Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 27 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Unique tool to track atrocities against Dalits (2)

NEW DELHI: To monitor atrocities perpetrated against Dalits and Adivasis and to ensure speedy justice, a unique web-based tool — Atrocity Tracking and Monitoring (ATM) System — has been launched. The initiative falls under the aegis of the National Coalition for Strengthening SC/ST PoA Act (NCSPOA) by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ). A two-day training workshop will also be organised in the city next month to promote the use of ATM System among the stakeholders concerned. “The ATM System has been built with an objective to provide a tool in the hands of Dalits and Adivasis to report atrocities and avail of timely justice. We hope it will be useful for Dalit human rights activists and organisations, to create and maintain a repository of cases, track records, and facilitate information exchange for timely action,” said V.A. Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, NDMJ. “At present, more than 100 atrocity cases have been reported from different parts of the country. The users of the States concerned have sent e-mail and SMS notifications to the officials in their region regarding the cases of atrocities against Dalits,” he added. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (2001-12), the extent of atrocities committed against SCs & STs is enormous. Nearly 3,70,234 crimes have been committed against SCs & STs, 15,917 women have reportedly been raped, 7,900 murdered, 49,514 brutally attacked and severely injured, and 1,59,692 other forms of atrocities have been committed. Under the ATM System, anyone with Internet access can go to the website where a helpline number 9898915455 is given. As soon as a person sends a message on this number, the website automatically identifies its circle and sends a message. After the validation is done, the message goes to the authority concerned to facilitate necessary action against the case. The NDMJ, is a democratic non-party movement of Dalit survivors, defenders, academics, organisations headed by Dalits  to initiate advocacy and involve in mass action to address the issues of caste-based discrimination and violence (primarily untouchability and atrocities) to ensure dignity, equality and justice. (The Hindu 12/2/15)

2. 3 held for attacking Dalit who tried to fend off their dogs (2)

MEERUT: Three men were arrested from Khanjapur Kushaavli village of Meerut district after a Dalit man complained that he was attacked and insulted by them as he tried to fend off their pet dogs. The man complained that he had long endured the onslaught of pet dogs that belonged to a Rajput family, but on February 6, as two dogs set upon him, he warded them off with a stick. Gopal, the Dalit, said the dogs’ owners unleashed verbal abuse laced with caste-related insults. They also attacked him with knives and sticks. Gopal said he had taken the matter to police soon afterwards, but police were slow to react. “I was on the way to my shop when I was attacked by the dogs belonging to a Rajput family. Their dogs have always been a problem for my kids, who have often been attacked by the animals while passing by,” Gopal said. Dhanu Singh, Kaalicharan and Sanju, members of a Rajput family, had allegedly once told Gopal’s kids that the “dogs were better than them”. “On February 6, as the dogs grew aggressive, I tried to shoo them away with a stick. That was when Dhanu, Kaalicharan and Sanju came out of their house with knives and sticks. Angry that I had tried to hit the animals, the three of them thrashed me. I was cut in the face by a knife one of them used,” Gopal said. “Because I am a Dalit doesn’t mean they can call me what they like,” Gopal said, adding that he filed a complaint at the Sardhana police station that very day. Station officer Meher Singh of Sardhana police station said the three accused were arrested on Wednesday, and investigations were underway. Early Wednesday, Gopal had approached the office of the SSP seeking action in the matter. (Times of India 13/2/15)

3. All Dalits now Mahadalits, question is who’s their leader (2)

Patna: By expanding the Mahadalit bracket to include Dharis and Dhadis, sub-castes of Dusadh or Paswan, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has effectively staked his claim to being the leader of Bihar’s Dalits, a role so far associated with Ram Vilas Paswan. So far, Paswans were the only one of 22 Scheduled Castes kept out of the bracket. Mahadalit status entails benefits of over a dozen welfare schemes, including free land to the landless. And so far, Ram Vilas’s stand has been that Paswans, being the most “forward looking of Scheduled Castes”, did not need the Mahadalit tag. The LJP chief cannot, however, openly criticise the new move. He was the first prominent NDA leader to come out in support of Manjhi in his showdown with Nitish Kumar. “Manjhi is a fellow Dalit,” Paswan has said, describing him as a better CM than Nitish, but has steered clear of reacting to the cabinet decision. “In long-term politics, Ram Vilas Paswan and Manjhi are going to share same the Dalit space,” says a senior leader of Paswan’s LJP. “With Manjhi moving close to the BJP, there is bound to be competition between the two leaders.” “If Manjhi joins the BJP, the conflict would be less intense,” says a BJP leader, “but Ram Vilas Paswan can still lose some of his bargaining power with the BJP. If Manjhi floats a party, the BJP will have to deal with two allies with a similar profile. It will be a problem of plenty.” CM Manjhi said after the cabinet meeting: “The government saw no point in leaving Paswans out of the Mahadalit umbrella. In fact, we have proposed to appoint Paswans as chowkidars across the state.” The Nitish Kumar camp has already lodged a protest with Raj Bhavan, questioning how the cabinet of “a government of 13 MLAs” can decide ahead of a floor test. “It is not about what decisions have been taken by the cabinet but whether Manjhi can take such a decision when his government is in a minority,” says JD(U) leader Bijay Kumar Choudhary. As chief minister, Nitish had introduced the Mahadalit umbrella in 2007 after the Bihar State Mahadalit Commission recommended inclusion of 18 SCs in the category. Subsequently, three more SC groups were included, leaving out only the Paswans or Dusadhs. Following the inclusion of Paswans, there remains no distinction between Dalits and Mahadalits. Ravidas, Mushahar and Paswan are among the most dominant groups among the Scheduled Castes, accounting for 18 per cent of the population. And a caste conglomerate created with meticulous social engineering by Nitish Kumar now has three claimants to their leadership —  Nitish, Manjhi and Paswan. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

4. Dalit man’s nose cut off for breaking bread with upper castes (2)

Lucknow: Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). This virtually god-forsaken area in southern UP bordering Madhya Pradesh is one of the remotest and most backward regions of the state, and is infamous for continuing social evils like untouchability, dowry and female infanticide. The latest episode has been reported from Surpati village in Madhogarh area of Jalaun district where Amar Singh, a labourer, was dealt the horrific punishment by his masters belonging to the upper caste. The incident is even more alarming as the village is a Dalit-dominated one. The Surpati gram panchayat of three villages accounts for as many as 2,500 Dalits out of the total population of about 5,000. Dalits in this region are barred from even touching the utensils used by upper castes. They are also not allowed to draw water from the same well. Amar Singh had gone with his master’s family in the ‘barat’ (wedding procession) for a wedding to another village and had committed the “crime” of having food along with his feudal masters there. “Some people on the bride’s side raised the issue with them which created quite a scene at the wedding as the other guests threatened to leave without having food on discovering that a Dalit was also breaking bread with them,” Daddu Prasad, ex-minister and a prominent Dalit BSP leader told dna. Once they returned to their village, they decided “justice needed to be done”, he said. Their justification was simple, though rather gruesome. “Tumne hamaari naak katwa di. Ab hum tumhaari naak kaatenge. (since you caused us such humiliation, you shall get equivalent punishment),” they are reported to have told Amar Singh before pinning him down and cutting off his nose with a domestic knife. Family members rushed to his rescue and took the profusely bleeding Amar Singh to Jhansi for treatment. On being informed, Jhansi DIG AK Singh got a case registered against the named accused. He told reporters that they would soon be arrested. However, till late evening no arrest had been made as, sources said, the feudal landlords responsible for the ghastly act were “politically well connected”.Bundelkhand has witnessed such horrific incidents earlier, too. But, since it is a remote area, most of these incidents don’t even get reported in the mainstream media. “I know of places (in Bundelkhand) where Dalits go to other villages incognito to get a shave or buy things for daily needs as they can’t dare to do this in their own village,” says Vivek Singh, former Congress MLA from Banda. (DNA 17/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Govt Okays IFAD Loan for Primitive Tribal Groups (6)

BHUBANESWAR:The Odisha Government has agreed to a Rs 312-crore loan from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the Rs 800-crore Odisha PVTG Empowerment and Livelihood Improvement Programme (OPELIP). While conveying its consent to the Department of Economic Affairs, the Government has stipulated that the project must contain separate micro projects for each primitive tribal group. The project is aimed at changing the socio-economic condition of 62,356 households in 12 districts of the State. These households comprise 32,090 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) who would directly benefit from the programmes. Thirteen PVTGs are targeted to be covered under the eight-year project. The OPELIP will address issues of socio-economic backwardness through community empowerment, natural resource management, livelihood enhancement, community infrastructure and drudgery reduction. Over the project period, it is expected to trigger a 300 per cent increase in food production per household and net income by several times. Since most of the habitations of these primitive groups are characterised by poor housing, virtually no access to potable water and electricity, absence of sanitation and road connectivity, the project will support construction of over 300 drinking water projects, 542 school toilets, 4,000 housing units, 500 km of road connectivity and 50 km of electrification apart from other rural infrastructure. It will also focus on homestead production and forest-based livelihood by encouraging kitchen gardens, backyard poultry, goat rearing and other income generating activities. “A database for all 13 PVTGs to assess their exact population will be drawn up as part of the project. Besides, an approach paper for each group will be formulated so that their identity, sensitivity and uniqueness of culture can be acknowledged along with actual response to development,” the ST and SC Development Department said in the letter. Under the OPELIP, a community nutrition assessment will be conducted and all its activities will be investigated through a nutrition lens to ensure that crops and activities promoted result in household nutrition security. The project will also involve sustainable development and improvement of natural resources covering 20,000 hectare of land. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

6. Tribal people allege harassment (6)

ERODE: Members of a tribal community residing in Sholagar Colony on Bargur hills have petitioned the district administration, seeking its intervention for extricating them from ‘bonded labour’. According to Madhammal, a representative of the 20 affected families, adults were compelled to work for a wage of Rs. 50 per a day at a 150-acre-farm owned by two persons hailing from Karnataka. The affected families charged the two persons with encroaching on the farm provided by the district administration to the tribal people. The mutt management had confiscated a buffalo belonging to one of the affected families. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

7. Med Camp Need of the Hour to Identify HIV-infected Tribals (6)

PALAKKAD: The demand to conduct a medical camp in Attappadi Adivasi hamlets to identify people with AIDS has been slowly gaining momentum as tribal patients have started enrolling at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital for treatment. The tribal promoters who work with the Adivasis here told Express that there are many in Attappadi living with AIDS, but stress and fear are the major deterrents that prevent them from accessing medical care. The tribal promoters of Attappadi allege that the officials of Kottathara Tribal Hospital are reluctant to reveal the exact number of AIDS patients in Attappadi owing to pressure and HIV could be the reason behind the deaths of many here. “The statistics available with the hospital show that the number of AIDS patients in Attappadi is alarmingly high. “However, the report has not been published by the Department probably to avoid attracting yet another controversy in addition to the potential Maoist threat and infant deaths in Attappadi,” said one of the tribal promoters on condition of anonymity. However, the CDPO of Attappadi, Mayalakshmi said that she was told as many as 10 people were undergoing treatment for AIDS at Kottathara Tribal Hospital. “I am not sure whether the figure is correct or not. No camp has been conducted yet to identify people with AIDS, but it is on the cards and we will conduct a medical camp soon. “Even if we conduct a camp, we are apprehensive if tribals will cooperate due to the fear factor. As far as I know, no one has taken an initiative to identify Adivasi people with AIDS. In the Adivasi settlements of other districts, the officials concerned maintain proper data in this regard, but in Attappadi nothing concrete is available. “The Social Welfare Department cannot do anything now as we are at present occupied in implementing measures to prevent malnutrition deaths in Attappadi,” said Mayalakshmi. The manager of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) Seema Bhaskar opined that it is high time a medical camp is conducted in Attappadi. “The existing system has not been beneficial to tribals in any way and tribals do not feel the need of availing the facilities and medical expertise available at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital. This attitude must change. Only then the tribals will come forward to get their blood sampled and receive treatment if diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS. The National Rural Livelihood Missionwill start conducting an awareness camp from February 27 onwards with the support of the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM). The camp aims at making them aware of a healthy sexual life, the myths associated with treatment, AIDS and child health,” adds Seema. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

8. Manipur tribals ignore verification exercise (6)

IMPHAL: The verification of the nationality of migrant workers staying in Manipur is continuing in Thoubal district. Such exercises by activists had already been done in other valley districts. However, people in tribal dominated districts are not interested since they enjoy a constitutional protection against possession of land by non-tribals. The government is not intervening as it fears that it would provoke the activists to launch various forms of agitations. Over 36 organisations in Manipur had joined hands to demand the reintroduction of the Inner Line Permit which was lifted from Manipur in 1950. The migrant workers are required to furnish details including their photographs to the activists. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

WOMEN

9. Women under represented in higher education in India: Report (8)

New Delhi: Women continue to be under-represented in India’s higher education leadership despite nine-fold increase in the government expenditure on the sector between 2007 and 2012, according to a British Council report. While women constitute 44 per cent of the 27.5 million students in country’s higher educational institutions, they constitute just 1.4 per cent of the professoriate and 3 per cent of vice-chancellors in the universities, it noted. In most Indian universities, the representation of women academics is less than 40 per cent, added the report, titled ‘Women in Higher Education Leadership in South Asia: Rejection, Refusal, Reluctance, Revisioning’. “While in all categories of academic positions women are under-represented, this increases for higher positions. Thus, only 25.5 per cent of professors, 31.1 per cent of readers and associate professors, and 38.5 per cent of lecturers or assistant professors are women,” it noted, analysing a 2013 report of the government. The report, prepared by the British Council in collaboration with the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) of the University of Sussex, was released here at a two-day deliberation on the representation of women in higher education in South Asia. The event, organised by the British Council, concluded on Wednesday. An analysis of the government data also indicated that women with disability represent only 1.9 per cent of the overall total number of academics in India. “Muslim women are also under-represented in Indian higher education, both in relation to male academics and overall. Of the Muslim academics, only 33.5 per cent are women, which is only 14.9 per cent of the total number of academics in India,” underlined the report. The report found that women in higher education in South Asia, including India, were not prepared for leadership. There was also evidence that when they did aspire for leadership, they were frequently rejected for the most senior positions. Referring to interactions with women faculty, the report highlighted how the country’s universities’ selection procedures were “exclusionary and discriminated” against women. “First and foremost, most selection committees have only men. Very few have women. Most that I’ve gone through, have all men on the committee, for any position,” the report quoted a senior woman faculty. The British Council suggested that educational institutions should adopt changes in work practices. (Deccan Herald 11/2/15)

10. Men willing to stand up to parents against dowry, finds online survey (8)

MUMBAI: The results of an online opinion poll indicate that the youth seem to have taken matters into their own hands to end the social evil of dowry. A recent survey by a matrimonial website has shown that 44% of prospective brides would report their in-laws to the police if they sought dowry. Another indicator of a paradigm shift is that not just women, even men are willing to stand up to their parents against this practice. The online poll received 5,800 responses from single Indians aged between 25 and 36 years of which 3,318 were men and 2,482 women. The aim of the online survey was to determine what the modern generation thinks of dowry. An overwhelming 72.1% of male respondents said they would stand up against their parents if they demanded dowry, while 14.3% said they were unsure. While 87.3% of the female respondents said they would refuse to give dowry, 10.6% replied “may be”.When prospective grooms were asked what they would do if their own parents demanded dowry, 63.8% respondents said they would raise their voice strongly against it. Another 31.3% said they would try to convince their parents to not demand dowry and a smaller, but significant, 4.9% said they would report the crime to the police. Of the polled single women, 53.3% said that they would refuse the proposal if their parents agreed to give dowry, 44.2% said they would file a police complaint, but 2.5% expressed willingness to go along with their parents’ decision. The 5,800 respondents were those who had registered themselves with the marriage portal, shaadi.com. “We have always been clear about our intolerance towards the social evil of dowry. This survey reaffirms our belief that Indian men and women today believe in a marriage based on love and equality,” said Gourav Rakshit,chief operating officer of the website. Psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria was “extremely pleased to know that our Indian bride has finally evolved into a mature thinking adult”.She said, “The man, too, is finally accepting that accepting dowry is a crime. These small changes help us to grow and evolve as a society where gender equality will soon be the norm and the girl child will no longer be abhorred but respected.” (Times of India 12/2/15)

11. Violence against women cause for child marriages (8)

VIJAYAWADA: The increasing atrocities against women and young girls are forcing parents to marry off their daughters even before they complete schooling. The situation is grim in Krishna district where nearly 30 child marriages were reported in the last fortnight. Officials prevented more than 20 weddings, while some took place even before they reached the venues, police said. Child marriages were prevented at Vijayawada, Avanigadda, Gudivada, Machilipatnam, Vissannapet, Mudinepalli, Mandavalli and Tiruvuru in the district. “We hear pathetic stories from brides and their parents. But, most of them [parents] express fear of sexual assaults on minor girls as reported in the media,” said counsellor Ch. Vijaya Lakshmi. Krishna District Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Project Director K. Krishna Kumari said child marriages were rampant in the district, and that officials were holding awareness camps in villages with the support of NGOs to curb the practice. “Parents cite a number of reasons for marrying off their minor children, but we explain the other side of the practice,” said Child Welfare Committee Chairman B. Nagesh Rao. According to psychologist T.S. Rao, child marriages are common among lower castes. He stressed the need for creating awareness about health implications for girls. “My sister asked me to take care of her 14-year-old daughter two years ago, as she had fallen sick. Not able to give dowry, we did not send her to school and married her off. But, the WD&CW, Revenue and police officials counselled us, as my daughter was just 16,” said Sakkubai, the mother of a bride. Child Protection Officer Rama Devi said Sakkubai had been told not to send her daughter to her in-laws’ house till turned 18. “We counselled the bride, and officials will follow up the case,” she added. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

12. Kashmir to Kanyakumari on a bike to promote girl child (8)

CHANDIGARH: With just a bicycle, Hiralal Yadav had been touring the country to spread the message of saving the girl child – to cover its length from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. On Monday, Yadav was hosted by the Peace Club of Dev Samaj College of Education, Sector 36, in collaboration with NGO Yuvsatta. Here, the cyclist interacted with students as part of his countrywide ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao Abhiyan’. Yadav is promoting rights and dignity of girls and women in society. “Our traditions and rituals outline the existence of the Indian girl child. Amidst uproars of gender equality and law enforcement, female infants are still found dumped in trash by the dozen, while unborn lives continue to be sniffed out in the womb,” Yadav said, talking about female foeticide in the country. “Wrought with discrimination and prejudiced by rituals, our society has dealt the girl child a rough hand, starting even before birth, till the fag end of life. This is why despite all efforts, over six lakh cases of female foeticide happen annually in India,” Yadav added. He also quoted some lines of his self-composed poem on female foeticide which left the entire audience in tears. Addressing the students, he quoted a message of the late NASA astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, “The path from our dream to success exists; provided we have the sight to search, courage to walk on it and willpower to persevere”.Principal Jyoti Khanna shared that Yadav in the past had also undertaken many such campaigns in support of promoting national harmony, de-addiction, against drug abuse and prisoners of wars, for which he has been awarded by former president APJ Abdul Kalam. (Times of India 17/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

13. Rights groups to reach out to children in slums (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Exactly four months ago, when Hudhud ravaged the city, life came to a standstill for many. And the impact was severe for those residing in slums. More than 100 children from several slum areas narrated their nightmarish experience on that day, at a consultation meet organised jointly by the Child Rights Advocacy Foundation and the Visakha Forum for Child Rights (VFCR) on Tuesday. Students studying in classes VI and X in slum areas such as Kobbarithota, Jalaripeta, Ambedkar Colony, and Bukka Veedhi came forward to share their experiences. “There was no proper drinking water for almost one week. Our houses were submerged due to overflowing storm water drains. Except for a few NGO representatives who turned up to help us push things through, we did not receive any other help,” says Padma a resident of Bhupesh Nagar. Most of the slum-dwellers said that they were not able to afford vegetables and milk. Some of them said that there were no toilet facilities in their localities. Joint Collector J. Nivas, who attended the meeting as chief guest, explained the features of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, under which the government had increased the unit cost of the individual household latrine to Rs.12,000 from Rs.10,000. He said that people should consider construction of toilets more seriously and ensure that every household had one. As part of the relief measure, Mr. Nivas said that textbooks would be distributed to schoolchildren after conducting a review meeting with the DEO. Reaching out to the disadvantaged groups, convener of VFCR R.D. Sampath Kumar said that the forum would be distributing notebooks, geometry boxes, and a pair of shoes to 1,000 schoolchildren in a couple of weeks. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

14. Panel appointed to look into sexual abuse in Delhi schools (14)

NEW DELHI: To curb incidents of sexual abuse of school students, Delhi government has told the Supreme Court that it has asked all schools to have CCTVs, especially in corridors and at entrances, in addition to administering a pledge to boys to respect women. The government said it has also constituted committees at three levels—school, district and headquarters—to address issues relating to sexual abuse of students. Women members would be in majority in all these committees, it said. In an affidavit, the Directorate of Education said it has directed schools to appoint a nodal officer who would stay back in school after children leave to look into complaints of any child not reaching home. The government filed its response in compliance with a court order which on December 5 had issued notices to states on a PIL by advocate Vineet Dhanda expressing concern over safety of girl students in schools. The government said 70,000 teachers have been trained in gender sensitization in the last two years. It also said schools have been directed to talk to the local police to ensure a PCR van is stationed near schools at the time of opening and closing. It said a pledge has been included in the students’ diary saying they would respect and protect the dignity of women and the pledge was being repeated by students on numerous occasions in schools. The court last year had agreed to examine the arrangement made by states in schools to prevent cases of sexual abuse and had issued notices to the Centre and states. The PIL had sought direction from the court to the government to frame laws, guidelines and policies “fixing liability of educational institutions on whose premises sexual abuse takes place”. It had said the liability of schools should be spelt out in cases of physical and mental abuse. (Times of India 13/2/15)

15. Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal Urged to Take Up Issues of Street Kids (14)

NEW DELHI: An organisation of street children has urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to address their issues and include them as part of the government’s agenda. The organisation, ‘Badhte Kadam’, today said that it had faxed the letter to the CM’s office yesterday. “We are hopeful that he will successfully carry out his tenure while helping us to address our issues,” 16-year-old Chandni, a member of the group, said, adding that they had written a similar letter during the previous AAP government. Another member Jyoti, 14, said, “Our demands include ensuring legal identity to street and working children, proper implementation of all government schemes for underprivileged children and action against people involved in child labour.”   Director of Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), of which ‘Badhte Kadam’ is a part, said, “Children have a lot of hope from this government and I hope they take up the issues highlighted by them on a priority basis.”  (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

16. Child brides serve ‘probation period’ before marriage in Odisha village (14)

BHUBANESWAR:  Prior to marriage, teenaged brides in Odisha’s capital city are forced to spend time in their prospective in-laws’ house in order to assess if they fit the role of a suitable bride. This crude form of child marriage is still practised by many in the snake-charmer community residing in Padmakesharipur village in Bhubaneswar. Many girls are withdrawn from school, some even at elementary level, and forced into marriage alliances. “My daughter was just 12 when I arranged a groom for her. She has been helping her in-laws in household chores for the past four years. Finally, her in-laws have agreed to organise a formal marriage next week,” said Bharati Das, who is now busy arranging bridal gifts (dowry) for her daughter. The worrying aspect of teenage marriage practice in the community is that if at some point of time the would-be in-laws feel the bride lacks the physical ability to perform daily household assignments or the mental attitude to match the groom’s mindset and theirs’, the proposal gets rejected. “After the engagement, we send our daughter to work in the in-laws’ house in the daytime and give them the freedom to mingle with the groom,” Bharati said. This period, which is almost like a probation before marriage, is of concern for the bride’s family. Due to this free interaction, girls often risk dangerous pregnancies. Once a girl becomes pregnant, family members of the bride are left with no option but to adhere to the terms set by the groom’s family. “This is a tradition we have been following since time immemorial. Although the community is aware of the legal implications of child marriage, we don’t have leadership to assert and put an end to the practice,” said Shankar Das, a member of snake charmer community of Padmakesharipur. Jyotsna, a mother, said, “Since the marriage has to take place within the community which is confined to a single village in Odisha, the bride’s family has to look for a suitable groom. The desperation for a groom within the community, which has a higher percentage of girls forces the parents to opt for early marriage.” Many girls give birth long before they are physically and emotionally ready. Bharati, who is in her late thirties, already has a large family having several grandsons and granddaughters. The 752-family-strong community, which has lost the main occupation after a ban on snake charming, is now finding it difficult to eke out a living. While many end up begging, some daily wagers from the community seek solace in alcohol. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. Central fund for minority welfare (7)

HYDERABAD: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah assured that the Telangana state has her full support with regard to schemes for the welfare of minorities, according to a press communique issued by deputy chief minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali’s office. Interacting with a delegation of officials of the minorities welfare department, including the deputy CM, special secretary Syed Omar Jaleel, State Wakf Board (SWB) special officer M J Akbar and State Minorities Finance Corporation vice-chairman and managing director S A Shukoor, Heptullah said that senior officials of the ministry of minority affairs would visit the state on February 18 and take part in a dialogue with both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh government representatives to expedite the bifurcation of the SWB. The delegation apprised the minister of increase in the number of applications for pre-matric scholarships, which was more than the stipulated target. They urged her to consider releasing funds so that all applicants could avail the scholarships. Heptullah said that Rs 38 crore would be sanctioned for the multi-sectoral development programme (MsDP). The programme seeks to improve the socio-economic conditions of minorities by initiating schemes for healthcare, education, sanitation, skill development and income generation in districts, where they comprise 25%.In what could be a shot in the arm for Daairatul Maarif, a repository of Arabic manuscripts in Osmania University, she assured funds for digitisation of manuscripts so that they can be preserved better. In addition, the minister said that the Centre would also consider starting coaching programmes for various competitive exams. (Times of India 11/2/15)

18. BJP must better understand the India it seeks to govern (7)

Who knew that the BJP’s party offices would wear a deserted look on counting day in the capital, just eight months after Narendra Modi swept into power in the general elections? The ruling party and millions of its faithful will take a while to recover from the enormity of the defeat in the Delhi elections. They will come to terms with the fact that for all their relish about the Congress getting only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, they themselves narrowly avoided a blank result in Delhi polls. For their own and the nation’s sake, the BJP should absorb the right lessons from this defeat. A combination of factors worked against the BJP even though it marshalled the Prime Minister and 120 MPs into a campaign that left few stones unturned. For all its rhetoric about development and aspiration, the party failed to connect with the poor in ways that Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP have managed to, through sustained contact with neighbourhoods across the city. That was in a way expressed in the absence of local leadership beyond a few high profile leaders like Harsh Vardhan. That is a significant failing for a party in a country that is still largely poor. The BJP will need to, at the very least, rethink its narrative which is currently freighted towards the interests of the middle and upper classes. What should particularly shock the BJP is that it has lost support among the middle class which it had come to take for granted. The party’s development agenda has been consistently undercut by its own elements and its ideological affiliates who frequently indulge in misogynistic commentary, unleash unacceptable anti-minority rhetoric and violence while pursuing pointless campaigns against occasions like Valentine’s Day. The Sangh parivar seems completely out of step with what India’s cities and youth want. They are not interested in renaming minority festivals, nor in declarations by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that India is a Hindu Rashtra that needs to have “one language, one God and one religion”. Not only do such statements fly against the reality and idea of India, they fundamentally violate notions of fairness and individual freedom that young people intuitively embrace. The BJP must urgently seek to understand the India it seeks to govern, which formidable forces like the AAP seem to have a better handle on. It is time for Prime Minister Modi to speak out more explicitly against the regressive agenda that some of his party colleagues and allies espouse – and return to a singular focus on the development platform for which he was elected. (Hindustantimes 11/2/15)

19. Finally, Modi breaks silence, says won’t allow religious intolerance (7)

NEW DELHI: Breaking his silence over the rising incidence of attacks on churches and aggressive religious conversions, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that his government will ensure complete freedom of faith. Narendra Modi asserted that everyone had the right to retain or adopt the religion of his choice without coercion. He also warned that his government would not allow any religious group, of majority or minority communities, to incite hatred against other. “Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” Modi said. The PM’s comments come not just in the wake of hate speeches by fringe Sangh elements, but also after repeated concerns raised by US president Barack Obama about growing religious intolerance in India. In a strong warning to the fringe elements, Modi said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”He appealed to all religious groups “to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution”.Addressing a meeting organized by the Syro-Malabar Catholic church to celebrate Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphresia being declared saints by the Vatican, the PM’s comments would put to rest any speculation about any changes in conversion laws or in India’s constitutional commitment to secularism. The PM’s silence on the rising anxiety had led many observers to warn that Modi’s development agenda could be washed away by such controversies. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was also there for the meeting, said that the recent attacks on churches were “unacceptable aberrations”, and that the culprits would be punished. In one case, the guilty had been identified and brought to book, and in all other cases strong action would be taken. Mischief makers will have no place in our country, he said. The PM recalled the words of Swami Vivekanand — “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” The principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths, Modi said, has been part of the Indian ethos for thousands of years, adding: “And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.” Modi pointed out that India was the land of Buddha and Gandhi and “equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian”.The PM said he had a vision for a modern India, and its mantra was development. “In simple terms it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud,” he said. The PM referred to the declaration adopted at the interfaith conference held on December 10, 2008 at The Hague to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights by the UN. “We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen,” he quoted from the declaration. (Times of India 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Kiran Bedi writes to Election Commission over ‘fatwa’ (7)

New Delhi: After a humiliating defeat in the Delhi Assembly polls, BJP CM candidate Kiran Bedi has written to the Election Commission saying fatwas impact the freedom of choice to vote. On Wednesday, Ms Bedi blamed the “fatwa” by Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari appealing to Muslims to support AAP for her defeat in the BJP’s traditional stronghold of Krishna Nagar in East Delhi and sought a probe into it by the poll panel. She said the Election Commission should inquire the issue to find out whether the Shahi Imam’s appeal to Muslims a day before the polls had any impact on the electoral outcome. Ms Bedi claimed that though she was leading in the vote count, her vote share started dropping when counting of votes in a Muslim-dominated area of her constituency was taken up. “I was told that during the vote count in Krishna Nagar I was leading, but when the counting of votes of the area where the fatwa might have an impact was carried out, it started to drop,” Ms Bedi said, adding, “I lost by 2,000 votes when the counting reached that area.” A day ahead of the polls, Shahi Imam Bukhari appealed to Muslims to vote for AAP but the party promptly rejected the offer. Though it was an appeal by Bukhari, several BJP leaders called it a “fatwa”. “Fatwa means a diktat, a directive, it also means a hukumnama in a way. EC should examine whether fatwas issued last minute before the elections are good for the democratic process or not,” said Ms Bedi. However, the comments of the former IPS officer drew instant criticism from the Congress camp. “BJP saw a downfall (sic) since the day Kiran Bedi was nominated,” Congress leader J.P. Aggarwal said, dismissing her “fatwa” remark. Ms Bedi’s statements were noticed on Tuesday after the results were announced, when she said, “I have not lost. I gave it all my best. Let the BJP introspect. They will assess for themselves.” This after she took full responsibility for the poll debacle. (Asian Age 12/2/5)

21. U.P. villagers reject communal politics (7)

Nayagaon Akbarpur Chhendri (Kanth), A loudspeaker was installed in a small temple at Kanth in Moradabad last Friday. Muslim and Hindu villagers sat together with the local authorities and agreed to install it for a few days on the occasion of Mahashivratri. What happened in just an hour of discussion would have appeared “almost impossible” a few months ago, the villagers said. They spoke of the “mutual distrust” between the two communities and attempts of political players to polarise the region over the issue. Last June, the situation became tense after BJP workers violently protested against the removal of the loudspeaker by the administration, which acted on complaints registered by a member of the minority community. Tragically, during the protests, the then Moradabad District Magistrate Chandrakant lost vision in one eye. Residents of Kanth, where Dalits and Muslims live in a closely knit society, told The Hindu that political players in the region were trying to polarise the village by engaging in “competitive communal politics” ahead of the by-polls in western Uttar Pradesh in September. Alok, a scrap seller on the outskirts of the village, felt quite strongly about the peace of the village being a “casualty” in the aftermath of the controversy. “The issue of loudspeaker over a temple or a mosque is a simple issue that we could have sorted out had the political parties not jumped and made it a Hindu-Muslim issue,” he said. Despite being a high-school dropout, Alok said he was “wise enough” to see that political parties tried to cash in on the controversy. “You must notice the fact that no political leader visits the village once the by-polls were over in September last year,” he added. Moradbad MP Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh of the BJP had promised the Dalit community, which worships in the temple, to ensure that the temple got a permanent loudspeaker, Alok said. Mr. Singh along with other BJP MPs and Anisurrahman — the local MLA from the Peace Party, a relatively new political outfit — were at the forefront of an agitation against the decision to remove the loudspeaker. The BJP also planned to organise a Mahapanchayat over the issue, but the local administration banned it, leading to the protests in which Mr. Chandrakant lost sight in one of his eyes. (The Hindu 15/2/15)

22. Muslim clerics pose six questions to RSS (7)

KANPUR: A delegation of Muslim clerics led by the Sunni Ulema Council’s general secretary met RSS functionary Indresh and posed six questions to the Sangh including whether it has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’, which he claimed left the saffron outfit irritated. The Muslim delegation claimed that Indresh refused to answer their questions and instead said that a conference of Muslim organisations should be called where he would give the answers. “We had a meeting with senior RSS functionary Indreshji last night during which we asked six questions, but he did not have any answer,” Sunni Ulema Council general secretary Haji Mohammed Salees said on Tuesday. He alleged that Indreshji, who is pracharak and looks after minority affairs in the organisation, got “irritated” with the questions. “Our first question was whether RSS considers India a Hindu country. The second one was whether RSS has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’. The third one was whether this Hindu ‘rashtra’ will be according to Hindu religious texts or RSS has chalked out a new philosophy,” he said. Salees said, “The fourth question was what they want on religious conversion. The fifth one was what type of ‘rashtra prem’ (patriotism) RSS wants from Muslims. The sixth one was how RSS views Islam,” he said. He said that these were the six questions which Indreshji “failed” to answer. “They (RSS) did not have any format. They are shouting about ‘Hindu rashtra’ only on the basis of propaganda,” he alleged. Salees feared that if Hindu rashtra was built on Hindu texts, Dalits could once again not be allowed to enter temples. “We asked whether a new philosophy has been chalked out by RSS. If a new philosophy has been chalked out that means Hindu religion is not religious culture. In that case, anyone can convert,” he said. Salees said when the Constitution provides freedom of religion, why is the RSS afraid of bringing a bill. “We are not afraid. If any Muslim does not like Islam and wants to leave, he can go. We don’t have any law to keep anyone Muslim by compulsion,” he said. Salees said as far as love for the country was concerned their ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan. “In 1947, when the concept of two countries was decided, our ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan and accepted Gandhiji as our leader, India as our country and expressed faith in the Constitution,” he said. “What do they want from the Muslims? They should sing Vande Matram and bow before the picture of Bharat Mata, which they have visualized? We won’t accept it. It is against Islam,” he said. “The ultimate result of the 90-minute meeting was they (RSS) asked us to call a ‘sammelan’ of Muslims and they will reply (to our posers),” Salees said. “I said that when you cannot answer these questions in a room, then how will you do so in a conference. We then asked as to why should we call a conference,” he said. Salees said there was restlessness among Muslims over these issues and “I came to take reply to these questions being raised in our community.” “I believe whatever be our religion, we should be honest towards the Constitution. Religion is our personal thing. It is not an issue of the nation. We don’t even support the statements of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi. “Those flaring communal passion are not loyal to the country. The country will run on the principles of Gandhiji, it will not run on the statements of Owaisi or Sangh,” he added. Meanwhile, a city cleric, who skipped a meeting between Indresh and a delegation of Muslim leaders on Monday night, said there “was no point” in meeting a representative and that he would only meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to highlight issues pertaining to their community. “Salees had called me for the meeting but I have already met Indresh before and there was no point in meeting him again. I will respond to the request of a meeting only if Bhagwat will call us,” city cleric Alam Raja Noori said. “If we had met Bhagwat, we would have put forth our issues with their agenda of a Hindu nation. Talking with Indresh about our concerns will not affect organisation’s perspective,” he said. The cleric further said he was out of town when the meeting took place but even if he were here he wouldn’t have met Indresh. Meanwhile, Salees said Noori’s name was not included in the list of members who were to meet the RSS functionary and was only added later. Elaborating on the meeting, Salees said, on being questioned by Indresh on their alleged silence over remarks by AIMIM Asaduddin Owaisi, the delegation told him that Owaisi does not represent the views of the community. Equating him with the likes of BJP MPs Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Nirajan Jyoti, Salees said, “Owaisi is “just a Member of Parliament”. (Times of India 17/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

23. 8 Dalit Christians Re-convert to Hinduism at Pudukottai (7)

PUDUKKOTTAI: Eight Dalit Christians of  Ramanathapuram district re-embraced Hinduism in a Pudukkottai temple on Wednesday aided by Hindu Munnani cadre and a priest from Madurai Seva Ashram. According to Hindu Munnnai sources, Pudukkottai district, the ‘home coming’ was organised at Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar temple as it was the dalits’ kuladeivam (family deity). Ramamoorthi, district secretary, Hindu Munnani told Express that the dalits wished to re-embrace Hinduism as they worshipped Hindu deities for more than two decades even though they were officially Christians. The group’s letter to Hindu Munnani stated that the eight wanted help to reunite with their ancestor’s religion. Muruganandamji, a priest from Seva Ashram, Thiruparankundram, Madurai district did the rituals. Ramamoorthi said, “Their Christian names have been changed to Hindu names.” Meanwhile, Sudalai Mani, state secretary of Hindu Munnani told Express, “To avoid police torture in Ramanathapuram district we selected Pudukkottai district and the exact place was chosen by the eight as the temple is said to be their kuladeivam (family deity).” “In Chennai we had to face several hurdles by police when we planned a ‘home coming ceremony.’ Following this we selected another district,” Mani said, adding, “We never forced anyone and we organised the programme after the group requested. They visited Sabarimala for the last two decades though they were Christians. Now they have changed their religion officially.” The district police have begun questioning various Hindu activists, sources said. (New Indian Express 13/2/15)

24. Delhi convent school vandalised, PM summons Police Commissioner (7)

NEW DELHI: The Holy Child Auxilium School was vandalised in the early hours of Friday in the sixth attack on Christian establishments in the city in three months. Though the Delhi police are under the Union Home Ministry, it is rare for the Prime Minister to summon the Commissioner directly. The action comes after a series of attacks on churches and Christian leaders, resulting in accusation of Delhi police inaction despite representations to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The attacks and the allegation that the government did little to assuage the feeling of fear among the community are suspected to have contributed to the BJP’s rout in the recently concluded Assembly elections. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in Manipur on Friday. Mr. Modi spoke on the phone with Home Secretary L.C. Goyal, virtually directing him to personally monitor the Delhi police action. “The Prime Minister asked the Home Secretary to pay special attention to the rising incidents of crime and vandalism and to work towards ensuring the safety and security of women in the Capital,” a senior ministry official said. (The Hindu 14/2/15)

25. 36 Re-Convert at Ghar Wapsi Drive (7)

KOLLAM: In yet another massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive held in the district on Sunday, 36 people including members of a Roman Catholic family reportedly returned to Hinduism. The number of re-converted people in the district during the past two months has reached 115 with this drive organised by various Hindu organisations in the area. The drive was reportedly led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad local committe. In a massive drive held at Areekkara near Uzhavoor, members of as many as 25 families from Uzhavoor, Ramapuram, Monippally, Veliyannoor, Kadanadu, Kuryanadu, Kudakkachira, Melukavu, Kurichithanam and Marangattupilly took part. The participants were mainly from Cheramar Christian, Roman Catholic and Vedar castes. The drive was reportedly organised by the Uzhavoor Unit of VHP, the Areekkara Branch of SNDP Yogam and Sree Ramadasa Ashram, Chenkottukonam. The ritualistic ceremonies were held under the aegis of Brahmapadananda Swaraswathi Theertha Padar, the head of the Chenkottukonam Math and Brahmachari Praveeth Kumar, general convener of the Math. The first massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive in the state was held on last Christmas Day. As many as 58 took part in the programme held at Thirunakkara and Ponkunnam then. Later, another re-conversion programme was held in Uzhavoor on January 15, in which as many as 16 persons reportedly returned to Hinduism.As part of the efforts to forge the greater Hindu alliance initiatives, the Hindu conference organised under the aegis of the district unit of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) here the other day, resolved to bring in place various changes in ritualistic performances and activities in temples. According to VHP functionaries, the decisions of the conference will be implemented in 12 temples under the VHP district unit.  K P Prakash, VHP district seva pramukh, said that the main decision of the conference was to convert the temples as service centers to carry out social services to the public. “This will be implemented in 12 temples under VHP district unit in the first phase of the initiative. We also decided to allow the male devotees to have ‘darshans’ in the temples with tops (shirts, vests etc),” he said. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

26. CBCI Hails PM’s Assurance on Religious Freedom (7)

KOCHI: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India  (CBCI) welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that  the government would not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority and minority categories, to incite hatred against others. It was the first time the Prime Minister reacted to the recent incidents of attack on Christian places of worship in the capital city. CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis in a statement said those who attempt to sabotage the country’s secularism should understand the significance of the Prime Minister’s statement to bring in a change in their attitude and actions. The Cardinal had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue directive to the law enforcement agencies to provide protection and security to religious minorities so that they could follow faith according to their respective religions. Meanwhile, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC)  stated that the Prime Minister’s statement assuring religious freedom was a great relief for the minorities, among whom a feeling of insecurity was growing in the wake of the recent developments, including the ‘ghar vapsi’ programme and the attack on churches and church-run establishments in Delhi. “The proactive statement by the PM will definitely help to ease the tension prevailing in many places,” a KCBC spokesperson said. The KCBC further stated that the global developments  should be an inspiration for the people of India to maintain the country’s great tradition of secularism’’. (New Indian Express 18/2/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

27. Rajnath to Visit Tripura on Repatriation of Reang Refugees (13)

AGARTALA: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijuju will visit Tripura on Saturday to review the law and order situation and discuss the repatriation of Reang refugees, housed in six evacuee camps in the state, official sources said today. The Union Home Minister would arrive here by chopper from Imphal and then again fly by chopper for Khanthlang border outpost, a remote area in Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura district to hold meeting with BSF officers, SP, Police Control, Uttam Bhowmick said. From Khanthlang he would visit the evacuee camps of the internally displaced Reangs from neighbouring Mizoram and then return to Agartala to hold meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla at the Civil Secretariat, Bhowmick said. More than 32,000 Reang/Bru refugees were huddled in six camps after they took shelter in Tripura since 1997 following ethnic clashes with the local Mizos over possession of land. The Union Home Minister would return to Delhi on the same day. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

