solution, a paid toilet complex. It began about a year ago with random discussions on ‘everyday challenges’ of the people. Besides other issues, heads of three self help groups (SHGs) voiced the problem of sanitation emphatically. “Rural women never narrate their predicament, but are ready to share the agony of an anonymous neighbour. Dialogues often ended with the observation that a toilet would ensure their safety,” recalled Charu Shukla of the NGO. In the subsequent meeting, possibility of getting toilets built under the Total Sanitation Campaign was explored. “But the idea was dropped as Ahmedpur is a compact village and houses are small,” recalled Nirmal, the NGO’s community worker. Thereafter, the idea of city-like ‘paid public toilet complex’ came up. While the men didn’t find the idea feasible stating that ‘who spends money for attending nature’s call’, women agreed to take the idea further. “These men don’t face the kind of problems we do. It’s the women who suffer. Men can never understand fully the urgency of the matter,” said Nanhi Devi, leader of an SHG adding that finding open fields was also an issue. “Since the village is located in the Malihabad mango belt, entering an orchard or nearby field during the fruit season invited humiliation and bashing. During monsoons, water-logged fields and snakes posed a challenge,” added Pooja Devi of another self help group. The next step was to find a land to build the toilet complex. After much effort and persuasion, women convinced villager Ram Din to donate some land. Construction began about three months after funds were sanctioned and layout prepared. In January, the complex was ready for use. Anjani Singh, of the funding organisation Plan, informed that the complex had four toilets and two bathrooms each in male and female sections with separate entry. Incinerators have also been installed in the women’s section to facilitate healthy disposal of menstrual waste material. The toilet seats used for the purpose are eco-friendly biodigester toilets which have been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. This means there won’t be hassles of getting septic tanks cleaned periodically. Each family will have to pay Rs 15 per month to be able to use the toilet complex. The villagers have formed a public toilet committee to maintain it and pay for electricity bills. On his part, the village pradhan has deputed a safai worker who would clean the premises of the toilet on a weekly basis. The development is noteworthy as open defecation is rampant in UP. As per a Ministry of Water and Sanitation report, 89% homes had no toilets. Also, toilets in 40% school and 20% anganwadi centers were either defunct, out of use or locked. Community awareness about sanitation is also poor in 40.32% districts in the state. But women in Ahmedpur have proved times are changing. “Building toilets is not only about dignity, it’s also about ensuring safety,” said Amit Mehrotra, head of programmes, Unicef, UP. The extraordinary effort has created a ripple. “Women in the neighboring villages have begun a discussion too and some of them even came to take a look at the toilet. I’m sure, if they get a chance, they would embrace the change,” believes Nirmal. (Times of India 4/5/14)

 

54. Nepalese man ‘sets pregnant wife on fire in dowry demand’ (8)

Kathmandu: Nepalese police were searching for a husband and his parents after they allegedly set his pregnant wife on fire in a demand for dowry, an officer said Tuesday. Police accuse Farid Sheikh and his parents of pouring kerosene over the 25-year-old woman, who was seven months pregnant, in an attempt to extort a motorbike and water buffalo from her family. “When the incident happened about a month ago, they took her to India for treatment, saying it was an accident,” police official Prem Basnyat told AFP. After her health worsened and she suffered a miscarriage, her father found out and urged police to file a criminal case against the husband’s family in Banke district, western Nepal. “We recorded her statement yesterday, but her husband and in-laws have vanished. We are searching for them,” Basnyat told AFP. A local human rights group said it brought the woman to a Kathmandu hospital on Monday where she remains in a critical condition, with her entire lower body wrapped in bandages. The woman has recounted how her husband “assaulted her regularly, saying that she did not bring… dowry. She added that he burnt her private parts with cigarettes,” the Informal Sector Service Centre rights group said in a statement. Nepalese activists have long called for tougher punishments against perpetrators of dowry-related violence. They say the tradition in Nepal, India and other countries — where gifts and payments are given to a husband and his family so that a marriage can take place — is still widely practised, despite an official ban. (Zee News 6/5/14)

 

55. India has highest number of maternal deaths (8)

India accounts for the maximum number of maternal deaths in the world — 17 per cent or nearly 50,000 of the 2.89 lakh women who died as a result of complications due to pregnancy or childbearing in 2013. Nigeria is second with nearly 40,000, stated the UN report on maternal deaths released on Tuesday. In contrast, China — with the largest population in the world — reported 5,900 maternal deaths in 2013 mainly due to its “one-child policy”, the report added. According to the UN report, maternal deaths have witnessed 45 per cent drop globally since 1990 — from 5.2 lakh in 1990 to 2.89 lakh in 2013. Only Sub-Saharan Africa region poses a high risk with 1.79 lakh maternal deaths in 2013, followed by Chad and Somalia. Despite India progressing noticeably in curbing the maternal mortality rate (MMR) — 65 per cent drop reported since 1990 — the country is lagging behind the UN-mandated Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of bringing a 75 per cent decline in the MMR till 2015. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that India’s MMR, which was 560 in 1990, reduced to 178 in 2010-2012. However, as per the MDG mandate, India needs to reduce its MMR further down to 103. Though India’s MMR is reducing at an average of 4.5 per cent annually, it has to bring down the MMR at the annual rate of 5.5% to meet the Millennium Development Goal. “Literacy and social issues are major factors that have led to high maternal deaths. Girls are married at a young age and they have little knowledge about early pregnancy,” said eminent gynaecologist Dr Nandita Palshetkar. As per the report, there were 320 AIDS-related indirect maternal deaths in India in 2013. “I believe postpartum hemorrhage (loss of blood after delivery), malaria and dengue can lead to severe conditions. If diabetes is controlled, it cannot lead to maternal deaths. We have approached the government to fund us so that we can train para-medics about timely treatment,” said Dr Suchitra Pandit, president of Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India. According to Pandit, the situation is worse in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and certain belts of Rajasthan. “The overall MMR has declined, but due to few states, we are not able to achieve the two-digit figure in MMR,” she said. “With National Urban Health Mission, we are hoping that women in slums will receive better healthcare. Also there is Janani Suraksha Yojana under which women are encouraged to visit hospitals to get monetary benefit,” Pandit said. According to Dr Lale Say of WHO, the major challenge faced by India is lack of accurate information about births and deaths, particularly when women give birth at home. (Times of India 7/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

56. Vizhinjam: NGT to Consider Petitions (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) will on Friday take up the petitions filed before it seeking the withdrawal of environmental clearance given to the Vizhinjam seaport project. Initially, three persons belonging to Thiruvananthapuram had filed a petition alleging that the project would destroy the biodiversity of the coast. According to the petitioners – A Joseph Vijayan, Christopher and Michael – adequate studies were not conducted on the multi-crore port project’s impact on the coast. It is understood that a few other petitions too have been filed subsequently before the Tribunal in Chennai. The Tribunal had also served notices on the State Govt, the Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd and the State Pollution Control Board on said petitions. While giving environment clearance to the project in Dec last year, the MoEF had said that objections could be filed before the Green Tribunal. The Bench in Chennai had originally posted the case for April 25 but postponed it to May 2. Five entities have been shortlisted by Govt for construction and operation of the proposed port- Adani Group, Gammon Infrastructure Projects Ltd, a consortium of Hyundai and Concast Infratech Ltd, ESSAR Ports and a consortium of Srei Infrastructure and OHL.  ENS (New Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

57. Govt commissions studies on greenhouse gas emissions (9)

New Delhi: In the run-up to the global climate agreement, the government has commissioned studies to project the future greenhouse gas emissions of the country and the legal architecture of the global agreement that India should advocate at the UN climate negotiations. These two are to be followed up with a third, which would look at the manner in which the principle of equity can be operationalised in the new global agreement. A new global pact for reducing emissions is to be signed between more than 190 countries under the existing UN climate change convention by 2015. Negotiations on a draft text for it are to begin at the end of this year though hectic initial parleys under the UN and other forums have been taking place through the year. The three studies are meant to help India decide its negotiating stance for these negotiations. India is required to also commit to an emission reduction target. It so far has committed to deliver a 20-25 per cent reduction in the emission intensity of the economy by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. The study on greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, which is closely linked to the state of economy and energy matrix, has been commissioned to a group of three institutes – The Energy Research Institute, Integrated Research and Action for Development and Institute of Economic Growth. This is supposed to yield three packets of results for the government from each of the think tanks based on their different projection models. The study on the legal form of the 2015 agreement has been commissioned to the National Law School, Bangalore. “Results of both these studies are expected by the end of the year,” a senior official in the government told Business Standard. “We shall use these as a base for our decisions and submission of our nationally determined target in March 2015,” he added. Besides these, the long-pending Low Carbon Growth study headed by Kirit Parikh and commissioned by the Planning Commission has submitted the final to the Planning Commission and is expected to be put in public domain after the last day of voting for Parliament. The report was expected to provide detailed costing for any emission reduction actions. The environment minister in the new government is likely to see heavy workload on the climate front with formal UN negotiations for the new agreement slated in June and a series of bilateral and plurilateral meetings also on the slate. A meeting hosted by the US, called the Major Economies Forum, is to be held in May. The US has been pushing for its initiative for all the big economies to take a 30 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 from the building sector, which India and other large developing economies have so far opposed, concerned that it breaches the firewall between developing and developed countries and takes the onus away from the rule-based formal UN negotiations. The United Nations secretary general has also called for a meeting of the heads of states in September in the hope of securing pledges for emission reduction and finance at the summit rather than awaiting the process at the formal UN talks. This has not gone down well with countries such as Brazil, China and India and other large developing economies, again for delinking the relation between support and finance from developed countries for the climate controlling actions that developing countries take. A third round of formal UN talks before the first draft text of the new agreement is put together is also expected in September. Besides this, the environment minister would be expected to participate in quarterly meetings of the two key blocs of countries India is a member of, the BASIC which also includes China, Brazil and South Africa and the like-minded developing countries, that includes China, Indonesia, Malaysia and other large economies coupled with countries such as Philippines, Sudan and others… (Business Standard 3/5/14)

 

58. Almost half of Delhi lacks proper drainage system (9)

New Delhi: About 46% of Delhi, where nearly 4.5 million people live, has no sewerage system. In these areas, filth flows freely through stormwater drains, an expert committee formed by the National Green Tribunal has said in its report. Since these drains are outside Delhi’s sewerage network, the untreated waste enters the Yamuna. And because of the sewage, these drains are lined and covered, which is a violation of laws and can cause flooding. This also hampers recycling of millions of litres of stormwater and destroys peripheral greenery and biodiversity. The panel says a round 9,500km of sewer line is to be laid in these parts at a massive cost of Rs. 19,500 crore. “Even if the government allocates Rs. 1,000 crore every year, the problem will end only in 20 years,” the report says. However, by that time there would be cost escalation and greater sewage pressure owing to population growth. Prof AK Gosain of IIT-Delhi, one of the panel members, has also questioned the Delhi government’s ambitious Rs. 2,454crore project to intercept sewage before it flows into the Yamuna from three major drains. “A majority of natural drains which are supposed to carry storm water will remain polluted even then. First, we must make sure that storm water drains and those carrying sewage are independent of each other,” he said in the report. Gosain is also leading a team which is currently preparing a drainage master plan for Delhi. “Why can’t the city managers try to solve the problem on a war footing? If this city could find Rs. 80,000 crore in the name of national prestige to host a 10-day sporting event (read Commonwealth Games), then MANOJ MISRA, petitioner what prevents it from finding around Rs. 20,000 crore for a total and efficient sewerage network in the nation’s capital city?” said Manoj Misra, petitioner in the current NGT case. Misra said, “Let the city managers set a five-year target of total sewerage coverage in the city. Because any longer period target is not only going to escalate cost but also the enormity of the problem.” The committee, which, apart from Gosain, only has government officials, has failed to fix a fine for those polluting these drains. The NGT had asked it to quantify what should be levied on polluters. “The authorities had found the existing fines inadequate to prevent abuse of storm water drains. Why the report did not quantify the fine is beyond our comprehension,” said Misra. (Hindustan Times 4/5/14)