28. Rajnath Singh visits Bangladesh border in Tripura (13)

Agartala: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh accompanied by his deputy, Kiren Rijiju, Saturday visited the India-Bangladesh border in Tripura and discussed issues with officials and BSF troopers. The two ministers also met Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. “Rajnath Singh with Rijiju (minister of state for home affairs) and home ministry officials visited Khantlang in Tripura along the India-Bangladesh-Mizoram border,” a Border Security Force (BSF) officer said. The home ministers interacted with the BSF officials and troopers at the Khantlang border outposts (195 km from Agartala), along the Bangladesh`s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The militants set up camps in CHT and used the unfenced borders for their trans-border movements. “Senior BSF officials briefed both the ministers about the border issues and militancy related problems,” the BSF official told IANS on condition of anonymity. The home minister appreciated the BSF troopers for their role in maintaining security in the mountainous areas. Earlier both the ministers accompanied by senior home ministry officials arrived here from Manipur, capital Imphal and left for the bordering areas by an Indian Air Force helicopter. After visiting the border areas, the union ministers met Sarkar and senior state government officials in Agartala to chalk out a plan to repatriate the tribal refugees to Mizoram. Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was scheduled to attend the meeting but could not make it. About 32,000 Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, are staying in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 after fleeing their villages in Mizoram, following ethnic troubles after the killing of a Mizo forest official. Home Ministry`s Joint Secretary Shambhu Singh Jan 30 held a meeting in New Delhi with Tripura and Mizoram officials and discussed the repatriation of Mizoram`s tribal refugees. The Tripura government has been asking both Mizoram and the union home ministry to repatriate the tribal refugees to their homes in Mizoram. (Zee News 14/2/15)

29. Rajnath Singh assures all possible help in repatriation of all Bru migrants (13)

Kanchanpur: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured all possible help in repatriation of all Bru migrants in Tripura. The Home Minister was interacting with the representatives of Bru migrants living in relief camps at Kanchanpur during his visit to Tripura. The Government has released fund amounting to Rs. 242.35 crore for the year 2014-15 for maintenance of the Bru migrants living in relief camps. Earlier, Rajnath Singh has visited border areas along Chittagong Hill tracts to meet BSF personnel at Khantlang (North Tripura). BSF jawans have explained the functioning of monitoring equipments used at the BoPs. While addressing, Rajnath Singh has underlined the importance of their presence in border areas and saluted their courage. “I salute these brave men who stay away from home to perform their national duty,” he added. The Union Home Minister has met the Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar and reviewed the security situation in the state. While addressing a press conference, Rajnath Singh has said that Insurgency was the biggest problem facing the North-Eastern region. “Our government is committed to the North East development but insurgency and militancy hamper its progress,” he added. The Union Home Minister has appealed to insurgent groups operating in the North-East to shun violence and give the region a change to progress and develop. The Union Home Minister has assured Tripura government of all cooperation to deal with the issues of insurgency and other security related issues. The government is planning 100 percent repatriation of all Bru refugees and the Centre will provide all assistance to expedite the process, he added. The Union Home Minister appealed to Mizoram government to provide adequate security to Bru refugees and help them in their rehabilitation. (New Kerala 16/2/15)

30. Myanmar conflict: China rules out intervention (13)

BEIJING: China has assured Myanmar that it will not interfere in its domestic affairs, despite a cross-border surge in the Yunnan province of refugees, who are escaping fighting following a military offensive in northern Myanmar. Heavy fighting between the Myanmar army and Kokang rebels for control of Laukkai township in the northern Shan State, is causing civilians to flee across the border, Myanmar’s newspaper, The Irrawaddy , quoting a rebel source, reported. Despite the close ethnic ties between the Kokang people and mainland groups, China has made it plain it will not be drawn into the conflict. The Chinese are also debating whether a win-win partnership for durable peace in Myanmar with India and Thailand is possible, which could reconcile China’s “One Road, One Belt” strategy with New Delhi’s “Look East” policy. Analysts say that China wants to quickly restore stability in Myanmar, which is central to the fulfilment of the its grand strategy of the developing the 21st century Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to integrate the economies of Asia and Europe, anchored by China. A strongly worded editorial in Global Times , the newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party of China (CPC), stressed that the Kokang people are not entitled to the rights that Chinese citizens exercise. The write up follows an appeal in an open letter by Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin for support from Chinese people all over the world, spurring speculation in sections of the western and social media that a situation similar to Crimea has developed along China’s border with Myanmar, following the refugee rush. The editorial warned that that there “are no grounds for comparing Kokang to Crimea”, and those “who are stuck in such comparisons are either spouting nonsense, or have ulterior motives”. It added that, “China should play a role in fostering peace in northern Myanmar and persuading Myanmar government troops and ethnic armed forces to solve the problem through negotiations”. Recognising Myanmar’s criticality to the fulfilment of “One Road, One Belt” strategy, another commentary, appearing earlier this month in the Global Times , advocated joint efforts by China, India and Thailand to restore win-win peace in Myanmar. The commentary added that all three countries will benefit from stability in Myanmar, which can” become a hub that connects China, India and Thailand”. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

31. Over 96 p.c. of RTI pleas cleared (1)

MYSURU: Karnataka has disposed of 96.84 per cent of more than 4.25 lakh applications received under the Right to Information Act (RTI) last year. Information Commissioner Shekar D. Sajjan said here on Tuesday the maximum number of applications for information under the RTI Act pertained to the Revenue Department, which got 1,46,715 requests of which 1,32,358 were disposed of. The Department of Urban Development got 89,026 applications of which 83,550 were cleared, while 74,001 applications were received by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department of which 70,839 applications have been disposed of so far. During 2013-14, the government accrued a revenue of Rs. 59.95 lakh by way of fee collected from applicants. There is a proposal to establish two regional offices in the State. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

32. Info commission flays CMO officials for ‘negligence’ (1)

HYDERABAD: The chief minister’s office (CMO), it appears, is not interested in upholding the spirit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The information commission recently came down heavily on public information officers of the CMO, the minorities welfare department (MWD) and the AP State Wakf Board (APSWB) for not having furnished information under the RTI Act concerning the action taken with respect to mismanagement of wakf properties. The applicant, Khaja Aijazuddin, a lawyer, citing a 2008 SC order which directed the government of undivided Andhra Pradesh to probe the mismanagement of the APSWB in the last two decades, its issuing of no objection certificates and leasing of properties in its custody, sought a status report. According to Aijazuddin, the CMO forwarded the query to the MWD citing that no information was available. The MWD subsequently forwarded the application to the APSWB. When information was not forthcoming, the applicant filed the first appeal with the CMO, only to find out that it was transferred to the MWD. The applicant approached the commission with his second appeal. In his order (a copy of which is available with TOI) given on Monday, information commissioner S Imtiyaz Ahmed noted that the PIO of the CMO, “negligently” and “blindly forwarded” the application to another PIO with “malafide intention”. This, he reasoned, was akin to denying information. He also noted the information should be available with the CMO as the SC had ordered the state government to take necessary action. Ahmed described the attitude of the PIO and first appellant authority (FAA) of the CMO as “negative” with respect to the implementation of the RTI act. “This case is a classic example that even officials of the CM’s office are unaware of provisions of the Act and the procedure to be followed,” he lashed out in the order. “The PIO is seriously warned for not warning the procedure. Similarly the FAA (is) also warned for not adhering to the procedure contemplated under the act. He observed that it was “high time” the government conduct awareness programmes “particularly in the CMO periodically, in order to implement effectively the provisions of the RTI Act.” Issuing a show cause notice to the CMO, Ahmed directed the PIO and the FAA to provide the information to the applicant within 15 days of the order and submit to the commission a compliance report. “I was aggrieved with the functioning of the CMO with respect to the furnishing of information. How can they deny simple but crucial information? Hence I appealed before the commission, Aijazuddin told TOI on Thursday. (Times of India 13/2/15)

33. CBI misconstrues RTI Act exemption clause (1)

New Delhi: In an apparent misinterpretation of the RTI Act, CBI has claimed before the Delhi high court that it can only share information pertaining to allegations of corruption against its own officials and not the graft cases probed by it. The explanation not only goes against the preamble of the Act, which says that an informed citizenry is vital to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable, but also contravenes Section 24 of RTI Act under which CBI has been included in the list of exempted organisations by the previous UPA government, which was facing serious corruption charges probed by the agency. Recently, CBI has even started returning RTI applications citing the exemption clause despite clear orders from the CIC and its former director, A.P. Singh. Section 24 says that nothing in the Act will apply to exempted organisations provided the “information” sought by an application pertaining to allegations of corruption is not excluded under it. The definition of “information” says it is “any material in any form held by or under the control” of a public authority and, as per the definition, it may not necessarily be about the organisation from which the information was sought. The agency, while challenging the order of chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra through a writ petition before Delhi high court, apparently misconstrued the clause which exempts it from the RTI Act by only highlighting the portion of it which goes in its favour. Experts are of the view that the Right to Information Act is not about records of an organisation or its employees. The Act is about any information which is “held by or under the control” of a public authority. “A citizen can demand the information (any material in any form held by or under the control of a public authority) from CBI if it pertains to allegations of corruption. The claim that it will give information only where allegations are against its employees is a complete abuse of the law,” said noted activist Venkatesh Nayak. (Asian Age 16/2/15)

34. Can high court insist on its rules on RTI pleas, SC asks Gujarat (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the registrar of the Gujarat High Court on a plea by the State Information Commission saying that the high court could not insist on adherence to its rules for sharing information sought under the Right to Information Act. A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman issued notice to the registrar as well as former medical officer Mahendra Bhatt who had sought information from the high court under the RTI Act but was told by its public information officer that he should seek the information under the relevant provisions of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993 instead of the RTI Act. Bhatt was also told that if he was not a party to the proceedings in respect of which he was seeking information, then he would have to file an affidavit stating reasons for which the certified copy and other documents were required. This response came in reply to his application in 2010 seeking certain information along with documents and certified copies. The PIO told Bhatt to approach the high court for the required information either personally or through his lawyer on the payment of fee of Rs.3 to the deputy registrar, decree department. (New Kerala 17/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

35. 1,400 students to get admissions under RTE (11)

VADODARA: As many as 1,400 students from poor families will be given admissions in private schools under the provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act. The forms for the admissions under the system will be available from the district education office from Thursday. The state government awards a quota to each city for admissions under the RTE act since the last couple of years. A committee headed by municipal commissioner looks into the admission process after accepting forms. Chairman of the primary school education committee of Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) Keyur Rokadia who is also a member of the admission committee said that last year the state government had given a quota for 800 students for the city. “We were the only municipal corporation area in the state that admitted students on all the seats,” he said. District education officer and member secretary of the admission committee Navnit Mehta said that the children would be admitted in 82 Gujarati medium, 33 English medium schools as well as 11 CBSE and international schools. He added that forms for eligible students would be given till March 10. (Times of India 12/2/15)

36. AAP govt good news for RTE activists, pvt schools worried (11)

NEW DELHI: Having Aam Aadmi Party back in power is good news for Right to Education activists. They now have a government that’s “interested.” This was one area of governance that AAP had successfully stirred up during its 49-day stint. The activists didn’t approve of all the measures but agree that the “hulchul” helped. “Within three days, the government managed to get data with the help of volunteers on the status of compliance with the RTE Act’s infrastructure norms in over 900 government schools,” says Kumar Ratan of National Coalition for Education (NCE). While the volunteer system undermined the RTE-mandated school management committees, it also signalled AAP’s willingness to actively involve the community in the running of schools. “Education systems need participation of people and AAP gave civil society that space,” observed Ambarish Rai, national convener, Right to Education Forum. He intends to meet the new minister and ask him to “do it right” this time and begin with child-mapping—another RTE Act requirement that wasn’t fulfilled; strengthen the grievance redress and monitoring systems; and bring ordinary government schools to the standard of the special category ones. NCE is also thankful to AAP’s Manish Sisodia who, in his first stint as Delhi’s education minister, had halted the PPP project envisioned by a municipal body. “Sisodia has repeatedly stated that education is the state’s responsibility,” said Ratan. “AAP’s win is good news but they should uphold legal arrangements like school management committees and not further marginalize them.” Private school managements are reacting to AAP’s victory with cautious optimism. One school association chief admits he’s “apprehensive.” When AAP was in power, they had fully supported the nursery admission guidelines based on the LG’s order and took steps to tighten the screws on private schools. When HC upheld the autonomy of private schools in deciding nursery criteria in November, Sisodia had issued a statement against it. All this—together with talk of fee regulation—has one principal saying, “I know we’ll be troubled for the next five years.” Private school associations are willing to assist the government. “There could be an interesting interdependence between government and private schools. We could share resources, have common training programmes. Private schools will be happy to help out,” says Ameeta Mulla Wattal, chairperson, National Progressive Schools Conference. Members of the action committee for Unaided Recognized Public Schools, which fought in court the LG guidelines that AAP had so strenuously backed, will meet the new minister to “tell them about us (private schools), our performance and our problems.” “I hope they’ll think of the interest of the people and ensure that government schools are functioning,” says action committee president, SK Bhattacharya. “The government’s policy shouldn’t be based on rumours such as private schools fleece parents and have discriminatory admission policies,” comments Sushil Salwan, chairperson, Salwan Education Trust. Interestingly, Salwan believes that the first AAP government “neither expressed nor took steps that were anti-private schools.” He feels they were simply trying to “plug loopholes” in the existing system. (Times of India 14/2/15)

37. Primary Education Still Eludes Many (11)

BHUBANESWAR:Despite massive expenditure under Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan (SSA) and introduction of Right to Education (RTE) Act, primary education in the State still remains inaccessible to children in many areas. Shortage of teachers and dilapidated school buildings are major issues which are yet to be addressed by the Government though adequate funds are available under different Central and State schemes. Out of 36,399 primary and 21,945 upper primary schools in the State, at least 45,846 schools are yet to be provided a teacher for each class. Besides, rooms for each class are not available in 43,973 schools. Independent rooms for each class is available only in 2,885 schools. There is a teacher for each class in only 3,453 schools. The statistics provided by School and Mass Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra in a written reply to a question from Dilip Ray (BJP) paint a bleak picture of the primary education system in Odisha. Due to non-availability of rooms and teachers in most of the schools, students of two-three classes are taught in a single room by a single teacher, the reply stated. Though there is requirement of 2,24,330 regular teachers for both primary and upper primary schools as per the norms of RTE, only 1,15,833 teachers are available. The situation is being managed by the appointment of 73,736 siksha sahayaks and gana sikshaks. However, there is still a shortfall of 34,779 teachers. In Ganjam district alone, more than 8,000 posts of regular primary school teacher are vacant. About 6,000 vacancies have been filled up by siksha sahayaks. In Mayurbhanj district, posts of more than 7,000 regular teachers are vacant while in Kalahandi it is more than 6,000. The Minister has also admitted in response to another question that 1,721 high schools are functioning without regular headmasters. A large number of posts, including science teachers, are vacant in high schools. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

38. How is education cess used, asks NHRC (1)

CHENNAI: The National Human Rights Commission has given four weeks to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu to provide details regarding the use of its share of Education Cess provided by the Central government. The notice, available in the Commission’s website, seeks to know how the cess was used and whether it had provided facilities such as toilets in schools. The Chief Secretary has also been directed to inform the Commission about the amount of money “lying unused and how the State government proposes to use this money.” The NHRC member Justice D. Murugesan, had taken up the issue following a complaint by the Catalyst Trust, a non-governmental organisation, which had alleged that the apathy by the State government had affected girl children. Mr. Murugesan observed that the Right to Education, guaranteed under Article 21A of the Constitution, includes the right of students to have conducive atmosphere. Such rights should be ensured to all students and the responsibility lay with the State more so when a cess was collected for that purpose. Chairman Emeritus of Catalyst Trust R. Desikan said he took up the issue following a study which revealed that 80 per cent of the time people in the country sought medical treatment for food-and-water-related infections. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

39. 15 key promises AAP has made to people of Delhi (21)

Since the Aam Aadmi Party is all set to form the government in Delhi, TOI enlists key promises the party has made. (1) Delhi Janlokpal Bill: Resolved to bring Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill on coming to power. Delhi Lokpal will have the power to investigate and prosecute those charged with corruption. (2) 2.: Swaraj Bill AAP will also bring the Swaraj Bill to devolve powers to the people.Decisions affecting the local community will be taken by citizens and implemented by their secretariat. (3) Full statehood for Delhi: AAP will push for full statehood for Delhi. This will make bodies like DDA, MCD & Delhi Police accountable to the elected Delhi government. (4) Electricity bills to be cut by half: AAP will ask CAG to do an audit of discoms, and convinced that they are fattening the costs, AAP will reduce electricity bills by half. (5) Discom portability: AAP has promised to provide consumers the right to choose between electricity providers.This, they say, will create competition, leading to better services and lower tariffs. (6)

Delhi to be made a solar city: AAP will facilitate a phased shift to renewable and alternate sources of energy. (7) Water as a right: AAP will provide universal access to clean drinking water at an affordable price. This, they say, is every citizen’s right. (8) Free water: AAP to give free ‘lifeline’ water of up to 20 kilolitres (20,000 litres) per month to every household. But once consumption exceeds 20 kilolitres, full amount to be charged. Annual 10% tariff hike will be abolished & hikes will be after due consideration.(9) Reviving Yamuna: Will ensure 100% collection and treatment of Delhi’s sewage through an extensive sewer network and construction of new functional sewage treatment plants. (10) Public loos: AAP will build 1.5 lakh toilets in slums across the city and 50,000 toilets in public spaces.Of them, 1 lakh toilets will be for women. (11) New schools: AAP will build 500 new schools with a special focus on secondary and senior secondary schools to ensure that every Delhi child has easy access to quality education. (12) New colleges: AAP will open 20 new colleges under Delhi administration on the outskirts of the city in partnership with the villages of Delhi. (13) Regulate fees: AAP to regulate private school fees by publishing the fee structures & accounts online.Capitation fee will be abolished. (14) E-governance: All govt services & forms to be available online & on cellphone.Data on govt projects, progress, accounts & personnel will be posted online. (15) Smart Delhi . AAP promised free Wi-Fi in city. It will also install 10,000 CCTVs in DTC buses, bus stands and in crowded places as a deterrent against crime. (Times of India 11/2/15)

40. No Toilet in 80 Lakh Rural Households in Odisha (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as jaundice is spreading to new regions of the State, nearly 80 lakh households in the rural areas do not have toilets in their houses while as many households do not have drinking water connection. The situation in urban areas is similar where outdated pipelines and lack of garbage disposal have led to outbreak of jaundice which the State Government is finding difficult to bring under control. Official sources said only 1.59 per cent of the households in rural areas have pipe water connections while the figure is less than one per cent in 17 out of 30 districts in the State. As per the 2011 Census, 81.44 lakh households reside in rural areas out of 96.61 lakh households in the State. Only 1.29 lakh houses have water connections and 32.39 lakh families collect drinking water from the stand-posts in their villages. About 47.75 lakh families do not have drinking water facilities. These include tribal and inaccessible villages in Western and Southern Odisha districts. Coverage under piped water connectivity is less than one per cent in Sundargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Puri, Nuapada, Nayagarh, Koraput, Khurda, Keonjhar, Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Boudh, Bhadrak, Bargarh, Balangir and Angul districts.  Similarly, only 10.38 lakh families out of the total 96.62 lakh have toilet facilities as enumerated in 2013 baseline survey. Less than five per cent houses in Kalahandi, Nuapada, Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Sundargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Balangir, Boudh, Deogarh, Gajapati, Ganjam and Jharsuguda have toilet facilities. The issue cropped up in the ongoing budget session of the Assembly several times as jaundice has affected more than a thousand people in Sambalpur, Cuttack and other areas. (New Indian Express 15/2/15)

41. Malnourishment high among children of migrants: study (21)

JAIPUR: The level of malnourishment is high among children whose parents migrate in search of livelihood. Inherent malnourishment in mothers, lack of food and nutrition security, feeding and dietary practices and illnesses are some of the reasons identified for high levels of malnourishment. A study ‘Understanding hunger and malnutrition among high migrant communities’ conducted in south Rajasthan by Aajeevika Bureau and EdelGive Foundation has revealed that more than half the children were underweight in those communities where migration was high. Stunting or retarded growth was reported in 53 per cent of the children with 28 per cent of them severely so; 33 per cent are wasted (debilitated growth) with over 9 per cent of them severely so and one-fourth severely underweight. South Rajasthan — broadly Udaipur division — is a semi-arid region with a largely tribal population which owns small land holdings. Small land holdings are unable to help them sustain a livelihood which results in high levels of migration. Each panchayat, where the study was done, had 550-600 migrants. The study was done in four panchayats in one block — two had high levels of migrations and the other two low migration. The sample of 884 households, which had less than three children, was picked up from 13 villages. A total of 695 children under the age of three were weighed and measured as were 607 mothers. The median BMI (body mass index) of mothers was 18.1 with 58 per cent having a BMI of less than 18.5. An analysis has suggested inter-generational transfer of under-nutrition. When the mother is under-nourished, children are 1.8 times more likely to have severe malnutrition. Also, less availability of food items, small land holdings resulting in low produce and caring practices caused malnutrition. Roti was the only food item eaten by children daily and more than 60 per cent had access to it. Only 58 per cent were breastfed, and less than one per cent had daliya (porridge) which is supposed to be highly nutritious. The study further shows that children of migrating families were less likely to be enrolled at the anganwadi centres where the government provides supplementary food to pre-school children. Importantly, the anganwadi centres were less functional in areas with high migrating population. When a mother goes for work, the primary caretakers are grandparents in 57 per cent of the cases, father in just 4 per cent and elder brother in 5 per cent. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

42. Centre in no hurry to cut PDS cover for poor (21)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is not in a hurry to accept the controversial recommendation of the Shanta Kumar panel to cut the public distribution system beneficiaries for subsidised foodgrains to 40 from 67 per cent under the National Food Security Act, highly placed government sources have indicated to The Hindu. With several crucial Assembly elections in the offing this and the next year and the resurgence of the Aam Aadmi Party which is waiting to spread its wings in Punjab and Bihar, the Modi government is treading cautiously on important policy decisions. Assembly elections in Bihar, where the BJP is hoping to make a bid for power, is scheduled for later this year, and any backlash on account of reduced coverage under the NFSA is not something that the Modi government would like at this juncture. Incidentally, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan whose Lok Janshakti Party is a BJP ally at the Centre and in Bihar, has strong reservations about the suggestion to cut down the priority beneficiaries from the Targeted PDS.The Shanta Kumar committee recommendations have already drawn flak from several opposition parties. “Even if the UPA’s National Food Security Act was a Lok Sabha poll-eve gimmick, the NDA cannot be seen tinkering with it so as to reduce the percentage of beneficiaries. It will be a highly unpopular proposal on which there will be no political consensus,’’ highly placed sources told The Hindu. But some recommendations regarding the re-structuring of the FCI, modernisation of the PDS, conversion of godowns into silos, de-centralised procurement and raising the quantum of foodgrains to 7 kg per person from the present 5 kg may be taken on board. So far only 11 States have rolled out the National Food Security Act but none has the requisite infrastructure in place. The NDA has given time till June for States to get their act together. The NFSA includes the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Other Welfare Schemes and the Targeted Public Distribution System. The 67 per cent TPDS coverage includes 75 per cent population in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas. Under the scheme, rice is priced at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and coarse grains at Re. 1 per kg. States have to identify the beneficiaries as per a criterion and cap worked out by the erstwhile Planning Commission. The panel which was set up by the Modi government in August to make recommendations for re-structuring the Food Corporation of India, has suggested that the Centre “re-visit’’ the National Food Security Act to incorporate its recommendations. Among other key recommendations are raising the quantum of rationed foodgrains to seven kg per person instead of five, raising the cost of rationed foodgrains, shifting to cash transfers in lieu of foodgrains, a re-look at the regime for giving minimum support price for farm commodities, an open-ended procurement system, outsourcing of foodgrains storage and entry of private players into bulk handling of foodgrains. It justified its recommendations on the consideration of large foodstocks, lack of storage space and high food subsidy bill, budgeted at Rs. 1,02,476 crore for 2014-15. The allocation of foodgrains under the Act is estimated at 62.1 million tonne. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. Provide details of ‘missing’ bonded labour: NHRC (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed the Krishna district officials to submit the details of bonded labourers who went missing in three weeks. Deputy Commissioner of Labour (DCL), N. Suryanarayana, who appeared before the Commission on February 9, at New Delhi, submitted the documents related to the relief provided to 672 bonded labourers, who were rescued from different stone quarries in the district a few years ago. But, the Commission grilled Mr. Suryanarayana for failing to produce the details of the remaining 248 labourers who went missing. NHRC which was not satisfied over the poor implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 in Krishna district, directed to submit the information in three weeks, said sources in the Commission.Following a petition filed by a Visakhapatnam-based NGO, alleging poor implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, the Revenue Department officials raided the quarries at Ibrahimpatnam, Kanchikacherla and G. Kondur mandals. The officials identified 920 bonded labourers and issued release certificates to 672 labourers as per the Act. However, the officials could not find the whereabouts of 248 labourers and submitted the same report to the Commission.The NHRC which was serious about the negligence of the district administration in providing Rehabilitation and Relief (R&R) to the rescued labourers, directed to submit the details of the missing labourers. When the officials failed to respond in the stipulated time, the Commission served summons on the district Collector to present before it on February 9. Speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, Collector A. Babu said the DCL submitted the available information to the Commission and the case is under inquiry. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

44. Consultations begin to prepare comprehensive labour policy (14)

Bengaluru The labour department has begun the consultation process with various stake holders to gather inputs for a comprehensive labour policy that will cover both the organised and unorganised sector. This is the first time a policy initiative has been taken for the labour sector, which is governed by an array of central and State legislations. “We have started the consultation process with trade unions, employers, industrialists, industry bodies among others for their feedback and inputs for the policy. The basic framework of the policy will be completed in two to three weeks. We plan to come out with the policy document after another round of consultation and discussion,” Labour Commissioner D S Vishwanath told Deccan Herald. The labour department will also consult other related departments including industries, urban development, rural development and panchayat raj, agriculture marketing among others. He said the policy will be progressive, reflect the changing times and will cover both the organised and unorganised sector with a focus on giving a thrust to the economy. The officer said the policy will fix responsibilities of various stakeholders like the employees, employers and officials of the department. The State’s policy will go into various micro-level aspects of the labour sector including creating more employment opportunities, skill based training programmes to improve employability among others.Vishwanath said not many states in the country have comprehensive labour policies. Karnataka’s neighbour Tamil Nadu was among the first states to come out with a  policy for labour and employment. The Tamil Nadu policy for instance covers industrial relations, labour welfare board, unorganised workers labour welfare board, consumer protection, eradication of child labour, industrial safety and health issues, vocational guidance activities and private sector placements. It also deals with skill development initiatives, apprenticeship training schemes, Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) and Employees State Insurance (ESI). Asked whether the State government will amend various legislations pertaining to the labour sector like the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961, Karnataka Industrial Establishment Act, 1963, Karnataka Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1965, Vishwa nath said a final decision in this regard can be taken after the completion of the consultation process and after taking the view of labour and legal experts. (Deccan Herald 15/2/15)

45. Fast by construction workers (14)

NAGERCOIL: Members of the Construction Workers’ Association affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) observed a fast in front of the Collectorate here on Monday protesting against the “anti-labour attitude” of the Labour Welfare Office dealing with social security schemes here. They wanted the Department of Labour to implement a five-point charter of demands, which included immediate disbursal of pension to those who had applied before December 2014. They urged the authorities to formulate a simple mechanism to hear grievances of employees and trade union representatives and ensure renewal of identity cards without delay. The fast was inaugurated by C. Robert Bruce, district Congress committee president . P.S.J.B. Jose, president, Kumari District Unorganised Workers’ Association, presided. C. Anandakrishnan, district secretary, INTUC, concluded the fast. Labour Welfare Officer (SSS) D. Lakshmi Narayanan clarified that applications received up to February 10 for renewal and new registration were processed and ID cards given to beneficiaries instantly.In a special drive, steps had been taken to issue pension orders to over 800 to 1000 beneficiaries soon. So far, the Labour Welfare Office (SSS) had extended benefits, including education, death, maternity and marriage benefits, to over 21,000 beneficiaries, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan added. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

46. Miles away from home for livelihood (14)

HATNOORA (MEDAK DISTRICT): Ram Lal is in his mid 40s. He is native of Palama in Jharkhand, a tribal dominated area. His village is about 1,300 kilometres from here. Pradeep, in his 20s is from Purulia in West Bengal. His native place is about 1,500 kilometres from this tiny mandal headquarters located in Medak district. While Ram Lal is one of a 10-member team, Pradeep is part of six member team that came from Purulia. It takes about 48 hours to travel all the way to reach here for both of them. An both are here in search of a livelihood. A local contractor in Jharkhand hired them promising work and paid them an advance ranging between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 3,000. They were being offered regular work without any break. “We also can get work at our native place but is generally not continuous but here we are assured of work the entire month,” said Mr. Pradeep. Usually, workers being roped in from outside the State are being forced to work more. “The working hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a break for lunch and tea,’’ said another migrant labourer. They were not ready to disclose the problems they face as it may cost their job and contractor may send them back again. While they were being paid about Rs. 200 per day part of the amount goes to contractor as commission. “This old man’s payment per day is about Rs. 220 and he actually gets Rs.160 whereas the remaining amount goes as commission to the contactor,” said another labourer. “We will send part of the amount we generate here to our native place so that our family members live happily,” they say. The workers are being provided shelter in thatched huts or asbestos sheet covered temporary accommodation, which saves rent for them while the contractor can have over control over their movement. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Brinda Karat bats for quota for SCs/STs in private sector (25)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Reservation must be provided for SCs and STs in the private sector too in such a way it improved their livelihood, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat has said. Speaking at a seminar on reservations in private sector organised as part of preparations for the party’s 21{+s}{+t}all-India conference to be held during April, Ms. Karat dwelt deep into the reservation policy, the conditions in the past and present, and how the downtrodden Dalits were still being denied their due in the capitalism-driven conditions. The “Indian band of reservations, the undeclared reservation for SCs and STs” was there by confining them to menial jobs and denying them an opportunity to grow in the country’s caste system. After Independence, the capitalist path adopted had coexisted with this “reservation policy,” she said, and felt that had India adopted the socialist path, this undeclared reservation would have gone and everyone would have secured employment. There was no truth in the argument that free market would make some Dalits capitalist, as capitalism cooperated with caste and discrimination and intensified the rate of exploitation. “It is a shame that even now reservation in jobs of sweeper and sanitation worker is oversubscribed,” Ms. Karat observed. Caste-based and work-based reservation excluded Dalits while the huge backlog of vacancies for the reserved categories was mounting. She said that the CPI(M) demanded in Parliament a legal mechanism to solve the issue. It also sought reservation in contract and outsourcing jobs. “The number of employees from SC and ST categories in private industries was less,” she said quoting figures. A senior surgeon and president of Government Doctors’ Association G. Arjun urged unity among Dalit Bahujans in developmental activities for the communities. Dalits were being suppressed because they would start questioning and take over administration in future, he said. Secretary of district unit of CPI(M) K. Lokanadham presided. State secretariat member Ch. Narasinga Rao, city secretary B. Ganga Rao, district secretariat member P. Sesharatnam, and former Superintendent of Government Hospital for Chest and Communicable Diseases P. Subba Rao participated. (The Hindu 12/2/15)

48. STs reservation to be increased to 7.5 per cent (25)

CHITRADURGA: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Vice-President Ravi Thakur has stated that the reservation for Scheduled Tribes in different States had been increased to 7.5 per cent and the same would be implemented in Karnataka. Instructions in this regard would be given to the State government shortly. Addressing reporters here on Friday, Mr. Thakur said that commission members were touring the country to study whether the facilities extended by the commission have reached the actual beneficiaries or not. After the tour’s completion, a meeting would be held with State-level officers and steps would be taken to rectify the loopholes in the system. The people belonging to Scheduled Tribes in some States have already come to mainstream of the society and in some other States the condition of Scheduled Tribes is pathetic. “Keeping this in view, the commission has decided to implement new schemes and ensure their overall development,” he added. Mr. Thakur stated that steps have been taken to provide four acres land to people residing in forest areas and there are no such families of Scheduled Tribes residing in forest areas in Chitradurga, he added. Deputy Commissioner Shrirangaiah, zilla panchayat CEO N. Manjushri and district-level officers were present. (The Hindu 14/21/15)

49.  ‘Banjara community must give priority to education’ (25)

KALABURAGI: Minister for Higher Education R.V. Deshpande has called upon the Banjara community to give priority to education in order to improve its socio-economic condition. Inaugurating the Santh Sevalal Study and Research Centre in Gulbarga University here on Monday, Mr. Deshpande stressed on the need to educate children. “Education is the only tool for the empowerment of the community,” he said. He said the State government has allocated adequate funds to the Banjara Development Corporation for the uplifting the neglected community. Mr. Deshpande expressed displeasure over the fact that children were deprived of education much before being able to benefit from the reservation facilities provided for them.Out of 70 lakh people in the age group of 15 to 35, only 17 lakh pursued their higher education. “Only by increasing the gross enrolment ratio can the State can achieve real development,” he said. He assured that he would take up with the State government to establish Santh Sevalal Bhavan at Gulbarga University. Religious head of the Banjara Community Ramrao Maharaj donated a set of books relating to the Banjara community in their original dialect. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

50. States can’t amend laws with retrospective effect: SC (25)

New Delhi: State governments cannot amend a procedural law with retrospective effect to provide for quota in posts after commencement of selection process, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held. “In any case, the State Government cannot pass any order amending a procedural law regarding reservation in the matter of selection to posts, with retrospective effect, once the procedure of selection starts,” a bench of justices S J Mukhopadhya and V Gopala Gowda said. The verdict came on a batch of appeals filed against the 2004 judgement of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The High Court had upheld the finding of the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal saying the government can amend the procedural law with retrospective effect to provide reservation in the selection process to fill up certain posts. The state government, in pursuance of 1975 ‘Presidential Order’, had said that 70 per cent of “non-gazetted category posts other than Lower Division Clerk or equivalent posts were reserved in favour of local candidates.” As per the government order, a combined merit list a local and non-local candidates shall be drawn up to fill up the vacancies. Later, state government, on March 7, 2002, amended its order by “bifurcating combined merit list into two parts i.E. one reserved for local candidates and another for both local and non-local candidates.” Setting aside the HC order, the apex court said, “we hold that the G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002 is prospective and is not applicable to the process of selection started pursuant to Advertisement No.10 of 1999 including the 973 executive posts which were ordered to be filled up by the High Court pursuant to the advertisement. “The Tribunal erred in directing the APPSC to re-cast the merit list pursuant to G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002. The High Court by the impugned judgment dated 27th December, 2004 rightly held that the order passed by the Court will not affect the appointments already made to the executive post between 2001-2002 but erred in holding that the selection is to be made in accordance with G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002.” (Zee News 18/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. Nepal sets up panels to probe civil war crimes (1)

Kathmandu: Nepal set up two commissions on Tuesday to investigate long-simmering allegations of human rights abuses and disappearances during the Himalayan nation’s decade-long civil war, a government minister said. State forces and Maoist rebels alike have been accused of grave war-time abuses, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, rape and torture, during the years of conflict which ended under a 2006 peace agreement. Both sides pledged to look into the crimes within six months after signing the peace deal. But subsequent governments failed to investigate the accusations, fearing doing so would derail a tenuous peace between politicians and former rebels, leaving alleged perpetrators to rise through the military and political ranks. “This matter had been entangled for more than eight years,” law minister Narahari Acharya told reporters on Tuesday in Kathmandu after a Cabinet meeting during which the panels were set up. Mr Acharya said a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modelled after the one set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid, would investigate abuses committed during the conflict. A second panel, the Commission on Enforced Disappearances, would investigate the disappearances of more than 1,300 people still missing eight years after the end of the conflict. Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned Nepal for failing to keep promises of post-conflict justice and accountability, saying political parties were seemingly “intent on ensuring ongoing impunity” for crimes. Despite the long wait for action, advocates for victims’ rights were less than optimistic on Tuesday that the panels would deliver justice. Human rights lawyer Hari Phuyal said a flawed provision in the legislation under which the commissions were set up could be used to let perpetrators off the hook by employing ambiguous wording which could be used to grant amnesty. (Asian Age 11/2/5)

52. U.N. report on Sri Lanka rights record deferred (1)

JAFFNA: The U.N. Human Rights Council will defer the key report on Sri Lanka’s conflict, due in March, to September 2015. In what appears to be a clear shift in stance, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday said he had made a recommendation to the Council “to delay the consideration of a long-awaited report into alleged human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka for six months until September 2015.” Earlier, while addressing the Council’s 27th session in September 2014, the High Commissioner said: “I attach great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by this Council,” urging Sri Lanka to cooperate with the process in the interests of justice and reconciliation. He had then said: “I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses,” also voicing concern over apparent threats on religious freedom in the island. Less than six months later, during which time Sri Lanka witnessed a regime change, he said that deferring the report was the best option to allow space for the new government to show its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues. Mr. Al Hussein pledged his “personal, absolute and unshakable commitment” that the report will be published by September. The Sri Lankan government — which under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had refused any cooperation — was now “prepared to cooperate”, he said. The newly-formed Sri Lankan government, according to key sources in Colombo, has been lobbying Washington and New Delhi for support in Geneva. The United States, which backed the U.N. resolution, seems to have already softened its position. Following a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Washington recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that Sri Lanka’s January 8 election was a vote to “open up greater accountability and possibility for the preservation of human rights.” India too was keen on putting off the resolution in order to give the new government time. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

53. Politicians of all hues speak out against growing attacks on social activists (1)

MUMBAI: The attack on senior Communist leader Govind Pansare and his wife, Uma, sent shock waves across the state and sparked demonstrations at various places. People from all walks of life and politicians across the ideology spectrum spoke out against the growing culture of violence, especially against social activists. The incident brought back memories of the fatal attack on anti-superstition campaigner Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in August 20, 2013. Soon after the attack on the Pansares, shops and commercial establishments in Kolhapur downed shutters. Pansare spearheaded several popular agitations in Kolhapur, in keeping with the city’s long link with the leftist movement. Communist veteran and former MLA Narsayya Adam called for a concerted crusade against communal forces. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government would leave no stone unturned to catch the assailants. He said the possible role of a radical right-wing group would also be looked into. He also said in a tweet that he had asked for the use of an air ambulance to bring the Pansares to the city for treatment if required. NCP president Sharad Pawar said the attack on Pansare was an assault on the progressive ethos of the state. Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the law and order situation in the state was deteriorating day by day. “We want director general of police to be transferred immediately,” he said. Shiv Sena minister Divakar Raote said his party chief, Uddhav Thackeray, spoke to Fadnavis on the phone and urged him to thoroughly investigate the case. Minister for education and cultural affairs Vinod Tawde described the attack on the Kolhapur couple as “cowardly”.Senior Shiv Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut said: “Ideological differences cannot and should not be resolved through bullets…. Now we are in office. It is our responsibility to bring the Pansares’ attackers to book without any loss of time.” RPI-A chief Ramdas Athavale and Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti rued the climate of intolerance they said had been steadily growing in the state in the past few years. MNS chief Raj Thackeray said the attack went against the state’s robust ideological tradition. Senior left ideologue Ajit Abhyankar said the attack was proof of the growth of fundamentalist forces in the state. CPI leaders attended a protest march at Azad Maidan. The Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights urged the government to take action and “dispel the impression” that it was sheltering casteist-communal elements. (Times of India 17/2/15)

54. NHRC notice to DoT over delay in payment of retirement dues (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday took “serious view” of delay in payment of retirement dues to a BSNL employee and directed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to thoroughly enquire the case and fix responsibility of delinquent officials. “The Commission, taking a serious view of the delay in disbursement of retirement benefits, including pension and gratuity to a retired BSNL employee, has asked the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to get this matter thoroughly enquired and fix the responsibility of delinquent officers/officials,” an official statement said today. He has been given six weeks time to respond with the action taken report. The Commission had received a complaint from the wife of the retired official belonging to the Scheduled Tribe that after serving BSNL for nearly 40 years, her husband had superannuated on the March 31, 2014 but his terminal benefits were withheld by the Chief General Manager, BSNL, Jaipur. According to the petitioner, both of them were not keeping good health and were facing severe financial constraints. They had requested for the Commission’s intervention into the matter. In response to the Commission’s notices to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, the Commission was informed that on the 21st January, 2015 some terminal benefits, including Death-cum-Retirement Gratuity and Commutation Value of Pension were paid to the retired employee. However, the pension payment order was to be dispatched shortly. “On perusal of the material on record, NHRC Member, Justice D Murugesan, observed that terminal benefits were paid only after the Commission sought the report from the concerned authorities on the complaint of the employee’s wife,” the statement said. The pension orders were yet to be dispatched. The Commission takes a serious view of the fact that the DoT neither gave any explanation behind the delay in disbursement of the terminal benefits nor furnished any action taken report against the delinquent officers/officials, it added. (Zee News 18/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Supreme Court rejects CAG appointment plea (19)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a public interest writ petition filed by former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami and eight other eminent citizens challenging the appointment of Shashi Kant Sharma as the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices A.K. Sikri and Arun Mishra dismissed the PIL after hearing counsel Prashant Bhushan for the petitioners and Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi for the Centre. In their writ petition, Mr Gopalaswami, Admiral R.H. Tahiliani (Retd), former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral L. Ramdas (Retd), former Chief of Naval Staff, Dr B.P. Mathur, former deputy CAG, Ramaswamy R. Iyer, and four others sought a declaration that the appointment of Mr Sharma was non est or void as it was made arbitrarily by a procedure that did not withstand the test of constitutionality and also on the ground of conflict of interest. Mr Bhushan submitted that the process of selection of CAG was arbitrary and the zone of consideration had been restricted to civil servants, a limitation not found in the Constitution. In the present case, he said Mr Sharma had been arbitrarily selected without any transparency and without any criteria. The counsel said before being appointed as the CAG, Mr Sharma had served in key positions in the ministry of defence that involved decision-making powers over purchases running into tens of lakhs of crores of rupees. During the period 2003-2007, he was the joint secretary in the ministry of defence. He remained defence secretary when he was appointed as the CAG by the government. He said the court could interpret the Constitution as it had done in the “judges case” (when collegium system was introduced) to ensure a transparent procedure was followed and lay down guidelines for such key appointments. The CJI referred to Mr. Bhushan’s arguments and asked the AG whether the court was competent to interpret the Article relating to CAG’s appointment. The AG said “I don’t agree with the interpretation made by the court in the judges case. We can have a debate on this issue some other time. Can we say that all judges who were appointed on the advice of the Executive between 1950 and 1980 were bad and all appointments subsequent to 1980 were good. Under Article 148 of the Constitution the power of appointment of the CAG vested with the government through a proper procedure and persons only with highest integrity are considered for selection. As there is nothing wrong with Mr. Sharma, the petition should be dismissed.” Taking note of the submissions the Bench dismissed the PIL. (Asian Age 12/2/15)