 

59. Take the Best From Reports to Save Ghats’(9)

BANGALORE: After the Gadgil Report was rejected by the Centre as well as states concerned, now the Kasturirangan report too has been laid to rest. But both the reports can be reconciled and some kind of consensus arrived at in the interest of the ecology and biodiversity of the Ghats, says ecology expert and one of the authors of the Gadgil report, Raman Sukumar.  Speaking on ‘Confusion over Conservation in the Western Ghats’ on Saturday, Raman Sukumar from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, said, “A lot of deliberate scare-mongering about the Gadgil report took place and it was believed that no development or construction could take place in the Ghats if the report was implemented.” He said the main differences in both the reports were about the area that comprised the Ecologically Sensitive Zones in the Ghats. The Kasturirangan report says it’s 37 per cent and clearly demarcates it through villages according to space imagery whereas the Gadgil report had divided the areas according to ground experiences. The former also divided the areas into Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1, 2 and 3, depending on the attention they would need. Sukumar said states like Goa and Karnataka have decided to allow mining. “If Kudremukh mining was continued, it would have sliced the mountains,” he said. He said, essentially the Gadgil report was about banning genetically modified crops, phasing out plastics, treatment of waste and introducing incentive payments as conservation service charges for forestry on private lands. Sukumar also said that human settlements have been in the Ghats for 12,000 years. So, ecology and biodiversity can still be preserved as a participatory exercise. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

60. Education Department Blamed for Low Intake (11)

CHENNAI: Activists on Wednesday blamed the Education Department for a large number of seats in entry-level classes of private schools going vacant under quota for the disadvantaged groups. In a circular sent by the Department of Matriculation to all schools under it in April, it was pointed out that about 60 per cent of the seats under the quota remained vacant last year. The circular said that out of the 58,619 seats in 3,550 schools in the State, only 23,248 seats were filled last year. The number of schools who participated in the process was as low as 2,600. “If the seats are to be filled then the department must undertake regular monitoring of schools and spread awareness. Parents from the students of deserving communities do not get any information about the process. The department has also been denying any information on these 25 per cent seats even in RTIs,” said P Joseph Victor Raj of The Campaign Against Child Labour – Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. With over a month since the deadline to submit details on the seats lapsed, the Education Department is yet to follow-up. CBSE schools, however, claim to have submitted details on the intake capacity. “The submission process was started in March itself. Hence there is no delay in CBSE schools,” said Ajeeth Prasad Jain, secretary of Chennai Sahodaya School Complex for CBSE schools. (New Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

61. ’40 Percent of Govt Schools Shun RTE Norms’ (11)

CHENNAI: A study has revealed that 40 per cent of government elementary and middle schools do not adhere to the RTE Act norms. The survey conducted by Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory to check for discrepancies between the norms in the RTE Act and its actual situation in the government schools studied about 635 government elementary and middle schools in 15 districts in the State. “In our study, we found that only 60 per cent of these schools adhere to norms. There are schools which do not have adequate number of teachers,” said K Shanmugavelayutham, convener, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory. “In Krishnagiri district alone, 40 per cent of schools do not follow the RTE norm of 1:35 student teacher ratio,” he added. The study, which involved other parameters, revealed that close to 30 per cent of schools did not have separate toilets for boys and girls. The study, in one of its indicators on the availability of classrooms and teachers in proportion to number of students, found that though over 83 per cent of schools adhered to 1:35 students-teacher ratio as stipulated in the Act and about 74 per cent of schools had only 1 to 4 classrooms. Over 18 per cent of schools had about 5 to 8 classrooms. The study findings revealed that about 42 per cent of the school buildings visited during the survey during August to October, 2013 were not in a good condition. Over 36 per cent schools do not have a playground. The study conducted in 15 districts including Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Dharmapuri, Nilgiris and Kanyakumari aimed at making recommendations to the State to adhere to the norms of the RTE Act found that 37.2 per cent of these schools did not have library facility. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

62. Maharashtra education department ropes in British Council, IIT (11)

PUNE: The state education department has launched four skill enhancement courses for school teachers in English language, maths, science and learning outcomes. The first batch of English language teachers was trained last year while training of other teachers would be undertaken soon. State education secretary, Ashwini Bhide met education officials including S Chockalingam, education commissioner as well as Mahavir Mane, state director of education and other heads to review the training. Chockalingam said various schemes that the education department has in collaboration with external agencies were being reviewed and the implementation was decided. “We have four courses with external agencies which include two with British Council, one with Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and one with Accenture Private Limited.” British Council will deal with improving the teaching of English language in the state. In both cases, master trainers have been trained by the council and they teach the other teachers in their cluster. “The feedback was good. We are looking at assessment now,” said Chockalingam. The tie-up with the IIT is to increase the level of understanding of mathematics in students. “Instead of teaching master trainers, we may ask experts to teach directly through video conferencing,” said Chockalingam. The third programme is for leadership development of officers and headmasters in the districts that have high dropout rates. “We have identified about 10 districts with a high dropout rate and we want to train the officials in leadership skills to reduce it. We have tied up with Accenture for learning outcomes to understand where we are lagging in terms of quality.” (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

63. SC: Govt can’t impose mother tongue as instruction medium in primary classes (11)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a government cannot impose a language, including the mother tongue, as the only medium of instruction for primary education. A five-judge constitution bench held that imposition of a language by the state government affects the fundamental rights of the parents and the children, who are authorised to decide on their mother tongue. “The right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution includes the freedom of a child to be educated at the primary stage of school in a language of the choice of the child and the state cannot impose controls on such choice just because it thinks that it will be more beneficial for the child if he is taught in the primary stage of school in his mother tongue,” held Justice A K Patnaik, author of the judgment. “We, therefore, hold that a child. or on his behalf his parent or guardian, has a right to freedom of choice with regard to the medium of instruction in which he would like to be educated at the primary stage in school. Imposing other restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression will be harmful to the development of the personality of the individual citizen and will not be in the larger interest of the nation,” said the court. The court said though experts may opine that children studying in primary classes could learn better if they were taught in their mother tongue, the state cannot stipulate it as a pre-condition for granting recognition to aided schools as well as private unaided schools. Such a compulsion, the bench said, also violates the fundamental right of the minority and private unaided schools to carry on any occupation under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. “The right to establish and administer an educational institution will include the right of a citizen to establish a school for imparting education in a medium of instruction of his choice,” it added. The court further held that even a linguistic minority institution cannot be compelled to adopt a particular language as the sole medium of instruction since their right to choice would empower them to take steps in the interests of such minority groups. “We accordingly hold that the state has no power under Article 350A of the Constitution to compel the linguistic minorities to choose their mother tongue only as a medium of instruction in primary schools,” it said. The court was deciding a bunch of petitions, arising out of a notification by the Karnataka government which sought to make Kannada the sole medium of instruction in primary schools across the state. The SC upheld the state high court order which had held the exercise to be untenable in law, but laid (Indian Express 6/5/14)

 

64. 25 pc reservation for minority institutions invalid under RTE act: SC (11)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that minority institutions were outside the ambit of the Right To Education (RTE) Act and they cannot be hence obligated to reserve 25 per cent seats for students from socially and economically weaker sections of the society. The court, however, upheld the constitutional validity of the social welfare legislation enacted with Constitutional amendments which places an obligation on unaided private schools to reserve 25 per cent seats for such wards. A constitution bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha upheld the validity of Articles 15(5) and 21A, by virtue of which unaided private schools are also obligated to reserve 25 per cent seats for students from weaker sections. It, however, clarified that minority institutions could not be asked to do so since the Act did not operate on them in this respect. The bunch of petitions by the Karnataka-based institutions have contended that a three-judge bench ruling on the validity of the RTE Act did not deal with the constitutional validity of these provisions in its April 2012 verdict. In 2012 verdict, a three-judge Bench, by a 2:1 majority verdict, had shot down a challenge to the validity of the RTE, consequently obligating private unaided schools to reserve seats. The dissenting judgement by Justice K S Radhakrishnan however had held that the mandate under the RTE Act providing for reservation of seats was not constitutionally valid, and thus the unaided schools, whether majority or minority, could not be compelled to earmark 25 per cent seats in their institutions. He said that such quota in respect of the unaided non-minority and minority institutions, and held that it can be given effect to “only on the principles of voluntariness, autonomy and consensus and not on compulsion or threat of non-recognition or non-affiliation.” Later, appearing for Pramati Educational and Cultural Trust and others, advocate Mukul Rohatgi had also referred to an order of SC on September 6, 2010 whereby the issue was referred for adjudication to a five-judge Constitution Bench. “Therefore the three-judge Bench heard other issues and did not adjudicate at all on validity of Articles 15(5) and 21A. It was never argued upon if these are violative of the basic structure of the Constitution. Can you put an obligation on private unaided schools by application of these provisions? It remains to be decided,” Rohatgi had argued, following which the issue was referred to the constitution bench. (Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

65. 1 killed and 14 injured after twin blasts hit train at Chennai station (12)

Chennai: A 24-Year-old woman software engineer was killed and 14 people injured when two low-intensity bombs went off in quick succession in two coaches (S4, S5) of the Bangalore-Guwahati superfast express train at the Chennai Central railway station on Thursday morning. Officials said all the injured, including two who underwent surgery, are in a “stable” condition. The train was running an hour-and-a-half late when it pulled into platform 9 at Chennai Central at 7.05 am. The first blast occurred about 10 minutes later. It was followed by a second blast just minutes after, triggering panic among the passengers. (Indian Express 1/5/14)

 

66. Militants open fire in Assam’s Kokrajhar, 7 killed (12)

Dispur: Seven civilians were killed after suspected militants opened fire in Assam’s Kokrajhar district on late Thursday night, a report said on Friday. National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) militants are suspected to be behind the attack. The incident took place at Balapara in Kokrajhar district. The Army and police have launched a massive combing operation to flush out the militants. Kokrajhar district had witnessed large-scale ethnic violence between Bodos and non-Bodos two years ago. More details are awaited. (Zee News 2/5/14)

 

67. CB-CID Grills IM Operative Caught by Rajasthan Cops (12)

CHENNAI: The Indian Mujahideen (IM) member, Ashraf Ali, who was arrested by Rajasthan Police with the help of the local police was grilled by the CB-CID sleuths from Chennai with regard to the twin blasts here. Sources said that Ashraf Ali was wanted in the blasts carried out in Jaipur, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi and was picked up while he was coming out of a Mosque at Parangipet in Cuddalore on the day the twin blasts occurred. Based on CB-CID’s request, the Rajasthan Police handed over Ashraf Ali for a few hours during which the agency got valuable information as to how the banned outfit had been operating in the State and who were funding the agency. However, Ashraf Ali appeared to have no knowledge about the Chennai blasts. Meanwhile, two suspects who were handed over to the CB-CID team at Bangalore by the Central Agencies are being grilled by the State team. Though it has been established that they did not have any direct role in the blasts, the duo reportedly have some valuable information regarding the blasts. The duo is still in custody of the CB-CID who were proceeding with the investigation. The team was simultaneously sifting through the CCTV footages obtained from the Bangalore railway station. Another suspect who had covered his face had also flared up in the review and the identity of that person was in question. On Friday night, CB-CID announced that they were looking for a bald-man on trot leaving coach S3 soon after the train reached the station for verification to find out what his rush was for. There are some similarities between this man and the person who had hidden his face before boarding the train at Bangalore. Doctors from the forensic lab, MMC, carried out a spot study to ascertain how the blast could have injured the patients that they have been treating at GH. They are expected to submit a report to the CB-CID based on which the CB-CID investigating officer will record the manner of the blast. Meanwhile, as many as eight of the 14 injured in the blasts were discharged from hospital while six who require surgeries to be performed are under treatment. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