56. Minimal use of building cess for workers ‘shocks’ Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: The government collects thousands of crores through construction cess, ultimately paid by people who booked flats, but less than 10% of the amount has been spent for the benefit of daily wage earners in the construction sector for whose welfare the tax is levied, a fact which has “shocked” the Supreme Court. The Centre told the court that around Rs 4,179 crore construction cess was collected in the last three years by eight states out of which only Rs 361 crore have so far been spent for the welfare of construction workers. A social justice bench of justices Madan B Lokur and UU Latit expressed serious concern over the miniscule amount spent on welfare of construction workers. “This is shocking,” the bench remarked saying it will examine how the money was being spent from the fund. It directed additional solicitor general P S Narasimha to provide details of all the schemes framed by the state governments for the welfare of workers. The Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Rule provides for levy and collection of cess on the cost of construction incurred by employers and the amount would be deposited with the Building and Other Constructions Workers Welfare Boards. The affidavit filed by the Centre said that the states of Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh have collected Rs 868 crore in 2011-12, Rs 1,606 crore in 2012-13 and Rs 1,705 crore in the last financial year. However, it said that the boards of eight states spent only around Rs 361 crore in three years. Maharashtra collected Rs 1,991 crore cess during the last three years but spent only 57 crore on welfare of construction workers. According to data the board in the state runs 17 schemes for workers. In Delhi, Rs 484 crore was collected under the scheme in three years out of which only Rs 38.60 crore has been spent so far on 18 welfare schemes launched by the board. Similarly, in Rajasthan, Rs 579 crore came to government coffers through cess during 2011-14 but only Rs 38 crore was spent for benefit of workers. The Supreme Court is monitoring the implementation of the social welfare act and it had earlier directed all the states to set up the board to frame and implement welfare schemes for the benefit of construction workers. Under the act every state is required to constitute a state welfare board to provide financial assistance for children education, medical treatment etc. The board is also supposed to give financial help in case of accidents and provide pensions, loans and group insurance to workers. The court took the task of ensuring implementation of the welfare law after a PIL was filed by an NGO, National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, alleging that the state governments which collected the cess was not passing on the amount to the welfare boards to extend benefits to workers as contemplated by the act. (The Hindu 15/2/15)

57. Supreme Court fixes 90-day limit for suspension of govt employees (19)

NEW DELHI: Protracted period of suspension of delinquent government employee has become a norm and such practice must be curbed, the Supreme Court on Monday said while fixing a period of ninety 90 days for authorities to complete proceedings against such an employee. The court said that an employee suffered ignominy and scorn of society due to prolonged period of suspension. “We, therefore, direct that the currency of a suspension order should not extend beyond three months … if within this period the memorandum of charges/chargesheet is not served on the delinquent officeremployee,” a bench headed by Justice Vikaramajit Sen said. It said suspension, specially preceding the formulation of charges, is essentially transitory or temporary in nature, and must be of short duration. “If it is for an indeterminate period or if its renewal is not based on sound reasoning contemporaneously available on the record, this would render it punitive in nature,” the bench said. “Protracted periods of suspension, repeated renewal thereof, have regrettably become the norm and not the exception that they ought to be. The suspended person suffering the ignominy of insinuations, the scorn of society and the derision of his department, has to endure this excruciation even before he is formally charged with some misdemeanour or offence,” the bench said The court passed the order on a petition filed by defence estate officer Ajay Kumar Choudhary who was kept suspended for a long time. (Times of India 17/2/15)

58. Delhi High Court rejects PIL seeking marital rape be made criminal offence (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a PIL challenging a provision in the penal law which does not consider rape as the sexual intercourse of a man with his wife who is a minor noting that a similar matter has been junked by the apex court. A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw dismissed as withdrawn the plea of an NGO highlighting the exception in Section 375 of the IPC which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. “Similar matter has been dismissed by the Supreme Court. We don’t see anything into this petition,” the bench said after which the NGO withdrew its plea. A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw dismissed as withdrawn the plea of an NGO highlighting the exception in Section 375 of the IPC which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife who is not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. Rit Foundation had submitted that the exception in section 375 was brought by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, which was enacted after the horrific gangrape case of December 16, 2012. In its petition, it had claimed that the exception to Section 375 of the IPC was to the extent that it grants immunity to a husband by raping his own wife, who is above age of 15 years, was unconstitutional. It submitted that the exception was “unconstitutional and violative of the Right to Equality guaranteed to married women under Article 14 of the Constitution as it decriminalises rape when the perpetrator is the lawfully wedded husband of the victim.” It had said that even though the law made a distinction between married and unmarried woman in this case, the basis of distinction does not have any rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the law, which is to protect women from sexual assault. The petition had also stated that marital rape has been criminalised in almost all major common law jurisdictions throughout the world, including in the US, the UK, South Africa and Canada. IBN Live 19/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. Custodial death reported in Vijayawada, another attempts suicide (1)

VIJAYAWADA: A suspect chain snatcher, Pulla Ramesh (28), allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison when the police apprehended him in the wee hours of Wednesday even as the victim’s family members cried foul over his death. Ramesh, a native of Gannavaram, was arrested in motor cycles theft cases in 2009. On information that a chain snatchers’ gang was moving at Ramavarappadu Ring Road, a police team under the supervision of Penamaluru Circle Inspector Jagan Mohan Rao, reached the spot. When the police caught Ramesh, he reportedly consumed some poison. He was rushed to the Government General Hospital, where the doctors declared him dead. But, the victim’s family members alleged that Ramesh died in police custody.In another incident, a suspect in a theft case, Govind, allegedly cut his throat with a sharp-edged instrument during interrogation in Chilakalapudi police station under the limits of Machilipatnam police sub-division in Krishna District in the early hours on Wednesday. The victim was rushed to a hospital where his condition is stated to be stable. Govind is a native of Rajahmundry in East Godavari district, said Chilakalapudi SI Nabi. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

60. Govt must answer for plight of undertrials (1)

NEW DELHI: Concerned over the plight of prisoners, the Delhi high court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre and Delhi government on deplorable condition of undertrials, including women and mentally challenged. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw gave the authorities’ time till March 5 to file their replies, taking suo motu cognizance of the issue after Supreme Court referred the matter to HC. The apex court, while deciding a PIL in November 2014, sent a reference to the high court in January to decide the issue as far as it concerns jails in Delhi. SC dealt with the PIL that raised the issue of the plight of undertrial prisoners, who are languishing in jails for a long time. SC had also observed that, while some work has been done by the state governments and other authorities towards implementation of the apex court directions, a lot remains to be done in the future. It had identified nine problem areas including overcrowding, delay in trial, torture, neglect of health and hygiene, food and clothing, management of open air prisons and deficiency in communication system. It had further asked all high courts of India to register a PIL and continue the proceedings. HC has also been dealing with two PILs to ensure that the inmates of Tihar Jail have their basic human rights fulfilled. Due to overcrowding, undertrials are being affected by numerous diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and typhoid, the PIL claimed. Of 3.81 lakh prisoners across the country, 2.54 lakh are undertrials. In many cases, the accused have spent more time in jail than the actual sentence which might be awarded to him in case of conviction. (Times of india 12/2/15)

61. Every effort will be made to repeal AFSPA: Paswan (1)

Imphal, February 14 2015 : Every possible effort will be made to repeal the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), 1958, assured Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister Consumer Affairs Food & Public Distribution during a felicitation programme hosted by Lok Jan Shakti (LJS) State Unit at Chajing Mairenthong, Langthabal on Saturday. The minister asserted that the LJS takes the fourteen-year-long struggle of Irom Sharmila for repeal of AFSPA very seriously. He stated that after his return to Delhi, he will talk with PM Narendra Modi and impress him on the need to repeal AFSPA. At the same time, special initiatives will be taken up to stop violence against people from Northeast particularly in Delhi and other cities of India, Paswan said. He also informed that during the regime of the previous NDA government he had made special efforts for the protection of people from Northeast. Later in day while addressing a press conference at Hotel Imphal, the minister said contrary to the charges from the people that essential items under Public Distribution Systems (PDS) do not reach them, the state authorities had claimed that essential items are being distributed regularly to the beneficiaries. He assured that the Central government will investigate why PDS items are not reaching the people. On Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Food Security Act, Paswan said there are high chances that the Act will be implemented in the state soon as 77 per cent of data entry work had been completed. Once the scheme is implemented, the minister explained, details of the beneficiaries will be made available in the website and to ensure availability of items, vigilance committees will be instituted, even at Panchayal level. The minister also reviewed the works that are being taken up for National Food Security Act in the sates of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. Ninety per cent of data entry is completed in Tripura and 62 per cent in Assam. He stated that according to information collected from relevant authorities, 77 per cent of data work has been completed in Manipur and the exercise is expected to be completed by July, paving the way for implementation of the Act. On Sunday, Paswan will lay the foundation stone for the ten metric ton capacity storage house at Imphal and five metric ton at Bishnupur. Prior to the press conference, Paswan interacted with officials and employees of Food Corporation of India (FCI) for a firsthand account of the methods employed in PDS distribution in the state. (Manipur R PAO 15/2/15)

62. Army washes hands off Sonitpur firing (1)

Guwahati: The Army on Monday said Sunday’s firing in Sonitpur district, in which an Assam Rifles (AR) jawan allegedly shot dead two men, was not a part of any counter-insurgency operation. The duo — Gautam Das and Babu Das — was allegedly shot dead by the jawan after they refused to serve him liquor, said Lt. Col. Suneet Newton, PRO (defence). “According to information available, the AR jawan got into a scuffle with the civilians,” he said. Sonitpur Police have arrested the accused, Karnel Singh Kapoor. “A woman, Jinu Das, also received injuries and has been admitted in Tezpur civil hospital. Family members told police that Kapoor opened fire when they refused to serve him liquor,” police sources said. Locals said the jawan was accompanied by other AR personnel who fled after the firing. (Times of India 17/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

63. Former editor facing death threats over cartoon (1)

MUMBAI: Shirin Dalvi, former Editor of Urdu daily Avadhnama had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking quashing of complaints against her and clubbing of all the FIRs. She has said that her life is in danger as she has received several death threats. Five FIRs have been filed against her in three districts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Thane and Nashik, under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” She has obtained anticipatory bail in one case, while she was granted bail after arrest in another. Complaints were filed against her after Avadhnama reprinted Charlie Hebdo’s cover page in its January 17 edition. After readers’ complaints, the paper issued an apology on January 18. But it closed down from January 19. Thereafter, Ms. Dalvi has said, she was hounded by a few people, making her go underground. “She has had to change her style of dressing, switch off her mobile phones, and lock up and leave her residence out of fear for her life,” her petition has said. “She is the only woman editor of an Urdu daily in the country. Today, there are multiple FIRs against her. She can’t stay at home, her children can’t go home, or can’t pursue their education,” senior counsel Mihir Desai, who represented Ms. Dalvi, told the court on Monday. He pleaded that all the FIRs against her be transferred to one police station and the State not take any coercive action against her. But the Maharashtra government, represented by Public Prosecutor Sandeep Shinde, opposed her plea. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

64. Women journalists more suited for off-field roles: Rathore (1)

New Delhi: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Friday said women in media would be better off pursuing off-field roles like that of news analysis as opposed to field reporting in view of safety, challenging conditions and odd hours of work. In contrast to the “reducing importance” of factual news business practiced by TV journalism, Rathore called for women scribes to take to print that is more about “analysis of the implication of the news”.In print, “your (women journalists) role could be far better utilized without going out in the field. Not that you should not go out. In the sense of safety and security, the working hours, conditions, and different roles attached as a mother, sister, or a wife,” Rathore told women journalists in a media interaction at Indian Women’s Press Corps here. Stressing the fact that his suggestion was free of any gender bias, he said avenues “like sports, battlefields, Maoist-infested areas become issues for women journalists to be present there”. (Business Standard 13/2/15)

65. Media Boycotts Manish Sisodia’s Press Conference After Entry Denied to Delhi Secretariat (1)

NEW DELHI: Media today boycotted the press conference of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia after journalists were denied entry into the Delhi Secretariat, even as officials claimed that the new government has not issued any direction in this regard. After a Cabinet meeting, Sisodia was scheduled to address the media about the government’s decisions at 5 PM. When the deputy chief minister entered the media room adjacent to a main entry gate of the Secretariat, journalists from both electronic and print media tried to first seek his response as to why they were not allowed inside. When Sisodia tried to pacify the journalists, photographers and cameramen, they didn’t relent and refused to attend the press conference. Seeing this, Sisodia walked away from the media room and then went towards his office. Journalists from print and electronic media were denied entry into the Delhi Secretariat throughout the day. When security personnels were asked about the reasons behind the ban of media’s entry, they said that they have directions from government officials in this regard. “We have orders from senior government officials not to let mediapersons enter the premises,” a security person said, claiming having received verbal instructions from the officials to that effect. Earlier in the day, Nagendra Sharma, media-adviser to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, also came to pacify angry media persons, saying that new government has not issued such direction which favours to ban the entry of journalists inside the Secretariat. “Before new government took charge, a circular was already in place which banned the entry of media into the Delhi Secretariat. “New government has issued no direction in this regard. Give me one or two days, I will sort out this matter,” Sharma told reporters here. Meanwhile, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi met Kejriwal at the Secretariat around 11.45 AM. It was described as a courtesy call. (New Indian Express 17/2/15)

66. India need to focus on privacy & data collection laws: Software Freedom Law Center (1)

New Delhi: As India moves towards becoming the world’s second largest Internet market, the need for privacy and data protection is of critical importance to safeguard interests of netizens, activists have said. According to Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), which provides free legal services to developers of free and open source softwares, Europe is having an “intense” debate on the right to privacy and protection of data, something which is missing in India. In wake of the global uproar caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations on US surveillance and increasing interest around data protection and privacy, it is time for a comprehensive review of India’s legislations that regulate surveillance, SFLC India Founding Director Mishi Choudhary said. “Europe is fighting for data protection and privacy, but here in India, we are not talking about these issues. I think the time is ripe to have a decision on to have a law on privacy and data collection,” she said.. SFLC is a donor-supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists and students to protect freedom in the digital world. Quoting SFLC’s report “Communications Surveillance in India’, Choudhary said the language of the law needs to be considerably narrowed down to specify objectively verifiable situations under which surveillance may be legitimately undertaken. According to the report, the procedure to be followed while conducting surveillance of communications must be “clearly spelled out in its entirety” and any opportunity for “misuse of authority must be done away with by holding the concerned agents of intercepting agencies to highest standards of accountability. The provision for an independent oversight of the surveillance process is a necessity and the regime of blanket denial of surveillance-related information requests made by the public must also be done with, the report added. Choudhary emphasised on the need to make the surveillance regime in India needs more transparent. The report said: “Citizens must have a legislatively recognised right to privacy, the violation of which will entitle them to constitutional remedies.” IBN Live 18/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

67. Supreme Court stays Teesta arrest after High Court rejects bail (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon stayed the arrest till Friday of social activist Teesta Setalvad of Centre for Justice and Peace and her husband Javed Anand in a “misappropriation case”. The Gujarat high court rejected their anticipatory bail petitions in the morning and they faced imminent arrest. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices A.K. Sikri and Arun Mishra restrained the Gujarat police from arresting Ms Setalvad and others on an urgent oral mention made by senior counsel Kapil Sibal that the Gujarat police had already reached Mumbai to arrest them following the dismissal of their petitions by the high court. He said the Gujarat police was to arrest her anytime and sought protection. The bench, while directing the matter to be listed for hearing on Friday, stayed the arrest till then. According to the Gujarat police, some former residents of Gulberg Society had alleged that Ms Setalvad and her NGO had restrained them from disposing of their properties after the Gujarat riots by promising them to purchase land and construct a memorial. However, the properties were never purchased on the ground that there was not enough funds. It was alleged that Ms Setalvad and her NGO had collected money from abroad by showing their condition and that the money collected would be used for their upliftment. The Gujarat police registered a criminal case against Ms Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, former MP Ehsan Jafri’s son Tanvir and two office-bearers of Gulberg Society, Salimbhai Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar, for embezzlement of Rs 1.51 crore. (Asian Age 13/2/15)

68. Court acquits 68 for lack of evidence in 2002 Gujarat riot case (7)

Ahmedabad: A trial court on Friday acquitted all the 68 accused due to lack of evidence in a case related to the 2002 post-Godhra riot at Seshan village in Deodar tehsil of Banaskantha district. Fourteen persons, including two children, were killed in the violence at the village — which is about 150 km from here — in the aftermath of the Godhra train-burning incident. Additional District and Sessions Judge V K Pujara of Taluka court, Deodar, said the statements of the witnesses did not support other evidence. 190 witnesses had deposed before the court. The first charge-sheet was filed in 2002, while 12 supplementary charge-sheets were filed subsequently. The prosecution had argued that accounts of the eye-witnesses clearly showed that all the accused persons were involved in the killing of 14 persons. But the defence pointed out that the witnesses could not recognise the accused during the identification parade. According to police, a mob of around 5,000 people, armed with swords and sticks, had attacked the village on March 2, 2002. The village had about 200 people of Baloch Muslim community, who had been living there since 1947. The mob killed 14 Muslims, including two girls who were five-year-old and 11-year-old, respectively, and two women. Two persons from the mob were killed in police-firing. Additional Public Prosecutor D V Thakor said the victims made representations before Justice G T Nanavati Commission, probing the riots, seeking a speedy trial. Following which an inquiry was conducted by Banaskantha SP S M Katara, while earlier the probe had been conducted by Deputy Superintendent of police Ravindra Patel. Ten out of the 68 accused were in jail for the last 12 years. (Zee News 14/2/15)

69. Government may make laws stringent (7)

New Delhi: The government is planning to initiate inter-ministerial discussion on the issue of attacks on religious places soon to ascertain whether the existing laws are sufficient or there is need for a special clause to specifically focus on this crime which will attract stringent punishment. “As of now, these offences are covered under different sections of the criminal law but the Centre plans to make it more stringent. Though the state police can initiate action under existing criminal laws also, but there is need to make it stringent to send out a strong signal,” a senior government functionary said. The spate of attacks on churches had evoked strong protests from Christian groups and both the PM and home minister Rajnath Singh had expressed concern over the incidents. The Delhi police chief is believed to have assured the PMO and the home ministry that these cases will solved in the next few days. But over the last few months, there has been a pattern to such attacks in the national capital, which also became an issue during the recently-concluded Delhi Assembly elections. There is a view within the government now that the Centre needs to focus primarily on governance and economic growth, which were getting influenced by fringe elements that were indulging in such incidents of desecration of religious places or conversion events like “ghar wapsi”. On its part the saffron outfits will also be told to strictly rope in its functionaries and stop them from making inflammatory speeches targeting religious minorities. (Asian Age 15/2/15)

70. Violence And Blame Traded Over Communal Tension in Kerala’s Nadapuram (7)

Thiruvananthapuram:  Charred walls and broken windows, this is the home 39-year-old Sulekha Mustafa has returned to three weeks after it was set on fire, forcing her to flee with her three children. Her’s is one of 40 Muslim homes in Nadapuram in Kozhikode, that was targeted allegedly by CPI (M) loyalists. The attacks had reportedly been in retaliation to the murder of a CPI (M) youth wing worker, allegedly by workers of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). “I am still scared. My children are still troubled mentally. We can’t sleep. We have horrible dreams,” says Ms Mustafa. The violence escalated during the funeral procession of 19-year-old Shibin, a CPI (M) youth worker. Six other youths were attacked along with Shibin, but escaped with injuries and have been hospitalised. Shibin’s family and the CPI (M) blame the IUML for the attack, that claimed the youth’s life. “What does Muslim League get by killing people like this? They will rebuild their houses. Where will we get our son from?” asked Bhaskaran, Shibin’s father, standing by his son’s funeral pyre.The CPI (M) and IUML however are both trading blame for the violence and are accusing each other of colluding with the police. “Muslim League is behind this brutal attack. Where was the police? It is Muslim League and police hand in hand,” alleges Mohanan Master, CPI (M) district secretary. It is the exact same charge that the IUML is levelling against the CPI (M). “This has been done by the CPI (M) and police hand-in-hand,” says Muslim Youth League state secretary Subair.The police however say they were outnumbered 10 to one when tensions escalated during Shibin’s funeral procession, but that the situation has been under control since. “”We couldn’t use arms or tear gas because of the procession for the dead body. We were outnumbered by 10 times. But no life was lost, and not a single incident has happened since that day till today,” said Kozhikode District’s Superintendent of Police, PH Ashraf. Nadapuram has a history of communal unrest and violence fuelled by political vendetta. The town has a special police control room to specifically address its communally sensitive nature. (NDTV 15/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

71. BJP’s Hindutva is ‘fake’, says Mutalik (26)

HUBBALLI, Estranged member of Sangh Parivar and Sri Ram Sene Chief, Pramod Mutalik has termed BJP’s Hindutva as ‘fake’. Addressing presspersons here on Wednesday, Mr. Mutalik said that the convention of Hindus being held under the banner of ‘Virat Hindu Samavesh’ in Hubballi should not become a ‘BJP convention’. He however added that Sri Ram Sena would support the Virat Hindu Samavesh. Mr. Mutalik sought to know why the BJP leaders’, who are now crying foul over ban on entry of Praveen Togadia into Bengaluru, did not utter a word when he (Mutalik) was banned from entering Goa. “BJP is following double standards on issues related to Hindutva”, he said.Mr. Mutalik said that Sri Ram Sene would oppose any ‘commercialised’ celebration of love on Valentine’s Day. “We will be celebrating February 14 as ‘Mata Pitru Dina’, he said. Clarifying that Sene was not opposed to love, he said that already the Sene volunteers had conducted awareness programmes against celebrating ‘Valentine’s Day’, which was being promoted for commercial reasons. The Sene volunteers would again be visiting schools, colleges and hotels in the twin cities and create awareness about the ‘Mata Pitru Dina’, he said. On February 14, the Sene volunteers would give roses to young boys and girls and the parents as part of their awareness drive. However to a query, Mr. Mutalik said that they would arrange the marriage of lovers with the consent of their parents. “But we will not allow any indecent expression of love in the open”, he warned. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

72. 35 people convert in Kerala under VHP’s ‘ghar vapasi’ (26)

Kottayam, Kerala: A group of 35 people on Sunday “re-converted” to Hinduism as VHP continued with its ‘ghar vapasi’ programme despite criticism from various quarters, with the outfit claiming that they hailed Dalit families who had converted to Christianity a few generations back. The rituals for “welcoming” these people to “their original faith” were held at a temple at Uzhavoor near here, said Aneesh Balakrishnan, a spokesman for pro-VHP “Kerala Hindu Helpline.” They belonged to 12 families of Cheramar community, “who had converted to Christianity a few generations back,” he said. With these ‘re-conversion’, in Kottayam district alone 120 peopled had “returned” to the Hindu faith in the last three months, Balakrishnan said. The VHP has also organised ‘re-conversion’ programmes in Alappuzha and Idukki districts in the last three months. He said the VHP with the cooperation of other Hindu outfits would be organising ‘ghar vapasi’ programmes in different parts of Kerala on all Sundays. The conversion issue has been in limelight in Kerala and was raised in Parliament too in December with the opposition attacking the government. The central government had said nether it nor BJP was involved in it and that it was for the state government to take necessay action. Chief Minister Oommen had then said the situation in the state on conversion did not warrant any government intervention. “There is no compulsory conversion or recoversion in the state and it will not take place also. If somebody voluntarily takes any decision, what can the government do,” he had said. (Deccan Herald 15/2/15)

73. People might belong to different castes, but their ideologies, values same: Mohan Bhagwat

Kanpur: Following controversies over “ghar wapsi” campaign and statements on increasing Muslim population by its affiliates, RSS on Sunday sounded a conciliatory tone, with its chief Mohan Bhagwat saying that people might belong to different castes and religions, but their ideologies and values as well as “ancestors” were the same. Bhagwat said “ancestors” for him meant those people who have sacrificed their lives for the country. He also asserted that RSS does not teach to “fight”, but trains people in self-defence and skills to protect others. Addressing Rashtra Raksha Sangam, a gathering of RSS workers, here, Bhagwat said certain forces want to divide people on different lines, but RSS believes that entire country is a single entity despite diversity in language, caste, sub-caste and place of living.The RSS chief said: “People may belong to different castes, religions or regions, but ideologies and values of all Indians are the same. They all have the same ancestors — those who have laid down their lives for the country.” Invoking socialist ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia, he said, “Lohia too said that lord Ram connected north and south, Krishna connected east and west and Shiva is present in every particle of the country.” The mention of Lohia by Bhagwat in his speech was significant because Samajwadi Party claims Lohia to be its ideologue and different wings of RSS, including BJP and VHP, have been accusing the SP government of Muslim appeasement and being responsible for communal riots in UP. Bhagwat also appealed swayamsevaks to unite Hindus and make them free from fear. “These views have been expressed in various speeches so far at different forums but only these speeches will not work any more. You will have to develop a habit to unite Hindus and shakhas are a medium to do that by creating such swayemsevaks who can unite Hindus. In shakhas, we never ask caste and religion of people,” he said. Over rising incidents of crime against women, the RSS chief said: “Not just education but how a man treats a woman reflects his character and that every woman must treated with respect.” Around 11,000 swayamsevaks attended the Sangam, organised at the Railways ground in Kanpur. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

74. Modi’s sermon on tolerance aimed at Christians, VHP says (26)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on religious tolerance is widely being seen as an assurance to the minorities in general and government’s outreach to Christians in particular in the wake of recent attacks on churches. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), however, said the media is reading the message wrong and the sermon of religious tolerance is actually aimed at “Christians who have been attacking Hindus”.It said the very fact that Modi chose to address a gathering of Christians on a day the Delhi Police brought out a report saying that 206 temples had been attacked as against seven Churches proved that the PM was asking Christians to exercise religious tolerance and “respect the Hindu religion”.VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, “The Prime Minister did not say ‘minorities’ nor did he mention any particular religion. The news traders are misreading his message to suit their agenda. When he has not taken any names, you have to see in what circumstances he has made the statements. The supposed attacks on churches have been going on for a while now but the PM never came out and spoke. He spoke only after the Delhi Police pointed out that 206 temples were attacked. He spoke on a day a temple was vandalized in the US.” Jain denied that Modi’s message was in any way an assurance to the minorities that their interests would be protected. He also said since it was not directed towards Hindu groups, VHP’s programmes of ‘ghar wapasi’ and protests against ‘love jihad’ would continue. “The PM’s message was aimed at those who attack other religions. It’s the Christian missionaries which publish literature insulting Hindu deities, run hate campaigns and insult Hinduism in general. This way they insult the nation. That is why Modi did not say these things addressing a congregation of Hindus. This means he has indicated to the Christian community that you should start respecting the Hindu religion,” Jain said. Addressing the national celebration function marking the elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi on Tuesday said, “My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.” In what was seen as a stern warning to fringe elements, he said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.” (Times of India 18/2/15)

TERRORISM

75. Boko Haram abducts 30 people in Cameroon, Nigeria (12)

Yaounde: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamic extremists have abducted about 30 people including eight Cameroonian girls and killed seven hostages in two bus hijackings in Cameroon and Nigeria, Cameroon residents and a Nigerian intelligence officer said. Boko Haram, who kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria last year in an incident that ignited international outrage, have taken eight Cameroonian girls hostage, said Chetima Ahmidou, the principal of a school in the area. The girls range in age from 11 to 14 and come from the town of Koza, he said yesterday. The bus attack took place Sunday about 18 km from Cameroon’s border with Nigeria. Seven other hostages were slain and their bodies scattered near the border, said Ahmidou, whose brother was the bus driver and was among those killed. Also Sunday, across the border in Nigeria, the Islamic extremists held up a bus in Akada-Banga village of Bama district and made off with about 20 people, including women and children, according to a security officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to reporters. Boko Haram has fought a 5-year insurgency against the Nigerian government, launching scores of attacks that left 10,000 people dead last year alone. In recent weeks, the terror group has intensified its assaults on neighboring Cameroon and Niger. Together with Nigeria’s other neighbors, Benin and Chad, they have pledged to form an 8,750-strong multinational force to confront the Islamic extremists. On Monday, Niger’s parliament voted to approve supporting the mission. The vote came just hours after a car bombing in the town of Diffa, which was blamed on Boko Haram, who had launched three other attacks on the town since Friday. The United Nations said yesterday that a small team of five experts from its peacekeeping department has deployed to provide support in readying the force. (Zee News 11/2/15)

76. Islamic State to be banned under UAPA (12)

NEW DELHI: The Union Home Ministry may soon issue a notification banning Islamic State, a terror outfit, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “It has been proposed to ban the IS, which was earlier known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). A notification may be issued soon,” said a Home Ministry official. The outfit has already been proscribed in India, as it is listed in the Schedule to the United Nations Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order. “The notification will explicitly put the outfit on the list of banned organisations,” the official said. (The Hindu 14/2/15)

77. Christians’ execution by IS: Egypt reserves right to respond (12)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday that his country reserves the right to respond at the proper time to the killing of 21 Coptic Egyptians in Libya by Islamic State (IS) militants, according to a Xinhua report. The president said that Egypt would be able to defeat terrorism because “Egypt is defending humanity”.On Sunday, the IS militant group published a video purportedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians abducted in Libya. Later, the Egyptian Orthodox Church confirmed the killings. The Egyptians were abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte in two separate incidents in December and January, only a week apart from each other. Sisi held an urgent meeting of the National Defence Council Sunday to discuss the killing of the Egyptian Christians. He urged the government to move swiftly to assist the families of the victims. “We all need to be united to fight terrorism,” Sisi said. The Egyptian president declared a seven-day mourning and also ordered the government to enforce a travel ban on Libya. Libya has been mired in chaos and civil war since October 2011, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) began supporting anti-Gaddafi rebels, ultimately resulting in the toppling of the Gaddafi regime. (New Kerala 16/2/15)

78. India among 60 nations to attend White House summit on terror (12)

Washington: Over 60 countries including India will participate in a White House summit on “countering violent extremism” beginning today in the backdrop of alarming growth of ISIS and recent terrorists’ attacks in France and Denmark, senior administration officials have said. While the first two days of the three-day summit are primarily focused on domestic extremism given that there was substantial increase in home grown terrorism, the final day, Thursday would see full participation of more than 60 countries including several ministers to focus on foreign fighters among others. India, which for the past several decades has been a victim of foreign supported terrorism and faces a challenge of domestic violent extremism that include Naxals and Maoists in particular, would be represented by R N Ravi, Chairman of the powerful Joint Intelligence Committee. “It’s a very full and very ambitious agenda to expand and deepen our global coalition to counter and prevent violent extremism,” a senior administration official said yesterday. The conference would highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalising, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the US and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks throughout the world. Led by US President Barack Obama, top officials of his administration including Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice would be addressing the White House Summit. Obama would be addressing the gathering twice in the summit. The significance of the summit has gained in the last few months in particular with the alarming rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, terrorists attacks in France and Denmark recently. “Countering violent extremism is only one element of all of the different tools that we’re bringing against terrorists, and specifically groups like ISIL,” the official said, adding that the focus would be on sharing information, how to make sure that all governments know those who may cause harm and what action can be taken. Noting that the US remains particularly concerned about the possibility of groups like ISIL recruiting Americans to fight, the official said the message at the White House and the agenda itself is not entirely focused on ISIL itself. “ISIL is the near-term threat that we all are focused on, but we also recognise in the United States there has been violent extremists that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and so the agenda for all three days is going to show a wide array of speakers and participants from all backgrounds who combat radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms,” the official said. (Deccan Herald  17/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

79. Chhattisgarh: Naxal Training Camp Busted, Cache of Arms Seized (12)

RAIPUR: Security forces have busted a naxal training camp and recovered a cache of arms and ammunitions besides the material used in making explosives in Dantewada district, a senior official said today. The seizure was made in forested Gonderas hills under Aranpur police station limits by a joint team of security personnel last evening, Dantewada SP Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI today. The cache included thirty seven gelatin rods, eleven detonators, two hand grenades, a country-made gun, a tiffin bomb, a pipe bomb, explosives, gun powder and materials used in making bombs, he said. A squad of Special Task Force (STF) and district force was on a three-day long anti-naxal operation in south Dantewada, around 400 km away from the state capital Raipur, since Tuesday, the SP said. While cordoning off Sopiras area in the region, they were tipped off about the Maoist training camp on the hill following which they started zeroing on at the location. On sensing the security personnel, ultras fled to core forest leaving behind their belongings which included ammunitions and explosives, the SP said, adding the seizure also included a huge number of naxal literature, some Maoist-related documents and magazines. (New Indian Express 12/2/15)

80. In G’chiroli, informers paid Rs 40L for getting Naxals arrested (12)

NAGPUR: Total cash rewards amounting to over Rs 40 lakh have been disbursed among secret informers who helped Gadchiroli district police nab Naxal cadres in the last six month. Rewards of around Rs 94 lakh have become due against 18 arrests since the policy came into force from August last year but Rs 54 lakh are still awaiting sanction. Gadchiroli police last week netted two Naxal cadres having cumulative reward of Rs 20 lakh on their heads, which included divisional committee (DVC) member Mainu Posudi alias Shivaji of north Gadchiroli division, from Etapalli. He was nabbed along with Platoon No 3 and Kasansoor area committee member Asmita Tumretti alias Savita. As per the state government policy, DVC Posudi’s arrest meant a reward of Rs 20 lakh for the informer and Savita’s arrest another Rs 4 lakh. In 2009, Gadchiroli police had caught DVC Jagdish Madavi. The arrest of Shivaji is second such top ranking cadre being netted by police in Gadchiroli after six years. SP Gadchiroli Sandip Patil stated the state government’s reward policy had triggered substantial enthusiasm among both civilians and government personnel to inform cops regarding Naxal. He stated that even government personnel were entitled for 50% of the reward amount and that had made the officers even more motivated. SP Patil stated six Naxals were arrested between January and February 15. After the reward policy was announced, some top cadres of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh have been netted in the district. Prior to Shivaji, Gadchiroli police had nabbed another DVC member, Jethuram Dhurva, alias Raju, who belonged to Oundhi Dalam of Rajnandgaon of Chhattisgarh in September 2014. Chhattisgarh’s Madanwada Dalam commander Kamlesh Gavde, alias Shamlal, too was nabbed in Gadchiroli in September 2014. In October 2014, Gadchiroli police had foiled a Naxalite plan of blowing up a polling booth in Dhanora by arresting Yesu Tekam alias Dunga who was a Platoon No 15 commander. “We are taking special precaution to maintain secrecy regarding the persons who generated the input,” said Patil. He stated that officers of SP rank could approve rewards of only Rs 10 lakh while the IG rank officer had the power to approve rewards between Rs 10 and Rs 20 lakh. Above it, they must be approved by the senior most officials of the state. (Times of India 16/2/15)

81. ‘Charging states for Maoist menace not logical’ (12)

Bhubaneswar: Disapproving the Union government’s move to ask Maoist-hit states to foot the bill for deployment of central forces, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the Centre to wave the charges.PTI File Photo for representation purpose only Disapproving the Union government’s move to ask Maoist-hit states to foot the bill for deployment of central forces, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the Centre to wave the charges. “The claim of Rs 1,450.29 crore by the Union government towards deployment of central forces appears to be quite unreasonable,” Patnaik said in a strongly worded letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. “In the present internal security scenario, joint and coordinated operations of the state and central security forces are the need of the hour. Such demands should not take precedence over the urgent operational requirements so far as deployment of central police forces is considered”, the chief minister said in the letter circulated to the media. Requesting the Centre to consider waving the charges completely, Patnaik, who also heads the state’s home department, reminded Singh that Odisha is training its own police force to fight the Maoists at a considerable expense. CRPF’s Director General (DG) had recently asked the Odisha government to pay up Rs 1,450.29 crore as deployment charges for its forces. Several divisions of the central reserve police force are engaged in operations against the Maoists in Odisha, where at least half of the 30 districts are in the red zone.  “Deployment of central police forces is considered essential to supplement the efforts of state police to counter left wing extremism which covers a large number of states. In this regard, the Odisha government has also recruited, trained and deployed a large number of police personnel for anti-naxal operations bearing huge expenditure from the state exchequer,” Patnaik has said in his letter. “It is the responsibility of both the Union government and the states to fight the left wing extremism by pooling together their resources”, Patnaik added. (Deccan Herald 16/2/15)

82. Landmines recovered in naxal infested Medininagar in Jharkhand (12)

Jharkhand: Security personnel on Wednesday ecovered four landmines from Kelkargarh-Dwarika Road of naxal-infested Palamau district, police said. The recovery was made when the district police force and Jaguar personnel were on a poppy-destroying campaign in the area, Superintendent of Police Mayur Patel said. The security personnel stumbled upon an exposed wire during their operation and launched a search in the vicinity, he said, adding that they spotted four landmines including three connected in a series. Later, the explosives were defused with the help of bomb disposal squad, he added. (DNA 18/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

83. Minor girls trafficked, raped yet Chhattisgarh cops fail to register FIR (1)

RAIPUR: In two separate incidents, minor girls were sexually assaulted, trafficked and repeatedly raped at Raipur and Raigarh districts respectively on Wednesday. While no FIR was lodged in both the cases, police excused themselves saying investigations were underway for authenticity of minors’ complaints. While on one hand state commission for protection of child rights was conducting workshop to sensitize police on dealing with issues related to crime against children, juveniles and child trafficking, police in state capital and Raigarh seemed untouched with the mandate to file FIR immediately after the complaint by child. According to Gudiyari police, a 12-year-old went missing on January 14 after she was scolded by her parents. The girl went to an old neighbour’s home near her locality. According to girl’s statement, she was adamant about returning home after which the woman neighbour Simran with the help of her relative Nagma, sent the girl to a household in Bhilai, Gudiyari TI Bhushan Ekka said. While he resisted divulging details to TOI, he added that the girl was trafficked to a family for money where the minor worked as domestic labour and was later sexually assaulted. He said that FIR wasn’t lodged against anyone except for registration of a missing complaint. We will have to investigate to find the authenticity of complaint and then FIR will be lodged, he said. In another case at Raigarh, a 17-year-old girl approached child welfare committee complaining that she was repeatedly raped by her cousin while she stayed with his family. Talking to TOI, Raigarh CWC chairperson Jessy Phillip said, “The girl was being raped for last two years and she said that she had delivered a baby whose whereabouts are not certain. The girl stayed with her father’s sister’s family after his death as her mother is mentally retarded. Her cousin, meanwhile, had repeatedly raped her and her aunt tried to cover up the matter which encouraged him. Driven to desperation, she came running to Jessy late on Wednesday and reported the matter. According to Raigarh police in charge Dilip Singh Sisodia, FIR wasn’t lodged till evening as the girl was sent for medical examination. While the time lost between lodging FIR to nab the accused and getting medical test done could play a crucial role in giving sufficient time to accuse to escape, a child rights expert in city says that it isn’t a pre-condition to get the medical, since the complaint came directly from the child. (Times of India 12/2/15)

84. Trafficking a social issue, courts alone can’t resolve it: Justice Sikri (1)

New Delhi: Calling human trafficking the “worst form of violation of human dignity,” Supreme Court Justice A K Sikri said the various laws and judgments issued by the apex court and the high courts on trafficking cannot regulate the problem as it is a “social issue”. Justice Sikri was speaking at the valedictory function of a three-day international consultation on Human Trafficking, organised by the Campus Law Centre (CLC), Faculty of Law, Delhi University, on Sunday. In his speech, he emphasised that judicial action alone was not enough to combat the problem. “The judiciary alone cannot monitor every case. Implementation of guidelines is in the hands of enforcement agencies,” Sikri said.He also said news reports showed that police were aware of traffickers, and those involved in trafficking also openly admitted to bribing police personnel. “Over 33,000 children go missing in the country every year. The UN has put China and India on the watch list of countries where human trafficking occurs,” Sikri said, citing statistics that indicated the extent of the problem. The judge also mentioned that two separate PILs were being heard by the Supreme Court on the issue. Delhi High Court Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Former Solicitor General of India Mohan Parasaran, in their speeches, also emphasised the socio-economic situation that allows for human trafficking. “Riots and sexual violence are a reminder that we continue to be a sick society,” Justice Nandrajog said. Parasaran stated that law enforcement officials were usually involved in trafficking and “veiled” the traffickers. “There is a need to bring the problem in the open and address it strategically,” he said. During a session on the challenges faced in rehabilitating victims of trafficking, Justice Nandrajog also mentioned studies which indicated that 22 per cent of traffickers had political backing. He also said more than 54 per cent of police personnel did not see trafficking and forced labour as a problem. The international conference was attended by delegates from various countries including Australia, Austria, Nepal, UK, USA, Egypt, Indonesia, and Korea, among others. The various papers presented at the conference will now be published and placed before the National Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court and other agencies for consideration, CLC professor in-charge Usha Tandon said. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

85. Traffickers eye labourers in Ranchi (1)

RANCHI: The focus of traffickers is gradually shifting from interior villages to the state capital. Traffickers are not just operating in rural areas but are also targeting labourers in Ranchi. Over the past few months there have been several cases of women and girls being trafficked from Ranchi, which have gone unreported. Early Saturday morning a group of daily wage earners who assemble at a designated spot to search for work or leave for their respective work sites, informed that some people approach them almost every day and try to convince them to go to Delhi to work as domestic helps. Sohri Devi, who comes to Lalpur Chowk of Ranchi from Jonha to work as a domestic help, suffered a loss due to a trafficker named Lakshmi. Talking to ToI, Sohri revealed that her 12-year-old sister who used to accompany her to work every day was taken to Delhi by Lakshmi. She said, “Lakshmi used to come and talk to my sister every day and convinced her to go to Delhi promising good payment. I used to tell my sister not to talk to her but two weeks later Lakshmi managed to come to our house and take my sister with her when I was not around. Since then my sister’s phone is continuously switched off.” Sohri was too scared to lodge an FIR against Lakshmi but after being convinced by a social activist, she agreed to lodge the FIR.  Like Sohri, Mantu Mahato, a daily wage earner has also suffered due to these traffickers when her 16-year-old sister-in-law was taken away from the roundabout when she had gone there alone to find work. He said, “One day I was not well and my sister-in-law came to work alone and never returned home. Next day other labourers at the chowk informed that she was taken by somebody called Raju to work in some other state.” Social activists believe that traffickers shifting their focus to the state capital, is not a good sign. Baidnath Kumar, a social activist said, “Traffickers have suddenly got the courage to operate in the state capital. I have come across many such cases in which girls have been trafficked from roundabouts of the city, right under the nose of police. Police should take the matter seriously. It is shocking that the girls who should be in school, are being trafficked. Instead of talking about awareness generation, the government should actually include awareness against trafficking in the syllabus.” Meanwhile, CID officials claim that if such complains come to their knowledge, they would immediately take action. IG CID, Sampat Meena said, “This is the first time that I have heard of such cases. If the relatives of the victim inform us about it, we will immediately take action.” She added, “Now that the traffickers are approaching roundabouts in state capital, we will also plan awareness drives among the daily wage earners at these roundabouts, so they get to know about the situation and do not fall into the trap of traffickers.” (Times of India 18/2/15)

CORRUPTION

86. After Kejriwal, here are other anti-corruption crusaders in global politics (5)

New Delhi: Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, leader of the Progress Party in Russia, has been a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin and is leading a campaign against corruption in the country.Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, leader of the Progress Party in Russia, has been a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin and is leading a campaign against corruption in the country.The emphatic victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has set a new benchmark for the anti-corruption crusaders all over the world who are struggling in their own ways to challenge the establishments plagued by the menace. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s rise in Indian political system catapults him to the league of international leaders striving to fight social inequalities. AAP was launched as a political party on November 26, 2012 as an outcome of a mass movement in favour of a strong anti-corruption legislation, Jan Lokpal. The club of anti-corruption crusaders is small but its leaders have managed to gain popularity to deliver clean politics. An immediate parallel can be drawn between Russia’s Alexei Anatolievich Navalny and Arvind Kejriwal. Navalny, a former lawyer, has emerged as one of the biggest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is the leader of the Progress Party and also contested elections to become mayor of Moscow in 2013. He was runners-up in the elections but surprised many with an impressive vote share. The anti-corruption crusader has been arrested several times and was also accused of fund fraud.In Spain, Partido X, a relatively new political party, is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign. Just like AAP, Partido X also came into prominence through street protests.In Spain, Partido X, a relatively new political party, is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign. Just like AAP, Partido X also came into prominence through street protests. If Russia has Navalny, Spain’s anti-corruption campaign is spearheaded by a relatively new political party Partido X which, like AAP, came into existence from street protests. Partido X emerged to challenge the established People’s Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party that have been in power for three decades. In Slovenia, bordering Italy, lawyer-turned-politician Miro Cerar is leading the crusade against corruption. Miro Cerar formed the party in his own name last year and registered impressive results, getting a good vote share in the Slovenian parliamentary elections. Cerar went on to become the Prime Minister of Slovenia.AAP’s victory in Delhi has been covered extensively by the Western press which has seen it as a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the Centre. The rise of AAP is also being followed closely by neighbouring Pakistan where the frustration against traditional ruling parties like the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was in power till recently, has been challenged by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). Khan has also emerged as a symbol of clean, anti-corruption politics in Pakistan. The electoral gains for AAP will set a telling example for similar crusades across the world. If Kejriwal is able to deliver what he and his colleagues have promised, AAP can set global anti-graft standards. (India Today 11/2/15)

87. 79% rise in graft complaints to CVC; crosses 63,000 mark in 2014 (5)

More than 63,000 corruption complaints were received by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in 2014, a rise of 79% over the preceding year. The anti-corruption watchdog said it received 63,288 complaints last year as against 35,332 in 2013. These complaints include those filed by whistleblowers and anonymous complainants. “The commission has processed a record number of corruption complaints in the last year. All of them were dealt with within the prescribed time-frame,” a CVC official said. The complaints were related to allegations of corruption in various central government ministries and departments, he said.  The total of 63,288 is based on CVC’s monthly reports for 2014. The final figure may go up or come down. “The final figure will be mentioned in the Commission’s annual report, which is tabled in Parliament after June every year and then made public,” the official said. Most of these complaints did not require any action due to lack of verifiable allegations and were merely filed as per the CVC corruption handling policy. Rest of them were sent to Chief Vigilance Officers of the ministries concerned for necessary action and report, he said.    The anti-corruption watchdog had received 37,039, 16,929 and 16,260 complaints in 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively, according to its annual reports. Similarly, 14,206 and 10,142 complaints were received in 2009 and 2008, respectively. In 2007 and 2006, the Commission had received 11,062 and 10,798 complaints, respectively. Also, 9,320, 10,735, 11,397 complaints were received by it during 2005, 2004 and 2003, respectively, as per the annual reports. (DNA 15/2/15)

88. Maha Sadan scam: Nephew, son of Bhujbal summoned (5)

MUMBAI: Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s son Pankaj and nephew Samir have been summoned by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to record their statements on the alleged illegalities in granting of contracts for the construction of Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. A week ago, the ACB had recorded the statements of two senior officials of the Bhujbal-controlled Mumbai Education Trust. The state guest house was built when Bhujbal was the PWD minister. ACB director-general Pravin Dixit on Monday confirmed Pankaj and Samir have been summoned. “Our sleuths will record their statements,” he said.  The Bombay high court has directed the ACB to submit a report on the status of the probe on or before February 28, said a senior official. “We will record the statements of Pankaj and Samir this week and if there is a need, we will summon Chhagan Bhujbal too,” he added. The case started after BJP MP Kirit Somaiya lodged a complaint with the ACB alleging largescale corruption in allotment of contracts to a Mumbai-based developer for construction of Maharashtra Sadan and sent a copy to then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Somaiya and Aam Admi Party leader Anjali Damania also filed a PIL before the HC, saying a special investigation team should be set up to probe the scam. The ACB sought an open inquiry against Bhujbal, then public works minister, but Chavan did not take a decision. Devendra Fadnavis took the reins of the state on October 31, 2014, and within a month approved the open inquiry. Prima facie, investigators have found suspicious transactions in the companies controlled by Pankaj and Samir that have been linked to the allotment of the Sadan contract. “The SIT will secure information from Pankaj and Samir on massive transactions in companies controlled or owned by them. The amounts are very huge, hence it was felt that the source of these funds should be probed,” the official said. (Times of India 17/2/15)

89. Information commissioners not disclosing their movable assets (5)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission may have ordered Supreme Court judges to declare their assets but it has shied away from disclosure of its own “movable assets.” Responding to a recent Right to Information application filed by Bengaluru-based activist Arun Agrawal seeking to know movable assets of the information commissioners, the CIC said, “No such information is maintained by it.” CIC is the transparency watchdog for all central government ministries. The stand taken by the CIC is in contravention to the recently enacted Lokpal Act which makes it mandatory to declare movable and immovable assets of every official working in the government. The website of the Central Information Commission has a column under which assets of all the seven Information Commissioners have been given summarily mentioning only properties owned by them and do not mention cash and other movable assets held by them. Declaration of assets including cash is mandatory for MPs, candidates contesting elections and public servants including Supreme Court judges. After the orders of the Central Information Commission, the Supreme Court judges have started declaring both their movable and immovable assets which are updated every year and posted on the website of the apex court. The order was upheld by Delhi high court. The commission had recently also directed the SEBI chairman to disclose assets and liabilities. Agrawal in his appeal sought disclosure of movable assets of the information commissioners saying if the CIC does not declare their movable assets, then adverse conclusion may be drawn which is not good for the institution of the CIC which is the last bastion of transparency. (Times of India 19/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

90. Carbon release from oceans leads to climate change (9)

London: Giving a fresh insight into how oceans affect climate change, a new study shows that carbon stored in deep in the Southern Ocean, re-connected with the atmosphere, drives a rise in atmospheric CO2 and climate change. There were heavy concentrations of dissolved CO2 in surface waters of the Southern Atlantic Ocean which coincided with the rises in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the last ice age. So, these regions acted as sources of CO2 to the atmosphere. Currently, the oceans contain around 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere and that carbon can exchange rapidly between these two systems. “The magnitude and rapidity of the swings in atmospheric CO2 across the ice age cycles suggests that changes in ocean carbon storage are important drivers of natural atmospheric CO2 variations,” said Miguel Martinez-Boti from the University of Southampton. While a reduction in communication between the deep-sea and the atmosphere in Southern Atlantic Ocean locks carbon away from the atmosphere into the abyss during ice ages, the opposite occurs during warm interglacial periods. They studied the composition of the calcium carbonate shells of ancient marine organisms that inhabited the surface of the ocean thousands of years ago in order to trace its carbon content. “Our new data confirms that natural variations in atmospheric CO2 between ice ages and warm inter-glacials are driven largely by changes in the amount of carbon stored in our oceans,” pointed out Gavin Foster from the University of Southampton. “These results will help to better understanding the dynamics of human-induced CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere since the ocean is an important carbon sink and the largest reservoir of carbon on our planet” concluded Patrizia Ziveri, professor at ICTA, UAB, Barcelona. (ZEE News 12/2/15)

91. Eco-activists to drag JLR into court over ‘illegal’ resorts (9)

Bengaluru: Environmentalists are planning to drag the state-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) into court in a week, contending that it does not have necessary permissions to operate its properties in various forests of Karnataka. They will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court. Information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act has revealed that eight resorts of JLR were neither given permission by the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL) or the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), nor have they got the approval of the Supreme Court. Thus, as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and those given by the top court in 2012, these resorts must be shut down or shifted out if they have not obtained permission, Santosh Martin, former honorary wildlife warden, Ballari, told Deccan Herald. Under the RTI, information was sought about the K Gudi wilderness camp in the BRT Tiger Reserve, the Bheemeshwari Nature Camp, the Galibore and Doddamakali fishing camps in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, the Devbagh Beach Resort in Karwar, the River Tern Lodge in Chikkamagaluru district, the JLR in Bannerghatta and the Dubare Elephant Camp in Kodagu district. The K Gudi camp was found lacking forest clearances. Bheemeshwari, Galibore and Doddamakali camps do not have permission from the SBWL, the NBWL and the SC. Forest Clearance (FC) wasn’t applied for. Devbagh was not applicable for permission from the SBWL and the NBWL and didn’t apply for FC. River Tern, Bannerghatta and Dubare too do not have FC clearance, Martin claimed.  As per the MoEF guidelines on taking up non-forestry activities in wildlife habitats and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, no construction of commercial tourist lodges, hotels, zoos and safari parks can take place inside national parks, tiger reserves and national parks. According to Martin, a letter was also written to the Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment, in December 2014, seeking details of the JLR running resorts inside sanctuaries, national parks and reserve forests without forest clearance from the MoEF and other approvals from the SBWL, the NBWL and the Supreme Court. But no reply was received to date. When contacted, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment, M Madan Gopal, promised to take up the matter with the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Vinay Luthra. He said JLR properties were launched by converting existing forest guesthouses into resorts and nothing new was constructed. They were launched to promote eco-tourism activities, which is a part of forest activity, he added. (Deccan Herald 13/2/15)

92. Need for increasing forest cover stressed (9)

SALEM: Mass sapling planting campaign, competitions, distribution of seedlings to farmers marked the environment protection awareness programme held at the Government School, Kamalapuram near here on Saturday. The programme was organised by the Green India Foundation NGO. Pazhanivelu, forest ranger, Danishpet, spoke on the need for increasing the forest cover for protecting the environment. The forests will bring adequate rainfall, which in turn will improve the ground water level in the surrounding areas, he said and urged the students to extend a helping hand by planting more saplings. A large number of students participated in the oratorical and other competitions held in connection with the event, prizes were distributed to the winners. The highlight of the event was the distribution of seedlings to the farmers who participated in the programme. Led by Sumathi, secretary of the Green India Foundation, students planted saplings on the school premises. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

93. Green pepper does a star turn for tribal farmers (20)

ANCHIYAL (IDUKKI DISTRICT): The tribal farmers of Vancvhivayal, a settlement inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), are a happy lot. For, they get the highest price for green pepper in the State as the entire lot is exported to Germany. In this hill-locked fertile forestland, all farmers grow organic pepper thanks to the effort of the Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation. The 63 families at Vancvhivayal are busy harvesting the crop and the yield is expected to be over 20 tonnes this year. They get Rs.270 a kg this season for their produce, which Rs.110 more than the local market rate. V.Radhakrishnan, secretary of the Eco-Development Committee (EDC), said the committee prompted the farmers to take up green pepper cultivation. In 2005, 20,578 kg of organic pepper fetched Rs.5,14,470 and last year, the farmers got Rs.52,63,940 selling 23,027 kg. “Every year, an international agency gives organic certification after testing the soil and the farmers are advised to stick to the organic mode. Moreover, it is their way of cultivation as they do not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers as the soil is rich. The farmers clear the weeds twice a year and the decayed leaves and weeds are the main agents that fertilise the soil,” says P.N. Sebastian, EDC facilitator. A PTR official said the foundation used to directly export the produce to Germany. However, due to official constraints, it invited bids from private agencies to procure pepper before the harvest season every year. “In 2013, 23,565 kg of pepper was sold at Rs.35,34,750 at Rs.150 a kg (market price Rs.129). Since we get a decent price, we are all happy to be pepper farmers,” says Remakutty, wife of Radhakrishnan. Valsa Yesodaran, a farmer, said every week the price of the collected pepper would be remitted in their bank account. “Other than arranging the organic certification and inviting quotations, the foundation does not have a role in collecting the material or transferring the money to the account holder. It is for ensuring transparency. All tribal farmers of Vancvhivayal are members on the EDC, which procures pepper from them,” a PTR official said. (The Hindu 13/2/15)

94. Farmers Enumerate Benefits of Bt Cotton (20)

BENGALURU: The debate over genetically modified crops rears its head every now and then, but for many farmers, it is an open-and-shut case. Take the example of Basavaraj F Rudagi and Kallanagouda Patil, of Saunshi and Uppinabetegere villages in Dharwad respectively. Basavaraj grows cotton on 15 acres of the 40 acres he owns, while Kallanagouda grows the crop on 10 acres. Both of them say Bt cotton has almost doubled their yield, increased their earnings and reduced the investment on pesticides and labour. According to experts, debates on GM crops are often riddled with ill-informed remarks about the risks of such crops. Genetic modification is a technology that cannot be ignored and may come handy to feed the 9 billion people expected to populate the planet by 2050, they say. The farmers appear to agree. They say Bt cotton seeds are easily available at agro centres and fertiliser shops. They are usually sold at `930 a packet, which includes 450 gm of Bt cotton seeds for the main field and 120 gm for non-Bt seeds that act as refugee seeds along the periphery of the main field. ‘Helps in Pest Control’:  Basavaraj says, “Bt cotton has been very helpful in reducing the damage caused by bollworm (an insect that damages the part of the cotton plant that can be sold).” “Earlier, farmers growing traditional cotton  had to spray pesticide 10 to 15 times during the peak growth period of cotton to control bollworm infection. Now, with Bt cotton, pesticide sprays have come down by 70 per cent, to just 3-4 rounds,” he adds. Kallanagouda says non-Bt growers used to get a yield of four to five quintals, which is a low return. “With Bt cotton seeds, we are actually investing less on pesticides and labour and getting a yield of 8-10 quintals,” he says. He puts the rise in earnings at 50-60 per cent, and adds with happiness that today, 90 per cent of the cotton generated in India is from Bt seeds. (New Indian Express 15/2/15)

95. UP govt to launch 1,000 agri-junctions across state… (20)

LUCKNOW: Going pro-farmer in a big way, the SP government is all set to launch 1,000 ‘agri-junctions’ across the state. The state budget to be tabled on February 24 is likely to have provision for the same. The aim is to provide not only farm inputs and equipment to farmers but also business opportunity to rural youth and employment to agriculture graduates. The scheme will be announced by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav soon and the government expects that kisan junctions would dot the entire agricultural landscape of the state opening business opportunities for the rural youth in large numbers and protect the innocent farmers from their exploitation from the banks to the retailers!  The one-stop will not only cater to all kinds of requirements of farmers, but also guide them in procuring loan from banks for the farm needs and to set up small-scale food processing units and availing technical facilities. Graduates with agriculture background would be shortlisted to run these junctions. According to reliable sources, the chief minister has ordered to provide a subsidy of Rs 60,000 each to the selected candidates to set up their own business .The agri junction will cost nearly Rs 4 lakh and apart from the subsidy, the remaining amount would be funded as loans by the NABARD and other nationalised banks. The State Agricultural Management Extension Training Institute (SAMETI) at Rehmankhera , Lucknow, is gearing up to provide a 12-day training programme for the shortlisted applicants. The government hopes that the agri shop promoted by it will take the chain of such marts being run bu corporate houses. “Agri junctions would not only provide all farm inputs to farmers, but also assist them in bank loans, and help them in availing the agriculture programmes of the UP government and the Central governments,” says a government official. The agri junctions can add on services like maintenance and repairs of farm machinery, animal feed, retailing of agriculture produce and processed agriculture products and even information technology kiosks. (Times of India 17/2/15)

96. 93 farmers committed suicide in 45 days in Marathwada region (20)

AURANGABAD: Forty-five days, 93 suicides. 2015 has started quite ominously for farmers in the perennially parched Marathwada region and activists blamed the fickle weather and the delay in release of government compensation for this. The divisional commissionerate has reported as many as 93 farmers’ suicides in Marathwada in the last 45 days since January 1. Last year, the region had reported 569 farmers’ suicides as against 207 in 2013. A committee of each taluka comprising the tehsildar, police officer, taluka agriculture officer, sarpanch and a panchayat samiti member probes a suicide case to confirm if the death was due to debt burden. A farmer committing suicide is eligible for compensation only if he possesses land and is debt-ridden. Moreover, he should have taken loan only from either nationalized or co-operative banks and registered money-lenders. There has to be follow up from the banks concerned for the repayment of the loan. Divisional commissioner Umakant Dangat said, “Farmer suicide is one of the biggest challenges before the administration. Crop failure and debts are considered the main reasons for farmers’ suicide. This is common in an area where the single crop pattern is in practice. Ensuring water security for the farmers via water management is the solution to the problem in a region like Marathwada.” He added that the farmers should be introduced to some sustainable means of farming system. Agriculture here needs to be supplement by allied activities like vegetable production, diary, so that farmer suicides are brought down to a great extent. Of the total farmers’ suicides committed this year in the region, 26 have been reported from Beed, closely followed by Nanded (20) and Osmanabad (18). Parbhani has reported one farmer suicide, while Jalna, Hingoli, Aurangabad and Latur districts have reported three, four, nine and 12 farmer suicides, respectively. “The delay in distribution of compensation is the biggest reason for the farmers to take the extreme step. Besides, the vicious cycle of crop loan in combination with erratic monsoon in the region leaves the farmers with no option but to take the extreme step,” said farmer activist Jayajirao Suryawanshi. Of the 93 deaths, the administration has 26 cases pending for inquiry because of which compensation has not been granted. District collector Naval Kishor Ram said, “Once a farmer suicide is reported, we send it to the block level committee including tehsildar, police inspector and agriculture officer. There are two levels of inquiries conducted and they ideally take at least one month. We ensure there is no delay in the release of compensation.” (Times of India 19/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

97. State may extend land pooling deadline (4)

GUNTUR: The State government is likely to extend the February 15 deadline to complete the land pooling process as less than 50 per cent of land has been pooled so far in the capital notified region covering 26 villages in the three mandals of Thullur, Mangalagiri and Tadepalli. According to reports, a little over 18,000 acres had been pooled so far with 46.95 per cent of farmers submitting consent letters (form 9.3). The government still has to acquire 19,000 acres. “At this point, the government is left with no other option but to extend the deadline by another 15 days. I don’t think the government will invoke provisions under the Land Acquisition Act when 50 per cent of land has already been pooled,” said a senior official. The APCRDA had issued notification in January first week but with most of the deputy collectors not reporting for duty, the process was off to a sluggish start. The total extent of land in the capital notified area according to the Revenue Settlement Registrar (RSR) is 53,720 acres. The CRDA notified 45,625 acres, out of which 8,001 acres is government land, 37,624 acres patta land. The number of khatadars in 1-B register is 24,818, of which 15,548 farmers gave consent letters as on February 9. As of now, land owners in Thullur, Nelapadu, Sakhamuru, Ananthavaram have shown enthusiasm in giving away their land. In contrast, those from the villages abutting the river bed such as Rayapudi, Undavalli, Penumaka and Tadepalli were reluctant for the same. For instance, the percentage of farmers who had given consent letters was 72.02 in Thullur-2, 65.42 in Nelapadu, 64.50 in Ananthavaram and 50.35 in Dondapadu. But the situation is different in riverfront villages, where farmers cultivate three to four crops. For instance in Rayapudi-1 and Rayapudi-2, the percentage of farmers who gave consent letters is 17.33 and 48.11 respectively, 14.56 in Uddandarayanipalem. But the initial resistance appears to have subsided owing to reconciliation. In Krishnayapalem and Lingayapalem, the percentage stood at 47.56 and 38.57 respectively. “We are determined to retain our lands and there is no way we are going to part with them,” said Mallela Harindranath Chowdary, president of PACS, Rayapudi. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

98. Anna Hazare to protest against Modi govt’s ordinance on Land Acquisition (4)

New Delhi: Anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare said on Sunday that he along with farmers from northern India will hold a protest, scheduled to be held on February 24, against the land acquisition ordinance, adding that he will request the Modi government to withdraw it keeping in mind the farmers’ cause. “I will participate in massive movement of farmers against land acquisition ordinance, to be held on Feb 24 in Delhi,” Hazare told reporters here, as per ANI. Hazare further said, “We will request the Govt to withdraw this anti-farmers ordinance through this movement.” The veteran social activist added that the BJP government has done injustice to poor farmers by allowing their land to be acquired for industrial purposes without their permission. A farmers’ body, last month, had announced that it would lay siege to Parliament on February 20 to protest the new Land Acquisition ordinance. The Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangthan had described the ordinance as a “kaala kanoon” (black law). The Union Cabinet in December 2014, had approved the ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act, adding five more areas which will be exempted from the requisites given in the act. Five areas were granted clearance for land for Defence purposes, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and housing projects for poor, industrial corridors, and infrastructure or social infrastructure projects, including those in public-private projects in which ownership of land will remain with the government. (Zee News 15/2/15)

99. Medha Patkar asks Mohan Bhagwat about how RSS plans to conserve Narmada (4)

Indore: Medha Patkar said that she and anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare would participate in a ‘Maha Dharna’ on February 23 and February 24 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to protest amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act using the ordinance route, by Narendra Modi’s government. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Monday asked RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat what his organisation plans to conserve Narmada and alleged that tracts of land along the holy river were being handed over to private companies under the pretext of implementing government schemes “Government policies have been charted out to hand over tracts of lands along river Narmada to private companies after grabbing them, but people displaced by big dam projects have not been compensated with land yet,” Patkar said at a press conference in Indore. “I want to ask Bhagwat what the RSS plans to do to conserve Narmada,” she said, seeking to know what was the RSS’ stand on big dam projects on the Narmada. “Bhagwat said that some organisations working on rivers where involved in anti-national activities. He should specifically name these organisations,” Patkar said. The activist said that she and anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare would participate in a ‘Maha Dharna’ on February 23 and February 24 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to protest amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act using the ordinance route, by Narendra Modi’s government. She said that these amendments were made merely to favour private companies and real estate developers. These amendments have been initiated to grab the lands of farmers, labourers, urban poor and fishermen, she said. (DNA 16/2/15)

100. AAP to fight ‘low’ compensation for land acquisition (4)

CHANDIGARH: Confident after their impressive show in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday announced not to let Haryana’s BJP government acquire even a single inch of land if it didn’t amend rules to offer low compensation to farmers. The law – Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – has given liberty to the states to frame rules for award of compensation to farmers in lieu of land acquisition. The states have an option to multiply the price of land in the rural areas up to two times its market value. The Haryana government decided that it would multiply the value of land with one – prevailing market rates – to offer compensation to property owners. A formal notification was issued on December 4, 2014 in this connection. These rules were made for entire rural Haryana. Explaining the impact of the decision, an official said, “As per adopted version of the compensation formula, the government pays Rs 100 crore to the farmers, it would have to pay Rs 200 crore for the same land if its value was raised by a multiple of two.” AAP national spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said the price fixation was to be on the basis of distance of rural land from urban areas but the Manohar Lal Khattar-led government adopted the lowest standard of compensation for the entire state. “For example, a farmer, who gets just Rs 50 lakh for a piece of land as per new rules, would have got Rs 1 crore if the upper limit of the compensation was adopted,” said Yadav, adding that now the compensation would be just 50% in comparison to the upper side reimbursement formula. “Even the previous Congress government in Haryana had opted for the upper side of land compensation in Gurgaon district on the pattern of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The Khattar government has opted the lower limit of compensation despite strong objection from farmers,” the AAP leader claimed. Accompanied by Haryana AAP leaders Ashawant Gupta and Rajiv Godara, Yadav said the state government must withdraw the anti-farmer rules on land acquisition. “We won’t allow the government to acquire any piece land on the basis of these rules,” he said. Additional chief secretary (revenue) Dalip Singh said the government has adopted the rules of compensation for land on the basis of recommendations of a committee. Sources said the procedure for framing rules to acquire land was initiated during the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government but final notification was issued by the current regime. An official claimed that many projects would have become unviable, if the government adopted higher limit of compensation. “Haryana has adopted the same compensation model as by many other states,” he added. Jawahar Yadav, officer on special duty (OSD) to CM, said they would welcome if the AAP could give some suggestions on the issue. AAP would launch ‘Jai Kisan Abhiyan’ from February 21 in Haryana. Party workers would offer packets of salt to MPs from Haryana asking them not to betray farmers, who produced food for them. Terming the land acquisition ordinance introduced by the Narendra Modi government in 2014 as anti-farmer, AAP workers would urge the MPs to raise their voice against it. (Times of India 18/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

101. Health Ministry holds review meeting on H1N1 (3)

NEW DELHI: The status of H1N1 influenza being reported from different states was reviewed by the Health Ministry at a high-level meeting held here on Wednesday. Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr Jagdish Prasad, representatives of leading government hospitals such as Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung, AIIMS, and from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) were present in the meeting that was chaired by Health and Family Welfare Secretary B.P. Sharma. It was noted that that during the period from January 1 to February 10 this year, the total number of H1N1 cases is 5,157 and number of deaths is 407. Largely the cases are from Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana whereas largely the deaths due to H1N1 are in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Telangana. The current trends of morbidity and mortality, the diagnostic and test algorithms being followed, availability of diagnostic kits and drugs, and other preventive measures were discussed. Based on the advice given by experts, it was decided that various health institutions treating H1N1 cases be advised for vaccination against H1N1 influenza for the concerned health workers in the hospitals in contact with H1N1 patients. This will be in addition to the proper personal protective measures being followed at the hospitals. Guidelines are being drafted for vaccination of healthcare workers and these will be shared with the states for dissemination to all health institutions. The Government of India has already placed an order for enhancing stock of diagnostic kits to be supplied to the lab network under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) being used for testing H1N1 influenza. To enhance the level of preparedness, additional 60,000 Oseltamivir medicines and 10,000 N-95 masks are being procured. In addition, NCDC has floated a tender for additional 10,000 diagnostic kits. In case of need, labs under ICMR have been identified across the country to provide additional testing facilities. In order to prevent panic and inconvenience to people, and to encourage only those cases requiring H1N1 testing are actually taken up for testing, it was decided that the communication strategy should create awareness among the general public regarding this aspect. (Times of India 11/2/15)

102. Maharashtra continues to face swine flu’s onslaught, toll rises to 58 (3)

Pune: With the alarming acceleration of swine flu, Maharashtra continues to face the onslaught of the lethal H1N1 virus with 13 people succumbing in the second week of February, taking the toll to 58. 11 of these cases, whose average age was around 50 years, suffered from other underlying ailments like diabetes and hypertension. Of the 58 deaths recorded, 35 people died in the first two weeks of February itself, while there have been more than 220 cases in the second week alone, said medical sources. The present toll has alarmingly exceeded the total of 43 deaths registered in 2014. Since January, a total of 415 people have been affected by swine flu and are undergoing treatment, with most of the cases concentrated in Pune and Nagpur. Scientists at the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) observed a dramatic 22 per cent rise in swine flu transmission since the beginning of February as opposed to the two per cent positivity rate in January. The districts of Pune, one of the epicenters of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and Nagpur, have already recorded more than 20 deaths each and the number is expected to rise with the onset of summer, said State medical authorities. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

103. Why rural children in India die of diarrhoea and pneumonia (3)

CHENNAI: The reason why a large number of children under the age of five years die of diarrhoea and pneumonia, generally in rural India and especially in Bihar, has become clear. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the biggest killer diseases in children in India. With 55 per 1,000 live births, Bihar has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. But 340 health care providers in rural Bihar rarely practice what little they know about treating children suffering from these two diseases. “Vignette” interviews with the providers were conducted to assess their knowledge of diagnosing and treating children with these diseases. Later, the actual treatment offered by the health care providers was assessed by sending “patients” pretending to suffer from the same symptoms as in the interviews. If the providers’ exhibited “low levels” of knowledge about the two diseases during the interviews, it was even worse in practice. Though during the interview 72 per cent of them correctly reported they would prescribe the cheap, life-saving oral rehydration salts (ORS) to children suffering from diarrhoea, in practice, none prescribed the correct treatment — only ORS. In practice, almost 72 per cent did not give ORS. Instead, they prescribed harmful drugs or antibiotics. The 17 per cent providers who did prescribe ORS also added antibiotics to the regimen, which is unnecessary, says a Duke University release. Antibiotics were prescribed despite the “patients” not asking for them. Eighty per cent of providers in the study did not have a medical degree. While those with medical training did have large gaps between what they knew and what they practiced, they were “significantly less likely” to prescribe harmful drugs. The results were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

104. Swine Flu H1N1: Signs, symptoms, diagnosis and prevention of the deadly H1N1 virus (3)

Swine Flu (H1N1) is the new virus that is killing people at large with no proper vaccination for the deadly disease. A total of 5157 H1N1 cases were recorded from January to February 2015 of which 407 patients died. The disease was first detected in Mexico in 2009 and then spread to many countries in the world. The influenza was earlier referred to as H1N1 because of the virus which was found in the lanoratory testing which were similar to those found in the pigs in North America. The scientists calls this a ‘quadruple reassortant’ virus and hence this new (novel) virus is now called ‘influenza-A (H1N1) virus’. While the virus is spreading across the country, here we is all you need to know about the the deadly virus. In pigs, influenza infection produces fever, lethargy, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing and decreased appetite Although mortality is usually low (around 1–4%), the virus can produce weight loss and poor growth, causing economic loss to farmers. Direct transmission of a swine flu virus from pigs to humans is occasionally possible (zoonotic swine flu). Swine flu deaths cross 620, chemists asked to stock Tamiflu In humans the symptoms of “swine flu” H1N1 virus are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general. Symptoms in humans fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Because these symptoms are not specific to swine flu, a differential diagnosis of probable swine flu requires not only symptoms, but also a high likelihood of swine flu due to the person’s recent history. The oral or nasal fluid collection and RNA virus preserving filter paper card is commercially available. This method allows a specific diagnosis of novel influenza (H1N1) as opposed to seasonal influenza. Former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot tests positive for swine flu The most common cause of death is respiratory failure. Other causes of death are pneumonia (leading to sepsis), high fever (leading to neurological problems), dehydration (from excessive vomiting and diarrhea), electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure. Fatalities are more likely in young children and the elderly. Swine Flu: Government to vaccinate health workers against H1N1 virus.. (India.com 18/2/15)

 105. ‘India yet to recognise healthcare as fundamental right’(3)

VELLORE: Sixty-seven years after winning Independence, India is yet to recognise and realise healthcare as a fundamental human right, as an entitlement for all is citizens and residents, observed N. Ram, Chairman of the Kasturi & Sons Ltd. and Publisher of The Hindu Group of Publications. Delivering the address at the graduation function of the College of Nursing (CON) of the Christian Medical College here on Tuesday, Mr. Ram said that India ranked very low in any objective international ranking of countries by health status. “Despite the advances made in the tertiary sector in the development of several large multi-speciality commercial hospitals, and also in the provision of a decent level of primary healthcare in a few States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, health deprivation on a mass scale stands out as one of the country’s intractable challenges”, he said. Quoting from the Ninth Kolkata Group Workshop chaired by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in February 2011, he said, “India’s public spending on health is among the lowest in the world. This has led to an extremely high burden of out-of-pocket health expenditures, which a huge part of the population cannot afford”. Mr. Ram said that the goal of publicly provided healthcare for all eludes us. It continues to recede from the sights of policy-makers who seem calamitously wedded to the idea that (as the Kolkata Group puts it) “private healthcare, properly subsidised, or private health insurance, subsidised by the State, can meet the challenge”. Quoting the statement of the Kolkata Group at the end of its Eleventh Workshop in February 2014, he said that what is absent is the political will to go beyond words in treating healthcare as a fundamental human right, where the essential need is “an integrated approach, with guaranteed access for all to qualified doctors trained in modern medicine. A comprehensive understanding of healthcare that must include provisioning of clean water, nutrition, sanitation and waste disposal is also essential”. Mr. Ram distributed Special Awards to the meritorious graduates. They included the CON Gold Medal for The Best Outgoing Student in B.Sc. Nursing Programme and the Alice Gnanamuthu Memorial Gold Medal for the Best All-round Student in B.Sc. Nursing Programme to Jyothi Merin George, and the CON Gold Medal for the Best Outgoing Student in Post-Basic B.Sc. Nursing Programme to P. Raju. Dr. Sunil Thomas Chandy, Director, CMC welcomed the gathering. Dr. Selva Titus Chacko, Dean, CON, CMC gave the charge to the graduates. A total of 211 undergraduate and 28 postgraduates received their degrees. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

106. Apprehensions over blood safety interventions (3)

GUWAHATI, Feb 13 – The rate of new HIV infections through transfusion of contaminated blood in Assam has doubled the national average in 2014, casting serious apprehensions on the existing blood safety interventions in the State. While about one per cent of the total transmission of HIV is through contaminated blood in the country, in Assam it has risen to 2 per cent in the year 2014. Significantly, the rate of such new detections has increased in the last one year, unlike what is being witnessed in the country as a whole, a latest report of the Assam State AIDS Control Society stated. The State has a recent history of transmission of HIV infections through blood transfusions, where four people got infected after receiving blood from a government-run blood bank in Mangaldai in June, 2013. Reports available with The Assam Tribune reveal that as many as 1,077 new detections were confirmed by the health institutions during 2014 and that majority of the HIV infections (as on December 31, 2014) were effected through unprotected sex of heterosexual (multiple partners), followed by infections from parent to child (for children). As of today, the total number of HIV-positive cases detected till December 31, 2014 is 9,991, of which 6,082 were males, 3,445 females, 455 children and 9 transgenders. Among the districts, Kamrup (Metro) has 3,820 detections of HIV positive (status as on December 31, 2014), followed by Cachar and Dibrugarh with 2,137 and 652 detections respectively. However, if the place of origin of those infected is taken into account, Cachar tops the list with 24.43 per cent, followed by Kamrup (M) with 14.81 per cent. A senior official of the Health Department, when asked to comment on the disturbing trend, said the government is taking all necessary steps in this regard and as part of it licenses of five blood banks have been cancelled in the span of last one year or so. (The Assam Tribune 14/2/15)

107. Med Camp Need of the Hour to Identify HIV-infected Tribals (3)

PALAKKAD: The demand to conduct a medical camp in Attappadi Adivasi hamlets to identify people with AIDS has been slowly gaining momentum as tribal patients have started enrolling at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital for treatment. The tribal promoters who work with the Adivasis here told Express that there are many in Attappadi living with AIDS, but stress and fear are the major deterrents that prevent them from accessing medical care. The tribal promoters of Attappadi allege that the officials of Kottathara Tribal Hospital are reluctant to reveal the exact number of AIDS patients in Attappadi owing to pressure and HIV could be the reason behind the deaths of many here. “The statistics available with the hospital show that the number of AIDS patients in Attappadi is alarmingly high. “However, the report has not been published by the Department probably to avoid attracting yet another controversy in addition to the potential Maoist threat and infant deaths in Attappadi,” said one of the tribal promoters on condition of anonymity. However, the CDPO of Attappadi, Mayalakshmi said that she was told as many as 10 people were undergoing treatment for AIDS at Kottathara Tribal Hospital. “I am not sure whether the figure is correct or not. No camp has been conducted yet to identify people with AIDS, but it is on the cards and we will conduct a medical camp soon. “Even if we conduct a camp, we are apprehensive if tribals will cooperate due to the fear factor. As far as I know, no one has taken an initiative to identify Adivasi people with AIDS. In the Adivasi settlements of other districts, the officials concerned maintain proper data in this regard, but in Attappadi nothing concrete is available. “The Social Welfare Department cannot do anything now as we are at present occupied in implementing measures to prevent malnutrition deaths in Attappadi,” said Mayalakshmi. The manager of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) Seema Bhaskar opined that it is high time a medical camp is conducted in Attappadi. “The existing system has not been beneficial to tribals in any way and tribals do not feel the need of availing the facilities and medical expertise available at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital. This attitude must change. Only then the tribals will come forward to get their blood sampled and receive treatment if diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS. The National Rural Livelihood Missionwill start conducting an awareness camp from February 27 onwards with the support of the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM). The camp aims at making them aware of a healthy sexual life, the myths associated with treatment, AIDS and child health,” adds Seema. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

108. NGO working on AIDS gets $350,000 aid (3)

New Delhi: Global NGO, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), has received a grant of $350,000 from leading pharmaceutical and healthcare firm Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) to support implementation of the Human Vaccines Project that seeks to transform disease prevention across the world. The GSK grant is aimed to help the NGO establish the project’s global consortium and plan its research programme. “For all that we have achieved with vaccines, there are still far too many diseases that we can’t prevent and which have a devastating impact, particularly in the developing world,” said Emmanuel Hanon, senior vice president, vaccines research and development, GSK. “The more we can do – both individually and collectively – to overcome the current scientific challenges the better. We are very pleased to support the Human Vaccines Project and we encourage others to join us in this potentially ground-breaking initiative,” he added. The project aims to address the common scientific obstacles preventing development of vaccines against major and emerging infectious diseases and cancers and complement ongoing disease- specific vaccine development efforts. (Business Standard 16/2/15)

109. HC directs HIV-affected man to pay maintenance (3)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has observed that a person cannot seek exemption from paying monthly as well as annual maintenance amount to his estranged wife and children just because he happened to be a HIV patient. Disposing of a revision petition filed by a Government Health Inspector suffering from HIV, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan said: “Being a parent, the revision petitioner is also bound to maintain and educate the children so that they can come up in their life.” The judge pointed out that the petitioner had entered into wedlock in 1991 and begot one daughter and two sons in quick succession. He continued to live with his family until 2006 when his wife was reportedly driven out of her matrimonial house along with the three children. The woman filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights before a Sub-Court in Kumbakonam and obtained an ex-parte order in her favour. Yet, the petitioner neither agreed to live along with the family nor did he challenge the ex-parte order before the appropriate appellate forum. Hence, she sought maintenance in 2012 and a Judicial Magistrate at Papanasam ordered payment of Rs. 2,000 a month to the woman and Rs. 1,000 every month to each of the two minor children. It was also ordered to pay Rs. 25,000 annually towards educational, medical and festival expenses. Holding that the monthly maintenance amount awarded by the Judicial Magistrate could not be termed exorbitant in view of ever-increasing cost of living, Mr. Justice Sathyanarayanan reduced the annual payment amount alone from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 20,000. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

 

Posted by admin at 19 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit IAS and IPS officers neglected: Puthiya Tamilagam (2)

MADURAI: Puthiya Tamilagam founder K. Krishnasamy, on Monday, wanted the Centre to frame rules which ensured that important posts for IAS and IPS officers in all States were given in rotation to officers belonging to Scheduled Castes. Addressing the media, he accused the AIADMK Government of neglecting the senior IAS and IPS officers belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State in appointment to important posts. “When both the Dravidian parties have never posted a Dalit officer as Home Secretary, the AIADMK Government does not appoint them in any of important positions,” he said. After 1967 not even a single Dalit IAS officer has become Home Secretary in the State. Similarly, the AIADMK Government ignored Dalit IPS officers for top posts in the Police Department, he said. The Centre’s role is only in recruitment of the civil servants who are then deployed at the mercy of the State Governments. “The Centre should issue a standing order that would ensure that the posts like Home Secretary and Chief Secretary are given to Dalits on a rotation basis,” he said. Though he said that he was not completely in agreement with the senior IAS officer C. Umashankar on his contention for taking up religious preachings, he said it could be out of neglect by the Government that the IAS officer, known for his integrity, converted to Christianity. Dr. Krishnasamy said that Tamil Nadu stood second in rime against oppressed classes in the entire nation, next only to Uttar Pradesh. “Among those incidences, the southern districts accounted for the majority,” he said. “Southern districts have turned into a field for atrocities against Dalits,” he said. He said that he would seek the intervention of President of India for a setting up a special investigation team to probe into atrocities against Dalits. Dr. Krishnasamy sought the Government to set up special courts to try cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act expeditiously. (The Hindu 3/2/15)

2. Dalit families facing discrimination: AGM (2)

KANNUR: Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGM) convener M. Geethanandan has alleged that Dalit families in a village near Azhikkal here are facing discrimination in connection with a local temple festival. Mr. Geethanandan said at a press conference here on Monday that the Dalits in the area were facing threats of violence and caste polarisation following the announcement of a stir by the Kerala Pattika Jana Samajam (KPJS). The KPJS stir was against what it called “untouchability” in connection with the “ezhunnellippu” ritual at Azhikkal Pambadiyal Temple.Mr. Geethanandan said that the KPJS would organise a fast from February 4 to 7 against the alleged caste discrimination in the temple. A rally by the Dalits would be held on February 7. The AGM convener also said that the exclusion of Dalit households from the annual ritual was a violation of the Civic Rights Protection Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.The response of the temple authorities to this was that the annual ritual would by custom be performed by the Thiya community alone. He said that nearly 400 Dalit families lived in the neighbourhood.The samajam would participate in the talks convened by District Collector P. Bala Kiran on February 3 to discuss the issue, he added. KPJS general secretary Thekkan Sunil Kumar was among those present at the press conference. (The Hindu 3/2/15)

 3. ‘Protect Dalits of Kalayarkoil’ (2)

MADURAI: The Sivaganga Superintendent of Police should review the action taken on complaints of atrocities against Dalit families living around Kalayarkoil, a fact-finding team has said. The three-member team, led by former MLA R. Krishnan, which visited Kalayarkoil and surrounding villages on Tuesday, alleged that many attacks on Dalit families did not come to light due to police inaction. When there was an attack on Dalit habitations in Gandhi Nagar in Sembanur panchayat on January 16, instead of booking the culprits, the police filed cases against 10 Dalits, including four women. The residents alleged that a tea shop in the village was practising two-tumbler system and wanted the police to set up an outpost as they were living in fear. A release from the fact-finding team said that Dalits of Easanur were denied their traditional right to worship at the Ayyanar Temple during the annual festival through promulgation of prohibitory orders. Dalits were prevented from using the common cremation ground at Velarendal village by the dominant castes. A family of eve teasing victim had to leave Indira Nagar in Maravamangalam after the police filed a cast against it. The release also referred to the attack on Kanchipatti panchayat president Sekar by dominant castes. The team urged the Collector, T. Munusamy, to initiate action against the police personnel who did not act on complaints of atrocities against Dalits and for withdrawal of cases foisted on Dalits. The SP should be instructed to review the action taken on complaints filed by Dalits. The team comprised P. Kavitha Kumar, journalist, and Viduthalai Veeran of Adi Tamizhar Viduthalai Iyakkam, besides Mr. Krishnan. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

4. VHP to promote interdining with Dalits (2)

HOSUR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia on Saturday said his organisation would launch a movement for Hindus of all communities to remove untouchability and promote interdining with Dalits. “Up to the point where Togadia is allowed inside a temple, a Dalit will also be allowed entry,” he told The Hindu, when he was asked if he would launch a temple entry movement where Dalits were denied entry. “The VHP will launch a movement in six lakh villages to interdine with Dalits, to drink out of the same well, and to have common graveyard,” the VHP’s international working president said. Mr. Togadia was denied entry into Bengaluru for the VHP’s national conference scheduled for Sunday. Arriving in Hosur, he launched the VHP’s ‘Happy Healthy Hindu Scheme’ — a six-point action plan to ring in “prosperity for the Hindus by providing food, health care, education, job, trade and security.” The action plan was to ensure that every Hindu would act to remove untouchability and dine with Dalits. Criticising Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Mr. Togadia said he was due to launch the scheme in Bengaluru, but he had to do it from Hosur. “Mr. Siddaramaiah does not want health and prosperity for the Hindus of Karnataka,” he said. Steering clear of any controversy, he said the only VHP activity for Valentine’s Day was “to bring prosperity for Hindus.” Earlier, in his speech, Mr. Togadia touched upon issues such as ‘love jihad’, conversions, cow slaughter and Haj subsidy. (The Hindu 8/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Forest Officials Attacked Us, Gotti Koyas Tell Visiting HRF Team (6)