68. Tamil Nadu train blast dry run for strikes in southern India? (12)

NEW DELHI: Pakistan could be reviving cross-border terrorism in India. Indian security sources say smaller jihadi groups in different parts of India, particularly southern India, are being “activated” with funds and material to work at short notice. In fact, the blasts in a train in Chennai last week were interpreted by many in the Indian system as a “dry run”. The intensity of the blasts was not enough to cause great damage but it could be practice for a later event. In Pakistan, they point to the reappearance of Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a sign that groups like his have official sanction to start operations again. “It appears to be a situation where Pakistan is keeping its powder dry, waiting to see how Indian politics turns out in the coming months,” said a source. On the border, ceasefire violations are becoming routine as summer sets in, generally considered to be high terror activity time, especially in the months until September. With Pakistani home minister Nisar Ali Khan declaring that Narendra Modi would destabilize the region and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif appropriating Kashmir as Pakistan’s “jugular vein”, the Indian security establishment is interpreting these as signs that things could get hot again. What is clear is that Indians are being used to commit attacks, keeping the tag of “homegrown terror” alive, to maintain plausible deniability by Pakistan. Their real fear seems to be centred on what happens if a terror attack takes place in the immediate aftermath of the elections. If, as is widely expected, the new government is headed by Modi, it could become a difficult situation. As Sushant Sareen of IDSA said, “It could put Modi in a commitment trap.” It would be particularly difficult at a time when a new government has not yet had time to settle down, but there would be the euphoria of a victory, with a resultant pressure to retaliate. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

69. Eight Maoists surrender in Koraput (12)

BERHAMPUR: Eight Maoist militias from Narayanpatna block in Koraput district of south Odisha surrendered before police on Thursday. The surrender took place in the presence of Inspector General of Police (IGP) south-western range Yashwant Jethwa, Inspector General (IG) of Border Security Force (BF) A.K.Sharma and Koraput Superintendent of Police (SP) Awinash Kumar. Five of the surrendered Maoists were from Dumsil village and three others were from Basanaput village. Both these villages under Narayanpatna police station were considered Maoist strongholds. The surrender is considered a major set back for the Maoists as all these eight as they were key cadres of Maoist organisation in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks. Those who surrendered were Ladda Nachika, Kayu Nachika, Rajeya Kendruka, Rameya Kendruka, Kesari Kenduka from Dumsil village and Rabi Huluka, Sekaru Huluka, Siu Huluka from Basanaput village. All of them joined the Maoist movement via the controversial tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) which is active in Narayanpatna area. They had joined the CMAS in 2009 and later become members of Koraput Divisional Committee under the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of outlawed CPI (Maoist) organisation, said Mr. Jethwa. After their surrender, the Maoists expressed that they had realised the futility of violent path of Maoists. They also added hat they had got frustrated by the anti-tribal and anti-development activities of naxalite leaders from Andhra Pradesh who rule the organisation in their area. It was also felt that death of their close associate Purna Huluka in an exchange of fire with security forces in side Palaput-Gadraguda jungle under Narayanpatna police station limits on Apr 13 was also catalyst behind their surrender. Two days back a hardcore female Maoist Tulsi Mandingi alias Jirmai, who was active in Narayanpatna area had also surrendered in Koraput district. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

70. Naxals worried over impressive voter turnout in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: The unprecedented voter turnout in Lok Sabha polls in insurgency-hit south Chhattisgarh has apparently upset the Naxals, who are holding meetings to express disappointment over participation of tribals in the electoral process, according to Intelligence inputs. Some key leaders of outlawed CPI(Maoist) in Dandakaranya region recently held meetings in areas where they found huge participation of people in polling inspite of their poll boycott call and asked villagers about it, IB sources said. “In some pockets of Bastar, Dantewada, Kondagaon and Narayanpur, Naxal leaders reportedly held meetings with villagers recently after the Lok Sabha election in Bastar constituency,” a senior state IB official told PTI on condition of anonymity. “However, police couldn’t go deep enough to check the reason behind their meetings at several places. As per the informers, the Naxals were enquiring how voting was recorded high in the region despite their intense poll boycott call,” the official said. The two worst Maoist-hit Lok Sabha seats – Bastar and Kanker – recorded 59.40% and 70.29% voting respectively in the last month’s three-phased Parliamentary polls in the state. Bastar went to polls on April 10 while voting took place in Kanker on April 17. In the 2009 general elections, Bastar and Kanker seats had witnessed voter turnout of 47.33 and 57.20% respectively. Also, over 70% voters exercised their franchise in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas of the state during last year’s Assembly polls. According to the informers, Naxals were asking the tribals why they took part in election. (Business Standard 2/5/14)

 

71. Chhattisgarh accounts for 31% Maoist violence (12)

RAIPUR: The union home ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to strengthen its intelligence set up and galvanise its task force for their optimal utilisation in conducting anti Naxal operations in the state. The ministry also asked the DRDO to operationalize the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) airfield at Nandini, Bhilai. At a recent high-level meeting, to review the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in the country, held under the Chairmanship of Union Home Secretary, it was observed that basic policing in the Naxal affected areas of the state also need to be strengthened. The state was also directed to expedite construction of fortified police states in the affected areas. The meeting, which reviewed the incidents of LWE violence in the affected states in 2013, observed that Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh remain the worst affected states followed by Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. As per the data presented in the meeting 80% of LWE violence remained confined to 23 districts, with Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada topping the list of the 10 worst affected districts. Incidentally, Chhattisgarh accounted for 31% of the total LWE violence in the country in 2013. It may be recalled that Naxals had brutally massacred almost the entire top leadership of the Congress in an attack in Sukma on May 25 last. Those 28 people killed included VC Shukla, Mahendra Karma (founder of Salwa Judum) and state party president, Nand Kumar Patel, and his son, Dinesh. Even this year, Sukma witnessed a bloody massacre of poll officials and security personnel a day after the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 12. According to information provided at the meeting by the IB Director, there is a huge presence of Naxal cadres on the Chhattisgarh-Odisha border. He advised both the state government’s to conduct joint operations in the border areas and advocated for strict compliance of standard operation procedures (SOPs) by both the state polices and central forces deployed there. While advising all the states to be on a “maximum alert”, the Home Ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to closely monitor the training in the Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorist (CIAT) schools. The state government was also directed to finalise locations for Army training ranges within four weeks. The home ministry has also directed the Chhattisgarh government to immediately fill the near 8000 vacancies in the police force. These vacancies include 5000 jawans, 26 additional SPs, 192 DSPs, 982 SI/ASI and 1,362 head constables. The state government was also directed to immediately provide “critical infrastructure” for housing of central forces in the naxal affected areas. These included construction of 107 barracks on priority. The meeting also took stalk of health and educational infrastructure in the Naxal affected areas and directed the Chhattisgarh government to ensure posting of doctors and paramedical staff in the 30 primary health centres in LWE areas of the state. The state government was also directed of foll vacancies of all teachers in these areas within six months. The government was also directed to expedite the tendering process for construction of 512 kms of roads in the LWE area, besides completing on going work on 850 kms. The meeting was held last month and was attended by DGPS and Chief Secretaries of the affected states, officials from the Army, NSA, CRPF, and IB, besides those from the Home Ministry. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

72. Chhattisgarh accounts for 31% Maoist violence (12)

RAIPUR: The union home ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to strengthen its intelligence set up and galvanise its task force for their optimal utilisation in conducting anti Naxal operations in the state. The ministry also asked the DRDO to operationalize the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) airfield at Nandini, Bhilai. At a recent high-level meeting, to review the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in the country, held under the Chairmanship of Union Home Secretary, it was observed that basic policing in the Naxal affected areas of the state also need to be strengthened. The state was also directed to expedite construction of fortified police states in the affected areas. The meeting, which reviewed the incidents of LWE violence in the affected states in 2013, observed that Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh remain the worst affected states followed by Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. As per the data presented in the meeting 80% of LWE violence remained confined to 23 districts, with Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada topping the list of the 10 worst affected districts. Incidentally, Chhattisgarh accounted for 31% of the total LWE violence in the country in 2013. It may be recalled that Naxals had brutally massacred almost the entire top leadership of the Congress in an attack in Sukma on May 25 last. Those 28 people killed included VC Shukla, Mahendra Karma (founder of Salwa Judum) and state party president, Nand Kumar Patel, and his son, Dinesh. Even this year, Sukma witnessed a bloody massacre of poll officials and security personnel a day after the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 12. According to information provided at the meeting by the IB Director, there is a huge presence of Naxal cadres on the Chhattisgarh-Odisha border. He advised both the state government’s to conduct joint operations in the border areas and advocated for strict compliance of standard operation procedures (SOPs) by both the state polices and central forces deployed there. While advising all the states to be on a “maximum alert”, the Home Ministry has asked the Chhattisgarh government to closely monitor the training in the Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorist (CIAT) schools. The state government was also directed to finalise locations for Army training ranges within four weeks. The home ministry has also directed the Chhattisgarh government to immediately fill the near 8000 vacancies in the police force. These vacancies include 5000 jawans, 26 additional SPs, 192 DSPs, 982 SI/ASI and 1,362 head constables. The state government was also directed to immediately provide “critical infrastructure” for housing of central forces in the naxal affected areas. These included construction of 107 barracks on priority. The meeting also took stalk of health and educational infrastructure in the Naxal affected areas and directed the Chhattisgarh government to ensure posting of doctors and paramedical staff in the 30 primary health centres in LWE areas of the state. The state government was also directed of foll vacancies of all teachers in these areas within six months. The government was also directed to expedite the tendering process for construction of 512 kms of roads in the LWE area, besides completing on going work on 850 kms. The meeting was held last month and was attended by DGPS and Chief Secretaries of the affected states, officials from the Army, NSA, CRPF, and IB, besides those from the Home Ministry. (Indian Express 5/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