MADEPALLI (KHAMMAM DISTRICT):“More than 20 forest officials descended on our settlement suddenly and started attacking each and every house. Some of the houses were set on fire and some others were razed to the ground. They threw the utensils and clothes out, and drove us away from our houses,” said Kunjam Jogaiah, a Gotti Koya tribal, from Madepalli village in Enkoor mandal. Jogaiah was explaining an alleged attack by forest officials to a team of the rights activists led by VS Krishna, general secretary, AP and Telangana Human Rights Forum (HRF), who visited his tribal settlement on Saturday. The tribals said the attack was carried out by the Tallada subdivision forest officials on Tuesday. “Since there is no shelter left for us to even to sit, we are currently living under the shade of the trees,” the Gotti Koyas said. According to sources, around 30 families consisting of 200 members have been living at Madepalli village in Enkoor mandal since the year 2000. Some of them have even have ration cards registered under the state’s name even though they are from Chattisgarh state. “This is not their first attack. They have done the same in the past, four to five times, demanding that we leave the place,” Jogaiah said and alleged that some forest staff had even stolen our Rs 14,500 cash and took away some utensils. It is said that the locals were awarded an interim order on October 24 in 2014 which gave them permission to stay at the same place till the case is resolved. “But the forest personnel did not stop their harassment. They carried out the attack on us despite the HC order,” said Kunjam Jogaiah. We are being forced to live on the trees, said Kursam Ramesh, a tribal. The Gotti Koyas claim they are eligible for pattas for their ‘podu’ lands under the Forest Rights Act 2006,. “The forest officers have no right to vacate us,” they said. HRF leader VS Krishna condemned the act of the forest department. He said the attack on the Gotti Koyas should be considered as a contempt of court. (New Indian Express 1/2/15)

6. Tribals Threaten Jail Bharo against Ash Pond (6)

ROURKELA: The members of Adivasi Mulbasi Bachao Samiti (AMBS) have threatened to court arrest to protest construction of ash pond of NTPC-SAIL Power Company Pvt Ltd (NSPCL) at Barkani village under Bondamunda police limits here. Speaking to mediapersons on Monday, Birmitrapur MLA and Samata Kranti Dal president George Tirkey said, “AMBS members will participate in the ‘jail bharo’ on February 6 and stay in jail till their demands are fulfilled.” Alleging that the tribals were exploited by the Government, Tirkey said the company would not be allowed to go ahead with the NSPCL project at Barkani as it would displace the villagers who have been living there for several decades. The Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) has provided about 140 acres to NSPCL to set up the ash pond at Barkani, but a section of tribal villagers claims that the land belongs to their ancestors. Tirkey said thousands of acres of land of the tribals acquired by RSP long time back still remain unutilised. Tirkey was accompanied by former JMM MLA Halu Mundari and AMBS convenor Letha Tirkey. Besides the ash pond, NSPCL has proposed to set up power plants of 250 MW on 148 acres of land provided by the RSP in the second phase. Sources said after considerable delay due to protest by tribal villagers of nearby areas, earth digging work was started last week amid tight security. About a fortnight back, a section of tribals, led by George Tirkey under the banner of AMBS, had disrupted train services for 29 hours to protest formation of Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) and inclusion of Jagda and Jhartarang gram panchayats in it. A high-level meeting, held at Bhubaneswar on January 29 to discuss the issue, was attended by Housing and Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo, Tirkey and AMBS leaders. Citing Constitutional provisions, Tirkey had claimed that formation of RMC and inclusion of the two GPs in the ‘Scheduled District’ of Sundargarh violate special protection given to the tribals and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. After the meeting, it was left to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take a decision on the issue. (New Indian Express 3/2/15)

7. Scheme for protection of tribal culture on the anvil: Jual Oram (6)

MYSURU: Pointing out that several tribal practices and languages in the country were facing the threat of extinction, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram said the Centre will launch a scheme aimed at protecting tribal culture after the conclusion of the Budget session of Parliament. Mr. Oram, who attended the 5th International Conference and Gathering of Elders at Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashram here on Wednesday, said there were 598 scheduled tribes in India, who spoke 432 languages and dialects, many of which did not have a script. “Unless efforts are made to conserve and protect them, they will become extinct soon,” Mr. Oram said.Speaking to reporters, Mr. Oram said the government had planned to protect languages as well as tribal practices as part of a scheme they were launching to protect the rich tribal culture of the country. There are several songs and dance programmes of the tribal people, which had not been documented. The proposed scheme will ensure that these practices are documented, he said. Mr. Oram said the Centre will also launch a scheme to promote sports among the tribal people. As the tribal youth excelled in sports, Mr. Oram said the government will provide necessary financial support for creating sports infrastructure for archery, kabaddi, football and hockey.21 outlets He said the Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), which helps in marketing tribal products, now had 21 outlets across the country. TRIFED, which made a turnover of Rs. 18 crore last year, also provides employment to 300 tribals, he said. He said the government, which recently decided to fix minimum support price (MSP) for minor forest produce (MFP) that ensures that nobody purchases the products for less that the fixed MSP, has also integrated the information on MFP into the Kisan Call Centre. “Anybody can obtain information about various MFPs in different places by calling the call centre,” he added. Responding to a question on tribals being driven out of forestland, Mr. Oram said the Forest Regulation Act ensures the tribal people their right to livelihood if they are practicing the same occupation for 25 years. “Such people will be provided with ‘patta’. During my next visit to Karnataka, I will review how many people have been issued such pattas and how many are pending”, he said. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

8. 250 Tribals from C’garh Visit CRPF HQ (6)

HYDERABAD: A group of tribal youths from neighbouring Chhattisgarh state visited  CRPF group headquarters at Chandrayangutta here on Monday. The youth are part of the seventh Tribal Youth Exchange Programme which is being organised by the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) working under the aegis of Union ministry of youth affairs and sports in collaboration with Union ministry of home affairs. The exchange programme started on February 5. On Monday, the participants visited CRPF group headquarters in Chandrayanagutta and the deputy commandant SP Tripati addressed the tribal youth and spoke about CRPF and how tribal youth recruitment takes place in the CRPF and the available prospects. They were given a traditional welcome with a band. Later, the participants visited Technology Training and Development Centre of IKP/DRDA in Ranga Reddy district and also RUDSET training institute of State Bank of Hyderabad to understand about the various training programmes that are available for youth which would enable them to be self-sufficient by starting economic activities. The participants later proceeded to Bakaram where they staged cultural programmes. Nearly 250 youth from Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Kanker, Bastar and Kondagaon are taking part in the programme. (New Indian Express 10/2/15)

WOMEN

9. Take Rs 41,000, forget rape: Bihar panchayat tells victim (8)

Patna: In a shocking incident, a panchayat in Bihar has ordered one of its members accused of raping a Mahadalit woman to pay her Rs. 41,000 and asked the victim to not report the incident, police said on Saturday. The incident occurred in a panchayat under Kodha police station in Katihar district. But the accused, a local muscleman, refused to pay the money. When she protested about his refusal to pay amount, the accused set her husband on fire injuring him badly, said a police official Sunil Kumar. This forced the victim to approach Katihar superintendent of police Kshatraneel Singh two days ago. Singh has ordered an investigation into the incident. “One of the accused Naresh Ravidas has been arrested while the main accused Prakash Ravidas is absconding,” police said. According to police, the incident occurred last month when the victim was called to panchayat building by the Prakash on the pretext of readying documents related to Indira Awas Yojana. “In her complaint to police she has informed that she was raped by him and threatened not to disclose it,” police said. Last year, a panchayat in Kishanganj district had ordered a minor girl, who was raped by four brothers and was seven months pregnant, to take Rs. 50,000 and undergo an abortion. When she approached police, an FIR was lodged and accused were arrested. In a similar case in September 2014, a panchayat in Muzaffarpur district ordered a minor rape victim to take Rs. 2 lakh and undergo abortion. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

10. Man seeks Rs 1cr as dowry, throws wife out (8)

BAREILLY: Dowry demands seem to have gone up in the city. For some, nothing less than Rs1 crore will do. This is evident from the fact that within a fortnight, two incidents have been reported wherein local girls from well-to-do families allegedly have been thrown out of their homes by their in-laws because they failed to pay a sum of Rs 1 crore as dowry. In the latest case, the daughter of a prominent businessman became a victim of dowry. The bride’s family is reported to have gifted valuables, including an Audi car of the latest version to the groom, But it was not enough. They could not give Rs 1 crore cash as dowry and their daughter had to bear the brunt. Earlier, in another case, an NRI businessman had also reportedly sent back his wife to her maternal home after her family failed to cough up Rs 1 crore as dowry. In the latest incident, Neetu, daughter of a prominent city businessman Narendra Singh, has filed a complaint with the Baradari police station against her husband and in-laws, accusing them of demanding Rs 1 crore as dowry after marriage and subjecting her to metal and physical abuse. In her complaint, Neetu alleged that she was married to Mayank, son of a well known jeweller of Meerut on January 20, 2014. At the time of marriage, Neetu’s parents had gifted cash and valuables, including an Audi car valued at around Rs 30 lakh to the groom. The total expense in the marriage came to around Rs 1 crore, claimed Neetu. According to her, once she stepped into her husband’s house, his family members, including her in-laws, came up with an additional demand of Rs 1 crore as dowry. They warned of serious consequences if their demand was not met by her family, claimed Neetu.. However, she and her family expressed their inability to pay Rs 1 crore. Then, Neetu claimed, she started facing harassment on a regular basis. Her family tried to bring about a compromise but after a short-term respite, she was tortured again, she claimed. On January 14, Neetu was allegedly brutally assaulted and thrown out of the house by her husband and in-laws. Neetu had to return to Bareilly. On Saturday, she along with her parents filed an FIR at Baradari police station. Talking to TOI, inspector, Baradari police station, Mohd Qasim said, “The matter is serious and we have registered a case under Section 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and the Dowry Prohibition Act against her husband, Mayank, his brother and parents. We will be summoning them for questioning soon to ascertain their role in the incident.” (Times of India 1/2/15)

11. More Indian women than men hit by cancer (8)

MUMBAI: More Indian women than men are diagnosed with cancer every year and it is reflected in insurance statistics that show more women in our cities claim medical insurance for cancer treatment. Blame it on physiology or the stereotypical image of an Indian woman who chooses to ignore her symptoms for long, the Big C exhibits a clear gender divide. But when it comes to fatalities, the figures turn upside down: more men die due to cancer annually than women. In all, 5.37 lakh Indian women got cancer in 2012 as against 4.77 lakh men, said the World Cancer Report. The same year, 3.56 lakh men died of the disease in comparison to 3.26 lakh women. In the past four years, 62-65%of cancer-related insurance claims were for women while it was only between 35-38% for men, said data released by private insurance firm ICICI Lombard. The claims were more for cancers of the cervix and breast, which are, according to the Indian cancer registry, the leading cancer types among women. The main reasons for the gender divide in cancer are hormones and habits. “Physiologically, women’s cells are exposed to more hormones and more hormonal fluctuations, leading to an increased susceptibility of cell dysplasia (abnormality),” said Dr Boman Dhabar, medical oncologist with Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central. He believes “oppression of Indian women” leads them to neglect their own health. “There are also socio-economic reasons such as lack of hygiene and toilets that lead to an increased incidence of cervical cancer,” said Dr Dhabar…. (Times of India 4/2/15)

12. Bihar woman sells 15-day-old to arrange for dowry (8)

Patna: In a shocking incident, an elderly woman allegedly sold her infant grandson for Rs.50,000 to arrange for dowry for her daughter`s marriage in Bihar`s Muzaffarpur district, police said Saturday. An FIR was lodged by Rukhsana Khatoon, whose 15-day-old child was allegedly sold by her mother-in-law to raise money for dowry for her daughter`s marriage, district police official Pramod Kumar Singh said. “Police have began an investigation into the incident after a case was lodged,” said Singh. This incident took place at Chainpur Wajid village under Manyari police station in Muzaffarpur, about 70 km from here Friday. Rukhsana`s husband is a daily wage labourer, who is currently working outside the state. Singh said that main accused mother-in-law and her daughter were absconding from the village after the incident came to light. “Police have began operations to arrest them,” he added. According to police officials, Rukhsana in her complaint said that her mother-in-law persuaded her to accompany her to show the child to a doctor in Muzaffarpur town. “My mother-in-law went inside doctor`s clinic with my child and soon returned empty handed. When i asked about my child, she told me that she had sold him to raise money for my sister in law`s dowry.” Rukhsana also informed police that her mother-in-law repeatedly accused her of not bringing dowry when she got married to her son three years ago. “My mother-in-law justified her decision to sell my son by saying that it was compensation for my failure to bring in dowry,” Rukhsana said. Village panchayat mukhiya (head) Aariful Rahman confirmed the incident to local police officials. (Zee News 7/2/15)

13. Himachal Government to Honour 50 Panchayats for Better Sex Ratio (8)

SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh government has decided to honour 50 Panchayats in the state for achieving better female sex ratio. The state government will honour the 50 gram panchayats who succeeded in improving child sex ratio in the age group of 0-6 years as per the census of year 2011, Health minister Kaul Singh today said. Presiding over a meeting of Supervisory Board constituted under PC and PNDT Act, 1994 here, he said that district level functions would be organised to honour these panchayats and to start with, the first function would be organised in Una district. He said that state government was committed to ensure strict implementation of provisions of PC and PNDT Act and maintaining the balance in the sex ratio. For creating mass awareness, camps would be organized at district level in which public representatives, ASHA and Anganwari workers along with the stakeholders would be educated about the importance of maintaining balance in sex ratio, who would further educate the people in their respective panchayats and areas. The Health minister said that any person could inform or report the cases of illegal abortion or sex determination on toll free number-102 and the name of the informer would be kept secret and a provision of rewarding him with Rs 10,000 as incentive had also been made. The minister said that for bringing further improvement in sex ratio in the state, the research work would be assigned to Central University, Dharamshala and first samples would be taken from Una district. He said that Lahaul and Spiti district had excelled in maintaining the best sex ratio in the state with 1033 girls against 1000 boys. The Supervisory Board has also suggested for enhancing the incentives to the families adopting family planning measures after the birth of single girl child from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 and to those after the birth of two girl child from Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000. (New Indian Express 10/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. 103 Child Labourers Rescued From Jaipur Brought to Gaya (14)

GAYA:  Altogether 102 child labourers rescued from Jaipur (Rajasthan) were brought today to Gaya in Bihar. The kids were working in cottage and small scale industries in Jaipur and were rescued in December last year. Confirming their arrival, Gaya District Magistrate Sanjay Agrawal said a seven-member team was sent to bring the rescued children after officials in Rajasthan informed about them.        “The children were working as labourers in bangle and handicraft industries. 53 of them are from Gaya, 13 from Samastipur, two from Muzaffarpur and the rest are from Banka, Nawada, Katihar, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Khagaria and Aurangabad districts,” Agrawal said adding, they belong to poor families and were trafficked to the Pink City by middlemen and labour contractors with promises of money and better living. The District Magistrate said the rescued children have been handed over to an NGO, Rescue Junction and efforts were being made to locate their addresses and reunite them with their families.  (New Indian Express 1/2/15)

15. 3-year-old girl kidnapped, raped and hung from tree in Bihar (14)

Patna: A three-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped, sexually assaulted and hung naked from a tree by men posing as employees of a private nursing home in north Bihar’s Madhubani district, police said on Saturday. The incident took place late on Thursday at a village in Madhubani, about 190 km northwest from state capital Patna. Reports said the girl had gone to the private nursing home, located under Bisfi police station, for a check-up along with her mother on Thursday evening. Police investigations suggest the abductors offered toffees to lure the victim. She was then taken to a nearby village, assaulted and hung upside down from a mango tree. “It appears the miscreants, after committing the crime, hung her upside down from the tree in the hope she would eventually die from the ensuing distress,” said Aunsi police outpost in-charge Sanjay Kumar. Kumar said the girl’s family had initially registered a missing person’s case when she could not be located at the nursing home for several hours. However, more serious sections of Indian Penal Code became applicable after she was found. An FIR has been lodged at the Bisfi police station of Madhubani. The girl was rushed to the Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) in the district headquarters town of Darbhanga, near Madhubani, where her condition is stated to be critical. Doctors treating the girl said she has multiple injury marks on her body, indicating she was assaulted both physically and sexually. “There are injuries on the victim’s private parts. Her condition is critical but stable,” said Dr Bhuvan at DMCH. One of the prime suspects in the case was caught by villagers on Saturday and handed over to the police. Madhubani’s assistant superintendent of police, AK Pandey, told HT the police were able to identify the suspect as Mohammed Tabrez, a 35-year-old married man. “We are questioning the suspect. He is believed to have played a role in the incident. However, information about the role of any other(s) in the crime will be known only after we have interrogated this man,” said Pandey. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

16. West Bengal: Panel wants child rights and laws in school syllabus (14)

Kolkata: To make children understand what rights they are entitled to, West Bengal’s child rights panel wants the students to be taught about them as part of the school curriculum. Ashokendu Sengupta, chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said they will recommend the state government to include various laws related to right to education and protection from sexual abuse a part of the school syllabus. “We do not want to put any extra load on the children but there should be at least one page somewhere in their book which tells them about their rights in a simple language. This will increase awareness. Only we know about child rights and laws but they must also know,” he told a news agency. The panel will soon meet the state school syllabus committee to impress upon them the need to include child rights at primary and secondary school level. Teenager Sikha Patra, who works as a peer leader and educator with child rights NGO Prayasam, said she would never have been aware of her rights as a child had she not been associated with activists. “My friends don’t know what are their rights as a child. Those in English medium schools are aware of these things but not those in Bengali medium ones. Therefore, child rights should be included in the school curriculum,” she said. UNICEF’s West Bengal chief Asadur Rahman also supported it saying basic rights about children should be there in the school syllabus. Rahman said that the Right to Education Act advocates for child-friendly schools where children and their parents are consulted in the institute’s planning. The child panel, which has constituted two sub-committees for studying the issue, said they are selecting parts of the Convention on Rights of The Child (CRC) which can be included in the curriculum. CRC was adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1989 and serves as a global index on child rights. Sengupta said that every school should tell the children that whenever they are in distress they can call 1098 – a 24-hour child helpline. “This is the most important thing. A child should know that when he is in danger he can call this number or can seek help for other children,” he said. They also want the inclusion of Right to Education (RTE) Act, which ensures free and compulsory education for children in the age group of 6-14 years, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 in the syllabus. “At the school level, they must have literature, posters and other materials to promote child rights,” the panel’s chairperson said. (Zee News 5/2/15)

17. 25 bonded child labourers rescued in city (14)

LUCKNOW: As many as 25 boys working as bonded labour were rescued from a bangle-making factory in Khajua locality of the city here on Monday evening. Aging between 8-14 years most of these boys hail from villages in Bihar and were making bangles in hazardous conditions for the past three years. They were all living in a ten-by-ten room besides being made to work illegally. They boys claimed they were never given enough to eat and were made to work for 12-14 hours a day for a meager Rs 1,500 a month. There were no off-days and health facilities. The boys were rescued in a joint operation undertaken by state police department’s Anti-Human Trafficking cell and social organisation Childline. Besides saving the boys, the team recovered dangerous chemicals compounds which are known to cause pulmonary infections like tuberculosis from the place. The police also arrested two persons named Mohsin and Jugal Kishore for making children work and risk their lives. FIR was also registered against the two for violating provisions of Juvenile Justice Act 2000, Child Labour Prevention Act 1986 and bonded labour prevention act 1976. Inspector Om Prakash Singh who headed the operation cited example of the youngest child Salman who got the job through a relative. TOI saw him bare-foot braving the chilly breeze in a t-shirt. “I have worked in Hyderabad and Jaipur too,” the boy told TOI. Oldest among the children Mohammad Akeel said they all were working to support their families. “Our parents do not have enough to feed the whole family,” he stated. Manoj Verma, member of Childline associated with the operation, informed that the children would be sent to shelter homes now and would later be re-united with their families. (Times of India 10/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

18. Minorities commission says Agra Muslims had ‘not converted’ (7)

AGRA: The UP Minorities Commission that was probing the December 8, 2014 ‘ghar wapsi’ incident in Agra — in which 200 Muslims from a slum colony were ‘converted’ to Hinduism by an RSS affiliate — has now said in its final report that no conversion had actually taken place on that day. The incident had triggered a national storm, with proceedings in both houses of Parliament disrupted for days over it. Members of the panel said on Monday that none of the Madhu Nagar slum people went through the conversion done by the Dharam Jagran Samiti. Maintaining that the people in question “remain Muslims”, the commission said that there was, however, “betrayal and cheating”. It also held the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) responsible for the incident, and termed it a grave failure. The commission has recommended action against the LIU, seeking “vulnerable areas” be identified in future so that such incidents do not recur. “No conversion has taken place in Madhu Nagar on December 8, 2014. The people living in there are still Muslims and are following Islamic culture and religion,” said Shafi Azmi, spokesman of the UP Minorities Commission and one of the four members to have visited Agra to probe the conversion incident. The other members who conducted the probe were Suhail Ayub Zinjani, Mufti Zulfkar Ali and Nassifful Hassan. At a press conference on Monday, the members said they will now submit the report to the state government. The committee also gave a 10-point recommendation to the UP government to avoid such incidents in future, including identification of vulnerable areas and providing proper education to those living there. Strengthening the LIU, conducting awareness drives and strengthening peace committees were also recommended. “Living in 6 feet/4 feet huts that allow barely enough space for two people, Madhu Nagar slum residents were fascinated with the idea of getting BPL ration cards,” Azmi said. A team of the minorities commission had visited the Madhu Nagar slum on December 20, 2014, after 57 Muslim families allegedly took part in a ‘ghar wapsi’ ritual conducted by the Samiti. Many of the Muslims later said they were promised ration cards and BPL cards in return, an allegation that was denied by the Samiti which insisted the Muslims wanted to convert on their own. (Times of India 2/1/15)

19. Religious intolerance in India would have shocked Gandhiji: Obama (7)

Washington: US President Barack Obama has said that if Gandhi were alive, the acts of religious intolerance in India would have shocked him while he also reminded Americans of the acts of the terrible deeds committed by Christians too in history. In the National Prayer Breakfast address on Thursday, Obama said “India was full of magnificent diversity – but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs.” He said such acts would have “shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”Obama, who is an admirer of Gandhiji, is just back from his India visit where he bonded well with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi but in a speech before leaving had expressed his concern over the religious intolerance in India and had said for the country to succeed it should not splinter along religious lines. Obama spoke of how “professions of faith [is] used both as an instrument of great good but twisted in the name of evil.” “From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith – their faith – profess to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it,” he said. He called ISIS a “brutal, vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.” He also warned the Christians saying “and lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place – remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” “No god condones terror,” Obama said adding that “we are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends. Tibetan leader in exile and Nobel laureate Dalai Lama was present at the venue whom Obama addressed as a person who “inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.” (new Kerala 6/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Hyderabad’s Muslim groups launch ‘Eradication of evils’ drive (7)

Hyderabad: Muslim leaders and organisations from various schools of thought came together on a common platform to launch a campaign here to eradicate evils from the society. The eight-day “Eradication of evils” campaign was launched with a public meeting here Sunday night. Addressing a huge gathering of men and women at Khilwat Ground in the old city, the Islamic scholars voiced concern over the fast spreading evils like alcohol, drug addiction, interest, dowry, and immorality. The speakers called on all Muslims, especially the youth, to not only protect themselves from this “flood of evils” but also save others by participating in such movements. Expressing concern over misuse of social networking sites by youth to indulge in immoral activities, they felt that instead of using technology as a tool for development, the new generation itself has become a tool in the hands of such sites. They underlined the need to evolvr a mechanism with the participation of all to help poor Muslims and thus save them from exploitation by financers. Renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Mufti Sadiq Mohiuddin Faheem, who presided over the meeting, advised parents to ensure that their children are educated and trained in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran. Khaja Arifuddin, president of Jamaat-e-Islami, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha units, said that the Quran describes Muslim ummah as the best nation produced for mankind, who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. He said it was high time that the community realised its responsibility and worked to fulfil it. M.K.M. Zafar, president of Jamaat’s Greater Hyderabad unit, said they made the campaign a collective effort by involving all sects of the community. During the campaign, Jamaat would organise various programmes for college students and youth and create awareness against the evils.(Business Standard 2/2/15)

21. ISIS are murderers and rapists, have to be condemned: Owaisi (7)

HYDERABAD: Condemning the deadly deeds of ISIS, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday said the activities of the terror group have nothing to do with the religion of Islam. “What they have done so far, all the Islamic scholars of various schools of thought have condemned it. They have raped people, killed people. Not only killed, in a bloody way, they have decapitated bodies, they have cut heads. They have burnt a person. “These are nothing to do with Islam or teachings of Islam. They have to be condemned. They are bloody murderers and rapists,” the Hyderabad MP told reporters here. As for some youth from Hyderabad reportedly trying to join ISIS, Owaisi said none can break law and that the youth should speak to religious scholars. Owaisi was speaking at a press conference held here in connection with the “centenary death anniversary” of Hazrat Anwarullah Farooqui, founder of Jamia Nizamia, a 144-year-old institution of Islamic studies. As part of the events, a seminar would be held on February 14 and 15 and a public meeting on March 20, organisers said. (Times of India 5/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

22. Church in South Delhi vandalized (7)

New Delhi: A Catholic church in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area was reportedly targeted by unidentified men during the early hours of Monday. This is the fifth incident of attack on Delhi churches since December, Though the Christian community called it an act of vandalism, the police insisted that it was an incident of burglary and have accordingly registered a case. The suspects are yet to be identified. There were no CCTV cameras inside the church and the police are scanning the footage from the nearby localities. The church authorities said that the culprits messed around with prayer items but did not take any valuable items. No money was robbed from the donation box either, said priest in-charge of the church, Father Vincent Salvatore. “The attackers ransacked the sacristy cupboards, opened the tabernacle and took the ciborium. They emptied it by putting the hosts on the table,” said A C Michael, former member, Delhi Minorities Commission. The incident took place between 2 and 3 am on Monday. The church authorities said the culprits jumped in from the main gate wall, broke open the church’s gate and ransacked the sacristy cupboards and other items. The matter came to light in the morning when the parish priest reached the church and saw the main door broken. He immediately informed the police control room upon which a team from Vasant Kunj (South) police station was rushed to investigate the matter. A senior police officer, who visited the site, said the church was not vandalised. “It is a case of burglary and we have registered a case. It looks like the handiwork of some drug addicts whom we should identify soon,” the officer told Deccan Herald, adding that the handiwork of three to five people is suspected. (Deccan Herald 2/1/15)

23. Christians allege authorities indifferent to their concerns (7)

New Delhi: Dismayed at the lack of response of the Central government and the administration to the unbridled attacks on its churches, the minority Christian community in the national capital feels threatened. Monday’s vandalism of a church in Vasant Kunj was the fifth such incident in the capital in the past two months. A “deeply disturbed” Christian community will be holding a “silent protest march” on Thursday from the Delhi Archdiocese on Ashoka Road to Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s residence. What has caused grave concern to the community has been the attitude of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom they met in December and found him not receptive to their concerns. The incidents, seen in the backdrop of the saffron brigade’s strident “ghar wapsi” programme for religious reconversion, has sent shockwaves through the community, which accounts for less than two per cent of Delhi’s population. Father Savarimuthu, spokesperson for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, says, “We are being perceived as a soft target, and what is striking is the silence of the prime minister on such issues.” The local police and the administration, alleges Savarimuthu, too have been attempting to downplay the attacks as isolated cases. Only in one of the five incidents have arrests been made, that too because of CCTV footage available at the Vikaspuri church. “Even in the Dilshad Garden incident in December in which the church was completely burnt down, without even probing the case, the police initially dismissed it as an incident of short circuit. However, police were later compelled to take the incident seriously,” said Savarimuthu. On Christmas eve when the community leaders met the prime minister to greet him, they also used the occasion to highlight their concerns, but allege it was dismissed as “media hype” and the “over-hyped reactions of a community that is educated and computer literate.” Opposition parties that had raised the issue in Parliament of a silent approval by the BJP government to the saffron brigade’s ‘ghar wapsi’ programme, have again highlighted the attempted polarisation on the cusp of Delhi election. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi lashed out at the PM questioning his silence. “I am not talking of cases in Odisha, this is the 5th such incident of vandalisation of a church in Delhi. I think it is reprehensible that you are making such tall promises and making such great statements about how lucky you are, and under your very nose without your comment, your rejection, your condemnation, not even a single word by you, this is happening time and again. It is an overall divisive agenda.”Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto, in a statement on Monday, accused the government of “failure to give protection to minorities and their religious structures.” He said the attacks were “aimed at creating a fear psychosis and tension among different communities.” In what can be read as a harking back to visiting US President Barack Obama’s departing words cautioning India against religious divide, the Archbishop said India’s image in the world of religious tolerance and religious diversity would be “irreparably damaged” if such incidents were not checked. (Business Standard 4/2/15)

24. Delhi Church attacks: Home minister assures Christians of impartial enquiry (7)

NEW DELHI: Acknowledging the concerns of Christians over the recent attacks on churches, Union home minister Rajnath Singh has directed the Delhi Police to ensure adequate security of Christian institutions in the capital. He also assured the community leaders, who met him at his office here on Thursday afternoon, of an impartial enquiry into the alleged vandalisation of five churches over the past two-and-a-half months. The six-member delegation of Christian community leaders, including former All India Catholic Union president John Dayal and advocate Jenis Francis, put three main demands before the home minister. This include adding Section 153 A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion), Section 295 and Section 295A (defiling a place of worship) to the FIR relating to the recent vandalization of a church in Vasant Kunj. The second demand is a court-monitored probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into the attacks on Christian institutions. Thirdly, the delegation sought security cover for churches, as part of which at least a couple of policemen would be deployed on the premises.”Police has done little and they describe the incidents as simple theft, burglary and trespassing. We told the home minister that these were not simple incidents but attack on our religious places,” Dayal told newspersons after meeting Singh. He claimed that the minister had directed Delhi Police commissioner B S Bassi to include Section 153A, 295 and 295A in the Vasant Kunj attack FIR. (Times of India 5/2/15)

25. 7,000 Christians faced threats in 2014, says Catholic body report (7)

Bengaluru: A report released by the Catholic Secular Forum has documented 120 attacks on Christians and their institutions across India in 2014. The report, which was made available to HT, lists five murders across India in little over a year. Madhya Pradesh (23) and Chhattisgarh (19), both BJP-ruled states, along with Congress-ruled Karnataka (14) account for nearly half of all incidents across India. Between December 2013 and December 2014, 7,000 Christians faced threats, violence and displacement. These included 1,600 women and 500 children. 300 members of the clergy and community leadership were also targeted during this period. The report also expresses concern over certain moves of the Union government such as making Christmas ‘good governance day’ and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s call to make Bhagwad Gita the national book of India. Joseph Dias, general secretary of CSF, told HT that the details of the report had been shared with human rights groups across the world. The CSF’s annual reports and their global reach offer some clues into the circumstances that led President Barack Obama to call for greater religious tolerance in India. The CSF’s 2013 report, which counted 4,000 offences against Christians in India, was used by Indian Christian groups in California to lobby for minority protection as one of the terms of reference for India-US talks. In a February 2013 memorandum, these groups sought a “house resolution that would make human rights and justice for religious minorities a priority in US-India talks.” Former judge of Bombay and Karnataka high courts Michael Saldanha told HT, “Representatives of countries such as France, UK, Australia, Italy as well as the Vatican have approached us for information. These countries have then proceeded to take these matters up with the Indian government.” Although several groups have met home minister KJ George in Karnataka over the attacks in the state, George claimed ignorance about the attacks. “I don’t think there have been those many attacks in Karnataka,” he said. (Hindustan Times 10.2.15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

26. Refugees given higher cash dole (13)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has been providing higher cash dole to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in the State than what has been allowed by the Union government. This was conveyed by a team of senior officers of the government to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice on Saturday. The State also brought to the notice of the committee the Centre’s decision on reduction in the sanctioned strength of staff to look after refugee camps. What was 280 had been brought down to 32, an official said. Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan and Director General of Police Ashok Kumar were among those who represented the State before the Committee, headed by E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan. (The Hindu 1/2/15)

27. CPI(M) urges for aid to Lankan refugees willing to return (13)

Chennai: Observing that the Centre and the state governments have a responsibility to ensure a secure and dignified life for Sri Lankan refugees, CPI(M) on Monday said financial assistance must be extended to those willing to return to the island nation. “The Centre and state governments should extend financial assistance for their return home and guarantee a support structure for their livelihood such as house to ensure that they lead a new life,” a resolution passed at the end of the party’s three-day state committee meeting said. The governments have the responsibility to ensure a secure and dignified life for the refugees, who wished to return to the island nation, it said, adding various schemes, including those with specific provisions to aid their return, should be created. Senior party leaders P Sampath, Prakash Karat, K Varadarajan, G Ramakrishnan, T K Rangarajan, U K Balakrishnan, A Soundararajan participated in the meeting, which concluded today. (Zee News 2/1/15)

28. For Lankan refugees, time may have come to return (13)

Karthigaichelvan: The Indian government is mulling the idea of sending Lankan Tamil refugees like Sujivani – over one lakh still live in India -back home to Sri Lanka. This is not the first time that a refugee-return operation is being mounted. The earliest was in 1987-90 after the signing of the India-Sri Lanka accord. But unlike previous attempts the biggest positive now is that the war is over and there’s little chance of armed conflict breaking out or an imminent danger to the lives of Tamils in Sri Lanka on a mass scale. The new regime has been making the right noises whether in bringing normalcy to Tamil homelands, providing powers to the provincial government, or in taking up substantial measures for political rights. In the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, the most likely candidates for return are those in India. Though better off than the poor in India, many Lankan Tamils believe return is a possible option for the future since as refugees they will never be able to lead the life of a citizen in India. Things have not been easy for those who have returned until now. Based on their experiences the refugees in India have come up with a range of proposals that would help the process of repatriation. The key question that they ask is the assurance of a livelihood since those who came back have reported that as the biggest problem in their homelands. Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka advise caution -much like the Tamil Nadu government that has stayed away from trilateral talks in New Delhi. “The permanent solution for the refugees is coming down to the mmother land. Though the new government has been showing some positive signs, it is too early to say that the situation in North has come to normalcy,” said Mano Ganesan, TNA MP, over phone from Colombo. Activist and executive producer of documentary film “Waiting in Hop”, Gladston Xavier said that the changes are visible in the northern areas of the country. “There has been steady progress in the returnees’ life in Sri Lanka. The progress has speeded up in the last six months. They say early bird catches the worm,” Gladston told TOI. “We have been screening the documentary in all refugee camps in Tamil Nadu as well as among diaspora Tamils. Many refugees who watched the film expressed a longing to go back home,” says Gladston. But nearly every refugee family has a Sujivani -who were born and raised here. Some 24,000 children were born in Indian camps. Raised in India, they are apprehensive about taking a risk. Sujivani is positive, however. “The army is less interfering now. Inflation is high and livelihood is still a challenge. But we are hopeful of the future,” she says. (Times of India 5/2/15)

29. Afghan families flee persecution in Pakistan after school attack: IOM (13)

KABUL: Thousands of Afghan families are fleeing Pakistan to escape harassment after a deadly Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar last December, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Afghanistan said on Saturday. More than 22,000 undocumented Afghans flocked across the border at Torkham in January, more than twice the figure for the whole of 2014, said Richard Danziger, the IOM’s mission chief in Afghanistan. Almost 1,500 others were deported in the same month, double the number of deportees in December. “It all started with the attack on the school in Peshawar,” Mr. Danziger told Reuters. “When something horrible happens, people start taking it out on foreigners.” Taliban militants attacked a school in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar in December, killing more than 130 children and prompting Pakistan to step up operations against insurgent hideouts along the border with Afghanistan. Cooperation between Afghan and Pakistani security forces has also improved since the attack and has led to the arrest of suspects in Afghanistan, where officials believe it was planned by the Pakistani Taliban. However, Afghans living in Pakistan are reporting incidents of harassment such as raids on their homes and police coercion, the IOM and other officials said. Most of the Afghan families settled in Pakistan decades earlier and have nowhere to go once they return, Mr. Danziger said. “Their lives are in Pakistan,” he said, adding it was unclear how long they would remain in Afghanistan. The flow of undocumented returnees increased steadily in January, from around 350 in the first week to 1,400 in the final week of the month. Mr. Danziger said it was difficult to predict when the numbers of refugees would ease. The unexpected arrival of thousands of people is pressuring Afghanistan’s limited resources and only the most vulnerable are receiving assistance. “We are down to helping the most desperate there,” Mr. Danziger said, adding that resources had been diverted from the Iranian border. Families lucky enough to qualify for help receive medical care, food and temporary shelter, but the IOM says it needs another $1.6 million to cope with an additional 17,000 vulnerable returnees this year. Most refugees are moving to nearby provinces including Kunar, the IOM said, where fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants has recently intensified. Others are heading for Kabul, where resources for thousands of internally displaced people settled there are already seriously strained. (The Hindu 7/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

30. RTI earns govt. bigger bucks than estimated (1)

HYDERABAD: Estimates of revenue generated through RTI (Right to Information) queries and actual revenue generated by the State government, has revealed great disparity over the years. Each RTI applicant is required to pay a sum for information demanded. Going by data from the last few years, revenue estimated by the GAD (General Administration Department) of united Andhra Pradesh is several times lesser than the proceeds the government actually mopped up. Even then, the officials did not raise the estimates, choosing instead to stick to targets of the previous year for the subsequent financial year. In 2010-11, the estimate for revenue raised through RTI applications was Rs.5 lakh, whereas the government ended up earning Rs.89 lakh. In 2011-12, the projected figure was again Rs.5 lakh, but the revenue generated was Rs.26 lakh. In 2012-13, the estimate was slightly increased to Rs.5.25 lakh and consequently the government received Rs.20 lakh that year. Reacting to the issue, P.V. Ramesh, Principal Secretary (Resources and Expenditure) at the Andhra Pradesh Government’s Finance Department said the target may have been ‘deliberately kept low’ since the State government did not expect to generate much revenue from the applications. Another finding is that the amount generated is not proportional to the number of applications, which has been increasing steadily. The number of RTI applications has increased steadily from 65,973 in 2009-10 to 1.45 lakh in 2012-13. However, revenue over these years has either remained stable or decreased instead of rising. “There can only be two reasons for this,” said RTI activist Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu. “Either there are a lot of Below Poverty Line (BPL) citizens who have made RTI applications, since it is free for them. This is a positive sign. But, the low revenues can also be because the officials are not providing information on time. If the information is not provided within 30 days, then it has to be handed over free of cost. If this is what is happening then it is of serious concern.” (The Hindu 3/1/15)

31. Cops net eight gangs, 56 gangsters in two years (1)

NAGPUR: Right to Information Act (RTI) query has revealed city police have managed to rein in eight gangs, sending 56 gangsters behind bars in 2013 and 2014. Abhay Kolarkar’s query also brought to fore the fact that while total number of crimes in city increased by 451, the detections also went up by 294 in 2014 in comparison to 2013. Reply to RTI query showed number of robberies rose to 249 in 2014 from 244 the year before but cops managed a higher detection rate for them (61% in 2014 compared to 55% in 2013). City police had better detection rate in cases of burglaries in 2014. It was 24% in 2014, up from 19% in 2013. RTI exposed a contrast in cases of motor vehicle thefts that rose in 2014 by 174 cases than the previous year with detection rate also going down. City police had a shocking wake up call in June last year when three people died in separate gang wars within a short period. The gang war had sparked off a debate in state police headquarters in Mumbai too. City police chief KK Pathak ensured the crime branch totally focused on the problem resulting in collection of data on two dozens gangs and their members. A city police officer stated several gangs were nabbed and stringent Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) was slapped on its members. Gangs of Kosurkar brothers and Nitin Shimle were slapped with MCOCA. Amar Lohkare’s ‘Maya gang’ was also sent to jail after being booked under MCOCA. In 2013, city police had tightened screws on gangs of Wasim Cheera and Tirupati Bhoge for clashing in Shanti Nagar. City police’s another major success was sending Raja Ghouse and his gang behind bars charging them under MCOCA in 2013. District government pleader Vijay Kohle, also special public prosecutor for MCOCA cases, stated the police should not slacken their approach once MCOCA was applied but rather focus on gathering concrete evidence to make charges stick. “MCOCA cases often become loose due to poor investigation. Police should take legal help while approaching the cases,” he said. City police’s law officer Shashank Choubey stated that focus has been now turned to taking stringent preventive actions against criminals with provisions like Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act and sending them behind bars for a long period. RTI information also underlined that fact that 134 offenders were externed in a period of two years. There is also a rise in rape and molestation cases but some senior officials attributed the development to several cases being registered after a failed relationship. The information also reflected a spurt in cases of minors being abducted to 178 in 2014 from 130 in 2013. Cops stated the Supreme Court guidelines to register missing complaints of minors as kidnapping was the cause behind the rise. (Times of India 4/2/15)

32. ‘BJP utilised funds from debt-ridden PSU for PR’ (1)

New Delhi: The Congress party on Wednesday alleged that hundreds of crores of funds from a debt-ridden Gujarat PSU were utilised for public relations of the BJP in 2014, at a time when Mr Narendra Modi was made the prime ministerial candidate. “The miscellaneous expenses of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) were to the tune of Rs 503 crore last year and the Gujarat PSU’s Delhi office spent huge amounts on liquor, gift articles and flowers,” party spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil told reporters. Mr Gohil, a known detractor of the Prime Minister since his days as the Gujarat chief minister, said that the “misuse” of money by the PSU which has debts totalling Rs 22,000 crore was “just a trailer”. Mr Gohil, also the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Gujarat Assembly, also detailed the expenses made by the PSU, which he claimed distributed gifts worth Rs 25 lakh in Delhi in one year. The Congress leader said he has got the information through RTI but has failed to get the names of beneficiaries despite seeking information. The PSU has only last year took a long term loan of Rs 5,000 crore. (Asian Age 5/2/15)

33. State awarded contracts worth Rs 20 crore to ‘blacklisted’ firm: RTI (1)

Nainital: Uttarakhand government in 2013 awarded contracts worth more than Rs 20 crore to a blacklisted public sector construction company, the reply to a RTI query filed by Haldwani-based activist Gurvinder Singh Chaddha has revealed. The state had boycotted the services of Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam (UPRNN) earlier in 2012 after several reports were lodged complaining of irregularities in projects handled by the firm from UP. However, it seems government officials are unaware of the decision. “The company has been blacklisted four or five times, but as far as I know, they have been permitted to complete the pending works,” said Naneet Pandey, additional director of urban development directorate. In 2012, UPRNN had been awarded contracts worth Rs 1.86 crore by Dehradun, Haridwar and Haldwani-Kathgodam municipal corporations to construct state-of-the-art restrooms in these locations. Later on, it was awarded another contract worth Rs 21.5 crore for construction work at Dr Sushila Tiwari Medical College in Haldwani. These contracts are in violation of a government order dated April 24, 2012, banning all services from the firm. Dr R C Purohit, principal of the medical college in Haldwani said all such decisions are taken by the administration and he is not involved in the process, while officials at Haldwani-Kathgodam municipal corporation claimed to be ignorant of the company’s services being boycotted three years ago. UPRNN officials, meanwhile, denied being blacklisted. “As far as I know, we are no longer blacklisted. If that would have been the case, the Uttarakhand government would not have been awarding us contracts. There must have been some confusion,” said D C Bhatt, assistant engineer, UPRNN and in-charge of the construction work at Dr Sushila Tiwari Medical College. (Times of India 8/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