73. Lanka Not a Peaceful Home for Tamils, Say Refugees (13)

RAMESWARAM: For 33-year-old Thayapararaja, an engineer from Kilinochchi, hopes of a peaceful life and better education for his children have dashed as his family had constantly been on the run from the Lankan Army and police. Thayapararaja was among the 10 Sri Lankan refugees, including five children, who reached Arichalmunai near Dhanuskodi, early on Monday. They were later booked under the Foreigners Act for not possessing valid documents to enter India. Another refugee, Dhavendran (34), a driver from Mullaitivu district, said that the Lankan army would storm houses of Tamils any time and take them to camps. The fate of many such innocents was not known, he said. Dhavendran was living with his wife Lakshani and three kids. He said that the army had been taking away Tamils from their houses on suspicion, since 2010. Dhavendran’s brother-in-law Karthipan had been detained in Poosa jail. He was then shifted to a rehabilitation camp six months ago without any reason. At the end of the civil war in 2009, contrary to the popular belief that peace had returned to Lanka and Tamils were leading a normal life, several Lankan Tamil youngsters had been thrown into camps and jails, he said. Thayapararaja said that he was working as an assistant lecturer in Peradeniya University from 2001-2005. The Lankan army had detained him twice and kept him in a navy camp and a prison for two years. Thereafter he had tried to move to Australia along with his family. However,  the police tried to arrest him. He then kept on moving to various places including Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavunya and Jaffna with his family. Finally Thayapararaja took a decision to seek shelter in India and gave Rs 50,000 to a boat crew so that his family could board from Mannar, he said. He had been struggling for two hours in knee-deep water before reaching the Mandapam refugee camp. However, he was not aware that any person who reached the mainland from Sri Lanka would be booked under the Foreigners Act. Similarly, Sudhakaran (35) of Muraipu village near Mullaitivu, a van driver, who served as a food supplier in the LTTE from 1996 to 2005 and tried to escape, was detained by LTTE cadre and punished for three months. Sudhakaran said that the Lankan army would not allow Tamils to live peacefully and there was no security for them in that country. Though India had extended assistance for the rehabilitation of Lankan Tamils, the funds have not been fully utilised. The Lankan Navy detained him in 2008 and released him after three years, after which he was arrested by the police and incarcerated for six months, he said. However, even after his release, he was still chased by the police. He then gave `1.2 lakh to the crew and reached Arichalmunai later. Seven others, who tried to escape from Sri Lanka in a boat were detained by the SL Navy and taken back to the country, he said. Intelligence Wing personnel conducted an inquiry with them at the Dhanuskodi police station and booked them under the Foreigners Act, Superintendent of Police Mylvahanan told ‘Express’. The arrested refugees from the island nation would be produced before a court here, the SP added. (New Indian Express 3/5/14)

 

74. Despite poverty, Assamese migrants feel safer in U.P. (13)

Lucknow: On April 16, Feroz endured a 36-hour train journey from Lucknow to reach his village in Barpeta district in Assam. Eight days later, he went to the Chenga polling booth in his village, Radhakuchi Habi, and cast his vote. He returned to the Uttar Pradesh capital a few days later. The entire trip cost Feroz around Rs.10,000. Despite his meagre earnings, Feroz travels from Lucknow to Assam to vote in every election. Ali feared, as always, the possibility of attacks by Bodo militants as the train passed Kokrajhar, a two-hour drive from Barpeta. “The Bodos not only burn our homes, they also attack trains and rob people. They kill us without any hesitation. We breathe a sigh of relief when we reach home,” says Feroz. Amid the unfolding of fresh ethnic violence in Assam, migrants from the State living in Lucknoware anxious about the safety of their relatives back home. Their only source of accurate information is the television. “It’s only a matter of time before the violence spreads to other districts,” says Feroz, who is seated in a small thatched hut on the outskirts of Lucknow. He lives with his wife, four sons and a daughter. The violence in Assam, though alarming, is remote. Abject poverty and the terror of floods caused by the Brahmaputra has, over the years, forced thousands of Assamese to migrate to other parts of the country. Around 40,000 Assamese migrants live in the U.P. capital. The Assamese started arriving in Lucknow three decades ago. Their migration peaked as the Bodoland movement caught fire, says Roli Misra, an academic with extensive field experience on the migrants’ issues. In Lucknow, most of the migrants live in squalor. The majority of these migrants pick waste for a living. But their deepest hurt comes when they are tagged as “Bangladeshis” despite carrying valid identity cards. It is the concern that his name might be removed from the voters’ list — virtually a loss of identity and cause for persecution — that drives Feroz to vote without fail. “If I miss the vote at home, I fear they will chop my name off the voter list. Then I will have no home, no identity. Here we are always suspected to be Bangladeshis,” he says. Their physical and linguistic resemblance to Bangladeshis makes these migrants easy targets of police harassment. “The society still views us with suspicion. We fear that if we ever get reprimanded, our identities will be used to persecute us,” says Feroz’s son Ali (name changed), who is struggling with his studies in a college in Lucknow. 18-year-old Ali, who follows news keenly, views the violence back home with concern. “How do the Bodos get weapons unless the Tarun Gogoi government is helping them? They aren’t economically better off than us. So who is helping them? Why do only our people die,” he asks. Ali requests this reporter to conceal his identity, lest his friends in college find out about his living conditions. “I tell my friends that I live in a rented apartment. If they find out I live in this condition, I will be mocked,” he said. Despite difficulties in paying colleges fees, he hopes to find a decent job some day. But few migrants can afford private education. Administrative apathy and strict regulations make it difficult for migrants to get admission in public schools. The transfer of their voter cards to Lucknow is also hindered by administrative conditions. “They aren’t able to get ration cards in Lucknow as the administration demands that they must first cancel their original Assam-based ration cards,” says Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Award–winning social activist. Cancelling their ration cards back home, however, would effectively extirpate their identity. By terming these migrants as “Bangladeshis”, the administration abdicates all responsibility, says Mr. Pandey. In 2009, he undertook a drive to convince the administration that the people it was uprooting from slums in Lucknow were in fact Assamese. While things have since improved, the stigma remains in their minds, says Mr. Pandey. Despite that, Zain (25), a waste-picker, is thankful that in Lucknow they have a stable means of living and are secure. (The Hindu 4/5/14)

 

75. Bangladesh warns illegal immigrants row will affect ties with India (13)

New Delhi: The election campaign of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is making waves across the subcontinent in Bangladesh, which on Tuesday warned that the ‘illegal immigrant row’ if not handled amicably will affect Dhaka’s ties with New Delhi. “Any hasty steps taken by the new government will hit bilateral ties,” Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said stressing that there are “no illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in India”. He said this in response to Modi’s recent statement that all illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India should pack and leave on May 16 when the results of the world’s largest democratic exercise would be announced. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Shamsher M Chowdhury also reacted by saying, “This is nothing but sheer politicking by BJP.” At the domestic front, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said, “Narendra Modi is a divisive leader. He wants to divide the state but won’t succeed. We won’t tolerate any attempt by him to divide the state.” Modi has recently created a political uproar by saying that all illegal immigrants from Bangladesh will be sent back to their country of origin. Though he later clarified his statement and said that he would make every effort to improve relations with Bangladesh should he come to power. However, concerns were expressed on social media over Modi’s remarks and some said that the BJP leader has made those statements only to communalise the elections. Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, had been in office when the 2002 riots broke out in Gujarat and has been accused of not acting enough to stop the violence. However, he has not been indicted for his role in the 2002 riots by any court of law in the country. Modi’s party BJP had earlier insisted it would build a temple on the Babri mosque site which was destroyed in 1992. But it later softened its stance on the issue to woo minorities and even aplogised for “unintentional past mistakes” in order to ensure that it wins at least 272 seats required to form to form a government at the Centre. (Zee News 6/5/14)

 

76. UN concerned over South Sudanese refugees flooding in Ethiopia (13)

New York, May 7 : Waves of South Sudanese women and children are fleeing across the Ethiopian border, with more than 11,000 people crossing in the past 72 hours, the United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday said confirming that UN agencies and humanitarian partners are rushing food and medical supplies to the site. The sharp influx comes after Government forces captured the rebel stronghold of Nasir over the weekend crossing the Raro River, which marks the border between the countries. “Many more people are on their way,” spokesperson Adrian Edwards said quoting what the refugees, all ethnic Nuers, had told staff from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “Many amassed on the South Sudanese side of the border waiting to cross the river on one of the few small ferry boats.” UNHCR and its partners, including the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, UN World Food Programme (WFP), were all rapidly scaling up their responses to meet the surge in new arrivals – some of them wounded and in urgent need of medical help – and to improve the crowded conditions, Edwards said. Once registered, the people were being moved to Kule refugee camp further inside Ethiopia which was “fast approaching its capacity of 40,000 refugees”, while a new camp was being set up for another 30,000 people. The UN agency is hurrying to transport people due to oncoming heavy rains “expected any time”, he added. More than 110,000 refugees from South Sudan had fled into Ethiopia since fighting for political power there broke out in December, according to UNHCR figures. An additional 205,000 people had fled to Uganda, Sudan and Kenya, with some 923,000 people displaced inside South Sudan. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in South Sudan on Tuesday urging President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar to sit down together and find a peaceful solution through dialogue. The inter-agency appeal for the South Sudanese Refugee Emergency remained dramatically underfunded, with only 14 per cent of the requested USD 370 million appeal received. “As the number of displaced people continued to rise, UNHCR was expecting to increase its appeal in the coming days,” the spokesperson said. Meanwhile, WFP is warning that without access to everyone in need, the humanitarian situation inside South Sudan is going to worsen. The UN agency is airlifting and airdropping food and nutrition support to hard-to-reach areas, while grabbling with looting and continued fighting, according to spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs. Despite these challenges, WFP has dispatched more than 72,000 metric tons of food around the country so far this year. (New Kerala 7/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

77. On Labour Day, Labour dept order to ensure minimum rates of wages (14)

To ensure payment of notified minimum rates of wages to all categories of workers in both organised and unorganised sectors, an order has been recently issued directing all the employers, including contractors, to upload their employee and payment details on their websites. Employers have been given 90 days time for compliance. According to the order, no fresh license and no renewal of licenses and registration certificates shall be done by Labour Department under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, Labour Department officials said. Employers have also been directed to pay wages to workers by ECS or Cheque. Defaulters shall be prosecuted under the provisions of law. Employers have been directed to discourage deployment of contract workers on regular basis. In case, it is not possible to do so, contract workers should be paid same wages as being paid to regular workers. Secretary (Labour)-cum-Labour Commissioner has personally carried out 6 field inspections of various offices of labour department. The Labour department also said that a total amount of Rs 6,16,25,502 has been disbursed under various labour laws bettween February 14 and April 25 benefiting 3992 workers. (DNA 1/5/14)

 

78. CPI alleges violations of labour laws in Gujarat (14)

Kakinada: Accusing the corporate media of projecting Gujarat as a fast developing State under the leadership of its Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Communist Party of India’s (CPI) State unit election committee convener K. Ramakrishna on Thursday said that the ground realities were quite different in Gujarat where labour laws were violated on a large scale. “The development of Gujarat is sectoral. Only corporate companies have been befitted during Modi’s rule and they are now blowing the trumpets for him,” Mr. Ramakrishna said, while addressing a press conference here. Expressing concern over the flowing of money in the general elections, he said that polls in India had already become a play field for the corporates. “Individuals with a spirit of public service cannot enter into politics, as all the major political parties are choosing candidates, basing on spending capabilities,” he observed. Mr. Ramakrishna said that the CPI would continue to play a proactive roll in creating awareness among the public about the importance of vote and the need to choose the right persons as their representatives. The CPI’s nominee for the Kakinada city Assembly constituency T. Madhu and other leaders were also present. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

79. Bonded labour still exists in MP (14)

Burhanpur, MP, May 1 : Far away from the glitter of India’s burger-munching and cola-guzzling metropolitan cities lies a country ravaged by poverty as evidenced by the fact that the evil of bonded labour still prevails in this district’s rural areas. The despicable practice commences annually on Akshaya Tritiya day and those kept for agricultural work are known as saldars. The Labour Department admits that saldars are made to toil for the entire year. There is no written agreement with employers. There are several saldars whose families are working for generations under single farm owners. Sources said the owners provide saldars and their families with living space on farms besides grain, clothes and other material for the whole year. A part of the crops and a predetermined monetary amount are provided in instalments. “This district has more than 5,000 saldars. The Department is yet to receive a complaint regarding exploitation of saldars,” District Labour Officer G Swamy said today. (New Kerala 2/5/14)

 

80. Workers grapple with low wages amid rising prices (14)

NEW DELHI: A decade of jobless growth, topped by the recent slump in manufacturing, has left India’s work force dispirited and restive. The election campaign has generally not touched upon issues close to their hearts, especially wages. There has been much talk about price rise and jobs, but most workers, whether in the formal or informal sector, are not impressed. “Kasme-vade, pyar-wafa, sab batein hain, baton ka kya!” says Magroo, who has worked in an auto-parts factory in North Delhi for over 25 years, quoting from a popular film song from the 1960s. “Promises, loyalty — all of it are empty talk.” Between 2005-06 and 2010-11, industrial worker wages increased by about 9%, according to the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) published by the labour ministry. That works out to a measly 1.5% per year. Annual inflation has been raging for the past few years at an average of 5-6%. So, real wages have fallen. Small wonder, that workers consider wages and inflation as key issues — one puts money in their pockets, the other takes it out. Average daily earnings of factory workers were pegged at Rs 264 in 2010-11, as per the ASI reports. This is an all-India average, which spans such lows as Rs 203 in Tamil Nadu and Rs 206 in Punjab to Rs 440 in Jharkhand and Rs 391 in Maharashtra. But, a remarkable finding revealed in the ASI report is that contract workers get about 25% less than regular, directly employed workers. Average daily earnings of contract workers were Rs 199 only. Contract workers were estimated at about 34% of the total workers covered in the ASI, which deals with only bigger, organized sector units. Another important fact of life for industrial workers is that women’s wages are much less than men’s wages. The average daily earnings of women workers were Rs 149 compared to Rs 289 for men. That’s an enormous difference of about 48%. Mostly, this reflects the fact that women are employed in lower paying, lesser skilled jobs. But, it is also a result of entrenched discrimination. In the informal sector, where the vast majority of India’s workforce is employed, wages and service conditions are far more onerous. Average wage for a casual labourer is just Rs 139 in rural areas and Rs 170 in urban areas, according to a report of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) for 2011-12. Agriculture is the occupation of the vast majority of informal sector workers. According to Census 2011, the number of agricultural workers has jumped up by about 36% between 2001 and 2011. Now, they number 8.6 crore, of which more than a third are women. Wages of agricultural workers are some of the lowest in any occupation, ranging between Rs 199 for harvesting and Rs 230 for ploughing. Again, these are all-India averages, with wide variation between states. Kerala has some of the highest wages, while Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have the lowest in most cases. Low wage employment and marginal work, that is, irregular, short term work, have become the norm in agriculture as well as other sectors. It is a kind of hidden unemployment. The bottom of the pyramid is seeking a different direction — one that is more sympathetic to labour. (Times of India 3/5/14)

 

81. Kangra tea planters pin hopes on ‘chaiwala’ Modi (14)

Palampur/Baijnath/Kangra: With no labour to pluck tea leaves for the first flush at his two-hectare plantation in Baijnath, which lies in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh’s craggy Dhauladhar range, distressed-looking Narender Chauhan was almost on the verge of quitting his occupation two weeks ago. According to a Tea Board survey, he is one of the 1,231 active tea growers out of 5,800 listed across Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh. Problems ranging from labourers being taken away by government schemes like NREGA and discontinuation of fertilizer subsidy in 2002 have forced others to sell their plantations or build commercial businesses like dhabas and small-time hotels. However, many are now seeing a hope in the humble “chaiwala” background of BJP’s PM candidate and Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi for the revival of tea gardens. “Modi’s journey is a lesson of grit and determination. Not only have we hoped that it will lift our spirit but also that he will come and rescue us from the dominating markets of Assam and Darjeeling,” says Chauhan. Kangra’s tea is a Chinese hybrid variety that produces a very pale liquid, unlike the CTC which the rest of India consumes in copious quantities. With 96% of growers having holdings of less than two hectares, tea here is more of a cottage industry. Besides, subsidy plans offered by the Tea Board are only for self-help groups comprising 20 people with 20 hectare of land and not individuals. Officials agree with this, but also share their complaints against growers. “Land holdings have fragmented over the years as families split up. Second problem is that nobody is ready to accept our scheme which mandates a tea grower to uproot and replant tea and get 50% subsidy,” says Gagnesh Sharma, deputy director, Tea Board, Palampur. “Add to that, poor marketing of local 5-7 brands like Kangra Gold, Dharamsala Tea, HP Krishi Organic who make tea out of leaves collected by small planters,” he points out. There is also a view that the state government has failed to increase area under cultivation and modernise cooperatives. Since 1978, the same 2300 hectare area has remained under tea plantation. Out of four tea cooperative societies started by the state government in 1980s, three – Bir, Baijnath and Sidhbari – have been given on lease to private companies. “We hope Modi will open a research and development centre for us,” says Vijay Mehra, a tea planter who recently sold half of his plantation. (Times of India 5/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

82. Remove regulations, eradicate child labour, says Unicef expert (14)

CHENNAI: After 67 years of Independence, it is a shame that measures to prevent child labour remain unimplemented and the issue itself is under “monitoring and regulations,” said Sugata Roy, a senior representative of Unicef, which works for ensuring better health and educational facilities for children. He was speaking at a seminar and workshop organised by the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL-TN and PY), a collective for the rights of children and women, in the city ahead of International Workers’ Day. Roy said it was time that the various regulations on child labour were removed. These regulations, he said, were nothing but an open admission of the existence of child labour even after so many decades of Independence. “What we need is total eradication of child labour. We should include the complete ban of child labour in all pieces of legislation for effective enforcement,” he said. Tamil Nadu has one of the largest populations of child workers in the country. More than 50,000 children from various districts in the state like Madurai, Theni and Dindigul continue to be employed in factories in north India in violation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act. Raising concerns over the implementation of the RTE Act, Roy said that even vocational training programmes that play a crucial role in the lives of lower middle class youth had failed in their objective as they were poor in quality. “I have seen a lot of teachers employed for these vocational training programmes. It is unfortunate that most of them do not have any practical knowledge of the subjects they teach. What is the purpose of running vocational training programmes if they do not provide any value addition,” he asked. P Joseph Victor Raj, state convener of CACL (Tamil Nadu chapter), said that most political parties lacked the basic understanding and awareness about child labour and the need for eradicating it completely. Analysing the election manifestos of leading political parties, he said, it was clear that only the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) had taken a well-informed stand on child labour. “While the PMK promises a complete eradication of child labour in its election manifesto, many leading national parties, including Congress, BJP, CPM and CPI, have only made a passive mention about the issue. They have simply promised to strengthen implementation of the existing rules on child rights,” he said. Unless there was a collective effort, the eradication of child labour in India or in any other country cannot be achieved, he added. (Times of India 1/5/14)

 

83. Child workers rescued from hotel (14)

HYDERABAD: The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights rescued two children working in a city hotel on Thursday, the International Labour Day. The manager of the hotel was taken into custody. The children were rescued from Kamat Hotel near Ravindra Bharathi, where the members of the commission were having lunch. On noticing one of the children working, the members contacted the police. “Two children, Kavali Keshavulu and Mithilesh Yadav from Ranga Reddy district and Jharkhand respectively, were rescued. The Saifabad police took the hotel manager, Prakash Pulkav, into custody and the commission instructed them to register a case under Juvenile Justice Act, under which the management is liable to be fined and imprisoned,” said commission member Mamatha Raghuveer. (Times of India 2/5/14)

 

84. 27 child labourers rescued from hellholes (14)

NEW DELHI: Twenty-seven child labourers were rescued from a bindi factory in Nandnagar and a nailpolish factory in Samaipur Badli Industrial Estate on Friday. These factories were raided by over 15 policemen of Nand Nagri police station, supported by activists of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). One of them, Sunil (name changed), was working at the bindi factory for seven months. The 11-year-old, the sole breadwinner of his family, said he was earning Rs 100 every week after putting in 13-14 hours daily, but wasn’t sure if the money he was sending home was reaching his family. Incidentally, Sunil and most other labourers, many of them from Bihar, were reluctant to admit initially that they were working at the factory. “I was here only for sightseeing,” claimed 12-year-old Sanjay (name changed), though he admitted that his father’s business had failed and he was living in Delhi alone. Kailash Satyarthi, child rights activist and BBA founder, had an explanation for this behaviour. “Factory overseers constantly tell the children that they will be arrested if caught working. And once police get them, they will gouge their eyes out or rip out their kidneys. Naturally, they are terrified to see police,” Satyarthi said. BBA activist told TOI that they were informed about six bindi-making factories in Nand Nagri with 150 child labourers; however, factory owners were somehow tipped off about the raid, so most of them vanished by the time the team arrived. (Times of India 3/5/14)

 

85. Bring Orphanages under the JJ Act: Child Rights Panel (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked the State Government to bring orphanages and child welfare homes under the Juvenile Justice Act in a time-bound manner. Around 1,000 orphanages in the state are currently registered under the Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act.The Commission is of the view that bringing these orphanages under Juvenile Justice rules, which clearly defines the entitlement of each child, will ensure theirbetter welfare.  A recent meeting of the Commission assessed the report submitted by its members, who had inspected various government homes, observation homes and after-care homes in the state. The Commission will soon pass orders on steps to be taken by the government to ensure education, personal hygiene and entertainment facilities for children. The state child rights panel will ask the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to approach the Supreme Court against the verdicts of various courts which held that minority and unaided educational institutions were exempt from the Right To Education Act, 2009. The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights  has also recommended to the government to take steps to send back children from other states who are presently lodged in various welfare homes. It has also recommended setting up of a reception centre in the state capital for such children and to provide education as well as job-oriented training to them. The child rights panel has asked the Directorate of Social Justice to conduct an audit of the repair works to be carried out in various institutions housing children, both on a short-term and a long-term basis. (New Indian Express 4/5/14)

 

86. Teaching teachers laws on child protection and rights (14)

Puducherry: What place do the nuances of law have in the classrooms? With cases of corporal punishment and child abuse being reported in schools, teachers on Monday took stock of the situation beyond the syllabus. A State-level teachers’ sensitisation programme on child rights and child protection, organised on Monday by the Directorate of School Education and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) recommended that teachers become conversant with laws that govern rights of the children. The initiative was to bring teachers and principals of schools up-to-date on two principal laws- the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) 2013 and section 17 of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) which deals with ‘physical punishment or mental harassment,’ said E. Vallavan, Director, School Education. The NCPCR, formed in 2007, monitors the implementation of the RTE and POCSO Acts. But teachers have a role in ensuring child rights, according to Asheem Srivastav, member-secretary, NCPCR. “It is important for every person who is implementing the law at the ground level to be conversant with the nitty-gritty of the Acts,” he said, explaining the need for sensitisation. The debate on child rights is gaining weight in the international arena. India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Noting that the Education Department had issued a “strict circular” to government and private schools on corporal punishment, Mr. Vallavan added that the scenario in schools has changed. “Two out of three cases are of children being subjected to mental harassment. It is not to say that physical punishment is not upsetting, but mental harassment can have a more severe impact on a child.” This is more in the case when the children hail from single-parent families or suffering from a disability or disorder including dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Encouraging teachers to adopt a friendly approach to students, Mr. Vallavan said awareness of laws can create a shift in attitude towards children. Principals of schools in the Union Territory have received training in psychological handling of children, under the aegis of the Indian School Pyschology Association, he added. Teachers must realise that the future GDP and prosperity of the country rests with children, noted Mr. Srivastav. Panel discussions and sessions on child abuse and child rights were part of the event. (The Hindu 6/5/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

87. Can a woman be booked for molestation: HC (19)

Mumbai: Hearing a petition filed by a 78-year old woman accused of molesting another woman, the Bombay High Court Monday asked the prosecution and the petitioner to find out if a woman can be booked under such a charge. The court also directed them to check laws of other countries and see if there was provision for punishment against women under it. In her petition, Vimlabai Shah (78) petition from Borivali (W), has alleged that on February 27, 2010, she was booked under Section 354 (molestation) along with other members of her family after one Prabha Jain (55) registered a complaint.