34. RTE anthem featuring cine stars released (11)

Bengaluru: The Education department released an anthem here on Monday to spread awareness about the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act. The four-minute Kannada RTE anthem’s video song features actors Puneeth Rajkumar and Radhika Pandit. Kimmane Ratnakar, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, released the CD of the anthem. Adoni Syed Saleem, State Project Director (SPD), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Karnataka, Mohammed Mohsin, Commissioner for Public Instruction and other education officials were present. “There is a one-minute version of the song that would be given to various media outlets such as TV and radio channels. The anthem will be made available to all the schools across the State,” said Adoni Syed Saleem, State Project Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Karnataka. Around 94,000 such CDs will be distributed across the State and it will also be a prominent feature in the DPI’s programs. This song will also be used as a caller tune on phone numbers of educational officials in future, officials said. (Deccan Herald 2/2/15)

35. Activists seek better utilization of seats reserved under RTE (11)

MUMBAI: As yet another year of admission for the 25% seats reserved under the RTE Act nears, several parents and activists have decided to send a list of demands to school education minister Vinod Tawde. They said that they are upset over the “unsatisfactory” pace and outcome of efforts made by authorities on this front even three years after the Act has been in place. “Last year, of 8,300 seats reserved in the city, only over 2,000 students got admission in private unaided schools,” said K Narayan of Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti (ASBS). This group, which includes RTE activists along with over 400 parents, met on Wednesday to discuss and draft a list of demands. A resolution will be submitted to Tawde. In its draft resolution, the group has demanded that the upper limit of annual income to be eligible for a seat under the quota be increased from the current Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. “There has been a sharp rise in inflation and it is necessary to revise the meagre income limit. The income considered must also be that of the parents and not the entire family as is being done now,” said Sudhir Paranjape of ASBS. “There must also be clarity on which financial year’s income certificate would be valid at the time of admission,” he added. (Times of India 5/2/15)

36. NHRC notice on closure of school for poor kids (11)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of reports that a school for poor children, Deepalaya, run by a non-government organisation for the past 22 years in Okhla here was shut down for its inability to comply with the stringent rules framed under the Right to Education Act. The school had more than 600 students up to Class VIII at the time of its closure in 2014. The Commission has observed that the reports, if true, raised a serious issue of violation of right to education of children belonging to the lower income group. The NHRC has issued notices to the Delhi Chief Secretary and Education Secretary calling for reports in the matter within two weeks. The RTE Act requires the States implementing the law to recognise the schools. For this, the schools should have their own land or have it on lease. The NGO running Deepalaya did not own the land, nor did it have it on lease. The school was being operated from a plot of land provided to the NGO by the Basti Vikas Kendra in 1992 under the Community Development Programme. Moreover, the NGO could not pay the teachers’ salaries as per the Sixth Pay Commission, which is required under the RTE Act. In the absence of recognition, the school was shut down and was being run as a tuition centre. (The Hindu 6/2/15)

37. CBSE schools in city begin online admissions (11)

CHENNAI: Several leading CBSE schools in the city started online admissions for nursery sections on Monday. And, parents had only good things to say about the initiative. SBOA School and Junior College, Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, all three Chinmaya Vidyalayas in Anna Nagar, Kilpauk and Virugambakkam, and Maharishi Vidya Mandir were among those that opened counters so parents could buy and fill in applications online. Most of the schools are keeping counters open for two days, and some are keeping it open longer for candidates filing applications under the 25% reservation clause of the RTE. Many parents said they were satisfied with the new systems and thrilled at not having to stand in queues for hours together for applications. Architect C J Kosalraman said Monday’s experience, when he was able to seek admission for his second child by applying online, was very different from the ordeal he endured five years ago for his first child. “I remember standing in a queue in front of a school in Anna Nagar in the rain armed with just an umbrella at 2am to get the application. I am so relieved I didn’t have to go through the same experience this time,” said Kosalraman, who is seeking admission at Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram in Kilpauk. Senior principal of the school, Ajeeth Prasath Jain, said the institution had perfected the system over the years to automatically avoid duplication, streamline application under the RTE, alumni and general categories and to include online submission of forms. “The online system has made the process easier for schools as well. Now, we can download the data easily and analyse it. Once the child is admitted his data can be uploaded into the school registry in a single click,” he said. A parent who downloaded an online admission application for Chinmaya Vidyalaya said the system appeared more transparent than the offline process. “There was always the fear of being left behind because of a first-come-first-served policy in the offline system. Here there is no such problem and we can log in from any part of the country or even overseas. The only thing left is for these schools to make admissions more transparent is to hold an open house before the admission process to tell parents what the school has to offer and field questions from parents,” he said. The online system has made the process easier for schools as well. Now, they can download the data easily and analyse it. Once the child is admitted the data can be uploaded into the school registry in a single click (Times of India 10/2/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

38. Modi govt readies to cut flab out of UPA’s flagship food security law (21)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office has asked for a blueprint to implement the recommendations of a top panel that has suggested sweeping food reforms that include limiting subsidised grains to 40% of the population from the present 67%. The PMO directive gives the clearest signal yet that the Modi government is looking to amend the National Food Security Act — a cornerstone of the previous UPA regime’s welfare agenda. It could also set in motion the first real reforms in agriculture since the Indian economy opened up. The food ministry has been told to come out with “specific deadlines” for implementing the Shanta Kumar-led panel report, sources said. A former Himachal CM, Kumar was the food minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The panel has called for an end to operations of the leakage-prone Food Corporation of India in traditional food-bowl states and raising the price at which all categories of beneficiaries get subsidised grains to 50% of minimum support price, barring the poorest households. The panel also favours a switch to a cash transfer-based food-subsidy system. The PM-appointed panel submitted its report on January 21. To boost growth, the government has moved swiftly to cut red tape, allow more foreign investment and make acquiring land easier. However, it had so far not said much about the reforms it would bring to the country’s antiquated farm sector. Implementing all the reforms suggested by the panel could be fraught with political risks in a country where millions rely on state-subsidised food. It is still early to predict if Modi would go the whole hog. Steps such as paring the food-security coverage and raising the price of cheap grains — for the first time in decades — are in line with the government’s goals of restricting all subsidies to the poorest. The government’s view is that for high growth, India will need to slash subsidies and re-direct the spending to infrastructure sector so that more people can join the workforce. The Ram Vilas Paswan-headed food ministry would meet on February 11 to start preparing the roadmap, sources said. In the last budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced an expenditure management commission to suggest comprehensive subsidy reforms, which, too, is likely to propose changes in food subsidy. None of this can happen without altering the food security act. Yet, in a country where nearly half the children were either stunted or malnourished, ensuring access to food was critical. India spends close to Rs 1.25 lakh crore, or 8% of the total government expenditure of Rs 18 lakh crore, on food subsidy alone. According to ratings agency Moody’s, annual spending on food subsidies grew 20% on an average over the past eight years, compared with a 16% rise in overall expenditure during the period. The government’s spending on food in 2014 accounted for 18% of its fiscal deficit, which it is trying to curtail. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

39. India has Made Notable Progress on MDGs: UN (21)

NEW DELHI: India has made notable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set for 2015, but much needs to be done on the fronts of poverty and education, a UN report said Wednesday. Though India has made notable progress towards reaching the MDGs, achievements across the goals vary, according to the report titled “India and the MDGs”.The report said India has already achieved the target for reducing poverty by half by official estimates and was close to doing so by international estimates. However, the progress was uneven. “Over 270 million people in India in 2012 still remained trapped in extreme poverty making the post-2015 goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 challenging but feasible,” the report said. Similarly, though India has achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment, latest data suggests that India is off-track on targets to achieve universal enrolment and completion. “Large number of children still remain out of school and fail to complete primary education. The quality of education is also a major concern,” it said. India, the study said, was set to achieve the targets of reducing hunger by half, maternal mortality by three quarters and has halved the proportion of population without access to clean drinking water. Shamshad Akhtar, UN under-secretary general and executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia, said: “Over the years, the MDGs have pushed governments around the world to mainstream poverty reduction, gender parity, education and health and such basic needs as water and sanitation in their development agenda.” “India’s achievements towards the MDGs are beyond doubt considerable… yet the progress has been uneven across goals and across states, and inequalities have risen,” she said. “The key message is not to leave anyone behind.” The MDGs are eight international development goals that were established following the millennium summit of the UN in 2000. All 189 UN member states at the time (there are 193 currently), and at least 23 international organisations, committed to help achieve the goals by 2015. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said: “There was a problem with MDGs as they had aggregate indicators and they did not have gender and income segregation.” (New Indian Express 4/2/15)

40. 30 crore people still live in extreme poverty in India: Report (21)

New Delhi:About 30 crore people still live in extreme poverty in India even as the Millennium Development Goal (MGD) programme will expire in December, a United Nations report has said. “Still nearly 300 million people live in extreme poverty in India and face deprivation in terms of access to basic services, including education, health, water, sanitation and electricity,” the report — India and the MGDs: Completing the Task — said. India, which has a population of over 125 crore, adopted the United Nation’s MGD in 2000 with an aim to free millions from extreme poverty and hunger, illiteracy, poor health. The eight-point MGD among others targets promotion of gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, improve maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability. “India has made a great progress on MGDs, but there is no room for complacency, because there are gaps relative to the goals and targets. “There are enough opportunities and there is a lot of scope to catch up, and it is critical that by the end of the year when the MGD expires, we really accelerate momentum during this year so that we start the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda,” said Shamshad Akhtar, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP). India has an opportunity to become a leader in sustainable development. It has achieved the poverty reduction target, but the progress is uneven, said the report. “Being home to one-sixth of the world’s population, the world is not going to achieve the SDGs if India does not (achieve them),” Akhtar said. After MGD expiry, the UN will begin its SDG programme. India has halved incidence of poverty from 1990s. Still over 27 crore people in 2012 remained in extreme poverty, making the post-2015 goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 challenging, but feasible, it said. It is significant that countries across the globe have made social development a public policy through MGD, said TCA Anant, Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Planning and Chief Statistician. “We ourselves bring our report. From our report I can say that we have achieved progress on number of indicators,” he added. Seeing MGD an opportunity, he said, it allows India to sharpen its capability of data mining. “We realised we faced enormous challenges in our capabilities to measure. There are many indicators in the goal on which we still have limited information,” said Anant. (Deccan Herald 4/2/15)

41.Poverty removal, child care should be on post-2015 agenda: India (21)

New York: India has told the UN that poverty eradication and special attention to children’s needs should be the central goal for the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that youngsters get a protective and nurturing environment. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Bhagwant Bishnoi said during a meeting of the executive board of UNICEF that 568 million children globally are still living in extreme poverty and persisting challenge of inadequate investment for their well-being is often exacerbated by economic crises, natural disasters and armed conflict. “Eradication of poverty and special attention to children needs to be central to the post-2015 Development Agenda. This has to be accompanied by focused cross-cutting strategies, including capacity development, partnerships, social inclusion and knowledge management aligned with national policies and priorities,” he said. Bishnoi said the focus should be to ensure protective and nurturing environments for all the world’s children. He added that India is home to 472 million children, nearly 20 per cent of the world’s child population and voiced the country’s commitment to the development of every child, ensuring his or her rights and protection from exploitation. He highlighted the recently launched ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ programme in India, which is aimed at ensuring protection of girls, increasing their participation in secondary education and their overall development. Another programme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘Sukanya Samriddhi Account’ seeks to provide economic assistance to the girl child. Bishnoi noted that sound financial health is integral to the effective and efficient functioning of UNICEF, which has its largest overseas presence in India. As the international community embarks on the post-2015 development agenda this year, he said the timely adoption of a global monitoring and oversight system for activities undertaken by country offices and the national committees will help in bridging functional and financial gaps. While UNICEF continues to be a “trusted development partner” for program countries, there is need to evolve clearer guidelines for managing and scaling up its programmes, including evaluation. A comprehensive resource mobilisation strategy that addresses funding concerns, especially for health and education programmes, would enable UNICEF to achieve targets in a more responsive manner, he said, adding that increased allocation is required in areas of health and education as these are imperatives for all developing countries. He also emphasised the importance of continuing to leverage South-South Cooperation in partnering with the countries of the South. “This would be additional to, and not a replacement, for North South Cooperation,” he added. (Zee News 5/2/15)

42. Mission for hunger-free city has many takers (21)

AURANGABAD: An initiative by a group of senior citizens to stop wastage of food is gaining momentum across the city. As many as 25 caterers and a city-based NGO have joined hands with the group to provide food everyday to those visiting the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). The NGO, All India Majilise Tamer-e-Millat trust has been providing food free of cost to more than 500 patients and their relatives who visit the GMCH and Government Cancer hospital every day for the past one and a half years. Many of the visitors, who cannot afford to spend for stay and food, take shelter at a mosque near the GMCH. Taking the initiative further, the group of caterers will collect the food gathered from the initiative while the NGO will transport the food and serve it to the needy. The group of citizens had initiated the campaign to check food wastage at weddings, parties and meetings by installing boards displaying clear messages like “eat but please do not waste food” at various marriage halls in the city. The group said that some communities have even pledged to limit the food items at weddings. About 40,000kg food gets wasted at weddings held in over 170 marriage halls across the city. The campaign, which was launched about two years back, has been able to help control about 15-20% food wastage say experts. “Around 25 caterers have decided to share the left over food to the needy people. Meanwhile, an NGO which has been serving food to more than 500 people every day free of cost said it would make transport arrangements for the food,” said Anant Motale, the brain behind the idea of creating awareness. The secretary of the All India Majilise Tamer-e-Millat trust, Moid Hashar said, “The idea evolved when my father Hallem Hashar witnessed many relatives of patients undergoing treatment at GMCH taking shelter at a mosque near the GMCH.” “Many people belonging to economically backward community coming from nearby villages would live only on tea as they could not afford to spend on food along with the treatment expenses of their patients. My father decided to provide meals to the needy free-of-cost,” he said. “Everyday we serve home-cooked food like chapati, vegetables, pulses and rice. The food is served at the mosque twice a day between 12pm and 1pm and 7pm and 8pm. Many even take parcels for patients. Moreover, we also supply about 150 parcels to the patients and relatives at the Government Cancer hospital everyday,” said trust president Hamad Alamri. According to social activist Sundarrao Shinde, around 2,000 weddings and social events are held in the city per year. “Food wasted each day at one wedding can suffice the hunger of about 100 people and if we consider the total food wasted during wedding season in Aurangabad alone it would be enough to feed the city’s vast slum population,” he said. Hoteliers, however, aren’t too hopeful yet. “Hotels and hostels in the city too should join the cause. They can supply the leftover food to the orphanages and missionaries in the city and check that the food is not wasted,” said Purushottam Joshi. (Times of India 9/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. MNREGA: Centre to ensure uninterrupted flow of funds to states (14)

NEW DELHI: Allaying apprehensions of the state governments, the Centre today said it is committed to strengthening MNREGA and is taking all steps to ensure uninterrupted flow of funds for the implementation of the improvised version of the rural job scheme. Noting that MNREGA helped arrest distress migration of people from rural areas to urban centres, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said he will request the Finance Ministry for more funds for implementation of the improved version of the scheme in which skill development is a major component. Addressing the 10th Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) Divas here, the Minister said, “We are talking about creation of quality assets and physical infrastructure but why don’t we have human assets under MNREGA?” Singh said the government did not want to keep MNREGA workers unskilled labourers forever and efforts would be made to turn them into skilled ones. “If 30 youngsters of a village are to be trained to become physically fit for joining Armed forces, and if such a training is given by a retired security personnel for two months, why they should not be treated at the same footing as MNREGA workers’ training?,” he asked. “He (the trainer) is creating that quality asset, which is a human asset,” the Minister said, emphasising the need for infusing skill componenent in MNREGA enacted for providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household. Singh said, “If we want to stop distress migration from villages, we will have to take such kind of steps.” Responding to some states about about delay in release of funds, the Minister hinted that in most cases, states were to blame more than the Centre as they did not follow procedures like sending audit reports while seeking money from the central government. He also indicated that unspent money from one state will be sent to another state, which is in need of funds, because MNREGA is a demand-driven programme. (Times of India 2/2/15)

44. Govt seeks changes in 20 labour laws (14)

KOLHAPUR: The Devendra Fadnavis led government has asked the labour department to study 20 laws — some of them over 100 years old — and present a report suggesting changes in 30 days. The government has formed a committee of six bureaucrats of the department, including thw labour commissioner, and others to prepare a report on some sensitive laws such as minimum wage (1936), contract labour (1970) and Child Labour Act, 1986. The government issued an order on January 30, in which deputy secretary D S Rajput has asked the members to present the report within 30 days from the formation of the committee. The order mentioned that the Union government has adopted ‘Make In India’ mission to boost domestic manufacturing, production and research. “The state government has also adopted ‘Make In Maharashtra’ and ‘Digital India’ missions. The government was considering to appoint a committee to amend or change and simplify laws and acts of the labour department. The committee has been established under the labour commissioner,” Rajput stated in the order. Meanwhile, the order has irked labour leaders, who believe that the state government is tampering with the system to please the industrialists. Former labour minister Hasan Mushrif has alleged that the government is working at the behest of industrial lobbies. “This government is following the path set by Gujarat and Rajasthan governments that have modified, changed and made laws and acts suitable to the industries only. All the labour unions in the country have demanded that they should be consulted before making any changes. We have already opposed the changes suggested by the Union government,” said Govindrao Pansare, a veteran leftist leader. “Cutting across political affiliations, the labour unions are united over the proposed changes. We will oppose the changes which will harm the interest of labours,” he added. Anti-child labour activist Anuradha Bhosale criticized the bureaucratic approach of the government and demanded inclusion of social organizations in the committee. “Child labour and some of the other acts are sensitive and will impact larger section of the society. We cannot afford a bureaucratic approach. It seems the present committee is formed within the labour department. Besides, it is highly impossible to study and recommend changes in 20 laws in 30 days,” she said. Mushrif said unnecessary changes would harm labours in the state. “It (government) is working on the behest of industry tycoons. How are they going to change all these laws within 30 days? Everything is fixed already,” he told TOI. (Times of India 3/2/15)

45. Work generated in MGNREGS declines in West Bengal (14)

Kolkata: The number of person days of work per family under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in West Bengal has decreased by nearly 25 per cent in a year. While the number of person days of work generated per family in 2013-14 was 37, it decreased to 28 in 2014-15. Expressing serious concerns over the issue, agricultural workers across the State have decided to protest in various parts in the State by observing Lazza Dibas. MGNREGS day is observed every year on February 2 and thus the workers have decided to protest in February before various offices involved in the implementation of the Central scheme. On Wednesday, activists under the banner of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) went to the office of the MGNREGS Commissioner after distributing black batches to his staff. “When we asked Dibyendu Sarkar, the MGNREGS Commissioner, whether he would also pay the workers compensation for late payment of wages, he claimed it was not his responsibility because the Centre was causing the delay,” said Anuradha Talwar, a social activist associated with the workers forum. Uttam Gayen, the general secretary of PBKMS, said that a good programme of the MGNREGS would have helped agricultural workers of Bengal to stay in the villages and stopped distress migration to other States for work. Last year, West Bengal Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution expressing apprehension on the curtailment of MGNREGS by the Centre. (The Hindu 6/2/15)

 46. ‘Ensure social security for unorganised labourers’ (14)

VIJAYAWADA: Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu asked the Labour Department to ensure social security to one crore labourers working in the unorganised sector in the State. At a review meeting on labour policy at the State Secretariat in Hyderabad on Monday, Mr Naidu suggested officials to explore the possibility of issuing licences to small-time shopkeepers through a hassle-free online process. He asked the authorities to prepare modalities for providing accident cover, ‘Aam Admi Bima Yojana’, driver’s insurance, vehicle insurance and other policies which will ensure security for these vulnerable sections. (The Hindu 10/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Haryana to grant quota in promotion to SC (25)

Chandigarh: In a landmark decision, the Haryana Cabinet on Thursday decided to grant reservation in promotion to the Scheduled Castes. It also accepted the report submitted by the Committee constituted to assess or examine the backwardness and inadequacy of representation of Scheduled Castes in promotion in the State Government Services. Speaking about the Cabinet decision, Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu said the Committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary P. Raghavendra Rao had submitted its report to the government based on data received from government departments and public sector undertakings. The Committee had analysed data of 3,81,847 employees of all categories in group A, B, C and D in public appointment of the State Government. Upon analysis of the data, it had concluded that there was inadequate representation of the Scheduled Castes in comparison to their proportional representation in the total population of the State. (The Hindu 1/2/15)

48. Forest College students’ protest enters Day 8 (25)

COIMBATORE: Students of the Forest College and Research Institute, Mettupalayam, continued their protest for the eighth day on Tuesday demanding that the State Government restore the higher quota of reservation they enjoyed in appointment to the forest rangers’ post. They have also been demanding reservation in appointment to the foresters’ post. The students’ representatives alleged that the college administration had denied access to toilets on Tuesday. A few of those students tonsured their heads and performed a few of the rituals that were performed for the dead. They said the performance was to symbolise the dead future they faced by the reduction in quota in appointment. A few students staged a protest in Chennai. (The Hindu 4/2/15)

49. Quotas do not hurt efficiency, says study (25)

NEW DELHI: A first-of-its-kind study of the impact of reservations in public sector jobs on productivity and efficiency has shown that the affirmative action did not reduce productivity in any sector, but had, in fact, raised it in some areas. Despite being widespread and much-debated, India’s reservation policy for the educationally and socially backward classes is poorly studied. While there is some research into the impact of reservations in politics and in higher education, there has been no study yet of its impact on the economy. In the pioneering study, Ashwini Deshpande, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, and Thomas Weisskopf, Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan, measured the impact of reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) on productivity and efficiency in the Indian Railways between 1980 and 2002. The study was published in the World Development journal. The Indian Railways is the world’s largest employer where affirmative action applies, Ms. Deshpande said. It employs between 1.3 and 1.4 million people at four levels of employment — Group A to Group D, with Group A employees being the senior-most. There is 15 per cent reservation for the SCs and 7.5 per cent reservation for the STs at all levels, with additional reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The study looked at SC and ST employees in Group A and B only, since people from marginalised backgrounds would have been unlikely to reach high levels of employment without reservation. Since an individual’s impact on productivity is impossible to estimate, Ms. Deshpande and Mr. Weisskopf compared zones and periods of time with higher numbers of SC and ST employees with those with lower numbers, keeping other variables constant. They found no negative impact on productivity and efficiency in any area, and some positive effects in some areas of work. “Beyond the numbers, we can speculate about the reasons for why there might be some positive impact of affirmative action,” Ms. Deshpande explained. “Individuals from marginalised groups may be especially highly motivated to perform well when they attain decision-making and managerial positions, because of the fact that they have reached these positions in the face of claims that they are not sufficiently capable, and they may consequently have a strong desire to prove their detractors wrong,” the authors suggested. This is a possible explanation which rings true for Scheduled Caste employees of the Railways whom The Hindu spoke to. “At every level where there is discretionary power, SC/ ST employees are systematically discriminated against,” said B.L. Bairwa, the president of the All-India Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Railway Employees Association. He cited a number of cases from across the country that he was battling, of deserving backward caste railway employees who had been passed up for promotions, transferred arbitrarily or given adverse records. “When an SC or ST employee rises, he has to prove himself and work extra hard. I am not surprised the efficiency goes up,” he said. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

50. MRPS to launch ‘yatra’ against Rajaiah’s dismissal (25)

HYDERABAD: The Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS) will launch a four phase ‘yatra’ in Telangana to highlight the dismissal of former Deputy Chief Minister T. Rajaiah and lack of representation to Malas, Madigas and women in the Cabinet of K. Chandrasekhar Rao. The yatra will commence on February 16 from Station Ghanpur in Warangal, represented by Dr. Rajaiah, who belongs to the Madiga community.It will conclude here on April 3, and the next day, a dharna will be organised at Indira Park from where the crowd will march to the Chief Minister’s residence, MRPS president Manda Krishna said at a ‘Meet the Press’ programme organised by Telangana Journalists Union. He also gave a call for a State-wide dharna in all the mandal and district headquarters on March 7 and 8 in protest against the injustice meted out to Madigas, particularly Dr. Rajaiah, by the TRS government. The injustice showed up in the form of lack of representation to both Malas and Madigas in the Cabinet though their population in the State was 17 per cent. But Velamas and Reddys, who constituted a population of only 6 per cent, earned 10 Ministerial berths. The MRPS did not recognise Mr. Kadiam Srihari who replaced Dr. Rajaiah as Madiga because the former belongs to a sub-caste of the community. Terming the struggle by MRPS as something like ‘belling the cat’, Mr. Krishna said it was aimed at ensuring the defeat of the TRS in the next elections. He hoped all parties would follow suit. The struggle was proposed drawing inspiration from people’s poet Kaloji Narayana Rao’s lines asking people to “chase outsiders” and punish insiders if they went against the wishes of the people. The first part of the poet’s call was achieved but it was time the second was fulfilled. (The Hindu 9/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. NHRC notice to central govt on Vasant Kunj church attack (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the secretary, Union home minister, chief secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and the Delhi commissioner of police calling for detailed reports including the status of investigation into allegations of desecration of the sanctity of the St. Alphonsa’s Church, Vasant Kunj, in the early hours of the February 2, 2015. They have been given 10 days time to respond. The commission intervened in the matter after taking suo motu cognizance of electronic media reports regarding the incident of breaking open the doors of St. Alphonsa’s Church and defiling of the place of worship and the objects held sacred. It also received a telephonic information from Manoj V. George – the advocate alleging that in spite of a formal written complaint by Fr. Vincent Salvatore, Parish Priest, the police was not taking necessary and appropriate action by registering a proper FIR and commencing effective investigation. The Commission has observed in its notice that “since the incident involves breaking open the door of a Christian Church and defiling of the place of worship and the objects held sacred by the faithful of the Church and since the intention of the offenders appears to be to insult a particular religion and to outrage the religious feelings and to insult their religious beliefs and since the incident is likely to promote disharmony, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the ground of religion, the matter involves serious issues relating to violation of human rights and requires the intervention of the Commission to ensure that prompt, efficient and impartial investigation is conducted by the police and the culprits are booked at the earliest to restore the confidence and sense of security of the religious minority and to protect their freedom of religion.” Earlier, the NHRC member, Justice Cyriac Joseph, accompanied by some officers, visited the Church, on Monday. Fr. Vincent explained to the NHRC team, the nature and the extent of damage caused to the Church. According to him, the miscreants entered the Church by breaking open the front main door. The tabernacle on the main altar directly below the main crucifix was opened and the Chalice and the Monstrance were removed from the tabernacle and the Holy Communion Hosts were thrown around the place. The adjacent room called the Sacristy in which vestements/clothing and valuable articles like Chalice were kept was ransacked. He alleged that the intention of the miscreants was not to commit theft or burglary, as neither the money kept in three offering boxes nor any valuable objects were taken away, but to desecrate the sanctity of the Church and to create a sense of insecurity in the minds of religious minority. He also expressed the apprehension that there was an attempt to downplay the incident as mere a theft or a burglary. However, the ACP and the SHO, present on the spot, during the visit of the Member, denied the allegation and reports that the FIR had already been registered showing the offence as theft or burglary. The ACP assured that FIR would be registered on the basis of the written complaint dated 2nd February, 2015 and in the light of the statement recorded by the police from Fr. Vincent Salvatore. The police officer asserted that there was no inaction on the part of the police and the investigation would be conducted strictly and accordance. (Times of India 3/2/15)

52. RTI activist killed in Orissa: Plea in NHRC for impartial probe (1)

Bhubaneswar: Two days after the body of a missing RTI activist was found buried near a river in Cuttack, a human rights activist on Monday moved the NHRC seeking an “impartial probe” into the murder. Krupasindhu Sahoo, 40, a farmer and father of two children had gone to the village market on January 26, but did not return. The next day, his vehicle was found deserted near a temple in the village, Naili. Two days later, his wife Gitanjali received calls from an unknown person who demanded Rs 30 lakh and three kg gold as ransom for release of her husband, prompting her to file a complaint with Niali police station. On January 31, police found his body buried near Tanla river. Sahoo’s wife Gitanjali alleged in her FIR that her husband was threatened by BJD workers over his filing an RTI application seeking information about funds spent for System of Rice Intensification farming and its beneficiaries. The reply had revealed corruption and misappropriation of funds by the beneficiaries who made money by submitting false bills in connivance with agriculture officials and Sanskar, an NGO. The beneficiaries had allegedly threatened to kill him.Police have arrested the nephew, sister and mother of the accused, Kartik Pani, who had returned from jail after serving seven years in a murder case. Pani, who is currently absconding, is suspected to have taken “supari” for eliminating Sahoo. Meanwhile, human rights activist Manoj Jena in his petition before the NHRC requested that the state be asked to order a high-level independent inquiry into the murder and the alleged role of an inspector at the Niali police station as well as BJD party members. After the incident came to light, Satyabrata Lenka, inspector-in-charge of the police station was sent on leave and a Sub-Divisional Police Officer was asked to probe the case. (Indian Express 4/2/15)

53. India: Enforce Ruling Protecting Transgender People (1)

India’s Supreme Court last year finally recognized the rights of transgender people to vote, to get an education, or to find a job. Now it’s up to the authorities to enforce the ruling by prosecuting those that target transgender people, denying their right to live in dignity and without persecution. (New York) – Authorities in India should fully enforce a Supreme Court ruling to protect the rights of transgender people and help end discrimination, social exclusion, and abuse, Human Rights Watch said today. They should also credibly investigate several recent incidents in which police allegedly abused transgender people. In April 2014, in a landmark judgment in National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) v. Union of India and Others, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that transgender people should be recognized as a third gender and not only enjoy all fundamental rights, but also receive special benefits in education and jobs. “India’s Supreme Court last year finally recognized the rights of transgender people to vote, to get an education, or to find a job,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “Now it’s up to the authorities to enforce the ruling by prosecuting those that target transgender people, denying their right to live in dignity and without persecution.” Nearly a year after the Supreme Court’s judgment, implementation has stalled, even as recent attacks on transgender communities highlight their vulnerability. In particular, section 377 of the Indian penal code, which criminalizes same-sex relations among consenting adults, has made both transgender people and homosexuals vulnerable to police harassment, extortion, and abuse. The nongovernmental organization Telangana Hijra Transgender Samiti, based in the southern city of Hyderabad, reported 40 attacks on transgender people in the last six months. In several cases, the police refused to even register complaints, the rights group told Human Rights Watch. Most recently, the group said that on January 20, 2015, police detained a young hijra, a distinct transgender and intersex community that has a formal system of shared residence and mutual support, for questioning about the murder of another hijra, Pravallika, four days earlier. The police brought the person, a friend of Pravallika who identifies herself as a woman, to a police station where she was allegedly stripped naked and verbally abused and humiliated. Without any female police official present, the hijra was kept at the station for four hours. The police might have beaten her, but when she revealed she was HIV positive, they covered their faces and shrank away. They still humiliated her and questioned her gender identity, and released her in the early hours of the morning insisting that she wear men’s clothes. In this case, the police held an inquiry and acknowledged wrongdoing, but activists say that transgender people across the country still live with fear of violence and police abuse. On January 22, police picked up a transgender woman in the southern city of Chennai for interrogation in a case of murder. At the police station, officers allegedly suspended her by her legs with a rope and penetrated her post-operative genitals with a baton. They left her bleeding overnight, releasing her in the morning. She is still in a government hospital recovering from her injuries….  (Human Rights Watch 6/2/15)

54. Garden BMI survey rings alarm (1)

Siliguri, Feb. 8: A survey on body-mass index done by several NGOs in the closed Raipur tea garden has shown that over 40 per cent of its residents have a BMI lower than 18.5, indicative of being underweight, and 140 people in had BMI lower than 14, a sign of malnourishment. Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO of which rights activist and doctor Binayak Sen is a member, carried out the survey in Raipur garden with other local organisations. Raipur has been shut since 2012. According to the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, the ideal BMI range of a person is between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI below 18.5 is deemed as underweight. The BMI is calculated by dividing the weight of a person in kg by the square of his or her height in metres. According to the data released by PUCL, of the 1,272 people surveyed at Raipur tea estate, 539 (42 per cent of the total) had BMI less than 18.5. Of the 539, 140 (11 per cent of 1,272) people had BMI less than 14, indicative of malnourishment. While a person with a BMI below 18 would be labelled as underweight, several studies have suggested that persons with BMI levels of 17 and sometimes 16 do not show any physiological or functional consequences of their lower-than-normal weight. “But a BMI of 14 is definitely alarming,” said Seema Gulati, a nutrition scientist with the Diabetes Foundation of India in New Delhi. “BMI levels near 14 would mean they are clearly not receiving adequate energy – they would need better nutrition than what they are getting,” she said. Families in closed tea gardens get weekly rations of rice, wheat and sugar under the Annapurna scheme. Most workers in Raipur, which is about 7km from Jalpaiguri, either earn as day labourers at construction sites in the town or do odd jobs in other tea estates. Sen, who toured some of the closed tea estates in the Dooars in the past two days, said the situation was “alarming” and he would soon write to the state and Centre seeking their intervention. “We have conducted an extensive survey to know the health status of people living in closed and sick tea estates in the Dooars. The survey reports appear to be alarming as a considerable proportion of people who were examined during the exercise have been found to have low BMI,” he said. “Our teams have visited some tea estates like Redbank, Bandapani, Diana and Kanthalguri. They have found that the sources of food and nutrition are seriously compromised. Children are unable to attend school and there are people who do not have any access to health care. Many of them are thriving on paltry sums obtained by breaking stones on the riverbed,” Sen said. The survey, Sen said, was conducted in association with five other NGOs – the Siliguri Welfare Organisation, Jalpaiguri Welfare Organisation, Dooars Jagaran, Forum for Peoples’ Health and Srijan. “It is a known fact that a BMI of 14 means that the risk of death from weakness and malnourishment is more than double for a person than for someone having a BMI of 18.5 or more,” Sen said. “In a similar survey conducted at Dheklapara tea estate in December 2012, we found that 111 people of the 202 surveyed had BMI less than 18.5.” He said: “People with low BMIs will be provided diagnostic facilities. We will also arrange for health care for these people.” (The Telegraph 9/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Aadhaar encroaches right to protect self-information, says PIL (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government to look into a public interest petition contending that the Aadhaar scheme is “laden with fraud” and a danger not only to the citizen’s privacy and dignity, but also to his “right to protect self-information”. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu summoned Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar to the courtroom and sought a clarification on the government’s current position on the issue. “We heard the government itself is having second thoughts,” Chief Justice Dattu orally observed. Mr. Kumar sought time to study the petition and come back with an answer. The Bench scheduled the case for hearing on February 13, but did not issue formal notice to the government. The hearing came on a petition filed by Bangalore-resident and social activist, Mathew Thomas, demanding how the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), “which is not even a statutory body rolled out Unique ID (UID) scheme called “Aadhaar” Scheme, for collection of personal data of residents of India”. Mr. Thomas, represented by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium and advocate Aishwarya Bhati, pointed that various governmental bodies have made availing essential services as well as withdrawal of salary contingent upon possession of Aadhaar card. “It is not mandatory, but yes, there is some insistence,” Chief Justice Dattu orally observed at this juncture. “To ask anybody information, you should have authority by law. You should have a credible structure,” Mr. Subramanium continued. He argued that enlisting citizens in the Aadhaar scheme is not “exactly a government activity, but outsourced to private contractors”. “On the surface it (Aadhaar) is a simple document of identity, but it has linkages by means of iris scans and biometricdetails. God forbid if identities are exchanged or mistaken. the Executive’s scheme involves private partners. Who are these private partners?” Mr. Subramanium submitted. Submitting how the ordinary man is now prone to the perils of identity fraud, Mr. Subramanium said the “Sovereign State also has the duty to protect its citizens, to protect his identity, his personal information against possible misuse”. In this connection, the petition also sought the quashing of Section 14-A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 on the ground that “it does not prescribe to what extent private information of citizens shall be required and leaves it to the discretion of Executive”. (The Hindu 2/2/15)

56. Advocates rue poor representation of minorities in judiciary (19)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana Muslim Advocates’ Forum (TMAF) on Tuesday demanded a separate high court for the state of Telangana even as they underscored the poor representation of Muslims in the judiciary. “Soon after bifurcation the government had said that an HC for the state would come up at the King Kothi Palace. The people of Telangana are waiting for their due,” TMAF president Waheed Ahmed said. Highlighting the poor representation of Muslims in the judiciary, Ahmed said that in 1956, the number of Muslims in the judiciary and judicial services was around 50 per cent. This has dwindled drastically over the past couple of decades, he noted. “The Criminal Court Complex in Nampally has no Muslim public prosecutor. A similar scenario exists across all courts,” he claimed. The 12 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs which the TRS promised before being elected to power could change this scenario, but this does not seem to be on the anvil, he lamented. The representation of Muslims in bar association is low and even the various joint action committees have very few people from the community, he added. Various analysts have expressed similar apprehensions with respect to the representation of Muslims in the judiciary. They have been advocating that members of the community step forward and instead of opting for engineering and medicine, they should appear in competitive exams. “Telangana is a new state and eventually there will be recruitments. Muslims must step forward to join,” an analyst (Times of India 4/2/15)

57. PIL against love marriages without parents’ consent dismissed (7)

Madurai: Madras High Court today declined to entertain a PIL petition which sought to forbear officials from solemnising love marriages without the consent and presence of parents of the couples to check honour killings. The petition, filed about a week ahead of Valentine’s Day on Feb 14, had sought a direction to the Tamil Nadu Government to issue a circular instructing the registration, police and temple officials not to perform marriages without insisting on the personal appearance and consent of the parents of the girl and the boy. Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice S. Tamilvanan ruled out the possibility of issuing such a direction, saying it would amount to the court making a new law. The judges said a major boy or girl had every right to choose their partner and the court could not intervene. K K Ramesh, a PIL litigant, submitted that following an “increase” in the number of love marriages, there had been an “alarming rise” in honour killings, suicides, kidnappings, caste clashes and divorces. Such unwarranted incidents could be prevented if the parents’ consent was made mandatory for solemnising as well as registration of love marriages, it contended. (Financial Express 7/2/15)

58. Christian marriage plea in SC (19)

New Delhi, Feb. 9: The Supreme Court today agreed to examine whether a Christian who gets divorce from the Catholic Church and remarries can be prosecuted for bigamy under the IPC Section 494. Under Section 494 of the IPC, whoever marries again during the subsistence of an existing marriage can be jailed up to seven years and fined. During the proceedings, the apex court wondered how long the country would be able to hold to its secular fabric and expressed concern at the growing cult of honour killings in the country. “Every religion will say we would like to carry along our personal law. We have to stamp out religion from civil law. Look at how honour killings are happening in the country. You have to ostracise it,” a bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and C. Nagappan observed. The observation came on a PIL that has said since courts in India recognise the dissolution of marriage by pronouncing the word “talaq” three times under Mohammedan Law, the same acceptance should be extended to Christians who end their marriage under the Code of Canon Law. In a lighter vein, Justice Sen told senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, the petitioner’s counsel: “King Henry VIII had not only divorced his wives, but also beheaded them.” When Sorabjee persisted with the PIL’s argument, Justice Sen, heading the bench, asked: “How can you say ecclesiastical courts should prevail over civil law. Till now we are a secular state. We do not know how long it will remain?” The bench added: “In a lighter vein, we are saying they will be beheaded.” The bench asked additional solicitor-general Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the Centre, to file a counter-affidavit on the PIL within four weeks and the petitioner to file a rejoinder two weeks thereafter. The matter has been posted for further hearing on April 8. In 2013, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre but it had not filed a response so far. The PIL was filed by an 84-year-old Catholic advocate, Clarence Pais, from Bangalore, seeking validity of the decree granted by the Catholic Church in India to Christians married under the Canon Law. The petition said the issue was being raised in public interest for a declaration that the Canon Law was the personal law of Indian Christians and that a decree of dissolution of marriage granted by an ecclesiastical court is valid and binding on all courts in India. It challenged the jurisdiction of the criminal courts in India to prosecute Roman Catholics under Section 494 of the IPC for alleged bigamy and claimed that the issue affects over 1 crore citizens. Indian Catholics are governed by the Code of Canon Law on marriage as well as its dissolution. The Catholic marriage takes place in a Catholic church and in the event of either party seeking to nullify the union, an application needs to be filed under the Code of Canon Law before the canonical court in a diocese. “The Code of Canon Law regulates and provides for the solemnisation of marriage by the parish priest of a Church, as also declaration of nullity of marriage. The Christian Marriage Act provides for the solemnisation of marriage in a Catholic church in accordance with the provisions of the Canon Law. …The declaration of its nullity is regulated by the Code of Canon Law,” the petition said. According to the petitioner, hundreds of applications for declaring marriages null are pending before various ecclesiastical tribunals in India. “If the criminal courts, while considering prosecution under IPC Section 494, reject the application of the Canon Law as the personal law of the Catholics, a very serious result will follow and hundreds of spouses under the second marriage will have to face prosecution, jail and fine,” the petition said. The petition cited Article 372 of the Constitution, which provides for continuance of several existing laws and their adaptation even after the Constitution has come into force. “All the laws in force include not only the enactment of the Indian legislature but also the common law of the land which was being administered by the courts in India. This includes not only the personal laws – namely the Hindu and Mohammedan laws – but that of Indian Catholic viz., the Canon Law also Rules of the English common law…,” the petition said. “It is respectfully submitted that the Canon Law is the personal law of the Catholics of India and the Canon Law has to be applied and enforced by a criminal court while deciding a case under Section 494 of the IPC and sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the ecclesiastical tribunal,” the petition added. In other words, it said if the decree of divorce is granted by a church, a person should not be prosecuted under Section 494 IPC. The petition said the Catholic community has made several representations to the government but they had not evoked a favourable response. Hence, the jurisdiction of the apex court was being invoked, it added. (Th Telegraph 10/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. Probe into death of mentally challenged man (1)