The petitioner also alleged that inspector N M More, attached with the Borivali police station, had colluded with people who wanted to settle scores with her and her family. According to Shah, More filed the chargesheet just a day after registering the FIR against her. She said Jain had registered the complaint with the police in order to pressure her to withdraw an earlier complaint of assault she had filed against her and others. Shah’s family even shot off letters to the then police commissioner and state Human Rights Commission “regarding illegal harassment faced at the hands More” on March 14, 2010. “She (Shah) is aged about 78 years and is also bedridden. How could a senior citizen, that too a woman, be accused of molestation?” the petition said. (Indian Express 6/5/14)

 

88. Uniform Civil Code doesn’t mean forcing Hindu law on everyone, says Modi (19)

New Delhi: Narendra Modi has said implementation of a Uniform Civil Code does not mean that Hindu code would be imposed on all citizens of the country. “Constitution says that the government will make efforts to implement the Uniform Civil Code…The second important point I would like to make clear is that implementing a UCC does not mean that all citizens of the country will be brought under the Hindu code. “I believe that there are several provisions in the Hindu code which are irrelevant and they need reforms. Carrying 18th century laws in 21st century is unnecessary,” he told Urdu weekly “Nai Duniya”.The promise of implementing a Uniform Civil Code is one of the core issues of BJP and finds mention in its manifesto. Seeking to allay apprehensions among Muslims, Modi ruled out scrapping any existing constitutional and statutory mechanisms meant for their welfare and said he would instead work to strengthen them. Terming secularism an “import” from the West, Modi said that Congress has used it to pocket Muslim votes and they are now being treated as a “vote bank” by it and other parties. He said the Constitution has given equal rights to all citizens and religious harmony and respect for all religions are in “India’s DNA”.Asked if he would do away with the Minority Commission, Minority Finance Development Corporation as feared by his critics, Modi said, “There is a need to strengthen constitutional and statutory bodies and not to abolish them. “The need is to make them productive and strong so that they could do solid work instead of continuing with the existing system which takes symbolic measures.” Modi said “extremism” over castes and religions have been used to divide the country and advocated “zero tolerance” for the guilty in religious and caste violence. In such issues, he said, more than government actions it is the dialogue among different sections of society which is more important. Arguing that secularism has been “exploited” for political purpose, Modi said the politics in present times is revolving around it. (India Today 6/5/14)

 

89. Supreme Court order on Mullaperiyar dam didn’t consider safety: Oommen Chandy (19)

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said on Wednesday it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court did not consider safety of the people in the state while striking down an act restricting the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam at 136 feet. An apex court constitution bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, while striking down the Kerala Irrigation Water Conservation Act, said that the water level could be increased to 142 feet. Holding that there was no threat to the safety of the 120-year old dam, the court set up a three-member committee under whose supervision the water level will be increased. Chandy said Kerala has no qualms in giving water to Tamil Nadu but safety was paramount. “The court, it seems did not look into the safety of the people living near the old dam. The state cabinet will now meet to decide what needs to be done on this,” Chandy said. As soon as the verdict came out, people living in and around the dam near Idukki district expressed their resentment and called for a state wide shutdown Thursday. “We expect all political parties to cooperate with our move to call for a shutdown to protest against the verdict,” said Joy Nirappel, who heads the Mullaperiyar Action Council. State Minister for Water Resources PJ Joseph said Kerala will now seek legal advice and decide what needs to be done. “Do you know that way back in 1979, the Central Water Commission had suggested that it’s time that the Mullaperiyar dam is de-commissioned,” Joseph added. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the Mullaperiyar dam, built under a 1886 pact between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj. While the dam is located in Kerala, its waters serve Tamil Nadu. Kerala is seeking a new dam and has offered to build and fund it but Tamil Nadu has not agreed to this and has been engaged in a long and protracted legal battle that came to an end Wednesday. Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan said that through the judgement, the fears of 3.5 million people living in five districts in Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Alappuzaha will rise as the safety of the dam is in serious doubt. “The Kerala assembly had unanimously passed an act to this effect and it appears that both the centre and the apex court have not given it much seriousness. I wish that the state government immediately calls a special session of the assembly to discuss this burning issue,” said Achuthanandan. The court said that the three-member committee, comprising a representative each of the Central Water Commission (CWC), Kerala and Tamil Nadu will carry out regular inspections. The CWC representative will head the committee. Overall the apex court’s verdict is a setback to Kerala’s efforts to pull down the dam on the grounds of it being unsafe and then build a new structure. State Congress president VM Sudheeran opined that the need of the hour is not to make political capital out of the judgement but for all stakeholders put their heads together as this seriously affects the people of Kerala. (DNA 7/5/14)

 

90. Maharashtra to reply to Supreme Court notice on dance bars (9)

MUMBAI: The Indian Restaurant and Bar Association had moved the contempt petition against the state government for not complying with the apex court’s order of July 2013. A day after the Supreme Court issued contempt notices to the Maharashtra state government and home ministry for not processing necessary licenses required to run dance bars, a home ministry official said that the reply will be sent in next 15 days. The Indian Restaurant and Bar Association had moved the contempt petition against the state government for not complying with the apex court’s order of July 2013. The official from the home ministry added that the state government had taken legal opinion from the experts and necessary reply will be given. The Supreme Court had upheld the Bombay High Court verdict of 2006 which quashed the Maharashtra state government’s decision to ban the dance bars. The court had then said that a complete ban on girls dancing in the bars in the name of ensuring safety of women and curbing obscenity was an overreaction, and also reflected lack of thinking to search for viable alternatives. In 2005, the state government introduced an amendment to the Bombay Police Act. The government claimed that it was “giving rise to the exploitation of women,” and that dancing was both “derogatory to the dignity of women” and “likely to deprave, corrupt or injure public morality or morals.” The state government had approached the Supreme Court after the High Court lifted the ban and the apex court had asked the dance bars to remain shut till the final verdict was out. Despite the SC verdict in July 2013, the state home minister R R Patil had said that the government was firm on banning dance bars. “We have sought legal opinion from experts in Delhi and Mumbai. The state government is of the view that the ban on dance bars should continue,” the home minister had said in the state assembly. (The Hindu 7/6/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

91. Widows of farmers and hailstorm hit farmers stage protest (20)

Yavatmal: Hundreds widows of farmers and hailstorm hit farmers staged a protest here on Thursday, to protest against the apathy of the Maharashtra state government and its bureaucrats towards their plight. The protestors demanded fresh crop loans, a higher minimum support price at the rate of Rs 6500 per quintal, disbursement of relief aid to all farmers, family pension as well as food security to all widows of farmers and families of farmers who committed suicide since June 2005. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari condemned the Maharashtra government for its anti-farmer attitude and said that the ongoing Vidarbha agrarian crisis is the result of 60 years of apathy by the state government and its bureaucrats who have treated the region as its colony since Maharashtra state was formed in 1960. “Now people want separate statehood for the Vidarbha region to stop the ongoing genocide of farmers and tribals,” Tiwari said, while addressing the protest meeting. (Zee News 1/5/14)

 

92. Policy for suicide-hit farmer families in 3 months, Punjab to HC (20)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab government has decided to formulate a scheme for granting financial assistance to family members of farmers who committed suicide. The agriculture department has sought facts and other details of a scheme being implemented in Andhra Pradesh on similar lines in this connection. This was stated before the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday by the state government in an affidavit filed by agriculture department secretary Kahan Singh Pannu. The HC on February 17 had directed the state government to consider the Andhra Pradesh model to frame a policy regarding financial assistance to families of farmers who had committed suicide in Punjab. In his affidavit, Pannu said to frame a policy on the pattern of AP, Punjab is required to procure and study the scheme prevailing in Andhra Pradesh and also requires consultation with the finance and revenue departments and state farmers’ commission. The government also assured that it would formulate the policy within three months. The government said the agriculture department is already running a scheme for granting Rs 2 lakh to families of farmers who had committed suicide. The matter is pending before the HC following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Movement Against State Repression, an NGO.(Times of India 3/5/14)

 

93. Schemes not reaching us, say farmers (20)

KENDRAPARA: The State government’s alleged failure to identify a vast majority of farmers across Odisha till date came under sharp criticism at a farmers’ meet held at this district headquarters town in coastal Odisha on Friday. The benefits of a series of schemes were not reaching the targeted beneficiary due to non-identification of the farmers and sharecroppers in the State, said several speakers who spoke on the occasion. A host of other problems being faced by farmers in different regions of the State were also discussed threadbare at the meet organised on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya when farmers worship mother earth to begin a new crop season. Over 200 farmers, many of them women, attended the meeting organised by Kendrapara Farmers Development Cooperative Ltd. The speakers who addressed the gathering stressed the need for implementation of schemes aimed at benefiting the farmers by involving the farmers’ cooperatives actively working in different regions of the State. The speakers lamented that in the absence of a proper mechanism the farmers in most parts of the State were not getting the minimum support price and resorting to distress sale of their produce. (The Hindu 4/5/14)

 

94. Sambalpur to Adopt Integrated Farming (20)

SAMBALPUR: The district will adopt integrated farming system in rain-fed areas of the district under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) from the current kharif season. NMSA is one of the eight missions outlined under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It aims at enhancing agriculture productivity, especially in rain-fed areas, by focusing on integrated farming, efficient use of water and soil health management. Sources said three clusters have been proposed – each in an area of 300 hectares comprising agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and fishery – in sub-divisions of Sambalpur, Rairakhol and Kuchinda. An action plan has been drawn by the district agriculture authoritiesand sent to the Directorate of Agriculture for approval. NMSA has become the need of the hour as environmental changes are taking a toll on agriculture here. Besides, many areas under these three sub-divisions are devoid of irrigation facilities. In another development, the Centre-sponsored National Food Security Mission (NFSM) which was launched in the district in 2010-11 aiming at growing more pulses, will from this year include rice. The scheme will promote cultivation and increase production of both pulses and rice through area expansion and productivity enhancement in a sustainable manner. It will also work on restoring soil health and productivity at individual farm level. Deputy Director of Agriculture, Ashok Mohanty said the matter has been discussed in the District Agricultural Strategy Committee meeting for the ensuing kharif crop. “This is a part of our efforts to improve productivity and provide farmers with alternative livelihood options”, he added. (New Indian Express 7/5/12)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

95. Allotment under food security Act merely half the consumption (21)

New Delhi: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is hard-selling the National Food Security Act (NFSA), saying this will eradicate hunger from India. However, subsidised food grains provided under the new law is about half the consumption by the poor, both in urban and rural areas. Also, the national per capita consumption is about twice the entitlement under NFSA. The NFSA, passed in both Houses of Parliament in August 2013, entitles 67 per cent of the country’s population to five kg of food grains—rice, wheat or coarse grains—a month. A recent National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) showed in 2011-12, 10 per cent of the population (which has the lowest household expenditure) in rural and urban areas consumed 10 kg and 9.4 kg of cereals a month, respectively. National consumption of cereals stood at 11.2 kg and 9.3 kg per person in rural and urban regions, respectively. Experts say the data indicates the NFSA has to be modified. “There has to be a differentiated level of entitlement, not a universal one, as the Act states in its current form. However, that would be a difficult task,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at CARE Ratings. Through the 18 years from 1993-94 to 2011-12, monthly cereal consumption fell from 13.4 kg to 11.2 kg in rural areas and from 10.6 kg to 9.3 kg in urban parts. The first draft of the Bill in this regard, presented in Parliament in 2011, had sought 7 kg of grains a person, a month for priority category households, and three-four kg for the general category. But a standing committee recommended a uniform level of five kg. A few analysts, however, say the Act isn’t aimed at eradicating hunger, but providing basic support. “The purpose of the Act is not to guarantee 100 per cent food security, but to fulfil substantial requirement, which is clearly accomplished,” said Reetika Khera, assistant professor of economics at Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi. She added the idea of fine-tuning the entitlement according to needs, though attractive, was difficult to implement. T N Seema, a Rajya Sabha member from Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a member of the parliamentary standing committee on food, had questioned the panel’s move to reduce the monthly entitlement of priority sector households from seven kg a person to five kg. Under the Public Distribution System, below-poverty-line (BPL) families and those covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) get 35 kg of grains a month. If one considers an average family size of five members, the quantity of food grains provided by the NFSA is less. Seema had said, “The uniform entitlement recommended by the committee at 5 kg a person is unacceptable, as it will reduce even the present 35-kg entitlement for BPL and AAY families by 10 kg for a family of five.” The note added the cut in entitlement would result in food insecurity for 65.2 million families (currently identified as BPL/AAY beneficiaries); it would merely help the government cut subsidy. Speaking to Business Standard, Seema said the government had adequate resources to cater to the majority of the population and provide it basic food security. “The present entitlement is insufficient. The government said providing seven kg would lead to acute shortage of stocks in the future. But we have adequate resources. I had raised this point in Parliament, too. How can we address the issue of malnutrition with the present clause?” (Business Standard 3/5/14)

 

96. Consumption data contradict high poverty estimates (21)

NEW DELHI: India could be overstating poverty levels as the private final consumption estimates captured by the National Income Accounts (NIA) is nearly twice as much as the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) estimates for consumption expenditure of households in 2011-12. At present, poverty ratios are calculated using the NSSO data. The C. Rangarajan Committee on poverty estimation, that will submit its findings by the month-end, is likely to report that it has so far not been able to reconcile the differential between the two sets of data, a Planning Commission source told The Hindu. Dr. Rangarajan could not be reached for comment as he was travelling. The Planning Commission’s latest estimate of the national poverty line was at consumption expenditure level of Rs. 33.33 in cities and Rs. 27.20 in villages per day per person. Indians below this consumption poverty line fell dramatically from 41 crore in 2004-05 to 27 crore in 2011-12. The irreconcilable differential of the two data sets means even these estimates of poverty levels could be an overstatement. “The exact extent of overstatement of poverty could not be calculated as there is no way to find out exactly who is under-reporting consumption,” the source said. “However, since it cannot be only the rich who are under-reporting consumption, it can be said that poverty is being overstated.” The UPA had in May 2012 set up the five-member expert group to revisit the way poverty is estimated following criticism of the Planning Commission’s estimates based on the Tendulkar panel norms. The Commission had announced that the number of poor stood reduced from 40.7 crore to 35.5 crore during the period 2004-05 to 2009-10. A source in the Central Statistics Office explained the weaknesses of the NSS estimates. (The Hindu 5/5/14)

 

97. Tackling urban poverty will be a challenge for new Govt (21)

New Delhi: One of the biggest challenges for the next government will be to resolve problems of the urban poor who have not benefited from poverty alleviation schemes and are reeling under high prices, a senior official said. “The urban poor are the most squeezed section of society due to high inflation rate in the past years. It is a big challenge before any government to deal with the situation. There was a lot of talk on this issue for the past five years but nothing substantial has been done so far,” National Statistical Commission Chairman Pronab Sen said. According to Sen, the rural poor were insulated from the impact of higher commodity prices by schemes such as the employment guarantee programme, which were not available for the poor living in cities. The rural poor have easier access to foodgrains, vegetables, fruits, poultry and milk at reasonable prices, but those in the urban areas have to pay market prices for them. Sen said due to the rise in prices of agriculture produce, the rural poor benefited and their income went up, while the slowdown in industrial activity caused job losses and income erosion in urban areas. During April-February, the index of industrial production, a measure of factory activity, declined 0.1 per cent compared with a 0.9 per cent growth in the corresponding period of 2012-13. Retail inflation measured in terms of the Consumer Price Index increased to 8.31 per cent in March from 8.03 per cent in February, mainly on account of vegetables, fruits, pulses, milk, spices, and egg, fish and meat. Inflation as measured by the Wholesale Price Index increased to 5.7 per cent in March from 4.68 per cent in the previous month. Inflation for primary food articles for March increased to 9.9 per cent from 8.12 per cent in the previous month mainly on account of increase in prices of moong, urad, vegetables, fruits, milk and fish. Sen was of the view that wages in cities have not increased in tandem with retail inflation because industry uses WPI inflation for assessing its productivity and profitability. Retail inflation remained in the 8-11 per cent range since March last year, whereas WPI was between 4.5 and 7.5 per cent, leading to a mismatch between industry’s assessment of profitability and workers’ demand for an increase in wages. (Business Line 6/5/14)

 

98. Food security lost on UP farmers, loan waiver only a fond memory (21)

Fizabad: Sonia Gandhi pushed the Food Security Bill through the Lok Sabha; Rahul Gandhi keeps flaunting it at his election rallies. On the ground, however, it seems to have not registered with villagers across constituencies held by the Congress. And the other grand public scheme introduced by the Congress, NREGA, appears to have generated public resentment against corruption rather than offer vote security to the Congress. While the politics of these permanent institutions finds no resonance, the one-time relief towards farmers’ loans does. Introduced ahead of the last elections, this is what many villagers say made them vote Congress last time, leading to the party’s surprise victories in many seats. At the same time, they add, the waiver since expired doesn’t mean they will necessarily vote for the Congress again. The Samajwadi Party government’s attempt to replicate the loan relief in UP after its assembly election success, incidentally, has failed to impress. This is because the waiver up to Rs 50,000 applies not to farm loans from scheduled commercial banks, but only to loans from Land Development Bank. In villages of Barabanki, Faizabad, Bahraich, Shrawasti and Gonda (all held by the Congress), farmers across castes — Brahmins, Thakurs, Kurmis, Koeris, Yadavs, Muslims — assert it was because of the loan waiver that they voted for the Congress last time. They make no mention of NREGA or the National Food Security Act unless one brings these up. At Haleem Nagar village in Faizabad, Nishad Khan says, “My loan of Rs 44,000 was waived, so I voted for the Congress.” At Udhauli village in Barabanki, Ram Shanker Verma, a Kurmi, cites the same reason and also mentions Kurmi leader Beni Prasad Verma’s association with the Congress. The waiver is something they bring up of their own. Any mention of NREGA agitates them. They say the money under the scheme is being siphoned by village pradhans and has made no impact on their voting choice. “NREGA is a fraud. If 10 people go for work, the pradhan collects money for 20,” says Dev Prasad Maurya of Rampur village in Shrawasti. He too claims to have voted for the Congress because of the waiver. “We haven’t heard much about the Food Security Act. I don’t think anyone has benefited from it. Anyway, it will benefit the kotedaar (fair price shop-owner) more than anyone else,” says Setu Ram Chaudhary of Sisaur Andupur in Gonda. He will vote for Beni Prasad Verma because he belongs to the same community. No voter The Indian Express met in these Congress-held constituencies, however, said they would vote again for the party because of the waiver. “The loan waiver helped several farmers and did not differentiate on the basis of caste or religion. I voted for the Congress, but not this time,” (Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

99. Eastern UP: Rich past, poor present (20)

In the last two rounds of polling for the general elections, 33 eastern UP seats are in play. One of the most densely populated regions in the country, 8 crore or 40% of UP’s 20 crore population lives here, in 28 districts. It’s a land of the mahajanapadas or great kingdoms, like Kaushambi , Kashi, Koshala, Malla, etc. It’s here that Gautam Buddha started preaching. In modern times it was the nerve center of the freedom struggle. It’s also the land of Kabir and Ravidas, Bharatendu Harishchandra and Premchand , Firaq Gorakhpuri and Harivanshrai Bachchan. But this golden past is a distant memory. Despite being a crucible of political power, or perhaps because of that, eastern UP is deeply mired in casteism, fundamentalism and ‘bahubali’ or musclemen politics. The result: Poverty and deprivation, declining agriculture, virtually no industrialization and shocking social indicators. Fourteen of the 28 districts figure in the list of 100 most backward districts in the country. The remaining are barely better. On some counts there is clear development says Ravi Srivastava, professor of regional development at JNU. The condition of roads is vastly better compared to 20-30 years ago, power supply is bad but not as bad as earlier and agricultural yields have gone up. “But Eastern UP is a defi cit economy, running on remittances from migrant workers. Land holdings have become smaller, irrigation is a huge problem, and there’s been steady deindustrialization,” he says, explaining the widespread poverty and unemployment. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of farmers declined 30%. The net sown area fell by 15%. Net irrigated area in this land crisscrossed by rivers declined by 8%. Large chunks of land have become alkaline (usar). Groundwater, main source of irrigation, is emptying out rapidly while the canal system is largely defunct. In all of the 28 districts, there are just 1,617 registered factories. This is an improvement from a decade ago, but how many can these units employ from among 2.6 crore workers estimated by the 2011 Census. Small scale units have suffered a decline of about 10% although the number of workers has increased. But less than 2 lakh workers in the smallscale sector is a drop in the ocean. Household industries too have suffered a decline of about 4%.This job crisis has led to a 45% increase in agricultural workers between the two censuses. The nature of work has changed — shortterm , temporary work, called marginal work, has increased while regular work has gone down. The number of marginal workers has increased 39% in the past decade. “This is a policy problem. There has been no stable industrial policy in UP for years. Crony capitalism is rampant, political manipulation rife,” stresses Srivastava. (Times of India 7/5/12)

 

RESERVATION

100. Minority colleges move High Court against reservation for HK students (25)

Bangalore: A few religious and linguistic minority professional colleges on Wednesday moved the Karnataka High Court questioning the Government Order on reserving seats for students from Gulbarga, Bidar, Raichur, Koppal, Yadgir and Bellary districts in view of the special status given to the Hyderabad Karnataka region under Article 371 (J). The petitioners — Al-Ameen Medical and Dental Colleges, MVJ Medical College, and others — questioned the Karnataka Private Unaided Educational Institutions (Regulations of Admission in the Hyderabad Karnataka Region) Order, 2013, issued in November 2013 and the February 1, 2014, notification earmarking certain percentage of seats in these institutions for persons hailing from the six districts. The notification says that regional institutes, including government, private, private unaided and deemed universities, shall reserve 70 per cent of the available seats for local persons every year after deducting the seats allocated to all-India quota/NRI quota in every course of study, and State-wide institutions shall reserve 8 per cent of available seats for local persons every year after deducting the seats allocated to all-India quota/NRI quota. The petitioners claimed that when the reservation provided under the Constitution for socially and economically backward classes such as Scheduled Class and Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes were not made applicable for minority institutions, reservation for the HK region too could not be applied to them. They claimed that the notifications were contrary to the law declared by the Supreme Court on minority professional colleges. Pointing out that the order on the reservation for the HK region could not be enforced on minority institutions in view of Article 30(1) of the Constitution, the petitioners contended that the notification ought to have restricted the reservation only to non-minority educational institutions. Justice B.S. Patil, before whom the petition came up for hearing, referred the case to a Division Bench as it required greater consideration on constitutional issues while refusing to stay the operation of the notification. (The Hindu 1/5/14)