Bengaluru: An inquiry has been ordered into the death of a mentally challenged man who allegedly succumbed to injuries caused by torture inflicted on him by police, who had released him after detaining him for a day. The family members, with the help of the South Indian Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, an NGO, filed a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission on Friday, accusing the Ulsoor police of illegal detention and custodial torture leading to the death of their kin. According to the complaint, Andrew Carroll, a resident of Austin town and a psychiatric patient, was picked up by Ulsoor police on January 12 for questioning. While the family was searching for him, Emile Carroll, father of Andrew received a call from Ulsoor police asking him to come to the police station. Emile went to the police station along with a local pastor and found Andrew there. The police allegedly refused to give any explanation about his detention, but asked Emile to take his son with him. After they reached home, Andrew complained of severe pain in the body. So, he was admitted to St. John’s Hospital. “The doctor, who examined Andrew, found bruises all over his body and Andrew admitted that he had been beaten up by the police,” the complaint states. As it was a medico-legal case, the hospital authorities informed the police and started the treatment. Tests showed that Andrew had renal failure. Then he was put on a ventilator, and he died on Thursday.Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Satish Kumar told The Hindu that he had ordered an inquiry into the incident by the sub-divisional assistant commissioner of police.Sources say that Andrew was picked up by police for creating ruckus at a hotel in Ulsoor. Hospital records state that he was admitted to the hospital four days after the incident, and that he was injured in a road accident, a senior official said. (The Hindu 1/2/15)

60. Complain about errant cops to state panels soon (1)

MUMBAI: Police complaints authorities will be set up at the state- and district-level as provided for in the Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Act, 2014, in a few days, the Maharashtra government has said. This despite chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who as a legislator had strongly opposed the amendments and promised to revoke the amendments in his vision statement for the state. The amendments to the Maharashtra Police Act were passed in a rush by the legislative assembly in June 2014. “In case of transfers, the chief minister has already handed over the powers to the police, except in the case of IPS officers. For now, there will be no change in the constitution of the police complaints authority. It will comprise members of the civil society. We have already drawn up a list and it will be announced in a few days,” said the chief minister’s office. NGOs Police Reforms Watch and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which have been campaigning for police reforms, want Fadnavis to honour his commitment to completely revoke the amendments. “There must be an independent selection panel to decide on appointment of the chairperson and members of the state- and district-level authorities. There must be objective criteria and qualifications for member selection. This must be widely advertised to ensure transparency,” said Dolphy D’Souza, convenor, Police Reforms Watch. D’Souza said as complaints will be made against the police, serving officers should not be members of the authority as it was against the principles of natural justice. “How can they sit in judgment on their own actions? Besides, the Act mandates that members must work full-time. Serving officers will not be able to work full-time with the authority,” he said. The Act also provides for imprisonment against anyone filing false or frivolous complaints against police personnel. “This itself is a deterrent to file complaints. The section must be deleted,” said D’Souza. Activists pointed out the Act allows the state to reject the final report of the police complaints authority in exceptional cases. “This erosion of the binding nature of their recommendations weakens their effectiveness as accountability mechanisms,” said D’Souza. (Times of India 2/1/15)

61. HR panel orders probe into custodial death (1)

State Human Rights Commission has ordered probe into alleged custodial death of a man at Bahraich’s Jarwal Road police station on Monday.The commission issued notice to SP Bahraich on Saturday and asked him to appear before the commission within four weeks after taking action against SO Kapil Muni and other accused policemen. Dinesh Kumar Singh was allegedly tortured to death at the police station on Monday. The commission stated that the death in police custody is a violation of human rights. A panel of three doctors had performed postmortem of Dinesh on Tuesday. Although strangulation mark and five other serious injuries were found on the body, police claimed he died of choking. A resident of Bhartha Sahwajpur village under Kaiserganj police station, Dinesh was caught by Jarwal Road police on charges of stealing a bike and was subsequently found dead in police lockup. His family members had staged dharna at the police station. A team of three doctors performed the postmortem on DM’s order and found deep marks of injuries on the back, stomach and head of the deceased alongwith strangulation mark on the neck. The police had claimed that choking is the cause of the death. (Times of India 7/2/15)

62. Ishrat Jahan fake encounter: Gujarat top cop PP Pandey reinstated in service (1)

AHMEDABAD: Within four days of his release on bail in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, 1980-batch IPS officer PP Pandey’s suspension has not only been revoked, but he is also given charge of the probe against investigator in this case, Satish Verma. The government notification issued on Monday said that Pandey is posted as additional DGP (law and order). It also bestows the responsibility of the investigations being carried out by an SIT into three cases of custodial deaths that allegedly happened in Porabandar district when Verma was the superintendent of police. Ahmedabad police commissioner Shivanand Jha was heading this SIT till now. It was Verma’s aggressive probe in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case upon Gujarat high court’s (HC) orders that nailed Gujarat cops including Pandey, who came to be arrested in August 2013. Now, Pandey is heading the probe against Verma, who is now on central deputation as CVO in North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) in Shillong. In 1996-97, when Verma was SP of Porbandar, two people — Jasu Gagan Shail and Aher Ranmal — were killed in police encounters, while Aher Narayan Jesthi was found handing from the tree outside a police station, though he was in police custody. In 2011, Jasu’s brother Hira Shial moved the HC and demanded a fresh probe on the ground that Gujarat police did not carry fair probe on earlier HC orders in 1998. The HC asked the government to conduct fresh probe in three custodial deaths. However, these investigations were stayed later by the Supreme Court upon Verma’s appeal. (Times of India 9/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

63. Judicial probe sought in police action on media in Haryana (1)

New Delhi: Police action against journalists covering a stand-off between authorities and self-styled ‘godman’ Rampal in Haryana last year was “unprovoked” and “pre-meditated”, a media panel has said, recommending a judicial probe into the incident. The panel, set up by the Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) to look into the incident, has recommended probe by a Supreme Court judge into the alleged assault by police on the journalists in Hissar district in November last. In its report, the three-member committee has concluded that the police action against media persons was “unprovoked” and “pre-meditated”.It said the police had acted against media persons as it did not want the use of force against women and kids to be recorded by the media for showing it on channels. The panel emphasised that political executive should be sensitive to such incidents. The BEA, a body with editors of leading news channels as its members, had constituted the panel shortly after the incident that occurred in November last year. In its report, the three member committee said that it had met Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal, police officers, and also talked to the local villagers. It added that it found that not only the victim journalists but also police officers were categorical in their assertions that there was no provocation from or causing of functional impediment from the side of media persons with regard to police operation. The panel noted that it was the job of the media to cover the event but hardly had the operation begun by the policemen assisted by the para-military forces, when media persons were subjected to lathi-charge. “This attack was not confined to one place but all over the area ie in sprawl of over half-a-kilometer. The policemen started beating the hapless reporters, cameramen and other scribes mercilessly. The camera or I-cards shown by the media did not deter them from the sordid act. Rather it was taken by the police as a sign of identification for hitting,” it said. (Zee News 1/2/15)

64. News channels set agenda instead of mere reporting: Jaitley (1)

New Delhi: Emphasizing that media functioning has changed drastically after the advent of 24×7 news channels, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley today said they now set the agenda instead of mere reporting. “We suddenly found that we are beocoming a media-driven society. A society, whose agenda is pushed by the media. Media sets the agenda,” he said adding that now reporters feel they are not just to report but to “actually set the agenda” on issues to which the stakeholders will respond. Contrasting the functioning of Indian television news channels with that of BBC, he said the difference which he finds while watching them is that “in our channels, we get to hear the views of the same set of eight people evening after evening. News becomes anchor driven. “Where as when I switch on BBC, I get news items of 40-50 seconds on everything that is happening in the world.” Jaitley at the same time said that he believes that views are also important. “I am not going to denigrate that,” he said addressing a workshop for bureaucrats on communication here. (Deccan Herald 2/1/15)

65. Media targeted ‘with impunity’ in Libya: HRW (1)

Tunis: Journalists in post-revolution Libya face the constant threat of attack and have lost even the limited freedom that existed under slain strongman Moamer Kadhafi, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. A 54-page report by the New York-based rights watchdog released in Tunisia said journalists in Libya are “assaulted, kidnapped and killed with impunity”.”Journalists were among the 250 people killed in apparent politically motivated assassinations in 2014,” HRW said in the report entitled “War on the media: journalists under attack in Libya”.It also documented “at least 91 cases of threats and assaults against journalists, 14 of them women, from mid-2012 until November 2014″, including 30 kidnappings and eight killings. HRW reported “26 armed attacks” against media headquarters over the same period. It said evidence suggests that “the armed groups sought to punish journalists and media outlets for their reporting, their opinions, or their perceived sympathies”.HRW blamed authorities for failing to protect journalists, and said this “has wiped out much of the limited freedom that existed following the 2011 uprising” that toppled and killed Kadhafi. “Authorities failed to hold anyone accountable for attacks on journalists and media outlets since 2012,” it said, while “courts are prosecuting people, including journalists, for speech-related offences”.The situation worsened last year sparking an exodus of journalists, said HRW, while those who chose to stay have been forced into self-censorship. “The climate of impunity has allowed militias to assault, threaten, kidnap, or even kill journalists because of their reporting or views,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa head Joe Stork. “Government authorities and non-state actors who control territory should urgently condemn attacks on journalists and where possible hold those responsible to account,” he added in the report. HRW researcher Hanan Saleh denounced a “culture of impunity”.”Many journalists don’t want to report (aggressions they experienced) to the police because they don’t think that the police or the judiciary can help them or do them justice,” she told reporters in Tunis. HRW cited several examples of media being targeted in Libya, including the separate murders last year in Benghazi of journalist Miftah Bouzeid, whom it said was a “prominent critic” of Islamist militias, and radio broadcaster Al-Mutassim al-Warfalli, who it said supported them. The North African nation has been wracked by conflict for the past four years, with rival governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the country’s oil riches. (Zee News 9/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

66. Muzaffarnagar riots: Statement of then District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma recorded (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: The inquiry commission probing the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots has recorded the statement of the then District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma who asserted that authorities had effectively controlled the violence. The one-man inquiry commission of Justice (retd) Vishnu Sahai yesterday recorded the statement of Muzaffarnagar DM Kaushal Raj Sharma who asserted that district authorities had controlled the violence after taking steps to instill confidence in the people in the riot-hit district. The commission has also summoned the then DGP Deoraj Nagar and the then state Home Secretary R N Srivastava on February 5 for recording their statements. It would continue its sitting till February 6 here. The commission, which would submit its report to the state government on the cause of riots, action taken by the government officials at that time and measures to prevent riots in future, has so far recorded more than 450 statements including those of riots victims and senior officials. The one-member judicial inquiry commission of Justice (retd) Vishnu Sahai, former Judge of Allahabad High Court, was constituted by the Uttar Pradesh government in September 2013 to probe the Muzaffarnagar riots. Over 60 persons were killed and more than 40,000 displaced in communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in September, 2013. (The Economic Times 1/2/15)

67. Praveen Togadia barred from Bangalore, VHP fumes (7)

Bengaluru: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s plan to organise a “Hindu rally” in Bangalore hit a hurdle on Tuesday when their star speaker Praveen Togadia was banned from entering the city.

Sources in the home minister’s office told Hindustan Times that the government is also considering banning Togadia, who has at least 19 cases of hate speech against him in over a dozen states, from entering Karnataka. The VHP said the ban was “undemocratic” and claimed it had mustered more than two lakh supporters for the event called Hindu Viraat Samavesha on February 8. “We have issued prohibitory orders banning Togadia’s entry into the city but we have decided to permit the event. We are in talks with the organisers to arrive at a mutually agreed format for the programme,” said Bangalore Police Commissioner MN Reddi.Reddi said Togadia had been barred from the city to “prevent a law and order situation”.The VHP plans to protest for Togadia. “We will move court to get justice and hold protests across Karnataka against the decision of this anti-Hindu government,” said VHP south India organising secretary Gopalji.”This is unconstitutional and undemocratic. Togadia has addressed many rallies in Karnataka over the last few months and there has been no trouble. The Congress is playing vote bank politics,” said former BJP chief minister Jagdish Shettar, who is leader of the opposition. Chief minister Siddaramaiah supported the police’s decision. “The government had nothing to do with it. The decision was taken independently by the police. But it was a good decision as Togadia’s previous visits to the State have triggered communal violence. The government is committed to preventing such attempts at polarization,” he said.A riot broke out during Togadia’s last visit to Karnataka on January 17 when he addressed a gathering of 25,000 supporters at Puttur, 60 km Mangaluru. More than 30 people were injured in the violence and property worth several lakh rupees was destroyed.Interestingly, the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin has planned a massive rally on February 8 to counter the VHP’s event. As the main speaker, they plan to have the party president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who has nearly a dozen hate speech cases against him across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Home Ministry sources said that Owaisi too will be prevented from entering the State although they said that his status as an elected representative might complicate matters. (Hindustan Times 3/2/15)

68. Trilokpuri residents want to get rid of ‘communal’ tag (7)

New Delhi: Residents of Trilokpuri — that had recently turned into a battleground due to communal clashes — want to move on from communal politics and see some development in the area. The locals were apprehensive that the election would bring back tension in the area as political parties would try to highlight the riots for polarization. But both the political parties and voters want to move on. Kiran Vaidya, whose husband Sunil Vaidya had suffered a heart attack and a brain hemorrhage during a political rally, was not ready to contest the election but agreed to the demand of her party’s top leaders. A month after her husband, the former BJP MLA of the area, died of a heart attack, she was asked by the Bharatiya Janata Party to contest the Delhi assembly election from the riot-hit Trilokpuri area of east Delhi. This may go against her as she is being seen as an inexperienced candidate. “I have been living in the area for over 30 years and have seen many such clashes. But in the name of development, nothing has been done. We hope the new government will work for development and at the same time ensure peace in the area too,” said Manzar Hasan, a 70-year-old resident of Trilokpuri. Residents said that the candidates did not highlight the riots during the election campaign, which is a positive change. “People from outside see Trilokpuri as a communally sensitive area and it has earned a bad name. We want the new government to change this image,” Sharda Singh, a local resident said. (Hindustan Times 8/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

69. Hindu outfit vows more ‘re-conversions’ in Tamil Nadu (26)

CHENNAI: The Hindu Makkal Katchi, which conducted a ‘ghar wapsi’ programme in the city on Friday, said they would be organising more such reconversions in future. The fringe group’s ‘re-conversion’ programme was intended to take forward Sangah Parivar’s Hindutva agenda in Tamil Nadu. While Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by two Dravidian parties — AIADMK and DMK — and some regional players, observers say the Hindutva rhetoric is likely to be spurred by VHP and Hindu Munnani, besides some fringe groups, encouraged by Sangh Parivar’s ‘ghar wapsi’ programme. HMK chief Arjun Sampath, who presided over the reconversion of 11 dalit Christians into Hinduism, said, “Our target is dalit Christians, many of whom are fishermen living in coastal districts and in Chennai city.” Sampath said HMK had started reconversion of people from other religions into Hinduism much before Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. “Our first reconversion happened in the Nellaiappar temple in Tirunelveli in 2011,” said Sampath. Many Tamil Nadu parties are wary of the Sangh Parivar’s activities. DMK chief M Karunanidhi, in a statement, said the activities of Sangh Parivar shocked people. “It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has the responsibility to take the nation forward in the economic front, is silent on the activities of Sangh Parivar,” he said. “It is a drama enacted by the fringe groups of Sangh Parivar to seek attention. They said more than 100 people will be reconverted, but only 11 are said to have re-converted,” said DMK spokesperson T K S Elangovan. He said the government should put down such activities with a firm hand. Echoing similar sentiments, CPM state secretary G Ramakrishnan said secular forces in the state should not allow activities like ghar wapsi or forced teaching of Hinduism to students. “Though dalits face discrimination, whether they are Hindus or Christians, reconversion cannot be allowed as it will lead to law and order problem. We will oppose such reconversions henceforth,” said Ramakrishnan. “Sangh Parivar is bent on creating problems, be it ghar wapsi or deletion of words like secular and socialism from the Preamble of the Constitution. Secular forces should fight against it,” said Ramakrishnan. A senior police official said, “HMK people did not say they were organising a reconversion programme and they did not seek any permission from us. We stopped them on the way and sent back many of them”. He said police are looking at steps to prevent such incidents in public places in future. (Times of India 1/2/15)

70. VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi stokes fresh controversy with communal rants (26)

Badaun: VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi has stoked fresh controversy by making inflammatory remarks on the issue of ‘love jihad’ and defending her statement that Hindu women should have four children. “They are trapping our daughters through ‘love jihad’. These people who give birth to 35-40…. Are spreading love jihad….. They are trying to make Hindustan into Darul Islam. “When I made the remarks, it was as if the country was hit by a quake. The media said you have sparked an uproar with your remarks on four children. I said I have only advocated four children for Hindus not 40…. And it is important because the country needs it,” the saffron clad leader said at a function organised here by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) which “felicitated” Hindus who have more than four children. Prachi had contested the 2012 Assembly elections on BJP ticket from Purkazi constituency in UP. She was among persons accused of inciting riots through their provocative speeches in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and was later granted bail. The latest hate speech came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning to party leaders to restrain from making controversial comments which can overshadow his government’s agenda of development and economic reforms. The BJP was quick to distance itself from Prachi’s remarks, saying the party does not agree with such views and is not interested in discussing any such issue. “The BJP does not agree with any such comment. We do not think that the comments are correct. BJP does not want to discuss any issue other than good governance and even the people are not ready to accept any such discussion. “Under such circumstances, there is no significance of such remarks,” said chief of BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit Laxmikant Bajpai. He asserted that the leader was not speaking at a party platform. Prachi felicitated 20 persons, who had more than four children at the ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ organised by VHP here yesterday. Those “honoured” included Dwarika Singh, who have 11 children, Rampal Singh and Surnam Singh, who have nine children each. Addressing the gathering on the occasion, Sadhvi Prachi said, “Why family planning is implemented for Hindus only.” On “Ghar Wapasi”, she said that if 1,400 years ago everyone was Hindu, “UP Urban Development Minister Azam Khan, Jama Masjid’s Imam Bukhari, former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Yusuf Raza Gilani should also do ghar wapasi”, a term used for reconverting into Hinduism. Prachi said that she was not against love but against “Love Jihad”.”A campaign is being run to trap Hindu girls in the name of love,” she said. The sadhvi had drawn criticism last month over her remarks that Hindu women should have four kids. “Earlier we used to say ‘hum do hamare do’. But now we have started saying that ‘sher ka bachcha ek hi achha’ (for a lion, one offspring is enough). This is wrong,” Prachi had said at a gathering in Bhilwara. “If there is one child, where all will you send him? To protect the border… Or make him a scientist or he will take care of business…. So, we need four children. One can go to protect the borders, one can serve the society, give one to the saints and one to VHP to serve the nation and protect the culture. This is very important,” she had said. Demanding a law to ban forced conversions, Prachi had supported the VHP’s ‘Ghar Wapsi’ or reconversion programme. “If a son is angry due to the some reason and leaves the house, should he not be allowed to return. Should the family not accept him? “That’s why ‘Ghar Wapsi’ should be supported,” she said. Earlier, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj drew criticism when he asked Hindu women to have at least four children, with the opposition accusing BJP of trying to polarise the atmosphere. BJP on its part had distanced itself from the remarks of Maharaj, who was also served a show cause notice, and urged its workers and public representatives to refrain from making such comments. (Zee News 2/1/15)

71. Fighting BJP govt, Hindutva forces main task: CPM (26)

New Delhi: The CPM has identified fighting “right-wing” offensive and the BJP government’s policies as its main task, even while emphasising that it will continue to oppose the Congress. The party’s Draft Political Resolution, to be presented at the 21st party congress at Visakhapatnam in April, also talks about building the independent strength of the party, while working to rally other left and democratic secular forces to form a united front. “The Draft Political Resolution deals with the political situation in the country. It has noted the big change with the BJP getting an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. This has set the stage for a right-wing offensive comprising an aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal policies and a full-scale attempt by the RSS-led Hindutva forces to advance their communal agenda…The party has to fight against the BJP and Modi government’s policies. This is the main task at hand. This requires a concerted opposition to the Modi government’s economic policies and its Hindutva oriented social and educational policies. The party has to conduct a political-ideological struggle against the BJP-RSS combine,” it states. The draft resolution also spells out concrete steps to be taken in the political, social, cultural and educational fields  to counter “Hindutva forces”. It states the CPM will not have any electoral alliance with the Congress.  “It is the Congress-led UPA government’s anti-people policies and corruption which helped BJP acquire popular support,” it adds. Saying that the country’s political situation saw a major change after  Lok Sabha polls, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters: “The resolution has characterised this change as right wing offensive under the Narendra Modi government. This is fuelled by two forces. One by aggressive push for neo-liberal policies and second the offensive of the RSS-led Hindutva forces. Together they constitute right wing offensive which is detrimental for the interest of the people in our country,” While conceding that his party was under “serious” attack in West Bengal, Karat dismissed suggestions that the party’s base was being eroded there. He said “opportunist politics” by the TMC had helped BJP make some headway. (Indian Express 5/2/15)

72. VHP hits back at Obama, calls him ‘stooge of Church’ (26)

NEW DELHI: US President Barack Obama’s recent remarks on ‘religious intolerance’ in India has irked the Hindu right in the country. Criticizing his latest remark — that “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi —Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Friday called Obama a “stooge of the Church” and asked the Narendra Modi government to identify and weed out people in the Indian political class suspected to be batting for the Church. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain said that Obama should instead take care of his country which was witnessing “atrocities” against blacks. “He (Obama) is himself black. Despite that, he has not been able to stop the atrocities being committed on blacks,” he said. Alleging the influence of Christian missionaries on Obama, Jain said, “Obama seems to like his natural allies more than his friend. He made such statements in India and abroad after meeting certain people here on his visit. It is well known that Church plants people in politics. Obama has not been a good guest.” VHP also agreed with Hindu Mahasabha, which is preparing to forcibly marry off couples seen together on Valentine’s Day. According to VHP, cases such as the Nirbhaya gang rape happen because couples openly express love on Valentine’s Day. Jain said, “There should be no violence (on February 14), but those who love each other must get married. In the name of love, do not indulge in naked display of lust. It is because of these celebrations that incidents like (Delhi gang rape) happen.” On its right to be the moral police, Jain retorted, “What right did Mahatma Gandhi have to steer the freedom struggle? When police do not take action, society will have to.” On Obama’s comments, Jain said the US is only worried about Christians and never talked about atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh. “Obama should have rather asked Christian missionaries to stop conversion. It is because of their antics that there is communal disharmony in India. We ask the government to identify and weed out such people in politics who are planted by the Church,” Jain said even as he brushed aside recent attacks on churches in Delhi as a “law and order problem”.”Even temples get vandalized, but do we say Christians have done it? Christians are protesting for political mileage and finance,” said Jain. (Times of India 7/2/15)

73. ‘Favourable time’ to organize all Hindus: RSS chief (26)

NEW DELHI: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said that India is a “Hindu Rashtra” and there is a need to organize all Hindus in the country for which this is “favourable time”.Quoting famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, he said whenever there will be conflicts among Hindus and Muslims, “a middle- path will emerge and that path will be of Hindutava.” “Hindustan is a Hindu Rashtra, which is a fact. We are going ahead with this (idea). All Hindus have to be organized to make this nation great. When our country will become great that will benefit that the entire world. “We have the know-how for what we want to do. If we continue fighting among ourselves, this Constitution cannot protect us,” Bhagwat said addressing RSS gatherings in Meerut and Ghaziabad on Sunday. Recalling that even in adverse circumstances, RSS founder K B Hedgewar had started branches of RSS to bring together the entire Hindu community, Bhagwat said that this is a “very favourable time” for the Sangh unlike in the past. “No Swayamsevak Sangh in the world had to face such a long and bitter opposition as we faced in our own country. We had to move forward under very difficult circumstances,” he said. There was a time when there was no acceptance for the ideology of the Sangh either in the country or in other parts of the world but “this is a very favourable time for the Sangh,” he said. Noting that the organization has struggled a lot, Bhagwat said “and the result was that today we have favourable situation but it does not mean that we should become complacent. Rather it is the time we need to work more.” While asking the gathering to respect diversity, he said that “the idea of Hinduism is the only idea in the world which brings all together”.He said that the fundamental unity amidst all diversities is the crux of India. (Times of India 9/2/15)

TERRORISM

74. Clamp down on discrimination against NE people: Centre (12)

Bengaluru: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has instructed the police to clamp down on discrimination against people from Northeast India living in Bengaluru and remain vigilant against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the IT Capital. Singh, who attended a function at the Taralabalu mutt in Chitradurga district on Monday morning, held a meeting with the police top brass at the HAL airport in Bengaluru on his way back to Delhi. The police briefed him about the progress in the investigation against four men they had arrested last month on the charge of being operatives of the banned outfit, Indian Mujahideen. According to a source, Singh and the police top brass also discussed how to check the circulation of pre-activated mobile phone SIM cards. The issue cropped up in the wake of the recent arrest of suspected Bodo militant Sanju Bordoloi, who was found to be in possession of pre-activated SIM cards. “We made a power-point presentation for about 45 minutes on the functioning of the Bengaluru police. The presentation included recent developments in Bengaluru and across Karnataka,” Police Commissioner M N Reddi told reporters. “We sought his approval for the proposals which have been pending with the Centre and assistance for some other projects that are in the pipeline. He understood our requests and promised all assistance.” According to Reddi, Singh also promised that the Centre would consider sanctioning more Marine India Reserve Battalions in Karnataka to strengthen its coastal security. Earlier, the police submitted proposals to Singh and sought the Central government’s assistance in procuring vehicles and CCTV cameras to be installed in Bengaluru. (Deccan Herald 2/1/15)

75. UN Chief Decries ‘Appalling’ IS Killing of Jordan Pilot (12)

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the apparent burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by Islamic State militants, calling it an “appalling act.”  Ban labeled the IS group “a terrorist organisation with no regard for human life” yesterday and urged world governments to redouble their efforts to “combat the scourge of terrorism and extremism,” according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric. First Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh was captured in December when his F-16 jet crashed over northern Syria, a mission that was part of the US-led coalition campaign against the IS fighters. “The secretary-general’s thoughts are with Mr Al-Kassasbeh’s family and loved ones,” Ban’s spokesman said.    “He shares their sorrow and stands today in solidarity with the government and people of Jordan in denouncing this appalling act.”   A slickly produced 22-minute video surfaced online showing a man who appeared to be the pilot engulfed in flames inside a metal cage. Jordanian state television said that Kassasbeh was killed on January 3.  The 15 members of the UN Security Council also denounced the apparent killing, saying “such continued acts of barbarism perpetrated by ISIL do not intimidate them but rather stiffen their resolve” to counter extremist movements. The council also demanded the “immediate, safe and unconditional release” of prisoners held by IS, the Al-Nusra Front — Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate — and other groups with links to Al-Qaeda. Jordan is a non-permanent member of the council. (New Indian Express 4/2/15)

76. Suspected IM man held for sending terror mail (12)

MUMBAI: Nearly four years after a terror email was sent by the Indian Mujahideen, claiming responsibility for the September 19, 2010 firing and blast outside the Jama Masjid in Delhi, the cyber crime investigation cell on Friday took a suspected IM operative, Ejaz Shaikh, (28), into custody for allegedly sending the mail from a cellphone from near Mumbai’s Manish Market. Two Taiwan nationals were hurt in the firing. An offence was registered in Mumbai after the city cops found the origin of the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the terror mail in Mumbai. Shaikh has been booked under various sections of the IT Act, 2000. Shaikh was first arrested on September 6, 2014, from outside Saharanpur station in UP by the Delhi Police’s special cell. Later, he was taken into custody by the Maharashtra ATS for his alleged role in providing logistic support in the 2010 Pune German Bakery blast. The CCIC then took him in custody in connection with the terror email case. In the Jama Masjid firing case, the special cell had earlier arrested suspected IM operatives, Qateel Siddiqui, Yasin Bhatkal, his father in-law Irshad Ahmed and several others. “Much before the Delhi terror strike, IM’s global chief Riyaz Bhatkal, who is reportedly hiding in Pakistan, had sent the draft of the terror email to Shaikh. After the firing and blast, Shaikh used a cellphone to send the terror email to several media houses,” said a police officer, adding that even the IM’s Indian chief, Yasin Bhatkal, now behind bars, was unaware of the person who had actually sent the email. Police had earlier claimed that Shaikh, a Pune resident, was the logistics man and hawala router of the banned outfit. Besides sending e-mails, Sheikh used to provide logistics to the IM men in India and prepared fake identities needed by them to procure mobile SIM cards, collecting foreign money transfers, obtaining rooms on rent and even in getting enrolled in professional educational institutions as a cover, police said. Police said he was never present in the actual crime. “After the German Bakery blast, Sheikh played the role of devils’ messenger in the Jama Masjid strike on September 19, 2010. Using expert technological cover, he sent e-mails to various Indian media houses shortly after the strikes, claiming the act to be from IM and as a revenge for the Batla House encounter,” said S N Shrivastava, special commissioner, special cell, had said after Shaikh’s arrest last year. (Times of India 7/2/15)

77. Huge quantity of explosives found in Assam (12)

Chirang (Assam): The Army on Sunday recovered a large quantity of explosives from the Chirang district of Assam. During a search operation in the reserve forest area of Chirang, the security forces reportedly also found many war-like stores in which the explosives were stored. The recoveries include an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) weighing 6 kilograms and incriminating documents with details of extortions being carried out by the banned outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit faction. (New Kerala 8/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

78. Naxal attack claims 2 cops in Bastar, raises questions (12)

New Delhi: In an attack that left some questions for the Chhattisgarh Police, two policemen were killed in a Maoist attack near Bande area of Kanker district in Bastar region on Monday. Six other security personnel — three each from police and BSF — were injured in the attack, who were later airlifted to Raipur. According to the statement issued by Chhattisgarh Police, “A joint party of BSF and the district police left towards Habalras and Panavar village around 4 pm following specific inputs about Naxal activities.” The Maoists allegedly attacked the police team between these villages and killed Bande thana in-charge Avinash Sharma and Gopniya Sainik Sonu Ram Gawde. However, photographs of the ambush, accessed by The Indian Express, suggest that either the policemen were not a part of any operation or they were extremely casual in their movement. While all the personnel were on bike, none of the security personnel in the photographs had fatigues on him. Sharma wore black leather shoes, besides pink shirt and blue trousers, extremely unusual for the leader of an anti-Naxal operation.The killings are significant because they took place after a long period of relative peace in Kanker — the northern most district of Bastar. In the last few years, Maoist violence has been restricted to south Bastar districts like Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada. In fact, Kanker did not report death of any personnel in a Maoist attack in 2014 and record two in 2013. Gawde, a surrendered Maoist, was posted as a Gopniya Sainik (informer). The state police often deploy surrendered Maoists as Gopniya Sainiks and pay them monthly stipend of Rs 5,000. (Indian Express 2/2/15)

79. Kerala police targets social workers, human rights activists for Maoist link (12)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala police is targeting social workers, human rights activists and ultra Left sympathizers for their role in suspected Maoist attacks in last few days. On Last Friday, Kochi police arrested civil rights activists Advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, an employee with state insurance department, allegedly in connection with the Maoist attack on NHAI project office in Kochi. Sarathy was taken into police custody from Kozhikode, where he addressed a press conference to announce a meeting to be held in protest against the “Maoist hunt of police.” On the same day, Cooper was taken into custody from his office in Kochi. Both were charged under section 13 B of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). On Sunday, police in Kannur took into custody Students Islamic Organisation leader Shahid M Shameem and his friend Uday Balakrishnan over their suspected Maoist links. (SIO is the student outfit of Jamaat-e-Islami). After protests over their arrest, police on Monday noon let the youths go. Besides, there have been several incidents of raids at the houses of human rights activists and leaders of ultra Left sympathizers in Kochi and Wayanad. Kochi City Police Assistant Commissioner Bijo Alexander said the arrested Sarathi and Cooper were not involved in the Maoist attacks. But, they were active in frontal organizations of the Maoist movement under the guise of human rights activists. They are all known to be supporting the Maoist actions. Asked whether there is clear evidence against them in the case which necessitates slapping of UAPA, the police officer said “of course, there is something.” “How can the police arrest me on the reason that I had possessed notices, issued by a registered human rights organistion. I have no role in the attack on NHAI office,” said Cooper. Police had recovered pro-Maoist pamphlets from the house of Cooper. A group of writers and intellectuals led by Arundhati Roy have written to the Kerala Chief Minister seeking release of Cooper and Sarathi. “We believe that this police action is a well concerted political act to silence all voices raising critical questions about the political, economical and social issues in the country. The act of the police should be condemned by all people believing in the freedom of expression and the right to dissent. The incident also shows that the police in Kerala under a Congress Regime are no different from the Hindu Fascist regimes in other parts of the country,’’ they urged the chief minister. Although there had been nearly a dozen suspected Maoist attacks on government offices and private properties in North Kerala and Kochi, police could not make any breakthrough in investigations. The case pertaining to the attack on KFC and McDonald outlets in Palakkad on December 22 is an example for Kerala police failure in unearthing the suspected Maoist involvement, if any, behind such attacks… (Indian Express 4/2/15)

80. Amnesty seeks release of persons arrested for ‘supporting Maoists’ (12)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Amnesty International India has sought immediate release of persons arrested over the past few weeks on suspicion of being involved in unlawful activities because they had ‘pro-Maoist’ materials in their houses. In a statement released by e-mail here on Thursday, Amnesty International India programme director Shemeer Babu said ‘‘mere possession of certain kinds of literature cannot be a ground for arresting someone’’ and urged the authorities to respect the right of citizens to freedom of expression, which included the right to seek and receive information of all kinds. The nature of these arrests and the evidence put forward raised concerns that the cases were politically motivated, he said.The Kerala police had arrested Jaison C. Cooper, a human rights activist, and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, a lawyer, in Kochi and Kozhikode respectively on January 30 on the ground that these men were supporters of banned armed Maoist groups and had supported an attack on the National Highways Authority of India’s project office in Kochi on January 29. They were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). However, the investigating officer had admitted that the only existing evidence against the two men were pamphlets and materials ‘supporting Maoist groups’ found in their houses. On December 24, the police had arrested Sreekanth Prabhakaran and Arun Balan, two college students in Palakkad, under the UAPA for allegedly being involved in attacks on two fast food outlets on December 21 and vandalising the office of a pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturer on October 22. The police said they had found ‘pro-Maoist’ leaflets and literature in the houses of the two students. (The Hindu 6/2/15)

81. Centre Plans ‘Strategic Change’ Against Naxals (12)

NEW DELHI:The Centre is likely to tweak the strategy against the Maoists to neutralise their influence in the worst-affected districts, spread across 10 states. In the first phase, the Centre is planning coordinated operations to sanitise eight districts of Chhattisgarh – Bastar, Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada, Kanker, Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Rajnandgaon. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has called an urgent meeting on February 9 with four states – Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra – to devise the strategy to launch anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, top sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said. “Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries of these states are expected to attend the meeting. Government is looking at adopting a completely new tactic by roping in the bordering states even when the operation is launched in only one state. This is to ensure that escape routes for Maoists are made inaccessible and easy crossing over that they have been doing for over the years is effectively blocked,” sources said. According to the MHA, Chhattisgarh witnessed 236 Naxal attacks in the last year in which 82 casualties were reported. (New Indian Express 7/2/15)

82. Fight against Naxalites: Rajnath to chair meeting of 4 CMs (12)

NEW DELHI: To firm up plans to give a heavy push to the fight against Naxalites in their citadel in Bastar, home minister Rajnath Singh will chair a meeting of chief ministers of four Maoist-hit states — Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Odisha — on Monday. With a special focus on carrying out anti-Naxalite operations in the dense jungle of Bastar, the meeting will give stress on close coordination among state police forces and central paramilitary forces so that the Maoists do not escape from one state to other. Sources said since all the four states share borders with the jungles of Bastar, considered to be the hub of CPI (Maoist), the central government wants to give a heavy push to strike at the Naxalites at their den. A majority of casualty in Naxal violence in recent past has come from the Bastar region, forcing the Centre to firm up an urgent initiative to counter the rebels. “Customised approach” will be taken in each of the troubled areas in the country, the sources said. The meeting will also be attended by DGPs of all four states, heads of paramilitary forces and senior home ministry officials. A total of 14 CRPF personnel were killed by Maoists in December last year in Sukma district in Bastar region. More than 25 people, including Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and others, were killed in an ambush carried out by Naxals at Jiramghati in Bastar region in May 2013. Congress leader VC Shukla, who was injured in the ambush, died later. 76 CRPF personnel were killed by the rebels in Dantewada in Bastar region in April 2010. The worst Maoist violence-affected states are Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The central government has deployed nearly one lakh personnel of paramilitary forces in these affected states to deal with the rebels. (Times of India 8/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

83. Centre to hold inter-State meet to prevent child trafficking (1)

Hyderabad: The Union Government will soon convene an inter-State meeting to prevent child trafficking and child labour. Reacting sharply to reports of widespread use of child labour in the bangle manufacturing industry in Hyderabad, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, said that the views of the stakeholders’ states would be taken to evolve a national policy on the issue. The Telangana police had raided the shady bangle manufacturing facilities in the State capital and rescued about 400 children who were being forced to work under harsh conditions. Majority of the children hail from Bihar and were being rehabilitated by the State. “The Union Government will coordinate with Bihar and Telangana Governments to ensure proper rehabilitation of all children that were rescued,” the Minister said here on Sunday. “It (exploitation of children) is totally unacceptable. We will have to make efforts to end child labour,” he said. (Business Line 1/2/15)

84. ‘Rescued children will be rehabilitated’ (1)

HYDERABAD: The Union Minister for Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, has promised to convene an inter-State meeting to work out a time-bound plan to prevent child trafficking. Reacting to the rescue of hundreds of children from Bihar, who were working in the bangle-making industry in Hyderabad, Mr. Dattatreya said that the Ministry would coordinate with the States of Bihar and Telangana to rehabilitate every child rescued by the Hyderabad police recently. He said the government was committed to ensuring that all children enjoy the right to education and it would be done with a sense of urgency with respect to the children rescued. During the recent raids conducted by the police and Labour Department of Telangana, nearly 400 children were rescued from the bangle-making industry in the city. The Minister said it was unfortunate that the industry, famous for crafted bangles in the country and abroad, had employed children for the work. “This is totally unacceptable,” he said. “A monthly sum of Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 3,000 is paid to the parents, depending upon the age and working ability of the child,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) V. Satyanarayana told The Hindu . The children, hailing from poor families, were denied proper food and accommodation and at times fell ill due to lack of hygiene. At Amannagar, Yaseen Pahelwan rented out his three-storied building to a bangle-making unit and about 150 children were staying on the premises. Closed circuit cameras were installed in the workshops to keep a watch on the children. Meanwhile, the district administration prepared a profile of the children and sent it to Bihar after officials expressed their willingness to reunite them with their parents. “The children will leave for Bihar by train shortly,” District Child Protection Officer, Hyderabad, Mohd Imtiyaz Raheem said. “We will file the charge-sheet against the employers under labour law in the court,” Joint Commissioner of Labour, Hyderabad, E. Gangadhar said. The children are suffering from various skin diseases due to exposure to hazardous chemicals. (The Hindu 2/2/15)

85. Spell out steps to curb girls’ trafficking, panel to MP brass (1)

BHOPAL: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked chief secretary and director general of police (DGP) to inform in six weeks on remedial steps taken by anti-trafficking cells, which were set up in 16 districts of the state last year to curb large-scale trafficking of girls from backward Bundelkhand region. “The directives came after a state government report in response to notices based on suo motu cognizance of a media report on trafficking of girls from Bundelkhand region forcing them into flesh trade,” according to an official press release issued on Thursday. Of 2,230 girls who went missing from five districts of Sagar Division in last seven years, 482 are still untraceable. Highlighting that the rescued girls are entitled for rehabilitation, the commission said, it appears that the state government, barring running rescue homes with the help of NGOs, has not taken other steps. The commission asked the chief secretary to submit a comprehensive report on current status of criminal cases in courts related to the problem. The other points include if the state government has definite schemes to curb trafficking of girls, the press release added. (Times of India 5/2/15)

86. Child trafficking continues in Chhattisgarh, 3 minors rescued from Jharkhand (1)

RAIPUR: Three minor girls of Maoist affected Duldula block of tribal Jashpur district were rescued along with three others of Jharkhand from Kalamati National Highway 75, on intervening night of Friday. The girls were allegedly being trafficked to Delhi by a local woman tout called Anita Tigga, who was arrested on Saturday. The rescue operation exposed that the accused placement agency runs under the banner of social organization called ‘Sewa Bharti Sanstha’ that claims to work on issues related to tribal affairs in Chhattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. Incidentally, all the aforementioned states are majorly affected with human trafficking, specially minor girls. Talking to TOI, Deepak Sharma, sub-divisional police officer, Khunti, Jharkhand said, “Acting on a tip off, a team was sent to Ranchi railway station and Kalamati national highway when Anita was caught with six minor girls, three from Jashpur on a private vehicle. She confessed that she was going towards Delhi and works for a social organization.” The girls were sheltered at Sahyog Village, a children’s home at Khunti, about 70 kilometers from Jashpur, till they are presented before child welfare committee on Saturday. Jharkhand AHTU in charge Ardhana Singh told TOI that Anita was on the wanted list for last six years for trafficking of thousands of girls from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to Delhi. “Girls said that Anita had convinced them to accompany her without informing their parents. She would give them skill development training and lavish jobs in Delhi with healthy lifestyle, Anita had promised them. The girls resisted revealing their identity and name of native place as they were told that police may arrest them.” Evidently, the placement agencies which are running under pressure with consistent raids and arrests of agents, have now started taking refuge under banner of social organizations. Continuing trading and trafficking of girls, the traffickers show as if they were working for tribals. According to Rishikant of Delhi-based NGO Shakti Vahini, the incident reveals that traffickers have began playing safe by taking the road route in stead of trains now. “Chhattisgarh government urgently needs to strengthen law enforcement so that it’s not easy for touts to vroom away with girls cross border without any check. A 30-day campaign against traffickers won’t suffice, it has to be a continuous process. Biggest challenge is for Jashpur police.” Chhattisgarh police in October and November in 2014 had acted swiftly when Supreme Court taking cognizance on increasing number of children in state, had ordered chief secretary and DGP to investigate and trace those children. Though hundreds of children were traced with arrest of few traffickers, the raids ended with the year. While things went on secondary note, local agents have gone active and abduction of girls begins yet again. (Times of India 6/2/15)

CORRUPTION

87. SC not to interfere with HC order for SIT probe against Bhujbal (5)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday declined to interfere with Bombay High Court order directing SIT probe into the allegations of kickbacks against former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal, his family members and employees of his educational trust. Bhujbal, of the Nationalist Congress Party, was PWD minister in Congress-NCP government which was voted out of power in 2014 state assembly elections. Declining to entertain a plea by Iram T. Shaikh challenging the Dec 18, 2014 order of Bombay High Court directing probe by SIT into the allegations of graft, a bench of Chief Justice H.L.Dattu and Justice A.K.Sikri said: “No. We will not entertain it.” The court did not accept the plea by senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi contending that the high court should not entertained the plea by Aam Aadmi Party which was motivated at gaining political mileage through judicial proceedings. Directing the probe by SIT into the allegation of wrongdoings and graft, the high court had said that it had to take up the matter as no steps were taken by the state government for more than a year after allegations were made. The court had noted that probe into allegation started only after a PIL was moved before it. The high court had given SIT – comprising the officials of the Enforcement Directorate and Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau – time till Feb 28 to complete the probe and file its report. The AAP in its PIL had alleged that as PWD minister, Bhujbal had awarded contracts to some private companies and in return kickbacks were routed to his educational trust – Mumbai Educational Trust. Recently Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis agreed to the to Anti-Corruption Bureau proposal for probe in the allegation of corruption and wrong doings against Bhujbal in the construction of new Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi and other buildings belonging to the State government. (Business Standard 1/2/15)