 

101. Quota issue raises head at AIIMS, teachers to protest on Saturday (25)

NEW DELHI: A section of AIIMS faculty will stage a protest at Jantar Mantar on Saturday against the denial of reservations in various medical institutions and other institutions of higher education across the country. The protesting doctors are demanding that those responsible for denial of reservation should face criminal prosecution. They will submit a memorandum to the President. “The gross under-representation of SC, ST and OBC in the advertisements from other medical institutes clearly suggests that infraction of reservation roster is not only confined to AIIMS,” said Dr L R Murmu, professor at AIIMS. Members of Forum for Rights and Equality and Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum of AIIMS said those responsible for undermining the policy of reservation have developed a kind of immunity to action against them. It is imperative that a system is put in place wherein infraction of the due rights of SC, ST and OBC is treated as a crime that would attract penal punishment, they said. Times of India 2/5/14)

 

102. Delhi govt to stick to current policy, follow quota fixed by Centre (25)

The Delhi government will continue to adhere to the reservation policy as fixed by the central government allowing 15 per cent quota for Scheduled Castes and 7.5 per cent for Scheduled Tribes, keeping aside the principle of nativity of the beneficiaries. In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the Delhi government said that till the issue – if providing reservations as per direction issued by the President under Article 341 (1) or Article 342 (1) would have any bearing on the state government’s action – is settled by a larger bench, it will stick to the present quota policy in jobs and education. The city government sought dismissal of an appeal that challenged a 2010 ruling of the Delhi High Court. The Constitution under Article 341 and 342 provides separate list of SCs and STs respectively for the states and Union Territories. For Delhi, 36 castes have been notified through Presidential notification as SCs and no list of ST was notified for Delhi. In June 2005, a circular was issued stating that the Delhi government should follow the central government’s pattern of reservation for SC/ST irrespective of nativity. This was based on the apex court’s ruling in S Pushpa case in 2005, where it was held that there would be no legal infirmity if the Union Territory of Pondicherry followed the central government’s reservation policy. But in the 2009 case of Sarv Rural, a two-judge bench held that the ruling in the S Pushpa case was a mere “obiter dicta” and hence not binding. It further ruled that reservation in jobs and education could be given to only those SC/ST who figure in the list of that state or UT. “This will mean depriving all categories of STs from the benefit of reservation in Delhi in the absence of Presidential notification under Article 342 and also depriving migrant SCs from the benefit of reservation in civil jobs there,” the Delhi government said. In another judgment in 2010 titled ‘State of Uttaranchal Vs Sandeep Kumar Singh’, the apex court said that the two-judge bench in Sarv Rural’s case could not have declared the three-judge bench decision in the S Pushpa case as “obiter and per incuriam”. Accordingly, the matter was referred to the Chief Justice of India for setting up a larger bench for considering the question of law, “whether any Presidential order has any bearing on the state’s action in making provision for reservation in appointments of posts in favour of any backward classes of citizens, which in the opinion of the state is not adequately represented in the services under the state.” However, a PIL was filed in 2010 in the Delhi HC for implementation of the Sarv Rural case, seeking direction that only those SCs who were listed in Delhi should be granted the benefit of reservation and no such treatment to any ST in absence of any Presidential notification. The HC dismissed the petition, saying that the ruling in the S Pushpa case was binding as it was rendered by a three-judge bench. Responding to an appeal filed against the HC’s verdict, the Delhi government sought its dismissal saying that the Union Home Ministry re-examined the matter in consultation with the Law Ministry and also sought opinion of the Attorney General, who concurred with the HC’s view that till the matter is resolved by the larger bench, the decision in S Pushpa case will prevail. This means the UT government can adopt the central government’s reservation

policy. (Deccan Herald 4/5/14

 

103. CPM Demands PU to Give 25 Percent Seats for local Students (25)

PUDUCHERRY: The CPM staged a demonstration in front of the Pondicherry University gates on Tuesday, demanding 25 per cent reservation for local students in all courses. V Perumal, CPM State secretary said the university offers 56 courses, out of which quota is provided only for 18 courses. He demanded that reservation be extended to the rest of the courses also. Stressing that the Pondicherry University is not serving the larger interest of the people of the UT, he said the existing reservation for the local students is not applicable to employment-oriented courses, as a result of which they are deprived of the prospects of employment. Perumal also put forth several other demands. He reiterated his demand for setting up a committee, headed by a retired High Court judge, to probe the detention of a Tamil Department student and his torture by two professors and two security officials of the university. He demanded that the professors and officials be suspended and an inquiry be conducted. He demanded the cancellation of a retired district judge as the advisor to the university and setting up of a committee to probe the irregularities in removing red sand from the university campus. The CPM leader demanded that the university drop action against two girl students, who complained about ragging, and form a panel to investigate complaints of ragging in future. Perumal urged the university to reduce the fees for various courses and ensure hostel accommodation for those who needed it in the coming academic year. CPM leaders Rajangam, Nilavazhagan and Students Federation of India leader Anand were among those who participated in the demonstration. (New Indian Express 7/5/14)

 

HINDUTVA

104. Vajpayee like Mahatma, Modi like Bose: RSS leader (26)

New Delhi, May 2 : RSS leader Indresh Kumar Friday compared BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to Subhas Chandra Bose and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Mahatma Gandhi. He said Modi and Vajpayee were “just the same” and followed “secularism full of nationalism”.”Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Modi are just the same… one is like Mahatma and the other is like Subhas Chandra Bose,” Indresh Kumar said in an interview to CNN-IBN. He said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was running the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh as the oganisation wanted to ensure there is high voter turnout. “Yes, we are managing the election campaign in UP to ensure there is 100 percent voting… we are working on the ground to ensure people make the right choice,” he said. The RSS leader clarified that senior BJP leader L.K. Advani was not opposed to Modi being made the prime ministerial candidate but was only unhappy about the timing of the announcement. “Advani’s opinion was not against Modi. His dispute was about the time when the decision must be taken, before the assembly election or after,” he said. He dubbed as “fools” those criticising the RSS and said the Sangh has never endorsed communal politics. “Those who have this notion are foolish… the Sangh has never been for a communal society or politics. The Sangh is for nationalism, humanitarian causes,” he asserted. (New Kerala 2/5/14)

 

105. Congress condemns Assam violence, blames BJP for ‘communal agenda’ (26)

New Delhi, May 3 : The Congress Saturday condemned the violence in Assam and blamed the BJP and its leader Narendra Modi for creating a “communal atmosphere” in the country. Party spokesperson and union minister Kapil Sibal said at a briefing at the Congress headquarters in Delhi that “I want to, on behalf of the president of the Congress party, the vice president and the entire Congress party condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence perpetrated in Assam”.Sibal claimed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an auxiliary group associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, started the agenda of “dividing the polity” by launching the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1984. “The BJP embraced it and (senior BJP leader L.K.) Advani thought of the Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1991. Dec 6, 1992, the act of demolishing the Babri Masjid (in Ayodhya) was committed by leaders of the BJP. Nearly 500 people were killed in the Somnath-Ayodhya Yatra and after 1992, roughly 1,700 were killed. In 1995, they decided to have a similar march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. You are looking at a pattern which is prevalent from 1984 onwards. There were Gujarat riots in 2002,” said Sibal. Quoting from the website of Modi, Sibal said it credits the Gujarat chief minister with organising the two yatras starting from Somnath and Kanyakumari. “Now they admit that in 1998 when they came in power, the credit goes to Modi because of Rath Yatra and march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, which is purely a communal agenda and they admit it also that they will come to power on the basis of this communal agenda,” alleged Sibal. He alleged that post the Gujarat riots, Modi made provocative statements against the main minority community in the state. Sibal appealed that “people of the nation should recognise his masked face. Democracy should not be put at stake.” (New Kerala 3/5/14)

 

106. Kashmiri students assaulted for not chanting anti-Pak slogans (26)

New Delhi, May 5 : At least three Kashmiri students studying in a university in Greater Noida were beaten up for their reluctance to chant pro-India and anti-Pakistan slogans, triggering an angry reaction from Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, said media reports. The students from the Noida International University, who live in hostels, were beaten up after they refused to chant the slogans, said reports. The students said their complaints to the university authorities went unheeded. The varsity said the incident was a fight between students with no communal colour. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sharply reacted soon after the incident over Twitter. “Let’s beat patriotism in to Kashmiri students, why don’t we. Great way to remove any fear or sense of alienation among Kashmiris. Thugs!!!” he tweeted. “If the universities or state authorities can’t protect Kashmiri students coming there then man up and admit your inability or unwillingness. I’m sending the Resident Commissioner from Delhi to visit the university in question to ascertain all the facts before deciding next steps,” he tweeted attacking the ruling Samajwadi Party government of Akhilesh Yadav in UP. Earlier in March, Kashmiri students studying at the Mewar University in Rajasthan alleged that they have been harassed by local students, ahead of the Indo-Pak cricket match. Also on the eve of the India-Pakistan Asia Cup match on Mar 2, about 67 Kashmiri students were bundled back to their homes after they were rusticated from the University in Meerut, for cheering the Pakistani team. But later, the sedition charges were dropped after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called upon Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. (New Kerala 5/5/14)

 

107. Is RSS sniffing a victory in Amethi? (26)

AMETHI: The intensity with which the Sangh pariwar has put its force behind Smriti Irani in Amethi was initially seen as a bid to jolt Congress vice-president and party candidate Rahul Gandhi. However, the huge push given to the Smriti’s campaigning in the last a few days and the rally by the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Amethi could be an indication that the Sangh pariwar now sniffs a victory in the Gandhi pocket borough. While Smriti’s rigorous campaigning targeting Rahul and the Gandhi family has had an impact on the people’s enthusiasm, the arrival of several BJP leaders along with Sangh functionaries has added to their confidence further. Until now, over 200 Sangh functionaries from the level of pracharak and vibhag sadasya (departmental member) have reached Amethi. These pracharaks have not only been camping here but also holding meetings with the people inclined towards the BJP, Modi or RSS, in rural as well urban areas. Until now, the Sangh pariwar members have held scores of such meetings in a bid to drum up support for Smriti. While many of Sangh pariwar members are camping in a hotel, several others have become guests at the houses of like-minded friends or BJP workers, said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity. Interestingly, the seriousness is not only limited to RSS workers. Offshoots like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad and many others have been activated. The turnout in Modi’s rally on Sunday only presented a united Sangh Pariwar, a senior BJP leader said. The Sangh pariwar has deployed at least two swayamsewaks at each booth. Its sister organisations have made similar arrangements. While Dhananjay is the vibhag pramukh (chief), senior RSS functionaries like Bal Mukund from Jhandewala Estate are also camping in Amethi, an RSS functionary told TOI. Several people from Gujarat are also camping in Amethi, he added. More than 500 RSS activists are camping in Amethi, an RSS member told TOI. While members of the Sangh pariwar are making last-minute efforts before Amethi goes to polls, Smriti has held contact programmes at Salon, Gauriganj, Amethi and Tiloi. She has also met several influential people of the constituency who were inclined towards the BJP and Modi, a BJP leader said. Constituency in charge GL Shukla told TOI that the BJP had activated all its wings and last-minute preparation like distribution of bags to polling agents was almost complete. Irrespective of the result, the BJP think tank believes that even if the party is able to reduce the margin of Rahul Gandhi’s victory, it would have won a psychological war. (Times of India 7/5/14)