88. Karunanidhi Welcomes Centre’s Move to Make Bribery a Cognizable Offence (5)

CHENNAI: DMK today welcomed NDA Government’s proposal to make bribery during elections a cognisable offence but expressed reservations over empowering police to arrest violators without warrant. “I generally welcome the amendments on behalf of DMK. However, the phrases seeming to give excess powers to police create doubt,” DMK President M Karunanidhi said. The Home Ministry has recently conveyed to the Election Commission that it has initiated the process to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and a note has been sent to law officers to prepare the draft amendment bill in this regard. Karunanidhi said ruling party generally offers cash and kind to voters during all types of elections and the Election Commission’s efforts to curb this had not succeeded.   He said that it was a “practical reality” that police were a ‘puppet’ of the ruling party and people had ‘just doubts’ if police would act against them in such cases. “Even if someone comes forward to act, will the ruling party and higher officials allow that without any interference. The Central government should consider such issues and consult all-party leaders before enacting amendments,” he said. Recalling his earlier demand for Proportional Representation, which he said was being favoured by former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh in the context of poll expenses, he said Centre should take a serious view of this also.  Referring to the ceiling on election expenditure set by Election Commission for those fighting elections, Lyngdoh had said that it had become a farce as candidates spend much more than the prescribed limit. (New Indian Express 2/1/15)

89. Court grants bail to 36 cops caught on tape taking bribe (5)

Mumbai: A special court in Mumbai on Monday granted bail to all 36 suspended police personnel from Nehru Nagar police station of Kurla in the case where most of the accused were caught taking bribe to allow an illegal construction in a video shot in a sting operation. According to defence lawyer Vaibhav Baghade, the special anti-corruption bureau (ACB) court had issued summons to all the policemen, directing them to appear before the court after the investigating agency had filed chargesheet against them. As per the court’s directions, the accused had appeared before the court on Monday and advocate Baghade moved bail application alleging that the complaint was filed with dishonest intentions and the policement were framed. He also contended that the complainant had blackmailed the constables by misusing the video and there is no prima-facie case made out against them in the chargesheet. Another ground for seeking bail for was that the investigation was over and the applicants had cooperated with the investigation so there was no question, of them tampering with the evidence. Interestingly, the policemen were never arrested during investigation and were granted bail after filing of chargesheet. (Asian Age 3/2/15)

90. Lokayukta tightens noose on ‘corrupt’ UP minister Prajapati (5)

Lucknow: An ongoing probe into corruption allegations against Uttar Pradesh mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati has unearthed “incriminating evidence” against him, the state Lokayukta said on Saturday. Prajapati, an influential minister in the Samajwadi Party government of Akhilesh Yadav, is accused of allegedly amassing property worth Rs 900 crore by misusing his office. Lokayukta justice (retd) NK Mehrotra launched the probe in December last year after one Om Shankar Dwivedi filed a 1,727-page complaint giving details of ill-gotten property belonging to the minister and his kin across the state. The Lokayukta said that the state estate department has confirmed that rooms in the VVIP guest house in Lucknow were provided to “members of the syndicate” who were working as intermediary between contractors and the mining minister. “It’s difficult (even) for MLAs and bureaucrats to book rooms in the guest house due to stringent rules but using his influence Prajapati booked the rooms for four months to run his nefarious activities,” justice Mehrotra said. Besides, a forest department report submitted to the Lokayukta said that the mining department issued as many as 18 licenses in forest area without the mandatory environmental clearance. The Lokayukta said that since the order came from the minister, the contractors were not stopped from carrying out illegal mining. He added that out of a 2200-acre mining area in Jalaun district, the mining department allotted 1,600 acre to one RC Mishra, known to be a close associate of the mining minister. The Lokayukta said that “the fake companies floated by the minister and members of the syndicate are being closed (down) after I started the inquiry. Even money is being withdrawn from bank accounts to escape charges.”Justice Malhotra has already asked the minister’s wife and two sons to appear before him on January 8.Prajapati refuted the allegations of corruption and said they were part of a conspiracy hatched by his rivals.“If the corruption charges are proved, I will quit politics,” said Prajapati, the MLA from Amethi, adding that “I will come out clean”. (Hindustan Times 8/2/15)

91. Black money probe: Govt initiates tax-evasion proceedings against 60 Indians (5)

New Delhi: The government is expected to disclose the names of nearly 60 Indians and entities after recently initiating tax-evasion prosecution proceedings against them, cracking down on black money accounts as reported in the HSBC bank’s Geneva branch list. Sources said that those against whom legal action has been initiated include some corporates, business houses and other individuals as the Income Tax department has completed its probe and filed prosecution complaints against these entities, on the directions of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to tackle black money and illegal assets held by Indians abroad. They said the total amount in these accounts is estimated to be to the tune of Rs 1,500-1,600 crore. Sources said the complaints, under I-T laws, have been filed in various courts of the country and investigations in these cases have been completed by the taxman as these cases will get “time barred” by March 31 after which any legal action against them could not be carried out as the cases pertain to the period of 2008-2009. “The disclosures of these names is part of the government’s commitment to curb cases of black money and of illegal funds stashed abroad by Indians. The I-T department aims to get conviction in these cases very fast,” they said. The SIT, headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice MB Shah, had said in its last report to the government and the Supreme Court in December 2014 that the black money holders names in HSBC Geneva list will be taken to their logical conclusion soon. (Hindustan Times 9/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

92. Activists emphasize on the need to protect environment (9)

NASHIK: The district forest department on Monday organized a number of seminars, exhibitions and awareness drives at the Nandur Madhyameshwar bird sanctuary to mark the World Wetlands Day. Environment activists, experts and forest officials who attended the programme emphasized the need to protect the wetlands and the birds residing there. The activists focused on two wetlands in Nashik region — Nandur Madhyameshwar and Gangapur dam which are home to many resident and migratory birds. The seminar was addressed by honorary wildlife warden and environment activist Bishwarup Raha at Nandur Madhyameshwar. The programme was conducted by the wildlife department and saw the participation of the territorial department, the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) and the social forestry, NGOs, environment activists, nature lovers and all the employees of the forest department. “We decided to celebrate the World Wetland Day at the Nandur Madhyameshwar Bird Sanctuary with day-long programmes on issues related to the environment,” said additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF), wildlife, Nashik, K N Khaware. “Extensive patrolling is needed in the wetland areas to protect them and the birds that reside there. Studies should be conducted to find out which birds come here regularly. A bird census should be carried out. For this, we will have to work with the locals. The Nandur Madhyameshwar sanctuary is protected, but the Gangapur dam and the surrounding areas are under threat. Under the environment protection act, action can be taken against those disturbing the habitats,” said Raha. He added that soil excavation and the resort by the dam were destroying the habitat of the grassland birds and tourism-related activities like the boat club and the seaplane landing would end up displacing the birds from the wetland. Chief conservator of forests, territorial (Nashik), Arvind Patil said that de-silting would be prevented here to keep the wetland protected. A four-hour session was conducted on the conservation of the wetland birds. Besides, a photography exhibition was also organized by bird lover Anil Mali and other nature enthusiasts. The forest department also studied the birds at Chapadgaon close by and cleaned the tourist complex. “Firstly, the birds need to be provided proper protection. They require many facilities like elevated platforms called jetties and poles for resting. Awareness is needed to promote eco-tourism that would lead to conservation of this sanctuary,” said conservator of forests, wildlife, S V Ramarao. He said that the knowledge-base of Nandur Madhyameshwar is very limited and that is why the department was conducting two research projects — one on the hydro biological values of the sanctuary and the second one on the water quality management and pollution levels. Environment activist Jagbir Singh who was also present on the occasion said, “Gangapur dam, which can also be considered as a wetland, along with the surrounding areas, should be conserved. Tourism should be developed in an eco-friendly manner. Manual boats are welcome here, but motor boats will disturb the birds’ habitat and end up displacing them. There should be no construction near the dam.” (Times of India 3/2/15)

93. Encroachment of forests will ruin Western Ghats (9)

The Western Ghat is called “a treasure trove of biodiversity” and “the water tower of Peninsular India”. It is one of the global ‘hotspots’ of biodiversity. It consists of a wide variety of forest types such as tropical wet evergreen, montane stunted evergreen (shola), moist deciduous, dry deciduous and dry thorn forests, and grasslands. Some of these are critical habitats for plants and animals. The Western Ghats is also critical for as many as 58 major Indian rivers that originate from it, including Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery, Kali, Bedthi, and Sharavati. The Western Ghats landscape is dominated by forests. The total area under the Western Ghats is about 1,29,037 sq. km, out of which about 87,307 sq. km is under forests. According to the Forest Survey of India, area under forests in the Western Ghats is increasing marginally in recent years. But this includes increase in area under plantations such as coffee, coconut, areca, cashew, cocoa and mango which are included in the definition of forests. A study in the southern region, comprising the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, showed that between the period 1920 and 1990, about 40 per cent of the original vegetation cover was lost or converted to another form of land use. According to a study based on remote sensing data, the loss of forest cover between 1973 and 1995 in the southern part of the Western Ghats is estimated to be 25.6 per cent. An analysis of the area under forests in the states and districts of the Western Ghats region between 2003 to 2013 shows a decline of 670 sq. km in Goa, while about 2 sq. km of dense forest and 1,621 sq. km of moderately dense forests were lost in Karnataka. Even during 2013, an area of about 8,979 ha was diverted for non-forestry purposes in Karnataka alone. Encroachment of forests is increasing in the Western Ghats and according to the Forest Department, there are 92,232 cases involving about 65,000 ha of forest land. In addition to loss or conversion of forests legally or through encroachment, the forests are also subjected to various stresses and pressures leading to degradation. Livestock grazing leads to loss of regeneration in forests and population density of livestock is very high. For example it is 445 per sq. km in Belagavi, 203 in Shivamogga and 182 in Chikkamagaluru. Invasive species such as Lantana, Eupatorium, Parthenium, Mikania (American Rope or Chinese Creeper) and Chromolaena (Devil weed) seem to be taking over many parts of the Western Ghats, due to canopy opening, fire and degradation, suppressing natural regeneration and biodiversity. The Western Ghats is also home to about 50 million people belonging to the six states of the country. The local communities depend on forests for a whole range of products and services. Extraction of green timber, though banned, continues. Over extraction of non-timber forest products such as fuelwood, fruit, flowers, gum and bamboo have led to degradation of forests. Afforestation in the Western Ghats is dominated by exotics and monocultures of Australian Acacia (Wattle), Eucalyptus and Silver Oak, contributing to loss of regeneration of native vegetation. Demand for land for expansion of plantation crops such as coffee, tea, cocoa, cashew, rubber, coconut, arecanut, etc. has led to loss of forest lands. Forest fire incidence, induced by humans, is increasing both in protected areas and outside, leading to degradation of forests, threatening biodiversity, including wildlife.Increasing human-wildlife conflicts involving elephant, leopard, bear, gaur etc, are turning local communities in the conflict area against wildlife. (Deccan Herald 5/2/15)

94. Vehicular pollution highest in Hyderabad (9)

Hyderabad: Stemming the unabated increase of vehicles in Hyderabad could vastly downsize its carbon footprint as new research estimates that nearly 57 per cent of Hyderabad’s carbon footprint is contributed by vehicular emissions. Though Hyderabad doesn’t rank very high in the list of Indian metropolises with large carbon footprints, the proportion contributed by vehicles in the city is the highest in the country. The study on carbon footprints of individual metros in the country was carried out by Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru. The carbon footprint of a city is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, caused by all greenhouse gas emitting bodies in the city. According to the study by scientists led by Dr T.V. Ramachandra from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Delhi had the highest carbon footprint followed by Mumbai while Hyderabad had the sixth largest carbon footprint, only ahead of Ahmedabad. Researchers estimated that the transport sector in Hyderabad contributes a whopping 57 per cent to its entire carbon footprint. In Delhi, vehicular emissions only contribute 32 per cent of the city’s total emissions while in Mumbai, vehicles contribute about 17 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions. The proportion in Bengaluru is 43.5 per cent. Researchers said that vehicles are adding a huge burden of air pollution to cities and that the quantum of emissions due to vehicles in Hyderabad is only behind New Delhi and Bengaluru. Researchers say that the use of public transport is markedly higher in cities like Chennai and Mumbai where non-polluting local trains is a major mode of city public transport. But in almost every city, vehicular emissions far exceeded industrial emissions. (Deccan Herald 9/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

95. Drought hits 90 lakhs farmers in Maharashtra (20

MUMBAI: Nearly 90 lakh farmers in Maharashtra have been impacted by the drought that has devastated the kharif crop, official data shows. The figure is almost on a par with the population of Sweden. Maharashtra is already known for its farm crisis and reports the highest number of farmer’s suicides in the country. The drought — brought on by a delayed and inadequate monsoon — is set to deepen the distress for its cultivators. It comes close on the heels of the crop distress wreaked by the hailstorms last year which hit cultivators hard. Data with the agriculture department show that two-thirds of the state’s 1.37crore farmers have been affected by the drought which has impacted mainly the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. These areas have historically been the most deprived in the state.Two weeks ago, the state government officially declared that 60% of its villages were facing a “drought-like condition”. This means that they reported a crop yield which was less than 50% of the standard yield in the area. In absolute figures, 23,811 of the state’s 39,453 villages come in this category. This will result in a drastic fall in the state’s agricultural output for the year, officials said. “It is a very difficult situation. Farmers in the state are facing severe agrarian distress,” said state relief and rehabilitation secretary K H Govinda Raj. The state government has released relief worth Rs 2,000 crore so far, he added. The state had asked the Central government for aid worth Rs 4,800 crore but that’s yet to come in. Vidarbha-based farmer activist Vijay Jawandia pointed out that this is the fourth drought in the state since 2008. “The impact on farmers is only getting worse. Earlier farmers used to suffer because of low yields but at least they got a decent price for their produce. Now they have poor yield and very low prices for their crop,” he said. In his estimation, the cotton and soyabean crop in the state could see a dramatic drop in yield. “The total cotton production in Maharashtra could drop by 1.5crore quintals this year. The soyabean yield was 4quintals per acre. This year it could be just half of that,” he said. Times of India 3/2/15)

96. Maharashtra farmer climbs on burning pyre, ends life (20)

Yavatmal (Maharashtra) A debt-ridden farmer from a village in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region climbed on a lit pyre and committed suicide Wednesday, the second such incident since November last year, an activist said here Thursday. Anandrao S. Pandagle, 45, a resident of Bhambh village, is survived by his wife and three teenaged daughters, said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari. Preliminary police investigations revealed he had farm debts of Rs.50,000 and was trying to collect another Rs.12,000 for his eldest daughter’s marriage. “He was alone at home, poured kerosene on himself, prepared and lit his own funeral pyre before climbing on it… By the time locals rushed to help, he was burnt to death,” Tiwari told IANS. This is the second instance of its kind in the region. On Nov 28 last year, 75-year old farmer Kashiram B. Indare of Manarkhed village lit his own funeral pyre in a field. Earlier presumed missing, his charred remains were discovered after a couple of days. Vidarbha has been rocked by five more suicides since Wednesday, according to Tiwari, even as the desperate farmers’ patience was running out in the wake of official apathy to their plight. The victims are: Ramkrishan Bhalavi of Talni village and Ambadas Wahile of Gunji village, both in Amravati district; Sanju Gawande of Saikheda village in Washim district; Vijay Tadas of Ghorad village and Nanaji Ingole of Kanheri village, both in Wardha district. In December, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the state government on the issue of debt-ridden farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra following a public interest litigation filed by a lawyer R.U. Upadhyay. Similarly, the National Human Rights Commission has also sent a notice to the state government seeking a report on the incident, even as the spate of farmland suicides continues unabated in Maharashtra. Last week, the Shiv Sena strongly criticized it ruling ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for ignoring the plight of the farmers though Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hails from the Vidarbha region. (Business Standard 5/2/15)

97. Haryana seeks 30 % hike in MSP of crops (20)

CHANDIGARH: The Haryana Government has recommended to the Central Government a 30 per cent increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of crops to make the agriculture sector profitable. Agriculture Minister Om Parkash Dhankar, while speaking on the occasion of the Deenbandhu Sir Chhotu Ram anniversary celebrations in Jind, said a number of initiatives are being taken by the State Government to make the farmers prosperous. Mr Dhankar claimed that the government has succeeded in delivering water right up to 90 per cent tail-ends and urged farmers to adopt Israel’s drip irrigation technology to make maximum use of the water. (The Hindu 8/2/15)

98. Maharashtra farmer suicides: 50% of kin denied relief (20)

MUMBAI: Families of nearly half of the farmers in Maharashtra who have committed suicide over the last four years are not eligible to get even the paltry Rs 1 lakh compensation thanks to government rules. Maharashtra, along with Tamil Nadu, WB, AP, Chhattisgarh and MP, registers a high number of farmer suicides. An RTI application by activist Jitendra Ghadge has revealed that of the total 5,698 suicides registered in rural Maharashtra since 2011, especially in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, spouses of 2,731 victims have been found ineligible to receive government aid—either because the deceased did not have a bank loan against the cultivation planned in that season or did not own a piece of land. Activists say there is an urgent need to review compensation systems and strengthen the agrarian economy. Experts and activists relate this large number of ‘ineligible’ suicides not only with acutely distressful agrarian issues but also to the extremes the urban and rural economies have attained, forcing youth in rural areas to shun farming and migrate to urban set-ups. According to them, district committees decide on the eligibility of compensation (Rs 30,000 cash and a cheque of Rs 70,000) based on bank and land records established by family members and the police in the inquest panchanamas, which sometimes contain many loopholes. Kishor Tiwari, a farmers’ activist from Vidarbha, said there were serious issues with the existing methods in deciding criteria for compensation. “Corruption and political interference are rampant apart from the lackadaisical approach of senior police and revenue officials in those districts,” he said. Journalist and researcher of agrarian crises Jaideep Hardikar, who has authored a book based on the life of farmers and PAPs (project-affected people), said farm labourers or marginal farmers having no direct access to banks were getting no attention although they too shared the agony of a failed monsoon. “Though the situations vary, the issues remain the same in their lives,” he added. Hardikar said the case rejection or ineligibility had gone up since 2008 and there was a need to tackle the issue more scientifically. According to Tiwari, a survey of 17 lakh families by the government showed distress and frustration due to economic, educational and medical reasons besides debts and damages to crops in natural calamities as reasons for the suicides. “Expectations of the younger generation are increasing. When a clerk or a peon in an urban area who relocates from rural areas is able to earn a decent sum, a person working on a farm is unable to meet the expectations of family members. Distress and frustration are acute due to ailments, education and agrarian uncertainties,” he said. “This is the failure of the government in offering better opportunities in rural areas. Why does a Rs one lakh loan become a reason for suicide in rural areas?” asks Hardikar and answers it himself: “Because prices and yields are volatile and returns or investments are not guaranteed.” “Gender bias, lack of interest among collectors and senior police officials in verifying the police and revenue reports, loopholes in investigating reasons of suicide such as borrowing money from private money lenders, property disputes, alleged consumption of liquor and alleged extramarital affairs are responsible for rising number of ineligible cases,” said other activists who did not want to be named. (Times of India 9/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

99. Cases against Singur, Nandigram protestors to be withdrawn (4)

Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal Friday announced withdrawal of cases filed by its predecessor Left Front against anti-land acquisition agitators in Nandigram and Singur, which had played major roles in bringing the political change in the state. The state cabinet, which met during the day, decided to withdraw cases against 302 people in Nandigram of East Midanpore district and Singur of Hooghly district, said Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee. Among the beneficiaries of the government decision is a current minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya, who holds the statistics and programme implementation portfolio. Addressing a rally here Thursday, Banerjee Thursday had flayed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for giving a clean chit to the erstwhile Left government in the Nandigram police firing case which had claimed 14 lives in 2007. In East Midnapore’s Nandigram, about 125 km from Kolkata, the LF regime’s plans to acquire 10,000 acres of land for a special economic zone (SEZ) triggered violent agitation spearheaded by Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. Singur, Singur was on the boil between 2006 and 2008 after the LF government acquired 997.11 acres of land for setting up the factory for Tata’s small car Nano. Demanding return of 400 acres to “unwilling farmers” (from whom land was allegedly taken against their will), the Trinamool led a violent and sustained movement that ultimately forced the automobile giants to shift their plant to Sanand of Gujarat. Bhattacharya, the legislator from Singur, had played a leading role in the movement. The Trinamool reaped the fruits of the twin movements, as the anti-acquisition protests lowered the LF’s popularity graph, and ultimately ended the communists’ 34 year rule in the state. (New Kerala 1/2/15)

100. Farmer struggles to get back land acquired for percolation tank (4)

AURANGABAD: The water conservation department had “fraudulently” acquired land of a poor farmer in Paithan taluka of the district in 2003 and Rs 15 lakh has already been spent on the percolation tank that was never constructed, a reply to a Right to Information plea has revealed. After the farmer, Rajnibai Pandurang Wadnere (56), a resident of Bokud Jalgaon village in Paithan taluka, complained against the alleged misappropriation, the authorities filed a complaint against her, stating that she was trying to destroy the tank. Wadnere has been continuously following up the case since 2003 when the water conservation department acquired her land and got a percolation tank sanctioned on the land without even taking her consent. She has been running from pillar to post for the past decade but to no avail. She has been attending hearings of every Lokshahi Din called by the district collector since 2012. Wadnere told TOI, “For the past decade I have been raising the four points but nobody is ready to pay heed. Firstly, government departments never sent me any notice before starting the project on my land. Secondly, they do not have anything to show that I gave consent for the acquisition of the land. Thirdly, no percolation tank was ever constructed on my land and lastly, I have neither received nor asked for compensation for the land.” Wadnere said that during her decade-long fight over the issue, the documents obtained through RTI revealed that the percolation tank costing Rs 15 lakh existed only on papers. She had pointed out the alleged corruption in the construction of tank — the officials first sent a proposal for an additional Rs 10 lakh to complete the tank and later they scrapped its construction terming it unfeasible. Pandurang, Wadnere said, “In spite of scrapping the tank project, the officials are not ready to release my land. A portion of my land has even been deducted on the 7/12 document.” It was only after Pandurang started digging out information about many such projects that remained on paper and whose bills were cleared, the water conservation department, along with the revenue officials, conducted lodged a police complaint against Wadnere in 2012 for demolishing the percolation tank. The FIR too came under the cloud after Wadnere produced documents obtained under the RTI, showing that the project had been scrapped long back. Water resource (small scale irrigation) executive engineer Abdul Sattar Khan said, “The case dates back to August 2003 and I took charge of the office just a couple of months back. Considering the gravity of the issue, I have personally prepared a report in the matter and will submit it to the district collector on Monday morning.” (Times of India 2/1/15)

101. Villagers hold city to ransom (4)

Around 5,000 villagers from Dalma foothills gathered on Subernarekha Link Road in Sakchi on Thursday noon to protest against curbs on all non-forest activities in and around Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, which, they claimed, would force displacement in the area. Apprehending threat to their livelihoods, villagers armed with traditional weapons blocked the thoroughfare near the district collectorate since noon that threw the vehicular movement out of gear for over four-and-a-half hours. Commuters, especially schoolchildren, who were going to Mango, different parts of Sakchi and Bhuiyandih, were stranded on Subernarekha Link Road for hours as a helpless administration failed to ease bottlenecks even after the blockade was lifted at 4.30pm. The ripple effects of the stir could be felt on other arteries such as Straight Mile Road (linking Sakchi to Northern Town, Bistupur) and Pipeline Road (linking Sakchi to Jubilee Park). “Our school was over at 1.30pm, but we are still stuck in the jam (at 2.15pm). I have to attend tuition at 4.30pm. I don’t know if I will be able to have my lunch today,” said Rashmi Mishra (14), a ninth grader of Motilal Nehru Public School in Northern Town, who was stranded on Straight Mile Road. Long-distance buses, leaving the city for Odisha and West Singhbhum, were also caught in the jam. Some tried to take alternative routes but could not avoid the snarls. Under the aegis of Dalma Kshetra Gram Sabha Suraksha Manch, villagers protesting against the Union government’s decision to notify Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary an eco-sensitive zone. They alleged that the move would lead to displacement of thousands of families and affect their livelihood. As per the May-2012 notification, no non-forestry activity – like commercial mining, commercial felling of trees, setting up of any type of industries causing pollution and disposal of waste – was allowed within the 5km radius of the sanctuary, spread over 522.98 sqkm in East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan. Further, no concrete structure can be raised within 300m of the sanctuary. There are around 85 villages inside the sanctuary and 51 hamlets on the periphery. Dalma forest ranger Mangal Kachyap said several brick kiln and crusher unit operators had gone to Jharkhand High Court against the notification in 2013. But, the court upheld the notification in 2014. “Now, they are instigating the villagers to stage such agitations,” he claimed. Pradeep Besra, the president of the Manch and gram pradhan of Patamda, said they were forced to take the protest path. “We want the government to rollback the notification and have submitted a memorandum to governor Syed Ahmed and DC Amitabh Kaushal,” he added. Dhalbhum SDO Prem Ranjan said that the Manch had taken permission for a dharna in front of the district collectorate, but it had not informed the administration about the blockade. (The Telegraph 6/2/15)

102. TNCC to protest amendments to Land Acquisition Act (4)

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee on Sunday decided to stage protests against the Centre for approving amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, which it termed as “anti-farmer”.”This meeting condemns the BJP government’s approval for amendment to the Land Acquisition Act, initially brought in by the previous Congress government to protect the interests of farmers,” the party said after its Executive Council meeting today. Terming it as an “anti-farmer” act, the party decided to protest against the decision in all district headquarters and dates for the protest would be announced soon, it said. The Centre had in December last recommended promulgation of an ordinance making significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act, including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik, TNCC President EVKS Elangovan were present in the executive council meeting.  (Zee News 8/2/15)

103. City notifying 39 villages for DDA land pooling (4)

New Delhi: The city administration is in the process of notifying 39 villages falling under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to declare urban villages in the proposed land pooling policy of the Delhi Development Authority. In this connection, the Directorate of Local Bodies has sought permission from the Election Commission. The DDA had approved a land pooling policy last year. The villages, which are notified as green belts, lal doras, forests and unauthorised colonies, according to the NCR Regional Plan, will not be considered for land pooling. In cases where land with different land-uses has been pooled in, the whole chunk of land will be considered as one and the land-use will be determined accordingly. Lal Doras are villages within which norms and controls of municipality or urban development authority are not applicable. Land pooling is a technique in which the small parts of rural land is assembled together, developed with infrastructure and then re-distributed after deducting some part of it as a compensation towards infrastructure costs in a view to develop and bring out the potential of housing and infrastructure to reduce the load on the existing saturated areas, like core Delhi parts. The DDA is also granting Rs 10 crore annual budget for land pooling. A DDA official said: “This is a sustainable and efficient technique in which people are provided with developed land in the terms of all kinds of infrastructure facilities such as roads, lighting, public parks and water sewage system.” The list of 39 villages to be notified, includes Hastal, Bakkarwala, Baprola, Goelakhurd, Qutabpur, Shafipur Ranhaula, Nangli Sakrawati, Nawada Majra, Rajapur Khurd, Tajpur Khurd, Tiangapur Kotla, Asalatpur Khurd, Chhawla, Daryapur Khurd, Daulatpur, Dichaon Kalan, Jafarpur Kalan, Hasanpur, Dindarpur, Jaffarpur Hiran-kunda, Jhulijhuli, Kharkhari Jatmal, Kharkhari Nahar, Kharkhari Rond, Khaira, Khera Dabar, Pindawalan Kalan, Paprawat, Pindawalan Khurd, Rewla Khanpur, Karangpur, Sherpur Dairy, Ujwa, Roshanpura and Qazipur. The DDA has identified around 200 villages in which 95 villages will be converted into development areas and 88 others into urban villages. Many areas like Mehrauli, Bijwasan, Matiala and Chattarpur, which have Metro connectivity and are close to the IGI Airport, have a good potential for housing and infrastructure development. Mehrauli, where a lot of land is available, is located close to Gurgaon in the south-west district of Delhi. It has good connectivity with both Gurgaon and Faridabad. Land pooling in this area is likely to impact its real estate demand. The demand of residential and commercial real estate will be very high in this area once they are developed by land-pooling method. Estimates show all these villages put together will release around 70,000 acres of real estate in the national capital. A senior official said the process of land pooling has several benefits. “The city administration and the DDA will be able to earn revenue by developing and selling the land. The developers and landowners can also pool in their land so that they get all the infrastructural facilities without any legal issues. The entire process will generate a huge amount of developed land for developers and investors to build for housing, commercial and industrial purpose.” It is reliably learnt that some big real estate developers in the city have bought a major chunk of land in these villages before notification of the land pooling policy. The Land Acquisition Act 2013 came into force in 2014. The Act states that the land acquisition will happen only if more than 80 per cent of the land owners accept it. That’s precisely why the government expects people to hand over their land for the development purposes rather than through acquisition process. The owners will get back their respective land after it is developed. The new land policy has also reduced the minimum land for pooling from three hectares to two hectares. It is expected that about 40 per cent to 60 per cent of land will be given back to the land owner after development. The remaining land will be taken by the government as a cost for providing infrastructure. (Asian Age 9/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

104. Other ailments add to H1N1 death toll (3)

PUNE: Almost half the number of people who succumbed to swine flu in Maharashtra in January were also suffering from a comorbid condition such as diabetes and hypertension. Asthma, genetic disorder and dengue were also associated illnesses in some cases. The state reported 73 cases of swine flu infection and 22 deaths last month. Pune, the epicentre of swine flu infection from 2009 when the virus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, reported 27 cases and seven deaths last month. “Associated illnesses were the predominant factors responsible for most deaths in Maharashtra in January. Of the 22 people who succumbed to the virus last month, 12 patients had some underlying medical conditions. Predominant among them were diabetes and hypertension followed by asthma, pregnancy, genetic disorder and one patient who died had also tested positive for dengue,” said a state health official. “Of the seven people who succumbed to the H1N1 virus in Pune, four had some underlying medical condition like diabetes, hypertension, asthma. A 33-year-old woman from Ahmednagar who died of swine flu at KEM hospital had also tested positive for dengue,” said a health official of Pune Municipal Corporation. Doctors said the elderly and those suffering from health problems need to be extra careful. They also warned people against self medication and delaying treatment, as it may aggravate the condition. Experts say that since the virus is here to stay, the focus should now be on protecting the high-risk groups, which includes pregnant women, people with respiratory troubles, those with liver and heart diseases and the medical and paramedical staff that routinely get exposed to different viruses. An annual flu shot should help, said officer-bearers of the Indian Medical Association (IMA). “Swine flu has always been more severe than the regular seasonal influenza. Hence, seeking medical treatment in time is absolutely essential. The virus has not mutated. It is very much susceptible to Tamiflu,” said a senior scientist from National Institute of Virology (NIV). Rajasthan’s former chief minister Ashok Gehlot who tested positive for swine flu has also appealed to the people not to delay treatment, in his twitter post, in which he said he started timely treatment after he tested positive for the infection. (Times of India 3/2/15)

105. Half of Indian kids under five stunted, says report (3)

New Delhi: Almost half of Indian children under five years of age are stunted whereas one-fifth of the kids have wasting, suggests a global report that tracks nutrition status of all the 193 countries of the world. In addition, 40 per cent of Indian children do not receive Vitamin A, considered vital for growth, immunity and vision and more than 75 per cent children do not get the life saving oral rehydration salt (ORS) when suffering from diarrhoea. Stunting and wasting are the two main parameters to determine the nutritional status of a child. Malnutrition is determined by wasting (low weight-for-height) and stunting (low height-for-age) or a combination of both. While the report – released globally in November 2014 but discussed at a round table meeting in the Indian context on Wednesday – highlights several problem areas concerning the nutritional status of Indian kids. It also exposes critical data gap for a realistic assessment of the ground situation. The last national family health survey – India’s largest data set on health issues – came out in 2005-06, which was cited extensively in the global report. Thereafter, for the last ten years, the government has not carried out the NFHS exercise, because of which ground realities on several public health and nutrition issues are unknown to the government. National Statistical Commission Chairman Pronab Sen on Wednesday said that the new NFHS data is likely to come out by the end of 2015. “There is too little data and it is not adequate for policy makers. The NFHS-4 is being carried out in 29 states and six union territories covering 5,68,200 households, up from 1,09,000 households in the last survey done in 2005-06. The survey gives details of health statistics in the country and is the only source for malnutrition data,” said Sen. (Deccan Herald 4/2/15)

106. Animal-related diseases kill 50,000 people daily: Doctors (3)

Mumbai: Over 50,000 people in India daily die of diseases that emerge from pathogens and animals, said doctors at the Zoonosis conference held at KEM Hospital in Lower Parel on Saturday. The term Zoonosis refers to infectious diseases of animals that can naturally get transferred to humans. Over 132 of 175 emerging diseases almost 75 per cent are zoonotic in nature, and the load of such diseases in the near future is going to be immense. “Of 1,415 human pathogens, 868 (61 per cent) originate from animals and many of them have established themselves in humans. Zoonosis constitutes nearly 60 per cent of all known human infections and over 75 per cent of all emerging pathogens. A disease that starts as a zoonosis may have the potential to develop into a major human communicable disease. Many zoonoses are able to cause very significant levels of morbidity and mortality in humans,” said Dr Uday Kakroo, director, Millennium India Education Foundation. The doctors in the conference elaborated that humans are directly or indirectly involved, as they are the recipients as well as donors. To prevent cross-infection, social distance between humans and various species of animals is important. High-risk groups include infants and small children, who are at risk because of immature immune systems and poor hygiene; pregnant women; the elderly; immuno-compromised people, such as those undergoing cancer therapy, HIV/AIDS patients, hepatitis patients; cirrhotic patients; veterinarians; agriculture workers; medical practitioners and zoo, wildlife, primate and other animal health care workers. Anthrax, brucellosis, tuberculosis, Q-fever, leptospirosis, among other ailments are also known as Occupational Zoonosis. Dr Avinash Supe, dean, Sion Hospital, added that animals play a vital role as carriers of many vector-borne diseases like Japanese encephalitis (where pigs are carriers). Therefore, common preventive measures at both veterinary and medical sectors should be adopted with alacrity, he stressed. (Asian Age 8/2/15)

107. TB, calcium deficiency among Muslim women concern doctors (3)

PATNA: A congregation of Muslim intellectuals, particularly doctors, on Sunday rued that the community is hit by a number of non-communicable and communicable diseases. Talking on the sidelines of the meet here, noted surgeon Dr A A Hai said purdah system has hurt the community women not only socially but medically too. They are less exposed to sunlight, which leads to deficiency of Vitamin D, hindering absorption of calcium. Thus, the body suffers from calcium deficiency, which causes a host of diseases, he said. Dr Hai also said prevalence of anaemia is also common among Muslim women. “Generally speaking, Muslim women are still confined to their homes and as such, not able to assert themselves. Their diet is still not rich, which causes anaemia in them,” he said. Doctors said tuberculosis is also common among Muslims because of poor hygiene in the lower strata of society. They also expressed concern over the rising tobacco consumption among Muslims. Their observation also finds echo in a Mahavir Cancer Sansthan study of 2014 which said out of total tobacco consumers, 46% are Muslims. The doctors present at the congregation said the practice of male circumcision is a healthy one as it prevents transmission of sexually transmitted disease. Articles in many academic journals, including Lancet, support this opinion, a doctor said. Doctors said inbreeding is an issue, but its gravity is decreasing with each passing generation. Regarding family planning, the doctors said it is wrong to say that Islam prohibits it. Many papers were also presented at the scientific session of the conference. Dr Syed Yasir Habeeb and Dr Saadiya Hassan presented a paper linking diabetes and oral health. The doctors said diabetics face high risk of tooth decay, gum diseases, dry mouth and fungal infection. (Times of India 9/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

108. HIV may stay hidden in ‘quiet’ immune cells (3)

WASHINGTON: In what could lead to a cure for HIV, researchers have found that the human immunodeficiency virus may stay hidden for years in certain “quiet” immune cells. Drugs for HIV have become adept at suppressing infection, but they still can not eliminate it because the medication in these pills does not touch the virus’ hidden reserves, which lie dormant within infected white blood cells, the researchers said.”It has recently been shown that infected white blood cells can proliferate over time, producing many clones, all containing HIV’s genetic code. However, we found that these clones do not appear to harbour the latent reservoir of virus,” said study author Lillian Cohn from Rockefeller University.”Instead our analysis points to cells that have never divided as the source of the latent reservoir,” Cohn said. (Times of India 1/2/15)

109. NGO takes up HIV+ outreach worker’s cause (3)

LUDHIANA: One of the nine outreach workers designated in Ludhiana at an ICTC (Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre) alleged that Dr US Sooch – project officer (Ludhiana), AIDS Control – disclosed her identity in a discriminatory statement to the media on January 31. This issue was brought up by an NGO – Punjab Networking of Positive People Society – actively working against the discrimination with HIV positive people, and for the rights of the affected people, and awareness of AIDS. On behalf of the outreach workers opposing this ‘insensitive’ step of Dr Sooch, the NGO has written letters to Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jiyani, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, and the National AIDS Control Society. They will be submitting a memorandum to deputy commissioner of Ludhiana, Rajat Aggarwal, on Monday, demanding legal action against Dr Sooch, and an inquiry into the whole case. Meanwhile, Sooch has denied giving the statement. “I have given no such statement anywhere. I know the rules, and I also know that if I do not follow them, no one else will,” he emphasized. President of the NGO, Jagjit Singh Mann, while talking to ToI, said: “When it comes to keeping the identity of the HIV positive patient confidential, there are very minute things on which people need to focus, otherwise it can lead to discrimination against them in society. Keeping in mind the guidelines, some outreach workers or their family members are supposed to be HIV positive patients. If Dr Sooch knew that the identity of the HIV positive outreach worker was being discussed openly, then he should have been taken care to conceal it. However, until now, none of the staff working with the outreach worker knew that she was HIV positive. But after this disclosure, she is under threat of discrimination at her workplace, and also where she lives.” The NGO also brought to light that there is shortage of technical staff in Ludhiana at many places for the past one year, but there have been no appointments made by the district AIDS control society. According to present information, both the posts of lab technicians at the ICTC of the Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH), Ludhiana, are lying vacant for about a year, and the lives of patients getting HIV tests done have been put at stake with non-technical staff doing the tests. It is to be noted that there are nine ICTCs in Ludhiana district – five of them in the villages of Payal, Khanna, Jagraon, Raikot, and Samrala; and four of them in the city at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Civil Hospital, and two at the Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH). According to the guidelines of the National AIDS Control Society (NACO), there should be a counsellor, a lab technician, and an outreach worker at an ICTC, who can then refer the HIV positive patient to an ART (anti-retroviral therapy) centre in the city for treatment. NGO head Mann said: “As the lab technician is not available, other non-technical staff are asked to perform the task of technical staff. How can we depend on such lax AIDS control services in the city? The condition is the same at some other ICTCs also, where lab technicians are available.” When Sooch was questioned about this, he told ToI: “We are looking for lab technicians for the two ICTCs at CMCH. Very soon, the appointments will be made.” (Times of ndia 2/1/15)

110. HIV prevalence among injection-drug users in Punjab is 21.10%: Official (3)

CHANDIGARH: The prevalence of HIV among Injection Drug Users in Punjab is as high as 21.10 percent, Navreet Singh Kang, Union additional secretary, ministry of Health and Family Welfare said here on Friday. Similarly, in Chandigarh it is 7.20 percent, he said, adding that the average in both Punjab and Chandigarh is on higher side. The harm reduction services for Injection Drug Users (IUDs) which advocate for Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme (NSP) and Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST) are being implemented by the respective State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) in these states and the same needs to be strengthened and expanded so that every drug user can be reached. “For this, it is very important that SACS and law enforcement agencies work in close collaboration so that maximum people can be reached and be benefitted from the harm reduction strategy,” he said. He was addressing a national AIDS Control Organisation workshop here on Enhancing Partnership between Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Societies organization for HIV prevention and control. The workshop was attended by above 80 representatives including Officers of National AIDS Control Organisation, Govt of India, Department of Home Affairs, Law Enforcement agencies including Narcotics Control Bureau and Police, Civil Society Organisations and State AIDS Control Societies of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, an official spokesperson said. Sixteen alleged drug peddlars and drug user caught by the anti-narcotic cell of the police are produced at the Esplanade Court in Mumbai. (TOI Photo by Uma Kadam)  Jagpal Singh Sandhu, additional chief secretary (home), Punjab, lauded the role of health department in containing the HIV epidemic in the State. He said that the role of police force should not be restricted to the punitive aspect only, but it should also play an active role in the rehabilitation of the drug users. While addressing the senior police personnel from Punjab, Chandigarh, and Haryana, he stated that the government will initiate district level sensitization meetings to take the process forward. (Times of India 6/2/14)

111. HIV-related stigma, discrimination discussed (3)

GUWAHATI, Feb 6 – In order to address the issue of stigma and discrimination of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-infected persons especially in health institutions across Assam, an workshop titled “Addressing HIV related Stigma and Discrimination in Health Care Setting and Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) Data Dissemination” was organised in Guwahati on Thursday. The day-long workshop was conducted by Assam State AIDS Control Society with support from the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati. The programme was inaugurated by Dr Rathin Bhuyan, Director of Health Services and was attended by medical officers of both government and private hospitals. In his inaugural address, Dr Bhuyan said, “Along with the rise of HIV in the region, the menace of stigma and discrimination is also on the higher side of the ladder.” He urged the medical officers and staff to treat all patients equally in the hospitals. Welcoming the participants, Dr PN Talukdar, Additional Project Director presented an overall view of the HIV/AIDS scenario in the state. Dr Ved Prakash Gautam of UNICEF said, “Stigma and discrimination mainly affect the children, adolescents and women and thus this menace must be addressed urgently.” Shalini Bharat of Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, speaking on the issue, said, “ Stigma reinforces the discrimination of the poor and the marginalized section which is already there in the society.” President of Indian Network of Positive People, Jahnabi Goswami said, “ Stigma and discrimination related to HIV is there in every sphere – be it in health set-ups, in religious institutions, in educational institutions, work place- but it is very sad that the Government has not taken any step in this regard.” She further lamented that despite assurances, no government has done anything to pass the HIV/AIDS bill in the Parliament which has been lying for the last 10 years.” “There is a lack of knowledge amongst the people and also the stigmatized victim does not know whom and where to report. A strong advocacy is required,” Jahnabi added. Dr RR Gangakhedkar, Director of National AIDS Research Institute, Pune stressed on the use of universal precaution by the medicos while dealing with the patients. “Risk factor is more while dealing with the HIV negative patients rather than the positive ones. Because there is a certain level of complacency on the part of the doctor while dealing with the negative patients as the patient may be in the window period,” Gangakhedkar added. Dr Chiranjeev Bhattacharya, State Epidemiologist, ASACS updated the participants on the three publications released on the occasion. He also enlightened the participants on the HIV/AIDS research activities in the State. (The Assam Tribune 7/2/14)